$17 Million Gift Launches World’s Largest Center for Psychedelic Consciousness Research

The field of psychedelics for therapy and wellness is about to receive a major boost, with the opening of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine. With $17 million in private funding, this is believed to be the first research center of its kind in the United States and the largest in the world. As federal funding for therapeutic research in people is not currently available, the center will rely on private donations to advance this emerging field.

Psychedelics are a class of drugs that produce profound changes in consciousness, and much of the early work at Johns Hopkins has focused on psilocybin, the chemical found in magic mushrooms. The new center will study how psychedelics affect behavior, brain function, learning, memory, mood, and brain biology. In particular, the researchers hope to determine the effectiveness of psilocybin as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, anorexia nervosa, and alcohol use in people with major depression.

The center’s director, Roland Griffiths, says that its establishment “reflects a new era of research in therapeutics and the mind.” The center will be staffed by a team of six faculty members with expertise in psychedelic science, as well as five postdoctoral scientists. The operational expenses for the first five years will be covered by private funding from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and four philanthropists: Tim Ferriss, Matt Mullenweg, Blake Mycoskie, and Craig Nerenberg.

The center’s faculty will also train graduate and medical students who want to pursue careers in psychedelic science, a field that has historically had few opportunities for career advancement. This investment is the largest to date in psychedelic research, and it is hoped that it will inspire others to establish more research centers in the United States and abroad.

The psychedelic research group at Johns Hopkins was the first in the United States to achieve regulatory approval to reinitiate research with psychedelics in healthy volunteers. Since then, they have published more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, demonstrating therapeutic benefits for conditions including nicotine addiction and depression/anxiety caused by life-threatening diseases. Their findings have paved the way for the current studies on the treatment of major depressive disorder, and their research also explores the interaction of psilocybin and meditation.

This substantial level of funding is expected to lead to a significant increase in psychedelic research, which has the potential to help those suffering from chronic illness, addiction, and mental health challenges. As Alex Cohen, president of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, says, “we are investing in the hope that researchers will keep proving the benefits of psychedelics—and people will have new ways to heal.”