In an exclusive to Benzinga, Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc MMEDF, a leading medicine biotech company in psychedelics, on Tuesday revealed the introduction of a division known as Albert, to help research and develop an integrated platform for delivering psychedelic medicines, experiential therapies, as well as digital therapeutics.
As part of the development, Benzinga chatted with MindMed co-founder and co-CEO J.R. Rahn, as well as early backer Kevin O'Leary, Canadian businessman, investor, "Shark Tank" star and co-founder of O'Shares ETFs.
First Mover: The pandemic devastated the economy, leaving millions unemployed, a result that could have serious implications for mental health.
MindMed, which is focused on the medicinal value of psychedelics, is working to deploy alternative solutions for mental illnesses -- those without acute adverse effects such as abuse and dependence.
“We’re in the business of healing,” Rahn told Benzinga in a discussion on overcoming the stigma related to psychedelics. “I think they laughed at Tesla when they said they were going to make all cars electric in the United States, and so I think there's some parallels to what we’re trying to achieve here.”
Through proprietary research, some of which was conducted in collaboration with the laboratory of Professor Dr. Matthias Liechti, the world’s leading psychedelics, pharmacology and clinical research group at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, MindMed helped destigmatize psychedelics on the premise they can be therapeutic. In deriving anecdotal evidence that proves LSD's efficacy, MindMed announced this week it received a regulatory go-ahead.
“We received a positive response from the regulators, both in the Netherlands and Switzerland, on the design of our study,” Rahn noted on the firm’s intent to test microdoses of LSD in adult ADHD patients. “This is really monumental because it’s the first time a commercial drug trial has happened on microdosing of LSD.”
In addition, in uncovering the full potential of its treatment, MindMed launched Albert, a digital therapeutic solution that, alongside pharmaceutical medicines, will maximize outcomes and enable improved assessment of efficacy.
“When you think about mental health, we’re going to need a complete set of tools or products that can be used by therapists, psychiatrists, and ultimately patients,” Rahn said on the launch. “I think that’s going to be a combination of digital therapeutics, classic psychedelics, and then ultimately new chemical entities -- the next generation psychedelics that are going to be more tailored.”
Next Big Thing: MindMed envisions that rates of addiction and anxiety will rise.
“The biggest lasting impact we’re going to see from COVID is on mental health and addiction,” Rahn said in reference to the challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will encounter in the aftermath of the pandemic. “This administration is going to need innovative ways to help solve that, and I think we’re going to definitely see a priority towards companies that are addressing mental health and addiction in the United States.”
O’Leary, who has been criticized for not investing in cannabis as a medicine, echoed Rahn’s comments suggesting the industry is ripe for disruption as consumers look to more effective, safer alternatives.
“If you think about one of the biggest problems society has globally, not just North America, it’s mental health -- things like opioid addiction, ADD, depression, and alcoholism," he said.
“The focus on mental health has increased geometrically,” O’Leary added. “The medicines haven’t changed in 37 years, and MindMed, alongside the whole sector, is looking for these new molecules … that don’t have such dramatic side effects, particularly when you’re dealing with young people.”
Adding, from an indexing perspective, O'Leary said his investment in MindMed is a diversified bet on a new sector of medicine.
“When you do indexing, you’re looking for companies to include that represent the sector,” he said. “In the case of this sector, one of the metrics you want to look at is how many stage one, two, and three trials the company has. Number two, how many molecules do they have ownership of, because the outcomes are unknown, and you want to diversify your risk.
“I wanted the most diversification I could get, and MindMed had multiple trials and molecules.”
Forward Thinking: MindMed’s addition of a digital division will help push a new paradigm as it comes to treating mental health.
“We’re looking to use both digital technologies and psychedelic medicines to create the new paradigm in how we treat mental health,” Rahn said in reference to building a sustainable infrastructure to develop and deploy FDA approved psychedelics.
“We’ve also done an amazing job circling up some of the best talent in the space -- we just signed a collaboration with NYU on how we train the next generation of psychiatrists to actually use these medicines, because we ultimately have to think about how we are going to get these medicines into the doctor’s office and clinic.”
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