Product | People | Potential – our chat with Beckley Psytech Ltd
We caught up with Cosmo Feilding Mellen, Chief Executive Officer at Beckley Psytech Limited, a neuropharmaceutical company developing a pipeline of psychedelic compounds into licensed pharmaceutical medicines.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Jazz @ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself, what your business does, what stage you are at currently and what makes your business and offering unique?
Cosmo Feilding Mellen: I’m Cosmo, the CEO and Co-Founder of Beckley Psytech. I have been involved in psychedelic science my whole life, as it is a shared family passion. My mother and Co-Founder, Amanda Feilding, who is one of the most recognised pioneers of psychedelic science in the world, set up and continues to run the non-profit Beckley Foundation NGO, which is focused on reigniting interest and pioneering the renaissance in psychedelic science.
Five years ago we realised we could have more impact by setting up focused, drug-development companies dedicated to taking these medicines through the regulatory pathway to be licenced by the FDA, European and Global regulators. Beckley Psytech is the second company we founded together, the first company was focused on developing cannabinoid pharmaceutical medicines, and has since been bought by Canopy Growth Corporation, the world’s largest medical cannabis company.
Our real passion is for psychedelic medicines. Beckley Psytech was officially formed in 2019 but in many respects, we have been working on it for much longer than that. We have done a couple of funding rounds so far, raising about $25 million, and we are currently raising another round of funding.
Regarding clinical development, we are looking at multiple programmes in parallel, we have a small clinical trial looking at low-dose psilocybin for SUNHA headache attacks*, which currently has no approved treatments. And we are also looking to develop another drug called 5-MeO-DMT, which is a short-acting and potent psychedelic, for areas such as depression and addiction.
*Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache, a very rare and debilitating headache condition.
Jazz @ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of Beckley Psytech?
Cosmo Feilding Mellen: We, as a family, have been working in psychedelics for decades now. Originally the Beckley Foundation was created because research into psychedelics had come to a standstill after prohibition in the 1960s. The Foundation aimed to reignite research into these medications, inspiring really high quality scientific research.
Over the couple of decades there has been a snowballing of scientific research, interest and investor appetite for psychedelic science, and we are now at an inflection point where these substances are being taken really seriously by all the interested parties.
This has made it possible to set up a company which has been able to raise enough capital to take drugs through late stages of pharmaceutical development to become licensed medicines.
Jazz @ADLIB: To discuss People, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips you could share with those businesses faced with the same issues?
Cosmo Feilding Mellen: We have been really lucky to bring some very brilliant people into the team early on, including a lot of the core people from the last company and their extensive experience in drug development.
My tip would be to get a few people on board with really good experience and track records to give the company credibility. This will then in turn attract more talent and expand the company network.
Jazz @ADLIB: Moving to Product, what has been your approach to understanding the patient needs and implementing product within the healthcare sphere?
Cosmo Feilding Mellen: Again, we are very lucky to have experienced people in our team who have managed this process with many drugs in the past, so they understand not just what is required from a drug development perspective but also from a market access, patient access, and reimbursement perspective. These are very complex issues which need to be considered from the very beginning of the development programme, and considerations must be given to health economics from the early stages.
One of our top priorities is also to examine how we can best further integrate digital technology into our approach.
New drugs are just part of the solution but to really optimise outcomes for patients and reduce healthcare resource utilisation, we need to deliver personalised and predictive care that supports long-term patient wellness beyond initial treatment.
Jazz @ADLIB: And then Potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you have had to overcome so far on your drug development journey to develop a medication with potential?
Cosmo Feilding Mellen: Firstly, we still have a long way to go, having to conduct large scale clinical trials and prove that these drugs are safe and effective in those settings.
We are still early in the journey, not taking anything for granted, but some barriers have been overcome already. Just starting up a company is hard enough, drug development is an incredibly complex task that takes a huge amount of effort and we have come a long way getting regulatory approval to start these clinical trials. There are endless hurdles to jump, but so far, we have managed to jump them.
Jazz @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?
Cosmo Feilding Mellen: I’ve always, so far, been on the right side of fundraisers with all of our funding rounds being oversubscribed. I think this is because we are looking at a subject that is really exciting and an area that people can see has huge potential for growth. Additionally, a lot of people may have had personal experience with mental health or are associated with someone who has, which makes Beckley Psytech relatable.
One of the things we pride ourselves on is having credibility and integrity in the way that we present what we are trying to do, and not trying to overinflate what we are doing – don’t hide the risks! A top tip is to build trust with investors so that they want to support you in the long run.