In a world’s first, German startup Miraculix has launched a simple and affordable assortment of at-home testing kits for assessing the potency of various psychoactive drugs. Called QTests, they provide rapid analysis mobile kits designed to measure concentrations of MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin.
While currently a host of drug testing “reagent” products are available on the market to provide qualitative data on desired substances — typically used to reveal the presence of misrepresented substances or potentially harmful adulterants — Miraculix’s kit is the first to offer quantitative rapid results within 10 to 30 minutes. It’s a significant innovation, considering many of the substances people desire to test are illegal and, of course, are not subject to standards and guidelines that adhere to consistent dosing. It’s a pervasive problem. Active ingredients in psychedelic compounds vary wildly, which makes the accurate gauging of potency both costly and time-consuming.
Results of Miraculix’s Qtests have proven to be remarkably reliable, close to analysis done by lab-level high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) processes, which are considered the industry standard for chemical analysis in research, manufacturing, and medical applications. Miraculix states that results are not far off HPLC testing, coming within a 10 percent deviation range.
Dr. Felix Blei, microbiologist and CEO of Miraculix, came to the idea for potency kits following extensive research dedicated to psilocybin-containing mushrooms. While earning his PhD in microbiology at Germany’s Hans Knöll Institute, he published a number of studies on the biochemistry of psilocybin production in mushrooms. His research with Psilocybe mushrooms also showed him the substantial difference in potency levels between what might appear to be the same type of mushroom. Significant variations in psilocybin amounts, says Blei, are seen not just from species to species but from batch to batch in the same species grown in similar conditions.
Following his doctoral thesis, he set to work designing an innovative rapid test method for determining the concentration of psilocybin in mushrooms that would be simple and mobile. His invention involves employing a color complex — similar to test strips used to balance pool water chemicals — to assess potency using an accompanied evaluation scale.
After teaming up with colleagues Roxana Preuß and Frank Junger (currently chief strategy officer and chief content officer at Miraculix, respectively), the trio recognized their unique business opportunity. Riding the wave of public interest in psychotropic drugs — reinforced by research institutions like Johns Hopkins and Imperial College London studying psilocybin therapy treatments — the three entrepreneurs felt their Qtests would be a hit in places that had passed laws decriminalizing psychedelic plants, such as Denver and Oakland.
In 2021, the partners embarked on a crowdfunding campaign to test the waters. Their Start Next page reads: “Imagine you walk into a bar and read on the menu: ‘Alcohol.’ What effect will a glass of alcohol have on you? Without any information about the content of the alcohol, everything from a slight buzz to a coma is possible. However, this is exactly the situation that currently exists worldwide for psychedelic substances. We want to change this and provide a scientifically validated product in an uncontrolled and unsafe environment to increase awareness of concentration and composition and to avoid life-threatening situations.”
That month-long crowdfunding effort netted them just under $19,000 US — but more importantly demonstrated a demand for their kits. It also brought them enough cash, says Blei, to purchase a fume hood, the basis for their laboratory in Jena, Germany. While the team has since received many investor inquiries, they have not accepted any of the lucrative offers. “We intend to build up a family business with our company that exists sustainably and in the long term,” says Miraculix’s compliance officer, Junger. “We are not interested in quick money from investors with an exit strategy, but are looking for strategic partners who are interested in long-term cooperation.”
Now they’re presently off and running attracting supporters, including a partnership with the Beckley Foundation, established in 1998 by longtime psychedelic advocate Lady Amanda Feilding, whose organization is dedicated to cutting-edge scientific research in the field of psychedelics and a commitment to harm reduction and global drug reform. Miraculix will also work with Mimosa Therapeutics, an organization co-founded by Feilding in 2020, whose mission, according to the company website, is to “help people access the best, healthiest version of themselves through the careful and intentional use of entheogens.”
“We share the same values and goals, so we’re excited to have found a valuable partner in this area,” says Junger. “They have provided support during the development of our testing kits and will be involved in their distribution in Europe. As a result of our partnership, within Europe our QTests will feature the branding of both Miraculix and the Beckley Foundation.”
Final adjustments are currently being made to a smartphone app that will provide more precise evaluation via color scale. “The basic principle of the smartphone app is to be a support for the user in evaluation and make it more accurate,” says Junger. “A photo of the sample should be taken after the staining is completed and the app will determine the correct value of the agent. This will then make the app a cost effective and mobile small spectral analysis.”
Kits are currently only available in the U.S. and Europe through Miraculix’s website and are relatively inexpensive — $17.50 US for psilocybin/LSD tests kits and $29 US for MDMA kits. A psilocybin QTest requires crushing 150mg of dried mushroom material and mixing well ; cutting half of an LSD blotter; and evenly scraping off 50mg from an MDMA pill.