Eleusis Holdings, a venture capital-backed startup company that funded pioneering research into the anti-inflammatory properties of psychedelics, is close to an agreement to be acquired by Beckley Psytech, the UK-based company led by Lady Amanda Feilding and her son, Cosmo Feilding Mellen.
When Lucid News broke the news that Eleusis had agreed to be acquired, a spokesman for Beckley Psytech said that the company “can confirm that we are in discussions to potentially acquire Eleusis Therapeutics, but that no agreement has been signed, and there is no certainty at this time that one will be signed.”
Founded in 2013 by former Goldman Sachs banker Shlomi Raz, Eleusis is one of the first for-profit startups focused on bringing psychedelic substances through the process of becoming FDA-approved medicines. The company has been seeking to raise capital to continue its research and bring a product to market since late last year.
Neither Raz, who is Eleusis’ CEO, nor Cosmo Feilding Mellen, who is Beckley’s CEO, responded to emails seeking comment. Other sources told Lucid News that Raz, who owns a majority of Eleusis’ voting shares, agreed to sell to Beckley after efforts to raise a new round of financing for the company did not succeed.
Notably, Eleusis announced in January that it would go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC – created to acquire or merge with an existing company – in an effort to raise up to $288 million from investors. “This is an ideal moment for Eleusis to go public,” Raz said then. But as market conditions deteriorated, the deal was scrapped.
Industry contraction. The acquisition by Beckley Psytech is the latest sign of stress among startups in the sector. HAVN Life Sciences, a publicly-traded firm developing psychedelic compounds, said this month that it had ceased operations. Other startups have watched their valuations plummet, along with the broader markets. The Horizons Psychedelic Stock Index, a fund that tracks the performance of 26 publicly-traded psychedelic companies, has lost more than 40 percent of its value this year.
The challenge facing Eleusis and other biotech startups is that scientific research and bringing a psychedelic therapy or compound to market can take years or decades, testing the fortitude of even patient investors. Gaining FDA approval for a psychedelic medicine is time-consuming and expensive.
Future possibilities. Eleusis had been making headway with two strains of research. It has been developing a new chemical entity known as ELE-Psilo, which is designed to intravenously deliver psilocin, the active ingredient of psilocybin, to provide a short, intense and cost-effective drug experience.
But what makes Eleusis stand apart from its peers is the company’s pathbreaking work with David and Charles Nichols, father-and-son scientists who uncovered the anti-inflammatory properties of a long-lasting psychedelic called DOI – 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine. David Nichols is the founding president of the Heffter Research Institute while his son, known as Chuck, runs a lab at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center that has shown that DOI reduces inflammation in mice. That finding has implications for a variety of ailments that affect people..
How the Feildings plan to pursue the research is unclear. Amanda Feilding, a pioneering businesswoman, drug-policy reformer and philanthropist, has supported research into psychedelics since 1998.
Update: This article has been revised to include a statement from Beckley Psytech regarding a potential acquisition of Eleusis Therapeutics.