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Biotech, Univ. Labs Test Psychoactive Drug as PTSD Therapy

Brain activity graphic

(Gordon Johnson, Pixabay)

21 Sept. 2023. A developer of treatments with psychoactive compounds for brain disorders is partnering with a lab at Yale University to assess methylone as a PTSD therapy. Transcend Therapeutics in New York and the labs of two psychiatry professors at Yale University medical school are evaluating the drug methylone to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, as part of a $1 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

PTSD is a chronic psychiatric condition with symptoms such as recurring flashbacks, dreams, and fearful episodes, often triggered by a person’s own traumatic or dangerous experiences. While many people may experience flashback episodes in the days after a fearful experience, continuing symptoms long after an event are signs of PTSD. Combat veterans, victims of abuse, and disaster survivors are PTSD candidates. The National Center for PTSD, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, estimates six in 100 U.S. adults will experience PTSD at some point.

Transcend Therapeutics is a three year-old biotechnology enterprise seeking therapies from psychotropic or mind-altering substances for neuro-psychiatric disorders including PTSD. The company says its goal is to offer compounds exhibiting psychoactive effects that can help people with PTSD, depression, and related disorders by working faster and with shorter durations, but without causing hallucinations. Science & Enterprise reported on Transcend Therapeutics’ emergence from stealth mode in Feb. 2023, where the company also raised $40 million in its first venture round.

The company’s lead product is a form of methylone, in a class of psychoactive agents known as entactogens that include MDMA, better known on the street as ecstasy. With methylone, however, Transcend Therapeutics believes people with PTSD can experience similar therapeutic effects without the unwanted adverse effects nor long ramp-up times of MDMA. The company is testing its methylone therapy in an early- and mid-stage clinical trial in the U.K. among participants with PTSD.

Identify neuro-biological mechanisms and dynamics

While the trial is underway, Transcend Therapeutics is also documenting methylone’s mechanism of action to treat PTSD. In June, Yale University received a $1 million award from Department of Defense to study the ways MDMA and methylone work in preclinical studies. The three-year project plans to identify the neuro-biological mechanisms and dynamics in the brain affected by entactogens to better understand their therapeutic affects.

Transcend is working with Yale psychiatry professors Alfred Kaye and Christopher Pittenger on the project that focuses on ways these compounds affect the plasticity of neurons in the brain. Kaye studies the reprogramming of neurological circuits in response to trauma with images of neurotransmitter sensors, electrophysiology, and computational biology. Pittenger is co-founder of Yale’s psychedelic science program that seeks to better understand how mind-altering compounds like LSD and psilocybin affect brain functions and behavior.

“We know from a published clinical case series and other research,” says Transcend Therapeutics co-founder and CEO Blake Mandell in a company statement, “that methylone could hold tremendous promise for the treatment of PTSD. Yale’s research, funded by the Department of Defense, will provide invaluable data on the neuroplastic effects of methylone on the brain.”

Benjamin Kelmendi, a Transcend Therapeutics co-founder and Yale University colleague of the researchers adds, “There is a tremendous demand, especially among veterans, for new and effective treatments for PTSD.” Kelmendi serves as an advisor to the company.

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Updated: 28 Sept. 2023

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