Dina Burkitbayeva, Freedom Biosciences CEO

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.

John Krys­tal

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.

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.

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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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.

Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket en­tire­ly by end of 2024 af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024.

The decision to not re-commercialize Natpara will be a blow to not only the 2,400 people who were awaiting supplies of their reliable injection since 2019, but also the additional nearly 400 people who were accessing the drugs via the company’s Special Use Program as Takeda sought to resolve these manufacturing issues over the past five years.

Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO

A year and a half af­ter Cel­lar­i­ty raised $123M, the Flag­ship biotech is back — and it's ready to pick out can­di­dates

Cellarity doesn’t have any lead candidates yet. It doesn’t even have a public pipeline.

But it’s still attracting new investors. In a third round of financing announced this morning, Cellarity raised $121 million — just $2 million short of its last round — and brought on four new investors, including Kyowa Kirin and Hanwha Impact Partners.

Flagship, where the startup was first conceived, also participated in the latest round. Most of its other former investors returned as well, Cellarity CEO Fabrice Chouraqui told Endpoints News, though he would not disclose which ones.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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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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Astel­las, Pan­th­er­na add or­gan to mR­NA tie-up; Rock­et launch­es sale of six fig­ures worth of stock

Astellas and Pantherna have expanded their November 2021 pact surrounding the latter’s mRNA platform to include a new target organ, the duo announced Tuesday morning, though they did not specify what that target is.

German biotech Pantherna is home to two platform technologies — one that designs mRNAs for non-vaccine therapies and another that designs LNPs. Astellas and Pantherna’s deal appears to mainly revolve around the first platform, which Astellas said it is using to research direct reprogramming, or turning cells from one kind into another without an intermediate stem cell phase.