Biohaven shakes up leadership team as it feels the heat from migraine competitors
As Biohaven Pharma comes off a rollercoaster pipeline year, its CEO will take on more responsibility in a full C-suite makeover.
Vlad Coric was unanimously elected to the role of chairman of the board of directors, after Declan Doogan’s retirement. Matthew Buten will take over the role of CFO after James Engelhart’s retirement, and director Michael Heffernan has been appointed lead independent director. All of the appointments are effective immediately, a company press release said.
“The retirements described in this announcement were not related to any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices,” per the release.
The news comes on the same day that Biohaven announced that it will submit a new drug application for intranasal zavegepant, a pain relief drug to treat migraines. That announcement follows the positive results from the second Phase III clinical trial, relieving participants of the most bothersome pain at the two-hour mark.
Patients saw relief return them to normal function as soon as 30 minutes after taking zavegepant, Biohaven noted at the time, and the pain-suspension factors lasted between two and 24 hours. If approved, zavegepant will be the first intranasal calcitonin gene-related peptide available to treat migraines in adults.
“The trial results clearly show that the performance of this formulation exceeded expectations by demonstrating superiority over placebo on pain relief at 15 minutes and return to normal function by 30 minutes,” Coric said in a statement. “The impressive efficacy, safety and tolerability profile shown in this trial highlights the potential of zavegepant to usher in a new era of non-oral CGRP targeting migraine therapies.”
Zavegepant beat placebo in the endpoint of pain freedom 24% to 15%, and freedom from the most bothersome system by 40% vs 31%. Abnormal taste was the most common side effect, with 21% of trial participants experiencing this, compared with 5% of those who were given the placebo.
Biohaven is looking to rebound after turning out a dud in its attempt to target multiple system atrophy (MSA), a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disorder. Its drug, verdiperstat, failed to outperform the placebo and whiffed on the primary efficacy endpoint, marking the latest step in a tough year for the company after it watched its Alzheimer’s study for glutamate modulator troriluzole crumble.
Last January, it rolled out data for troriluzole, a drug being developed for neurodegenerative disorders, that showed the candidate did not “statistically differentiate” itself from a placebo on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale 11 (ADAS-cog) and the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB).
Even if Biohaven gets zavegepant across the finish line, it will face some competition. In May, AbbVie’s CGRP drug Ubrelvy got the go-ahead for acute treatment of migraine ahead of Biohaven. Then in September, AbbVie’s other oral CGRP receptor antagonist Qulipta gained approval.
As for Buten, he brings 20 years of experience in healthcare investing to the team. He was previously a portfolio manager at Catapult/Millennium Partners and co-founded Sapphire Capital and Argus Partners before that.