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John Hopkins to Receive Grant to Study Psychedelics for Tobacco Addiction

(Editor’s Note: Welcome to the fourth installment of “From Magic to Money,” a Bold series on the rising psilocybin industry. The first article explored the health benefits of psilocybin, the second delved into its legal history, and the third dug into the companies making moves in the space. Don’t miss any of these stories–sign up for The Bold Wire newsletter and have them sent directly to your inbox!)

Over the last two decades, there has been somewhat of a psychedelics renaissance. Psychedelics like LSD, magic mushrooms, and MDMA were previously frowned upon in terms of their use. But this has evolved as science is increasingly realizing that these 1960s’ hallucinogenics have a strong potential for therapeutic effects. Today, many researchers are starting to explore the benefits of these compounds in a wide variety of conditions. In the process, they are finding that psychedelics promote lasting benefits in conditions like depression. And likewise, they are showing significant improvements in substance abuse and chemical addictions. This has now led to increasing interest in the use of psilocybin treatment in tobacco addiction therapy.

In the last month, the National Institute of Health (NIH) decided to award Johns Hopkins Medicine a $4 million grant. This grant is to be used to evaluate psilocybin treatment among patients who suffer from tobacco addiction. Psilocybin is a known psychedelic and represents the primary hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms. But it has also been shown to have significant benefits as a tobacco addiction therapy in recent pilot studies. Though these studies were small in the number of participants, they were nonetheless enough to persuade NIH. And given that this is the first NIH grant in over 50 years for psychedelic research, their decision speaks volumes.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before the NIH would fund this work because the data are so compelling, and because this work has demonstrated to be safe. Psilocybin does have very real risks, but these risks are squarely mitigated in controlled settings through screening, preparation, monitoring and follow-up care.” – Matthew Johnson, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Research Plans Using Psilocybin Treatment

The basis for future research using psilocybin treatment as a tobacco addiction therapy stems from  earlier studies. In 2014, the same Johns Hopkins researchers performed a multi-week study involving 15 participants with tobacco addiction. Each participant received cognitive behavioral therapy (CB) before and after psilocybin treatment by a qualified therapist. Follow-up assessments 6 months later then showed that 80 percent had completely stopped using tobacco. Given that the best therapies otherwise report only a 35 percent success rate, the results were pretty astounding. And they were also enough to support grant funding for additional research.

Notably, the pilot study involved a small number of participants over a limited period of time. As a result, researchers at Johns Hopkins plan to expand the study significantly using the grant money provided. The upcoming trial won’t only involve Johns Hopkins but also the University  of Alabama in Birmingham and New York University. The multi-site study will take place over 3 years and hopefully involve a diverse group of individuals. Likewise, a similar protocol using CBT combined with psilocybin treatment will be utilized. Naturally, the researchers are hopeful that similar results will be obtained, supporting the role of psychedelics in tobacco addiction therapy.

“Psilocybin has the potential to significantly improve the effectiveness of smoking cessation treatments. Considering almost half a million Americans die from smoking every year, this could end up saving millions of lives, if not more.” Peter Hendricks, Ph.D., Department of health Behavior, University of Alabama at Birmingham

How Psilocybin Treatment Works in Tobacco Addiction

When it comes to therapeutic uses of psilocybin treatment, it is known to have some effects neurochemically. In fact, psilocybin is a serotonin agonist, which may be why it helps with other conditions like anxiety and depression. But its mechanism of action involves much more than this. Researchers now believe psychedelics in general have the ability to reset our brain’s default mode network, or DMN. Our DMN is essentially the thoughts we have when we are idle, such as when we are daydreaming. These idle thoughts are important, however, because they can perpetuate detrimental self-beliefs and emotions. This has important relevance in mood disorders and addiction.

A bunch of magic mushrooms doing chemistry
A study on psilocybin treatmean by a respected institution like Johns Hopkins bodes well for the future of psychedelics.

In essence, psychedelics are increase a person’s ability to become more open-minded and see things from a new perspective. At the same time, these compounds stimulate new neuronal growth in the brain and create new neuronal pathways. If psilocybin treatment is combined with effective talk therapy, then it offers tremendous potential in changing behavior. Through new insights and motivational effects, it can lead to the adoption of healthier lifestyles. This is why many researchers in the field believe it has significant potential as a tobacco addiction therapy.

“People have deeply introspective experiences. They have an increase in mental flexibility and personality openness. And so, people are more ready to make longstanding changes…” – Matthew Johnson, Ph.D.

A Different Kind of Gateway Drug

The emergence of the psychedelic renaissance offers great potential in a variety of areas. Studies to date have already demonstrated how psilocybin treatment can result in high levels of remission in depression patients. It is also showing promise in other health conditions like PTSD, anxiety disorders, and other addictions. If addition trials, including the one planned by Johns Hopkins, continue to show impressive results, this could be a game-changer. Psilocybin may lead the way to a host of other investigations related to neurological and mental health. And it may also expand research opportunities for other psychedelics as well.

Certainly, the number of people who struggle with tobacco use warrant further study when it comes to psilocybin treatment. An effective tobacco addiction therapy would not only save millions of lives. But it would also reduce the risk of other health problems such as lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and stroke. This is the same reason that psilocybin treatment is being further explored in depression. Given the millions who suffer from this condition, and the lack of curative therapies, it’s worth evaluating psychedelics’ potential. It appears the NIH is on board with this line of thinking based on its decision to award Johns Hopkins this current grant. Hopefully, the results of future studies continued to support such choices and lead to much-improved tobacco addiction therapy options.

 

The official Bold Business survey results are clear: most favor work-from-home over going back to the office. Read more in this important Bold story!

The Business of Data and Privacy Protection

The use of Big Data to drive innovative solutions  offers tremendous hope. Combining artificial intelligence, machine learning, and massive amounts of data has potential for many new discoveries. This is true for a variety of sectors , including–and especially–healthcare, finance, utilities and more. But despite these opportunities, notable challenges also exist, most notably those related to data and privacy protections. Cybersecurity policies and legislation governing data and privacy protections require Big Data security solutions. And many new startups and businesses are emerging with possible offerings in this area.

(Dive deeper into the realm of fiduciary duty and data protection in this Bold story.)

When it comes to data and privacy protections, major obstacles to Big Data security solutions exist. Common strategies require encryption computations of data that must then be decrypted before use. The cost, scale, and potential for data access have shown these to be less than ideal, however. As a result, many organizations hesitate to share data despite the advantages such collaboration might offer. These types of situations are the primary targets for new companies offering innovative data and privacy protections. Such Big Data security solutions are quickly increasing in demand, and likewise, attracting major investments along the way.

“Bringing together AI algorithms and data in ways that preserve privacy and intellectual property is one of the keys to delivering the next generation of digital medicine.” – John Halamka, M.D., President of Mayo Clinic Platform

The Big Data Security Solutions Industry

While the figure has fluctuated annually, last year’s average cybersecurity breach cost roughly $4.2 million. Between public relations, cybersecurity patches, ransomware attacks, and regulatory fines, costs for such a breach can add up quickly. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the demand for data and privacy protections have also increased in recent years. In 2019, companies providing Big Data security solutions totaled $13.7 billion globally. By 2027, this figure is expected to reach 54.2 billion. As more and more enterprises take to the cloud and invoke Big Data strategies, data security solutions are imperative.

The growth of this industry is also affected by the growing regulatory environment. In healthcare, data and privacy protections are mandated by HIPAA regulations. Other common regulatory guidelines, such as GDPR, are also promoting greater interest in Big Data security solutions. In fact, over 100 countries now have some type of laws related to data and privacy protections in place. Not only is it therefore necessary to pursue these solutions to promote greater use of data and collaboration. It’s also needed in an effort to comply with existing rules and operational environments. And all of this is driving significant growth in this sector. 

Existing Types of Big Data Security Solutions

Over the course of the last decade, there have been a number of Big Data security solutions offered. However, each have a few disadvantages that make them less than ideal in their approach. Homomorphic encryption is one such solution that allows computations to be performed on encrypted data without decrypting it first. While this is indeed safe in offering data and privacy protections, it’s also resource intensive and hard to scale. Other solutions are referred to as tokenization, masking or hashing. In these instances, sensitive data is turned into non-sensitive data that retains some elements of the original. But these types of solutions can reduce data accuracy, which can lead to different types of problems.

(Did you know Bold Business is an end-to-end cybersecurity solutions and services provider?)

In some sectors, decentralized Big Data security solutions have been offered. For financial services, blockchain is an example of how the integrity of data and privacy protections can be achieved. But blockchain is not great when it comes to sharing data between entities and in collaboration. It is also energy intensive in its use. This is why widespread use of blockchain in healthcare and medical research doesn’t appear to be feasible. A similar approach has been tried with federated learning. In this instance, machine learning is decentralized to individual devices instead of a centralized could server. But this too has issues because risks of breaches and data reconstructions exist.

“TripleBlind is an incredible platform for empowering companies to collaborate on data while preserving privacy, data rights and intellectual property. Particularly important today in the healthcare industry, as the lack of data mobility results in fragmented and non-optimal care.” – Quentin Clark, managing director, General Catalyst

Innovative Businesses in Data and Privacy Protections

Given that existing data and privacy protections all have some limitations, some companies are taking new approaches. Their Big Data security solutions tend to blend aspects of the previously mentioned strategies. In essence, they attempt to leverage the positive attributes of some against some of the disadvantages. Those finding success are getting attention from venture capitalists and from specific industries. The medical research industries are quite interested in such solutions given the strict regulatory environments in which they operate. Such solutions could greatly enhance researcher collaboration and lead to major healthcare breakthroughs.

A person mystically holding data security in their hand
Thanks to the rise of Big Data, the business of Big Data security solutions is booming.

One such innovative company is TripleBlind. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, TripleBlind provides unique Big Data security solutions. In essence, its their product allows entities to share encrypted data that never has to be decrypted. The data also never has to leave the confines of its owner’s firewall. In addition, this approach complies with all regulations related to data and privacy protections. As a result, the company has already received over $32 million in funding for development. And one of its largest investors is the Mayo Clinic.

An Untapped Potential Waiting for Innovation

By some experts’ estimates, there is a grand total of 43 zettabytes of enterprise data that is stored and ineffectively used. The reason for this involves the risks related to data and privacy protections and concerns about regulatory compliance. However, better Big Data security solutions can pave the way for this data to be shared. This would enable significant expansions in collaboration among various entities in numerous sectors. This is why there are many companies are hoping to develop such solutions for the industries of tomorrow. And it’s why the growth of the Big Data security sector approaches 19 percent annually. At least for the foreseeable future, the business of data and privacy protections looks to be a solid one.

 

The official Bold Business survey results are clear: most favor work-from-home over going back to the office. Read more in this important Bold story!

We Have Electric Cars, So Why Not Electric Mining Vehicles?

In nearly every transportation sector, there has been a progressive push for electrification. Since Tesla began promoting mass production of electric vehicles, there has been significant interest. Electric aircraft, motorcycles, and even boats are now being developed with use in the near future. And of course, e-bikes, e-scooters, and a host of other electric “end-route” transportation options now exist. Given these widespread trends, it’s safe to assume that all industries may soon be subject to electrification. And based on recent developments, electric mining equipment and vehicles may be the next target.

(Read more about the rise of e-bikes in this essential Bold story.)

With so many electric options for transportation, there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for batteries. But in order to meet this demand, mining for raw materials like lithium, copper and cobalt are essential. Ironically, however, the mining industry represents the polar opposite of most electric transportation systems. Existing mining vehicles and equipment run on diesel, take up large amounts of space, and have a list of undesirable features. For these reasons, some businesses are aggressively exploring electric mining vehicles. Combined with electric mining equipment, these could revolutionize the industry. And it actually may be necessary based on the rate with which mining activities are growing.

“There is no way there’s enough raw materials being produced right now to start replacing millions of gasoline-powered motor vehicles with EVs.” – Lewis Black, CEO of Almonty Industries Inc.

The Push for Electric Mining Vehicles

When governments adopt policies striving to convert gasoline-powered vehicles to electric ones, one issue is often ignored. In order to accomplish such a conversion, there will need to be a significant increase in batteries. This means that mining for lithium and other raw materials will have to expand in the process. In fact, the amount of lithium mining is expected to increase 12-fold by 2030 to meet these demands. And if nations like the U.S. hope to be fully electric by 2035, this figure will be even larger.

When it comes to boosting mining activities, there are several environmental and climate change concerns. One involves the availability of access. Many mining advocates and companies are hoping to mine protected areas in order to increase their yields. But also, the mining industry itself is poorly positioned to handle this increase from a productivity and environmental perspective. Electric mining equipment and electric mining vehicles are non-existent. Current machinery and mining vehicles operate on diesel. This type of infrastructure isn’t likely to effectively manage scaled-up operations without some serious downsides. This is why a push for electric mining equipment and systems are being encouraged.

“In underground mining, sustainability and productivity tend to go together. A big portion of the greenhouse gas emissions stem from the infrastructure that runs for an underground mine, regardless of whether you produce nothing at all or if you produce a lot.” – Henrik Ager, President of Business, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions

Current Issues of Existing Mining Equipment

When it comes to modern-day mining equipment, the list of problems are quite substantial. For one, the diesel fuel used for these machines produce significant heat and exhaust. In order to reduce health and safety impacts, this requires investments into cooling and ventilation systems. At the same time, these machines tend to be rather larger, which requires more extensive excavation of tunnels. And then there are process issues related to refueling and maintenance. These aspects of existing mining systems are hardly efficient today, much less if workloads increase exponentially.

In contrast to these machines, electric mining vehicles offer significant potential when it comes to operations. For one, electric mining equipment can be redesigned to be much smaller in size. This would reduce the scale of tunnel diameters and lead to increased production. Likewise, electric mining vehicles would not produce greenhouse gas emissions or require fossil fuels. This would naturally improve working environments and worker safety and help climate change. And it could also streamline “refueling” by making battery replacements less cumbersome. Because electric mining equipment might improve productivity, sustainability, safety, and profits, many mining companies are finally considering its use.

“The capital expenditure [of electric mining equipment] is higher, but the operating expenditure is lower — the energy cost and maintenance cost. When you factor in the savings that the mine can make on ventilation and cooling, then there’s already a strong business case for electric.” – Henrik Ager

Sandvik’s Leading the Way in Modern Electric Mining Equipment

When it comes to the mining industry, Sandvik is a well-established leader of equipment and vehicles. Founded in Sweden in 1862, the company offers a variety of mining solutions, metal cutting tools, and innovative drills. But Sandvik is also known for being quite progressive. It is actively pursuing a program involved in the recycling of carbide scrap within the industry. At the same time, it is leading the shift to electrification. This not only includes new designs for electric mining vehicles but all sorts of electric mining equipment.

A big crane ready to do some digging
Electric mining vehicles can at least make the fossil fuel industry a little bit greener–a little bit.

In terms of electric mining vehicles, Sandvik chose to reconsider these machines from the ground up. It would have been easier to convert existing machines to electric ones. But this would not have resolved issues related to equipment size, tunnel excavation requirements, or even refueling efficiencies. Instead, Sandvik reconceptualized entire systems to make things more efficient, sustainable, and productive. And in the process, created a means by which mining companies would become more profitable. These efforts are what is driving companies to consider electric mining vehicles and equipment in the near future.

A Snapshot of Mining’s Future

As far as the mining industry, electric mining equipment is simply a gateway to major changes to come. Many in the field who want to see electric mining vehicles anticipate much broader changes soon. This includes full digitization of mining that involves automation as well as artificial intelligence. A high degree of connectivity will exist among technologies, and few workers will be in the mines. In essence, they foresee full electrification of this sector in the coming decades. It would therefore appear that electric mining vehicles are simply a first and necessary step in that direction.

 

The official Bold Business survey results are clear: most favor work-from-home over going back to the office. Read more in this important Bold story!