Pe­ter Thiel-backed psy­che­delics play­er ATAI pulls in an­oth­er nine-fig­ure raise. But they're not ready to talk IPO — yet

Rough­ly three and a half months since its last fundrais­ing round, the Pe­ter Thiel-backed ATAI Life Sci­ences has pulled in its lat­est ven­ture haul.

Pe­ter Thiel

The com­pa­ny closed a $157 mil­lion Se­ries D round ear­ly Wednes­day as it press­es the gas on its psy­che­delics-based strat­e­gy. Though the short time be­tween the two rais­es will like­ly fu­el spec­u­la­tion about a po­ten­tial jump to Nas­daq, ATAI isn’t ready to talk about that just yet, pre­emp­tive­ly de­clin­ing com­ment on all IPO-re­lat­ed ques­tions.

Nev­er­the­less, it marks a four-month span in which the com­pa­ny has seen near­ly $300 mil­lion of cap­i­tal flow in­to its cof­fers, as well as Thiel join­ing its cadre of in­vestors.

Flo­ri­an Brand

ATAI’s busi­ness mod­el for de­vel­op­ing ther­a­peu­tics cov­er­ing a range of men­tal health dis­or­ders — bring­ing port­fo­lio com­pa­nies un­der one um­brel­la — is dri­ving the heavy in­vestor in­ter­est, CEO Flo­ri­an Brand told End­points News. With the new raise com­ing al­most im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter the Se­ries C, ATAI can now “dou­ble down” on its strat­e­gy, Brand said.

“A lot of aware­ness is in­creas­ing that the men­tal health cri­sis is a se­vere is­sue, which has on­ly been am­pli­fied by Covid,” Brand said. “The way we’ve po­si­tioned our­selves gives us a very good op­por­tu­ni­ty to bring more ef­fec­tive treat­ments to the mar­ket and cre­ate in­ter­est among the in­vestor com­mu­ni­ty on more projects.”

Right now, ATAI has 13 pro­grams de­vel­op­ing drugs, and has dis­closed two plat­form-based com­pa­nies they’ve wel­comed in­to their port­fo­lio.

On top of that, the mar­ket has seem­ing­ly val­i­dat­ed ATAI’s fo­cus on psy­che­delics. Brand point­ed to Com­pass Path­ways’ $146.6 mil­lion IPO last Sep­tem­ber as a key de­vel­op­ment for le­git­imiz­ing what ATAI is al­so try­ing to ac­com­plish.

Com­pass’s most re­cent da­ta come from De­cem­ber 2019 in a Phase Ib tri­al, show­ing their man-made ver­sion of the chem­i­cal psilo­cy­bin — a psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent found in some species of “mag­ic mush­rooms” — had been well-tol­er­at­ed in 89 healthy vol­un­teers. Co­in­ci­den­tal­ly or not, Com­pass al­so brought in in­vest­ments from Thiel to re­search psilo­cy­bin with psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port as a treat­ment for men­tal ill­ness­es such as de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and ad­dic­tion.

Though the cash has been flow­ing in for ATAI, the M&A land­scape has been qui­et since their Jan­u­ary deal to ac­quire schiz­o­phre­nia-fo­cused com­pa­ny Recog­ni­fy Life Sci­ences. Brand said he’s hop­ing that ATAI’s ac­qui­si­tion ap­petite will kick back in­to gear with the new Se­ries D.

Srini­vas Rao

But ATAI’s big­ger goal over the next few years, now that they have some more cash to ex­pand their port­fo­lio, is to push the psy­che­delics space to re­sem­ble pre­ci­sion med­i­cine. ATAI is ul­ti­mate­ly work­ing to­ward dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics that can ide­al­ly pre­dict what treat­ments might work best for spe­cif­ic pa­tients, CMO Srini­vas Rao told End­points.

It’s still too ear­ly for the com­pa­ny to di­vulge too much of its ef­forts on this front, Rao said, but once they get the ball rolling they hope to push for­ward an “ag­gres­sive” time­line.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Look­ing to push CAR-T in sol­id tu­mors, Bay Area biotech goes pub­lic in SPAC flip — with slight name change

SPACs might be slowly creeping back.

Monday evening, Estrella Biopharma said it was going public via a SPAC deal with TradeUP Acquisition Corp. The deal is set to close in the first half of 2023, and if all goes as planned, the public version of Estrella — dubbed Estrella Immunopharma — will be worth around $398.5 million.

The Bay Area biotech will also get around $45.4 million in cash, and TradeUp stockholders will get around 15% stock in the public biotech.