Minerva Neurosciences Inc (NASDAQ:NERV) investors are overwhelmingly excited today after the biotech firm announced that it has entered into a binding term sheet to amend its co-development and license agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica related to MIN-202, a selective orexin-2 receptor antagonist, and to repurchase all Minerva shares owned by Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. (an affiliate of Janssen). This amendment and the stock repurchase are conditional upon the closing of the pending acquisition of Actelion Ltd. by affiliates of Janssen and approval by the European Commission.
Minerva shares reacted to the news, soaring over 30% to $10.85 in Thursday’s trading session.
Under the amended agreement, Minerva will gain global strategic control of the development of MIN-202 to treat insomnia, and Janssen will forego its right to royalties on MIN-202 insomnia sales in Minerva territories. Minerva will retain its current rights to MIN-202 as adjunctive therapy for major depressive disorder (MDD), which include an exclusive license in the European Union, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway, with royalties payable by Minerva to Janssen, and royalties on sales payable by Janssen to Minerva elsewhere worldwide.
Payments to Minerva by Janssen under this new agreement include an upfront payment of $30 million, $20 million at the start of a Phase 3 insomnia trial for MIN-202 and $20 million when 50% of the patients are enrolled in this trial. Janssen will waive the remaining payments due from Minerva for Phase 2 development of MIN-202, which total approximately $13 million. Minerva will assume all financial responsibility for Phase 3 development costs for MIN-202 in insomnia. All Minerva stock currently owned by Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. totaling approximately 3.9 million shares and representing approximately 10% of total Minerva shares outstanding will be repurchased by Minerva at par value of $.0001 per share or approximately $389 in total.
“We view the new agreement with Janssen as a structure that will ensure a more focused and efficient clinical development of MIN-202 in insomnia by Minerva,” said Dr. Remy Luthringer, president and chief executive officer of Minerva. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Janssen while accelerating the clinical advancement of our portfolio. In addition, the infusion of financial resources under this agreement significantly extends Minerva`s financial runway.”
Minerva expects that these combined financial resources will support the development of MIN-101, its lead product candidate to treat negative symptoms in schizophrenia, and the development of MIN-202 in insomnia and MDD to the end of 2019. Within that time frame, Minerva expects to generate data readouts from its planned Phase 3 trial with MIN-101 and three Phase 2b trials with MIN-202 in both indications. Additional clinical activities planned during that period include a Phase 2 trial with MIN-117 and a Phase 1 trial with MIN-301.
On the ratings front, Jefferies analyst Eun Yang initiated coverage with a Buy rating on NERV, in a report issued on March 6. According to TipRanks.com, Yang has a yearly average return of 0.6%, a 45% success rate, and is ranked #2194 out of 4567 analysts.
Minerva Neurosciences, Inc. operates as a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, which focuses on the development and commercialization of a portfolio of product candidates to treat central nervous system diseases. The company’s product portfolio includes MIN-101, MIN-117, MIN-202 and MIN-301.