Interview with Shlomi Raz, CEO and Chairman of Eleusis

Interview with Shlomi Raz, CEO and Chairman of Eleusis

  • Post category:Interview

Eleusis was founded in 2013, and claims to be the first company in the world dedicated to transforming psychedelics into medicines.

We spoke to Shlomi Raz, CEO and Chairman of the Company, about his plans for Eleusis’ future.

PA: Could you start by giving us a brief overview of Eleusis?

SR: Eleusis was founded in 2013 as the world’s first company dedicated to the transformation of psychedelics into medicines. The company was co-founded by Shlomi Raz, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, and Charles Nichols, a current professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at Louisiana State University.

Eleusis has the unprecedented opportunity to address a broad spectrum of urgent, unmet needs through unlocking both the anti-inflammatory potential of psychedelics and their safe-use within psychiatry. The company’s collective IP portfolio, scientific and clinical research expertise, and advanced commercial development, are unrivalled, and enable Eleusis to pursue two significant opportunities:

  • Eleusis Therapeutics – realizing the anti-inflammatory potential of psychedelics
  • Eleusis Health Solutions – enabling broad access to safe and effective psychoactive drug therapy

PA: Most of the companies we speak to in the psychedelics space are focussing exclusively on mental health disorders, but Eleusis has a significant focus on chronic inflammatory diseases. What led to the decision to also pursue that path, especially your focus on ophthalmology? 

SR: Prior to the founding of Eleusis in 2013, two pathways for the comprehensive transformation of psychedelics into medicines were identified. The first pathway was within psychiatry, through the safe, effective, and cost-efficient delivery of psychoactive drug therapy. The second pathway was via the transformation of psychedelics into anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective medicines, for the treatment of a broad spectrum of unmet needs associated with chronic inflammatory disease.

Based on the research findings of our scientific founder, Professor Charles Nichols, Eleusis launched a preclinical and clinical development program in 2015, focused on the development of new drug candidates capable of exerting anti-inflammatory effects at dose concentrations unlikely to give rise to perceptible effects, and the evaluation of existing drug candidates that have potential in the prevention of neurodegeneration. 

The Eleusis drug development program established the viability of low dose LSD in healthy elderly adults and set the stage for a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s disease in 2023. This program has also led to the discovery of new drug candidates (e.g. ELE-02, 03, etc…) suitable for clinical development as sub-perceptual anti-inflammatory therapeutics, and the identification of multiple indications supported by preclinical research. While many of these indications are highly promising for future development (e.g. asthma, cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease) we have prioritized clinical development within ophthalmology.

The rationale for the prioritization of ophthalmology stems from extensive preclinical evidence supporting the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of our development candidates. Specifically, the therapeutic target of our drug candidates, the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor, is highly expressed throughout the human eye, and the capacity of Eleusis drug candidates to reach the retina via topical administration could be a “game changer” in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy and other degenerative diseases of the retina. We further hypothesize that the low dose concentrations required for therapeutic effect in ophthalmology may provide an acceptable safety margin for clinical development and regulatory approval.

PA: So, you have two ‘wings’ of the Company: drug development related to chronic inflammatory diseases, and care delivery for psychoactive drug therapy. Which of these do you see coming to market first?

SR: Eleusis currently projects that its care delivery platform will be available for ketamine clinics in Q3/Q4 2021, and our ophthalmology development will reach Phase I/II milestones in Q4 2022/Q1 2023, and Phase III registration trials by 2024.

PA: On the psychoactive drug therapy side, do you have any intention to conduct research and development of psychedelic substances? Or, do you exclusively intend to provide the delivery platform and infrastructure?

SR: The development of the Eleusis care delivery platform will be advanced through contemporaneous clinical trials of drug therapies and adjunctive technologies that will be delivered via the platform.

PA: You hold a number of patents related to psychedelic drug therapies, including one pertaining to the use of LSD for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Will generating and defending an IP portfolio be necessary to your Company’s success?

SR: Yes.

PA: You have previously received approval from the NHS Health Research Authority to conduct studies using low doses of LSD. Do you believe the regulatory environment in the UK is conducive to your R&D, or do you plan to engage with regulatory bodies and processes elsewhere (US, Canada)?

SR: The UK, US, and Canadian regulatory environments are all conducive to our R&D plan, and we have been greatly encouraged by both public statements and private communications with these authorities.

PA: You have an impressive leadership, with board members like Charles D. Nichols who is renowned for his work on the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor. Beyond this, we couldn’t find much information regarding your broader team. Could you talk about how your team is structured?

SR: Eleusis is structured with two separate leadership teams, focused respectively on care delivery and drug development. Please see here and here for background information on our leadership teams.

PA: What are the Company’s goals for 2020?

SR: Advancement of the Company’s preclinical and clinical development towards 2021/22 clinical trial milestones, which enable potential inflections in the company’s valuation, and the buildout of the company’s clinical, technical team and capabilities, through strategic partnerships, sponsored research, and new hires.

PA: How has COVID-19 affected your operations and growth?

SR: It has not altered the trajectory of our preclinical development effort but has limited face-to-face meetings within the team and with external collaborators and investors.

PA: Many of our readers are keen to invest in companies in the space. Are you planning any private placements or public offerings?

SR: We will be raising capital in 2020.

PA: What are you most excited about for Eleusis?

SR: Founded in 2013, Eleusis is the first company in the world dedicated to transforming psychedelics into medicines. Over the past 7 years, Eleusis has cultivated a diverse range of opportunities across a broad spectrum of urgent unmet needs. We are thrilled to see these opportunities mature into clinic-ready programs that are on-track to achieve key milestones in 2021 and 2022.

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