Wall Street is supporting new psychedelic drugs purported to treat mental illnesses.
Three pharmaceutical companies — Transcend Therapeutics Inc., Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Lusaris Therapeutics Inc. — have received several millions of dollars to research and develop psychedelic drug therapy, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Psychedelics, a type of hallucinogens, are a class of psychoactive chemicals known to alter one’s perception and senses. This not only drives an individual to hallucinate, but it also changes their cognitive functions and emotional state. Types of psychedelics include LSD, DMT, MDMA, and more.
Transcend Therapeutics Inc. announced that it had received $40 million in series A funding on February 23. This biotechnology company intends to use the funds to develop a chemical compound known as methylone.
Methylone is intended for PTSD patients and is said to have “short-acting and mild psychological effects,” which may reduce the clinician time needed to have an impact on a patient.
“Methylone has the potential to be used as an adjunctive treatment to existing pharmacotherapies (e.g. SSRIs), making it better suited to integrate into the existing psychiatric paradigm and healthcare infrastructure,” said the company in a press release.
This company has thus far created 13 FDA-approved medications.
“This fundraise will accelerate development of our lead compound and bring us a step closer to offering life-saving treatments to the 1 billion people who suffer from mental health illness,” said Blake Mandell, CEO of Transcend Therapeutics Inc., in a tweet on February 23.
Lusaris received a $60 million series A investment in November 2022 for investment in similar psychedelics to treat depression.
Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals Inc. also received $39 million in funding to develop psychedelic depression medication.
“There’s a role for traditional medicine for people who want to do six- to eight-hour trips, but you have to face the reality of the medical system as it is today,” said Amy Kruse, a partner at Prime Movers Lab, which led Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals’ funding round, according to the WSJ.
All three of these providers claim that the drugs being produced will not only activate faster but also wear away faster than other psychedelics. This includes psilocybin, the psychoactive component of magic mushrooms, which is said to produce effects for up to six hours.
Mandell also said that the medication that Transcend Therapeutics produces would only require half the amount of therapy as other drugs such as MDMA or ecstasy, according to the WSJ.
The American Journal of Medicine detailed research in 2022 regarding the use of MDMA as a prescription medication. The authors note that there have been advances in destigmatizing psychedelics, such as the FDA encouraging clinical trials by granting psychedelic science “Breakthrough Therapy” status.
However, they also said that, even if the FDA were to approve these types of medication, there would still be several legal obstacles. These obstacles include a risk assessment with the Drug Enforcement Administration, as required by the Controlled Substances Act.
Dr. Paul Hutson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told The New York Times in 2022 that evidence supports this type of treatment only where other forms of treatment have failed.
“They’re not a panacea that everybody is going to respond to,” said Hutson, according to the NYT.