The UK-based psychedelics company, boasting a strategic partnership with the Beckley Foundation, is developing 5-MeO-DMT into a licenced pharmaceutical medicine for neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression and addiction.
Following a £3m raise earlier this year, Beckley Psytech has now secured £14m in a funding round led by Noetic Psychedelic Fund LP and Bail Capital. The psychedelic medicine company, founded in 2019, will use the funds to complete a Phase 1 trial of 5-MeO-DMT for neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression and addiction. They’re working on a synthetic, pharmaceutical-quality formulation of the psychedelic, which is found in the secretions of the Sonoran Desert Toad.
The psychedelic effects of 5-MeO-DMT are brief, usually lasting for less than an hour. This is a considerably shorter period of time when compared to other psychedelics such as Psilocybin or LSD, which may present benefits in terms of convenience and cost-effectiveness. Anecdotal and observational evidence suggests the drug is non-addictive and effective in treating certain neuropsychiatric indications. Beckley Psytech will now investigate this in clinical and regulatory contexts, with the ultimate goal of developing the drug into a pharmaceutical medicine.
The Oxford-based company is an early mover in the study of 5-MeO-DMT; not to be confused with DMT, which is being investigated by London-based Small Pharma. While 5-MeO-DMT is a chemical derivative of DMT, and both have brief and intense effects, they are distinct substances in both structure and experience. In fact, Chair of Beckley Psytech’s Scientific Advisory Board (and founder of the Beckley Foundation) Amanda Feilding has previously stated that she doesn’t find DMT “to be a very lovable compound”, explaining “it is a harsher compound than other psychedelics”, triggering a strong and somewhat unpleasant psychedelic trip.
Along with this flagship program the company intends to conduct a proof-of-concept trial of a classical psychedelic, advance its new chemical entity development program, and launch research programs that harness AI and Machine Learning technologies.
Commenting on the round, co-founder and CEO Cosmo Feilding Mellen said:
“This fundraise shows that our investors see the transformative potential of psychedelics as a new class of treatment for mental health and will enable us to accelerate our research and development programmes, as we prepare for our first clinical trial involving synthetic 5-MeO-DMT.”
Three-Pronged Psychedelic Research Pipeline
Beckley Psytech’s research pipeline is organised according to three distinct, yet interrelated, categories which Feilding Mellen expects to develop in parallel. The first of these revolves around what many refer to as classical (or, 1st generation) psychedelics such as LSD and Psilocybin. The company described drugs in this category as those where there is the existence of a significant body of data pertaining to the safety and efficacy of the drug itself and related therapies. As such, they include MDMA here. MAPS’ Phase 3 clinical trial studying the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, was recently heralded as a success by Rick Doblin, for example.
The second category, or 2nd generation, of psychedelics the company seeks to develop are those that are under-researched at present, but may have advantages over classical psychedelic medicines. 5-MeO-DMT falls into this category. 2nd generation psychedelics also offer stronger intellectual property potential than classical psychedelics.
Beckley are also exploring 3rd generation psychedelics. This element of the company’s research agenda is dedicated to designing New Chemical Entities (NCEs), which may be better suited to clinical contexts, have greater cost-effectiveness, and possess other characteristics that are conducive to therapeutic applications for a variety of indications. Companies like CaaMTech are also engaged in this stage of the psychedelic drug development pipeline.
In terms of timelines, the company hopes to have psychedelic medicines approved by 2025.
Strategic Partnership with the Beckley Foundation
We spoke with Cosmo Feilding Mellen in July, shortly after the company closed a £3m Series A round. The deep interest that Cosmo, and his family, have for psychedelics is palpable. The Beckley Psytech CEO grew up around some of the most respected characters in the psychedelic research and advocacy world, including Sasha Shulgin, Rick Doblin, David Nutt, and Robin Carhart-Harris. “Psychedelics are a shared passion in my family and our main topic of conversation,” he told us.
In 1998 his mother, Amanda Feilding, launched the Beckley Foundation: a non-profit NGO that has since led the way in terms of psychedelic research and advocacy. The Foundation has been responsible for over fifty publications, including the inaugural psilocybin for treatment resistant depression study and the first clinical study of LSD microdosing. In fact, Cosmo Feilding Mellen participated in the first brain imaging studies of both psilocybin and LSD, conducted by the Foundation with Imperial College London.
Having partnered with world-renowned institutions including Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins, and Oxford University over the past 20 years, the Foundation has developed a network of psychedelic researchers and advocates. While the Foundation remains separate from Beckley Psytech, Feilding Mellen explained that a “strategic partnership” exists between the two groups, under which they will “collaborate on psychedelic research, when it makes sense for both sides.”
In terms of the motive behind moving from a non-profit model to a commercial entity, Feilding Mellen told us that the cost of “conducting large scale regulatory-standard clinical research is very significant,” and that Beckley Psytech will plan to marry “profit and purpose”.
Previously, Cosmo was Managing Director of Beckley Canopy Therapeutics, which focused on conducting pharmaceutical drug development of cannabis-based medicines. The company was later acquired by Canopy Growth Corporation in an exit that rewarded investors with a 3.3x return in just thirteen months.
Amanda Feilding serves as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, which includes a number of heavyweights in the psychedelic research space, Matthew Johnson and Robin Carhart-Harris. A number of executives hail from Johnson & Johnson, which successfully developed ketamine derivative esketamine into an FDA-approved medicine for treatment resistant depression, marketed under the brand name Spravato when administered as an antidepressant.
Among the investors were Noetic Psychedelic Fund LP, a venture fund investing in emerging and early-stage psychedelic-based therapeutic, wellness, pharmaceutical and technology companies around the globe. Managing Partner Michael Franks told Psilocybin Alpha: “we are very honored to be part of the Beckley Psytech family, a group with such great scientific breadth and depth. We look forward to supporting such a profound, dedicated team over the years to come.”