The Conscious Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund, is currently eyeing the field of psychedelics as part of its efforts to discover new plant-based medicines.

The company is currently focusing on compounds such as magic mushrooms, ketamine and MDMA as possible treatments for mental illness and addiction as well as their potential use in general mental wellbeing, creativity and mental enhancement.

Henri Sant-Cassia, a founding partner at the fund, told Proactive that while there are currently stringent regulatory requirements for medicines using psychedelic compounds, firms such as Johnson & Johnson have already had a product using a ketamine derivative approved by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

He added that these products have “such potential to change the mental health landscape”, particularly with conditions such as PTSD and depression, that the FDA has decided to fast-track certain treatments through the regulatory process.

While the sector is still in its infancy, Sant-Cassia says its growth is analogous to early-stage cannabis products and he expects to see a number of companies list publicly and for the sector to “explode” in 2020, bucking the market trend.

It is this momentum that The Conscious Fund is looking to exploit. It looks to get involved early and help companies in the psychedelic space attract investment and partnerships to grow their business.

“We’re very hands-on. Plant-based medicine is still a small space but there is a lot of collaboration”, Sant-Cassia said, adding that the fund gives a percentage of its profits back to its portfolio firms and good causes so they can collectively benefit.

He also said that companies in the space are more interested in help rather than just investment, which in turn can grant access to early funding rounds.

Looking ahead, he expects multiple countries to begin relaxing their laws as the healthcare benefits of psychedelics become apparent, with Canada currently leading the charge for firms exploring this area of medicine.

Given the potent benefits of psychedelics, which Sant-Cassia said is “orders of magnitude” ahead of cannabis, he expected acceptance of the medicines to come faster than its predecessor.

“The market is vast, the need is vast and growing…there is an urgent need for solutions and as soon as it is widely demonstrated that these compounds are a way out of this mental health crisis, I think the acceptance rate will be very fast”, he said.

For the fund itself, Sant-Cassia said it is attracting money, has preferential access to funding rounds and has already got two investments under its belt, both of which are planned to go public in the next few months.

“The scaling of these projects and investment rounds is very rapid”, he said, adding that the firm will also look to do larger ticket funding through its main fund over the next six months.