Q. Why did you decide to start Transcend Therapeutics?
After learning of yet another friend’s suicide, I dedicated my career to working to end human suffering from mental illness – disorders that are complex and poorly understood, in part because they have been under-researched and underfunded for decades. For decades, patients with mental illness have not seen many improvements in pharmacological treatments. In the case of PTSD, which affects 13 million people in the US, we’ve seen very little progress – there are currently two approved drugs (both of which are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, which are the most common class of medications used to treat various mental health disorders and most commonly referred to as “antidepressants”), and >60% of patients with PTSD do not have a stable response to existing treatments. This led me to spend years researching promising treatments, interviewing dozens of leading academics and innovators, and digging into the early data on psychedelics as a potential treatment for mental illnesses. And, ultimately, in 2021, my co-founders and I decided to launch Transcend Therapeutics.
Q. Psychedelics is a growing space. What sets Transcend apart?
There is a ton of research and innovation happening right now with the goal of bringing more effective treatments for diseases like PTSD to patients, and that includes psychedelics. While we are supportive of solutions that help people get better, we believe that as few as 5% of those that suffer from mental illness will be able to benefit from programs in late-stage clinical development like psilocybin or MDMA (if and when approved) because they involve intense psychological experiences, will likely require extensive clinician support, and may not be able to be coadministered with existing antidepressants.
Our lead compound, methylone, is a non-hallucinogenic, rapid-acting neuroplastogen that has short-acting and mild psychological effects, and could require less clinician time for administration, making it potentially well-suited for integration into the existing medical system.
Q. What is on the horizon for Transcend?
We are currently conducting a Phase 2 study evaluating the safety and efficacy of methylone in patients with severe PTSD (IMPACT-1). We anticipate top-line results from the first part – an open-label study (i.e., all patients receive drug) – by the end of the year, to be followed by a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, study with methylone in up to 64 patients with PTSD.
Q. How are you attracting and retaining talent?
We have a phenomenal team. Our leadership team has made pivotal contributions to 13 FDA approvals and $7B in M&A and public company value. We find that people who want to join us have a passion for, and often a personal connection to mental health and want to be part of working toward a world where people no longer suffer from these diseases. So, I’d say our mission and the importance of the work that we do is our main selling point. That, and we attract people who enjoy working in a fast-moving, creative, and collaborative startup environment.
Q. What have you found to be most productive in working with your investors?
Transparency and directness. Investors know that every company has ups and downs, and though some of our challenges may be unique, there are always challenges. Investors have a long-term interest in our success, and they are often a helpful thought partner in working through challenges. Of course, we are excited to share successes with our investors, but it’s equally, if not more important, to share our challenges with them too. Be candid about what’s working and what’s not allows us to focus on solving problems, and it builds trust in the process.
Our investors are busy people, managing investments across many portfolio companies. One of the things I’ve learned is that you have to ask for help when you need it. Investors can be a tremendous resource, not only in terms of financial backing, but also in terms of introductions, expanding your network, workshopping ideas, etc.
Q. What is one of the best pieces of advice you received as a founder?
“Take care of yourself. Prioritize your health and relationships.” Most successful companies take a minimum of 5 years, and often more than 10, to build significant value. The founder’s journey is often stressful, and there is an endless amount of work to do. But if the founder burns out early, the company often does too.
Q. Do you have any advice for new founders?
Make sure you’re passionate about the company and the mission. Being a founder is hard, and like I mentioned, it’s going to take a while to achieve success, so you want to be sure this is the right space for you before diving in. I’m very fortunate that I wake up every morning excited by the work we’re doing – creating a world where people no longer suffer from mental health illnesses – and that’s what keeps me (and the company) going.
About Transcend Therapeutics
Transcend Therapeutics, founded in 2021, is a clinical-stage, neuroscience-focused company developing rapid-acting treatments for neuropsychiatric diseases. The company’s mission is to develop new drugs for the millions of people for whom current psychiatric medicines have not worked. Transcend’s lead product candidate, methylone, a rapid-acting neuroplastogen, is currently being evaluated in a Phase 2 study in PTSD. Transcend’s leadership team has made pivotal contributions to 13 FDA approvals and $7B in M&A and public company value. As a Public Benefit Corporation, Transcend has pledged 10% of its founding shares toward nonprofits focused on scientific research and patient access. For more information, visit transcendtherapeutics.com.