Beckley Psytech Acquires Eleusis

Psychedelic Bulletin has reported

Beckley Psytech Acquires Eleusis

Editor’s Note: This news broke just as we were going to publish this Bulletin. As such, below is our quick take; it’s certainly not exhaustive.

It was rumoured for some time, but now it’s official: Beckley Psytech has acquired Eleusis.

The two British companies have long histories of involvement in psychedelic research and business. The former is the latest in a series of both charitable and for-profit ventures stemming from the Oxford-based Beckley Foundation, headed up by Amanda Feilding (see our July 2020 interview with Beckley Psytech’s founder for more background). The latter, Eleusis, is headquartered just 60 miles down the road in London, and claims to be one of the first psychedelic drug development startups.

Indeed, when we spoke to Eleusis CEO Shlomi Raz (who will now take up the position of Chief Business Officer at Beckley) back in June 2020, he was keen to remind us that his company is one of the oldest in the game. According to Raz, given that Eleusis was founded in 2013, it was “the world’s first company dedicated to the transformation of psychedelics into medicines.”

The company began as a joint enterprise between ex-Goldman Sachs managing director Raz and renowned psychedelics researcher Charles Nichols. Back then, Raz was keen to tell us about the company’s dual focus on both the psychiatric applications of psychedelics, but also on their apparent anti-inflammatory potential. This latter facet was inspired by Nichols’ work, which has attempted to uncover the potent anti-inflammatory effects of 5-HT2A agonists (see Flanagan and Nichols, 2018, for a brief review).

You can see this dual focus reflected in the company’s Pipeline webpage from March 2021 where we see five candidates with indications ranging from adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorder right through to ocular inflammation, peripheral inflammatory disease and Alzheimer’s.

Fast forward to January of this year, and you will see that the pipeline page has received a substantial haircut. Just one asset remains: ELE-Psilo, or ELE-101. (Note: the indications for this asset were previously “Major Depressive Disorder and Treatment Resistant Depression”, but this has now been replaced by simply, “Depression”. Given that Eleusis, and now Beckley, is putting this candidate through a Phase 1 trial, they need not disclose a specific indication just yet.)

It seems that this ambitious pipeline wasn’t met with ample resources. In January, after the company had doubled-down on its lead candidate, the company announced a SPAC that it hoped would raise $288m and result in a NASDAQ listing. Unfortunately for Raz et al., they couldn’t have timed it worse: the biotech, psychedelics and SPAC markets were cratering. In June, the company scrapped the SPAC.

And so, ELE-101 is what Beckley Psytech is substantially acquiring, an IV formulation of psilocin being developed under the candidate name ELE-101. By cutting out the prodrug (psilocybin) and skipping straight to IV administration of the active metabolite itself, Beckley will hope that this formulation proves to deliver a more consistent and predictable response in patients. The onset of effects will likely be faster and the duration of treatment shorter, which could have obvious benefits in terms of convenience and cost. Indeed, it fits logically into Beckley Psytech’s focus on short-acting psychedelics, seen at its extreme in its development of a 5-MeO-DMT asset, BPL-003.

It’s also logical, then, that Beckley is dropping its oral psilocybin for Short Lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform Headache Attacks (SUNHA) program. While the company just announced this today via press release, the trial’s termination was reflected on its entry earlier this month.

Beyond ELE-101, Beckley will gain some team members from Eleusis, including its R&D team. They will also gain access to a library of novel compounds, but there’s little detail on this.

Our major question is: does this R&D team include Charles Nichols, the scientific founder of Eleusis? There’s no mention of Nichols in the press release, nor of his work on indications beyond psychiatry. If he were joining the Beckley ecosystem you would think it would be press release-worthy (or, website-worthy).

Our bet is that Nichols is a free agent, but whether rights related to his work on 5-HT2A agonists as potent anti-inflammatory agents are locked up in the deal is yet to be seen. This author would certainly like to see that body of work given the attention and resources it deserves.

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