Making it Work

Ulysses Neuroscience aims to raise €1.5m for expansion

Research and development firm works with 13 pharmaceutical companies, carrying out research on a contract basis in the field of neurological drug discovery

Professor Max Bianchi, founder, president and chief executive, Ulysses Neuroscience: ‘need for a new way to do business’. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Ulysses Neuroscience, the Trinity-based research company, is aiming to raise up to €1.5 million to continue its overseas expansion.

The firm was set up in 2019 by Dr Massimiliano Bianchi, an Italian researcher with more than 20 years of experience in neuropharmacology research. It now employs 14 people and works with pharmaceutical companies from around the world.

Bianchi, who previously set up the Irish operation of Transpharmation, a global contract research company, decided to set up Ulysses after realising that the methods by which drug discovery tests are carried out was changing in the field of neuroscience.

“A contract research organisation is a company that provides research services for other pharmaceutical companies,” Bianchi said.

“But in 2019, I thought there was a need for a new way to do business in neuroscience; not a contract research organisation per se, but a private research and development organisation able to work with patients and to then provide the pharmaceutical industry this bridge with patients.”

Thus Ulysses was born, with the aim of providing research platforms to pharma companies based on a strict set of socially conscious research values. It currently works with 13 pharmaceutical companies, carrying out research on a contract basis in the field of neurological drug discovery, the process by which new medications are discovered.

“In neuroscience, there are only one or two companies that do active research,” Bianchi said. “The majority prefer to outsource, because outsourcing is something they can do for lower cost and also allows them to de-risk any other internal risk.”

Bianchi, who declined to name Ulysses’s clients for reasons of commercial sensitivity, said the Enterprise Ireland-backed business had grown significantly over recent years and was expanding to Italy to conduct a pair of biomarker studies. “We are scaling up significantly right now,” he told the Business Post.

But as a company with a bigger mission than just performing outsourced research, it is also in the middle of what Bianchi called a “massively exciting” project examining the possible use of psychedelics to treat mental health problems. “For this, we don’t work with Big Pharma, because you can’t write a patent for psychedelic, they’ve been around for dozens of years, and they are natural products,” he said.

Instead, Ulysses has partnered with a number of smaller start-ups, particularly in the US, to work on research into psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, what the company calls Ulysses Psychedelics 2.0.

At the end of October, Bianchi will travel to Boston to present new research on the subject at a number of forums and conferences, including the fifth Neuropsychiatric and Psychedelics Drug Development Summit.

“We will be showing some very interesting results,” he said. “I can tell you that this will really change how we treat mental health in the future. You may need only two or three sessions in psychedelics, and then you’re cured for the rest of your life. And this is the wind of change, and it will do real good for the community. Being profitable is not our main objective. We want to make a difference to humanity.”