The new CEO in psychedelics is a former NHL agent who wants to treat a traumatic brain injury with psilocybin.
Since he retired professional hockey more than five years ago, two-time Stanley Cup winner Daniel Carcillo has made raising awareness and advocacy for survivors of brain injury his full-time job. Today, as founder and CEO of Wesana Healtha company focused on developing a treatment for the disease that knocked him out of gambling, he wants others who have suffered the debilitating effects of TBI to experience the potential benefits of psilocybin.
The NHL and the CTE
In 2015, at the age of 30, Carcillo made the difficult decision to retire after post-concussion syndrome destroyed his quality of life. At the time, the recent and unexpected deaths of several other players who suffered head trauma and mental health issues, including Wade Belak, Rick Rypienand especially his former teammate Steve Montador weighed heavily on him.
“What finally pushed me out was my seventh diagnosed concussion and the symptoms,” he recalls. “I couldn’t look at my phone for a week due to light sensitivity. I had a newborn son at home and I didn’t want anything to do with him. I wanted everyone leave me alone.
Montador, a close friend of Carcillo, died at the age of 35. Carcillo recalls watching his friend suffer in the months leading up to his death, and says the two often discussed their common symptoms, including headaches, trouble sleeping, slurred speech, anxiety, depression. and suicidal thoughts.
“He had no support from anyone,” Carcillo said. “Not from the league, not the players’ association.”
It was later revealed that Montador suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain degeneration caused by repeated head trauma. His family sued the NHL, alleging the league took advantage of its players while failing to educate them about the risk of repeated concussions.
Four years after his death, the NHL claimed that Montador’s brain degeneration was caused by his “own lack of diligence.” Despite countless calls from players like Carcillo, medical professionals and even a american senator to reassess the NHL’s position on the CTE and professional hockey, commissioner Gary Bettman continues to vehemently deny any connection between the two.
A later trial filed by more than 300 retired players (including Carcillo) accused the league of failing to protect them, and although the league settled, it took no responsibility for the concussions.
At no time did Carcillo let NHL resistance get in his way. In fact, the lack of resources available to former players galvanized his commitment to seeking treatment solutions and ultimately led him to become the case study that would lead to the founding of Wesana.
“It’s definitely not a miracle drug”
Today, Carcillo assigns an alternating protocol of regular “hero” (usually 5 grams or more) and “maintenance” doses, or microdoses of psilocybin mushrooms to treat his brain injury and ultimately save his life. But after 18 months on protocol, regular brain scans and a recent qEEG scan showing his brain has ‘no abnormalities’, he’s reluctant to say he’s cured and quickly clarifies that the mushrooms aren’t doing all the work. heavy on their own. .
“It’s definitely not a miracle drug. It’s a medicine that allows you to create good habits and keep them, but you have to do the work,” he says.
“[In bigger doses], it has the potential to change our perspective on our injury. A lot of TBI patients want to be the person we were before the injury, but I try to show people that you can actually get better.”
Carcillo is trying to do this through his company, Wesana Health, with the ultimate goal of developing a drug for TBI survivors based on his own success with psilocybin. The company announced yesterday that he successfully raised $4 million in a funding round led by The Conscious Fund and Ambria Capital.
“The primary goal is to go to market using our formulation for TBI-related depression,” says co-founder and executive chairman Chad Bronstein. The raise will help the company fund studies of psychedelic-assisted therapy for the treatment of TBI and seek an IND filing with the FDA, as well as the equivalent with Health Canada.
“What Chad was able to train me to do was put together a championship team, and that’s something I’ve been a part of for a really long time and I know how to play my part,” Carcillo says, adding that the members of Wesana’s clinical team have performed more than 400 trials and taken more than a dozen drugs from concept to realization.
The new company’s team includes Chief Operating Officer Dawn McCollough, formerly of Novartis, Board Director Mitch Kahn, formerly of Grassroots Cannabis, and Director of Athlete Relations. Ian McCalla retired UFC fighter.
For Bronstein, partnering with a dedicated former professional athlete like Carcillo was an obvious choice.
“He took his NHL, ‘car bomb’ persona, and he still has that mentality,” Bronstein said. “He was protecting people on the ice. In hockey, it was his role, and in the real world today, he protects people who face the same problems as him.