Since retiring from the National Hockey League in 2015 at age 30, Daniel Carcillo has dedicated his life to helping athletes and other people like himself who have suffered from traumatic brain injury. Carcillo was diagnosed with seven concussions in his nine professional seasons and struggled at times with slurred speech, headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia and other side effects of repeated hits to the head. Two years ago, he implemented a lifestyle change that included an improved diet, more sleep and the use of a psychedelic drug called psilocybin, which he says has made him feel better than ever.
Now, through Wesana Health, a company he co-founded last year, Carcillo is looking to help anyone who has been in his shoes. Wesana Health, which is testing the use of a psychedelic to treat anxiety and depression in people with traumatic brain injury, went public on Monday through the listing of its shares on the Canadian Securities Exchange. And today, the company is announcing a partnership with the World Boxing Council that it hopes will provide a better understanding of traumatic brain injury, a condition that has no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments, diagnostics or measurements.
The WBC will share with Wesana access to data the organization has collected on traumatic brain injuries in boxers dating to the late 1970s and how such injuries lead to physical and neurological changes in fighters. Wesana plans on analyzing that data as well as data from current boxers to gain more knowledge of traumatic brain injuries. Eventually, the company hopes to enroll boxers in clinical trials involving Sana0013, a psychedelic and formulation of psilocybin it is developing.
“Athletes who enter the ring are at risk of developing traumatic brain injury, and the WBC is committed to study all avenues to help ensure the long-term mental and physical health of our athletes,” Mauricio Sulaiman, WBC’s president, said in a news release. “We have been involved in research studies of the impact of TBI with partners since the 1970s and Wesana’s approach holds strong potential for curing this debilitating condition and improving brain and mental health.”
Chad Bronstein, Wesana’s co-founder and executive chairman, noted that former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson helped Wesana form the partnership with the WBC, one of boxing’s major governing bodies. Tyson, an investor in Wesana and company advisor, has suffered from traumatic brain injury as have numerous other boxers as well as mixed martial arts competitors and football and hockey players. Wesana is also aiming to help other high-risk groups for traumatic brain injuries such as the elderly, military veterans and women who have been victims of domestic violence.
“Everything we’re doing is focused on helping people have a pathway to help themselves,” said Bronstein, who has also founded Fyllo, a software company focused on the cannabis industry. “That’s why the WBC was so intrigued in partnering with us because of the mission they’ve been on since 1978 on finding healing protocols for TBI.”
He added: “I think we’ll see more leagues, large professional leagues, join into this movement because they need to help their athletes when they’re done really optimize their life. It shows an innovative approach the WBC is willing to take.”
Wesana, which launched last April, is still in the early stages of testing Sana0013, but it has assembled an experienced medical and clinical trials team. Mark Wingertzahn, PhD, Wesana’s chief science officer, has held senior clinical development roles at leading pharmaceuticals companies, including GlaxoSmithKline GSK +0.9% and Pfizer PFE +1.4%. Meanwhile, Stephan Bart, MD, Wesana’s chief medical officer, has served as a principal investigator for more than 400 clinical trials during his career.
Wesana plans on submitting an investigational new drug application with the FDA during the first quarter of next year. It hopes to enroll healthy individuals in a phase 1 trial during the third quarter of 2022. It is also looking to get the drug approved through Health Canada, Canada’s health regulatory body, and create a way to diagnose traumatic body injury.
“We feel very confident and excited that we are going to help define the TBI space in the way of novel diagnostics and treatment regimens,” Carcillo said. “I feel pretty blessed for what’s on the horizon and what’s possible with the team we’ve created with people like Chad and our medical staff.”