AWAKN Life Sciences is a biotechnology company focused on both the development and delivery of psychedelic-based treatments for severe addictions. The company is headquartered in Ontario, Canada, but also operates in the United Kingdom and the European Union.
AWAKN’s team includes Professor David Nutt (Chief Research Officer) of Imperial College London, Dr. Ben Sessa (Chief Medical Officer) who led the world’s only MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy study targeting alcohol use disorder (AUD), and Professor Celia Morgan (Scientific Advisory Board member) of Exeter University who led the world’s only ketamine-assisted psychotherapy study targeting AUD.
As of 2021, AWAKN has three categories of drug candidates that correspond to near-, medium- and long-term goals. Each is intended for administration in conjunction with psychotherapy. The first is a ketamine product for AUD; it has acquired an IP and is approaching Phase 3 clinical trials. The company announced plans to explore the product’s applicability to other addictions, including gambling.
Their medium-term focus is on MDMA, also aimed to treat AUD. It has entered Phase II B clinical trials which are run by PRA Health Science. In a press release announcing AWAKN’s partnership with PRA, research lead Dr. Ben Sessa said, “MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy, as evidenced from our world’s-first pilot study on the subject, is well-placed to help patients with AUD tackle rigidly held narratives surrounding their history of trauma that maintains their harmful drinking.”
AWAKN’s long-term efforts are focused on developing New Chemical Entities (NCEs) for AUD as well as behavioral, opioid, and tobacco addictions. The company filed two patent applications for MDMA-derived NCEs AWKN001 and AWKN001 that each target a range of addictions. AWAKN has partnered with drug development and discovery company Evotec to carry out clinical research for these products.
In a press release, Professor Nutt stated, “The candidates we are developing will bring together the best therapeutic characteristics of MDMA, with more rapid onset of activity, and a shorter half-life, in a research space that is undiscovered. These improved candidates will enable us to treat more patients at a reduced cost and with the potential to increase both efficacy and the range of disorders we can treat.”
On the delivery side, AWAKN intends to first open three treatment clinics in the UK and EU in 2021, then scale up to 20 clinics in the following years.
AWAKN has also taken on an advocacy role, having partnered with Professor Nutt’s organization Drug Science in campaigns to reschedule psychedelic drugs for research and therapeutic uses.
In summer 2021, the company began trading on the NEO Exchange and the OTC market.