Levin Steps in as Ovid CEO, Confirms Plan to Target Rare Neuro Diseases

Xconomy New York — 

Ovid Therapeutics finally had its official launch this morning, confirming what we thought we knew about the once-stealthy startup and filling in a few additional details.

Chief among them: former Teva Pharmaceutical CEO Jeremy Levin has returned to biotech to lead New York-based Ovid. Levin has been the chairman of Ovid since October, and he’ll stay in that role as well taking up the CEO post. Founder and chief scientific officer Matthew During, a former Ohio State University virology professor and neuroscience specialist, had been Ovid’s interim CEO.

Second, Ovid detailed the pipeline it’s put together to target rare neurological diseases for which there are no effective treatments. The most advanced of those treatments, as Xconomy reported in March, is a drug called gaboxadol that was once tested by Merck and Danish drugmaker Lundbeck as a sleeping pill. Ovid is calling that drug OV101 (a few months ago it was named OV103), and advancing it as a potential treatment for Angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by a host of neurological, cognitive, and motor problems. There are no approved drugs for Angelman, just treatments to manage symptoms. Ovid also aims to test gaboxadol for a rare form of autism known as Fragile X Syndrome. It’ll start a Phase 2 test for gaboxadaol next year, and a mid-stage trial for Fragile X afterwards.

Ovid said today that it cut a deal with Lundbeck for rights to gaboxadol. Lundbeck took an equity stake in Ovid, and would get milestones and royalties if development of the drug progresses. Ovid’s newly created website shows that the company is also targeting three other rare disorders: Lewy Body Dementia, Dravet Syndrome, and Prader-Willi Syndrome.

Today’s two announcements are the first Ovid has made since quietly starting up last year, though I was able to piece together much of what the startup was up to and get a few comments from Levin last month. For more on gaboxadol’s long history, why Ovid believes it might treat Angelman syndrome, and other details about the startup, check out that story.