Nearly 80 years ago, scientists interested in psychoactive drugs such as LSD, psilocybin and mescaline began investigating their potential for clinical use. Not long after, a series of political and cultural events in the 1960s triggered the War on Drugs within the US and beyond. As a result, research on psychedelics was severely restricted for more than 25 years. In the past 10-20 years interest in these drugs’ therapeutic potential has been renewed. New studies are emerging that show LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and ibogaine might be effective medicines for treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, and end-of-life anxiety.

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychedelic found in the West African rainforest shrub Tabernanthe iboga. Data indicates that ibogaine might be useful for reducing drug cravings, withdrawal symptoms and the risk of relapse in opioid and alcohol addictions. However, ibogaine has several undesirable features. First, it can cause dangerous cardiac irregularities and neurotoxicity. Second, the medicine produces long-lasting hallucinations at therapeutic doses. Third, ibogaine is difficult to synthesize or extract in useful volumes, limiting its production.

Recently, an exciting study by Cameron et al. was published in the top-ranking journal Nature. In this report, scientists unveiled an improved ibogaine derivative (i.e. ibogaine-like molecule) called tabernanthalog (TBG) with therapeutic potential. TBG mirrors ibogaine’s ability to treat addiction and depression in animal models. But unlike ibogaine itself, TBG is free of dangerous side effects, does not induce hallucinations, and is easy to make.

The engineering of this TBG is a hallmark example of how nature can inspire better drugs with improved qualities. A key strategy in the pharmaceutical industry is to begin with natural medicines that show potential, and build on their structures to create improved derivatives. This strategy has been used countless times to make essential, nature-inspired medicines like AspirinTM, antimalarials, anticancer treatments, and opiate addiction treatments (e.g. NarcanTM, SuboxoneTM). Now with the creation of TBG, scientists prove this strategy can be applied to psychedelics, too. What these scientists did with ibogaine can be applied to other psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline. Just like ibogaine, psilocybin, mescaline, and others show therapeutic promise but can be improved through derivatization. Taking this approach, MagicMed Industries is focused on creating new, nature-inspired derivatives to bring us the next-generation of medicines.