Enzyvant finds new CEO in former Alexion executive Rachelle Jacques

Roivant’s rare disease unit Enzyvant has a new CEO: industry veteran Rachelle Jacques, who most recently was a senior vice president at Alexion. Jacques takes over from Alvin Shih, M.D., the former R&D head at Retrophin who signed on at Enzyvant in November 2016. 

Before her tenure at Alexion, where she oversaw the complement group, Jacques put in time at Baxter, Baxalta and Shire. She joins Enzyvant as the company is working on a rolling BLA for its lead asset, RVT-802. The drug is a tissue-based therapy for primary immunodeficiency associated with congenital athymia. The biotech is also preparing to bring a second asset, RVT-801, an enzyme replacement therapy for Farber disease, into clinical trials. 

"This is an exciting and pivotal time to join Enzyvant, and I'm looking forward to working alongside this team who share my passion and sense of urgency for bringing much needed therapies to those with rare diseases," Jacques said in a statement. "The company has made great strides since it was founded in 2016. I'm excited to build on that foundation as we enter this next phase of growth.” 

Enzyvant isn’t the only “vant” looking toward a new chapter. In January, Genevant, Roivant and Arbutus’ RNA-focused joint venture, recruited a former Roche executive, Margrit Schwarz, Ph.D., to be its chief scientific officer and R&D chief. And Axovant—possibly Roivant’s most infamous subsidiary—has been working to switch its focus from Alzheimer’s disease to gene therapy and turn its fortunes around.

RELATED: Enzyvant and PerkinElmer to develop gene test for ultrarare Farber disease

After announcing a phase 3 flop in Alzheimer’s and negative results in a phase 2b trial in Lewy body dementia, the company dumped its lead drug, GlaxoSmithKline castoff intepirdine. Then-CEO David Hung, M.D.—who led Medivation to a $14 billion buyout by Pfizer—resigned shortly after, along with President and COO Marion McCourt and a handful of board members. 

Since then, Axovant has dumped the last of its old pipeline and in-licensed a suite of gene therapies aimed at neurodegenerative disease and rare, fatal pediatric diseases, and bolstered its ranks with several new hires, including a couple of Spark Therapeutics alums. 

RELATED: New year, new Axovant: CEO Cheruvu on the company's gene therapy pivot

If there were any doubts that Axovant was doubling down on gene therapy, the biotech recently spun off its small molecule team into a new company called Arvelle Therapeutics. Basel, Switzerland-based Arvelle will carry forward the European rights to cenobamate, an anti-epileptic drug for partial-onset seizures—as well as over $100 million in initial financing commitments from a global syndicate of investors. Between the spinoff of Arvelle and the general winding down of its other small-molecule work, Axovant will lose about 25% of its staff, including its president and chief commercial officer, Mark Altmeyer, who will serve as Arvelle’s CEO, and its CFO, Greg Weinhoff, M.D., who will become Arvelle’s chief financial and business officer later this year.