Shroom at the top

Back in the day, when all this was fields and the sun always shone, Final Close would go hiking in the beautiful British countryside armed with three pieces of advice: don’t annoy the cows, always close the gates and definitely, definitely, don’t touch the wild mushrooms. Given that the UK is home to at least 50 varieties of poisonous mushroom, some of which can kill within hours, this is clearly sound advice. But Final Close, as a naive young ’un, had no idea that this was not the only reason it was ordered to give the fungi a wide berth.

The UK has a bountiful harvest of psilocybin – or magic – mushrooms, a tiny bite of which can make the eater lose all sense of time, see colours and shapes and, on a bad day, hide under the covers and not emerge until the bad men have gone away. Like many other types of drug, magic mushrooms are illegal in Britain, though they might not be for long.

According to a story in the Financial Times, British start-up Compass Pathways is set to launch the largest ever clinical trial to assess the therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms. From early next year, 400 patients from eight European countries will start a three-month course of psilocybin to see if it can help fight treatment-resistant depression.

If successful, it could lead to the kind of fever provoked by the legalisation of marijuana in some US states, which saw managers like Benchmark Capital invest in Hound Labs, an Oakland-based start-up that has developed the pot smokers’ equivalent of a breathalyser. Private equity firms are reportedly already in conversations with Compass, which has £4 million in seed capital from backers including Christian Angermayer, chief executive of family office Apeiron Investment Group.

Final Close, for its part, will be sticking to ale.