Janis Fricke

Academic, Scientist

Dr. Janis Fricke is a postdoctoral researcher at Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, also known as the Hans Knöll Institute (HKI). He works within the Balance of the Microverse Cluster of Excellence at Friedrich Schiller University-Jena (FSU), an affiliate of HKI. 

Dr. Fricke earned his Ph.D. in Natural Product Chemistry from FSU Jena in 2020. His dissertation covered indole alkaloid biosynthesis in mushrooms and the biotechnological production of psilocybin. He received a Master’s degree in Chemical Biology from FSU Jena in 2017, and Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. 

The primary foci of Dr. Fricke’s research are biosynthetic pathways and natural products, particularly from fungi. Several studies conducted by Dr. Fricke and his colleagues at HKI were done in collaboration with Usona Institute’s initiative exploring psilocybin’s potential to treat major depressive disorder. Dr. Fricke was the lead author on a trailblazing 2017 study with Dr. Felix Blei and Dr. Dirk Hoffmeister which elucidated the specific enzymatic processes that generate psilocybin and related compounds in Psilocybe mushrooms. By reproducing the enzymes with E. coli, the researchers were able to reconstruct in vitro synthesis of psilocybin. Psychedelic Science Review published an explainer on these “magic mushroom” enzymes– named PsiK, PsiK, PsiM, and PsiH– and their functions. Dr. Fricke and his team’s work earned them a PHOENIX Pharmaceutical Science Award.

Dr. Fricke also co-authored numerous follow-up studies that characterized innovative new biotechnological synthesis methods for psilocybin, as well as natural and non-natural derivatives of the compound.2-8

Psychedelic Science Review covered one of these studies, led by Dr. Fricke in 2019, which described the use of PsiD, PsiK, and PsiM mushroom enzymes to synthesize 6-methylated congeners of psilocybin.5  

He and his colleagues’ 2020 discovery of beta-carbolines (naturally-occurring alkaloids) in Psilocybe mushrooms was also summarized in a Psychedelic Science Review article.6 This study, which prompted the researchers to hypothesize an entourage effect in magic mushrooms, was named among Psychedelic Science Reviews Top 10 Psilocybin Research Papers of 2020. It also received PSR’s 2020 Editor’s Choice Award for best study on psychedelics and nature. Beta-carbolines and their importance to psychedelic drug research are explained in another PSR article

Dr. Fricke and his collaborators earned a Research Award from pharmaceutical company medac for their development of a new method for the multi-gene expression of biosynthetic pathways in fungi. The method was successfully applied to biotechnologically synthesize psilocybin.

More about Dr. Janis Fricke and his work can be found on his ResearchGate profile.

  1. Fricke J, Blei F, Hoffmeister D. Enzymatic synthesis of psilocybin. Angewandte Chemie (International ed.). 2017;56:12352-12355. doi:10.1002/anie.201705489
  2. Blei F, Baldeweg F, Fricke J, Hoffmeister D. Biocatalytic production of psilocybin and derivatives in tryptophan synthase-enhanced reactions. Chemistry : A European Journal. 2018;24:10028-10031. doi:10.1002/chem.201801047
  3. Blei F, Fricke J, Wick J, Slot JC, Hoffmeister D. Iterative l-Tryptophan methylation in psilocybe evolved by subdomain duplication. ChemBioChem. 2018;19(20):2160-2166. doi:10.1002/cbic.201800336
  4. Fricke J, Lenz C, Wick J, Blei F, Hoffmeister D. Production options for psilocybin ‐ the making of the magic. Chemistry – A European Journal. 2019;25:897-903. doi:10.1002/chem.201802758
  5. Fricke J, Sherwood A, Kargbo R, et al. Enzymatic route toward 6‐methylated baeocystin and psilocybin. Chembiochem : A European Journal of Chemical Biology. 2019;20:2824-2829. doi:10.1002/cbic.201900358
  6. Blei F, Dörner S, Fricke J, et al. Simultaneous production of psilocybin and a cocktail of β-carboline monoamine oxidase inhibitors in “magic” mushrooms. Chemistry – A European Journal. 2020;26(3):729-734. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/chem.201904363
  7. Fricke J, Kargbo R, Regestein L, Lenz C, Peschel G, Rosenbaum MA, Sherwood A, Hoffmeister D. Scalable hybrid synthetic/biocatalytic route to psilocybin. Chem Eur J. 2020;37(26):8281-8285. doi:10.1002/chem.202000134
  8. Fricke J, Sherwood AM, Halberstadt AL, Kargbo RB, Hoffmeister D. Chemoenzymatic synthesis of 5-methylpsilocybin: A tryptamine with potential psychedelic activity. J Nat Prod. 2021;(84):1403-1408. doi:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.1c00087
  9. Hoefgen S, Lin J, Fricke J, Stroe MC, Mattern DJ, Kufs JE, Hortschansky P, Brakhage AA, Hoffmeister D, Valiante V. Facile assembly and fluorescence-based screening method for heterologous expression of biosynthetic pathways in fungi. Metabolic Engineering. 2018;48;44-51. doi:10.1016/j.ymben.2018.05.014