Je­re­my Levin joins the biotech IPO rush, gain­ing $75M for Ovid’s R&D game plan

Je­re­my Levin, Ovid

Je­re­my Levin is once again run­ning a pub­lic com­pa­ny. His start­up Ovid Ther­a­peu­tics $OVID has suc­cess­ful­ly launched an IPO, rais­ing $75 mil­lion af­ter sell­ing 5 mil­lion shares at $15 each — the low end of the range.

The move came as Uro­gen saw its shares $URGN climb north af­ter rais­ing $58 mil­lion in an up­sized IPO. But the fi­nan­cial prize of the day went to Bio­haven $BHVN, which snagged $168 mil­lion af­ter sell­ing 9.9 mil­lion shares. Add it all up and you’re look­ing at the first sol­id ev­i­dence that the IPO win­dow is widen­ing, with more such plays in the off­ing as some pa­tient com­pa­nies that have been bid­ing their time start to jump in on the ac­tion.

The burst of biotech IPOs comes af­ter the big boom of 2014 and 2015 fiz­zled in­to more of a steady trick­le. Some an­a­lysts had pegged 2017 as a like­ly re­peat of 2016, ex­pect­ing a cou­ple of dozen IPOs for the year. Now we’ll get to see if the win­dow stays open, or turns stub­born again, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for these plays come to fruition.

Levin, the for­mer busi­ness de­vel­op­ment chief at Bris­tol-My­ers dur­ing its hey­day, com­plet­ed a brief stint as Te­va CEO be­fore the board pushed him out of the com­pa­ny and in­to the biotech start­up busi­ness.

Ovid’s two chief as­sets are OV101, now in ear­ly-stage test­ing for An­gel­man Syn­drome and Frag­ile X, and OV935, in Phase I for epilep­tic en­cephalopathies. Two oth­er pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams are still large­ly un­der wraps. OV101 came from Lund­beck in the spring of 2015 and the two com­pa­nies are now 50/50 part­ners on the de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. And Levin has made it clear that he’d like to do more cre­ative deals on oth­er ex­per­i­men­tal bio­phar­ma as­sets look­ing for a home — an in­creas­ing­ly com­mon fea­ture of the start­up world, of­fer­ing a short­cut in­to late-stage ef­forts.

Levin greet­ed the IPO with a cheer.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

Up­dat­ed: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

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