BERLIN, Aug. 12, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — atai Life Sciences (Nasdaq: ATAI) (“atai”), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company aiming to transform the treatment of mental health disorders, announced the launch of Revixia Life Sciences (Revixia), a wholly owned subsidiary developing Salvinorin A (SalA) to treat a variety of mental health disorders.
Derived from Salvia divinorum, SalA is a unique non-nitrogenous agonist of the kappa-opioid receptor (KOR) with potential use in treatment-resistant depression (TRD), substance use disorder (SUD) and pain. Traditionally, Salvia divinorum has been used by the Mazatec people in Oaxaca, Mexico for a variety of illnesses, such as diarrhoea, headaches and rheumatism, as well as for palliative care.
SalA is an atypical KOR agonist with a complex pharmacological profile. Its mechanism of action (MoA) shows no interaction at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor, which is the main molecular target for the classical hallucinogens such as psilocybin and DMT. Instead, it is hypothesised that SalA indirectly influences the cannabinoid system, as well as being an allosteric modulator of the µ opioid receptor.
Clinically, there are published reports of the potential benefits of Salvia divinorum in the treatment of TRD. Karl Hanes reported on 7 patients with TRD who described relief from depressive symptoms with continued oral consumption of salvia leaves three times a week. Most of these patients reported lasting benefits from their use of the herb with significantly reduced scores on quantitative measures of depression and several reported benefits such as mood enhancement, increased feelings of relaxation and increased self-awareness. Additionally, a recent study in rhesus monkeys demonstrated that SalA can decrease oxycodone self-administration in rhesus monkeys in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting that combinations of oxycodone and the KOR agonists should be further investigated as potential analgesics with reduced abuse liability.
“Due to SalA’s short psychedelic effect, it will be an attractive option for those who would like psychedelic treatment but are unwilling or unable to participate in longer sessions,” said Glenn Short, CEO of Revixia. “The shorter experience will allow for more practical administration and monitoring, which may even make it possible to attend psychotherapy sessions on the same day.”
“While SalA has until now been understudied, its unique MoA may allow for combination with SSRIs, potentially giving patients a better chance in beating depression,” said Srinivas Rao, CSO and co-founder of atai Life Sciences. “We’re thrilled to be pursuing SalA and progressing research, as we strive for new treatments.”
Importantly, Revixia’s product will be paired with a digital therapeutic being developed by atai company Introspect Digital Therapeutics, with the aim of streamlining preparation, integration, and continued patient engagement.
“In exploring SalA, Revixia aims to develop a product with a differentiated pharmacological and treatment effect. Considering the significance of prior evidence in humans in parallel with the substantial unmet need in TRD, we believe Revixia has high commercial potential and an increased probability of success in the clinic,” said Florian Brand, CEO and co-founder of atai Life Sciences. “SalA is a great product candidate that magnificently matches the criteria we strive for, with recognized synergies across the atai platform.”
Development is underway with clinical trials expected to begin in the second half of 2022.