Axovant founder, Takeda install ex-Medivation CMO at helm of PhIII-ready startup

Prostate cancer
(By Nephron - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The man behind Axovant Sciences ($AXON) and its $360 million IPO has teamed with Takeda to set up another company, Myovant Sciences. And, with the upstart bagging a late-phase prostate cancer program from Takeda, the founders have installed the CMO who oversaw development of Xtandi at Medivation ($MDVN) at the helm of the new company.

Dr. Lynn Seely has taken up the post of CEO of Myovant after spending a decade at Medivation, over which period prostate cancer drug Xtandi advanced through late-phase trials and onto the market. Takeda is hoping Seely can pull off a similar trick with relugolix, a once-daily gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor antagonist that it is developing as a treatment for prostate cancer, uterine fibroids and endometriosis. Myovant has an exclusive license to the drug outside of Japan and certain other Asian countries.

The exclusive license marks a further expansion of the ambition of Roivant Sciences, the umbrella company that sits over Myovant and Axovant, as well as dermatology and rare disease-focused units. Axovant thrust the company and its founder, former hedge fund partner Vivek Ramaswamy, into the limelight last year when it raised $360 million in a Nasdaq IPO. The size of the IPO attracted particular interest because of the questionable foundations on which it was built. Axovant’s near-term hope is an Alzheimer’s disease drug it picked up from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) for $5 million up front.

Ramaswamy is following a similar game plan at Myovant. As at Axovant, the idea is to pick up an asset that pharma has taken deep into development and carry it over the regulatory finish line. At Axovant, this meant snagging a discarded GSK program. For Myovant, the pharma company that has done the heavy lifting to date, Takeda, has teamed up with Ramaswamy to facilitate the development of a drug in markets and indications that are on the cusp of its areas of focus and expertise. The outcome for Roivant, namely gaining access to a Phase III-ready program, is the same.

Takeda has already run Phase II trials of the drug in patients with prostate cancer, uterine fibroids and endometriosis, giving it a 1,300-person dataset on its safety and efficacy. The uterine fibroid data have proven sufficiently compelling for Takeda to advance relugolix into a pair of Phase III registration studies. Myovant is looking at this indication, too, while also planning to evaluate the compound in prostate cancer and endometriosis. In each indication, the mechanism of action is underpinned by an anticipated suppression of estrogen and testosterone.

Neither Takeda nor Roivant disclosed financial details of the deal.

- read the release

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