Psilera is a biotechnology firm using psychedelic compounds as building blocks to synthesize new medications for mental health and central nervous system disorder treatment.
The company was co-founded in 2019 by chemists Dr. Jackie von Salm and Dr. Chris Witowski and is based in Tampa, Florida. Psilera joined the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator hosted by the University of Florida, the co-founder’s alma mater. The company operates under the University’s DEA license to research psychedelic compounds. It carries out early-stage research and development with attention to “agonist and antagonistic effects on serotonin (5-HT) receptors and other neurologically relevant proteins.” In co-founder and CSO Dr. Jackie von Salm’s words, Psilera is “applying 21st-century technology to 20th-century discoveries.”
The company’s initial focus on DMT-based pharmaceuticals is distinctive among the psychedelic medicine field, much of which currently revolves around psilocybin (a compound found in magic mushrooms) and other closely related compounds. In a profile on the psychedelic business website Microdose, the company stated that DMT “has been overlooked due to its short duration and lack of oral bioavailability. However, our Ph.D. founders are skilled formulators and have validated preclinical data for transdermal (for sub-psychedelic dosing) and intranasal (for breakthrough experiences) delivery.”
While Psilera’s drug development strategy is, in principle, heavily influenced by the natural chemistry of psychedelic compounds, the company believes strategic synthetic alterations are critical to its mission. Under the website’s FAQ, the question “why is natural not always better?” is answered: “Unfortunately, natural compounds when improperly researched, can have limitations such as poor stability, poor drug-likeness, and/or toxicity. Psilera’s mission is to take the best natural candidates possible and only make modifications where absolutely necessary in order to optimize efficacy.”
According to a press release from July 2021, Psilera is pursuing Phase 1B clinical trials and an Investigational New Drug application (IND) in 2022 for a DMT patch. The transdermal administration allows for steadier and more direct delivery of sub-psychedelic doses. In August 2021, Psilera announced a collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to research compounds that can treat addiction. The work will include running preclinical animal trials on an intranasal DMT product and identifying molecular targets for Psilera’s New Chemical Entities (NCEs). The latter goal will employ Psilera’s proprietary computational chemistry database called BRAIN, which offers advanced modeling and virtual reality features. Also announced that month was Psilera’s commencement of preclinical trials on 4-AcO-DMT (psilacetin)-based NCEs aimed at treating alcohol use disorder.
Psilera was named among the Top 15 Psychedelic Startups by venture capitalists as reported by BusinessInsider in August 2021. Company representatives have frequently attended events and interviews to discuss mental health, psychedelic therapies, and psychedelic chemistry. Their talks are listed on the Psilera’s News webpage.