Peter Thiel-backed ATAI launches new Salvia-focused biotech; Purdue bankruptcy trial expected to begin today — report
ATAI Life Sciences, the Peter Thiel-backed umbrella developer of psychedelics and other drugs for mental health conditions, launched a new portfolio company Thursday.
The new outfit is called Revixia Life Sciences, and its mission is to bring the main active ingredient in Salvia to the clinic for treatment-resistant depression, substance use disorder and pain, ATAI announced Thursday morning. The ingredient in question is called Salvinorin A, and Revixia says it’s a non-nitrogenous agonist of the kappa-opioid receptor.
“Due to SalA’s short psychedelic effect, it will be an attractive option for those who would like psychedelic treatment but are unwilling or unable to participate in longer sessions,” said Revixia CEO Glenn Short in a statement. “The shorter experience will allow for more practical administration and monitoring, which may even make it possible to attend psychotherapy sessions on the same day.”
Salvia has historically seen use by the Mazatec people in Oaxaca, Mexico to treat a variety of illnesses like diarrhea and headaches, Revixia said in its release. The company’s theory is that Salvinorin A can indirectly influence the cannabinoid system without interacting with the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor — the main target for hallucinogens such as DMT and psilocybin.
Revixia plans to pair the drug with a digital therapeutic being developed by another ATAI company, and clinical trials are expected to begin in the second half of 2022. — Max Gelman
Purdue bankruptcy trial expected to begin Thursday — report
The Sackler family, who founded Oxycontin producer Purdue Pharma decades ago, are reportedly nearing the end of their ownership tenure.
A bankruptcy trial is expected to begin for the family Thursday, Bloomberg reported, in which the Sacklers are expected to ask to pay $4.5 billion over nine to 10 years in exchange for lifetime immunity from a range of opioid-related lawsuits. Their proposal, which values Purdue at $10 billion, would also involve handing over the business.
The trial is expected to last 11 days.
Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 after facing the lawsuits, and signed a guilty plea back in October 2020. Their bankruptcy plan has been roundly criticized as too little restitution for Purdue’s role in the opioid epidemic that has plagued the US for years. — Max Gelman
Junshi, Coherus nab BTD status for the latest PD-1 to near an FDA OK
Shanghai-based Junshi is being rewarded for taking on frontline cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma with its PD-1 drug toripalimab. The Chinese biotech and its US partner Coherus have nabbed breakthrough therapy designation for the drug, which would put it on a path to being the latest in a growing swarm of PD-(L)1 players on the market.
Coherus came up with a $1.1 billion package to in-license the drug earlier this year. Now the two partners can expect expedited treatment at the FDA, which has become an expert at reviewing these checkpoint treatments.
This is Junshi’s second BTD. The FDA had earlier laid out the red carpet for toripalimab monotherapy for patients with recurrent or metastatic NPC with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy.
“We are pleased to have received breakthrough therapy designation for our novel PD-1 blocking antibody, toripalimab, for nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which is an aggressive cancer with no immuno-oncology treatment options approved in the United States,” said Patricia Keegan, the CMO of Junshi Biosciences. — John Carroll
Autolus reportedly planning new $90M headquarters
The British biotech Autolus Therapeutics could soon find itself a new headquarters.
Local officials in Stevenage, England, are reportedly expected to meet next week to discuss plans for allowing Autolus to build a new central office for about $90 million. The space would be built on an old car park and have nearly 7,000 square feet of laboratory and other office areas, per a Hertfordshire Mercury report.
Plans for the space were submitted in June with the hopes of creating a new life sciences center in the area.
The news of the headquarter upgrade comes about 10 days after Autolus signed on to a new partnership with Moderna, giving the Covid-19 vaccine maker exclusive rights to four mRNA-based immuno-oncology candidates using proprietary binding tech from Autolus. — Max Gelman