Healthtech/Analysis/

Psychedelic startups in Europe: the numbers behind the shroom boom

Investors are opening their minds to psychedelia — and it’s European startups that are pulling in the majority of global VC funding

By Tim Smith and Amelie Bahr

We’re standing on the threshold of a new age of corporate psychedelia, where billionaires and big investment firms are racing to own what they hope will be the future of mental healthcare.

In our latest Sifted Pro report, we look at the European companies that are ushering psychedelic-assisted therapies — a combination of psychotherapy and a psychedelic substance — through clinical trials with the hope that, in the coming years, patients will be able to get them prescribed by a doctor.

If trials go well, drugs like LSD and psilocybin — a compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms — could begin to replace antidepressants and other established mental health treatments. 

Whoever patents these treatments will be well-placed to win a big chunk of the global $380bn mental healthcare market.

Psychedelic research isn’t being driven by Big Pharma, but by: 

  • University research groups at institutions including Imperial College London and the University of Basel; 
  • Specialist and startup biotechs listed on stock exchanges, like the UK’s Compass Pathways and Germany’s Atai Life Sciences; 
  • Private startups such as Oxford-based Beckley Psytech;
  • And nonprofit organisations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

The sector has already seen a handful of IPOs, starting with Compass in 2020, and followed by Atai Life Sciences and Dublin-based GH Research in 2021. 

Magic mushrooms’ potential as a therapy were further underlined last week, with the publication of results of a trial performed by Compass Pathways, which showed that a high dose of psilocybin can alleviate severe depression symptoms when combined with psychotherapy. 

Tim Smith is Sifted’s Iberia correspondent. He tweets from @timmpsmith. Amelie Bahr is an intelligence analyst at Sifted. 

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