Dermavant hires CSO from GlaxoSmithKline, buys excessive sweating drug

The appointment reunites Rubenstein (left) and Lee. (Dermavant)

Dermavant Sciences has lured David Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D., away from GlaxoSmithKline to serve as its CSO. The Roivant company unveiled the hire alongside other executive appointments and news of the in-licensing of a drug to treat excessive sweating.

Rubenstein arrives at Dermavant following stints at GSK and its dermatology subsidiary Stiefel, during which time he held the title of VP of dermatology, discovery and preclinical development. The Stiefel gig took Rubenstein out of academia—where he worked as a dermatology professor—and into the drug industry for the first time in 2013.  

In hiring Rubenstein, Dermavant has reunited two major players in the Stiefel R&D group. During Rubenstein’s time at Stiefel, Jim Lee, Ph.D., worked as the GSK unit’s head of clinical dermatology. Lee now serves as CMO of Dermavant.

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Lee has spent his 21 months at Dermavant advancing clinical-phase candidates such as the atopic dermatitis asset the company bought in from Eisai. The appointment of Rubenstein is testament to Dermavant’s willingness to carry out preclinical work, rather than just acquire assets that are already in human testing. But that business development-driven side of the operation is still humming along.

Dermavant disclosed Rubenstein’s arrival in a statement that also revealed the licensing of another clinical-phase candidate, oxybutynin-pilocarpine combination RVT-504. TheraVida sold Dermavant the rights to the treatment for excessive sweating—also known as hyperhidrosis—in return for an upfront fee and milestone commitments of undisclosed size.

RVT-504, formerly known as THVD-102, came through a small phase 2 trial in 2016. The combination of a muscarinic antagonist and muscarinic agonist performed no better than oxybutynin plus placebo in terms of effect on hyperhidrosis symptoms. But it was associated with a statistically significant drop in the number of patients with moderate-to-severe dry mouth, a side effect that stops people from taking oxybutynin alone.

Dermavant will now put RVT-504 through more rigorous tests to establish it as an oral treatment option for patients with hyperhidrosis. Allergan’s Botox is approved in the indication but is administered via injection.