Vivek Ramaswamy’s Metavant hits a brick wall, abandoning a lead program for diabetes. And there’s nothing visible left to see here
Just a few years after Vivek Ramaswamy’s epic Alzheimer’s fail, another one of his startups is cutting its losses because of a high-risk endeavor — this time on the diabetes front — didn’t pan out.
Metavant, Ramaswamy’s biotech #7, has decided not to advance its lead candidate imeglimin into Phase III, instead of looking for a quick sell-off. If it doesn’t secure a deal within 60 days, the rights go back to Merck KGaA spinout Poxel, which licensed the drug to Roivant — the parent company to Ramaswamy’s suite of “vants” — back in 2018 for $50 million in cash and up to $600 million in milestones.
A spokesperson for Metavant tells Endpoints News there are currently no “disclosed” drugs in the pipeline, and didn’t rule out that possibility. But for now, barring some stealth programs or deals in the works, the company looks dormant.
Poxel says Metavant’s decision wasn’t based on efficacy, safety, or other data. “We conducted an internal review and determined that advancing imeglimin was not strategically appropriate for us,” Metavant said in a short email statement to Endpoints.
In a separate partnership with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, the drug successfully completed a Phase III program and is currently under regulatory review for Type 2 diabetes in Japan. Poxel CEO Thomas Kuhn said the drug could hit the market next year, adding that the company is “fully committed” to future development and commercialization.
“Today’s announcement does not impact the agreement for Imeglimin with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma. Moving forward, we are preparing to explore various options to advance Imeglimin into a Phase 3 development program in the US, Europe and other countries currently covered under the Metavant agreement,” Kuhn said in a statement.
Metavant’s only other program was a diabetes drug licensed from Ligand, for which it returned the rights earlier this year. Roivant paid $20 million in cash and promised up to $513.8 million in milestones for the glycogen receptor inhibitor, called LGD-6972.
In its Q2 2019 financial report, Ligand said continued development of the program was “highly unlikely” due to changes in FDA requirements.
Metavant has been working with FDA to determine a path forward for the glucagon receptor antagonist or GRA program now known as RVT-1502 in diabetes. Ligand believes that continued development of RVT-1502 for diabetes in the U.S. is highly unlikely based on preclinical and clinical trials now required by FDA for any drug in the GRA class intended for long-term use. Metavant may choose to explore certain other indications and/or geographies for RVT-1502 and expects to make a decision later this year.
Earlier this month, Ramaswamy’s Axovant changed its name to Sio Gene Therapies in a complete rebrand, marking its three-year shift away from Alzheimer’s disease. “We’re not a vant any longer,” CEO Pavan Cheruvu said, adding that Roivant is no longer a majority stakeholder.
The implosion of the Metavant deal underscores just how rare it is for a biotech company to attempt to try anything on the diabetes front, a field dominated by a handful of giant players that can afford to cover the immense cost of huge late-stage studies — often in pursuit of marginal medical gains for patients. And with this latest failure, it’s even less likely we’ll see more in small companies anytime soon.