New solutions to the mental health crisis we face today: Why we invested in ATAI life sciences
QCV Portfolio company ATAI emerges as global leader in developing alternative solutions to the mental health care. Hear our thoughts on the global mental health crisis, and atai’s vision for reimagining how the world approaches, prevents and heals mental health disorders.
The world faces a mental health crisis that demands action.
Mental health disorders are ubiquitous and more widespread than one might think. One in four people are afflicted by mental health illness at some point in their lives and the World Health Organization estimates that mental health disorders are costing the global economy around $1 trillion in lost productivity a year, with depression being the leading cause of ill health and disability.
“Stigma against mental illness is a scourge with many faces, and the medical community wears a number of those faces.” Says Elyn R Saks professor, award-winning author and expert in mental-health law.
COVID accelerated the global mental health problem.
Depression, PTSD and other mental health problems were already haunting an increasing amount of people before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has led to an even greater rise with an 18% increase in prescriptions for antidepressants, as well as a 34% increase in anti-anxiety medication.
Across the pond in the UK, the picture does not get any brighter with antidepressant prescriptions rising 10 to 15% since COVID, at one point threatening to exceed the nation’s supply. In short, the problem is huge and needs to be addressed urgently with new approaches and ideas.
A new dawn for therapeutic psychedelics.
The world needs action and new approaches. That is where atai comes in. Atai aims to redefine how the world approaches, prevents, and heals mental health disorders. And it has powerful investors in its corner. Early investor in companies like Facebook and Palantir, Peter Thiel is onboard and notes “ATAI’s great virtue is to take mental illness as seriously as we should have been taking all illness all along and the companies most valuable asset is its sense of urgency.”
When we connected with ATAI back in 2018, we sensed the urgency too and have participated in every investment round since, including the EUR 125mn Series C round back in November 2020. After receiving enormous institutional interest, the company has recently closed another record USD 157mn Series D round, marking the largest funding for a life sciences company ever before eying a much-anticipated IPO in the next months.
ATAI has since acquired more than 10 companies, each researching and developing cutting edge treatments for mental health disorders like PTSD and depression through the use of psychoactive ingredients such as psilocybin (active ingredient in magic mushrooms), MDMA and DMT (active ingredient in ayahuasca).
World class team meets world-class strategy.
Florian Brand co-founder and CEO of atai life sciences was suffering from anxiety in his youth and was lucky to enter remission after therapy and meditation practice. But in seeing his friends and loved ones failed by the mental healthcare system, he joined the movement to transform the treatment landscape for patients. A passionate thought leader in finding relief for patients that are currently unable to find working treatments notes, “We know that mental healthcare is likely the single largest unmet medical need in the world. We know that what’s out there now isn’t working. And we know that there are better options. So, let’s bridge the gap together.”
Brand co-founded atai together with Christian Angermayer, the well-known entrepreneur and investor in 2018. Christian is the founder of Aperion Investment Group, his family office and merchant banking business, and a member of numerous political and economic think tanks.
Together with various doctors and biotech experts, they follow an active investment strategy taking a majority stake in the companies they believe in. Through their extensive network and industry expertise, they support in clinical trials, regulation, investment raising with the aim of bringing innovative solutions to the market.
Project Hope: The mental health crisis, 10 numbers to note from https://www.projecthope.org/the-global-mental-health-crisis-10-numbers-to-note/10/2020/
Kaiser Family Foundation: Average share of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic from https://www.kff.org/polling/
Atai life sciences: News&Insights from https://www.atai.life/news-insights/
Atai life sciences: People from https://www.atai.life/people/
Paul Tullis: How ecstasy and psilocybin are shaking up psychiatry from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00187-9
Elyn R. Saks: Quote from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1068893-stigma-against-mental-illness-is-a-scourge-with-many-faces
Johns Hopkins Medicine: Mental Health Disorder Statistics from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-disorder-statistics
World Health Organization: Mental Health and Substance Use from https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/gender-and-women-s-mental-health
CNBC: Peter Thiel backs Berlin start-up making psychedelics in $125 million round from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/23/peter-thiel-backs-psychedelics-startup-atai.html
CNBC: Peter Thiel-backed psychedelics start-up targets schizophrenia ahead of IPO from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/15/peter-thiel-psychedelics-start-up-atai-targets-schizophrenia.html
World Economic Forum: Depression is the no. 1 cause of ill health and disability worldwide from the Link.