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Aerie Pharma Re-Ups In Irvine, CEO Departs

Drugmaker Aerie Pharmaceuticals Inc. has renewed its lease for its Irvine operations, a sign of stability for an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company that has experienced its share of tumult over the past few weeks.

The company (Nasdaq: AERI), whose initial and best-known product is the glaucoma eye drop Rhopressa, disclosed in a recent regulatory filing that it inked a new lease for its local base at the Irvine Concourse campus near John Wayne Airport.

The new lease at the 2030 Main Street office tower is 27,000 square feet; the deal runs until late 2027, according to the company’s latest quarterly report.

It’s a smaller amount of space for the drugmaker at its Orange County base; it previously leased 37,200 square feet in Irvine, according to its last annual report.

The 2030 Main building is owned by New York’s Praedium Group; CoStar Group Inc. records indicate the 16-story building is nearly 90% leased, with Wells Fargo the largest tenant.

The local office of Aerie holds regulatory, commercial support and other administrative activities for the company, which previously was OC based.

The company moved its headquarters designation from Irvine to Durham, N.C. in 2018.

Its lead drug originated in Research Triangle Park, an area near three of the state’s biggest universities in Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill that’s home to a large base of biotech and pharmaceutical firms.

Aerie leases 61,000 square feet of space in North Carolina, and recently renewed its lease there too, regulatory filings indicate.

Stock Hit

At the time of the North Carolina move, Aerie was among Orange County’s dozen or so most valuable public companies, with a market value approaching $3 billion, following FDA approval and the launch of Rhopressa, a once-daily eye drop designed to reduce elevated intraocular pressure in patients with certain types of glaucoma or ocular hypertension.

It’s valuation now stands closer to $550 million; its shares have steadily declined since mid-2018.

The company’s stock took a hit last month, after reporting a dry-eye drug candidate it has been testing, dubbed AR-15512, failed to meet its target outcome during a Phase 2b clinical study.

While the company characterized the test as a success and said the drug was “safe and well-tolerated,” Wall Street didn’t see it that way, pushing the company’s stock down 21% to $12.34 on Sept. 16.

Its shares have dipped further since then and were trading around $11.50 last week.

Aerie went public in 2013 at $10 a share. Its stock topped $70 in mid-2018.

Exec Change

At the time the clinical study’s results were announced, longtime Aerie Chairman and CEO Vicente Anido said the test “did not achieve statistical significance at our pre-determined primary endpoints at Day 28.”

However, he said the drug candidate still had “a clear path toward approval.”

A week after the AR-15512 results came out, Aerie announced that Anido—who previously served as CEO of Irvine’s Ista Pharmaceuticals, which was bought by Bausch + Lomb in 2012—was no longer with the company. Company director Benjamin McGraw was named interim CEO.

Aerie has “a very good portfolio of products in development,” McGraw said last month.

Aerie reported $50.2 million in revenue for the first six months of the year, up 30% year-over-year.

It spent $35.9 million on research and development during the first half of the year, a slight decrease from year-ago levels. Aerie counts a $1.1 billion accumulated deficit.

In recent months, analysts on average have increased their expectations for losses this year and in 2022. 

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