Q&A with Beckley Psytech CEO Cosmo Feilding Mellen
Q: 2020 was a busy year for Beckley Psytech, what were the highlights?
A: Last year was extremely busy and I’m very proud of what the team achieved. We completed two funding rounds, raising £3m ($3.8m) in June and £14m ($18.5m) in December, and were backed by a fantastic range of investors including the Neo Kuma Fund and Bail Capital, and entrepreneurs such as Jim Mellon and Richard Reed.
We made excellent progress on the development of our core research programmes, one exploring the use of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT, another studying psilocybin for a rare headache condition, and our third programme focusing on developing new and unique psychedelic compounds.
We also appointed some exceptionally experienced industry professionals to our team, including Canadian medical cannabis pioneer Marc Wayne as our chairman and Dr Steve Wooding, the former head of global commercial strategy for Janssen, Johnson and Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, as our Chief Scientific Officer. And some of the world’s most renowned academics from the likes of the University of Oxford, Johns Hopkins and Imperial, joined our Scientific Advisory Board.
Q: And what about 2021? What’s happened so far this year?
A: We are very pleased to have been awarded clinical trial authorisation from the UK Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to explore the effects of psychedelic agent psilocybin for treating short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks (SUNHA), a rare and debilitating headache condition. This is a ground-breaking Phase 1B study where we’ll be enrolling up to 12 patients suffering from SUNHA to investigate the safety profile and efficacy of low-dose psilocybin as a treatment.
We also appointed Andy Page, who has over 25 years’ experience working in strategic and operation roles in global pharmaceutical and medtech organisations, as our new Chief Operating Officer. Andy’s impressive CV includes being interim President and CEO of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Europe, and leading go-to-market strategy for the Medical Devices & Diagnostics global surgery division at Janssen UK.
For Beckley Psytech he will be responsible for initiating collaborations and co-developments with partners across the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, and will lead projects to negotiate key research, development and licensing deals. I’m very pleased to have him on board.
Q: Can you tell us more about your first clinical trial? When does it start?
A: Our trial will be the first to research the effect of psilocybin on SUNHA patients and aim to be dosing our first patient within the next month. SUNHA belongs to a group of headache disorders called the Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias (TACs), and is one of the most painful known disorders, affecting roughly 46,000 patients in the US, Canada and the G5 from Europe.
There are currently no approved treatments for the condition, which is characterized by short-lasting headaches that range from severe to excruciating and may occur over 100 times a day. We hope to change that and will explore the effects of ascending doses of psilocybin in patients with chronic SUNHA.
Q: What are your priorities for the rest of 2021?
A: There is a lot to look out from Beckley Psytech this year. Very soon we’ll be announcing an exciting new partnership that will help us provide the training and support to enable healthcare practitioners to deliver psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.
We’ll start our first clinical trial, as mentioned, exploring low-dose psilocybin for treating SUNHA, and we’ll also be launching our 5-MeO-DMT Phase 1 trial later this year. We will also be synthesising and characterising our first batch of unique psychedelic compounds as candidates for further clinical development.
One of our top priorities is to examine how we can best further integrate digital technology into our approach. New drugs are just part of the solution but to really optimise outcomes for patients and reduce healthcare resource utilisation we need to deliver personalised and predictive care. Care that supports the long term wellness of patients, beyond the initial treatment. That’s why we are very excited about the options we are exploring within the digital medicine and therapeutic classes.
Finally, we’re continuing to grow rapidly and so will be considering our options for our next round of funding this year, and hope to make many more announcements about additions to our team. It’s going to be another busy and, we hope, successful year. Watch this space!