Paul Stamets has been a forty year overnight success. Fresh on the back of $60 million of new investment for his start-up MycoMedica, the undisputed magic mushroom king is firing on all cylinders this week with an important new patent on psilocybin.
Fungal furniture. Grizzly zombie thrillers. Society is at peak mushroom right now.
But long before hit TV series The Last Of Us brought the fantastical world of fungi to the masses, Paul Stamets was inspiring a whole generation of mushroom-mad mycologists.
“His contribution to the global appreciation of fungi is undisputed and unparalleled,” says Giuliana Furci, founder of the Fungi Foundation, who recently helped discover and name a new species of magic mushroom – Psilocybe stametsii – in the cloud forests of Ecuador.
It’s apt. After a rigorous two and a half year process to obtain a DEA and Washington State license to do the analytical work, today Paul Stamets will be issued an important patent exploring the medicinal properties of psilocybin, a major psychoactive component of the Psilocybe mushrooms that now bear his name.
Magic mushroom medicines
“I’ve hit the home run on this,” says Paul, who I caught up with ahead of the SynBioBeta Conference in Oakland this May. There he’ll be giving a keynote speech on his start-up MycoMedica Life Sciences, a company unlocking the medicinal power of fungi.
The value of fungal medicine is huge. Penicillin, first derived from the Penicillium fungus, has saved somewhere in the region of 200 million lives since it was discovered.
Paul Stamets is adamant fungi have much more to offer. His new patent – issued and published today after being filed six and a half years ago – explores how unique psilocybin combinations can improve mental health and neurogenesis.
It’s timely. Earlier this month, Australia announced that it would recognise psilocybin as a medicine.
That follows reports of its use, alongside therapy, to treat severe depression. Paul himself co-authored a recent study that showed microdosing of psilocybin may well improve mood and mental health compared with non-microdosing.
It’s not just psilocybin that interests the medical community. Ketamine, DMT, LSD and MDMA are other compounds being investigated for their healing properties.
The magic of mushrooms
It’s thought that we have identified fewer than 10% of all the fungal species on Earth.
Within the 90% we still haven’t discovered there could be plenty of untapped compounds, with uses ranging from building materials to catalysts for biomanufacture. And, of course, new psychoactive medicines.
Just as well another psychedelic mushroom species was discovered recently in Ecuador’s Los Cedros Biological Reserve.
A tiny, solitary species with a pointy, dark brown cap atop a matchstick-sized stem, Psilocybe stametsii has only been found twice so far, the first time by Bryn Dentinger in 2011. It has been published on the Index Fungorum e-publishing tool hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
It’s the first Psilocybe mushroom named after Paul Stamets, who himself discovered two new species of psychoactive mushrooms in the mid nineties and has dedicated much of his life to studying them. The first of his six books on mushrooms was published back in 1978.
His passion for fungi has led him to star in the Netflix
“I am deeply honored by this recognition – and excited to go on a field expedition to see this species in its natural habitat,” says Paul. “To be recognized like this is the greatest honor that a mycologist can receive, and that two renowned mycologists co-authored this discovery deepens my appreciation.
“I also feel a keen responsibility to further protect the mycodiversity of fungi in all their wondrous forms. They are truly fantastic!”
Thank you to Peter Bickerton for additional research and reporting on this article. I’m the founder of SynBioBeta and some of the companies I write about are sponsors of the SynBioBeta conference and weekly digest.