Claudius Lenz


Claudius Lenz is a doctoral student in pharmaceutical microbiology at Hans Knoll Institute (HKI) in Jena, Germany, also known as the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology. Mesmerized by nature, society, and organic chemistry, Lenz pursued a Master’s degree in chemical biology. He then began his Ph.D. in April 2017 under Dr. Dirk Hoffmeister’s supervision, studying the natural phenomena of Psilocybe mushrooms through a chemistry lens. Since then, he has frequently collaborated with Dr. Hoffmeister and Dr. Janis Fricke, also of HKI. 

Lenz has led several landmark studies involving psilocybin. He was the primary author of the 2017 study that identified norpsilocin, a naturally occurring psilocybin derivative, for the first time.1 For their research, he and his team developed a new method of extraction that avoids dephosphorylating the mushroom compounds, therefore revealing the true metabolic profile of Psilocybe species. 

The paper paved the way for a February 2020 study by Alexander Sherwood et al. wherein norpsilocin, along with other psilocybin mushroom compounds aeruginascin, baeocystin, and norbaeocystin, were synthesized and their metabolic processes examined.2 In March 2020, Psychedelic Science Review covered the study, which supported Lenz et al.’s (2017) hypothesis that baeocystin is a prodrug of norpsilocin. Dr. Sherwood’s team also found that norpsilocin is a potent agonist of serotonin 5-HT2A receptors. In addition, a calcium flux assay revealed that norpsilocin is more potent than psilocin. These results are detailed in another Psychedelic Science Review article

Lenz was also the lead author of a study that intended to crack the code of the famous blue bruising effect of psilocybin-containing mushrooms. The research, covered in January 2020 by Psychedelic Science Review, identified potential enzymes and compounds behind the phenomena.3 He told Chemistry World, “[The blue compounds and indigo] share structural similarities in the indole core, and in both the basis for the colour is a quinoid.” In June 2021, however, the research team published follow-up research with new spectroscopy data that revised their theory on the colors’ origin.4

Another study led by Lenz characterized other Psilocybe natural products that are metabolized from L-Tryptophan, including psilocyl oligomers, beta-carbolines, N,N‐Dimethyl‐l‐tryptophan, and psilocybin congeners such as psilocin.5 Lenz notes the “heterocyclic beauty” of tryptophan that sets it apart from most other amino acids (Claudius Lenz, e-mail communication, May 2021). Additional papers to which Dr. Lenz has contributed proposed methods to synthetically produce psilocybin were published in Chemistry, A European Journal in 2019 and 2020.6,7

More information on the work of Dr. Cladius Lenz can be found on his ResearchGate profile.

  1. Lenz C, Wick J, Hoffmeister D. Identification of ω‑N‑methyl-4-hydroxytryptamine (norpsilocin) as a psilocybe natural product. Journal of Natural Products (Washington, D.C.). 2017;80:2835-2838. doi:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.7b00407
  2. Sherwood AM, Halberstadt AL, Klein AK, et al. Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Tryptamines Found in Hallucinogenic Mushrooms: Norbaeocystin, Baeocystin, Norpsilocin, and Aeruginascin. J Nat Prod. February 2020. doi:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.9b01061
  3. Lenz C, Wick J, Braga D, et al. Injury-triggered blueing reactions of psilocybe “Magic” mushrooms. Angewandte Chemie (International ed.). 2020;59:1450-1454. doi:10.1002/anie.201910175
  4. Lenz C, Dörner S, Sherwood A, Hoffmeister D. Structure Elucidation and Spectroscopic Analysis of Chromophores Produced by Oxidative Psilocin Dimerization. Chemistry – A European Journal. Published online June 1, 2021. doi:10.1002/chem.202101382
  5. Lenz C, Sherwood A, Kargbo R, Hoffmeister D. Taking different roads: L-Tryptophan as the origin of psilocybe natural products. ChemPlusChem. 2021;86(1):28-35. doi:10.1002/cplu.202000581
  6. Fricke J, Lenz C, Wick J, Blei F, Hoffmeister D. Production options for psilocybin: Making of the magic. Chemistry: A European journal. 2019;25:897-903. doi:10.1002/chem.201802758
  7. Fricke J, Kargbo R, Regestein L, et al. Scalable hybrid synthetic/biocatalytic route to psilocybin. Chemistry: A European Journal. 2020;26:8281-8285. doi:10.1002/chem.202000134