ATAI dives into digital therapeutics to boost mental health care

blue illustration of neurons
The use of biomarkers could help doctors tailor doses for each patient and improve their treatment, while remote monitoring could widen access to psychedelics treatment. (Colin Behrens)

ATAI Life Sciences aims to transform mental health care, backing companies working on new treatments for depression, anxiety and addiction. Now, it’s adding digital tools to the mix through a new company called IntroSpect Digital Therapeutics.

IntroSpect will create digital tools and devices that will “magnify” the effects of drugs in development at ATAI’s companies, David Keene, CEO of IntroSpect, told Fierce MedTech.

The use of digital biomarkers could help doctors tailor doses for each patient and improve their treatment: “With improved understanding of how individual biological phenotypes align with responses to certain interventions, clinicians will be better able to predict patients’ recovery pathways,” said Srinivas Rao, chief scientific officer of ATAI Life Sciences, in a statement. “This, in turn, will cut down trial and error and shorten the time to therapeutic impact. And for those with difficult to treat mental illnesses, time is absolutely critical.”

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Another use case is remote monitoring, which could make psychedelic treatments available for patients who live far away from treatment centers. The technology could come in handy at Compass Pathways, for example, which is working on a psilocybin therapy for people with treatment-resistant depression.

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“What separates apart a recreational psychedelic experience versus a clinical one is the clinical setting and aftercare therapy,” Keene said. “This type of aftercare can help patients take advantage of the neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change itself—that comes with a psychedelic experience and use it to make life changes, Keene said.

Digitizing aftercare can widen access to psychedelic treatment for ailments such as addiction or depression. But that’s not all—the digital tools could also be treatments themselves, helping patients learn new behaviors in the “window of opportunity” after psychedelics treatment.

“A lot of digital therapeutics are based on psychological education, like cognitive behavioral therapy … They are far more effective when the brain is in a state it can learn new things,” Keene said.

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IntroSpect is working on a modular system so it can apply its digital tools to the various disease areas in ATAI’s portfolio. In addition to Compass Pathways, the company has backed Perception Neuroscience, which is working on a ketamine-like drug for depression, and Neuronasal, which is working on a treatment for concussion that is given through the nose. It’s also set up joint ventures aimed at developing a “neurochemical reset” for opioid addiction and artificial-intelligence-based drug discovery for illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The company is building the technology for substance use disorder and treatment-resistant depression, Keene said. It’s starting with two indications so it doesn’t end up making something that’s too specialized and can’t be adapted to other diseases.

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