Novartis-backed Neurovance bags $6.3M to focus on ADHD

Cambridge, MA's Neurovance has reeled in a $6.3 million extension to its earlier Series A, money it'll use to push forward with a promising nonstimulant treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Lead investor Novartis ($NVS) Venture Fund returned for the follow-on financing, augmenting a $7 million A round closed in 2010 and joining previous backers Venture Investors, H&Q Healthcare Investors and H&Q Life Sciences Investors, GBS Venture Partners, State of Wisconsin Investment Board, and Timothy J. Barberich.

The roughly $10.4 billion U.S. ADHD market breaks down into two categories, according to Neurovance: stimulants with high efficacy but serious risks of abuse and diversion, and nonstimulants that are free of those concerns but don't stack up on the results side. And thus the potential demand for EB-1020, the biotech's mid-stage ADHD treatment that works by modulating norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin at the same time, without the need for stimulants.

In top-line results from a 40-patient Phase IIa study released in January, Neurovance said its drug clocked a statically significant reduction in ADHD symptoms that was comparable to results with standard stimulant-based treatments, and the company plans to present its full safety and efficacy data at the Society for Biological Psychiatry annual meeting on May 8.

Next, the biotech plans to kick off a human abuse liability (HAL) study to confirm that EB-1020 has less potential for misuse than amphetamine-based stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse, reporting data by year's end and lighting the way for further development, CEO Anthony McKinney said.

"Based on preclinical data in hand and evidence from similar development-stage triple reuptake inhibitors in previous HAL studies, we believe EB-1020 has reduced potential for inappropriate nonmedical use," McKinney said. "If we can demonstrate a lower risk of abuse potential versus d-amphetamine in the upcoming HAL study, EB-1020 may one day offer the best of both classes of drugs with stimulant-like efficacy but with a scheduling profile closer to that of the nonstimulants."

Nonstimulant ADHD treatments have had a rough go in late-stage studies, as Theravance ($THRX) and its failed TD-9855 program can attest, but McKinney believes EB-1020's ability to modulate three receptors at once will help it succeed where norepinephrine-only treatments have faltered. And, as the CEO points out, Neurovance's development team includes some of the minds behind Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Strattera, the first nonstimulant approved for ADHD.

Neurovance's clinical program is focused on adults with ADHD. The biotech said it plans to launch pediatric studies once EB-1020 has proven safe and effective in its initial population.

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