Ovid shuffles C-suite, lays off staff in wake of PhIII Angelman syndrome fail
Following a Phase III flop and a culling of its pipeline, Ovid Therapeutics is shaking things up again — this time at the C-suite level.
Ovid CMO Amit Rakhit will leave his role in August and transition to the scientific and clinical advisory board, the biotech announced Thursday afternoon. In addition, Ovid has anointed chief commercial officer Jason Tardio as the new COO and elevated Claude Nicaise to head of R&D. The moves come amidst a larger workforce restructuring, as the New York, NY-based biotech has reduced its staff by about 25% since March.
“It was a privilege to have Amit as part of the Ovid management team,” Ovid CEO Jeremy Levin said in a statement. “He is a friend and colleague and made significant contributions. While his daily presence within Ovid will be missed, we look forward to his contributions on the scientific and clinical advisory board.”
In an email to Endpoints News, an Ovid spokesperson said the search for a new CMO won’t begin right away, with most of the efforts centered around finding a new chief scientific officer. “As regards to CMO, we have all the requisite skills and qualifications already in the company and will make further moves in this regard once Dr. Rakhit leaves in August,” the spokesperson said.
On top of the C-suite moves, Ovid is further appointing a new board member in AstraZeneca and Pfizer veteran Michael Poole. Levin also tapped three new staffers to serve in roles directly underneath him and Nicaise — Luke Rosen will report to Levin as the senior VP of accelerated development and community engagement; Todd Baumgartner will be in charge of regulatory affairs under Nicaise; and Julia Tsai will head up clinical development and medical affairs under Nicaise.
In its announcement, Ovid said the goal of the changes is to re-center its pipeline efforts on early-stage clinical assets, rather than its previous late-stage focus. The biotech has three programs in an array of neurological diseases, two of which have yet to hit the preclinical phase.
Rakhit joined Ovid back in 2016 and helped oversee much of the brouhaha over the biotech’s lead Angelman syndrome program. After most analysts agreed the candidate flunked a Phase II study in 2018, Levin continued insisting the final result was positive and Ovid had simply miscommunicated the results to the public.
Ovid pushed the program, dubbed OV101, into a Phase III study to look at an endpoint that had been listed 16th out of 17 secondaries in the Phase II, but it came up short again last December. That prompted the biotech to officially cut bait in April, in a decision Levin said at the time was due to “the totality of the data” across four clinical trials.
The company is still looking to make a mark on Angelman syndrome, as one of its new pipeline candidates aims to tackle the disease. Whereas OV101 was a delta-selective GABAA receptor agonist, the new OV882 candidate is a short hairpin RNA therapy targeting UBE3A gene expression in neurons.
In addition to the Angelman candidate, Ovid is researching a GABA aminotransferase inhibitor to treat seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex and infantile spasms, as well as another program for KIF1A associated neurological disorder, or KAND. They also have soticlestat for developmental and epileptic encephalopathies, which they licensed to Takeda in March. Ovid netted a $196 million upfront payment for soticlestat and is eligible for up to $660 million in milestones.