In this edition of "Rising High," The Fly conducted an exclusive interview with Demian Bellumio, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Nue Life Health, a telehealth company that strengthens and improves mental wellness by enhancing brain function, performance, and longevity through evidence-based therapies. Here are some highlights:
MENTAL WELLNESS: Nue Life Health is a next-generation mental wellness company that believes in the power of psychedelics to catalyze lasting change. The company has created a therapeutic ecosystem of ketamine therapy, an interactive companion app and virtual aftercare programs to help heal patients’ relationships with themselves. “We really see ourselves as a digital health company that is enabling the delivery of these treatments through our own clinical services, but also for partners,” Bellumio said. “What we really set up to build is a whole suite of technologies that enable the effective delivery of the therapy. These include apps that we put in the hands of the patients, and then a full EMR system that we put in the hands of the providers.” The company’s process entails a patient selecting one of two treatment programs, Nue Reset or Nue You, he said, embarking on a personalized healing journey through prescribed ketamine doses and attending virtual integration groups and health coaching to turn insights into healthy behaviors. “The first part was really about proving how effective these treatments are and then with our protocols, these treatments can be delivered safely and at scale,” the COO said. “So far, we have delivered treatments to over 6,000 patients.”
COMPETITIVE EDGE: As competition increases in the psychedelics space, Bellumio pointed to the company’s technology as its main differentiator from other mental wellness companies. “We stand out in that we set out to build our own proprietary stack of software,” he said. “This is complemented by a team of over 100 trained employees that leverage the technology to build and deliver the best scale possible.” Additionally, protocols for psychedelic-assisted therapy are different than those for traditional medicine, the COO noted, with the concept of set and setting as important as the drug itself. “The preparation the person has to have prior to the experience, our platform takes care of all of that,” he said. “The setting is really the context that is being set for the experience and in our case, music is a very important companion to the experience. We developed our own fully licensed legal music service that is curated by our expert musicologist to be able to accompany the patient.” Bellumio said the service is one of the elements that the patients value most from the experience. “Then lastly after the person has the experience, it has to be ideally accompanied with therapy,” he said. “The patient is integrating that very powerful experience and trying to incorporate that into the work that they must do, with other potential complementary motives like lifestyle change, diet change, better sleep patterns and so on and so forth. The whole robust treatment protocol and multi-disciplinary approach we have in treating the patient is enabled through that technology.”
TREATMENT PROGRAMS: Nue Life offers two at-home therapy programs, Nue Reset and Nue You. Nue Reset is a one-month subscription program which includes one month of telemedicine care, six ketamine experiences, four integration group sessions, one health coaching session and a three-month subscription to the Nue App for $1,399. Nue You is a four-month subscription program which includes four months of telemedicine care, 18 ketamine experiences, 16 integration group sessions, four health coaching sessions and a six-month subscription to the Nue App for $2,999. “The one-month program is a program that is specifically designed to help patients,” the COO said. “Our research shows that of our 650 treatment-resistant patients that we tracked in one of our studies, over 60% realized a ‘clinically significant’ reduction of symptoms after just six of our ketamine sessions.” Patients that are treatment-resistant, represent about 30% of the patient population and have tried two anti-depressants with no success, he said. “For those types of patients that are some of the hardest patients to treat, this program Nue Reset has a 65% effectiveness in reducing symptoms from severe depression to mild depression,” Bellumio said. “That is a very powerful clinical outcome.” He added Nue You is like the Nue Reset program but accompanied with three months of continued maintenance therapy. “From a cost perspective, Nue Reset, which is a six-session program at $1,399, compares fairly to in-clinic programs, which are usually around $700-$1,000 per session,” the COO said. “And we have the same exact effectiveness as an in-clinic delivery program. We’re very excited we’ve been able to demonstrate this at scale.” He also noted Nue Life delivers therapy at home making it much more accessible for patients. “And the programs don’t only include the actual drug therapy,” Bellumio said. “It includes all the other support that we give the patient including the preparation, the integration and the health coaching. All of that is embedded into our program.”
NUE CARE: In September, Nue Life announced the launch of Nue Care, a holistic, personalized six-month aftercare program that focuses on treating the root causes of mental health conditions through 1:1 care, progress tracking, health coaching, integration support, supplements, and other treatment modalities, with the goal of reducing the dependence on long term pharmacotherapy. The program is designed to help patients take advantage of the mental reset that ketamine therapy provides to create long-term lifestyle change with the support of integration specialists, health coaches, and the Nue app’s enhanced AI features. “Nue Care is something we’re extremely proud of,” the COO said. “We are the only ketamine company that wants you to take less ketamine. We believe in the power of ketamine and potentially other psychedelics that will become available, but we believe that the most robust way to help our patients for long-term healing is a combination of these pharmaceutical approaches with complementary treatment services.” Patients who have completed the Nue Reset or Nue You programs can sign up for Nue Care, he said, and the program costs $249 a month for the six-month membership. “The Nue Care program is essentially health coaching, group integration and medical support,” Bellumio said. “The thought here is once the patient goes through the first two programs, they will be in a state of mental elevation. With the Nue Care program they can continue to stay in that state and make the necessary lifestyle changes they need to make with the support of our staff to achieve long-term healing.”
NUE SCORE: The Nue Care program gives patients continued access to the Nue Life platform, including curated music playlists, exclusive content, biometric data integration, and access to the advanced Nue Score progress tracking. Nue Score is Nue Life’s personalized wellness evaluation system powered by proprietary algorithms. The methodology is designed to help members set health and lifestyle goals while providing valuable feedback, motivation, and education. The three pillars of Nue Score are Mind, Body, and Lifestyle, the COO said, and by tracking progress against daily goals in each pillar, members can create a holistic snapshot of their ongoing health progress. “Nue Score is key in Nue Care because we want to help patients long-term,” he said. “The key is to have the patient set goals and be able to objectively measure the goals. Nue Score is an algorithmic approach that we developed inspired by the concept of integrated psychiatry, which is looking at the person holistically to understand how they’re doing as a full being.” The score includes mental health components like mood, meditation, anxiety and depression tracking, Bellumio said, but also tracks body components like adequate sleep and exercise. “We also have lifestyle goals, which is the third pillar,” he said. “These are goals that are set with our coaches for the patient to achieve the necessary lifestyle changes that they need to make.” The goals could be related to reduction of bad habits or reinforcement of positive habits, the COO said, but overall they are set to help a patient achieve a more healthy and balanced lifestyle. “Another aspect of Nue Score is, with the permission of the patient, it connects to the Apple Healthkit and Google Fit frameworks,” he said. “If the patient has any wearables that sync to those frameworks, we could passively collect that data, so the patient doesn’t have to manually input the different measures every day. We made it in a way that is very seamless.”
EXPANSION PLANS: Nue Life currently offers at-home ketamine therapy, virtual integration groups, and individual health coaching accessible via telemedicine in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee, Washington, New York, Virginia and Texas. “We obviously targeted markets that have large populations so states like California, Florida and Texas,” Bellumio said. “Those markets are highly desirable just given the size of the states because from a medical point of view, a state that has a large population presents a larger market opportunity.” He added Nue Life also tries to work in states where the company’s medical teams have licenses. “It’s a combination of both market opportunity and where we logically could expand given the capabilities of our medical partners,” the COO said. “Our direct-to-consumer business is opening to two more states this month, which are Virginia and Illinois, and by the end of the year we hope to be in 20 states.” The company also has a program called Nue Network, in which it partners with existing medical providers, he said. “That’s a very exciting program that we’ve already soft launched in a pilot mode and that would allow us to offer our services in every state in the U.S.,” Bellumio said.
DRUG SCHEDULING: Several psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA are listed as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act in the U.S., while ketamine is listed as a Schedule III drug and the COO noted Nue Life is agnostic to which molecules it uses in treatments as more become legal. “We very easily could incorporate them into our service offerings,” he said. “The difference will be if they are approved for a suitable at home version. We’ll see when that happens.” Bellumio noted ketamine is a legally prescribed drug throughout the U.S. that has been around for decades. “It’s extremely safe and effective and a tremendous amount of studies and research demonstrate this,” he said, adding Nue Life is very focused on accessibility. “Given that ketamine, as many other drugs, has off-label use, it is not covered by insurance and must be paid out of pocket by the patient. There are a lot of initiatives right now to get different payors to cover the cost so it could be more accessible and we’re collaborating on several fronts in that way.”
CHALLENGES: When asked about the largest hurdles facing the psychedelics industry, the COO pointed to education as a main challenge but added it is becoming easier to manage as more data is published. “The attention the sector has been getting is great,” he said. “When I say education, it’s for patients to understand that there are alternatives that work extremely well and potentially are better options than what traditionally has been offered to them.” Additionally, education is also needed for providers, Bellumio said, as traditionally they have not been trained in medicine around psychedelics. “That is changing, almost every major university today has research and is developing programs to train providers,” he said. “We’re also seeing it in hospital networks and many other areas. There is a lot of focus to really demonstrate the power and effectiveness of these treatments.” Another challenge is getting the therapies covered by payors and insurance providers, the COO said. “This will dramatically change the potential accessibility of these therapies and that is something that obviously requires a lot of involvement from the FDA and regulatory bodies,” he said.
OPPORTUNITIES: As the psychedelic sector develops, Bellumio said he sees the biggest opportunity in enabling people to understand that they can take care of their mental health in similar ways to taking care of their physical health. “The same way you have a gym at home, you could have a mental health section of your house,” he said. “In the same way that we have been focused on the longevity of our body for years, people are going to focus on the longevity of our brains.” The COO added he is very excited about the impact of neuroplasticity on the health of the brain and how exercise of the mind may help delay the onset of certain brain conditions that come with age. “Then for us as a company, it’s about how do we enable this new mental health focus to be done at scale, at home for our patients,” he said. “It’s not only depending on the delivery of drugs, but also on the constant measurement and monitoring as well as combining the complementary approaches that we believe are the most effective way to treat mental health.”
CANNABIS/PSYCHEDELIC STOCKS: Publicly-traded companies in the space include Acreage (ACRHF), Akerna (KERN), Aleafia (ALEAF), Atai Life Sciences (ATAI), Audacious (AUSAF), Aurora Cannabis (ACB), Awakn Life Sciences (AWKNF), Ayr Wellness (AYRWF), BC Craft (CRFTF), Body and Mind (BMMJ), Cannara Biotech (LOVFF), Canopy Growth (CGC), Chicago Atlantic (REFI), Clever Leaves (CLVR), Columbia Care (CCHWF), Compass Pathways (CMPS), CordovaCann (LVRLF), Cresco Labs (CRLBF), Cronos (CRON), Curaleaf (CURLF), CURE Pharmaceutical (CURR), CV Sciences (CVSI), Delic Holdings (DELCF), Delta 9 (DLTNF), Entourage Health (ETRGF), Fire & Flower (FFLWF), Flora Growth (FLGC), General Cannabis (CANN), Goodness Growth (GTBIF), Greenlane (GNLN), Green Thumb (GTBIF), GrowGeneration (GRWG), Hemp (HEMP), HEXO (HEXO), High Tide (HITI), India Globalization Capital (IGC), Indiva (NDVAF), Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR), InterCure (INCR), IM Cannabis (IMCC), Wellbeing Digital (KONEF), Khiron Life Sciences (KHRNF), Lowell Farms (LOWLF), Lotus Ventures (LTTSF), MediPharm Labs (MEDIF), MedMen (MMNFF), Neptune Wellness (NEPT), NewLake Capital (NLCP), Thermic Science (ENDO), Organigram (OGI), Planet 13 (PLNHF), Revitalist (RVLWF), RIV Capital (CNPOF), Relmada (RLMD), RYAH Group (RYAHF), Sproutly (SRUTF), Stem Holdings (STMH), Small Pharma (DMTTF), Skye Biosciences (SKYE), SNDL (SNDL), Sunniva (SNNVF), TerrAscend (TRSSF), Tetra Bio-Pharma (TBPMF), Tilray (TLRY), Trulieve (TCNNF), Tryp Therapeutics (TRYPF), The Valens Company (VLNS), Verano Holdings (VRNOF), Village Farms (VFF), Wesana Health (WSNAF), Zynerba (ZYNE) and 4Front Ventures (FFNTF).