3:02 PM
Jun 28, 2019
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

How small companies can leverage big changes in rare diseases

Ovid CEO Jeremy Levin on the advantages small companies hold for tackling rare diseases

Small companies bring to the table a range of advantages over large ones when it comes to rare diseases, according to Ovid CEO Jeremy Levin. But he’s learned the hard way that it doesn’t help to innovate around endpoints if you can’t explain your strategy to investors.

As the company gears up for its first Phase III trial, Levin is focusing on three areas he sees as crucial for rare neurological diseases -- patient outreach, endpoints and collaborations -- as well as avoiding the missteps made in the Phase II trial.

Levin joined Ovid Therapeutics Inc. in 2015, bringing the fledgling biotech more than a decade of senior leadership experience in big pharma, and expertise in strategic alliances. Levin also is chair of BIO, a position he took up in June (see “Levitating Levin”).

In his career, he served as global head of strategic alliances at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research Inc., held several positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. including SVP of strategy, alliances and transactions, and more recently was president and CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. At Ovid, Levin has leveraged his experience to create an innovative deal structure with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. The 2017 deal involves global co-development of Takeda's TAK-935 for rare epileptic encephalopathies under a 50/50 cost and profit sharing arrangement, with Ovid taking the lead on clinical development (see "Marriage of Minds").

Levin’s philosophy is that, in rare diseases, the smaller partner is often better positioned to run trials, because it has the passion, the disease expertise and the necessary ties to the patient community.

“The really, really savvy investor community is already asking the question: where else can they deploy their capital outside immuno-oncology.”

Jeremy Levin, Ovid

These factors have been essential for getting Ovid to Phase III in its lead indication Angelman’s syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder. Still, the lack of any previous randomized controlled trials in Angelman’s has given the company some tough lessons.

Ovid’s candidate, the GABRD agonist OV101, yielded positive data on its first prespecified efficacy...

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