Points Interview: Philipp Rühr, Archival Researcher Network participant.

Following on from my recent post on the emergence of the non-profit psychedelic prior art library Porta Sophia, and its Archival Researcher Network (ARN), this post features an interview with ARN-participant Philipp Rühr.

Philipp is an aspiring psychotherapist with a background in video art, filmmaking and translation. His videos and films have been shown internationally. Based in Berlin, he is currently completing his studies in Psychotherapy Sciences at the Sigmund Freud Universität where he is also working at the outpatient clinic. He has recently received Porta Sophia’s ARN-Research Grant for his research on psychedelic prior art. Philipp’s current focus are clinical trials with psychedelic compounds in children and adolescents, and he is dreaming of compiling and translating a compendium of historic German psychedelic study reports which haven’t previously been translated into English.

Through the interview here, it becomes clear how Rühr’s work with the ARN has dovetailed with his own research interests and career to ultimately support Porta Sophia’s goal to intervene in the psychedelic patent landscape and ensure psychedelic therapies can one day be available at scale to the people who need them. Rühr was one of the first recipients of a Porta Sophia research grant and, to date, he has submitted 30 pieces of prior art in response to the archival prior art targets. 

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From the Archives Back to the Clinic: How Historians of Psychedelics are Protecting the Public Domain

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by Chris Elcock, an award-wining independent scholar working on the history of LSD and psychedelics

There was a time when LSD and other vision-inducing psychedelic drugs were associated with the American counter-culture and for conservative observers with license and dissent. Amid the psychedelic hues of light-shows, magic buses, and tie-dye shirts, the medical history of these substances was relegated to a footnote of the 1960s, a decade that symbolized cultural change rather than experimental psychiatry. For better or worse, LSD had spilled out of the clinics and what seemed to have mattered most was that it had landed in the hands of Timothy Leary and the Grateful Dead. 

While these stories have been told endlessly in popular books and documentaries, historians of psychedelic psychiatry have meticulously examined the way medical doctors initially looked to gain new knowledge into mental illness by inducing a temporary and controlled form of psychosis with mescaline and LSD, and how they subsequently used these substances to treat alcoholism and to help terminal cancer patients to serenely come to terms with death. In 1962, however, fundamental changes in the implementation of clinical trials, which laid critical emphasis on objective measurements and scientific reproducibility, greatly frustrated the research teams working in the field, to a point where psychedelic science had come to a near standstill by the early 1970s.

Despite these early setbacks, research in psychedelics has particularly boomed in the last decade as national and international laws regarding the therapeutic use of psilocybin and other psychedelics have begun to change. In this new regulatory environment, drug companies and investors have rushed to file patents for new psychedelic drug uses and technologies in hopes of monopolizing—and monetizing—the next blockbuster treatment.

In response to this knowledge grab, a recent collaboration between historians and legal experts sponsored by the Usona Institute, a non-profit psilocybin research organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, relies on historical and archival research to protect the public domain. Usona has established a new open-access online repository called Porta Sophia—the doorway to wisdom—that documents extant therapeutic techniques that have used psychedelics as adjuncts. This easily accessible project seeks to ensure that new patent filings are truly innovative.

Porta Sophia Glowing Orb
Graphic from the web page of Usona Institute’s Porta Sophia, Psychedelic
Prior Art Library. Image Courtesy of Porta Sophia.

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