Axovant stock jumps as Medivation founder takes CEO post

Employment contract
Hung joins Axovant after leading Medivation to a takeover by Pfizer.

Axovant Sciences has appointed Medivation founder David Hung, M.D., as CEO. The news sparked a 30% surge in Axovant’s share price as investors cheered the potential implications of the man who led Medivation to a $14 billion buyout taking charge of the Alzheimer’s hopeful.

Hung bowed out as CEO of Medivation after 13 years by engineering one final deal in September: A $14 billion takeover by Pfizer. That deal left Hung $354 million better off, before taxes, and catapulted him toward the top of the list of the most eligible unattached biotech execs. Axovant, an Alzheimer’s player, has pulled off a coup by securing Hung's services, along with another member of the Medivation management team.

Investors responded to the coup by driving the share price of Axovant up 30%, a considerable feat for a company with a market cap now touching $2 billion.

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The surge is, in part, a reflection of the credibility Hung and fellow new arrival Marion McCourt—the former COO of Medivation—bring to the Axovant. The company usually gets a double dose of skepticism because of its chosen therapeutic field and its jaw dropping rise from nowhere to a $315 million IPO.

With Axovant having set its course toward clinical data under the leadership of founder Vivek Ramaswamy, it is questionable how much Hung can influence whether the company succeeds. But the fact that a man with his pick of roles chose Axovant paints it and its prospects in a good light.

The snag in that rosy interpretation of Hung’s arrival is that his reputation is built on success in cancer, not Alzheimer’s. Hung’s track record in Alzheimer’s is blemished.

Medivation began life by picking up Dimebon from Russian researchers and went on to strike a $725 million pact with Pfizer. That unraveled when clinical trial data came up short.

Now, Hung gets another crack at the toughest of indications.