The Heffter Research Institute promotes research of the highest scientific quality with the classic hallucinogens and related compounds (sometimes called psychedelics) in order to contribute to a greater understanding of the mind leading to the improvement of the human condition, and to alleviate suffering.
The Heffter Research Institute was incorporated in New Mexico in 1993 as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) 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.
It is the policy of the Institute that none of its grants may be spent for indirect costs at institutions.
The Institute is named in honor of Dr. Arthur Heffter,
a turn-of-the-century German research pharmacologist, who was the first scientist to study, systematically, a naturally-occurring hallucinogen, publishing his work in 1897.
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Dr. Greer conducted over 100 therapeutic sessions with MDMA for 80 individuals from 1980 to 1985 with his psychiatric nurse wife, Requa Tolbert. He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Past President of the Psychiatric Medical Association of New Mexico. He was the Clinical Director of Mental Health Services for the New Mexico Corrections Department during the 1990s. He has been the Medical Director of the Heffter Research Institute since 1998 and is the current President.
Dr. Nichols, PhD originally conceived of a privately funded Institute as the most effective mechanism for bringing research on psychedelic agents into the modern era of neuroscience. This vision led to the founding of the Heffter Research Institute in 1993. Prior to his retirement in June 2012, he was the Robert C. and Charlotte P. Anderson Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy, and also was adjunct Professor of Pharmacology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC, where he continues his research. In 2004 he was named the Irwin H. Page Lecturer, and in 2006 was named the first Provost’s s Outstanding Graduate Mentor at Purdue. The focus of his graduate training, beginning in 1969, and of much of his research subsequent to receiving his doctorate in 1973 has been the investigation of the relationship between molecular structure and the action of psychedelic agents and other substances that modify behavioral states. His research has been continuously funded by government agencies for more three decades. He consults for the pharmaceutical industry and has served on numerous committees and government research review groups. Widely published in the scientific literature and internationally recognized for his research on centrally active drugs, he has studied all of the major classes of psychedelic agents, including LSD and other lysergic acid derivatives, psilocybin and the tryptamines, and phenethylamines related to mescaline. Among scientists, he is recognized as one of the foremost experts on the medicinal chemistry of hallucinogens. His high standards and more than four decades of research experience set the tone to ensure that rigorous methods and quality science are pursued by the Institute.
Steven Grant, Ph.D., joined the Heffter Research Institute in 2021 after nearly 5 decades of conducting basic and clinical research on the action of drugs on the brain. His interest in the intersection of neuroscience and pharmacology started as an undergraduate when he read an article describing how psychedelic drugs act on brain serotonin receptors. His early career focused on pre-clinical research on brain aminergic and cholinergic neurotransmitter systems. He received a Ph.D. in 1979 from the University of Georgia in BioPsychology. His post-doctoral fellowship at the Psychiatry Department of Yale School of Medicine focused on neurophysiological and behavioral studies of the brain noradrenergic system. After completion of his fellowship, he received a research faculty appointment in the Department. Subsequently, he joined the Psychology Department at the University of Delaware as an assistant professor. While at Delaware he established an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in neuroscience. During this time he became interested in the newly emerging area of brain imaging and cognitive neuroscience. As a staff scientist at the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, he conducted studies on drug craving and decision-making in humans that combined brain pharmacology and cognitive neuroscience using brain imaging. He then joined the NIDA extramural staff as a Program Officer where he developed a nationwide funding program on the cognitive neuroscience of substance abuse and became chief of the Clinical Neuroscience Branch. After 25 years at NIDA, he retired and joined the Heffter Research Institute to pursue his original interest in psychedelic drug research.
Katrin Preller received her M.Sc. (Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychology) from University of Konstanz, Germany. For her PhD, Dr. Preller joined the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University of Zurich, Switzerland, where she investigated the neurobiological and social-cognitive long-term effects of cocaine, MDMA, and heroin use. After completing her PhD, she joined the Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging lab at the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, investigating the effects of psychedelic substances on self-perception, social cognition, and multimodal processing using different brain imaging techniques. Dr. Preller received an SNSF PostDoc mobility fellowship and worked as a Postdoc at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL, London, UK, and Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. Subsequently, she was appointed as Junior Group Leader at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University of Zurich, and holds a position as Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Preller is a recipient of the Pfizer Research Award and the Swiss Society for Biological Psychiatry Young investigators award. Her group’s research focus is centered on the neurobiology and pharmacology of cognitive and emotional processes in health and disease using multi-modal behavioral, electrophysiological and neuroimaging techniques, the development of novel treatment approaches, and the interaction between pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments. She is studying the potential of psychedelic substances as treatment for psychiatric illnesses in clinical trials and aims at uncovering the clinical mechanism of action to inform psychedelic-assisted therapy. Dr. Preller supports various mentoring and training programs for young researchers and therapists. She holds a position as Biomarker and Experimental Medicine Leader at F.Hoffmann-La Roche.
Mark A. Geyer PhD is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences Emeritus at the University of California San Diego and directs the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit of the VISN 22 VA’s Mental Illness Research, Clinical, and Education Center. Since receiving his doctorate in Psychology in 1972, he has focused on basic research addressing the behavioral and neurobiological effects of psychedelics and other psychoactive drugs. For four decades, his group has had continuous funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the behavioral effects of hallucinogens. Dr. Geyer is internationally known for his research on the psychophysiology, neurobiology, and pharmacotherapy of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He has published over 470 peer-reviewed papers, including many addressing the mechanisms subserving the effects of psychostimulants, hallucinogens, and entactogens. He is the lead Series Editor for Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, which has completed 43+ volumes. He was involved intensively in the NIMH-funded MATRICS, TURNS, and CNTRICS Programs. He has served as a receiving Editor of Neuropsychopharmacology, Neuropharmacology, Psychopharmacology, and Schizophrenia Bulletin, and as Scientific Advisor to European Union’s Innovative Medicine Initiative. He is a Fellow of AAAS, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), and American Psychological Society, Past-President of the International Society for Serotonin Research and the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, member of Scientific Council of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, 2011 awardee of Bleuler Prize for Research in the Schizophrenias, and the 2014 Julius Axelrod Mentorship Awardee from ACNP. Dr. Geyer’s broad experience as a researcher, grant reviewer, journal editor, and teacher lends invaluable scientific and professional expertise to the Institute, as he provides the leadership to develop a strong program in the behavioral psychopharmacology and clinical applications of psychedelic agents.
Roland Griffiths, PhD, is Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His principal research focus in both clinical and preclinical laboratories has been on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs. His research has been largely supported by grants from the National Institute on Health and he is author of 380 journal articles and book chapters. He has been a consultant to the National Institutes of Health, to numerous pharmaceutical companies in the development of new psychotropic drugs, and as a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence for the World Health Organization. He has conducted extensive research with sedative-hypnotics, caffeine, and novel mood-altering drugs. In 1999 he initiated a research program investigating the effects of the classic psychedelic psilocybin that includes studies in psychedelic naive and experienced volunteers, in beginning and long-term meditators, and in religious leaders. Studies have also have examined the effects of salvinorin A, dextromethorphan, and ketamine which produce altered states of consciousness having some similarities to psilocybin. Therapeutic studies with psilocybin include treatment of psychological distress in cancer patients, treatment of cigarette smoking cessation, and psilocybin treatment of major depression. Drug interaction studies and brain imaging studies (fMRI and PET) are examining pharmacological and neural mechanisms of action. The Hopkins laboratory has also conducted a series of internet survey studies characterizing various psychedelic experiences including those associated with acute and enduring adverse effects, mystical-type effects, entity and God-encounter experiences, and alleged positive changes in mental health, including decreases in depression and anxiety, decreases in substance abuse, and reductions in death anxiety. (Participation by Board Member does not constitute or imply endorsement by the Johns Hopkins University or the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System.)
Dr. Grob is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine and the Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He has a long-standing interest in the history of psychiatric research with hallucinogens, and has published in the psychiatric literature and has given talks at professional meetings in this area. Dr. Grob received the first FDA approval to carry out human research with 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). He collaborated with Drs. Dennis McKenna and Jace Callaway on a project to study the biochemical, physiological, and psychological parameters of long-term ayahuasca use in Brazil. In collaboration with Dr. Marlene Dobkin de Rios, he has examined the sociocultural context within which the use of these compounds occurs. In 2004 Dr. Grob initiated an FDA approved research investigation examining the effects of psilocybin in advanced-stage cancer patients with severe anxiety, which was completed in 2008. He is also the editor of Hallucinogens: A Reader, and the co-editor with Dr. Roger Walsh of Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics.
Dennis McKenna’s professional and personal interests are focused on the interdisciplinary study of ethnopharmacology and natural hallucinogens. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where his research focused on ethnopharmacological investigations of ayahuasca and oo-koo-he, two indigenous Amazonian psychedelic medicines. He completed post-doctoral studies at the Helicon Foundation in San Diego (1984-86), the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology at NIMH (1986-88) and the Department of Neurology at Stanford University (1988-1990). He worked at Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology from 1990-93, and relocated to Minnesota in 1993 to join the Aveda Corporation as Senior Research Pharmacognosist.
Dr. McKenna taught courses in Ethnopharmacology, Botanical Medicines and Plants in Human Affairs in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota from 2001 to 2017. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute and serves on the advisory board of non-profit organizations in the fields of ethnobotany and botanical medicines. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, an international biomedical study of ayahuasca used as a sacrament by the UDV, a syncretic religious group in Brazil. He is the younger brother of Terence McKenna. From 2004 to 2008, he was the Principal Investigator on a project funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute to investigate Amazonian ethnomedicines for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive deficits. In 2017, with the collaboration of many colleagues, he organized and presented a landmark symposium, the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 years of Research. The conference commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original conference held in San Francisco in 1967. Synergetic Press published a limited edition of the Proceedings of both the 1967 and 2017 symposia as a double volume set in 2018.
In the spring of 2019, in collaboration with colleagues in Canada and the U.S., he incorporated a new non-profit, The McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy. He emigrated to Canada in the spring of 2019 together with his wife Sheila, and now resides in Abbotsford, B.C.
Dr. Nichols currently is a professor of pharmacology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, LA. He earned his B.S. at Purdue University, his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University, and performed his postdoctoral work at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in the Department of Pharmacology researching 5-HT2 receptor pharmacology. He has been studying 5-HT2A receptors and the cellular, molecular, genetic, and behavioral effects of psychedelics for over 25 years and is considered one of the world’s top experts on the biological effects of psychedelics in the brain and body. He is a founding member of the International Society for Research on Psychedelics, and its current President. He is also Co-Editor in Chief of Psychedelic Medicine. Key discoveries he and his laboratory have made include elucidation of the effects of psychedelics on gene expression in the brain, identification and characterization of the specific cells in the brain that directly respond to psychedelics, and the development of new rodent and fruit fly experimental systems recapitulating the long-lasting antidepressant-like effects of psychedelics for mechanistic study. Dr. Nichols and his laboratory also made the discovery that psychedelics are extremely potent anti-inflammatory agents, and can have full efficacy at levels far below those necessary to induce behavioral effects in several models of human inflammatory diseases.
Janis Phelps, PhD, is a full professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), San Francisco, CA. A licensed clinical psychologist, she has held faculty positions there in the East-West Psychology graduate program (founded by Alan Watts) and in the clinical psychology doctoral program. She served as the Dean of Faculty at CIIS for the graduate departments in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. She is currently the founder and director of the CIIS Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research. As the Center’s founder, Dr. Phelps developed and launched the first academically accredited, professional certificate training program for legal psychedelic-assisted therapy and research www.ciis.edu/psychedeliccenter. Her recent publications focus on the competencies, knowledge base, and training of therapists and facilitators in psychedelic-assisted therapies. Dr. Phelps is contributing to the development of a national accreditation board for facilitators/therapists and to methods of scaling effective and efficient training programs to meet the burgeoning need for well-trained mental health and medical professionals in the field of psychedelic medicine.
T. Cody Swift, MA received his masters degree in existential-phenomenological counseling from Seattle University and is currently perusing licensure in California. He has worked as a guide at Johns Hopkins University in the psilocybin cancer-anxiety study, and is currently conducting qualitative research into the nature of healing with psychedelics in a clinical setting, with MDMA and psilocybin. Cody is also a current director of the Riverstyx Foundation which is dedicated to advancing reforms in the end-of-life care, addiction recovery, and criminal justice fields. Since 2008, he has extensively supported research into psychedelic medicines as a promising psychological treatment that allows for a deeper exploration of oneself and one’s condition, leading to sustained healing and growth.
Carey Turnbull was Global Chairman of inter-dealer energy market derivative and futures broker Amerex, which he co-founded in 1983, and whose North American operations were sold in 2006 to become the energy brokerage division of NYSE listed GFI Group www.amerexenergy.com. In 2009 he founded North American Power, a retail energy supply company that under his Chairmanship grew to serve 300,000 electricity and natural gas customers in eleven states www.napower.com. In 2017 that business was purchased by NYSE listed Calpine (CPN), a Fortune 500 company. Prior to beginning his business career Mr. Turnbull lectured about and taught meditation for 10 years.
Mr. Turnbull was for 10 years a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees at Goddard College, from which he graduated in 1973. He is Chair of the advisory board of the NYU Center for Psychedelic Medicine, and has assisted in the founding of Yale University’s extensive psilocybin research program. He is a member of the Board and President of Heffter Research Institute and a member of the Board of Usona Institute, both of which promote research on psychedelic plants and drugs at leading University research departments. Since 2010 Mr. Turnbull has worked in commercial early-stage drug development for half a dozen companies variously as an investor, founder, and CEO. Most recently he founded Ceruvia Lifesciences and B.More to transform psychedelic research into cutting-edge medicine.
He provides time as an adjunct advisor to the legal defense of the Native American Church and other indigenous people’s rights to the practice of their religion, ceremonies, and beliefs free from cultural, religious and legal pressure. Mr. Turnbull also founded Freedom to Operate to protect psychedelic science and medical development for the public benefit.
Mr. and Mrs. Turnbull have been happily married for 40+ years and have 2 children, a 40-year-old son and a 39-year-old daughter. They are enthusiastic cruising sailors in the family’s classic wood sailboat. They divide their time between New York, Palm Beach, and Bar Harbor Maine.
Claudia Turnbull has a Master of Arts Degree in Consciousness Studies from Goddard College. She began teaching the Transcendental Meditation Technique in 1974, and now works at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research investigating the results of psilocybin experiences had by religious professionals and long term meditators. Claudia has been a major philanthropic supporter of psychedelic research at major universities for over ten years. She has studied therapist training with the Usona Institute for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with psilocybin, and studied the therapeutic treatment of PTSD with MDMA with MAPS. She is a founder of B.More, a nonprofit whose mission is to make a prescription medicine of psilocybin for the treatment of substance use disorders, and a founding member of Ceruvia, a corporation whose mission is research and development of neurotransformational medicines. She is a Board member of the Heffter Research Institute. She is a member of College of the Atlantic Board of Trustees. She has been happily married for 42 years and has raised 2 children, a 41-year-old son and a 38-year-old daughter with one grandson. She divides her time between Tuxedo Park New York and Bar Harbor Maine. She is an avid organic gardener, and a capable and enthusiastic cruising sailor in the family’s classic wood sailboats.
Dr. Franz X. Vollenweider is currently the Vice-Director of Research and Teaching and Director of the “Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging” Research Unit of the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zürich East, and Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, University of Zürich. He is also the Director of Heffter Research Centre Zürich for Consciousness Studies (HRC-ZH), which he founded in 1998 and incorporated in his research group.
Dr. Vollenweider received his MD degree at the University of Zürich. He completed his doctoral thesis in experimental medicine at the Institute of Toxicology of the University and ETH of Zürich, was trained in neurochemistry at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zürich, and in neuroimaging at the PET Centre of the PSI-ETH. In 1994 he became certified in the specialities of psychiatry and psychotherapy. His research interests encompass the area of psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioural psychopharmacology of psychotic and affective disorders.
Current research focuses on the investigation of the functional networks and transmitter dynamics underlying the experience of self, visual perception, cognitive and emotional processes and the dysfunctions of these processes in human models of psychoses and psychiatric patients. Multiple approaches including measures of information processing, event-related potentials, and brain imaging techniques are used for studying these functions.
Dr. Vollenweider has published over 80 peer-reviewed papers, many of which address the mechanisms of action of psychostimulants, hallucinogens, and entactogens in humans. His research is supported by multiple grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Federal Health Office, and the Heffter Research Institute (USA), and by multiple AWARDS from the NARSAD and the Fetzer Research Institute USA. He has received the Achievement Award of the Swiss Society of Psychiatry (1990), the Heffter Research Institute Award (1997), the Götz Prize of the University of Zürich (2000), and the British Association of Psychopharmacology Prize (2002).
Psilocybin is a psychoactive substance that acts on serotonin brain receptors resulting in changes of perception, cognition, and emotion. In medicine, psilocybin and similar substances such as mescaline and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) are often called psychedelics or “hallucinogens,” though they usually do not cause actual hallucinations.
Psilocybin occurs naturally in certain mushrooms (also referred to as “magic mushrooms”). For possibly thousands of years, mushrooms containing psilocybin have been used in religious and healing practices to induce mystical or spiritual states of consciousness. Under clinical supervision, psilocybin has shown to produce important insights and memories, greater access to emotions, and help provide perspective around life meaning, which can all contribute to relief from anxiety and addictive patterns.
All Heffter sponsored trials with psilocybin follow a similar protocol to ensure safety for the participant and efficacy of their treatment. Prior to enrollment, participants are screened for current and prior history of serious mental illness to gauge appropriateness of the treatment. Once enrolled, participants spend several weeks prior to their psilocybin session developing close rapport and trust with the study team and their two guides and to establish an intimate understanding of the participant’s psychological history and treatment goals. Psilocybin is administered in a specially designed living-room style room, decorated with artwork, comfortable furniture, and soft lighting. It specifically avoids a “laboratory” look and feel. Participants take a single capsule of psilocybin administered by their two male and female study guides who are present for interpersonal support throughout the entire session. During most of the 8-hour session, participants are encouraged to lie on the couch, wearing eyeshades and listening to supportive music through headphones, and thus much of the time in which psilocybin is in effect will be spent in quiet internal reflection. Follow-up sessions in the days and months after the psilocybin dosing will help participants to further integrate aspects of their psilocybin experience. Medical support is available on-site.
While the session itself may last up to eight hours, research has shown that even a one-time experience with psilocybin in a clinical setting can reliably occasion dramatic shifts in consciousness and awareness that may lead to long-term, sustained improvement in anxiety, depression, as well as one’s sense of overall wellbeing and spiritual connection.
Psilocybin is a powerful medicine and it is Heffter’s position that the positive effects found in research to date are achieved only when prescribed by a doctor and used in a therapeutic setting. Safety has not been demonstrated for psilocybin when used outside of a structured clinical or laboratory setting and we strongly caution against recreational use of psilocybin because of potential adverse psychological reactions.