Addiction is one of the biggest unmet medical needs globally with substance and behavioral addictions affecting a significant proportion of the global adult population. Here are some key metrics: The global substance addiction treatment industry was valued at US$16 billion in 2021 and is forecast to increase to US$25 billion by 2027, while the overall global addiction rehabilitation & recovery industry was estimated to be valued at US$140 billion per annum in 2021. The latter includes behavioral disorders like gambling, binge eating, and internet gaming, all of which I’m sure have increased rapidly over the past 2 years which saw much of the world locked in our rooms like a bunch of insolent school children.
The challenge with behavioral and substance addictions is that it tends to be a poorly treated, chronic disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. Treatment rates are typically low and relapse rates are typically high. For example, with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), which affects 5% of the global adult population, only 16% of those suffering with AUD seek treatment and there is a 70% relapse rate within the first 12 months for those that do seek treatment. Up to another 27% of the US adult population are affected by behavioral addictions. Which really puts the market valuations noted above into context. Imagine if treatment were more effective and easy to access what the overall market could be valued at.
The good news is, there is a company out there that is trying to make a difference, Awakn Life Sciences Corp. (NEO: AWKN | OTCQB: AWKNF). Awakn is a biotechnology company, researching, developing, and commercializing combined therapeutics to treat addiction, with a focus on Alcohol Use Disorder. Awakn’s team consists of renowned research experts, world leading chemists, scientists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Awakn is working to disrupt this underperforming industry by advancing the next generation of drugs and therapies to be used in combination, through preclinical research and clinical stage trials.
What differentiates Awakn from peers who are simply researching drugs to cure whatever ails you is their new proprietary combined therapeutics that approach the treatment of addiction in a radically different way than before. Based on new research, Awakn’s drugs will target the brain circuits that drive addiction through multiple receptors rather than single drug receptors. These circuits control the behavioral drivers of addiction. By focusing on circuit mechanisms rather than isolated receptors Awakn’s approach has the potential to be effective in the treatment of both substance and behavioral addictions. This disruption allows the individual to escape from the repetitive addictive behaviors and thoughts, and in doing so engage with a psychotherapeutic process to enable lasting positive change. This is where Awakn’s proprietary therapy comes in. Their therapies work in conjunction with their medicines, enabling the patients to regain control over their lives and helping them to learn new more adaptive ways to respond to addictive urges, cravings and the underlying processes that drive them.
Recent news flow from the Company is confirming that success with the May 19th announcement of the completion of the world’s first ketamine treatment study for behavioral addictions. The study investigated ketamine as a new treatment approach for these behavioral addictions by opening a window in which the brain can make new connections to change behavior. The results from the study indicate the desired effects via potentially novel mechanisms and these results merit a larger study and further exploration, which Awakn is now initiating. The study also supports Awakn’s Intellectual Property (IP) strategy and existing filed patent applications, positioning Awakn as a leading company in the behavioral-addiction therapeutic research and development industry. This news was followed a week later with the filing of a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application for the treatment of behavioral addictions with ketamine and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. The patent claims would give Awakn exclusive rights to use ketamine and ketamine-assisted therapy for the treatment of behavioral addictions. With no effective pharmacological treatments available globally at present for behavioral addictions, the study results, and the patent filing, position Awakn at the forefront of the industry at a time when rates of behavioral addictions are increasing at an alarming pace and sufferers have few treatment options which deliver poor outcomes.
Additionally, the Company has opened three fully-operational ketamine-assisted therapy clinics, two in the UK and one in Norway, which are now generating revenue for Awakn. Each clinic is anticipated to generate on average £3 million (US$3.75 million) revenue per annum. The target is 15 – 20 clinics by the end of 2024, with an average of 6 treatment rooms per clinic. The next step is to then take the protocols established at these operational clinics and license them to partners outside of the environments where Awakn has a physical footprint, starting with the US and Canada in Q3 of this year.
At the end of their last quarter (Jan 31/22) the Company still had some work to do to generate enough revenue to cover its cash flow needs but that could be changing quickly. With a market cap of C$32 million and a tight share structure with only 27 million shares outstanding, of which 61% are escrowed, future good news could have a material impact on the share price of Awakn.