Lophos Pharma is a Canadian peyote-focused psychedelics company. It was co-founded by wife and husband duo Claire and Evan Stawnyczy to explore mescaline’s potential in a range of indications, optimize the cultivation of peyote, and preserve the plant. It’s an ambitious plan in an emerging sector that has so far embraced the possibilities of compounds such as psilocybin, DMT, and MDMA while shying away from the challenges of mescaline.
President and Chief Executive Officer Claire tells Truffle Report that peyote has a long history of traditional use. “We have examples of carbon-dated peyote going back 5000 years, which show humans have been using this as a medicine for millennia,” she says. “It’s a plant that is currently under-researched but has the longest documented use of any natural psychedelic.”
Evan, who is Lophos Pharma’s Chief Information Officer, adds: “Nowadays, there is more acceptance of things like psychedelics. It is a great time for a company like ours to step into the forefront and say, “Here’s something we’ve been using for centuries that we really should understand better.”
Lophos Pharma’s Leadership Team
Lophos Pharma’s leadership team brings together expertise across various fields, including biotechnology, pharmaceutical manufacturing, food technology, quality assurance, and cybersecurity.
As CEO, Claire comes from a biotechnology background and has years of experience in leading cannabis producers to achieve regulatory compliance. Evan is experienced in leading technology teams across a range of sectors.
Acting as the company’s scientific advisor is Dr. Zenaido Tres Camancho, a Professor specializing in cell and molecular biology at Western New Mexico University. “He brings a wealth of knowledge to our business plan,” Claire says. “With his students at the university, Tres is currently working on discovering improved extraction techniques to aid in preserving the genetic data from lophos cactus species. This is really exciting as it will provide our lab with the groundwork needed to meet our research goals.”
Also acting as advisors are Revive Therapeutics Chairman and CEO Michael Frank and PharmaTher Chairman and CEO Fabio Chianelli. “They are very intimate with the pathway of moving molecules through into clinical trials, and they’ve been a great support to us,” Claire says.
Lophos Pharma’s Vice President of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs, Giselle Barona, adds that the team’s backgrounds and cultural experiences position Lophos Pharma well to grow. “It really allows us to build a company that is going to be ethical and eco-conscious, and that participates with the community rather than standing against it,” she tells Truffle Report.
She adds that the team has the required experience to move new products through the regulatory process. “We are aligned with Health Canada’s views on what we need to get it done,” she says.
Claire adds: “With all the work we have previously done with Health Canada, we’ve grown to understand how we can prove the safety and efficacy of a plant material for Canadian consumption.”
The company also has diversity built into its leadership team, with a strong representation of both female and Indigenous leaders.
Evan, who is Indigenous, explains that the company tries to be as equal opportunity as it can. “Our approach is to represent as many people as we can. It’s as simple as that.”
Claire acknowledges that while being a female leader comes with particular challenges, she is proud to be a pioneering woman in the psychedelics industry. “The Lophos Pharma leadership team is composed mostly of women who have led multiple projects and supported many companies,” she says. “It’s an important aspect of our company, and it makes us stronger for it.”
“I’m proud to say we have a strong female presence in our leadership team,” Evan adds. “Not a lot of companies, in general, can say that, let alone in the psychedelics space. ”
Understanding Mescaline’s Therapeutic Potential
One of Lophos Pharma’s goals is to gain a greater understanding of mescaline, a naturally-occurring psychedelic found in several species of peyote cacti. Peyote represents an interesting regulatory case in Canada because the plant itself is legal for Canadians to use; however, mescaline is a Schedule III controlled substance.
Mescaline has also been underrepresented in psychedelics research due to controversies around peyote, including its vulnerable status and poaching, themselves just the latest chapters in a history of legal struggle in the United States and Mexico on the part of indigenous peoples and religions to secure the right to access the substance.
Claire says Lophos Pharma believes that peyote has a strong potential for a microdosing-style therapy. “There are some interesting physical traits there,” she says. “It’s a baseball bat versus a golf club: mescaline can interact with the receptors in the brain in a more specific way (by binding to and stimulating the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the central nervous system) than other psychedelics.”
“If you speak to anyone who has participated in a traditional peyote ceremony, they’ll tell you that peyote is gentle and that there’s a long, progressive crescendo into that psychedelic space.”
In its research, the company will target a range of indications, including anxiety and depression. “When you look at the traditional use of peyote, what people are intending to heal themselves from are things like addiction and depression,” Claire explains. “Obesity, addiction, anxiety, and depression all have a root cause in something that mescaline may be able to heal, and these are the initial indications that we want to target.”
Using Advanced Grow Techniques to Fast-Track Peyote Cultivation
Another major challenge around peyote is its long cultivation cycle, with the plant taking up to 15 years to reach maturity in the wild. “When you cultivate this plant, you’re in it for the long haul,” Claire says. “That’s a challenge we are ready to meet.”
Through its accelerated cultivation cycle, Lophos Pharma is able to reduce peyote’s growth cycle down to as little as three years. The company has acquired a 10,000 square foot facility, formerly the premises of a licensed cannabis grower, in Napanee, Ontario, which is home to its cultivation and research work.
“We are really excited about some of our research protocols which will research how to improve the growth cycle while maintaining the alkaloid content. This can be a big issue, when you speed up the growth cycle your alkaloid quantities may drop,” Claire explains.
“Coming from the cannabis sector and through our consulting company Canalytica, we are bringing in a wealth of cultivation experience. We’ve led multiple companies to success in their grows, such as reducing micro load or improving their climates.”
Evan adds that little scientific work has been carried out to date on accelerating peyote’s life cycle. “We will also be studying what the mescaline content looks like in different versions of peyote, grown in different atmospheres and soil conditions,” he says. “We know from cannabis production that these factors can have a huge effect on the plant, and we are going to take a look at this in a controlled way.”
Lophos Pharma also intends to prove to the public that peyote research can be done without further endangering the species in its natural habitat. “We want to protect this plant that has been overharvested and also understand that peyote is a powerful medicine that has been given to us by the People before us,” Evan says.
Lophos Pharma expects to announce its next venture and the first intellectual property in its portfolio soon, and is on track to go public on a Canadian stock exchange this year.