American Chemical Society Meeting – Only One Talk about Psychedelics?

The upcoming 2019 American Chemical Society (“ACS”) Fall Meeting and Exposition in San Diego features two presentations pertaining to psychedelic chemistry: (1) a talk by Dr. David Manke and Dr. Andrew Chadeayne, about the chemistry of psilacetin; and (2) a poster presentation by Sm Ashikur Rahman on the synthesis of several psychedelic molecules.  The enormous potential for psychedelic drugs combined with significant gaps in our chemical understanding of these substances suggests that the topic is underrepresented at the upcoming ACS conference.

Psychedelic Drugs – an Important Chemical Topic

Psychedelic drugs have recently attracted attention as potential treatments for many of the world’s most costly health problems. Over the past several years, the scientific community has been outspoken about the therapeutic potential for drugs like psilocybin, LSD, ketamine, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, ibogaine, MDMA, and others.  See, e.g., Johns Hopkins study. However, despite the enormous global importance of these drugs, they have received almost no attention from the chemical community. This omission seems especially important given the following challenges facing the psychedelic community:

  • Highly variable chemical composition of naturally derived psychedelics;
  • Unknown and potentially dangerous chemicals in naturally derived psychedelics;
  • Variability in chemical concentration of naturally derived psychedelics;
  • Unreliable purity and physical characterization of existing psychedelic drugs.

The above described gaps in chemical understanding prevent progress in other areas of scientific research.  For example, the medical community cannot draw valid conclusions about the effect of naturally derived psychedelics (e.g., magic mushrooms) without knowing the chemical composition of those substances.  In the case of “magic mushrooms,” both the chemical profile (ratio of psilocybin derivatives) and total concentration thereof vary substantially. Those variations are known to cause significant differences in the clinical effect.  

Unmet needs in chemical research not only impeded research in applied sciences like biology.  Lack of chemical understanding also creates significant barriers to legal and political progress.   For example the “Decriminalize Nature” organization seeks to unwind legal deterrents to possessing and using natural psychedelics, like magic mushrooms. The group, led by Kevin Mathews has succeeded in decriminalizing magic mushrooms in Denver. Similar efforts have succeeded in Oakland. As a result, other efforts are taking hold across the United States.  Unfortunately, this legal and political progress has surpassed our chemical understanding of the natural products at issue. For example, some of the language is unclear about the scope of the chemicals at issue — are these groups decriminalizing magic mushrooms or do they intend to include purified molecules from those mushrooms– or synthetic derivatives thereof?  Additionally, developing a chemical understanding is important because magic mushrooms are highly variable in their chemical composition and some species have (unknown) chemicals that cause paralysis, i.e., “Wood Lover Paralysis.”

Psychedelic Presentations at the American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (“ACS”) is the world’s largest scientific society. The American Chemical Society’s mission is “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people” and  “to improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.” The upcoming 2019 Fall Meeting and Exposition in San Diego will feature two presentations (only one talk) pertaining to psychedelics. Information about these presentations is provided below.  Given the global importance and chemical nature (drugs are chemicals after all) of psychedelic drugs, the topic appears to be underrepresented at the American Chemical Society.

Psychedelic Chemistry Presentation #1 – Dr. David Manke and Dr. Andrew Chadeayne

David R Manke from the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Andrew R Chadeayne of CaaMTech, LLC will present on the “Chemistry of Psilacetin: Prodrug of psilocin.”  According to UMass Dartmouth’s webpage, Dr. Manke is an Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry.  According to LinkedIn, Dr. Chadeayne is Founder and Inventor at CaaMTech, LLC, former Chief Innovations Officer at Ebbu, and a former patent practitioner.

The abstract of their presentation to the American Chemical Society is as follows:

“Psychedelic drugs have earned newfound attention as treatments for some of society’s most troubling medical problems – depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD. The tryptamines found in so-called “magic mushrooms” (e.g. psilocybin, psilocin, etc.) are particularly attractive because they appear to offer immediate and long-lasting benefits without unwanted side-effects. This great promise has led political groups across the United States to seek legislative reform for ‘magic mushrooms’.

Despite their potential benefits, the physical properties of these molecules have not been adequately studied. In this talk, we will present new developments regarding the purification, characterization, stability and chemical reactivity of psilocybin derivatives, including the first reported crystal structure of psilacetin fumarate, a readily attainable, cost-effective prodrug of psilocin.”

The work will be presented in a 30 minute presentation on Monday, August 26th at 10:20 am in Room 32B of the San Diego Convention Center,

Psychedelic Chemistry Presentation #2 – Mr. Ashikur Rahman

Sm Ashikur Rahman is a PhD Student in the Department of Chemistry at Western Virginia University. He will present on the “Total Synthesis of Complex Molecules.”  According to the West Virginia University Department of Chemistry webpage, Ashikur Rahman was awarded the 2017-18. Eugene Bennett Fellowship.

The abstract of his talk at the American Chemical Society is as follows:

“Ergot alkaloids have been shown to exhibit useful medicinal properties such as labor inducing activity, migraine relief, mood-perception regulation. Ergotryptamine, an ergot alkaloid, was recently isolated in minute amount from Aspergillus nidulans. In order to facilitate biological studies, this compound was selected as a target for synthesis. Proposed key synthetic steps include a palladium catalyzed Kosugi-Migita-Stille cross coupling, a Mizoroki-Heck reaction, and a carbon monoxide-mediated palladium-catalyzed reductive N-heterocyclization. Using a similar synthetic approach, synthesis of two indoles norpsilocin and aurantioclavine has been envisioned in 1-2 additional steps. Norpsilocin, a component of magic mushroom with promising psychotropic effects, was recently isolated from Psilocybe cubensis. Aurantioclavine was first isolated in 1981 from the fungus Penicillium aurantiovirens. It has become an attractive target for synthesis due to its role as a biosynthetic precursor to the communesin alkaloids, which display cytotoxicity against leukemia cell lines.”

The work will be presented on Wednesday August 28th at 7 pm in Exhibit Hall A of the San Diego Convention Center.

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