Dr. Neal Walker: Pioneering innovations in dermatology for patients

Aclaris Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company founded by dermatologists and dedicated exclusively to dermatology. As one of those founders and President and Chief Executive Officer of Aclaris, I’m privileged to lead a team that is committed to developing and commercializing innovative medical and aesthetic treatments for dermatologic conditions. We are focused on skin and hair conditions characterized by underserved patient populations in which treatment gaps exist, or no FDA-approved medications are available for patients. Dermatology patients are at the heart of everything we do, and our goal is to empower patients with choices by bringing to market new treatments with the potential to improve the way they look and feel.

Aclaris is dedicated to developing impactful medicines for the ultimate benefit of the patient. It’s what motivates our team every day. We are committed to addressing patients’ needs not only through innovation but also through a laser-like focus on our core competencies in identifying, developing, achieving regulatory approval for, and commercializing new treatments for underserved skin and hair conditions.

An example of an innovation that was born in clinical practice and developed by industry is a new topical treatment for rosacea approved by the FDA in January 2017 and marketed by Allergan plc as Rhofade™. This medicine has the potential to help millions who suffer from rosacea, a common facial skin disorder that causes many patients significant distress. Dr. Stuart D. Shanler, my fellow dermatologist and Chief Scientific Officer of Aclaris, co-invented the treatment and spent years on its development because he saw a real unmet need in the rosacea patients he cared for while practicing dermatology.

Sometimes, great advances in medicine come out of the basic science research efforts of academic centers. For example, a research team at Columbia University Medical Center led by Angela Christiano, Ph.D., identified the immune cells responsible for destroying hair follicles in people with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. These researchers then tested a drug in the family of Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitors approved by the FDA for another disease and found it eliminated these immune cells and restored hair growth in a small number of patients. Aclaris licensed the intellectual property from Columbia University to develop medicines for patients with alopecia areata and other dermatological conditions who currently have no satisfactory treatment options.

Identifying new approaches to serving dermatology patients was the reason I decided to switch to the industry side of health care. I realized my impact could be greater than the fulfilling work I was engaged in as a practicing dermatologist. At Aclaris, offering new options to people suffering from dermatologic conditions is always on our minds, hence our dedication to Illuminating Science, Empowering Patients.