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Ex-Teva CEO’s Brain Disease Startup, Ovid, Bags $75M From Crossovers

Xconomy New York — 

Former Teva Pharmaceutical Industries CEO Jeremy Levin has been stealthily putting together startup Ovid Therapeutics over the past year, but today the company splashed onto the scene with a big round of financing from a broad range of investors.

New York-based Ovid, a startup pursuing treatments for rare brain disorders like Angelman Syndrome, has raised a $75 million Series B round. Ovid’s investor syndicate includes a variety of crossover investors who back public and private companies, and a corporate venture arm as well. The names: Fidelity Management and Research Co. (which led the round), Cowen Private Investments, Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures (the VC arm of Sanofi), Tekla Capital Management, Sphera Global Healthcare Fund, Jennison Associates, Redmile Group, Cormorant Asset Management, and unnamed “blue chip mutual funds and leading life sciences investors.” Ovid’s existing backers, which include DoubleLine Equity Healthcare Fund, also provided some of the cash.

The funding represents a quick ascent for Ovid, which Levin helped form last year with Matthew During, a former Ohio State University virology professor and neuroscience specialist. During was initially Ovid’s interim CEO, with Levin as the company’s chairman initially. Levin—who helped engineer the ‘string of pearls’ acquisition strategy at Bristol-Myers Squibb several years ago before heading up Teva—then became CEO in April. Crossover investors have become a hallmark of the latest biotech boom, often laying the foundation for an initial public offering for a startup. Their presence here suggests Ovid is following that path.

“Over the last year, we have rapidly executed on our strategy with the support of our investors, patients, their families, foundations, physicians, and corporate partners,” Levin said in a statement. “Looking to the future, this financing is an important next step toward our goal to build Ovid into a leading neurology company.”

Ovid is using the cash to push forward the development of a lead drug it’s called OV101, and advance a pipeline of therapies for rare neurological diseases for which there are no effective treatments. OV101, better known as gaboxadol, was once tested by Merck and Danish drugmaker Lundbeck as a sleeping pill. Ovid, however, said earlier this year that it gave Lundbeck an equity stake in exchange for the rights to gaboxadol (Lundbeck would also get milestones and royalties if the drug progresses forward).

Ovid is developing the drug as a potential treatment for Angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by a host of neurological, cognitive, and motor problems. There are no approved drugs for Angelman, just treatments to manage symptoms. Ovid also aims to test gaboxadol for a rare form of autism known as Fragile X Syndrome. It’ll start Phase 2 tests for gaboxadol in both Angelman and Fragile X next year.

Ovid’s website also shows that the company is also targeting Lewy Body Dementia and two unspecified orphan diseases affecting children.

For more on Ovid, how it came together, gaboxadol’s long history, and why Ovid believes it might treat Angelman syndrome, check out this story from March.