Biohaven Pharmaceutical brought a new drug to market and negotiated a multibillion-dollar buyout, both accomplishments few biotechnology companies are able to achieve. Now, the team behind that company is attempting to find similar success a second time.
On Tuesday, Biohaven Ltd. officially launched as a newly independent company, spun out of its former parent as part of Pfizer’s $11.6 billion acquisition, which closed on Oct. 3. Led by the same CEO, Vlad Coric, and publicly traded under the same stock ticker, the new Biohaven retains a pipeline of experimental medicines for a range of neurological disorders, four of which are already in clinical testing. It holds nearly $258 million in cash to fund its operations and no debt.
“I am enthusiastic about continuing to lead our team in new, exciting directions as we strive to bring best-in-class therapies to patients for a broad range of diseases with few or no treatment options,” said Coric in an Oct. 4 statement. “If past is prologue, this proven team will continue to succeed in achieving its mission for patients, shareholders and employees.”
So far, investors appear to be giving Coric and his team some credit. Biohaven’s shares, which opened trading on Tuesday at a reset value of $7.30 per share, rose to more than $10 apiece by mid-morning on Wednesday, equating to a market value north of $700 million.
The new Biohaven’s most advanced drug candidate is a medicine called troriluzole, which is in late-stage testing for obsessive compulsive disorder and a genetic condition known as spinocerebellar ataxia, or SCA. In the latter condition, however, Phase 3 clinical trial results released in May showed the drug did not perform significantly better than placebo on the study’s main measure. The drug has previously failed studies in Alzheimer’s disease and in severe anxiety.
Biohaven isn’t giving up on SCA yet, focusing on a subset of patients who might benefit and signaling plans to continue regulatory discussions. But it’s focusing more on another drug, dubbed BHV-7000 and acquired via a $100 million deal earlier this year. That medicine is in testing for epilepsy as well as mood and pain disorders.
The company also has a drug for spinal muscular atrophy in Phase 3 testing, a multiple myeloma treatment in a Phase 1 study and half a dozen other discovery-stage programs.
Leading its drug research and development are Chief Medical Officer Irfan Qureshi, who was previously an executive at the old Biohaven; Chief Development Officer Tanya Fischer, previously at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; and Chief Scientific Officer Bruce Car, who most recently was the top scientist at Agios Pharmaceuticals.
Biohaven’s cash holdings will give it a foundation on which to continue its R&D work, but the company noted in a presentation that it’s considering “opportunistic financings” this year or next to extend its operating runway.
“We have spent the last several months preparing for the future, and we will continue to maintain the same fiscal discipline and prudent capital management strategy we employed in years past and will seek creative, tactical financing strategies in the years ahead to support our research, development and commercialization efforts,” said Biohaven’s CFO Matthew Buten in the company’s statement.
Pfizer will owe Biohaven royalties on sales of the Biohaven migraine drugs Nurtec ODT and zavegepant that it held onto as part of its acquisition, should they exceed $5.25 billion in the U.S. Sales of Nurtec have exceeded initial Wall Street expectations and totaled nearly $318 million in the first six months of 2022.
Pfizer also holds a 3% stake in the new Biohaven.