Alder BioPharmaceuticals has raised $170 million in a stock offering and is ramping up operations after filing an FDA application for eptinezumab, a therapy for patients with chronic migraines.
Alder CEO Bob Azelby said the publicly-traded company is using the funds to invest in its supply chain, human resources, and IT and financial infrastructure. It also plans to build out a commercial representative team of 75 to 100 employees.
If everything goes well, Alder aims to start selling the migraine therapy early next year.
“There are 13 million Americans that suffer from migraines that would benefit from preventive therapy,” Azelby said. “For people that are having multiple migraines a week, it leads to sleep disorders, leads to anxiety, leads to depression. It’s not a headache, it’s a serious neurological disease.”
Azelby joined the Bothell, Wash.-based drugmaker this past summer after leaving cancer biotech Juno Therapeutics following its $9 billion acquisition by Celgene. Azelby replaced Alder’s former longtime CEO Randall Schatzman, who stepped down from the company a little more than a year ago.
It’s a significant moment for Alder, which launched 15 years ago and has yet to bring a product to market. The company is also working on another migraine drug, called ALD1910, in preclinical studies.
The FDA application in February was a proud time for the company, but there’s plenty of work ahead, Azelby said. “We patted ourselves on the back for about two hours,” he said. “And then we continued to move forward.”
Alder’s lead drug, eptinezumab, is a 30-minute infusion that patients receive every three months. It would be the fourth FDA approval in a new class of preventative migraine therapies that target the peptide CGRP.
Drugmakers Amgen, Eli Lilly and Teva currently have similar migraine therapies on the market, and the competition is fierce. Alder’s drug is at the center of a legal dispute between Amgen and Novartis. Novartis partnered with both Amgen and Alder in the development of two similar migraine therapies, which Amgen called a breach of contract.
Azelby last week told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that he thinks Alder will “be fine no matter what happens” with the dispute.
In joining Alder, Azelby saw “a big opportunity to have an impact on patients.” Earlier in his career, he worked on Imitrex, a migraine therapy developed by GlaxoSmithKline.
Since Azelby took the helm last year, the company has rejiggered its executive team, adding Carlos Campoy as CFO, Paul Streck as chief medical officer, and today announcing the appointment of Nadia Dac as chief commercial officer. The company’s co-founder and chief scientific officer, John Latham, recently announced his retirement.
“I feel good about the team that we’ve assembled and I feel good about our ability to compete in the market,” Azelby said.
Alder went public in 2014. Its stock reached record highs in mid-2015 but dropped back to IPO levels in 2017 and has stayed flat since.
Alder is among a growing crop of biotech companies in the Seattle area, which is the top emerging life sciences hub in the U.S., according to a recent report from commercial real estate firm CBRE.