Aerie Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage company developing new treatments for glaucoma and other eye diseases, is expanding its R&D operations in Durham as some of its drug candidates move closer to commercialization.

The company, a spinout of Duke University, has leased an additional 13,385 square feet of lab and office space at the Imperial Center at 4301 Emperor Boulevard, just outside Research Triangle Park. The added space will give the company a total of 32,586 square feet at the site.

“We are delighted to expand our presence at the facility as we continue to advance our exciting research programs,” Casey Kopczynski, Ph.D., Aerie’s chief scientific officer, said in a news release.

Aerie leased its additional space in Durham from Longfellow Real Estate Partners, a life sciences and technology-focused real estate firm with offices in Durham, RTP and Boston.

“Aerie is one of the most exciting companies in the Triangle, and their Imperial Center expansion means they won’t lose a minute of time seeking new space,” said Neill Sherron, Longfellow’s director of leasing. “Longfellow, we pride ourselves on developing solutions for our tenants that meet their evolving needs with as little impact on their business as possible.”

Aerie is advancing two drug candidates, Rhopressa and Roclatan. Both are once-daily eye drops that are intended to lower intraocular pressure in the eye, a major risk factor for glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a family of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, resulting in vision loss or blindness if not treated early. While there is no cure for the disease, the progression of glaucoma can be delayed with medicines, laser surgery and conventional surgery.

A new drug application for Rhopressa is pending review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with completion expected by Feb. 28, 2018. Aerie said it expects to submit a new drug application for Roclatan in the first half of 2018.

Aerie’s website says the company’s drug candidates have “blockbuster revenue potential in an approximately $5 billion market in the U.S., Europe and Japan, which is expected to grow to more than $8 billion by 2023.”

All of its products are fully owned by Aerie and are protected by patents through at least 2030.

The company recently signed a new research collaboration with the Dutch health company DSM focused on the treatment of retinal diseases. The agreement includes an option to license DSM’s bioerodible polymer implant technology as a possible delivery mechanism for certain Aerie compounds. The technology uses an injectable thin fiber that can release a drug gradually over several months.

Aerie has about 100 employees at its sites in Irvine, Durham and Bedminster, N.J., plus a growing presence in Ireland.

In January Aerie entered into a lease agreement with the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) of Ireland for a manufacturing plant. The plant, in Athlone, a town in central Ireland, is expected to produce commercial supplies of Rhopressa and Roclatan.

The Athlone building shell, recently built by the IDA, includes about 30,000 square feet of floor space. Interior construction and equipment upfit are under way, with costs expected to total $25 million, excluding ongoing labor-related and lease expenses, the company estimated.

Commercial product supply of Rhopressa from the plant is expected to be available by 2020 if the product is approved for sale.

Aerie is a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center