Aphrodite Health is on a mission to change healthcare as the first female-founded and operated psychedelic biotech company designed specifically for women’s wellness.
Aphrodite Health announced its launch last June, but it has hit the ground running, with an undisclosed amount of funding from The Conscious Fund, an industry-specific VC.
Aphrodite Health is targeting its drug development efforts at mood disorders triggered by cyclical hormonal changes, such as fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone during puberty, postpartum, and perimenopause. It’s also looking at addressing chronic physical pain issues, which it says affects a higher proportion of women than men, yet women are less likely to receive treatment.
There’s no time to waste, the founders insist. We were already in the midst of a mental health crisis before the pandemic, but its impact has only exacerbated mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is especially true for women, particularly when childcare facilities and schools shut down in 2020. For many women in the workforce, this meant juggling careers and remote learning at a time when fears about the global pandemic were exacerbating stress and anxiety levels. Add to that the concerns about the looming climate crisis top of mind for Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z, and it’s easier than ever to see why women’s healthcare needs prioritizing.
For millions of women though, particularly those struggling with depression, pharmaceuticals aren’t the magic pills the industry has made them out to be. They can bring a laundry list of unwanted side effects and risks. Often, they don’t work at all, sending patients and doctors into a Whack-a-Mole approach of trying to treat symptoms while others pop up, often unresponsive to different drugs. Treatment-resistant depression can occur in up to 30 percent of patients taking common SSRI drugs.
Psychedelics are emerging with another way forward; studies have found that even a single psychedelic treatment, such as with psilocybin, can abate symptoms of depression for years. And as increased regulatory approval greenlights treatments, the psychedelic industry is exploring plant- and fungi-based substances as well as all manner of synthetics in pursuit of improved mental and physical wellness. And when it comes to women, Aphrodite wants to lead the way forward.
Ethos caught up with Olivia Mannix, Aphrodite Health’s co-founder, and chief strategy officer. A cannabis and psychedelics industry pioneer formerly with Cannabrand, Mannix sees more than just a market opportunity for psychedelics. She sees a new path forward in how we understand and address wellness and women.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Ethos: Why was it important to be a female-founded psychedelics company?
Olivia Mannix: Women are generally under-represented in leadership positions in this space. Aphrodite Health is focusing on creating solutions for real diseases that affect millions of women which are overlooked.
In fact, we are the first female-founded psychedelics biotech company, with an entire C-suite of leaders from across the globe.
Women make up 51 percent of the US population there has been little innovation in the last 30 years for women-specific treatment. Due to variables within female hormonal cycles, it makes it difficult to conduct clinical trials.
Aphrodite Health is focused on women’s chronic pain diseases and mood disorders. Women want female-specific therapeutics that take into account their hormonal status and particular needs.
Ethos: How do psychedelics factor into modern wellness? And specifically, wellness for women?
OM: Psychedelics are the future of medicine. Women’s medicine has shown little innovation in the last 30 years.
Psychedelics, the specific candidate that we are using, have been used for years on the black market and have a high safety profile. They are potent, fast-acting, and long-standing.
Clinical data strongly supports that psychedelic drugs will transform the treatment of many centrally-mediated diseases.
Strong clinical data supports that psychedelics promote neuroplasticity and new neural regeneration.
Ethos: What is Aphrodite working on?
OM: We are working on several treatments for proprietary positions on how specific psychedelics may treat chronic pain in women and women’s related mood disorders.
We will eventually incorporate a take-home medicine approach and personalized medicine.
Currently, we are focused on drug development.
The second phase of our company will be focused on a “take-home” approach. This is so the patient does not need to go into a facility and have therapies administered or monitored in a controlled setting, which several of the psychedelics companies are currently doing
Ethos: Do men, women, and non-binary people respond differently to psychedelics?
OM: This is a great question; at the moment, we aren’t sure, but our research and development team are working on finding results. Undoubtedly, everyone will react differently; just as with any other drug, each person’s genetic makeup will contribute to how they react to a given medication.
It is our goal that through research and development, we can find answers to these commonly asked questions. Additionally, as psychedelics become accepted as the true medicine that they are, Aphrodite will be accompanied by similar companies that will need shared research.
Ethos: How do you see the market for psychedelics evolving in the next several years? And how does that evolve for women’s wellness?
OM: I am excited to see changes with women’s overall wellness and psychedelics being a critical portal to this. Psychedelics can vastly help people with mental disorders, addictions, and such.
I think that the market will continue to expand with potentially “recreational” psilocybin products. Even though some may think this is a slippery slope, there are and will always be psychedelics available, so why not regulate them and create tax dollars from these?
Not only will it benefit patients and those struggling with health issues, but it will contribute to society in positive ways such as tax revenue and more.
Ethos: What’s the one thing you wish more people knew or understood about psychedelics that is often missed?
OM: As someone who has played a critical role in “rebranding cannabis” is it crucial for the psychedelics sector to also be viewed in a professional manner.
This is not about getting high. This is about creating life-saving medicine.
Visit the Aphrodite Health website to learn more.
Related: ‘Ego Dissolving’ With a View: Park Avenue Gets a Psychedelic Wellness Center