If you’ve attended the ASCRS ASOA Annual Meeting recently, then you already know that Aerie Pharmaceuticals is a strong supporter of the ASCRS Foundation and its causes. For the past two years, Aerie has generously provided a donation match at the meeting, and partnering with the Foundation on some fun awareness projects like last year’s Give Sight Graffiti Wall. This week, we spoke with Tad Heitmann, Head of Communications at Aerie Pharmaceuticals, to learn more about their mission and why they choose to be such incredible sponsors of the ASCRS Foundation.
Foundation Staff (FS): What is Aerie Pharmaceuticals’ history and focus in the field of ophthalmology?
Tad Heitmann (TH): Aerie is focused on discovering, developing, and commercializing first-in-class therapies for the treatment of patients with glaucoma, retinal diseases and other diseases of the eye. Our goal is to be the next major global ophthalmic pharmaceutical company. We were founded in 2005 to pursue the vision of an ophthalmologist, David L. Epstein, M.D. (1943-2014), former Chair of Ophthalmology at Duke University, to find a more effective treatment for glaucoma by focusing on the main cause of elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), the diseased trabecular meshwork. In the years that followed, Aerie developed the Rho kinase inhibitor, netarsudil, the first new molecular entity in glaucoma in more than 20 years. That molecule, and the fixed-dose combination of netarsudil and latanoprost, have been approved and launched successfully in the United States and Aerie is also pursuing registration in Europe and Japan. Our exclusive focus on ophthalmology extends well beyond glaucoma, however. We have two retina programs in the clinic now and a large library of small-molecule multi-kinase inhibitors to investigate for a wide variety of unmet therapeutic needs in ophthalmology.
FS: Can you offer your perspective on how your mission and the ASCRS Foundation’s mission intersect?
TH: Our ambition to build the next major ophthalmic pharmaceutical company means that we are committed to finding innovative solutions to preserving or restoring vision for patients around the world. At the most basic level, this aligns perfectly with the ASCRS Foundation’s mission. The “solutions” are different – yours involves leveraging the talent and generosity of ASCRS-member surgeons and donors to deliver care to underserved populations; ours, leveraging our deep scientific and development expertise in small-molecule drug development and delivery to meet unmet needs for patients with eye diseases – but the fundamental goal is the same: protecting vision, and the dignity and independence it confers.
FS: Aerie has been a generous supporter of the Foundation during the Annual Meeting by matching attendee donations. Why did Aerie decide to partner with the ASCRS Foundation?
TH: We partnered with the ASCRS Foundation because its mission is so compelling and straightforward – provide sight-restoring surgery to patients who can’t afford or don’t have access to it. The benefits of your initiatives are immediate and profound – inspiring both ASCRS members and our employees, while creating a shared sense of purpose. Supporting the Foundation allows Aerie to make a clear statement that protecting and restoring sight is what we are all about too!
FS: What have you enjoyed most about our collaboration?
TH: The most enjoyable part of the collaboration over the past two years has been witnessing the scale and enthusiasm of the response to the Match from ASCRS members. Their desire to make a difference – to give back – was made tangible by the match and suggested the potential of such a campaign. Last year, with the Graffiti Wall, we also enjoyed linking ophthalmologist’s personal reflections on the field and philanthropy with the match campaign itself through a live art performance.
FS: How do you hope your gift will impact the ophthalmology community and those in need of eye care in both in the U.S. and abroad?
TH: Quite simply, we hope our collaboration with ASCRS Foundation will result in the following:
• More patients helped
• More ASCRS members engaged in providing or supporting these services
• More donations to the Foundation from the ophthalmology community at large
To learn how Aerie Pharmaceuticals helped the Foundation raise over $78,000 at last year’s ASCRS ASOA Annual Meeting in San Diego, click here. For more information on Aerie Pharmaceuticals, visit aeriepharma.com.