ayahuasca research center at the mishana community in Peru

Research Team

These are the lead researchers conducting experiments at the Riosbo Research & Retreat Center in the Allpahuayo-Mishana national reserve, near Iquitos, Peru:

Simon Ruffell

Simon studied medicine at the University of Sheffield before specialising in psychiatry. He completed his core psychiatric training at The Maudsley Hospital in London and worked at King’s College London as a Senior Research Associate investigating the use of psilocybin for treatment resistant depression. Simon has a keen interest in transcultural psychiatry and has worked for a variety of charities overseas. Since 2016 he has conducted research into the traditional psychedelic brew ayahuasca and its effects on mental health based in the Peruvian Amazon and is currently completing his PhD in this based at Goldsmiths, University of London. Simon now works for the Psychae Institute as a Senior Research Fellow, running randomised controlled trials investigating the potential therapeutic application of ayahuasca. In his spare time Simon volunteers for Psycare – a charity offering support to those undergoing challenging drug experiences at music festivals

Rono Lopez

Don Rono Lopez is a plant medicine doctor from the Shipibo tribe. He continues a long familial lineage of healers passed down to him from his father and grandfather. He has built deep relationships with the natural world and with specific plants that teach him and guide him in his endeavors to provide natural treatments for people with any and all health conditions and afflictions. He began his study of plant medicine and his family’s ayahuasca tradition at the age of eleven. Along with his two older brothers, he learned from his grandfather and his parents about the optimal procedures for ayahuasca ceremonies, how to connect with the plants, and how to prepare and administer powerful plant remedies. He began working with the Ayahuasca Foundation in 2015 leading retreats and educational courses for hundreds of people from all over the world. He is married with three children and brings a calm presence and humility to his ceremonies and plant medicine work.

nigel netzband is a lead ayahuasca researcher

Nige Netzband

A BPS accredited research psychologist with experience in psychopharmacology and experimental design, Nige has been involved in the projects at Riosbo since 2016, looking at the effects of ayahuasca. His primary interest is the pursuit of furthering medicine by establishing efficacy in novel treatments. With interests in consciousness, neuroscience, physical health and nutrition, Nige believes in holistic approaches to healthcare. He is currently a doctoral candidate on a psychotherapy training program in Bristol, and feels that psychedelic-assisted therapy may play a large role in the future of psychiatry. In his spare time he volunteers for the harm reduction charity, PsyCare.

Ayahuasca Research doctor WaiFung

WaiFung Tsang

Hailing from Hong Kong, WaiFung is a Psychology MSc and DClinPsych candidate with years of clinical experience primarily in the field of addiction, exhibiting an interest in empirical research of psychoactive substances. Currently based at the Maudsley Hospital, Kings College London, he has undertaken the role of researcher statistician and psychologist in projects exploring adapted traditional ceremonial use of Ayahuasca for the treatment of trauma related conditions, working alongside Simon and Nige. WaiFung is also an avid musician who enjoys honing sound-healing techniques as well as psychedelic harm reduction work at music festivals.

Ayahuasca Retreat Programs at Ayahuasca Foundation

Vising the Onaya Website for more information: www.onaya.io


In 2015, whilst investigating transcultural psychiatry, Dr. Simon Ruffell travelled down through central America where he came into contact with one of the lead facilitators at the Ayahuasca Foundation; Keyo. Both around the age of 30 and with similar experience in their representative professions, they began discussing the overlaps, parallels and contrasts between modern Western treatments and traditional Amazonian plant medicines.

Accompanied by Nige Netzband – a psychopharmacologist, the pair set off to the Ayahuasca Foundation and self-funded the first experiment at the Riosbo research center. This study looked at the effects of ayahuasca on personality, in which they observed profound shifts in the vast majority of their participants. Blown away by first-hand observations and the data they recorded, they knew they were on to something with great potential.

Over the following years they attended many scientific conferences in hope of sharing their findings. This led to the duo being supported by the British Medical Research Council (MRC UK), as they were appointed to design and conduct a study looking at potential clinical applications; with a particular focus on how ayahuasca may aid in the reprocessing of traumatic events. At this point they were joined by WaiFung Tsang to aid with the analyses, who became another key member of the team – forming Onaya Science.

As things continue to progress, the research team developed more studies and are constantly expanding the number of projects (see projects page). Publications appear in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry and the Psychopharmacology journal, with several others currently in press.

We are currently increasing the amount of collaborators in hope that the full potential of ayahuasca can be explored using scientific methods.

All researchers and collaborators involved are independent of any pharmaceutical company and are selected only if the core ethos is progressing the understanding of medicine.

If you would like to be involved or have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the team.