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Axovant CEO Hung, COO McCourt Resign After Brain Drug’s Failures

Xconomy National — 

Axovant Sciences CEO David Hung has left the company, a move that comes a month after the firm halted development of a brain drug that failed in clinical trials.

The shakeup of Basel, Switzerland-based Axovant (NASDAQ: AXON) includes the resignations of president and chief operating officer Marion McCourt, and three members of the board of directors. Hung also resigned his board seat, according to a press release. Pavan Cheruvu, who was an executive at Axovant parent company Roivant Sciences, has been appointed as Hung’s successor.

Axovant had aimed to develop a shelved GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) compound into a treatment for neurological disorders. But last September, Axovant announced that the drug, intepirdine, failed a Phase 3 study in Alzheimer’s disease. Then last month, the company revealed the drug failed a separate Phase 2 study as a treatment for dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Those results led Axovant to stop development of intepirdine altogether, news that caused the company’s stock price to lose half of its value at the time. Following the announcement of the executive resignations on Monday, Axovant’s stock price dropped 20 percent to $1.52 per share.

Hung lasted less than a year as Axovant CEO. He joined the company last April after leading San Francisco cancer drug developer Medivation to a $14 billion acquisition by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE).

Roivant was created by former hedge fund manager Vivek Ramaswamy. The company has operations in New York; Cambridge, MA; San Francisco; Durham, NC; and Switzerland. It scouts compounds that large pharmaceutical companies have stopped working on, acquires their rights, and then forms new companies around them to take them through clinical trials. Roivant acquired intepirdine from GlaxoSmithKline in 2014 and formed Axovant shortly afterward. Axovant became a public company in 2015.

In the press release, Axovant said that Hung will remain a scientific advisor to Roivant’s companies. Following intepirdine’s failure, Axovant’s focus now shifts to nelotanserin, an early-stage compound developed as a treatment for the visual hallucinations experienced by DLB and Parkinson’s disease patients, and RVT-104, which the company hopes to test as a treatment for DLB and Alzheimer’s.

Photo by Flickr user reynermedia via a Creative Commons license.

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