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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 FOR THE TRANSITION PERIOD FROM                      TO                     

Commission File Number 001-38560

 

Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

EIN 61-1547850

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)

9987 Carver Road,  Cincinnati, OH

45242

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (513) 985-1920

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

Trading Symbol(s)

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common stock, $0.0001 par value per share

ARPO

Nasdaq Capital Market

Securities registered pursuant to section 12(g) of the Act: none

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. YES ☐ NO 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. YES ☐ NO 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. YES  NO ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). YES  NO ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). YES ☐ NO 

As of June 28, 2019, the aggregate market value of the registrant’s voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates (without admitting that any person whose shares are not included in such calculation is an affiliate) computed by reference to the price at which the common stock was last sold on June 28, 2019 was approximately $25,975,518.

As of March 9, 2020, there were 40,588,004 shares of common stock, $0.0001 par value per share, outstanding.

 

Portions of the registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement relating to the Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Report. Such Proxy Statement will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of the registrant's fiscal year ended December 31, 2019.

 

 

 

 


 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

 

Item 1.

Business

3

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

25

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

59

Item 2.

Properties

59

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

60

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

60

PART II

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

61

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

61

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

62

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

72

Item 8.

Consolidated Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

72

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

96

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

96

Item 9B.

Other Information

97

PART III

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

98

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

98

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

98

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

98

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

98

PART IV

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits, Consolidated Financial Statement Schedules

99

Item 16.

Form of 10-K Summary

102

 

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Forward-Looking Statements

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These forward-looking statements may be identified by forward-looking words such as “may,” “could,” “should,” “would,” “will,” “plans,” “intend,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “predicts,” “potential,” “believe,” “continue” or similar words, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the progress and timing of our product development programs and related trials; our future opportunities; our strategy, future operations, anticipated financial position, future revenues and projected costs; our management’s prospects, plans and objectives; and any other statements about management’s future expectations, beliefs, goals, plans or prospects constitute forward-looking statements.  

Readers should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Our actual results may differ materially from such forward-looking statements as a result of numerous factors, some of which we may not be able to predict and may not be within our control. Factors that could cause such differences include, but are not limited to, the accuracy of our estimates regarding expense, future revenues, uses of cash, capital requirements and the need for additional financing; the initiation, cost, timing, progress and results of our development activities, preclinical studies and clinical trials; the timing of and our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval of our existing product candidates, any product candidates that we may develop, and any related restrictions, limitations, and/or warnings in the label of any approved product candidates; our plans to research, develop and commercialize our current and future product candidates; our ability to attract collaborators with development, regulatory and commercialization expertise; our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection for our product candidates; our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates; the size and growth of the markets for our product candidates and our ability to serve those markets; the success of competing drugs that are or become available; our ability to obtain additional financing; our ability to attract and retain key personnel, as well as those risks discussed elsewhere in this report, including under the heading “Risk Factors.” All forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this report and we do not undertake any obligation to update our forward-looking statements, except as required by applicable law.  

 

 

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

Overview

Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing compounds that activate Tie2 to treat ocular diseases and diabetic complications.  In March 2019, we announced the top line results of the Phase 2b (“TIME-2b”) clinical trial which we initiated in June 2017 for the treatment of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (“NPDR”), a disease characterized by progressive compromise of blood vessels in the back of the eye. While we believed AKB-9778 had the potential to slow down or possibly reverse retinal vascular changes caused by diabetes, the subcutaneous administration of AKB-9778 twice daily did not meet the study’s primary endpoint of increasing the percentage of patients with an improvement of two or more steps in diabetic retinopathy severity score (“DRSS”), in the study eye, compared to placebo.  

However, the TIME-2b study further supported the reduction of intraocular pressure (“IOP”) seen with subcutaneous AKB-9778 in the previous TIME-2 study. Importantly, IOP is the only identified modifiable risk factor for prevention of vision loss in patients with open angle glaucoma (“OAG”) and ocular hypertension (“OHT”).  Moreover, recently published mouse and human genetic data implicate the Angpt/Tie2 pathway in maintenance of Schlemm’s canal, a critical component of the conventional outflow tract. The conventional outflow tract is the main conduit for fluid drainage from the front of the eye and the principal regulator of IOP.  Based on these findings, we developed a topical ocular formulation of AKB-9778 and observed in preclinical studies activation of Tie2 in Schlemm’s canal, IOP reduction via enhanced outflow facility and favorable tolerability.  

In June 2019, we initiated a double-masked, multiple-ascending dose Phase 1b trial and enrolled four cohorts of 12 subjects each. Subjects received increasing daily doses of a topical ocular formulation of AKB-9778 or placebo for seven days. The primary endpoint of the trial was ocular safety and tolerability, with IOP lowering as the key pharmacodynamic endpoint. In October 2019, we announced interim results from our Phase 1b clinical trial. The unmasked interim analysis, limited to the first three cohorts, showed the topical ocular administration of AKB-9778 was well tolerated.  Compared to placebo, there was a dose dependent increase in minimal to mild conjunctival hyperemia with AKB-9778, which was transient and generally considered non-adverse, and a time and dose dependent reduction in IOP that, in the highest once daily (“QD”) dose cohort peaked at 4 hours post-dose and was sustained through eight hours on day 7, returning to baseline levels at 24 hours post-dose. Based on these data, a cohort of 43 patients with OHT/OAG (hypertensive eyes) was added to the ongoing study to assess safety and pilot efficacy in the target patient population.  In January 2020, we announced the results of the ongoing Phase 1b study which are presented below under “Business – AKB-9778 in Open Angle Glaucoma – Clinical Results in OAG”.

In two consecutive trials, TIME-2 and TIME-2b, subcutaneous AKB-9778 showed reduction in Urine Albumin-Creatinine Ratio (“UACR”), a measure of progression of diabetic kidney disease.  In a post-hoc analysis of the earlier TIME-2 clinical trial, there was a 21% reduction (geometric mean) in UACR from baseline in the AKB-9778 treatment arms, but an overall increase in UACR in the placebo arm.  The prospective UACR analyses from the recently completed TIME-2b trial largely replicated the results from the previous trial and reinforced the potential beneficial effects of Tie2 activation in diabetic kidney disease. We believe that systemic treatment with AKB-9778 could have the potential to change the treatment paradigm for diabetics in the future and potentially address a major societal problem by lowering the cost of care associated generally with diabetes.

ARP-1536, our humanized monoclonal antibody directed at the same target as subcutaneous AKB-9778, is in preclinical development. We are evaluating development options for ARP-1536, including subcutaneous injection for the treatment of diabetic vascular complications, e.g., diabetic nephropathy and intravitreal injection as an adjunctive therapy for diabetic macular edema.

We are also developing a bispecific antibody that binds both VEGF and VE-PTP which is designed to inhibit VEGF activation and activate Tie2.  We believe this bispecific antibody has the potential to be an improved treatment for wet aged-related macular degeneration (“AMD”) and diabetic macular edema via intravitreal injection.

In June 2018, we licensed AKB-4924, a selective stabilizer of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1 alpha) to Gossamer Bio, Inc. (“Gossamer”) AKB-4924 (now called GB004), is being developed for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). HIF-1 alpha is involved in mucosal wound healing and the reduction of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Gossamer has completed the Phase 1 multiple ascending dose (“MAD”) clinical study and is currently running a Phase 1b clinical study in ulcerative colitis patients. Gossamer is expected to have results of the Phase 1b study in ulcerative colitis patients in the first half of 2020. Gossamer is responsible for all remaining development and commercial activities for GB004.

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Our Strategy

Our objective is to develop and advance first-in-class compounds that activate Tie2 to treat ocular diseases and diabetic complications.  We are taking the following critical steps to achieve this goal:

 

Advance the development of AKB-9778 for open angle glaucoma

Based on the preclinical proof of concept and the results of the Phase 1b trial showing a reduction in IOP in patients with OHT and OAG, we plan to further advance the glaucoma program into a Phase 2 clinical trial with results expected in the first quarter of 2021. The Phase 1b trial results were announced in January 2020.

 

Investigate the potential of AKB-9778 in other indications

The downregulation of Tie2 activity occurs in the vasculature of diabetics systemically, particularly in the kidney. In a post-hoc analysis of the earlier TIME-2 clinical trial, there was a 21% reduction (geometric mean) in UACR from baseline in the AKB-9778 treatment arms, but an overall increase in UACR in the placebo arm.  The prospective UACR analyses from the recently completed TIME-2b trial largely replicated the results from the previous trial and reinforced the potential beneficial effects of Tie2 activation in diabetic kidney disease. Based on the confirmation of decreased of UACR, a potential indicator of improved kidney function, in the completed TIME-2b trial, we are exploring strategic options for further development of AKB-9778 in diabetic nephropathy.

 

Advance the development of ARP-1536 and the Bispecific antibody

We are evaluating development options for ARP-1536, including subcutaneous injection for the treatment of diabetic vascular complications including nephropathy and intravitreal injection for the adjunctive treatment of diabetic macular edema. We are also exploring development options for the bispecific antibody.

 

Explore strategic collaborations with leading organizations for the development and commercialization of promising product candidates in our pipeline

In October 2019, we announced the engagement of Evercore, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc. and Duane Nash, M.D., J.D., M.B.A. to explore a range of strategic alternatives focused on maximizing stockholder value from our clinical assets and cash resources. Such alternatives may include the potential for an acquisition, company sale, merger, business combination, asset sale, in-license, out-license or other strategic transaction. There can be no assurance that the exploration of strategic alternatives will result in any transaction or other alternative.

 

Focus on cash management to preserve cash for ongoing clinical trials

In April 2019, we adopted a realignment plan to reduce operating costs and better align our workforce with the needs of our ongoing business. The realignment plan reduced our workforce by 11 employees, representing approximately 41% of our workforce. On October 15, 2019, our Chief Executive Officer and our Chief Financial and Business Officer departed from their positions. Our Chief Executive Officer also resigned as a director. As a result of these actions, we recorded severance expense during the year ended December 31, 2019 for employee related costs, including severance benefits and payment of healthcare insurance premiums. Additionally, we recorded certain one-time stock-based compensation adjustments for the forfeitures of outstanding equity awards.

AKB-9778 in Open Angle Glaucoma

Unmet Medical Need:

OAG is a leading cause of blindness affecting approximately 64.3 million people worldwide in 2013 with an expected increase to 76.0 million in 2020 and 118.0 million by 2040. OAG is characterized by optic nerve and neuroretina anomalies and progressive visual field defects. Elevated intraocular pressure (“IOP”) is the primary modifiable risk factor and reducing IOP is the only clinical approach shown to slow or prevent vision loss. Despite the availability of effective IOP lowering drugs, many patients require multiple agents to control IOP that together often fail to achieve target IOP. The conventional outflow pathway, consisting of the trabecular meshwork and a specialized vessel called Schlemm’s canal, controls IOP and has been identified as the site of increased resistance to aqueous humor outflow in OAG. Importantly, most current OAG therapies do not target conventional outflow, and reduce IOP by either decreasing the formation of aqueous humor or facilitating non-conventional outflow pathways. The failure of most current therapies to modify conventional outflow has been hypothesized to contribute to continued deterioration of conventional outflow and progressive increases in IOP over time. We believe that developing agents that target conventional outflow pathology directly will likely have improved therapeutic potential alone or in combination with approved glaucoma agents and may prevent progression of OAG that often occurs despite current therapy.  

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Emerging Role of the Tie2 Pathway in the Maintenance of Conventional Outflow:

Recently, two independent groups have shown that Tie2 is expressed and activated in Schlemm’s canal endothelial cells during development and in the mature vessel. Disruption of the Tie2 pathway in mice by conditional knockout early in postnatal development results in failure of the formation of Schlemm’s canal, associated with increased IOP and with retinal and optic nerve pathology resembling human congenital glaucoma. Tie2 pathway disruption later in postnatal development results in degeneration of Schlemm’s canal with development of increased IOP and retinal and optic pathology reminiscent of OAG. Tie2 is most highly expressed in mature Schlemm’s canal inner wall endothelium and disruption of the Tie2 pathway results in increased cell death, or apoptosis, and reduced formation of giant vacuoles consistent with compromised conventional outflow. Supporting these preclinical findings, Tie2 loss of function variants were identified in 10 of 189 unrelated primary congenital glaucoma families, and SNPs in the Ang-1 promoter region were significantly associated with the risk of OAG. We believe that these preclinical findings along with human genetic evidence provides a sound scientific premise that activation of the Tie2 pathway in Schlemm’s canal could provide a novel conventional outflow-targeted OAG therapy.

Role of VE-PTP in Signaling Pathways and Relevance to Glaucoma:

Aerpio has developed first-in-class, potent and selective small molecule inhibitors of the catalytic domain of vascular endothelial protein tyrosine phosphatase (VE-PTP). In vascular endothelial cells, AKB-9778, Aerpio’s lead VE-PTP inhibitor, activates Tie2 and triggers signaling pathways downstream of Tie2 that have been implicated in modulation of conventional outflow facility. These include endothelial nitric oxide synthase (“eNOS”) activation and Rho pathway inhibition via Rac1.

 

 

Figure 1. VE-PTP inhibition as a novel conventional outflow targeted approach for glaucoma treatment

Activation of Tie2, with AKB-9778, affects pathways commonly associated with reduction of intraocular pressure. Rhopressa and Vyzulta are recently approved glaucoma drugs which block the Rho pathway and stimulate the eNOS pathway, respectively. Inhibition of VE-PTP should provide both benefits, blocking Rho and stimulating eNOS.

Evidence Supporting VE-PTP Inhibition as a conventional outflow target

Preclinical Data Supporting Topical Ocular Delivery of AKB-9778:

The AKB-9778 topical formulation was well tolerated, and exposure was demonstrated in the aqueous humor following two days of three times a day 30 μL topical ocular administration to both eyes of New Zealand White rabbits. These data suggest that a topical ocular formulation of AKB-9778 may be sufficient to deliver AKB-9778 to target ocular tissues with acceptable tolerability.

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The AKB-9778 topical ocular formulation was also well tolerated following seven days of once daily (QD) and twice daily (BID), 30 μL topical ocular administration to both eyes in New Zealand White Rabbits with normal ocular pressure and demonstrated a dose-dependent and statistically significant reduction in IOP of both QD and BID topical ocular dosing at the highest dose level, as shown in the figure below. Reduction in IOP persisted for at least 24 hours following the last dosing period and the treatment was well-tolerated with no visible irritation or hyperemia seen.

 

 

Figure 2.  IOP effects of topical ocular compared to subcutaneous AKB-9778 in male rabbits. High dose topical ocular (40 mg/ml) AKB-9778 administered either QD or BID reduced IOP more than low dose topical (15 mg/ml) or subcutaneous (10 mg/kg) administration BID (Day 7). IOP effects persisted 24 hours post dose (Day 8)  

To explore the mechanism of AKB-9778-mediated IOP reduction, the effect of AKB-9778 on IOP in ocular normotensive eyes of wild type C57 mice was monitored for three days after once a day topical dosing. As shown in Figure 3A, AKB-9778 gradually decreased IOP over time, from -0.74 ± 0.43 and -1 ± 0.27 on Days 1 and 2, respectively, to -1.6 ± 0.3 mmHg on Day 3. Since IOP lowering was maximal and significant on Day 3 (p = 0.017), IOP was assessed at two additional time points on Day 3, 2 and 4 hours after treatment. IOP lowering was more profound at these additional time points, with a significant decrease of ~30% (mean ± SE: -3.85 ±1.1 mmHg at 2h and -3.1±0.6 mmHg at 4h if compared to both Day 0 pretreatment and placebo treatment; -5.66 ± 1.0 mmHg at 2h and -4.87± 0.75 mmHg at 4h, if compared to only placebo treated eyes; p < 0.01 by paired student t test), as shown in Figure 3B.

 

 

Figure 3: Effect of AKB-9778 on IOP and outflow facility in ocular normotensive mice  A. Change in IOP, comparing pre-treatment (mean ± standard error, n = 14) with treatment (placebo or AKB-9778)

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Considering the known role of the Tie2 pathway in Schlemm’s canal and the critical role of the conventional outflow pathway in regulating IOP, the effect of AKB-9778 on outflow facility was assessed.  Outflow facility measurements were conducted in mouse eyes that had been dosed for three days QD with AKB-9778 and enucleated.  As shown in Figure 3C, AKB-9778 significantly increased outflow facility compared to control by 33% (3.4 ± 0.4 vs. 2.5 ± 0.2 nl/min/mmHg, p = 0.047).

To determine potential conventional outflow targets of AKB-9778, VE-PTP expression was assessed in anterior eye segments of mice.  In these studies, VE-PTP was co-expressed with Tie2 in the endothelium of Schlemm’s canal by two independent approaches (VE-PTP knock-in reporter mice expressing a nuclear-localizing β-galactosidase from the endogenous VE-PTP promotor and immunohistochemistry with a monoclonal antibody against VE-PTP).  Consistent with a functional effect of VE-PTP inhibition on Tie2 activation, tyrosine phosphorylation of Tie2 was increased following a single topical ocular dose of AKB-9778.  Taken together, these data support a unique mechanism of IOP reduction where targeting VE-PTP with AKB-9778 activates Tie2 in Schlemm’s canal to enhance conventional outflow.

Clinical Results in OAG

The results of our Phase 2b (“TIME-2b”) clinical trial showed encouraging data demonstrating the potential for AKB-9778 to reduce intraocular pressure in open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension. In June 2019, we initiated a double-masked, multiple-ascending dose Phase 1b trial and enrolled four cohorts of 12 subjects each. Subjects received increasing daily doses of a topical ocular formulation of AKB-9778 or placebo for seven days. The primary endpoint of the trial was ocular safety and tolerability, with IOP lowering as the key pharmacodynamic endpoint. In October 2019, we announced interim results from our Phase 1b clinical trial. The unmasked interim analysis, limited to the first three cohorts, showed the topical ocular administration of AKB-9778 was well tolerated.  Compared to placebo, there was a dose dependent increase in minimal to mild conjunctival hyperemia with AKB-9778, which was transient and generally considered non-adverse, and a time and dose dependent reduction in IOP that, in the highest QD dose cohort peaked at 4 hours post-dose and was sustained through eight hours on day 7, returning to baseline levels at 24 hours post-dose. Based on these data, a fifth cohort of 43 patients was recruited with OHT/POAG and baseline IOP measurements between 17 and 27 mmHg while treated with once-daily prostaglandin therapy. Patients were randomized 3:1 to receive either AKB-9778 (32 subjects) or placebo (11 subjects), administered in the morning for 7 days, while continuing their evening prostaglandin therapy. Conjunctival hyperemia, IOP, safety and pilot efficacy were assessed in the same manner as described for cohorts one to four.

In January 2020, we announced the results of the fifth cohort of subjects noting subjects in cohort five randomized to the active arm exhibited statistically significant decreases in IOP at all post-AKB-9778 administration time points on both days 1 and 7 compared with day -1 baseline values when they were being treated with prostaglandin alone (Figure 4:  Diurnal = mean IOP of 2, 4 and 8 hour time points; ** p < 0.05, *** p < 0.001).  

 

 

Figure 4. AKB 9778 significantly reduces IOP in patients on standard of care prostaglandin

 

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When the change is placebo-corrected, AKB-9778 plus prostaglandin versus prostaglandin alone produced a statistically significant decrease in IOP on Day 7 at 0, 4 and 8 hours post dose as compared to placebo (placebo-adjusted data at 0 hrs. -2.26 mmHg, p = 0.007; 2 hrs.-1.24, p = 0.138; 4 hrs. -1.47 mmHg; p = 0.048; 8 hrs. -1.80 mmHg; p = 0.041).

We believe these results suggest a persistent IOP-lowering activity from adding AKB-9778 to standard-of-care prostaglandin therapy. Topical ocular administration of AKB-9778 was well tolerated over seven days in cohort five. In the active arm treated with AKB-9778 plus prostaglandin, 21.9% of subjects experienced hyperemia compared with 9.1% of subjects in the prostaglandin-alone arm. In all cases, this hyperemia was minimal-to-mild in severity, transient in duration and generally considered non-adverse. There were no reports of conjunctival hemorrhage or pain on instillation during the seven days of dosing and no systemic/non-ocular AEs were observed.

Based on the preclinical proof of concept and the results of the Phase 1b trial showing a reduction in IOP in patients with OHT and OAG, we plan to further advance the glaucoma program into a Phase 2 clinical trial with results expected in the first quarter of 2021. 

Role of Tie2 in Diabetic Vascular Complications

Tie2 is a receptor that is normally activated in healthy blood vessels. When active, Tie2 is a key regulator of vascular stability and function. In its active state, Tie2 maintains blood vessel stability by several mechanisms, including tightening the junctions between the cells that line blood vessels, maintaining support cell coverage of blood vessels, and resisting growth signaling from proliferative cytokines. In diabetic patients, an upregulation of VE-PTP an enzyme that inactivates Tie2, contributes to vascular destabilization.

 

 

Figure 5. VE-PTP is upregulated in diabetic vasculature and leads to deactivation of the Tie2 receptor

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Our Solution AKB-9778

AKB-9778 works by inhibiting VE-PTP, an enzyme that is upregulated in diabetic eye disease and that is responsible for inactivating Tie2. AKB-9778 was developed using modern drug discovery techniques such as structure-based drug design to selectively target and inhibit VE-PTP at sub-nanomolar concentrations and has a high degree of selectivity. The potency and selectivity of AKB-9778 minimize the potential for off-target side effects. Inhibition of the inhibitor, VE-PTP, by AKB-9778 leads to activation of Tie2.

 

 

Figure 6. AKB-9778 binds to and inhibits the active site of VE-PTP, resulting in Tie2 activation

We believe that AKB-9778 may hold a competitive advantage versus other product candidates that are currently in development that target other aspects of the Tie2 pathway. We are aware that Roche is developing agents that inhibit Angpt-2, a natural antagonist of Tie2. Angpt-2 can bind to Tie2 and prevent Angpt-1 dependent activation. However, simply reducing the levels of Ang-2 has no effect on the activity of VE-PTP, which inactivates Tie2 further downstream of Angpt 1/2 binding.

 

 

Figure 7. Inhibiting VE-PTP with AKB-9778 robustly activates Tie2 in human endothelial cells in

pre-clinical experiments (Shen et al. JCI 124:4564-76, 2014)

 

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Other Potential Systemic Indications – Diabetic Nephropathy

Systemic therapy with AKB-9778 could also provide therapeutic benefits in other areas of the body affected by diabetes, including in the kidneys and other organ systems. Treatment that could affect vascular compromise in these tissues could potentially prevent or delay the need for more extreme interventions such as kidney dialysis or amputation. AKB-9778 showed encouraging data in a number of prespecified, key secondary endpoints, consistent with the observations in the prior Phase 2a (“TIME-2”) trial related to the changes in UACR, a measure of kidney function.  In a post-hoc analysis of the earlier TIME-2 clinical trial, there was a 21% reduction (geometric mean) in UACR from baseline in the AKB-9778 treatment arms, but an overall increase in UACR in the placebo arm.  The prospective UACR analyses from the recently completed TIME-2b trial largely replicated the results from the previous trial and reinforced the potential beneficial effects of Tie2 activation in diabetic kidney disease.

ARP-1536

ARP-1536 is a humanized monoclonal antibody currently in preclinical development that is directed at the same target as subcutaneous AKB-9778. ARP-1536 binds the extracellular domain of VE-PTP inhibiting its ability to interact with Tie2. Our preclinical development program has shown that inhibiting VE-PTP with an antibody results in an activity profile similar to AKB-9778. We are evaluating development options for ARP-1536, including subcutaneous injection for the treatment of diabetic vascular complications, e.g. diabetic nephropathy and intravitreal injection as an adjunctive therapy for diabetic macular edema.

Bi-specific Antibody

We are also developing a bispecific antibody that binds both VEGF and VE-PTP which is designed to inhibit VEGF activation and activate Tie2.  Our bispecific antibody is differentiated because it directly activates Tie2 and inhibits VEGF activation. The novel bimodal activity has been observed in a variety of cell-based models. The antibody has shown activity in animal models of retinal disease. We believe this bispecific antibody has the potential to be an improved treatment for wet AMD and diabetic macular edema via intravitreal injection.

AKB-4924 for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

AKB-4924 (now called GB004), a selective stabilizer of HIF-1 alpha, works by inhibiting HIF prolyl-hydroxylase enzymes. Unlike other compounds currently in development that act broadly against all forms of HIF, GB004 selectively stabilizes a specific form of HIF, HIF-1 alpha. HIF-1 alpha has an effect on innate immunity and epithelial barrier function. However, HIF-1 alpha differs from HIF-2, in that it does not stimulate the formation of new red blood cells. Gossamer has completed the Phase 1 multiple ascending dose (“MAD”) clinical study and is currently running a Phase 1b clinical study in ulcerative colitis patients. Gossamer is expected to have results of the Phase 1b study in ulcerative colitis patients in the first half of 2020. Gossamer is responsible for all remaining development and commercial activities for GB004.

License Agreement

In June 2018, we entered into a license agreement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gossamer under which we granted Gossamer an exclusive, sublicensable license to develop and commercialize AKB-4924 and other structurally related products worldwide, with initial development expected in the indications of induction and maintenance in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease (“Gossamer License”). Gossamer is responsible for the further development and commercialization of the licensed products, and a joint development committee has been formed to oversee the development and manufacturing activities related to the licensed products.

Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Gossamer paid an upfront payment to us of $20 million. We are also eligible to receive up to $55 million in development milestone payments, up to $85 million in commercial milestone payments, and up to $260 million in sales milestone payments, with such payments contingent on the achievement of specified milestones with respect to the first licensed product for each of the first two initial indications. We are also eligible to receive tiered royalties on sales of licensed products at percentages ranging from a high-single-digit to mid-teens, subject to certain customary reductions. In addition, under certain circumstances, in lieu of receiving the foregoing milestone payments and royalties, we may elect to receive a specified percentage of payments received by Gossamer and its stockholders (with some exclusions) in connection with Gossamer’s grant of a sublicense or other rights to the licensed products or if Gossamer undergoes a change of control and the value of the transaction exceeds a certain value (provided that Gossamer can prevent us from exercising this option if the parent company of Gossamer is the entity undergoing the change of control). Conversely, we could be required to accept such a specified percentage of those payments, if Gossamer agrees to pay us a certain minimum upon Gossamer and its stockholders being paid. Such amount may be reduced if the subject transaction includes pharmaceutical candidates or products or other named asset categories in addition to the licensed products.

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The agreement expires on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis on the later of fifteen years from the date of first commercial sale or when there is no longer a valid patent claim covering such licensed product in such country. Either party may terminate the agreement for an uncured material breach by the other party or upon the bankruptcy or insolvency of the other party. Gossamer may terminate the agreement in the event Gossamer determines there is a potential safety or efficacy issue with the licensed products. We may terminate the agreement if Gossamer institutes certain actions related to the licensed patents. Under certain termination circumstances, we would have worldwide rights to the terminated program.

Intellectual Property

As of December 31, 2019, we owned at least 32 U.S. patents, at least 26 pending U.S. provisional or non-provisional patent applications, at least 274 foreign patents and at least 103 pending foreign applications, with claims directed toward various aspects of our product candidates and research programs, not counting patents and patent applications that have been licensed to a third party. Specifically, the claims of these patents and patent applications include compositions of matter, methods of use, drug product formulations, and methods of manufacture. Such patents and patent applications, if issued, are expected to expire on various dates from 2027 to 2039, without taking into account any possible patent term adjustments or extensions. Within the foregoing patent portfolio, as of December 31, 2019, we owned at least 7 U.S. patents, at least 8 pending U.S. provisional or non-provisional patent applications, at least 44 foreign patents and at least 36 pending foreign applications that are directed toward ARP-1536 and formulations or uses thereof. As of December 31, 2019, within the foregoing patent portfolio, we owned at least 25 U.S. patents, at least 18 pending U.S. provisional or non-provisional patent applications, at least 230 foreign patents and at least 67 pending foreign applications that are directed toward AKB-9778 and formulations, medicinal chemistry variants or uses thereof. Such patents claiming compositions of matter directed toward ARP-1536 are set to expire in 2027, without taking into account any possible patent term adjustments or extensions. Such patents claiming compositions of matter directed toward AKB-9778 are set to expire in 2027, without taking into account any possible patent term adjustments or extensions.

Competition

The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by rapidly advancing technologies, intense competition and a strong emphasis on proprietary products. While we believe that our technologies, knowledge, experience and scientific resources provide us with competitive advantages, we face potential competition from many different sources, including major pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic institutions and governmental agencies and public and private research institutions. Any product candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future.

There are a number of currently marketed products and product candidates in preclinical research and clinical development by third parties to treat the various diseases that we are targeting. If AKB-9778 and our other product candidates are approved for the indications that we are targeting, they will compete with the products and product candidates discussed below.

AKB-9778 is the only Tie2 activators in clinical development for OHT or OAG.  Other conventional outflow targeted therapies include the once-daily 0.02% eye drop (Rhopressa (netarsudil) by Aerie Pharmaceuticals) and the once-daily netarsudil 0.02%/latanoprost 0.005% eye drop (Roclatan (netarsudil + latanoprost) by Aerie Pharmaceuticals).

Sales and Marketing

We hold worldwide commercialization rights to all of our product candidates. Subject to receiving marketing approval, we intend to independently pursue the commercialization of AKB-9778 in the United States for our product candidates by building a focused sales and marketing organization. We believe that such an organization will be able to address the community of physicians who are key specialists in treating the patient populations for which our product candidates are being developed.

We also plan to build a marketing and sales management organization to create and implement marketing strategies for any products that we market through our own sales organization and to oversee and support our sales force. The responsibilities of the marketing organization would include developing educational initiatives with respect to approved products and establishing relationships with researchers and practitioners in relevant fields of medicine.

Outside of the United States, we intend to pursue the approval and commercialization of our product candidates through strategic collaborations.

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Manufacturing

We do not currently own or operate manufacturing facilities for the production of clinical or commercial quantities of our product candidates. We have relied on and intend to continue to rely on qualified third-party contract manufacturers to produce our product candidates, including clinical supplies to support our clinical trials. We expect that commercial quantities of any compound and materials for our product candidates, if approved, will be manufactured in facilities and by processes that comply with FDA and other regulations. At the appropriate time in the product development process, we will determine whether to establish manufacturing facilities or continue to rely on third parties to manufacture commercial quantities of any products that we may successfully develop.

Government Regulation

Government authorities in the United States, including federal, state, and local authorities, and in other countries, extensively regulate, among other things, the manufacturing, research and clinical development, marketing, labeling and packaging, storage, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, advertising and promotion, and export and import of pharmaceutical and biological products, such as those we are developing. In addition, some government authorities regulate the pricing of such products. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.

U.S. Government Regulation

In the United States, the FDA regulates drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) and its implementing regulations, and biologics under the FDCA and the Public Health Service Act (“PHSA”) and its implementing regulations. FDA approval is required before any new unapproved drug or biologic or dosage form, including a new use of a previously approved drug, can be marketed in the United States. Drugs and biologics are also subject to other federal, state, and local statutes and regulations. If we fail to comply with applicable FDA or other requirements at any time during the product development process, clinical testing, the approval process or after approval, we may become subject to administrative or judicial sanctions. These sanctions could include the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications, license suspension or revocation, withdrawal of an approval, untitled or warning letters, voluntary or mandatory product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, civil penalties or criminal prosecution. Any FDA enforcement action could have a material adverse effect on us.

The process required by the FDA before product candidates may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:

 

completion of extensive nonclinical laboratory tests and nonclinical animal studies, all performed in accordance with the Good Laboratory Practices (“GLP”) regulations;

 

submission to the FDA of an investigational new drug application (“IND”) which must become effective before human clinical trials may begin and must be updated annually;

 

approval by an independent institutional review board (“IRB”) or ethics committee representing each clinical site before each clinical trial may be initiated;

 

performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials in accordance with Good Clinical Practices (“GCPs”) to establish the safety and efficacy of the product candidate for each proposed indication;

 

preparation of and submission to the FDA of a biologics license application (“BLA”) or a new drug application (“NDA”) after completion of all pivotal clinical trials;

 

review of the product application by an FDA advisory committee, where appropriate and if applicable;

 

satisfactory completion of an FDA pre-approval inspection of the manufacturing facilities where the proposed product is produced to assess compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (“cGMP”);

 

satisfactory completion of any FDA audits of the clinical study sites to assure compliance with GCPs, and the integrity of clinical data in support of the BLA or NDA; and

 

FDA review and approval of a BLA for a biologic candidate that is safe, pure, and potent or an NDA for a drug candidate that is safe and effective prior to any commercial marketing or sale of the product in the United States.

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The nonclinical and clinical testing and approval process requires substantial time, effort and financial resources, and we cannot be certain that any approvals for our product candidates will be granted on a timely basis, if at all.

An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational new drug or biological product to humans in clinical trials. The central focus of an IND submission is on the general investigational plan, the protocol(s) for human trials and the safety of study participants. The IND also includes results of animal and in vitro studies assessing the toxicology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacology and pharmacodynamic characteristics of the product; chemistry, manufacturing and controls information; and any available human data or literature to support the use of the investigational new drug. An IND must become effective before human clinical trials may begin. An IND will automatically become effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless before that time the FDA raises concerns or questions related to the proposed clinical trials. In such a case, the IND may be placed on clinical hold and the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns or questions before clinical trials can begin. Accordingly, submission of an IND may or may not result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to commence. The FDA may impose a clinical hold at any time during clinical trials and may impose a partial clinical hold that would limit trials, for example, to certain doses or for a certain length of time.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational new drug or biological product to human subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators in accordance with GCPs, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the study, the inclusion and exclusion criteria, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety and the efficacy criteria to be evaluated. A protocol for each clinical trial and any subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Additionally, approval must also be obtained from each clinical trial site’s IRB, before the trials may be initiated and the IRB must monitor the trial until completed. There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and clinical trial results to public registries.

The clinical investigation of a drug or biological product is generally divided into three or four phases. Although the phases are usually conducted sequentially, they may overlap or be combined.

 

Phase 1. The drug or biological product is initially introduced into healthy human subjects or patients with the target disease or condition. These studies are designed to evaluate the safety, dosage tolerance, metabolism and pharmacologic actions of the investigational product in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and if possible, to gain early evidence on effectiveness.

 

Phase 2. The investigational product is administered to a limited patient population to evaluate dosage tolerance and optimal dosage, identify possible adverse side effects and safety risks, and preliminarily evaluate efficacy.

 

Phase 3. The investigational product is administered to an expanded patient population, generally at geographically dispersed clinical trial sites to generate enough data to statistically evaluate dosage, clinical effectiveness and safety (or safety, purity, and potency for biological products), to evaluate the overall benefit-risk profile of the investigational product, and to provide an adequate basis for physician labeling.

 

Phase 4. In some cases, the FDA may condition approval of a BLA or NDA for a product candidate on the sponsor’s agreement to conduct additional clinical trials after approval. In other cases, a sponsor may voluntarily conduct additional clinical trials after approval to gain more information about the drug or biological product. Such post-approval studies are typically referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials.

Sponsors must also report to the FDA, within certain timeframes, serious and unexpected adverse reactions, any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator’s brochure, or any findings from other studies or animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk in humans exposed to the product candidate. The FDA, the IRB, or the clinical trial sponsor may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Additionally, some clinical trials are overseen by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical trial sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board or committee. This group provides authorization for whether or not a trial may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the trial. We may also suspend or terminate a clinical trial based on evolving business objectives or competitive climate.

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A manufacturer of an investigational drug for a serious disease or condition is required to make available, such as by posting on its website, its policy on evaluating and responding to requests for individual patient access to such investigational drug.  This requirement applies on the earlier of the first initiation of a Phase 2 or Phase 3 trial of the investigational drug or, as applicable, 15 days after the drug receives a designation as a breakthrough therapy, fast track product, or regenerative advanced therapy.

Submission of a BLA or NDA to the FDA

Assuming successful completion of all required testing in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements, detailed investigational new drug product information is submitted to the FDA in the form of a BLA or NDA requesting approval to market the product for one or more indications. Under federal law, the submission of most BLAs and NDAs is subject to an application user fee. For fiscal year 2020, the application user fee is $2,942,965, and the sponsor of an approved BLA or NDA is also subject to an annual program fee of $325,424 for each approved prescription drug or biological product on the market. These fees are typically increased annually. Applications for orphan drug products are exempted from the BLA and NDA user fees and may be exempted from program fees, unless the application includes an indication for other than a rare disease or condition.

A BLA or NDA must include all relevant data available from pertinent nonclinical studies and clinical trials, including negative or ambiguous results as well as positive findings, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacturing, controls, and proposed labeling, among other things. Data can come from company-sponsored clinical trials intended to test the safety and effectiveness of a use of a product, or from a number of alternative sources, including trials initiated by investigators. To support marketing approval, the data submitted must be sufficient in quality and quantity to establish the safety and effectiveness of the investigational new drug product to the satisfaction of the FDA.

The FDA conducts a preliminary review of all NDAs and BLAs within the first 60 days after submission before accepting them for filing to determine whether they are sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. The FDA may request additional information rather than accept an application for filing. Once a BLA or NDA has been accepted for filing, the FDA’s goal for novel drug and biological products generally is to review the application within ten months after it accepts the application for filing, or, if the application relates to an unmet medical need in a serious or life-threatening indication, six months after the FDA accepts the application for filing. The review process is often significantly extended by the FDA’s requests for additional information or clarification.

Before approving a BLA or NDA, the FDA typically will inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving a BLA or NDA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP.

The FDA is required to refer an application for a novel drug or biological product to an advisory committee or explain why such referral was not made.  An advisory committee is a panel of independent experts, including clinicians and other scientific experts, that reviews, evaluates and provides a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.

The FDA’s Decision on a BLA or NDA

After the FDA evaluates the BLA or NDA and conducts relevant inspections, it may issue an approval letter or a Complete Response Letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the drug with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A Complete Response Letter indicates that the review cycle of the application is complete and the application is not ready for approval. A Complete Response Letter will identify the deficiencies that prevent the FDA from approving the application and may require additional clinical data or an additional Phase 3 clinical trial(s), or other significant, expensive and time-consuming requirements related to clinical trials, nonclinical studies or manufacturing. Even if such additional information is submitted, the FDA may ultimately decide that the BLA or NDA does not satisfy the criteria for approval and issue a denial.

The FDA could also approve the BLA or NDA with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (“REMS”) program to mitigate risks, which could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. The FDA also may condition approval on, among other things, changes to proposed labeling, development of adequate controls and specifications, or a commitment to conduct one or more post-market studies or clinical trials. Such post-market testing may include Phase 4 clinical trials and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness after commercialization.

New government requirements, including those resulting from new legislation, may be established, or the FDA’s policies may change, which could delay or prevent regulatory approval of our products under development.

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Expedited Review and Accelerated Approval Programs

A sponsor may seek approval of its product candidate under programs designed to accelerate FDA’s review and approval of BLAs and NDAs. For example, Fast Track Designation may be granted to a drug intended for treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition that has potential to address unmet medical needs. The key benefits of fast track designation are more frequent interactions with the FDA during development and testing, the eligibility for priority review, and rolling review, which is submission of portions of an application before the complete marketing application is submitted.

Based on results of the Phase 3 clinical trial(s) submitted in a BLA or NDA, the FDA may grant the BLA or NDA a priority review designation, which sets the target date for FDA action on the application for a novel product at six months after the FDA accepts the application for filing. Priority review is granted where there is evidence that the proposed product would be a significant improvement in the safety or effectiveness of the treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of a serious condition. If criteria are not met for priority review, the application is subject to the standard FDA review period of ten months after FDA accepts the application for filing. Priority review designation does not change the scientific/medical standard for approval or the quality of evidence necessary to support approval.

Under the accelerated approval program, the FDA may approve a BLA or NDA on the basis of either a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments. Post-marketing trials or completion of ongoing trials after marketing approval are generally required to verify the drug’s clinical benefit in relationship to the surrogate endpoint or ultimate outcome in relationship to the clinical benefit.

In addition, a sponsor may seek FDA designation of its product candidate as a breakthrough therapy if the drug is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. The benefits of breakthrough therapy designation include the same benefits as a Fast Track designation, in addition to intensive guidance from FDA to ensure an efficient drug development program.

Post-Approval Requirements

Drugs manufactured or distributed pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to recordkeeping, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, advertising and promotion and reporting of adverse experiences with the product. After approval, most changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications or other labeling claims, are subject to prior FDA review and approval.

Drug manufacturers are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and state agencies for compliance with cGMP requirements. Changes to the manufacturing process are strictly regulated, and, depending on the significance of the change, may require prior FDA approval before being implemented. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from cGMP and impose reporting and documentation requirements upon us and any third-party manufacturers that we may decide to use. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP and other aspects of regulatory compliance.

We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the production of clinical quantities of our product candidates and expect to rely in the future on third parties for the production of commercial quantities. Future FDA and state inspections may identify compliance issues at our facilities or at the facilities of our contract manufacturers that may disrupt production, or distribution, or may require substantial resources to correct. In addition, discovery of previously unknown problems with a product or the failure to comply with applicable requirements may result in restrictions on a product, manufacturer or holder of an approved BLA or NDA, including withdrawal or recall of the product from the market or other voluntary, FDA-initiated or judicial action that could delay or prohibit further marketing.

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The FDA may withdraw approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information; imposition of post-market studies or clinical trials to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution restrictions or other restrictions under a REMS program. FDA has authority to require post-market studies, in certain circumstances, on reduced effectiveness of a drug and FDA may require labeling changes related to new reduced effectiveness information. Other potential consequences of a failure to maintain regulatory compliance include, among other things:

 

restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the product, complete withdrawal of the product from the market or product recalls;

 

fines, untitled or warning letters or holds on post-approval clinical trials;

 

refusal of the FDA to approve pending BLAs or NDAs or supplements to approved BLAs or NDAs, or suspension or revocation of product license approvals;

 

product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products; or

 

injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising, and promotion of products that are placed on the market. Drugs may be promoted only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses, and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label uses may be subject to significant liability.

Pediatric Trials and Exclusivity

A sponsor who is planning to submit a marketing application for a drug that includes a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen or new route of administration must submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan (“PSP”) within sixty days of an end of Phase 2 meeting or as may be agreed between the sponsor and FDA. The initial PSP must include an outline of the pediatric study or studies that the sponsor plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, age groups, relevant endpoints and statistical approach, or a justification for not including such detailed information, and any request for a deferral of pediatric assessments or a full or partial waiver of the requirement to provide data from pediatric studies along with supporting information. Generally, development program candidates designated as orphan drugs are exempt from the above requirements. FDA and the sponsor must reach agreement on the PSP. A sponsor can submit amendments to an agreed upon initial PSP at any time if changes to the pediatric plan need to be considered based on data collected from nonclinical studies, early phase clinical trials, and/or other clinical development programs.

Pediatric exclusivity is another type of non-patent exclusivity in the United States and, if granted, provides for the attachment of an additional six months of marketing protection to the term of any existing regulatory exclusivity, including the five-year and three-year non-patent and orphan exclusivity. This six-month exclusivity may be granted if a BLA or NDA sponsor submits pediatric data that fairly respond to a written request from the FDA for such data. The data do not need to show the product to be effective in the pediatric population studied; rather, if the clinical trial is deemed to fairly respond to the FDA’s request, the additional protection is granted. If reports of FDA-requested pediatric trials are submitted to and accepted by the FDA within the statutory time limits, whatever statutory or regulatory periods of exclusivity or patent protection covering the product are extended by six months. This is not a patent term extension, but it effectively extends the regulatory period during which the FDA cannot accept or approve another application relying on the BLA or NDA sponsor’s data.

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Patent Term Restoration

Depending upon the timing, duration, and specifics of the FDA approval of the use of our product candidates, some of our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, commonly referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent restoration term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during product development and the FDA regulatory review process. However, patent term restoration cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date. The patent term restoration period is generally one-half the time between the effective date of an IND and the submission date of a BLA or NDA, plus the time between the submission date and the approval of that application. Only one patent applicable to an approved product is eligible for the extension and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent and within 60 days of the product’s approval. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in consultation with the FDA, reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension or restoration. In the future, we may apply for restoration of patent term for one of our currently owned or licensed patents to add patent life beyond its current expiration date, depending on the expected length of the clinical trials and other factors involved in the filing of the relevant BLA or NDA.

Biosimilars and Exclusivity

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) signed into law on March 23, 2010, includes a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (“BPCI Act”) which created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products shown to be similar to, or interchangeable with, an FDA-licensed reference biological product. This amendment to the PHSA attempts to minimize duplicative testing. Biosimilarity, which requires that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the proposed biological product and the reference product in terms of safety, purity, and potency, can be shown through analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical trial or trials. Interchangeability requires that a product is biosimilar to the reference product and the product must demonstrate that it can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product and, for products administered multiple times, the biologic and the reference biologic may be switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic. A reference biologic is granted twelve years of exclusivity from the time of first licensure of the reference product.

Abbreviated New Drug Applications (“ANDA”) for Generic Drugs

In 1984, with passage of the Hatch-Waxman Amendments, Congress authorized the FDA to approve generic drugs that are the same as drugs previously approved by the FDA under the NDA provisions of the statute. To obtain approval of a generic drug, an applicant must submit an abbreviated new drug application (“ANDA”) to the agency. In support of such applications, a generic manufacturer may rely on the nonclinical and clinical testing previously conducted for a drug product previously approved under an NDA, known as the reference listed drug (“RLD”).

Specifically, in order for an ANDA to be approved, the FDA must find that the generic version is the same as the RLD with respect to the active ingredient(s), the route of administration, the dosage form, the strength of the drug and the labeling (with certain exceptions). At the same time, the FDA must also determine that the generic drug is “bioequivalent” to the innovator drug. Under the statute, a generic drug is bioequivalent to an RLD if “the rate and extent of absorption of the [generic] drug do not show a significant difference from the rate and extent of absorption of the listed drug.”

Upon approval of an ANDA, the FDA assigns a therapeutic equivalence rating to the approved generic drug in its publication “Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations,” also referred to as the “Orange Book.” Physicians and pharmacists consider an “A” therapeutic equivalence rating to mean that a generic drug is fully substitutable for the RLD. In addition, by operation of certain state laws and numerous health insurance programs, the FDA’s designation of an “A” rating often results in substitution of the generic drug without the knowledge or consent of either the prescribing physician or patient.

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The FDCA provides a period of five years of non-patent exclusivity for a new drug containing a new chemical entity. In cases where such exclusivity has been granted, an ANDA (or a 505(b)(2) NDA, which is a marketing application in which sponsors may rely on investigations that were not conducted by or for the applicant and for which the applicant has not obtained a right of reference or use from the person by or for whom the investigations were conducted) may not be filed with the FDA until the expiration of five years unless the submission is accompanied by a Paragraph IV certification, discussed below, in which case the applicant may submit its application four years following the original product approval. The FDCA also provides for a period of three years of exclusivity if the NDA includes reports of one or more new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability or bioequivalence studies, that were conducted by or for the applicant and are essential to the approval of the application. This three-year exclusivity period often protects changes to a previously approved drug product, such as a new dosage form, route of administration, combination or indication.

Hatch-Waxman Patent Certification and the 30-Month Stay

Upon approval of an NDA or a supplement thereto, NDA sponsors are required to list with the FDA each patent with claims that cover the applicant’s product or a method of using the product. Each of the patents listed by the NDA sponsor is published in the Orange Book. When an ANDA or 505(b)(2) applicant files its application with the FDA, the applicant is required to certify to the FDA concerning any patents listed for the reference product in the Orange Book, except for patents covering methods of use for which the ANDA or 505(b)(2) applicant is not seeking approval.

Specifically, the applicant must certify with respect to each patent that:

 

the required patent information has not been filed;

 

the listed patent has expired;

 

the listed patent has not expired, but will expire on a particular date and approval is sought after patent expiration; or

 

the listed patent is invalid, unenforceable or will not be infringed by the new product.

A certification that the new product will not infringe the already approved product’s listed patents or that such patents are invalid or unenforceable is called a Paragraph IV certification. If the applicant does not challenge a listed patent, the ANDA or 505(b)(2) application will not be approved until the listed patent expires (unless the patent claims only a method-of-using the referenced product and the ANDA or 505(b)(2) applicant indicates that it is not seeking approval of the claimed method of use).

If the applicant has provided a Paragraph IV certification to the FDA, the applicant must also send notice of the Paragraph IV certification to the NDA and patent holders once the ANDA or 505(b)(2) application has been accepted for filing by the FDA. The NDA and patent holders may then initiate a patent infringement lawsuit in response to the notice of the Paragraph IV certification. The filing of a patent infringement lawsuit within 45 days after the receipt of a Paragraph IV certification automatically prevents the FDA from approving the ANDA or 505(b)(2) application until the earlier of expiration of the patent, a decision in the infringement case that is favorable to the ANDA or 505(b)(2) applicant, or 30 months after the receipt of the Paragraph IV notice (which can be extended if the reference product has 5-year exclusivity and the ANDA or 505(b)(2) application is submitted between 4 and 5 years after approval of the reference product).

European Union/Rest of World Government Regulation

In addition to regulations in the United States, we will be subject to a variety of regulations in other jurisdictions governing, among other things, clinical trials and any commercial sales and distribution of our products. The cost of establishing a regulatory compliance system for numerous varying jurisdictions can be very significant. Although many of the issues discussed above with respect to the United States apply similarly in the context of the European Union and in other jurisdictions, the approval process varies between countries and jurisdictions and can involve additional product testing and additional administrative review periods. The time required to obtain approval in other countries and jurisdictions might differ from and be longer than that required to obtain FDA approval. Regulatory approval in one country or jurisdiction does not ensure regulatory approval in another, but a failure or delay in obtaining regulatory approval in one country or jurisdiction may negatively impact the regulatory process in others.

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Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product, we must obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. Certain countries outside of the United States have a similar process that requires the submission of a clinical trial application much like the IND prior to the commencement of human clinical trials. In the European Union, for example, a clinical trial authorization application (CTA), must be submitted for each clinical protocol to each country’s national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and IRB, respectively. Once the CTA is accepted in accordance with a country’s requirements, the clinical trial may proceed.

The requirements and process governing the conduct of clinical trials vary from country to country. In all cases, the clinical trials are conducted in accordance with GCP, the applicable regulatory requirements, and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.

To obtain regulatory approval of an investigational medicinal product under European Union regulatory systems, we must submit a marketing authorization application. The content of the BLA or NDA filed in the United States is similar to that required in the European Union, with the exception of, among other things, country-specific document requirements.

For other countries outside of the European Union, such as countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America or Asia, the requirements governing product licensing, pricing, and reimbursement vary from country to country.

Countries that are part of the European Union, as well as countries outside of the European Union, have their own governing bodies, requirements, and processes with respect to the approval of pharmaceutical and biologic products. If we fail to comply with applicable foreign regulatory requirements, we may be subject to, among other things, fines, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals, product recalls, seizure of products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecution.

Authorization Procedures in the European Union

Medicines can be authorized in the European Union by using either the centralized authorization procedure or national authorization procedures.

 

Centralized procedure. The European Medicines Agency (“EMA”), implemented the centralized procedure for the approval of human medicines to facilitate marketing authorizations that are valid throughout the European Economic Area (“EEA”) which is comprised of the 28-member states of the European Union plus Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein. This procedure results in a single marketing authorization issued by the EMA that is valid across the EEA. The centralized procedure is compulsory for human medicines that are: derived from biotechnology processes, such as genetic engineering, contain a new active substance indicated for the treatment of certain diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders or autoimmune diseases and other immune dysfunctions, and officially designated orphan medicines.

 

For medicines that do not fall within these categories, an applicant has the option of submitting an application for a centralized marketing authorization to the European Commission following a favorable opinion by the EMA, as long as the medicine concerned is a significant therapeutic, scientific or technical innovation, or if its authorization would be in the interest of public health.

 

National authorization procedures. There are also two other possible routes to authorize medicinal products in several European Union countries, which are available for investigational medicinal products that fall outside the scope of the centralized procedure:

 

Decentralized procedure. Using the decentralized procedure, an applicant may apply for simultaneous authorization in more than one European Union country of medicinal products that have not yet been authorized in any European Union country and that do not fall within the mandatory scope of the centralized procedure.

 

Mutual recognition procedure. In the mutual recognition procedure, a medicine is first authorized in one European Union Member State, in accordance with the national procedures of that country. Following this, further marketing authorizations can be sought from other European Union countries in a procedure whereby the countries concerned agree to recognize the validity of the original, national marketing authorization.

In some cases, a Pediatric Investigation Plan (“PIP”) or a request for waiver or deferral, is required for submission prior to submitting a marketing authorization application. A PIP describes, among other things, proposed pediatric trials and their timing relative to clinical trials in adults.

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New Chemical Entity Exclusivity

In the European Union, new chemical entities, sometimes referred to as new active substances, qualify for eight years of data exclusivity upon marketing authorization and an additional two years of market exclusivity. These data exclusivity, if granted, prevents regulatory authorities in the European Union from referencing the innovator’s data to assess a generic (abbreviated) application for eight years, after which generic marketing authorization can be submitted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but not approved for two years. The overall ten-year period will be extended to a maximum of eleven years if, during the first eight years of those ten years, the marketing authorization holder obtains an authorization for one or more new therapeutic indications which, during the scientific evaluation prior to their authorization, are held to bring a significant clinical benefit in comparison with existing therapies.

Accelerated Review

Under the centralized procedure in the European Union, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of a marketing authorization application is 210 days (excluding clock stops, when additional written or oral information is to be provided by the applicant in response to questions asked by the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (“CHMP”)). Accelerated evaluation might be granted by the CHMP in exceptional cases, when a medicinal product is expected to be of a major public health interest, particularly from the point of view of therapeutic innovation. In this circumstance, EMA ensures that the opinion of the CHMP is given within 150 days, excluding clock stops.

Pharmaceutical Coverage, Pricing and Reimbursement

Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any products for which we obtain regulatory approval. In the United States and markets in other countries, sales of any products for which we receive regulatory approval for commercial sale will depend in part on the availability of coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors, including government authorities, managed care providers, private health insurers and other organizations. The process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the product. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list, or formulary, which might not include all of the FDA-approved products for a particular indication. Moreover, a payor’s decision to provide coverage for a drug product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Adequate third- party reimbursement may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development.

Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the price and examining the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of medical products and services, in addition to their safety and efficacy. In order to obtain coverage and reimbursement for any product that might be approved for sale, we may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of our products, in addition to the costs required to obtain regulatory approvals. Our product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost-effective. If third-party payors do not consider a product to be cost-effective compared to other available therapies, they may not cover the product after approval as a benefit under their plans or, if they do, the level of payment may not be sufficient to allow a company to sell its products at a profit.

The U.S. government, state legislatures and foreign governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost containment programs to limit the growth of government-paid health care costs, including price controls, restrictions on reimbursement and requirements for substitution of generic products for branded prescription drugs. By way of example, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, collectively, the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) contains provisions that may reduce the profitability of drug products, including, for example, increased rebates for drugs sold to Medicaid programs, extension of Medicaid rebates to Medicaid managed care plans, mandatory discounts for certain Medicare Part D beneficiaries and annual fees based on pharmaceutical companies’ share of sales to federal health care programs. Some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act have yet to be fully implemented, while certain provisions have been subject to judicial and Congressional challenges. For example, on January 20, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies with authorities and responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision of the Affordable Care Act that would impose a fiscal burden on states or a cost, fee, tax, penalty or regulatory burden on individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices.

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Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, it has enacted laws that modify certain provisions of the ACA, including eliminating a tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year, which is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate”. On December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court judge in the Northern District of Texas ruled that the individual mandate portion of the ACA is an essential and inseverable feature of the ACA, and therefore because the mandate was no longer in effect, the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. On December 18, 2019, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held the individual mandate is unconstitutional, but remanded the case to the lower court to reconsider its earlier invalidation of the full ACA. It is unclear how this decision and any subsequent appeals and other efforts to repeal and replace the ACA will impact the ACA and our business. Thus, the full impact of the Affordable Care Act, or any law replacing elements of it, on our business remains unclear. Adoption of government controls and measures and tightening of restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could limit payments for pharmaceuticals.

Further, the Trump administration’s budget proposals for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 contain further drug price control measures that could be enacted during the budget process or in other future legislation, including, for example, measures to permit Medicare Part D plans to negotiate the price of certain drugs under Medicare Part B, to allow some states to negotiate drug prices under Medicaid, and to eliminate cost sharing for generic drugs for low-income patients. Additionally, the Trump administration released a “Blueprint” to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contains additional proposals to increase manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products and reduce the out of pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has already started the process of soliciting feedback on some of these measures and, at the same time, is immediately implementing others under its existing authority. For example, in May 2019, CMS issued a final rule to allow Medicare Advantage Plans the option of using step therapy, a type of prior authorization, for Part B drugs beginning January 1, 2020. This final rule codified CMS’s policy change that was effective January 1, 2019. Although a number of these, and other proposed measures may require authorization through additional legislation to become effective, Congress and the Trump administration have each indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs. At the state level, legislatures have increasingly passed legislation and implemented regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing.

In the European Community, governments influence the price of pharmaceutical products through their pricing and reimbursement rules and control of national health care systems that fund a large part of the cost of those products to consumers. Some jurisdictions operate positive and negative list systems under which products may only be marketed once a reimbursement price has been agreed to by the government. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval, some of these countries may require the completion of clinical trials that compare the cost-effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. Other member states allow companies to fix their own prices for medicines but monitor and control company profits. The downward pressure on health care costs in general, particularly prescription drugs, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products. In addition, in some countries, cross-border imports from low-priced markets exert a commercial pressure on pricing within a country.

The marketability of any products for which we receive regulatory approval for commercial sale may suffer if the government and third-party payors fail to provide adequate coverage and reimbursement. In addition, an increasing emphasis on cost containment measures in the United States and other countries has increased and we expect will continue to increase the pressure on pharmaceutical pricing. Coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which we receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.

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Other Healthcare Laws and Compliance Requirements

If we obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, we may be subject to various federal and state laws targeting fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry. These laws may impact, among other things, our proposed sales, marketing and education programs. In addition, we may be subject to patient privacy regulation by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. The laws that may affect our ability to operate include:

 

The federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons from knowingly and willfully soliciting, receiving, offering or paying remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce, or in return for, the purchase or recommendation of an item or service reimbursable under a federal healthcare program, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs. This statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers and formulary managers on the other. Although there are several statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting certain common activities from prosecution, they are drawn narrowly, and practices that involve remuneration intended to induce prescribing, purchasing or recommending may be subject to scrutiny if they do not qualify for an exception or safe harbor. In addition, the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the AKS constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal False Claims Act or federal civil money penalties statute. Violations of the AKS carry potentially significant civil and criminal penalties, including imprisonment, fines, administrative civil monetary penalties, and exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs.

 

The federal anti-inducement law which prohibits, among other things, the offering or giving of remuneration, which includes, without limitation, any transfer of items or services for free or for less than fair market value (with limited exceptions), to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary that the person knows or should know is likely to influence the beneficiary’s selection of a particular supplier of items or services reimbursable by a federal or state governmental program;

 

Federal civil and criminal false claims laws and civil monetary penalty laws, including the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) which prohibit, among other things, individuals or entities from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the federal government, claims for payment or approval that are false, fictitious or fraudulent; knowingly making, using or causing to be made or used, a false statement or record material to a false or fraudulent claim or obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the federal government; or knowingly concealing or knowingly and improperly avoiding or decreasing an obligation to pay money to the federal government. Manufacturers can be held liable under the FCA even when they do not submit claims directly to government payors if they are deemed to “cause” the submission of false or fraudulent claims. Companies that submit claims directly to payors may also be liable under the FCA for the direct submission of such claims. The FCA also permits a private individual acting as a “whistleblower” to bring actions on behalf of the federal government alleging violations of the FCA and to share in any monetary recovery. When an entity is determined to have violated the federal civil False Claims Act, the government may impose civil fines and penalties for each false claim, plus treble damages, and exclude the entity from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs.

 

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) and its implementing regulations, which prohibit knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program  or obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody or control of, any healthcare benefit program, regardless of the payor (e.g., public or private) and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up by any trick or device a material fact or making any materially false statements in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services relating to healthcare matters. Similar to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation.

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HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) and its implementing regulations, which imposes certain requirements on certain covered healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, otherwise known as covered entities, relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information, including mandatory contractual terms and required implementation of technical safeguards of such information. HITECH also created new tiers of civil monetary penalties, amended HIPAA to make civil and criminal penalties directly applicable to business associates, and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce the federal HIPAA laws and seek attorneys’ fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions.

 

The federal transparency requirements under the Affordable Care Act, including the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which require drug and biologics manufacturers eligible for payment under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program to report annually to HHS, information related to payments  or other “transfers of value” made or distributed to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by the physicians described above and their immediate family members. Failure to submit required information may result in civil monetary penalties for all payments, transfers of value or ownership or investment interests that are not timely, accurately, and completely reported in an annual submission.  Effective January 1, 2022, these reporting obligations will extend to include transfers of value made to certain non-physician providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

 

Federal consumer protection and unfair competition laws, which broadly regulate marketplace activities and activities that potentially harm consumers.

 

State and foreign law equivalents of each of the above federal laws, such as anti-kickback and false claims laws that may apply to items or services reimbursed by any third-party payor, including commercial insurers, and state laws governing the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts.  

The Affordable Care Act broadened the reach of the fraud and abuse laws by, among other things, amending the intent requirement of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the applicable criminal healthcare fraud statutes contained within 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b. Pursuant to the statutory amendment, a person or entity no longer needs to have actual knowledge of this statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation. In addition, the Affordable Care Act provides that the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the civil False Claims Act or the civil monetary penalties statute. Many states have adopted laws similar to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, some of which apply to the referral of patients for healthcare items or services reimbursed by any source, not only the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

We are also subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) which prohibits improper payments or offers of payments to foreign governments and their officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business and requires companies to maintain accurate books and records and a system of internal accounting controls. Safeguards we implement to discourage improper payments or offers of payments by our employees, consultants, and others may be ineffective, and violations of the FCPA and similar laws may result in severe criminal or civil sanctions, or other liabilities or proceedings against us, any of which would likely harm our reputation, business, financial condition and result of operations.

If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the laws described above or any other governmental regulations that apply to us, including environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we may be subject to penalties, including administrative, civil and criminal penalties, exclusion from participation in government healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid and imprisonment, damages, fines and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.

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Employees

As of December 31, 2019, we had 12 full-time or part-time employees, including 5 employees with doctorate level degrees. Of these employees, 6 employees are engaged in research and development activities and 6 employees are engaged in general and administrative activities. None of our employees are represented by labor unions or covered by collective bargaining agreements. We consider the relationship with our employees to be good.

Our Corporate Information

We were originally incorporated in the State of Delaware in November 2007 under the name “Zeta Acquisition Corp. II.” Prior to our merger in March 2017, Zeta Acquisition Corp. II was a “shell” company registered under the Exchange Act with no specific business plan or purpose until it began operating the business of Aerpio through the merger on March 15, 2017 (“the Merger”). Aerpio was incorporated in the State of Delaware in November 2011 to focus primarily on advancing first-in-class treatments for ocular disease. Effective upon the Merger, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Zeta Acquisition Corp. II merged with and into Aerpio, and Aerpio continued as the operating subsidiary of Zeta Acquisition Corp. II. Immediately following the Merger, Aerpio converted into a Delaware limited liability company with the name Aerpio Therapeutics LLC.

Our corporate headquarters are located at 9987 Carver Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242, and our telephone number is (513) 985-1920. We maintain a website at www.aerpio.com, to which we regularly post copies of our press releases as well as additional information about us. Our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) will be available free of charge through the website as soon as reasonably practicable after being electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. Information contained in our website does not constitute a part of this prospectus or our other filings with the SEC.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

The following risk factors and other information included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K should be carefully considered. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we presently deem less significant may also impair our business operations. Please see page 2 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for a discussion of some of the forward-looking statements that are qualified by these risk factors.  If any of the following risks actually occur, our business, financial condition, results of operations and future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital

We have incurred significant losses since inception and anticipate that we will continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future and may never achieve or maintain profitability.

We have incurred net losses each year since our inception, with the exception of the three months ended September 30, 2018 as a result of the upfront Gossamer payment discussed above.  For the year ended December 31, 2019, we incurred net losses of $23.3 million, compared to net loss of $10.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. As of December 31, 2019, we had an accumulated deficit of $142.2 million. To date, we have not commercialized any products or generated any revenues from the sale of products, and we do not expect to generate any product revenues in the foreseeable future. We do not know whether or when we will generate revenue or become profitable.

We have devoted most of our financial resources to research and development, including our clinical and preclinical development activities. The amount of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of our future expenditures, and our financial position will depend, in part, on our ability to obtain funding through equity or debt financings, strategic collaborations or grants. In June 2019 we initiated a Phase 1b clinical trial for our lead product candidate, AKB-9778, for a topical drop formulation to treat open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension.  Our other product candidates, including ARP-1536, are in preclinical development. As a result, we expect that it will be several years, if ever, before we have a product candidate ready for commercialization. Even if we obtain regulatory approval to market AKB-9778 or any of our other product candidates, our future revenues will depend upon the size of any markets in which AKB-9778 or any of our other product candidates has received approval, our ability to achieve sufficient market acceptance, reimbursement from third-party payors and other factors.

We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and operating losses for the foreseeable future. We anticipate that our expenses will likely increase significantly if and as we:

 

advance a topical drop formulation of AKB-9778 for the treatment of open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension, including as we plan to advance into a Phase 2 clinical trial of this product candidate.

 

 

seek regulatory approvals for our product candidates that successfully complete clinical trials;

 

 

have our product candidates manufactured for clinical trials and for commercial sale;

 

 

establish a sales, marketing and distribution infrastructure to commercialize any products for which we may obtain marketing approval;

 

 

initiate additional preclinical, clinical or other studies for AKB-9778, ARP-1536 and other product candidates that we may develop or acquire;

 

 

seek to discover and develop additional product candidates;

 

 

acquire or in-license other commercial products, product candidates and technologies;

 

 

make royalty, milestone or other payments under any future in-license agreements;

 

 

maintain, protect and expand our intellectual property portfolio;

 

 

attract and retain skilled personnel; and

 

 

create additional infrastructure to support our operations as a public company.

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Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with pharmaceutical product development, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of increased expenses or when, if at all, we will be able to achieve profitability. If we are required by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or other regulatory authorities to perform studies in addition to those currently expected, or if there are any delays in completing our clinical trials or the development of any of our product candidates, our expenses could increase.

The net losses we incur may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year, such that a period-to-period comparison of our results of operations may not be a good indication of our future performance. In any particular quarter or quarters, our operating results could be below the expectations of securities analysts or investors, which could cause our stock price to decline.

To become and remain profitable, we must succeed in developing and commercializing our product candidates, which must generate significant revenue. This will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities, including completing preclinical testing and clinical trials of our product candidates, discovering additional product candidates, obtaining regulatory approval for these product candidates and manufacturing, marketing and selling any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval. We are only in the preliminary stages of most of these activities. We may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, may never generate revenues that are significant enough to achieve profitability.

Even if we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable could depress the value of our company and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, maintain our research and development efforts, diversify our product offerings or even continue our operations. A decline in the value of our company could cause you to lose all or part of your investment.

We will require substantial additional financing. A failure to obtain this necessary capital when needed could force us to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development or commercialization efforts.

As of December 31, 2019, our cash and cash equivalents were $38.5 million. We believe that we will continue to expend substantial resources for the foreseeable future developing AKB-9778 for the indications that we are pursuing, such as OAG and ocular hypertension. Additionally, we expect to expend substantial resources to further develop ARP-1536. We may also expend substantial resources to develop any other product candidates that we may develop or acquire. These expenditures will include costs associated with research and development, potentially obtaining regulatory approvals and having our products manufactured, as well as marketing and selling products approved for sale, if any. In addition, other unanticipated costs may arise. Because the outcome of our current and anticipated clinical trials is highly uncertain, we cannot reasonably estimate the actual amounts necessary to successfully complete the development and commercialization of our product candidates.

Our future capital requirements depend on many factors, including:

 

the rate of progress, results and cost of continuing our Phase 1 program of AKB-9778 for open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension and our operating costs incurred as we conduct these trials;

 

the scope, size, rate of progress, results and costs of initiating and completing additional development of AKB-9778;

 

assuming favorable clinical results, the cost, timing and outcome of our efforts to obtain marketing approval for AKB-9778 in the United States, Europe and in other jurisdictions, including to fund the preparation and filing of regulatory submissions for AKB-9778 with the FDA, the EMA and other regulatory authorities;

 

the scope, progress, results and costs of preclinical development, laboratory testing and clinical trials that we may undertake for ARP-1536 and any other product candidates that we may develop or acquire;

 

the timing of, and the costs involved in, obtaining regulatory approvals for ARP-1536 if clinical trials of this product candidate are successful;

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the cost and timing of future commercialization activities for our products, if any of our product candidates are approved for marketing, including product manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution costs;

 

the revenue, if any, received from commercial sales of our product candidates for which we receive marketing approval;

 

the cost of having our product candidates manufactured for clinical trials in preparation for regulatory approval and in preparation for commercialization;

 

our ability to establish and maintain strategic collaborations, licensing or other arrangements and the financial terms of such agreements; and

 

the costs involved in preparing, filing, prosecuting patent applications, maintaining, defending and enforcing our intellectual property rights, including litigation costs and the outcome of such litigation.

Based on our current operating plan, and absent any future financings or strategic partnerships, we believe that our existing cash and cash equivalents will be sufficient to fund our projected operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements at least through the second quarter of 2021. However, our operating plan may change as a result of many factors currently unknown to us, and we may need additional funds sooner than planned. In addition, we may seek additional capital due to favorable market conditions or strategic considerations even if we believe we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans. Additional funds may not be available when we need them on terms that are acceptable to us, or at all. If adequate funds are not available to us on a timely basis, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate preclinical studies, clinical trials or other development activities for AKB-9778, ARP-1536 or any other product candidates that we develop or acquire, or delay, limit, reduce or terminate our establishment of sales and marketing capabilities or other activities that may be necessary to commercialize our product candidates.

Our corporate restructuring and the associated headcount reduction may not result in anticipated savings, could result in total costs and expenses that are greater than expected and could disrupt our business.

In April 2019, we adopted a realignment plan to reduce operating costs and better align our workforce with the needs of our ongoing business. The realignment plan reduced our workforce by 11 employees, representing approximately 41% of our workforce. We may not realize, in full or in part, the anticipated benefits, savings and improvements in our cost structure from our restructuring efforts due to unforeseen difficulties, delays or unexpected costs. If we are unable to realize the expected operational efficiencies and cost savings from the restructuring, our operating results and financial condition would be adversely affected. Furthermore, our restructuring plan may be disruptive to our operations. For example, our headcount reductions could yield unanticipated consequences, such as increased difficulties in implementing our business strategy, including retention of our remaining employees.  

We cannot assure you that our exploration of strategic alternatives will result in a transaction or that any such transaction would be successful, and the process of exploring strategic alternatives or its conclusion could adversely impact our business and our stock price.  

In October 2019, we announced the engagement of Evercore, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc. and Duane Nash, M.D., J.D., M.B.A. to assist us in identifying and evaluating a range of potential strategic alternatives, including an acquisition, company sale, merger, business combination, asset sale, in-license, out-license or other strategic transaction. This strategic alternative process is ongoing. There can be no assurances that the strategic alternatives process will result in the announcement or consummation of any strategic transaction, or that any resulting plans or transactions will yield additional value for shareholders. Any potential transaction would be dependent on a number of factors that may be beyond our control, including, among other things, market conditions, industry trends, the interest of third parties in a potential transaction with us and the availability of financing to potential buyers on reasonable terms.

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The process of exploring strategic alternatives could adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. We could incur substantial expenses associated with identifying and evaluating potential strategic alternatives, including those related to equity compensation, severance pay and legal, accounting and financial advisory fees. In addition, the process may be time consuming and disruptive to our business operations, could divert the attention of management and the Board of Directors from our business, could negatively impact our ability to attract, retain and motivate key employees, and could expose us to potential litigation in connection with this process or any resulting transaction. Further, speculation regarding any developments related to the review of strategic alternatives and perceived uncertainties related to the future of the Company could cause our stock price to fluctuate significantly.

Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our existing stockholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to product candidates on unfavorable terms to us.

Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial product revenues, we expect to finance our cash needs through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings and license, development and commercialization agreements with collaborators. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, your ownership interest will be diluted, and the terms may include liquidation or other preferences and anti-dilution protections that adversely affect your rights as a stockholder. Debt financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take certain actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends. If we raise additional funds through strategic collaborations with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our product candidates, future revenue streams, research programs or product candidates or grant licenses on terms that are not favorable to us. For example, in June 2018, we entered into a license agreement with Gossamer for the development and commercialization of AKB-4924. If we are unable to raise additional funds through equity or debt financing when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development or commercialization efforts for AKB-9778, ARP-1536 or any other product candidates that we develop or acquire, or grant rights to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves.

Our limited operating history may make it difficult for you to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.

We commenced active operations in 2011, and our operations to date have been limited to organizing and staffing our company, business planning, raising capital, identifying potential product candidates, undertaking preclinical studies and conducting clinical trials. We currently have two product candidates that we are developing internally, one of which is in preclinical development. Biopharmaceutical product development is a highly speculative undertaking and involves a substantial degree of risk. Only a small fraction of biopharmaceutical development programs ultimately results in commercial products or even product candidates and a number of events could delay our development efforts and negatively impact our ability to obtain regulatory approval for, and to manufacture, market and sell, a product. We have not yet demonstrated our ability to successfully complete later stage clinical trials, obtain regulatory approvals, manufacture a commercial scale product, or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Consequently, any predictions you make about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history.

In addition, as a young business, we may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown factors. We will need to expand our capabilities to support commercial activities. We may not be successful in adding such capabilities.

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Risks Related to Our Business and the Clinical Development, Regulatory Review and Approval of Product Candidates

We depend heavily on the success of our lead product candidate, AKB-9778. Even if we obtain favorable clinical results, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval for, or successfully commercialize, AKB-9778.

We rely on our lead product candidate, AKB-9778, and our business depends almost entirely on the successful clinical development, regulatory approval and commercialization of that product candidate, which may never occur. In March 2019, we announced top line results of the Phase 2b clinical trial for AKB-9778 in the treatment of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. While we believed AKB-9778 had the potential to slow down or possibly reverse retinal vascular changes caused by diabetes, the subcutaneous administration of AKB-9778 twice daily did not meet the study’s primary endpoint of the percentage of patients with an improvement of two or more steps in diabetic retinopathy severity score (DRSS) in the study eye, compared to placebo.  In June 2019, we initiated a Phase 1b clinical trial for our lead product candidate, AKB-9778, for a topical drop formulation to treat open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension. In October 2019, we announced interim results from its Phase 1b clinical trial. The unmasked interim analysis, limited to the first three cohorts, shows the topical ocular administration of AKB-9778 was well tolerated.  Compared to placebo, there was a dose dependent increase in minimal to mild conjunctival hyperemia with AKB-9778, which was transient and generally considered non-adverse, and a time and dose dependent reduction IOP that, in the highest QD dose cohort peaked at 4 hours post-dose and was sustained through eight hours on day 7, returning to baseline levels at 24 hours post-dose. Based on these data, a cohort of up to 36 patients with OHT/OAG (hypertensive eyes) was added to the ongoing study to assess safety and pilot efficacy in the target patient population, and results were announced in January 2020. These results showed statistically significant decreases in IOP on Day 1 and Day 7 compared to prostaglandin alone. When compared to placebo, AKB-9778 plus prostaglandin produced a statistically significant decrease in IOP versus prostaglandin alone on Day 7. Topical ocular administration of AKB-9778 was well-tolerated over seven days, with 21.9% of subjects experiencing hyperemia compared with 9.1% of subjects in the prostaglandin alone arm. Based on the preclinical proof of concept and the results of the Phase 1b trial showing a reduction in IOP in patients with OHT and OAG, we plan to further advance the glaucoma program into a Phase 2 clinical trial with results expected in the first quarter of 2021.

We currently have no products for sale, generate no revenues from sales of any drugs, and may never be able to develop marketable products. AKB-9778 will require substantial additional clinical development, testing, manufacturing process development, and regulatory approval before we are permitted to commence its commercialization. We are currently evaluating development options for ARP-1536, which is our other product candidate that we are developing internally. None of our product candidates has advanced into a pivotal trial, and it may be years before such trial is initiated, if ever. The clinical trials of our product candidates are, and the manufacturing and marketing of our product candidates will be, subject to extensive and rigorous review and regulation by numerous government authorities in the United States and in other countries where we intend to test and, if approved, market any product candidates. Before obtaining regulatory approval for the commercial sale of any product candidate, we must demonstrate through extensive preclinical testing and clinical trials that any drug candidate is safe and effective and any biological product candidate is safe, pure, and potent for use in each target indication. This process can take many years. Of the large number of drugs in development in the United States, only a small percentage successfully complete the FDA regulatory approval process and are commercialized. Accordingly, even if we are able to obtain the requisite capital to continue to fund our development and clinical programs, we may be unable to successfully develop or commercialize AKB-9778.

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We are not permitted to market AKB-9778 in the United States until we receive approval of an NDA from the FDA, or in any foreign countries until we receive the requisite approval from such countries. As a condition to submitting an NDA to the FDA for AKB-9778, we must complete our ongoing clinical trial, Phase 2 and 3 trials, and any additional nonclinical studies or clinical trials required by the FDA. To date, we have not completed any clinical trials of AKB-9778 for open angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. AKB-9778 may not be successful in clinical trials or receive regulatory approval. Further, AKB-9778 may not receive regulatory approval even if it is successful in clinical trials. Obtaining approval of an NDA is a complex, lengthy, expensive and uncertain process that typically takes many years following the commencement of clinical trials and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of the regulatory authorities. In addition, the policies or regulations, or the type and amount of clinical data necessary to gain approval, may change during the course of a product candidate’s clinical development and may vary among jurisdictions. Our development activities could be harmed or delayed by a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, including the FDA. We have not obtained regulatory approval for any product candidate and it is possible that AKB-9778 will never obtain regulatory approval. The FDA may delay, limit or deny approval of AKB-9778 for many reasons, including, among others:

 

we may not be able to demonstrate that AKB-9778 is safe and effective in treating patients with open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension to the satisfaction of the FDA;

 

the results of our clinical trials may not meet the level of statistical or clinical significance required by the FDA for marketing approval;

 

the FDA may disagree with the number, design, size, conduct or implementation of our clinical trials;

 

the FDA may not approve the formulation, labeling or specifications of AKB-9778;

 

the FDA may require that we conduct additional clinical trials;

 

the contract research organizations (“CROs”) or the clinical investigators that we retain to conduct our clinical trials may take actions outside of our control that materially adversely impact our clinical trials;

 

we, our CROs or clinical investigators may fail to perform in accordance with the FDA’s good clinical practice (“GCP”) requirements;

 

the FDA may disagree with our interpretation of data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials;

 

the FDA may find deficiencies with the manufacturing processes or facilities of third-party manufacturers with which we contract; or

 

the policies or regulations of the FDA may significantly change in a manner that renders our clinical data insufficient for approval or may require that we amend or submit new clinical protocols.

In addition, similar reasons may cause the EMA or other regulatory authorities to delay, limit or deny approval of AKB-9778 outside the United States.

Any of these factors, many of which are beyond our control, could jeopardize our ability to obtain regulatory approval for and successfully market AKB-9778. Because our business is substantially dependent upon AKB-9778, any such setback in our pursuit of regulatory approval would have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.

Alternatively, even if we obtain regulatory approval, that approval may be for indications or patient populations that are not as broad as we intend or desire or may require labeling that includes significant use or distribution restrictions or safety warnings. We may also be required to perform additional, unanticipated clinical trials to obtain approval or be subject to additional post marketing testing requirements to maintain regulatory approval. In addition, regulatory authorities may withdraw their approval of a product or the FDA may require a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (“REMS”) for a product, which could impose restrictions on its distribution. Any of the foregoing scenarios could materially harm the commercial prospects for our product candidates.

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We have not obtained agreement with the FDA, EMA or other regulatory authorities on the design of our development programs.

We have not obtained agreement with the FDA on the design of our planned development programs for AKB-9778 or any other product candidate. As we progress this candidate through clinical trials, the FDA may determine that we would be required to conduct additional clinical trials. The FDA could also disagree with our proposed design of our planned development programs and could suggest a larger number of subjects or a longer course of treatment than our current expectations. If the FDA takes such positions, the costs of our AKB-9778 development program could increase materially and the potential market introduction of AKB-9778 could be delayed or we could risk not obtaining FDA approval even if our clinical trials meet their primary endpoints. The FDA also may require that we conduct additional clinical, nonclinical or manufacturing validation studies and submit that data before it will consider an NDA application.

We have not yet sought guidance for the regulatory path for the topical formulation of AKB-9778 for open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension with the FDA, EMA or other regulatory authorities. We cannot predict what additional requirements may be imposed by these regulatory authorities or how such requirements might delay or increase costs for our planned development programs. Because our business is almost entirely dependent upon the successful development, regulatory approval, and commercialization of AKB-9778, any such delay or increase in costs would have an adverse effect on our business.

We may find it difficult to enroll patients in our clinical trials, which could delay or prevent clinical trials of our product candidates.

Identifying and qualifying patients to participate in clinical trials of our product candidates is critical to our success. The timing of our clinical trials depends on the speed at which we can recruit patients to participate in testing our product candidates, and there is no guarantee that we can successfully enroll patients in a timely manner for our clinical trials. Our competitors may have ongoing clinical trials for product candidates that could be competitive with our product candidates, and patients who would otherwise be eligible for our clinical trials may instead enroll in clinical trials of our competitors’ product candidates. As a result, the timeline for recruiting patients, conducting trials and obtaining regulatory approval of potential products may be delayed. These delays could result in increased costs, delays in advancing our development of AKB-9778 or termination of the clinical trials altogether.

We may not be able to identify, recruit and enroll a sufficient number of patients, or those with required or desired characteristics to achieve diversity in a trial, to complete our clinical trials in a timely manner. Patient enrollment is affected by factors including:

 

severity of the disease under investigation;

 

design of the trial protocol;

 

size and nature of the patient population;

 

eligibility criteria for the trial in question;

 

perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under study;

 

proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective patients;

 

availability of competing therapies and clinical trials and clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of AKB-9778 or any other product candidate in relation to available therapies or other products under development;

 

efforts to facilitate timely enrollment in clinical trials;

 

patient referral practices of physicians; and

 

ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment.

We may not be able to initiate or continue clinical trials if we cannot enroll a sufficient number of eligible patients to participate in the clinical trials required by regulatory agencies. If we have difficulty enrolling a sufficient number of patients to conduct our clinical trials as planned, we may need to delay, limit or terminate ongoing or planned clinical trials, any of which would have an adverse effect on our business.

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Business interruptions resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus or similar public health crises could cause a disruption of the development of our product candidates and adversely impact our business.

Public health crises such as pandemics or similar outbreaks could adversely impact our business. In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus, or COVID-19, was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China and has reached multiple other countries, resulting in government-imposed quarantines, travel restrictions and other public health safety measures in numerous countries. The extent to which the coronavirus impacts our operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including the duration of the outbreak, new information that may emerge concerning the severity of the coronavirus and the actions to contain the coronavirus or treat its impact, among others.

Additionally, timely enrollment in our clinical trials is dependent upon clinical trial sites which may be adversely affected by global health matters, such as pandemics. For example, we are currently planning to conduct a Phase 2 clinical trial for AKB-9778, and our trial sites may be located in geographies that may be affected by the coronavirus. Some factors from the coronavirus outbreak that may adversely affect enrollment in the clinical trials of our product candidates include:

 

the potential diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials to focus on pandemic concerns, including the attention of physicians serving as our clinical trial investigators, hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials;

 

limitations on travel that could interrupt key trial activities, such as clinical trial site initiations and monitoring, domestic and international travel by employees, contractors or patients to clinical trial sites, and delay or inability to secure visas or entry permission, as applicable;

 

interruption in global shipping affecting the transport of clinical trial materials, such as patient samples, investigational drug product and conditioning drugs and other supplies used in our clinical trials; and

 

employee disruptions caused by workplace closures, staffing shortages, travel limitations or mass transit disruptions, that could adversely impact our business operations or delay necessary interactions with local regulators, ethics committees and other important agencies and contractors.

These and other factors arising from the coronavirus could worsen in countries that are already afflicted with the virus or could continue to spread to additional countries, each of which could further adversely impact our ability to conduct clinical trials and our business generally.

We may not be able to comply with requirements of foreign jurisdictions in conducting trials outside of the United States. In addition, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval in foreign jurisdictions.

We may conduct our clinical trials for our product candidates in trial sites outside of the United States, including Japan and the European Union, and seek regulatory approval for our product candidates in major markets in addition to the United States, including the European Union and Japan. Our ability to successfully initiate, enroll and complete a clinical trial in any foreign country, should we attempt to do so, is subject to numerous risks unique to conducting business in international markets, including:

 

difficulty in establishing or managing relationships with qualified CROs and physicians;

 

different local standards for the conduct of clinical trials;

 

the potential burden of complying with a variety of foreign laws, medical standards and regulatory requirements, including the regulation of pharmaceutical and biotechnology products and treatments; and

 

the acceptability of data obtained from trials conducted in the United States to the EMA and other regulatory authorities.

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If we fail to successfully meet requirements for the conduct of clinical trials outside of the United States, we may be delayed in obtaining, or be unable to obtain, regulatory approval for our product candidates in countries outside of the United States.

Regulatory authorities outside the United States will require compliance with numerous and varying regulatory requirements. The approval procedures vary among jurisdictions and may involve requirements for additional testing, and the time required to obtain approval may differ from that required to obtain FDA approval. In addition, in many countries outside the United States, a product must be approved for reimbursement before it can be approved for sale in that country. In some cases, the price that we intend to charge for our products is also subject to approval. Approval by the FDA does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions, and approval by one foreign regulatory authority does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other foreign countries or by the FDA. However, the failure to obtain approval in one jurisdiction may negatively impact our ability to obtain approval in another jurisdiction. The foreign regulatory approval process may include all of the risks associated with obtaining FDA approval. We may not obtain foreign regulatory approvals on a timely basis, if at all. We may not be able to file for regulatory approvals and may not receive necessary approvals to commercialize our products in any market.

Clinical drug development is a lengthy and expensive process with an uncertain outcome, and positive results from  preclinical studies or earlier stage clinical trials are not necessarily predictive of the results of our future clinical trials of AKB-9778. If we cannot replicate the positive results from preclinical studies or earlier stage clinical trials in subsequent clinical trials, we may be unable to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize our product candidates.

Clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the clinical trial process. Success in preclinical studies may not be predictive of similar results in humans during clinical trials, and successful results from early or small clinical trials may not be replicated in later and larger clinical trials. For example, we observed encouraging preclinical and clinical results for AKB-9778 in non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, but this product candidate did not meet the study endpoints in our TIME-2b clinical trial.  There can be no assurance that the results of our planned and future clinical trials will produce positive results. In addition, later stage clinical trials are expected to enroll a larger number of subjects and will treat subjects for longer periods than earlier stage trials, which will result in a greater likelihood that adverse events may be observed. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in early stage development, and we may face similar setbacks. If the results of our ongoing or future clinical trials for AKB-9778 are inconclusive with respect to efficacy, if we do not meet our clinical endpoints with statistical significance, or if there are safety concerns or adverse events, we may be prevented from or delayed in obtaining marketing approval for AKB-9778.

We may experience delays in the planned clinical development program for AKB-9778, and we do not know whether planned clinical trials will begin on time, need to be redesigned, enroll patients on time or be completed on schedule, if at all.

Clinical trials can be delayed or aborted for a variety of reasons, including delay or failure to:

 

obtain regulatory approval to commence a clinical trial;

 

reach agreement on acceptable terms with prospective CROs and clinical trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;

 

obtain institutional review board (“IRB”) approval at each site;

 

recruit, enroll and retain patients through the completion of clinical trials;

 

maintain clinical sites in compliance with trial protocols and regulatory requirements through the completion of clinical trials;

 

address any patient safety concerns that arise during the course of the trial;

 

initiate or add a sufficient number of clinical trial sites; or

 

manufacture sufficient quantities of our product candidate for use in clinical trials.

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We could encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, by the relevant IRBs at the sites at which such trials are being conducted, by the Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) for such trial or by the FDA or other regulatory authorities. Such authorities may impose such a suspension or termination, including a clinical hold, due to a number of factors, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols, inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial site by the FDA or other regulatory authorities, unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects including those experienced by other product candidates in the same class as our product candidates, changes in laws or regulations, or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial. Any delays in completing our clinical trials will increase our costs, slow down our product candidate development and approval process and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.

Even if we receive regulatory approval for our product candidates, such products will be subject to ongoing regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense. Additionally, our product candidates, if approved, could be subject to labeling and other restrictions, and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our products.

Any regulatory approvals that we receive for our product candidates may be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or to conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-marketing testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the products. In addition, if the FDA approves any of our product candidates, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, advertising, promotion and recordkeeping for the product will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, establishment registration, as well as continued compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practice (“cGMP”) requirements and GCP requirements for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval.

Post-approval discovery of previously unknown problems with an approved product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency or relating to manufacturing operations or processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in, among other things:

 

restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the product, withdrawal of the product from the market, or product recalls;

 

fines, untitled or warning letters or holds on clinical trials;

 

refusal by the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications submitted by us, or suspension or revocation of product approvals;

 

product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products;

 

a REMS program; and

 

injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

The FDA’s policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that may have been obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability, which would adversely affect our business.

Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties

We rely on third parties to conduct preclinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidates, and if they do not properly and successfully perform their obligations to us, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approvals for our product candidates.

We rely on third party CROs and other third parties to assist in managing, monitoring and otherwise carrying out our clinical trials. We expect to continue to rely on third parties, such as CROs, clinical data management organizations, medical institutions and clinical investigators to conduct our clinical trials in the future, including our ongoing Phase 1b clinical trial for AKB-9778. We compete with many other companies for the resources of these third parties. The

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third parties on whom we rely may terminate their engagements with us at any time, and having to enter into alternative arrangements would delay development and commercialization of our product candidates.

Our reliance on these third parties for research and development activities will reduce our control over these activities but will not relieve us of our responsibilities. For example, the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities require compliance with regulations and standards, including GCP requirements, for designing, conducting, monitoring, recording, analyzing and reporting the results of clinical trials to ensure that the data and results are credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of trial participants are protected. Although we rely on third parties to conduct our clinical trials, we are responsible for ensuring that each of these clinical trials is conducted in accordance with its general investigational plan and protocol under legal and regulatory requirements. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCP requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, principal investigators and trial sites. If we or any of our investigators or CROs fail to comply with applicable GCP requirements, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA, EMA or other regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that upon inspection by a given regulatory authority, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our clinical trials comply with GCP requirements. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with product produced under applicable cGMP regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process.

If these third parties do not successfully carry out their duties under their agreements, if the quality or accuracy of the data they obtain is compromised due to their failure to adhere to clinical trial protocols or to regulatory requirements, or if they otherwise fail to comply with clinical trial protocols or meet expected deadlines, the clinical trials of our product candidates may not meet regulatory requirements. If clinical trials do not meet regulatory requirements or if these third parties need to be replaced, preclinical development activities or clinical trials may be extended, delayed, suspended or terminated. If any of these events occur, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of our product candidates on a timely basis or at all.

We also expect to rely on other third parties to store and distribute drug supplies for our clinical trials. Any performance failure on the part of our distributors could delay clinical development or marketing approval of our product candidates or commercialization of our products, producing additional losses and depriving us of potential product revenue.

We intend to rely on third parties to conduct some or all aspects of our product manufacturing, and these third parties may not perform satisfactorily.

We do not have any manufacturing facilities and do not expect to independently conduct our product candidate manufacturing for research and preclinical and clinical testing. We currently rely, and expect to rely, on third parties to manufacture and supply drug products for our AKB-9778 clinical trials, and we expect to continue to rely on third parties for the manufacture of clinical and, if necessary, commercial quantities of our product candidates. This reliance on third parties increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of our product candidates or such quantities at an acceptable cost or quality, which could delay, prevent or impair our development or commercialization efforts.

Any of these third parties may terminate their engagement with us at any time. We currently have arrangements in place for the manufacturing of drug substance and drug product for our planned Phase 3 development program. Although we believe that there are several potential alternative manufacturers who could manufacture our product candidates, we may incur significant delays and added costs in identifying, qualifying and contracting with any such replacement, as well as producing the drug product. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may find deficiencies with the manufacturing processes or facilities of third-party manufacturers with which we contract for clinical and commercial supplies. Manufacturers of drug products and their facilities are subject to continual review and periodic inspections by the FDA and other regulatory authorities for compliance with cGMP requirements relating to quality control, quality assurance and corresponding maintenance of records and documents. In addition, we have to enter into technical transfer agreements and share our know-how with the third-party manufacturers, which can be time-consuming and may result in delays. These delays could result in a suspension of our clinical trials or, if AKB-9778 is approved and marketed, a failure to satisfy patient demand.

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Reliance on third party manufacturers entails risks to which we would not be subject if we manufactured the product candidates ourselves, including:

 

the inability to negotiate manufacturing agreements with third parties under commercially reasonable terms;

 

reduced control as a result of using third party manufacturers for all aspects of manufacturing activities, including regulatory compliance and quality assurance;

 

termination or nonrenewal of manufacturing agreements with third parties in a manner or at a time that is costly or damaging to us;

 

the possible misappropriation of our proprietary information, including our trade secrets and know-how; and

 

disruptions to the operations of our manufacturers or suppliers caused by conditions unrelated to our business or operations, including the bankruptcy of the manufacturer or supplier or a catastrophic event affecting our manufacturers or suppliers.

Any of these events could lead to clinical study delays or failure to obtain regulatory approval or affect our ability to successfully commercialize future products. Some of these events could be the basis for FDA action, including injunction, recall, seizure or total or partial suspension of production.

The facilities used by our contract manufacturers to manufacture our product candidates must be evaluated by the FDA pursuant to inspections that will be conducted after we submit our NDA to the FDA. We do not control the manufacturing process of, and are completely dependent on, our contract manufacturers for compliance with cGMP requirements for manufacture of both drug substance and finished drug product. If our contract manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA, we will not be able to secure and/or maintain regulatory approval for our product candidates. In addition, we have no control over the ability of our contract manufacturers to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. If the FDA, EMA or other regulatory authorities find deficiencies with or do not approve these facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates, or if they find deficiencies or withdraw any such approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our product candidates, if approved.

Moreover, our failure, or the failure of our third party manufacturers, to comply with applicable regulations could result in sanctions being imposed on us, including clinical holds, fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, license revocation, seizures or recalls of product candidates or products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecutions, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our drug products or product candidates.

In addition, our product candidates and any products that we may develop may compete with other product candidates and products for access to manufacturing facilities. Certain of these manufacturing facilities may be contractually prohibited from manufacturing our product due to non-compete agreements with our competitors. There are a limited number of manufacturers that operate under cGMP regulations and that might be capable of manufacturing for us.

Our current and anticipated future dependence upon others for the manufacture of our product candidates or products may adversely affect our future profit margins and our ability to commercialize any products that receive marketing approval on a timely and competitive basis.

If we are unable to manufacture our product candidates in sufficient quantities, at sufficient yields, we may experience delays in product development, clinical trials, regulatory approval and commercial distribution.

Completion of our clinical trials and commercialization of our product candidates require access to, or development of, facilities to manufacture our product candidates at sufficient yields and at commercial scale. We have limited experience manufacturing, or managing third parties in manufacturing, any of our product candidates in the volumes that will be necessary to support large-scale clinical trials or commercial sales. Efforts to establish these capabilities may not meet initial expectations as to scheduling, scale-up, reproducibility, yield, purity, cost, potency or quality.

Our reliance on contract manufacturers may adversely affect our operations or result in unforeseen delays or other problems beyond our control. Because of contractual restraints and the limited number of third-party manufacturers

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with the expertise and facilities to manufacture our bulk drug product on a commercial scale, replacement of a manufacturer may be expensive and time-consuming and may cause interruptions in the production of our drug product. A third-party manufacturer may also encounter difficulties in production. These problems may include:

 

difficulties with production costs, scale-up and yields;

 

availability of raw materials and supplies;

 

quality control and assurance;

 

shortages of qualified personnel;

 

compliance with strictly enforced federal, state and foreign regulations that vary in each country where a product might be sold; and

 

lack of capital funding.

Any delay or interruption in our supply of product candidates could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

We may not be successful in establishing and maintaining strategic collaborations, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates, negatively impacting our operating results.

If approved, we plan to commercialize AKB-9778 ourselves in the United States and intend to seek one or more strategic collaborators to commercialize AKB-9778 in additional markets. With respect to ARP-1536, we are evaluating its development options. We face competition in seeking appropriate collaborators for our product candidates, and the negotiation process is time-consuming and complex. In order for us to successfully collaborate with a third party on our product candidates, potential collaborators must view these product candidates as economically valuable. Even if we are successful in our efforts to establish strategic collaborations, the terms that we agree upon may not be favorable to us, and we may not be able to maintain such strategic collaborations if, for example, development or approval of a product is delayed or sales of an approved product are disappointing. Any delay in entering into strategic collaboration agreements related to our product candidates could delay the development and commercialization of our product candidates and reduce their competitiveness even if they reach the market.

In addition, our strategic collaborators may terminate any agreements they enter into with us, and we may not be able to adequately protect our rights under these agreements. Furthermore, our strategic collaborators will likely negotiate for certain rights to control decisions regarding the development and commercialization of our product candidates, if approved, and may not conduct those activities in the same manner as we do.

On June 24, 2018, we entered into a license agreement with Gossamer pursuant to which we granted to Gossamer an exclusive, sublicensable license to develop and commercialize AKB-4924 and other structurally related products worldwide. We received an upfront payment of $20.0 million in connection with this license and are eligible to receive additional development and milestone payments contingent upon the achievement of specified milestones. We are also eligible to receive tiered royalties on sales of licensed products and additional payments upon the occurrence of specified events involving the licensed products. However, there can be no assurance that we will satisfy the conditions to receive any such payments from Gossamer in a timely manner or at all. While Gossamer is obligated to use its commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize the licensed products, there can be no assurance that such products would be successfully developed and commercialized. In addition, the license agreement contains an exclusivity provision pursuant to which we are prohibited from developing, manufacturing or commercializing certain HIF stabilizing compounds as described in the agreement. While the license agreement expires on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis on the later of fifteen years from the date or first commercial sale or when there is no longer a valid patent claim covering such licensed product in such country, either party may terminate the license agreement for an uncured material breach by the other party or upon the bankruptcy or insolvency of the other party. In addition, Gossamer may terminate the license agreement in the event it determines that there is a potential safety or efficacy issue with the licensed products. Therefore, there can be no assurance that the license agreement will continue for its full duration or that we will realize the intended benefits of the license agreement.

If we fail to establish and maintain strategic collaborations related to our product candidates for the indications and in the geographies in which we do not intend develop and commercialize ourselves, we will bear all of the risk and costs related to the development and commercialization of any such product candidate, and we may need to seek

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additional financing, hire additional employees and otherwise develop expertise. This could negatively affect the development of any product candidate for which we do not locate a suitable strategic partner.

Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property

If our efforts to protect our proprietary technologies are not adequate, we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.

We rely upon a combination of patents, trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our technologies. We will only be able to protect our product candidates, proprietary technologies and their uses from unauthorized use by third parties to the extent that valid and enforceable patents or trade secrets cover them. Any disclosure to or misappropriation by third parties of our confidential proprietary information could enable competitors to quickly duplicate or surpass our technological achievements, thus eroding our competitive position in our market.

The patenting process is expensive and time-consuming, and we may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. In addition, we may not pursue or obtain patent protection in all relevant markets. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output before it is too late to obtain patent protection. Our pending and future patent applications may not result in issued patents that protect our technology or products, in whole or in part. In addition, our existing patents and any future patents we obtain may not be sufficiently broad to prevent others from using our technology or from developing competing products and technologies.

Composition-of-matter patents on the active pharmaceutical ingredient are generally considered to be the strongest form of intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical products, as such patents provide protection without regard to any method of use. Method-of-use patents protect the use of a product for the specified method.

This type of patent does not prevent a competitor from making and marketing a product that is identical to our products for an indication that is outside the scope of the patented method. Likewise, a competitor may make and market a product similar to our products but that are not covered by the scope of our patents.  Moreover, even if competitors do not actively promote their product for our targeted indications, physicians may prescribe these products “off-label.” Although off-label prescriptions may infringe or contribute to the infringement of method-of-use patents, the practice is common and such infringement is difficult to prevent or prosecute. In addition, our patents will eventually expire, and the active pharmaceutical ingredients in our current product candidates will become commercially available in generic drug products.  Thus, no patent protection may be available with regard to formulation or method of use.

The strength of patents in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical field involves complex legal and scientific questions and can be uncertain. The patent applications that we own or license may fail to result in issued patents in the United States or in other foreign countries. Even if the patents do successfully issue, third parties may challenge the validity, enforceability, inventorship, or scope thereof, which may result in such patents being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable. Furthermore, even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications may not adequately protect our intellectual property or prevent others from designing around our claims. If the breadth or strength of protection provided by the patent applications we hold with respect to our product candidates is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to develop, and threaten our ability to commercialize, our product candidates. Moreover, the inventors of our patents or patent applications or our scientific consultants may become involved with competitors, develop products or processes which design around our patents, or become hostile to us or the patents or patent applications on which they are named as inventors.  Likewise, our collaborators may become hostile to us or develop products or processes that are adjacent to or compete with us, including products and processes outside the scope of our patents. For example, a hostile collaborator may use technology similar to ours to pursue treatment of an indication that we plan to pursue, and may obtain approval for a product before we do.  A hostile collaborator may file patent applications based on information learned from us.  Such patent applications may become prior art that will be detrimental to future patent applications by us on similar technology.

Further, if we encounter delays in our clinical trials, the period of time during which we could market our product candidates under patent protection would be reduced. Since patent applications in the United States and most other countries are confidential for a period of time after filing, we cannot be certain that we were the first to file any patent application related to our product candidates. Furthermore, for applications in which all claims are entitled to a priority date before March 16, 2013, an interference proceeding can be provoked by a third-party or instituted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to determine who was the first to invent any of the subject matter covered by the patent claims of our applications. For applications containing a claim not entitled to

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priority before March 16, 2013, there is greater level of uncertainty in the patent law with the passage of the America Invents Act (2011), which brings into effect significant changes to the U.S. patent laws and which introduces new procedures for challenging pending patent applications and issued patents. A primary change under this reform is creating a “first to file” system in the United States. We, or our collaborators, might not have been the first to file patent applications on certain inventions.  Likewise, our collaborators may file patent applications on certain inventions without our knowledge, prior to our filing patent applications on those inventions.  This will require us to be cognizant of the time from invention to filing of a patent application.

In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we seek to rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary know-how that is not patentable, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our drug discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know-how, information or technology that is not covered by patents. Although we require all of our employees to assign their inventions to us, and require all of our employees, consultants, advisors and any third parties who have access to our proprietary know-how, information or technology to enter into confidentiality agreements, we cannot be certain that our trade secrets and other confidential proprietary information will not be disclosed, willfully or unintentionally, or that competitors will not otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or independently develop substantially equivalent information and techniques. Trade secrets are difficult to protect, and we have limited control over the protection of trade secrets used by our licensors, collaborators, and suppliers.  Furthermore, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect proprietary rights to the same extent or in the same manner as the laws of the United States. As a result, we may encounter significant problems in protecting and defending our intellectual property both in the United States and abroad. If we are unable to prevent unauthorized material disclosure of our intellectual property to third parties, we will not be able to establish or maintain a competitive advantage in our market, which could materially adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition.

We currently have a non-exclusive license to one U.S. patent, which we have licensed to Gossamer as part of the June 24, 2018 license agreement. We rely on the licensor to maintain this patent and otherwise protect the intellectual property covered by this non-exclusive license. We have limited control over these activities or over any other intellectual property that may be related to our in-licensed intellectual property. For example, we cannot be certain that activities by the licensor have been or will be conducted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. We may have no control or input over whether, and in what manner, our licensor may enforce or defend the patent against a third-party. The licensor may enforce or defend the patent less vigorously than if we had enforced or defended the patent ourselves. Further, the licensor may not necessarily seek enforcement in scenarios in which we would feel that enforcement was in our best interests. For example, the licensor may not enforce the patent against a competitor of ours who is not a direct competitor of the licensor. If our in-licensed intellectual property is found to be invalid or unenforceable, then the licensor may not be able to enforce the patent against a competitor of ours. Our non-exclusive license does not prevent a third party from seeking and obtaining a non-exclusive license to the same patent that we license. If we fail to meet our obligations under the non-exclusive license agreement, then the licensor may terminate the license agreement. If the license agreement is terminated, the former licensor may seek to enforce the intellectual property against us. We may choose to terminate the license agreement, and doing so would allow a third party to seek and obtain an exclusive license to the patent. If a third party obtains an exclusive license to intellectual property formerly licensed to us, then the third party may seek to enforce the intellectual property against us. The occurrence of any of the foregoing may negatively impair our collaboration with Gossamer and prevent us from realizing the intended benefits of this collaboration.

Our patents covering one or more of our products or product candidates could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged.

Any of our intellectual property rights could be challenged or invalidated despite measures we take to obtain patent and other intellectual property protection with respect to our product candidates and proprietary technology. For example, if we were to initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering one of our product candidates, the defendant could counterclaim that our patent is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the U.S. and in some other jurisdictions, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, for example, lack of novelty, obviousness or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld material information from the USPTO or the applicable foreign counterpart, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. A litigant or the USPTO itself could challenge our patents on this basis even if we believe that we have

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conducted our patent prosecution in accordance with the duty of candor and in good faith. The outcome following such a challenge is unpredictable.

With respect to challenges to the validity of our patents, for example, there might be invalidating prior art, of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity and/or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on a product candidate. Even if a defendant does not prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity and/or unenforceability, our patent claims may be construed in a manner that would limit our ability to enforce such claims against the defendant and others. The cost of defending such a challenge, particularly in a foreign jurisdiction, and any resulting loss of patent protection could have a material adverse impact on one or more of our product candidates and our business. Enforcing our intellectual property rights against third parties may also cause such third parties to file other counterclaims against us, which could be costly to defend, particularly in a foreign jurisdiction, and could require us to pay substantial damages, cease the sale of certain products or enter into a license agreement and pay royalties (which may not be possible on commercially reasonable terms or at all). Any efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights are also likely to be costly and may divert the efforts of our scientific and management personnel, even if we are successful in stopping infringement of our patents.

There is also the risk that, even if the validity of these patents is upheld, the court will refuse to stop the third party on the ground that such third party’s activities do not infringe our patents. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently changed some legal principles that affect patent applications, granted patents and assessment of the eligibility or validity of these patents. As a consequence, issued patents may be found to contain invalid claims according to the newly revised eligibility and validity standards. Some of our patents may be subject to challenge and subsequent invalidation or significant narrowing of claim scope in proceedings before the USPTO, or during litigation, under the revised criteria which could also make it more difficult to obtain patents.

We may not be able to detect infringement against our patents, as the case may be, which may be especially difficult for formulation patents. Even if we detect infringement by a third party of our patents, we may choose not to pursue litigation against or settlement with the third party. If we later sue such third party for patent infringement, the third party may have certain legal defenses available to it, which otherwise would not be available except for the delay between when the infringement was first detected and when the suit was brought. Such legal defenses may make it impossible for us to enforce our patents against such third party.

If another party questions the patentability of any of our claims in our U.S. patents, the third party can request that the USPTO review the patent claims such as in an inter partes review, ex parte re-exam or post-grant review proceedings. These proceedings are expensive and may result in a loss of scope of some claims or a loss of the entire patent. In addition to potential USPTO review proceedings, we may become a party to patent opposition proceedings in the European Patent Office (“EPO”) or similar proceedings in other foreign patent offices, where our foreign patents are challenged. The costs of these opposition or similar proceedings could be substantial, and may result in a loss of scope of some claims or a loss of the entire patent. An unfavorable result at the USPTO, EPO or other patent office may result in the loss of our right to exclude others from practicing one or more of our inventions in the relevant country or jurisdiction, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

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Our reliance on third parties requires us to share our trade secrets, which increases the possibility that a competitor will discover them or that our trade secrets will be misappropriated or disclosed.

Because we rely on third parties to research and develop and to manufacture our product candidates, we must, at times, share trade secrets with them. We seek to protect our proprietary technology in part by entering into confidentiality agreements and, if applicable, material transfer agreements, consulting agreements or other similar agreements with our advisors, employees, third-party contractors and consultants prior to beginning research or disclosing proprietary information. These agreements typically limit the rights of the third parties to use or disclose our confidential information, including our trade secrets. Despite the contractual provisions employed when working with third parties, the need to share trade secrets and other confidential information increases the risk that such trade secrets become known by our competitors, are inadvertently incorporated into the technology of others, or are disclosed or used in violation of these agreements. Given that our proprietary position is based, in part, on our know-how and trade secrets, a competitor’s discovery of our trade secrets or other unauthorized use or disclosure would impair our competitive position and may have a material adverse effect on our business. Moreover, enforcing a claim that a third party illegally obtained and is using any of our trade secrets is expensive and time consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. In addition, courts outside the United States are sometimes less willing to protect trade secrets. If we choose to go to court to stop a third party from using any of our trade secrets, we may incur substantial costs. These lawsuits may consume our time and other resources even if we are successful.  These lawsuits also may impact our ability to pursue agreements with third parties in the future.

In addition, these agreements typically restrict the ability of our advisors, employees, third-party contractors and consultants to publish data potentially relating to our trade secrets, although our agreements may contain certain limited publication rights. For example, any academic institution that we may collaborate with in the future will usually expect to be granted rights to publish data arising out of such collaboration, provided that we are notified in advance and given the opportunity to delay publication for a limited time period in order for us to secure patent protection of intellectual property rights arising from the collaboration, in addition to the opportunity to remove confidential or trade secret information from any such publication. In the future we may also conduct joint research and development programs that may require us to share trade secrets under the terms of our research and development or similar agreements.  A collaborator at such academic institution may use the information learned from the collaboration to compete with us, either in an academic or commercial setting.  The collaborator may use the results obtained through the academic collaboration for the benefit of another commercial entity.  The collaborator may use technology for the benefit of a third party even if we were entitled to a license or the right to negotiate for a license to the technology from the academic institution. Despite our efforts to protect our trade secrets, our competitors may discover our trade secrets, either through breach of our agreements with third parties, independent development or publication of information by any of our third-party collaborators. A competitor’s discovery of our trade secrets would impair our competitive position and have an adverse impact on our business.

Moreover, our reliance on third parties may be exploited by a third party with knowledge of our company, including knowledge of company strategies, intellectual property, research programs, trade secrets, and scientific discovery including, for example, drug targets, pharmaceutically active ingredients, dosing regimens and mechanisms of action.  A third party may start a competing company or may join a competing company.  If a third party with whom we have an agreement does become a competitor, this may lead to questions of intellectual property ownership, ownership of physical assets, inventorship and breach of contracts in place with the third party.  If we seek to resolve this issue by a law suit, then we expect counter claims that may jeopardize the validity and enforceability of our patents.  The third parties with whom we collaborate also may have business or legal conflicts of interest.  These conflicts of interest can lead to litigation or impact the ability of the third party to fulfill their obligations to us.

Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may be costly and time consuming and may delay or harm our drug discovery and development efforts.

Our commercial success depends in part on our avoiding infringement of the patents and proprietary rights of third parties. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are characterized by extensive litigation over patent and other intellectual property rights. We may become a party to, or threatened with, future adversarial litigation or other proceedings regarding intellectual property rights with respect to our drug candidates. As the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our drug candidates may give rise to claims of infringement of the patent rights of others.

While our product candidates are in preclinical studies and clinical trials, we believe that the use of our product candidates in these preclinical studies and clinical trials in the United States falls within the scope of the exemptions

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provided by 35 U.S.C. Section 271(e), which provides that it shall not be an act of infringement to make, use, offer to sell, or sell within the United States or import into the United States a patented invention solely for uses reasonably related to the development and submission of information to the FDA. As our product candidates progress toward commercialization, the possibility of a patent infringement claim against us increases. We attempt to ensure that our product candidates and the methods we employ to manufacture them, as well as the methods for their use we intend to promote, do not infringe other parties’ patents and other proprietary rights. There can be no assurance they do not, however, and competitors or other parties may assert that we infringe their proprietary rights in any event.

Third parties may hold or obtain patents or other intellectual property rights and allege in the future that the use of our product candidates infringes these patents or intellectual property rights, or that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization. Under U.S. law, a party may be able to patent a discovery of a new way to use a previously known compound, even if such compound itself is patented, provided the newly discovered use is novel and nonobvious. Such a method-of-use patent, however, if valid, only protects the use of a claimed compound for the specified methods claimed in the patent. This type of patent does not prevent persons from using the compound for any previously known use of the compound. Further, this type of patent does not prevent persons from making and marketing the compound for an indication that is outside the scope of the patented method.

There may be patents of third parties of which we are currently unaware with claims to materials, formulations, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment related to the use or manufacture of our drug candidates. Also, because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending patent applications which may later result in issued patents that our product candidates may infringe. Notwithstanding the above, third parties may in the future claim that our product candidates and other technologies infringe upon these patents and may file suit against us.

Parties making claims against us may seek and obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could effectively block our ability to further develop and commercialize AKB-9778 or other product candidates. If any third-party patents were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover the manufacturing process of any of our product candidates, any molecules formed during the manufacturing process or any final product itself, then the holders of any such patents may be able to block our ability to commercialize such product candidate unless we obtained a license under the applicable patents, or until such patents expire or they are finally determined to be held invalid or unenforceable. Similarly, if any third-party patent were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover aspects of our formulations, processes for manufacture or our intended methods of use, then the holders of any such patent may be able to block or impair our ability to develop and commercialize the applicable product candidate unless we obtained a license or until such patent expires or is finally determined to be held invalid or unenforceable. We may also elect to enter into a license in order to settle litigation or in order to resolve disputes prior to litigation. Furthermore, even in the absence of litigation, we may need to acquire or obtain licenses from third parties to advance our research or allow commercialization of our product candidates, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to do so on commercially reasonable terms or at all.

Additionally, we may in the future from time to time collaborate with academic institutions to accelerate our preclinical research or development under written agreements with these institutions. In certain cases, these institutions may provide us with an option to negotiate a license to any of the institution’s rights in technology resulting from the collaboration. Regardless of such option, we may be unable to negotiate a license within the specified timeframe or under terms that are acceptable to us. If we are unable to do so, the institution may offer the intellectual property rights to others, potentially blocking our ability to pursue our program. The institution also may only offer a nonexclusive license, providing an opportunity for competitors to license intellectual property important to us.  If we are unable to successfully obtain rights to required third-party intellectual property or to maintain the existing intellectual property rights we have, we may have to abandon development of such program and our business and financial condition could suffer.  The academic institutions, or our collaborators at those institutions, also may violate the terms of our agreements with them.  For example, a collaborator could use proprietary knowledge based on the collaboration to compete with us.  These violations may result in litigation, which can be costly and may impact our ability to use resources for product development or other necessary functions.

The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive practice, and companies that may be more established, or have greater resources than we do, may also be pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider necessary or attractive in order to commercialize our product candidates. More established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their larger size

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and cash resources or greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. There can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully complete such negotiations and ultimately acquire the rights to the intellectual property surrounding the additional product candidates that we may seek to acquire.

Further, defense of infringement claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. In the event of a successful claim of infringement against us, we may have to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees for willful infringement, pay royalties or redesign our products, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure.

We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents or other intellectual property, which could be expensive, time consuming and unsuccessful.

Competitors may infringe or otherwise violate our patents, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property. To counter infringement or other violations, we may be required to file claims, which can be expensive and time consuming. Any such claims could provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us, including claims alleging that we infringe their patents or other intellectual property rights. In addition, in a patent infringement proceeding, a court may decide that one or more of the patents we assert is invalid or unenforceable, in whole or in part, construe the patent’s claims narrowly or refuse to prevent the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology. Similarly, if we assert trademark infringement claims, a court may determine that the marks we have asserted are invalid or unenforceable or that the party against whom we have asserted trademark infringement has superior rights to the marks in question. In such a case, we could ultimately be forced to cease use of such marks. In any intellectual property litigation, even if we are successful, any award of monetary damages or other remedy we receive may not be commercially valuable. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation.

Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment and other requirements imposed by governmental patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for non-compliance with these requirements.

Periodic maintenance fees on any issued patent are due to be paid to the USPTO and foreign patent agencies in several stages over the lifetime of the patent. The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies also require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment (such as annuities) and other similar provisions during the patent application process. While an inadvertent lapse can in many cases be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. Non-compliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application include, but are not limited to, failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, non-payment of fees and failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents. In such an event, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.

We may be subject to claims that our employees, consultants or independent contractors have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information of third parties.

We have received confidential and proprietary information from collaborators, prospective licensees and other third parties. In addition, we employ individuals who were previously employed at other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies. We may be subject to claims that we or our employees, consultants or independent contractors have inadvertently or otherwise used or disclosed confidential information of these third parties or our employees’ former employers. We may also be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other third parties have an ownership interest in our patents or other intellectual property. We may be subject to ownership disputes in the future arising, for example, from conflicting obligations of consultants or others who are involved in developing our drug candidates. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, valuable intellectual property. Such an outcome could have a material adverse effect on our business. Even if we are successful in defending against these claims, litigation could result in substantial cost and be a distraction to our management and employees.

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We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.

Filing, prosecuting and defending patents on product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States can be less extensive than those in the United States. In addition, the laws of some countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as laws in the United States. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other countries. Competitors may use our technologies in countries where we have not obtained patent protection to develop their own products and further, may infringe our patents in territories where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as in the United States. These products may compete with our products and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.

Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in certain countries. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property, particularly those relating to pharmaceutical and biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign countries could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.

Risks Related to Commercialization

Our future commercial success depends upon attaining significant market acceptance of our product candidates, if approved, among physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community.

Even if we obtain marketing approval for AKB-9778 or any other product candidates that we may develop or acquire in the future, these product candidates may not gain market acceptance among physicians, third-party payors, patients and others in the medical community. In addition, market acceptance of any approved products depends on a number of other factors, including:

 

the efficacy and safety of the product, as demonstrated in clinical trials;

 

the clinical indications for which the product is approved and the label approved by regulatory authorities for use with the product, including any warnings that may be required on the label;

 

acceptance by physicians and patients of the product as a safe and effective treatment and the willingness of the target patient population to try new therapies and of physicians to prescribe new therapies;

 

the cost, safety and efficacy of treatment in relation to alternative treatments;

 

the availability of adequate coverage and reimbursement by third party payors and government authorities;

 

relative convenience and ease of administration;

 

the prevalence and severity of adverse side effects;

 

the effectiveness of our sales and marketing efforts; and

 

the restrictions on the use of our products together with other medications, if any.

For example, the current established treatments for glaucoma are predominantly eye drop drugs such as prostaglandins (e.g., latanoprost), beta blockers (e.g., timolol), carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (e.g., dorozolamide) and alpha agonists (e.g., brimonidine), many of which are generic, and are used as single agent therapies or combinations of a prostaglandin along with another agent.  Recently there have been new agents approved including

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netarsidil (Rhopress TM, and in combination with latanoprost, Rhoclatan TM) and latanoprostene bunod (Vyzulta TM).

Unless we demonstrate that AKB-9778 has single agent efficacy as effective as or more effective than current single-agent standard of care, or as effective or more effective in combination with a prostaglandin such as latanoprost as other combination products, prescribers may be resistant to prescribing it for glaucoma.

Market acceptance is critical to our ability to generate significant revenue. In addition, any product candidate, if approved and commercialized, may be accepted in only limited capacities or not at all. If any approved products are not accepted by the market at all or to the extent that we expect, we may not be able to generate significant revenue and our business would suffer.

If we are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities or to enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell our product candidates, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates if and when they are approved.

We do not have a sales or marketing infrastructure and have no experience in the sale, marketing or distribution of pharmaceutical products. To achieve commercial success for any product for which we obtain marketing approval, we will need to establish a sales and marketing organization or make arrangements with third parties to perform these services.

There are risks involved with establishing our own sales, marketing and distribution capabilities. For example, recruiting and training a sales force are expensive and time consuming and could delay any product launch. If the commercial launch of a product candidate for which we recruit a sales force and establish marketing capabilities is delayed or does not occur for any reason, we would have prematurely or unnecessarily incurred these commercialization expenses. This may be costly, and our investment would be lost if we cannot retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel.

Factors that may inhibit our efforts to commercialize our products on our own include:

 

our inability to recruit, train and retain adequate numbers of effective sales and marketing personnel;

 

the inability of sales personnel to obtain access to physicians or persuade adequate numbers of physicians to prescribe any future products;

 

state and federal transparency reporting requirements that require us to register our sales representatives and report any gifts, payments for speaking engagements, travel costs, donations, or other support offered to physicians or teaching hospitals which may create additional burden on sales and marketing personnel;

 

our inability to effectively manage a geographically dispersed sales and marketing team;

 

the lack of complementary products to be offered by sales personnel, which may put us at a competitive disadvantage relative to companies with more extensive product lines; and

 

unforeseen costs and expenses associated with creating an independent sales and marketing organization.

If we are unable to establish our own sales, marketing and distribution capabilities and have to enter into arrangements with third parties to perform these services, our profitability, if any, is likely to be materially diminished in relation to if we were to market, sell and distribute any products that we develop ourselves. In addition, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to sell, market and distribute our product candidates or may be unable to do so on terms that are favorable to us. We likely will have little control over such third parties, and any of them may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our products effectively. If we do not establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities successfully, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we will not be successful in commercializing our product candidates.

Coverage and reimbursement may be limited or unavailable in certain market segments for any approved products, which could make it difficult for us to sell our products profitably.

Our future revenues and profitability will be adversely affected if United States and foreign governmental, private third-party insurers and payors and other third-party payors, including Medicare and Medicaid, do not agree to defray or reimburse the cost of our products to the patients. If these entities fail to provide coverage and

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reimbursement with respect to our products or provide an insufficient level of coverage and reimbursement, our products may be too costly for some patients to afford them and physicians may not prescribe them. Market acceptance and sales of any approved products will depend significantly on the availability of adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors and may be affected by existing and future healthcare reform measures. Government authorities and third-party payors decide which drugs they will pay for and establish formularies and reimbursement levels. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that use of a product is:

 

a covered benefit under its health plan;

 

safe, effective and medically necessary;

 

appropriate for the specific patient;

 

cost-effective; and

 

neither experimental nor investigational.

Obtaining coverage and reimbursement approval for a product from a government or other third-party payor is a time consuming and costly process that could require us to provide supporting scientific, clinical and cost-effectiveness data for the use of our products to the payor. Additionally, we may be required to enter into contracts with third-party payors to obtain favorable formulary status. We may not be able to provide data sufficient to gain acceptance with respect to coverage and reimbursement. We cannot be sure that coverage or adequate reimbursement will be available for any of our product candidates. Third-party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicate determinations. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for drug products can differ significantly from payor to payor. Even if we obtain coverage for our product candidates, third-party payors may not establish adequate reimbursement amounts, which may reduce the demand for, or the price of, our products. If reimbursement is not available or is available only to limited levels, we may not be able to commercialize certain of our products. In addition, in the United States, third-party payors are increasingly attempting to contain healthcare costs by limiting both coverage and the level of reimbursement of new drugs. As a result, significant uncertainty exists as to whether and how much third-party payors will reimburse patients for their use of newly approved drugs, which in turn will put pressure on the pricing of drugs.

Price controls may be imposed, which may adversely affect our future profitability.

In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and we expect there will continue to be, actions and proposals to control and reduce healthcare costs. There have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval for our product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities and affect our ability to profitably sell any of our products or product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval.

In some countries, particularly member states of the European Union, the pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to governmental control. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after receipt of marketing approval for a product. In addition, there can be considerable pressure by governments and other stakeholders on prices and reimbursement levels, including as part of cost containment measures. Political, economic and regulatory developments may further complicate pricing negotiations, and pricing negotiations may continue after reimbursement has been obtained. Reference pricing used by various European Union member states and parallel distribution, or arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced member states, can further reduce prices. In some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical trial or other studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of our product candidates to other available products in order to obtain or maintain reimbursement or pricing approval. Publication of discounts by third-party payors or authorities may lead to further pressure on the prices or reimbursement levels within the country of publication and other countries. If reimbursement of our products is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business could be adversely affected.

The impact of recent healthcare reform and other changes in the healthcare industry and in healthcare spending is currently unknown and may adversely affect our business model.

Our revenue prospects could be affected by changes in healthcare spending and policy in the United States and abroad. We operate in a highly regulated industry and new laws, regulations or judicial decisions, or new

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interpretations of existing laws, regulations or decisions related to healthcare availability, the method of delivery or payment for healthcare products and services could negatively impact our business, operations and financial condition.

In the United States, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, also called the MMA, changed the way Medicare covers and pays for pharmaceutical products. The legislation expanded Medicare coverage for drug purchases by the elderly and introduced a new reimbursement methodology based on average sales prices for physician-administered drugs. In addition, this legislation provided authority for limiting the number of drugs that will be covered in any therapeutic class. As a result of this legislation and the expansion of federal coverage of products, we expect that there will be additional pressure to reduce costs. While the MMA applies only to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payors often follow Medicare coverage policies and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, and any reduction in reimbursement that results from the MMA may cause a similar reduction in payments from private payors. Similar regulations or reimbursement policies may be enacted in international markets which could similarly impact our business.

In addition, the ACA was enacted in 2010 with a goal of reducing the cost of healthcare and substantially changing the way healthcare is financed by both government and private insurers. The ACA, among other things, increases the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extends the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, establishes annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs and biologic products, and creates a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 70% (as of January 1, 2019 pursuant to subsequent legislation) point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D. In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. On August 2, 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of up to 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect on April 1, 2013 and will remain in effect through 2029 unless additional Congressional action is taken.

It is likely that federal and state legislatures within the United States and foreign governments will continue to consider changes to existing healthcare legislation. Some of the provisions of the ACA have yet to be fully implemented, while certain provisions have been subject to judicial and Congressional challenges. Since January 2017, President Trump has signed two Executive Orders designed to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the ACA or otherwise circumvent some of the requirements for health insurance mandated by the ACA. One such Executive Order directed federal agencies with authorities and responsibilities under the ACA to waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay the implementation of any provision of the ACA that would impose a fiscal burden on states or a cost, fee, tax, penalty or regulatory burden on individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. The second Executive Order terminates the cost-sharing subsidies that reimburse insurers under the ACA. Several state Attorneys General filed suit to stop the administration from terminating the subsidies, but their request for a restraining order was denied by a federal judge in California on October 25, 2017. The loss of the cost share reduction payments is expected to increase premiums on certain policies issued by qualified health plans under the ACA. Further, on June 14, 2018, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the federal government was not required to pay more than $12 billion in ACA risk corridor payments to third-party payors who argued were owed to them. This was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments on December 10, 2019.  We cannot predict how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule.  The effects of this gap in reimbursement on third-party payors, the viability of the ACA marketplace, providers, and potentially our business, are not yet known.

Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted, including aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year through 2029. In January 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, it has enacted laws that modify certain provisions of the ACA, including eliminating a tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year, which is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate”. On December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court

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judge in the Northern District of Texas ruled that the individual mandate portion of the ACA is an essential and inseverable feature of the ACA, and therefore because the mandate was repealed, the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. On December 18, 2019, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held the individual mandate is unconstitutional, and remanded the case to the lower court to reconsider its earlier invalidation of the full ACA. Pending review, the ACA remains in effect, but it is unclear at this time what effect the latest ruling will have on the status of the ACA. Litigation and legislation related to the ACA are likely to continue, with unpredictable and uncertain results. We will continue to evaluate the effect that the ACA and its possible repeal and replacement has on our business.

Further, the Trump administration’s budget for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 contain further drug price control measures that could be enacted during the budget process or in future legislation, including, for example, measures to permit Medicare Part D plans to negotiate the price of certain drugs under Medicare Part B, to allow some states to negotiate drug prices under Medicaid, and to eliminate cost sharing for generic drugs for low-income patients. Additionally, the Trump administration released a “Blueprint” to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contains additional proposals to increase manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products and reduce the out of pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has already started the process of soliciting feedback on some of these measures and, at the same time, is immediately implementing others under its existing authority. For example, in May 2019, CMS issued a final rule to allow Medicare Advantage Plans the option of using step therapy, a type of prior authorization, for Part B drugs beginning January 1, 2020. This final rule codified CMS’s policy change that was effective January 1, 2019. It is unclear  what effect such changes will have on our business and our ability to receive adequate reimbursement for our future products.

We cannot predict the reform initiatives that may be adopted in the future or whether initiatives that have been adopted will be repealed or modified. The continuing efforts of the government, insurance companies, managed care organizations and other payors of healthcare services to contain or reduce costs of healthcare may adversely affect:

 

the demand for any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval;

 

our ability to set a price that we believe is fair for our products;

 

our ability to obtain coverage and reimbursement approval for a product;

 

our ability to generate revenues and achieve or maintain profitability; and

 

the level of taxes that we are required to pay.

We expect that changes and challenges to the ACA, as well as other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding, more rigorous coverage criteria, new payment methodologies, and additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any future approved product.

We face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before, or more successfully, than we do.

The development and commercialization of new products is highly competitive. Our future success depends on our ability to demonstrate and maintain a competitive advantage with respect to the development and commercialization of our product candidates. Our objective is to develop and commercialize new products with superior efficacy, convenience, tolerability and safety. In many cases, the products that we commercialize will compete with existing, market-leading products.

If AKB-9778 is approved and launched commercially, competing drugs may include generic agents that comprise current standard of care (e.g., latanoprost, timolol, and others) as well as newly approved agents such as Rhopressa, Rhoclatan (Aerie Pharmaceuticals) and Vyzulta (Bausch + Lomb), and others that are in development for the treatment of glaucoma.

Many of our potential competitors have significantly greater financial, manufacturing, marketing, drug development, technical and human resources than we do. Large pharmaceutical companies, in particular, have extensive experience in clinical testing, obtaining regulatory approvals, recruiting patients and in manufacturing pharmaceutical products. Large and established companies such as Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Baush + Lomb, Santen,

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Novartis, ONO, Takeda, Allergan and others compete in the market for products for the treatment of glaucoma. In particular, these companies have greater experience and expertise in securing government contracts and grants to support their research and development efforts, conducting testing and clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals to market products, manufacturing such products on a broad scale and marketing approved products. These companies also have significantly greater research and marketing capabilities than we do and may also have products that have been approved or are in late stages of development, and have collaborative arrangements in our target markets with leading companies and research institutions. Established pharmaceutical companies may also invest heavily to accelerate discovery and development of novel compounds or to in-license novel compounds that could make the product that we develop obsolete. As a result of all of these factors, our competitors may succeed in obtaining patent protection and/or FDA approval or discovering, developing and commercializing products before, or more effectively than, we do. In addition, any new product that competes with an approved product must demonstrate compelling advantages in efficacy, convenience, tolerability and safety in order to overcome price competition and to be commercially successful. If we are not able to compete effectively against potential competitors, our business will not grow and our financial condition and operations will suffer.

Our product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties that delay or prevent their regulatory approval or limit their commercial potential.

Undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates or even competing products in development that utilize a common mechanism of action could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in the denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or other regulatory authorities and potential products liability claims. Serious adverse events deemed to be caused by our product candidates could have a material adverse effect on the development of our product candidates and our business as a whole. The most common drug-related adverse events to date in the clinical trials evaluating the safety and tolerability of subcutaneous AKB-9778 have been dizziness and asymptomatic decreases in blood pressure, and these adverse events may occur in future development by this route of administration.  The most common adverse event seen in the Phase 1b clinical trial evaluating the safety and tolerability of topical ocular AKB-9778 is mild conjunctival hyperemia. Our understanding of the relationship between AKB-9778 and these events, as well as our understanding of adverse events in future clinical trials of other product candidates, may change as we gather more information, and additional unexpected adverse events may be observed.

If we or others identify undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates either before or after receipt of marketing approval, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:

 

our clinical trials may be put on hold;

 

patient recruitment could be slowed, or enrolled patients may not want to complete a clinical trial;

 

we may be unable to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates or regulatory authorities may withdraw approvals of product candidates;

 

regulatory authorities may require additional warnings on the label;

 

a medication guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients may be required;

 

we could be sued and held liable for harm caused to patients; and

 

our reputation may suffer.

Any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of our products and could substantially increase commercialization costs.

Risks Related to Our Business and Industry

If we fail to attract and keep senior management and key scientific personnel, we may be unable to successfully develop our product candidates, conduct our clinical trials and commercialize our products.

We are highly dependent on members of our senior management, including Joseph Gardner, our President and Founder and former Chief Executive Officer, Kevin G. Peters, our Chief Scientific Officer and acting Chief Medical Officer, and Regina Marek, our Vice President of Finance. The loss of the services of any of these persons could impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives.

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Recruiting and retaining qualified scientific, clinical, manufacturing and sales and marketing personnel will also be critical to our success. The loss of the services of our executive officers or other key employees could impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives and seriously harm our ability to successfully implement our business strategy. Furthermore, replacing executive officers and key employees may be difficult and may take an extended period of time because of the limited number of individuals in our industry with the breadth of skills and experience required to successfully develop, gain regulatory approval of and commercialize products. We may be unable to hire, train, retain or motivate these key personnel on acceptable terms given the intense competition among numerous biopharmaceutical companies for similar personnel. In addition, in April 2019, we adopted a realignment plan to reduce operating costs and better align our workforce with the needs of our ongoing business. The realignment plan reduced our workforce by 11 employees, representing approximately 41% of our workforce. As a result, while we have undertaken efforts to retain our current employees, we may experience challenges in doing so.

We also experience competition for the hiring of scientific and clinical personnel from universities and research institutions. In addition, we rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our research and development and commercialization strategy. Our consultants and advisors may be employed by employers other than us and may have commitments under consulting or advisory contracts with other entities that may limit their availability to us. If we are unable to continue to attract and retain high quality personnel, our ability to conduct our business will be limited.

Our employees, independent contractors, principal investigators, contract research organizations, consultants and vendors may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements and insider trading.

We are exposed to the risk that our employees, independent contractors, principal investigators, CROs, consultants and vendors may engage in fraudulent conduct or other illegal activity. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct or unauthorized activities that violate: (1) FDA regulations, including those laws that require the reporting of true, complete and accurate information to the FDA, (2) manufacturing standards, (3) federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations, or (4) laws that require the reporting of true and accurate financial information and data. Specifically, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct by employees and other third parties, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to be in compliance with such laws or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and if we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and curtailment of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.

We may encounter difficulties in managing our growth and expanding our operations successfully.

As we seek to advance our product candidates through clinical trials and commercialization, we will need to expand our development, regulatory, manufacturing, marketing and sales capabilities or contract with third parties to provide these capabilities for us. As our operations expand, we expect that we will need to manage additional relationships with various strategic collaborators, suppliers and other third parties. Future growth will impose significant added responsibilities on members of management. Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize AKB-9778, if approved, and any other product candidates and to compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to manage any future growth effectively. To that end, we must be able to manage our development efforts and clinical trials effectively and hire, train and integrate additional management, administrative and, if necessary, sales and marketing personnel. We may not be able to accomplish these tasks, and our failure to accomplish any of them could prevent us from successfully growing our company.

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If product liability lawsuits are brought against us, we may incur substantial liabilities and may be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates.

We face an inherent risk of product liability as a result of the clinical testing of our product candidates and will face an even greater risk if we commercialize any products. For example, we may be sued if any product we develop allegedly causes injury or is found to be otherwise unsuitable during product testing, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, negligence, strict liability and a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we may incur substantial liabilities or be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates. Even a successful defense would require significant financial and management resources. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

 

decreased demand for any product candidates or products that we may develop;

 

injury to our reputation and significant negative media attention;

 

withdrawal of clinical trial participants;

 

significant costs to defend the related litigation;

 

a diversion of management’s time and our resources;

 

substantial monetary awards to trial participants or patients;

 

product recalls, withdrawals, or labeling, marketing or promotional restrictions;

 

loss of revenue;

 

the inability to commercialize any product candidates that we may develop; and

 

a decline in our stock price.

Failure to obtain and retain sufficient product liability insurance at an acceptable cost to protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the commercialization of products we develop. We currently carry product liability insurance covering our clinical trials in the amount of $10 million in the aggregate. Although we maintain product liability insurance, any claim that may be brought against us could result in a court judgment or settlement in an amount that is not covered, in whole or in part, by our insurance or that is in excess of the limits of our insurance coverage. Our insurance policies also have various exclusions, and we may be subject to a product liability claim for which we have no coverage. We will have to pay any amounts awarded by a court or negotiated in a settlement that exceed our coverage limitations or that are not covered by our insurance, and we may not have, or be able to obtain, sufficient capital to pay such amounts.

If we fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could harm our business.

We are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Our operations involve the use of hazardous and flammable materials, including chemicals and biological materials. Our operations also produce hazardous waste products. We generally contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and wastes. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from these materials. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from our use of hazardous materials, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We also could incur significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties for failure to comply with such laws and regulations.

Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of hazardous materials, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. We do not maintain insurance for environmental liability or toxic tort claims that may be asserted against us in connection with our storage or disposal of biological, hazardous or radioactive materials.

In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or

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production efforts. Our failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.

Our business and operations would suffer if we sustain cyber-attacks or other privacy or data security incidents that result in security breaches.

Our information technology may be subject to cyber-attacks, security breaches or computer hacking. Experienced computer programmers and hackers may be able to penetrate our security controls and misappropriate or compromise sensitive personal, proprietary or confidential information, create system disruptions or cause shutdowns. They also may be able to develop and deploy malicious software programs that attack our systems or otherwise exploit any security vulnerabilities. Our systems and the data stored on those systems may also be vulnerable to security incidents or security attacks, acts of vandalism or theft, misplaced or lost data, human errors, or other similar events that could negatively affect our systems and our data, as well as the data of our business partners. Further, third parties that provide services to us, could also be a source of security risk in the event of a failure of their own security systems and infrastructure.

The costs to eliminate or address the foregoing security threats and vulnerabilities before or after a cyber-incident could be significant. Our remediation efforts may not be successful and could result in interruptions, delays or cessation of service, and loss of existing or potential suppliers, manufacturers or other third parties. In addition, breaches of our security measures and the unauthorized dissemination of sensitive personal, proprietary or confidential information about us, our business partners, participants in our clinical trials or other third parties could expose us to significant potential liability and reputational harm. In addition, the loss of clinical trial data from completed or ongoing or planned clinical trials as a result of a data security incident or other systems failure could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. As threats related to cyber-attacks develop and grow, we may also find it necessary to make additional investments to protect our data and infrastructure, which may impact our profitability. We could also be negatively impacted by existing and proposed laws and regulations, as well as government policies and practices related to cybersecurity, data privacy, data localization and data protection such as GDPR.

We face risks arising from the results of the public referendum held in United Kingdom and its membership in the European Union.

On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum in which a majority of the eligible members of the electorate voted to leave the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit. Pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom ceased being a Member State of the European Union on January 31, 2020. However, the terms of the withdrawal have yet to be fully negotiated. The implementation period began February 1, 2020 and will continue until December 31, 2020. During this 11-month period, the United Kingdom will continue to follow all of the European Union’s rules, the European Union’s pharmaceutical law remains applicable to the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom’s trading relationship will remain the same. However, regulations (including financial laws and regulations, tax and free trade agreements, intellectual property rights, data protection laws, supply chain logistics, environmental, health and safety laws and regulations medicine licensing and regulations, immigration laws and employment laws), have yet to be addressed. This lack of clarity on future United Kingdom laws and regulations and their interaction with the European Union laws and regulations may negatively impact foreign direct investment in the United Kingdom, increase costs, depress economic activity and restrict access to capital.

The uncertainty concerning the United Kingdom’s legal, political and economic relationship with the European Union after Brexit may be a source of instability in the international markets, create significant currency fluctuations, and/or otherwise adversely affect trading agreements or similar cross-border co-operation arrangements (whether economic, tax, fiscal, legal, regulatory or otherwise) beyond the date of Brexit.

These developments, or the perception that any of them could occur, may have a significant adverse effect on global economic conditions and the stability of global financial markets, and could significantly reduce global market liquidity and limit the ability of key market participants to operate in certain financial markets. In particular, it could also lead to a period of considerable uncertainty in relation to the United Kingdom financial and banking markets, as well as on the regulatory process in Europe. Asset valuations, currency exchange rates and credit ratings may also be subject to increased market volatility.

If the United Kingdom and the European Union are unable to negotiate acceptable agreements or if other European Union Member States pursue withdrawal, barrier-free access between the United Kingdom and other European

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Union Member States or among the European Economic Area overall could be diminished or eliminated. The long-term effects of Brexit will depend on any agreements (or lack thereof) between the United Kingdom and the European Union and, in particular, any arrangements for the United Kingdom to retain access to European Union markets either during a transitional period or more permanently.

Such a withdrawal from the European Union is unprecedented, and it is unclear how the United Kingdom’s access to the European single market for goods, capital, services and labor within the European Union, or single market, and the wider commercial, legal and regulatory environment, will impact our current and future operations, including our relationships with existing and potential suppliers, manufacturers and other third parties.

We may also face new regulatory costs and challenges that could have an adverse effect on our operations. Depending on the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, the United Kingdom could lose the benefits of global trade agreements negotiated by the European Union on behalf of its members, which may result in increased trade barriers that could make our doing business in the European Union or European Economic Area more difficult. In addition, the measures could potentially have corporate structural consequences, adversely change tax benefits or liabilities in these or other jurisdictions and could disrupt some of the markets and jurisdictions in which we operate. Any of these effects of Brexit, among others, could materially adversely affect the business, business opportunities, and financial condition of our company.

Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Stock

We are eligible to be treated as an “emerging growth company” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, and we cannot be certain if the reduced disclosure requirements applicable to emerging growth companies will make our common stock less attractive to investors.

We are an “emerging growth company”, as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (“JOBS Act”). For as long as we continue to be an emerging growth company, we may take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies. These exemptions include:

 

being permitted to provide only two years of audited financial statements, in addition to any required unaudited interim financial statements, with correspondingly reduced “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” disclosure;

 

not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements regarding the assessment of our internal control over financial reporting;

 

reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation; and

 

exemptions from the requirements of holding a nonbinding advisory vote on executive compensation and shareholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved.

We have taken advantage of these reduced reporting burdens. In particular, we have provided only two years of audited consolidated financial statements and have not included all of the executive compensation related information that would be required if we were not an emerging growth company. Investors may find our common stock less attractive if we continue to rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and our stock price may be more volatile. In addition, the JOBS Act provides that an emerging growth company can take advantage of an extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standards. This allows an emerging growth company to delay the adoption of these accounting standards until they would otherwise apply to private companies. We have irrevocably elected not to avail ourselves of this exemption and, therefore, we will be subject to the same new or revised accounting standards as other public companies that are not emerging growth companies.

We could be an emerging growth company for up to five years, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier, including if the market value of our common stock held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of any June 30 before that time or if we have total annual gross revenue of $1.07 billion (as may be inflation-adjusted by the SEC from time to time) or more during any fiscal year before that time, in which cases we would no longer be an emerging growth company as of the following December 31 or, if we issue more than $1.07 billion in non-convertible debt during any three-year period before that time, we would cease to be an emerging growth company immediately. Even after we no longer qualify as an emerging growth company, we may still qualify as a “smaller reporting company” if the market value of our common stock held by non-affiliates is below $250 million as of

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June 30 in any given year (or $700 million if we had less than $100 million in revenues), which would allow us to take advantage of many of the same exemptions from disclosure requirements, including exemption from the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements.

FINRA sales practice requirements may limit a stockholder’s ability to buy and sell our stock.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) has adopted rules requiring that, in recommending an investment to a customer, a broker-dealer must have reasonable grounds for believing that the investment is suitable for that customer. Prior to recommending speculative or low-priced securities to their non-institutional customers, broker-dealers must make reasonable efforts to obtain information about the customer’s financial status, tax status, investment objectives and other information. Under interpretations of these rules, FINRA has indicated its belief that there is a high probability that speculative or low-priced securities will not be suitable for at least some customers. If these FINRA requirements are applicable to us or our securities, they may make it more difficult for broker-dealers to recommend that at least some of their customers buy our common stock, which may limit the ability of our stockholders to buy and sell our common stock and could have an adverse effect on the market for and price of our common stock.

The market price of our common stock may be highly volatile, and may be influenced by numerous factors, some of which are beyond our control.

The market price of our common stock is likely to be volatile. Since our common stock became listed on Nasdaq Capital Market on June 26, 2018, the trading price of our common stock has ranged from $0.45 to $4.35 per share.  The market price of our common stock  may continue to fluctuate substantially due to a variety of factors, including market perception of our ability to meet our growth projections and expectations, quarterly operating results of other companies in the same industry, trading volume in our common stock, changes in general conditions in the economy and the financial markets or other developments affecting our business and the business of others in our industry. In addition, the stock market itself is subject to extreme price and volume fluctuations. This volatility has had a significant effect on the market price of securities issued by many companies for reasons related and unrelated to their operating performance and could have the same effect on our common stock. The market price of shares of our common stock may continue to be subject to wide fluctuations in response to many risk factors listed in this section, and others beyond our control, including:

 

results of clinical trials of our product candidates;

 

the timing of the release of results of our clinical trials;

 

results of clinical trials of our competitors’ products;

 

safety issues with respect to our products or our competitors’ products;

 

regulatory actions with respect to our products or our competitors’ products;

 

actual or anticipated fluctuations in our financial condition and operating results;

 

publication of research reports by securities analysts about us or our competitors or our industry;

 

our failure or the failure of our competitors to meet analysts’ projections or guidance that we or our competitors may give to the market;

 

additions and departures of key personnel;

 

strategic decisions by us or our competitors, such as acquisitions, divestitures, spin-offs, joint ventures, strategic investments or changes in business strategy;

 

the passage of legislation or other regulatory developments affecting us or our industry;

 

fluctuations in the valuation of companies perceived by investors to be comparable to us;

 

sales of our common stock by us, our insiders or our other stockholders;

 

speculation in the press or investment community;

 

announcement or expectation of additional financing efforts;

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changes in accounting principles;

 

terrorist acts, acts of war or periods of widespread civil unrest;

 

natural disasters and other calamities;

 

changes in market conditions for biopharmaceutical stocks; and

 

changes in general market and economic conditions.

In addition, the stock market has recently experienced significant volatility, particularly with respect to pharmaceutical, biotechnology and other life sciences company stocks. The volatility of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and other life sciences company stocks often does not relate to the operating performance of the companies represented by the stock. As we operate in a single industry, we are especially vulnerable to these factors to the extent that they affect our industry or our products, or to a lesser extent our markets. In the past, securities class action litigation has often been initiated against companies following periods of volatility in their stock price. This type of litigation could result in substantial costs and divert our management’s attention and resources and could also require us to make substantial payments to satisfy judgments or to settle litigation.

If we are unable to maintain compliance with Nasdaq Capital Market listing standards, including maintenance of at least $2.5 million of stockholders’ equity and maintenance of a $1.00 minimum bid price, our common stock may be delisted from the Nasdaq Capital Market and you may face significant restrictions on the resale of your shares due to state “blue sky” laws.

 

There can be no assurances that we will be able to maintain our Nasdaq Capital Market listing in the future. On July 24, 2019, we were notified by Nasdaq Stock Market, LLC (“Nasdaq”) that we were not in compliance with the minimum bid price requirements set forth in Nasdaq Listing Rule 5550(a)(2) for continued listing on the Nasdaq Capital Market. Nasdaq Listing Rule 5550(a)(2) requires listed securities to maintain a minimum bid price of $1.00 per share and Nasdaq Listing Rule 5810(c)(3)(A) provides that a failure to meet the minimum bid price requirement exists if the deficiency continues for a period of 30 consecutive business days. The notification provided that we had 180 calendar days, or until January 20, 2020, to regain compliance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5550(a)(2), and allowed us to apply for an extension for an additional 180 calendar days, or until July 18, 2020, if we meet the Nasdaq Capital Market continued listing requirements (except for the bid price requirement) and notify Nasdaq in writing of our intention to cure the deficiency during the second compliance period. To regain compliance, the bid price of our common stock must have a closing bid price of at least $1.00 per share for a minimum of 10 consecutive business days. If we fail to regain compliance during this second 180-day period, then Nasdaq will notify us of its determination to delist our common stock, at which point we will have an opportunity to appeal the delisting determination to a hearings panel.

 

In the event we are unable to maintain compliance with the Nasdaq Capital Market listing standards and our common stock is delisted from the Nasdaq Capital Market, it would, among other things, likely lead to a number of negative implications, including an adverse effect on the price of our common stock, reduced liquidity in our common stock, the loss of federal preemption of state securities laws and greater difficulty in obtaining financing. In the event of a de-listing, we would take actions to restore our compliance with Nasdaq’s listing requirements, but we can provide no assurance that any such action taken by us would allow our common stock to become listed again, stabilize the market price or improve the liquidity of our common stock, prevent our common stock from dropping below the Nasdaq Capital Market minimum bid price requirement in the future, or prevent future non-compliance with Nasdaq’s listing requirements. If we cannot restore our compliance with Nasdaq’s listing requirements, we would pursue eligibility for trading of these securities on other markets or exchanges, such as the OTCQB or OTCQX, which are unorganized, inter-dealer, over-the-counter markets which provides significantly less liquidity than the Nasdaq Capital Market or other national securities exchanges.

 

Furthermore, each state has its own securities laws, often called “blue sky” laws, which (1) limit sales of securities to a state’s residents unless the securities are registered in that state or qualify for an exemption from registration, and (2) govern the reporting requirements for broker-dealers doing business directly or indirectly in the state. Before a security is sold in a state, there must be a registration in place to cover the transaction, or it must be exempt from registration. The applicable broker-dealer must also be registered in that state. If we fail to maintain our Nasdaq Capital Market listing, then we may not be considered to be on a national exchange and do not know whether our securities will be registered or exempt from registration under the laws of any state. A determination regarding registration will be made by those broker-dealers, if any, who agree to serve as market makers for our common

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stock. There may be significant state blue sky law restrictions on the ability of investors to sell, and on purchasers to buy, our securities. You should therefore consider the resale market for our common stock to be limited, as you may be unable to resell your shares without the significant expense of state registration or qualification.

Our principal stockholders and management own a significant percentage of our stock and will be able to exercise significant influence over matters subject to stockholder approval.

As of December 31, 2019, our executive officers, directors and principal stockholders, together with their respective affiliates, owned approximately 39.6% of our common stock, including shares subject to outstanding options that are exercisable within 60 days after such date. Accordingly, these stockholders will be able to exert a significant degree of influence over our management and affairs and over matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of our board of directors and approval of significant corporate transactions. This concentration of ownership could have the effect of entrenching our management and/or the board of directors, delaying or preventing a change in our control or otherwise discouraging a potential acquirer from attempting to obtain control of us, which in turn could have a material and adverse effect on the fair market value of our common stock.

Because we became a reporting company under the Exchange Act by means other than a traditional underwritten initial public offering, we may not be able to attract the attention of research analysts at major brokerage firms.

Because we did not become a reporting company by conducting an underwritten initial public offering of our common stock, and because we only recently became listed on a national securities exchange, we may obtain research coverage from fewer analysts than we would have obtained. In addition, investment banks may be less likely to agree to underwrite secondary offerings on our behalf or recommend the purchase of our common stock than if we became a public reporting company by means of an underwritten initial public offering, because they may be less familiar with our company as a result of more limited coverage by analysts and the media, and because we became public at an early stage in our development. The failure to receive research coverage or support in the market for our shares could have an adverse effect on our ability to develop a liquid market for our common stock.

The resale of shares covered by a registration statement could adversely affect the market price of our common stock in the public market, should one develop, which result would in turn negatively affect our ability to raise additional equity capital.

The sale, or availability for sale, of our common stock in the public market may adversely affect the prevailing market price of our common stock and may impair our ability to raise additional capital by selling equity or equity-linked securities. We filed and caused to become effective a registration statement with the SEC registering the resale of 27,367,117 shares of our common stock issued in connection with the reverse merger and the concurrent private placement offering in March 2017 and an additional registration statement covering 2,973,682 shares purchased by certain stockholders in June 2018 and subsequent open market purchases. This registration statement permits the resale of these shares at any time. The resale of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market could adversely affect the market price for our common stock and make it more difficult for you to sell shares of our common stock at times and prices that you feel are appropriate. Furthermore, we expect that, because there will be a large number of shares registered pursuant to a registration statement, selling stockholders will continue to offer shares covered by such registration statement for a significant period of time, the precise duration of which cannot be predicted. Accordingly, the adverse market and price pressures resulting from an offering pursuant to a registration statement may continue for an extended period of time and continued negative pressure on the market price of our common stock could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise additional equity capital.

Issuance of stock to fund our operations may dilute your investment and reduce your equity interest.

We may need to raise capital in the future to fund the development of our drug candidates or for other purposes. Any equity financing may have significant dilutive effect to stockholders and a material decrease in our stockholders’ equity interest in us. Equity financing, if obtained, could result in substantial dilution to our existing stockholders. At its sole discretion, our board of directors may issue additional securities without seeking stockholder approval, and we do not know when we will need additional capital or, if we do, whether it will be available to us.

We have broad discretion in the use of our cash and may not use them effectively.

We currently intend to use our cash and cash equivalents for continuing clinical development of AKB-9778 in patients with open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension, including our ongoing Phase 1b clinical trial, early research on antibody therapies that inhibit VE-PTP, and for working capital and other general corporate purposes.

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Although we currently intend to use our cash and cash equivalents in such a manner, we will have broad discretion in the application of such cash and cash equivalents. Our failure to apply these funds effectively could affect our ability to continue to develop and commercialize our product candidates. Pending their use, we may invest our cash and cash equivalents in a manner that does not produce income or loses value.

As a result of becoming a public company, we are incurring increased costs and our management devotes substantial time to public company compliance programs.

As a public company, we incur significant legal, insurance, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. In addition, our administrative staff is required to perform additional tasks. We are investing resources to comply with evolving laws, regulations and standards, and this investment will result in increased general and administrative expenses and may divert management’s time and attention from product development activities. If our efforts to comply with new laws, regulations and standards differ from the activities intended by regulatory or governing bodies due to ambiguities related to practice, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be harmed. In connection with the reverse merger, pursuant to which we acquired Aerpio, we increased our directors’ and officers’ insurance coverage, which increased our insurance cost. In the future, it will be more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance, and we may be required to accept reduced coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain coverage. These factors could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified members of our board of directors, particularly to serve on our audit committee and compensation committee, and qualified executive officers.

In addition, in order to comply with the requirements of being a public company, we may need to undertake various actions, including implementing new internal controls and procedures and hiring new accounting or internal audit staff. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires that we maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting. We are continuing to develop and refine our disclosure controls and other procedures that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by us in the reports that we file with the SEC is recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the SEC’s rules and forms, and that information required to be disclosed in reports under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as amended (“Exchange Act”), is accumulated and communicated to our principal executive and financial officers. Any failure to develop or maintain effective controls could adversely affect the results of periodic management evaluations. In the event we are not able to demonstrate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, our internal control over financial reporting is perceived as inadequate, or we are unable to produce timely or accurate financial statements, investors may lose confidence in our operating results and the price of our ordinary shares could decline. In addition, if we are unable to continue to meet these requirements, we may not be able to maintain our listing on a national securities exchange.

Our management team and board of directors will need to devote significant efforts to maintaining adequate and effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting in order to comply with applicable regulations, which may include hiring additional legal, financial reporting and other finance and accounting staff and engaging consultants to assist in designing and implementing such procedures. Additionally, any of our efforts to improve our internal controls and design, implement and maintain an adequate system of disclosure controls may not be successful and will require that we expend significant cash and other resources. In addition, our management will be required to certify financial and other information in our quarterly and annual reports and provide an annual management report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting commencing with our second annual report. This assessment will need to include the disclosure of any material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting identified by our management or our independent registered public accounting firm. To achieve compliance with Section 404 within the prescribed period, we will be engaged in a process to document and evaluate our internal control over financial reporting, which is both costly and challenging. In this regard, we will need to continue to dedicate internal resources, potentially engage outside consultants and adopt a detailed work plan to assess and document the adequacy of internal control over financial reporting, continue steps to improve control processes as appropriate, validate through testing that controls are functioning as documented and implement a continuous reporting and improvement process for internal control over financial reporting. Despite our efforts, there is a risk that we will not be able to conclude, within the prescribed timeframe or at all, that our internal control over financial reporting is effective as required by Section 404. If we identify one or more material weaknesses, it could result in an adverse reaction in the financial markets due to a loss of confidence in the reliability of our consolidated financial statements.

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Our independent registered public accounting firm will not be required to formally attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting following this annual report until the first annual report required to be filed with the SEC following the date we are no longer an “emerging growth company” as defined in the JOBS Act. We cannot assure you that there will not be material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in our internal controls in the future.

Provisions in our charter documents and Delaware law may have anti-takeover effects that could discourage an acquisition of us by others, even if an acquisition would be beneficial to our stockholders, and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.

Provisions in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated by-laws may have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing a change in control of us or changes in our management. These provisions could also limit the price that investors might be willing to pay in the future for shares of our common stock, thereby depressing the market price of our common stock. In addition, because our board of directors is responsible for appointing the members of our management team, these provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our board of directors. Among other things, these provisions:

 

authorize “blank check” preferred stock, which could be issued by our board of directors without stockholder approval and may contain voting, liquidation, dividend and other rights superior to our common stock; create a classified board of directors whose members serve staggered three-year terms;

 

specify that special meetings of our stockholders can be called only by our board of directors pursuant to a resolution adopted by a majority of the directors then in office;

 

prohibit stockholder action by written consent;

 

establish an advance notice procedure for stockholder approvals to be brought before an annual meeting of our stockholders, including proposed nominations of persons for election to our board of directors;

 

prohibit the consummation of a liquidation event unless approved by a supermajority (66 2/3% and majority of the minority, if applicable) vote of the holders of our voting stock;

 

prohibit the consummation of an affiliate transaction with a majority stockholder that holds more than 50% of the voting power of our capital stock unless approved by a supermajority (66 2/3%) vote of directors then in office;

 

provide that the number of directors on our board of directors may only be changed with a supermajority (66 2/3%) of directors then in office, even though less than a quorum;

 

provide that our directors may be removed only for cause and by a supermajority (66 2/3%) vote of the holders of our voting stock;

 

provide that vacancies on our board of directors may be filled only by a supermajority (66 2/3%) of directors then in office, even though less than a quorum;

 

require a supermajority (66 2/3% and majority of the minority, if applicable) vote of the holders of our voting stock or the supermajority (66 2/3%) vote of the members of our board of directors then in office to amend our amended and restated by-laws; and

 

require a supermajority (66 2/3% and majority of the minority, if applicable) vote of the holders of our voting stock and a supermajority (66 2/3%) vote of the holders of each class of our voting stock entitled to vote thereon to amend certain provisions of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation.

These provisions, alone or together, could delay or prevent hostile takeovers and changes in control or changes in our management.

Moreover, because we are incorporated in Delaware, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which prohibits a person who owns in excess of 15% of our outstanding voting stock from merging or combining with us for a period of three years after the date of the transaction in which the

58


 

person acquired in excess of 15% of our outstanding voting stock, unless the merger or combination is approved in a prescribed manner.

Any provision of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation, our amended and restated by-laws or Delaware law that has the effect of delaying or deterring a change in control could limit the opportunity for our stockholders to receive a premium for their shares of our common stock, and could also affect the price that some investors are willing to pay for our common stock.

Our ability to use net operating losses to offset future taxable income may be subject to certain limitations.

In general, under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (“the Code”) a corporation that undergoes an “ownership change” is subject to limitations on its ability to utilize its pre-change net operating losses (“NOLs”), to offset future taxable income. Our existing NOLs may be subject to substantial limitations arising from previous ownership changes under Section 382 of the Code. Future analysis will still be required on any historical NOLs as no studies have been performed to evaluate a change in ownership. In addition, future changes in our stock ownership, many of which are outside of our control, could result in an ownership change under Section 382 of the Code. Our NOLs may also be impaired under state law. Accordingly, we may not be able to utilize a material portion of our NOLs. Furthermore, our ability to utilize our NOLs is conditioned upon our attaining profitability and generating U.S. federal taxable income. As described above under “—Risks related to our financial position and need for additional capital,” we have incurred significant net losses since our inception and anticipate that we will continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future; thus, we do not know whether or when we will generate the U.S. federal taxable income necessary to utilize our NOLs. A full valuation allowance has been provided for the entire amount of our NOLs.

Because we do not anticipate paying any cash dividends on our capital stock in the foreseeable future, capital appreciation, if any, will be your sole source of gain.

You should not rely on an investment in our common stock to provide dividend income. We do not anticipate that we will pay any cash dividends to holders of our common stock in the foreseeable future. Instead, we plan to retain any earnings to maintain and expand our operations. In addition, any future debt financing arrangement may contain terms prohibiting or limiting the amount of dividends that may be declared or paid on our common stock. Accordingly, investors must rely on sales of their common stock after price appreciation, which may never occur, as the only way to realize any return on their investment. As a result, investors seeking cash dividends should not purchase our common stock.

An active trading market for our common stock may not develop or be sustainable. If an active trading market does not develop, investors may not be able to resell their shares at or above the purchase price and our ability to raise capital in the future may be impaired.

Our common stock has been listed on The Nasdaq Capital Market since June 26, 2018. The initial listing price for our common stock was determined through negotiations with the underwriters. This price may not reflect the price at which investors in the market will be willing to buy and sell our shares. Although our common stock is listed on The Nasdaq Capital Market, an active trading market for our shares may never develop or, if developed, be maintained. If an active market for our common stock does not develop or is not maintained, it may be difficult for you to sell shares you purchase without depressing the market price for the shares or at all. An inactive trading market may also impair our ability to raise capital to continue to fund operations by selling shares and may impair our ability to acquire other companies or technologies by using our shares as consideration.

 

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

None.

Item 2. Properties.

Our corporate headquarters consist of 7,580 square feet of leased office space in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our lease expires on July 31, 2021.

We believe our existing facility is adequate to meet our current needs, and that suitable additional alternative spaces will be available in the future on commercially reasonable terms for our future growth.

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Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

As of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we are not currently involved in any material legal proceedings.  However, from time to time, we could be subject to various legal proceedings and claims that arise in the ordinary course of our business activities.  Regardless of the outcome, legal proceedings can have an adverse impact on us because of defense and settlement costs, diversion of management resources and other factors.

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

Not applicable.

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PART II

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Market Information

Our common stock began trading on the OTC Markets – OTCQB Tier on August 8, 2017 and subsequently uplisted to the Nasdaq Capital Market on June 26, 2018 under the symbol “ARPO.”  The following table sets forth, for the periods indicated, the high and low intraday sales prices of our common stock as reported by the Nasdaq Capital Market and OTC Markets – OTCQB Tier.

 

 

 

Common Stock

 

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Quarter

 

$

4.25

 

 

$

0.88

 

Second Quarter

 

$

1.16

 

 

$

0.85

 

Third Quarter

 

$

0.90

 

 

$

0.61

 

Fourth Quarter

 

$

0.70

 

 

$

0.45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Quarter

 

$

5.25

 

 

$

4.00

 

Second Quarter

 

$

5.00

 

 

$

3.29

 

Third Quarter

 

$

4.35

 

 

$

3.00

 

Fourth Quarter

 

$

3.17

 

 

$

1.56

 

 

Stockholders

As of March 9, 2020, there were 125 stockholders of record of our common stock.

Dividends

We have never declared nor paid any cash dividends to stockholders.  We do not intend to pay cash dividends on our common stock for the foreseeable future, and currently intend to retain any future earnings to fund our operations and the development and growth of our business.  The declaration of any future cash dividends, if any, would be at the discretion of our Board of Directors (subject to limitations imposed under applicable Delaware law) and would depend on our earnings, if any, our capital requirements and financial position, our general economic conditions and other pertinent conditions.

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

There were no repurchases of shares of common stock made during the year ended December 31, 2019.

Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

Not applicable.

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Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

The following discussion of the financial condition and results of operations of Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and the notes to those statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ending December 31, 2019. Some of the information contained in this discussion and analysis, including information with respect to our plans and strategy for our business, includes forward-looking statements that involve risk, uncertainties and assumptions. As a result of many factors, including those factors set forth in the “Risk Factors” section of this Annual Report on Form 10-K our actual results could differ materially from the results described in or implied by the forward-looking statements contained in the following discussion and analysis. Please also refer to the section under the heading “Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.”

Operating Overview

Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing compounds that activate Tie2 to treat ocular diseases and diabetic complications. In March 2019, we announced the top line results of the Phase 2b (“TIME-2b”) clinical trial which we initiated in June 2017 for the treatment of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (“NPDR”) a disease characterized by progressive compromise of blood vessels in the back of the eye. While we believed AKB-9778 had the potential to slow down or possibly reverse retinal vascular changes caused by diabetes, the subcutaneous administration of AKB-9778 twice daily did not meet the study’s primary endpoint of increasing the percentage of patients with an improvement of two or more steps in diabetic retinopathy severity score (“DRSS”) in the study eye, compared to placebo.  

However, the TIME-2b study further supported the reduction of intraocular pressure (“IOP”) seen with subcutaneous AKB-9778 in the previous TIME-2 study. Importantly, IOP is the only identified modifiable risk factor for prevention of vision loss in patients with open angle glaucoma (“OAG”) and ocular hypertension (“OHT”).  Moreover, recently published mouse and human genetic data implicate the Angpt/Tie2 pathway in maintenance of Schlemm’s canal, a critical component of the conventional outflow tract. The conventional outflow tract is the main conduit for fluid drainage from the front of the eye and the principle regulator of IOP.  Based on these findings, we developed a topical ocular formulation of AKB-9778 and observed in preclinical studies activation of Tie2 in Schlemm’s canal, IOP reduction via enhanced outflow facility and favorable tolerability.  

OAG Clinical Trial

In June 2019, we initiated a double-masked, multiple-ascending dose Phase 1b trial and enrolled four cohorts of 12 subjects each. Subjects received increasing daily doses of a topical ocular formulation of AKB-9778 or placebo for seven days. The primary endpoint of the trial was ocular safety and tolerability, with IOP lowering as the key pharmacodynamic endpoint. In October 2019, we announced interim results from our Phase 1b clinical trial. The unmasked interim analysis, limited to the first three cohorts, showed the topical ocular administration of AKB-9778 was well tolerated.  Compared to placebo, there was a dose dependent increase in minimal to mild conjunctival hyperemia with AKB-9778, which was transient and generally considered non-adverse, and a time and dose dependent reduction in IOP that, in the highest once daily (“QD”) dose cohort peaked at 4 hours post-dose and was sustained through eight hours on day 7, returning to baseline levels at 24 hours post-dose. Based on these data, a cohort of 43 patients with OHT/OAG (hypertensive eyes) was added to the ongoing study to assess safety and pilot efficacy in the target patient population. 

In January 2020, we announced the results of the fifth cohort of subjects noting subjects in cohort five randomized to the active arm exhibited statistically significant decreases in IOP at all post-AKB-9778 administration time points on both days 1 and 7 compared with day -1 baseline values when they were being treated with prostaglandin alone.  When the change is placebo-corrected, AKB-9778 plus prostaglandin versus prostaglandin alone produced a statistically significant decrease in IOP on Day 7 at 0, 4 and 8 hours post dose as compared to placebo. We believe these results suggest a persistent IOP-lowering activity from adding AKB-9778 to standard-of-care prostaglandin therapy. Topical ocular administration of AKB-9778 was well tolerated over seven days in cohort 5. There were no reports of conjunctival hemorrhage or pain on instillation during the seven days of dosing and no systemic/non-ocular AEs were observed. Based on the preclinical proof of concept and the results of the Phase 1b trial showing a reduction in IOP in patients with OHT and OAG, we plan to further advance the glaucoma program into a Phase 2 clinical trial with results expected in the first quarter of 2021.

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Diabetic Kidney Disease

In two consecutive trials, TIME-2 and TIME-2b, subcutaneous AKB-9778 showed reduction in Urine Albumin-Creatinine Ratio (“UACR”), a measure of progression of diabetic kidney disease.  In a post-hoc analysis of the earlier TIME-2 clinical trial, there was a 21% reduction (geometric mean) in UACR from baseline in the AKB-9778 treatment arms, but an overall increase in UACR in the placebo arm.  The prospective UACR analyses from the recently completed TIME-2b trial largely replicated the results from the previous trial and reinforced the potential beneficial effects of Tie2 activation in diabetic kidney disease. We believe that systemic treatment with AKB-9778 could have the potential to change the treatment paradigm for diabetics in the future and potentially address a major societal problem by lowering the cost of care associated generally with diabetes.

ARP-1536

ARP-1536, our humanized monoclonal antibody directed at the same target as subcutaneous AKB-9778, is in preclinical development. We are evaluating development options for ARP-1536, including subcutaneous injection for the treatment of diabetic vascular complications, e.g., diabetic nephropathy and intravitreal injection as an adjunctive therapy for diabetic macular edema.

Bi-specific Antibody

We are also developing a bispecific antibody that binds both VEGF and VE-PTP which is designed to inhibit VEGF activation and activate Tie2.  We believe this bispecific antibody has the potential to be an improved treatment for wet AMD and diabetic macular edema via intravitreal injection.

Gossamer License Agreement

In June 2018, we licensed AKB-4924, a selective stabilizer of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (“HIF-1 alpha”) to Gossamer Bio, Inc. (“Gossamer”) AKB-4924, (now called GB004), is being developed for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (“IBD”). HIF-1 alpha is involved in mucosal wound healing and the reduction of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Gossamer has completed the Phase 1 multiple ascending dose (“MAD”) clinical study and is currently running a Phase 1b clinical study in ulcerative colitis patients.  Gossamer has progressed GB004 during 2019 by completing the Phase 1 study in healthy volunteers and initiating a Phase 1b study in ulcerative colitis patients of 28 day duration.  Gossamer expects to have results from the Phase 1b study in the first half of 2020.  Gossamer is responsible for all remaining development and commercial activities for GB004.

In April 2019, we adopted a realignment plan to reduce operating costs and better align our workforce with the needs of our ongoing business. The realignment plan reduced our workforce by 11 employees, representing approximately 41% of our workforce. On October 15, 2019, our Chief Executive Officer and our Chief Financial and Business Officer departed from their positions. Our Chief Executive Officer also resigned as a director. As a result of these actions, we recorded severance expense of $1.9 million during the year ended December 31, 2019 for employee related costs, including severance benefits and payment of healthcare insurance premiums. Additionally, we recorded a one-time stock-based compensation cumulative reversal of $1.1 million during the year ended December 31, 2019 for the forfeitures of outstanding equity awards. We anticipate that such employee related costs will be paid by the fourth quarter of 2020. The total remaining liability under these severance-related actions was $0.8 million as of December 31, 2019.  

Our primary source of liquidity to date has been through public and private sales of our common stock, redeemable convertible preferred stock, convertible debt and the proceeds from the License Agreement entered into with Gossamer (“Gossamer License Agreement”). We will need to raise additional funds to further advance our clinical research programs, commence additional clinical trials and commercialize our products, if approved. While we continue to pursue financing alternatives, which may include equity financing, business development arrangements, licensing arrangements and business combination transactions, financing may not be available to us in the necessary time frame, in the amounts that we need, on terms that are acceptable to us or at all. If we are unable to raise the necessary funds when needed or reduce spending on currently planned activities, we may not be able to continue the development of our product candidates or we could be required to delay, scale back or eliminate some or all of our development programs and other operations and will materially harm our business and consolidated financial position.

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We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and operating losses for the foreseeable future as a result of our ongoing activities. We are subject to a number of risks similar to other life science companies in the current stage of our life cycle, including, but not limited to, the need to obtain adequate additional funding, possible failure of preclinical testing or clinical trials, competitors developing new technological innovations, and protection of proprietary technology. If we do not successfully mitigate any of these risks, we will be unable to generate revenue or achieve profitability.

Except for the Gossamer License Agreement that we entered into with Gossamer in June 2018, our operations to date have been limited to organizing and staffing our Company, business planning, raising capital, acquiring and developing our technology, identifying potential product candidates and undertaking preclinical and clinical studies. For the year ended December 31, 2018, we generated $20.2 million in revenue related to the Gossamer License Agreement and transition services provided to Gossamer. However, there can be no assurance of future revenues either from future payments related to the Gossamer License Agreement, transition services or from our product candidates. Our product candidates are subject to long development cycles, and there is no assurance we will be able to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for, or market our product candidates. As of December 31, 2019, we had an accumulated deficit of $142.2 million and anticipate incurring additional losses for the next several years.

The Company’s inability to obtain required funding in the near future could have a material adverse effect on its operations and strategic development plan for future growth. If the Company cannot successfully raise additional capital and implement its strategic development plan, its liquidity, financial condition and business prospects will be materially and adversely affected, and the Company may have to cease operations.  Based on the Company’s current cash reserves of $38.5 million at December 31, 2019 and financial condition as of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we believe our existing cash and cash equivalent will be sufficient to fund currently planned operations at least through the second quarter of 2021.

Basis of Presentation

The following discussion highlights our results of operations and the principal factors that have affected our financial condition as well as our liquidity and capital resources for the periods described and provides information management believes is relevant for an assessment and understanding of the consolidated balance sheets and the consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss presented herein.  The following discussion and analysis are based on our consolidated financial statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, which we have prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP.  You should read the discussion and analysis together with such consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto.

Components of Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Loss

License Revenue, and Other

License revenue relates to the Gossamer License Agreement.

For the foreseeable future, we expect substantially all of our revenue will be generated from the Gossamer License Agreement and any other collaborations into which we may enter.

Research and Development Expenses

Research and development costs are expensed as incurred.  Research and development expenses consist primarily of (i) employee-related expenses, including salaries, benefits, travel and stock-based compensation expense, (ii) external research and development expenses incurred under arrangements with third parties, such as contract research organizations (“CRO’s”), and consultants, (iii) the cost of acquiring, developing and manufacturing clinical study materials, and (iv) costs associated with preclinical, clinical and regulatory activities.  

Costs for certain development activities are recognized based on an evaluation of the progress to completion of specific tasks using information and data provided to us by our vendors and clinical sites.  

As we continue to invest in basic research and clinical development of our product candidates, we expect research and development expenses to increase in absolute dollars.

64


 

General and Administrative Expenses

General and administrative expenses consist primarily of compensation and related costs for finance, human resources and other administrative personnel, including stock-based compensation, employee benefits and travel.  In addition, general and administrative expenses include third-party consulting, legal, patent, audit, accounting services and facilities costs.

Restructuring Expense

Restructuring expense consists primarily of severance related expenses of employees terminated as a result of the Company’s restructuring efforts.  Expenses include continued payroll, benefits and outplacement services (collectively “severance”) as defined and agreed upon by the respective employees’ severance agreement.  Severance was recognized as restructuring expense on the dates when employees were notified of the restructuring event. A corresponding restructuring accrual was also recorded and will be reduced as payments are made to the former employees.

Grant Income

Grant income is recognized as earned based on contract work performed.

Interest Income

Interest income consists of interest income received on cash and cash equivalents.

Results of Consolidated Operations

The following tables set forth our results of operations:

 

 

 

Years Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

License revenue, and other

 

$

 

 

$

20,157,430

 

Operating expenses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and development

 

 

12,824,402

 

 

 

17,852,756

 

General and administrative

 

 

9,756,185

 

 

 

13,485,918

 

Restructuring expense

 

 

1,863,495

 

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

 

 

24,444,082

 

 

 

31,338,674

 

Loss from operations

 

 

(24,444,082

)

 

 

(11,181,244

)

Grant income

 

 

142,729

 

 

 

6,394

 

Interest income

 

 

1,030,839

 

 

 

778,215

 

Total other income

 

 

1,173,568

 

 

 

784,609

 

Net and comprehensive loss

 

$

(23,270,514

)

 

$

(10,396,635

)

 

Comparison of Years Ended December 31, 2019 and 2018

License Revenue, and Other

License revenue, and other for the year ended December 31, 2018 consists of the $20.0 million upfront payment received upon execution of the Gossamer License Agreement during the second quarter of 2018 and certain transition services provided to Gossamer as part of the Gossamer License Agreement. No such license agreement was executed in 2019, nor were any milestones of the Gossamer License Agreement achieved in 2019.

65


 

Operating Expenses

The following table sets forth our operating expenses:

 

 

 

Years Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and development

 

$

12,824,402

 

 

$

17,852,756

 

General and administrative

 

 

9,756,185

 

 

 

13,485,918

 

Restructuring expense

 

 

1,863,495

 

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

 

$

24,444,082

 

 

$

31,338,674

 

 

Research and Development

Research and development expenses for the year ended December 31, 2019, decreased $5.0 million, or 28.2%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2018.  This was the result of decreased spending on clinical trials (TIME-2b vs Phase 1 Glaucoma) and a reduction in expenses related to Research and Development personnel during 2019.

General and Administrative

General and administrative expenses for the year ended December 31, 2019, decreased $3.7 million, or 27.7%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2018. This decrease was primarily attributable to a decrease in stock-based compensation of $2.5 million, employee related expenses of $0.8 million and general office expenses of $0.7 million related to the Company’s restructuring efforts in 2019, offset by an increase in legal expenses of $0.3 million.

Restructuring Expense

Restructuring expenses for the year ended December 31, 2019 were $1.9 million and result of a reduction of headcount during 2019. No such actions were taken during 2018.     

Other Income

The following table sets forth our other income:

 

 

 

Years Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Grant income

 

$

142,729

 

 

$

6,394

 

Interest income

 

 

1,030,839

 

 

 

778,215

 

Total other income

 

$

1,173,568

 

 

$

784,609

 

 

Grant Income

Grant income is recognized as earned based on contract work performed. Grant income amounts can vary greatly from period to period depending on the funding and work performed. Grant income increased in year ended December 31, 2019 compared to year ended December 31, 2018 primarily due to a new grant awarded during 2019 for development of ARP-1536.

Interest Income

Interest income for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, reflects interest earned on short term money market instruments (cash equivalents). The net proceeds from our underwritten public offering in June 2018 and upfront payment received in conjunction with the execution of the Gossamer License Agreement in June 2018, less cash used in operations, were available for investment and generated more interest income in the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to year ended December 31, 2018.  

Liquidity and Capital Resources

Since inception, we have incurred significant net losses and negative cash flows from operations.  For the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, we had net losses of $23.3 million and $10.4 million, respectively. At December 31, 2019 and 2018, we had an accumulated deficit of $142.2 million and $119.0 million, respectively.

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At December 31, 2019, we had cash and cash equivalents of $38.5 million. To date, we have financed our operations principally through private and public offerings of our equity securities, private placements of our redeemable convertible preferred stock, common stock, issuances of secured convertible promissory notes and proceeds from the Gossamer License Agreement. Based on our current plans, we expect that our existing cash and cash equivalents, will enable us to conduct our planned operations at least through the second quarter of 2021.

On June 28, 2018, we closed an underwritten public offering, pursuant to the S-3 filed in February 2018, for the sale of 11,688,000 shares of our common stock and subsequently, on July 2, 2018, we closed on the sale of an additional 1,720,200 shares of our common stock, pursuant to the underwriters’ partial exercise of their option to purchase additional shares of common stock (collectively, the “2018 Offering”).  In the aggregate, we received net proceeds of approximately $48.1 million from the 2018 Offering after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses. Also in June 2018, we received $20.0 million of cash in connection with the Gossamer License Agreement.

In February 2018, we filed a shelf registration statement on Form S-3 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) which was declared effective by the SEC on April 11, 2018 (the “Form S-3”). The shelf registration statement allows us to sell from time-to-time up to $150.0 million of common stock, preferred stock, debt securities, warrants, or units comprised of any combination of these securities, for our own account in one or more offerings. The shelf registration statement is intended to provide us flexibility to conduct registered sales of our securities, subject to market conditions and our future capital needs. The terms of any offering under the shelf registration statement will be established at the time of such offering and will be described in a prospectus supplement filed with the SEC prior to the completion of any such offering.

Additionally, on February 21, 2018, and pursuant to the Form S-3, we entered into a Controlled Equity Offering Sales Agreement (the “Sales Agreement”) with Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. (“Cantor”), pursuant to which we may issue and sell, from time to time, shares of our common stock having an aggregate offering price of up to $75.0 million through Cantor as our sales agent. Cantor may sell our common stock by any method permitted by law deemed to be an “at the market offering” as defined in Rule 415(a)(4) of the Securities Act, including sales made directly on or through the Nasdaq Capital Market or any other existing trade market for our common stock, in negotiated transactions at market prices prevailing at the time of sale or at prices related to prevailing market prices, or any other method permitted by law.  The shares of our common stock to be sold under the Sales Agreement will be sold and issued pursuant to the Form S-3 and the related prospectus and one or more prospectus supplements. We will pay Cantor 3.0% of the aggregate gross proceeds from each sale of shares of common stock under the Sales Agreement. As of December 31, 2019, no shares of common stock had been sold under this Sales Agreement.

In October 2019, we announced the engagement of Evercore, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc. and Duane Nash, M.D., J.D., M.B.A. to explore a range of strategic alternatives focused on maximizing stockholder value from our clinical assets and cash resources. Such alternatives may include the potential for an acquisition, company sale, merger, business combination, asset sale, in-license, out-license or other strategic transaction. There can be no assurance that the exploration of strategic alternatives will result in any transaction or other alternative.

 

The following table summarizes our cash flows for the years presented:

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Net cash used in operating activities

 

$

(23,852,522

)

 

$

(5,808,046

)

Net cash used in investing activities

 

 

(236,952

)

 

 

(37,912

)

Net cash provided by financing activities

 

 

 

 

 

48,195,859

 

Net (decrease) increase in cash and

   cash equivalents

 

$

(24,089,474

)

 

$

42,349,901

 

 

Operating Activities

We have historically experienced negative cash flows as we developed AKB-9778, ARP-1536 and AKB-4924. Our net cash used in operating activities primarily resulted from our net loss adjusted for non-cash expenses and changes in working capital components, amounts due to research organizations to conduct our clinical programs and employee-related expenditures for research and development and general and administrative activities. Our cash flows from operating activities will continue to be affected by increased spending to advance and support our product candidates in the clinic and other operating and general administrative activities.

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For the year ended December 31, 2019, operating activities used $23.9 million in cash primarily as a result of a net loss of $23.3 million offset by $1.9 million in working capital and $1.3 million in non-cash expenses related to stock-based compensation and depreciation expense.

For the year ended December 31, 2018, net cash used in operating activities includes $20.0 million of revenue earned from the Gossamer License Agreement.  We do not expect revenue will reoccur until milestones outlined in the Gossamer License Agreement are achieved.

Investing Activities

Net cash used in investing activities for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018 was related to capital expenditures to support operations.

Financing Activities

For the year ended December 31, 2018, we received $48.1 million net proceeds from the 2018 Offering and $0.08 million from the exercise of stock options. No such activity occurred in 2019.

Contractual Obligations and Commitments

During 2019, the Company leased 7,580 square feet of office space in Cincinnati, Ohio, 4,000 square feet of office space in Lexington, Massachusetts and 687 square feet of office space in Dexter Michigan. During the fourth quarter of 2019, the Company terminated the Lexington and Dexter leases, without penalty. The Cincinnati property lease includes one month of free rent, escalating rent payments and expires in July 2021.  Total rent expense for all operating leases was $0.3 million and $0.2 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

We also have contracts with various organizations to conduct research and development activities, including clinical trial organizations to manage clinical trial activities. The scope of the services under these research and development contracts can be modified and the contracts cancelled by us upon written notice. In the event of a cancellation, we would be liable for the cost and expenses incurred to date as well as any close out costs of the service arrangement.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

As of December 31, 2019 and 2018, we did not have any off-balance sheet arrangements as defined by applicable SEC regulations.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

Our management’s discussion and analysis of financial position and results of consolidated operations are based on consolidated financial statements prepared in accordance with GAAP. The preparation of these consolidated financial statements requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, expenses and related disclosures. On an ongoing basis, we evaluate our estimates and judgments, including those related to prepaid and accrued research and development expenses, revenue recognition and stock-based compensation.  We base our estimates on historical experience, known trends and events, and various other factors that are believed to be reasonable under the circumstances, the results of which form the basis for making judgments about the carrying values of assets and liabilities that are not readily apparent from other sources.  Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.

While our significant accounting policies are described in more detail in the notes to our consolidated financial statements appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we believe the following accounting policies to be most critical to the judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements.

Revenue Recognition

At the inception of an arrangement, the Company evaluates if a counterparty to a contract is a customer, if the arrangement is within the scope of revenue from contracts with customers guidance and the term of the contract.  The Company recognizes revenue when its customer obtains control of promised goods or services in a contract for an amount that reflects the consideration the Company expects to receive in exchange for those goods or services. For contracts with customers, the Company applies the following five-step model in order to determine this amount: (i) identification of the promised goods or services in the contract; (ii) determination of whether the promised goods or services are performance obligations, including whether they are distinct in the context of the contract; (iii) measurement of the transaction price, including the constraint on variable consideration; (iv) allocation of the transaction price to the performance obligations; and (v) recognition of revenue when (or as) the Company

68


 

satisfies each performance obligation.  The Company only applies the five-step model to contracts when it is probable that the entity will collect the consideration it is entitled to in exchange for the goods or services it transfers to the customer. As part of the accounting for contracts with customers, the Company must develop assumptions that require judgment to determine the standalone selling price of each performance obligation identified in the contract. The Company then allocates the total transaction price to each performance obligation based on the estimated standalone selling prices of each performance obligation. The Company recognizes the amount of the transaction price as revenue that is allocated to the respective performance obligation when the performance obligation is satisfied or as it is satisfied.

The Company enters into collaboration arrangements, under which it licenses certain rights to its intellectual property to third parties. The terms of these agreements may include payment to the Company of one or more of the following: nonrefundable upfront license fees; development, sale and commercial milestone payments and royalties on net sales of licensed products. Each of these types of payments are classified as license revenue except for revenue from royalties on net sales of licensed products, which are classified as royalty revenue.

For each collaboration agreement that results in revenues, the Company identifies all material promised goods and services, which may include a license to intellectual property, research and development activities and/or transition activities. Promised goods or services are considered to be separate performance obligations if they are distinct. In order to determine the transaction price to be allocated to each performance obligation, in addition to any upfront payment, the Company estimates the amount of variable consideration at the outset of the contract either utilizing the expected value or most likely amount method, depending on the facts and circumstances relative to the contract. The Company constrains (reduces) the estimates of variable consideration such that it is probable that a significant reversal of previously recognized revenue will not occur throughout the life of the contract. When determining if variable consideration should be constrained, management considers whether there are factors outside the Company’s control that could result in a significant reversal of revenue. In making these assessments, the Company considers the likelihood and magnitude of a potential reversal of revenue. These estimates are re-assessed each reporting period as required.

Once the estimated transaction price is established, amounts are allocated to the performance obligations that have been identified. The transaction price is generally allocated to each separate performance obligation on a relative standalone selling price basis. The Company must develop assumptions that require judgment to determine the standalone selling price (“SSP”) in order to account for these agreements. To determine the standalone selling price the Company’s assumptions may include (i) assumptions regarding the probability of obtaining marketing approval for the drug candidate; (ii) estimates regarding the timing of and the expected costs to develop and commercialize the drug candidate; (iii) estimates of future cash flows from potential product sales with respect to the drug candidate; and (iv) appropriate discount and tax rates. Standalone selling prices used to perform the initial allocation are not updated after contract inception. The Company does not include a financing component to its estimated transaction price at contract inception unless it estimates that certain performance obligations will not be satisfied within one year.

Upfront License Fees: If a license to the Company’s intellectual property is determined to be distinct from the other performance obligations identified in the arrangement, the Company recognizes revenues from nonrefundable, upfront license fees based on the relative value prescribed to the license compared to the total value of the arrangement. The revenue is recognized when the license is transferred to the collaborator and the collaborator is able to use and benefit from the license.  For licenses that are not distinct from other obligations identified in the arrangement, the Company utilizes judgment to assess the nature of the combined performance obligation to determine whether the combined performance obligation is satisfied over time or at a point in time. If the combined performance obligation is satisfied over time, the Company applies an appropriate method of measuring progress for purposes of recognizing revenue from nonrefundable, upfront license fees.  The Company evaluates the measure of progress each reporting period and, if necessary, adjusts the measure of performance and related revenue recognition.

69


 

Development Milestone Payments: Depending on facts and circumstances, the Company may conclude it is appropriate to include the milestone in the estimated transaction price using the most likely amount method or it is appropriate to fully constrain the milestone. A milestone payment is included in the transaction price in the reporting period the Company concludes that it is probable that recording revenue in the period will not result in a significant reversal in amounts recognized in future periods. The Company may record revenues from certain milestones in a reporting period before the milestone is achieved if the Company concludes that achievement of the milestone is probable and that recognition of revenue related to the milestone will not result in a significant reversal in amounts recognized in future periods. The Company records a corresponding contract asset when this conclusion is reached. Milestone payments that have not been included in the transaction price to date are fully constrained. These milestones remain fully constrained until the Company concludes that achievement of the milestone is probable and recognition of revenue related to the milestone will not result in a significant reversal in amounts recognized in future periods. The Company re-evaluates the probability of achievement of such development milestones and any related constraint each reporting period. The Company adjusts its estimate of the overall transaction price, including the amount of collaborative revenue that it has recorded, if necessary.  

Sales-based Milestone and Royalty Payments: The Company’s collaborators may be required to pay the Company sales-based milestone payments or royalties on future sales of commercial products.  The Company recognizes revenues related to sales-based milestone and royalty payments upon the later to occur of (i) achievement of the collaborator’s underlying sales or (ii) satisfaction of any performance obligation(s) related to these sales, in each case assuming the license to the Company’s intellectual property is deemed to be the predominant item to which the sales-based milestones and/or royalties relate.

Prepaid and Accrued Research and Development Expenses

As part of the process of preparing our consolidated financial statements, we are required to estimate our prepaid and accrued research and development expenses. This process involves reviewing open contracts and purchase orders, communicating with our personnel to identify services that have been performed on our behalf and estimating the level of service performed and the associated cost incurred for the service when we have not yet been invoiced or otherwise notified of the actual cost. The majority of our service providers invoice us monthly in arrears for services performed. We make estimates of our prepaid and accrued research and development expenses as of each consolidated balance sheet date in our consolidated financial statements based on facts and circumstances known to us at the time. We confirm the accuracy of estimates with the service providers and make adjustments if necessary. Examples of estimated prepaid and accrued research and development expenses include expenses for:

 

CROs in connection with clinical studies;

 

Investigative sites in connection with clinical studies;

 

Vendors in connection with preclinical development activities; and

 

Vendors related to product manufacturing, development and distribution of clinical materials.

We base our expenses related to clinical studies on our estimates of the services received and efforts expended pursuant to contracts with multiple CROs that conduct and manage clinical studies on our behalf. The financial terms of these agreements are subject to negotiation, vary from contract to contract and may result in uneven payment flows. The scope of services under these contracts can be modified and some of the agreements may be cancelled by either party upon written notice. There may be instances in which payments made to our vendors will exceed the level of services provided and result in a prepayment of the clinical expense. Payments under some of these contracts depend on factors such as the successful enrollment of subjects and the completion of clinical study milestones. In accruing service fees, we estimate the time period over which services will be performed and the level of effort to be expended in each period. If the actual timing of the performance of services or the level of effort varies from our estimate, we adjust the accrual or prepaid accordingly.

Although we do not expect our estimates to be materially different from amounts actually incurred, if our estimates of the status and timing of services performed differ from the actual status and timing of services performed, we may report amounts that are too high or too low in any particular period. To date, there have been no material differences between our estimates and amounts actually incurred.

70


 

Stock-Based Compensation

We issue stock-based awards generally in the form of stock options and restricted stock. We account for our stock-based compensation awards in accordance with Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) ASC Topic 718, Compensation—Stock Compensation, (“ASC 718”). ASC 718 requires all stock-based payments to employees, including grants of employee stock options and restricted stock and modifications to existing stock awards to be recognized in the consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss based on their fair values. Described below is the methodology we have utilized in measuring stock-based compensation expense.

We estimate the fair value of our options to purchase shares of common stock to employees using the Black-Scholes option pricing model, which requires the input of highly subjective assumptions, including (a) the expected stock price volatility, (b) the calculation of the expected term of the award, (c) the risk-free interest rate and (d) expected dividends. Due to the lack of a public market for the trading of our common stock and a lack of company-specific historical and implied volatility data, we have based our estimate of expected volatility on the historical volatility of a group of similar companies that are publicly traded. The historical volatility is calculated based on a period of time commensurate with the expected term assumption. The computation of expected volatility is based on the historical volatility of a representative group of companies with similar characteristics to our company, including stage of product development and life science industry focus. We are a development stage company in an early stage of product development with no revenues and the representative group of companies has certain similar characteristics. We believe the group selected has sufficient similar economic and industry characteristics and includes companies that are most representative of our company. We use the simplified method as prescribed by the SEC Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 107, Share-Based Payment, to calculate the expected term for options granted to employees and non-employees as we do not have sufficient historical exercise data to provide a reasonable basis upon which to estimate the expected term. The expected term is applied to the stock option grant group as a whole, as we do not expect substantially different exercise or post-vesting termination behavior among our employee population. The risk-free interest rate is based on a treasury instrument whose term is consistent with the expected life of the stock options. The expected dividend yield is assumed to be zero as we have never paid dividends and have no current plans to pay any dividends on our common stock, similar to our peer group. The grant date fair value of restricted stock award grants is based on the estimated value of our common stock at the date of grant.

Our stock-based awards are subject to service-based vesting conditions. Compensation expense related to awards to employees with service-based vesting conditions is recognized on a straight-line basis based on the grant date fair value over the associated service period of the award. Awards to non-employees are adjusted through share-based compensation expense as the award vests to reflect the current fair value of such awards and are expensed using an accelerated attribution model.

For the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, stock-based compensation expense was $1.1 million and $3.4 million, respectively.  As of December 31, 2019, we had $2.3 million of total unrecognized stock-based compensation costs for stock options, which we expect to recognize over a weighted-average period of 2.31 years.

JOBS Act Accounting Election

We are an “emerging growth company” within the meaning of the JOBS Act. Section 107 of the JOBS Act provides that an emerging growth company can take advantage of the extended transition period provided in Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act for complying with new or revised accounting standards. Thus, an emerging growth company can delay the adoption of certain accounting standards until those standards would otherwise apply to private companies. We have irrevocably elected not to avail ourselves of this extended transition period and, as a result, we will adopt new or revised accounting standards on the relevant dates on which adoption of such standards is required for other public companies that are not emerging growth companies.

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

See Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements for a discussion of recent accounting pronouncements.

 

71


 

Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.

We are a smaller reporting company, as defined by Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act and are not required to provide the information required by this Item.

Interest Rate Risk

The Company’s cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2019 consist of all cash on hand, deposits and funds invested in short-term investments with original maturities of three months or less at the time of purchase and earn interest income. Therefore, there was minimal or no interest rate risk.

Item 8. Consolidated Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

Beginning on page 73 are the consolidated financial statements with applicable notes and the related Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm.

 

72


 

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

 

To the Stockholders and the Board of Directors of Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

 

Opinion on the Financial Statements

 

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2019 and 2018, and the related consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss, stockholders’ equity and cash flows for each of the two years in the period ended December 31, 2019, and the related notes (collectively referred to as the “consolidated financial statements”).  In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company at December 31, 2019 and 2018, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the two years in the period ended December 31, 2019, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.

 

 

Basis for Opinion

 

These financial statements are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the Company’s financial statements based on our audits. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (“PCAOB”) and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

 

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. The Company is not required to have, nor were we engaged to perform, an audit of its internal control over financial reporting. As part of our audits we are required to obtain an understanding of internal control over financial reporting but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting. Accordingly, we express no such opinion.

 

Our audits included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. Our audits also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

 

/s/ Ernst & Young LLP

 

We have served as the Company’s auditor since 2011

 

Cincinnati, Ohio

 

March 16, 2020

 

 

 

73


 

INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

 

 

 

74


 

AERPIO PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.

Consolidated Balance Sheets

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Assets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current assets:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

$

38,524,536

 

 

$

62,614,010

 

Prepaid research and development contracts

 

 

311,154

 

 

 

754,392

 

Other current assets

 

 

734,785

 

 

 

615,681

 

Total current assets

 

 

39,570,475

 

 

 

63,984,083

 

Furniture and equipment, net

 

 

164,187

 

 

 

98,449

 

Operating lease right-of-use assets, net

 

 

162,124

 

 

 

 

Deposits

 

 

40,000

 

 

 

40,960

 

Total assets

 

$

39,936,786

 

 

$

64,123,492

 

Liabilities and stockholders’ equity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current liabilities:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accounts payable and accrued expenses

 

$

3,231,450

 

 

$

5,456,917

 

Current portion of operating lease liability

 

 

102,555

 

 

 

 

Total current liabilities

 

 

3,334,005

 

 

 

5,456,917

 

Operating lease liability, net of current portion

 

 

67,438

 

 

 

 

Total liabilities

 

 

3,401,443

 

 

 

5,456,917

 

Commitments and contingencies  (Note 11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stockholders’ equity:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common stock, $0.0001 par value per share; 300,000,000 shares

   authorized and 40,588,004 shares issued and outstanding at December

   31, 2019 and 2018.

 

 

4,059

 

 

 

4,059

 

Additional paid-in capital

 

 

178,766,806

 

 

 

177,621,807

 

Accumulated deficit

 

 

(142,235,522

)

 

 

(118,959,291

)

Total stockholders’ equity

 

 

36,535,343

 

 

 

58,666,575

 

Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity

 

$

39,936,786

 

 

$

64,123,492

 

 

The accompanying notes are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

 

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