A much-lauded piece of wisdom in engineering is that “failures teach more than successes.” While this might seem to contradict itself, I ask you to think back to your own experiences. Think about something that you have never struggled with. Perhaps, it was hitting a baseball or cooking delicious meals. Now, think back to a time when someone noticed your talent and requested instruction. Were you able to teach this person? Since you never struggled with it, chances are your advice didn’t make sense or, more likely, you couldn’t give much advice past the slogan, “Just do it.”
It turns out that most of life is similar. Failure teaches us more than success. This is a lesson that Biohaven Pharmaceuticals just learned when their experimental drug for spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) recently failed to show significant results in a clinical trial.
There are numerous forms of SCA—at least 12 subtypes. The subtypes all share a few characteristics in that they result from damage to parts of the nervous system that control movement. Currently, there are no FDA-approved treatments.
Biohaven’s drug being tested was called trigriluzole. It successfully passed the first phase of clinical trials, used to determine if the drug can be tolerated by humans. The second and third phases are meant to test the drug’s effectiveness in treating the target disease or disorder.
Trigriluzole did not cause statistically significant changes in the SMA or in the patients’ perceptions of their condition. The lessons Biohaven learned from this failure are that there is a market for an SMA treatment as well as the safety of the active ingredients in trigriluzole.