Peter Thiel backs ATAI’s psychedelics mission in $125 million round

Peter Thiel

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

LONDON — Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has backed a Berlin start-up aiming to make psychedelic drugs to treat mental health disorders in a $125 million funding round.

ATAI Life Sciences, which describes itself as a drug development platform, was set up to acquire, incubate and develop psychedelics and other drugs that can be used to treat depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health conditions. The company — founded in 2018 by entrepreneurs Christian Angermayer, Florian Brand, Lars Wilde and Srinivas Rao — announced the funding on Monday.

“ATAI’s great virtue is to take mental illness as seriously as we should have been taking all illness all along,” Thiel, who co-founded Palantir and PayPal, said in a statement shared with CNBC. “The company’s most valuable asset is its sense of urgency.”

Thiel made a 10 million euro ($12 million) investment in ATAI through his venture firm, Thiel Capital, while the rest of the series C funding round came from Apeiron Investment Group (Angermayer’s family office), Catalio Capital Management, Future Ventures, Galaxy Investment Partners, Falcon Edge Capital, and Pura Vida.

Total investment in the company now stands at over $210 million.

ATAI, which has roughly 35 staff in offices across Berlin, New York and San Diego, is currently partnered with around 10 drug development companies. In exchange for a majority stake in the drugs they’re developing, ATAI helps the scientists to raise money, work with the regulators, and conduct clinical trials.

None of ATAI’s drugs have been formally approved by regulators to date.

There is growing interest in certain psychedelics after recent clinical studies suggested that some could help patients with a number of mental illnesses, either in combination with traditional solutions or in cases where nothing else has worked.

“The current treatments (for mental health issues) which are out there are definitely not sufficient,” company co-founder Angermayer told CNBC via Zoom ahead of the announcement. “I don’t want to say they don’t work as all because some people are helped by them but they’re not sufficient.”

Almost a billion people suffer from mental health problems worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of the 322 million people globally that have depression, roughly a third are treatment-resistant, according to fellow company co-founder Brand.

ATAI said it will use the new funding to pay for the clinical development of drugs that ATAI has already backed. This includes ar-ketamine, which is being developed at Perception Neuroscience for treatment-resistant depression, and ibogaine, which is being developed by DemeRx to treat opioid addiction. The funding will also be used to identify new drugs and support their development.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s ketamine-like nasal spray for depression and there are a number of other start-ups trying to get psychedelic drugs to market including MindMed and Beckley Psytech.

Psychedelic trips

Angermayer said that people “meet themselves” when they have a psychedelic trip. “Since we’re born, society imposes on us how we should

Read more

Mission Therapeutics Appoints Dr Suhail Nurbhai as Chief Medical Officer

Mission Therapeutics (“Mission”), a drug discovery and development company focused on selectively inhibiting deubiquitylating enzymes (DUBs), has appointed Dr Suhail Nurbhai as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) with immediate effect.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Dr Suhail Nurbhai. High-resolution images available on request. (Photo: Business Wire)

Dr Nurbhai has more than 25 years of experience and a strong track record in the strategic and operational leadership of all phases of clinical research and development at companies across Europe and the US. He joins Mission from VHsquared, where he held the position of CMO since 2014.

Prior to VHsquared, Suhail was Senior Vice President and Head of Development and Medical Affairs for Shionogi in Europe. He joined Shionogi from Takeda where he was Vice President and Head of Clinical and Analytical Science in Europe, with responsibility for all Clinical Science activities in Neurosciences, Cardiovascular/Renal/Metabolic, Oncology, Gastrointestinal/Genitourinary and Respiratory Medicine, as well as Clinical Pharmacology, Medical Writing, Statistics and Data Management.

Suhail’s initial industry experience was at Pfizer, where he spent 12 years, initially in Sandwich, UK and then at Global R&D Headquarters in Connecticut, USA. During his time at Pfizer he held roles of increasing responsibility across multiple therapeutic areas including GI/GU, anti-bacterial, sexual medicine and anti-fungal, prior to completing his time at Pfizer as Head of Neuroscience Clinical R&D at the Groton site in Connecticut.

During his career he has led teams bringing multiple compounds from pre-clinical phase into clinical studies in both Europe and US, and achieved multiple successful NDA and MAA submissions and approvals.

Suhail qualified in Medicine at Dundee University in Scotland and completed his post-graduate medical training at Hope Hospital in the University of Manchester.

Commenting on the appointment, Dr Anker Lundemose, CEO of Mission Therapeutics said: “We are pleased to be welcoming Suhail to further strengthen Mission’s leadership team. His in-depth knowledge and proven track record in clinical research will be invaluable as we work to bring our first-in-class USP30 inhibitor compound into the clinic. Suhail’s appointment is the last of a series of organisational changes, including the promotions of Dr Paul Thompson and Dr Nick Edmunds, to ready the Company for this next phase.”

Dr Suhail Nurbhai added: “It’s great to be joining Mission at such an exciting time for the Company. The ongoing collaboration with AbbVie and recently signed agreement with Pfizer represent solid industry validation of the Company’s approach and ground-breaking technology. I look forward to building on this success progressing its lead assets into the clinic.”

– ENDS –


About Mission Therapeutics

Mission Therapeutics is an early-stage drug development company targeting the ubiquitin pathway for the treatment of kidney disease, neurodegenerative disease, rare mitochondrial diseases and fibrosis. The Company has built a leading platform for the discovery and development of first-in-class, small molecule drugs that selectively target deubiquitylating enzymes (DUBs) – an emerging drug class that is attracting significant commercial interest in the area of protein homeostasis.

Mission has strong

Read more

Maria Shriver Is on a Mission to End Alzheimer’s

It was 2003 and Maria Shriver had begun her tenure as first lady of California when her father, Sargent Shriver — U.S. ambassador to France, 1972 vice presidential candidate and the first director and co-founder of the Peace Corps — was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a ravaging brain disease that, according to statistics procured from the Alzheimer’s Assn., affects some 5.8 million Americans and 50 million individuals globalwide. Sargent Shriver died of the disease in 2011.

While societal awareness of Alzheimer’s has grown over the past several years, at the time of her father’s diagnosis, Shriver, selected as Variety’s Entertainment Philanthropist of the Year for her role as founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), was left muddling through a morass of unanswered questions. Doctors, neurologists, scientists — they were conducting clinical studies on Alzheimer’s. But there were gaping holes in what conclusive facts that research had thus far yielded. In 2003, Alzheimer’s remained very much a misunderstood, underfunded and underpublicized disease. This was maddening to Shriver, a seasoned investigative journalist whose notable career — from her days as network news weekend anchor and correspondent to her her award-winning reports on “Dateline NBC” to her special anchor post on “NBC Nightly News” — embraced the dogged pursuit of truth.

“The more I questioned as a journalist, as a daughter, as a woman, the more I found that I had to really chart my own path there,” says Shriver. “I looked for a children’s book about it so I could explain what Alzheimer’s was to my kids. I couldn’t find one, so I went and wrote one.”

“What’s Happening to Grandpa?” was published in 2004 and became an instant bestseller. In 2009, Shriver earned two Emmy Awards for co-producing the five-part HBO documentary series “The Alzheimer’s Project.”
“Thus began my foray into trying to understand the Alzheimer’s space,” says Shriver.

Driven and determined, Shriver drew on her platform as first lady of California to do whatever she could to educated about Alzheimer’s and debunk the myths surrounding the disease. She organized a women’s conference on the subject and was conducting breakout sessions for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients when she discovered that an inordinate amount of women — more so than men, it appeared — were stricken with the disease.

“More and more women came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for doing this, my mom has Alzheimer’s,’ ” says Shriver. “And I thought, there are a lot of women with Alzheimer’s. And so I would ask all the doctors that I was meeting, ‘Why is it that I think there are more women than men with Alzheimer’s?’ And the doctors would answer, ‘No, no, that’s just not the case. You just think that because women live longer.’ And whenever people in my life have told me, ‘No, you just think that,’ I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t think so.’ So I decided to research and find out.”

At the time, Shriver was acting as caregiver not only to

Read more