SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended
Date of event requiring this shell company report ________________
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|Large accelerated filer ☐||Accelerated filer ☐|
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
|ITEM 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers.||4|
|ITEM 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable.||4|
|ITEM 3. Key Information.||5|
|ITEM 4. Information on the Company.||38|
|ITEM 4A. Unresolved Staff Comments.||61|
|ITEM 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects.||61|
|ITEM 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees.||66|
|ITEM 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions.||81|
|ITEM 8. Financial Information.||82|
|ITEM 9. The Offer and Listing.||82|
|ITEM 10. Additional Information.||83|
|ITEM 11. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.||91|
|ITEM 12. Description of Securities Other Than Equity Securities.||91|
|ITEM 13. Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies.||92|
|ITEM 14. Material Modifications to the Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds.||92|
|ITEM 15. Controls and Procedures.||92|
|ITEM 16. [RESERVED]||92|
|ITEM 16A. Audit Committee Financial Expert.||93|
|ITEM 16B. Code of Ethics.||93|
|ITEM 16C. Principal Accountant Fees and Services.||93|
|ITEM 16D. Exemptions from the Listing Standards for Audit Committees.||93|
|ITEM 16E. Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers.||93|
|ITEM 16F. Change in Registrant’s Certifying Accountant.||93|
|ITEM 16G. Corporate Governance.||94|
|ITEM 16H. Mine Safety Disclosure.||95|
|ITEM 16I. Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections.||95|
|ITEM 17. Financial Statements.||95|
|ITEM 18. Financial Statements.||95|
|ITEM 19. Exhibits||95|
ABOUT THIS ANNUAL REPORT
All references to “we,” “us,” “our,” “the Company” and “our Company”, in this Annual Report on Form 20-F, or our annual report, are to Galmed Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and its subsidiaries, unless the context otherwise requires. All references to Aramchol mean Aramchol acid or Aramchol meglumine (salt), unless the context otherwise requires. All references to “shares” or “ordinary shares” are to our ordinary shares, NIS 0.01 nominal par value per share. All references to “Israel” are to the State of Israel. “U.S. GAAP” means the generally accepted accounting principles of the United States. Unless otherwise stated, all of our financial information presented in this annual report has been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Any discrepancies in any table between totals and sums of the amounts listed are due to rounding. Unless otherwise indicated, or the context otherwise requires, references in this annual report to financial and operational data for a particular year refer to the fiscal year of our company ended December 31 of that year.
Our reporting currency and financial currency is the U.S. dollar. In this annual report, “NIS” means New Israeli Shekel, and “$,” “US$” and “U.S. dollars” mean United States dollars.
CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This annual report contains forward-looking statements about our expectations, beliefs or intentions regarding, among other things, our product development efforts, business, financial condition, results of operations, strategies or prospects. In addition, from time to time, we or our representatives have made or may make forward-looking statements, orally or in writing. Forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “believe,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “may,” “should,” “anticipate,” “could,” “might,” “seek,” “target,” “will,” “project,” “forecast,” “continue” or their negatives or variations of these words or other comparable words or by the fact that these statements do not relate strictly to historical matters. These forward-looking statements may be included in, among other things, various filings made by us with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, press releases or oral statements made by or with the approval of one of our authorized executive officers. Forward-looking statements relate to anticipated or expected events, activities, trends or results as of the date they are made. Because forward-looking statements relate to matters that have not yet occurred, these statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from any future results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Many factors could cause our actual activities or results to differ materially from the activities and results anticipated in forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, the factors summarized below:
|●||our ability to identify, evaluate and complete any strategic alternative that yields value for our shareholders;|
|●||the timing and cost of our pivotal Phase 3 ARMOR trial, or the ARMOR Study, for our product candidates, Aramchol and Amilo-5MER, or for any other pre-clinical or clinical trials;|
|●||completion and receiving favorable results of the ARMOR Study for Aramchol or any other pre-clinical or clinical trial;|
|●||regulatory action with respect to Aramchol or any other product candidate by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, or the European Medicines Authority, or EMA, or the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, or the MHRA, including but not limited to acceptance of an application for marketing authorization, review and approval of such application, and, if approved, the scope of the approved indication and labeling;|
|●||the commercial launch and future sales of Aramchol and any future product candidates;|
|●||our ability to comply with all applicable post-market regulatory requirements for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate in the countries in which we seek to market the product;|
|●||our ability to achieve favorable pricing for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||our expectations regarding the commercial market for non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis, or NASH, in patients or any other targeted indication;|
|●||third-party payor reimbursement for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||our estimates regarding anticipated capital requirements and our needs for additional financing;|
|●||market adoption of Aramchol or any other product candidate by physicians and patients;|
|●||the timing, cost or other aspects of the commercial launch of Aramchol or any other product candidate;|
|●||our ability to obtain and maintain adequate protection of our intellectual property;|
|●||the possibility that we may face third-party claims of intellectual property infringement;|
|●||ability to manufacture our product candidates in commercial quantities, at an adequate quality or at an acceptable cost;|
|●||our ability to establish adequate sales, marketing and distribution channels;|
|●||intense competition in our industry, with competitors having substantially greater financial, technological, research and development, regulatory and clinical, manufacturing, marketing and sales, distribution and personnel resources than we do;|
|●||the development and approval of the use of Aramchol or any other product candidate for additional indications or in combination therapy;|
|●||our expectations regarding licensing, acquisitions and strategic operations;|
|●||current or future unfavorable economic and market conditions and adverse developments with respect to financial institutions and associated liquidity risk; and|
|●||our ability to maintain the listing of our common stock on The Nasdaq Capital Market.|
We believe these forward-looking statements are reasonable; however, these statements are only current predictions and are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our or our industry’s actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to be materially different from those anticipated by the forward-looking statements. We discuss many of these risks in this annual report in greater detail under the heading “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this annual report. Given these uncertainties, you should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events.
All forward-looking statements attributable to us or persons acting on our behalf speak only as of the date hereof and are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements included in this annual report. We undertake no obligations to update or revise forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that arise after the date made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. In evaluating forward-looking statements, you should consider these risks and uncertainties.
Market data and certain industry data and forecasts used throughout this annual report were obtained from internal company surveys, market research, consultant surveys commissioned by the Company, publicly available information, reports of governmental agencies and industry publications and surveys. Industry surveys, publications, consultant surveys commissioned by the Company and forecasts generally state that the information contained therein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, this information may prove to be inaccurate because of the method by which some of the data for the estimates is obtained or because this information cannot always be verified with complete certainty due to the limits on the availability and reliability of raw data, the voluntary nature of the data gathering process and other limitations and uncertainties. As a result, the market and industry data and forecasts included or incorporated by reference in this annual report, and estimates and beliefs based on that data, may not be reliable. We have relied on certain data from third-party sources, including internal surveys, industry forecasts and market research, which we believe to be reliable based on our management’s knowledge of the industry. However, we have not ascertained the underlying economic assumptions relied upon therein. Forecasts are particularly likely to be inaccurate, especially over long periods of time. In addition, we do not necessarily know what assumptions regarding general economic growth were used in preparing the forecasts we cite. Statements as to our market position are based to the best of our knowledge on the most currently available data. While we are not aware of any misstatements regarding the industry data presented in this annual report, our estimates involve risks and uncertainties and are subject to change based on various factors, including those discussed under the heading “Risk Factors” in this annual report.
ITEM 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers.
ITEM 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable.
ITEM 3. Key Information.
B. Capitalization and Indebtedness.
C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds.
D. Risk Factors.
Summary of Risk Factors
An investment in our ordinary shares is subject to a number of risks. The following summarizes some, but not all, of these risks. Please carefully consider all of the information discussed in “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” in this annual report for a more thorough description of these and other risks.
Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Capital Requirements
|●||We are a biopharmaceutical company with a history of operating losses. We expect to incur significant additional losses in the future and may never be profitable.|
|●||We have not yet commercialized any products and we may never be able to do so, and even if we do, the products may not gain market acceptance.|
|●||We will need substantial, additional capital in the future. If additional capital is not available, we will have to delay, reduce or cease operations.|
|●||We are unable to estimate our long-term capital requirements due to uncertainties associated with the development and commercialization of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate. If we fail to obtain necessary funds for our operations, we will be unable to develop and commercialize Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.|
Risks Related to Our Business, Industry and Regulatory Requirements
|●||Our activities to evaluate and pursue strategic alternatives may not be successful.|
|●||We are substantially dependent on our remaining employees to facilitate the consummation of a strategic transaction. We could lose such key employees.|
|●||The clinical trial process is complex and expensive, and commencement and completion of clinical trials can be delayed or prevented for a number of reasons.|
|●||We have historically developed Aramchol for the treatment of NASH, an indication for which there are no approved products, and there is significant uncertainty regarding the regulatory approval process. In addition, during 2022, we discontinued our open label part of the ARMOR Study and we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study. This makes it difficult to predict the timing and costs of the clinical development of Aramchol for the treatment of NASH.|
|●||We depend largely on the success of our lead product candidate, Aramchol, and we may not obtain regulatory approval of Aramchol.|
|●||Commencement of our ARMOR Study in jurisdictions outside the United States is subject to acceptance of the foreign equivalent of our IND by regulatory authorities.|
|●||We may be forced to abandon development of Aramchol or any other product candidate which would have a material adverse effect on our business and may force us to cease operations.|
|●||The lack of a reliable non-invasive method for the diagnosis of NASH is likely to present a major challenge to Aramchol’s market penetration, if ever commercialized.|
|●||Our Amilo-5MER program is being conducted under a license agreement with Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, or Yissum.|
|●||If we acquire or in-license additional technologies or product candidates, we may incur significant, incremental expenses, may have integration difficulties and may experience other risks that could harm our business and results of operations.|
|●||Changes in regulatory requirements and guidance or unanticipated events during our clinical trials may occur, which may result in necessary changes to clinical trial protocols, which could result in increased costs to us, delay our development timeline or reduce the likelihood of successful completion of our clinical trials.|
|●||We manage our business through a small number of senior executive officers. We depend on them even more than similarly- situated companies.|
|●||Our business is subject to risks arising from epidemic diseases, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted and could continue to impact our business.|
Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties
|●||We have no manufacturing capacity and anticipate reliance on third-party manufacturers for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.|
|●||Any collaboration arrangements that we may enter into in the future may not be successful, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our current and potential future product candidates.|
|●||We depend on third parties to conduct our clinical trials.|
Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property
|●||The failure to obtain or maintain patents, licensing agreements and other intellectual property rights that are sufficiently broad and protective could impact our ability to compete effectively.|
|●||Our potential development of Aramchol meglumine may not result in improved bioavailability compared to the existing form of Aramchol. Furthermore, although we have pending patent applications and granted patent covering Aramchol meglumine in development, there is no assurance that we will receive any patents for them, and even if we receive one or more patents for our Aramchol meglumine in development, they may be of little or no commercial value.|
Risks Related to Ownership of Our Ordinary Shares
|●||Our business, operating results and growth rates may be adversely affected by current or future unfavorable economic and market conditions and adverse developments with respect to financial institutions and associated liquidity risk.|
|●||The market price of our ordinary shares is volatile and you may sustain a complete loss of your investment.|
|●||If we fail to comply with the continued listing requirements of the Nasdaq Capital Market, our ordinary shares may be delisted and the price of our ordinary shares and our ability to access the capital markets could be negatively impacted.|
|●||Our President and Chief Executive Officer beneficially owns approximately 17.4% of our outstanding ordinary shares, as of March 15, 2023. Therefore, our principal shareholders will be able to exert significant control over matters submitted to our shareholders for approval.|
|●||Our U.S. shareholders may suffer adverse tax consequences due to our classification as a passive foreign investment company.|
Risks Related to Israeli Law and Our Operations in Israel
|●||Our headquarters and other significant operations are located in Israel and, therefore, our results may be adversely affected by political, economic and military instability in Israel.|
|●||Provisions of Israeli law and our articles of association, or Articles, may delay, prevent or otherwise impede a merger with, or an acquisition of, our company, which could prevent a change of control, even when the terms of such a transaction are favorable to us and our shareholders.|
|●||Your rights, liabilities and responsibilities as a shareholder will be governed by Israeli law and differ in some material respects from those under U.S. law.|
An investment in our ordinary shares involves a high degree of risk. Prior to making a decision about investing in our ordinary shares, you should carefully consider the risks, uncertainties and assumptions set forth below. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us, or that we currently see as immaterial, may also harm our business. If any of these risks occur, our business, financial condition and operating results could be harmed, the trading price of our ordinary shares could decline and you could lose part or all of your investment.
Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Capital Requirements
We are a biopharmaceutical company with a history of operating losses. We expect to incur significant additional losses in the future and may never be profitable.
We are a biopharmaceutical company with an operating history limited to pre-clinical and clinical drug development and no approved products. During 2022, we discontinued the open-label part of the ARMOR Study having reached its objectives and initiated a strategic review process. Following the discontinuation of our open label part of the ARMOR Study, we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study. In addition, we have limited operating experience and have not yet demonstrated an ability to successfully overcome many of the risks and uncertainties frequently encountered by companies in new and rapidly evolving fields, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. We have funded our research and development programs and operations to date primarily through proceeds from private placements and public offerings. We currently have no products approved for marketing in the United States or any other jurisdiction and have not generated any revenue from product sales to date, although we have generated revenue from our licensing agreement with Samil Pharm. Co., Ltd., or Samil. We have incurred operating losses in each year since the inception of our predecessor in 2000. Our loss attributable to holders of our ordinary shares for the years ended December 31, 2021, and 2022 was approximately $32.5 million and $17.4 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2022, we had an accumulated deficit of $186.0 million. Substantially all of our operating losses resulted from costs incurred in connection with our development program and from general and administrative costs associated with our operations.
Our ability to become profitable depends upon our ability to generate revenue in excess of our expenses. To date, we have not generated any revenue, excluding the licensing revenue we recorded in connection with that certain Samil Agreement (as defined below), as our lead product candidate, Aramchol and has not been approved by the FDA, nor has any other product candidate. We do not know when, or if, we will generate any revenue from sales of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER and/or any other product candidate. We do not expect to generate revenue other than subsequent royalties and/or milestones that can be earned in connection with the Samil Agreement or other potential license agreements, unless and until we, or an ultimate third-party licensor or acquirer, obtain regulatory and marketing approval of, and commercialize, Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate. Subject to our strategic review, we will continue to incur significant research and development and general and administrative expenses related to our operations. We expect to continue to incur losses before we can consummate any strategic alternatives, which may be significant.
Based on our current operating plan, which is subject to change pursuant to our strategic review, we expect to continue to incur significant expenses and operating losses for the foreseeable future. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if and as we:
|●||re-initiate the ARMOR Study and/or commence any additional clinical trials for Aramchol and Amilo-5MER, or any other product candidate and initiate additional research and development programs;|
|●||seek regulatory approvals for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||seek to in-license additional products or technologies to develop;|
|●||expand our operational, financial and management systems and personnel, including personnel to support our clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization efforts and our operations as a public company;|
|●||hire additional management and other personnel;|
|●||move towards commercialization of Aramchol or any other product candidate;|
|●||explore and review a range of strategic alternatives for our company.|
We may out-license Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate including through a territorial license, a worldwide license, or a license for a particular indication, before it is approved by any applicable regulatory agency, commercialized and/or generates revenue, depending on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, our ability to:
|●||demonstrate a compelling and/or novel, pre-clinical, unique mechanism of action of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||obtain adequate clinical results from and progress from the clinical development of Aramchol or any other product candidate;|
|●||develop and obtain regulatory approvals in the countries and for the uses we intend to pursue for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||contract for the manufacture of commercial quantities of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate by a current good manufacturing practice, or cGMP, compliant manufacturing facility at acceptable cost levels if marketing approval is received; and|
|●||establish external, and potentially in the future, internal, sales and marketing capabilities to effectively market and sell Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate in the United States and other countries.|
Even if Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate is approved for commercial sale, it may not gain market acceptance or achieve commercial success. In addition, we anticipate incurring significant costs associated with seeking regulatory approval and commercialization. We may not achieve profitability soon after generating product revenue, if ever. If we are unable to generate product revenue, we will not become profitable and would be unable to continue operations without additional funding.
We expect our research and development expenses to significantly increase if we re-initiate our ARMOR Study and initiate any other pre-clinical or clinical trials. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate and opt to commercialize it ourselves, we will likely initially incur significant expenses associated with outsourcing sales, marketing and manufacturing functions to third parties, as well as continued research and development expenses. Furthermore, we expect to incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company. As a result, and subject to our strategic review, we expect to continue to incur significant and increasing operating losses for the foreseeable future. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with developing pharmaceutical products, we are unable to predict the extent of any future losses or when we will become profitable, if at all.
Our limited operating history makes it difficult to evaluate our business and prospects.
Our operating history is limited to pre-clinical and clinical development of two products, and our operations to date have been limited primarily to research and development, raising capital and recruiting scientific and management personnel and third-party partners. Therefore, it may be difficult to evaluate our business and prospects. We have not yet demonstrated an ability to commercialize or obtain regulatory approval for any product candidate. Consequently, any predictions about our future performance may not be accurate, and you may not be able to fully assess our ability to complete development and/or commercialize our product candidates, obtain regulatory approvals or achieve market acceptance or favorable pricing for our product candidates.
We have not yet commercialized any products and we may never be able to do so, and even if we do, the products may not gain market acceptance.
We have not yet commercialized any products and we may never be able to do so. During 2022, we discontinued the open-label part of the ARMOR Study having reached its objectives and initiated a strategic review process. Following the discontinuation of our open label part of the ARMOR Study, we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study. We do not know when or if we will complete development of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, obtain regulatory approval, or successfully commercialize any approved products. Even if we are successful in developing products that are approved for marketing, we will not be successful unless these products gain market acceptance for appropriate indications at favorable reimbursement rates. The degree of market acceptance for these products will depend on a number of factors, including:
|●||the timing and scope of regulatory approvals in the countries we intend to pursue with respect to the commercialization of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, including the indications for which they are approved;|
|●||the competitive environment;|
|●||the ability for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate to be manufactured, whether by us or third parties, in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements, including cGMP;|
|●||our ability to effectively promote Aramchol or any other product candidate, whether directly or using third parties, consistent with the approved indications and labeling in the countries in which we intend to pursue approval;|
|●||the acceptance by the medical community of the safety and clinical efficacy of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate and their potential advantages over other therapeutic products;|
|●||the development of a non-invasive method for diagnosing NASH as an alternative to the current gold standard of liver biopsy, which we view as a rate-limiting factor to complete market uptake because of its expense and its risks and discomfort to patients;|
|●||the adequacy and success of distribution, sales and marketing efforts, including through strategic agreements with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies; and|
|●||the pricing and reimbursement policies of government and third-party payors, such as insurance companies, health maintenance organizations and other plan administrators.|
Physicians, patients, third-party payors or the medical community in general may be unwilling to accept, utilize or recommend, and in the case of third-party payors, reimburse any of our planned future products. As a result, we are unable to predict the extent of future losses or the time required to achieve profitability, if at all. Even if we successfully develop one or more products, we may not become profitable.
We will need substantial, additional capital in the future. If additional capital is not available, we will have to delay, reduce or cease operations.
As of December 31, 2022, we had a net working capital of $11.6 million, cash and cash equivalents of $2.0 million, restricted cash of $0.1 million, and marketable debt securities of $11.8 million. Based on our current operating plan, which is subject to change pursuant to our strategic review, we currently estimate that our cash position will support our current operations as currently conducted for more than 12 months from the date of issuance of this annual report. We will need to raise substantial, additional capital to fund our operations and to re-initiate the ARMOR Study and develop Aramchol and Amilo-5MER for, and beyond their current development stage, and ultimately commercialize them, if we opt to do so ourselves. In addition, we may expand our current research and development focus and clinical operations as well as the development of Aramchol or any other product candidate for other indications or development of other molecules and/or combination of Aramchol with other molecules for NASH or other liver and inflammatory diseases as well as non-invasive biomarkers, which we expect will also require additional capital. Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors including:
|●||the outcome of our review of our strategic alternatives:|
|●||the progress and costs of our pre-clinical studies, clinical trials and other research and development activities;|
|●||the regulatory pathway of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||the scope, prioritization and number of our clinical trials and other collaboration, research and development programs;|
|●||the amount of revenues and contributions we receive under future licensing, development and commercialization arrangements with respect to Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||the costs of the development and expansion of our operational infrastructure;|
|●||the costs and timing of obtaining regulatory approval for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||the ability of us, or our collaborators, to achieve development milestones, marketing approval and other events or developments under our potential future licensing agreements;|
|●||the costs of filing, prosecuting, enforcing and defending patent claims and other intellectual property rights;|
|●||the costs and timing of securing manufacturing arrangements for clinical or commercial production;|
|●||the costs of contracting with third parties to provide sales and marketing capabilities for us;|
|●||the costs of acquiring or undertaking development and commercialization efforts for any future products, product candidates or platforms;|
|●||the magnitude of our general and administrative expenses;|
|●||any cost that we may incur under future in- and out-licensing arrangements relating to Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||our ability to maintain the listing of our orindary share on The Nasdaq Capital Market; and|
|●||the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which may exacerbate the magnitude of the factors discussed above.|
Under General Instruction I.B.5 to Form F-3, or the Baby Shelf Rule, the amount of funds we can raise through primary public offerings of securities in any 12-month period using our registration statement on Form F-3 is limited to one-third of the aggregate market value of the ordinary shares held by non-affiliates of the Company. As of March 15, 2023, our public float was approximately $10.2 million, based on 21,718,886 ordinary shares held by non-affiliates and a price of $0.47 per share, which was the last reported sale price of our ordinary shares on the Nasdaq Capital Market on March 15, 2023. We therefore are limited by the Baby Shelf Rule as of the filing of this annual report, until such time as our public float exceeds $75 million. If we are required to file a new registration statement on another form, we may incur additional costs and be subject to delays due to review by the SEC Staff.
Changing circumstances may cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, such as losing our Small and Medium Enterprise status at the EMA, which entitles us to significant fee reductions. Because there are numerous risks and uncertainties associated with the development and commercialization of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, we are unable to estimate the amount of increased capital outlays and operating expenditures associated with our anticipated clinical trials. We have no committed external sources of funds. Additional financing may not be available when we need it or may not be available on terms that are favorable to us and additional financing may cause significant dilution to our existing shareholders. If adequate funds are not available to us on a timely basis, or at all, we may be required to terminate or delay planned or ongoing clinical trials or other development activities for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.
Raising additional capital may be costly or difficult to obtain and will dilute current shareholders’ ownership interests, potentially substantially.
Any debt, equity or structured financing that we may need or desire may not be available on terms favorable to us, or at all. If we obtain funding through a strategic collaboration or licensing arrangement, we may be required to relinquish our rights to certain of our technologies, products or marketing territories. If we are unable to obtain required additional capital, we may have to curtail our growth plans or cut back on existing business, and we may not be able to continue operating if we do not generate sufficient revenues from operations needed to stay in business.
We may incur substantial costs in pursuing future capital financing, including investment banking fees, legal fees, accounting fees, securities law compliance fees, printing and distribution expenses and other costs. We may also be required to recognize non-cash expenses in connection with certain securities we issue, such as convertible notes and warrants, which may adversely impact our capital structure, financial condition and results of operations.
Any additional capital raised through the sale of equity or equity-linked securities will dilute our current shareholders’ ownership in us, potentially substantially, and could also result in a decrease in the market price of our ordinary shares. The terms and conditions of those securities issued by us in future capital transactions may be more favorable to new investors and may include the issuance of warrants or other derivative securities, which may have a further dilutive effect.
We are unable to estimate our long-term capital requirements due to uncertainties associated with our strategic review and the development and commercialization of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate. If we fail to obtain necessary funds for our operations, we will be unable to develop and commercialize Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.
Our long-term capital requirements are expected to depend on many potential factors, including, among others:
|●||the outcome of our review of our strategic alternatives;|
|●||the number of product candidates in development;|
|●||the size, duration and scope of existing and future clinical trials and pre-clinical studies;|
|●||the regulatory pathway for the approval of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate;|
|●||the results of our clinical trials, which are unpredictable in product candidate development;|
|●||our ability to successfully commercialize Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, including securing commercialization and out-licensing agreements with third parties and favorable pricing and market share;|
|●||the progress, success and cost of our clinical trials and research and development programs, including those associated with milestones and royalties;|
|●||the costs, timing and outcome of regulatory review and obtaining regulatory approval of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate and addressing regulatory and other issues that may arise post-approval;|
|●||the breadth of the labeling, assuming that Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate are approved for commercialization by a relevant regulatory authority, which may not occur;|
|●||our need, or decision, to acquire or in-license complementary technologies or new platform technologies or product candidates;|
|●||the costs of enforcing our issued patents and defending intellectual property-related claims;|
|●||the costs of investigating patents that might block us from developing potential product candidates;|
|●||the costs of recruiting and retaining qualified personnel;|
|●||the costs associated with contracting with third parties to manufacture the product and to perform other necessary services;|
|●||our revenue, if any; and|
|●||our consumption of available resources more rapidly than currently anticipated, resulting in the need for additional funding sooner than anticipated.|
If we are unable to obtain the funds necessary for our operations, we will be unable to develop and commercialize Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate which would materially and adversely affect our business, liquidity and results of operations.
Risks Related to Our Business, Industry and Regulatory Requirements
Our activities to evaluate and pursue strategic alternatives may not be successful.
In May 2022, we announced that we will expand into new anti-fibrotic indications to maximize the potential of Aramchol while at the same time discontinuing the open label part of the ARMOR Study having reached its objectives. Simultaneously, we initiated a cost reduction plan and have been evaluating our strategic options alternatives and our structuring to best optimize our resources to enhance shareholder value and achieve our goals. In January 2023, we announced a strategic investment in OnKai, Inc., or OnKai, (See “Item 4. Information on the Company— Strategic Collaborations, Research Arrangements and other Agreements—Onkai.”) We expect to continue to devote significant time and resources to identifying and evaluating strategic transactions; however, there can be no assurance that such activities will result in any further agreements or transactions that will enhance shareholder value. In addition, potential strategic transactions that require shareholder approval may not be approved by our shareholders or a counterparty’s shareholders. Further, any strategic transaction that is completed ultimately may not deliver the anticipated benefits or enhance shareholder value.
We also may acquire additional businesses, products or product candidates. Integrating any newly acquired business, product or product candidate could be expensive and time-consuming. We may not be able to integrate any acquired business, product or product candidate successfully. If we do acquire any additional business, products, or product candidates, our future financial performance will depend, in part, on our ability to manage any future growth effectively and our ability to integrate any such acquired businesses, products or product candidates.
Any strategic transaction may require us to incur non-recurring or other charges, may increase our near- and long-term expenditures and may pose significant integration challenges or disrupt our management or business, which could adversely affect our operations and financial results. For example, these transactions may entail numerous operational and financial risks, including:
|●||exposure to unknown liabilities;|
|●||incurrence of substantial debt or dilutive issuances of equity securities to pay for acquisitions;|
|●||higher than anticipated acquisition and/or integration costs;|
|●||write downs of assets or goodwill or impairment charges;|
|●||increased amortization expenses;|
|●||difficulty and cost in combining the operations and personnel of any acquired businesses with our operations and personnel;|
|●||impairment of relationships with key suppliers or customers of any acquired businesses due to changes in management and ownership; and|
|●||the inability to retain our key employees or our other service providers or those of any acquired businesses.|
Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will undertake or successfully complete any strategic transactions of the nature described above and any transactions that we do complete may be subject to the foregoing or other risks and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and prospects.
We are substantially dependent on our remaining employees to facilitate the consummation of a strategic transaction. We could lose such key employees.
Our cash conservation activities may yield unintended consequences, such as attrition and reduced employee morale, which may cause remaining employees to seek alternative employment. Our ability to successfully complete a strategic transaction depends in large part on our ability to retain certain personnel. Despite our efforts to retain these employees, one or more may terminate their employment on short notice. The loss of the services of any of these employees could potentially harm our ability to evaluate and pursue strategic alternatives, as well as fulfill our reporting obligations as a public company.
The clinical trial process is complex and expensive, and commencement and completion of clinical trials can be delayed or prevented for a number of reasons.
We may not be able to complete or commence the clinical trials that would support our submission of an NDA to the FDA, a Marketing Authorization Application or MAA, to the EMA or MHRA or any similar submission to regulatory authorities in other countries. Drug development is a long, expensive and uncertain process, and delay or failure can occur at any stage of any of our clinical trials. The fact that the FDA, EMA, MHRA or other regulatory authorities permit a company to conduct human clinical trials is no assurance or guarantee that the trials will be successful. On the contrary, most candidate drugs that begin clinical trials do not prove to be successful and do not result in the filing of an NDA, MAA or similar filing. Drug candidates that successfully complete one phase of clinical trials may prove unsuccessful at a subsequent phase. Human clinical trials are very expensive and difficult to design and implement, in part because they are subject to rigorous regulatory requirements and in part because the results of clinical trials are inherently uncertain and unpredictable. In addition, the design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product, and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. Regulatory authorities, such as the FDA, may decline to permit a clinical trial to proceed or may suspend a clinical trial that it has previously permitted to proceed. Additionally, the clinical trial process is time-consuming, and failure can occur at any stage of the trials. We may encounter problems that cause us to abandon or repeat clinical trials. The commencement and completion of clinical trials may be delayed by several factors, including:
|●||difficulties obtaining regulatory authorization to commence a clinical trial or complying with regulatory requirements for clinical trials or with the conditions imposed by a regulatory authority regarding the scope, duration or conduct of a clinical trial;|
|●||delays in reaching or failing to reach agreement on acceptable terms with prospective contract research organizations, or CROs, and trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;|
|●||insufficient or inadequate supply or quality of a product candidate or other materials necessary to conduct our clinical trials;|
|●||difficulties in obtaining institutional review board, or IRB, approval to conduct a clinical trial at a prospective site;|
|●||challenges in recruiting and enrolling patients to participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons, including size and nature of patient population, proximity of patients to clinical sites, eligibility and exclusion criteria for the trial, nature of trial protocol, the availability of approved effective treatments for the relevant disease and competition from other clinical trial programs for similar indications;|
|●||challenges in identifying or recruiting sufficient study sites or investigators for clinical trials; and|
|●||lack of adequate funding to initiate or continue our clinical trials.|
Even if we re-initiate the Phase 3 ARMOR Study, the ARMOR Study may still be terminated as a result of, but not limited to, safety signals, lack of efficacy, uncertainties with regard to the regulatory pathway for the approval of NASH drugs, or commercial considerations based on the cost-benefit of continuing to run the study. In addition, the ARMOR Study or other clinical trials may be suspended or terminated by us, the FDA or other regulatory authorities, the principal investigator at a site, the IRBs at the sites where such boards are overseeing a trial or the data safety monitoring board, or the DSMB, that is overseeing the clinical trial at issue, or other regulatory authorities due to a number of factors, including:
|●||irregularities in conducting a clinical trial, including by way of example, failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements, in particular good clinical practice requirements, or GCP, or the FDA-authorized clinical protocols;|
|●||negative findings upon inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial sites by the FDA or other regulatory authorities;|
|●||safety issues or lack of clinical drug activity or effectiveness; and|
|●||lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trials.|
To date, we have already experienced material delays in both the ARMOR Study largely related to significantly slower than expected recruitment and the ARREST Study largely related to significantly slower than expected recruitment and the length of time required to obtain regulatory authorizations to proceed with clinical trials. We may experience further delays in any or all of our clinical trials and there can be no assurance that we will not experience such risks in the future as we progress with our planned clinical trials.
Furthermore, positive results in previous clinical studies of our product candidates may not be predictive of similar results in future clinical trials. Also, interim results, if at all, during a clinical trial do not necessarily predict final results. A number of companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials even after achieving promising results in early- and mid-stage development. Accordingly, the results from the completed pre-clinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidates may not be predictive of the results we may obtain in later stage trials. Our clinical trials may produce negative or inconclusive results, and we may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional clinical and/or pre-clinical trials, or to even terminate the development program entirely. Many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in pre-clinical and clinical studies have nonetheless failed to obtain FDA or EMA, or other regulatory agency, approval for their products.
In addition, we or regulatory authorities may suspend our clinical trials at any time if it appears that we are exposing participants to unacceptable health risks or if the regulatory authorities find deficiencies in our regulatory submissions or the conduct of such trials. Any suspension of clinical trials will delay possible regulatory approval, if any, and adversely impact our ability to develop products and generate revenue.
We have historically developed Aramchol for the treatment of NASH, an indication for which there are no approved products, and there is significant uncertainty regarding the regulatory approval process. In addition, during 2022, we discontinued our open label part of the ARMOR Study and we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study. This makes it difficult to predict the timing and costs of the clinical development of Aramchol for the treatment of NASH.
Pharmaceutical products generally are subject to rigorous nonclinical testing and clinical studies and other approval procedures mandated by the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities. We have historically developed Aramchol for the treatment of NASH, an indication for which there are no approved products.
In September 2019, we initiated the ARMOR Study and during 2022 we discontinued the open-label part of the ARMOR Study having reached its objectives. Following the discontinuation of our open label part of the ARMOR Study, we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study.
Although there are guidelines issued by the FDA for the development of drugs for the treatment of NASH, it is our current assessment that despite considerable efforts from the scientific community and regulatory agencies, there are significant uncertainties that remain unresolved with regards to the conduct of NASH Phase 3 registrational studies. These risks include dependence on biopsies as the primary surrogate endpoint which are subjective in nature and prone to sampling errors and inadequacy; high screen failure rates which pose a burden to patients, investigators, and study budget; lack of validated biomarkers and the heterogenous population included under the NASH diagnosis. Moreover, pathology plays a role in NASH clinical trials with histology being the current reference method to determine inclusion in trials and change in disease activity and fibrosis stage. Manual histological review is complex, subjective, and prone to inter- and intra-reader variability and error. Existing pathology scoring systems and practices show only moderate to fair reproducibility, limiting their utility for clinical research and practice.
In addition, the FDA has indicated that the results of the ARMOR Study must be unequivocal and highly persuasive for a single Phase 3 study to support approval of an NDA. Therefore, even if the ARMOR Study meets all of its statistical goals and protocol endpoints, the FDA may not view the results as sufficient to support an NDA.
We expect that the path for regulatory approval for NASH drugs may continue to evolve in the near term as we and other companies in late-stage development of NASH drugs refine our regulatory approval strategies and interact with the FDA and other regulatory authorities. In particular, FDA expectations about interpretation of liver biopsy data may evolve especially as more information is published about the inherent variability in interpretation of liver biopsy data. Certain of our competitors have experienced regulatory setbacks for NASH therapies following communications from the FDA. See also “Item 4. Information on the Company—Competition.” Even after we receive and incorporate guidance from the FDA or other regulatory authorities, they could disagree that we have satisfied their requirements, which may require us to complete additional preclinical studies or clinical trials or impose stricter approval conditions than we currently expect. Furthermore, as the path for regulatory approval for NASH drugs evolves, it may impact our ARMOR Study in ways that could significantly increase the development costs and call into question the future viability of continuing to conduct the ARMOR Study. Additionally, we are considering more robust changes to our development program for NASH. Changes may include focusing on higher risk patients (F3), evaluating patients with compensated cirrhosis (F4) as well as changes to study design such as two smaller studies instead of one pivotal study and the addition of a combination arm.
Any additional delays in the completion of the ARMOR Study or any additional preclinical studies or clinical trials would require us to expend substantial additional resources and could significantly extend the timeline for clinical development prior to market approval. As a result of the foregoing, the research and development, preclinical studies and clinical testing of Aramchol and any other product candidate is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the development process. If we experience delays in the completion of, or if we terminate, any of our clinical trials, this would have a material adverse effect on our business, liquidity, operating results and financial condition and may force us to cease operations.
We depend largely on the success of our lead product candidate, Aramchol, and we may not obtain regulatory approval of Aramchol.
We have invested almost all of our efforts and financial resources in the research and development (clinical and pre-clinical) of our lead product candidate, Aramchol. As a result, subject to our strategic review, our business is largely dependent on the success of the ARMOR Study and our ability to complete the development of, obtain regulatory approval for and successfully commercialize Aramchol in a timely manner. The process to develop, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize Aramchol is long, complex, costly and uncertain as to its outcome and we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study.
The research, development, testing, clinical trials, manufacturing, labeling, approval, sale, marketing and distribution of drugs are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory agencies in other countries. These regulations differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We have not received marketing approval for Aramchol in any jurisdiction. We are not permitted to market Aramchol, or any other product candidate, in the United States until we receive approval of a New Drug Application, or NDA, from the FDA, or in any foreign countries until we receive the requisite approval from the respective regulatory agencies in such countries. The results of clinical trials may be unsatisfactory, and even if we believe those clinical trials to be successful, the FDA, or other regulatory authorities, may not grant marketing authorization should we be in a position to request it.
Even if we re-initiate the ARMOR Study, the requirements and length of time for approval vary in different jurisdictions and could involve additional studies of Aramchol beyond those we currently anticipate, including potentially post-approval studies. The time required to obtain approval in other countries might differ from that required to obtain FDA approval in the United States. The marketing approval process in other countries may include all of the risks detailed above regarding FDA approval as well as other risks. In particular, in many countries outside the United States, it is required that a product receive pricing and reimbursement approval before the product can be commercialized. This can result in substantial delays in such countries. In other countries, product approval depends on showing superiority to an approved therapy. This can result in significant expense to conduct complex clinical trials. Finally, we do not have any products approved for sale in any jurisdiction, including international markets, and we do not have experience in obtaining regulatory approval in international markets. If we fail to comply with regulatory requirements in international markets or to obtain and maintain required approvals or if regulatory approvals in international markets are delayed, our target market will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of Aramchol or any other product candidate will be harmed.
Marketing approval in one jurisdiction does not ensure marketing approval in another, but a failure or delay in obtaining marketing approval in one jurisdiction may have a negative effect on the regulatory process in others. Failure to obtain marketing approval in other countries or any delay or setback in obtaining such approval would impair our ability to develop foreign markets for Aramchol. This would reduce our target market and limit the full commercial potential of Aramchol.
Commencement of our ARMOR Study in jurisdictions outside the United States is subject to acceptance of the foreign equivalent of our IND by regulatory authorities.
In the event that the FDA or any other regulatory authority requires us to complete additional preclinical and/or clinical studies or we are required to satisfy other FDA or other regulatory requests, the start of the ARMOR Study in the applicable jurisdiction or any of our other programs may be delayed or not started at all. For example, certain regulatory agencies in Europe have required that we conduct additional clinical studies prior to initiating ARMOR in those jurisdictions. Even after we receive and incorporate guidance from these regulatory authorities, the FDA or other regulatory authorities could disagree that we have satisfied their requirements to commence our clinical trial or change their position on the acceptability of our planned trial design or the clinical endpoints selected, which may require us to complete additional preclinical studies or clinical trials or impose stricter approval conditions than we currently expect. As a result of the foregoing, the research and development, preclinical studies and clinical testing of any product candidate is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the development process.
We may be forced to abandon development of Aramchol or any other product candidate which would have a material adverse effect on our business and may force us to cease operations.
Upon the completion of any clinical or pre-clinical trial and/or tests, the results might not support the desired indications for use. Further, success in earlier clinical trials does not ensure that later clinical trials will be successful, and the results of later clinical trials may not replicate the results of prior clinical trials or pre-clinical testing. In addition, the design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product, and flaws in the design of a clinical trial or variability in interpretation of results may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. The clinical trial process may fail to demonstrate that Aramchol or any other product candidate is sufficiently safe and/or effective for the indications we seek to receive FDA or other regulatory approval. Any such failure may cause us to abandon Aramchol or any other product candidate and may delay development of other potential product candidates. Any delay in, or termination or suspension of, our clinical trials may delay the requisite filings with the FDA or other regulatory agencies and, ultimately, our ability to commercialize Aramchol or any other product candidate and generate product revenues. If the results of the ARMOR Study or any other study, including in any interim readout, are not sufficiently compelling, then the completion of development of our product candidates may be significantly delayed or abandoned which would have material adverse effect on our business, liquidity, operating results and financial condition and may force us to cease operations.
We have in the past and may in the future develop Aramchol in combination with other therapies, which exposes us to additional risks.
We have in the past and, subject to our strategic review, may in the future develop Aramchol in combination with investigational therapies. We will not be able to market and sell Aramchol or any product candidate we develop in combination with an unapproved therapy for a combination indication if that unapproved therapy does not ultimately obtain marketing approval either alone or in combination with our product candidate. In addition, unapproved therapies face the same risks described with respect to Aramchol or any other product candidate currently in development and clinical trials, including the potential for serious adverse effects, delay in their clinical trials and lack of FDA, EMA or MHRA approval. If the FDA, EMA, MHRA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities do not approve these other drugs or revoke their approval of, or if safety, efficacy, quality, manufacturing or supply issues arise with the product candidates we choose to evaluate in combination with our product candidate we develop, we may be unable to obtain approval of or market such combination therapy.
The lack of a reliable non-invasive method for the diagnosis of NASH and fibrosis is likely to present a major challenge to Aramchol’s market penetration, if ever commercialized.
Liver biopsy is the standard approach for the diagnosis of inflammation and fibrosis associated with NASH. However, the procedure-related morbidity and, in rare cases, mortality, sample errors, costs, patient discomfort and thus lack of patient interest in undergoing the procedure limit its use. As such, only patients with a high risk of NASH, which includes patients with metabolic syndrome and an indication of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, or NAFLD, are generally sent for liver biopsy. Because NASH tends to be asymptomatic until the disease progresses, many individuals with NASH remain undiagnosed until the disease has reached its late stages, if at all. The lack of a reliable non-invasive method for the diagnosis of NASH and fibrosis is likely to present a major challenge to Aramchol’s market penetration, as many practitioners and patients may not be aware that a patient suffers from NASH and requires treatment. As such, use of Aramchol might not be as wide-spread as our actual target market and this may limit the commercial potential of Aramchol.
A further challenge to Aramchol’s market penetration is that currently a liver biopsy is the standard approach for measuring improvement in NASH patients. Because it would be impractical to subject all patients that take Aramchol, when and if it is approved, to regular and repeated liver biopsies, it will be difficult to demonstrate Aramchol’s effectiveness to practitioners and patients unless and until a reliable non-invasive method for the diagnosis and monitoring of NASH becomes available, as to which there can be no assurance.
While other companies in the industry are currently working on advancing non-invasive diagnostic approaches, none of these has been clinically validated, and the timetable for commercial validation, if at all, is uncertain. Moreover, such diagnostics may also be subject to regulation by FDA or other regulatory authorities as medical devices and may require premarket clearance or approval. See also “Item 3. Key Information—Risk Factors —Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business, Industry and Regulatory Requirements —- We are developing Aramchol for the treatment of NASH, an indication for which there are no approved products, and there is significant uncertainty regarding the regulatory approval process. This makes it difficult to predict the timing and costs of the clinical development of Aramchol for the treatment of NASH.”
Our Amilo-5MER program is being conducted under a license agreement with Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, or Yissum.
Our Amilo-5MER program is being conducted under a license agreement from Yissum and is subject to various additional obligations, including obligations with respect to funding, development and commercialization activities, and payment obligations upon entering into the license agreement and achievement of certain milestones and royalties on product sales. Furthermore, if the license agreement is terminated or breached, we may:
|●||lose our rights to research, develop or commercialize Amilo-5MER;|
|●||not be able to secure trade secret protection for Amilo-5MER;|
|●||experience significant delays in the development or commercialization of Amilo-5MER; or may have to cease development entirely;|
|●||incur liability for damages.|
Additionally, even if not terminated or breached, our intellectual property licenses may be subject to disagreements over contract interpretation which could narrow the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property or technology or increase our financial or other obligations. If we experience any of the foregoing, it could have a materially adverse effect on our business.
In January 2022, we announced the completion of our Phase 1 clinical trial of Amilo-5MER. The Phase 1 study was conducted in a single-center, using a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled design. Results demonstrated that all doses of Amilo-5MER were well tolerated with no clinically significant adverse events and none considered related to the investigational product. Due to its early stage of development, Amilo-5MER will require significant additional research, development, manufacturing, preclinical and clinical testing, marketing authorization, and commitment of significant additional resources prior to any commercialization. These activities will require significant cash for which we will need to raise additional capital. In addition, Amilo-5MER is prone to the risks of failure inherent in pharmaceutical product development, including the possibility that Amilo-5MER will not be shown to be sufficiently safe and effective for approval by regulatory authorities.
If we acquire or in-license additional technologies or product candidates, we may incur significant, incremental expenses, may have integration difficulties and may experience other risks that could harm our business and results of operations.
We evaluate from time-to-time the acquisition or in-licensing of additional product candidates and technologies. Any product candidate or technologies we in-license or acquire will likely require additional development efforts prior to commercial sale, including extensive pre-clinical or clinical testing, or both, and approval by the FDA and applicable foreign regulatory authorities, if any. All product candidates are prone to risks of failure inherent in pharmaceutical product development, including the possibility that the product candidate, or product developed based on in-licensed technology, will not be shown to be sufficiently safe and effective for approval by regulatory authorities. In addition, we cannot assure that any product candidate that we develop based on acquired or in-licensed technology that is granted regulatory approval will be manufactured or produced economically, successfully commercialized or widely accepted or competitive in the marketplace. Moreover, integrating any newly acquired or in-licensed product candidates could be expensive and time-consuming. If we cannot effectively manage these aspects of our business strategy, our business may not succeed.
Obtaining approval of an NDA, or other regulatory approval, even after clinical trials that are believed to be successful, is an uncertain process.
Even if we complete clinical trials and believe that the clinical data confirms that Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate is sufficiently safe and effective for its intended use or uses, obtaining approval of an NDA, or other regulatory approval, is an extensive, lengthy, expensive and uncertain process, and the FDA and other regulatory agencies may delay, limit or deny approval of such product candidate for many reasons, including, without limitation, the fact that:
|●||we may not be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory agencies that the product candidate is safe and effective for treatment of the targeted indication in patients;|
|●||the results of clinical trials may not meet the level of statistical significance or clinical significance required by the applicable regulatory agencies for approval;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may disagree with the number, design, size, conduct or implementation of our clinical trials;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may not find the data from pre-clinical studies and clinical trials sufficient to demonstrate the clinical and other benefits outweigh its safety risks;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may disagree with our interpretation of data from pre-clinical studies or clinical trials;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may not accept data generated at our clinical trial sites;|
|●||the data collected from pre-clinical studies and clinical trials may not be sufficient to support the submission of an NDA or similar regulatory application;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may not schedule an advisory committee meeting in a timely manner or the advisory committee may recommend against approval of our application or may recommend that the applicable regulatory agencies require, as a condition of approval, additional pre-clinical studies or clinical trials, limitations on approved labeling or distribution and use restrictions;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may require development of a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, or REMS, as a condition of approval;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may require simultaneous approval for both adults and children, which would delay required approvals, or we may have successful clinical trial results for adults, but not children, or vice versa;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may change their approval policies or adopt new regulations that may impede consideration or approval of our NDA, or similar regulatory application;|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may identify deficiencies in the manufacturing processes or facilities of third-party manufacturers, or suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients, or APIs, with which we enter into agreements for clinical and commercial supplies; and|
|●||the applicable regulatory agencies may require post-marketing approval studies, such as Phase 4 clinical trials, in connection with Aramchol or any other product candidate.|
Before we can submit an NDA to the FDA or a similar approval application to other regulatory authorities, as applicable, we (or our commercialization partner, as the case may be) must conduct one or more clinical trials that will be substantially broader than our prior completed trials. We will also need to agree on a protocol with the FDA or any other regulatory authorities for any clinical trial(s) before commencing any such trial. Clinical trials frequently produce unsatisfactory results even though prior clinical trials were successful. Therefore, the results of any prior trial or any future clinical trials that we may conduct may or may not be successful. The applicable regulatory agencies may suspend all clinical trials or require that we conduct additional clinical, pre-clinical, manufacturing, validation or drug product quality studies and submit data from these additional studies before considering or reconsidering the NDA or similar regulatory application. Depending on the extent of these, or any other studies, approval of any applications that we submit may be delayed by several years, or may require us to expend more resources than we have available. It is also possible that additional studies, if performed and completed, may not be considered sufficient by the applicable regulatory agencies to provide regulatory approval. If any of these outcomes occur, we would not receive approval for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate and may be forced to cease operations.
Even if we obtain regulatory approval for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, the approval might contain significant limitations related to the indications for use for which the drug is approved, use restrictions including, without limitation, for certain labeled populations, age groups, warnings, precautions or contraindications, or may be subject to significant post-marketing studies or risk mitigation requirements. If we are unable to successfully commercialize Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, we may be forced to cease operations.
Our product candidates may produce undesirable side effects or have other properties that could delay or prevent its regulatory approval or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any, which could substantially increase commercialization costs or even force us to cease operations.
Undesirable side effects caused by Aramchol or any other product candidate could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or applicable foreign regulatory authorities. To date, we have completed seven clinical trials of Aramchol, and additionally one proof of concept study in patient with gallstones, and a Phase 2a, investigator initiated clinical trial were completed. Although we have not seen any evidence of reactions causing a safety concern in our completed clinical trials, it is possible that the FDA may ask for additional data regarding any adverse events seen in our trials. Results of our future trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of these or other side effects. In such an event, our trials could be suspended or terminated and the FDA or applicable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate for any or all targeted indications. The drug-related side effects could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete future trials or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Even if Aramchol or any other product candidate receives marketing approval, we or others may later identify undesirable side effects caused by the product. In such an event, regulatory authorities may:
|●||suspend or withdraw their approval of the product;|
|●||require the addition of labeling statements, such as warnings, so-called “black box warnings,” contraindications or restrictions on the product’s intended use;|
|●||require us to issue specific communications to healthcare professionals, such as “Dear Doctor” letters;|
|●||issue negative publicity regarding the affected product, including safety communications;|
|●||impose a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS), in the case of FDA, or similar risk management strategies in the case of foreign regulators;|
In addition to these potentially significant negative consequences, we could be required to change the way the product is administered, conduct additional pre-clinical studies or clinical trials or restrict or cease the distribution or use of the product, and/or be sued and held liable for harm caused to patients. The foregoing or other events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product candidate and could substantially increase commercialization costs or even force us to cease operations.
If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
Patient enrollment, a significant factor in the timing of clinical trials, is affected by many factors including the size and nature of the patient population, the proximity of patients to clinical sites, the eligibility criteria for the trial, the design of the clinical trial, patient willingness to undergo a liver biopsy in our NASH trials, competing clinical trials and clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages and disadvantages of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs that may be approved for the indications we are investigating, and actual or threatened public health emergencies and outbreaks of disease (including, for example, the COVID-19 pandemic). Potential patients for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate may not be adequately diagnosed or identified with the diseases which we are targeting or may not meet the entry criteria for our studies.
We will be required to identify and enroll a sufficient number of patients in the U.S. with NASH for each of our clinical trials of Aramchol in this indication. We also may encounter difficulties in identifying and enrolling U.S. NASH patients who meet the eligibility criteria for our planned clinical trials. We may not be able to initiate or continue clinical trials if we are unable to locate a sufficient number of eligible patients to participate in the clinical trials required by the FDA or other foreign regulatory agencies. In addition, the process of finding and diagnosing patients may prove costly. To date, we have already experienced significant delays in our clinical trials largely related to significantly slower than expected recruitment and the length of time required to obtain regulatory authorizations to proceed with clinical trials. Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for any of our clinical trials could result in further significant delays, additional expenses, or may require us to abandon one or more clinical trials.
Changes in regulatory requirements and guidance or unanticipated events during our clinical trials may occur, which may result in necessary changes to clinical trial protocols, which could result in increased costs to us, delay our development timeline or reduce the likelihood of successful completion of our clinical trials.
Changes in regulatory requirements or guidance or unanticipated events during our clinical trials may result in the need for us to amend clinical trial protocols. In December 2020, we announced the addition of an open label part to our ARMOR Study that involved a significant amendment to the clinical trial protocol. Amendments may require review and approval by regulators and/or IRBs, and re-consent subjects, which may adversely affect the cost, timing or successful completion of a clinical trial. Even if we re-initiate the ARMOR Study, if we experience delays in the completion of, or if we terminate, any of the ARMOR Study or any other clinical trials, this could have a material adverse effect on our business, liquidity, operating results and financial condition and may force us to cease operations. See also “Item 3. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business, Industry and Regulatory Requirements - We are developing Aramchol for the treatment of NASH, an indication for which there are no approved products, and there is significant uncertainty regarding the regulatory approval process. This makes it difficult to predict the timing and costs of the clinical development of Aramchol for the treatment of NASH.”
Even if Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate that we develop, receives marketing approval, we will continue to face extensive regulatory oversight and requirements, and any such product may still face future regulatory risks or new requirements.
Even if we receive regulatory approval to market a particular product candidate, any such product will remain subject to extensive regulatory requirements, including requirements relating to manufacturing, labeling, packaging, adverse event reporting, storage, advertising, promotion, distribution and recordkeeping. Even if regulatory approval of a product is granted, the approval may be subject to limitations on the uses for which the product may be marketed or the conditions of approval, or may contain requirements for costly post-marketing testing and surveillance to monitor the safety or efficacy of the product, which could negatively affect us by reducing revenues or increasing expenses, and cause the approved product candidate not to be commercially viable. In addition, as clinical experience with a drug expands after approval, typically because it is used by a greater number and more diverse group of patients after approval than during clinical trials, side effects and other problems may be observed over time after approval that were not seen or anticipated during pre-approval studies. Any adverse effects observed after the approval and marketing of a product candidate could result in limitations on the use of the approved product, withdrawal of FDA approval of the previously approved product, or voluntary withdrawal from the marketplace of the approved product. Absence of long-term safety data may also limit the approved uses of Aramchol or any other product candidate, if any. If we fail to comply with the regulatory requirements of the FDA, and other applicable U.S. and foreign regulatory authorities, or previously unknown problems with any approved commercial products, manufacturers or manufacturing processes are discovered, we could be subject to administrative or judicially imposed sanctions or other setbacks, including the following:
|●||suspension or imposition of restrictions on operations, including costly new manufacturing requirements;|
|●||refusal to approve pending applications or supplements to applications;|
|●||suspension of any ongoing clinical trials;|
|●||suspension or withdrawal of marketing approval;|
|●||an injunction or imposition of civil or criminal penalties or monetary fines;|
|●||seizure or detainment of products;|
|●||banning or restriction of imports and exports;|
|●||issuance of warning letters or untitled letters;|
|●||suspension or imposition of restrictions on operations, including costly new manufacturing requirements; or|
|●||refusal to approve pending applications or supplements to applications.|
In addition, various aspects of our operations are subject to federal, state or local laws, rules and regulations, any of which may change from time to time. Costs arising out of any regulatory developments could be time-consuming and expensive and could divert management resources and attention and, consequently, could adversely affect our business operations and financial performance.
Delays in regulatory approval, limitations in regulatory approval and withdrawals of regulatory approval may have a material adverse effect on the Company. If we experience significant delays in testing or receiving approvals or sign-offs to conduct clinical trials, Aramchol or any other product candidate development costs will increase and our ability to out-license our product candidates may be impeded.
If we obtain approval to commercialize any product candidate outside of the United States or out-license a product candidate to additional territories outside the United States, a variety of risks associated with international operations could materially adversely affect our business.
If any product candidate is approved for commercialization outside the United States or we out-license a product candidate to additional territories outside the United States, we will likely enter into agreements with third parties to commercialize a product candidate outside the United States. We expect that we will be subject to additional risks related to entering into or maintaining international business relationships, including, without limitation:
|●||different regulatory requirements for drug approvals in foreign countries;|
|●||differing U.S. and foreign drug import and export rules;|
|●||reduced protection for intellectual property rights in foreign countries;|
|●||unexpected changes in tariffs, trade barriers and regulatory requirements;|
|●||different reimbursement systems;|
|●||economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability in particular foreign economies and markets;|
|●||compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad;|
|●||foreign currency fluctuations, which could result in increased operating expenses and reduced revenues, and other obligations incident to doing business in another country;|
|●||workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States;|
|●||production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad;|
|●||potential liability resulting from development work conducted by these distributors;|
|●||business interruptions resulting from geopolitical actions, including war and terrorism, or natural disasters, emergence of a pandemic, or other widespread health emergencies (or concerns over the possibility of such an emergency, including for example, the COVID-19 pandemic); and|
|●||risks associated with clinical co-development agreements in other jurisdictions prior to or post-regulatory approval.|
A failure to timely and effectively address the additional risks related to entering into or maintaining international business relationships could have a material adverse effect on our business, liquidity, operating results and financial condition.
If we receive marketing approval for a product candidate, sales will be limited unless the product achieves broad market acceptance.
The commercial success of a product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval from the FDA, or other regulatory authorities, will depend on the breadth of its approved labeling and upon the acceptance of the product by the medical community, including physicians, patients and healthcare payors. The degree of market acceptance of any approved product will depend on a number of factors, including, without limitation:
|●||demonstration of clinical safety and efficacy compared to other products;|
|●||ability of physicians to accurately diagnose NASH in its early stages;|
|●||the relative convenience and ease of administration;|
|●||the prevalence and severity of any adverse side effects;|
|●||limitations, warnings or contraindications contained in the product’s approved labeling;|
|●||distribution and use restrictions imposed by the FDA, or other regulatory agencies, or agreed to by us as part of a mandatory or voluntary REMS;|
|●||availability of alternative treatments, including, any competitive products already approved or expected to be commercially launched in the near future;|
|●||pricing and cost effectiveness;|
|●||the effectiveness of our, or any future collaborators’, sales and marketing strategies;|
|●||our ability to obtain sufficient third-party coverage or reimbursement; and|
|●||the willingness of patients to pay for drugs out of pocket in the absence of third-party coverage.|
If a product candidate is approved, but does not achieve an adequate level of acceptance by physicians, healthcare payors and patients, we may not generate sufficient revenue from the product, and we may not become profitable. In addition, our efforts to educate the medical community and third-party payors on the benefits of the product may require significant resources and may never be successful.
The FDA and other regulatory agencies may actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses. If we are found to have improperly promoted off-label uses, we may become subject to significant liability.
The FDA and other regulatory agencies strictly regulate the promotional claims that may be made about prescription products. In particular, a product may not be promoted for uses that are inconsistent with the FDA-approved indications and other conditions or restrictions contained in the approved labeling, including the prescribing information, for the product. In particular, any labeling approved by FDA or other foreign regulatory agencies for a product candidate necessarily limits its use for certain conditions in certain patient populations. Also, regulatory agencies may impose further requirements or restrictions on the distribution or use of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate as part of a mandatory plan, such as limiting prescribing to certain physicians or medical centers that have undergone specialized training, limiting treatment to patients who meet certain safe-use criteria and requiring treated patients to enroll in a registry. If we receive marketing approval for a product candidate, physicians may nevertheless prescribe the product candidate to their patients in a manner that is inconsistent with the approved labeling, which is commonly known as “off label” use. If we are found to have promoted any product candidate for such “off label” uses, we may become subject to significant liability under a variety of statutory theories typically alleged by U.S. regulatory authorities. In particular, the U.S. federal government has levied large civil and criminal fines against companies for alleged improper promotion, has enjoined several companies from engaging in off-label promotion, and has requested that companies enter into consent decrees or permanent injunctions under which specified promotional conduct is changed or curtailed.
Our business and operations may be materially adversely affected in the event of computer system failures or security or breaches due to cyber-attacks or cyber intrusions, including ransomware, phishing attacks and other malicious intrusions.
In recent years, cybersecurity threats have become a greater risk and focus for companies. In particular, ransomware attacks, where a hacker locks and threatens to delete or disclose the victim’s data unless a ransom is paid, has become a major risk. We and those of our CROs and other third parties on which we rely are at risk of cyber-attacks or cyber intrusions via the Internet, computer viruses, break-ins, malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, hacking, denial-of-service attacks or other attacks and similar disruptions from the unauthorized use of, or access to, computer systems (including from internal and external sources). These types of incidents continue to be prevalent and pervasive across industries, including in our industry. In addition, we expect information security risks to continue to increase due to the proliferation of new technologies and the increased sophistication and activities of organized crime, hackers, terrorists and other external parties, including foreign state actors.
Despite the implementation of security measures, our internal computer systems, and those of our CROs and other third parties on which we rely, are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, cyber-attacks, cyber intrusions, natural disasters, fire, terrorism, war, and telecommunication and electrical failures. If such an event were to occur and interrupt our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our drug development programs and inflict reputational harm upon us that may result in decreased market value and erode public trust. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from ongoing or planned clinical trials could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. To the extent that any disruption or security breach results in a loss of or damage to our data or applications, loss of trade secrets or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, including protected health information or personal data of employees or former employees, access to our clinical data, or disruption of the manufacturing process, we could incur liability and the further development of our drug candidates could be delayed.
We may be subject to extensive environmental, health and safety, and other laws and regulations in multiple jurisdictions.
Our business involves the controlled use, through our service providers, of hazardous materials, various biological compounds and chemicals, and as such, we, our agents and our service providers may be subject to various environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing air emissions, water and wastewater discharges, noise emissions, the use, management and disposal of hazardous, radioactive and biological materials and wastes and the cleanup of contaminated sites. The risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials cannot be eliminated. If an accident, spill or release of any regulated chemicals or substances occurs, we could be held liable for resulting damages, including for investigation, remediation and monitoring of the contamination, including natural resource damages, the costs of which could be substantial. We may incur substantial capital costs and operating expenses and may be required to obtain consents to comply with any environmental and health laws or regulations and the terms and conditions of any permits required pursuant to such laws and regulations, including costs incurred by us to install new or updated pollution control equipment for our service providers, modify our operations or perform other corrective actions at our facilities or the facilities of our service providers. In addition, fines and penalties may be imposed on us, our agents and/or our service providers for noncompliance with environmental, health and safety and other laws and regulations or for the failure to have, or comply with the terms and conditions of, required environmental or other permits or consents.
We expect the healthcare industry to face increased limitations on reimbursement, rebates and other payments as a result of healthcare reform, which could adversely affect third-party coverage of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate and how much or under what circumstances healthcare providers will prescribe or administer Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.
In both the United States and other countries, sales of Aramchol Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate will depend in part upon the availability of reimbursement from third-party payors, which include governmental authorities, managed care organizations and other private health insurers. Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the price and examining the cost effectiveness of medical products and services.
Increasing expenditures for healthcare have been the subject of considerable public attention in the United States. Both private and government entities are seeking ways to reduce or contain healthcare costs. Numerous proposals that would effect changes in the U.S. healthcare system have been introduced or proposed in the U.S. Congress, or Congress, and in some state legislatures, including reducing reimbursement for prescription products and reducing the levels at which consumers and healthcare providers are reimbursed for purchases of pharmaceutical products.
In the United States, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, or the Modernization Act, changed the way Medicare covers and pays for most pharmaceutical products in a number of ways. Medicare is the single largest third-party payment program and is administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or the CMS. Medicare traditionally covered prescription drugs administered by physicians. The Modernization Act introduced a new reimbursement methodology based on average sales prices for many of these drugs. The Modernization Act also established a new competitive acquisition program for the purchase of Part B drugs. This program, when fully implemented, will likely reduce the prices of these drugs. While the Medicare provisions of the Modernization Act apply only to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payors often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates. Therefore, any reduction in reimbursement that results from federal legislation or regulation may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors.
Most notably, the Modernization Act also expanded coverage through a new Part D to include ordinary self-administered outpatient drugs. Medicare part D though operates through private insurers, and these insurers negotiate prices with pharmacies and with manufacturers. Intense negotiations can result in reduced revenues to manufacturers.
Increasing expenditures for healthcare have been the subject of considerable public attention in the United States. Both private and government entities are seeking ways to reduce or contain healthcare costs. Numerous proposals that would effect changes in the U.S. healthcare system have been introduced or proposed in U.S. Congress, and in some state legislatures, including reducing reimbursement for prescription products and reducing the levels at which consumers and healthcare providers are reimbursed for purchases of pharmaceutical products.
In March 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, or the Affordable Care Act, a sweeping law intended to broaden access to health insurance, reduce or constrain the growth of healthcare spending, enhance remedies against fraud and abuse, add new transparency requirements for healthcare and health insurance industries, impose new taxes and fees on pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers and impose additional health policy reforms. The Affordable Care Act expanded manufacturers’ Medicaid rebate liability to include covered drugs dispensed to individuals who are enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, increased the minimum rebate due for innovator drugs from 15.1% of average manufacturer price, or the AMP, to 23.1% of AMP. The rebate on innovator drugs is the greater of 23.1% of the AMP per unit or the difference between the AMP and the best price per unit and adjusted by the Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U) based on a launch date and current quarter AMP. The total rebate amount for innovator drugs is capped at 100.0% of AMP. The Affordable Care Act and subsequent legislation also narrowed the definition of AMP. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act imposes a significant annual, nondeductible fee on companies that manufacture or import certain branded prescription drug products. The Affordable Care Act appears likely to continue to put pressure on pharmaceutical pricing, especially under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and may also increase our regulatory burdens and operating costs.
There have been judicial and congressional challenges to the Affordable Care Act. If a law is enacted, many if not all of the provisions of the PPACA may no longer apply to prescription drugs. While we are unable to predict what changes may ultimately be enacted, to the extent that future changes affect how any future products are paid for and reimbursed by government and private payers our business could be adversely impacted. On December 14, 2018, a federal district court in Texas ruled that the PPACA is unconstitutional as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the federal income tax reform legislation previously passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on December 22, 2017, that eliminated the individual mandate portion of the PPACA. The case, Texas, et al, v. United States of America, et al., (N.D. Texas), is an outlier, and the ruling has been stayed by the ruling judge, but in 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently upheld the lower court decision which was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal on an expedited basis and so no decision is expected until sometime in 2021 before the end of the next Supreme Court’s current term in early 2021. We are not able to state with any certainty what will be the impact of this court decision on our business pending further court action and possible appeals. In November 2020, Joseph Biden was elected President and, in January 2021, the Democratic Party obtained control of the Senate. As a result of these electoral developments, it is unlikely that continued legislative efforts will be pursued to repeal PPACA. Instead, it is possible that executive and regulatory initiatives, as well as legislation will be pursued to enhance or reform PPACA. We are not able to state with certainty what the impact of potential legislation will be on our business.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. In August 2011, President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act of 2011, which, among other things, created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to recommend to Congress proposals in spending reductions. The Joint Select Committee did not achieve a targeted deficit reduction of an amount greater than $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to healthcare providers of up to 2.0% per fiscal year, starting in 2013. These reductions will stay in effect through 2030 unless additional congressional action is taken. However, COVID-19 relief legislation suspended the 2% Medicare sequester from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021. In January 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which, among other things, reduced Medicare payments to several categories of healthcare providers and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. If we ever obtain regulatory approval and commercialization of Aramchol or any other product candidate, these laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding, which could have a material adverse effect on our customers and accordingly, our financial operations. Legislative and regulatory proposals have been made to expand post-approval requirements and restrict sales and promotional activities for pharmaceutical products. We cannot be sure whether additional legislative changes will be enacted, or whether the FDA regulations, guidance or interpretations will be changed, or what the impact of such changes on the marketing approvals of Aramchol or any other product candidate may be. Further, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2010, directed CMS to contract a vendor to determine “retail survey prices for covered outpatient drugs that represent a nationwide average of consumer purchase prices for such drugs, net of all discounts and rebates (to the extent any information with respect to such discounts and rebates is available).” This survey information can be used to determine the National Average Drug Acquisition Cost, NADAC. Some states have indicated that they will reimburse based on the NADAC and this can result in further reductions in the prices paid for various outpatient drugs.
Various states, such as California, have also taken steps to consider and enact laws or regulations that are intended to increase the visibility of the pricing of pharmaceutical products with the goal of reducing the prices at which pharmaceutical products are sold. On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 that contains significant reforms affecting the pricing of drugs and biologics paid by Medicare. The new requirements establish a timeline for certain drugs to negotiate with the federal government a “maximum fair price” for certain selected drugs beginning in 2026. The numbers of drugs, as well as the selection criteria, is established for each year. Because these various actual and proposed legislative changes are intended to operate on a state-by-state level and the new national law, we cannot predict what the full effect of state legislative activities, and the IRA may be on our business in the future.
Although we cannot predict the full effect on our business of the implementation of existing legislation or the enactment of additional legislation pursuant to healthcare and other legislative reform, we believe that legislation or regulations that would reduce reimbursement for, or restrict coverage of, Aramchol or any other product candidate, could adversely affect how much or under what circumstances healthcare providers will prescribe or administer our products. This could materially and adversely affect our business by reducing our ability to generate revenue, raise capital, obtain additional collaborators and market Aramchol or any other product candidate. In addition, we believe the increasing emphasis on managed care in the United States has and will continue to put pressure on the price and usage of pharmaceutical products, which may adversely impact any other product sales.
It will be difficult for us to profitably sell any product candidate if reimbursement for the product is limited by government authorities and third-party payor policies.
In addition to any healthcare reform measures that may affect reimbursement, the market acceptance and sales of any product candidate will depend on the reimbursement policies of government authorities and third-party payors. It will be difficult for us to profitably sell a product candidate if reimbursement for the product is limited by government authorities or third-party payors. Government authorities and third-party payors, such as private health insurers and health maintenance organizations, decide which medications they will pay for and establish reimbursement levels. A primary trend in the U.S. healthcare industry and elsewhere is cost containment. Government authorities and these third-party payors have attempted to control costs by limiting coverage and the amount of reimbursement for particular medications. We cannot be sure that coverage or reimbursement will be available for any product candidate and, if coverage and reimbursement are available, of the extent of coverage and the level of reimbursement. Reimbursement may affect the demand for, or the price of, any product for which we obtain marketing approval. In addition, third-party payors are likely to impose strict requirements for reimbursement in order to limit off-label use of a higher priced drug. 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;|
|●||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 a product candidate to the payor. 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 product candidates. Also, we cannot be sure that reimbursement amounts will not reduce the demand for, or the price of, any product candidates. If reimbursement is not available, or is available only to limited levels, we may not be able to commercialize any product candidates, profitably, or at all, even if approved. In addition, if physicians, government agencies and other third-party payors do not accept the use or efficacy of any product candidates, we will not be able to generate significant revenue, if any.
Governments outside the United States tend to impose strict price controls, which may adversely affect our revenues, if any.
In some countries, particularly the countries of the EU, the pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to governmental control. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after the receipt of marketing approval for a product. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost-effectiveness of Aramchol or any other product candidate to other available therapies. 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 harmed, possibly materially.
If we or any of our independent contractors, consultants, collaborators, manufacturers, or service providers fail to comply with healthcare and data privacy laws and regulations, we or they could be subject to enforcement actions, which could result in penalties and affect our ability to develop, market and sell Aramchol or any other product candidate and may harm our reputation.
We are or may in the future be subject to federal, state, and foreign healthcare and data privacy laws and regulations pertaining to, among other things, fraud and abuse of patients’ rights. These laws and regulations include:
|●||The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, receiving, or paying any remuneration, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward purchasing, ordering or arranging for or recommending the purchase or order of any item or service for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under a federal healthcare program such as Medicare and Medicaid. Liability may be established without a person or entity having actual knowledge of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute or specific intent to violate it. This statute has been interpreted to apply broadly to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, patients, purchasers and formulary managers on the other. In addition, the Affordable Care Act amended the Social Security Act to provide that the U.S. 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 federal civil False Claims Act. A conviction for violation of the Anti-kickback Statute requires mandatory exclusion from participation in federal health care programs. Although there are a number of statutory exemptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting certain common activities from prosecution, the exemptions and safe harbors are drawn narrowly, and those activities may be subject to scrutiny or penalty if they do not qualify for an exemption or safe harbor.|
|●||The federal civil False Claims Act, or FCA, prohibits, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented claims for payment of government funds that are false or fraudulent, or knowingly making, using or causing to be made or used a false record or statement material to such a false or fraudulent claim, or knowingly concealing or knowingly and improperly avoiding, decreasing, or concealing an obligation to pay money to the federal government. This statute 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. The FCA prohibits anyone from knowingly presenting, conspiring to present, making a false statement in order to present, or causing to be presented, for payment to federal programs (including Medicare and Medicaid) claims for items or services, including drugs, that are false or fraudulent, claims for items or services not provided as claimed, or claims for medically unnecessary items or services. This law also prohibits anyone from knowingly underpaying an obligation owed to a federal program. Increasingly, U.S. federal agencies are requiring nonmonetary remedial measures, such as corporate integrity agreements in FCA settlements. The U.S. Department of Justice announced in 2016 its intent to follow the “Yates Memo,” taking a far more aggressive approach in pursuing individuals as FCA defendants in addition to the corporations. FCA liability is potentially significant in the healthcare industry because the statute provides for treble damages and mandatory penalties assessed on a per false claim or statement basis. Government enforcement agencies and private whistleblowers have investigated pharmaceutical companies for or asserted liability under the FCA for a variety of alleged promotional and marketing activities, such as providing free product to customers with the expectation that the customers would bill federal programs for the product; providing consulting fees and other benefits to physicians to induce them to prescribe products; engaging in promotion for “off-label” uses; and submitting inflated best price information to the Medicaid Rebate Program.|
|●||The federal False Statements Statute prohibits knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing, or covering up a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation, or making or using any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry, in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items, or services.|
|●||The federal Civil Monetary Penalties Law authorizes the imposition of substantial civil monetary penalties against an entity, such as a pharmaceutical manufacturer, that engages in activities including, among others (1) knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a claim for services not provided as claimed or that is otherwise false or fraudulent in any way; (2) arranging for or contracting with an individual or entity that is excluded from participation in federal healthcare programs to provide items or services reimbursable by a federal healthcare program; (3) violations of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute; or (4) failing to report and return a known overpayment.|
|●||The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, imposes criminal and civil liability for knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, or knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false statement in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services; 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.|
|●||HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which imposes requirements on certain types of people and entities relating to the privacy, security, and transmission of individually identifiable health information, requires notification to affected individuals and regulatory authorities of certain breaches of security of individually identifiable health information.|
|●||The federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which requires certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to report annually to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, and ownership and investment interests held by physicians and other healthcare providers and their immediate family members, which is published in a searchable form on an annual basis. Effective January 1, 2022, covered manufacturers will also be required to report on payments and other transfers of value to physician assistants, nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, anesthesiologist assistants, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives during the previous year.|
|●||State laws comparable to each of the above federal laws, such as, for example, anti-kickback and false claims laws that may be broader in scope and also apply to commercial insurers and other non-federal.|
|●||Payors requirements for mandatory corporate regulatory compliance programs, and laws relating to patient data privacy and security. Other state laws require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government; require drug manufacturers to report information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians and other healthcare providers or marketing expenditures; and state and foreign laws govern the privacy and security of health information in some circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.|
|●||In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR,—Regulation EU 2016/679—was adopted in May 2016 and became applicable on May 25, 2018, or GDPR. The GDPR further harmonizes data protection requirements across the European Union member states by establishing new and expanded operational requirements for entities that collect, process or use personal data generated in the European Union, including consent requirements for disclosing the way personal information will be used, information retention requirements, and notification requirements in the event of a data breach.|
|●||In the United Kingdom, following the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 December 2020, the GDPR continues to form part of the law in the UK with some amendments (UK GDPR). There is a risk of divergence in the future, which may increase our overall data protection compliance costs.|
|●||The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, or CCPA, effective as of January 1, 2020, gives California residents expanded rights to access and require deletion of their personal information, opt out of certain personal information sharing, and receive detailed information about how their personal information is used. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for data breaches, that is expected to increase data breach litigation.|
|●||In addition, failure to comply with the Israeli Privacy Protection Law of 1981, and its regulations, as well as the guidelines of the Israeli Privacy Protection Authority, may expose us to administrative fines, civil claims (including class actions) and in certain cases criminal liability. Current pending legislation may result in a change of the current enforcement measures and sanctions.|
If our operations are found to be in violation of any such health care laws and regulations, we may be subject to penalties, including significant administrative, civil and criminal penalties, monetary damages, disgorgement, imprisonment, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, loss of eligibility to obtain approvals from the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities, or exclusion from participation in government contracting, healthcare reimbursement or other government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, any of which could adversely our financial results. Any action against us for an alleged or suspected violation could cause us to incur significant legal expenses and could divert our management’s attention from the operation of our business, even if our defense is successful. In addition, achieving and sustaining compliance with applicable laws and regulations may be costly to us in terms of money, time and resources.
Our employees, principal investigators, consultants, commercial partners or vendors may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards.
We are also exposed to the risk of employees, independent contractors, principal investigators, consultants, commercial partners or vendors engaging in fraud or other misconduct. Misconduct by employees, independent contractors, principal investigators, consultants, commercial partners and vendors could include intentional failures to comply with EU or UK regulations, to provide accurate information to the EMA, MHRA or EU Member States authorities or to comply with manufacturing or quality standards we have or will have established. In particular, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices such as promotion of products by medical practitioners. The EU Member States in which we operate have different statutory provisions regulating the cooperation of pharmaceutical companies with healthcare professionals. In addition to these statutory provisions, codes of conduct issued by business associations or other non-statutory standards may be applicable to our activities. Both statutory provisions and non-statutory codes or standards restrict payments or other benefits provided to healthcare professionals, and in case of non-compliance, may result in severe sanctions such as bans, administrative fines, criminal fines or even imprisonment. The advertising of medicinal products for human use in the EU is regulated by Title VIII of European Directive 2001/83/EC. These provisions have been implemented into the law of the EU member States. Such laws inter alia restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Misconduct could also involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of clinical studies, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious and irreparable harm to our reputation.
This could also apply with respect to data privacy. In the EU and United Kingdom, the EU Directive 95/46/EEC was replaced by the GDPR on May 25, 2018. The GDPR as an EU regulation does not have to be implemented into Member States’ national law, but applies directly in all Member States since May 25, 2018. It applies to companies with an establishment in the European Economic Area (EEA) and to certain other companies not in the EEA that offer or provide goods or services to individuals located in the EEA or monitor individuals located in the EEA. The GDPR implements more stringent operational requirements for controllers of personal data, including, for example, expanded disclosures about how personal information is to be used, limitations on retention of information, increased requirements pertaining to health data and pseudonymized (i.e., key-coded) data, increased cyber security requirements, mandatory data breach notification requirements and higher standards for controllers to demonstrate that they have obtained a valid legal basis for certain data processing activities. The GDPR provides that EU Member States may continue to make their own further laws and regulations in relation to the processing of genetic, biometric or health data, which could result in continued or new differences between Member States, limit our ability to use and share personal data or could cause our costs to increase, and harm our business and financial condition. The GDPR continues to form part of law in the United Kingdom with some amendments following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union on 31 December 2020 (UK GDPR) although there is a risk of divergence in the future which may increase our overall data protection compliance cost. We are also subject to evolving and strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the European Union and United Kingdom to the United States. Further prospective revision of the Directive on privacy and electronic communications (Directive 2002/58/EC), or ePrivacy Directive, and equivalent United Kingdom Legislation may affect our marketing communications.
We have implemented procedures to ensure compliance with the GDPR and UK GDPR and its requirements. Our actual or alleged failure to comply with this regulation, or to protect personal data, could result in enforcement actions and significant penalties against us, which could result in negative publicity, increase our operating costs, subject us to claims or other remedies and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct by employees or other parties. The precautions we take to detect and prevent such activity may not protect us from legal or regulatory action resulting from a failure to comply with applicable laws or regulations. Misconduct by our employees, principal investigators, consultants, commercial partners or vendors could result in significant financial penalties, criminal sanctions, civil law claims and/or negative media coverage, and thus have a material adverse effect on our business, including through the imposition of significant fines or other sanctions, and our reputation. In particular, failure to comply with EU laws, including failure under the GDPR, UK GDPR, ePrivacy Directive and other laws relating to the security of personal data may result in fines up to €20,000,000 or up to 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, if greater, and other administrative penalties including criminal liability, which may be onerous and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Failure to comply with the GDPR, UK GDPR and related laws may also give risk to increase risk of private actions, including a new form of class action that is available under the GDPR and UK GDPR.
If we or our manufacturers fail to comply with manufacturing regulations, our financial results and financial condition could be adversely affected.
Before an NDA is approved, and before we begin the commercial manufacture of any product candidate, contract manufacturers must register with FDA or foreign regulators undergo regulatory inspection of their manufacturing facilities, processes and quality systems. In addition, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are subject to periodic inspection by the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities after product approval. Due to the complexity of the processes used to manufacture pharmaceutical products and product candidates, any potential third-party manufacturer may be unable to meet local, federal, or international regulatory requirements either at the outset or on an ongoing basis, in a cost-effective manner, if at all.
We do not intend to engage in the manufacture of Aramchol or any other product candidate other than for pre-clinical and clinical studies, but we or our materials suppliers may face manufacturing or quality control problems causing product production and shipment delays or a situation where we or the supplier may not be able to maintain compliance with the FDA’s or foreign regulators’ requirements necessary to continue manufacturing Aramchol or any other product candidate. Drug manufacturers are subject to ongoing periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and corresponding foreign regulators to ensure continuing compliance with applicable requirements. Any failure to comply with FDA or foreign regulatory requirements could adversely affect our clinical research activities and our ability to develop and market Aramchol or any other product candidate.
If a third-party manufacturer with whom we contract is unable to comply with manufacturing requirements, we may be subject to fines, unanticipated compliance expenses, recall or seizure of Aramchol or any other product candidate, total or partial suspension of production and/or enforcement actions, including injunctions, and criminal or civil prosecution. These possible sanctions could adversely affect our financial results and financial condition.
Our market is subject to intense competition. If we are unable to compete effectively, Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate that we develop may be rendered suboptimal, noncompetitive or obsolete.
There are a number of products in development for our target indications, many of which are being developed by pharmaceutical companies that are far larger than us, with significantly greater resources and more experience than us in all aspects of drug development and commercialization. Further, our industry is highly competitive and subject to rapid and significant technological change. Our potential competitors include large, fully-integrated pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, specialty pharmaceutical and generic drug companies, academic institutions, government agencies and research institutions. All of these competitors currently engage in, have engaged in or may engage in the future in the development, manufacturing, marketing and commercialization of new pharmaceuticals, some of which may compete with Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or other product candidates. Smaller or early stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large, established companies. These companies may have products in development that are superior to any Aramchol or any other product candidate. Key competitive factors affecting the commercial success of Aramchol or any other product candidate that we develop are likely to be efficacy, time of onset, safety and tolerability profile, reliability, convenience of dosing, price and reimbursement.
Many of our potential competitors have substantially greater financial, technical and human resources than we do and significantly greater experience in the discovery and development of drug candidates, obtaining FDA and other regulatory approvals of products and the commercialization of those products. Accordingly, our competitors may be more successful than us in obtaining FDA and other marketing approvals for drugs and achieving widespread market acceptance. Our competitors’ drugs may be more effective, or more effectively marketed and sold, than any drug we may commercialize and may render the product candidates that we develop suboptimal, obsolete or non-competitive before we can recover the expenses of developing and commercializing the product. We anticipate that we will face intense and increasing competition as new drugs enter the market and advanced technologies become available. Finally, the development of new treatment methods for the diseases we are targeting could render Aramchol or any other product candidate that we develop, non-competitive or obsolete. If we cannot successfully compete with new or existing products, our marketing and sales will suffer and we may never be profitable.
Our competitors currently include companies with marketed products and/or advanced clinical programs. Our main competitors of Aramchol include, but are not limited to Novo Nordisk, Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Inc., Madrigal Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Viking Therapeutics among others. See also “Item 4. Information on the Company—Competition.” Moreover, several additional companies have reported the commencement of research projects and proof-of-concept trials related to our target indications, including those mentioned in the preceding sentence
We face potential product and other liability exposure, and, if claims are brought against us, we may incur substantial liability.
Our product candidates could cause adverse events. These adverse events may not be observed in clinical trials, but may nonetheless occur in the future. If any of these adverse events occur, they may render Aramchol or any other product candidate ineffective or harmful in some patients, and our sales would suffer, materially adversely affecting our business, financial conditions and results of operations.
In addition, potential adverse events caused by Aramchol or any other product candidate, could lead to product liability claims. Product liability claims might be brought against us by consumers, healthcare providers or others coming into contact with Aramchol or any other product candidate. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we could incur substantial liabilities. In addition, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, product liability claims may result in, among other things:
|●||decreased demand for our product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval;|
|●||impairment of our business reputation and exposure to adverse publicity;|
|●||increased warnings on product labels or other regulatory actions;|
|●||withdrawal of clinical trial participants;|
|●||costs of related litigation;|
|●||distraction of management’s attention from our primary business;|
|●||substantial monetary awards to patients or other claimants;|
|●||loss of revenue; and|
|●||the inability to successfully commercialize any product candidates, for which we obtain marketing approval.|
If we are unable to obtain adequate insurance with respect to our clinical trials against and from any losses or claims from third parties, our financial condition could be adversely affected in the event of uninsured or inadequately insured loss or damage. We may not be able to obtain insurance policies on terms affordable to us that would adequately cover loss or claims by third parties. To the extent our business suffers any losses or claims by third parties, which are not covered, or adequately covered, by insurance, our financial condition may be materially adversely affected.
If product liability lawsuits are successfully brought against us, our insurance may be inadequate.
We have obtained insurance coverage for our clinical trials in accordance with market standards and in compliance with applicable Israeli law. However, our insurance coverage may not be sufficient to reimburse us for any expenses or losses we may suffer. Moreover, insurance coverage is becoming increasingly expensive, and, in the future, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses due to liability. If and when we obtain marketing approval for any product candidate, we intend to expand our insurance coverage to include the sale of commercial products; however, we may be unable to obtain this product liability insurance on commercially reasonable terms. On occasion, large judgments have been awarded in class action lawsuits based on drugs that had unanticipated side effects. The cost of any product liability litigation or other proceedings, even if resolved in our favor, could be substantial. A successful product liability claim, or series of claims, brought against us could cause our share price to decline and, if judgments exceed our insurance coverage, could decrease our cash and adversely affect our business.
The product liability insurance we will need to obtain in connection with the commercial sales of any product candidate, if and when they receive regulatory approval, may be unavailable in meaningful amounts or at a reasonable cost. If we are the subject of a successful product liability claim that exceeds the limits of any insurance coverage we obtain, we would incur substantial charges that would adversely affect our earnings and require the commitment of capital resources that might otherwise be available for the development and commercial launch of any product candidate’s programs.
We manage our business through a small number of senior executive officers. We depend on them even more than similarly- situated companies.
Because of the specialized scientific and managerial nature of our business, we rely heavily on our ability to recruit, attract, retain, manage and motivate qualified senior executive officers with adequate operational, scientific and technical experience. The loss of the services of our senior executive officers, including our President, Chief Executive Officer, or the inability to hire or retain experienced management personnel, could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan and harm our operating results. In particular, the loss of one or more of our senior executive officers could be detrimental to us if we cannot recruit suitable replacements in a timely manner.
We do not currently carry “key person” insurance on the lives of members of senior management. The competition for qualified personnel in the pharmaceutical field is intense. Due to this intense competition, we may be unable to attract and retain qualified personnel necessary for the development of our business or to recruit suitable replacement personnel. Additionally, our ability to effectively recruit and retain qualified officers and directors could also be adversely affected if we experience difficulty in obtaining adequate directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. We may be unable to maintain sufficient insurance as a public company to cover liability claims made against our officers and directors. If we are unable to adequately insure our officers and directors, we may not be able to retain or recruit qualified officers and directors to manage the Company.
Failure to build our finance infrastructure and improve our accounting systems and controls could impair our ability to comply with the financial reporting and internal control requirements for publicly traded companies.
As a public company, we operate in an increasingly challenging regulatory environment which requires us to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the related rules and regulations of the SEC and securities exchanges, expanded disclosures, accelerated reporting requirements and more complex accounting rules. Company responsibilities required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act include establishing corporate oversight and adequate internal control over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures. Effective internal controls are necessary for us to produce reliable financial reports and are important to help prevent financial fraud.
Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires our management to report on, and our independent registered public accounting firm to attest to, the effectiveness of our internal control structure and procedures for financial reporting. We have an ongoing program to perform the system and process evaluation and testing necessary to continue to comply with these requirements. During the course of our review and testing, we may identify deficiencies and be unable to remediate them before we must provide the required reports. Furthermore, if we have a material weakness in our internal controls over financial reporting, we may not detect errors on a timely basis and our financial statements may be materially misstated. We or our independent registered public accounting firm may not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting, which could harm our operating results, cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information and cause the trading price of our stock to fall.
To build our finance infrastructure, we may need to improve our accounting systems, disclosure policies, procedures and controls. If we are unsuccessful in building an appropriate accounting infrastructure, we may not be able to prepare and disclose, in a timely manner, our financial statements and other required disclosures, or comply with existing or new reporting requirements. Any failure to report our financial results on an accurate and timely basis could result in sanctions, lawsuits, delisting of our shares from the Nasdaq Capital Market or other adverse consequences that would materially harm our business. If we cannot provide reliable financial reports or prevent fraud, our business and results of operations could be harmed and investors could lose confidence in our reported financial information.
We may need to significantly increase the size of our organization, and we may experience difficulties in managing growth.
Subject to our strategic review, we may experience rapid and substantial growth in order to achieve our operating plans, which will place a strain on our human and capital resources. Successful implementation of our business plan will require management of growth, which will result in an increase in the level of responsibility for management personnel. Any future growth will impose significant added responsibilities on members of management, including the need to identify, recruit, maintain and integrate additional employees. To that end, we must be able to, among other things:
|●||manage our clinical trials and the regulatory process effectively;|
|●||develop our administrative, accounting and management information systems and controls;|
|●||hire and train additional qualified personnel; and|
|●||integrate current and additional management, administrative, financial and sales and marketing personnel.|
If we are unable to establish, scale-up and implement improvements to our control systems in an efficient or timely manner, or if we encounter deficiencies in existing systems and controls, investors may choose not to invest in us, which could cause our share price to decline and negatively impact our ability to successfully commercialize Aramchol or any other product candidate.
Failure to attract and retain sufficient numbers of talented employees will further strain our human resources and could impede our growth or result in ineffective growth. If we are unable to manage our growth effectively, our losses could materially increase and it will have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Additional clinical trials may divert a significant amount of our resources and may ultimately be unsuccessful.
We are exploring the expansion of Aramchol for the treatment of other indications in order to expand our pipeline, commercial potential and ultimately de-risk the Company for the success of any one given trial. If we initiate additional clinical trials, this may divert a significant amount of Company resources and may be unsuccessful. The regulatory pathway may prove simpler than for NASH and as a result this may shift the priorities for Aramchol in the future.
Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues, including those related to climate change and sustainability, may have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and damage our reputation.
There is an increasing focus from certain investors, customers, consumers, employees and other stakeholders concerning ESG matters. Additionally, public interest and legislative pressure related to public companies’ ESG practices continue to grow. If our ESG practices fail to meet regulatory requirements or investor, customer, consumer, employee or other shareholders’ evolving expectations and standards for responsible corporate citizenship in areas including environmental stewardship, support for local communities, Board of Director and employee diversity, human capital management, employee health and safety practices, product quality, supply chain management, corporate governance and transparency, our reputation, brand and employee retention may be negatively impacted, and our customers and suppliers may be unwilling to continue to do business with us.
Customers, consumers, investors and other shareholders are increasingly focusing on environmental issues, including climate change, energy and water use, plastic waste and other sustainability concerns. Concern over climate change may result in new or increased legal and regulatory requirements to reduce or mitigate impacts to the environment. Changing customer and consumer preferences or increased regulatory requirements may result in increased demands or requirements regarding plastics and packaging materials, including single-use and non-recyclable plastic products and packaging, other components of our products and their environmental impact on sustainability, or increased customer and consumer concerns or perceptions (whether accurate or inaccurate) regarding the effects of substances present in certain of our products. Complying with these demands or requirements could cause us to incur additional manufacturing, operating or product development costs.
If we do not adapt to or comply with new regulations, including the SEC’s published proposed rules that would require companies to provide significantly expanded climate-related disclosures in their periodic reporting, which may require us to incur significant additional costs to comply and impose increased oversight obligations on our management and board of directors, or fail to meet evolving investor, industry or stakeholder expectations and concerns regarding ESG issues, investors may reconsider their capital investment in our Company, we may become subject to penalties, and customers and consumers may choose to stop purchasing our products, if approved for commercialization, which could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business or financial condition.
Our business is subject to risks arising from epidemic diseases, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted and could continue to impact our business.
In late 2019, a novel strain of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, was reported in Wuhan, China. Initially the outbreak was largely concentrated in China, but it rapidly spread to countries across the globe, including in Israel and the United States. Many countries around the world, including Israel and the United States, implemented significant governmental measures to control the spread of the virus, including temporary closure of businesses, severe restrictions on travel and the movement of people, and other material limitations on the conduct of business. In response, we implemented remote working and workplace protocols for our employees in accordance with Israeli Ministry of Health requirements to ensure employees safety, experienced delays in recruitment to our ARMOR Study, and took several cost-reduction measures.
If there is a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may, subject to our strategic review, experience further disruptions that could severely impact our business, clinical trials, and supply chains, including:
|●||interruption of key clinical trial activities, such as clinical trial site monitoring, due to limitations on travel imposed or recommended by federal or state governments, employers and others or interruption of clinical trial subject visits and study procedures, which may impact the integrity of subject data and clinical study endpoints;|
|●||interruption of, or delays in receiving, supplies of Aramchol or any other product candidate from our contract manufacturing organizations due to staffing shortages, production slowdowns or stoppages and disruptions in delivery systems;|
|●||diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials, including the diversion of hospitals and other medical centers serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital and other staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials;|
|●||delays or difficulties in clinical site initiation, including difficulties in recruiting clinical site investigators and clinical site staff for the ARMOR Study or any other clinical trial;|
|●||delays or difficulties in enrolling patients for the ARMOR Study or any other clinical trial especially if sites do not reopen to screen and enroll patients;|
|●||delays in clinical sites receiving the supplies and materials needed to conduct the ARMOR Study or any other clinical trial and interruption in global shipping that may affect the transport of clinical trial materials;|
|●||limitations on employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the conduct of the ARMOR Study or any other clinical trial, including because of sickness of employees or their families or the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people;|
|●||interruptions or delays in the operations of the FDA, EMA, MHRA or other regulatory authorities, including in receiving feedback or approvals from the FDA, EMA, MHRA or other regulatory authorities with respect to regulatory submissions;|
|●||changes in local regulations as part of a response to COVID-19 which may require us to change the ways in which the ARMOR Study or any other clinical trial is being conducted, which may result in unexpected costs, or to discontinue the clinical trials altogether;|
|●||delays in necessary interactions with local regulators, ethics committees and other important agencies and contractors due to limitations in employee resources or forced furlough of government employees;|
|●||refusal of the FDA, EMA, MHRA or other regulatory authorities to accept data from clinical trials in affected geographies; and|
|●||impacts from prolonged remote work arrangements, such as increased cybersecurity risks and strains on our business continuity plans.|
In addition, any resurgence of COVID-19 may in the future impact the trading price of shares of our ordinary shares and could impact our ability to raise additional capital on a timely basis or at all. The extent to which any resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic may impact our operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the geographic spread of the disease, the duration of the pandemic, travel restrictions, quarantines, shelter-in-place orders and social distancing, business closures or business disruptions and the effectiveness of actions taken to contain and treat the disease. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may also have the effect of heightening many of the other risks described in the “Risk Factors” section of this Annual Report on Form 20-F.
Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties
We have no manufacturing capacity and anticipate reliance on third-party manufacturers for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidates.
We do not currently operate manufacturing facilities for the production of Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or their API. We still have not, and may never, develop facilities for the manufacture of product candidates or products for clinical trials or commercial purposes. We rely on third-party manufacturers to produce bulk drug products required for our clinical trials. Our contract manufacturers have not completed commercial development and validation processes of the Aramchol and Amilo-5Mer API and we have experienced delays in the development of the Aramchol meglumine formulation. Drug product manufacturing processes may experience further difficulties and delays in production.
Additionally, if our contract manufacturers and their facilities, as applicable, are not approved by the FDA, or other applicable regulatory authorities, our commercial supply of the drug substance will be significantly delayed and may result in significant additional costs. We purchase finished Aramchol from a third-party under a clinical supply agreement. If we will be required to change the finished product manufacturer, we may encounter significant delay and likely significant additional cost.
A failure by our contract manufacturer to achieve and maintain high manufacturing standards, in accordance with applicable good manufacturing practices and other applicable regulatory requirements could result in patient injury or death, product shortages, product recalls or withdrawals, delays or failures in product testing or delivery, cost overruns or other problems that could seriously harm our business. Contract manufacturers often encounter difficulties involving production yields, quality control and quality assurance, as well as shortages of qualified personnel.
Our existing manufacturers and any future contract manufacturers may not perform as agreed or may not remain in the contract manufacturing business. In the event of a natural disaster, business failure, strike or other difficulty, we may be unable to replace a third-party manufacturer in a timely manner and the production of our product candidates would be interrupted, resulting in delays and additional costs.
We intend to rely primarily on third parties to market and sell Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.
We have no sales or distribution capabilities. To the extent we rely on third parties to commercialize Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, if marketing approval is obtained, we may receive less revenue than if we commercialize them ourselves. In addition, we would have less control over the sales efforts of any third parties involved in our commercialization efforts. In the event we are unable to collaborate with a third-party marketing and sales organization to commercialize Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate, particularly for broader patient populations, our ability to generate revenue will be limited.
Although we may ultimately develop a marketing and sales force with technical expertise and supporting distribution capabilities in the longer term, we do not currently intend to do so and, as such, we will be unable to market our product candidates directly in the near future. To promote any of our potential products through third parties, we will have to locate acceptable third parties for these functions and enter into agreements with them on acceptable terms, and we may not be able to do so. Any third-party arrangements we are able to enter into may result in lower revenues than we could achieve by directly marketing and selling our potential products. In addition, to the extent that we depend on third parties for marketing and distribution, any revenues we receive will depend upon the efforts of such third parties, as well as the terms of our agreements with such third parties, which cannot be predicted in most cases at this time. As a result, we might not be able to market and sell our product candidates in the United States or overseas, which would have a material adverse effect on us.
Any collaboration arrangements that we may enter into in the future may not be successful, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our current and potential other product candidates.
We intend to seek collaboration arrangements with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies for the continued development and commercialization of our current and potential other product candidates. We will face, to the extent that we decide to enter into collaboration agreements, significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Moreover, collaboration arrangements are complex and time consuming to negotiate, document and implement. We may not be successful in our efforts to establish and implement collaborations or other alternative arrangements. The terms of any collaborations or other arrangements that we may establish may not be favorable to us.
Any future collaborations that we enter into may not be successful. The success of our collaboration arrangements will depend heavily on the efforts and activities of our collaborators. Collaborators generally have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to these collaborations. Disagreements between parties to a collaboration arrangement regarding clinical development and commercialization matters can lead to delays in the development process or commercializing the applicable product candidate and, in some cases, termination of the collaboration arrangement. These disagreements can be difficult to resolve if neither of the parties has final decision making authority. Moreover, collaborations with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies and other third parties are often terminated or allowed to expire by the other party. Any lack of effort or ability by our collaborators or any such disagreement, termination or expiration could adversely affect us financially and could harm our business reputation.
We depend on third parties to conduct our clinical trials.
We rely on third parties, such as contract research organizations, medical institutions, clinical investigators and contract laboratories to oversee most of the operations of our clinical trials and to perform data collection and analysis. As a result, we may face additional delays outside of our control if these parties do not perform their obligations in a timely fashion or in accordance with regulatory requirements. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations and meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced, or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or for other reasons, our financial results and the commercial prospects for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate could be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to obtain regulatory approval and commence product sales could be delayed.
Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property
The failure to obtain or maintain patents, licensing agreements and other intellectual property rights that are sufficiently broad and protective could impact our ability to compete effectively.
To compete effectively, we must develop and maintain a proprietary position with regard to our own technologies, intellectual property, licensing agreements, product candidates and business. Legal standards relating to the validity and scope of claims in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical fields are still evolving. We cannot predict the scope and extent of patent protection for Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate because the patent positions of pharmaceutical products are complex and uncertain. Therefore, the degree of future protection for our proprietary rights in our core technologies and any product candidates or products that might be developed using these technologies is also uncertain. The risks and uncertainties that we face with respect to our patents and other proprietary rights include, but are not limited to, the following:
|●||while the patents we own have been issued, pending patent applications we have filed may not result in issued patents or may take longer than we expect to result in issued patents;|
|●||we may be subject to interference, reexamination, inter pares review, or post-grant review proceedings in the U.S.;|
|●||we may be subject to opposition proceedings in certain foreign countries;|
|●||any patents that are issued may not provide meaningful protection for any significant period of time, if at all;|
|●||any issued patents may not be broad or strong enough to prevent competition from other products including identical or similar products;|
|●||we may not be able to develop additional proprietary technologies that are patentable;|
|●||there may be prior art of which we are not aware that may affect the validity or enforceability of a patent claim;|
|●||there may be other patents or pending patent applications existing in the patent landscape that will affect our freedom to operate for our product candidates;|
|●||other companies may challenge and invalidate patents licensed or issued to us or our customers;|
|●||a court could determine that a competitor’s technology or product does not infringe our patents;|
|●||other companies may independently develop similar or alternative technologies, or duplicate our technologies;|
|●||other companies may design around technologies we have licensed or developed;|
|●||if we are not awarded patents or if issued patents expire or are declared invalid or not infringed, there may be no protections against competitors making generic equivalents;|
|●||enforcement of patents is complex, uncertain and expensive, and our patents may be found invalid or enforceable;|
|●||our patents could irretrievably lapse due to failure to pay fees or otherwise comply with regulations, or could be subject to compulsory licensing; and|
|●||if we encounter delays in our development or clinical trials, the period of time during which we could market our product candidates under patent protection would be reduced.|
We cannot be certain that patents will be issued as a result of any of our pending applications, and we cannot be certain that any of our issued patents, whether issued pursuant to our pending applications or licensed from third parties, will give us adequate protection from competing products. For example, issued patents may be circumvented or challenged, declared invalid or unenforceable, or narrowed in scope. In addition, because publication of discoveries in the scientific or patent literature often lags behind actual discoveries, we cannot be certain that we were the first to make our inventions or to file patent applications covering those inventions. If any of our composition of matter patents, or pending applications, was subject to a successful challenge or failed to issue, our business and competitive advantage could be significantly affected. Our current patents will expire or they may otherwise cease to provide meaningful competitive advantage, and we may be unable to adequately develop new technologies and obtain future patent protection to preserve our competitive advantage or avoid adverse effects on our business.
Subject to our strategic review, we plan to transition from Aramchol free acid to Aramchol meglumine (salt) in our double-blind, placebo-controlled histology-based registrational part of the ARMOR Study and any other clinical trials of Aramchol. As part of our research and development studies, we have confirmed that several Aramchol salts have improved solubility as compared to the existing form of Aramchol free acid. We have pending patent applications and have been granted patents directed to composition of matter of Aramchol meglumine as well as a wide range of other salts.
There can be no assurance that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO, or any other foreign equivalent will issue any additional patents based on the patent applications that we submitted to protect our Aramchol salts or Amilo-5MER, nor, should the USPTO or foreign equivalent issue any patents to us with respect to the Aramchol salts or Amilo-5MER, that we will be provided with adequate protection against potentially competitive products. Furthermore, if foreign equivalent issues us one or more patents for the Aramchol salts or Amilo-5MER or with respect to already issued patents for the Aramchol salts or Amilo-5MER, there can be no assurance that the issued patents will be of any commercial value, or that private parties or competitors will not successfully challenge these patents or circumvent these patents in the United States or their counterparts abroad. In the absence of adequate patent protection, our business may be adversely affected by competitors who develop comparable technology or products and our commercial prospects may be materially adversely affected.
Others may obtain issued patents that could prevent us from commercializing our product candidates or require us to obtain licenses requiring the payment of significant fees or royalties in order to enable us to conduct our business. As to those patents that we have licensed, our rights depend on maintaining our obligations to the licensor under the applicable license agreement, and we may be unable to do so.
In addition to patents and patent applications, we depend upon trade secrets and proprietary know-how to protect our proprietary technology. We require our employees, consultants, advisors and collaborators to enter into confidentiality agreements that prohibit the disclosure of confidential information to any other parties. We also require our employees and consultants to disclose and assign to us their ideas, developments, discoveries and inventions. These agreements may not, however, provide adequate protection for our trade secrets, know-how or other proprietary information in the event of any unauthorized use or disclosure.
Patent terms may be inadequate to protect our competitive position on our product candidates for an adequate amount of time.
Patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, if all maintenance fees are timely paid, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years from the PCT application. Various extensions may be available, but the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Even if patents covering our product candidates are obtained, once the patent life has expired, we may be open to competition from competitive products, including generics or biosimilars. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, our owned and licensed patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.
We may not be able to enforce our intellectual property rights throughout the world. This risk is exacerbated for us because we expect Aramchol or Aramchol meglumine and Amilo-5MER will be manufactured and used in a number of foreign countries.
The laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in certain foreign jurisdictions. This risk is exacerbated for us because we expect Aramchol or Amilo-5MER will be manufactured and used in a number of foreign countries.
The legal systems of some countries, particularly developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents and other intellectual property protection, especially those relating to life sciences. This could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our other intellectual property rights. For example, several foreign countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties. In addition, some countries limit the enforceability of patents against third parties, including government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, patents may provide limited or no benefit.
Although most jurisdictions in which the Company has applied for, intends to apply for, or has been issued patents have patent protection laws similar to those of the United States, some of them do not. For example, the Company expects to do business in South America, Eurasia, China and Indochina in the future and the countries in these regions may not provide the same or similar protection as that provided in the United States.
Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business. Accordingly, our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights in such countries may be inadequate. In addition, changes in the law and legal decisions by courts in the United States and foreign countries may affect our ability to obtain adequate protection for our technology and the enforcement of intellectual property.
We may rely on third party patents.
We may not have rights under some patents or patent applications related to products we may commercialize in the future. Third parties may own or control these patents and patent applications in the United States and abroad. Therefore, in some cases, to manufacture, sell or import some of our future products, we or our collaborators may choose to seek, or be required to seek, licenses under third party patents issued in the United States and abroad or under patents that might be issued from United States and foreign patent applications. In instances in which we must obtain a license for third party patents, we may be required to pay license fees or royalties or both to the licensor. If licenses are not available to us on acceptable terms, we or our collaborators may not be able to develop, manufacture, sell or import these products.
We may be unable to protect the intellectual property rights of third parties from whom we may license certain of our intellectual property or with whom we have entered into other strategic relationships, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Certain of our intellectual property rights may be licensed from third parties, including universities and strategic partners. Such third parties may determine not to or fail to protect the intellectual property rights that we license from them and we may be unable to defend such intellectual property rights on our own or we may have to undertake costly litigation to defend the intellectual property rights of such third parties. There can be no assurances that we will continue to have proprietary rights to any of the intellectual property that we license from such third parties or otherwise have the right to use through similar strategic relationships. Any loss or limitations on use with respect to such intellectual property licensed from third parties or otherwise obtained from third parties with whom we have entered into strategic relationships could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If we fail to comply with our obligations in the agreements under which we license intellectual property rights from third parties or otherwise experience disruptions to our business relationships with our licensors, we could lose intellectual property rights that are important to our business.
We may be party to license agreements with third parties and may need to obtain additional licenses from others to advance our research and development activities or allow the commercialization product candidates we may identify and pursue. License agreements may impose various development, diligence, commercialization, and other obligations on us. For example, we may be required to use commercially reasonable efforts to engage in various development and commercialization activities with respect to licensed products, and satisfy specified milestone and royalty payment obligations. In spite of our efforts, our licensors might conclude that we have materially breached our obligations under such license agreements and might therefore terminate the license agreements, thereby removing or limiting our ability to develop and commercialize products and technology covered by these license agreements. If these in-licenses are terminated, or if the underlying patents fail to provide the intended exclusivity, competitors or other third parties would have the freedom to seek regulatory approval of, and to market, products identical to ours and we may be required to cease our development and commercialization of product candidates that we may identify. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects. Moreover, disputes may arise regarding intellectual property subject to a licensing agreement, including:
|●||the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation-related issues;|
|●||the extent to which our product candidates, technology and processes infringe on intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the licensing agreement;|
|●||the sublicensing of patent and other rights under our collaborative development relationships;|
|●||our diligence obligations under the license agreement and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations;|
|●||the inventorship and ownership of inventions and know-how resulting from the joint creation or use of intellectual property by our licensors and us and our partners; and|
|●||the priority of invention of patented technology. In addition, the agreements under which we currently or in the future license intellectual property or technology from third parties are complex, and certain provisions in such agreements may be susceptible to multiple interpretations. The resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement that may arise could narrow what we believe to be the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property or technology, or increase what we believe to be our financial or other obligations under the relevant agreement, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Moreover, if disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangements on commercially acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.|
We may infringe the intellectual property rights of others, which may prevent or delay our product development efforts and stop us from commercializing, or increase the costs of commercializing, Aramchol or Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.
Our commercial success depends significantly on our ability to operate without infringing the patents and other intellectual property rights of third parties. For example, there could be issued patents of which we are not aware that our product candidate infringes. There also could be patents that we believe we do not infringe, but that we may ultimately be found to infringe. Moreover, patent applications are in some cases maintained in secrecy until patents are issued. The publication of discoveries in the scientific or patent literature frequently occurs substantially later than the date on which the underlying discoveries were made and patent applications were filed. Because patents can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending applications of which we are unaware that may later result in issued patents that our product candidates infringe. For example, pending applications may exist that provide support or can be amended to provide support for a claim that results in an issued patent that our product candidates infringes.
Third parties may assert that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization. If a court held that any third-party patents are valid, enforceable and cover any of our product candidates or their use, the holders of any of these patents may be able to block our ability to commercialize any such product candidate unless we obtained a license under the applicable patents, or until the patents expire. In addition to litigation proceedings which may be filed against us, we may not be able to enter into licensing arrangements or make other arrangements at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms. Any inability to secure licenses or alternative technology could result in delays in the introduction of our product candidates or lead to prohibition of the manufacture or sale of products by us.
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 our patents or other intellectual property. Although we are not currently involved in any litigation, if we were to initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering our product candidates, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product candidate is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, 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, including lack of novelty, obviousness, written description or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable.
Interference or derivation proceedings provoked by third parties or brought by us or declared by the USPTO may be necessary to determine the priority of inventions with respect to our patents or patent applications. An unfavorable outcome could require us to cease using the related technology or to attempt to license rights to it from the prevailing party. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us a license on commercially reasonable terms or at all, or if a non-exclusive license is offered and our competitors gain access to the same technology. Our defense of litigation or interference or derivation proceedings may fail and, even if successful, may result in substantial costs and distract our management and other employees. In addition, the uncertainties associated with litigation could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise the funds necessary to continue our clinical trials, continue our research programs, license necessary technology from third parties, or enter into development partnerships that would help us bring our product candidates to market.
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. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our ordinary shares.
We may be unable to adequately prevent disclosure and unauthorized use of trade secrets and other proprietary information by third parties.
Our ability to obtain and maintain patent protection and trade secret protection for our intellectual property and proprietary technologies, our product candidates and their uses is important to our commercial success. We rely on a combination of patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret laws, non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, licenses, assignment of inventions agreements and other restrictions on disclosure and use to protect our intellectual property rights.
We also rely on trade secrets to protect our proprietary know-how and technological advances, especially where we do not believe patent protection is appropriate or obtainable. However, trade secrets are difficult to protect. We rely in part on confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors to protect our trade secrets and other proprietary information. These agreements may not effectively prevent disclosure of confidential information and may not provide an adequate remedy in the event of unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. In addition, others may independently discover our trade secrets and proprietary information. Costly and time-consuming litigation could be necessary to enforce and determine the scope of our proprietary rights. Failure to obtain or maintain trade secret protection could enable competitors to use our proprietary information to develop products that compete with our product candidates or cause additional material adverse effects upon our competitive business position.
We cannot be certain that the steps that we have taken will prevent the misappropriation or other violation of our confidential information and other intellectual property, particularly in foreign countries in which laws may not protect our proprietary rights as fully as in the United States and other developed economies. Moreover, if we lose any key personnel, we may not be able to prevent the unauthorized disclosure or use of our technical knowledge or other trade secrets by those former employees. If we are unable to maintain the security of our proprietary technology, this could materially adversely affect our competitive advantage, business and results of operations.
Under applicable U.S. and Israeli law, we may not be able to enforce covenants not to compete and therefore may be unable to prevent our competitors from benefiting from the expertise of some of our former employees. In addition, employees may be entitled to seek compensation for their inventions irrespective of their agreements with us, which in turn could impact our future profitability.
We generally enter into non-competition agreements with our employees and certain key consultants, or our employment and consulting agreements contain non-competition provisions. These agreements, to the extent they are in place and in effect, prohibit our employees and certain key consultants, if they cease working for us, from competing directly with us or working for our competitors or clients for a limited period of time. We may be unable to enforce these agreements under the laws of the jurisdictions in which our employees work and it may be difficult for us to restrict our competitors from benefitting from the expertise our former employees or consultants developed while working for us. For example, Israeli courts have required employers seeking to enforce non-compete undertakings of a former employee to demonstrate that the competitive activities of the former employee will harm one of a limited number of material interests of the employer which have been recognized by the courts, such as the secrecy of a company’s confidential commercial information or the protection of its intellectual property. If we cannot demonstrate that such interests will be harmed, we may be unable to prevent our competitors from benefiting from the expertise of our former employees or consultants and our ability to remain competitive may be diminished.
In addition, under the Israeli Patent Law, 5727-1967, or the Patent Law, inventions conceived by an employee in the course and as a result of or arising from his or her employment with a company are regarded as “service inventions,” which belong to the employer, absent a specific agreement between the employee and employer giving the employee service invention rights. The Patent Law also provides that if there is no such agreement between an employer and an employee, the Israeli Compensation and Royalties Committee, or the Committee, a body constituted under the Patent Law, shall determine whether the employee is entitled to remuneration for his or her inventions. Case law clarifies that the right to receive consideration for “service inventions” can be waived by the employee and that in certain circumstances, such waiver does not necessarily have to be explicit. The Committee will examine, on a case-by-case basis, the general contractual framework between the parties, using interpretation rules of the general Israeli contract laws. Further, the Committee has not yet determined one specific formula for calculating this remuneration, but rather uses the criteria specified in the Patent Law. Although we generally enter into assignment-of-invention agreements with our employees pursuant to which such individuals assign to us all rights to any inventions created in the scope of their employment or engagement with us, we may face claims demanding remuneration in consideration for assigned inventions. As a consequence of such claims, we could be required to pay additional remuneration or royalties to our current and/or former employees, or be forced to litigate such claims, which could negatively affect our business.
Any lawsuits relating to infringement of intellectual property rights necessary to defend ourselves or enforce our rights will be costly and time consuming.
We may be required to initiate litigation to enforce our rights or defend our activities in response to alleged infringement of a third-party. In addition, we may be sued by others who hold intellectual property rights and who claim that their rights are infringed by our product candidates. These lawsuits can be very time consuming and costly. There is a substantial amount of litigation involving patent and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries generally.
A third-party may claim that we are using inventions claimed by their patents and may go to court to stop us from engaging in our normal operations and activities, such as research, development, and the sale of any future products. Such lawsuits are expensive and would consume time and other resources. There is a risk that such court will decide that we are infringing the third-party’s patents and will order us to stop the activities claimed by the patents, redesign our products or processes to avoid infringement or obtain licenses, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms. In addition, there is a risk that a court will order us to pay the other party damages for infringement.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that any prevailing patent owner would offer us a license so that we could continue to engage in activities claimed by the patent, or that such a license, if made available to us, could be acquired on commercially acceptable terms. In addition, third parties may, in the future, assert other intellectual property infringement claims against us with respect to other product candidates, technologies or other matters.
In addition, our patents and patent applications could face challenges. Any of these challenges, if successful, could result in the invalidation of, or in a narrowing of the scope of, any of our patents and patent applications subject to challenge. Any of these challenges, regardless of their success, would likely be time consuming and expensive to defend and resolve and would divert our management’s time and attention.
Changes in patent law could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect Aramchol, Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate.
As is the case with other pharmaceutical companies, our success is heavily dependent on intellectual property, particularly patents. Obtaining and enforcing patents in the biopharmaceutical industry involve both technological and legal complexity. Therefore, obtaining and enforcing pharmaceutical patents is costly, time-consuming, and inherently uncertain. In particular, the United States has recently enacted, and is currently implementing, wide-ranging patent reform legislation. The United States Supreme Court has ruled on several patent cases in recent years, and could do so again in the future, either narrowing the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances or weakening the rights of patent owners in certain situations. In addition to increasing uncertainty regarding our ability to obtain patents in the future, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value of patents, once obtained. Depending on decisions by applicable courts and legislatures in the countries in which we may pursue patent protection, including those of the U.S. Congress, the federal courts and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents and the interpretations of such laws could change in unpredictable ways that would weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce our existing patents and patents that we might obtain in the future.
Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, documentary, 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.
The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other provisions during the patent process. There are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, competitors might be able to enter the market earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
Risks Related to Ownership of Our Ordinary Shares
Our business, operating results and growth rates may be adversely affected by current or future unfavorable economic and market conditions and adverse developments with respect to financial institutions and associated liquidity risk.
Our business depends on the economic health of the global economies. If the conditions in the global economies remain uncertain or continue to be volatile, or if they deteriorate, including as a result of the impact of military conflict, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine, terrorism or other geopolitical events, our business, operating results and financial condition may be materially adversely affected.
In addition, increases in inflation raise our costs for commodities, labor, materials and services and other costs required to grow and operate our business, and failure to secure these on reasonable terms may adversely impact our financial condition. Additionally, increases in inflation, along with the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, geopolitical developments and global supply chain disruptions, have caused, and may in the future cause, global economic uncertainty and uncertainty about the interest rate environment, which may make it more difficult, costly or dilutive for us to secure additional financing. A failure to adequately respond to these risks could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
More recently, the closures of SVB and Signature Bank and their placement into receivership with the FDIC created bank-specific and broader financial institution liquidity risk and concerns. Although the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC jointly released a statement that depositors at SVB and Signature Bank would have access to their funds, even those in excess of the standard FDIC insurance limits, under a systemic risk exception, future adverse developments with respect to specific financial institutions or the broader financial services industry may lead to market-wide liquidity shortages, impair the ability of companies to access near-term working capital needs, and create additional market and economic uncertainty. There can be no assurance that future credit and financial market instability and a deterioration in confidence in economic conditions will not occur. Our general business strategy may be adversely affected by any such economic downturn, liquidity shortages, volatile business environment or continued unpredictable and unstable market conditions. If the current equity and credit markets deteriorate, or if adverse developments are experienced by financial institutions, it may cause short-term liquidity risk and also make any necessary debt or equity financing more difficult, more costly, more onerous with respect to financial and operating covenants and more dilutive. Failure to secure any necessary financing in a timely manner and on favorable terms could have a material adverse effect on our growth strategy, financial performance and stock price and could require us to alter our operating plans. In addition, there is a risk that one or more of our service providers, financial institutions, manufacturers, suppliers and other partners may be adversely affected by the foregoing risks, which could directly affect our ability to attain our operating goals on schedule and on budget.
The market price of our ordinary shares is volatile and you may sustain a complete loss of your investment.
Since our initial public offering, the trading price of our ordinary shares has been volatile and is likely to continue to be volatile. In addition, the trading volume is and has been volatile and oftentimes relatively illiquid. The following factors, some of which are beyond our control, in addition to other risk factors described in this section, may have a significant impact on the market price and trading volume of our ordinary shares:
|●||the outcome of our review of strategic alternatives;|
|●||delays in existing clinical trials;|
|●||inability to obtain the approvals necessary to commence further clinical trials;|
|●||unsatisfactory or inconclusive results of clinical trials;|
|●||termination of clinical trials;|
|●||adverse events in our ongoing clinical trials;|
|●||announcements of regulatory approval or the failure to obtain it, or specific label indications or patient populations for its use, or changes or delays in the regulatory review process;|
|●||announcements of therapeutic innovations or new products by us or our competitors;|
|●||adverse actions taken by regulatory agencies with respect to our clinical trials, manufacturing supply chain or sales and marketing activities;|
|●||changes or developments in laws or regulations applicable to our product candidates;|
|●||any adverse changes to our relationship with manufacturers or suppliers;|
|●||any product liability actions or intellectual property infringement actions in which we may become involved;|
|●||announcements concerning our competitors or the pharmaceutical industry in general;|
|●||achievement of expected product sales and profitability or our failure to meet expectations;|
|●||our commencement of, or involvement in, litigation;|
|●||any major changes in our board of directors, management or other key personnel;|
|●||legislation in the United States, Europe and other foreign countries relating to the sale or pricing of pharmaceuticals;|
|●||announcements by us of significant strategic partnerships, out-licensing, in-licensing, joint ventures, acquisitions or capital commitments;|
|●||expiration or terminations of licenses, research contracts or other collaboration agreements;|
|●||public concern as to the safety of drugs we, our licensees or others develop;|
|●||success of research and development projects;|
|●||variations in our and our competitors’ results of operations;|
|●||changes in earnings estimates, cash flow guidance, or recommendations by securities analysts;|
|●||developments by our licensees, if any;|
|●||future issuances of ordinary shares or other securities; and|
|●||natural disasters and political and economic instability, including wars, terrorism, political unrest, results of certain elections and votes, emergence of a pandemic, or other widespread health emergencies (or concerns over the possibility of such an emergency, including for example, the COVID-19 pandemic), boycotts, adoption or expansion of government trade restrictions, and other business restrictions.|
These factors and any corresponding price fluctuations may materially and adversely affect the market price and trading volume of our ordinary shares and result in substantial losses by our investors.
In addition, the stock market in general, and the Nasdaq Capital Market and the market for biotechnology companies in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of our Company and that of small companies. Broad market and industry factors may negatively affect the market price of our ordinary shares, regardless of our actual operating performance. Further, a systemic decline in the financial markets and related factors beyond our control may cause our share price to decline rapidly and unexpectedly. Price volatility of our ordinary shares might be worse if the trading volume of our ordinary shares is low. Following periods of market volatility or a material decrease in the value of our ordinary shares, shareholders may institute securities class action litigation. If we were involved in securities litigation, it could have a substantial cost and divert resources and attention of management from our business, even if we are successful. Future sales of our ordinary shares could also reduce the market price of such stock. Any adverse determination in litigation could also subject us to significant liabilities.
Moreover, the liquidity of our ordinary shares has been limited, not only in terms of the number of shares that can be bought and sold at a given price, but by delays in the timing of transactions and reduction in security analysts’ and the media’s coverage of us, if any. These factors may result in lower prices for our ordinary shares than might otherwise be obtained and could also result in a larger spread between the bid and ask prices for our ordinary shares. In addition, without a large float, our ordinary shares are less liquid than the stock of companies with broader public ownership and, as a result, the trading prices of our ordinary shares are more volatile. In the absence of an active public trading market, an investor may be unable to liquidate its investment in our ordinary shares. Trading of a relatively small volume of our ordinary shares may have a greater impact on the trading price of our stock than would be the case if our public float were larger. We cannot predict the prices at which our ordinary shares will trade in the future.
If we fail to comply with the continued listing requirements of the Nasdaq Capital Market, our ordinary shares may be delisted and the price of our ordinary shares and our ability to access the capital markets could be negatively impacted
Our ordinary shares are listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market. As such, we are required to meet the continued listing requirements of the Nasdaq Capital Market and other Nasdaq rules, including those regarding director independence and independent committee requirements, minimum shareholders’ equity, minimum share price and certain other corporate governance requirements. In particular, we are required to maintain a minimum bid price for our listed ordinary shares of $1.00 per share.
On June 15, 2022, we were notified in a letter, or the Notification Letter, by the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications that we are not in compliance with the minimum bid price requirements set forth in Nasdaq Listing Rule 5550(a)(2), or the Rule, for continued listing on The Nasdaq Capital Market. The Notification Letter provided that we had 180 calendar days, or until December 12, 2022, to regain compliance with the Rule. To regain compliance, the bid price of our ordinary shares must have a closing bid price of at least $1.00 per share for a minimum of 10 consecutive business days. Since we did not regain compliance by December 12, 2022, we requested and received from The Nasdaq Capital Market an additional 180 calendar days or until June 12, 2023 to comply with the minimum bid price. If we fail to regain compliance during the second compliance period, then Nasdaq will notify us of its determination to delist our ordinary shares, at which point we will have an opportunity to appeal the delisting determination to a Hearings Panel. No assurance can be given that we will be able to regain compliance with the Rule. If we do not meet these or other continued listing requirements, our ordinary shares could be delisted. Delisting of our ordinary shares from the Nasdaq Capital Market would cause us to pursue eligibility for trading on other markets or exchanges, or on the pink sheets. In such case, our shareholders’ ability to trade, or obtain quotations of the market value of, our ordinary shares would be severely limited because of lower trading volumes and transaction delays. These factors could contribute to lower prices and larger spreads in the bid and ask prices for our securities. There can be no assurance that our ordinary shares, if delisted from the Nasdaq Capital Market in the future, would be listed on a national securities exchange, a national quotation service, the Over-The-Counter Markets or the pink sheets. Delisting from the Nasdaq Capital Market, or even the issuance of a notice of potential delisting, would also result in negative publicity, make it more difficult for us to raise additional capital, adversely affect the market liquidity of our ordinary shares, reduce security analysts’ coverage of us and diminish investor, supplier and employee confidence. Additionally, the threat of delisting or a delisting of our ordinary shares from the Nasdaq Capital Market, could reduce the number of investors willing to hold or acquire our ordinary shares, thereby further restricting our ability to obtain equity financing, and it could reduce our ability to retain, attract and motivate our directors, officers and employees. In addition, as a consequence of any such delisting, our share price could be negatively affected and our shareholders would likely find it more difficult to sell, or to obtain accurate quotations as to the prices of, our ordinary shares.
Our President and Chief Executive Officer beneficially owns approximately 17.4% of our outstanding ordinary shares, as of March 15, 2023. Therefore, our principal shareholders will be able to exert significant control over matters submitted to our shareholders for approval.
Our President and Chief Executive Officer currently beneficially owns approximately 17.4% of our outstanding ordinary shares as of March 15, 2023. Therefore, our President and Chief Executive Officer will be able to exert significant control over matters submitted to our shareholders for approval. As our President and Chief Executive Officer could significantly influence or even unilaterally approve matters requiring approval by our shareholders, including the election of directors and the approval of mergers or other business combination transactions. The interests of our President and Chief Executive Officer may not always coincide with our interests or the interests of other shareholders. This significant concentration of share ownership may adversely affect the trading price for our ordinary shares because investors often perceive disadvantages in owning stock in companies with controlling shareholders.
Sales of a substantial number of our ordinary shares in the public market could cause our share price to fall.
Sales of a substantial number of our ordinary shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales might occur, could depress the market price of our ordinary shares and could impair our ability to raise capital through the sale of additional equity securities. We are unable to predict the effect that sales may have on the prevailing market price of our ordinary shares. To date, the lock-up period has expired and substantially all of our outstanding shares are eligible for unrestricted sale. Sales of shares by these shareholders would likely result in the supply of our ordinary shares far exceeding the demand for our ordinary shares and could have a material adverse effect on the trading price of our ordinary shares.
Raising additional capital would cause dilution to our existing shareholders, and may restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights.
Subject to our strategic review, we will need to raise additional capital and may seek additional capital through a combination of private and public equity offerings, “at-the-market” issuances, equity-linked and structured transactions, debt (straight, convertible, or otherwise) financings, collaborations and licensing arrangements. 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 that adversely affect your rights as a shareholder. Debt financing, if available, would result in increased fixed payment obligations and may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions such as incurring debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends. If we raise additional funds through collaboration, strategic alliance and licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams or product candidates, or grant licenses on terms that are not favorable to us. Depending upon market liquidity at the time, additional sales of shares registered at any given time could cause the trading price of our ordinary shares to decline.
Our U.S. shareholders may suffer adverse tax consequences due to our expected classification as a passive foreign investment company.
Generally, if for any taxable year 75% or more of our gross income is passive income, or at least 50% of the average value of our assets is attributable to assets that are held for the production of, or produce, passive income, we would be characterized as a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Based upon our review of our financial data, we believe that we were a PFIC for our 2022 taxable year and expect to be a PFIC for the 2023 taxable year. Because PFIC status is determined annually and is based on our income, assets and activities for the entire taxable year, it is not possible to determine with certainty whether we will be characterized as a PFIC for the 2023 taxable year until after the close of the year, and there can be no assurance that we will not be classified as a PFIC in any future year. If we were to be characterized as a PFIC for U.S. federal income tax purposes in any taxable year during which a U.S. Holder (as defined below) owns ordinary shares, such U.S. Holder could face adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences. For example, such U.S. Holder could be subject to additional taxes and interest charges upon certain distributions by us and any gain recognized on a sale, exchange or other disposition of our shares, whether or not we continue to be characterized as a PFIC. Certain adverse consequences of PFIC status can be mitigated if a U.S. Holder makes a “mark -to -market” election or an election to treat us as a qualified electing fund, or QEF. Upon request, we expect to provide the information necessary for U.S. Holders to make “qualified electing fund elections” if we are classified as a PFIC. Each investor is urged to consult its tax advisor with respect to the application of the PFIC rules. See also “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation— Certain U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations.”
If a United States person is treated as owning at least 10% of our shares, such holder may be subject to adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences.
If a United States person is treated as owning (directly, indirectly or constructively) at least 10% of the value or voting power of our shares, such person may be treated as a “United States shareholder” with respect to each “controlled foreign corporation” in our group (if any). A United States shareholder of a controlled foreign corporation may be required to annually report and include in its U.S. taxable income its pro rata share of “Subpart F income,” “global intangible low-taxed income” and investments in U.S. property by controlled foreign corporations, whether or not we make any distributions, and may be subject to tax reporting obligations. An individual that is a United States shareholder with respect to a controlled foreign corporation generally would not be allowed certain tax deductions or foreign tax credits that would be allowed to a United States shareholder that is a U.S. corporation. A failure to comply with these reporting obligations may subject you to significant monetary penalties and may prevent the statute of limitations with respect to your U.S. federal income tax return for the year for which reporting was due from starting. We cannot provide any assurances that we will assist any shareholder in determining whether such shareholder is treated as a United States shareholder with respect to any “controlled foreign corporation” in our group (if any) or furnish to any United States shareholders information that may be necessary to comply with the aforementioned reporting and tax paying obligations. A United States investor should consult its tax advisors regarding the potential application of these rules to its investment in the shares.
If the securities analysts that currently cover our stock, or will do so in the future, or industry analysts do not publish or cease publishing research or reports about us, our business or our market, or if they adversely change their recommendations or publish negative reports regarding our business or our shares, our share price and trading volume could be negatively impacted.
The trading market for our ordinary shares is influenced by the research and reports that industry or securities analysts may publish about us, our business, our market or our competitors. We do not have any control over these analysts and we cannot provide any assurance that analysts will cover us or provide favorable coverage. If any of the analysts who do cover, or may cover us in the future, adversely change their recommendation regarding our shares, or provide more favorable relative recommendations about our competitors, our share price would likely decline. If any analyst who cover us cease coverage of our company or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could negatively impact our share price or trading volume.
Because we do not intend to declare cash dividends on our ordinary shares in the foreseeable future, shareholders must rely on appreciation of the value of our ordinary shares for any return on their investment.
We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our ordinary shares. We currently anticipate that we will retain future earnings for the development, operation and expansion of our business and do not anticipate declaring or paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Moreover, the Israeli Companies Law, 5759-1999, or the Companies Law, imposes certain restrictions on our ability to declare and pay dividends. See “Item 8. Financial Information—Consolidated Financial Statements and Other Financial Information—Dividend Policy” for additional information.
The requirements associated with being a public company require significant company resources and management attention.
We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the listing requirements of the Nasdaq Capital Market, on which our ordinary shares are traded, and other applicable securities rules and regulations. The Exchange Act requires that we file periodic reports with respect to our business and financial condition and maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting. In addition, subsequent rules implemented by the SEC and the Nasdaq Capital Market may also impose various additional requirements on public companies. As a result, we incurred and will continue to incur additional legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a privately-held company, particularly since, as of December 31, 2020, we are no longer considered an “emerging growth company” as defined in the JOBS Act. Further, the need to establish the corporate infrastructure demanded of a public company may divert management’s attention from implementing our development plans. We have made and will continue to make changes to our corporate governance standards, compensation policy, disclosure controls and financial reporting and accounting systems to meet our reporting obligations and applicable law. The measures we take, however, may not be sufficient to satisfy our obligations as a public company, which could subject us to delisting of our ordinary shares, fines, sanctions and other regulatory action and potentially civil litigation.
As a “foreign private issuer,” we are permitted to and currently do follow certain home country corporate governance practices instead of otherwise applicable SEC and Nasdaq Capital Market requirements, which may result in less protection than is accorded to investors under rules applicable to domestic U.S. issuers.
As a “foreign private issuer,” we are permitted to, and currently do, follow certain home country corporate governance practices instead of those otherwise required under the Listing Rules of the Nasdaq Capital Market, or the Nasdaq Listing Rules, for domestic U.S. issuers. For instance, we currently follow home country practice in Israel with regard to, among other things, director nomination procedure and approval of compensation of officers. In addition, we may follow our home country law instead of the Nasdaq Listing Rules that require that we obtain shareholder approval for certain dilutive events, such as the establishment or amendment of certain equity based compensation plans, an issuance that will result in a change of control of the company, certain transactions other than a public offering involving issuances of a 20% or greater interest in the company, and certain acquisitions of the stock or assets of another company. Following our home country governance practices as opposed to the requirements that would otherwise apply to a U.S. company listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market may provide less protection to you than what is accorded to investors under the Nasdaq Listing Rules applicable to domestic U.S. issuers. See “Item 16G. Corporate Governance.”
In addition, as a “foreign private issuer,” we are exempt from the rules and regulations under the Exchange Act related to the furnishing and content of proxy statements and certain individual executive compensation information, and our officers, directors and principal shareholders are exempt from the reporting and short-swing profit recovery provisions contained in Section 16 of the Exchange Act. Furthermore, foreign private issuers are not required to file their annual report on Form 20-F until 120 days after the end of each fiscal year, while U.S. domestic issuers that are accelerated filers are required to file their annual report on Form 10-K within 75 days after the end of each fiscal year and U.S. domestic issuers that are large accelerated filers are required to file their annual report on Form 10-K within 60 days after the end of each fiscal year. Additionally, as a “foreign private issuer,” we are also not subject to the requirements of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) promulgated under the Exchange Act. These exemptions and leniencies reduce the frequency and scope of information and protections to which you are entitled as an investor.
If our ordinary shares become a “penny stock,” it may be more difficult for investors to sell their ordinary shares, and the market price of our ordinary shares may be adversely affected.
Our ordinary shares could become a “penny stock” if, among other things, the share price is below $5.00 per share, we are not listed on a national securities exchange or we have not met certain net tangible asset or average revenue requirements. Broker-dealers who sell penny stocks must provide purchasers of these stocks with a standardized risk-disclosure document prepared by the SEC. This document provides information about penny stocks and the nature and level of risks involved in investing in the penny-stock market. A broker must also give a purchaser, orally or in writing, bid and offer quotations and information regarding broker and salesperson compensation, make a written determination that the penny stock is a suitable investment for the purchaser, and obtain the purchaser’s written agreement to the purchase. Broker-dealers must also provide customers that hold penny stock in their accounts with such broker-dealer a monthly statement containing price and market information relating to the penny stock. If a penny stock is sold to an investor in violation of the penny stock rules, the investor may be able to cancel its purchase and get its money back.
If applicable, the penny stock rules may make it difficult for investors to sell their ordinary shares. Because of the rules and restrictions applicable to a penny stock, there is less trading in penny stocks and the market price of our ordinary shares may be adversely affected. Also, many brokers choose not to participate in penny stock transactions. Accordingly, investors may not always be able to resell their ordinary shares publicly at times and prices that they feel are appropriate and the market price of our ordinary shares may be adversely affected.
Inflation could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
While inflation in the United States and global markets has been relatively low in recent years, during 2021 and 2022, the economy in the United States and global markets encountered a material increase in the level of inflation. The impact of COVID-19, geopolitical developments such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and global supply chain disruptions continue to increase uncertainty in the outlook of near-term and long-term economic activity, including whether inflation will continue and how long, and at what rate. Increases in inflation raise our costs for commodities, labor, materials and services and other costs required to grow and operate our business, and failure to secure these on reasonable terms may adversely impact our financial condition. Additionally, increases in inflation, along with the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, geopolitical developments and global supply chain disruptions, have caused, and may in the future cause, global economic uncertainty and uncertainty about the interest rate environment, which may make it more difficult, costly or dilutive for us to secure additional financing. A failure to adequately respond to these risks could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Risks Related to Israeli Law and Our Operations in Israel
Our headquarters and other significant operations are located in Israel and, therefore, our results may be adversely affected by political, economic and military instability in Israel.
Our executive offices are located in Tel Aviv, Israel. In addition, the majority of our officers and directors are residents of Israel. Accordingly, political, economic and military conditions in Israel may directly affect our business. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, a number of armed conflicts have taken place between Israel and its neighboring countries. Any hostilities involving Israel or the interruption or curtailment of trade between Israel and its trading partners could adversely affect our operations and results of operations. In recent years, these have included hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza strip, both of which resulted in rockets being fired into Israel, causing casualties and disruption of economic activities. In addition, Israel faces threats from more distant neighbors, in particular, Iran.
Since February 2011, riots and uprisings in several countries in the Middle East and neighboring regions have led to severe political instability in several neighboring states and to a decline in the regional security situation. Such instability may affect the local and global economy, could negatively affect business conditions and, therefore, could adversely affect our operations. To date, these matters have not had any material effect on our business and results of operations; however, the regional security situation and worldwide perceptions of it are outside our control, and there can be no assurance that these matters will not negatively affect us in the future. In addition, the political and security situation in Israel may result in parties with whom we have agreements involving performance in Israel claiming that they are not obligated to perform their commitments under those agreements pursuant to force majeure provisions in such agreements.
Our commercial insurance does not cover losses that may occur as a result of an event associated with the security situation in the Middle East. Although the Israeli government is currently committed to covering the reinstatement value of direct damages that are caused by terrorist attacks or acts of war, we cannot assure you that this government coverage will be maintained, or if maintained, will be sufficient to compensate us fully for damages incurred. Any losses or damages incurred by us could have a material adverse effect on our business. Any armed conflicts or political instability in the region would likely negatively affect business conditions generally and could harm our results of operations.
Further, in the past, the State of Israel and Israeli companies have been subjects of economic boycotts. Several countries still restrict business with the State of Israel and with Israeli companies. These restrictive laws and policies may have an adverse impact on our operating results, financial condition or the expansion of our business.
Israel’s most recent general elections were held on April 9, 2019, September 17, 2019, March 2, 2020, March 23, 2021 and November 1, 2022. In addition, proposed judicial reform has sparked widespread protests across Israel. Uncertainty surrounding future elections and the outcome of the judicial reform in Israel may continue and the political situation in Israel may further deteriorate. Actual or perceived political instability in Israel or any negative changes in the political environment, may individually or in the aggregate adversely affect the Israeli economy and, in turn, our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
Our operations may be disrupted as a result of the obligation of Israeli citizens to perform military service.
Many Israeli citizens are obligated to perform several days, and in some cases more, of annual military reserve duty until they reach the age of 40 (or older, for reservists who are officers or who have certain occupations) and, in the event of a military conflict, may be called to active duty. In response to increases in terrorist activity, there have been periods of significant call-ups of military reservists. It is possible that there will be military reserve duty call-ups in the future. Our operations could be disrupted by such call- ups, which may include the call-up of our employees or the employees of our Israeli business partners. Such disruption could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Exchange rate fluctuations between the U.S. dollar and the New Israeli Shekel currencies may negatively affect our earnings.
Our functional currency is the U.S. dollar. We incur expenses in U.S. dollars and New Israeli Shekels, or NIS. As a result, we are exposed to the risks that the NIS may appreciate relative to the U.S. dollar, or, if either the NIS devalues relative to the U.S. dollar, that the inflation rate in Israel may exceed such rate of devaluation of the NIS, or that the timing of such devaluation may lag behind inflation in Israel. In any such event, the U.S. dollar cost of our operations in Israel would increase and our U.S. dollar-denominated results of operations would be adversely affected. The average exchange rate for the year ended December 31, 2022 was $1.00 = NIS 3.52. We cannot predict any future trends in the rate of inflation in Israel or the rate of devaluation, if any, of the NIS against the U.S. dollar. As of the date hereof, neither the inflation rate in Israel has exceeded the rate of devaluation of the NIS, respectively, during the calendar years 2020, 2021 or 2022.
Provisions of Israeli law and our articles of association, or Articles, may delay, prevent or otherwise impede a merger with, or an acquisition of, our company, which could prevent a change of control, even when the terms of such a transaction are favorable to us and our shareholders.
The Companies Law regulates, among others, mergers, requires tender offers for acquisitions of shares above specified thresholds, requires special approvals for transactions involving directors, officers or significant shareholders and regulates other matters that may be relevant to such types of transactions. See “Item 10. Additional Information—B. —Mergers and Acquisitions under Israeli Law” for additional information.
Furthermore, Israeli tax considerations may make potential transactions unappealing to us or to our shareholders whose country of residence does not have a tax treaty with Israel exempting such shareholders from Israeli tax. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation—Certain Israeli Tax Considerations” for additional information.
Moreover, the classification of our Board into three classes with terms of approximately three years each, per our Articles, the requirement of affirmative vote of at least 75% of the voting rights of the Company represented personally or by proxy and voting thereon at a general meeting in order to amend or replace our Articles, together with the other provisions of the Articles and Israeli law, could deter or delay potential future merger, acquisition, tender or takeover offers, proxy contests or changes in control or management of the Company.
It may be difficult to enforce a judgment of a United States court against us, our officers, directors and the Israeli experts named in this annual report in Israel or the United States, to assert United States securities laws claims in Israel or to serve process on our officers, directors and these experts.
We were and continue to be organized in Israel. Most of our executive officers and directors reside outside of the United States, and all of our assets and most of the assets of these persons are located outside of the United States. Therefore, a judgment obtained against us, or any of these persons, including a judgment based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws, may not be collectible in the United States and may not necessarily be enforced by an Israeli court. It also may be difficult to effect service of process on these persons in the United States or to assert U.S. securities law claims in original actions instituted in Israel. Additionally, it may be difficult for an investor, or any other person or entity, to initiate an action with respect to United States securities laws in Israel. Israeli courts may refuse to hear a claim based on an alleged violation of United States securities laws reasoning that Israel is not the most appropriate forum in which to bring such a claim. In addition, even if an Israeli court agrees to hear a claim, it may determine that Israeli law and not United States law is applicable to the claim. If United States law is found to be applicable, the content of applicable United States law must be proven as a fact by expert witnesses, which can be a time consuming and costly process. Certain matters of procedure will also be governed by Israeli law. There is little binding case law in Israel that addresses the matters described above. As a result of the difficulty associated with enforcing a judgment against us in Israel, our shareholders may not be able to collect any damages awarded by either a United States or foreign court.
Your rights, liabilities and responsibilities as a shareholder will be governed by Israeli law and differ in some material respects from those under U.S. law.
Because we are an Israeli company, the rights and responsibilities of our shareholders are governed by our Articles and Israeli law. These rights, liabilities and responsibilities differ in some material respects from the rights, liabilities and responsibilities of shareholders in a U.S. corporation. In particular, a shareholder of an Israeli company has a duty to act in good faith towards the company and other shareholders and to refrain from abusing his, her or its power in the company, including, among other things, when voting at the general meeting of shareholders on certain matters. Israeli law provides that these duties are applicable to shareholder votes on, among other things, amendments to a company’s articles of association, increases in a company’s authorized share capital, mergers and interested party transactions requiring shareholder approval. In addition, a controlling shareholder, a shareholder who knows that it possesses the power to determine the outcome of a shareholders’ vote or a shareholder who has the power to appoint or prevent the appointment of a director or executive officer in the company, has a duty of fairness towards the company. However, Israeli law does not define the substance of this duty of fairness. There is little case law available to assist in understanding the implications of these provisions that govern shareholder behavior. These provisions may be interpreted to impose additional obligations and liabilities on holders of our ordinary shares that are not typically imposed on shareholders of U.S. corporations. See “Item 10. Additional Information—B Memorandum and Articles of Association—Shareholder Duties” for additional information.
Any of the risk factors referred to above could significantly and negatively affect our business, results of operations or financial condition, which may reduce our ability to pay dividends and lower the trading price of our ordinary shares. The risks referred to above are not the only ones that may exist. Additional risks not currently known by us or that we deem immaterial may also impair our business operations.
ITEM 4. Information on the Company.
A. Historical Background and Corporate Structure
Galmed Pharmaceuticals Ltd., was incorporated in Israel on July 31, 2013 as a privately held company and is governed by the Companies Law. However, our business has been operating since 2000 under a different group of companies established in the same year, or the Group. Originally, we operated under the parent company, GHI. GHI held all of the equity rights in and to Galmed 2000 Inc., a holdings company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, or GTTI. GTTI held all of the equity rights in and to Galmed International Limited, a company incorporated in Malta, or GIL (other than 0.1% of the share capital held by GHI). GIL held all of the equity rights in and to Galmed Medical Research Ltd., an Israeli company, or GMR. Our intellectual property was held by GIL. The research and development was conducted by GMR as a service to GIL on a cost plus basis. GIL was responsible for all product development.
On February 2, 2014, we underwent the Reorganization, pursuant to which all of our intangible assets (including our intellectual property) were transferred from GIL to Galmed Research and Development Ltd., or GRD. The Reorganization was effectuated by share transfers and asset transfers, resulting in the Company as the parent company and 100% equity-owner of the following companies: (1) GRD, which holds all the Group’s intellectual property, including the Company’s patent portfolio; (2) GIL, which is an inactive company; and (3) GTTI, which was liquidated in 2017. GIL held GMR, which became an inactive company in 2015 and was liquidated in February 2019. The Reorganization was conducted in order to simplify our capital structure, reduce our operating cost and to improve our ability to raise funds. Immediately prior to the Reorganization, all our shareholders collectively held 9,739 ordinary shares of GHI. In connection with the Reorganization, and in accordance with the Tax Pre-Ruling, we issued to all such shareholders ordinary shares of the Company, such that upon the Reorganization all our shareholders collectively held 7,099,731 ordinary shares of the Company, in the same proportion among all shareholders, which reflected a ratio of 729 ordinary shares of the Company for each ordinary share of GHI.
The following is a diagram of our corporate structure (following GTTI’s liquidation):
On March 18, 2014, we completed our initial public offering and since then have been listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol “GLMD”.
Our principal executive offices and registered office in Israel are located at 16 Tiomkin Street, Tel Aviv, Israel, 6578317 and our telephone number is +972-3-693-8448. Our website address is http://www.galmedpharma.com. The information contained on, or that can be accessed through, our website is neither a part of nor incorporated into this annual report. We have included our website address in this annual report solely as an inactive textual reference. Puglisi & Associates, or Puglisi, serves as our authorized representative in the United States for certain limited matters. Puglisi’s address is 850 Library Avenue, Newark, Delaware 19711.
The SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at http://sec.gov. We use our website (http://www.galmedpharma.com) as a channel of distribution of Company information. The information we post through this channel may be deemed material. Accordingly, investors should monitor our website, in addition to following our press releases, SEC filings and public conference calls and webcasts. The contents of our website are not, however, a part of this annual report.
Other than as described in “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Contractual Obligations”, we have not had any material commitments for capital expenditures, including any anticipated material acquisition of plant and equipment or interests in other companies, since January 1, 2014. Additionally, we have not had any material capital divestitures since January 1, 2014.
B. Business Overview
We are a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of Aramchol. Historically, we have focused almost exclusively on developing Aramchol for the treatment of liver disease. We are also collaborating with the Hebrew University in the development of Amilo-5MER, a 5 amino acid synthetic peptide.
We believe that our lead product candidate, Aramchol, has the potential to be a disease modifying treatment for fatty liver disorders, including NASH, which is a chronic disease that constitutes a large unmet medical need.
Aramchol is a synthetic conjugate of 3-amino cholic acid, or a type of modified bile acid, and arachidic acid, or a type of saturated fatty acid, which in its non-synthetic forms, is naturally occurring. The conjugated molecule acts upon important metabolic pathways, reducing fat accumulation in the liver, improving fatty acid oxidation and regulating the transport of cholesterol. The ability of Aramchol to decrease liver fat content may also reduce the inflammation and fibrosis in the liver and the risk of cardiovascular complications associated with NASH. Pre-clinical studies suggest Aramchol’s effect on fibrosis is also direct via collagen production from human hepatic stellate cells. We believe that Aramchol’s ability to reduce liver fat and liver fibrosis and the safety profile observed to date will enable it to be a treatment for all stages of NASH in patients who are overweight or obese and have pre diabetes or type II diabetes mellitus and prevent the hepatic complications associated therewith.
In September 2019, we initiated our Phase 3 ARMOR Study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Aramchol in subjects with NASH and fibrosis. The ARMOR Study was originally comprised of two parts, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled histology-based registrational part and a clinically based part where subjects will continue with the same treatment for approximately five years. In December 2020, we announced the addition of a 150-patient open label part to the ARMOR Study and suspended randomization of new patients into the double-blind, placebo-controlled histology-based registrational part of ARMOR as currently enrolled patients are transitioned to the open label part.
In May 2022, we announced our plan to expand into new anti-fibrotic indications to maximize the potential of Aramchol while at the same time discontinuing the open label part of its ARMOR Study having reached its objectives. Simultaneously, we initiated a cost reduction plan and an evaluation of our strategic alternatives and our structuring to best optimize our resources to enhance shareholder value and achieve its goals. As a result of the cost reduction plan, we discontinued any non-essential research and development activities and reduced our headcount by approximately 65% leaving a core team of management and research and development personnel. Following the discontinuation of our open label part of the ARMOR Study, we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study.
On January 5, 2023, we entered into a non-binding term sheet for an equity investment in OnKai, a US-based technology company developing an AI-based platform to advance healthcare for underserved populations across the United States by facilitating alignment between healthcare stakeholders. The term sheet provides for an investment, of at least $2.5 million, of which we shall invest $1.5 million in exchange for series seed preferred shares of OnKai (which is in addition to a $1.5 million investment that was made by us in OnKai through a Simple Agreement for Future Equity and which will convert at a 15% discount into series seed preferred shares upon consummation of the investment round). See “Item 4. Information on the Company— Strategic Collaborations, Research Arrangements and other Agreements—Onkai.”
We are currently exploring the feasibility of developing Aramchol for other indications outside of liver disease and anti-fibrotic indications and we continue to collaborate with the Hebrew University in the development of Amilo-5MER, however we have no current plans to initiate a clinical trial for Aramchol or Amilo-5MER and are continuing to evaluate our strategic alternatives and our structuring. We have not stated a definitive timeline for completion of the evaluation process and there can be no assurance that the evaluation process will result in our pursuing any strategic alternative, or that a strategic alternative, if any, would be completed successfully or at all. There can be no assurance that the review will result in any transaction or other strategic change or outcome. We do not intend to comment further until we determine that further disclosure is appropriate or necessary.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) / Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis (NASH)
It is estimated that the global prevalence of NAFLD, the precondition to NASH, is approximately 25% in the general population and much higher in certain high risk groups. This disease is also now recognized as one of the most common liver disorders, and a significant growing public health problem. In the US alone, 80 - 100 million people are said to be affected by NAFLD, and its prevalence is rapidly growing in parallel with metabolic syndromes, particularly obesity and diabetes.
NAFLD is characterized by the accumulation of fat of 5% or greater in the liver of people who drink alcohol only in moderation, or not at all. There may be numerous causes of NAFLD, however, the disease is mostly associated with a high fat, fructose-rich diet. Although NAFLD is generally asymptomatic, it is a major risk factor for liver inflammation (NASH) and scarring (fibrosis and cirrhosis). In addition, NAFLD is also associated with metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Currently, NAFLD can only be managed through lifestyle improvements, such as weight reduction and physical activity.
NASH is an emerging world crisis impacting an estimated 3% to 5% of the U.S. population and an estimated 2% to 4% globally, and is associated with increased risk of liver cirrhosis, liver failure, hepatocellular cancer, as well as metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. The major characteristics of NASH are elevated liver fat, inflammation, ballooning and fibrosis.
However, despite the growing need, there are currently no approved therapeutic treatments for NASH. Modification of risk factors, such as obesity and hyperlipidemia, and proper diabetic control is generally recommended for the treatment of NASH, and the standard of care includes lifestyle changes to promote weight loss, including low-calorie, low-fat diets and physical activity. Although weight loss can be potentially significant in delaying the progression of NASH, studies have shown that, for most individuals, it is generally very difficult to maintain over the long-term, even following bariatric surgery.
There are currently no drugs approved by regulatory authorities for the treatment of NASH. Even though certain drugs, such as insulin sensitizers and antihyperlipidemic agents, are prescribed for some NASH patients, they are not approved for the treatment of NASH and their efficacy has not been proven in adequate and well-controlled clinical studies.
Currently, it is impossible to predict which of the NAFLD patients will deteriorate to NASH as it is unclear what causes NASH to develop. Researchers are now focusing on several factors that may contribute to the development of NASH. Therefore, lifestyle changes are recommended for all patients with NAFLD.
There is an exceptionally wide range of estimates regarding the potential commercial market for NASH. This uncertainty stems from (i) the overall size of the patient population, (ii) the percentage of the addressable market that will be diagnosed and, subsequently, seek treatment, (iii) the ultimate cost of the therapies, (iv) the number of approved drugs for NASH and their profile, and (v) uncertainty regarding the regulatory approval process. Some of these factors cannot be known until NASH drugs begin to hit the market or biomarkers replacing the biopsy diagnosis are validated. Independent estimates generally estimate a commercial multi billion market in developed countries, though we do not endorse any estimates, which are based on a number of different underlying assumptions.
Aramchol for NASH
Our product candidate, Aramchol, is a first-in-class synthetic fatty acid-bile acid conjugate molecule, or FABAC, molecule that we are developing for oral treatment for NASH in patients who are overweight or obese and have prediabetes or type II diabetes mellitus.
Early in its development, Aramchol’s ability to modulate hepatic lipid metabolism was observed and validated in numerous pre-clinical trials with different animal species. Mice fed a high fat diet and treated with Aramchol did not develop fatty liver as compared to non-treated mice. In these early studies, we also observed that the mechanism of this effect was not a result of malabsorption of fat in the intestines because the FABAC-treated mice gained weight throughout the test periods to a similar degree to the control mice. This led us to conclude that FABAC therapy triggers a beneficial modulation of intra-hepatic lipid metabolism and reduces liver fat content.
In in-vitro and in vivo studies, Aramchol down regulates the SCD1 enzyme, an enzyme recognized as playing an important role in the metabolism of fatty acids. The SCD1 enzyme is essentially the gateway that regulates the use and storage of fat in the body by converting saturated fatty acids to monounsaturated fatty acids. Experimental animal studies showed that complete inhibition of the SCD1 enzyme protects against diet-induced obesity, hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver, and insulin resistance by instructing the body to use, rather than store, all fatty acids. However, various animal studies have indicated that such complete SCD1 enzyme inhibition has mechanism based serious side effects, such as atherosclerosis, and eye and skin disorders. As observed by us in our pre-clinical and clinical studies performed to date, and subsequently published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and Archives of Medical Research in 2008 and 2010 respectively, one of Aramchol’s unique characteristics is that it down regulates the SCD1 enzyme but does not inhibit it completely – a partial effect. To date, side effects that have been observed in animals with knock out of SCD1 have not been observed in our toxicology and clinical studies.
To better understand the role of Aramchol in NASH, we analyzed the effect of Aramchol in MCD diet model. The aim of this study was to investigate Aramchol’s mechanism of action and its effect on fibrosis using the methionine- and choline-deficient (MCD) diet model of NASH. We collected liver and serum from mice fed a MCD diet containing 0.1% methionine (0.1MCD) for four weeks, which developed steatohepatitis and fibrosis, as well as mice receiving a control diet; the metabolomes and proteomes were determined. 0.1MCD fed mice were given Aramchol (5mg/kg/day for the last 2 weeks); liver samples were analyzed histologically. Aramchol administration was found to reduce features of steatohepatitis and fibrosis in 0.1MCD fed mice. Aramchol downregulated the SCD1 enzyme, a key enzyme involved in triglyceride biosynthesis whose loss enhances fatty acid β-oxidation. In addition, Aramchol increased the flux through the transsulfuration pathway, leading to a rise in glutathione (GSH) and GSH/GSSG ratio, the main cellular antioxidant that maintains intracellular redox status. Comparison of the serum metabolomic pattern between 0.1MCD-fed mice and patients with NAFLD showed a substantial overlap. These findings were published in Hepatology Communications, Vol. 1, No. 9, 2017.
As the effect of Aramchol on fibrosis was first reported we further analyzed the direct effect of Aramchol on collagen production and reported down regulation of collagen production from the hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) by Aramchol. With that we could conclude that Aramchol has potential direct effect on collagen production and therefore reduces fibrosis indirectly by down regulation of steatosis by reducing the sequence of events but also directly affecting collagen producing cells. These findings were published in Hepatology Communications, Vol. 1, No. 9, 2017.
These findings led us to further analyze the effect of Aramchol using the Thiocatemide (TAA) rat model. TAA is the most commonly used toxic agents to induce liver fibrosis. Repeated IP injections of TAA leads to sever fibrosis / cirrhosis. Among all models for fibrosis, the TAA model share multiple characteristics with human liver fibrosis and is considered to best predict efficacy in humans. Results demonstrated that treatment with Aramchol 5mg/kg, significantly prevented TAA induced fibrosis in a dose dependent manner. These findings were presented at EASL, Amsterdam in April 2017 (The anti Fibrotic effect of Aramchol on liver Fibrosis in TAA animal model).
Phase 1 Single and Multiple-Dose Study of Aramchol in Healthy Male Volunteers (NCT00776841)
Aramchol was evaluated in two Phase 1 clinical trials (under a single protocol) to study its safety, tolerability and PK profile in healthy volunteers, in both single and multiple dose administrations. The first Phase 1 clinical trial was an escalating single-dose trial conducted in 17 healthy subjects testing Aramchol doses ranging from 30 mg to 900 mg, performed in one center in Israel. The subsequent Phase 1 clinical trial was a repeated-dose trial conducted over four days in 25 healthy subjects testing repeated daily doses of Aramchol of 30 mg and 300 mg, performed in one center in Israel. The profiles for the groups were similar and the maximal plasma concentration of Aramchol increased with the higher doses. The PK profile demonstrated that Aramchol is suitable at each dose for once-daily administration and there were neither significant adverse events observed in either Phase 1 trial nor any notable changes in biochemical, hematologic, cardiovascular or other safety parameters.
Phase 2a Trial: Aramchol Treatment in NAFLD or NASH Patients (NCT01094158)
In January 2012, we completed a 60 patient multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 2a clinical trial of Aramchol in patients with NAFLD or NASH between the ages of 18 and 75 in 12 centers in Israel. The Phase 2a study results were published in July 2014 in the peer-reviewed Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal. The trial was performed in patients with either NAFLD or NASH, which design was deemed acceptable by the FDA in 2007 at a pre-IND scientific advisory meeting. The trial’s primary efficacy endpoint was a reduction in liver fat content, and did not consider inflammation or fibrosis, which can be diagnosed only by liver biopsy. We believe that the short study duration of three months of treatment followed by a one-month follow-up period did not warrant repeated biopsies. The trial evaluated the effects on liver fat content of 100 mg and 300 mg once-daily doses of Aramchol compared to a placebo. At the end of the three month treatment period, statistically significant reductions in liver fat concentration as measured by MRS were observed in the 300 mg patient group. Specifically, a 12.57% mean liver fat content reduction was observed in the 300 mg group, as compared to a mean reduction of 2.89% in the 100 mg group and a mean increase of 6.39% in the placebo-treated patients. These results indicate that the effects of Aramchol are dose-dependent, as demonstrated in the graph below, which presents the results with respect to the 57 patients who successfully completed the entire treatment period (three patients were excluded from data analysis because of one protocol violation and two withdrawal consents).
Relative Change in MRS from Baseline after Three Months of Treatment
The table above shows that the primary endpoint of the study was attained. The study demonstrated a statistically significant, dose dependent reduction in fat content in the livers of patients treated with Aramchol, with a 19% difference between the 300 mg dose group and the placebo group, while the difference between the 100 mg dose group and the placebo group was not statistically significant. Notably, the minimal effective dose of Aramchol for fat reduction has been defined.
There were no statistically significant differences among the three treatment groups for any of the secondary end points. There was a non-statistically significant trend of mild weight reduction (P=.1) in the high dose Aramchol group. Serum adiponectin levels increased (0.2 ± 1.7 μg/mL) in the high-dose Aramchol group but decreased in the low-dose (-0.3 ± 1.5 μg/mL) and placebo groups (-0.7 ±_1.3 μgg/mL) (P= 0.88 for trend of dose-response relationship by linear regression). FMD increased non-statistically significantly by 1.28% ± 2.92% in the high-dose group, by 0.34% ±3.54% in the low-dose group, and by 0.46% ± 2.28% in the placebo group.
The frequency of adverse events was similar in all treatment groups, and none of them were considered to be related to the treatment. All adverse events in the active treatment arms were mild or moderate and none were serious. None of the patients withdrew as a result of adverse events. The following table shows the most frequent adverse events (occurring in ≥ 2 patients in any group) in the study.
|Placebo||Aramchol 100mg/d||Aramchol 300mg/d|
The results of our Phase 2a clinical trial of Aramchol in the peer-reviewed Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal were published in December 2014. The trial manuscript, entitled “The Fatty Acid-Bile Acid Conjugate Aramchol Reduced Liver Fat Content in Patients with Nonalcoholic
Fatty Liver Disease,” provides the full report of the Phase 2a trial, which was completed in January 2012 and presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver in 2012. Based on this Phase 2a proof-of-concept results, we established a development plan that we believe may confirm: (i) the good safety profile of Aramchol, (ii) the optimal dose of Aramchol, and (iii) efficacy on steatosis as well as fibrosis in patients with NASH.
Pharmacokinetics of Single and Multiple Escalating Doses of Aramchol and Food Effect in Healthy Volunteers (NCT02374437)
On April 28, 2014, we commenced PK and food effect studies of Aramchol. In written correspondence from December 2013 regarding a requested pre-IND meeting, the FDA recommended that we conduct such studies prior to commencing our Phase 2b ARREST Study.
We conducted the food effect and PK study at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel involving 66 healthy volunteers to evaluate the PK of Aramchol following single and multiple escalating doses (200 mg, 400 mg and 600 mg), as well as to evaluate the effect of a high-fat, high-calorie meal on the PK of Aramchol following a single dose in healthy volunteers.
The results showed dose-related, but less than dose-proportional, increases in the mean Aramchol plasma concentrations, or Cmax, area under the curve, or AUC, (0-t), and AUC (inf) of 200 mg, 400 mg and 600 mg doses administered under fasting conditions or following a light meal, both at single and repeated dose administration. Cmax and AUC are metrics used to indicate the significance of a drug’s exposure. Steady-state was achieved by 144 hours (day seven). Administration of Aramchol after a high-fat, high-calorie meal afforded a 2.6 fold increase in exposure, as measured by Cmax, AUC(0-t), and AUC(inf) compared to the fasting group.
No serious adverse events or deaths occurred during the study. Adverse events were equally distributed between placebo and Aramchol doses, were mild (with only one moderate adverse event) and the majority defined unrelated to Aramchol. The PK study provides additional safety data to further support existing safety data from our pre-clinical studies and our Phase 1 and Phase 2a clinical trials of Aramchol.
Pharmacokinetics of Single and Multiple Escalating Doses of Aramchol Administered under Fed Conditions in Healthy Chinese Volunteers (NCT 02803996)
In 2016, we performed the Chinese PK Study involving Chinese patients who are domiciled in the United States. We enrolled 66 patients in this study, consisting of two parts. In part A, 32 subjects received a single escalating dose; Part B enrolled 34 subjects which received a multiple escalating dose. Dr. Evelyn Darius served as the Study Investigator. No safety signal was identified in this study and we deemed no changes were required in the enrollment of Chinese patients into the ARREST Study.
Phase 2b ARREST Study for Aramchol (NCT 02279524)
In September 2014, the FDA granted Fast Track designation status to Aramchol for the treatment of NASH. Fast Track designation may accelerate the development process and may expedite the review of drugs that show promise in treating serious, life-threatening medical conditions for which no other drug either exists or is as effective.
On February 1, 2015, we began our ARREST Study. The ARREST Study was a Phase 2b, multicenter, global, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and safety and of two doses of Aramchol for the treatment of NASH in patients who are overweight or obese and have pre diabetes or type II diabetes mellitus. In order to be eligible to participate in the ARREST Study, patients had to be affected by NASH, as diagnosed by a biopsy centrally read (steatosis ≥1 + inflammation ≥1 + ballooning ≥1, total activity NAS score of 4 or more), have a fibrosis stage of 1-3, be overweight or obese as measured by a Body Mass Index between 25 and 40 or waist circumference between 88cm to 200cm for women, and between 102cm to 200cm for men, and who are pre diabetic or type II diabetic. We targeted this specific population as it is at the greatest risk of developing NASH and its complications. We have generated data from animal models that lead us to believe that Aramchol targets all three main pathologies of the disease: steatosis, inflammation and fibrosis.
A total of 247 patients (approximately one third in the US, one third in Latin America and one third in Europe and Israel) with liver biopsy-proven NASH who were overweight or obese and had pre-diabetes or type II diabetes mellitus were randomized. Patients were randomized in a ratio of 2:2:1 (600mg, 400mg and placebo) taking once-daily oral Aramchol (in the Aramchol treatment arms) or a placebo (in the placebo arm). The treatment part of the trial was 12 months in duration and patients completing this phase were observed for a three month follow-up period. In February 2017, we completed randomization of the ARREST Study. Baseline histology of patients enrolled into the ARREST study demonstrated a population with advanced disease, with 60% having stage 2 and 3 fibrosis and 70% have NAS>5 at baseline.
The primary endpoint of the study was the change from baseline to end of study in liver triglycerides ratio as measured by magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or MRS (Aramchol 600mg vs. placebo). Secondary endpoints, demonstrated through biopsy, included fibrosis improvement by at least one stage or more without worsening of NASH (defined by an increase of inflammation and or ballooning) and NASH resolution (defined by ballooning score 0 and inflammation score 0-1 at termination) without worsening of fibrosis. Other secondary endpoints included improvement (2 points or more) in NASH activity index, as measured by NAS or SAF, without worsening fibrosis and change in baseline to week 52/termination in ALT (U/L).
On June 12, 2018, we announced top-line results of the ARREST Study and on November 13, 2018 an oral abstract presentation of one-year results of the ARREST Study was presented during a Late Breaking Abstract Oral Session at The Liver Meeting® 2018 during the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases 2018 Annual Meeting.
Of the 247 patients, 48 patients were in the placebo arm, 101 patients in the Aramchol 400mg arm and 98 in the Aramchol 600mg treatment arm. The majority of subjects completed 52 weeks of treatment and 13 weeks of follow up (89.1%, 89.8%, 85.4% in the 400 mg, 600 mg and placebo arms, respectively). The leading cause of discontinuation was consent withdrawal and early termination due to adverse events; the incidence of early termination due to AEs was very low and similar across study arms.
Patients in the ARREST study were planned to undergo MRS, and a liver biopsy at baseline and week 52, which were centrally read, blinded to treatment allocation. The statistical analysis plan included pre-defined analysis sets: (i) a full analysis set for MRI (FAS -— MRI): all intent to treat, or ITT, patients with baseline and at least one second MRS. 214 patients were included in this analysis set (41 in placebo; 90 in Aramchol 400mg; and 83 in Aramchol 600mg); and (ii) a full analysis set for liver biopsy (FAS -— biopsy): all ITT patients with baseline and a second biopsy. 198 patients were included in this analysis set (40 in placebo; 80 in Aramchol 400mg; and 78 in Aramchol 600mg).
Results from the study showed a statistically significant reduction in liver fat by MRS with Aramchol 400mg vs. placebo (p=0.0450) and not with 600mg (p=0.0655) and thus did not reach the primary endpoint of the study. In a post-hoc analysis, a cutoff of 5% absolute reduction in liver fat was used as a surrogate for potentially clinically meaningful MRI reduction. In this responder’s analysis, a dose-response could be observed; the responder rate was 47.0%, 36.7% and 24.2%, in the Aramchol 600mg, 400mg and placebo arms, respectively. The proportion of the Aramchol 600mg arm compared to placebo was statistically-significant (p=0.0279).
Results for the two biopsy endpoints, which may currently constitute a primary endpoint for a Phase 3 trial to support an FDA marketing application, demonstrated the following: (i) significantly more patients treated with Aramchol 600mg vs. placebo achieved NASH resolution without worsening of fibrosis (16.7% vs. 5.0%; p=0.0514); and (ii) a higher proportion of patients showed at least one-point improvement in fibrosis score without worsening of NASH in Aramchol 600mg vs. placebo (29.5% vs. 17.5%; p=0.2110).
Statistically significant reductions in live enzymes alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) were demonstrated in both Aramchol arms vs. placebo (p≤0.0002) and (p<0.0001), respectively.
Secondary endpoints based on NAS and SAF activity score, ≥2 points improvement, showed a higher proportion of patients with improvement in the Aramchol arms (600mg>400mg>placebo; P>0.05).
Exploratory endpoints of glycemic parameters showed statistically significant reductions in HbA1c with both Aramchol arms vs. placebo (p<0.007) implying a potential effect on glycemic control.
At 52 weeks of treatment, Aramchol continued to show a favorable safety and tolerability profile. Serious adverse events were reported in 12.5%, 8.9% and 9.2% of patients in placebo, Aramchol 400mg and 600mg arms, respectively. No clustering of event type or atypical events for the studied population was reported in either Aramchol arms. Severe adverse events were reported in 10.4%, 6.9%, and 6.1% of patients in placebo, Aramchol 400mg, and 600mg arms, respectively. Early terminations due to adverse events occurred in 4.2%, 3.0% and 4.1% in placebo, Aramchol 400mg and 600mg arms, respectively.
The following table summarizes the most frequent adverse events.
The following table summarizes the ARREST results:
|Placebo||400 mg||600 mg|
|MRS- –Absolute change from baseline in mean liver fat (1)||(0.09||)%||(3.41||)%||(3.18||)%|
|MRS responders- Reduction of ≥5% in absolute change from baseline (1)||24.4||%||36.7||%||47.0||%|
|NASH resolution without worsening of fibrosis (2)||5||%||7.5||%||16.7||%|
|NASH resolution (2)||7.5||%||12.5||%||19.2||%|
|Fibrosis improvement (≥1 stage) without worsening of NASH (2)||17.5||%||21.3||%||29.5||%|
|Progression to Cirrhosis (Post-Hoc Analysis) worsening of NASH (2)||7.5||%||7.5||%||1.3||%|
|ALT (U/L) Change from baseline (3)||+11.82||-12.0||(17.3||)|
|AST (U/L) Change from baseline (3)||+6.67||(7.20||)||(10.83||)|
|HbA1C Change from baseline (4)||+0.32||(0.04||)||(0.13||)|
|(1)||Placebo N=41; 400mg N=90, 600mg N=83; Mixed Effect Model Repeat Measurement (MMRM) adjusted mean changes from baseline; p-values for comparison of active treatment arm vs. placebo.|
|(2)||Placebo N=40, 400mg N=80, 600mg N=78; Baseline adjusted logistic regression; p-values for comparison of active treatment arm vs. placebo.|
|(3)||Placebo N=47, 400mg N=100, 600mg N=98; MMRM adjusted mean changes from baseline; p-values for comparison of active treatment arm vs. placebo.|
|(4)||Placebo N=47, 400mg N=98, 600mg N=96; MMRM adjusted mean changes from baseline; p-values for comparison of active treatment arm vs. placebo.|
Dose Splitting Pharmcokinetic Study (NCT03774173)
As a result of the dose response pattern observed in the ARREST Study, we recently conducted a Phase 1, open-label, crossover PK study to assess whether dose splitting of Aramchol 600mg to twice daily 300mg will significantly increase plasma levels. 16 healthy subjects took part in two study periods. Eight subjects received each regimen in the first period and the alternate regimen in the second period. A PK profile was obtained over the dosing interval at steady state on day ten of each period.
Results of the study showed that the administration of Aramchol 300 mg twice daily resulted in 24-hour plasma concentrations significantly greater than those observed with the administration of Aramchol 600 mg once daily. (P<0.0001). The average plasma levels (exposure) were 53% higher and exposure was greater in all 16 subjects with the twice daily dosing. The treatment in both dosing regimens were similar in terms of safety and were well tolerated.
First in Human Aramchol Meglumine Pharmcokinetic Study
In December 2020, we announced new data from a Phase 1, first in human study that compared Aramchol meglumine to Aramchol acid.
Armachol acid and Aramchol megluine was administered twice daily to 12 subjects. Below is a summary of the results:
These initial results demonstrated that the new salt form of Aramchol meglumine has a plasma PK profile that is very similar to Aramchol acid. It also showed that the administration of both forms resulted in the same form of Aramchol in the blood, regardless of which drug product is administered and that less Aramchol meglumine is needed for the same exposure of Aramchol acid in the blood.
Phase 3 ARMOR Study for Aramchol
In September 2019, we initiated the ARMOR Study, a Phase 3 pivotal study of Aramchol for the treatment of NASH, following a successful End-of-Phase 2 meeting with the FDA in April 2019 in which we reached general agreement on key aspects of the Phase 3 development and registration plan for Aramchol. The ARMOR Study was originally comprised of two parts, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled histology -based registrational part where 1200 subjects will be treated with Aramchol or matching placebo for 52 weeks and a clinically based part where subjects will continue with the same treatment for approximately five years, taking into consideration draft guidance issued by the FDA in December 2018 entitled “Noncirrhotic Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis with Liver Fibrosis: Developing Drugs for Treatment”, or the “December Guidance”. The histology-based data is intended to serve as the basis for the submission of a marketing authorization application under regulatory provisions of Sub-part H accelerated/conditional approval.
In light of the rapid development of the Aramchol meglumine program and due to the delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, in December 2020, we announced the addition of an open label part to the ARMOR Study and temporarily suspended randomization of new patients into the double-blind, placebo-controlled histology-based registrational phase of ARMOR as currently enrolled patients are transitioned to the open label part.
In August 2021, we announced that the FDA agreed with our plan to use Aramchol meglumine (in lieu of Aramchol free acid) in our ARMOR Study without the need to conduct additional nonclinical and clinical studies other than planned limited pharmacology studies relating to Aramchol meglumine. In addition, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, the pharmaceuticals regulator in the UK, also agreed with our plan to proceed with our proposed clinical studies with Aramchol meglumine in lieu of Aramchol free acid without the need to repeat nonclinical and clinical studies other than planned limited pharmacology studies relating to Aramchol meglumine.
In November 2021, we announced positive interim data on the open label part of the ARMOR Study showing clinically significant effect on fibrosis improvement based on histology in the first 16 patients. Subsequently in November 2021, we announced that new analyses of biomarkers corroborate this effect showing statistically significant reductions in biomarkers associated with liver fibrosis including ALT, AST, Fib-4 and ProC-3. Reductions of a similar magnitude were seen in a cohort of the first 20 patients for which paired biopsy have been analyzed and a cohort of 50 patients for which biomarker data was analyzed based on all available data at that time. In addition, we reported that Aramchol continues to show excellent safety and tolerability profile. Data support that a higher dose of Aramchol could provide statistically and clinically meaningful effect on fibrosis in the double-blind placebo controlled part for submission of the ARMOR Study to support an NDA under Sub-part H.
In April 2022, we announced further positive interim data on the open label part of the ARMOR Study showing robust fibrosis improvement across multimodality histological assessment. Results of post baseline biopsies performed either at 24 weeks or at 48 weeks from 46 subjects with NASH and F1-3 that received Aramchol support the anti-fibrotic effect of Aramchol and reinforce the favorable safety profile of Aramchol.
In May 2022, we announced the discontinuation of the open label part of our ARMOR Study having reached its objectives and in January 2023, we announced full results from the open label part of the ARMOR Study. Following the discontinuation of our open label part of the ARMOR Study, we do not currently expect to initiate the second part of the ARMOR Study.
The Phase 3 study is a two-part study, an open-label part and a randomized, double-controlled, placebo part, designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Aramchol and to be conducted in approximately 200 sites in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.
Part One: Open Label Study
The first part, an open-label study, was originally designed to evaluate treatment response kinetics, pharmacokinetics and safety of twice daily administration of Aramchol 300mg in approximately 150 subjects with NASH and liver fibrosis stage 1-3 (F1 capped at 30 subjects), subjects with NASH who may or may not be overweight, and subjects with NASH who may or may not have type 2 diabetes or be pre-diabetic. Patients were randomized (1:1:1) into three groups with post-baseline liver biopsy being performed at 24 weeks, 48 weeks, or 72 weeks, respectively. A second post-baseline liver biopsy was conducted after one year for subjects whose post-baseline liver biopsy at week 24, 48 or 72 does not show at least one stage improvement in fibrosis. The open label part was being conducted at approximately 50 selected sites in the U.S., and around the world which have been less affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The open label study enrolled 157 subjects. Fifty-one (51) subjects underwent post-baseline biopsies prior to study discontinuation (28 subjects at <48 weeks and 23 subjects at ≥48 weeks). The study was designed to assess the safety, pharmacokinetics (PK) and efficacy kinetics as a function of treatment duration. Three independent pathologists and three different histopathology reading methodologies were used to assess the antifibrotic effect of Aramchol: fibrosis stage based on NASH CRN; ranked assessment (improvement/worsening/stable) of paired (pre- and post-baseline) biopsies, blinded to sequence; and an automated and continuous score of Fibrosis Composite Severity (FCS), using FibroNest™, a quantitative AI digital pathology image analysis method. Noninvasive tests (NITs) included imaging (fibroscan) and biomarkers (liver enzymes, FIB-4, Pro-C3 and ELF).
Aramchol treatment resulted in a high proportion of subjects showing fibrosis improvement based on all three biopsy reading methodologies, with a larger treatment effect with longer duration of therapy. Following a treatment duration of 48 weeks or more, improvement in fibrosis was demonstrated in 39% of subjects according to NASH CRN and 61% of subjects according to ranked assessment. At Week 48 AI demonstrated fibrosis improvement in 100% of subjects when responders were defined by an absolute reduction of the FCS score >0.3, 65% when responders were defined by a relative reduction of >25%, and a statistically significant reduction from baseline in mean FCS score (p<0.0001). NASH resolution without worsening of fibrosis was demonstrated in 26.5% of subjects.
Fibroscan, ALT, AST, and FIB4 were analyzed using MMRM, based on all subjects (N=154). Fibroscan results were consistent, with an improvement in fibrosis showing a mean absolute reduction from baseline to week 72 of 2.5 kPa (p<0.0001). At Week 72, ALT was reduced by 22 U/L (p<0.0001), AST was reduced by 18 U/L (p<0.0001), and FIB-4 was reduced by 0.30 (p<0.0001).
Pro-C3 and ELF were analyzed for 43 subjects at week 24 showing reduction in both Pro-C3 levels (p<0.0001) and ELF (p=0.0038).
The Open Label part demonstrated the good safety profile of Aramchol 300mg BID including long-term follow up. The incidence of serious adverse events (SAEs) was consistent with the population (10.4%) and early discontinuation rates due to adverse events (AEs) were low (4.5%).
Part Two: Histology-Based and Clinically-Based Study
The second part of the ARMOR Study is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Aramchol 300 mg BID to support regulatory approval, with both a histology-based phase and a clinically-based phase. As currently designed, a total of 2000 subjects with NASH and liver fibrosis stage 2 and 3 who are overweight and are either pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes would be randomized 2:1 to receive Aramchol 300mg BID or matching placebo. In the histology-based phase, we intend to treat 1000 subjects with Aramchol or matching placebo for 72 weeks until the second biopsy. The histology-based data is intended to serve as the basis for the submission of a Sub-part H marketing authorization application under regulatory provisions of accelerated/conditional approval. The primary histology-based endpoint is NASH resolution without worsening of fibrosis or fibrosis improvement without NASH worsening. In the clinically-based phase, all subjects will continue with the same treatment assignment for up to seven years until study completion to confirm clinical efficacy. We may announce end-of-study at the time when a total of 380 subjects have experienced at least one pre-specified clinical event or at five years from last subject randomization, whichever comes first. The primary clinically-based endpoint is expected to be based on clinical events including all-cause mortality, histological progression to cirrhosis, MELD score >15, and hepatic decompensation events (e.g., hepatic encephalopathy, variceal bleeding, ascites). If the clinical trial results in the histology-based phase are positive, we plan to submit an NDA for Sub-part H accelerated/conditional approval to the FDA. As discussed elsewhere, we suspended the initiation of the double-blind placebo-controlled histology-based registrational part of ARMOR and are seeking to initiate the double-blind placebo-controlled histology-based registrational part of ARMOR in the second half of 2023, subject to, among other things, the results of our open label part, sufficient funding and clarification of the regulatory approval process for NASH drugs.
The following is a depiction of part two of the ARMOR Study:
In August 2020, we announced significant progress in the development of Amilo-5MER, a 5 amino acid synthetic peptide MTADV (Methionine, Threonine, Alanine, Aspartic acid, Valine). The 5 amino acids sequence of Amilo-5MER is homologue to a specific MTADV sequence in the human CD44 variant found in synovial fluid cells from joints of rheumatoid arthritis, or RA patients.
Amilo-5MER is being developed through a research collaboration between us and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The molecule originated in the laboratory of Prof. David Naor, from the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research, Faculty of Medicine, The Hebrew University. Prof. Naor and his team were the first to publish this specific sequence in the prestigious scientific communication Journal of Clinical Investigation 1.
Amilo-5MER binds to three pro-inflammatory amyloid proteins, Serum Amyloid A, or SAA, Transthyretin and Apolipoprotein B with high affinity. The first two are known to be active only in their aggregated forms. By binding to SAA, Amilo-5MER interferes with SAA aggregation and therefor inhibits the destructive autocrine, self-amplifying cytokine loop that causes additional inflammatory reaction.
SAA constitutes acute phase reactants, whose concentration in serum rise rapidly in response to acute stimuli such as infection and trauma. An elevated concentration of SAA was identified in sera of patients with multiple autoimmune diseases and more recently, an outstanding increase of SAA was also detected in COVID-19 infected patients2-3. SAA in its aggregated form, is a potent and rapid inducer of cytokine secretion (particularly Interleukin 6 (IL-6). IL-6 plays an important role in chronic inflammation and is implicated in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, RA, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD and acute COVID 19. Interference with SAA polymerization and aggregation is a valid target to prevent chronic inflammatory conditions.
Amilo-5MER has been shown to significantly reduce chronic inflammation in animal models of RA, IBD and MS (research work supported by a grant to Prof. Naor from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) of the USA). Amilo-5MER provides a unique mechanism of action to interfere with this vicious cycle, enabling a specific treatment for chronic inflammatory diseases. Data generated from multiple in-vitro, in-vivo and human ex-vivo models have shown that Amilo-5MER significantly improves clinical symptoms. Histological improvements and reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion were also observed.
Amilo-5MER is considered a New Chemical Entity. As such, it is eligible for NCE patent protection until July 2034. Patents have been granted and maintained in the US (US 1061181937), Europe (EP 3169343) and Australia (AU 2015291151) and have been allowed in Japan (JP 6671363).
In March 2021, we dosed the first subject in our first in human Phase 1 trial of Amilo-5MER for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. The trial was a three-part, single center, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled first in human study of single ascending doses (Part 1) and multiple doses (Part 2) of Amilo-5MER in young healthy adult male subjects and a single dose cohort in healthy elderly male and female subjects (Part 3). Overall, 55 healthy male and female subjects were enrolled in the study. Cohorts of 8 subjects were randomized to receive Amilo-5MER or placebo by subcutaneous injection in a ratio of 6:2. In Part 1, cohorts of young male adults received single ascending doses of 10, 30, 90, 180 and 360 mg; in Part 2, a single cohort received doses of 180 mg BID for 5 consecutive days and in Part 3 a single cohort of healthy elderly male and female subjects received a single dose of 180 mg. The primary objectives of the trial were to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of Amilo-5MER. In January 2022, we announced results in which all doses of Amilo-5MER were well tolerated with no clinically significant adverse events and none considered related to the investigational product. All subjects completed the study as per protocol. Overall exposure to Amilo-5MER increased with an increase in dose, with statistically significant dose proportionality over the 10 mg to 360 mg dose range. We are currently evaluating which indication to pursue further development of Amilo-5MER.
Additional Pre-clinical and Clinical Studies Required for Regulatory Submissions
Since the completion of the Phase 2a study, pre-clinical toxicology studies have been conducted to support our ongoing clinical programs and regulatory submissions. These studies were performed in compliance with the EMA’s ICH M3 (R2) guidelines. The toxicity program for Aramchol included repeat dose studies of up to six months in rats and up to nine months in dogs by oral administration, the intended route of administration in the clinical trials and beyond. The dose level of 1000 mg/kg/day in rats and 1500 mg/kg/day in dogs, which is the maximal feasible dose in both species showed no side effect and therefore the highest dose of the study was selected as the no-observed-adverse-effect-level, or NOAEL. There were no observations noted in the rat study. The findings in the dog study were limited to changes in plasma lipids, including decreases in total blood cholesterol levels, LDL, HDL and phospholipids, and a slight increase in the size of the adrenal glands, which were considered to be an extension of the primary pharmacology of Aramchol and non-toxic effects, and skin scales from week 13 onwards in all Aramchol-treated groups, with a dose-related incidence. After six months this was not accompanied by any microscopic alteration of the skin and therefore considered not toxicologically relevant. Results from the study show that after nine months the presence of scales in all Aramchol-treated groups was accompanied by minor test item-related microscopic findings in the skin: Hyperkeratosis of the epidermis, correlating to the scales, and keratin plugs in the hair follicles (in males at 750/500 and 1500 mg/kg). After a 12-week treatment-free recovery period, fewer scales were noted and microscopically there was partial recovery. As these findings were minor and no clinical symptoms like scratching were noted, these findings were considered not adverse.
Aramchol was non-mutagenic in vitro in the Ames test and chromosomal aberrations test, each of which is a test to determine whether the subject chemical can cause mutations in the DNA of an organism. In addition, in bone marrow micronucleus test in male rats at a 2000 mg/kg oral dose (the maximum recommended dose in accordance with ICH S2 (R1)), Aramchol was not clastogenic, meaning it did not give rise to or induce disruption or breakages of chromosomes, nor was it aneugenic, meaning it did not cause the number of chromosomes in the nucleus of a cell to not be an exact multiple of the monoploid number of a particular species.
Embryo-fetal development toxicity was assessed in rats and rabbits. No maternal or fetal development toxicity was observed in either species. The NOAEL for maternal and development toxicity was at least 1000 mg/kg in rats and 750 mg/kg in rabbits (the maximum feasible dose in both species).
No maximum tolerated doses were reached in the studies. Over 50-fold safety margin exposure was achieved in dogs but not in rats. However, for rats, at least three of the four ICH M3(R2) safety margin criteria were met, and for dogs all four criteria were met. Blood tests revealed a decrease in total blood cholesterol levels, including LDL, HDL and phospholipids, and there was a slight increase in the size of the adrenal glands of the dogs, which WIL Research assessed as a physiologic compensatory response to the decrease in blood cholesterol levels. WIL Research did not consider the decrease in blood cholesterol levels or the physiologic response of the adrenal glands as a toxic effect, but rather as a pharmacodynamic effect, which is a biochemical and physiological effect of the drug on the body. Based on the above, it was concluded that the overall safety data for Aramchol is sufficient to support the proposed Phase 2b clinical trial.
To support any potential future NDA, we have commenced or are planning to commence several safety studies. Additionally, we plan in the future to conduct a study of Aramchol in the pediatric population.
In addition, we are conducting carcinogenicity studies to identify whether Aramchol has any tumorigenic potential upon long-term administration in support of any future NDAs or MAAs. Under FDA guidance, we are required to perform two studies, one in rats and the other in mice. The carcinogenicity study in rats is a two-year study which was initiated in February 2020 and finalized during 2022. There were no significant adverse findings reported over the course of the study.
Aramchol for the Treatment of Other Indications
On February 14, 2018, we announced topline results from the investigator initiated ARRIVE Study for HIV associated lipodystrophy and NAFLD patients. HIV patients have advanced liver disease which is a major cause for morbidity and mortality. ARRIVE, a Phase 2a, investigator initiated clinical trial conducted at the University of California
San Diego by Professor Rohit Loomba was a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, 12 weeks, proof-of-concept study that evaluated the safety and efficacy of Aramchol at 600mg/day versus placebo in 50 patients with HIV-associated lipodystrophy and NAFLD. The primary end point of successful therapy was improvement in hepatic steatosis at 12 weeks, as measured by MRI-PDFF. Secondary endpoints were improvement in total body fat, metabolic profile, and liver biochemistry. Liver biopsies were not included as part of the evaluation in this pilot trial. The trial showed no difference between HIV patients receiving Aramchol for 12 weeks when compared with HIV patients in the placebo arm. Aramchol showed a favorable safety and tolerability profile. Although the pathology (fatty liver) is similar to “garden variety” NASH, the pathogenesis involved in the HIV lipodystrophy and NAFLD is different and multi factorial including the effect of the virus itself and the anti-HIV medications.
On November 13, 2014, we announced the first administration of Aramchol in a proof-of-concept Phase 2a clinical trial for the treatment of newly formed cholesterol gallstones following bariatric surgery. The primary end-point was to prove that Aramchol dissolves newly formed gallbladder gallstones following bariatric surgery. Patients were to be assigned to one of three treatment arms; 400mg tablets, 600mg tablets and placebo. Only 9 patients were enrolled, and 7 patients completed the study. Due to poor patient recruitment and change in Company focus, we decided to terminate the study on October 1, 2015. We currently believe that it is unlikely that we will revive another study in cholesterol gallstones.
In July 2022, we announced results showing significant effects of Aramchol in pre-clinical model of both lung and gastrointestinal (GI) fibrosis. Fibrosis is a common complication of chronic inflammation and can affect all organs and tissues. To date, only limited anti-fibrotic drugs are approved or are in development, most of which have restricting side effects. Aramchol is a partial inhibitor of SCD1 with distinctive, direct, anti-fibrotic activity demonstrated in several pre-clinical models. Treatment with Aramchol resulted in statistically significant fibrosis improvement in a validated bleomycin model of lung fibrosis (IPF), comparable to Pirfenidone which is the gold standard treatment. Findings were seen across all important indicators for the severity of fibrosis including hydroxyproline (a marker for collagen deposition in the fibrotic tissue) P< 0.05, Ashcroft score P < 0.005, % CPA (Percentage Collagen Proportionate Area of the lung) P < 0.001, and immunohistochemistry (type I collagen and a SMA) P < 0.005 for both staining. Statistically significant improvements were also demonstrated in a validated DSS model of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) induced colitis model is widely used because of its similarities with human ulcerative colitis. Clinical improvements were statistically significant at least by p value < 0.05 while in histological score (based on inflammation and colon structural changes) significance was as low as p<0.01. Aramchol was found to be the most effective compound tested. Control groups included 5-ASA and local steroids which are the gold standards for current treatment.
Strategic Collaborations, Research Arrangements and other Agreements
Samil Pharma. Co., Ltd.
On July 28, 2016, we entered into a license agreement, referred to herein as the Samil Agreement, with Samil for the commercialization of Aramchol (with the option to manufacture) in the Republic of Korea, or the Territory.
Under the terms of the Samil Agreement, the Company has granted Samil an exclusive licence, or the Samil License, for fatty liver indications including NASH, or the Field of Use, in the Republic of Korea, or the Territory to such information concerning Aramchol as may be required to support Samil’s applications for regulatory approvals, or the Licensed Information, and the patents for the import, marketing, use, sale, offer for sale, commercialisation and distribution (and, if the option is exercised, manufacture) of Aramchol in tablet form, or any other physical form as may be produced or manufactured by or on behalf of Galmed or by a third party for Galmed and, if the option set out below is exercised, any products within the Field of Use, the development, manufacture or sale of which is based, in whole or in part, on, or involves the use of, the Licensed Information or covered under any patent, or the Product.
The Samil License shall remain in force with respect to each Product (if the Samil Agreement is not early terminated) until the later of: (i) the date of expiry in the Territory of the last of any patent covering such Product or any formulation, dosing or administration form thereof; and (ii) the date of expiry of a period of 20 years commencing on the date of first commercial sale by Samil or a sublicensee of such Product in the Territory.
Upon the signing of the Samil Agreement, Samil paid the Company a gross upfront fee of approximately $2.1 million and in September 2018, we received a milestone payment of $1.5 million. Samil has also agreed to pay additional clinical and regulatory-based milestone payments, which may aggregate to an additional $4.5 million, as well as tiered, double-digit royalties payable on sales (lower if sales of a generic equivalent commence in the Territory).
Pursuant to the terms of the Samil Agreement, following the first achievement of US$25 million of net sales in any calendar year following the first commercial sale of the Product in the Territory, Samil shall have the option to request that the Licensed Information include methods for the formulation of Aramchol from its API, to allow for the manufacture of Aramchol by Samil; provided, however, that we shall have the option, to widen the definition of the Licensed Information as aforesaid at any time.
We shall be entitled, at our option: (i) to modify the Samil License with respect to any Product so that it is non-exclusive only; or (ii) to terminate the Samil License hereunder, with respect to any Product if: (a) a first purchasing order from Samil for at least one Product shall not have been placed by 6 months following the grant of the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety new drug approval; or (b) commercial sale of such Product having commenced and either (i) there shall be a period of 1 year during which no sales of any Product shall take place, or (ii) within 1 year of such commencement, aggregate sales of Products shall not have reached a reasonable level, as determined by the joint development committee, in each case, except as a result of force majeure or other factors beyond the control of Samil. Further, we shall be entitled to terminate the Samil Agreement if Samil challenges the validity of any of the patents. If any such challenge is unsuccessful, Samil shall (in addition to our right to terminate) pay us liquidated damages in the amounts of US $8,000,000. Either party may terminate the Samil Agreement (i) upon the other party’s material breach if such party fails to cure such breach within 30 days, or, in the case of failure by Samil to pay any amount due from Samil to us pursuant to or in connection with the Samil Agreement 14 days after receiving written notice thereof, or (ii) upon customary events such as the granting of a winding-up order if such order or act is not cancelled within 60 days.
In the event that we do not achieve the primary endpoint as defined in the study protocol, or Successful Completion, of the ARREST Study, we shall as soon as practicable notify Samil of the non-achievement of such Successful Completion, and within 60 days thereof, notify Samil in writing either:
(i) that we have decided not to develop the Licensed Information further for the Field of Use, or the Cessation Notice, or (ii) that we intend to continue with such development notwithstanding the non-achievement of such Successful Completion, or the Licensor Continuation Notice. Also, in the event that we do not achieve the Successful Completion of the potential Phase 3 Study, we shall, as soon as practicable, notify Samil accordingly, or the Notice of Non-Success. Samil shall thereafter have the option, by notice in writing served to us within 45 days of Samil’s receipt of either a Cessation Notice, a Licensor Continuation Notice or a Notice of Non-Success, as applicable, to indicate its intention either: (i) to terminate the Samil License, or (ii) to continue research and development of the Licensed Information in the Field of Use in the Territory, or the Licensee Continuation Notice. In the event Samil shall serve a Licensee Continuation Notice following the service of a Cessation Notice or a Notice of Non-Success, any such continuation by Samil shall be subject to the entry by Samil into a written agreement with us as to the terms and conditions which would govern such continued research and development, which would be carried out according to Samil’s own development plan and at its sole expense. In the event Samil serves a Licensee Continuation Notice following the service of a Licensor Continuation Notice, or Agreed Continuation, the Samil Agreement shall continue in accordance with its terms. In August 2018, Samil sent a Licensee Continuation Notice to us.
Additionally, following the Successful Completion of the ARREST Study or Agreed Continuation following non-achievement of Successful Completion of the ARREST Study, Samil shall, for a period of 90 days following the date of written notification to it by us of such Successful Completion or following the date of Agreed Continuation following non-achievement of Successful Completion, have the option to require that the Territory be extended to include Vietnam, or the Extension Option. In the event that Samil exercises its Extension Option, the parties shall conduct negotiations in good faith for up to 30 days thereafter in order to agree on milestone payments which would replace those set out in the Samil Agreement. In the event that agreement is not reached in such regard within such period, the Extension Option shall terminate. Discussions for the extension of the Samil License to Vietnam are ongoing.
We have entered into a research and option agreement with Yissum, the tech transfer company of the Hebrew University with respect to our Amilo-5MER, a 5 amino acid synthetic peptide MTADV (Methionine, Threonine, Alanine, Aspartic acid, Valine). Under this agreement, we are able to research and initially develop Amilo-5MER, are required to fund the initial research and have been granted an exclusive option to negotiate and enter into a definitive license agreement with Yissum for Amilo-5MER upon certain pre-agreed upon terms and such other terms to be agreed upon.
As a result of the success in the Phase 1 study, we exercised our option and on June 28, 2021, we entered into a license agreement with Yissum pursuant to which Yissum granted us a worldwide, exclusive and irrevocable license to develop and commercialize Amilo-5MER. In November, 2021, the grant of the license took effect when it was approved by the Israel Innovation Authority. Under the license agreement, we are responsible for carrying out the development and commercialization of Amilo-5MER and the prosecution and maintenance of the licensed patents under the license agreement. In consideration for the grant of the license, we have agreed to pay to Yissum an upfront license fee of $100,000, payments of up to $950,000 upon meeting certain regulatory milestones, single digit royalties on any future net sales and a share of any sublicense fees. Unless earlier terminated, the license will continue in effect on a product-by-product and country-by-country basis until the later of (i) the expiration of the last to expire patent covering the licensed technology in such country, (ii) the expiration of any exclusivity on Amilo-5MER granted by a regulatory body in such country, and (iii) 15 years from the first commercial sale in such country. The license agreement may be terminated early for material breach or bankruptcy. In addition, we may terminate the license agreement without cause upon 90 days prior written notice to Yissum and Yissum may terminate the license agreement upon written notice to us under certain limited circumstances.
On January 5, 2023, we entered into a non-binding term sheet, or the Term Sheet, for an equity investment in OnKai, a US-based technology company developing an AI-based platform to advance healthcare for underserved populations across the United States by facilitating alignment between healthcare stakeholders. The Term Sheet provides for an investment, or the Investment Round. of at least $2.5 million, of which we shall invest $1.5 million in exchange for series seed preferred shares of OnKai (which is in addition to a $1.5 million investment that was made by us in OnKai through a Simple Agreement for Future Equity and which will convert at a 15% discount into series seed preferred shares upon consummation of the Investment Round). Assuming a $2.5 million Investment Round, we are expected to hold approximately 17% of the outstanding share capital of OnKai on an as-converted and fully diluted basis. The Term Sheet further contemplates, among other things, that the Company will be granted certain customary pre-emptive rights as well as registration rights, first refusal rights, co-sale rights and broad based weighted average anti-dilution rights, a board seat, and certain customary protective provisions. The closing of the Investment Round is subject, among other things, to the entry into of definitive documents and certain closing conditions.
We contemplate entering into a collaboration agreement with OnKai on or around the time of the consummation of the Investment Round in which the Company is expected to share resources with OnKai in enriching its AI platform. In addition, it is contemplated that Allen Baharaff will serve in as a board member with OnKai while continuing to serve as CEO of the Company.
OnKai is developing a proprietary technology, a “smart grid”, that maps local clinics serving millions of underserved Americans and streams to these clinics resources, including funding, specialists, training, and access to clinical studies. This is intended to facilitate faster clinical trial enrollment and provide clinical trials as a healthcare option in these communities by bringing novel medications, such as access to orphan drugs, to communities in need. We believe that it will potentially benefit in the future from enhanced access to a pool of clinical trial participants for the advancement of our product candidates.
The pharmaceutical industry is characterized by rapidly evolving technology, intense competition and a highly risky, costly and lengthy research and development process. Adequate protection of intellectual property, successful product development, adequate funding and retention of skilled, experienced and professional personnel are among the many factors critical to success in the pharmaceutical industry.
Along with our Phase 3 Aramchol study, other companies, including Madrigal Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inventiva Pharma, Cirius Therapeutics and Novo Nordisk A/S, have molecules currently in Phase 3 clinical development. Additionally, there are a host of other potential competitors in earlier stages of clinical development relative to us for the treatment of NASH. Eli Lilly and Company, Pfizer, Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novo Nordisk A/S, Merck, Viking Therapeutics, Inc., Metacrine, Inc., Poxel SA, Can-Fite BioPharma, 89bio, Inc., Sagimet Biosciences Inc. Terns, Inc., AstraZeneca and Hepanova Inc. and others.
In February 2019, Intercept Pharmaceuticals announced its Phase 3 results of their OCA drug for the treatment of liver fibrosis due to NASH and Intercept reported that it submitted an NDA to the FDA seeking accelerated approval of OCA for NASH and an MAA to the EMA. According to Intercept, in June 2020 it received a CRL from the FDA with respect to its NDA for OCA for liver fibrosis due to NASH and the CRL indicated that, based on the data the FDA had reviewed, the FDA has determined that the predicted benefit of OCA based on a surrogate histopathologic endpoint remains uncertain and does not sufficiently outweigh the potential risks to support accelerated approval for the treatment of patients with liver fibrosis due to NASH. Furthermore, according to Intecept, the FDA recommended that it submit additional post-interim analysis efficacy and safety data from its ongoing REGENERATE trial in support of potential accelerated approval and that the long-term outcomes phase of the trial should continue. Intercept reported that in December 2021, it withdrew its MAA as the established application timeline could not be extended any further to allow for submission of additional safety and efficacy data being generated from the REGENERATE study and the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use was not able to determine a positive benefit-risk based on previously submitted data. In December 2022, Intercept reported that it resubmitted an NDA to the FDA for OCA for the treatment of patients with pre-cirrhotic liver fibrosis due to NASH and in January 2023, Intercept reported that the FDA accepted the resubmission and assigned a Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) target action date of June 22, 2023.
In December 2022, Madrigal announced positive topline results from its pivotal Phase 3 MAESTRO-NASH biopsy clinical trial of resmetirom, a liver-directed selective thyroid hormone receptor agonist. MAESTRO-NASH, in which Madrigal reported that it achieved both liver histological improvement endpoints that FDA proposed as reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit to support accelerated approval for the treatment NASH with liver fibrosis.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, see “Item 3. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business, Industry and Regulatory Requirements—Our market is subject to intense competition. If we are unable to compete effectively, Aramchol or any other product candidate that we develop may be rendered noncompetitive or obsolete” and “Item 3. Key Information—Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business, Industry and Regulatory Requirements—We are developing Aramchol for the treatment of NASH, an indication for which there are no approved products, and there is significant uncertainty regarding the regulatory approval process. This makes it difficult to predict the timing and costs of the clinical development of Aramchol for the treatment of NASH.”
Intellectual Property and Patent Strategy
The proprietary nature of, and protection for, Aramchol or Amilo-5MER or any other product candidate and our discovery programs for new indications, processes and know-how are important to our business. We own patent rights to Aramchol and Amilo-5MER in various jurisdictions worldwide, including within and outside of Israel. We have sought patent protection in the United States and internationally for Aramchol and Amilo-5MER, our discovery programs, and any other inventions to which we have rights, where available and when appropriate. The term of U.S. Patent No. 7,501,403, covering the use of Aramchol for the treatment of fatty liver, has been extended by 567 days due to patent term adjustments, or PTA, resulting in an effective expiration date of November 3, 2023. We have granted patents and pending patent applications in various jurisdictions relating to (1) the composition of matter of Aramchol meglumine as well as a wide range of other salts, or the CoM Patent; (2) a method for treating/inhibiting hepatic fibrosis and non-hepatic fibrosis associated or non-associated with NASH or NAFLD, or the Hepatic Fibrosis Patent; and (3) a method of treating dysbiosis, or the Dysbiosis Patent. In addition, we have pending patent applications for Aramchol meglumine and other salts, including a granted U.S. patent for low dose composition of Aramchol (US 10,849,911 B2) and other salts. We have been allowed or granted patents for Aramchol and other salts which includes claims for the treatment of fatty liver in Europe and certain other countries. The CoM Patent application was granted on February 7, 2023 in the United States, allowed in Brazil on March 7, 2023 and is still pending in India. The CoM Patent that was granted in the United States expires on December 4, 2034, subject to appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity or other governmental fees being paid. The Hepatic Fibrosis Patent has been granted in United States (US 11,197,870 B2) and Canada and in Israel and expires in each jurisdiction in 2037. The Dysbiosis Patent was granted in U.S., Israel and Mexico and expires in each jurisdiction at the end of 2038 (including PTA). In addition, a patent applications were granted in Israel relating to Aramchol use in NAFLD and NASH treatments and in Mexico relating to Aramchol use to treat pulmonary fibrosis. Also, a patent was granted in Mexico and allowed, and will be granted on April 5, 2023, in Europe (EP 3538159) relating to Aramchol use for inhibition of fibrosis in NAFLD patients (having fibrosis score of zero (0)). We also have pending patent applications (WO/2020/049556) for combination therapy for the treatment of liver disease in the United States, Canada, Europe, South Korea, India, Japan, China, Brazil and Israel.
We have an exclusive license to a US granted patent directed to Amilo-5MER and anti-inflammatory compositions thereof. The US Patent will be in full force and effect until July 15, 2035 subject to PTE of 84 day. On 24 January 2023 our collaborator, YISSUM RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT COMPANY OF THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM LTD was granted a new patent (US 11,560, 417 B2, a division of US 10,611,819 B2) for using the 5MER for the treatment of inflammatory diseases which has 157 days of PTA and therefore should be valid until end of 2035.
We also have a pending PCT international application, filed 2021, directed to peptides for treating acute respiratory distress syndrome. “GALMED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT LTD” is a co-applicant in this PCT application with “YISSUM RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT COMPANY OF THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM LTD. The patent term for this patent family is due to expire about on, 2041, not including any patent term extension.
Our policy is to pursue, maintain and defend patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from third parties, and to protect the technology, inventions and improvements that are commercially important to the development of our business. We also rely on trade secrets that may be important to the development of our business.
Patent Portfolio for Aramchol and Aramchol Meglumine
The patent portfolio for Aramchol contains eight patent families including pending patent applications and granted patents directed to composition of matter, manufacturing methods and methods of use.
The first patent family discloses and claims additional FABACs with different conjugation moieties, as well as the use of these and the compounds disclosed in the first patent family above, including Aramchol, in the treatment of fatty liver, reduction of serum cholesterol and treatment of hyperglycemia and diabetes. This patent family includes a U.S. patent directed to the treatment of fatty liver a U.S. patent directed to reduction of serum cholesterol by administering additional forms of FABACs, and a U.S. patent (Continuation-in-Part) directed to the treatment of hyperglycemia and diabetes. This patent family also includes two European patents, one patent which was validated in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, and the second patent which was granted in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The family also includes patents in Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine. A foreign patent application is granted in the Czech Republic. The non-extended patent term for this patent family expired on April 15, 2022, with the exception of the Israeli patent, which expired on April 17, 2021. The terms of the U.S. patents in this family have been extended due to patent term adjustments of 567 days for U.S. Patent 7,501,403, which is directed to the treatment of fatty liver, and 24 days for U.S. Patent 8,110,564, which is directed to reduction of serum cholesterol, and 356 days for U.S. Patent 8,975,246, which is directed to disorders associated with altered glucose metabolism or insulin action.
A second patent family directed to topical uses of FABAC compounds (anti-acne) was granted in Europe and maintained in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. If appropriate and the appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity or other governmental fees are paid, the non-extended term for this patent family is due to expire in August 2033, not including any patent term extension.
A third patent family discloses and claims second generation FABAC salt compounds include Aramchol meglumine. This patent family includes Granted U.S., shortly allowed in Brazil and still pending application in India and granted patents in Europe (maintained in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Turkey, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Switzerland and United Kingdom), China, Hong Kong, Macau, Canada, Israel, Korea and in Japan, as well as in Australia. If granted and the appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity or other governmental fees are paid, the non-extended term for this patent family is due to expire in December 4, 2034, not including any patent term extension.
A fourth patent family having one U.S. patent application, discloses and claims compositions comprising low doses of the second generation FABAC compounds Aramchol meglumine and other salts which was granted by the USPTO. When the appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity or other governmental fees are paid, the non-extended term for this patent family is due to expire in December 2034.
A fifth family is directed to treatment for modulating gut microbiota and/or dysbiosis using Aramchol. This patent family includes a granted patents in Israel, U.S. and in Mexico; and pending foreign patent applications in Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong and Japan. When the appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity or other governmental fees are paid, the non-extended term for this patent family is due to expire in January 2036, not including any patent term extension. In U.S. the granted patent has a patent term adjustment (681 days), hence it is due to expire about December 2038.
A sixth patent family and eighth family, both having PCT international applications filed in 2017 and two pending US applications, are directed to uses of Aramchol and Aramchol meglumine for treating and inhibiting fibrosis. The two PCT applications entered National Phase in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Hong-Kong, Israel, Japan, Korea and Mexico. It was granted in Canada and Israel and the treatment of pulmonary fibrosis was granted in Mexico. If granted and the appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity or other governmental fees are paid, the non-extended term of this patent family is due to expire in November 2037, not including any patent term extension. Additionally, a U.S. patent application directed to a method for treating hepatic fibrosis non-associated with non-alcoholic fatty acid liver disease – was granted, and is due to expire in October 2037. In addition, a US continuation-in-part claiming priority to all of the above applications was filed in November 2018 and claims the treatment and inhibition of fibrosis by a regimen of 300 mg of Aramchol twice daily. The improved bio-availability of Aramchol is supported by the pharmacological model based on the preclinical and the ARREST data. Also, PCT application directed to treatment and inhibition of fibrosis by a regimen of 300 mg of Aramchol twice daily entered national phase in: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Israel and Mexico. The Israeli national phase directed to the treatment and inhibition of fibrosis by a regimen of 300 mg of Aramchol twice daily – was granted. If granted and the appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity or other governmental fees are paid, the non-extended term of this patent family is due to expire in October 2037, not including any patent term extension.
A seventh patent family is directed to a combination therapy of FABAC and at least one thyroid hormone receptor agonist or thyroid hormone mimetic for treating fatty liver disease; and has a PCT application which entered National Phase in: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Israel, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico and U.S. The patent term for this patent family is due to expire in September 3, 2038, not including any patent term extension.
Patent Portfolio for Amilo-5MER
The patent portfolio for Amilo-5MER contains three patent families including pending patent applications and granted patents directed to composition of matter and methods of use.
The first patent family is directed to Amilo-5MER and anti-inflammatory compositions thereof. Galmed Research and Development Ltd. has an exclusive license to the U.S. granted patent within this family, and this U.S. patent will expire at October 2035, including 84 days of patent term adjustment. Galmed Research and Development Ltd. has also exclusive licenses to the corresponding granted patents in Europe, Australia, Japan, China and India. The corresponding applications in Brazil, Korea and Canada are pending. The non-US patent term is due to expire on July 2035. A divisional application claiming the use of Amilo-5MER for the treatment of inflammatory diseases was granted in January 2023.
The second patent family is directed to peptides for treating acute respiratory distress syndrome. This family includes a pending PCT international patent application. Galmed Research and Development Ltd. is a co-applicant in this PCT application with Yissum. The patent term for this patent family is due to expire about on August 2041, not including any patent term extension.
Our commercial success will depend in part on obtaining and maintaining patent protection and trade secret protection of our current and other product candidates and the methods used to develop and manufacture them, as well as successfully defending these patents against third-party challenges. Our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing our products depends on the extent to which we have rights under valid and enforceable patents or trade secrets that cover these activities. We believe that our patents provide broad and comprehensive coverage of Aramchol and the Amilo-5MER and uses thereof. However, the patent positions of biopharmaceutical companies, such as ourselves, are generally uncertain and involve complex legal and factual questions. Our ability to maintain and solidify our proprietary position for the technology will depend on our success in obtaining effective claims and enforcing those claims once granted. There is no certainty that any of the Company’s pending patent applications will result in the issuance of any patents. The issued patents and those that may be issued in the future, may be challenged, narrowed, circumvented or found to be invalid or unenforceable, which could limit our ability to stop competitors from marketing related products or the length of term of patent protection that we may have for our products. In addition, our competitors may independently develop similar technologies or duplicate any technology developed by us, and the rights granted under any issued or future patents may not provide us with any meaningful competitive advantages against these competitors. Furthermore, because of the extensive time required for development, testing and regulatory review of a potential product, before any of our products can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in force for only a short period following commercialization, thereby reducing any advantage of such patent. For more risks associated with the protection of our licensed intellectual property, see “Item 3. Key Information— Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
In addition to patents, we rely on trade secrets and know-how to develop and maintain our competitive position. Trade secrets and know-how can be difficult to protect. We seek to protect our proprietary processes, in part, by confidentiality agreements and invention assignment agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors, contractors and commercial partners. These agreements are designed to protect our proprietary information. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data, trade secrets and know-how by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, such agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors or others.
Our business and operations are generally not affected by seasonal fluctuations or factors.
Raw Materials and Suppliers
We believe that the raw materials that we require to manufacture Aramchol are readily available commodities commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry.
We do not own or operate manufacturing facilities for the production of Aramchol or any other product candidate, nor do we have plans to develop our own manufacturing operations in the foreseeable future. We currently rely on third-party contract manufacturers for all of our required raw materials, API and finished product for our non-clinical research and clinical trials. We do not have long term agreements with any of these third parties. We also do not have any current contractual relationships for the manufacture of commercial supplies of Aramchol if it is approved. If Aramchol or any other product candidate are approved by any regulatory agency, we intend to enter into agreements with a third-party contract manufacturer or collaboration partner and one or more back-up manufacturers for the commercial production of those products. Development and commercial quantities of any products that we develop will need to be manufactured in facilities, and by processes, that comply with the requirements of the FDA and the regulatory agencies of other jurisdictions in which we are seeking approval. We currently employ internal resources to manage our manufacturing contractors. The relevant manufacturers of our drug substance and drug products for our current pre-clinical and clinical tr