Axios Pro Exclusive Content

MAPS doses $100M psychedelic Series A and rebrands to Lykos

Illustration of a warped hundred dollar bill with balls of color over it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Psychedelic research institution MAPS dosed a $100 million Series A for MDMA-assisted therapy.

Why it matters: Confronted with an ongoing mental health crisis worsened by a provider shortage, stakeholders like government agencies, VC, and research institutions are warming to psychedelics' therapeutic potential.

Details: Helena led the round, which sees the San Jose-based public benefit corporation rebrand to Lykos Therapeutics to reflect its new stage of focus on the first FDA-approved psychedelic-assisted therapy.

  • Funding will seed Lykos' ongoing research into using the drug in combination with psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD.
  • Other participating investors include the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, Eir Therapeutics, Vine Ventures, True Ventures, Unlikely Collaborators Foundation, The Joe and Sandy Samberg Foundation, Bail Capital, KittyHawk Ventures, and Satori Neuro.
  • Lykos' new board is comprised of six MAPS appointees, four of whom are independent directors, Lykos CEO Amy Emerson, and Helena's Suprotik Basu.

What they're saying: "When you see data like this — this kind of potential for healing — you can't look away," Protik Basu, managing partner at Helena, tells Axios. "It was a no-brainer."

Be smart: Studies suggest that MDMA, in conjunction with traditional therapy, helps to reduce PTSD symptoms and functional impairment.

  • A randomized, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial published in Nature last fall which compared the effects of regular therapy and MDMA-assisted therapy found larger improvements in the group receiving the psychedelic.

By the numbers: Investment in the hallucinogenics-for-mental-health sector rose from just $62 million in 2019 to $617 million in 2020, and hit a peak of $1.6 billion in 2021, per Bloomberg.

Yes, but: Basu says one of the biggest challenges with the development and approval of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy will be ensuring equity and access.

  • "How do you make sure underserved communities and communities of color are reached by this treatment?" Basu says. "So many victims of PTSD and structural violence are in underserved communities. I grew up in West Virginia. I know what the opioid crisis is like here. It would be a real failure if it takes 4 years for this to get to my hometown."
  • Basu says steps to avoid that including training therapists in underserved areas and ensuring there's insurance reimbursement for the therapy.
  • "If we're limited to out of pocket pay — which is the way so much therapy in this country is done — you've really got to crack that nut for reimbursement."

🐺 One fun thing: MAPS selected the name "Lykos" because it means wolf in Greek and represents qualities including bravery, courage, and intelligence.

State of play: Dozens of psychedelic startups have received venture funding in recent years, from those providing support for traditional providers to take on psychedelic-assisted therapy to those applying AI to psychedelic drug development. For example...

  • Psychedelic startup incubator Beckley Waves last September dosed $3.3 million in seed funding.
  • Ketamine-assisted therapy infrastructure startup Journey Clinical last January closed an $8.5 million Series A round.
  • Mindstate, an AI-powered psychedelic drug discovery startup, in 2022 collected $11.5 million in seed funds.
Go deeper