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Teva buys into a blockbuster migraine drug rivalry with $825M Labrys buyout

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Teva Pharmaceutical ($TEVA) is jumping into a biotech horse race, paying $200 million in cash and up to $625 million more in milestones to buy out Labrys Biologics and an experimental migraine drug that the newly reorganized company bullishly believes can hit up to $3 billion in annual sales.

The object of Teva's desire is LBR-101, an antibody that binds to CGRP, a well-known target in the migraine R&D world. The drug is now on its latest leg in a global tour that started at Rinat as RN-307, transferred to Pfizer ($PFE) in a 2006 buyout and then was spun back out to the San Mateo, CA-based biotech.

According to Teva, the drug has completed 5 Phase I studies and looks promising as a once-monthly dosed therapy. It's currently in a Phase IIb study and Teva is clearly amped up about its market potential. Teva highlighted recent late-stage data for its tamper-proof version of the pain drug hydrocodone and says this new drug also complements the newly-acquired migraine therapy Zecuity.

Teva's not alone. As Randall Schatzman, the CEO of Alder Biopharmaceuticals ($ALDR), recently wrote in a piece for FierceBiotech, Arteaus Therapeutics, Amgen ($AMGN) and Alder were all also angling for this market.

Arteaus, a biotech funded with cash from Atlas and Orbimed, took an Eli Lilly ($LLY) program for the anti-CGRP antibody LY2951742 and pushed it through proof-of-concept work as one of the initial projects undertaken by the Atlas Venture Development Corp. under David Grayzel. Lilly recently licensed the drug back, registering a $57 million charge for the deal. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) has also reportedly been working on another such program called BMS-927711. But there have been some tough failures in this space as well, with earlier attempts by Merck ($MRK) and Boehringer Ingelheim missing the mark on this brain chemical. 

Teva's had a hard time trying to reorganize in recent years. It's changed CEOs, seized and discarded reorganization plans and experienced some bitter setbacks in the clinic as it hunts for a turnaround in the face of a generic challenge to Copaxone. A winner here is badly needed.

Teva R&D Chief Michael Hayden

"More than 8.5 million people in the U.S., EU and Japan (G7) suffer from episodic or chronic migraine requiring preventative treatment, a condition that can destroy their quality of life," said Teva R&D chief Michael Hayden in a statement. "CGRP is a well-validated target in migraine, and Labrys has progressed the development of LBR-101 with scientific rigor and excellence. With its long half-life, target specificity and favorable pharmacokinetic profile allowing for infrequent, and convenient, subcutaneous administration, LBR-101 represents a very exciting biologic product candidate, and much needed option, for the management of this truly debilitating condition."

- here's the release

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