Delix Therapeutics is a company pushing envelopes in the neuro-therapeutics industry. The most compelling products in their pipeline are next-gen psychedelics that offers the benefits of hallucinogens without actually hallucinating. Crazy, right?
The company is focused on harnessing the power of psychoplastogens—novel neuroplasticity-promoting therapeutics—to better treat mental health disorders at scale. Their compounds are easily manufactured small molecules capable of rapidly inducing structural and functional neural changes in targeted areas of the brain. Many of these molecules are inspired by psychedelic compounds and preserve their efficacy-promoting mechanisms while avoiding their hallucinogenic properties and other safety liabilities.
Delix is rapidly advancing these compounds through preclinical and clinical development to bring patients FDA-approved, take-home medicines that will serve several unmet needs.
Dr. Retsina Meyer discussed the company’s novel approach to psychedelics with SCINQ over email.
How did the medical community come to the conclusion that psychedelics could be used as therapeutics for some conditions?
There has been little to no innovation in the field of mental health treatment for several decades. In the past 5-10 years, the field has moved towards a more nuanced understanding of mental health disorders and the role of neuroplasticity across several indications.
Exciting new studies with psychedelic medicines, also known as psychoplastogens, such as ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin have demonstrated that they are able to promote neuroplasticity in ways traditional treatments fail to do.
However, despite their promise to repair neural circuitry and heal patients, these medicines have unwanted side effects that will preclude their mass use, such as hallucinations and cardiotoxicity.
Delix has engineered novel compounds that retain the neuroplasticity-promotion and robust efficacy of psychedelic medicines, but without inducing hallucinations and other serious side effects. If the clinical development of these healing compounds continues successfully, they have the potential to fundamentally transform the way we treat illnesses such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
What is neuroplasticity and how do psychoplastogens affect neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to stimuli. This healthy brain function can be harnessed to promote recovery from a wide variety of CNS disorders through the rewiring of neural circuitry.
For diseases like depression, critical neurons in the prefrontal cortex demonstrate atrophy. Delix is developing psychoplastogens, compounds that promote rapid structural and functional changes in the brain. Psychedelics are potent psychoplastogens and we are generating novel, non-hallucinogenic analogs that are optimized to be safe and scalable.
How do drugs in Delix’s pipeline differ from older psychedelics? Do they still induce hallucinations?
Delix focuses on developing compounds that preserve the therapeutic effects of the 1st and 2nd generation psychedelics while removing the hallucinogenic activities. This new class of fast-acting psychedelic-inspired therapeutics or 3rd generation, psychoplastogens, have been found to promote enduring neuroplasticity after a single dose.
We are inspired by the promise of psychedelic-based therapeutics, while advancing a solution to the associated safety risks, hallucinogenic responses and lack of access. We’ve developed nearly 1,000 active compounds with several lead candidates that have been shown to promote neuroplasticity, matching or exceeding the efficacy of natural psychedelic compounds, without hallucinatory responses. We continue to rigorously test our compounds against a multitude of translational models for selecting the most promising candidates.
What is PsychLight? How does it make identifying potential psychoplastogen candidates more efficient?
Delix’s novel compounds, non-hallucinogenic psychoplastogens, can be more easily identified with the help of psychLight, which is the first biosensor capable of predicting hallucinogenic potential in vitro. The psychLight assay allows Delix to predict the hallucinogenic potential of our compounds without relying solely on animal testing.
It took a long time for medical marijuana/CBD to even begin to be accepted, regardless of scientific data. The stigma attached to psychedelic drugs seems to pose the same problem. How can it be made more palatable for the general public?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the US currently suffer from a psychiatric disorder. Despite the great need, there has been little innovation in the development of novel neuropsychiatric medicines until recently. Studies of Hallucinogen-Assisted -Therapy (HAT), which entails administering a psychedelic compound such as Psilocybin, LSD, or MDMA in conjunction with talk-therapy, show that they hold tremendous potential for healing across a wide range of mental illnesses. However, this treatment modality comes with side effects eponymous with its name: hallucinations.
If a medication could harness the powerful efficacy of psychedelics without the hallucinatory liability, the impact for patients would be tremendous. Delix aims to do just that: inspired by psychedelics, we are generating fast-acting therapeutics that don’t carry the risk and safety liabilities of psychedelic experiences.
We are hopeful that the deep scientific rigor we are applying to developing safer, more effective, FDA-approved take-at-home treatments – combined with the critical need to better treat a range of disorders without debilitating side effects – will ultimately pave the way for broad acceptance of these medicines among medical professionals and patients in need.
Finally, how would Delix Therapeutics’ end products be used clinically? Would it be able to be prescribed and taken at home?
In contrast to SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) – which were first developed 50 years ago and have seen limited improvements since – Delix compounds fall into a novel chemical class with a significantly higher efficacy ceiling. If development continues successfully, we anticipate that our compounds will be capable of meeting the unmet patient needs and will be widely adopted. While it is too early to predict exactly how these therapeutics will be prescribed by licensed physicians, it is our goal to deliver fast-acting, FDA-approved take-at-home therapeutics that can be manufactured at scale.
WORDS: Marc Landas.