As Allergan buyout hangs in balance, Motus reports progress on GI drug

Motus Therapeutics scored a partial win in a small, midstage study of its lead drug for anorexia nervosa, hitting at least one key milestone while forging ahead on another study that will determine whether the drug is acquired by Allergan ($AGN).

Investigators for Boston-based Motus, previously Rhythm Health, say relamorelin proved significantly better than a placebo in spurring gastric emptying time among 22 women with anorexia. But there was only a "trend" toward significance in measuring weight gain among the women, two of whom dropped out due to feelings of increased hunger.

Relamorelin, or RM-131, is a ghrelin agonist being tested for gastroparesis and other gastrointestinal disorders. The drug is designed to increase GI motility. The biotech also noted this week that it has completed enrollment in a Phase IIb study for gastroparesis suffered by diabetics.

Allergan has agreed to buy the drug, paying $40 million as an upfront in late 2014 and agreeing to an unspecified back end to the deal provided it passes muster in the Phase IIb study. Allergan has since then done a deal to be acquired by Pfizer ($PFE), though new tax rules from the Obama administration may yet derail that megadeal.

"The results of this initial clinical trial of relamorelin in anorexia are very promising," said Dr. Anne Klibanski, chief of the Neuroendocrine Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the senior investigator for the study. "These results suggest that relamorelin may have the potential to treat anorexia in two ways: by stimulating hunger directly, and also by normalizing gastric emptying in patients with anorexia. We recommend further clinical studies of relamorelin to determine long-term efficacy and safety for the treatment of anorexia nervosa."

- here's the release