Fresh from $225M IPO, atai founds nose-to-brain delivery startup

Atai Life Sciences has created a startup to develop a nose-to-brain delivery system for the treatment of mental health disorders. The startup, InnarisBio, has secured exclusive rights to a sol-gel intranasal drug delivery platform in certain fields.

Nose-to-brain delivery represents a possible way of getting molecules to drug targets in the central nervous system. The blood-brain barrier limits access to the targets, but there is early evidence that depositing drugs in the olfactory region can bypass the roadblock, potentially opening up new ways to address multiple major unmet medical needs.

Atai, fresh from its $225 million IPO, sees promise in the idea. The company is supporting work on treatments for patients with conditions including treatment resistant depression, schizophrenia and opioid use disorder, making the blood-brain barrier a potential impediment to its plans.

In response, atai has teamed up with the University of Queensland to create a startup focused on nose-to-brain delivery. InnarisBio will work to commercialize a platform developed in the laboratory of the university’s Harendra Parekh, Ph.D. The technology is designed to deliver drugs as a liquid at room temperature, and then form a gel at body temperature.  

“This novel technology has the potential to be superior to other intranasal drug delivery methods available by improving absolute uptake and duration of uptake through muco-adhesion in the nose, reducing dose administered and dosing frequency,” atai CEO Florian Brand said in a statement. “We plan to explore the potential use of this technology for a variety of psychedelic and non-psychedelic compounds across atai’s platform.”

PreveCeutical Medical uses sol-gel technology for the nose-to-brain delivery of therapeutic cannabinoids. Atai said InnarisBio has exclusive rights to the technology in its “desired fields.” The licensed platform includes a patent filing. UniQuest, the university’s technology transfer company, has received equity in InnarisBio as part of the deal.