- Two industry R&D veterans are heading to Axovant Sciences, showing that even at one of its lowest points the biotech is still capable of attracting top talent.
- In announcing the completion of a company-wide restructuring effort, Axovant also said it appointed Gavin Corcoran to EVP of R&D and Michael Hayden to senior scientific advisor and chairman of the company's Scientific Advisory Board. Corcoran most recently served as Allergan's chief medical officer, while Hayden was Teva Pharmaceutical's chief scientific officer from May 2012 through December 2017.
- Axovant began its restructuring in February, following the failure of its lead candidate that hammered the biotech's stock value. It's since decreased headcount by about 43% and leaned more heavily on parent company Roivant Sciences. By the end of its last fiscal year, Axovant had 80 employees.
Founded in 2014 under prominent biotech investor Vivek Ramaswamy, Axovant caught the attention of investors with little under its belt besides a shelved Alzheimer's drug from GlaxoSmithKline. At less than a year old, the company went public, raking in an impressive $315 million. And in April 2017, Axovant filled its top spot with Medivation co-founder and former CEO David Hung, who had become a sought-after executive after piloting Medivation to its $14 billion acquisition by Pfizer.
By September, shares in the biotech were reaching a high close to $28 apiece. Then a study called MINDSET read out.
The Phase 3 trial tested Axovant's Alzheimer's drug, called intepirdine, in patients with mild to moderate forms of the disease who were on background donepezil therapy. Compared to placebo, intepirdine failed to significantly improve cognition or measures of activities of daily living. Axovant's stock promptly fell 74%.
Intepirdine would fail another Phase 2b trial evaluating it in dementia patients with Lewy bodies several months later. The second miss led company executives to scrap development altogether, marring Hung's R&D record. He resigned in February, replaced by Roivant veteran Pavan Cheruvu.
Despite the shakeups, Axovant's clearly held onto strong recruiting prowess. There's decades of drug development experience between Corcoran and Hayden. The former held positions at Actavis, Celgene, Amgen, Schering-Plough and Bayer. The latter has co-founded three biotechs.
Roivant's support helped the subsidiary weather its intepirdine setback. With new leadership, Axovant's looking for a second chance. Whether that's possible — particularly with the company's narrow pipeline — remains to be seen.
"Since starting as CEO in February, I have been focused on transforming Axovant into a leaner organization, introducing heightened standards of quality and excellence throughout the business, and establishing a new pipeline strategy," Cheruvu said in a May 29 statement. 'We are now poised for growth, and I am excited to have Gavin and Michael join us as we look toward expanding our pipeline in the coming months."