Life Sciences Insight

Aerie CEO exits days after downplaying midphase eye disease flop

Maybe primary endpoints matter after all. Days after dismissing the importance of a midphase flop, Aerie Pharmaceuticals CEO Vicente Anido has left the company, leaving an interim leader to pursue what he claimed was “a clear path toward approval.”  

Let’s rewind quickly. Sept. 15, Aerie buried news of the failure of its TRPM8 agonist to meet the primary endpoint of a phase 2b dry eye disease trial deep in its press release, choosing instead to focus on other measures that painted the prospect in a better light. In the line disclosing the failure, Anido immediately downplayed its significance, arguing “this is a phase 2b study where selecting primary endpoints are not required.” 

Anido went on to say the candidate, AR-15512, has “a clear path toward approval,” while noting that two three-month phase 3 efficacy trials and a safety study stand between Aerie and authorization by the FDA. Now, it has emerged that Anido isn’t sticking around to execute the plan.

Sept. 17, two days after the press release about the AR-15512 data, Anido left Aerie. The change, which Aerie only disclosed several days after it happened, means Anido no longer serves as CEO, chairman or director of the company. 

Aerie offered no explanation for the abrupt departure of Anido, stating only that it is “executing its succession plan for its long-serving chairman and CEO.” Anido joined Aerie in 2013 and led it through a period in which it went public and became a commercial-stage business.

Benjamin McGraw, who has served on the Aerie board since 2014, will work as interim executive chairman while the company searches for a new CEO. McGraw is already the executive chairman and CEO of TheraVida and executive chairman of Auration Biotech and Trefoil Therapeutics. Aerie plans to split the CEO and chairman role, rather than have one person perform both functions.