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Biohaven's Alzheimer's drug passes futility analysis, moves forward in phase 2/3

Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Co. Ltd.'s experimental treatment for Alzheimer's disease symptoms, called troriluzole, passed an interim futility analysis and will continue in its ongoing late-stage trial.

New Haven, Conn.-based Biohaven's stock ticked up by about 2.5% to $55.09 as of 2:25 p.m. ET, after reaching as high as $57.03, riding on the wave of incrementally positive Alzheimer's news coming out of the annual Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease conference.

Troriluzole is in a 48-week phase 2/3 trial called T2 Protect AD, Biohaven said in its Dec. 6 press release. The trial is evaluating troriluzole's efficacy and safety against a placebo drug in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.

Troriluzole is an oral drug that targets a neurotransmitter in the brain, glutamate, responsible for learning and memory, and aims to increase the neurotransmitter's activity and expression.

Had the treatment not passed its futility analysis and demonstrated numerical improvement over placebo in cognitive function and brain matter, Biohaven would have halted the T2 study early, the company said.

Just a handful of medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat symptoms of memory loss and confusion associated with Alzheimer's disease, including Allergan PLC's Namenda, or memantine, and Eisai Co. Ltd.'s Aricept, also known as a cholinesterase inhibitor. No cure has been found for Alzheimer's.

SVB Leerink analyst Marc Goodman forecast a 35% probability of success for troriluzole in Alzheimer's and predicted that the clinical trial program could wrap up in late 2020.

Goodman noted that investors had previously focused primarily on Biohaven's migraine drug candidate, rimegepant, now under FDA review, and may begin looking toward Alzheimer's.

"Investors are now starting to pay attention to AD given the news this week on ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s Nuplazid in dementia-related psychosis and Biogen Inc.'s aducanumab," Goodman wrote Dec. 6.