Judy Blumstock | CEO & Founder, Diamond Therapeutics
April 30, 2021
Judy Blumstock | CEO & Founder, Diamond Therapeutics
Judy Blumstock has over 25 years of venture capital and private equity experience spanning early to late-stage investments in life sciences and biotechnology. Before founding Diamond Therapeutics, Judy spent more than ten years as the executive director of corporate development for Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP). She also held senior roles at Genesys Capital, RBC Capital Partners, and Drug Royalty Corporation (now DRI Capital Inc.), where she served as the director of biological and pharmaceutical research. Now, Judy is bringing her experience in the finance and biotech industries to the psychedelic space as the CEO of Diamond Therapeutics. Diamond was founded in 2018 and focuses on broadly accessible, low-dose therapies for mental health treatment.
What is the story behind the founding of Diamond Therapeutics?
Over 25 years working in life science venture capital, I saw many plant-based compounds developed into useful drugs. A 2006 article in the Economist with the catchy title “The God Pill” kindled my interest in psilocybin. I felt if we could alleviate psilocybin's impairing side effects while preserving its ability to impact the central nervous system positively, we could make a "non-psychedelic" psychedelic.
When I looked to see if anyone had investigated this, there was nothing about low-dose psilocybin in the scientific literature. It was a gap that needed filling.
What is Diamond's unique focus and why?
Like other psychedelic drug developers, Diamond believes that psychedelics demonstrate profound potential to treat a broad range of psychiatric diseases.
But the scale of the mental health crisis demands treatments designed to deliver maximum impact. In addition to safety and efficacy, new therapies need to be broadly accessible to patients. Diamond's focus is developing non-impairing solutions that can be prescribed by a doctor and taken at home like many other medicines. It is an ideal solution that is most likely to gain widespread adoption from patients, providers and payors.
What advantages does Diamond have over other biotechnology companies working on psychedelic medicines?
It comes down to two things: team and focus.
The Diamond team has decades of experience and a successful track in neuroscience, pharmacology, psychiatry, drug discovery, and preclinical and clinical neuropsychiatric drug development. A perk of my 25 years in life science venture capital is knowing the best of the best. When I founded Diamond in 2018, I reached out to my heroes, and they all agreed to come on board! Our scientific advisory board is stacked with leading experts, like Dr. Edward Sellers, Dr. Paul Glue, and Dr. Thomas Kosten. It includes Dr. Joseph Moskal, who cofounded Naurex, and Dr. William J. Tyler, a neuroscientist and global authority on neuromodulation.
As well, Diamond has a clear focus and differentiated strategy. Our focus on accessible, non-impairing therapies will remain constant as we continue to grow our portfolio and pipeline. Our foundation can support future expansions into different neuropsychiatric conditions and additional compounds.
Why is Diamond choosing to focus on low-dose, non-hallucinogenic psychedelic-based therapeutics?
The bulk of psychedelic research investigates very high doses, which show encouraging results. However, because of the length and intensity of the experience, high-dose treatments must be administered in a clinic with one-to-one supervision from a therapist, an approach with many barriers to access.
There has been little rigorous investigation of the value of low-dose psilocybin, and some researchers have suggested the benefit of psychedelics is tied to hallucination, perceptual change and occasioning a mystical type of experience.
In dose-ranging studies in rats that were published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, we demonstrated relevant psychotherapeutic activity at very low concentrations of psilocybin for the first time. We are preparing for a human clinical trial investigating low-dose psilocybin and its effects on social anxiety disorder (SAD).
What are some of the indications you are exploring with your clinical trials?
We are studying anxiety because it is the most pervasive mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults. SAD alone affects 15 million US adults, is significantly undertreated, and tends to be chronic with a low recovery rate. There is a high degree of comorbidity between anxiety and other psychiatric disorders — for instance, 50 percent of people with depression also have anxiety. This overlap creates the possibility of label claim expansion.
Diamond will become a public company soon. What can the public markets expect to see from Diamond in the near future?
Treating social anxiety disorder with low-dose psilocybin is just the beginning. We anticipate expanding our investigation of low-dose psilocybin to multiple indications through collaboration with academic partners. We are also developing new chemical entities. All of this is underpinned by our exclusive worldwide supply partnership with Dalton Pharma Services, which covers cGMP psilocybin and other compounds. With the support of our stellar board, we are moving boldly ahead and look forward to ongoing engagement with smart, passionate investors.
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