The Past: Dealing with addiction: Following a tumultuous home life, my brother fell into drugs at a fairly young age and spent nearly two decades struggling with addiction. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation. In the United States alone, there are reportedly over 21 million people dealing with at least one addiction, and only about 10 percent of them receive the treatment they need.
Over the course of those two decades, I stepped in to help care for my brother as best I could to direct him to resources that were designed to help him overcome his addiction. My brother tried the gamut of medical interventions and methods available to him; from prescription drugs such as antidepressants and suboxone to therapeutics and 12-step programs.
Ultimately, none provided a permanent solution and, in 2019, he died of an overdose. Sadly, my brother is included within an alarming statistic that has ballooned during the Covid-19 era. According to the CDC, an estimated 100,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021 and estimates predict that this record trend will continue increasing through the end of this year.
The Present: Overcoming obstacles to discover a passion: Throughout the period of supporting my brother, I was professionally engaged in management and entrepreneurial activities, constantly thinking about a more effective means to help those with an addiction disorder. I’d always had an entrepreneurial spirit, something that was drilled into me from an early age, and over the years I worked my way up, starting with managing some of my family’s companies, which included private investments, retail stores, and service companies.
Then, alongside many other entrepreneurs, I entered the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry. Joining an entirely new and disruptive sector was a valuable lesson in how to quickly become acquainted with new technology, its commercial potential, and the difficulties associated with operating within a legal and regulatory system for which little precedent had been established.
From here, past and passion collided; my own personal challenges and brother’s death combined with the entrepreneurial drive to build a company – one that could provide an innovative, science-backed therapy for addiction disorders – with the potential to make a real impact on the millions of people currently struggling with addiction.
Recognizing that the psychedelic space was developing rapidly, and with no prior history in the biomedical or pharma industry, I understood that in order to effectively bring a product to market, I would need to enlist the help of experts who possessed specialized knowledge and experience. Hence, I had to strike a balance between cutting-edge psychedelic researchers and those with operational drug development experience to synthesize a business pathway that is on the bleeding edge of research but is grounded in commercial viability.
As exciting as psychedelics are, and how strongly the amassed anecdotal evidence speaks to their potential to heal, the development process is capital-intensive, highly regulated, and requires a sober analysis of feasibility. Since founding Entheon in 2019, this philosophy has guided our strategy, and after a rigorous iterative process, we believe that we have developed a therapeutic approach that is at once ground-breaking, rooted in reality, and has the potential to help the millions of people who suffer from addiction. The approval and imminent start of our upcoming Phase 1 Clinical Trial of DMT is evidence of the logic of our approach.
The Future: Ground-breaking research and positive impact: Beyond validating and advancing the therapeutic potential of DMT, Entheon understands that addiction is a complex disorder that may require personalization to ensure safety and maximize therapeutic potential. Our current and upcoming research investigates how genetic biomarkers may influence drug response and therapeutic outcomes. We are also looking at neurophysiology before, during, and after treatment to assess whether certain individuals’ brains respond better to certain drugs. If effective, we hope that our technologies can aid physicians in developing more personalized treatment pathways for their patients to maximize the potential for positive outcomes.
When I started on this business journey, I had little knowledge of the biomedical industry and only my personal, lived experience related to addiction and mental illness. But by leveraging that experience with leadership skills and a passion to one day redefine and shape how we treat these disorders, I’m reminded daily how finding purpose – and a commitment to continued learning – can culminate in real change.
The alchemy of turning a bad experience into something good drives motivation that evolves from “how can I overcome this obstacle?” to “how can I help others overcome this obstacle?” As we work to challenge the narrative on addiction recovery with ground-breaking research, we are paving the way for psychedelic therapeutics to increase the odds of individuals beating addiction and improve patient care – and help address the cost of addiction for individuals, families, and society at large.
Written by Timothy Ko, CEO at Entheon Biomedical.
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