Florian Brand knows that there aren’t many people with his profile in biopharma. “You would probably consider me an outlier,” says the 36-year-old chief executive of Germany’s up-and-coming Atai Life Sciences. He doesn’t have a Ph.D. or any scientific background. His previous gig was running an online cookware retailer. But he does possess a history of profound experiences with mental health—experiences that left such an impression that four years ago he dropped everything to cofound Atai, a biopharmaceutical company now backed by investors including Peter Thiel and Cathie Wood.
Berlin-based Atai is at the forefront of a broadening push to tackle mental health disorders with substances like psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) and ketamine that have been illegal in many countries for decades. Atai employs an unusual “hub-and-spoke” model, acting as an umbrella for a collection of companies—that Atai either founded or bought a large stake in—each conducting trials on individual substances. Brand’s leadership of this unusual company has landed him on the latest Fortune 40 Under 40 list. (Full Story)