Shares of the Peter Thiel-backed psychedelic start-up Atai Life Sciences jumped Friday on its first day of trading on Wall Street.
The newly listed Nasdaq stock opened up 40% before pulling back some.
The German biotech’s initial public offering was priced Thursday night at $15 per share, the high end of the expected range. The company, which aims to make psychedelic drugs to treat mental health disorders, raised $225 million at a valuation of $2.3 billion.
Atai is the third psychedelic biotech to go public in the U.S., following in the footsteps of MindMed, which went public on the Nasdaq in April, and Founders Fund-backed Compass Pathways, which listed in September. As of Thursday’s close, Compass Pathways was up 26% since its debut, and MindMed, which just announced its CEO’s resignation, was down about 19% since its IPO.
Each biotech is developing therapies using the psychedelic mushroom compound psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA derivatives to treat addiction and mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury. Three years after its founding, Atai Life Sciences has 10 therapeutic programs in its pipeline, each at various stages of clinical trials.
Atai founder and Chairman Christian Angermayer said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday, “The world we’re building is a bad place for our brain, so mental health issues will go up. But I do think we have some real shots in our portfolio to end the mental health crisis.”
Investor interest in psychedelic treatments has grown alongside burgeoning interest in these therapies from the medical community.
Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Icahn School of Medicine are among the centers studying psychedelics and psychology. Recent studies establishing MDMA’s promise in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and the efficacy of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic chemical found in psychedelic mushrooms, in treating drug-resistant depression have only heightened interest in the space.
Angermayer was an early investor in Compass Pathways, and his own company Atai serves as a holding company for various psychedelic start-ups pursuing alternative treatments for mental illness. He told CNBC on Friday that new-age biotechs are building on centuries of practice in shamanistic cultures and religions.
There are currently federal restrictions for psychedelic mushrooms, MDMA — commonly known as molly or ecstasy — and LSD around the world. However, Oregon last year became the first U.S. state to legalize psychedelics for therapeutic use. Residents in Washington, D.C., also recently voted in support of decriminalizing the use of psychedelics for medicinal purposes.
Angermayer is betting that federal approval of these drugs for therapeutic use could make a huge difference for those suffering from mental illness. “They are very, very powerful medications, but they have to be taken under supervision. … You will be tripping while you are sitting with your therapist.”
Atai Life Sciences is backed by the billionaire investor Thiel, as well as Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Investments and Angermayer’s own Apeiron Investment Group, among others.
According to venture capital tracker CB Insights, VC deals in psychedelics have risen substantially in the last three years: 2018 and 2019 saw less than $100 million of venture capital invested in psychedelic start-ups, but 2020 saw $346 million. By April 2021, VCs had already invested $329 million in the industry.
It’s no wonder that Atai’s was more than 12 times oversubscribed, according to one market source who asked to remain anonymous due to the nature of the discussion. “A good portion was taken up by existing investors,” the person said, adding that Thiel is the largest existing investor and that he’s “doubled down” in the IPO.
Investment fund Palo Santo said it had taken a notable stake in Atai’s IPO. “There is an urgent need to address our broken mental healthcare system,” Daniel Goldberg, co-founder of Palo Santo, said in a statement. “We believe psychedelics will expand treatment options and transform the outdated system.”
Atai submitted an S-1 filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission in April that showed it raised an aggregate of $362.3 million from private investors at that point.
The company, which describes itself as a drug development platform, was set up to acquire, incubate and develop psychedelics and other drugs that can be used to treat depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health conditions.
Atai, which has roughly 50 staff members in offices across Berlin, New York and San Diego, is currently partnered with 14 companies focusing on drug development and other technologies.
In exchange for a majority stake in the drugs and technologies they’re developing, Atai helps the scientists raise money, work with regulators and conduct clinical trials. None of Atai’s drugs have been formally approved by regulators to date.
Thiel made an $11.9 million investment in Atai through his venture firm, Thiel Capital, in November.
“Atai’s great virtue is to take mental illness as seriously as we should have been taking all illness all along,” Thiel, who co-founded Palantir and PayPal, said in a statement shared with CNBC at the time. “The company’s most valuable asset is its sense of urgency.”
Alibaba to split into 6 units and explore IPOs; shares pop 9%
Alibaba has faced growth challenges amid regulatory tightening on China’s domestic technology sector and a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. But analysts think the e-commerce giant’s growth could pick up through the rest of 2022.
Kuang Da | Jiemian News | VCG | Getty Images
Alibaba said Tuesday it will split its company into six business groups, each with the ability to raise outside funding and go public, in the most significant reorganization in the Chinese e-commerce giant’s history.
Each business group will be managed by its own CEO and board of directors.
Alibaba said in a statement that the move is “designed to unlock shareholder value and foster market competitiveness.”
Alibaba’s shares popped more than 9% in pre-market trade in the U.S.
The move comes after a tough couple of years for Alibaba which has faced slowing economic growth at home and tougher regulation from Beijing, resulting in billions being wiped off its share price. Alibaba has struggled with growth over the past few quarters.
Alibaba is now looking to reinvigorate growth with the reorganization.
The business groups will revolve around its strategic priorities. These are the groups:
- Cloud Intelligence Group: Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang will be head of this business which will house the company’s cloud and artificial intelligence activities.
- Taobao Tmall Commerce Group: This will cover the company’s online shopping platforms including Taobao and Tmall.
- Local Services Group: Yu Yongfu will be CEO and the business will cover Alibaba’s food delivery service Ele.me as well as its mapping.
- Cainiao Smart Logistics: Wan Lin will continue as CEO of this business which houses Alibaba’s logistics service.
- Global Digital Commerce Group: Jiang Fan will serve as CEO. This unit includes Alibaba’s international e-commerce businesses including AliExpress and Lazada.
- Digital Media and Entertainment Group: Fan Luyuan will be CEO of the unit which includes Alibaba’s streaming and movie business.
Each of these units can pursue independent fundraising and a public listing when they’re ready, Zhang said.
The exception is the Taobao Tmall Commerce Group, which will remain wholly-owned by Alibaba.
$600 billion wipeout
Around $600 billion of value has been wiped out since Alibaba’s share price peak in October 2020. Since then, the Chinese government has cracked down on private technology businesses, introducing a slew of regulation and increasing scrutiny on the practices of domestic giants.
Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Group was forced by regulators to cancel its mega public listing in November 2020. And in 2021, Alibaba was fined $2.6 billion as part of an antitrust probe.
Alibaba is now looking to reinvigorate growth. The company has grown into a giant that encompasses businesses from e-commerce to cloud computing to streaming and logistics.
The company sees the creation of the six businesses as a way to be nimbler.
“This transformation will empower all our businesses to become more agile, enhance decision-making, and enable faster responses to market changes,” Zhang said in a statement.
The reorganization also comes at a time when there are signs that Beijing is warming back up to technology businesses, as the government seeks to revive economic growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
Jack Ma, Alibaba’s outspoken and charismatic founder who was out of the public eye and travelling abroad for several months, has returned to China, in a move perceived as an olive branch from Beijing.
4G internet is set to arrive on the moon later this year
Nokia hopes to install a data network on the moon sometime in 2023, an executive told reporters.
Thomas Coex | AFP via Getty Images
Nokia is preparing to launch a 4G mobile network on the moon later this year, in the hopes of enhancing lunar discoveries — and eventually paving the path for human presence on the satellite planet.
The Finnish telecommunications group plans to launch the network on a SpaceX rocket over the coming months, Luis Maestro Ruiz De Temino, Nokia’s principal engineer, told reporters earlier this month at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.
The network will be powered by an antenna-equipped base station stored in a Nova-C lunar lander designed by U.S. space firm Intuitive Machines, as well as by an accompanying solar-powered rover.
An LTE connection will be established between the lander and the rover.
The infrastructure will land on the Shackleton crater, which lies along the southern limb of the moon.
Nokia says the technology is designed to withstand the extreme conditions of space.
The network will be used within Nasa’s Artemis 1 mission, which aims to send the first human astronauts to walk on the moon’s surface since 1972.
The aim is to show that terrestrial networks can meet the communications needs for future space missions, Nokia said, adding that its network will allow astronauts to communicate with each other and with mission control, as well as to control the rover remotely and stream real-time video and telemetry data back to Earth.
The lander will launch via a SpaceX rocket, according to Maestro Ruiz De Temino. He explained that the rocket won’t take the lander all the way to the moon’s surface — it has a propulsion system in place to complete the journey.
Anshel Sag, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said that 2023 was an “optimistic target” for the launch of Nokia’s equipment.
“If the hardware is ready and validated as it seems to be, there is a good chance they could launch in 2023 as long as their launch partner of choice doesn’t have any setbacks or delays,” Sag told CNBC via email.
Nokia previously said that its lunar network will “provide critical communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video.”
One of the things Nokia is hoping to achieve with its lunar network is finding ice on the moon. Much of the moon’s surface is now dry, but recent unmanned missions to the moon have yielded discoveries of ice remnants trapped in sheltered craters around the poles.
Such water could be treated and used for drinking, broken up into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket fuel, or separated to provide breathable oxygen to astronauts.
“I could see this being used by future expeditions to continue to explore the moon since this really seems like a major test of the capabilities before starting to use it commercially for additional exploration and potential future mining operations,” Sag told CNBC.
“Mining requires a lot of infrastructure to be in place and having the right data about where certain resources are located.
We’ll need more than just internet connectivity, if we’re ever to live on the moon. Engineering giant Rolls-Royce, for example, is working on a nuclear reactor to provide power to future lunar inhabitants and explorers.
WATCH: Three decades after inventing the web, Tim Bernersr-Lee has some ideas on how to fix it
Elon Musk says only verified users will show up in Twitter’s recommendation feed in further shake-up
Elon Musk Twitter account seen on Mobile with Elon Musk in the background on screen, seen in this photo illustration. On 19 February 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.
Jonathan Raa | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Elon Musk said that only verified accounts will appear in Twitter’s recommendation feed, as the billionaire further shakes up the social media platform.
Twitter’s “For You” tab shows users tweets from people they don’t follow, but that are recommended to them by the social media firm’s algorithm. To date, this has showed accounts from any Twitter users, whether they are verified or not.
But Musk announced in a tweet late Monday that, going forward, only verified accounts will show up in the “For You” section of the site.
Musk claims the move “is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over.”
Musk also said that only verified users will be able to vote in polls.
Since buying Twitter last year, Musk has sought to shake up the way the company does verification. Before Musk’s acquisition, Twitter used to verify users with a blue check mark as a way to identify the account matches the person or company it says it is. This process was free and applied to celebrities, journalists, government officials and organizations.
Musk introduced a subscription service last year called Twitter Blue that allows a user to pay $8 per month to be verified and obtain the blue check mark.
Twitter said last week that it would begin to wind down its “legacy verified program” and remove “legacy verified” check marks on Apr. 1. The company is prompting people with the legacy checkmarks to sign up for the Twitter Blue subscription service.
Musk has been trying to find ways to generate new revenue streams at Twitter, with paid verification being a flagship policy. But the company has reportedly lost a huge amount of value.
Musk told employees last week that Twitter is now valued at $20 billion, according to an email sent to employees and seen by the New York Times. That is down more than 50% from the $44 billion Musk paid for company last year.
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