ATAI Life Sciences

ATAI Life Sciences is an international holding company for multiple psychedelic pharmaceutical biotechnology ventures. Its holdings’ foci range from drug discovery to drug development to enabling technologies, including novel administration methods and digital therapeutics tools. 

ATAI was co-founded in 2018 by Florian Brand (now CEO), Christian Angermayer, and Lars Wilde and includes Peter Thiel of PayPal among its investors. The company is the third-ever psychedelic biotech company to go public in the US, following MindMed and COMPASS Pathways. According to Pitchbook, it raised $225 million from its June 2021 IPO. A review of ATAI’s holdings as of its IPO is available via Psychedelic Invest. 

According to Brand, ATAI is focused on building data to convince the FDA and insurance payers to approve psychedelic medicines and make them reimbursable for patients. Substances used in ATAI’s program pipeline include psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, Ayahuasca, and ibogaine. The products are in various stages of clinical development and trials. In an August 2021 CNBC interview, Brand estimated that patient access to some of these medicines is likely to begin between 2024 and 2027.

In another interview, Ira Pastor of IdeaXme asked Brand about how ATAI navigates the looming “valley of death,” referring to the high failure rate of promising pharmaceutical candidates being brought to market or even reaching clinical trials. Brand acknowledged “big pharma’s” prudence to enter the psychedelic space and noted the lack of public funding applied to processes between drug discovery and late-stage trials. He underscored, however, ATAI’s confidence in its efforts to demonstrate the safety of its holdings’ compounds and the manageability of their side effects.

Brand also discussed the potential in “decoupling” hallucinogenic effects from psychoplastogenic (i.e., ability to induce neuroplasticity) effects in some drugs, should the psychedelic effects prove unhelpful for treatment. Brand stated, “having experienced the healing potential anecdotally and also based on data, we think it…has a very good risk-reward potential to [face] this so-called valley of death with a compound that proved to be safe and efficacious…and thus, not being stuck.”