Aerie adds Vargas, once of Abbott, to medical affairs team

Luis Vargas arrives at Aerie as it is working to get its ophthalmology franchise off the ground. (Pixabay)

Aerie Pharmaceuticals has named Luis Vargas as medical director for medical affairs. The appointment puts Vargas in charge of medical affairs organizational planning and operational matters at the eye disease company.

Vargas has a long history in the vision care sector. The new Aerie hire worked at Visiogen in the six years preceding its acquisition by Abbott Laboratories in a $400 million deal. Vargas then spent three years at Abbott as an associate medical director before moving on to take up the position of vice president of medical affairs at ReVision Optics. 

After ReVision, a maker of a corneal implant, went out of business early in 2018 Vargas spent a spell as an independent clinical and medical affairs consultant before accepting an offer from Aerie. The offer features 14,400 stock options that will vest over four years.

Vargas will report to Welyn Bui and form part of a new-look medical affairs team. Allergan veteran John Maltman joined Aerie as VP of medical affairs late in 2017 but lasted little more than a year at the company. With Maltman returning to Allergan, Aerie moved Bui from national director of medical affairs to the vacant VP position. 

The changes come at a time when Aerie is working to get its ophthalmology franchise off the ground. The FDA approved Rocklatan in open-angle glaucoma in March, a little more than one year after it greenlighted Aerie’s first glaucoma drug, Rhopressa. However, sales have fallen short of expectations, leading Aerie to lower its 2019 revenue guidance by more than one-third earlier this month.

Aerie’s efforts to improve its commercial performance are advancing in parallel with clinical trials of other assets. A sustained-release steroid, AR-1105, is already in the clinic, and an inhibitor of Rho kinase and protein kinase C is nearing the start of human testing.