Oxford-based startup Beckley Psytech in the United Kingdom announced August 15 that it raised $80 million to ramp up clinical trials and research using a pharmaceutical formulation of 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine), a powerful compound produced endogenously by Sonoran Desert toad venom, to treat depression.
The Series B financing was initially set at $50 million—but was upgraded to $80 million due to “overwhelming interest” from investors to support accelerating the clinical development of its psychedelic medicine research pipeline.
The financing round is led by Integrated, and the science-focused investor consortium includes Prime Movers Labs, which funds breakthrough scientific startups; Adage Capital Management LP, a Boston based institutional investor; Palo Santo; Delphi VC; Leafy Tunnel; Negev Capital; and existing investor Bicycle Day Ventures.
Clinical studies using psilocybin show huge potential to battle treatment-resistant depression, under the guidance of a therapist. But while a psilocybin experience can last five to eight hours, a 5-MeO-DMT session will last just one hour, which could radically reduce the cost of treatment. “Requiring a therapist to sit with a patient for the entire duration of a psilocybin, MDMA or LSD experience which is, say, six to eight to 10 hours long, is going to be resource intensive and expensive,” CEO Cosmo Fielding Mellen told Sifted.
From Psychedelic Toad Venom to Medical Research
The toad’s psychedelic venom is a natural defense tool, but with limitless potential in medicine. Vice Media’s Hamilton Morris documented the Sonoran Desert toad in detail—calling the toads’ secretion the “most potent psychedelic toad venom on Earth,” which also makes it ideal for medical research.
As previously reported by High Times, the Sonoran Desert Toad—also known as Colorado River Toad—was discovered to contain DMT-like compounds in 1965. This particular toad genus, Bufo alvarius, is known for high levels of 5-MeO-DMT, which is otherwise very rare in the animal kingdom. Though many other toads in the Bufo family produce bufotenine, the active tryptamine, the Sonoran Desert Toad has an enzyme that converts bufotenine into 5-MeO-DMT.
The compound is believed to be useful in several ways, including for psychedelic-assisted therapeutic purposes, and can be synthesized in a lab. The company’s CEO agrees. “My life’s passion has been to unlock the therapeutic potential of psychedelics as I believe these compounds could help millions of people around the world,” Fielding Mellen said in a press release.
Mellen continued, “The progress Beckley Psytech has made in attracting exceptional talent to the team and advancing our ambitious clinical development programmes over the past two years has been tremendously exciting. As we embark on our next phase of growth, our strong syndicate of expert investors will support us in bringing much-needed innovative treatments to patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric conditions.”
Beckley Psytech’s funding will also accelerate early trials investigating whether psilocybin can be used to treat patients suffering with SUNHA (short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks), a rare and debilitating headache condition.
Beckley Psytech will use the proceeds to complete the ongoing Phase 1b trial with low-dose psilocybin in patients suffering from SUNHA, a rare and debilitating headache condition estimated to affect 45,000 people in the US and Europe. The proceeds will also go to initiate a Phase 1 dose-ranging study on a novel formulation of intranasal 5-MeO-DMT before starting a Phase 2 trial in Treatment Resistant Depression. The funding will also support the expansion of the company’s pipeline with new, unique and proprietary psychedelic compounds.
“Cosmo and his dedicated team at Beckley Psytech have created an exceptional research and development platform,” said Jay Newmark, general partner of Integrated. “Their highly differentiated approach, which treats not only large indications such as depression but also rare indications such as SUNHA, is allowing accelerated access to market. We deeply appreciate our value alignment with this team and eagerly anticipate their progress in improving access to these medicines.”
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.