And He's Back! Medivation's David Hung to Helm Vivek Ramaswamy's Axovant

And He's Back! Medivation’s David Hung to Helm Vivek Ramaswamy's Axovant April 10, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Axovant Sciences , based in Basel, Switzerland, announced that David Hung has been named the company’s chief executive officer, effective last Friday. Hung was the founder, president and chief executive officer of Medivation until its acquisition by Pfizer in September 2016 for $14 billion.

It’s a bit of a surprise. As noted by Forbes, as founder and leader of Medivation, Hung provided a 20,932 percent return to his early investors, and managed to rake in $354 million before taxes himself in the sale. Axovant is a biotech company focused on the riskiest area of drug development—Alzheimer’s disease.

After leaving Medivation, Hung notes that he received 20 job offers—some chief executive officer positions, some venture capital gigs. “Alzheimer’s and dementia are one of the most important unmet needs in all of medicine,” he told Forbes. “Axovant has a promising pipeline of compounds that could make a difference—I believe Axovant has the potential to become one of the premier neurology companies.”

A lot of investors are betting on Axovant and its whiz-kid founder, multiple startup guru Vivek Ramaswamy, who is 31 years old. In June 2016, Ramaswamy launched Myovant , pulled together by Hamilton, Bermuda-based Roivant Sciences and Osaka, Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Company . Roivant spun out of Axovant Sciences in May 2014, which was founded by Ramaswamy, a former hedge-fund manager. He also launched Enzyvant and Dermavant. Roivant is his holding company, and is focused on neuroscience and dementia, endocrinology, oncology, rare disease, and dermatology. Lack of ambition is clearly not a problem.

Axovant acquired its initepirdine for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease for $5 million from GlaxoSmithKline . The drug showed a favorable safety and tolerability profile, and showed immediate and sustained efficacy over placebo in a Phase IIb trial.

The company’s MINSET trial recently completed enrollment. The study will look at 1,315 patients on a stable background therapy of donepezil (Aricept) who will receive either intepirdine or a placebo. It expects to announce topline results in late September 2017.

Many Alzheimer’s drugs look good in early trials—almost all of them fail in Phase III trials. Hung told Forbes, “I have had a chance to go through the data and look at it carefully. There is always risk in Alzheimer’s, it’s a complex disease, but very few important things are achieved without risk, patients face risk every day.”

In addition to Hung joining as chief executive, Kathryn Falberg and William Anthony Vernon will join Axovant as independent directors. Both were directors at Medivation. Also, Marion McCourt will act as president and chief operating officer. She was chief operating officer of Medivation from February 2016 through the Pfizer acquisition.

“I can think of no one better suited to serve at the helm of Axovant than David Hung,” Ramaswamy said in a statement. “We were not searching for a new CEO at Axovant, but following the acquisition of Medivation I approached David about taking a role with us after the MINDSET study. David decided that he wanted to join us now. I have enjoyed a close professional and personal relationship with David over the last 10 years, and I am truly thrilled that Axovant is in capable hands as I transition full-time to my role as CEO of Roivant.”

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