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AbbVie enters psychedelics to develop next gen mental health therapies



AbbVie enters psychedelics to develop next gen mental health therapies

Pharma giant AbbVie is entering the nascent psychedelics industry to develop next generation therapies for mental health disorders.

AbbVie has entered into a new partnership with psychedelic drug developer Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals that will see the pair discover and develop novel psychedelics – otherwise known as “neuroplastogens”.

With a robust portfolio in immunology, oncology, eyecare and neuroscience, AbbVie is the latest big pharmaceutical company to enter this emerging field of mental health care, alongside the likes of Janssen and Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka Pharmaceutical, which made one of made one the first mainstream moves into psychedelics through the acquisition of Mindset Pharma.

Gilgamesh is currently working on a number of New Chemical Entities with improved safety, efficacy, dosing, and convenience – including a safer Ibogaine analogue and a short acting 5-HT2A agonist, for example – across multiple indications including depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD.

The company recently announced the launch of its Phase 2a Trial of GM-1020 in Major Depressive Disorder – a compound that the company says improves on established NMDA receptor antagonists, such as ketamine and Spravato by combining their rapid and robust clinical efficacy with oral dosing and an improved safety/tolerability profile.

In this new partnership, AbbVie will be working with Gilgamesh Pharma by leading development and commercialisation activities.

According to a press statement, Gilgamesh will receive an upfront payment of $65 million from AbbVie and is eligible to receive up to $1.95 billion in aggregate option fees and milestones.

Next-gen psychoplastogens

With a lack of innovation in psychiatric medication and care for over 30 years and a rising crisis in mental health across the UK and the globe, emerging research into psychedelics is showing these compounds as promising treatments for a variety of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

However, these first-gen therapies pose a number of challenges in their roll out and scale up if they are to be implemented into mainstream care.

Many patients may find the hallucinogenic aspect of these medicines daunting or challenging to navigate, for example, and these experiences can sometimes last for up to six hours, which eats into precious resources such as staff time and clinic space.

Gilgamesh Pharma is developing a pipeline of next-generation, non-hallucinogenic psychedelics that could maintain the mental health benefits of first-gen therapies without the need for an extended period of hallucinations. This could make psychedelic therapy much more accessible for mainstream healthcare, reducing costs and enabling scale up.

In a press statement, AbbVie stated: “Next-generation versions known as neuroplastogens target mechanisms that have shown potential to provide significant clinical benefits and are designed to minimise the challenging effects seen with first-generation compounds.

“These new compounds hold substantial promise for treating a variety of psychiatric conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders. Gilgamesh has leveraged an innovative research platform to successfully identify lead compounds in this novel class of therapeutics.”

Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., senior vice president and global head of discovery research at AbbVie, stated in the release: “Significant unmet need remains for people living with psychiatric disorders and we know that to innovate in this field, we need to pursue novel technologies and approaches. We look forward to working with Gilgamesh’s world-class team to advance the development of novel neuroplastogens and pave the way for additional treatment approaches in psychiatry.”

“We are thrilled to partner with AbbVie, a global pharmaceutical company focused on innovation in psychiatric care, to address the pressing challenges in mental health treatment,” added Jonathan Sporn, M.D., chief executive officer at Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals.

“Our collaboration will pioneer research of a new generation of therapies that hold great potential for improving patient outcomes.”