New Haven’s Biohaven gets go-ahead to begin testing coronavirus drug

Dr. Vlad Coric, chief executive officer of BioHaven

A nasal spray that New Haven-based Biohaven Pharmaceuticals is developing for treatment of migraine headaches now is being investigated as a potential treatment for coronavirus-associated pulmonary complications, company officials have said.

The federal Food and Drug Administration approved Biohaven’s request to initiate a Phase 2 study of whether vazegepant would be an effective treatment for COVID-19. Vazegepant’s effectiveness as a treatment for migraines already has successfully completed Phase 2 testing and now is advancing to Phase 3 testing, the hurdle before a drug candidate is considered for approval by the FDA.

Dr. Vlad Coric, Biohaven’s chief executive officer, said his company’s efforts to investigate whether vazegepant can be used to treatt COVID-19 is a recognition that the pandemic “is a call to action” for the entire pharmaceutical industry.

“Given the unprecedented global threat to life that COVID-19 infection represents, there is an urgent need to test novel approaches to mitigating the consequences of the infection, including reducing the hyper-immune reaction that drives much of the morbidity and mortality in the pulmonary effects of this viral disease,” Coric said in a statement.

Biohaven’s proposed clinical study of vazegepant will test the safety and efficacy of the vazegepant nasal spray for COVID-19-infected, hospitalized patients requiring supplemental oxygen. The study will be conducted at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Biohaven also is involved in fighting the pandemic through investment and clinical operations support it provides to another New Haven-based biotechnology company, Kleo Pharmaceuticals.

Two weeks ago, Kleo Pharmaceuticals announced that it is joining forces with a South Korean firm in an effort to develop a treatment for the coronavirus.

Kleo Pharmaceuticals’ primary focus since its founding in 2016 has been developing drugs to fight cancer. But company officials said they have begun working with Green Cross LabCell on a coronavirus drug.

Kleo Pharmaceuticals officials believe that the same antibody recruiting molecule technology that researchers are developing to fight cancers such as myeloma, which develops in blood cells, also can be used to treat the coronavirus.

Connecticut Media Group