Ovid CEO Jeremy Levin Puts the Patient First as He Seeks to Revolutionize Drug Development in Neurology

Brain animation with lightning strikes coming out of it

As the chief executive officer of Ovid Therapeutics, Jeremy Levin has a lot on his plate. Every day Levin walks into the office there are multiple tasks of running a pharmaceutical company focused on developing treatments for rare neurological disorders. But, there is one thing always in the forefront of Levin’s mind – the patients his company can serve.

“I learned a long time ago that when you give a patient medicine, you change their lives forever. That responsibility is totally embedded in me and that’s my passion,” Levin told BioSpace in an exclusive interview.

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It’s that passion for the patient that Levin has had throughout his a career that has spanned multiple companies and watershed moments that earned Levin the respect of his peers across the industry. That respect resulted in his nomination as a key influencer of the pharmaceutical industry. In November, Biospace put out a call to the industry to point to key individuals who have “produced a significant impact in 2018” and why they could be dubbed an influencer. Levin’s name was among the handful nominated.

"He truly understands the industry and is leading by example on how to do it right,” was what one of the nomination forms said.

Levin, who has a long history with global pharma companies such as Teva, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis, said he was gratified to be thought of as someone who is influencing others.

Over the course of his career, Levin said his thought has always been about how he and the companies he represents, can make an impact on patients. Calling it a "clear purpose,” Levin said he feels strongly in the need to articulate the values that drive that purpose. When keeping those values at the forefront, Levin said it will guide how one thinks about interactions within the industry, as well as the policymakers who affect the industry.

“At the end of the day, it's those values that help you stand in the face of adversity, difficulties and opportunities,” he said.

Instilled in Levin since he was a boy in South Africa, is the idea that one should not be afraid to “get their hands dirty,” which by that, he means not being afraid to work hard at what you want to achieve. For Levin, that goal has involved improving the lives of patients. And that’s a goal he has shared with his peers across the industry and one he will continue to share next year when he assumes the helm of Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

When it comes to the type of relationship that a drug development company should have with its patient population, Levin points to what he calls the “three Ps” – purpose, patient and profit. Levin said these need to be at the center of a company’s focus. The patient, he said, is really the purpose that drug developers exist. By putting the patient upfront, Levin said that will drive profitability.

Over the course of his career, Levin has been at the forefront of watershed moments. He is most particularly known for his “String of Pearls” strategy from his time at BMS. The strategy he developed was something that provided Bristol-Myers with the power to transform itself from a struggling company to a global powerhouse leader in immuno-oncology. The String of Pearls was a series of “small and deliberate” transactions that would “bring in all the pieces required to create a platform of new cancer therapeutics.” At the time, Levin said immuno-oncology was an area that many companies had abandoned, believing that it would not yield fruit. But, by reading the scientific tea leaves, Levin said he was convinced that the acquisitions he orchestrated would bolster the scientific capabilities of BMS.

“We set the stage to test the hypothesis if a white cell could attack cancer,” he said.

That was in 2007. Today, 11 years later, between 30 and 40 percent of all clinical trials are in immunotherapy.

 “Cancer has now been revolutionized… They [BMS] were brave enough despite the fact that nearly every single company had walked away. It’s led to some amazing work,” Levin said.

It’s that same belief in the hard scientific data that led to the revolution of oncology that Levin now sees in the area of neurology.

“The same conditions pertain today in neurology that were there in cancer a decade ago. We’re on the verge of a revolution in neuroscience,” Levin said.

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