The Heffter Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes research with classic hallucinogens and psychedelics, predominantly psilocybin. Heffter primarily funds academic and clinical scientists. The institute was founded in 1993 by medicinal chemist David E. Nichols. Co-founders included neuroscientist Mark Geyer, Ph.D., psychiatrist George Greer, M.D., psychiatrist Charles Grob, M.D. and neuroscientist Dennis McKenna, Ph.D.
At the time, psychedelic research had been dormant for approximately 20 years and was not eligible to receive government funding, necessitating private funding to restart the field. The institute was created to secure the private funding and to evaluate research projects for their scientific merit. The first decade of research primarily focused on the mechanisms of action and effects of MDMA, along with clinical studies on ketamine treatment for Heroin addiction in Russia. The institute also funded several small fellowships for young scientists. Since the turn of the century, the institute's work has focused primarily on psilocybin, including funding the first psychedelic treatment study in the U.S. in decades, treating obsessive-compulsive disorder with psilocybin at the University of Arizona. This study coincided with a number of neuroscience studies of psilocybin and a focus on treating anxiety and depression in cancer patients with psilocybin and addictions. Heffter's recent clinical studies have focused on psilocybin-assisted treatment for end-of-life anxiety and depression in cancer patients, as well as alcohol and nicotine addiction. Other focuses are the relationship between the psychedelic experience and spirituality, and for basic science research into the physiology of brain activity, cognition, and behavior.
The Heffter Institute believes that psychedelics have great, unexplored potential that requires independently funded scientific research to find their best uses in medical treatment.
The current board of directors consists of seven scientists and five Philanthropists. The current president is philanthropist Carey Turnbull.
The institute has provided funding for more than 80 Scientific publications concerned with psychedelic drug research.