In January, the Berlin-based psychedelics giant ATAI Life Sciences purchased a majority stake in Recogify – a company researching drugs to combat ailments associated with schizophrenia.
The deal is based on Recognify’s lead program, RL-007, a small molecule that the company says can help schizophrenia symptoms by regulating three mechanisms for learning and memory: the cholinergic, NMDA, and GABA type B receptor systems.
This caught my attention as schizophrenia (or even a family history of schizophrenia) is one of the conditions that often gets screened out in psychedelics trips. According to MAPS, it has long been believed that individuals with psychosis, schizophrenia, or schizophrenia-like conditions should not use psychedelics as the experiences can be destabilizing.
Psychedelics work is by increasing the amount of entropy, or chaos, in the brain. They disrupt the neural patterns upon which rigid patterns of thought and behavior exist – such as those seen in depression, OCD, and addiction. That type of chaos isn’t good for people predisposed to mania.
MAPS published a detailed autobiography of someone taking small doses of DMT for schizophrenia, and how it helped separate the dark external voices from his own, however, this is purely anecdotal. No one is proposing a patient with schizophrenia do a hero’s journey on LSD to achieve ego death or overcome hallucinations.
People with schizophrenia also suffer from:
- Disorganized thinking (speech)
- Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior
Schizophrenia is often confused with dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder).
Recognify phase ll
New drugs are currently being tested to see if they can help with Cognitive Impairment Associated with Schizophrenia (CIAS)—which may include deficits in attention, working memory, and executive function.
The idea is not to cure schizophrenia but to make it more manageable. Currently, there is a large patient population with unmet medical needs as there are no approved treatments for CIAS.
Recognify’s RL-007 is a Phase II ready asset that has previously been evaluated in nine clinical studies – seven Phase I studies and two Phase II studies – with a total of 508 subjects having been dosed. Three of these clinical trials demonstrated improvements in verbal learning and memory, including in a large phase II study of subjects with peripheral neuropathic pain.
We have a biomarker we can use, which are these EEG parameters. There were particular phenomena noted in the scopolamine challenge, basically, that slows down the frequencies in your EEG; that’s something seen in folks with schizophrenia. So that’s one of the first things we want to see, can you actually increase the frequency … which would be consistent with pro-cognitive effects. – Srinivas Rao, ATAI CSO
There are several companies in the psychedelics space targetting common disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use disorder.
While schizophrenia is found in only 1% of the population, several mental health professionals have tied cluster-A personality disorders to schizophrenia. These are schizoid, schizotypal, and paranoid personality disorders which do have some schizophrenia-like conditions, these disorders affect around 3-4% of the population.
Entheon Biomedical (ENBI.CN), through its subsidiary HaluGen Life Sciences, developed a genetics test kit specifically for identifying potential risks like schizophrenia for psychedelic trips. You register, take the oral swab and mail it back to them.
The kit gives users a profile, showing them their own:
- Short-term risk of adverse psychedelics-induced effects
- Long-term risk of psychosis and schizophrenia
- Serotonin receptor density
- HTR2A genetic variant
In cannabis, we saw a ton of blockchain/weed hybrid companies that never really went anywhere.
I think we will see more technology-based companies make a crossover into psychedelics, some will be BS, but things like psychedelics genetics test kits are a smart idea. This sector is still really early, and it will take time to figure out what products and ideas will take hold. I think it’s important to look for companies that are designing products that are unique as this sector is starting to heat up, bringing in loads of current and future competition.
Companies who want to generate revenue as soon as possible can also obviously introduce products, but there is probably more upside in a company developing a new technology.
If a company is just planning on releasing the world’s 10,000th reishi mushroom tea product, it’s hard to get excited for that in terms of future growth opportunities, testing kits on the other hand are actually pretty cool and do have a spot in the marketplace.