Peter Thiel Invests $12 Million In Psychedelic Drug Manufacturer
Berlin, Germany, March 19, 2014. Hy! Summit - Image by Dan Taylor.

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel is the latest to join the booming psychedelic industry.

The PayPal co-founder backed Berlin’s ATAI Life Sciences in a $125 million series C funding round. Thiel’s investment firm, Thiel Capital, invested $12 million. Thiel joins Apeiron Investment Group, Catalio Capital Management, Future Ventures, Galaxy Investment Partners, Falcon Edge Capital, and Pura Vida in the funding.

“ATAI’s great virtue is to take mental illness as seriously as we should have been taking all illness all along,” Thiel said in a statement. “The company’s most valuable asset is its sense of urgency.”

ATAI Life Sciences works to develop psychedelic therapies for treating mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and addiction. It was founded in 2018 by Christian Angermayer, Florian Brand, Lars Wilde, and Srinivas Rao.

“The current treatments (for mental health issues) which are out there are definitely not sufficient,” company co-founder Angermayer told CNBC. “I don’t want to say they don’t work as all because some people are helped by them but they’re not sufficient.”

Treatment-resistant depression affects around 30 percent of people taking medication. Nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from mental health issues.

ATAI’s model included partnering with drug development companies in exchange for majority stakes; it works to bring in funding, conduct clinical trials, and sort out regulatory issues.

The new funding brings ATAI’s investments to more than $200 million. It says the recent investment will help pay for clinical development of drugs including  ar-ketamine, used for treatment-resistant depression, and ibogaine, being developed by DemeRx to treat opioid addiction. It will also develop new treatments and identify additional drug potential.

Angermayer says psychedelics help people to have authentic experiences and help the user get to know themselves in a meaningful way. “Since we’re born, society imposes on us how we should be, what we should look like, what we should wear/do/say,” he said. “We put a lot of camouflage on our soul, on our character, on our inner self. Psychedelics take away all these things which were imposed on us. That is an extremely important thing because I am very convinced you need to know yourself.”

ATAI plans to go public next year with a valuation of $1 billion to $2 billion.

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