Vernalis cuts the cord on a late-stage pain drug after a trial flop

Vernalis CEO Ian Garland

An in-development pain treatment from Vernalis missed its main goal in a proof-concept study, leading the U.K. drugmaker to back away from a drug it once believed could bring in more than $500 million a year.

The treatment, V158866, failed to meet its primary endpoint of pain reduction in a Phase II trial on patients with nerve pain tied to spinal cord injury, Vernalis said. Despite the failure, treatment with V158866 led to elevated endocannabinoid levels in patients' brains, the company said, and the drug showed "a trend" toward efficacy among select patients.

Vernalis has no plans to put any more of its own money into V158866, a fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor, instead seeking out a partner to push it forward. The drug has demonstrated "encouraging" safety, tolerability and metabolism in Phase I studies, Vernalis said.

Meanwhile, Vernalis is working to transition itself from a pipeline-driven drug developer into a commercial-focused entity, gearing up to launch its cold medicine and migraine treatments around the world. That means finding new homes for all of its unpartnered assets, the company said, including the cancer treatments AUY922 and V158411.

The company's roster of co-developers now includes Endo ($ENDP), Servier, Menarini, CTI BioPharma ($CTIC) and Verona Pharma.

- read the statement