What’s the Future of Eleusis Therapeutics After Acquisition by Beckley Psytech?
Beckley Psytech, the private UK-based company led by longtime psychonaut Lady Amanda Feilding and her son, Cosmo Feilding Mellen, has agreed to acquire Eleusis Therapeutics, one of the first venture-backed startups to research psychedelic medicines.
The agreement, which was first reported by Lucid News, reflects the difficult fundraising environment faced by companies in the psychedelics sector. Eleusis tried to go public in January 2022 in an effort to raise up to $288 million from investors, but the deal was abandoned when investors soured on biotech stocks and risky bets on psychedelics.
In a press release, Beckley said that it will soon begin a clinical trial of Eleusis’ ELE-101, an intravenous form of psilocin, the active ingredient in psilocybin. Beckley said that ELE-101 “has the potential to deliver a more consistent and controllable response in patients, with a rapid onset, significantly shorter treatment duration and less variability compared to oral formulations of psilocybin.”
Industry analyst Josh Hardman, writing in his Psychedelic Alpha newsletter, said that a shorter-acting psilocybin drug would have “obvious benefits in terms of convenience and cost.” Beckley Psytech is developing other fast-acting psychedelics, including a drug similar to 5-MeO-DMT.
Less certain is the status of Eleusis’ pioneering research into the anti-inflammatory properties of psychedelics, which had been a focus of the company. Michael Trace, a spokesman for Beckley, said in an email to Lucid News that ELE-102, a new chemical entity that resembles a psychedelic called DOI, “is included in the library of novel psychedelic compounds which Beckley Psytech has acquired.”
But the father-and-son scientists leading the studies of the anti-inflammatory properties of psychedelics – Charles Nichols, a professor of pharmacology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, and his father David Nichols, a founder of the Heffter Research Institute and veteran psychopharmacologist – were told not to count on the company’s support.
In an email, David Nichols wrote: “Cosmo told Chuck they didn’t have the funds to develop it now.” He noted that there was no mention of ELE-102 in the Beckley announcement.
Charles Nichols said his research will continue, funded by philanthropy.
“I have had significant funding for the basic science of this from several sources over the years, including Eleusis, and I am able to keep this area of research very active moving forward,” he said in an email.
A generous gift from an anonymous donor helped fund his research into the mechanism of action for anti-inflammatory effects, Charles Nichols said. The philanthropist Cody Swift and his RiverStyx Foundation are currently supporting his work.
The anti-inflammatory potential of psychedelics has generated considerable excitement. In a peer-reviewed paper, Charles Nicholas and colleagues wrote that DOI could become an “extraordinarily potent, potential therapeutic avenue for the treatment of disorders” including “atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, type II diabetes, depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Shlomi Raz, Eleusis’ founder, was enthusiastic as well, saying the company hoped to develop a drug that could be administered as eye drops to treat diseases of the retina caused by inflammation. Raz will become the chief business officer of Beckley Psytech.