In addition to being a successful hedge fund manager and owner the New York Mets, billionaire Steve Cohen is now also one of the largest private funders of research into psychedelic-assisted therapies. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit researching the use of psychedelics in medical contexts, today (June 22) announced a $5 million grant given by Cohen and his wife Alexandra.
Funds from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation will support the organization’s research into the use of MDMA, also known as “molly” or “ecstasy,” as a treatment for severe PTSD. A MAPS subsidiary is planning to submit a new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later this year. If approved, a portion of Cohen’s grant will go towards establishing a financial assistance program for future MDMA-assisted therapy patients.
“Psychedelic compounds represent a new opportunity to address these often treatment-resistant conditions and bring hope to patients,” said Alexandra in a statement. This isn’t the first time the couple has used their fortune of $17.5 billion to benefit psychedelic research—their foundation has made more than $60 million worth of grant commitments towards the experimental treatment.
With $9.2 million in grants in 2021 alone, gifts from the foundation’s Cohen Psychedelic Research and Health Initiative have focused on researching how psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin, the active ingredient in”magic mushrooms,” can treat mental health conditions like PTSD, depression and anxiety. Grantees of the foundation include the USONA Institute, the California Institute of Integral Therapies and the University of California, San Diego, the latter of which is examining whether psilocybin-assisted therapy can aid phantom limb pain in amputees.
The roster of wealthy psychedelics donors
The Cohens are not alone in their support of psychedelics, a philanthropic area that has picked up steam among prominent Wall Street donors. In 2017, the couple was joined by tech investor Tim Ferriss, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, investor Craig Nerenberg and TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie when they pledged $17 million to John Hopkins to launch a Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research.
Mycoskie also recently made the largest pledge in the psychedelics space when he announced his plan to donate $100 million to the sector over the next 18 years. Meanwhile, billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel has shown his support by investing millions in psychedelic treatment start-up ATAI Life Science. And Bob Parsons, the billionaire founder of domain registrar GoDaddy and a Vietnam war veteran who suffers from PTSD himself, has also made several donations toward research into psychedelic-supported treatment, including a $5 million gift to Mount Sinai’s psychedelic research center and $2 million to MAPS. Even Elon Musk has shown interest in the movement, tweeting last year that “psychedelics and MDMA can make a real difference to mental health, especially for extreme depression and PTSD,” and should be taken seriously.
Both MDMA and psilocybin have been granted “breakthrough therapy” status by the FDA—a designation that expedites the development and review processes for drugs showing significant potential for treatment. But the lack of research on the experimental forms of therapy have also led to concerns over their potential to trigger psychiatric or physical issues amongst patients. No psychedelic-assisted therapy has yet been approved by the federal agency, according to MAPS, which also noted that the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy has not yet been established for PTSD treatment.