Psilocybin mushrooms make tryptamines, which are responsible for their hallucinogenic effects, but also can be used to treat various mental-health conditions, from anxiety to PTSD.
At the Miami University in Ohio, J. Andrew Jones, PhD, assistant professor in the department of chemical, paper, and biomedical engineering, and his students have developed a new way to make these chemicals. PsyBio Therapeutics, where Jones is chairman of the scientific advisory board, is commercializing the process.
Jones and his team invented a one-pot method of bioprocessing with E. coli to make tryptamines. Starting with 4-hydroxyindole, the process developed by Jones produces psilocybin. He says that this technique provides three key advantages—cheaper, faster, and greener than other methods.
Compared to chemical synthesis, for example, Jones points out that his method “does not require a lot of expensive reagents or multiple purification steps and produces much higher yields—about three times higher.” Plus, it only takes about four days of fermentation, which is twice as fast as synthesizing the compounds with yeast.
And lastly, the method created by Jones does not require the toxic reagents, such as palladium catalysts and hydride reducing agents required by other methods, making it overall a greener process.
Beyond these features, the technique that Jones created offers flexibility, making it easier to modify products. “We can quickly develop an optimized host using the right balance of genetic elements,” Jones explains. “So, our platform is fast in bioprocessing and also in strain development.”