Ovid brings two Big Pharma vets on board as new CMO, head of epilepsy research
Ovid has hired two new senior employees to push its pipeline forward.
The New York-based, neuro-focused biotech put out word Wednesday morning that it hired Manoj Malhotra as its chief medical officer and Toshiya Nishi as its epilepsy research head.
Malhotra comes to Ovid after his stint at Eisai, where he was the head of medical affairs for Eisai’s neurology business group. Beyond Eisai, Malhotra is a neurologist and epileptologist who has had previous roles at Mallinckrodt, Novartis and Takeda.
Malhotra tells Endpoints News that he has known Ovid CEO Jeremy Levin for some time.
“When I was looking for an opportunity, I reached out to Jeremy, and he basically — we had a wonderful conversation,” Malhotra said, noting that the pipeline and the data “excited me.”
“And that’s why I decided to join,” the new CMO continued.
Now that he’s officially joined the company, Malhotra said Ovid will be announcing which therapeutic area its clinical candidate, OV329, will focus on based on data from an ongoing Phase I trial. The company is also working on KCC2, a new target Ovid is investigating for potential indications in the preclinical stage.
On top of that, Malhotra is also involved in Ovid’s BD efforts — looking specifically for “new, novel mechanisms of action.”
The other hire Ovid announced Wednesday is Nishi, who has worked with the biotech before. Nishi joined Ovid straight from Takeda, where he co-invented soticlestat, a small molecule CH24H inhibitor.
Nishi will be focused on preclinical development and, more specifically, on KCC2.
Soticlestat has a multi-year history with both Takeda and Ovid. After Takeda invented the drug, Ovid in-licensed 50% of soticlestat’s rights from Takeda in an R&D alliance back in early 2017. The purpose of that alliance was to steer the drug, also known as TAK-935, through mid-stage trials and then later split the world market.
Just over four years later, in 2021, Takeda handed Ovid $196 million in cash in exchange for Ovid out-licensing its share of the drug back to Takeda. Takeda additionally offered Ovid $660 million in milestones, plus tiered royalties instead of marketing rights.
An Ovid spokesperson told Endpoints that they had a setback with one of its late stage programs — and the cost of capital was going to be steep. Ovid was battered after its lead drug for Angelman syndrome failed a Phase III trial.
“It was a very good transaction for us,” the spokesperson said in an interview.
Takeda announced plans after the 2021 deal to start Phase III studies in both children and adults with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome later that year. Takeda’s pipeline mentions that the current target date to file for soticlestat is sometime in 2024.