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Psychoactive Drug Start-Up Raises $40M in Early Funds

Brain activity graphic

(Gordon Johnson, Pixabay)

23 Feb. 2023. A new company is underway developing drugs to treat PTSD and other disorders with psychoactive compounds claimed to be safer than current psychedelics. Transcend Therapeutics in New York is commercializing research in neuroscience labs at Yale University medical school, and raising $40 million in its first venture funding round.

Transcend Therapeutics is a two year-old enterprise creating new treatments for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other psychiatric conditions. The company seeks to provide therapies with the helpful psychoactive effects, but fewer drawbacks of traditional psychedelic drugs. PTSD is the company’s first target, but Transcend Therapeutics says it plans to address a other psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety, with psychoactive compounds designed to work faster, with shorter duration, fewer unwanted side-effects, and can be taken with other anti-depression drugs.

The company’s lead product code-named TSND-201 is a form of the compound methylone, in a class of psychoactive drugs called entactogens, believed to promote more introspection and personal awareness. Among the better known entactogens is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, more commonly known as the recreational drug ecstacy. As reported by Science & Enterprise in Jan. 2023, MDMA is being studied as a treatment for PTSD when combined with psychotherapy, with initial results showing MDMA used in this way generates brain signals that help relieve symptoms in people with PTSD.

“Rapid-acting, disease-modifying, non-hallucinogenic treatment”

Transcend Therapeutics notes, however, that many conventional psychedelics like MDMA are controlled substances that are not widely available to patients, have inconsistent results, may need long ramp-up periods, and have adverse or unwanted side effects. “At Transcend,” says company co-founder and CEO Blake Mandell in a company statement, “we’re working to change that, starting by bringing a next-generation compound, methylone, to market as a potential rapid-acting, disease-modifying, non-hallucinogenic treatment for neuro-psychiatric conditions like PTSD.”

The company is advancing research on PTSD treatments by its scientific co-founder Benjamin Kelmendi, professor of psychiatry at Yale University medical school. In a study published in Jan. 2023, led by Transcend’s head of preclinical research Jennifer Schmidt, and co-authored by Mandell and Kelmendi, the researchers found lab rats given a single dose of methylone are able to perform a forced swim test, a standard screening method for anti-depressant drugs, in less time and greater magnitude than a common anti-depressant drug, as well as showing fewer indicators of anxiety. Kelmendi is a scientific advisor to the company.

Transcend Therapeutics was started in 2021 and incubated by AlleyCorp, an early-stage technology and health care business developer in New York. Transcend says today its first venture funding round is raising $40 million, led by life science and technology investors Alpha Wave Global and, both in New York, with participation by Global Founders Capital and Emerald Development Managers.

The company plans to use the round’s proceeds for clinical trials of methylone. One of those trials, an early- and mid-stage study is set to begin, enrolling 79 individuals with moderate to severe PTSD. The mid-stage part of the trial is expected to test methylone in capsule form taken once a week for four weeks against a placebo. The research team is looking mainly for changes in scores on a standard PTSD rating scale, as well as changes in depression and disability, and signs of adverse effects.

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