Compass Pathways, a biotechnology company based in London, made history in September, 2020 by being the very first Psychedelics company to IPO on the Nasdaq. Compass Pathways counts legendary Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal) as one of its backers and was co-founded by serial entrepreneur Christian Angermayer. The company debuted at $17 and is already at $46.18 at the time of writing. The use of psychedelics for treatment has been around for a couple of years however, and Johnson and Johnson were the first to exploit the Psychedelic Medicine market with their Ketamine derived drug, Spravato which received FDA approval in March 2019. Today a number of players such as Compass Pathways and Mind Medicine, are seen as leaders in a fast growing market that has captured the attention of the investment community and beyond.
Angermayer explains that ‘magic mushrooms’ can be a viable treatment for mental health solutions but highlights that these must still be administered by healthcare professionals, due to the potency of the drug.
Speaking on the podcast ‘Danny in the Valley,’ Angermayer explains that ‘magic mushrooms’ can be a viable treatment for mental health solutions but highlights that these must still be administered by healthcare professionals, due to the potency of the drug. He goes on to state that mental illness is now being taken seriously than it was in previous generations and a greater number of people are being diagnosed, as more people today face depression than ever before. This makes psychedelics a good area to invest into, as there is great potential for growth in this market, as people look to find different ways to treat conditions.
Psychedelics means Mind-manifesting in Greek and they have been around as long as humans, maybe longer! The Stoned Ape Theory suggests that due to increased visual acuity, Central Nervous System Excitation, interconnectedness of small settler groups through orgiastic ritual and shared paternalistic lineage, magic mushrooms might have been vital for human consciousness to evolve. Psychedelics are referenced in the Rigveda (ancient Sanskrit texts, ‘Soma’) and the Eleusinian mysteries, which were attended by Plato and Aristotle.
The modern psychedelic tale began in the 1960s with the summer of Love, hippie consciousness, and was then quashed and criminalized. Psychedelics were widely demonised, but in the early 2010s. clinical trials began to reappear which studied psychedelics. Of these compounds, LSD, Psilocybin, Ketamine, and MDMA have been most studied in clinical trials. Only today, Cambridge became the second city in Massachusetts to Decriminalize Nature, and will now join Oakland, Ann Arbor, Santa Cruz, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Michigan’s Washtenaw County, Denver, and the state of Oregon, which decriminalized all drugs and legalized psilocybin therapy this past election. The lead organizer of Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, James Davis said in Double Blind Mag that the victory conveys a “clear, powerful message across our state that the War on Drugs has failed and that entheogenic plants have medicinal and spiritual value.”
Neuro-pharmocologists are in discussion as to whether the hallucinogenic effects are critical to clinical success, but Dr. David Olson believes it to be merely a corollary to the key neurological action carried out by psychedelics, which includes the regrowth of dendrites in the PFC (PreFrontal Cortex) “The psychedelic alkaloid ibogaine has anti-addictive properties in both humans and animals. The effects of ibogaine—like those of other psychedelic compounds—are long-lasting, which has been attributed to its ability to modify addiction-related neural circuitry through the activation of neurotrophic factor signalling. However, several safety concerns have hindered the clinical development of ibogaine, including its toxicity, hallucinogenic potential and tendency to induce cardiac arrhythmias.”
There are numerous successful companies working on pushing forward the use of psychedelics. Mind Medicine, mentioned above, founded by JR Rahn in 2013 was the first company to go public on the NEO exchange in Canada. The company focuses on helping people facing Opioid addiction, Anxiety and Adult ADHD. Canadian businessman and television personality Kevin O’ Leary explains his reason for investing in the company. The desire to stay away from the recreational side of drugs and the company’s ethos of sticking to promoting the use of medicinal psychedelics struck a chord with him. O’ Leary’s belief in psychedelics being used to treat conditions such as one Mind Medicine does and the need for capital around FDA regulated psychedelics led him to invest in the company.
Venture Capitals are also now investing in psychedelics as individual and institutional investors realise the potential for growth in this market. The Conscious Fund is one example of a VC fund that provides capital to early stage companies exploring the use of psychedelics to treat mental illness, pain and addiction. Its portfolio companies include atai life sciences (another company that Peter Thiel has invested in) and wesana, both of which have recently raised successful funding rounds of $4.8m and $4m respectively.
As this space continues to develop, it will be important to watch how companies tread the line between medicine and the recreational use of psychedelics and the potential for treatment to help patients. What is clear is that this is a fascinating area, which has caught the attention of some of the leading investors and entrepreneurs.