Research and development: the future of medicinal mushrooms

Research and development: the future of medicinal mushrooms

Over the last 5-10 years, I’ve noticed a shift. Years ago, when I explained that I was a medicinal mushroom grower, people tended to look confused. These days, there’s often a spark of recognition. Not all of them announce that they’re dyed-in-the-wool Maitake devotees — but most people know someone who uses medicinal mushrooms for health and wellness.

This shift is because lots of us have become more engaged with our health — and more intentional. We’re keen on preventative care and we’re not afraid to supplement our care (with the support of a GP, of course) to get the best possible results.

And researchers are taking notice.

Meet Little Green Pharma

When The West Australian ran a profile on yours truly earlier this year, I was chuffed. But I didn’t realise it was going to lead to a partnership with one of WA’s pioneering research and innovation companies.

Little Green Pharma works hard — through research, lobbying, and consultation — to improve access to quality medical cannabis. Bringing together nature and science, the company provides targeted and natural therapeutic solutions to people all over the world.

The South West-based company is involved in on-going clinical investigations into cannabinoid medicines. And they’re adding their voice to the growing scientific evidence supporting medical cannabis use.

Psilo-what-now?

Alongside this research, Little Green Pharma is keen to investigate the therapeutic effects of psilocybin — aka. Magic Mushrooms. There is growing interest in how psilocybin could be used to support addiction care, depression, and other mental health conditions.

As a mycologist, I’m super interested in this field, too. So you can imagine my delight when I was asked to attend Little Green Pharma’s top-secret facility. It seemed Little Green Pharma’s Managing Director had read about me in The West Australian and requested a meeting.

Class-100 lab envy

In order to spawn, propagate and grow psilocybin, Little Green Pharma needed a Class-100 lab. After a raft of meetings and interviews, I was contracted to design a lab suitable to support their psilocybin studies.

When it comes to growing mushrooms, cleanliness is key. That’s why having access to a Class-100 lab is best practice for mushroom growers. It’s essential to create an environment where the level of contamination by dust particles, vapours and mushroom spores is rigidly controlled.

On top of that, the temperature, humidity, and pressure inside the lab matter. All three are strictly controlled, such that the humans inside the lab are the only wildcard. To offset this, researchers always wear protective gear when they’re in the lab. Gloves, shoe covers, and hairnets aren’t necessarily the height of fashion, but they keep skin, hair particles, and germs out of a sterile laboratory.

Attack of the (very clean) clones

Little Green Pharma’s lab is custom designed for safe research in immaculate conditions. It includes several zones:

  • Cloning room: a laminar hood ensures mushroom spores are managed and contained to keep researchers safe
  • Spawning room: in just the right temperature, humidity, and CO2 conditions, clones spend 4-12 weeks growing into mushroom spaw
  • Growing rooms: with perfectly monitored conditions (and sterile substrate), the lab will be able to produce several different mushroom species for further research

Looking ahead

I’m so proud to have designed this specialised lab to add to Little Green Pharma’s impressive facility. For over 45 years, I’ve been fascinated by medicinal mushrooms and I can’t wait to see the results of Little Green Pharma’s research.

Graham Upson has grown and studied mushrooms for over 45 years. After successfully building and running Australia’s biggest mushroom farm in Perth, he and his family relocated to Denmark, Western Australia in 1995. Soon, Graham began construction on a purpose-built mushroom growing facility.

These days, Touchwood Mushrooms produces a wide variety of medicinal mushrooms — and ships them all over Australia and the world. Graham represented WA on the Australian Mushroom Growers Association Board for five years, and continues to lead the industry when it comes to research and best practices. He’s a keen musician, photographer, fisher, and a loving father and grandad.

 


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