A new psychedelic company, part of the Y Combinator 2021 alumni, has officially launched.
Mindstate Design Labs is a biotech startup focused on developing novel drugs capable of inducing select mind states.
The company has raised $11.5 million in a seed round, and its initial achievement is a technology platform designed to engineer altered states of consciousness using predictive artificial intelligence models.
If its AI model proves successful, Mindstate will first be able to design a desired state of consciousness and then produce the drug capable of producing it. This model, however, has yet to be proven in human clinical trials.
A flip-flop approach to psychedelic drug discovery
Mindstate Design presents itself to the world as a company with an alternative approach to drug discovery. While most psychedelic drug development companies take a “drug first” approach, Mindstate describes its approach as “mindset first.”
It means that instead of discovering a drug first, then moving on to identifying an indication, Mindstate plans to first engineer a state of mind, then identify the chemical compound that can bring the patient to that state. .
CEO Dillan DiNardo explained in an interview that while most classic psychedelic drugs (such as LSD, DMT, psilocybin, or mescaline) interact with the same serotonin receptor, the subjective experiences these drugs produce are qualitatively different and cannot not be fully explained by simple interaction with the 5-HT2A receptor.
“It’s quite obvious that something else is going on,” DiNardo said.
Its scientific co-founder Tom Ray has focused for more than two decades on understanding the interaction between the 5-HT2A receptor and other targets affected by psychedelics in order to perform targeted discovery of new psychedelic compounds.
While Mindstate is a drug development company, its first development is a technology platform called the Osmanthus AI platform.
“The approach we’ve taken in the Osmanthus technology platform is a combination of two big datasets,” DiNardo said.
A dataset contains biochemical information related to how different psychedelic molecules interact with different receptors in the human body.
This first dataset is then contrasted with a second dataset consisting of accounts of people’s subjective experiences under the effects of psychedelics. These range from descriptions of patients in forensic clinical trials to “travel reports” written by reddit users.
“So you can take these unstructured trip reports and run them through natural language processing techniques to calculate the semantic distance between the different descriptors of the types of experience,” DiNardo explained.
What this process produces is “a quantitative representation of the biochemical fingerprints of each particular effect.”
This allows Mindstate to relate the subjective psychedelic effects of drugs to the particular biochemical targets that these drugs hit and determine their correlations.
An unproven model with massive disruptive potential
Apart from the company’s innovative approach to “mindset design”, the precise subjective effects of Mindstate’s compounds will not be known until the company can apply its drugs to patients. This is the only way to ensure that the theorized subjective experiments he designed actually produce the desired effects.
The company’s clinical trial design, however, features a second layer of development with what DiNardo calls a “primer/probe” approach.
Each of the Company’s drug programs consists of a serotonergic psychedelic combined with a non-psychedelic compound that modulates the effect of that first psychedelic compound.
“That way we can do this AB test or one by one we look at the interaction of 5-HT2A with drug A, drug B, drug C; receptor A, receptor B, receptor C,” says DiNardo.
This approach gives the company “the ability to more specifically design clinical trials” that can prove these correlations between biochemistry and subjective experience.
The company’s main drug development program seeks to produce a less toxic version of MDMA, with fewer or no side effects. However, DiNardo says the company’s “true long-term potential” lies in its technology platform and his “ability to accurately engineer multiple states of consciousness, not just the altered states we already know, but to expand the possible states to new new states of consciousness that simply don’t exist yet”.
Mindstate expects to conclude its preclinical efforts soon and move into clinical trials of its compounds by mid to late 2023.
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