Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals

Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals is a “discovery stage” private biotechnology company based in New York. Founded in 2019, Gilgamesh is developing innovative treatments for neuropsychiatric conditions by creating psychedelic-inspired “new chemical entities” (NCEs). By basing its novel molecules on pre-established pharmacology, Gilgamesh aims to expedite its regulatory success. The company is backed by Y Combinator and presented at Y Combinator’s Demo Day convention in the summer of 2020. Gilgamesh raised $2.6 million in seed funding that year. 

Gilgamesh’s team is composed of pharmaceutical startup veterans and researchers with an advanced knowledge base of psychedelic compounds. The company was co-founded by Jonathan Sporn, MD, Jeff Witkin Ph.D., Dalibor Sames, Ph.D., Andrew Kruegel, Ph.D., and Mike Cunningham, Ph.D. The latter three worked together at Sames’ lab, the Sames Group, at Columbia University. The Sames Group has helped to inform the pharmacology of kratom alkaloids and to elucidate the antidepressant effects of ibogaine and noribogaine. Adam Klein, formerly of Adam Halberstadt’s lab at the University of California San Diego’s Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative, also works at Gilgamesh as a Senior Scientist. 

Gilgamesh currently has three main pharmaceutical pursuits. The first is a 5-HT2A receptor agonist, a non-hallucinogenic serotonergic microdose with low abuse potential that can treat ADHD and mood and anxiety disorders. The second is a “better ketamine:” a safe, non-dissociative, orally-active glutamatergic antagonist to treat mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders. This endeavor is especially valuable because conventional ketamine, which is typically administered intravenously, has low bioavailability when taken orally.

Gilgamesh’s third area of focus is an ibogaine analog that can offer a safer, more rapid treatment of substance use disorders and other maladaptive habits. The company points out that conventional ibogaine poses cardiac risks to users. The company is developing this analog in conjunction with Columbia University scientists at Sames Group, with financial support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

In a January 2021 interview on Proactive, CEO Dr. Sporn stated, “We’re looking for innovation, so we’re not going to be developing things like psilocybin or LSD or MDMA or things that already exist in the world. But we’re creating…the next generation of medicines.”