Psychedelics startup nets more than $10M in seed funding as it looks to make a splash
As companies small and large begin to test the waters and go mainstream with a series of different psychedelics, one startup is hoping to use an expert in the field to advance a therapy using ketamine for major depressive disorder.
Freedom Biosciences, a clinical-stage company developing therapeutics using ketamine and other psychedelics, has netted itself $10.5 million in seed financing.
The company was founded last April by John Krystal, the chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University, and Dina Burkitbayeva, co-founder of PsyMed Ventures. Burkitbayeva now serves as the startup’s CEO, while Krystal serves as chief scientific advisor.
In an interview with Endpoints News, Burkitbayeva said that the company’s lead program, called FREE001, is a combination therapy with ketamine to treat major depressive disorder. She said that ketamine acts as a fast-acting antidepressant but has several shortcomings, primarily its short-lived efficacy in most cases.
According to Burkitbayeva, Freedom’s candidate can extend the “efficacy window,” as the company completed a Phase II investigational study showing that the combination provided 14 days of antidepressant effects — around two to three times longer than the usual two to seven days of effects from ketamine alone.
“The reason why that’s important is that the treatment is quite burdensome. Patients have to go into a clinic, have to have an infusion, and stay there for about two hours. But now we’re making the burden on the patient as well as the medical system much lighter,” Burkitbayeva told Endpoints.
Krystal has extensive experience with ketamine treatments and has been working on them since the 1990s. He was also part of the discovery team on the antidepressant effects of ketamine, which eventually led to the FDA approval of Janssen’s Spravato in 2019.
The company itself opened the seed round in October of last year as Freedom had an incubation round led by PsyMed Ventures.
Freedom says its candidate is different from other ketamine-based products on the market simply due to the efficacy duration. As far as separating itself from other psychedelic-based startups in the market, Burkitvayeva said that it is following a regulatory pathway that allows it to get to market at a much lower cost, as well as having a highly experienced team.
The company is now planning to enter the clinic with FREE001 next year and is planning to raise a full Series A. With 10 employees, Freedom is hoping to add on another five to seven on the back of the seed funding.
MBX Capital led the round and was joined by PsyMed Ventures, Village Global and The Yale Startup, among other participants.