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‘The space is moving very quickly:’ MindMed Co-CEO on new psychedelic ETF

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Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and JR Rahn, MindMed Co-CEO discuss growth amid the pandemic and a new ETF for psychedelics.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Get a load of this. The first-ever psychedelics ETF will begin trading on the Canadian NEO exchange this Wednesday. It will give investors exposure to a basket of publicly traded companies focused on using psychedelics like LSD to treat mental illness and other disorders. Among the companies included in that ETF is the biotech firm MindMed, which has seen its stock soar 250% in just the past three months.

Joining me now is the Founder and Co-CEO of MindMed, JR Rahn. JR, welcome back to the program. Good to see you again. First off, just what does this mean for your company and for the industry as a whole, the fact that this psychedelic ETF is launching this week?

JR RAHN: Well, great to see you as well, Alexis. You know, I think I was just here a few short months ago, when we were the first psychedelic listed biotech firm. And now there's an ETF covering the space. The space is moving very, very quickly.

What we're seeing now is, I believe, a demand from both retail investors and institutional investors on how to best index this space and how to gain the most exposure to the most amount of clinical trials and technologies. So it was just a natural progression that somebody was going to set up an ETF.

We have a an investor from the early days, Kevin O'Leary-- Mr. Wonderful, who runs the O'Shares business and is an indexer himself. And he was predicting that this was going to happen very soon. He just didn't think it was going to happen this quickly.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah. And certainly, he's a friend of the show. We've had Kevin on a number of times, and he's talked about MindMed. Walk us through the maturation of your company this year as you see it, because I know you have applied to uplist on the NASDAQ. Any timeline you can share there? Just walk us through that.

JR RAHN: It's definitely a high priority for us this year. We filed our uplisting application in the fall of 2020, and we're continuing our discussions with NASDAQ and the regulatory authorities. I think that's going to be a big catalyst for us, and in general for the entire space. We have COMPASS Pathways already listed on the NASDAQ. Another company, also in a leadership [INAUDIBLE], position, Atai, which is a major shareholder in COMPASS, also listing on the NASDAQ.

So clearly, a direction where the leadership companies are headed is towards NASDAQ. We're still working through our listing process. But I hope in the near term future that we can come back and talk about that in a positive light.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, in terms of what's happening in Washington, DC, JR, on Election Day we saw a handful of states make moves to legalize or decriminalize psychedelic use. What are your expectations for your space under the Biden administration?

JR RAHN: I think very positive. Biden, his own family has suffered from mental health and addiction. I mean, even on the campaign trail you saw former President Trump chastise him in debates over his son, who had a cocaine addiction. I myself am a recovering cocaine addict.

You know, I think these are problems that affect all Americans. 40% of Americans have some form of a mental health or addiction issue. These affect every single American family. We know that now President Biden, as vice president, was a big part of getting the Affordable Care Act passed under Obama. And I think he's going to come out and support mental health in ways that no other president has ever done.

We've seen this in commentary with him corresponding with nonprofits in the mental health space. I really think that he's going to make treating the opioid crisis, and also greater mental health that's going to ultimately come out of COVID-19 here, be a high priority for his administration. And we hope he does, and we hope to have dialogue with the administration about that.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: How do you think insurance companies are going to embrace or are starting to embrace these psychedelics?

JR RAHN: Well, I think what we can all attest to is that current solutions are just simply not working in solving these problems for society. We need a new catalyst, and I believe that psychedelic medicines are going to be the catalyst to completely re-engineer and rethink the treatment paradigm for mental health and addiction in America. I believe that the insurers, and in correspondence with them, still need to see the data, and they still need to see the science. So we're going to, as a company, need to create digital therapeutics and digital measures that can prove to a large insurer and payer that these are actually having positive outcomes on their patient populations.

And so that's going to be a big new growth segment for us as a company, is adding this digital medicine and technology unit that we announced, Albert, into how we can prove to insurers that we're having positive outcomes for patients. And I think that is through value-based care. It's a growing trend, I believe, in the behavioral health space and just the overall health care space in general.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Is that what you're doing in conjunction with NYU Langone? Because I know we talked about that briefly last time.

JR RAHN: So what we're doing with NYU Langone is actually creating the training programs and the training platforms. The technology, we believe, that is going to be needed to scale psychedelic medicines and train vast amounts of therapists and psychiatrists across the country-- 60% of US counties don't actually have a psychiatrist in them. We need to create technological platforms that actually scale these therapy-based solutions to mental health.

As we saw in the midst of COVID now, telemedicine-- the usage of it is up 1,000% just in general. So this is clearly an area that we need to focus on. And I think getting folks like NYU to help us train the next generation of psychiatrists and therapists in America is extremely important.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Real quick, I know you have a clinical trial you just started on studying the effects of using MDMA and LSD. Can you quickly tell us about that?

JR RAHN: Yes. So we started last week the first-ever clinical trial using both MDMA and LSD in a combination therapy. And our thesis on this is quite simple. We think that there are therapeutic effects of both LSD and MDMA, and combining them could make a better therapeutic or better therapy-based session for a patient.

And so this study will be taking about one year to complete. And if we see a good outcome in this phase I study, we'd like to apply it to further phase II clinical trials testing various indications like depression, anxiety, addiction in the future.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right. MindMed's Co-CEO, JR Rahn. Good to see you. Thanks.

JR RAHN: Thanks, Alexis.