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Triangle Business Journal Features Duke Spinout, Aerie Pharmaceuticals

Published: 6 years ago | 0 comments

The following article and photo were published in the Triangle Business Journal. See the original article here.

Duke U. spinout thinks like Big Pharma; eyes 40% share of $5B market

By Jason deBruyn
Staff Writer – Triangle Business
Journal Oct 14, 2014, 5:41pm EDT

aerie-pharmaceuticals-4-600xx4000-2667-0-0A small Duke University pharmaceutical spinout isn’t thinking so small anymore. In fact, in at least a couple of ways, it’s thinking like a company many times its size.

Aerie Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: AERI) is in the process of developing glaucoma treatments and has already received a vote of confidence from the investor world. In early September it secured $125 million in convertible debt, which CEO Vicente Anido says is enough to keep the company funded through drug development and a new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While that NDA filing is sort of the finish line in terms of development, it’s only the starting gate in terms of selling the drug. In many cases, a company the size of Aerie, which has 35 employees, will look to license out its drug to a bigger company with more marketing heft. In the drug marketing world, success requires more than simply a good product; that drug must also receive favor from insurance companies that pay for the drug as well as doctors who prescribe it.

Of course, Aerie still needs FDA approval before it can move ahead with marketing, but executives say they feel confident that their science will prove successful.

Pharma giants like GlaxoSmithKline or Pfizer employ massive sales and marketing teams to push their products. Aerie would not be able to ramp up to a marketing department that rivals those major companies, but Anido says Aerie really doesn’t need to. Because the product to treat glaucoma is so specific, and has a relatively targeted market; Anido says Aerie really only needs a sales force of about 100 to 110 representatives. While the United States has about 16,000 ophthalmologists and 50,000 optometrists, not all have the same prescribing patterns. Aerie projects U.S. glaucoma patients to increase from 2.7 million today to 4.3 million by 2030, and thinks it can reach between 80 percent and 90 percent of those prescriptions by contacting the 10,000 eye care professionals who write the most prescriptions.

Based off a recent survey of 200 physicians, Aerie estimates it can grab a 40 percent market share through its two products titled Roclatan and Rhopressa. In a market that’s approaching $5 billion, that’s a nice figure.

Furthermore, Anido, who worked for Allergan and Marion Laboratories, says Big Pharma manages sales forces in smaller pods anyway. While these companies will have multiple teams, each team will consist of roughly 100 sales reps who handle a product. “It’s a lot easier having done this before,” Anido says.

To that end, Aerie hired Michael McCleerey as vice president of marketing. McCleerey has more than 25 years of experience in the health care industry and ophthalmology-focused companies, including most recently as director of Strategic Marketing at ISTA Pharmaceuticals.

Jason deBruyn covers The Biopharmaceutical and Health Care industries. Follow him on Twitter @jasondebruyn.

See original article, published in the Triangle Business Journal, here.

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