4:49 PM
Jun 07, 2019
 |  BioCentury  |  Politics, Policy & Law

Levitating Levin: new chair’s ambitious plans to elevate BIO

How BIO’s new chair, Jeremy Levin, plans to smooth the path for innovation

Jeremy Levin has been talking for years about ways to elevate biopharma business practices and public policy to bypass obstacles that hold back biomedical innovation. As BIO’s new chair, he has a chance to try to persuade his colleagues to put those ideas into practice.

Guiding BIO has never been easy, but Levin, chairman and CEO of Ovid Therapeutics Inc., is taking on the task of chairing the organization at a particularly challenging time.

The biotech industry is being buffeted by national and international controversies over pricing and access to medicines at a time when its public reputation and political influence are at their nadir.

At the BIO International Convention Levin told the trade association’s members that his goal as chair is to “ensure that we continue to help facilitate and drive innovation across all biotechnology sectors, and we tackle in the most forthright manner anomalies of pricing of medicines.”

Levin made it clear in conversations with BioCentury that he appreciates the scope of the challenge, and that he intends to push for dramatic changes in the innovation ecosystem to overcome them.

“We’ve never had this level of frustration expressed at the industry writ large versus the incredible results from the innovative part of the industry,” he said.

Levin plans to push for public policy solutions to improve access to medicines while preserving incentives to innovate, as well as changes on the part of biopharma companies to adapt to legitimate concerns about pricing and anticompetitive business practices.

That adaptation includes BIO members changing to align their business practices with the social contract that has made it possible for the industry to flourish.

“We’ve never had this level of frustration expressed at the industry.”

Jeremy Levin, BIO

He’s certain to run into turbulence if he follows through on this commitment by persuading the organization to act against companies that take unjustified price increases, prioritize stock buybacks over R&D investments, or engage in practices that stifle generic and biosimilar competition.

Levin’s personal and professional lives have given him broad experience in the biopharma industry - and with turbulence - and credibility to represent companies that are transforming scientific advances into medical breakthroughs.

He has worked at small biotechs, held senior positions at two pharmas, Novartis AG and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., and served as president and CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s largest generic drug company. He serves on the boards of Indian biopharma company Biocon Ltd. and of H. Lundbeck A/S.

Since April 2015, Levin has led Ovid, a start-up focused on creating therapies for rare neurological disorders.

Introducing himself at the BIO convention, Levin alluded to his experiences growing up in and fleeing from two repressive regimes - Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and apartheid South Africa - as well as his training as a molecular biologist and physician.

He ended the speech with a quote from former President Barack Obama: “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender.”

The quote underlined Levin’s focus on innovation. It also signaled a contrast from corporate leaders...

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