San Diego’s MediciNova Nears Turning Point with Lead Drug for Asthma

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20 percent to 50 percent a year—which would save millions of dollars in reimbursement costs, says Michael Coffee, MediciNova’s chief business officer. “We’re [ostensibly] competing with albuterol,” Coffee says. “But what we’re really competing against is the cost of hospitalization when albuterol isn’t enough.”

The company believes bedoradrine also would be an effective therapy for treating acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients show similar symptoms to asthmatics, but are generally more ill, with higher hospitalizations and mortality. The company says it also expects to report preliminary results of an early stage “safety and tolerability” trial with 20 COPD patients during the second quarter.

With MediciNova’s stock trading today around $3.45 a share, the company has a market valuation of more than $55 million. Coffee says he expects the company’s burn rate will drop in a couple of months to about $2 million a quarter (from about $4 million a quarter during the mid-stage trials). The company has no debt and sufficient cash to continue into 2013, when late-stage trials are expected to begin.

Iwaki says MediciNova’s strategy is to market its lead compound in the United States, and to reach a partnership agreement for development in Europe, where COPD is associated with higher rates of smoking in some areas. The company already has announced a joint venture to commercialize bedoradrine in China.

[Corrects to show company hopes to work with a partner.] The company says it also hopes to work with a partner to advance the next drug in its pipeline, ibudilast, an oral drug that MediciNova has licensed for development in the United States as a treatment for multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, and drug addiction. With just 15 employees (12 in San Diego and three in Japan), however, MediciNova’s resources are limited.

“As far as where we’re focused, right now we have to be maniacally focused on the [bedoradrine] market opportunity for asthma,” Coffee says. Iwaki adds that 2012 should be a transformative year for MediciNova, saying, “We have a lot of exciting momentum.”

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