Sharan Sidhu, science officer and general manager Numinus Bioscience, with a sample of magic mushrooms cultivated by the company. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Lab expansion project in Nanaimo to aid magic mushroom, psychedelics research

Numinus announces plans for 7,500-square-foot expansion to south Nanaimo facility

A Nanaimo lab site expansion project will strengthen the facility’s magic mushroom research, say company executives.

Numinus Wellness Inc. has a Health Canada licence to cultivate magic mushrooms and draw out psilocybin, one of its derivatives, for research purposes, and is expecting to add a 7,500-square-foot addition adjacent to its existing south-Nanaimo complex by the end of the year. Sharan Sidhu, company science officer and general manager, said the expansion will allow for increased capacity on its controlled drugs and substances licence.

“We do our own in-house research, but we also facilitate research, too, of other organizations,” said Sidhu. “What Numinus is trying to do is build a foundation in this nascent industry and in order for us to develop more products, in order for us to do bench-top research, prepare products for clinical trials, we need a more expanded space to be able to do that. Instead of looking at the limited number of products that we can develop at one time right now, we can then take on multiple projects all at the same time and that essentially facilitates the industry in general and allows for more products to go to clinical trials.”

Dr. Evan Wood, Numinus’ chief medical officer, said there are pre-conceived notions about psychedelic drugs, as they carry the “cultural baggage” from the 1960s and ’70s, but there is scientific value.

“That kind of recreational use, that’s very different from psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy … in the context of very structured psychotherapeutic protocols delivered by trained health professionals and within an environment that’s purpose-built for supporting people that’s not that different than a psychotherapist’s office, but having the clinical safety parameters in place,” said Wood. “I think we’re always going to face that challenge. At the same time, I don’t think this is facing the same kind of political headwinds for instance, that medical cannabis did once upon a time.”

Sidhu said the industry is burgeoning and which direction it goes is dependent on government.

“We’ve already seen movement in the (federal) special access program … it’s all going to be dependent on if regulations change, the direction they go in,” Sidhu said.

Sidhu hopes to be up and running by the end of the year, although she jokes she’d like to be complete by tomorrow.

“Typically it takes about nine to 12 months to start an application for any licensed facility from scratch, but because Numinus already has a licence, we’re going to be skipping some of the corporate oversight that Health Canada would do. We are essentially hoping that it’s nine months, but given COVID, a lot of resources have been put into public health … so we are going to be held to essentially how many resources Health Canada has available to review [our] application.”

Other psychedelic products that Numinus is able to develop as per its licence for product development, long-term research and for importing and exporting, said Sidhu, include LSD, ketamine and MDMA (ecstasy).

In a statement, the B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said that ministry and the Ministry of Health are aware that there’s growing clinical trial evidence indicating psychedelic drugs can be an effective treatment option for a variety of diagnoses, “including moderate to severe depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, eating disorders, and end-of-life psychological distress.”

The statement suggested a need for further clinical research in this area, but added that psychedelics are under federal jurisdiction.

“The [ministry] is working in partnership with regional health authorities and other stakeholders in and outside of government to provide guidance on the emerging use of psychedelic medicine,” the statement said.

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