The psychedelics industry is expanding rapidly, with dozens of new companies emerging over the last two years. While psychedelic drugs and the mental health issues companies hope to treat with them are experienced by people of all races and genders, the vast majority of psychedelic executives don’t reflect that diversity.
The latest company to introduce itself is changing that, with the goal of providing women with a more specialized approach to both healthcare and psychedelics. Founded by a group of four women from around the world with backgrounds in biopharma, tech, cannabis, and the consumer goods industries, Aphrodite Health is focusing on a realm of medicine other firms in the space haven’t yet touched on.
Female-Focused Therapeutics For Mental Health
“First off, we are for women, by women,” says co-founder and CEO Tesla La Touche, an Afro Indigenous specialist in surgical, biopharmaceutical and clinical therapy technologies, who has worked with several multinational companies throughout her career including Roche and Johnson & Johnson. She comes into the space with both a professional and personal understanding of how existing treatment options for women’s health issues are limited.
La Touche’s interest in psychedelics was sparked by her own experience following a debilitating surgical procedure in 2006 that left her with severe trauma and extreme pain. “I was looking at alternatives to opiates,” she says. “Because I worked in an orthopaedic corporate medical technology environment, I already knew that traditional pain management wasn’t going to be my path.”
La Touche began exploring the combination of psychedelics and advanced clinical therapies, which she says, “started me on the journey of wanting to take a stance for more innovative tools in this space, so that we could offer them to others” — especially to women in her age group.
The Word ‘Kinetic’ Comes To Mind
The first all-female founded psychedelics company, Aphrodite Health is also the first firm in the space to address the development of a female-focused therapeutic for mental health. La Touche says her team’s commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and access is “baked in” to its vision for drug discovery and clinical research, with the intention to “get a lot more right in the way that we approach women’s health research and market uptake,” says La Touche, than what’s currently being offered to women via traditional medicine and the cannabis industry.
Other founders in the company include chief operations officer Victoria Armstrong, chief strategy officer Olivia Mannix, and chief of staff Vastaen Balbuena. Armstrong is a serial entrepreneur with international experience in health and tech startups, while Mannix is a business strategist who has started several companies in the cannabis and psychedelics spaces, including Cannabrand. Balbuena is focused on the incubation and scaling of startups in health, tech, and consumer goods, and is also a senior associate of funding at The Conscious Fund.
“We galvanize women from around the world. I think we represent women culturally, intellectually, philosophically, geographically — and anecdotally, we get it,” La Touche says of the Aphrodite team. “We have really looked at curating a team of women that are willing to play to their genius.”
The CEO has worked with all-female teams before and says she’s fond of the working dynamic a group of women can create together: “The word ‘kinetic’ comes to mind, because to be kinetic is to be in flow. That summarizes our collective process. We are specifically inspired around metacognition, so to be in the will and application of what we know, all the time, and it definitely makes things feel more at ease.”
Plans For The Future: Going Public?
The company’s announcement came with the news that it will approach the industry two ways, first with a psychedelic drug discovery program, and second, with an over-the-counter product that should be available to consumers sometime in 2022. While La Touche couldn’t provide an exact timeline, she did say that Aphrodite Health has plans to go public.
The first product in the company’s pipeline will intend to disrupt the antidepressant market and provide a treatment solution for women who suffer from sex-related mood disorders during menopause. La Touche says the mission for the Aphrodite team is to elevate women’s health and women’s autonomy in the emerging space, offering a more personal approach to treatment for this and eventually other women’s health issues.
“We have a mission to elevate women’s health and our autonomy in psychedelic medicine discovery,” says La Touche. “Our vision is rooted in evidence-based functional and personalized medicine, and that, I think, is the biggest game changer… it’s time for the market to self-correct, and deliver more options for self-directed care, as a general rule of thumb around our approach to healthcare.”