ATAI Life Sciences Forges Premier Psychedelics R&D Platform

ATAI Life Sciences Forges Premier Psychedelics R&D Platform
ATAI Life Sciences Forges Premier Psychedelics R&D Platform

  • Current platform features 7 drug development partners
  • About to add three new drug development partners
  • ATAI has already raised $68 million in its first two rounds of financing

ATAI Life Sciences has established itself as arguably the premier player in global psychedelics drug research today.

A private company originally based out of Germany, the company has added offices in New York and Amsterdam to complement its Berlin office. The core management team includes Founder Christian Angermayer along with CEO Florian Brand and CSO Srinivas Rao.

It can be difficult for investors to get a good look at some of the private players in this emerging industry. ATAI recently provided some assistance here in the form of a June 12th 1-hour self-interview between the three principals, hosted on Vimeo.

Fireside Chat with Christian Angermayer, Florian Brand and Srinivas Rao from Allan Malievsky on Vimeo.

What sets ATAI apart from its peers in the psychedelics space is more than just its corporate structure. There is also a fundamentally different philosophy at work here.

Christian Angermayer says that ATAI is pushing back against what he sees as the tendency of the market to “over-glorify the entrepreneur” in tech research. By this, Angermayer meant an excessive focus on company-building and the company builders.

ATAI has created an R&D psychedelics platform designed to allow the scientists to shine. ATAI helps with some of the heavy-lifting in financing and advancing operations.

The other way in which ATAI sees itself as being different is in terms of its operational focus. While other players in the psychedelics industry (including its own partners) have a very narrow focus of bringing one or more drugs through the regulatory approval process, ATAI has a more general goal.

It sees its mission as generally advancing the treatment of mental health. ATAI’s primary (but not exclusive) focus on psychedelics-based drug research comes from the conviction that these substances offer – by far – the greatest promise in revolutionizing the treatment of mental health disorders.

At the same time, ATAI is a serious business, not just some do-gooder’s foundation. The company has already raised $68 million to date: $23 million in its initial Series A round of financing and a whopping $45 million in Series B.

ATAI has used this capital to acquire a current stable of 7 research partners.

Compass Pathways
The best-known of ATAI’s corporate partners is Compass Pathways, the subject of a previous Seed Investor feature. Compass jumped into the pole position in its R&D among psychedelics companies after it received “breakthrough therapy” designation from the FDA for its psilocybin-based treatment for depression.

see Will Compass Pathways Be The Next Unicorn?

Compass is now in a Phase 2 clinical trial. This along with its breakthrough therapy designation make Compass the most likely candidate to bring the next psychedelics-based drug to market.

While Compass Pathways may be the best-known among ATAI’s R&D partners, internally it is DemeRx which generates the greatest enthusiasm. DemeRx’s focus is on ibogaine-based research to treat (in particular) opioid addiction.

Christian Angermayer went even further. He sees ibogaine as having “the potential to completely erase addiction”. DemeRx is expecting to commence its own Phase 2 trial later this year.

Perception Neuroscience
Perception is working on an R-ketamine derivative for the treatment of serious mental health disorders. This distinguishes its research from the Esketamine (S-ketamine) drug that has been patented and brought to market by Johnson & Johnson.

The important distinction of R-ketamine versus S-ketamine is that R-ketamine is a non-hallucinogenic form of ketamine. Perception is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial.

Gaba Therapeutics
Gaba Therapeutics is currently developing GRX-917 as an anti-anxiety medication. GRX-917 is actually not a true psychedelic but rather is more similar to benzodiazepines – a powerful (and notorious) class of sedatives.

Benzodiazepines have numerous undesirable side effects, including being highly addictive. GRX-917 provides similar medicinal properties but without the host of side effects. Gaba is working through the Phase 1 stage of its clinical research.

Kures is a preclinical biopharmaceutical startup based in New York. It is currently researching the potential of a mitragynine derivative for both opioid abuse disorder as well as chronic pain applications.

ATAI describes mitragynine as an “atypical opioid” that does not possess the same addiction profile. Thus it is suitable for both opioid addiction therapy as well as a pain relief treatment.

EntheogeniX Biosciences
EntheogeniX is an earlier-stage biotech company engaged in broad-based research on psychedelic NCEs (new chemical entities). With a strong AI focus, Entheogenix is seeking to advance psychedelics-based treatments for depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Neuronasal’s research is centered on repurposing off-patent drugs. Repurposing involves taking an already-licensed substance and developing new therapeutic uses. Neuronasal is presently researching the potential of NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) as a treatment for mild traumatic brain injury.

For investors focused on the latest news in the psychedelics industry, perhaps the most interesting information in the clip came when Angermayer revealed that ATAI is close to a deal with three more drug development partners.

Indeed, ATAI is expecting the first of these announcements to be forthcoming any day now.

Retail investors can’t buy into ATAI Life Sciences (yet). However, as a company that is leading the way in drug development in the psychedelics industry, it’s an industry player upon which all psychedelics investors will want to keep a close eye.
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