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September 2, 2021 Tech 25

Biohaven’s migraine drug Nurtec off to hot start with strong sales, celebrity endorsements

PHOTO | FILE IMAGE Biohaven Pharmaceuticals CEO Dr. Vlad Coric holds a Nurtec pill box.

What do TV personalities Whoopi Goldberg and Khloe Khardasian have in common with NASCAR team owner Rick Ware?

They all suffer from migraines and have become spokespeople for Nurtec, the flagship drug of New Haven’s Biohaven Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Vlad Coric, Biohaven’s CEO, seems almost as pleased with the marketing strategy of using celebrities who use Nurtec as he is with the hot start of the drug.

Publicly-traded Biohaven reported $93 million in product net revenue for the second quarter as demand for the 18-month-old migraine drug continues to accelerate. Product net revenue in the year-ago quarter totaled $9.7 million.

Nurtec is the only product approved for both acute and preventative treatment of the debilitating headaches that affect 40 million Americans.

Rapidly rising operating and marketing costs, however, resulted in a net loss of $210 million for the quarter, or $3.23 per share. The market capitalization is about $7.6 billion.

While Nurtec is the first commercial drug for Biohaven, there are others in clinical trials. Most notable are a glutamate platform for impulse control and neurological disorders and another platform for treatment of inflammation and neurodegeneration.

While Nurtec has competitors in the migraine market, the new drugs would arrive as the first treatments for the designated conditions.

Biohaven’s roots are intertwined with Coric’s career as a physician, researcher and drug developer.

He grew up not far from the former Norwich State Hospital and developed an interest in neurosciences. After earning his medical degree at Wake Forest University, he returned to Connecticut and served as chief of the Yale Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit, and director of the Yale Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Research Clinic. Later he worked in research and drug development.

In founding Biohaven, Coric said he was filling a void left by big pharma in the development of drugs to treat neurological conditions. Working in late-stage clinical trials is an expensive field where bringing one drug to market often costs more than $100 million, he explains.

A 2017 IPO provided some of the necessary funding for Nurtec and an offering of additional common stock this spring raised another $200 million for future products.

All in all, Biohaven has raised more than a half-billion dollars in funding.

Today, Biohaven’s headquarters and clinical facilities are housed in a renovated Church Street building that Coric describes as “classic New Haven.” While he’s coy about divulging headcount, he says “hundreds” work in New Haven while commercial and sales operations are based in Yardley, Penn.

Coric sees real value in New Haven’s bioscience ecosystem and points to a recent partnership with New Haven’s Artizan Biosciences.

In January, Biohaven acquired Kleo Pharmaceuticals and its lab space in Science Park. At the same time, Biohaven announced a licensing agreement with Yale for the commercialization of its extracellular target degrader platform.

Biohaven has deep internship talent that employs about three dozen students from area schools. It also maintains research relationships with Yale and UConn.

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