University of Western Australia: New partnership to develop bioproduction pathways of psychedelics

Researchers at The University of Western Australia have partnered with Melbourne-based Natural MedTech to develop a biotechnological platform to produce pharmaceutically valuable psychedelic compounds at an industrial scale.

Dr Heng Chooi, a research group leader from UWA’s School of Molecular Sciences, is leading the research using synthetic biology tools to engineer microbes that produce psychedelic molecules.

Synthetic biology is an emerging discipline, which involves the application of engineering principles in biology to design biological pathways in organisms. It has shown promise in developing technologies that would help tackle global challenges in health, energy and the environment.

“Partnering with Natural MedTech allows us to translate the synthetic biology knowledge and techniques from our lab to contribute to improving mental health of Australians,” Dr Chooi said.

Mark Hestermann, co-founder of Natural MedTech, said the company was excited about its partnership with UWA.

“It progresses our journey of being Australia’s premier producer and developer of psychedelic medicines,” Mr Hestermann said.

“Our partnership creates local research opportunities, serves to produce psychedelic molecules sustainably, generates intellectual property, and should lead to new manufacturing jobs in Australia.

“In addition, these molecules are needed as raw material inputs for our research into addressing the unmet need for safe and effective medicines for mental health disorders.”

Dr Simon Kessler, who is co-leading the research, said he looked forward to applying the synthetic biology skill sets he learned during his PhD at UWA to help industry develop bioproduction routes for pharmaceuticals.

Luke McFarlane, co-founder of Natural MedTech, said the he was impressed with Dr Chooi and Dr Kessler’s knowledge and enthusiasm.

“We are excited to have them both on our scientific advisory board and look forward to working more closely together,” Mr McFarlane said.

UWA Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Anna Nowak said the partnering of universities with local and national companies was important for driving the creation and commercialisation of new innovations.

“We’re delighted to have helped facilitate the partnership between Natural MedTech and the team from UWA’s School of Molecular Sciences and look forward to seeing our research help accelerate outcomes for industry,” Professor Nowak said.

The team at UWA recently obtained a permit from WA Department of Health to conduct research with psychedelics.