Walking It Back on Axovant

NeuroPerspective subscribers are aware that we have not been unreservedly enthused about Axovant; its 5HT-6 drug for Alzheimer’s (licensed from GSK); and their ‘biggest CNS IPO ever.’ There has been a genuine element of fervid overheating here, but unfortunately, the same can be said about our coverage. In specific, we have been highly critical of stock options and salaries being paid to the mother and brother of the CEO. The S-1 described them as “employees”, but provided no substantive detail, and when the CEO was asked about this by the WSJ, the question was, in the words of the WSJ reporter, “swatted away”. That is on Axovant, they should have been more forthcoming in addressing what could easily be perceived as unbridled nepotism.
But it is on us that we did not research the matter more carefully ourselves. As it turns out, the stock options and salaries are not just gifts being paid for by other people’s money: The CEO’s brother is in fact deeply involved in Business Development for Axovant, and the mother, a geriatric psychiatrist of thirty years experience, was at the recent ASCP/NCDEU meeting, actively involved in information-gathering. While one might argue that these professional staff hirings were not conducted  on the basis of an open competition/selection process, it is not as if familial hiring does not happen elsewhere (including NIR). So long as they have the qualifications needed, and are putting in the work, then they are participating in the great drug development enterprise/lottery, and there is no major criticism to be made. Or at least, not with the overly harsh stridency of our comments, which we regret.
So, it is now up to Axovant’s staff to earn their remuneration packages, and up to Axovant to justify the hefty investment made in them and RVT-101. We will be watching with great interest.

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