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.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Mark Mal­lon charts post-Iron­wood course by tak­ing CEO job at NeoGe­nomics; Glax­o­SmithK­line vet Feng Ren joins In­sil­i­co as CSO

Mark Mallon steps aside at Ironwood on March 12 after close to two years at the helm, and he already has a new change of scenery squared away. Beginning April 19, Mallon takes charge as CEO of cancer-focused genetic test maker NeoGenomics out of Fort Myers, FL while his predecessor, Douglas VanOort, is retiring after 12 years as NeoGenomics’ chairman and CEO.

It’s a fresh start for Mallon after what will amount to a tumultuous 23 months as Ironwood’s chief executive. Last year was marked by trial failures that spelled double trouble, leaving the Ironwood cupboard bare: first, a Linzess reformulation for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) in May, and then the drug IW-3718 for persistent acid reflux in September. After IW-3718’s discontinuation, Ironwood chopped its staff by 35%. On Feb. 8, Mallon announced his departure at Ironwood, with president Tom McCourt getting bumped up to interim CEO.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Covid-19 roundup: Mer­ck­'s $356M sup­ply deal on hold as FDA asks for more da­ta; FDA ap­proves Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech vac­cine stor­age at stan­dard freez­er temps

Merck is pushing back plans to supply the US government with a Covid-19 drug after the FDA asked for more data to support an emergency use authorization.

The antibody, MK-7110, had looked promising in a Phase III study conducted by OncoImmune before Merck came along and bought the biotech for $425 million. At the interim analysis, investigators looked at data from 203 patients and concluded that a single dose of the drug cut the risk of death or respiratory failure by more than 50% among severe patients. And those taking the drug had a 60% higher chance of improvement in clinical status compared to placebo.

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CEO Fred Aslan (Artiva)

NK cell ther­a­py play­er Arti­va makes some more noise, pulling in $120M Se­ries B less than a month af­ter Mer­ck deal

Not even one month after Big Pharma took notice of Artiva when Merck signed a collaboration worth nearly $2 billion in milestones, the off-the-shelf NK cell biotech already has its next big fundraise.

Artiva returns from the venture well Friday with a $120 million Series B round, money they will use to get their first program into the clinic and to file INDs for another two candidates. The raise marks the latest development in a rapidly expanding footprint for Artiva, which, in addition to the Merck deal last month, has now raised almost $200 million since its Series A last June.