In conversation with Myrtle Potter, CEO of Sumitovant

Sumitovant CEO Myrtle Potter

Myrtle Potter, a biopharma veteran who started her own healthcare advisory company, landed at Roivant as its operating chair in July 2018. 

“I was very taken with the business model,” the alum of Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Genentech, told FierceBiotech. “I had spent a lot of time in my advisory firm thinking about applications for technology... because I thought as a sector, we were not moving as fast as I would want us to move.” 

That model, of course, is a “decentralized” one that houses an asset or group of assets within its own company, with the idea being a family of small biotechs could work faster and better than one Big Pharma company would. 

Last fall, Roivant sold five of those small biotechs to Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma for $3 billion up front. The benefits of the deal are obvious: The Japanese pharma picked up a late-stage pipeline as the antipsychotic Latuda, one of its main moneymakers, faces the end of its patent in 2023. And Roivant cashed in on some of its work to date, topping up its coffers for future Vants. 

Sumitomo Dainippon put those five biotechs—Myovant, Urovant, Altavant, Enzyvant and Spirovant—under a new Vant umbrella: Sumitovant, led by Potter, the CEO. 

“I had responsibility for all of Roivant’s biopharmaceutical portfolio. At any point in time, we had about 50 clinical trials going on at the same time in 11 therapeutic areas and 35 different drug assets. So, I had a lot of deep experience managing large portfolios of products,” she said. 

As president and chief operating officer at Genentech and president of the cardiovascular and metabolic unit at BMS, she also had experience launching and marketing drugs. As Sumitovant was coming together, she was approached to take the helm. 

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“It was thought that another structure, another company serving as the parent company for these five would make really great sense. My role as CEO and the role of my team at Sumitovant is to provide expertise and resources to those five companies to help ensure they are successful,” Potter said. 

“I wouldn’t call it a mini-Roivant, but I would say it is absolutely consistent with the model that Vivek [Ramaswamy, Roivant founder and CEO] originally contemplated,” she said. “He originally contemplated these small, flexible, entrepreneurial, scrappy companies that can work very fast, drive clinical programs quickly and get to market quickly, so without a doubt, this is one clear validation of that model coming full circle.” 

By “full circle,” she means Sumitovant’s digestion of the five Vants was “fundamentally different” than would be typical in the biopharma industry. 

“It was a $3 billion deal that moved five companies and yet, we were operating on day 1 post-close, unlike a typical biotech M&A deal where two companies are coming together,” she said. Sumitovant skipped an integration process can take years: “shedding assets, restructuring teams and deciding who’s in and who’s out.” 

Potter has a busy year ahead, supporting Sumitovant’s five companies as they advance their pipelines.  Myovant is submitting its uterine fibroid treatment for EU and U.S. approval in the first quarter and April, respectively. And Urovant is waiting on an FDA decision for its overactive bladder drug. Enzyvant had filed its congenital athymia treatment for FDA review, but received a Complete Response Letter related to manufacturing issues.  

Although much of her work focuses on approvals and launches, Potter is also mindful of Sumitovant’s “growth engine.” More acquisitions are likely to come: the Roivant-Sumitomo deal includes an option for the Japanese pharma to nab up to six more Vants. And, Potter said, Sumitovant’s interests go beyond those Vants, as demonstrated by the acquisition of Onspira by Altavant, the rare respiratory disease specialist, earlier this month. That move added a treatment for bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition that affects lung transplant patients, to Altavant’s pipeline. 

“I have an eye out and I’m working to identify other companies or other assets for potential acquisitions. That, too, is on our priority list,” Potter said.