An executive shakeup by drug developer Aurinia Pharmaceuticals (Aurinia Pharmaceuticals Stock Quote, Chart TSX:AUP, NASDAQ:AUPH) gets a thumbs up from Mackie Research analyst André Uddin, who in an update to clients on Thursday maintained his “Speculative Buy” rating and US$10.00 target price on the stock. On Thursday, Aurinia announced the appointment of Peter Greenleaf as CEO and the promotion of George Milne as Chairman, both effective as of April 29, 2019. The change was in the works since current CEO and Chair Richard Glickman announced on November 6, 2018, his intention to leave the company. In a press release, Greenleaf said with critical data points coming up this year including a Phase 3 trial for voclosporin and planned regulatory submission, he is excited to lead Aurinia through a pivotal period. “The Aurinia team has made extraordinary progress with voclosporin, which I believe to be a truly transformative drug for the potential treatment of proteinuric kidney diseases, such as lupus nephritis, as well as a unique opportunity for the treatment of dry eye syndrome,” said Greenleaf. Uddin says that with more than 20 years of experience leading pharma and biotech companies, Greenleaf is fit to the task. “We believe Mr. Greenleaf’s commercial background should be valuable for AUPH once voclosporin is approved and launched in the US. His experience in orphan drug development should also benefit the development of voclosporin for treating FSGS,” Uddin says. The analyst contends that catalysts for Aurinia include results of an Aurora trial with voclosporin for lupus nephritis, due in Q4 2019, followed by a rolling NDA submission in Q2 2020, followed by the FDA’s decision in Q4 2020. As well, he points to Aurinia’s current enrolment of subjects in a Phase 2 trial of voclosporin with results likely due from Q3 2019, followed by a Phase 2b trial. Uddin’s target price represents a projected return of 52 per cent at the time of publication.