Jonathan Sporn

Academic, Businessperson, Clinician, Scientist

Dr. Jonathan Sporn is a clinical psychiatrist and pharmaceutical executive. He is the Founder and current CEO of psychedelic biotechnology company Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals. During a presentation hosted by PSYCHEDstudio, Dr. Sporn explained that his interest in the field emerged after a “tremendously” influential personal experience with psilocybin in college that deepened his understanding of his own mind. 

Dr. Sporn graduated from Duke University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Animal Biology. He earned his MD in 1984 from the University of Miami School of Medicine and went on to train in psychiatry at Tufts and Harvard. He also received advanced psychoanalysis training at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute.

While in Boston, Dr. Sporn worked as the Chief of Psychiatry at a community hospital and studied the role of glutamate in mood disorders as a Clinical Associate at Massachusetts General. In 2000, he began a 3-year fellowship at NIMH where he helped to establish the agency’s Mood and Anxiety Program. The program contributed to research on ketamine’s effectiveness in treating depression. From 2003 to 2006, Dr. Sporn directed the Neurology and Psychiatry department at Johnson & Johnson. In the course of his drug development work there, he filed a patent for the precursor to Sunosi, a sleep/wake cycle drug. 

Dr. Sporn worked at Pfizer for the better part of a decade, where he served as the Clinical Disease Area Expert in Neuroscience for Psychiatry and Addictions and led business development initiatives. In this role, he helped develop the widely-used Lyrica, a nerve pain medication, and Zoloft, an SSRI. 

In 2017, Dr. Sporn founded Perception Neuroscience, a company focused on developing the ketamine isomer arketamine (or R-ketamine) for Treatment-Resistant Depression. He acted as President and CEO until November 2018 when he became Chief Science Officer, eventually selling the company to ATAI Life Sciences in 2019. As of summer 2021, Perception’s R-ketamine is one of the furthest along in clinical development in ATAI’s product portfolio.

Dr. Sporn founded Gilgamesh in 2019 with the help of the start-up accelerator Y Combinator. According to an Endpoint News article, Dr. Sporn convened an “unusual” team to build Gilgamesh for a fresh angle in the emerging psychedelic space — one that is “IP-centric and very medicinal chemistry-centric.” He told author Max Gelman, “We’re trying to create brand new molecules that have differentiation and have value for the treatment of psychiatric conditions.” Gilgamesh focuses on engineering novel analogs for substances like ketamine and DMT that have improved safety profiles and more targeted efficacies. Dr. Sporn became the company’s Board Chairman in September 2019. He is listed among Psychedelic Invest’s 2021 ranking of 100 Most Influential People in Psychedelics.

In addition to his psychedelic ventures, Dr. Sporn teaches courses in Psychiatry and Experimental Therapeutics as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University.