The Heffter Research Institute was incorporated in New Mexico in 1993 as a non-profit scientific organization. Since its inception, Heffter has been helping to design, review, and fund the leading studies on psilocybin at prominent research institutions in the US and Europe. Our research has explored psilocybin for the treatment of cancer-related distress and addiction, for understanding the relationship between the psychedelic experience and spirituality, and for basic science research into the physiology of brain activity, cognition, and behavior. The Heffter Institute believes that psychedelics have great, unexplored potential that requires independently funded scientific research to find their best uses in medical treatment. We are not an endowed foundation, and so there is a continuous need for funding to support this critical research.
Arthur Heffter was a German chemist/pharmacologist/physician who first isolated pure Mescaline from the peyote cactus in the late 1890s. He also proved that mescaline was the alkaloid in the cactus that is responsible for its psychoactive properties. This was the first psychedelic compound to be isolated and identified from its natural source, making Dr. Heffter the first scientist to study a pure psychedelic drug. Heffter's elucidation of the mescaline structure allowed it to be prepared by laboratory synthesis in 1919 by Ernst Späth, thus making it available to the wider scientific community.
Founding and history
The institute was founded in 1993 by David E. Nichols. Co-founders included Mark Geyer, Ph.D., George Greer, M.D., Charles Grob, M.D. and Dennis McKenna, Ph.D.
At the time, psychedelic research had been dormant for approximately 20 years and was not eligible to receive government funding, necessitating private funding to restart the field. The institute was created to secure the private funding and to evaluate research projects for their scientific merit. The institute was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in New Mexico, and received its 501(c)(3) designation from the Internal Revenue Service in 1994.
The first decade of research primarily focused on the mechanisms of action and effects of MDMA, along with clinical studies on ketamine treatment for Heroin addiction in Russia. The institute also funded several small fellowships for young scientists.
Since the turn of the century, the institute's work has focused primarily on psilocybin, including funding the first psychedelic treatment study in the U.S. in decades, treating obsessive-compulsive disorder with psilocybin at the University of Arizona. This study coincided with a number of neuroscience studies of psilocybin and a focus on treating anxiety and depression in cancer patients with psilocybin and addictions.
Organization (board and staff)
The current board of directors consists of seven scientists and five Philanthropists. Dr. Nichols remains the president, with George Greer, M.D. as the medical director and Lynette Herring as the business manager.
One supported research study found that a single dose of psilocybin significantly reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms in cancer patients. The institute then funded two larger clinical trials of the same treatment at New York University and Johns Hopkins University, which is expected to be published in 2016. Following that, the institute will be supporting an FDAPhase 3 study as a step toward gaining FDA approval of psilocybin for the treatment of anxiety and depression in cancer patients.
Five scientific articles on Heffter-supported treatment of addictions with psilocybin have been published. Two recent small pilot studies on alcohol and smoking addiction showed significant positive results. As of early 2016, a large clinical trial is underway at New York University for alcohol dependence and at Johns Hopkins University for smoking.
Two earlier studies on the treatment of heroin addiction with ketamine also showed a significant benefit.
There have been more than 70 scientific publications resulting from Heffter-supported neuroscience research, mostly from the at the University of Zurich, where one of the board members, Dr. Franz Vollenweider is the principal investigator. One of these studies found that psilocybin inhibits the processing of negative emotions in the brain.
SANTA FE, NM 87501-2835 | Tax-exempt since June 1998
Classification (NTEE) Unknown (U00Z) (Science and Technology Research Institutes, Services)
Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(3) Defined as: Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Donations to this organization are tax deductible.