Biohaven Eyes $100 Million IPO to Bankroll Trials of Shelved AstraZeneca PLC, Bristol-Myers Squibb Drugs

Biohaven Eyes $100 Million IPO to Bankroll Trials of Shelved AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb Drugs April 10, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

On Friday, Biohaven Pharmaceutical Company, which has headquarters in New Haven, Conn., announced it had completed the second tranche of an $80 million private financing.

With the proceeds from its first tranche, the company has currently raised $100 million in private capital. The financing was led by Venrock and joined by Vivo Capital, RA Capital Management, Aisling Capital, Rock Springs Capital, John W. Childs, Greg Bailey, Knoll Capital Management, Osage University Partners, Aperture Venture Partners, Connecticut Innovations, and Litmore Capital. Also, all the investors from the first tranche participated in the new tranche.

In addition to the financing, Albert Cha, a managing partner at Vivo Capital, and Eric Aguiar, a partner at Aisling Capital, have joined Biohaven’s board of directors. Nimish Shah, vice president at Venrock, and Peter Kolchinsky, managing director of RA Capital Management, are joining the board as observers. Kam Shah, chief financial officer of Portage Biotech, had resigned from the board, but will continue as a financial consultant.

“With the closing of this financing, we have not only strengthened the company’s financial position but also added key additional expertise to our board of directors,” said Vlad Coric, Biohaven’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Albert and Eric each have a track record of helping other small biotech companies build value for their stakeholders. Additionally, we have the privilege of having Peter Kolchinsky from RA Capital and Nimish Shah from Venrock participating as board observers. We are indeed fortunate to have such a strong set of seasoned biotech entrepreneurs join our group of advisors to help us advance our late-stage clinical pipeline to patients.”

Biohaven has licensed intellectual property from Yale University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Rutgers, Catalent, ALS Biopharma and Bristol-Myers Squibb . The Bristol-Myers deal is the newest, which involved $5 million up front and up to $350 million in development and sales milestones. The drug licensed from Bristol-Myers is CGRP therapy for migraine.

Biohaven’s S-1 filing argues that this drug is the only one with positive mid-stage trial data on four key endpoints compared to placebo. John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News, says, “What it apparently left out was that Bristol-Myers also included a cheap generic triptan—sumatriptan—in the mid-stage study, which beat out all three doses of their drug. Bristol-Myers subsequently shelved the drug, until Biohaven came along with a new plan to revive it in the drug.”

The company plans to run the drug through two Phase III trials in the second half of this year, then, presumably, apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the first half of next year.

Although a little puzzling, it appears that Biohaven plans to focus the drug on triptan-resistant patients, who typically do not respond to most other migraine medications.

The company also has in-licensed an NMDA antagonist from AstraZeneca in a deal for $210 million. AstraZeneca ditched the drug when it failed a Phase II trial for depression. Carroll writes, “But instead of staying focused on depression, the company took a cue from some preclinical mouse tests and repurposed it for symptoms of Rett syndrome. The FDA obligingly gave the drug, one of many NMDA drugs, an orphan designation which comes with a set of special incentives.”

Biohaven’s other program is trigriluzole, a reformulation of riluzole. It is presently in a Phase II/III bioequivalence trial to treat ataxia with a focus on spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). Data is expected in early 2018. Biohaven licensed the drug from ALS Biopharma.

Biohaven recently filed for a $100 million initial public offering (IPO).

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