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STATE OF PLAY

How psychedelics became a pharma darling

Illustration by Jess Ebsworth
  • Alexandra Ossola
By Alexandra Ossola

Membership editor

Published

There’s a room at a clinic in San Francisco, California that seems particularly well guarded. To get into it from outside, you have to open three locks. The building is outfitted with alarms and cameras. Inside, there’s a substance that dozens of companies are betting will be a major frontier in medicine.

The room houses MDMA, a drug known recreationally as ecstasy or molly. It’s being administered legally, under guidance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, as part of a clinical trial.

A burgeoning community of startups and investors hopes to capitalize on the results of trials like this one to usher in a new wave of psychedelic medicine. They’re vying to create the compounds and protocols that could be among the first to be approved for medical use.

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