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Dr. Neal Walker: Disrupting the conventional model of discovery and clinical development; making an impact where the need is great

When we founded Aclaris Therapeutics seven years ago, our idea of taking medicines from the laboratory bench into patient care was driven by the first-hand experiences of Dr. Stu Shanler and myself in our clinical practices. As physicians treating patients, sometimes we had no choice but to use sub-optimal treatments for dermatological and immunological conditions. Since then, our team has advanced Aclaris into a fully-integrated biopharmaceutical company with two FDA-approved medicines and one of the sector’s most promising pipelines.

2018 has been a particularly productive year for Aclaris Therapeutics. We launched a topical medicine to address a condition which can be a cosmetic concern for patients; received a U.S. patent related to the use and administration of certain Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitors for treating hair loss disorders; further bolstered our intellectual portfolio and clinical pipeline programs; entered into a partnership with Harris-Stowe State University to support the development and education of scientists from underrepresented minority groups; and licensed and re-launched a topical medication to treat a characteristic sign of a dermatological disease affecting the face.

As we look to 2019, potentially the most event and data-rich year in our company’s history, we expect multiple mid and late-stage clinical data readouts, including data for experimental treatments for alopecia areata and common warts, two diseases where we know first-hand that there is an immense need for better treatments. We also expect to file an investigational new drug application to address a progressive immunological disorder which causes sufferers to have difficulty completing everyday activities.

Our approach at Aclaris Therapeutics to discovering and developing new treatments is not conventional by pharmaceutical company standards. We start by understanding the mechanism of a molecule in the body, such as one of the protein kinases from our KINect platform or a therapeutic remedy used for another disease in a different dose or form. Then we conduct experiments to apply the mechanism to a disease or condition with great need, potentially one that others have abandoned or overlooked. We formulate these potential treatments with the patients in mind, taking into consideration the opportunity for both topical and oral medications to address the full spectrum of disease severity. We use the term “revelationary science” to describe our approach: making connections and turning surprising insights into practical applications for the benefit of patients. Sometimes, this means understanding when it’s time to change course or enter into a strategic partnership when we know this will lead to a medicine getting into the hands of patients faster.

We are entering a new, exciting era of growth and innovation at Aclaris Therapeutics, and I look forward to the progress that the new year will bring for our company and the patients we serve.

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