Apellis Pharmaceuticals has tapped Dr. Caroline Baumal as chief medical officer. She joins the firm as it readies the launch of pegcetacoplan for geographic atrophy (GA), a major cause of blindness.

The PDUFA date for pegcetacoplan, potentially the first treatment for GA, has been set for February 26.

“Caroline is a world-renowned retina specialist who has been at the forefront of retina research and patient care for over 25 years, and we are thrilled to welcome her to Apellis,” said Cedric Francois, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Apellis, in a statement. “Caroline’s expertise and deep understanding of GA will be a tremendous asset as we prepare to launch the first potential treatment for this devastating disease.”

Baumal succeeds Federico Grossi, M.D., Ph.D., in the role. Grossi will remain at Apellis through the end of February to manage the transition and ongoing preparations for the imminent pegcetacoplan launch.

“We would also like to thank Fede for his substantial contributions to Apellis since its founding in 2009. Fede played an instrumental role in the development of our first approved product Empaveli and in the advancement of our robust pipeline, including pegcetacoplan for GA,” Francois added in the statement. “As a valued member of our executive team, Fede fostered our culture of courageous science and compassion and helped to build our company to where it is today.”

Baumal has spent more than 25 years in the realm of retina research and patient care. She was a clinical investigator for many clinical trials, including the Apellis’ own Phase 3 OAKS study that investigated pegcetacoplan.

Currently a professor of ophthalmology at New England Eye Center, Tufts Medical Center, Baumal specializes in disease and surgery of the retina and vitreous. Her work has been recognized with the Senior Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Crystal Apple Award from the American Society of Retina Specialists and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Vit-Buckle Society.

“I am excited to join Apellis at this truly transformational moment,” Baumal said in the statement. “The Phase 3 DERBY and OAKS data have shown the potential for pegcetacoplan to become the first treatment for GA, which would be a groundbreaking advancement for patients who have long been waiting for a therapy.”