Reata, Kyowa Kirin's bardoxolone faces the music after phase 3 flop, ending 13-year saga

Reata and Kyowa Kirin are burying bardoxolone methyl after new phase 3 data laid bare the dwindling—if not non-existent—potential of the kidney disease treatment.

The two companies said that while the treatment hit the primary and secondary endpoints in a phase 3 trial testing bardoxolone in patients with diabetic kidney disease, there was no difference in the time to end-stage renal disease between treated patients and placebo. That was the nail in the coffin, with Kyowa and Reata saying Wednesday that they’ll end development of bardoxolone as a treatment for chronic kidney disease. 

Investors punished Reata for the disappointing conclusion, with shares down roughly 23% an hour after the market opened, from $105.37 down to $81.

Thus ends an incredibly tumultuous saga for bardoxolone that’s extended some 13 years and spanned three different partnerships. Reata first handed over commercialization rights to certain markets to both Kyowa Kirin and Abbott (now AbbVie) back in 2009 and 2010, respectively, when bardoxolone was in phase 2 development for patients with diabetes who had chronic kidney disease. AbbVie double dipped a year later, offering up another $400 million to jointly develop and commercialize other Reata projects aimed at kidney and autoimmune diseases. 

But the wheels slowly, but surely, began to come off, beginning in 2012 when a phase 3 trial was halted after treated patients were experiencing higher rates of heart-related side effects, including hospitalizations and death. The company swiftly pivoted to aiming the treatment at patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Reata couldn’t just step away from the kidney ambitions, however, launching additional studies including one testing bardoxolone in patients with chronic kidney disease caused by Alport syndrome. AbbVie had enough, backing out in 2019 and recouping $330 million out of the original $850 million it handed over across the two deals. FDA advisors told Reata to go back to the drawing board two years later when they unanimously voted against the risk-benefit profile of bardoxolone kidney disease treatment in patients with Alport syndrome. The FDA formally rejected the med last year. 

Kyowa Kirin has dutifully held on throughout, launching a phase 3 study five years ago testing bardoxolone in diabetic patients with chronic kidney disease. But after the latest readout, the Japanese pharma said it no longer sees a viable regulatory route. 

The axed development plan has forced Reata to address a $350 million investment from Blackstone in 2020 to help develop bardoxolone, the majority of which was to be paid from royalties on the treatment. Reata says Blackstone will now receive single-digit royalties on Skyclarys (omaveloxolone), which was approved in March as a treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia and is one of two assets remaining in the company's pipeline. 

Reata's attention is now on the commercialization effort for Skyclarys. The company says it has received approximately 500 patient start forms since approval but doesn’t expect to be in specialty pharmacies until mid-August while the FDA reviews an NDA supplement submitted by Reata asking for an increase in drug substance specification. The company says approval of the supplement is required before the drug can be sent to pharmacies. 

Reata is also working on RTA 901 treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, completing a phase 1 single ascending and multiple ascending dose study. The company planned to launch a phase 2 study in the second half of 2022 but it’s unclear if that’s happened. A phase 2 clinical trial record was not found on