PLU Lectureship Series - Jackie von Salm, Psilera

Time: Feb 16, 2023 (03:45 PM)
Location: SCC 115


As part of the Phi Lambda Upsilon Lectureship Series, Jackie von Salm of biotechnology research company Psilera will present a talk titled "How Nature’s Chemistry Continues to Inspire 21st Century Medicine".


Compounds found in nature, often referred to as natural products, have served as blueprints for drug discovery and medicine throughout human history with more than 65% of FDA-approved medications owing their origin to a chemical found in nature. A heightened societal interest in psychoactive natural products such as cannabinoids, tryptamines, and phenethylamines has catalyzed studying these compounds after years of dormant research. This newly found interest is due in part to the increasing awareness of mental health as well as the excessive substance abuse associated with opioid pharmaceuticals. Of the known psychedelics, tryptamines such as psilocybin (mostly found in Psilocybe mushroom species) and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT; typically found in mimosa tree bark, Mimosa spp., or ayahuasca tea, Banisteriopsis caapi) are shown to have promising activity in mental health and other central nervous system disorders with multiple phase I and phase II clinical trials ongoing for various depressive disorders (TRD and MDD) around the world. Although promising, these compounds have major limitations including extreme hallucinations and minor cardiotoxicity, so how can we use our now decades of drug discovery and pharmaceutical knowledge to mitigate those risks and make these medications more accessible to diverse patient populations?pluseal.jpg

Dr. Jackie von Salm is Co-Founder and CSO of Psilera, a biotechnology company founded in 2019 focused on next-generation compounds based on DMT and psilocybin. She has recently been featured in National Geographic, Nature, and the Wall Street Journal for her company's work in psychedelic drug discovery. She began her career researching exotic marine wildlife in Antarctica and the Caribbean searching for new chemistry and natural medicines. This led to being named the Most Read Author by the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2017 for her publication on new antibiotics from Antarctic marine sponges. She later worked on novel delivery forms of Cannabis spp. and investigated which compounds are responsible for different patient experiences. This work led to being awarded the MAPS/Cosmic Sister Emerging Voices Award in 2019 and the ACS ElSohly Award for Excellence in Cannabis Chemistry in 2020. She has written multiple academic publications, book chapters, and patents on natural products drug discovery, chemical ecology, and pharmaceuticals. Dr. von Salm graduated magna cum laude with her B.A. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of South Florida.