The last few years has seen a major shift in attitudes on psychedelic drugs, as they have moved from fringe to the subject of serious study by respected medical institutions. Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London have both set up psychedelic research centers, and ketamine infusions are now being used as treatments for depression, eating disorders, anxiety, PTSD and other conditions.
In 2019 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved esketamine nasal spray (Spravato) for treatment-resistant depression.
Novamind Inc. (NM:CSE) was founded in 2019 by CEO Yaron Conforti and two partners. "We saw the data coming out of Johns Hopkins and Imperial College and understood very quickly that there was a model of care there that was innovative and different from the standard of care," Conforti told Streetwise Reports.
"Our investment thesis was, in short, to find the people that are treating people with these innovative modalities today, in jurisdictions where it's legal, and partner with them and support them. We set out to build a company focused on the clinic and clinical research site, the places where people were going to have these experiences," Conforti explained.
The company partnered with psychiatrist Dr. Reid Robison, acquiring his two businesses, the Cedar Psychiatry network of clinics and Cedar Clinical Research, a contract research organization.
There currently are four Cedar Psychiatry clinics, which last year saw 20,000 client visits, a 100% increase over the prior year. "The clinics provide innovative modalities using psychedelic medicine," Conforti noted, "including ketamine and Spravato."
For Cedar Clinical Research, the clients are drug developers. Dr. Robison is one of the coordinating investigators for the Phase 3 MDMA trial for PTSD, and Janssen was a client for its Spravato study. In mid-March, Novamind announced that it had been selected as a key research site for a clinical trial focused on treatment-resistant depression by Merck & Co., a major pharmaceutical company.
"We're proud to partner with Merck and support its innovative neuroscience work to develop a potential new drug for treatment-resistant depression," said Dr. Robison. "Cedar Clinical Research has unique expertise conducting clinical trials and research studies in neuropsychiatry for a variety of sponsors. This exciting research opportunity with Merck exemplifies a growing pipeline of opportunities for us to provide contract research services to leading drug developers."
Cedar Clinical Research is participating in the "MAPS-sponsored Phase 2 clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for eating disorders, a ketamine-assisted psychotherapy study (KAP) for end-of-life palliative care with the Ketamine Research Foundation, and a ketamine study to treat suicidal ideation in partnership with the University of Texas, Austin."
"Over the last 10 years, Dr. Robison has been both a clinician, operating clinics and helping patients, and a clinical researcher, working on the most innovative mental health modalities," Conforti noted. "When novel mental health therapies succeed in clinical trials, in part through his support and trial services, he has developed the expertise required to provide these alternatives to clients at our clinics. One example is Spravato; Dr. Robison was a principal investigator in Utah for the clinical trial that led to the first approval of the drug."
In addition, Cedar Clinical Research currently offers psychedelic therapy protocols at its clinics: emotion-focused ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (EF-KAP) for eating disorders and group ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (G-KAP) for depression.
Novamind has made a strategic investment in Australia-listed Bionomics Ltd. and will be evaluated as a research site for its Phase 2b clinical trial of BNC210 for PTSD.
The company has partnered with two therapeutic retreat centers and is also developing a hybrid clinical retreat. "We will combine a medical-grade therapeutic environment in a retreat setting. Everything will be done to the same standard as the company's clinics—supervised, protocols, etc.—but in a natural setting. Research has shown that optimizing for set and setting can result in improved outcomes for our clients," Conforti said. "It's exciting."
Novamind has 41.4 million shares outstanding and 49 million fully diluted. Insiders own 35%.
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