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March 17, 2023

Biohaven: Pre-clinical data  points to ‘paradigm shift’ treatment for epilepsy


Aiming to do for epilepsy what it has done for migraine, New Haven’s Biohaven announced this week it would present data that shows progress on a new drug for the neurological ailment with fewer side effects.

Biohaven’s drug candidate, BHV-7000, has been shown to be effective in stopping epileptic seizures in pre-clinical testing, including in animal models, according to the company. The data will be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Society for Experimental Neurotherapeutics. 

Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric said, “What’s really cool about this is that this represents a potential paradigm shift in the field, in that most anti-seizure meds have a lot of side effects.”

As part of recent work on BHV-7000 and other drug candidates, Biohaven has doubled its lab space in New Haven and hired more workers here and in its other sites in Pittsburgh and Cambridge, Mass, Coric said.

“We've been actually investing up in these discovery efforts,” Coric said, adding that all three of Biohaven’s sites are expanding. “It’s going to be a synergistic effort.”

Building on the work of a Pittsburgh-based biotech that Biohaven acquired last year, researchers have been able to focus on the impact of a class of drugs that work well to stop seizures. “No one has been able to do this before with this class of agents,” Coric said.

Current epilepsy medications control seizures but also leave patients sleepy, dizzy and with vision disturbances. Biohaven’s drug is aimed at a specific ion pathway in nerve cells, the Kv7.2/7.3 potassium channel, involved in the electrical imbalances in nerve cells that spark seizures.

“It is a very focused therapy,” Coric said. “It’s quite targeted, and our hypothesis is if you activate this one ion channel, it will normalize the current that’s hyperactive in the seizure.”

Coric said the company aims to have the drug tested in clinical trials as soon as later this year. 

Coric said that Biohaven’s researchers are taking a similar approach in developing BHV-7000 that they did to produce Nurtec ODT, the company’s migraine drug. After identifying and developing an effective migraine drug with fewer side effects, Biohaven sold its migraine portfolio to Pfizer last year in a $11.6-billion deal. 

The company said it would use the same approach to develop a new suite of drugs for other neurological ailments, including the candidates that target the K7 pathway and others candidates for ailments like spinal muscular atrophy. 

The FDA granted fast-track approval last month for Biohaven’s drug to treat muscle loss in spinal muscular atrophy patients, taldefgrobep alfa.

By acquiring and developing drugs that target the Kv7.2/7.3 potassium channel, Biohaven hopes to extend its winning streak. 

“This could deliver a therapeutic, highly efficacious [treatment] that does not burden patients,” Coric said. “That’s what we did in migraine, right?”

The Kv7 pathway also shows promise as a target for drugs to treat bipolar disorder and depression, Coric said. Drugs like BHV-7000 that reduce spikes in nerve-cell activity can calm the mania experienced by those with bipolar disorder and help depression sufferers modulate their moods. 

“This could potentially be a treatment for mania without causing the sedation and side effects,” Coric said. “We think you can have an equal paradigm shift in the neuropsychiatry space.”

Contact Liese Klein at

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