The entrepreneur is on a mission to combat the mental health crisis by making psychedelics accepted in society.
As soon as Christian Angermayer, one of Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs and investors, signs onto our Zoom call on a Saturday morning, he’s upbeat and excited to dive into various topics he’s passionate about, one of them being his quest for longevity and happiness.
The self-made billionaire founder of Apeiron Investment Group, a global investment firm focused on tech and biotech investments, grew up in a 90-person village in Germany and has stayed busy from a young age.
At 14, he had his first entrepreneurial idea in the form of a tutoring company. Today, Apeiron owns stakes in more than 100 companies globally including well-known brands like CBD beverage TRIP, hotel group Aethos and home fitness device company FORME LIFE.
But his main passion is biotech. With more than $3 billion under management through his Apeiron Investment Group, the entrepreneur created biotech companies ATAI Life Sciences, Cambrian BioPharma and Rejuveron Life Sciences, building on his belief that everyone wants to live healthier, happier and longer lives.
“I’ve always believed aging in itself is a disease, so why not find a cure for it?” Angermayer, 44, exclusively tells GRAZIA USA. “With Cambrian and Rejuveron, we are working hard to discover therapeutics to mitigate the aging process. I am very confident we soon will be able to slow down and even reverse aging and push life expectancy up significantly.”
Though the products won’t be on the market for some time — anywhere from five to 15 years — Angermayer is hopeful that 20 years from now, “we’re going to have the potential to live some hundred years. I don’t think we will want to live forever though. I envisage a future in which people will decide themselves when they want to die. This for me is the ultimate freedom.”
“While there are no therapeutics on the market yet which would make us live some hundred years, there is a lot you can do already today to increase the probability that you are still around when our drugs will come to market over the next 20 years,” says Angermayer, who takes about 40 supplements a day.
But supplements are actually not his main secret: “The big five are sleep, no drugs, diet, exercise and a fulfilled social life. I get a lot of sleep, and I don’t schedule meetings in the morning, so that I can wake up naturally and not with an alarm clock. I don’t take any drugs, and especially I’ve never drank alcohol. I eat well and follow a Mediterranean diet, so lots of fish and vegetables, no meat, and I exercise at least four times a week. Lastly and most importantly, you need to have good relationships with your family and friends. A healthy social life seems to have the biggest influence on your health and life expectancy.”
Over the years, Angermayer had many realizations, with one being that longevity and mental health go hand in hand. “The desire to be happy and healthy is one of the few dreams we all share. Or you could say that the total addressable market is 100% of the world’s population.”
In this day and age, most health care systems are overburdened and unable to deal with the rise in mental health issues — more than 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression while more than 264 million suffer from anxiety — but once Angermayer was introduced to the idea of taking psychedelics, things changed.
“In 2013, I was at a friend’s dinner party seated next to a very famous German neuroscientist,” he recalls. “I told him I have never smoked, never drank alcohol. We spent the whole evening talking about the brain, and he spoke to me about a study by Professor David Nutt from Imperial College London, which evaluated legal and illegal drugs and what harm they might cause on one’s body. The study concluded that the most dangerous drug is alcohol, but the least risky was magic mushrooms. At the same time, my seat neighbor pointed out that magic mushrooms have the potential to cure many mental health issues, and in fact, had been an approved medical drug in the last century in some countries.”
“I said, ‘Look, I’m happy, I don’t have mental health issues, I don’t need anything, and for sure I won’t take an illegal drug.’ However, the conversation made me interested, because I’m a naturally curious person, and I started researching the medical potential of magic mushrooms. Of big help in this research process were my best friends Julian Morris and Landon Ross, who had advocated for the therapeutic use of psychedelics to me for a while. And then, in 2014, when my rational mind was convinced that if taken in the right way these substances have very little to zero risk, but tremendous upside potential, Julian and Landon were my guides for my first experience on a wonderful beach in the Caribbean. It was hands down the single most meaningful, important, positive experience of my whole life. Nothing comes close to it.”
From there, Angermayer knew he was onto something. “I thought, ‘If it’s making me as a happy person this more positive and happier, I can totally see how it might cure mental health issues,’” he shares.
He subsequently started two biotech companies — ATAI and Compass, which are both listed on Nasdaq stock exchange in the meantime – to further develop the active compound in magic mushrooms, which is called psilocybin, and several other psychedelics. However, Angermayer doesn’t want these substances to become legal as a consumer product. Instead, he is redeveloping these substances as FDA-approved, medical therapeutics: in order for people to use them, they will have to be under their therapist’s supervision.
“If you look back at human history, humans have used psychedelics for healing purposes throughout all times and cultures, but they were always regulated,” he notes. “You had to go to a shaman or priest. The priests and shamans of our time are psychotherapists. You should only take these substances with them in a controlled environment and in the right setting. As I had my friends Julian and Landon as my guides for my first experience.”
Today, magic mushrooms and other psychedelics are legal in some parts of South America. If Angermayer succeeds, they will be available under a doctor’s supervision in the U.S. and Europe within some years.
While his focus is on making these substances available for people with mental health issues, it might well be
that down the road everybody might want to take a trip: “One of the big flaws of the Western healthcare system is that we are mostly focused on curing issues once they arise. It would be much more efficient to focus more on not getting sick in the first place. Hence, it could well be that people will seek out psychedelic-assisted therapy in challenging moments in their life before they actually slide into a mental health issue.”
Asked what a trip is like, he explains: “The experience you have under psychedelics is not always a fun one but can be challenging at times. It is very hard to describe, but simplified said it is a deep, spiritual experience, and often people face and overcome their fears, inner demons and trauma, which we all have. You learn a lot about yourself, you heal, and you grow as a human being.”
“But the hardest part is to take these learnings and change your life,” he adds. “The trip is just the realization, but it’s at least equally important that you take the learnings from the trip and incorporate those into your life. That can be tough, and this is one reason why it is so important to have the experience with a trained therapist together, who helps with integration work after.”
In fact, Angermayer is sure his learnings from his psychedelic journeys are part of why he’s so successful. “I feel magic mushrooms helped me improve as a human being. It also made me more creative, open and innovative. It made me a better entrepreneur and investor,” he states.
For Angermayer, longevity, mental health and psychedelics all go together: “Once we’re happy and healthy, we want to live for as long as we please. Psychedelics are the most important tool we have to stay mentally healthy and to cure — or at least improve — mental health issues. If we don’t start now, the mental health crisis will only get worse. It’s already the number one disease out there and the numbers will just grow, as the modern world around us seems to be toxic for our mental health, so we need to solve the problem.”
Before signing off our hour and a half call, I simply ask: “Would you say you’re happy?”
Angermayer replies, “Yes, I think I’m very happy.”
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