- Bayer believes a small biotech in England has a blockbuster drug for menopause patients, and now plans to spend at least $425 million dollars to acquire it.
- The drug, known as NT-814, is meant to block proteins that have wide-ranging roles in the immune and nervous systems. Recently published data from a mid-stage study showed that postmenopausal women who were given once-daily high doses of the pill experienced fewer and less severe hot flashes and night sweats. The women also reported significant improvements to their quality of life, mood and sleep, according to study authors. A late-stage clinical trial is set to begin in 2021.
- Before then, Bayer will take control of NT-814's developer, KaNDy Therapeutics. Per deal terms, KaNDy gets $425 million upfront, and is eligible for as much as $450 million in conditional payments if the drug hits certain clinical milestones.
Women make up half the world's population, yet women's health receives far less attention and investment than most areas of drug research.
While the last several years have seen a few biotechs focused on women's health go public, some of the biggest players in the space have pulled back. Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva offloaded the remainder of its women's health assets in 2017; Allergan, before getting acquired by AbbVie, planned to sell off its women's health unit; and, most recently, Merck & Co. chose to spin out its business into a new company.
Bayer, though, has kept its women's health business alive with brands like Yaz, for birth control, and Visanne, for endometriosis pain. The company is now looking to add NT-814 to the portfolio as well.
The drug was developed by GlaxoSmithKline before being spun out to NeRRe Therapeutics in 2012 and then again to KaNDy in 2017. It targets the receptors of two proteins called neurokinin-1 and neurokinin-3, and has been studied both for symptoms of menopause and for opioid use disorder.
Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Millendo Therapeutics also has a drug that targets the neurokinin-3 receptor and is being developed for symptoms of menopause. An earlier, similar drug was shelved after failing a study in polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS.
Bayer said NT-814 has the potential to be first drug of its kind to reach the market. Should that ever happen, the company estimates peak global sales of the drug will surpass 1 billion euros.
Treatments for menopause symptoms have been at the core of a few pricey deals in recent years. Japan's Astellas Pharma agreed to buy private Belgian drugmaker Ogeda SA in a 2017 deal that, at the time, was valued at more than $850 million. The deal gave Astellas access to fezolinetant, an experimental drug that was in mid-stage testing as a treatment for hot flashes, uterine fibroids and PCOS.
Then in 2019, investment firm TPG Sixth Street Partners provided TherapeuticsMD with a $300 million loan to help the biotech launch its Bijuva pill for hot flashes.