Amy Emerson, CEO of MAPS Public Benefit Corp. (MAPS PBC), grew up in Kodiak, Alaska and fell in love with both animals and science as a child. Later in life, when considering veterinary school, she realized that she loved biology but hated math – she would rather live in the wilderness on a lake and look upon science as a form of art.
Amy’s path led her to a microbiology lab for fish and game, then to bench science at a biotech company where she learned, as she says it, pre-clinical research is “an exercise in proving yourself wrong.” She ultimately switched to the clinical side of biotech research and spent years developing drugs the old fashioned way. For instance, she played a key role in the development of numerous vaccines during a long stint at Chiron starting in its early years.
A chance moment at Burning Man led Amy down a different drug development path. Through a circuitous series of events, she met Rick Doblin, who was doing foundational clinical research into the use of MDMA (aka Ecstasy) for clinical applications. Rick went on to become founder of MAPS, a company intent on bringing the first FDA approved MDMA product to those who suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. MAPS PBC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MAPS.org, a leader in psychedelic drug research.
Upon hearing Rick speak, Amy felt “a moment of clarity and purpose.” She made a cold call to Rick, volunteering to help with his clinical and regulatory efforts. Today she is CEO of the company. We spoke to Amy about her career, but also the burgeoning field of psychedelic drugs for mental health treatment and the issues around legality, stigma and potential convergence with traditional pharma.