ATAI Life Sciences AG, a global biotech platform that envisions an end to mental illnesses, and Cyclica Inc., a leading biotechnology company that leverages artificial intelligence and computational biophysics to streamline the drug discovery process, have launched a joint venture aimed at changing the paradigm in which mental health disorders are treated.
Entheogenix Biosciences Inc, the Delaware-based company jointly-founded as part of the venture, will leverage Cyclica’s proprietary technology to design and synthesize new compounds from psychoactive seed small molecule compounds (SMCs) with the aim of addressing unmet medical needs in mental healthcare, such as those posed by depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
“The scale and complexity of the worldwide mental health crisis requires us to be more targeted in our search for effective therapies,” said Florian Brand, CEO, ATAI Life Sciences. “Entheogenix will use state-of-the-art technology to identify the most promising candidates for drug development quickly and precisely.”
Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and a broad spectrum of other mental ailments are complex disorders that involve multiple pathogenic factors. For these disorders, current therapies that rely on single-targeted drug interventions often fall short. Patients are then required to take multiple medications, leading to “drug cocktails” that may present potential safety issues or reduce medication adherence. Given that many of the most effective drugs achieve their therapeutic impact by modulating multiple protein targets, a reliable way of comprehensively designing novel lead compounds with desired biological activity and ADMET properties is critical to quickly and economically develop drugs that are safer and more efficacious.
Cyclica offers Ligand Design and Ligand Express, a unique AI-augmented end-to-end drug discovery platform. Ligand Design will be used to design advanced lead-like molecules that achieve preferred physicochemical, pharmacokinetic, and polypharmacological activity and properties, while Ligand Express will be used to provide a holistic understanding of a molecule’s off-target activity, while offering insights into systems biology and structural pharmacogenomics. This will allow researchers to visualize the complete polypharmacological profile of a compound and specially tailor drugs to target specific disease pathways related to mental health — all while mitigating off-target interactions.
Entheogenix will use seed SMCs that range from existing synthetic compounds to classic psychedelics (e.g. psilocybin and mescaline) to identify and synthesize novel chemical entities that have enhanced effectiveness in both in vitro and in vivo models for mental health disorders. This could, for example, lead to medications that offer the putative benefits of psilocybin for depression, but with enhanced properties such as faster drug release and absorption or an absence of the hallucinogenic effects common to psychedelics.
“Our vision is to spark a new era of drug discovery centred on a robust computation-centric approach. We are especially passionate about advancing health outcomes for patients suffering with the most complex and prevalent disorders like depression, which is the leading cause of disability worldwide,” said Naheed Kurji, President and CEO of Cyclica. “We’re thrilled to partner with the world-class team at ATAI on this paradigm shifting venture.”
About ATAI Life Sciences
ATAI Life Sciences AG is a global biotechnology company builder that aims to ultimately cure mental health disorders. ATAI leverages a decentralized, technology- and data-driven platform model to serve millions of people suffering from mental illness. In particular, ATAI is committed to developing psychedelic substances to address significant unmet medical needs that are rooted in a lack of innovation in neuropsychiatry. Investors include Christian Angermayer, Mike Novogratz, Thor Bjorgolfsson, and Subversive Capital, among others.
About Cyclica, Inc.
Cyclica is a Toronto-based, globally recognized biotechnology company that leverages AI and computational biophysics to reshape drug discovery. Cyclica provides the pharmaceutical industry with an integrated and end-to-end enabling drug discovery platform focused on polypharmacology. Ligand Design and Ligand Express offer a unique AI-augmented platform to design advanced lead-like molecules that minimize unwanted off-target effects, while providing a holistic understanding of a molecule’s activity through integrated systems biology and structural pharmacogenomics. By doing more with AI, Cyclica aims to revolutionize a system troubled with attrition and costly failures, accelerate the drug discovery process, and develop medicines with greater precision.