Pharma, R&D

Battered by mixed PhIII data, Trevena axes R&D staff and hunkers down around lead pain drug

Maxine Gowen

Eight months after Trevena {TRVN} was hammered over some mixed Phase III results for its new pain therapy, the biotech is slashing its research group and circling the wagons around its lead therapy in pursuit of a new drug approval from the FDA.

Twenty-one staffers largely from the research arm are being cut — 30% of its total workforce. And chief scientific officer Michael Lark is headed to the exit as well in mid-December.

As part of the restructuring, Chesterbrook, PA-based Trevena says that it will wrap a Phase I trial of its migraine drug TRV250 and then evaluate “options” on its future development.

Trevena investors didn’t like the sound of the biotech’s plans, driving down its shares by 16% after market closed.

The biotech declared its Phase III study of oliceridine (Olinvo) was a success in treating moderate-to-severe acute pain, but analysts raised questions about its non-inferiority to morphine as well as some less-than-significant secondary data on nausea and vomiting that could cause trouble for any marketing effort.

That picture caused the biotech’s shares to drop a painful 40%. And its stock has yet to recover, ending the day at a fraction of its 12-month high with a market cap of $141 million.

Trevena execs say they’ll complete their application for an FDA filing later this month.

“After a thorough review of our portfolio, we have decided to reduce our capital needs and focus our resources on the future approval and commercialization of Olinvo, which we believe will be an important new option for physicians and patients.  As part of this plan we made the very difficult, yet necessary, decision to reduce our work force,” said Maxine Gowen, chief executive officer.

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