Bio­haven touts a pair of PhI­II wins for mi­graine pill, but shares ric­o­chet off of weak da­ta

Bio­haven has re­leased a set of pos­i­tive Phase III da­ta for their fast-act­ing mi­graine drug, which close­ly par­al­lel a ri­val at Al­ler­gan and trail well be­hind Eli Lil­ly’s las­mid­i­tan. And the biotech will now join the scram­ble un­der­way for an ap­proval in a field that’s about to be se­vere­ly dis­rupt­ed.

In­vestors didn’t like the num­bers ear­ly Mon­day morn­ing, send­ing shares $BHVN down 40%. That clear­ly wasn’t the way Bio­haven was bet­ting. The biotech paid Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $50 mil­lion just a cou­ple of weeks ago to re­struc­ture their li­cens­ing deal, cut­ting the roy­al­ty stream to the sin­gle dig­its. But in the hours up to the close, the stock — backed by some heavy­weight mar­ket play­ers — went on a roller coast­er ride in the red, end­ing the day down 7%.

Al­ler­gan — which will have an­oth­er Phase III tri­al to re­port on — saw its shares rise a bit, while Lil­ly stock jumped close to 2%.

The co-pri­ma­ry end­points for Bio­haven’s oral rimegepant (BHV-3000) was pain free­dom and free­dom from most both­er­some symp­tom 2 hours af­ter tak­ing the pill in two piv­otal stud­ies.

Their pain free­dom rate was 19.2% and 19.6% for the drug, ver­sus 14.2% and 12% for the place­bo arm. Free­dom from MBS was 37.6% and 36.6% ver­sus 25.2% and 27.7% in the sug­ar pill group.

That ev­i­dent­ly may have been sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant, but it wasn’t a big enough spread to con­vince skep­tics won­der­ing about the drug’s clin­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance in a com­pet­i­tive field.

Com­pare rimegepant to Al­ler­gan’s oral CGRP ubro­gepant, where the first Phase III re­port­ed out free­dom for pain at 2 hours for 19.2% and 21.2% for two dif­fer­ent dos­es and 11.8% in the place­bo arm; 38.6% and 37.7% on MBS and 27.8% in the place­bo arm.

Eli Lil­ly’s las­mid­i­tan — which works by hit­ting 5-HT1F re­cep­tors — did even bet­ter, de­spite be­ing dogged by high place­bo rates. Lil­ly $LLY, which paid $960 mil­lion to buy CoLu­cid and las­mid­i­tan, al­so has a CGRP drug that has per­formed in line with the rest of the in­jecta­bles.

Two hours af­ter tak­ing las­mid­i­tan or a place­bo, here were the the lat­est Phase III re­spons­es on free­dom from pain by dosage: 28.6% for 50 mg (p=0.003); 31.4% for 100 mg (p<0.001); 38.8% for 200 mg (p<0.001) and 21.3% for place­bo. In­ves­ti­ga­tors al­so nailed an end­point on free­ing pa­tients of their most both­er­some symp­tom, whether that was nau­sea, sen­si­tiv­i­ty to sound or sen­si­tiv­i­ty to light. The da­ta: 40% for 50 mg (p=0.009); 44.2% for 100 mg (p<0.001); 48.7% for 200 mg (p<0.001) and 33.5% for place­bo.

Back-to-back Phase II­Is, how­ev­er, won’t trans­late in­to a quick FDA fil­ing. Bio­haven not­ed in a re­lease that it won’t be ready to file un­til 2019, keep­ing up with Al­ler­gan on that score.

Vlad Coric

The ri­vals here are bet­ting that they can take mar­ket share for treat­ing mi­graines as heavy­weights com­pete over in­jectable CGRP drugs head­ed to reg­u­la­tors for the pre­ven­tion of acute mi­graine. Am­gen and No­var­tis lead the way on that front, with a drug un­der re­view. Te­va, and Alder are an­gling for a fol­lowup po­si­tion.

The one com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tic of these drugs is that they all per­form in re­mark­ably sim­i­lar ways, leav­ing oral de­liv­ery and price as two fea­tures that these two new ther­a­pies can com­pete on. Al­ler­gan has al­so had to ex­plain some cas­es of liv­er tox in its first Phase III — a con­cern for the class — while Bio­haven says it saw noth­ing to alarm in­ves­ti­ga­tors in its Phase III stud­ies.

Bio­haven CEO Vlad Coric had this to say:

By com­bin­ing pos­i­tive ef­fi­ca­cy re­sults and a fa­vor­able safe­ty pro­file with ease of oral dos­ing, we be­lieve that rimegepant will rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment over ex­ist­ing treat­ment op­tions.

Bio­haven shares al­so took a beat­ing last fall when their Phase II/III study of tri­grilu­zole demon­strat­ed not on­ly that it didn’t work bet­ter than a place­bo in treat­ing spin­ocere­bel­lar atax­ia, but pa­tients in the study al­so re­port­ed in larg­er num­bers that the place­bo helped them more than the drug.

A New Fron­tier: The In­ner Ear

What happens when a successful biotech venture capitalist is unexpectedly diagnosed with a chronic, life-disrupting vertigo disorder? Innovation in neurotology.

That venture capitalist was Jay Lichter, Ph.D., and after learning there was no FDA-approved drug treatment for his condition, Ménière’s disease, he decided to create a company to bring drug development to neurotology. Otonomy was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to finding new drug treatments for the hugely underserved community living with balance and hearing disorders. Helping patients like Jay has been the driving force behind Otonomy, a company heading into a transformative 2020 with three clinical trial readouts: Phase 3 in Ménière’s disease, Phase 2 in tinnitus, and Phase 1/2 in hearing loss. These catalysts, together with others in the field, highlight the emerging opportunity in neurotology.
Otonomy is leading the way in neurotology
Neurotology, or the treatment of inner ear neurological disorders, is a large and untapped market for drug developers: one in eight individuals in the U.S. have moderate-to-severe hearing loss, tinnitus or vertigo disorders such as Ménière’s disease.1 With no FDA-approved drug treatments available for these conditions, the burden on patients—including social anxiety, lower quality of life, reduced work productivity, and higher rates of depression—can be significant.2, 3, 4

Af­ter 4 years of furor, the FTC and New York state ac­cuse Mar­tin Shkre­li of run­ning a drug mo­nop­oly. And this time they plan to squash it

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli was jailed, publicly pilloried and forced to confront some lawmakers in Washington riled by his move to take an old generic and move the price from $17.50 per pill to $750. But through 4 years of controversy and public revulsion, his company never backed away from the price — left uncontrolled by a laissez faire federal policy on a drug’s cost.

Now the FTC and the state of New York plan to pry his fingers off the drug once and for all and open it up to some cheap competition.

Patrik Jonsson, the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines

Who knew? Der­mi­ra’s board kept watch as its stock price tracked Eli Lil­ly’s se­cret bid­ding on a $1.1B buy­out

In just 8 days, from December 6 to December 14, the stock jumped from $7.88 to $12.70 — just under the initial $13 bid. There was no hard news about the company that would explain a rise like that tracking closely to the bid offer, raising the obvious question of whether insider info has leaked out to traders.

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Short at­tack­er Sahm Ad­ran­gi draws crosshairs over a fa­vorite of Sanofi’s new CEO — with PhII da­ta loom­ing

Sahm Adrang Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale chief Sahm Adrangi took a lengthy break from his series of biotech short attacks after his chief analyst in the field pulled up stakes and went solo. But he’s making a return to drug development this morning, drawing crosshairs over a company that’s one of new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson’s favorite collaborators.

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UP­DAT­ED: Ac­celeron of­fers thumbs up on a PhII suc­cess for would-be block­buster drug — and shares rock­et up

There’s no public data yet, but Acceleron $XLRN says that its first major trial readout of 2020 is a success.

In a Phase II study of 106 patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), Acceleron’s experimental drug sotatercept hit its primary endpoint: a significant reduction in pulmonary vascular resistance. The drug also met three different secondary endpoints, including the 6-minute walking test.

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Civi­ca and Blue Cross Blue Shield launch new ven­ture to low­er gener­ic prices

Five years after Martin Shkreli put a smug face to the volatile prices companies can charge even for generic drugs, payers and governments are coming up with outside-the-box solutions.

The latest fix is a new venture from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, 18 of its members and Civica, the generics company founded in 2018 by hospitals fed up with high prices for drugs that had long-since lost patent protection. While Civica focused on drugs that hospitals purchased, the new company will aim to lower prices on drugs that, like Shkreli’s Daraprim, are purchased by individuals.

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Merck Invests in State-Of-The-Art Biotech Development Facility in Switzerland

Mer­ck KGaA match­es lofty R&D goals with €250M in­vest­ment in­to a new clin­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Switzer­land

As Merck KGaA strives to prove itself as a capable biopharma R&D player, it has begun construction on a €250 million facility dedicated to developing and manufacturing drugs for use in clinical trials.

The German drugmaker chose a location at Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, where it already has a commercial manufacturing site, in order to “bridge together research and manufacturing.”

“This investment in the Merck Biotech Development Center reflects our commitment to speed up the availability of new medicines for patients in need, and confirms the importance of Switzerland as our prime hub for the manufacturing of biotech medicines,” CEO Stefan Oschmann said at the groundbreaking ceremony, according to a statement.

Breast can­cer ap­proval in tow, As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi armed an­ti­body scores in key gas­tric can­cer study

AstraZeneca kicked off Monday with a flurry of good news. Apart from unveiling positive results on its stroke trial testing its clot-fighter Brilinta, and welcoming its experimental IL-23 inhibitor brazikumab back from Allergan — the British drugmaker also disclosed some upbeat gastric cancer data on its HER2-positive oncology therapy it is collaborating on with Daiichi Sankyo.

Buoyed by the performance of its oncology drugs, last March AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot bet big to partner with Daiichi on the cancer drug, with $1.35 billion upfront in a deal worth up to roughly $7 billion. Roughly 8 months later, as 2019 drew to a close, the FDA swiftly approved the drug — trastuzumab deruxtecan — for use in breast cancer, months ahead of the expected decision date.

Sor­ren­to shrugs off an anony­mous pri­vate eq­ui­ty group’s $1B of­fer to buy the com­pa­ny

San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics isn’t going the M&A route — at least not today.

The biotech caused quite a stir when it put out word a few weeks ago that an unidentified private equity group was bidding a billion dollars-plus for the company. The news drove a quick spike in the company’s share price as investors hooked up for the ride — that didn’t happen.

The update sparked a 5% drop in the share price $SRNE ahead of the bell. It’s now trading just above $4, without any evidence that the $7 price looked like it was firm.