Q&A with Beckley Psytech CEO Cosmo Feilding-Mellen
Q: What inspired you to set up Beckley Psytech?
A: My family has been involved in pioneering scientific research into the healing properties of psychedelics for decades. My mother and Beckley Psytech cofounder, Amanda Feilding, is one of the field’s most renowned thought-leaders, who has been driving psychedelic research and drug policy reform for 50 years.
Her work has mostly been undertaken through the Beckley Foundation, an NGO that she founded more than 20 years ago. It has initiated some ground-breaking studies looking at the mechanisms of action underlying the psychedelic experience and the power of psychedelics to have lasting positive impacts on the brain, particularly for sufferers of mental health conditions.
But drug discovery and the creation of pharmaceutically licensed medicines which could help hundreds of millions of people is an expensive business. As a result we decided to establish Beckley Psytech as a for-profit business to deliver transformative medicines and treatments for patients suffering from neurological and mental health disorders, while delivering returns for our investors.
Q: How will Beckley Psytech make a difference?
A: We are researching a number of novel formulations and delivery methods that we hope will eventually transform treatment of mental health conditions and CNS illnesses. One of our more advanced programmes is exploring use of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT, a unique psychedelic agent with a short duration of action, in the treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases.
5-MeO-DMT is found in the secretions of the Sonoran Desert Toad and a variety of plant species, which has been used as a shamanic medicine by indigenous peoples of South America for centuries. Its effects are reported to last under an hour and induce profound altered states of consciousness with significant therapeutic effects, but robust clinical evidence is currently lacking. We hope to change that.
Q: What are your chances of success?
A: We have a long way to go to develop a pipeline of fully licensed psychedelic medicines, but we’re confident there is exceptional potential to address an enormous range of illnesses and alleviate the billions of pounds of economic burden they place on the global economy. If we achieve even a small part of our mission and deliver a psychedelic treatment which demonstrably improves the lives of patients suffering with one of these conditions, the social benefit – as well as the value creation for our investors – will be substantial.
Q: What have you achieved to date?
A: We have just completed a £14m ($18.5m) fundraising round, adding new investors including Noetic Pharma Fund and Bail Capital. They join existing investors such as Jim Mellon, the prominent British entrepreneur, and Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks, who invested in this round as well as the £3m ($3.8m) seed round we completed earlier in the year. We are using the funding to advance our lead programme exploring the use of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT to a ‘First in Man’ clinical trial, as well as expanding our pipeline to other exciting development programmes offering significant differentiation and valuable benefits for patients in need.
We have also brought together a team of incredible experts, including Canadian medical cannabis industry 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. More recently, we appointed a line-up of world-renowned experts to our Scientific Advisory Board, from leading institutions including the University of Oxford, King’s College London, Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University.
Q: What’s next for the business?
A: In terms of scientific developments, there are a number of imminent key milestones for our 5-MeO-DMT programme. We are aiming to have GMP/pharmaceutical standard synthetic 5-MeO-DMT produced and formulated into a novel delivery device very shortly, with preclinical research completed before Christmas. This opens the doorway to human trials, starting with the ‘First-in-Man’ Phase 1 clinical trial - the first ever regulatory standard clinical trial on 5-MeO-DMT.