One year after Botox maker Allergan (NYSE:AGN) acquired his dermatology company, Vicept Therapeutics, a serial entrepreneur has reassembled his management team to develop a new set of dermatology therapeutics.
Dr. Neal Walker has formed Aclaris Therapeutics to develop a pre-IND dermatology therapeutic for a significant unmet need, according to a company statement. Although he declined to say the condition the therapeutic would treat or where the therapeutic was licensed from, Walker did say in a phone interview with MedCity News that it is geared for a condition with a large patient population.
The Malvern, Pennsylvania dermatology startup raised $21 million in a series A financing round led by Vivo Ventures, Fidelity Biosciences and Sofinnova Ventures. Each of the venture firms had previously invested in Vicept. Among the Vicept alumni who have joined Aclaris are Christopher Powala, the chief operating officer; Stuart Shanler, the chief scientific officer; Frank Ruffo, the chief financial officer; and Brian Beger, the vice president of clinical operations.
Stephen Tullman, who was an executive chairman with Vicept, will be the chairman of Aclaris’ board. Tullman currently serves as CEO of Ceptaris Therapeutics and managing partner of NeXeption, a biotechnology management company that identifies and acquires novel therapeutics that treat unmet medical needs.
Commenting on the willingness of the management team to get back together, Walker said: “There are a number of continued unmet needs in the dermatological space and we are all passionate about addressing that. We have all known each other for at least five years and the fact we have all worked with each other at various companies, most recently Vicept, it’s very helpful to have a trusted group.”
Although two years seems like a rapid exit, the clinical trials for dermatology therapeutics tend not to be as complex as, say, those for oncology drugs where clinical trials can take years.
In addition to Vicept, Walker also co-founded Octagon Research Solutions, which it was acquired by Accenture in August.
Vicept developed a treatment for rosacea and was acquired two years after its launch for $275 million, a speedy exit by drug development standards. Walker told MedCity News: “It is similar to Vicept in that it’s going after an area of high unmet need with a highly prevalent condition … without an effective topical treatment.”
One of the things that can keep a topical dermatology therapeutic developer up at night is how to develop a product that men and women will be willing to put on their skin.
“You not only have to get the active [ingredient(s)] right, but you also have to make sure the formulation will be something acceptable. … Most of us care about how [something] goes on our skin.” Walker notes that despite the fact that Vaseline is a great moisturizer, some patients would be reluctant to put it on their skin because it’s an ointment. “That’s why you see foams being developed, because it goes into the skin better and doesn’t leave someone feeling greasy. Sunscreen is the same way.”