A Bet on Magic Mushrooms Made One Investor $316 Million Richer

Christian Angermayer spent years convincing skeptical investors of the promise in psychedelic substances to treat mental illness. His efforts paid off this week to the tune of $316 million.

That’s how much the 42-year-old’s stake of about 22% inCompass Pathway Plc’s is worth, after the company’s shares more than doubled in the days following its Sept. 18 initial public offering.

Angermayer was the first backer of Compass, a U.K. startup seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to use its formulation of psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms, for treatment-resistant depression.

When the German entrepreneur put money into the company in 2017, it was worth $16 million. Compass shares traded at $40.55 at 9:33 a.m. in New York, valuing it at about $1.4 billion. Angermayer celebrated the IPO by tweeting a picture of his very first tattoo — the molecular structure of psilocybin.

“Even before Covid-19, the mental health epidemic was in full swing,” Angermayer said in a June interview. “Think about this: 350 million are living with depression, 150 million of whom are treatment-resistant; another 40 million live with anxiety, of which we can only treat symptoms; and 240 million are dependent on substances ranging from alcohol to opioids.”

Angermayer got his start in the biotech industry in 2000, when he left college to help found a company called Ribopharma, which merged withAlnylam Pharmaceuticals three years later. He invests in other biotech, robotics, fintech, blockchain and space-tech companies through his family office, Apeiron Investment Group, which uses $500 million of his personal funds and manages $300 million of outside money.

The networking-savvy investor introduced Compass founders George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia to Lars Wilde, who now serves as the company’s president. Angermayer controls his Compass stake throughATAI Life Sciences AG, a psychedelic medicine company he founded in 2018.

ATAI is pursuing a range of treatments for mental-health disorders including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and anxiety using drugs such as psilocybin, R-ketamine and ibogaine. The company is about to close a EUR50 million ($58.1 million) pre-IPO round and is considering a U.S. IPO in the first half of 2021, according to sources familiar with its plans.

Many of the outside backers that Angermayer brought into Compass are also investors in ATAI. Among them are Peter Thiel, co-founder ofPayPal and an early investor in Facebook, andGalaxy Investment Partners’ Michael Novogratz. Silicon Valley venture capitalists Steve Jurvetson and Maryanna Saenko, of Future Ventures, also hold a significant stake in ATAI.

“Christian is extremely interested in other people and always wants to discover new ideas,” Thiel wrote in e-mailed comments on Thursday. “This combination makes him an astute investor.”

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