A nonprofit started by the head of Promega Corp. to study psychedelic drugs for depression and other mental health conditions is getting its own headquarters in Fitchburg amid an expanding national profile for psychoactive medicine.
The Usona Institute, formed by Promega CEO Bill Linton in 2014, is expected to move into a 93,000-square-foot facility on 17 acres adjacent to Promega’s Fitchburg campus in 2024.
“The practices and the therapy that we’re embodying here have really gone back for thousands of years,” Linton said Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the $60 million project.
Linton said even single doses of psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, the hallucinogenic ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” have been shown to provide long-term benefits for some mental health patients.
“Through this experience, there’s a connection or reconnection with ourselves that may last for weeks and months, sometimes a lifetime,” he said.
Usona, now housed in other Promega buildings, has more than 25 employees and satellite offices in California and Germany.
Construction of a separate facility for Usona comes as it conducts a phase 2 study of psilocybin to treat depression at UW-Madison and six other sites, including Johns Hopkins University and Yale University. An early phase, first-in-human study of a second, novel compound is planned for 2022.
Usona, which is supporting other research to use psilocybin for anxiety, addiction, anorexia and cluster headaches, hopes to seek federal approval for treatment of depression by 2025, Tura Patterson, Usona’s senior director of strategic partnerships, said last year.
Scientists in recent years have studied psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ketamine and other psychedelic drugs for a variety of mental health disorders. Most psychedelics are Schedule 1, meaning they are banned, though ketamine, known as “special K,” is approved as an anesthetic and used clinically for depression, including at UW Health.
The Food and Drug Administration has given “breakthrough therapy” designation to psilocybin for depression and MDMA for PTSD, indicating support for potential approval if studies pan out.