NeuroVive ends standoff with Arbutus, regains hep B drug

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NeuroVive Pharmaceutical (STO:NVP) has resolved its standoff with Arbutus Biopharma ($ABUS) and regained control of a hepatitis B candidate. The asset, NVP018, has spent the past year in limbo as NeuroVive and Arbutus have tried to figure out a path forward for it, but is now poised to resume its progress.

Lund, Sweden-based NeuroVive outlicensed the oral antiviral candidate to Arbutus, then known as OnCore Biopharma, in 2014 in a deal that could have been worth up to $150 million (€138 million). OnCore subsequently merged with Tekmira. At the time, NeuroVive spun the merger as a boost for NVP018. But, one year ago, NeuroVive learned Arbutus had halted development of NVP018, leaving the future of the asset in doubt.

The status of the drug became murkier still in July when NeuroVive received what it called a “purported notice of termination” from Arbutus. NeuroVive said it questioned the notice “on several grounds,” adding that “the fate of the license remains under discussion.” NeuroVive later warned investors that Arbutus’ decision to halt development “may have some financial consequences.”

Now, three months after Arbutus submitted its termination notice and one year after it stopped work on NVP018, the companies have reached an agreement.

NeuroVive has regained rights to NVP018 in all indications. And the Swedish mitochondrial medicine specialist has picked up $1.5 million worth of drug product and material manufactured by Arbutus. NeuroVive isn’t paying anything for the drug product and material.

With Arbutus also transferring its preclinical and CMC data, NeuroVive thinks it has a platform from which to advance NVP018. Exactly how NeuroVive proceeds is still being decided.

“As we see several very exciting potential treatments with NVP018 in areas with unmet medical need, the R&D team is currently exploring various options for further development of these opportunities. The material provided by Arbutus will be most useful in these activities," NeuroVive CEO Erik Kinnman said in a statement.

The opening up of a preclinical research opportunity comes at a time when NeuroVive needs fresh candidates to soften the blows of clinical-phase failures. NeuroVive scrapped an acute kidney injury program earlier this month after the drug came up short in a Phase II trial. That marked the second time in 18 months the drug, CicloMulsion, had failed in the clinic. The missteps gutted NeuroVive’s late-phase pipeline and left question marks over the likelihood of its other clinical program delivering positive data.