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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, DC 20549

 

Form 10-K

(Mark One)

 

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

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2017

 

OR

 

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

 

For the transition period from          to          

 

Commission file number 001-37809

 

Gemphire Therapeutics Inc.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Delaware

 

47‑2389984

(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

 

(IRS Employer Identification No.)

 

 

 

17199 N. Laurel Park Drive, Suite 401, Livonia, MI

 

48152

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip Code)

 

(734) 245‑1700

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934:

 

Title of Each Class

 

Name of Exchange on Which Registered

Common stock, $0.001 par value

 

The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes No

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the ActYes No

 

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

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes  ☒    No  ☐

 

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.   ☐

 

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

 

 

 

Large accelerated filer  ☐

Accelerated filer  ☐

 

 

Non-accelerated filer  ☒

Smaller reporting company  ☐

(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)

 

 

 

Emerging growth company  ☒

 

 

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

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12(b)-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934). Yes  ☐  No  ☒

 

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $71.3 million on June 30, 2017, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter.

 

The number of outstanding shares of the registrant’s common stock, $0.001 par value, as of March 7, 2018 was 14,225,900.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Parts of the Proxy Statement for the Registrant’s 2018 Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be filed subsequently are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

 


 

Gemphire Therapeutics Inc.

FORM 10-K

INDEX

 

PART I 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1 

Business

5

Item 1A 

Risk Factors

53

Item 1B 

Unresolved Staff Comments

93

Item 2 

Properties

93

Item 3 

Legal Proceedings

93

Item 4 

Mine Safety Disclosures

94

 

 

 

PART II 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 5 

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

94

Item 6 

Selected Financial Data

95

Item 7 

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

97

Item 7A 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

112

Item 8 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

113

Item 9 

Changes In and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

141

Item 9A 

Controls and Procedures 

141

Item 9B 

Other Information

142

 

 

 

PART III 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 10 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

142

Item 11 

Executive Compensation

142

Item 12 

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

142

Item 13 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions and Director Independence

142

Item 14 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

142

 

 

 

PART IV 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 15 

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

142

 

 

 

SIGNATURES 

146

 

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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

Unless the context requires otherwise, references in this Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Report”) to "we," "us," "the Company" and "our" refer to Gemphire Therapeutics Inc.

 

This Report, including under the headings “Business,” "Risk Factors," and "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations," contains forward-looking statements. We may, in some cases, use words such as "anticipate," "believe," "could," "estimate," "expect," "intend," "may," "plan," "potential," "predict," "project," "should," "will," "would" or the negative of those terms, and similar expressions that convey uncertainty of future events or outcomes to identify these forward-looking statements. Any statements contained herein that are not statements of historical facts may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this Report include, but are not limited to, statements about:

 

§

our anticipated timing of regulatory submissions; commencement and completion of preclinical studies and clinical trials, meetings with the FDA and other regulatory authorities; and product approvals for gemcabene or any other product candidates we may pursue in the future;

§

the outcome of our ongoing preclinical toxicology studies related to our partial clinical hold with respect to clinical trials of longer than six months in duration;

§

the outcome of our Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials of gemcabene and our ability to replicate positive results from a completed clinical trial in a future clinical trial;

§

our expected clinical trial designs and regulatory pathways;

§

our expectation that the FDA will not require us to complete a cardiovascular outcomes trial prior to approval;

§

our expectations for the attributes of gemcabene or any other product candidate we may pursue in the future, including pharmaceutical properties, efficacy, safety, dosing regimens and cost, as compared to other lipid-lowering therapies;

§

our ability to design an efficient development plan;

§

our expectation that our existing capital resources will be sufficient to enable us to complete our planned late stage clinical trials and complete certain preclinical studies;

§

our plans to advance the late-stage clinical development of gemcabene across multiple target indications, pursue oral combination opportunities for gemcabene, maximize the global commercial value of gemcabene and leverage the expertise and experience of our management team to evaluate future in-license acquisition opportunities;

§

our estimates regarding industry trends and market potential for gemcabene;

§

if approved, our ability to maintain regulatory approval of gemcabene and respond and adhere to regulatory requirements;

§

our ability to identify, in-license or acquire, develop and, if approved, successfully commercialize best-in-class products, including gemcabene or any other product candidates we may pursue in the future;

§

our ability to enhance brand awareness among key thought leaders and physicians;

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§

if approved, the rate and degree of market acceptance of gemcabene or any other product candidates we may pursue in the future;

§

if approved, our ability to compete with other companies that are, or may be, developing or selling products that may compete with gemcabene;

§

reimbursement policies, including any future changes to such policies or related government legislation and our ability to sell gemcabene, if approved;

§

regulatory and legal developments in the United States and in foreign countries;

§

our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection for gemcabene or any other product candidates we may pursue in the future and not infringe upon the intellectual property of others;

§

our ability to fund our working capital requirements;

§

our estimates of our expenses, ongoing losses, future revenue, capital requirements and our needs for, or ability to, obtain additional financing;

§

the ability of any third parties with whom we collaborate for the development and commercialization of gemcabene to successfully perform their assigned functions;

§

our ability to retain and recruit key scientific and management personnel;

§

our financial performance; and

§

our expectations regarding the period during which we qualify as an emerging growth company under the JOBS Act.

These forward-looking statements reflect our management's beliefs and views with respect to future events and are based on estimates and assumptions as of the date of this Report and are subject to risks and uncertainties. We discuss many of these risks in greater detail under "Risk Factors." Moreover, we operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risks emerge from time to time. It is not possible for our management to predict all risks, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements we may make. Given these uncertainties, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.

Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

In addition, statements that "we believe" and similar statements reflect our beliefs and opinions on the relevant subject. These statements are based upon information available to us as of the date of this Report, and while we believe such information forms a reasonable basis for such statements, such information may be limited or incomplete, and our statements should not be read to indicate that we have conducted an exhaustive inquiry into, or review of, all potentially available relevant information. These statements are inherently uncertain and investors are cautioned not to unduly rely upon these statements.

4


 

PART I

ITEM 1.BUSINESS

Overview

Gemphire is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that is committed to helping patients with cardiometabolic disorders, including dyslipidemia and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We are focused on providing new treatment options for cardiometabolic diseases through our complementary, convenient, cost-effective product candidate, gemcabene, as add-on to the standard of care, especially statins, that will benefit patients, physicians, and payors. We are developing our product candidate gemcabene (CI-1027), a novel, once-daily, oral therapy, for pediatric and adult patients who present with NASH and for high risk cardiovascular patients who are unable to achieve normal levels of LDL-C (“bad” cholesterol) or triglycerides (“fats”) with currently approved therapies, primarily statin therapy.  Gemcabene’s potential to treat various subsets of cardiometabolic patients reflects its actions to reduce many known risk factors, particularly LDL-C, triglycerides and high-sensitivity C reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of inflammation. By lowering the burden of these risk factors, we expect that gemcabene will provide benefits to a broad array of fatty liver and cardiometabolic patients.

Gemcabene’s mechanism of action is multifaceted. In the liver gemcabene acts in two major ways to reduce levels of circulating LDL-C and triglycerides: 1) inhibition of the two metabolic pathways that synthesize precursors (i.e., cholesterol and fatty acids) of VLDL-C, LDL-C and triglycerides and 2) stimulation of a liver mechanism known as the remnant receptor pathway that removes particles that contain cholesterol and triglycerides from the blood. Gemcabene’s stimulation of this remnant receptor pathway involves enhanced removal of an LDL-C precursor known as very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs). With regard to gemcabene’s anti-inflammatory properties, in human clinical trials and animal studies to date, gemcabene has been shown to significantly reduce plasma levels of CRP. Furthermore, in preclinical studies of dyslipidemia as well as NASH, gemcabene inhibited production of a number of known pro-inflammatory molecules (e.g., CRP, CCR2, CCR5, IL-6, TNF alpha, MCP-1 and MIP1-beta) as well as pro-fibrotic factors (e.g.,TIMP-1, MMP-2). Gemcabene has been tested as monotherapy or in combination with all U.S. approved doses of the highest intensity statins in nearly 1,100 subjects, including both healthy volunteers and patients, across 23 Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials and has demonstrated promising evidence of efficacy, safety and tolerability. Overall, gemcabene’s multifaceted mechanism of action provides the potential for safely addressing multiple major risk factors in a broad array of adult and pediatric cardiometabolic patients who have an elevated risk of cardiovascular or liver disease, even when taking conventional therapies.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is part of a group of conditions called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that affects one out of four people in the United States. In the United States NASH is estimated to affect between six to eight million people. NAFLD is a major public health concern given the recent increase in its prevalence and link to obesity and other metabolic comorbidities. The presentation of NASH resembles alcoholic liver disease but occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol. The major feature of NASH is excess fat content in the liver, along with inflammation and liver damage. It can lead to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver failure, liver-related death and liver transplantation. NASH is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, as many of the risk factors for NASH are similar to those that lead to cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in this patient population. Prevalence of NASH has increased due to the growing number of obese, dyslipidemic and diabetic patients. It is more common in women than in men and currently there are no FDA approved therapies for treating NASH.

NAFLD has emerged as the leading cause of chronic liver disease in children and adolescents in the United States. A two-to three-fold rise in the rates of obesity and an increase in sedentary life-style in children over the last 20 years is likely responsible for the epidemic of NAFLD. It is estimated that 20% of children between the ages 12 to 19 are obese, and 36% of obese children have NAFLD. NALFD is estimated to affect seven million children overall in the United States. The estimated population prevalence for pediatric NASH is two million children. Pediatric NAFLD and NASH, while similar to the adult disease, can have distinct pathophysiological characteristics in terms of histology, disease progression, and ultimately adverse outcomes at early ages.  Steatosis and portal inflammation tend to be more severe in pediatric NAFLD. Children diagnosed with NAFLD often have elevated serum lipids and diabetes or prediabetes and have a 13.6 times greater risk of dying over the next 20 years, than children without NAFLD. It is estimated that 10 to 25% of children with NAFLD progress to NASH and then advanced fibrosis/cirrhosis by their third or fourth decade of life.

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Cardiovascular disease is a major health concern, causing more deaths globally than any other disease. Dyslipidemia leads to cardiovascular disease and is generally an important predictor of cardiovascular events including heart attack and stroke. Dyslipidemia is generally characterized by an elevation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), or bad cholesterol, triglycerides, or fat in the blood, or both. It represents one of the largest therapeutic areas with annual worldwide drug sales of approximately $22.0 billion in 2013. We estimate more than 40% of Americans have elevated LDL-C or triglycerides, or both. Statins, such as atorvastatin or rosuvastatin, are standard of care for LDL-C lowering, while fibrates, prescription fish oils and niacin are standard of care for triglyceride lowering. Although these drugs are highly prescribed and capable of reducing LDL-C and triglyceride levels, many patients are unable to effectively manage their dyslipidemia with currently approved therapies and are in need of additional treatment options. For example, approximately 40% of patients on statins are unable to meet their LDL-C lowering goal, and doubling a statin dose has been shown to incrementally lower LDL-C levels by a nominal percentage (approximately 6% based on historical evidence), while increasing safety and tolerability concerns. An even higher percentage of patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia do not achieve triglyceride levels low enough to reduce the risk of developing co-morbidities such as pancreatitis.

We believe gemcabene possesses a differentiated product profile compared to other therapies in the market and in clinical development. Key attributes of our product candidate include the following:

·

Cost‑effective, once‑daily, oral therapy.  Gemcabene is a small molecule formulated as a tablet and is cost effective to manufacture. As a once‑daily, oral therapy, gemcabene, if approved, would be more convenient than other non‑statin therapies, many of which require frequent injections or multiple daily doses. We expect to take a value‑based approach to pricing across all the target indications.

·

Promising safety and tolerability.  Gemcabene was observed to be well tolerated in nearly 1,100 subjects across 23 Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials both as monotherapy and in combination with statins. No subjects died and no subjects experienced a serious adverse event (SAE) that was considered to be related to gemcabene. Adverse events (AEs) reported were generally mild to moderate in intensity. Gemcabene did not appear to increase the reporting of myalgia (muscle pain) or liver injury when given as monotherapy or when added to statin therapy in clinical trials.

·

First-in-class mechanism.  Gemcabene is a first-in-class, once-daily, oral therapy that may be suitable for patients who are unable to achieve normal levels of LDL-C or triglycerides with currently approved therapies, primarily statins.  Gemcabene's mechanism of action (MOA) enhances the clearance of very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs) in the plasma and inhibition of the production of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver.  The combined effect of these mechanisms has been clinically observed to result in a reduction of plasma non-HDL-C, VLDL-C, LDL-C, apolipoprotein B and triglycerides.  In addition, gemcabene has been shown to markedly lower high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) in humans and improve insulin sensitization.  Gemcabene’s effects on hsCRP may be due to its effect on reduction of IL-6 expression, as well as its direct effects on inhibiting transcription factors C/EBP-β and NF-kB interaction with the CRP gene.

·

Pleiotropic MOA provides many beneficial attributes. At a high level, gemcabene acts on the liver to reduce production of cholesterol, triglycerides, and hsCRP. It also enhances the liver clearance of cholesterol- and triglyceride-rich particles (e.g., VLDL remnants) via the remnant receptor clearance systems. The molecular details of the clearance mechanisms are actively being elucidated in preclinical studies. Notably, with regard to enhancing the VLDL remnant clearance pathway, gemcabene reduces hepatic apolipoprotein C-III (apoC-III) mRNA expression and plasma apoC-III levels thereby making VLDL more susceptible to lipoprotein lipase mediated lipolysis (breakdown of the VLDL triglyceride to fatty acids for delivery to muscle for energy and adipose for storage) and efficient clearance of the resulting VLDL remnants by the liver VLDL remnant receptor prior to their conversion to LDL. Furthermore, gemcabene was found to enhance VLDL remnant receptor (i.e., also known as syndecan-1) activity by decreasing mRNA levels of an enzyme (sulfatase-2) that inactivates the receptor. Interestingly, diabetic and obese patients generally present with elevated VLDL-C and triglycerides, likely related to their elevated liver sulfatase-2 levels. Other molecular players in gemcabene’s MOA include a reduction in acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC1) mRNA, a key metabolic step in fatty acid synthesis, and a decrease in CCR2/CCR5 receptor mRNA levels, which are involved in liver inflammation and the progression of NASH/NAFLD. 

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·

Significant lipid‑lowering of LDL‑C, high‑sensitivity C‑reactive protein (hsCRP) and triglycerides.  In Phase 2 trials, patients with hypercholesterolemia treated with gemcabene as monotherapy were observed to have significantly lowered LDL‑C by approximately 30% from baseline and significantly lowered hsCRP by approximately 40% from baseline. In addition, patients with hypertriglyceridemia (≥200 mg/dL) were observed to have significantly lowered triglycerides by approximately 40%, and based on post‑hoc analysis, gemcabene was observed to lower triglycerides by up to 60% in patients with severe triglyceride levels (≥500 mg/dL). Our product candidate’s ability to meaningfully lower levels of multiple key lipids attributable to cardiovascular disease may expand its use across multiple indications within the dyslipidemia and NASH Market.

·

Additive effect of gemcabene.  Across multiple Phase 2 trials in patients with uncontrolled hypercholesterolemia, including background stable statin therapy, gemcabene was observed to significantly lower LDL‑C by an additional 21%, range of 17% to 31%, from baseline. In subjects with mixed dyslipidemia, baseline, LDL100mg/dL and TG 200 mg/dL and <500 mg/dL, gemcabene reduced LDL-C by 25%. This data indicates that gemcabene may better treat a large population of patients who are unable to reach their lipid goal with statins and other currently prescribed therapies, including those medications commonly used for diabetes and NASH patients.

·

No drug‑drug interactions when combined with high‑intensity statin doses.  In two Phase 1 trials, gemcabene was tested in combination with high‑intensity statin doses, 80 mg simvastatin and 80 mg atorvastatin. No clinically relevant drug‑drug interactions were observed. In addition, gemcabene has been formulated as a fixed‑dose combination tablet with various atorvastatin doses, which may offer additional convenience and compliance to patients.

We are pursuing gemcabene as treatment in the following indications (representing up to 20 million addressable at-risk patients in the US): (1) for patients with dyslipidemias including familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), severe hypertriglyceridemia, and, potentially ASCVD, likely as add-on therapy to statins, and (2) for patients, including both adults and children, diagnosed with NASH/NAFLD as monotherapy or in combination with other approved treatments.

·

familial hypercholesterolemia is comprised of homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH) patients and heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH) patients, who collectively represent an estimated 0.5 to 1.5 million people in the US and an additional 15 to 30 million worldwide. HoFH is a rare genetic disease that results in elevated LDL‑C usually due to mutations on both copies of the LDL‑receptor gene leading to reduced (defective) or absence (deficient) LDL receptor function. Other genetic mutations, such as a those on the apoB gene, can lead to HoFH. HoFH is considered an orphan disease, as there are approximately 300 to 2,000 HoFH patients in the US and 6,000 to 45,000 patients worldwide. In comparison, HeFH is a more prevalent genetic condition which results in elevated LDL‑C usually due to a mutation causing either defective or deficient function on one of the two copies of the LDL‑receptor gene;

·

severe hypertriglyceridemia (SHTG), in which patients with elevated triglycerides (TGs > 500 mg/dL) are at an increased risk of developing co-morbidities such as pancreatitis. There are 3.0 to 3.5 million patients in the US and another estimated 60 to 75 million worldwide;

·

non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), are severe diseases of the liver caused by inflammation and a buildup of fat in the organ, which can lead to liver cirrhosis, fibrosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver failure, liver related death and liver transplantation. There are an estimated 80 million patients with NAFLD and 8 million patients with NASH, including approximately 2 million pediatric NASH patients, in the US. The global prevalence of NAFLD is estimated at 24% and NASH is estimated to be 3 to 5%; and

·

atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), patients with hypercholesterolemia, or patients with elevated LDL-C who have had or are at risk for a cardiovascular event, such as heart attack, stroke, and/or revascularization. This are an estimated 10 million ASCVD patients in the US of which approximately half have mixed dyslipidemia. Worldwide estimates of ASCVD patients range from 100 to 120 million. That said, the addressable market for gemcabene in ASCVD remains to be fully elucidated given that market dynamics continue to evolve for this condition;

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We initially began pursuing HoFH given that gemcabene has received orphan drug designation for this indication. We believe we can design an efficient development plan to provide a new treatment alternative for these patients. Furthermore, we believe that gemcabene’s potential ability to treat FH patients, who represent a high-risk segment of the dyslipidemia market, can further enhance brand awareness among key thought leaders and physicians. Studies to date suggest gemcabene has the potential to treat a wide range of cardiometabolic conditions generally characterized by elevation of LDL-C, triglycerides, and/or inflammatory markers. Additional benefits of gemcabene include: (1) promising clinical data and mechanistic effects that have been associated with disease progression in these indications; (2) cost‑effective manufacturing process; (3) convenient oral dosing; (4) viability as safe adjunctive combination therapy; and (5) large commercial potential. In Q2 of 2018, we expect to report top-line data from the INDIGO-1 trial in dyslipidemia. We initiated two Phase 2a trials in NASH/NAFLD in late 2017 and early 2018 and expect to report top-line data from these trials in late 2018 and early 2019, respectively.

Gemcabene Pipeline Indications

Picture 1

We are in the process of scheduling an End of Phase 2 (EOP2) meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The exact timing of the EOP2 meeting will depend in part on the FDA’s timeline to review our 2-year rodent carcinogenicity study, for which the in-life work was completed in October 2017. The EOP2 meeting is intended to reach an agreement with the FDA on the design of Phase 3 registration trials in hypercholesterolemia and long‑term safety exposure for our target indications. We also intend to seek FDA advice in future meetings for additional indications including SHTG and NASH as we complete ongoing trials in those indications. We intend to pursue similar discussions with Canadian and European health authorities. Other markets will be considered as appropriate.

We believe it is unlikely the FDA will require us to initiate a cardiovascular outcomes trial for our target dyslipidemia indications. The FDA has not required the initiation or completion of cardiovascular outcomes trials for recent approvals of certain dyslipidemia therapies, including non‑statin therapies targeting LDL‑C for the treatment of HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD and triglyceride lowering for treatment of SHTG. Cardiovascular outcomes trials require evaluation of cardiovascular clinical conditions in large patient populations over a long period of time and are both costly and time‑consuming. However, for commercial and competitive reasons, such as the potential to broaden the label claims, we intend to review with the FDA a design for a cardiovascular outcomes trial enriched for high risk patients whose risk factors could be modified by gemcabene. Such a trial, if pursued, could be initiated prior to an NDA submission and completed post‑approval.

Our company was co‑founded by Dr. Charles Bisgaier, who was responsible for licensing exclusive worldwide rights to gemcabene from Pfizer in April 2011. Prior to co‑founding the original Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. (Esperion) in 1998, which was acquired by Pfizer in 2004, Dr. Bisgaier worked at Parke‑Davis, a division of Warner-Lambert Company from 1990 to 1998, and was instrumental in the discovery and development of gemcabene, as well as the development of

8


 

Lipitor and Lopid. Many of our employees and consultants have been involved in the historical development of gemcabene and other innovative dyslipidemia product candidates in development, including ETC‑216, a synthetic high‑density lipoprotein mimetic based on ApoAI‑Milano (developed by the original Esperion, Pfizer, and currently The Medicines Company), ACP‑501 (developed by AlphaCore Pharma, later acquired by AstraZeneca) and Bempedoic Acid (AKA ESP 55016 and ETC‑1002, developed by the original Esperion, Pfizer and the current Esperion. We have organized a medical and scientific advisory board including Drs. John Kastelein, Evan Stein, Robert Hegele, Dirk Blom, Harold Bays, Rohit Loomba, and Kevin Williams. Many of our advisors have been involved in numerous dyslipidemia, cardiovascular and NASH clinical trials (e.g., statins from their earliest trials, fibrates, ezetimibe, cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitors, extended release niacin, antisense oligonucleotides (mipomersen), monoclonal antibodies including PCSK9 inhibitors and multiple development stage NASH drugs) and published numerous research papers. The management team, led by our Interim CEO Dr. Steven Gullans, collectively has significant experience in operating and financing biopharmaceutical companies and discovering, developing and commercializing treatments in the cardiovascular and orphan markets.

Our Strategy

Our goal is to become a leading cardiometabolic biopharmaceutical company that develops and commercializes best‑in‑class therapies for lipid disorders including dyslipidemia and NASH.

The core elements of our strategy to achieve our goal are the following:

·

Advance the late‑stage clinical development of gemcabene across multiple target indications, beginning with FH and SHTG and then expanding into NASH. We are focused on multiple cardiometabolic indications for gemcabene including FH, SHTG, NASH/NAFLD, and, in the future, ASCVD. Within these indications there are a number of orphan indications such as HoFH or FPL that we may pursue. In addition, we recently initiated a pediatric NAFLD/NASH trial which, if successful, could open opportunities within the pediatric population. In the second quarter of 2018, we expect to report top-line data from our late stage clinical trial for gemcabene in SHTG patients (INDIGO-1). The data from our 23 completed Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials and multiple preclinical studies have provided us with a comprehensive set of information and key insights into gemcabene’s mechanism of action, lipid‑lowering and anti-inflammatory effects, and safety profile. With regard to the regulatory path forward for gemcabene’s target dyslipidemia conditions, our interactions to date with the FDA, along with relatively recent approvals of other cardiovascular therapies, such as biologic PCSK9 inhibitors for HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD as well as prescription fish oils for SHTG, provide information regarding precedent regulatory pathways to approval. Furthermore, given gemcabene’s attributes as compared to other products on the market, we believe that there is a likelihood of commercial success following approval across multiple indications.

·

Recently launched Phase 2 NASH/NAFLD trials target adult, pediatric, and orphan indications. We recently announced the initiation of two open-label NAFLD/NASH trials, one in familial partial lipodystrophy (FPL) and one in pediatric NAFLD/NASH. We expect top-line data from the FPL trial in the fourth quarter of 2018 and from the pediatric trial in the first quarter of 2019. Our rationale for pursuing gemcabene in NASH and/or NAFLD relates to its mechanism of action to decrease the production of the apoC‑III protein and possibly inhibit ACC, which has been observed to result in the lowering of triglycerides in the plasma and inhibiting de novo lipogenesis, and thereby possibly reduce liver fat content. We completed pre-clinical testing for gemcabene in an established NASH preclinical model (STAM™) designed by SMC Laboratories of Japan which showed a reduction in liver NAS score and fibrosis.

Our approach to clinical trials for NAFLD and NASH has been guided by discussions with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and others in the field who recommended we conduct highly focused Phase 2 Proof-of-Concept (PoC) studies to characterize in some detail the efficacy and biological actions of gemcabene, without having to deal with a multitude of confounding variables that can affect NASH trials. In keeping with this strategy, adult FPL and pediatric NAFLD/NASH represent indications where patients can be recruited relatively quickly, are considered relatively compliant, do not drink alcohol, and generally have fewer co-morbidities. These PoC studies will evaluate safety, tolerability, and efficacy related to several parameters in adult and pediatric fatty liver populations. We will collect standard measures of liver status and fat content (MRI-PDFF), as well as information about changes in other liver biomarkers and liver function. We believe these results will enable us to design optimal future pivot trials, in conjunction with

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FDA guidance, that will open opportunities for gemcabene to treat adult, pediatric, and orphan NASH populations. With regard to regulatory and commercial paths forward, although there are currently no approved NASH therapies to serve as references, we believe that there is and will continue to be sufficient guidance available from the FDA, providers, payors and others to enable us to design and implement an approvable Phase 3 program and successfully launch a commercial product in NASH.

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Pursue oral combination opportunities for gemcabene.  Oral combination therapy is the current paradigm for the treatment of dyslipidemia (and expected for treatment of NASH/NAFLD), as patients typically require multiple drugs to address their dyslipidemia as well as other co‑morbidities such as diabesity. Based on existing data demonstrating additive effects on LDL‑C and triglyceride lowering as well as no drug‑drug interactions with statins, we believe that gemcabene has the potential to be developed as a fixed‑dose combination with low to high dose statins, which, if approved, may enhance adoption in the market and patient compliance. As part of our development strategy, we plan to formulate and manufacture gemcabene in fixed‑dose combination with statins and other lipid‑lowering agents. However, given our recently launched NASH program, the combination therapy program has become a lower priority. 

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Continue to build out our patent portfolio for gemcabene.  We believe our patents and patent applications provide us with a significant competitive advantage. As of February 26, 2018, we had 46 issued patents and 45 pending patent applications for gemcabene in the United States and internationally directed to formulations, compositions, methods of use and methods of manufacturing. We intend to aggressively prosecute and defend our patent portfolio and pursue new patents in order to ensure the long term commercial success of gemcabene.

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Maximize the global commercial value of gemcabene.  We have retained all commercial and manufacturing rights to gemcabene. We intend to evaluate our strategic alternatives to collaborate with global biopharmaceutical companies for the development and commercialization of gemcabene. We believe we could independently commercialize gemcabene for the treatment of patients with HoFH in the United States with a targeted sales force and would seek commercial partners outside of the United States. We may co-promote the SHTG indication with a partner with our internal sales force and distributor(s). For larger indications, such as ASCVD and NASH we expect to assess partnership opportunities for Phase 3 development and the worldwide commercialization of gemcabene.

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Leverage the expertise and experience of our management team to evaluate future in‑licensing and acquisition opportunities.  Across our leadership team, we have discovered and/or developed Lipitor, Lopid, Bempedoic Acid, ETC‑216, ACP‑501, CER‑209, CER‑001 and PNT‑2258, and commercialized many lipid-regulating and orphan drugs including Crestor, Myalept and Lynparza. Our team is well‑qualified to identify and in‑license or acquire clinical‑stage cardio‑metabolic assets, and we intend to evaluate these opportunities to diversify our pipeline and generate long‑term growth.

Overview of Dyslipidemia Market

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the world, responsible for 17.5 million, or approximately one in three, deaths in 2012. Cardiovascular disease is influenced by both environment and genetics. Environmental factors include diet, smoking, excess weight and sedentary lifestyle. Genetic defects can cause certain types of cardiovascular disease, such as familial hypercholesterolemia, a condition in which mutations on a gene are responsible for the elevated LDL‑C levels in patients. Cardiovascular burden in the US is expanding at an alarming rate. The prevalence of CVD was in 41.5% in 2015, due to the rising effects of obesity and the earlier onset of type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that 45% of the US population will have at least one cardiovascular condition by 2035.

Dyslipidemia is characterized by an elevation of LDL‑C, triglycerides or both. Dyslipidemia leads to cardiovascular disease and is generally an important predictor of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke,. It is estimated that 71 million American adults, or approximately 33%, have high LDL‑C levels, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. We estimate from 2013 data that over 33 million patients are prescribed statins, of which a little more than half, or 19 million, are secondary prevention patients.1 Of these 19 million secondary prevention patients, approximately 10 million are ASCVD patients who are not at their LDL-C goal. Furthermore, it is estimated that over 30% of American adults have elevated triglycerides above 150 mg/dL, and high levels of triglycerides are even

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evident in patients with normal cholesterol levels. If untreated, elevated triglycerides levels may lead to more serious illnesses, such as atherosclerosis (plaque build‑up in the arteries) and severely elevated triglyceride levels may lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). The dyslipidemia market has achieved approximately $22 billion in worldwide drug sales in 2013 and remains one of the largest therapeutic markets.

Global Dyslipidemia Market

2013 Worldwide Drug Sales of $22 Billion1

Picture 41

1© 2015 DR/Decision Resources, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction, distribution, transmission or publication is prohibited. Reprinted with permission. DR/Decision Resources, LLC (“DR”) makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the data (“DR Material”) set forth herein and shall have, and accept, no liability of any kind, whether in contract, tort (including negligence) or otherwise, to any third party arising from or related to use of the DR Material by Gemphire Therapeutics Inc. Any use which Gemphire Therapeutics Inc. or a third party makes of the DR Material, or any reliance on it, or decisions to be made based on it, are the sole responsibilities of Gemphire Therapeutics Inc. and such third party. In no way shall any data appearing in the DR Material amount to any form of prediction of future events or circumstances and no such reliance may be inferred or implied.

Recent Developments in the Dyslipidemia Market

In 2015 there were key advisory panel meetings and regulatory approvals for non‑statin LDL‑C lowering drugs. Specifically, Biologics License Applications (BLAs) for two PCSK9 inhibitors were considered by the FDA and have subsequently been approved in the United States and Europe. We believe these approvals signal the FDA’s continued view that LDL‑C lowering is an acceptable surrogate endpoint for traditional drug approval in certain lipid indications and that cardiovascular outcomes trials would not be required for such approvals. The FDA however noted that one should accept very little risk from a novel LDL‑C‑lowering drug when approving for a broad population only based on its effects on LDL‑C. The approved PCSK9 products are described below. Their FDA‑approved labels indicate that their effects on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality have not yet been determined.

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On August 27, 2015, Repatha®, developed by Amgen Inc. (Amgen), was approved in the United States for use along with diet and maximally tolerated statin therapy in adults with HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD, who need additional lowering of LDL‑C.

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On July 24, 2015, Praluent®, developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Regeneron) and Sanofi‑Aventis U.S., LLC (Sanofi), was approved in the United States for use as adjunct to diet and maximally tolerated statin therapy for the treatment of adults with HeFH and ASCVD, who require additional lowering of LDL‑C.

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On July 21, 2015 and September 28, 2015, the European Commission approved Repatha and Praluent respectively, each with a broader label compared to that in the United States. The approved indications in Europe included the treatment of adults with primary hypercholesterolemia or mixed dyslipidemia as: (1) combination therapy with maximally tolerated dose of statin or statin and other lipid‑lowering drugs; or (2) monotherapy or combination therapy with other lipid‑lowering drugs in patients who are statin‑intolerant, or for whom statin is contraindicated. Repatha is also approved for the treatment of HoFH in adults and adolescents aged 12 years and over in combination with other lipid‑lowering drugs.

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On November 1, 2016 Pfizer announced the discontinuation of the global clinical development program for bococizumab, its investigational Proprotein Convertase Subtilisin Kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor. The totality of clinical information now available for bococizumab, taken together with the evolving treatment and market landscape for lipid-lowering agents, led Pfizer to discontinue the development program, including the two ongoing SPIRE-1 and SPIRE-2 cardiovascular outcome studies.

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On February 2, 2017 Amgen announced that the FOURIER trial evaluating whether Repatha (evolocumab) reduces the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with clinically evident ASCVD met its primary composite endpoint (cardiovascular death, non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI), non-fatal stroke, hospitalization for unstable angina or coronary revascularization) and the key secondary composite endpoint (cardiovascular death, non-fatal MI or non-fatal stroke). No new safety issues were observed.

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On March 20, 2017, Esperion announced that the FDA “confirmed that Esperion’s LDL-C lowering program is adequate to support approval of an LDL-C lowering indication for bempedoic acid”, resolving questions about whether a cardiovascular outcomes trial would be required for approval.

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On June 27, 2017, Merck announced that anacetrapib (CETP inhibitor) met its primary end point in the REVEAL outcomes study, with modest CV risk reduction. In October 2017, Merck announced that it will not submit applications for regulatory approval for anacetrapib, effectively terminating its development.

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On August 27, 2017, Novartis announced that the Phase III CANTOS study demonstrated that targeting inflammation with canakinumab reduces cardiovascular risk. This study provided the first clinical proof-of-concept for inflammation as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

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On March 10, 2018, Sanofi and Regeneron announced that the ODYSSEY OUTCOMES trial met its primary endpoint, demonstrating that high-risk patients who added Praluent (alirocumab) Injection to maximally-tolerated statins experienced significantly fewer major adverse cardiovascular events compared to those on maximally-tolerated statins alone. No new safety issues were observed.

At the close of 2017, the sales of PCSK9 inhibitors Repatha and Praluent have been limited as a result of access being limited by pricing and payors.

Regulatory Precedents for Approval in Dyslipidemia Indications

Historical data suggest a linear relationship between LDL‑C and cardiovascular disease, showing that lower LDL‑C levels reduces the risk of mortality and other cardiovascular events (for example, for about every 2mg/dL reduction in LDL-C, an additional 1.2 % reduction in cardiovascular risk reduction is realized). The chart below by the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration provides the foundation for this ‘LDL‑C hypothesis’.

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Lowering LDL‑C Decreases Cardiovascular Risk

Elevated LDL‑C lowering is the #1 Modifiable Risk Factor

Picture 40

 

Sources: CTT Cholesterol Treatment Trialist’s Collaboration and Study Papers for each Trial

CV = Cardiovascular; MACE=Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events

*A‑Z p=.14 and IDEAL p=.07

Key For LDL‑C Lowering Drug with Successful Trial Results:  Gemfibrozil: HHS; Atorvastatin: IDEAL, TNT, PROVE‑IT, ASCOT‑LLA, SPARCL; Pravastatin: ALLHAT, CARE, PROSPER, LIPID, WOSCOPS; Simvastatin: A‑Z, HPS, 4S; Lovastatin: AFCAPS; Rosuvastatin: JUPITER; Ezetimibe: IMPROVE‑IT.

For nearly three decades (1987 to 2015), the FDA has accepted LDL‑C lowering as a surrogate endpoint for reducing cardiovascular risk for traditional approval on over 15 lipid‑lowering drugs without requirements to initiate or complete a cardiovascular outcomes trial. Traditional approval may be based on surrogate endpoints such as LDL‑C and blood pressure that are known to predict clinical benefit, in contrast to accelerated approval based on surrogate endpoints that are only reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit and require confirmatory evidence of actual benefit after approval. With traditional approval based on LDL‑C reduction, the FDA does not have a regulatory mechanism to require any further efficacy trials and does not require sponsors to conduct a post‑approval cardiovascular outcomes trial. Sponsors who have chosen to conduct cardiovascular outcomes trials before or after traditional approval, which is encouraged by the FDA, have voluntarily done so to seek additional claims.

In approving drugs, the FDA considers the magnitude of effect in relation to the safety profile. Not only has the use of LDL‑C as a surrogate marker to predict the risk of cardiovascular events been accepted by the FDA but the importance of LDL‑C lowering has also been recognized by clinical organizations such as American College of Cardiology,

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American Heart Association (AHA), National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP ATP‑III), American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and National Lipid Association.

These approvals have occurred over the last decade, as have studies showing that certain LDL‑C lowering statin and non‑statin drugs did not in fact provide cardiovascular benefits (e.g., Niacin in AIM‑HIGH trial) and/or show unexpected safety concerns (e.g., ezetimibe in ENHANCE with cancer). In addition, a class of drugs known as cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitors (CETPi) with a different mechanism (which increases high‑density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL‑C) while sometimes lowering LDL‑C), has 3 drugs that failed to demonstrate efficacy in Phase 3 cardiovascular outcome trials. The first CETPi drug, Pfizer’s torcetrapib, lowered LDL‑C but showed increased cardiovascular event rates in patients due to off‑target effects in ILLUMINATE, which we believe established a higher FDA standard for cardiovascular outcomes trials for the CETPi class.

In patient populations such as HoFH and SHTG, we believe the FDA recognizes that an outcomes trial would be difficult and as a result has established precedent drug approvals over time based on surrogate endpoints (LDL‑C for cardiovascular risk and triglycerides for pancreatitis risk, respectively). Recent examples include Juxtapid (2012), Kynamro (2013) and Repatha (2015) for HoFH and Vascepa (2012) for SHTG.

In the broader populations, such as HeFH and ASCVD, the FDA recently approved PCSK9 inhibitors based on LDL‑C as the surrogate endpoint and did not require the completion of cardiovascular outcomes trial in these high‑risk dyslipidemia patients. The FDA approved Praluent and Repatha based on LDL‑C reduction as an adjunct to maximally tolerated statin therapy (and diet), but did not approve these drugs for monotherapy or primary prevention patients, noting that such approval may be premature in the absence of cardiovascular outcomes data.

Collectively, recent approvals of new cardiovascular drugs, results from clinical trials of non‑statin product candidates, and our recent regulatory guidance that we received from the FDA regarding our development plans have provided us with some assurance that LDL‑C lowering product candidates in development, such as gemcabene, will not be required to conduct cardiovascular outcomes trials in the United States and Europe prior to approval for our target indications planned in combination with statins assuming a favorable benefit/risk profile.

hsCRP Biomarker of Interest

Inflammation plays a significant role in the propagation of atherosclerosis and susceptibility to cardiovascular events. Of the wide array of inflammatory biomarkers that have been studied, hsCRP (or CRP) has received the most attention for its use in risk reclassification of cardiovascular disease. Recently, at the 2015 European Society for Cardiology meeting, Merck presented a post‑hoc analysis of the IMPROVE‑IT trial which confirmed the importance of lowering both LDL‑C and hsCRP levels to below 70 mg/dL and 2 mg/L, respectively, with a 27% relative risk reduction in cardiovascular events occurring in patients that were able to attain these target levels compared to those patients who achieved neither of these target levels. In 2017, in its CANTOS trial, Novartis’ canakinumab demonstrated an outcomes benefit for mortality and other modifiable risk factors for CV disease by lowering hsCRP (median hsCRP reduction of 37% led to a 15% reduction in cardiovascular related MACE) without affecting LDL-C. These findings support the potential for novel non‑statin therapies that can demonstrate clinical efficacy in both LDL‑C and hsCRP reduction. Gemcabene’s ability to substantially lower hsCRP in conjunction with LDL‑C may offer further benefit to the cardiovascular health of patients.

Overview of NASH Market

NASH is an advanced form of NAFLD in which a buildup of excess triglycerides in the liver (steatosis), usually in the context of metabolic dysregulation, results in liver damage (hepatocyte ballooning) and increased inflammation. This condition can lead to hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis and eventually hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in some patients. NASH is now one of the most common causes for liver transplantation. There are currently no approved medications for treating NASH in any market across the globe. Disease management chiefly involves lifestyle modification, some off-label medication use, and monitoring for disease progression. Off-label medications typically include antioxidant, antidiabetic, and lipid modifying agents. Despite the potentially serious liver complications, the natural progression of NASH is relatively slow, and CV disease is the leading cause of death among NASH patients, partly as a result of the disease and partly due to the common comorbidities in patients with NASH, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. NASH is now the second most common cause for liver transplantation in the U.S. and it is anticipated to become the leading cause by 2020.

 

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Regulatory Trends for Approval in NASH

 

As the NASH competitive landscape matures, the clinical and regulatory pathways are evolving. In February of 2017, the FDA approved a significant amendment to Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s obeticholic acid (OCA) protocol signaling potential standards for future NASH trials: (1) only one primary endpoint is required for success – either improvement in fibrosis or NASH resolution – but not both; and (2) the FDA agreed upon an objective definition of NASH resolution.

 

Our Target Indications

We believe that oral, once‑daily gemcabene as an add‑on to statin and other existing therapies is differentiated by the ability to lower multiple risk factors (LDL‑C, hsCRP and triglycerides) and, if approved, presents a significant opportunity across multiple indications in dyslipidemia and NASH. These indications span from HoFH to more prevalent conditions, such as HeFH, SHTG, NASH, and, in the future, ASCVD in which therapies are required to reduce elevated levels of LDL‑C, triglycerides, inflammation or any combination thereof. Our target indications are summarized below with a total of approximately 14 million addressable dyslipidemia patients in the United States who could be treated with gemcabene, and another six million patients with NASH in the U.S.

Patient Related Large Markets for Dyslipidemia and NASH

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Homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH)

There are two types of FH patients, Homozygous FH (HoFH) and Heterozygous (HeFH), generally related to either two or one genetic defects in the LDL-C receptor pathway, respectively. HoFH is a rare genetic disease that is usually caused by mutation in both alleles of the LDL receptor gene responsible for removing LDL from the blood. As a result of having defective or deficient LDL receptor function, HoFH patients exhibit severely high LDL-C levels, are at very high risk of experiencing premature cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack or stroke, and develop premature and progressive atherosclerosis. LDL‑C levels in HoFH patients are often in the range of 500 mg/dL to 1,000 mg/dL, compared to a normal target range of 70 mg/dL to 100 mg/dL. Unless treated, most patients with HoFH do not survive adulthood beyond 30 years of age. There are approximately 300 to 2,000 HoFH patients in the United States and 6,000 to 45,000 patients in the rest of the world based on an estimated prevalence rate of one in 160,000 to one in one million.

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Current available treatments for HoFH generally include a combination of dietary intervention, statins, ezetimibe and other approved LDL‑C lowering therapies, including lipoprotein apheresis. However, even when combination therapies are utilized, many patients still have high LDL‑C levels and are still at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The FDA has approved two non‑statin therapies for HoFH, Juxtapid, marketed by Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Aegerion), and Kynamro, marketed by Sanofi. Although these drugs have demonstrated efficacy, they have significant safety and tolerability concerns, including boxed warnings for liver toxicity on the product labels. Recently, the FDA has also approved Amgen’s PCSK9 inhibitor, Repatha, for HoFH patients, but this therapy has limitations due to its mechanism of action reliant on functional LDL‑receptors. In clinical trials, Repatha has shown substantially less LDL‑C lowering from baseline in patients with HoFH compared to LDL-C lowering in patients with other hypercholesterolemia indications.

On February 6, 2014, gemcabene received orphan drug designation by the FDA for treatment of HoFH. We believe that pursuing the HoFH indication may enable gemcabene to reach the market sooner than for other indications due to: (1) approval pathway based on a single, small Phase 3 trial; (2) no requirement for cardiovascular outcomes trials; and (3) potential for priority review by the FDA in light of the unmet medical need in this orphan population. Furthermore, we believe that gemcabene’s potential to treat patients in the most severe segment of the dyslipidemia market on top of statins and other lipid‑lowering therapies (including ezetimibe and Repatha) will enhance brand awareness among key thought leaders and physicians.

The HeFH patient population is generally comprised of individuals who have one defective gene that leads to elevated LDL-C levels at or above 190 mg/dL. These patients are prone to premature cardiovascular events. The incidence of patients with HeFH is estimated to be approximately one in 200 and one in 500, and, accordingly, we estimate there are approximately 0.5 to 1.5 million patients with HeFH in the United States and 15 to 30 million in the rest of the world.

 

Current approved treatments for HeFH include statins, ezetimibe, bile acid sequestrants and the recently approved injectable PCSK9 inhibitors. Despite the availability of various treatments, many patients are still unable to achieve recommended LDL-C levels. In addition, patients, physicians and payors may prefer more convenient, cost-effective, oral drugs.

We believe obtaining approval for the HeFH indication will enable gemcabene to reach a large market of patients with the inability to attain their LDL‑C goal using current therapies (including high‑intensity statins, ezetimibe and PCSK9 inhibitors). An approval in HeFH would allow gemcabene to be introduced into another indication for very high LDL‑C levels and enable physicians globally to have another oral, once‑daily, cost‑effective, well‑tolerated with high intensity statins option in treating this complex patient population, while also lowering LDL‑C, hsCRP, and triglycerides.

Severe Hypertriglyceridemia (SHTG)

Elevated triglycerides are often caused by an inherited disorder or exacerbated by uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypothyroidism and sedentary habits. A recent scientific statement on “Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Disease” issued by the American Heart Association based on a review of the pivotal role of triglycerides in lipid metabolism, reaffirmed that triglycerides are not directly atherogenic, but represent an important biomarker of cardiovascular disease. Patients with severe triglycerides greater than 500 mg/dL, or SHTG, have increased risk of developing pancreatitis, a painful and potentially life‑threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Based on a 1.1% prevalence rate in the United States, as published by the American Heart Association, we estimate there are approximately 3.5 million patients with SHTG in the United States and 75 million patients in the rest of the world.

Current available treatments for SHTG consist of dietary modifications to lower the intake of fatty foods and the use of fibrates, prescription fish oils and niacin. These treatments are often inadequate in lowering triglyceride levels below 500 mg/dL, the level at which patients are at an increased risk for developing pancreatitis. Due to the severely elevated triglyceride levels in this patient population, reducing triglyceride levels below 500 mg/dL may require reductions in triglyceride levels of 40% or more. Current therapies, even in combination, are often insufficient in achieving such a result. In addition, many of the existing treatments do not combine well with statins for treating SHTG.

We believe that pursuing SHTG may enable gemcabene to reach a large population of patients with triglyceride levels above 500 mg/dL and offer a convenient, oral, once‑daily dosing with no food effects that may have the potential to result in better efficacy than standard of care, while being well‑tolerated with statins.

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Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)

NAFLD (“fatty liver” where patients have fat in their liver, but no inflammation or liver damage) affects 10-30% of Americans. NASH is a severe form of fatty liver disease with the presence of hepatocyte ballooning, inflammation and fibrosis in the organ. In the United States, NASH affects up to approximately 2-5% of the population roughly at 6 million adult NASH patients and 2 million pediatric NASH patients. The underlying cause of NASH is unclear, but it most often occurs in persons who are middle-aged and overweight or obese. Many patients with NASH have elevated serum lipids, diabetes or pre-diabetes. Progression of NAFLD/NASH can lead to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver failure and liver-related death. Liver transplantation is currently the only treatment for advanced cirrhosis with liver failure.

 

Our first two trials for this indication are focused evaluating the potential effects of gemcabene on NAFLD/NASH in (i) a specialty-adult population in patients with Familial Partial Lipodystrophy (FPL) and (ii) the pediatric NAFLD/NASH population.

 

FPL is a rare genetic disorder and orphan disease characterized by an abnormal distribution of fatty (adipose) tissue. As the body is unable to store fat correctly, a buildup can occur around all vital organs and in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia). FPL can also cause an abnormal buildup of fats in the liver (hepatic steatosis), which can result in an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) and abnormal liver function. FPL can lead to loss of metabolic control and a variety of metabolic abnormalities, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertriglyceridemia and NASH.

 

NAFLD/NASH in children is a major public health concern given the recent increase in its prevalence and link to obesity and other metabolic comorbidities. NAFLD has emerged as the leading cause of chronic liver disease in children and adolescents in the United States. A two- to three-fold rise in the rates of obesity in children over the last 20 years is likely responsible for the epidemic of NAFLD. It is estimated that 20% of children between the ages 12 to 19 are obese, and 36% of obese children have NAFLD. NALFD is estimated to affect 7 million children overall in the U.S.; the estimated population prevalence for pediatric NASH is 2 million children.

 

Pediatric NAFLD and NASH, while similar to the adult diseases, have distinct pathophysiological characteristics in terms of histology, disease progression, and ultimately adverse outcomes at early ages. Steatosis and portal inflammation tend to be more severe in pediatric NAFLD. Children diagnosed with NAFLD often have elevated serum lipids and diabetes or prediabetes and have a 13.6 times greater risk of dying over the next 20 years, than children without NAFLD. Progression of NAFLD and NASH can lead to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver failure and liver-related death. It is estimated that 10- 25% of children with NAFLD progress to NASH and then advanced fibrosis/cirrhosis by their third or fourth decade of life. Liver transplantation is currently the only treatment for advanced cirrhosis with liver failure.

 

At this time, there are no approved treatments by the FDA for NAFLD/NASH for either adults or children. Based on the current understanding of pathophysiological mechanisms associated with NASH, several compounds are in clinical development, although none have been approved to date. The Clinical Trials website lists many trials for NASH. These compounds target the regulation of dyslipidemia (e.g. acetyl CoA carboxylase inhibitors, bile acid/fatty acid conjugates), inflammation (e.g. combined CCR2/CCRCR5 inhibitor) and/or fibrosis (e.g. 6-ethylchenodeoxycholic acid).

Gemcabene may be effective in treating patients for NASH given its mechanism of action around inflammation and triglycerides, especially for obese and diabetic patients. If approved, we expect gemcabene to be used as an oral combination with statins and other drugs approved for NASH with complementary mechanisms.

Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD)

ASCVD represents patients who have experienced or are at risk of a cardiovascular event and are unable to meet their LDL-C lowering goal of less than 70 mg/dL with maximally tolerated statin therapy. This population also includes many patients who, in addition to not being able to meet their LDL-C lowering goal, often have elevated triglyceride levels and may benefit in reduction of both their elevated LDL-C and TG from gemcabene. We estimate that approximately 10 million patients in the United States and 200 million patients in the rest of the world have a need for additional therapies to effectively and safely bring them closer to their LDL-C and triglyceride lowering goals.

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Currently approved treatments for both primary hypercholesterolemia and ASCVD include statins, ezetimibe, bile acid sequestrants, niacin, fibrates and PCSK9 inhibitors. While these drugs have demonstrated efficacy in lipid-lowering in this population, they do not sufficiently address the patients with mixed dyslipidemia who need to lower both LDL-C and triglycerides.

We believe that there is a meaningful number of underserved ASCVD patients who are: (1) unable to reach LDL‑C and triglyceride goals on maximally tolerated statin therapy; (2) require LDL‑C reduction beyond the 6% reduction observed when statin dose is doubled; or (3) unable to tolerate higher doses of statins. However, if our recently launched Phase 2 clinical trial programs in NASH prove successful, we will likely delay the launch of a Phase 3 ASCVD trial in favor of conducting pivotal NASH trials. Nonetheless, if gemcabene is ultimately approved for ASCVD, it may potentially offer patients, especially cardiometabolic patients, a preferred well‑tolerated combination therapy with a statin and/or ezetimibe that is convenient, oral, once‑daily, cost effective, and impacts multiple factors, LDL-C, hsCRP and triglycerides, that all add to the residual cardiovascular risk in these patients.

Our Product Candidate — Gemcabene

Our product candidate, gemcabene, is a novel, once‑daily, oral therapy designed to target known lipid metabolic pathways to lower levels of LDL‑C, hsCRP and triglycerides. Gemcabene shares many of the attributes of statin therapy, including broad therapeutic applications, convenient route of administration and cost‑effective manufacturing process, but does not appear to increase the reporting of myalgia when added to statin therapy. Gemcabene has also shown additive LDL-C lowering in combination with stable low, moderate or high‑intensity statin therapy. We also plan to develop a fixed‑dose combination of gemcabene with atorvastatin to enhance market adoption and maximize the likelihood of commercial success.

We are developing multiple indications for gemcabene, ranging from HoFH, an orphan indication, to more prevalent conditions, such as SHTG, NASH, HeFH, and in the future, ASCVD. During 2017, we read out two late stage dyslipidemia clinical trials for gemcabene: an 8-patient trial for HoFH (COBALT-1) and a 105 patient trial for hypercholesterolemia on high‑intensity statin therapy including HeFH and ASCVD patients (ROYAL-1). In the second quarter of 2018, we expect to read out top-line data from a late stage 90 patient trial for SHTG (INDIGO-1). In addition, we initiated two Phase 2a trials in NASH/NAFLD in early 2018 and expect to report top-line data from these trials in late 2018 and early 2019, respectively.

We licensed global rights to gemcabene from Pfizer in April 2011. We will continue to leverage the extensive preclinical, clinical, manufacturing and formulation work previously conducted to further advance the development of gemcabene.

Mechanism of Action

Gemcabene has a mechanism of action that involves: (1) enhancing the clearance of VLDL; and (2) blocking the overall production of hepatic triglyceride and cholesterol synthesis. Based on prior clinical trials, the combined effect for these mechanisms has been observed to result in a reduction of plasma VLDL‑C, LDL‑C, triglycerides and hsCRP, as well as elevation of HDL‑C. Gemcabene mainly distributes to the liver where it has its effect as the active molecule.

(1)ApoC‑III protein is known to be causal in cardiovascular disease. Gemcabene enhances VLDL clearance by decreasing apoC-III messenger RNA (mRNA) expression, thereby reducing apoC‑III protein production and plasma levels. ApoC‑III is a small protein (~9 kDa) that inhibits hepatic uptake of triglyceride‑rich particles such as VLDL. VLDL lipoproteins are catabolized to VLDL remnants in plasma. The VLDL remnants are either cleared from the plasma via remnant receptors or are further catabolized to LDL. The reduction in apoC-III exposes apolipoprotein E (apoE), a 35 kDa protein that is also present on the VLDL lipoproteins and VLDL remnants. ApoE is essential for the normal catabolism of triglyceride‑rich particles. This favors the enhanced clearance of the VLDL remnants via ApoE remnant receptors and reduces the formation of LDL particles, while also breaking down triglycerides by lipoprotein lipase to deliver more fatty acids to muscle and adipose tissue. We have observed in preclinical studies that gemcabene significantly clears VLDL in the plasma with corresponding reductions in the liver apoC‑III mRNA levels and apoC‑III plasma protein levels in rats. In a hypertriglyceridemic human clinical trial, gemcabene was shown to significantly decrease both apoC‑III and triglycerides.

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Reduction of Plasma ApoC‑III and TG

Reduction of Plasma ApoC‑III and TG
in Humans

Picture 38

Picture 36

 

(2)Gemcabene reduces de novo lipogenesis through both hepatic cholesterol and TG synthesis, which lowers TG-rich lipoproteins (e.g., VLDLs) and their metabolic product (LDL) in the plasma. Gemcabene has been shown to inhibit radiolabeled acetate incorporation into TG and cholesterol in primary rat hepatocytes in culture and in the liver of mice, supporting gemcabene’s mechanism of action by inhibition of the synthesis of both fatty acids and cholesterol. Gemcabene may act as an inhibitor of ACC targeting the rate‑limiting enzyme in fatty acid synthesis, subsequently leading to a decreased hepatic triglyceride production.

Gemcabene Inhibits de novo Synthesis of Both Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Picture 35

Source: Research Report 76100065

 

19


 

The diagram below depicts the novel mechanisms of gemcabene. We will continue to undertake preclinical studies to further clarify gemcabene’s involvement in various metabolic pathways.

Gemcabene Novel Mechanism of Action

Picture 30

Gemcabene, which has been shown to lower plasma ApoB-lipoprotein concentrations in mice and in humans, appears to regulate remnant receptor via SULF2 in the liver, as illustrated in the diagram below:

Picture 7

In addition, we believe gemcabene may result in the reduction of inflammation, inflammatory markers and triglycerides (as a result of reduced apoC‑III production) in the plasma of a patient in an inflammatory state. C‑reactive Protein (CRP) is an inflammatory marker protein. CRP levels increase in response to inflammatory states and are associated with medical conditions such as atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, hypertension, obesity, insulin

20


 

resistance, and fatty liver disease. CRP expression is regulated by proteins in the nucleus of cells known as nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs). In inflammatory states, cytokines, such as interleukin‑6 (IL‑6) and interleukin (IL1‑β), activate NHRs, such as C/EPB‑β, C/EPB‑δ and nuclear factor kappa B (NF‑κB), and lead them to bind to the CRP promoter and increase CRP mRNA production. Based on preclinical studies, gemcabene may inhibit the interaction of these NHRs on the CRP promoter and therefore reduce CRP mRNA production. Gemcabene has also been shown in preclinical studies to inhibit tissue necrosis factor‑α (TNF‑α) induced expression of the inflammatory cytokine IL‑6 in human coronary artery endothelial cells and in a human hepatoma cell line. Overall, gemcabene may not only decrease the expression of CRP, but may also decrease the expression of the inflammatory cytokine IL‑6 resulting in a reduction of inflammation. Gemcabene has been shown to reduce the level of CRP in human clinical trials, to decrease inflammation in a mouse model of arthritis, in a mouse model of NASH, and to decrease pain in a rat model of thermal hyperalgesia.

The apoC‑III promoter also contains a NF‑κB binding site, and as such, the apoC‑III gene may be upregulated under a chronic inflammatory state. Gemcabene’s ability to reduce apoC‑III mRNA levels may result from gemcabene inhibiting NF‑κB interaction with its binding site on the apoC‑III promoter. We are further exploring this common transcription factor NF‑κB as a binding site for gemcabene to reduce hsCRP and apoC‑III. In contrast, Gemcabene has not been shown to directly or strongly bind to PPARs. See “Additional Studies and Trials.”

Clinical Experience

Gemcabene has been assessed in 23 completed Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials. Across these trials, over 1,400 adult subjects have participated, including healthy volunteers and patients with various underlying conditions (see summary table below). Of the subjects, nearly 1,100 have been exposed to at least one dose of gemcabene.

We believe that gemcabene’s efficacy across the clinical and non-clinical trials support our development plan focused on HoFH, SHTG, NASH, HeFH and, in the future, ASCVD patients. In Phase 2 studies, patients treated with gemcabene were observed to have significantly lowered LDL‑C, hsCRP and triglycerides with results from the trials summarized below:

·

In a four week, double‑blind, multiple dose, Phase 1 trial in 50 healthy subjects (Trial 1027‑003), gemcabene monotherapy doses (450 mg, 600 mg and 900 mg) significantly lowered LDL‑C from baseline by approximately 30%.

·

In an eight week, double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, Phase 2 trial in 66 patients with elevated LDL‑C on background stable statin therapy (Trial 1027‑018), both gemcabene doses (300 mg and 900 mg) in combination with statins significantly lowered LDL‑C from baseline by approximately 25% to 31%. Additionally, gemcabene demonstrated reductions in hsCRP of up to 54%.

·

In an eight week, double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, Phase 2 trial in 277 patients with hypercholesterolemia (Trial A4141001), gemcabene monotherapy doses (300 mg, 600 mg and 900 mg) significantly lowered LDL‑C, with the 600 mg and 900 mg doses lowering LDL‑C by approximately 30%. Gemcabene monotherapy doses (600 mg and 900 mg) also significantly lowered hsCRP by approximately 40%.

·

In a 12‑week, double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, Phase 2 trial (Trial 1027‑004), 94 of the 161 patients had elevated triglycerides (≥ 200 mg/dL). For those patients, gemcabene lowered triglycerides in all dose arms, with the 300 mg dose lowering triglycerides by 40%. A post‑hoc analysis of nine patients with severe triglyceride levels (≥500 mg/dL) treated with 150 mg and 300 mg suggest gemcabene has the potential to lower triglycerides by as much as 60%.

·

In a 12-week, open-label, dose-escalation Phase 2 trial (GEM-201, COBALT-1), patients were administered oral gemcabene once daily, with dosage escalating from 300 mg to 600 mg and then 900 mg every 4 weeks, for a total duration of 12 weeks. On various baseline aggressive lipid lowering therapies, the eight FH subjects had a mean baseline LDL-C level of 351 mg/dl prior to add-on gemcabene treatment. Treatment with gemcabene 600 mg, the Company’s target commercial dose, resulted in an LDL-C reduction of approximately 30% for the overall population and approximately 15% and 39% for the HoFH and HeFH subjects, respectively.GEM-201 was designed to assess the LDL-C-lowering efficacy of multiple sequential rising doses of gemcabene in subjects with either genotypic or phenotypic HoFH.

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Specifically, all subjects received gemcabene 300 mg QD for 4 weeks, followed by 600 mg QD for 4 weeks, followed by 900 mg QD for 4 weeks. The LDL-C-lowering efficacy of gemcabene was assessed for all subjects as a whole and for subgroups based on LDLr status. In addition, the safety, tolerability, and effects on other lipid and cardiometabolic biomarkers, including hsCRP, were assessed. HoFH was diagnosed by genetic confirmation or a clinical diagnosis based on either (1) a history of an untreated LDL-C concentration > 500 mg/dL (12.92 mmol/L) together with either appearance of xanthoma before 10 years of age, or evidence of heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH) in both parents or, if history was unavailable, (2) LDL-C > 300 mg/dL (7.76 mmol/L) on maximally tolerated lipid lowering drug therapy. Eight adult subjects (3 female and 5 male), with a mean age of 52.8 years and a mean baseline LDL-C of 351.3 mg/dL, received lipid-lowering background therapy included maximum tolerated doses of statin, and/or ezetimibe, evolocumab (a PCSK9 inhibitor), cholestyramine, and fish oil. For the subgroups based on genetically defined LDLr status, 5 subjects were classified as HeFH (defective LDLr status) and 3 subjects were classified as HoFH (LDLr deficient status) according to the completed study genetic evaluation. HoFH subjects with LDLr deficient status had LDLr activity < 2%. All study subjects completed the study. The LS mean percent change from baseline for all subjects was -25.54% (p = 0.0041) on Day 28 for the 300 mg dose level, -29.94% (p = 0.0010) on Day 56 for the 600 mg dose level, and -29.41% (p = 0.0012) on Day 84 for the 900 mg dose level. Secondary efficacy included subgroup analyses for LDL-C according to genetic testing results. The LS mean percent change from baseline in fasting LDL-C was greater in HeFH subjects compared to HoFH subjects for each dose level. The LS mean percent change from baseline in fasting LDL-C in HeFH subjects was -33.97% (p < 0.0001) on Day 28 for the 300 mg dose level, -38.33% (p < 0.0001) on Day 56 for the 600 mg dose level, and -39.22% (p < 0.0001) on Day 84 for the 900 mg dose level. The LS mean percent change from baseline in fasting LDL-C in HoFH subjects was -9.78% on Day 28 for the 300 mg dose level, -14.27% on Day 56 for the 600 mg dose level, and -11.36% on Day 84 for the 900 mg dose level. The LS mean percent change from baseline in fasting LDL-C was not statistically significant at any dose level for the HoFH subgroup.

·

In a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, Phase 2 trial (GEM-301, ROYAL-1) gemcabene produced a mean percent decrease of 17% in LDL-C (vs 5% for placebo) and a median percent decrease of 40% in hsCRP (vs 6% for placebo). Gemcabene reduced LDL-C by 20% and hsCRP by 53% when added to moderate intensity statin therapy. Greater effects were observed in a cardiometabolic population, patients with mixed dyslipidemia, who have a particularly high atherogenic particle burden.  In the mixed dyslipidemia group of patients, gemcabene 600 mg demonstrated a placebo adjusted LDL-C reduction of 23% (p < 0.05). Consistent with the mechanism of action of gemcabene, patients with mixed dyslipidemia showed greater reductions in LDL-C, non-HDL-C, ApoB, ApoE and TG of 23%, 19%, 26%, 34% and 33%, respectively.

From 23 completed clinical trials with nearly 1,100 subjects, including both healthy volunteers and patients, treated with gemcabene, gemcabene was observed to be well tolerated at single doses up to 1,500 mg and multiple doses up to 900 mg/day. Safety of the subjects in these trials was evaluated by AE monitoring, clinical laboratory assessments, electrocardiograms (ECGs), physical examinations, and vital sign assessments. Across all trials, 10 healthy volunteers or patients reported a treatment‑emergent SAE, none of which were considered by the clinician to be related to gemcabene. No deaths occurred in any of the trials. AEs reported were generally mild to moderate in intensity with the most common events being headache, weakness, nausea, dizziness, upset stomach, infection and abnormal bowel movements. Gemcabene, when compared with placebo, was not associated with an increased incidence of myalgia or liver enzyme elevations, whether as monotherapy or in combination with statin therapy. Elevated levels of liver enzymes, specifically alanine transaminase (ALT) and/or aspartate aminotransferase (AST), were observed in a few patients (0.23% of gemcabene patients compared to 0.26% of placebo patients had ALT or AST levels more than three times the upper limit of normal (ULN)) returning to baseline after cessation of treatment. Small mean increases in serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) have been observed in some trials. The increase was reversible with all creatinine values returning to baseline within approximately two weeks of cessation of gemcabene. No clinically meaningful changes were observed in physical examinations or vital signs, including blood pressure.

In addition, gemcabene demonstrated promising clinical pharmacology attributes across 14 completed Phase 1 trials in healthy subjects, such as once‑daily dosing, no meaningful drug‑drug interactions with high‑intensity statins and no observed food effect. Gemcabene can be taken with or without food. Gemcabene was observed to: (1) be rapidly absorbed following oral administration with time of maximum concentration within two hours and (2) reach maximum plasma concentration (Cmax) and area under the curve over 24 hours (AUC 0‑24) that were dose proportional following

22


 

both single‑ and multiple‑dose administration. Steady state concentrations were achieved within six days of repeated dose administration. Average half‑life ranged from 32 to 41 hours. Gemcabene’s primary route of elimination was renal. In addition, no significant drug‑drug interactions were observed with digoxin, a cardiovascular drug for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, atorvastatin and simvastatin, both agents used as background therapy in patients with HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD. Patients with SHTG and NASH often have statin therapy prescribed as well. There were no observed clinically relevant effects on QTc, a measure of cardiac rhythm, and no observed clinically relevant effect on blood pressure. Renal clearance was slightly decreased and was associated with a slight increase in serum creatinine.

Based on the results of these trials, we believe gemcabene has the potential to have a differentiated profile as an oral once‑daily, well tolerated adjunct therapy with promising evidence of efficacy in lowering of LDL‑C, hsCRP and triglycerides in patients with dyslipidemia and NASH. 

Gemcabene Phase 2 Completed Clinical Trials

Gemcabene has been evaluated in nine Phase 2 trials across a diverse patient population. These trials explored safety, tolerability and efficacy and multiple doses of gemcabene as monotherapy and in combination with low‑, moderate‑ and high‑intensity statins. The table below summarizes our completed Phase 2 clinical trials.

Summary of Phase 2 Completed Clinical Trials with Gemcabene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trial
Number

Patient / Indication

Trial Objectives

Doses

# Patients

Duration

Key Lipid and
Other Endpoints

1027-004

Low HDL‑C and normal or elevated TG (including SHTG)

Double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial to determine the efficacy and safety of gemcabene in subjects with low HDL‑C and either normal or elevated triglycerides

150, 300, 600, 900 mg

GEM=129

placebo=32

12 weeks

HDL‑C, TG, LDL‑C, hsCRP, apoB, Total cholesterol

1027‑012

Hypertension

Double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial to determine the effect of gemcabene compared to quinapril

900 mg

(with quinapril 20 mg)

GEM=43

quinapril=18

placebo=41

12 weeks

Systolic BP, Diastolic BP

1027‑014

Healthy Obese Non‑diabetic

Double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial to determine the effect of gemcabene on insulin sensitivity

900 mg

GEM=26

placebo=27

4 weeks

Insulin sensitivity

1027‑015

Hypertension

Double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial to determine the effect of gemcabene on blood pressure

900 mg

GEM=23

4 weeks

Systolic BP, Diastolic BP

1027-018

Hypercholesterolemia (not at goal on stable statin)

Double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial to determine the efficacy and safety of gemcabene on stable statin therapy

300, 900 mg

(with various low, moderate and high intensity statins)

GEM=42

placebo=24

8 weeks

LDL‑C, hsCRP, apoB, TG, HDL‑C, VLDL, Total cholesterol

A4141001

Hypercholesterolemia 

Double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial to determine the efficacy and safety of gemcabene as monotherapy or in combination with atorvastatin (after statin washout)

300, 600, 900 mg

(with 10, 40, 80 mg atorvastatin)

GEM=208

atorvastatin=52

placebo=17

8 weeks

LDL‑C, hsCRP, apoB, TG, HDL‑C, Total cholesterol

A4141004

Osteoarthritis

Double blind, placebo controlled, randomized trial to determine the efficacy and safety of gemcabene in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee

150, 450, 900 mg

(with rofecoxib 25 mg)

GEM=242

rofecoxib=79

placebo=83

4 weeks

Pain assessment, CGIC, PGIC, SODA

GEM-201 (COBALT-1)

HoFH

Open-label, dose-finding study assessed the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of gemcabene in patients with HoFH on stable, lipid-lowering therapy

300, 600, 900 mg

GEM=8

12 weeks

LDL‑C, hsCRP, apoB, TG, HDL‑C, VLDL, Total cholesterol

GEM-301 (ROYAL-1)

Hypercholesterolemia on High-and Moderate-Internsity Statins

Double blind, placebo controlled, randomized trial to determine safety and efficacy of gemcabene on background high- and moderate-intensity statin therapy.

600 mg

GEM=53

Placebo=52

12 weeks

LDL‑C, hsCRP, apoB, TG, HDL‑C, VLDL, Total cholesterol

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SODA=Sequential occupational dexterity assessment, PGIC=Patients global impression of change, CGIC=Clinical global impression of change, GEM=gemcabene; TG=triglycerides.

Gemcabene Phase 2 Trial in Patients with HoFH (COBALT-1)

This Phase 2 open-label, dose-finding study assessed the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of gemcabene in patients with HoFH on stable, lipid-lowering therapy. COBALT-1 was a 12-week, dose-escalation trial with n=8 patients with a diagnosis of HoFH by genetic confirmation (including heterozygosity) or a clinical diagnosis based on either: (1) A history of an untreated LDL-C concentration >500 mg/dL (12.92 mmol/L) together with either appearance of xanthoma before 10 years of age, or evidence of heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia in both parents; or (2) If history is unavailable, LDL-C >300 mg/dL (7.76 mmol/L) on maximally tolerated lipid-lowering drug therapy. Successive escalating doses of 300mg, 600mg, 900mg gemcabene were given every four weeks.

Efficacy:  Patients were administered oral gemcabene once daily, with dosage escalating from 300 mg to 600 mg and then 900 mg every 4 weeks, for a total duration of 12 weeks. On various baseline aggressive lipid lowering therapies, the eight FH subjects had a mean baseline LDL-C level of 351 mg/dl prior to add-on gemcabene treatment. Treatment with gemcabene 600 mg, the Company’s target commercial dose, resulted in an absolute reduction of 93 mg/dL for the overall population and 92 mg/dL and 94 mg/dL for the HoFH and HeFH subjects, respectively. The results for the primary endpoint of mean percent change in LDL-C from baseline at each dose and related time point are presented below.

Picture 28

As shown the table below, gemcabene impacted multiple secondary endpoints, showing reductions from baseline in total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), non-HDL, apoB, apoE, high sensitivity C-Reaction Protein (hsCRP), and other relevant biomarkers. Importantly, gemcabene 600 mg showed a 33% reduction in hsCRP.

24


 

Picture 19

Safety:Safety was assessed by adverse event (AE) monitoring, clinical laboratory assessments, electrocardiograms, physical examinations and vital signs.  AEs were mild to moderate in intensity across all doses of gemcabene and consistent with previously reported AEs. The majority of AEs were gastrointestinal.  There were no serious AEs or withdrawals due to AEs in the COBALT-1 study. There was no evidence of hepatic or muscle injury in the study.

Gemcabene Phase 2 Trial in Patients with Hypercholesterolemia on High- and Moderate- Intensity Statin Therapy

ROYAL-1 was designed to largely address the safety of gemcabene in patients on the highest doses of statins. In patients with hypercholesterolemia, despite being on MI and HI statins, gemcabene produced significant reductions in both atherogenic and inflammatory markers without evidence of increased muscle or liver toxicities. A total of 105 hypercholesterolemic patients, including ASCVD or HeFH, were randomized 1:1 to either gemcabene 600 mg or placebo with 50 (24 gemcabene 600 mg; 26 placebo) patients on baseline high-intensity (HI) statins (atorvastatin 40 mg or 80 mg QD; or rosuvastatin 20 mg or 40 mg QD) and 55 (29 gemcabene 600 mg; 26 placebo) patients on baseline moderate-intensity (MI) statins (atorvastatin 10 mg or 20 mg QD; rosuvastatin 5 mg or 10 mg QD; or simvastatin 20 or 40 mg QD). Baseline LDL-C was 127 mg/dL and 134 mg/dL in the MI statin and HI statin stratum, respectively. The double-blind treatment phase of the trial was 12 weeks.

Efficacy:  Top-line data for ROYAL-1 showed gemcabene produced a mean percent decrease of 17% in LDL-C (vs 5% for placebo) and a median percent decrease of 40% in hsCRP (vs 6% for placebo). Gemcabene reduced LDL-C by 20% and hsCRP by 53% when added to moderate intensity statin therapy. Greater effects were observed in a cardiometabolic population, patients with mixed dyslipidemia, who have a particularly high atherogenic particle burden.  In the mixed dyslipidemia group of patients, gemcabene 600 mg demonstrated a placebo adjusted LDL-C reduction of 23% (p < 0.05). Consistent with the mechanism of action of gemcabene, patients with mixed dyslipidemia showed greater reductions in LDL-C, non-HDL-C, ApoB, ApoE and TG of 23%, 19%, 26%, 34% and 33%, respectively.

Safety:Overall, gemcabene was well tolerated with a profile consistent with earlier studies. There were no SAEs and no deaths reported in the study. 33 of 54 patients (61.1%) in the gemcabene group and 24 of 51 patients (47.1%) in the placebo group who reported at least one AE during the study. The most prevalent AEs were those associated with infections. Reported AEs were similar for the MI and HI statin stratums. There was no difference in myalgias between placebo and gemcabene groups. There were no transaminase elevations > 3 x ULN and no clinically significant CK elevations.

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Gemcabene Phase 2 Trial in Patients with Hypercholesterolemia on Stable Statin Therapy (Trial 1027‑018)

This Phase 2 double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial in patients with hypercholesterolemia was designed to assess the efficacy and safety of gemcabene when added to stable statin therapy. A majority of the patients were on moderate‑ to high‑intensity statin therapy for at least three months (high ≈20%, mod ≈60% and low ≈20%). Gemcabene was administered at 300 mg and 900 mg once‑daily for eight weeks. The primary endpoint was median percent change from baseline in LDL‑C. Other endpoints included median percent change from baseline in hsCRP, apoB, total cholesterol, VLDL‑C and triglycerides at Week 8. A total of 66 patients were randomized and 61 patients were evaluated for efficacy. Baseline LDL‑C levels were similar across the treatment arms at approximately 150 mg/dL.

Efficacy:  As presented in the figure below, patients treated with gemcabene were observed to have significantly lowered LDL‑C from baseline at 300 mg and 900 mg by 25% (p=0.005) and 31% (p<0.001), respectively. Patients treated with gemcabene were also observed to have significantly lowered hsCRP, apoB and total cholesterol. At 900 mg, patients treated with gemcabene demonstrated significantly lowered hsCRP by 54% (p<0.001). At 300 mg and 900 mg, patients treated with gemcabene demonstrated significantly lowered apoB by 20% (p=0.033) and 24% (p=0.003), respectively. At 300 mg and 900 mg, patients treated with gemcabene demonstrated significantly lowered total cholesterol by 18% (p=0.008) and 22% (p<0.001), respectively. It was further observed that all four (4) patients treated with 900 mg gemcabene on high‑intensity statins have a mean LDL‑C reduction of 24%.

We believe these results support the continued development of gemcabene for the treatment HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD indications on maximally tolerated statins. Classification of statin dose intensity is defined in the 2013 ACC guidelines.

 

Median Percent Change from Baseline at Week 8 in Patients with Hypercholesterolemia

on Background Stable Statin Therapy

Picture 18

26


 

LDL‑C Median Percent Change from Baseline at Week 8 in Patients with Hypercholesterolemia

on Background Stable Statin Therapy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placebo + Statin

GEM 300 mg + Statin

GEM 900 mg + Statin

n

22
18
21

Median Baseline LDL‑C

153.3
143.5
142.5

Median Week 8 LDL‑C

137
101.5
103

Median % Change

−7.9%

−24.8%

−31.0%

p‑Value vs. Placebo

N/A

0.005

<0.001

*N/A = not applicable

Safety:  Gemcabene was observed to be well tolerated. Patients taking either 300 mg or 900 mg of gemcabene were observed to have a safety profile similar to that of placebo (300 mg: 20%; 900 mg: 23%; placebo: 29%). One patient experienced an SAE in the gemcabene 900 mg treatment arm, which was not considered related to treatment. Three patients (placebo: 2, gemcabene 300 mg: 1) withdrew from the trial due to an AE, all of which were considered possibly related to treatment. AEs reported were generally mild to moderate in intensity. The most frequent AE in the placebo arm was infection (13%). The most frequent AEs in the gemcabene treatment arms were headache (10%) and infection (10%). There were no meaningful changes in liver enzymes ALT and AST. One patient in the 300 mg gemcabene treatment arm had a single laboratory assessment with a rise in creatine kinase of 5 × upper limit of normal (ULN). No clinically meaningful changes in physical examinations or vital signs from baseline to the end of the trial were observed for any patient.

Gemcabene Phase 2 Trial in Patients with Hypercholesterolemia (Trial A4141001)

This Phase 2 double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial was designed to assess the efficacy and safety of gemcabene administered as monotherapy, atorvastatin monotherapy or gemcabene initiated simultaneously in combination with atorvastatin in the treatment of patients with hypercholesterolemia. When applicable, patients were washed out of statins and other lipid‑lowering therapies. Gemcabene was administered as monotherapy once‑daily at 300 mg, 600 mg or 900 mg or in combination with atorvastatin once‑daily at 10 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg. The primary endpoint was percent change in LDL‑C from baseline at Week 8. Secondary endpoints included percent change in hsCRP, apoB, HDL‑C and triglycerides from baseline at Week 8. A total of 277 patients were randomized and 255 patients with at least one post baseline assessment were included in the efficacy analysis. Baseline LDL‑C levels for the evaluable patients after washout were similar across treatment arms at approximately 175 mg/dL.

Efficacy:  As presented in the figure below, patients treated with gemcabene were observed to have significantly lowered LDL‑C by 17% (p=0.0013), 26% (p=0.0001) and 29% (p=0.0001) as monotherapy at 300 mg, 600 mg and 900 mg, respectively. The LDL‑C lowering effect was seen within two weeks and was stable for the duration of the eight week trial. It is important to note that the patients included in this trial were statin responsive (able to reach goal near or below 100 mg/dL) at 10 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg atorvastatin monotherapy. While the trial demonstrated gemcabene provided additional dose dependent LDL‑C lowering (statistically significant at 600 mg and 900 mg when compared to atorvastatin alone), the gemcabene treatment effect was less pronounced due to the patients already being at or below LDL‑C goal of 100 mg/dL on atorvastatin monotherapy. Patients treated with gemcabene were observed to have lowered hsCRP by 26% (p=0.1612), 42% (p=0.0070) and 35% (p=0.0018) as monotherapy at 300 mg, 600 mg and 900 mg, respectively.

Patients treated with gemcabene in combination with atorvastatin aggregated over the dose range were observed to have mean LDL‑C lowering of 50% (p=0.0852), 52% (p=0.0045) and 54% (p=0.0006) at 300 mg, 600 mg and 900 mg, respectively. Patients treated with gemcabene in combination with atorvastatin aggregated over the dose range were observed to have median hsCRP lowering of 47% (p=0.0237), 54% (p=0.0017) and 60% (p=0.0001) at 300 mg, 600 mg and 900 mg, respectively.

We believe these results support the continued development of gemcabene for the treatment HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD indications including mixed dyslipidemia.

27


 

LDL‑C Mean Percent Change from Baseline in Patients with Hypercholesterolemia

(with wash‑out of statins)

Picture 17

Safety:  Gemcabene was observed to be well tolerated. Patients taking any dose of gemcabene (300 mg, 600 mg or 900 mg) were observed to have a safety profile similar to that of atorvastatin monotherapy. A similar percentage of patients experienced an associated AE between placebo (18%), atorvastatin monotherapy arms (14%) compared to gemcabene monotherapy (18%) and gemcabene plus atorvastatin treatment arms (17%). Three patients in the gemcabene plus atorvastatin arm experienced a SAE, none of which were considered related to treatment. 16 patients (placebo: 1, atorvastatin monotherapy: 2, gemcabene monotherapy: 6, gemcabene plus atorvastatin: 7) withdrew from the trial due to AEs, nine (atorvastatin monotherapy: 2, gemcabene monotherapy: 4, gemcabene plus atorvastatin: 3) of which were considered possibly related to treatment. AEs reported were generally mild to moderate in intensity. 14 patients (placebo: 1, atorvastatin monotherapy: 2, gemcabene monotherapy: 1, gemcabene plus atorvastatin: 10) reported an AE considered severe in intensity, one (gemcabene plus atorvastatin: 1) of which was considered possibly related to treatment. The most frequently occurring AEs across all treatment arms were infection (8%), pain (6%) and headache (6%). Small mean increases in serum creatinine and BUN were observed in the gemcabene monotherapy arms. One patient treated with 600 mg gemcabene plus atorvastatin had a clinically significant ALT elevation (>3 × ULN on two separate occasions) that returned to near normal levels while treatment continued. No other patient had a pre‑specified clinically significant lab abnormality in ALT, AST, creatinine kinase or serum creatinine. No clinically meaningful changes in physical examinations or vital signs from baseline to the end of the trial were observed for any patient. The AEs experienced by more than 10% of patients in any treatment group are summarized below.

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Adverse Events by Body System Occurring With ≥ 10% of Patients in

Any Treatment Group for Study A4141001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atorvastatin Mono

Gemcabene 300 mg +
Atorvastatin

Gemcabene 600 mg +
Atorvastatin

Gemcabene 900 mg +
Atorvastatin

AE Category

 

Pbo
N=17

10 mg
N=17

40 mg
N=18

80 mg
N=17

Mono
N=16

10 mg
N=17

40 mg
N=18

80 mg
N=18

Mono
N=18

10 mg
N=18

40 mg
N=16

80 mg
N=18

Mono
N=17

10 mg
N=18

40 mg
N=16

80 mg
N=18

All Adverse Events

Body as a whole

5 (29)

4 (24)

5 (28)

4 (24)

5 (31)

3 (18)

5 (28)

4 (22)

7 (39)

7 (39)

4 (25)

4 (22)

4 (24)

5 (28)

8 (50)

10 (56)

Asthenia

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

2 (11)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

2 (11)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

Back Pain

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

2 (11)

0 (0)

2 (11)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

Headache

0 (0)

1 (6)

3 (17)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

1 (6)

2 (11)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

2 (11)

0 (0)

1 (6)

Infection

3 (18)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

3 (19)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

3 (17)

2 (11)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

2 (11)

1 (6)

3 (17)

Pain

0 (0)

2 (12)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

3 (17)

1 (6)

2 (11)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

2 (11)

Digestion

2 (12)

2 (12)

5 (28)

3 (18)

3 (31)

3 (18)

4 (22)

3 (17)

4 (22)

5 (28)

3 (19)

4 (22)

4 (24)

3 (17)

0 (0)

3 (17)

Constipation

1 (6)

1 (6)

3 (17)

0 (0)

0 (0)

2 (12)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

Diarrhea

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

3 (18)

2 (13)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

Dyspepsia

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

2 (11)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

Flatulence

1 (6)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

2 (13)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

Nausea

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

2 (13)

0 (0)

2 (11)

2 (11)

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

3 (18)

1 (6)

0 (0)

2 (11)

Musculoskeletal

1 (6)

2 (12)

3 (17)

2 (12)

0 (0)

0 (0)

2 (11)

2 (11)

0 (0)

3 (17)

3 (19)

0 (0)

0 (0)

3 (17)

0 (0)

0 (0)

Arthralgia

0 (0)

2 (12)

2 (11)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

2 (13)

0 (0)

0 (0)

2 (11)

0 (0)

0 (0)

Myalgia

0 (0)

1 (6)

1 (6)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

2 (11)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

1 (6)

0 (0)

0 (0)

 

AE = adverse event; Mono = monotherapy; Pbo = placebo.

Source: Report A4141001, Table 40 (Cowmeadow et al., 2003)

Gemcabene Phase 2 Trial in Patients with Elevated Triglycerides (Trial 1027‑004)

This Phase 2 double‑blind, placebo‑controlled, randomized trial was designed to assess the efficacy and safety of gemcabene in patients with low HDL‑C and either normal or elevated triglycerides. Gemcabene was administered at 150, 300, 600 and 900 mg once‑daily for 12 weeks. The objectives of this trial were to evaluate percentage change from baseline in HDL‑C, LDL‑C, triglycerides and other lipids and apolipoprotein variables at Week 12. A total of 161 patients were randomized. At baseline, 67 patients were normotriglyceridemic (<200 mg/dL) and 94 patients were hypertriglyceridemic (≥200 mg/dL). Baseline triglycerides were approximately 370 mg/dL across the treatment arms with hypertriglyceridemia with the exception of the 600 mg treatment arm (580 mg/dL). A total of 155 patients (89 hypertriglyceridemic patients) had a post randomization assessment to be evaluated for efficacy. Baseline LDL‑C levels for the evaluable patients, regardless of the triglyceride stratum, were similar across the treatment arms at approximately 110 mg/dL.

Efficacy:  As presented in the figure below, patients with triglyceride levels greater than 200 mg/dL (hypertriglyceridemic patients), treated with gemcabene at 150 mg and 300 mg were observed to have lowered triglycerides by 27% (p=0.002) and 39% (p<0.001), respectively compared to baseline. Although patients treated with gemcabene at 600 mg and 900 mg were observed to have lower triglycerides, the lowering effect was not significant when compared to placebo. Therefore, the anticipated dose for treatment of patients with elevated triglyceride levels is 150 mg or 300 mg. Notably, patients treated with gemcabene were observed to have significantly lowered LDL‑C by 19% (p<0.001) and 20% (p<0.001) at 600 mg and 900 mg, respectively, compared to baseline.

A post‑hoc analysis of the nine patients with severe triglyceride levels (≥500 mg/dL; baseline means of two weeks prior and time zero was approximately 600 mg/dL) treated with 150 mg and 300 mg suggest gemcabene has the potential to lower triglycerides by as much as 60%.

We believe these results support the continued development of gemcabene for the treatment SHTG and ASCVD patients with mixed dyslipidemia.

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Triglyceride Median Percent Change from Baseline at Week 12 in Patients with High to Severe Hypertriglyceridemia

Picture 16

Safety:  Gemcabene was observed to be well tolerated. Patients taking any dose of gemcabene (150 mg, 300 mg, 600 mg or 900 mg) were observed to have a safety profile similar to that of placebo. Fewer patients experienced an associated AE in the placebo arm (9%) compared to gemcabene treatment arms (17%). Three patients (placebo: 1, gemcabene: 2) experienced SAEs, none of which were considered related to treatment. Six patients (placebo: 2, gemcabene: 4) withdrew from the trial due to AEs, four (placebo: 1, gemcabene: 3) of which were considered possibly related to treatment. AEs reported were generally mild to moderate in intensity. Two patients (placebo: 1, gemcabene: 1) reported an AE considered severe in intensity. The most frequent AEs in the placebo arm were infection (16%), accidental injury (6%), back pain (6%), dyspepsia (6%), headache (6%) and sinusitis (6%). The most frequently observed AEs in the gemcabene arms were infection (12%), headache (7%) and asthenia (5%). Two patients had ALT values that met the definition of a clinically important laboratory abnormality (placebo: 1, 600 mg gemcabene: 1). One patient had elevated BUN values considered clinically significant (600 mg gemcabene: 1). All of these laboratory abnormalities were considered mild to moderate. No clinically meaningful changes in physical examinations or vital signs from baseline to the end of the trial were observed for any patient.

Gemcabene Phase 1 Clinical Trials

Gemcabene has been evaluated in ten completed Phase 1 trials in healthy volunteers. These trials explored safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and dose response as monotherapy and in combination with high‑intensity statin doses and other drugs. The table below summarizes our completed Phase 1 trials. Select trials are described in more detail below.

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Summary of Phase 1 Clinical Trials of Gemcabene in Healthy Volunteers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trial Number

 

Trial Objectives

Doses

# Volunteers

Duration

1027‑001

Single‑dose trial to evaluate safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics (PK) of gemcabene

25, 100, 300, 600, 1,050, 1,500 mg

GEM = 12

Single Dose

1027‑002

Single‑dose trial to evaluate the effect of food on the PK of gemcabene

450 mg

GEM = 12

Single Dose

1027-003

Double blind, placebo controlled, randomized trial to evaluate the PK and pharmacodynamics (PD) at multiple doses of gemcabene

50, 150, 450, 750/600, 900 mg

GEM = 40

placebo = 10

4 Weeks

1027-008

Trial to determine the potential drug‑drug interactions of simvastatin with gemcabene

900 mg

(with 80 mg simvastatin)

GEM = 20

15 Days

1027‑009

Trial to evaluate the bioequivalence between a capsule and tablet formulation of gemcabene

300 mg

GEM = 16

Single Dose

1027‑010

Trial to evaluate the mass balance and metabolism of gemcabene

600 mg

GEM = 6

Single Dose

1027‑011

Trial to determine the potential drug‑drug interactions of digoxin with gemcabene

900 mg

(with 0.25 mg digoxin)

GEM = 12

10 Days

A4141002

Trial to determine the potential drug‑drug interactions of atorvastatin with gemcabene

300, 900 mg

(with 80 mg atorvastatin)

GEM = 20

22 Days

A4141003

Trial to evaluate the effect of gemcabene on QT interval

900 mg

GEM = 20

8 Days

A4141005

Trial to evaluate the effect of gemcabene on the glomerular filtration rate

900 mg

(with 3,235 mg lohexol)

GEM = 12

10 Days

 

Note:One trial (A4141006; 23 volunteers) was stopped prior to completion as a result of discontinuation of the program. The trial was designed to evaluate multiple fixed‑dose combinations of gemcabene with atorvastatin.

Gemcabene Phase 1 Drug‑Drug Interaction Trials to Assess PK on Statins (Trials 1027‑008 and A4141002)

Two open‑label, multiple‑dose, Phase 1 trials were conducted to assess PK of gemcabene in combination with high‑intensity statins. In Trial 1027‑008, 900 mg of gemcabene was co‑administered with 80 mg simvastatin in 20 healthy volunteers. In Trial A4141002, 300 mg and 900 mg of gemcabene were co‑administered with 80 mg atorvastatin in 20 healthy volunteers. In both trials, treatment with gemcabene in combination with statins was observed to be well tolerated by volunteers. Furthermore, as presented in the figures below, the PK profiles with and without 900 mg gemcabene were observed to be similar, suggesting no clinically relevant drug‑drug interactions with either 80 mg simvastatin or 80 mg atorvastatin.

PK Profiles of High‑Intensity Statins Co‑administered with Gemcabene

Picture 15

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Gemcabene Preclinical Studies

As part of a comprehensive nonclinical toxicology program, over 30 exploratory and definitive single and repeated‑dose toxicity studies with gemcabene were conducted in mice, rats, dogs and monkeys. There are very few outstanding nonclinical studies needed for registration such as two‑year carcinogenicity studies in rodents and juvenile toxicology. Gemcabene was well tolerated in these completed studies, including a 26‑week repeat dose study in rats and monkeys and 52‑week repeat dose study in monkeys. The completed studies support conducting clinical trials up to six months.

In multiple preclinical efficacy studies, gemcabene was observed to have lowering effects on plasma LDL‑C, triglycerides and anti‑inflammatory markers in diet‑induced and genetic preclinical models of dyslipidemia.

In Vivo Proof of Principle Study for HoFH

In LDL‑receptor deficient mice, gemcabene at 60 mg/kg/day was observed to reduce LDL‑C up to 55% as monotherapy and 72% in combination with statins. This dose in mice is equivalent to approximately a 450 mg gemcabene tablet per day in humans. This LDL‑receptor deficient animal model has been reported in literature to be fairly predictive of HoFH therapies in practice. For example, statin lowering of approximately 20% in LDL‑receptor deficient‑mice model correlates well to the approximately 15% to 20% LDL‑C lowering observed in HoFH patients, and Juxtapid lowering of approximately 50% to 80% in LDL‑receptor deficient‑rabbits model correlates well to the approximately 40% to 50% in HoFH patients.

Gemcabene Preclinical HoFH Mice Model

Picture 14

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In Vivo Proof of Principle for Hepatic Triglyceride Reduction

Gemcabene was studied in a chow-fed Sprague-Dawley rat model to explore the effects on fat content in the liver. The results of gemcabene 10 and 30 mg/kg/day doses in this rat model were similar to gemfibrozil. Gemcabene treatment significantly reduced hepatic triglycerides by 74% in chow-fed Sprague-Dawley rats.

Hepatic Lipids in Male Sprague-Dawley Rats Treated with Gemfibrozil or Gemcabene

Picture 13

In Vivo Proof of Concept for NASH (STAM Murine Model of NASH and Hepatocellular Carcinoma) 

NASH was induced in 40 male mice by a single subcutaneous injection of 200 µg streptozotocin solution 2 days after birth and feeding with a high fat diet. Histological analyses of the liver were the key endpoints for the determination of an effect of gemcabene in this preclinical model of NASH. NASH is defined by the presence and pattern of specific histological abnormalities on liver biopsy. The NAFLD Activity Score (NAS) is a composite score that was developed as a tool to measure changes in NAFLD during therapeutic trials. NAS is a composite score comprised of three components that includes scores for steatosis, lobular inflammation and hepatocyte ballooning. NAS was defined as the unweighted sum of the scores for steatosis, lobular inflammation and hepatocyte ballooning. Steatosis grade is quantified as the percentage of hepatocytes that contain fat droplets. The fibrosis stage of the liver is evaluated separately from NAS by histological evaluation of the intensity of sirius red staining of collagen in the pericentral region of liver lobules. NAS scores of 0-2 are not considered diagnostic for NASH, NAS scores of 3-4 are considered either not diagnostic, borderline or positive for NASH, while NAS scores of 5-8 are largely considered diagnostic for NASH. A treatment effect for NASH is based on differences in both NAS and fibrosis levels.

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The gemcabene 30 and 300 mg/kg groups and telmisartan group (included as a positive control) showed significant reduction in NAS compared with the Vehicle in NASH group. Since gemcabene reduced steatosis and ballooning scores, the data suggested that gemcabene improved NASH pathology by inhibiting hepatocyte damage and ballooning cell formation.

STAM Model NAFLD Activity Score (NAS)

Picture 5

Sirius red-stained liver sections were evaluated to determine liver fibrosis. Liver sections from the Vehicle in NASH group showed increased collagen deposition in the pericentral region of liver lobule compared with the Vehicle in Normal group. All gemcabene groups showed significant decreases in fibrosis area compared with the Vehicle in NASH group.

STAM Model Fibrosis (Sirius Red-Positive Area)

Picture 4

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Additionally, hepatic gene expression and plasma markers indicative of inflammation (e.g., CRP and CCR2/CCR5), and lipid modulation (e.g., ApoC-III and ACC1) were significantly reduced as were other markers, as displayed in the table below. Gemcabene demonstrated proof of concept on NAS score and fibrosis, supporting further development in the clinic.

Picture 9

Gemcabene Clinical Development Plan

In June and September 2015, Gemphire received FDA feedback from its Type C meetings related to the development of gemcabene for the treatment of patients with HoFH. The FDA indicated that historically LDL‑C has been accepted as a surrogate endpoint for cardiovascular risk reduction for lipid‑altering drugs to support traditional approval, including patients with HoFH. The FDA reiterated weighing the magnitude of LDL‑C reduction in light of the drug’s safety profile (e.g., benefit/risk) when using a surrogate endpoint such as LDL‑C. Our investigational new drug application (IND) was submitted to the FDA in December 2015 and is in effect. We have also received approvals to initiate studies in the dyslipidemic indications in Canada and Israel.

We initiated three late stage clinical trials in dyslipidemia in 2016, and we initiated two Phase 2a trials in NASH/NAFLD in late 2017 and early 2018. With the completion of the COBALT and ROYAL trials last year, we are preparing for our EOP2 meeting with the FDA to discuss the design and scope of the Phase 3 registration trials and long‑term safety exposure needed for registration. These long-terms exposure trials will require that the FDA lift its partial clinical hold on gemcabene, which would occur as soon as the agency reviews our report on the 2-year rodent carcinogenicity study for which the in-life portion was completed this past October. We would expect to launch our first Phase 3 registration trial in 2018 for a targeted indication. The development programs for our targeted indications are described below. The in‑vitro drug transport studies have been completed in accordance with FDA guidelines, and we expect to conduct a few additional clinical pharmacology Phase 1 trials to support registration.

Homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia (HoFH): COBALT Program

The clinical development program for HoFH patients is expected to include the 25 completed and ongoing Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials.  Additionally, we anticipate a limited clinical trial program to support HoFH registration.  It is anticipated that the program will consist of the following:  1) GEM-202, is a 12-week double-blind, placebo‑controlled study in HoFH subjects older than 12; 2) GEM-205 is an open-label study in subjects on background LDL apheresis to assess PK and PD; and 3) GEM-204, an open-label extension study to GEM-202 and GEM-205. 

After EOP2 discussions with the FDA and other regulatory agencies we will be able to better define the Phase 3 registration trials and long-term safety exposure needed for registration

 

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Hypercholesterolemia, HeFH and ASCVD: ROYAL Program

The clinical development program for adult patients with hypercholesterolemia (including HeFH, ASCVD, ASCVD with mixed dyslipidemia and statin-intolerant patients) with elevated LDL‑C levels while on maximally tolerated high‑intensity statin therapy is expected to include the 25 completed and ongoing Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical studies followed by Phase 3 registration trials. Current precedent for this high-risk population of patients is that reductions in LDL-C is an acceptable surrogate for registration.  

After EOP2 discussions with the FDA and other regulatory agencies, we believe we will be able to better define the Phase 3 registration trials and long‑term safety exposure needed for registration.

SHTG: INDIGO Program

The clinical development program for adult patients with SHTG with elevated triglyceride levels is expected to include the 25 completed and ongoing Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical studies, including GEM‑401 (INDIGO-1), followed by Phase 3 registration trials.

INDIGO-1 is a 12 week, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial in patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia (SHTG) (TG≥500mg/dL) with or without statin therapy. The study has completed enrollment of 90 subjects into one of three arms, gemcabene 300 mg, gemcabene 600 mg and placebo. The primary endpoint will be TG lowering from baseline after 12 weeks. Other endpoints will include LDL‑C, hsCRP, apoB, non HDL‑C, VLDL and total cholesterol. Safety of these patients will be assessed by AE monitoring, clinical laboratory assessments, ECGs, physical examinations and vital sign assessments. We announced that enrollment completed in January 2018 and top-line data is expected in the second quarter of 2018.

After completion of the Phase 2 trial and after EOP2 discussions with the FDA and other regulatory agencies, we believe we will be able to better define the Phase 3 registration trials and long‑term safety exposure needed for registration.

NASH/NAFLD Program

The clinical development program NASH/NAFLD patients is expected to include the 25 completed and ongoing Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials.  In addition, there are two ongoing proof-of concept Phase 2a studies to evaluate gemcabene in NASH/NAFLD subjects and these studies are described below.

 

Pediatric NAFLD: Phase 2a Clinical Trial

 

In January 2018, the Company announced that it had initiated a Phase 2a proof-of-concept clinical trial investigating gemcabene as a treatment for pediatric NAFLD.  The open label trial is expected to enroll approximately 40 adolescent children between the ages of 12 and 17 who are diagnosed with NAFLD and abnormal liver function as assessed by liver transaminases.  Patients will receive gemcabene at a dose of 300 mg once daily.  The primary endpoint is a measure of the change in serum alanine transaminase, an enzyme that serves as a biomarker of liver function, from baseline to 12 weeks.  Secondary endpoints include change in hepatic steatosis as measured by non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging – proton density fat fraction (MRI-PDFF), change in liver inflammation and fibrosis score by non-invasive MRI liver multiscan, change in AST, insulin sensitivity, serum lipids (including triglycerides), apolipoproteins, and inflammatory markers (including hsCRP) as well as safety and tolerability.  Top line results from the pediatric NAFLD trial are expected in early 2019. 

 

 

Adult NASH in Familial Partial Lipodystrophy (FPL): Phase 2a Clinical Trial

 

In December 2017, the Company announced that it had initiated a Phase 2a study to assess the efficacy and safety of two dosing regimens of gemcabene in FPL patients with elevated triglycerides and NAFLD.  The primary objective of this Phase 2a study is to assess the efficacy and safety of two dosing regimens of gemcabene in up to eight FPL patients with elevated triglycerides and NAFLD.  Patients will be randomized to two treatment groups, to receive either gemcabene 300 mg once daily for 24 weeks or gemcabene 300 mg once daily for 12 weeks immediately followed by gemcabene 600 mg once daily for an additional 12 weeks. The trial’s primary endpoint is the reduction in triglycerides after 12 weeks of treatment.  Secondary endpoints will include measures of liver fat (MRI-PDFF) and NAS (histology) at 24 weeks. Patients who are considered responders (i.e., defined as triglycerides lowering > 30% at Week 12) will be offered the opportunity for long-term therapy with gemcabene in a separate open-label extension study.  We anticipate top line results from the trial in the second half of 2018.

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After completion of the Phase 2a trials, the company expects to discuss the data with the FDA and other regulatory agencies.  After these meetings, the company will better be able to define the clinical development pathway in NASH/NAFLD.

Additional Studies and Trials

Studies in Response to Partial Clinical Hold for Compounds in PPAR Class

Peroxisome proliferation‑activated receptor (PPAR) agonists are natural ligands or drugs which bind to PPARs and turn on or off PPAR responsive genes in the cell nucleus. PPARs comprises three subtypes, PPARα, PPARγ and PPARβ (also referred to as PPARδ). When the PPARs are activated by natural or pharmaceutical molecules, those molecules can regulate (turn‑off or turn‑on) the transcription (making messenger RNA) of genes that regulate the storage and mobilization of lipids (fats), glucose metabolism, and inflammatory responses. PPARα and PPARγ are the molecular targets of a number of marketed drugs to treat metabolic syndrome including lowering triglycerides and cholesterol such as fibrate drugs and to treat diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance such as thiazolidinedione drugs.

Beginning in 2004, the FDA began issuing partial clinical holds to all sponsors of PPARs or agents deemed to have PPAR‑like properties from preclinical studies. The FDA takes the position that preclinical data suggest PPAR agonists are carcinogenic in rodents. In 2004, the FDA determined that gemcabene was a PPAR agonist and issued a partial clinical hold. Our current IND is subject to the same partial clinical hold. The partial clinical hold permits clinical trials of up to six months for gemcabene and also requires us to conduct two‑year rat and mouse carcinogenicity studies before conducting clinical trials of longer than six months. Our two‑year rat and mouse carcinogenicity studies are underway and the in-life portion of the studies were completed in Q4 2017. Thereafter, multiple tissues samples will be analyzed to complete draft audited data reports. These reports are expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2018 for submission to the FDA for review.

We believe the apparent PPARα effects observed in rodents (such as peroxisome proliferation and elevation of liver weight) are likely rodent‑specific phenomena. Based on historical nonclinical and clinical experience on these type of compounds, we believe rodents share little apparent relevance for human risk assessment. In a recently completed PPAR agonist receptor binding assays we observed essentially no gemcabene direct binding to the mouse, rat, or human PPARα, PPARβ, or PPARγ receptors, whereas reference agents for each of the receptors showed the expected binding, including marketed PPARα agents, such as fibrates, including gemfibrozil. We believe the PPARα responses in rats and mice are secondary and perhaps related to the mobilization or formation of a naturally occurring molecule that binds to PPARα in response to gemcabene administration.

Cardiovascular Outcomes Trials

We believe it is well accepted that every 1.6 mg/dL lowering of LDL‑C through the cholesterol synthesis pathway results in a 1% lowering of cardiovascular disease risk. The FDA has not required any approved therapy targeting LDL‑C lowering, including non‑statin therapies, to initiate or complete a cardiovascular outcomes trial in connection with its approval of HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD therapies. Based on recent drug approvals, we believe it is unlikely that the FDA will require us to initiate or complete a cardiovascular outcomes trial for any of the targeted indications, although we would plan to initiate a cardiovascular outcomes trial, for illustration in high‑risk ASCVD patients with mixed dyslipidemia, prior to NDA filing to pursue broader label indications related to cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Notwithstanding our current expectations, the FDA could require us to initiate or complete a cardiovascular outcomes trial as a condition to filing or approving an NDA for gemcabene.

Future In‑licensing and Acquisition Opportunities

Our scientific team is well‑qualified to identify, in‑license or acquire, and develop additional product candidates to diversify our pipeline and generate long‑term growth. We continually evaluate and prioritize interesting product candidates based on scientific merit, regulatory pathways, and commercial differentiation. Our focus is on cardiometabolic product candidates.

Sales and Marketing

Given our current stage of development, we have not yet established a commercial organization or distribution capabilities, nor have we entered into any partnership or co‑promotion arrangements with an established pharmaceutical company. To develop the appropriate commercial infrastructure to launch gemcabene in the United States, if approved,

37


 

for the narrower indications of HoFH, we may build out a specialty sales force to reach a concentrated number of approximately 50 lipid centers and 500 lipidologists across the country. This would require additional financial and managerial resources. We may co-promote the SHTG indication with a partner or use a contract sales force along with our internal sales force and distributor(s). We may engage in partnering discussions with third parties from time to time. As we further develop and seek approval as well as launch commercial sales of gemcabene outside of the United States or for broader patient populations in the United States, including patients with NASH, HeFH, and ASCVD, we may establish partnerships with one or more pharmaceutical company collaborators, depending on, among other things, the applicable indications, the related costs and our available resources.

Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC)

Gemcabene is a small molecule drug candidate that can be synthesized as a single polymorph crystalline monocalcium salt, using readily available raw materials and based on conventional chemical processes.

We do not own or operate, and currently have no plans to establish, any manufacturing facilities. We rely on contract manufacturers to produce both the drug substance and drug product amounts required for our preclinical studies and clinical trials under current good manufacturing practices (cGMP), a quality system regulating CMC activities.

Since 2015 to date, research and development performed for both drug substance and drug product resulted in a manufacturing process utilized for the production of clinical supply for on-going clinical trials. More specifically, drug substance and drug product process and analytical development have been completed in compliance with the FDA guidelines for Phase 2 clinical trials, and on-going activities are directed to process and method validations for compliance with Phase 3 clinical trials. In addition, our drug product manufacturer has sufficient analytical and process development data to support the manufacture of tablets of various strengths. On-going stability studies for both the drug substance and drug product currently support more than two years of shelf life, sufficient for this stage of development. CMC activities are also oriented towards the initiation of the production of the registration stability lots and validations to support NDA filing and regulatory approvals necessary for the commercial stage.

Our contract manufacturers are currently producing, and will produce in the future, our bulk drug substance and drug product for use in our preclinical studies and clinical trials on a purchase order basis, and do not have any long term arrangements. We intend to identify and qualify our current manufacturers as well as alternative manufacturers to provide bulk drug substance and drug product prior to the NDA submission to the FDA to ensure the regulatory support necessary for multiple manufacturing sites in order to supply sufficient commercial quantities at the drug launch and forward. We plan to continue to rely upon contract manufacturers and, potentially, collaboration partners to manufacture commercial quantities of our drug substances and drug product candidates, if approved for marketing by the applicable regulatory authorities.

Pfizer License Agreement

In April 2011, we entered into a license agreement with Pfizer (the Pfizer Agreement) for a worldwide exclusive license to certain patent rights to make, use, sell, offer for sale and import the clinical product candidate gemcabene. In exchange for this license, we agreed to issue shares of our common stock to Pfizer representing 15% of our fully diluted capital at the close of the first arms‑length series A financing, which occurred on March 31, 2015.

We agreed to make milestone payments totaling up to $37 million upon the achievement of certain milestones, including the first regulatory submission in any country, regulatory approval in each of the United States, Europe and Japan, the first anniversary of the first regulatory approval in any country, and upon achieving certain aggregate sales levels of gemcabene or any product containing gemcabene. Future milestone payments under the Pfizer Agreement, if any, are not expected to begin before at least late 2019 and extend over a number of subsequent years.

We have also agreed to pay Pfizer tiered royalties on a country‑by‑country basis based upon the annual amount of net sales as specified in the Pfizer Agreement until expiration of the last valid claim of the licensed patent rights, including any patent term extensions or supplemental protection certificates. The royalty rates range from the high single digits to the low teens depending on the level of net sales. Under the Pfizer Agreement we are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize gemcabene.

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The Pfizer Agreement will expire upon expiration of the last royalty term. Either party may terminate the Pfizer Agreement for the other party’s uncured material breach and specified bankruptcy events. Pfizer may terminate the Pfizer Agreement if we or any of our sublicensees challenge the validity, enforceability or ownership of the licensed patents. Additionally, Pfizer may revoke the license if we are unable to adequately commercialize gemcabene by April 2021.

Intellectual Property

Our patent estate includes patents and/or patent applications to forms of gemcabene, methods of using gemcabene, and methods of manufacturing gemcabene. The patent estate includes patents licensed from Pfizer and additional patents and applications that have been filed subsequent to obtaining the license that are entirely owned by Gemphire. Charles Bisgaier, a co-founder of Gemphire, is an inventor on thirteen of the pending fifteen patent families. As of February 26, 2018, Gemphire’s patent estate, including patents we own or license from third parties, on a worldwide basis, included five issued U.S. patents, sixteen pending U.S. patent applications, 41 issued patents in foreign jurisdictions including Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Mexico and Spain and 29 pending patent applications in foreign jurisdictions including Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and Mexico. Of our worldwide patents and pending applications, all relate to our product candidate gemcabene.

U.S. Patent number 6,861,555, which was in‑licensed from Pfizer, includes claims directed to the calcium salt crystal form of gemcabene that is used in our clinical formulations and will constitute the commercial product as well as other crystalline forms of gemcabene. This patent is expected to expire in 2021; however, we may select this patent for patent term extension from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) if such an extension is available. Given the expected length of the regulatory review, the expiry date of this patent may be extended to 2023, or possibly 2024. Assuming market approval of gemcabene in 2019, data exclusivity would provide exclusivity for gemcabene out to about 2024. Furthermore, and importantly in our case, the FDA orphan designation for HoFH may provide us seven years of market exclusivity for gemcabene in the United States for HoFH. This market exclusivity would provide protection for gemcabene for treating HoFH out to about 2026. Related foreign patents, which have issued in jurisdictions including Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand, are expected to expire in 2021, absent any adjustments or extensions.

U.S. Patent Number 8,557,835, which was also in‑licensed from Pfizer, includes claims directed to pharmaceutical compositions comprised of combinations of gemcabene with statins and methods of using a combination of gemcabene on top of a statin in a patient that does not reach sufficient LL-C lowering on a statin alone, for treating several conditions including hyperlipidemia. This patent is expected to expire in 2021, absent any extension. Related foreign patents, which have issued in jurisdictions including Mexico, and Singapore are expected to expire in 2018, absent any adjustments or extensions.

U.S. Patent No. 8,846,761, which is owned by Gemphire, includes claims directed to methods of reducing risk of pancreatitis for patients with TG≥ 500 mg/dL with gemcabene treatment. This patent is expected to expire in 2032, absent any extension. Foreign patents have issued in Australia, Japan, Mexico and Europe. The European patent was validated into 21 European countries. Foreign counterpart patent applications are pending in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong and Mexico, and any patents issuing from such applications are expected to expire in 2031, absent any adjustments or extensions.

U.S. patent application number 14/370,722, which we own, is directed to methods of decreasing a patient’s risk for developing coronary heart disease or preventing, delaying or reducing the severity of a secondary cardiovascular event by administering gemcabene with a statin. This application is granted in Australia and related patent applications are pending in foreign jurisdictions including Canada, China, Europe, Japan and Mexico. Any patent that may issue in this family, absent any patent term adjustment or extension, is expected to expire in 2033.

In 2015-2017, we filed, filed U.S. patent application number 14/942,765 and 14 foreign non‑provisional patent applications on methods of large scale manufacturing for making dicarboxyalkyl ethers. Any patent issuing from this patent family is expected to expire in 2035. In addition, in 2017, we filed U.S. provisional patent applications of which 62/477,831, 62/578,782, 62/467,407, 62/486,822, 62,486,728, 62/569,358, 62/584,576, 62/505,085, 62/560,540, 62/560,888 and in 2018 we filed 62/624,564, all of which are pending.  In 2017, we also filed two PCT applications one for methods of treating mixed dyslipidemia using gemcabene in combination with statins and treatment of NASH using gemcabene as a monotherapy (PCT/US2016/060837), and the other relating to fixed dose combinations and

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modified release formulations of gemcabene and statins (PCT/US2016/060849) which will be nationized. Two U.S. Patent Applications were filed as continuations of PCT/US2016/060837 and one as a divisional. U.S. Patent Application Number 15/416,911, now U.S. 9,849,104, is directed to methods of treating NASH by administering gemcabene as a monotherapy, U.S. Patent Application Number 15/424,620, is directed methods for treating Mixed Dyslipidemia by administering gemcabene and a statin, and divisional U.S. Patent Application Number 15/814,118 directed to other aspects of NASH. Any patent that may issue in either of these two families, absent any patent term adjustment or extension, is expected to expire in 2037. 

As background, the patent term is typically 20 years from the date of filing a non‑provisional application. In the United States, a patent’s term may be lengthened several ways. First, patent term adjustment (PTA) compensates a patentee for administrative delays by the USPTO in granting a patent. Second, in certain instances, a patent term extension (PTE) can be granted to recapture a portion of the term effectively lost as a result of the FDA regulatory review period, as provided under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch‑Waxman Act. This restoration period cannot be longer than five years for approval of a drug compound, and the total patent term, including the restoration period, must not exceed 14 years following FDA approval. Only one patent applicable to an approved drug is eligible for the PTE and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent and within 60 days from market approval. Independent of patent protection, in the United States, the Hatch‑Waxman Act provides a five‑year period of non‑patent data exclusivity within the United States to the first applicant to gain approval of an NDA for a new chemical entity (NCE). Under this provision, gemcabene may be eligible for up to five years of data and market exclusivity under the Hatch‑Waxman Act, because it is considered a NCE because the FDA has not previously approved any other drug containing the active ingredient of gemcabene. In Europe, under the Data Exclusivity Directive, pharmaceutical companies may receive up to 11 years to market their product without risk of competition. In Japan, under the Pharmaceuticals Act of Japan, the market authorization holder, based on the length of a required study period reexamination, may have up to 10 years before a generic can enter the market.

Competition

Our industry is highly competitive and subject to rapid and significant innovation and change. The market for lipid regulating therapies is especially large and competitive. Our potential competitors include large pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, specialty pharmaceutical and generic drug companies, academic institutions, government agencies and research institutions. Gemcabene, if approved, will face intense competition. Key competitive factors affecting its commercial success will include efficacy, safety, tolerability, reliability, convenience of dosing, price and reimbursement. Although there are currently no approved therapies for NASH, the market for NASH is continuing to evolve with many drug candidates in late stage development.

Statins are the most commonly used therapy to lower LDL‑C in the dyslipidemia market. They are used by patients with HoFH as well as HeFH and ASCVD. Branded statins include AstraZeneca’s Crestor (rosuvastatin), Merck’s Zocor (simvastatin) and Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) among others. Generic statins are marketed by several companies including Apotex Inc., Mylan N.V. (Mylan), Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. and Lupin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Lupin) among others.

Non‑statin based therapies are also used to lower LDL‑C in dyslipidemia patients. Merck’s Zetia (ezetimibe) is a common non‑statin therapy that is often combined with statins for HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD patients. Merck’s Vytorin and Liptruzet are fixed‑dose combination therapies that combine ezetimibe with statins. Non‑statin therapies are combined with statins to improve LDL‑C lowering or to offer other efficacy benefits, including Daiichi Sankyo Inc.’s (Daiichi Sankyo) Welchol, a bile acid sequestrant and niacin. Non‑statin therapies are also used to treat HoFH. These therapies include Aegerion’s Juxtapid, a once‑daily oral microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP) inhibitor and Ionis and Genzyme Corporation’s, a Sanofi Company (Genzyme), Kynamro, a once‑weekly injectable apoB antisense therapy. These agents have boxed warnings associated with liver toxicity and significant tolerability issues on their labels. Amgen’s Repatha, an injectable PCSK9 inhibitor, was recently approved for HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD, and Sanofi’s and Regeneron’s PCSK9 inhibitor, Praluent, was recently approved for HeFH and ASCVD.

There are multiple product candidates in late stage development for HoFH, HeFH and ASCVD. Regeneron’s evinacumab (completed Phase 2) is in development for the treatment of HoFH. For hypercholesterolemia, including HeFH and ASCVD, drugs in development include oral CETPi, Merck’s anacetrapib (recently discontinued Phase 3), Eli Lilly and Company’s evacetrapib (recently discontinued Phase 3), and Amgen/Dezima’s TA‑8995 (Phase 2), current Esperion’s oral product, Bempedoic Acid (Phase 3), The Medicines Company/Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s

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(Alnylam) injectable PCSK9 inhibitor, ALN‑PCSsc (completed Phase 2), Eli Lilly’s injectable PCSK9 inhibitor, LY3015014 (Phase 2), and Pfizer’s injectable PCSK9 inhibitor bococizumab (recently discontinued Phase 3).

The market for LDL lowering therapy is both large and competitive, and the diagram below depicts the opportunity for gemcabene in 2nd line oral therapy, especially with discontinuation of competing oral CETPi and injectable PCSK9 inhibitor.

Competitive LDL‑C Lowering Landscape

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Fibrates, niacin and prescription fish oil are common therapies used to lower triglycerides in patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia. Examples of branded fibrates include AbbVie Inc.’s (AbbVie) Tricor and Trilipix, and an example of a branded niacin includes AbbVie’s Niaspan, an extended‑release niacin. In addition, AbbVie markets combination therapies, such as Advicor (niacin extended release and lovastatin) and Simcor (niacin extended release and simvastatin). Prescribed generic versions of fibrates, such as gemfibrozil, are manufactured by many companies including Impax Laboratories, Inc. (Impax), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Teva), Mylan and Lupin among others. Generic versions of niacins are manufactured by many companies including Teva, Lupin and Zydus Pharmaceuticals (USA), Inc., among others. Commonly used prescription fish oils include GlaxoSmithKline plc’s (GlaxoSmithKline) Lovaza, AstraZeneca’s Epanova and Amarin’s Vascepa. Drugs that are in development for SHTG include Ionis’ volanesorsen (Phase 2).

Currently there are currently no approved therapies for NASH and older medications are written off label to treat the disease. There are currently more than thirty assets in various stages of development for NASH. Several drug candidates are in late stage development and may be approved for the NASH indication as soon as 2019/2020: OCALIVA (Obeticholic Acid) (FXR Agonist) being developed by Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Elafibranor (PPAR Agonist) being developed by Genfit SA, Selonsertib (formerly GS-4997) (ASK-1 Inhibitor) being developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc., GS-0976 (ACC Inhibitor) being developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc., Cenicriviroc (CVC) (CCR2/CCR5 Inhibitor) being developed by Tobira Therapeutics, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Allergan plc), Emricasan (Caspase Inhibitor) being developed by Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc., Aramchol (Synthetic Fatty Acid/Bile Acid Conjugate)

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being developed by Galmed, GR-MD-02 (Galectin-3 Inhibitor) being developed by Galectin Therapeutics, and MGL-3196 (THR Agonist) being developed by Madrigal.

Government Regulation

Government authorities at the federal, state and local level in the United States and in other countries extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture (including any manufacturing changes), packaging, storage, recordkeeping, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, marketing, post‑approval monitoring and reporting, import and export of pharmaceutical products, such as those we are developing.

United States — FDA Regulation

FDA Approval Process

In the United States, pharmaceutical products are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDC Act) and other federal and state statutes and regulations, govern, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, storage, recordkeeping, approval, labeling, promotion and marketing, distribution, post‑approval monitoring and reporting, sampling, and import and export of pharmaceutical products. Failure to comply with applicable U.S. requirements may subject a company to a variety of administrative or judicial sanctions by the FDA, including FDA refusal to approve pending NDAs, partial or full clinical holds, warning or untitled letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, civil penalties and criminal prosecution.

Pharmaceutical product development for a new product or certain changes to an approved product in the United States typically involves preclinical laboratory and animal tests, the submission of an investigational new drug application (IND) to the FDA, which must become effective before clinical trials may commence, and adequate and well‑controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and effectiveness of the drug for each indication for which FDA approval is sought. Satisfaction of the FDA’s pre‑market approval requirements typically takes many years and the actual time required may vary substantially based upon the type, complexity and novelty of the product or disease.

Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluation of product chemistry, formulation and toxicity, as well as animal trials to assess the characteristics and potential safety and efficacy of the product. The conduct of the preclinical studies must comply with federal regulations and requirements, including good laboratory practices, or GLP. The results of preclinical studies are submitted to the FDA as part of an IND along with other information, including information about product chemistry, manufacturing and controls, available clinical data, and a proposed clinical trial protocol. Long term preclinical studies, such as animal tests of reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity, may continue after the IND is submitted.

Once the IND is submitted, the sponsor must wait 30 calendar days before initiating any clinical trials. During this time, FDA has an opportunity to review the IND for safety to assure that research subjects will not be subjected to unreasonable risk., unless before that time the FDA raises concerns or questions related to one or more proposed clinical trials and places the trial on clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin.

Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational new drug to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of a qualified investigator. Clinical trials must be conducted: (1) in compliance with federal regulations; (2) in compliance with good clinical practice (GCP), an international standard meant to protect the rights and health of patients and to define the roles of clinical trial sponsors, administrators and monitors; as well as (3) under protocols detailing the objectives of the trial, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety, and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. Each protocol involving testing on U.S. patients and subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND.

The FDA may order the temporary or permanent discontinuation of a clinical trial at any time, or impose other sanctions if it believes that the clinical trial is either not being conducted in accordance with FDA requirements or presents an unacceptable risk to the clinical trial patients. The clinical trial protocol and informed consent information for patients in clinical trials must also be submitted to an IRB, for approval. An IRB must operate in compliance with FDA regulations. An IRB may also require the clinical trial at the site to be halted, either temporarily or permanently, for failure to comply with the IRB’s requirements or may impose other conditions.

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Clinical trials to support NDAs for marketing approval are typically conducted in three sequential phases, but the phases may overlap.

·

Phase 1 trials: The drug is initially introduced into healthy volunteers or patients, with the target disease or condition. The drug is tested to assess metabolism, pharmacokinetics, pharmacological actions, side effects associated with increasing doses, and, if possible, early evidence of effectiveness.

·

Phase 2 trials: The drug is administered to a limited patient population to determine the effectiveness of the drug for a particular indication, dosage tolerance, optimum dosage and to identify common adverse effects and safety risks.

·

Phase 3 trials: If the drug demonstrates evidence of effectiveness and an acceptable safety profile in Phase 2 trials, Phase 3 trials, including registration trials, are undertaken to obtain additional information about clinical efficacy and safety in a larger number of patients, typically at geographically dispersed clinical trial sites, to permit the FDA to evaluate the overall benefit‑risk relationship of the drug and to provide adequate information for the labeling of the drug. In most cases, the FDA requires two adequate and well‑controlled Phase 3 registration trials to demonstrate the efficacy of the drug. A single Phase 3 registration trial with other confirmatory evidence may be sufficient in rare instances where the study is a large multicenter trial demonstrating internal consistency and a statistically very persuasive finding of a clinically meaningful effect on mortality, irreversible morbidity or prevention of a disease with a potentially serious outcome and confirmation of the result in a second trial would be practically or ethically impossible.

Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted at least annually to the FDA and, more frequently, if SAEs occur. Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, or at all.

After completion of the required clinical trials, an NDA is prepared and submitted to the FDA. FDA approval of the NDA is required before marketing of the product may begin in the United States. The NDA must include, among other things, the results of all preclinical studies, clinical trials and other testing, a compilation of data relating to the product’s pharmacology, chemistry, manufacture and controls, and the proposed product labeling. The cost of preparing and submitting an NDA is substantial. The submission of most NDAs is additionally subject to a substantial application user fee, currently exceeding $2,374,000 for fiscal year 2016, and the manufacturer and/or applicant under an approved NDA are also subject to annual product and establishment user fees, currently exceeding $114,000 per product and $585,000 per establishment. These fees are typically increased annually.

The FDA has 60 days from its receipt of an NDA to determine whether the application will be accepted for filing based on the agency’s threshold determination that it is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in‑depth review. The FDA has agreed to certain performance goals in the review of new drug applications. Most such applications for standard review drug products are reviewed within ten to twelve months; most applications for priority review drugs are reviewed in six to eight months. Priority review can be applied to drugs that the FDA determines offer major advances in treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of diseases or provide a treatment where no adequate therapy exists. For biologics, priority review is further limited only for drugs intended to treat a serious or life‑threatening disease relative to the currently approved products. The review process for both standard and priority review may be extended by the FDA for three additional months to consider certain late‑submitted information, or information intended to clarify information already provided in the submission.

The FDA may also refer applications for novel drug products, or drug products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy, to an advisory committee — typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts — for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved. The FDA is not bound by the recommendation of an advisory committee, but it generally follows such recommendations. Before approving an NDA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP. Additionally, the FDA will inspect the facility or the facilities at which the drug is manufactured. The FDA will not approve the product unless it is compliant with cGMP, is satisfactory and the NDA contains data that provide substantial evidence that the drug is safe and effective in the indication studied.

After the FDA evaluates the NDA and the manufacturing facilities, it issues either an approval letter or a complete response letter. A complete response letter generally outlines the deficiencies in the submission and may require

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substantial additional testing, or information, in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. If, or when, those deficiencies have been addressed to the FDA’s satisfaction in a resubmission of the NDA, the FDA will issue an approval letter. The FDA has committed to reviewing such resubmissions in two or six months depending on the type of information included.

An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the drug with specific prescribing information for specific indications. Even if the FDA approves a product, it may limit the approved indications for use for the product, require that contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling, or require that post‑approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, be conducted to further assess a drug’s safety after approval. As a condition of NDA approval, the FDA may also require a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) to help ensure that the benefits of the drug outweigh the potential risks. REMS can include medication guides, communication plans for healthcare professionals, and elements to assure safe use. Elements to assure safe use can include, but are not limited to, special training or certification for prescribing or dispensing, dispensing only under certain circumstances, special monitoring, and the use of patient registries. The requirement for a REMS can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the drug. Moreover, product approval may require substantial post‑approval testing and surveillance to monitor the drug’s safety or efficacy. Once granted, product approvals may be withdrawn if compliance with regulatory standards is not maintained or problems are identified following initial marketing.

Changes to some of the conditions established in an approved application, including changes in indications, labeling, or manufacturing processes or facilities, require submission and FDA approval of a new NDA or NDA supplement before the change can be implemented. An NDA supplement for a new indication typically requires clinical data similar to that in the original application, and the FDA uses the same procedures and actions in reviewing NDA supplements as it does in reviewing NDAs.

Fast Track Designation and Accelerated Approval

The FDA is required to facilitate the development, and expedite the review, of drugs that are intended for the treatment of a serious or life‑threatening disease or condition for which there is no effective treatment and which demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Under the fast track program, the sponsor of a new product candidate may request that the FDA designate the product candidate for a specific indication as a fast track drug concurrent with, or after, the filing of the IND for the product candidate. The FDA must determine if the product candidate qualifies for fast track designation within 60 days of receipt of the sponsor’s request.

Under the fast track program and the FDA’s accelerated approval regulations, the FDA may approve a drug for a serious or life‑threatening illness that provides meaningful therapeutic benefit to patients over existing treatments based upon a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments.

In clinical trials, a surrogate endpoint is a measurement of laboratory or clinical signs of a disease or condition that substitutes for a direct measurement of how a patient feels, functions, or survives. Surrogate endpoints can often be measured more easily or more rapidly than clinical endpoints. A product candidate approved on this basis is subject to rigorous post‑marketing compliance requirements, including the completion of Phase 4 or post‑approval clinical trials to confirm the effect on the clinical endpoint. Failure to conduct required post‑approval studies, or confirm a clinical benefit during post‑marketing studies, will allow FDA to withdraw the drug from the market on an expedited basis. All promotional materials for product candidates approved under accelerated regulations are subject to prior review by FDA.

In addition to other benefits such as the ability to use surrogate endpoints and engage in more frequent interactions with the FDA, the FDA may initiate review of sections of a fast track drug’s NDA before the application is complete. This rolling review is available if the applicant provides, and the FDA approves, a schedule for the submission of the remaining information and the applicant pays applicable user fees. However, the FDA’s time period goal for reviewing an application does not begin until the last section of the NDA is submitted. Additionally, the fast track designation may be withdrawn by the FDA if the FDA believes that the designation is no longer supported by data emerging in the clinical trial process.

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Breakthrough Therapy Designation

The FDA is also required to expedite the development and review of the application for approval of drugs that are intended to treat a serious or life‑threatening disease or condition where preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. Under the breakthrough therapy program, the sponsor of a new product candidate may request that the FDA designate the product candidate for a specific indication as a breakthrough therapy concurrent with, or after, the filing of the IND for the product candidate. The FDA must determine if the product candidate qualifies for breakthrough therapy designation within 60 days of receipt of the sponsor’s request. The FDA must take certain actions, such as holding timely meetings and providing advice, intended to expedite the development and review of an application for approval of a breakthrough therapy. Even if a product qualifies for this program, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification.

Orphan Drugs

Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan drug designation to drugs intended to treat a rare disease or condition — generally a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the U.S. Orphan Drug Designation must be requested before submitting an NDA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the generic identity of the drug and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process. The first NDA applicant to receive FDA approval for a particular active ingredient to treat a particular disease with FDA orphan drug designation is entitled to a seven‑year exclusive marketing period in the United States for that product, for that indication. During the seven‑year exclusivity period, the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same drug for the same disease, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan drug exclusivity. Orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent the FDA from approving a different drug for the same disease or condition, or the same drug for a different disease or condition. Among the other benefits of orphan drug designation are tax credits for certain research and a waiver of the NDA application user fee.

Pediatric Information

Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA), NDAs or supplements to NDAs must contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the drug for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the drug is safe and effective. The FDA may grant full or partial waivers for submission of data, as well as deferrals for several reasons, including a finding that the drug is ready for approval for use in adults before pediatric studies are complete or that additional safety or effectiveness data needs to be collected before the pediatric studies begin. Unless otherwise required by regulation, PREA does not apply to any drug for an indication for which orphan designation has been granted.

The Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act (BPCA) provides NDA holders a six‑month extension of any exclusivity — patent or non‑patent — for a drug if certain conditions are met. Conditions for exclusivity include the FDA’s determination that information relating to the use of a new drug in the pediatric population may produce health benefits in that population, the FDA making a written request for pediatric studies, and the applicant agreeing to perform, and reporting on, the requested studies within the statutory timeframe. Applications under the BPCA are treated as priority applications, with all of the benefits that designation confers.

Special Protocol Assessment

A company may reach an agreement with the FDA under the Special Protocol Assessment (SPA) process as to the required design and size of clinical trials intended to form the primary basis of an efficacy claim and adequately addresses scientific and regulatory requirements indicating concurrence by FDA with the adequacy and acceptability to support the ability of a future submitted application to meet regulatory

requirements for approval. Under the FDC Act and FDA guidance implementing the statutory requirement, an SPA is generally binding upon the FDA except in limited circumstances, such as if the FDA identifies a substantial scientific issue essential to determining safety or efficacy after the clinical trial begins, public health concerns emerge that were unrecognized at the time of the protocol assessment, the sponsor and FDA agree to the change in writing, or if the clinical trial sponsor fails to follow the protocol that was agreed upon with the FDA.

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Disclosure of Clinical Trial Information

Sponsors of clinical trials of FDA‑regulated products, including drugs, are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information. Information related to the product, patient population, phase of investigation, clinical trial sites and investigators, and other aspects of the clinical trial is then made public as part of the registration. Sponsors are also obligated to discuss the results of their clinical trials after completion. Disclosure of the results of these trials can be delayed until the new product or new indication being studied has been approved. Competitors may use this publicly‑available information to gain knowledge regarding the progress of development programs.

Post‑Approval Requirements

Once an NDA is approved, a product will be subject to certain post‑approval requirements. For instance, the FDA closely regulates the post‑approval marketing and promotion of drugs, including standards and regulations for direct‑to‑consumer advertising, off‑label promotion, industry‑sponsored scientific and educational activities and promotional activities involving the internet. Drugs may be marketed only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved labeling.

AE reporting and submission of periodic reports is required following FDA approval of an NDA. The FDA also may require post‑marketing testing, known as Phase 4 testing, REMS and surveillance to monitor the effects of an approved product, or the FDA may place conditions on an approval that could restrict the distribution or use of the product. In addition, quality‑control, drug manufacture, packaging and labeling procedures must continue to conform to cGMPs after approval. Drug manufacturers and certain of their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies. Registration with the FDA subjects entities to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA, during which the agency inspects manufacturing facilities to assess compliance with cGMPs. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the areas of production and quality‑control to maintain compliance with cGMPs. Regulatory authorities may withdraw product approvals or request product recalls if a company fails to comply with regulatory standards, if it encounters problems following initial marketing, or if previously unrecognized problems are subsequently discovered.

The Hatch‑Waxman Amendments

Orange Book Listing

In seeking approval for a drug through an NDA, applicants are required to list with the FDA each patent whose claims cover the applicant’s product. Upon approval of a drug, each of the patents listed in the application for the drug is then published in the FDA’s Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations, commonly known as the Orange Book. Drugs listed in the Orange Book can, in turn, be cited by potential generic competitors in support of approval of an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA). An ANDA provides for marketing of a drug product that has the same active ingredient in the same strength, route of administration and dosage form as the listed drug and has been shown to be bioequivalent to the listed drug. Other than the requirement for bioequivalence testing, ANDA applicants are not required to conduct, or submit results of, preclinical studies or clinical trials to prove the safety or effectiveness of their drug product. Drugs approved in this way are commonly referred to as “generic equivalents” to the listed drug, and can often be substituted by pharmacists under prescriptions written for the original listed drug.

The ANDA applicant is required to certify to the FDA concerning any patents listed for the approved product in the FDA’s Orange Book. Specifically, the applicant must certify that: (1) the required patent information has not been filed; (2) the listed patent has expired; (3) the listed patent has not expired, but will expire on a particular date and approval is sought after patent expiration; or (4) the listed patent is invalid or will not be infringed by the new product. The ANDA applicant may also elect to submit a section viii statement certifying that its proposed ANDA label does not contain (or carves out) any language regarding the patented method‑of‑use rather than certify to a listed method‑of‑use patent. If the applicant does not challenge the listed patents, the ANDA application will not be approved until all the listed patents claiming the referenced product have expired.

A certification that the new product will not infringe the already approved product’s listed patents, or that such patents are invalid, is called a Paragraph IV certification. If the ANDA applicant has provided a Paragraph IV certification to the FDA, the applicant must also send notice of the Paragraph IV certification to the NDA and patent holders once the ANDA has been accepted for filing by the FDA. The NDA and patent holders may then initiate a patent infringement lawsuit in response to the notice of the Paragraph IV certification. The filing of a patent infringement lawsuit within

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45 days of the receipt of a Paragraph IV certification automatically prevents the FDA from approving the ANDA until the earlier of 30 months, expiration of the patent, settlement of the lawsuit, or a decision in the infringement case that is favorable to the ANDA applicant.

The ANDA application also will not be approved until any applicable non‑patent exclusivity listed in the Orange Book for the referenced product has expired.

Exclusivity

Upon NDA approval of a drug containing a NCE, which is a drug substance that contains an active moiety that has not been approved by the FDA in any other NDA, that moiety will receive five years of marketing exclusivity during which the FDA cannot approve any ANDA seeking approval of a generic version of that moiety. Certain changes to a drug, such as the addition of a new indication to the package insert, may receive a three‑year period of exclusivity during which the FDA cannot approve an ANDA for a generic drug that includes the change.

If no Paragraph IV certification is made, an ANDA may not be filed until expiry of the NCE exclusivity period, however, if a Paragraph IV certification is filed, the ANDA may be submitted one year before the NCE exclusivity period expires. If there is no listed patent in the Orange Book, there may not be a Paragraph IV certification, and, thus, no ANDA may be filed before the expiration of the exclusivity period.

Patent Term Extension

After NDA approval, owners of relevant drug patents may apply for up to a five year patent extension. The allowable patent term extension is calculated as half of the drug’s testing phase — the time between IND application and NDA submission — and all of the review phase — the time between NDA submission and approval up to a maximum of five years. The time can be shortened if the FDA determines that the applicant did not pursue approval with due diligence. The extension may not extend the patent beyond 14 years from market approval.

For patents that might expire during the application phase, the patent owner may request an interim patent extension. An interim patent extension increases the patent term by one year and may be renewed up to four times. For each interim patent extension granted, the post‑approval patent extension is reduced by one year. The director of the USPTO must determine that approval of the drug covered by the patent for which a patent extension is being sought is likely. Interim patent extensions are not available for a drug for which an NDA has not been submitted.

Prescription Drug Marketing Act

As part of the sales and marketing process, pharmaceutical companies frequently provide samples of approved drugs to physicians. The Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA) imposes requirements and limitations upon the provision of drug samples to physicians, as well as prohibits states from licensing distributors of prescription drugs unless the state licensing program meets certain federal guidelines that include minimum standards for storage, handling and record keeping. In addition, the PDMA sets forth civil and criminal penalties for violations.

United States — Anti‑Kickback, False Claims Laws and Other Healthcare Laws

In addition to FDA restrictions on marketing of pharmaceutical products, several other types of state and federal laws have been applied to restrict certain general business and marketing practices in the pharmaceutical industry in recent years. These laws include anti‑kickback statutes, false claims statutes and other statutes pertaining to health care fraud and abuse.

The federal Anti‑Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, knowingly and willfully offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce, or in return for, purchasing, leasing, ordering or arranging for the purchase, lease or order of any healthcare item or service reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid, or other federally financed healthcare programs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (PPACA) amended the intent element of the federal Anti‑Kickback Statute so that a person or entity no longer needs to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to be in violation. This statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers and formulary managers on the other. Although there are a number of statutory exemptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting certain common activities from prosecution or other regulatory sanctions, the exemptions and safe harbors are

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drawn narrowly, and practices that involve remuneration intended to induce prescribing, purchases, or recommendations may be subject to scrutiny if they do not qualify for an exemption or safe harbor. Violations of the Anti‑Kickback Statute are punishable by penalties including imprisonment, criminal fines, civil monetary penalties, damages, disgorgement and exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs.

Federal false claims laws, including the civil False Claims Act, prohibit any person or entity from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a false claim for payment to the federal government, or knowingly making, or causing to be made, a false statement to have a false claim paid. This includes claims made to programs where the federal government reimburses, such as Medicaid, as well as programs where the federal government is a direct purchaser, such as when it purchases off the Federal Supply Schedule. Recently, several pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies have been prosecuted under these laws for allegedly inflating drug prices they report to pricing services, which in turn were used by the government to set Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, and for allegedly providing free product to customers with the expectation that the customers would bill federal programs for the product. In addition, certain marketing practices, including off‑label promotion, may also violate false claims laws. Additionally, PPACA amended the federal Anti‑Kickback Statute such that a violation of that statute can serve as a basis for liability under the federal civil False Claims Act. The majority of states also have statutes or regulations similar to the federal Anti‑Kickback Statute and False Claims Act, which apply to items and services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs, or, in several states, apply regardless of the payor.

Other federal statutes pertaining to healthcare fraud and abuse include the Civil Monetary Penalties Statute, which prohibits the offer or payment of remuneration to a Medicaid or Medicare beneficiary that the offerer/payor knows or should know is likely to influence the beneficiary to order a receive a reimbursable item or service from a particular supplier, and the healthcare fraud provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which prohibits knowingly and willfully executing or attempting to execute a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program or obtain by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises any money or property owned by or under the control of any healthcare benefit program in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items, or services.

For example, several pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies have been prosecuted under these laws for, among other things, allegedly inflating drug prices they report to pricing services, which in turn were used by the government to set Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, and for allegedly providing free product to customers with the expectation that the customers would bill federal programs for the product. In addition, certain marketing practices undertaken by pharmaceutical companies, including off‑label promotion, may violate false claims laws.

Pursuant to PPACA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final rule that requires manufacturers of certain prescription drugs, devices, biologics, and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with specific exceptions, to collect and report information on payments or transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals, as well as investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. The first reports were due in 2014 and must be submitted on an annual basis. The reported data were posted by CMS in searchable form on a public website on September 30, 2014, and will be posted on an annual basis. Failure to submit required information may result in civil monetary penalties.

In addition, several states now require prescription drug companies to report expenses relating to the marketing and promotion of drug products and to report gifts and payments to individual physicians in these states. Other states prohibit various other marketing‑related activities. Still other states require the posting of information relating to clinical studies and their outcomes. In addition, California, Connecticut, Nevada and Massachusetts require pharmaceutical companies to implement compliance programs and/or marketing codes. Several additional states are considering similar proposals. Compliance with these laws is difficult and time consuming, and companies that do not comply with these state laws may face civil penalties.

Other federal and state requirements include the following:

·

HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (the HITECH Act) and its implementing regulations, which imposes obligations, including mandatory contractual terms, on certain people and entities with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information; and

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·

State and foreign laws also 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.

United States Healthcare Reform

Current and future legislative proposals to further reform healthcare or reduce healthcare costs may result in lower reimbursement for our products. The cost containment measures that payors and providers are instituting and the effect of any healthcare reform initiative implemented in the future could significantly reduce our revenues from the sale of our products.

For example, in March 2010, PPACA was signed into law. PPACA has begun to, and will likely continue to, substantially change healthcare financing and delivery by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impact the pharmaceutical industry. The PPACA, among other things: established an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports certain specified branded prescription drugs and biologic agents; revised the methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers to the state and federal government for covered outpatient drugs under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated; increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by most manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program; extended the Medicaid Drug Rebate program to utilization of prescriptions of individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations; implemented a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program; expanded the entities eligible for discounts under the Public Health Services pharmaceutical pricing program; created a new Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute; and provided incentives to programs that increase the federal government’s comparative effectiveness research.

In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the PPACA 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 at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2012 through 2021, triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes reductions to Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect in April 2013 and will remain in effect through 2025 unless additional Congressional action is taken. Additionally, in January 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which, among other things, reduced Medicare payments to several providers and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.

With the election of President Donald J. Trump in November and his inauguration in January 2017, we expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, including the possible repeal and replacement of PPACA and related legislation, regulations and programs.  Any new state and federal healthcare reform measures could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our products or additional pricing pressure. We are unsure of the ways in which PPACA will continue to be challenged, repealed, amended or replaced in the months and years to come.

Review and Approval of Drug Products in the European Union

In order to market any product outside of the United States, a company must also comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries and jurisdictions regarding quality, safety and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials, marketing authorization, commercial sales and distribution of drug products. Whether or not it obtains FDA approval for a product, the company would need to obtain the necessary approvals by the comparable foreign regulatory authorities before it can commence clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries or jurisdictions. The approval process ultimately varies between countries and jurisdictions and can involve additional product testing and additional administrative review periods. The time required to obtain approval in other countries and jurisdictions might differ from and be longer than that required to obtain FDA approval. Regulatory approval in one country or jurisdiction does not ensure regulatory approval in another, but a failure or delay in obtaining regulatory approval in one country or jurisdiction may negatively impact the regulatory process in others.

Pursuant to the European Clinical Trials Directive, a system for the approval of clinical trials in the European Union has been implemented through national legislation of the member states. Under this system, an applicant must obtain approval from the competent national authority of a European Union member state in which the clinical trial is to be conducted. Furthermore, the applicant may only start a clinical trial after a competent ethics committee has issued a

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favorable opinion. Clinical trial application must be accompanied by an investigational medicinal product dossier with supporting information prescribed by the European Clinical Trials Directive and corresponding national laws of the member states and further detailed in applicable guidance documents.

To obtain marketing approval of a drug under European Union regulatory systems, an applicant must submit a marketing authorization application (MAA) either under a centralized or decentralized procedure.

The centralized procedure provides for the grant of a single marketing authorization by the European Commission that is valid for all European Union member states. The centralized procedure is compulsory for specific products, including for medicines produced by certain biotechnological processes, products designated as orphan medicinal products, advanced therapy products and products with a new active substance indicated for the treatment of certain diseases. For products with a new active substance indicated for the treatment of other diseases and products that are highly innovative or for which a centralized process is in the interest of patients, the centralized procedure may be optional.

Under the centralized procedure, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or the CHMP, established at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for conducting the initial assessment of a drug. The CHMP is also responsible for several post‑authorization and maintenance activities, such as the assessment of modifications or extensions to an existing marketing authorization. Under the centralized procedure in the European Union, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of an MAA is 210 days, excluding clock stops, when additional information or written or oral explanation is to be provided by the applicant in response to questions of the CHMP. Accelerated evaluation might be granted by the CHMP in exceptional cases, when a medicinal product is of major interest from the point of view of public health and in particular from the viewpoint of therapeutic innovation. In this circumstance, the EMA ensures that the opinion of the CHMP is given within 150 days.

The decentralized procedure is available to applicants who wish to market a product in various European Union member states where such product has not received marketing approval in any European Union member states before. The decentralized procedure provides for approval by one or more other, or concerned, member states of an assessment of an application performed by one member state designated by the applicant, known as the reference member state. Under this procedure, an applicant submits an application based on identical dossiers and related materials, including a draft summary of product characteristics, and draft labeling and package leaflet, to the reference member state and concerned member states. The reference member state prepares a draft assessment report and drafts of the related materials within 210 days after receipt of a valid application. Within 90 days of receiving the reference member state’s assessment report and related materials, each concerned member state must decide whether to approve the assessment report and related materials.

If a member state cannot approve the assessment report and related materials on the grounds of potential serious risk to public health, the disputed points are subject to a dispute resolution mechanism and may eventually be referred to the European Commission, whose decision is binding on all member states.

Data and Market Exclusivity in the European Union

In the European Union, NCEs qualify for eight years of data exclusivity upon marketing authorization and an additional two years of market exclusivity. This data exclusivity, if granted, prevents regulatory authorities in the European Union from referencing the innovator’s data to assess a generic (abbreviated) application for eight years, after which generic marketing authorization can be submitted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but not approved for two years. The overall ten‑year period will be extended to a maximum of eleven years if, during the first eight years of those ten years, the marketing authorization (MA) holder obtains an authorization for one or more new therapeutic indications which, during the scientific evaluation prior to their authorization, are held to bring a significant clinical benefit in comparison with existing therapies. Even if a compound is considered to be a NCE and the sponsor is able to gain the prescribed period of data exclusivity, another company nevertheless could also market another version of the drug if such company can complete a full MAA with a complete database of pharmaceutical test, preclinical studies and clinical trials and obtain marketing approval of its product.

Data and Market Exclusivity in Japan

Japan has no established system for data exclusivity or marketing exclusivity. However, the Pharmaceuticals Act of Japan (PAA) provides for a re‑examination system after drug approval. This system imposes an obligation on the MA

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holder to continue to collect clinical data after market approval during a study period. The MA holder must apply for reexamination to the Minster of Health Labor and Welfare within three months of the expiration of the study period. During the study and reexamination period no generic drug may be approved, effectively providing a form of market exclusivity. The study period is determined by the drug category. The study period for an orphan drug is 10 years from MA, the study period for an NCE is eight years from MA, and for an improvement (new indication, formulation, etc.) the study period is four to six years from MA.

Patent Term Extension in Japan

The term of a patent that covers the approved drug may be extended for the shorter of five years, or the period during which the patent could not be worked (exploited) due to obtaining regulatory approval. This period is calculated from the later of the patent registration date (grant date) or the clinical trial start date to the regulatory approval date.

Regulatory Exclusivity in China

China has a six year regulatory exclusivity period for new chemical entities, such as gemcabene, which begins at the date of market approval.

Foreign Regulation

In order to market any product outside of the United States, we would need to comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries regarding safety and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials, marketing authorization, commercial sales and distribution of our products. Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product, we would need to obtain the necessary approvals by the comparable regulatory authorities of foreign countries before we can commence clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. The approval process varies from country to country and can involve additional product testing and additional administrative review periods. The time required to obtain approval in other countries might differ from and be longer than that required to obtain FDA approval. Regulatory approval in one country does not ensure regulatory approval in another, but a failure or delay in obtaining regulatory approval in one country may negatively impact the regulatory process in others.

Pharmaceutical Coverage, Pricing and Reimbursement

Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any drug products for which we obtain regulatory approval. Sales of any of our product candidates, if approved, will depend, in part, on the extent to which the costs of the products will be covered by third‑party payors, including government health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, commercial health insurers and managed care organizations. The process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a drug product may be separate from the process for setting the price or reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the drug product once coverage is approved. Third‑party payors may limit coverage to specific drug products on an approved list, or formulary, which might not include all of the approved drugs for a particular indication.

In order to secure coverage and adequate reimbursement for any product that might be approved for sale, we may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost‑effectiveness of the product, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA or other comparable regulatory approvals. Our product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost‑effective. A payor’s decision to provide coverage for a drug product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Further, one payor’s determination to provide coverage for a drug product does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage or adequate reimbursement for the drug product. Third‑party reimbursement may not be sufficient to enable us to maintain price levels high enough to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development.

The containment of healthcare costs has become a priority of federal, state and foreign governments, and the prices of drugs have been a focus in this effort. Third‑party payors are increasingly challenging the prices charged for medical products and services and examining the medical necessity and cost‑effectiveness of medical products and services, in addition to their safety and efficacy. If these third‑party payors do not consider our products to be cost‑effective compared to other available therapies, they may not cover our products after approval as a benefit under their plans or, if they do, the level of payment may not be sufficient to allow us to sell our products at a profit. The U.S. government, state legislatures and foreign governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost containment programs to limit the growth of government‑paid health care costs, including price controls, restrictions on reimbursement and

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requirements for substitution of generic products for branded prescription drugs. Adoption of such controls and measures, and tightening of restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could limit payments for pharmaceuticals such as the product candidates that we are developing and could adversely affect our net revenue and results.

Pricing and reimbursement schemes vary widely from country to country. Some countries provide that drug products may be marketed only after a reimbursement price has been agreed. Some countries may require the completion of additional studies that compare the cost‑effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. For example, the European Union provides options for its member states to restrict the range of drug products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. European Union member states may approve a specific price for a drug product or may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the drug product on the market. Other member states allow companies to fix their own prices for drug products, but monitor and control company profits. The downward pressure on health care costs in general, particularly prescription drugs, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products. In addition, in some countries, cross‑border imports from low‑priced markets exert competitive pressure that may reduce pricing within a country. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for drug products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our products.

The marketability of any products for which we receive regulatory approval for commercial sale may suffer if the government and third‑party payors fail to provide coverage and adequate reimbursement. In addition, the emphasis on managed care in the United States has increased and we expect will continue to increase the pressure on drug pricing. Coverage policies, third‑party reimbursement rates and drug pricing regulation may change at any time. In particular, the PPACA contains provisions that may reduce the profitability of drug products, including, for example, increased rebates for drugs sold to Medicaid programs, extension of Medicaid rebates to Medicaid managed care plans, mandatory discounts for certain Medicare Part D beneficiaries and annual fees based on pharmaceutical companies’ share of sales to federal health care programs. Even if favorable coverage status and adequate reimbursement level status are obtained for one or more products for which we receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.

Employees

As of March 1, 2018, we had eighteen employees, all of whom are full‑time, four of whom hold Ph.D. or M.D. degrees, eleven of whom were engaged in research and development activities and seven of whom were engaged in business development, finance, information systems, facilities, human resources or administrative support. None of our employees is represented by a labor union or subject to a collective bargaining agreement. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.

Corporate Information

We were formed in Michigan as Michigan Life Therapeutics, LLC (MLT) in November 2008. In October 2014, we incorporated a new entity under the name Gemphire Therapeutics Inc. in Delaware. MLT then merged with and into Gemphire, with Gemphire as the surviving entity. The purpose of the merger was to change the jurisdiction of our incorporation from Michigan to Delaware and to convert from a limited liability company to a corporation. Our principal executive offices are located at 17199 N. Laurel Park Dr., Suite 401, Livonia, MI 48152, and our telephone number is (734) 245-1700. Our corporate website address is www.gemphire.com. Information contained on or accessible through our website is not a part of this Report, and the inclusion of our website address in this Report is an inactive textual reference only.

 

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ITEM 1A.RISK FACTORS

 

Our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected by any of the risks and uncertainties set forth below, as well as in any amendments or updates reflected in subsequent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In assessing these risks, you should also refer to other information contained in this Report, including our financial statements and related notes.

Risks Related to the Development of Gemcabene or any Future Product Candidate

We currently depend entirely on the success of gemcabene, our only product candidate. We may never receive marketing approval for, or successfully commercialize, gemcabene for any indication.

We currently have only one product candidate, gemcabene, in clinical development, and our business depends on its successful clinical development, regulatory approval and commercialization. The research, testing, manufacturing, labeling, approval, sale, marketing and distribution of a drug product are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory authorities in the United States and other countries, where regulations differ from country to country. We are not permitted to market gemcabene in the United States until we receive approval of a new drug application (NDA) from the FDA or in any foreign countries until we receive the requisite approval from such countries. We have not submitted an NDA to the FDA or comparable applications to other regulatory authorities or received marketing approval for gemcabene. Before obtaining regulatory approval for the commercial sale of gemcabene for a particular indication, we must demonstrate through preclinical testing and clinical trials that gemcabene is safe and effective for use in that target indication. This process can take many years and may be followed by post‑marketing studies and surveillance, which will require the expenditure of substantial resources beyond our current cash and cash equivalents. Of the large number of drugs in development in the United States, only a small percentage of drugs successfully complete the FDA regulatory approval process and are commercialized. Accordingly, even if we are able to complete development of gemcabene, we cannot assure you that gemcabene will be approved or commercialized.

Obtaining approval of an NDA is an extensive, lengthy, expensive and uncertain process, and the FDA may delay, limit or deny approval of gemcabene for many reasons, including:

·

the data collected from preclinical studies and clinical trials of gemcabene may not be sufficient to support the submission of an NDA;

 

·

we may not be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the FDA that gemcabene is safe and effective for any indication;

 

·

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

 

·

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

 

·

the FDA may not find the data from preclinical studies and clinical trials sufficient to demonstrate that gemcabene’s clinical and other benefits outweigh its safety risks;

 

·

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

 

·

the FDA may not accept data generated at our clinical trial sites;

 

·

the FDA may have difficulties scheduling an advisory committee meeting in a timely manner or the advisory committee may recommend against approval of our application or may recommend that the FDA require, as a condition of approval, additional preclinical studies or clinical trials, limitations on approved labeling or distribution and use restrictions;

 

·

the FDA may require development of a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) as a condition of approval;

 

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·

the FDA may identify deficiencies in the manufacturing processes or facilities of third party manufacturers with which we enter into agreements for clinical and commercial supplies; or

 

·

the FDA may change its approval policies or adopt new regulations.

 

The results of previous clinical trials may not be predictive of future results, and the results of our current and planned clinical trials may not satisfy the requirements of the FDA or non‑U.S. regulatory authorities.

The results from the prior preclinical studies and clinical trials for gemcabene discussed elsewhere in this report may not necessarily be predictive of the results of future preclinical studies or clinical trials. Even if we are able to complete our planned clinical trials of gemcabene according to our current development timeline, the results from our prior clinical trials of gemcabene may not be replicated in these future trials. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries (including those with greater resources and experience than us) have suffered significant setbacks in late‑stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in early stage development, and we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. These setbacks have been caused by, among other things, preclinical findings made while clinical trials were underway or safety or efficacy observations made in clinical trials, including previously unreported AEs. Moreover, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials nonetheless have failed to obtain FDA approval. If we fail to produce positive results in our clinical trials of gemcabene, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for gemcabene and our business and financial prospects, would be adversely affected.

Further, gemcabene may not be approved even if it achieves its primary endpoint in Phase 3 registration trials. The FDA or non‑U.S. regulatory authorities may disagree with our trial design and our interpretation of data from preclinical studies and clinical trials. In addition, any of these regulatory authorities may change requirements for the approval of a product candidate even after reviewing and providing comments or advice on a protocol for a pivotal clinical trial that has the potential to result in approval by the FDA or another regulatory authority. Furthermore, any of these regulatory authorities may also approve our product candidate for fewer or more limited indications than we request or may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post‑marketing clinical trials.

We reported top line data from our 8 patient trial for HoFH (COBALT-1) in the second quarter of 2017 and top line data from our 105 patient trial for hypercholesterolemia on high‑intensity statin therapy including HeFH and ASCVD patients (ROYAL-1) in the third quarter of 2017, and we expect to report top line data from our 90 patient trial in SHTG patients (INDIGO-1) in the second quarter of 2018. We initiated a Proof-of-Concept clinical trial in the fourth quarter of 2017 to study gemcabene in NASH with top line data expected in the second half of 2018.

If we are successful in the clinical development of gemcabene for our targeted indications, we plan to eventually seek regulatory approvals of gemcabene initially in the United States, Canada and Europe, and we may seek approvals in other geographies. Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of any product candidate for any target indication, we must demonstrate with substantial evidence gathered in preclinical studies and adequate and well‑controlled clinical studies, and, with respect to approval in the United States, to the satisfaction of the FDA, that the product candidate is safe and effective for use for that target indication. We cannot assure you that the FDA or non‑U.S. regulatory authorities would consider our planned clinical trials to be sufficient to serve as the basis for approval of gemcabene for any indication. The FDA and non‑U.S. regulatory authorities retain broad discretion in evaluating the results of our clinical trials and in determining whether the results demonstrate that gemcabene is safe and effective. If we are required to conduct clinical trials of gemcabene in addition to those we have planned prior to approval, such as a cardiovascular outcomes trial, we will need substantial additional funds, and we cannot assure you that the results of any such outcomes trial or other clinical trials will be sufficient for approval.

If clinical trials of gemcabene or any future product candidate fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of regulatory authorities or do not otherwise produce positive results, we may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of such product candidate.

Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the sale of gemcabene, we must complete preclinical development (including, but not limited to, two‑year rat and mouse carcinogenicity studies), and supportive pharmacology studies and Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy in humans.

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Preclinical development and extensive clinical trials will also be required before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for any other product candidate we may pursue in the future. Clinical testing is expensive, difficult to design and implement, can take many years to complete and is uncertain as to outcome. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of development.

We, or our future collaborators, may experience numerous unforeseen events during, or as a result of, clinical trials that could result in increased development costs, delay, limit or prevent our ability to receive marketing approval or commercialize gemcabene or any other product candidate we may pursue in the future, including:

·

regulators or institutional review boards (IRBs) may not authorize us or our investigators to commence a clinical trial or conduct a clinical trial at a prospective trial site;

 

·

government or regulatory delays and changes in regulatory requirements, policy and guidelines may require us to perform additional clinical trials or use substantial additional resources to obtain regulatory approval;

 

·

we may have delays in reaching or fail to reach agreement on acceptable clinical trial contracts or clinical trial protocols with prospective trial sites;

 

·

clinical trials may produce negative or inconclusive results, and we may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon product development programs;

 

·

the number of patients required for clinical trials may be larger than we anticipate, enrollment in these clinical trials may be slower than we anticipate or participants may drop out of these clinical trials at a higher rate than we anticipate;

 

·

our third‑party contractors may fail to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all;

 

·

our patients or medical investigators may be unwilling to follow our clinical trial protocols;

 

·

we might have to suspend or terminate clinical trials for various reasons, including a finding that the participants are being exposed to unacceptable health risks;

 

·

the cost of clinical trials may be greater than we anticipate;

 

·

the supply or quality of any product candidate or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials may be insufficient or inadequate; and

 

·

the product candidate may have undesirable side effects or other unexpected characteristics, causing us or our investigators, regulators or IRBs to suspend or terminate the trials.

 

If we experience delays or difficulties in the enrollment of patients in clinical trials, our receipt of necessary regulatory approvals could be delayed or prevented.

We or our future collaborators may not be able to initiate or continue clinical trials for gemcabene or any future product candidate if we are unable to locate and enroll a sufficient number of eligible patients to participate in these trials as required by the FDA or analogous regulatory authorities outside the United States. Orphan indications, in particular, have small populations, and it may be difficult for us to locate and enroll sufficient patients in trials for orphan‑designated indications. Patient enrollment can be affected by many factors, including:

·

severity of the disease under investigation;

 

·

availability and efficacy of medications already approved for the disease under investigation;

 

·

eligibility criteria for the trial in question;

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·

competition for eligible patients with other companies conducting clinical trials for product candidates seeking to treat the same indication or patient population;

 

·

our payments for conducting clinical trials;

 

·

perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under study;

 

·

efforts to facilitate timely enrollment in clinical trials;

 

·

patient referral practices of physicians;

 

·

the ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment;

 

·

proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective patients; and

 

·

events that impact our clinical trial sites

 

Two Phase 2a clinical trials of gemcabene commenced in late 2017 or early 2018 and may take up to 12 months to enroll; however, we cannot assure you that our timing and enrollment assumptions are correct given the above factors. Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials or retain sufficient enrollment through the completion of our trials would result in significant delays or may require us to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. Enrollment delays in our clinical trials may result in increased development costs for our product candidates and cause our stock price to decline.

We or others could discover that gemcabene or any product candidate we may pursue in the future lacks sufficient efficacy, or that it causes undesirable side effects that were not previously identified, which could delay or prevent regulatory approval or commercialization.

Because gemcabene has been tested in relatively small patient populations and for limited durations to date, it is possible that our clinical trials have or will indicate an apparent positive effect of gemcabene that is greater than the actual positive effect, if any, or that additional and unforeseen side effects may be observed as its development progresses. The discovery that gemcabene lacks sufficient efficacy, or that it causes undesirable side effects (including side effects not previously identified in our completed clinical trials), could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or discontinue clinical trials and could result in the denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or other non‑U.S. regulatory authorities for any or all targeted indications. The most common events reported to date have been headache, weakness, nausea, dizziness, upset stomach, infection, abnormal bowel movements, myalgia and abnormal kidney function tests.

The discovery that gemcabene or any future product candidate lacks sufficient efficacy or that it causes undesirable side effects that were not previously identified could prevent us from commercializing such product candidate and generating revenues from its sale. In addition, if we receive marketing approval for gemcabene and we or others later discover that it is less effective, or identify undesirable side effects caused by gemcabene:

·

regulatory authorities may withdraw their approval of the product;

·

we may be required to recall the product, change the way this product is administered, conduct additional clinical trials or change the labeling or distribution of the product (including REMS);

·

additional restrictions may be imposed on the marketing of, or the manufacturing processes for, the product;

·

we may be subject to fines, injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties;

·

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

·

the product may be rendered less competitive and sales may decrease; or

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·

our reputation may suffer generally both among clinicians and patients.

Any one or a combination of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product or could substantially increase the costs and expenses of commercializing the product, which in turn could delay or prevent us from generating significant, or any, revenues from the sale of the product.

If we fail to receive regulatory approval for any of our planned indications for gemcabene or fail to develop additional product candidates, our commercial opportunity will be limited.

We have initially focused on the development of gemcabene for our target indications in cardiovascular diseases and recently expanded our program to include a clinical trial to support an indication for gemcabene in NASH and/or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain regulatory approval of gemcabene for any indication, or successfully commercialize gemcabene, if approved. If we do not receive regulatory approval for, or successfully commercialize, gemcabene for one or more of our targeted or other indications, our commercial opportunity will be limited.

We may pursue clinical development of additional product candidates, including product candidates that we acquire or in‑license. Acquiring, in‑licensing, developing, obtaining regulatory approval for and commercializing additional product candidates will require substantial additional funding and are prone to the risks of failure inherent in drug product development. We cannot assure you that we will be able to successfully advance any additional product candidates through the development process.

Even if we obtain FDA approval to market additional product candidates, we cannot assure you that any such product candidates will be successfully commercialized, widely accepted in the marketplace or more effective than other commercially available alternatives. If we are unable to successfully develop and commercialize additional product candidates, our commercial opportunity will be limited.

Changes in regulatory requirements or FDA guidance, or unanticipated events during our clinical trials, may result in changes to clinical trial protocols or additional clinical trial requirements, such as the initiation or completion of a cardiovascular outcomes trial, which could result in increased costs to us and could delay our development timeline.

Changes in regulatory requirements or FDA guidance, or unanticipated events during our clinical trials, may force us to amend clinical trial protocols or the FDA may impose additional clinical trial requirements. Amendments to our clinical trial protocols would require resubmission to the FDA and IRBs for review and approval, and may adversely impact the cost, timing or successful completion of a clinical trial. If we experience delays completing, or if we terminate, any of our Phase 2 or Phase 3 trials, or if we are required to conduct additional clinical trials, such as a cardiovascular outcomes trial prior to approval, the commercial prospects for gemcabene may be harmed and our ability to generate product revenue will be delayed.

For cardiovascular disease related indications, if the FDA requires us to conduct a cardiovascular outcomes trial sooner than planned, we may not be able to identify and enroll the requisite number of patients in that trial. Even if we are successful in enrolling patients in a cardiovascular outcomes trial, we may not ultimately be able to demonstrate that lowering LDL‑C levels using gemcabene provides patients with an incremental lowering of cardiovascular disease risks, and our failure to do so may delay or prejudice our ability to obtain FDA approval for gemcabene. Although the validity of lipid‑lowering effects (including LDL‑C reduction) as a surrogate endpoint for cardiovascular benefit continues to be debated in the medical community, given historical precedent and recent FDA guidance, our current development timeline for gemcabene does not contemplate the completion of a cardiovascular outcomes trial prior to approval. Such trial would be costly and time‑consuming and, regardless of the outcome, would adversely affect our development timeline and financial condition.

For nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) related indications, the current guidance for approval for a therapy for NASH is based on changes in hepatic biopsy histological scoring and fibrosis staging.  Although it is not expected to change over the near term, we cannot predict if the FDA and other global health authorities may change to an endpoint that is more clinically based. If such an endpoint is required, such trial(s) would be costly and time‑consuming and, regardless of the outcome, would adversely affect our development timeline and financial condition.

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We have not generated any revenue and may never be profitable.

Our ability to become profitable depends upon our ability to generate revenue. To date, we have not generated any revenue from our development stage product candidate, gemcabene, and we do not currently have any other products or product candidates. We do not know when, or if, we will generate any revenue. We do not expect to generate significant revenue unless or until we obtain marketing approval of, and commercialize, gemcabene. Our ability to generate revenue depends on a number of factors, including our ability to:

·

successfully complete preclinical carcinogenicity studies to remove the partial clinical hold to allow us to complete longer term registration trials for marketing approval of gemcabene;

·

obtain favorable results from and complete the clinical development of gemcabene for our planned indications, including successful completion of our Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials for these indications;

·

submit an application to regulatory authorities for gemcabene and receive marketing approval in the United States and foreign countries;

·

contract for the manufacture of commercial quantities of gemcabene, if approved, at acceptable cost levels;

·

establish sales and marketing capabilities to effectively market and sell gemcabene, if approved, in the United States and the European Union, alone or with a pharmaceutical partner; and

·

achieve market acceptance of gemcabene in the medical community and with third‑party payors.

Even if gemcabene is approved for commercial sale in one or all of the initial indications that we are pursuing, it may not gain market acceptance or achieve commercial success. In addition, we anticipate incurring significant costs associated with commercializing gemcabene. Moreover, some of the indications we are targeting are small enough to be eligible for orphan drug designation, and our potential patient market is relatively smaller than other drugs, and therefore the price of gemcabene may need to be higher than other drugs. We may not achieve profitability soon after generating product revenue, if ever, and may be unable to continue operations without continued funding.

We depend on intellectual property licensed from Pfizer for gemcabene, and the termination of this license would harm our business.

Pfizer has granted us a worldwide exclusive license to make, use, sell, offer for sale and import the clinical product candidate gemcabene, along with certain intellectual property for the purposes of development and commercialization of gemcabene. We or Pfizer may terminate this license in the event of a material breach that remains uncured for 30 days from the date that the breaching party is provided with notice of such breach, provided that if such breach is capable of being cured, the cure period may be extended up to an additional 60 days, or immediately upon certain insolvency events relating to the other party. Pfizer may immediately terminate this license in the event that we, or any of our affiliates, consent, challenge, support or assist any third party to contest or challenge Pfizer’s ownership of or rights in, or the validity, enforceability or scope of, any of the patents licensed under this license. Furthermore, upon termination of the license agreement for cause by Pfizer, we must grant Pfizer a non-exclusive license to use any intellectual property rights arising from the development or commercialization of gemcabene. Additionally, Pfizer may revoke the license if we are unable to adequately commercialize gemcabene by April 2021.

Disputes may arise between us and Pfizer regarding intellectual property subject to this license agreement, including with respect to:

·

the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation‑related issues;

·

whether and the extent to which our technology and processes infringe on intellectual property of Pfizer that is not subject to the licensing agreement;

·

the amount and timing of milestone and royalty payments;

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·

the rights of Pfizer under the license agreement;

·

our right to sublicense patent and other rights to third parties under collaborative development relationships; and

·

the ownership of inventions and know‑how resulting from the joint creation or use of intellectual property by Pfizer and us and our partners.

Any disputes with Pfizer may prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangement. We depend on the intellectual property and the historical preclinical and clinical data package licensed from Pfizer to develop and commercialize gemcabene. Termination of our license agreement could result in the loss of significant rights and would harm our ability to further develop and commercialize gemcabene. In addition, Pfizer has a non‑exclusive, sub licensable, royalty‑free right and license for non‑commercial research or development purposes to intellectual property rights relating to gemcabene that are developed by us after the effective date of the license with Pfizer.

The development of gemcabene or pursuit of any future product candidate for broad patient populations will be more costly and commercial pricing for any approved indication would likely be lower.

We are initially pursuing development of gemcabene for the treatment of patients with FH, SHTG, NASH/NAFLD and, potentially, ASCVD. Expanding our development and commercialization of gemcabene or any future product candidate in these or other broader patient populations would be more costly and take longer to complete and would be subject to development and commercialization risks that may not be applicable to orphan indications such as HoFH or FPL.

Specifically, this may involve clinical trials with larger numbers of patients possibly taking the drug for longer periods of time. In addition, we believe that the FDA and, in some cases, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) may require a clinical outcomes trial demonstrating a reduction in cardiovascular events either prior to or after the submission of an application for marketing approval for the broader LDL‑C indications. Clinical outcomes trials are particularly expensive and time consuming to conduct because of the larger number of patients required to establish that the drug being tested has the desired effect. It may also be more difficult for us to demonstrate the desired outcomes in these trials than to achieve validated surrogate endpoints. In addition, in considering approval of gemcabene for broader patient populations with less severely elevated lipid levels, the FDA and other regulatory authorities may place greater emphasis on the side effect and risk profile of the drug in comparison to the drug’s efficacy and potential clinical benefit than in smaller, more severely afflicted patient populations. These factors may make it more difficult for us to achieve marketing approvals of gemcabene for these broader patient populations.

Moreover, if we pursue and are able to successfully develop and obtain marketing approval of gemcabene and any future product candidate in broader patient populations, we likely will not be able to obtain the same pricing level that we expect to obtain for orphan indications. The pricing of some drugs intended for orphan populations is often related to the size of the patient population, with smaller patient populations often justifying higher prices. If the pricing is lower in broader patient populations, we may not be able to maintain higher pricing in the population of more severely afflicted patients. This would lead to a decrease in revenue from sales to more severely afflicted patients and could make it more difficult for us to achieve or maintain profitability.

We do not have drug research or discovery capabilities and will need to acquire or license product candidates from third parties to expand our product candidate pipeline.

We currently have no drug research or discovery capabilities. Accordingly, if we are to expand our product candidate pipeline beyond gemcabene, we will need to acquire or license product candidates from third parties. We will face significant competition in seeking to acquire or license promising product candidates. Many of our competitors for such promising product candidates may have significantly greater financial resources and more extensive experience in preclinical testing and clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and manufacturing and marketing pharmaceutical products, and thus, may be a more attractive option to a potential licensor than us. If we are unable to acquire or license additional promising product candidates, we will not be able to expand our product candidate pipeline.

If we are able to acquire or license other product candidates, such license agreements will likely impose various obligations upon us, and our licensors may have the right to terminate the license thereunder in the event of a material breach or, in some cases, at will. A termination of future licenses could result in our loss of the right to use the licensed

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intellectual property, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize a future product candidate, if approved, as well as harm our competitive business position and our business prospects.

We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular indication and fail to capitalize on indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.

Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we are currently focusing only on development programs that we identify for specific indications for gemcabene. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities for other indications, or with other potential product candidates that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs for specific indications or future product candidates may not yield any commercially viable product. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for gemcabene, we may not gain approval or achieve market acceptance of that candidate, and our business and financial results will be harmed.

Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital

We have incurred only losses since inception. We expect to incur losses for the foreseeable future and may never achieve or maintain profitability.

Since inception, we have incurred only operating losses. Our net losses were $33.4 million, $14.6 million and $9.0 million for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively. As of December 31, 2017, we had an accumulated deficit of $60.5 million. We have financed our operations primarily through the issuance and sale of common stock and warrants in public offerings and a private placement, proceeds from our term loan facility with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and, prior to our IPO, the issuance of preferred stock and convertible notes in private placements. We have devoted substantially all of our financial resources and efforts on research and development, including clinical development of gemcabene. We expect that it will be a number of years, if ever, before we have a product candidate ready for commercialization. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and increased operating losses for the foreseeable future.

To become and remain profitable, we must develop and eventually commercialize a product with market potential. This will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities, including completing preclinical testing and clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approval for a product candidate, manufacturing, marketing and selling any drug for which we may obtain regulatory approval and satisfying any post‑marketing requirements. We are in the early stages of most of these activities. We may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, we may never generate revenues that are significant or large enough to achieve profitability.

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

Our operating activities may be restricted as a result of covenants related to the outstanding indebtedness under our Loan Agreement and we may be required to repay the outstanding indebtedness in an event of default, which could have a materially adverse effect on our business.

 

On July 24, 2017, we entered into a Loan and Security Agreement (the Loan Agreement) with SVB. The Loan Agreement established a term loan facility in the aggregate principal amount of up to $15.0 million (the Term Loan) to be funded in several tranches. We drew $10.0 million under the Loan Agreement on July 24, 2017. Conditioned on the occurrence of both a positive clinical trial event and a pre-clinical event, an additional tranche of $5.0 million may be available to be drawn by us through July 31, 2018, unless a default occurs before such date. “Positive clinical trial event” means the receipt by SVB of a written electronic communication from a member of our board of directors (i) stating that the board of directors has determined that the results from either (a) our ROYAL-1 clinical trial or (b) our INDIGO-1 clinical trial are sufficient to support the development plan for submission of a new drug application with FDA and continued development of gemcabene and (ii) attaching a copy of the press release announcing the foregoing. On November 10, 2017, we provided SVB evidence of a positive clinical trial event. “Pre-clinical event” means the receipt by SVB of a written electronic communication from our chief executive officer or chief financial officer, together with

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supporting documentation from the FDA, that the FDA has lifted the partial clinical hold with respect to clinical trials of longer than six months in duration for gemcabene. 

 

All amounts advanced under the Term Loan mature on February 1, 2021 and have an interest-only monthly payment period through August 1, 2018, which may be extended to February 1, 2019 upon the occurrence of both a positive clinical trial event and a pre-clinical event.  Following the interest-only payment period, we will begin making monthly payments of principal and interest until the maturity date. Interest will accrue on the unpaid principal balance at a floating per annum rate equal to the prime rate, except that, following an event of default, interest will accrue at a rate up to 5% above the rate that is otherwise applicable.

 

Subject to certain exceptions, the Loan Agreement contains covenants prohibiting us from, among other things: (a) disposing of our properties or assets; (b) liquidating or dissolving; (c) engaging in any business other than the business currently engaged in by us or reasonably related thereto; (d) engaging in business combinations or acquisitions or permitting or suffering any change in control; (e) incurring any additional indebtedness; (f) allowing any lien or encumbrance on any of our property; (g) paying any dividends or distributions; (h) entering into transactions with affiliates; and (i) making payment on subordinated debt. Our business may be adversely affected by these restrictions on our ability to operate our business. In the event a pre-clinical event does not occur by July 31, 2018, on such date, we must either (i) provide cash security and maintain a cash balance in a restricted account at SVB in an amount of at least 100% of the amounts we owe to SVB or (ii) prepay the Term Loan in its entirety.  

 

Our obligations under the Loan Agreement may be accelerated by SVB upon the occurrence of an event of default. An event of default includes customary events for a financing arrangement of this type, including, without limitation, payment defaults, defaults in the performance of affirmative or negative covenants, bankruptcy or related defaults, defaults on certain other indebtedness, defaults under certain other agreements, the imposition of judgments or penalties, the material inaccuracy of representations or warranties, material adverse changes and revocations of government approvals.  We may not have enough available cash or be able to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings to repay such indebtedness at the time such event of default were to occur, if ever. In that case, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product candidate development or commercialization efforts or grant to others rights to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves. SVB could also exercise its security interest, which collateral includes substantially all of our assets whether currently owned or hereafter acquired, excluding our intellectual property. Our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected as a result of any of these events.

 

See Part II, Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operation and Financial Condition—Contractual Obligations and Commitments—Term Loan” for a description of the repayment terms and certain other material terms of the Loan Agreement.

We will need substantial additional capital in the future. If additional capital is not available, we will have to delay, reduce or cease operations.

Although we believe that cash on hand (including the $23.0 million net proceeds from the public offering in the first quarter of 2018) will be sufficient to fund our operations into at least mid 2019, we will need to raise additional capital to continue to fund the further development of gemcabene and our operations. Our future capital requirements may be substantial and will depend on many factors including:

·

the scope, size, rate of progress, results and costs of researching and developing gemcabene and initiating and completing our preclinical studies and clinical trials;

·

the cost, timing and outcome of our efforts to obtain marketing approval for gemcabene in the United States and other countries, including to fund the preparation and filing of an NDA with the FDA for gemcabene and to satisfy related FDA requirements and regulatory requirements in other countries;

·

the number and characteristics of any additional product candidates we develop or acquire, if any;

·

our ability to establish and maintain collaborations on favorable terms, if at all;

·

the timing and amount of milestone and royalty payments;

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·

the amount of revenue, if any, from commercial sales, should any product candidate receive marketing approval;

·

the costs associated with commercializing gemcabene or any future product candidates, if we receive marketing approval, including the cost and timing of developing sales and marketing capabilities or entering into strategic collaborations to market and sell gemcabene or any future product candidates;

·

the cost of manufacturing gemcabene or any future product candidates and any product we successfully commercialize; and

·

the costs associated with general corporate activities, such as the cost of filing, prosecuting and enforcing patent claims and making regulatory filings.

Changing circumstances may cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate. Because the outcome of any clinical trial is highly uncertain, we cannot reasonably estimate the actual amounts necessary to successfully complete the development, regulatory approval and commercialization of gemcabene and any future product candidates. Additional financing may not be available when we need it or may not be available on terms that are favorable to us. In addition, we may seek additional capital due to favorable market conditions or strategic considerations, even if we believe we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans. If adequate funds are unavailable to us on a timely basis, or at all, we may not be able to continue the development of gemcabene or any future product candidate, or commercialize gemcabene or any future product candidate, if approved, unless we find a strategic partner.

Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders and restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our technologies or product candidates.

Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial product revenues, we expect to finance our cash needs through a combination of equity and debt financings as well as potential strategic collaborations and licensing arrangements. Under our Loan Agreement, an additional tranche of $5.0 million may be available to be drawn by us through July 31, 2018 conditioned on the occurrence of both a positive clinical trial event and a pre-clinical event. We do not have any other committed external source of funds.

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 of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a common stockholder. Debt financing or preferred equity financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends.

If we raise funds through strategic collaborations or marketing, distribution, or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams, research programs or product candidates or to grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. If we are unable to raise additional funds when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development or future commercialization efforts or grant rights to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves. This may reduce the value of our common stock.

In the past, we issued options to acquire common stock at prices significantly below the initial public offering price and our board of directors will continue to issue options to our employees, directors and consultants under our 2015 Plan or our Inducement Plan. .

 

To the extent outstanding options are ultimately exercised or the number of shares available for future grant under our equity incentive plans each year are increased, investors will sustain further dilution.

 

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Risks Related to Government Regulation

Gemcabene is subject to a partial clinical hold with respect to clinical trials of longer than six months in duration until ongoing preclinical toxicology studies are complete, which may lead to a significant delay in the commencement of long term clinical trials by us or the failure of gemcabene to obtain marketing approval.

In 2004, the FDA determined that gemcabene was a potential peroxisome proliferator‑activated receptor (PPAR) agonist. As a result, the FDA imposed a partial clinical hold, which restricts us from conducting clinical trials for gemcabene beyond six months in duration, and requires us to conduct two‑year rat and mouse carcinogenicity studies before conducting trials of longer than six months. The FDA has issued these notices to all sponsors of product candidates with PPAR properties based on preclinical studies. We completed the in-life portion of our two‑year rat and mouse carcinogenicity studies in the fourth quarter of 2017, with draft reports expected to be issued in the first half of 2018. Clinical trials may be delayed due to these clinical restrictions and additional oversight by the FDA. For example, if the results of the two‑year rat and mouse carcinogenicity studies do not address FDA concerns related to the partial clinical hold, our Phase 3 long term safety exposure registration trials of longer than six months could be delayed. Also, the findings in the carcinogenicity studies could impact the NDA review, and, if approved, labeling and use of gemcabene.

Even if we receive marketing approval for gemcabene or any product candidate we may pursue in the future in the United States, we may never receive regulatory approval to market such product candidate outside of the United States.

In addition to the United States, we intend to seek regulatory approval to market gemcabene in Canada and Europe and potentially other markets. If we pursue additional product candidates in the future, we may seek regulatory approval of such product candidates outside the United States. In order to market any product outside of the United States, however, we must establish and comply with the numerous and varying safety, efficacy and other regulatory requirements of these other countries. Approval procedures vary among countries and can involve additional product candidate testing and additional administrative review periods. The time required to obtain approvals in other countries might differ from that required to obtain FDA approval. The marketing approval processes in other countries may include all of the risks detailed above regarding FDA approval in the United States as well as other risks. In particular, in many countries outside of the United States, products must receive pricing and reimbursement approval before the product can be commercialized. Obtaining this approval can result in substantial delays in bringing products to market in such countries. Marketing approval in one country does not ensure marketing approval in another, but a failure or delay in obtaining marketing approval in one country may have a negative effect on the regulatory process in others. Failure to obtain marketing approval in other countries or any delay or other setback in obtaining such approval would impair our ability to market gemcabene or any future product candidate in such foreign markets. Any such impairment would reduce the size of our potential market, which could have an adverse impact on our business, results of operations and prospects.

Even if we obtain marketing approval for gemcabene or any product candidate we may pursue in the future, such product candidate could be subject to post‑marketing restrictions or withdrawal from the market, and we may be subject to substantial penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with a product candidate following approval.

Any product candidate for which we, or our future collaborators, obtain marketing approval in the future, as well as the manufacturing processes, post‑approval studies and measures, labeling, advertising and promotional activities for such drug, among other things, will be subject to continual requirements of and review by the FDA and other regulatory authorities. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post‑marketing information and reports, registration and listing requirements, requirements relating to manufacturing, quality control, quality assurance and corresponding maintenance of records and documents, requirements regarding the distribution of samples to physicians and recordkeeping. Even if marketing approval of a product candidate is granted, the approval may be subject to limitations on the indicated uses for which the drug may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, including the requirement to implement a REMS, which could include requirements for a restricted distribution system.

The FDA may also impose requirements for costly post‑marketing studies or clinical trials and surveillance to monitor the safety or efficacy of a product candidate. The FDA and other agencies, including the Department of Justice, closely regulate and monitor the post‑approval marketing and promotion of drugs to ensure that they are manufactured, marketed and distributed only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved

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labeling. The FDA imposes stringent restrictions on manufacturers’ communications regarding off‑label use and if we, or our future collaborators, do not market a product candidate for which we, or they, receive marketing approval for only their approved indications, we, or they, may be subject to warnings or enforcement action for off‑label promotion. Violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDC Act) and other statutes, including the False Claims Act, relating to the promotion and advertising of prescription drugs may lead to investigations or allegations of violations of federal and state health care fraud and abuse laws and state consumer protection laws.

In addition, later discovery of previously unknown AEs or other problems with our product candidate or its manufacturers or manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may yield various results, including:

·

litigation involving patients taking our drug;

·

restrictions on such drugs, manufacturers or manufacturing processes;

·

restrictions on the labeling or marketing of a drug;

·

restrictions on drug distribution or use;

·

requirements to conduct post‑marketing studies or clinical trials;

·

warning letters or untitled letters;

·

withdrawal of the drugs from the market;

·

refusal to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications that we submit;

·

product recall or public notification or medical product safety alerts to healthcare professionals;

·

fines, restitution or disgorgement of profits or revenues;

·

suspension or withdrawal of marketing approvals;

·

damage to relationships with any potential collaborators;

·

unfavorable press coverage and damage to our reputation;

·

refusal to permit the import or export of drugs;

·

product seizure; or

·

injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

We may seek to avail ourselves of mechanisms to expedite the development or approval of gemcabene or any other product candidate we may pursue in the future, such as fast track designation, but such mechanisms may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.

We may seek fast track designation, priority review, or accelerated approval for gemcabene or any other product candidate we may pursue in the future. For example, if a drug is intended for the treatment of a serious or life‑threatening condition and the drug demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for this condition, the drug sponsor may apply for FDA fast track designation. However, the FDA has broad discretion with regard to these mechanisms, and even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for any such mechanism, we cannot assure you that the FDA would decide to grant it. Even if we do obtain fast track or priority review designation or pursue an accelerated approval pathway, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. The FDA may withdraw a particular designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program.

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A breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA for a product candidate may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process, and it may not increase the likelihood that a product candidate will receive marketing approval.

Depending on the results of our clinical trials, we may seek a breakthrough therapy designation for gemcabene or any other product candidate we may pursue in the future. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a drug that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life‑threatening disease or condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. For drugs that are designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens.

Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe a product candidate meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. We cannot be sure that our evaluation of a product candidate as qualifying for breakthrough therapy designation will meet the FDA’s requirements. In any event, the receipt of a breakthrough therapy designation for a product candidate may not result in a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if one or more product candidate qualifies as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.

Recently‑enacted and future legislation may increase the difficulty and cost for us and our future collaborators to obtain marketing approval of our product candidate and affect its pricing.

In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of a product candidate, restrict or regulate post‑approval activities and affect our ability, or the ability of our future collaborators, to profitably sell any drug for which we, or they, obtain marketing approval. We expect that current laws, as well as other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and cause downward pressure on the price that we, or our future collaborators, may receive for any approved drug.

For example, in March 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (collectively, the PPACA). This is a sweeping law intended to broaden access to health insurance, reduce or constrain the growth of healthcare spending, improve healthcare quality, enhance remedies against fraud and abuse, add new transparency requirements for certain components of the health care and health insurance industries, impose new taxes and fees on the health industry and impose additional health policy reforms. Among the provisions of the PPACA of importance to gemcabene and any future product candidates are:

·

an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports specified branded prescription drugs and biologic agents, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs;

·

an increase in the statutory minimum rebates a manufacturer must pay under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program to 23.1% and 13.0% of the average manufacturer price for branded and generic drugs, respectively;

·

a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected;

·

extension of a manufacturer’s Medicaid rebate liability to covered drugs dispensed to individuals who are enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations;

·

expansion of eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs by, among other things, allowing states to offer Medicaid coverage to certain individuals with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, thereby potentially increasing a manufacturer’s Medicaid rebate liability;

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·

a Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 50% point‑of‑sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for a manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D;

·

expansion of the entities eligible for discounts under the Public Health Service pharmaceutical pricing program; and

·

a new Patient‑Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research.

There have been judicial and Congressional challenges and amendments to certain aspects of the PPACA, and we expect there will be additional challenges and amendments to, and attempts to repeal, the PPACA in the future. In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the PPACA was enacted. These new laws have resulted in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding and otherwise may affect the prices we may obtain for any product candidate for which marketing approval is obtained. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government‑funded programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. Moreover, recently there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability or commercialize our drugs.

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 a product candidate, if any, may be. In addition, increased scrutiny by the U.S. Congress of the FDA’s approval process may significantly delay or prevent marketing approval, as well as subject us and our future collaborators to more stringent drug labeling and post‑marketing testing and other requirements.

Governments outside of the United States tend to impose strict price controls, which may adversely affect our revenues from the sales of a drug, if any.

In some countries, particularly the countries of the European Union, the pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to governmental control. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after the receipt of marketing approval for a drug. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we, or our future collaborators, may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost‑effectiveness of our drug to other available therapies. If reimbursement of our drug is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business could be harmed.

Our relationships with healthcare providers and third‑party payors will be subject to applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations, which could expose us to criminal sanctions, civil penalties, contractual damages, reputational harm and diminished profits and future earnings, among other penalties and consequences.

Healthcare providers and third‑party payors will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval. Our current and future arrangements with third‑party payors and customers may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we market, sell and distribute any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval. Restrictions and obligations under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations include the following:

·

the federal Anti‑Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, persons and entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, receiving or providing remuneration, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward, or in return for, either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, order or recommendation of, any good or service, for which payment may be made under a federal healthcare program such as Medicare and Medicaid;

·

the federal false claims and civil monetary penalties laws, including the civil False Claims Act imposes criminal and civil penalties, including civil whistleblower or qui tam actions, against individuals or entities

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for knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the federal government, claims for payment that are false or fraudulent or making a false statement to avoid, decrease or conceal an obligation to pay money to the federal government;

·

the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) imposes criminal and civil liability for, among other things, executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program or making false statements relating to healthcare matters;

·

HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, and its implementing regulations, also imposes obligations, including mandatory contractual terms, on certain people and entities with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information;

·

the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act under the PPACA 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, with specific exceptions, to report annually to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services information related to physician payments and other transfers of value and physician ownership and investment interests; and

·

analogous state and foreign laws and regulations, such as state anti‑kickback and false claims laws, may apply to sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by non‑governmental third‑party payors, including private insurers, and some 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 in addition to requiring drug manufacturers to report information related to payments to physicians and other health care providers or marketing expenditures. Certain state and foreign laws also govern the privacy and security of health information in ways that differ from each other and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.

Efforts to ensure that our current and future business arrangements with third parties will comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices may not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of these laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, disgorgement, individual imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. If any of the physicians or other providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found to not be in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs. Defending against any such actions can be costly, time‑consuming and may require significant financial and personnel resources. Therefore, even if we are successful in defending against any such actions that may be brought against us, our business may be impaired.

We are subject to U.S. and certain foreign export and import controls, sanctions, embargoes, anti‑corruption laws, and anti‑money laundering laws and regulations. Compliance with these legal standards could impair our ability to compete in domestic and international markets. We can face criminal liability and other serious consequences for violations which can harm our business.

We are subject to export control and import laws and regulations, including the U.S. Export Administration Regulations, U.S. Customs regulations, various economic and trade sanctions regulations administered by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, the U.S. domestic bribery statute contained in 18 U.S.C. § 201, the U.S. Travel Act, the USA PATRIOT Act, and other state and national anti‑bribery and anti‑money laundering laws in the countries in which we conduct activities. Anti‑corruption laws are interpreted broadly and prohibit companies and their employees, agents, contractors, and other partners from authorizing, promising, offering, or providing, directly or indirectly, improper payments or anything else of value to recipients in the public or private sector. We may engage third parties for clinical trials outside of the United States, to

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sell our products abroad once we enter a commercialization phase, and/or to obtain necessary permits, licenses, patent registrations, and other regulatory approvals. We have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies or government‑affiliated hospitals, universities, and other organizations. We can be held liable for the corrupt or other illegal activities of our employees, agents, contractors, and other partners, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have actual knowledge of such activities. Our violations of the laws and regulations described above may result in substantial civil and criminal fines and penalties, imprisonment, the loss of export or import privileges, debarment, tax reassessments, breach of contract and fraud litigation, reputational harm, and other consequences.

Our employees may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including violating applicable regulatory standards and requirements or engaging in insider trading, which could significantly harm our business.

We are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other misconduct. Misconduct by employees could include intentional failures to comply with the regulations of the FDA and applicable non‑U.S. regulators, provide accurate information to the FDA and applicable non‑U.S. regulators, comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations in the United States and abroad, report financial information or data accurately or disclose unauthorized activities to us. 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. These laws and regulations restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Employee misconduct could also involve the improper use of, including trading on, information obtained in the course of clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious harm to our reputation. It is not always possible to identify and deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may be ineffective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with these laws or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, disgorgement, individual imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations.

The FDA and other regulatory agencies 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, such as gemcabene, if approved. In particular, a product may not be promoted for uses that are not approved by the FDA or such other regulatory agencies as reflected in the product’s approved labeling. If we receive marketing approval for gemcabene or any future product candidate for a certain indication, physicians may nevertheless prescribe gemcabene or such future product candidate to their patients in a manner that is inconsistent with the approved label. If we are found to have promoted such off‑label uses, we may become subject to significant liability. The federal government has levied large civil and criminal fines against companies for alleged improper promotion and has enjoined several companies from engaging in off‑label promotion. The FDA has also requested that companies enter into consent decrees or permanent injunctions under which specified promotional conduct is changed or curtailed. If we cannot successfully manage the promotion of gemcabene or any future product candidate, if approved, we could become subject to significant liability, which would adversely affect our business and financial condition.

Tax matters, including the changes in corporate tax rates, disagreements with taxing authorities and imposition of new taxes could impact our results of operations and financial condition.

We are subject to income and other taxes in the U.S. and our operations, plans and results are affected by tax and other initiatives. On December 22, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) (the “TCJA”) was signed into law by President Trump. The TCJA contains significant changes to corporate income taxation, including reduction of the corporate income tax rate from a top marginal rate of 35% to a flat rate of 21%, limitation of the tax deduction for interest expense to 30% of earnings (except for certain small businesses), limitation of the deduction for net operating losses to 80% of current year taxable income and generally eliminating net operating loss carrybacks, allowing net operating losses to carryforward without expiration, one-time taxation of offshore earnings at reduced rates regardless of whether they are repatriated, elimination of U.S. tax on foreign earnings (subject to certain important exceptions), immediate deductions

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for certain new investments instead of deductions for depreciation expense over time, and modifying or repealing many business deductions and credits (including changes to the orphan drug tax credit and changes to the deductibility of research and experimental expenditures that will be effective in the future). Notwithstanding the reduction in the corporate income tax rate, the overall impact of the new federal tax law is uncertain and our business and financial condition could be adversely affected.  It is also unknown if and to what extent various states will conform to the newly enacted federal tax law. The impact of this tax reform on holders of our common stock is likewise uncertain and could be adverse. 

 

We are also subject to regular reviews, examinations, and audits by the Internal Revenue Service and other taxing authorities with respect to our taxes. Although we believe our tax estimates are reasonable, if a taxing authority disagrees with the positions we have taken, we could face additional tax liability, including interest and penalties. There can be no assurance that payment of such additional amounts upon final adjudication of any disputes will not have a material impact on our results of operations and financial position.

 

We also need to comply with new, evolving or revised tax laws and regulations. The enactment of or increases in tariffs, or other changes in the application or interpretation of the TCJA, or on specific products that we may ultimately sell or with which our products compete, may have an adverse effect on our business or on our results of operations.

Risks Related to the Commercialization of Gemcabene or Any Future Product Candidate

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

The development and commercialization of new drug products is highly competitive. We expect to face competition with respect to gemcabene, if approved, and will face competition with respect to any product candidates that we may seek to develop or commercialize in the future from major pharmaceutical companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, universities and other research institutions and government agencies worldwide.

The lipid‑lowering therapies market is highly competitive and dynamic and dominated by the sale of statin treatments including the cheaper generic versions of statins. Our success will depend, in part, on our ability to obtain a share of the market for our planned indications. Other pharmaceutical companies may develop lipid‑lowering therapies for the same indications that compete with gemcabene, if approved, that do not infringe the claims of our patents, pending patent applications or other proprietary rights which could adversely affect our business and results of operations.  Lipid‑lowering therapies currently on the market that would compete with gemcabene, if approved, include the following:

·

statins, such as Crestor marketed by AstraZeneca, Livalo marketed by Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Inc. (Kowa), Zocor marketed by Merck & Co., Inc. (Merck), Lipitor marketed by Pfizer, and their generic versions;

·

cholesterol absorption inhibitors, such as Zetia, marketed by Merck;

·

apoB antisense Kynamro marketed by Genzyme Corporation, a Sanofi company, and MTTP inhibitor Juxtapid marketed by Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.;

·

combination therapies, such as Vytorin and Liptruzet, both marketed by Merck;

·

other lipid‑lowering monotherapies, including: fibrates, such as TriCor and Trilipix, both marketed by AbbVie Inc. (AbbVie), and Lipofen marketed by Kowa; niacin, such as Niaspan marketed by AbbVie; bile acid sequestrants, such as Welchol, marketed by Daiichi Sankyo Inc.; combination therapies, such as Advicor and Simcor, both of which are marketed by AbbVie; Pemafibrate (PPARalpha agonist) being marketed by Kowa; and the generic versions of these drugs;

·

prescription fish oils, such as Lovaza marketed by GlaxoSmithKline, Epanova marketed by AstraZeneca and Vascepa marketed by Amarin Corporation plc;

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·

PCSK9 inhibitors, such as Praluent, developed by Sanofi‑Aventis U.S. LLC, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Repatha marketed by Amgen Inc;

·

Anti-inflammatory agents such as canakinumab, developed by Novartis;

·

Several other pharmaceutical companies have other lipid‑lowering therapies in development that may be approved for marketing in the United States or outside of the United States. Based on publicly available information, we believe the current therapies in development that would compete with gemcabene include:

o

for HoFH, RGEN‑1500 being developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. MGL-3196 developed by Madrigal Pharmaceuticals (Madrigal) for HoFH, and ALN‑PCSsc being developed by The Medicines Company and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc.;

o

for HeFH and ASCVD, drugs include: oral cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitors, such as anacetrapib being developed by Merck and TA‑8995 being developed by Amgen/Dezima; ATP citrate lyase inhibitor, ETC‑1002 developed by current Esperion; PCSK9 inhibitors, such as ALN‑PCSsc (inclisiran) being developed by The Medicines Company and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; apoA antisense agent AKCEA-APO(a)-LRx being developed by Akcea and Novartis; apabetalone (RVX-208) being developed by Resvelogix; and MGL-3196 developed by Madrigal (HeFH only);

o

for SHTG, ISIS‑APOCIII-LRX being developed by Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (formerly Isis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.); CaPre (long-chain omega-3 phospholipid) being developed by Acasti.; pemafibrate being developed by KOWA. 

 

This means that there is significant competition for investigational sites and patients to enroll in clinical studies.  Additionally, since some drug candidates may be further along in development, approval of such drug candidates could lead to the FDA and other global health authorities to request and/or require changes to ongoing or future clinical trial designs that could impact timelines and cost. 

The biomarkers and pathogenesis of NASH are less understood than the dyslipidemia market and for that reason there are many mechanisms of action under investigation to better understand how to effectively treat the disease. Currently accepted diagnosis of the NASH is confirmed through liver biopsy which is invasive, time consuming and costly. Future growth and evolution of the NASH market may rely on development of less invasive technologies to increase diagnoses rates to broaden the drug treated patient population. Several companies have late stage assets (Phase 3 or outcomes studies) well under way with projected market approval dates in NASH as soon as 2019/2020. For NASH, the market is currently evolving with no approved therapies for the indication across the globe. Current thought leader opinions are pointing to a multiple mechanistic approach to effectively treat NASH.

Several pharmaceutical companies have NASH therapies in development that may be approved for marketing in the United States or outside of the United States. Based on publicly available information, we believe the current therapies in development that would compete with gemcabene in NASH include but are not limited to:

o

OCALIVA (Obeticholic Acid) (FXR Agonist) being developed by Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc.;

o

Elafibranor (PPAR Agonist) being developed by Genfit SA;

o

Selonsertib (formerly GS-4997) (ASK1 Inhibitor) being developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc.;

o

GS-0976 (ACC Inhibitor) being developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc.;

o

GS-9674 (FXR Agonist) being developed by Gilead;

o

Cenicriviroc (CVC) (CCR2/CCR5 Inhibitor) being developed by Tobira Therapeutics, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Allergan plc);

o

Emricasan (Caspase Inhibitor) being developed by Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc.

o

Aramchol (Synthetic Fatty Acid/Bile Acid Conjugate) being developed by Galmed;

o

MN-001 (5-lipoxygenase Inhibitor) being developed by MediciNova;

o

VK2809 (THR-Beta Agonist) being developed by Viking;

o

BMS-986036 (GFG21) being developed by BMS;

o

Lanifibranor (PPAR Pan Agonist) being developed by Inventiva;

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o

GR-MD-02 (Galectin-3 Inhibitor) being developed by Galectin Therapeutics; and

o

MGL-3196 (THR Agonist) being developed by Madrigal.

Our competitors may develop products that are more effective, safer, more convenient or less costly than any that we are developing or that would render our product candidates obsolete or non‑competitive. Our competitors may also render our technologies obsolete by advances in existing technological approaches or the development of new or different approaches, potentially eliminating the advantages in our drug discovery process. Our competitors may also obtain marketing approval from the FDA or other regulatory authorities for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market.

Many of our competitors have significantly greater name recognition, financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and marketing approved products than we do. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Smaller and other early stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These third parties compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials and entering into strategic transactions, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.

We lack experience commercializing products, which may have an adverse effect on our business.

If gemcabene or any product candidate we may pursue in the future receives marketing approval, we will need to transition from a company with a development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities, and we may not be successful in making that transition. We have never filed an NDA, and have not yet demonstrated an ability to obtain marketing approval for, or to commercialize, any product candidate. As a result, our clinical development and regulatory approval process, and our ability to successfully commercialize any approved products, may involve more inherent risk, take longer, and cost more than it would if we were a company with experience obtaining marketing approval for and commercializing a product candidate.

If we are unable to establish sales and marketing capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to sell and market gemcabene, if approved, or any other product candidate we may pursue, we may not be successful in commercializing such product candidate if and when approved.

We do not have a global sales or marketing infrastructure and have no capabilities in place at the present time for the sale, marketing or distribution of pharmaceutical products. To achieve commercial success for any approved product for which we retain sales and marketing responsibilities, we must either develop a sales and marketing organization or outsource part or all of these functions to other third parties.

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

Factors that may inhibit our efforts to commercialize gemcabene or any future product candidate on our own include:

·

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

·

the inability of sales personnel to obtain access to physicians or persuade adequate numbers of physicians to prescribe our product candidate;

·

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

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·

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

·

inability to obtain sufficient coverage and reimbursement from third‑party payors and governmental agencies.

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

Even if gemcabene or any future product candidate receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, healthcare payors and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.

Even if gemcabene or any future product candidate receives marketing approval, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, healthcare payors and others in the medical community. If such product candidate does not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenues and we may not become profitable. The degree of market acceptance of a product candidate, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:

·

efficacy and potential advantages compared to alternative treatments;

·

the ability to offer our product for sale at competitive prices;

·

the willingness of the target patient population to try new therapies and of physicians to prescribe these therapies;

·

any restrictions on the use of our product together with other medications;

·

interactions of our product with other medicines patients are taking;

·

inability of certain types of patients to take our product;

·

demonstrated ability to treat patients and, if required by any applicable regulatory authority in connection with the approval for target indications, to provide patients with incremental cardiovascular disease benefits, as compared with other available therapies;

·

the relative convenience and ease of administration of gemcabene, including as compared with other treatments available for approved indications;

·

the prevalence and severity of any adverse side effects;

·

limitations or warnings contained in the labeling approved by the FDA;

·

availability of alternative treatments already approved or expected to be commercially launched in the near future;

·

the effectiveness of our sales and marketing strategies;

·

our ability to increase awareness through marketing efforts;

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·

guidelines and recommendations of organizations involved in research, treatment and prevention of various diseases that may advocate for alternative therapies;

·

our ability to obtain sufficient third‑party coverage and adequate reimbursement;

·

the willingness of patients to pay out‑of‑pocket in the absence of third‑party coverage; and

·

physicians or patients may be reluctant to switch from existing therapies even if potentially more effective, safe or convenient.

If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority approves generic versions of gemcabene or any future product candidates that receive marketing approval, or such authorities do not grant our product candidates appropriate periods of data exclusivity before approving generic versions of our products, the sales of our products could be adversely affected.

Once an NDA is approved, the product covered thereby becomes a “reference listed drug” in the FDA’s publication, “Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations.” Manufacturers may seek approval of generic versions of reference listed drugs through submission of abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) in the United States. In support of an ANDA, a generic manufacturer need not conduct clinical studies. Rather, the applicant generally must show that its product has the same active ingredient(s), dosage form, strength, route of administration and conditions of use or labeling as the reference listed drug and that the generic version is bioequivalent to the reference listed drug, meaning it is absorbed in the body at the same rate and to the same extent. Generic products may be significantly less costly to bring to market than the reference listed drug and companies that produce generic products are generally able to offer them at lower prices. Thus, following the introduction of a generic drug, a significant percentage of the sales of any branded product or reference listed drug may be typically lost to the generic product.

The FDA may not approve an ANDA for a generic product until any applicable period of non‑patent exclusivity for the reference listed drug has expired. The FDC Act provides a period of five years of non‑patent exclusivity for a new drug containing a new chemical entity (NCE). Specifically, in cases where such exclusivity has been granted, an ANDA may not be filed with the FDA until the expiration of five years unless the submission is accompanied by a Paragraph IV certification that a patent covering the reference listed drug is either invalid or will not be infringed by the generic product, in which case the applicant may submit its application four years following approval of the reference listed drug. It is unclear whether the FDA will treat the active ingredients in our product candidates as NCEs and, therefore, afford them five years of NCE data exclusivity if they are approved. If any product we develop does not receive five years of NCE exclusivity, it may nonetheless be eligible for three years of exclusivity, which means that the FDA may approve generic versions of such product three years after its date of approval. Manufacturers may seek to launch these generic products following the expiration of the applicable marketing exclusivity period, even if we still have patent protection for our product.

Competition that gemcabene or any future product candidates may face from generic versions of our products could materially and adversely impact our future revenue, profitability and cash flows and substantially limit our ability to obtain a return on the investments we have made in any such product candidate.

Even if we are able to commercialize gemcabene or any future product candidate, the profitability of such product candidate will likely depend in significant part on third‑party reimbursement practices, which, if unfavorable, would harm our business.

Our ability to commercialize a drug successfully will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement will be available from government health administration authorities, private health insurers and other organizations. 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. Government authorities and third‑party payors have attempted to control costs by limiting coverage and the amount of reimbursement for particular medications. Increasingly, third‑party payors are requiring that drug companies provide them with predetermined discounts from list prices and are challenging the prices charged for medical products. We cannot be sure that coverage will be available for any product candidate that we commercialize and, if coverage is available, whether the level of reimbursement will be adequate. Assuming we obtain coverage for gemcabene, if approved, by a third‑party payor, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate or may require co‑payments that patients find

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unacceptably high. Patients who are prescribed medications for the treatment of their conditions, and their prescribing physicians, generally rely on third‑party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with their prescription drugs. Patients are unlikely to use a product candidate, if approved, unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover all or a significant portion of the cost of our products. Therefore, coverage and adequate reimbursement is critical to new product acceptance. If reimbursement is not available or is available only to limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval.

There may be significant delays in obtaining reimbursement for newly approved drugs, and coverage may be more limited than the purposes for which a product candidate is approved by the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside the United States. Moreover, eligibility for reimbursement does not imply that any product will be paid for in all cases or at a rate that covers our costs, including research, development, manufacture, sale and distribution. Interim reimbursement levels for a new product, if applicable, may also not be sufficient to cover our costs and may not be made permanent. Reimbursement rates may vary according to the use of the product and the clinical setting in which it is used, may be based on reimbursement levels already set for lower cost medicines and may be incorporated into existing payments for other services. Net prices for products may be reduced by mandatory discounts or rebates required by government healthcare programs or private payors and by any future relaxation of laws that presently restrict imports of medicines from countries where they may be sold at lower prices than in the United States. Third‑party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement policies. However, no uniform policy requirement for coverage and reimbursement for drug products exists among third‑party payors in the United States. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for drug products can differ significantly from payor to payor. As a result, the coverage determination process is often a time‑consuming and costly process that will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our products to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance.

Our inability to promptly obtain coverage and profitable payment rates from both government‑funded and private payors for any approved products that we develop could have an adverse effect on our operating results, our ability to raise capital needed to commercialize products and our overall financial condition.

Product liability lawsuits against us could cause us to incur substantial liabilities and could limit commercialization of any product candidate that we may develop.

We face an inherent risk of product liability exposure related to the testing of our product candidate in human clinical trials and will face an even greater risk if we commercially sell any products that we may develop. Product liability claims might be brought against us by patients, healthcare providers or others selling or otherwise coming into contact with gemcabene or any future product candidate during product testing, manufacturing, marketing or sale. For example, we may be sued on allegations that a product candidate caused injury or that the product is otherwise unsuitable. Any such product liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, including as a result of interactions with alcohol or other drugs, negligence, strict liability, and a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against claims that our product candidate caused injuries, we could incur substantial liabilities. Regardless of merit or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

·

decreased demand for any product candidate that we are developing;

·

injury to our reputation and significant negative media attention;

·

withdrawal of clinical trial participants;

·

increased FDA warnings on product labels;

·

significant costs to defend the related litigation;

·

substantial monetary awards to trial participants or patients;

·

distraction of management’s attention from our primary business;

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·

loss of revenue; and

·

the inability to commercialize any product candidate that we may develop.

Any product liability or clinical trial insurance coverage that we do obtain may not be adequate to cover all liabilities that we may incur. We may need to increase our insurance coverage as we expand clinical trials and if we successfully commercialize gemcabene or any other product candidate we may pursue in the future. Insurance coverage is increasingly expensive, and we may not be able to obtain product liability insurance on commercially reasonable terms or in an amount adequate to satisfy any liability that may arise.

If we or our third‑party manufacturers fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have an adverse effect on the success of our business.

Our research and development activities involve the controlled use of potentially hazardous substances, including chemical and biological materials, by ourselves and our third‑party manufacturers. Our manufacturers are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations in the United States and abroad governing laboratory procedures and the use, manufacture, storage, handling and disposal of medical and hazardous materials. Although we believe that our manufacturers’ procedures for using, handling, storing and disposing of these materials comply with legally prescribed standards, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of contamination or injury resulting from medical or hazardous materials. As a result of any such contamination or injury, we may incur liability or local, city, state or federal authorities may curtail the use of these materials and interrupt our business operations. In the event of an accident, we could be held liable for damages or penalized with fines, and the liability could exceed our resources. We do not have any insurance for liabilities arising from medical or hazardous materials. Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of hazardous materials, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. Compliance with applicable environmental, health and safety laws and regulations is expensive, and current or future environmental regulations may impair our research, development and production efforts, which could harm our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations.

Federal legislation and actions by state and local governments may permit reimportation of drugs from foreign countries into the United States, including foreign countries where the drugs are sold at lower prices than in the United States, which could adversely affect our operating results.

We may face competition for gemcabene, if approved, from cheaper lipid‑lowering therapies sourced from foreign countries that have placed price controls on pharmaceutical products. The Medicare Modernization Act contains provisions that may change U.S. importation laws and expand pharmacists’ and wholesalers’ ability to import cheaper versions of an approved drug and competing products from Canada, where there are government price controls. These changes to U.S. importation laws will not take effect unless and until the Secretary of Health and Human Services certifies that the changes will pose no additional risk to the public’s health and safety and will result in a significant reduction in the cost of products to consumers. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has so far declined to approve a reimportation plan. Proponents of drug reimportation may attempt to pass legislation that would directly allow reimportation under certain circumstances. Legislation or regulations allowing the reimportation of drugs, if enacted, could decrease the price we receive for any product we may develop and adversely affect our future revenues and prospects for profitability.

Risks Related to our Dependence on Third Parties

We will be unable to directly control all aspects of our clinical trials due to our reliance on clinical research organizations (CROs) and other third parties that assist us in conducting clinical trials.

We will rely on CROs to conduct part or all of our preclinical studies and clinical trials for any product candidate, including our Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials for gemcabene. As a result, we will have limited control over the conduct, timing and completion of these clinical trials and the management of data developed through the clinical trials. Communicating with outside parties can also be challenging, potentially leading to mistakes as well as difficulties in coordinating activities. Outside parties may:

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·

have staffing difficulties;

·

fail to comply with contractual obligations;

·

experience regulatory compliance issues;

·

undergo changes in priorities or become financially distressed; or

·

form relationships with other entities, some of which may be our competitors.

These factors may adversely affect the willingness or ability of third parties to conduct our clinical trials and may subject us to unexpected cost increases that are beyond our control.

Moreover, the FDA and other global health authorities require us to comply with standards, commonly referred to as good clinical practices, for conducting, recording, and reporting the results of clinical trials to assure that data and reported results are credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of clinical trial participants are protected. Our reliance on third parties that we do not control does not relieve us of these responsibilities and requirements.

Problems with the timeliness or quality of the work of any CRO may lead us to seek to terminate our relationship with any such CRO and use an alternative service provider. Making this change may be costly and may delay our clinical trials, and contractual restrictions may make such a change difficult or impossible to effect. If we must replace any CRO that is conducting our clinical trials, our clinical trials may have to be suspended until we find another CRO that offers comparable services. The time that it takes us to find alternative organizations may cause a delay in the commercialization of gemcabene or may cause us to incur significant expenses to replicate data that may be lost. Although we do not believe that any CRO on which we may rely will offer services that are not available elsewhere, it may be difficult to find a replacement organization that can conduct our clinical trials in an acceptable manner and at an acceptable cost. Any delay in or inability to complete our clinical trials could significantly compromise our ability to secure regulatory approval of gemcabene and preclude our ability to commercialize gemcabene, thereby limiting or preventing our ability to generate revenue from its sales.

We rely completely on third parties to supply and manufacture our preclinical and clinical drug supplies for gemcabene, and we intend to rely on third parties to produce commercial supplies of gemcabene and preclinical, clinical and commercial supplies of any future product candidate.

We do not currently have, nor do we plan to acquire, the infrastructure or capability to internally manufacture our clinical drug supply of gemcabene, or any future product candidates, for use in the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, and we lack the internal resources and the capability to manufacture any product candidates on a clinical or commercial scale. The process of manufacturing drug products is complex, highly regulated and subject to several risks. For example, the facilities used by our contract manufacturers to manufacture the active pharmaceutical ingredient (or drug substance) and final drug product for gemcabene, or any future product candidates, must be inspected by the FDA and other comparable foreign regulatory agencies in connection with our submission of an NDA or relevant foreign regulatory submission to the applicable regulatory agency. In addition, the manufacturing of drug substance or product is susceptible to product loss due to contamination, equipment failure, improper installation or operation of equipment, or vendor or operator error. Moreover, the manufacturing facilities in which gemcabene or any future product candidates are made could be adversely affected by equipment failures, labor shortages, natural disasters, power failures or other factors.

We do not control the manufacturing process of, and are completely dependent on, our contract manufacturers to comply with current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) for manufacture of both active drug substances and finished drug products. If our contract manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or applicable foreign regulatory agencies, we will not be able to secure and/or maintain regulatory approval for our products. In addition, we have no direct control over our contract manufacturers’ ability to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. Failure to satisfy the regulatory requirements for the production of those materials and products may affect the regulatory clearance of our contract manufacturers’ facilities generally. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory agency does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of gemcabene or any future product candidates, or if it withdraws its approval in the

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future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would adversely impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market gemcabene or such future product candidates. Furthermore, all of our contract manufacturers are engaged with other companies to supply and/or manufacture materials or products for such companies, which exposes our manufacturers to regulatory and sourcing risks for the production of such materials and products. To the extent practicable, we attempt to identify more than one supplier, but some raw materials are available only from a single source or only one supplier has been identified, even in instances where multiple sources exist.

We have relied upon third‑party manufacturers for the manufacture of our product candidate for preclinical and clinical testing purposes and intend to continue to do so in the future, including for commercial purposes. If our third party manufacturers are unable to supply drug substance and/or drug product on a commercial basis, we may not be able to successfully produce and market gemcabene, if approved, or could be delayed in doing so. For instance, we rely on one supplier for the drug substance for gemcabene. The manufacturer of the drug substance for gemcabene will need to manufacture batches of the drug substance that will serve as the validation batches that will be reviewed by the FDA in connection with its review of the NDA for gemcabene and as the supply of gemcabene, if approved and successfully launched commercially. If there is any delay or problem with the manufacture of these batches of drug substance or if there is a delay in producing finished product from these batches, the approval of gemcabene may be delayed or any potential launch of gemcabene may be adversely affected. We will rely on comparison of product specifications (identity, strength, quality, potency) to demonstrate equivalence of the current drug substance and/or drug product to the drug substance and/or drug product used in previously completed preclinical and clinical testing. If we are unable to demonstrate such equivalence, we may be required to conduct additional preclinical and/or clinical testing of our product candidate.

These and other problems with any manufacturer may lead us to seek to terminate our relationship with any such manufacturer and use an alternative manufacturer. Making this change may be costly, time consuming and difficult to effectuate, and may delay our research and development activities. If we must replace any manufacturer, our research and development activities may have to be suspended until we find another manufacturer that offers comparable services. The time that it takes us to find alternative organizations may cause a delay in the development and commercialization of gemcabene or any future product candidate.

We may form or seek strategic alliances or enter into additional licensing arrangements in the future, and we may not realize the benefits of such alliances or licensing arrangements.

We may form or seek strategic alliances, create joint ventures or collaborations or enter into additional licensing arrangements with third parties that we believe will complement or augment our development and commercialization efforts with respect to gemcabene and any future product candidates that we may develop. Any of these relationships may require us to incur non‑recurring and other charges, increase our near and long‑term expenditures, issue securities that dilute our existing stockholders or disrupt our management and business. Our likely collaborators include large and mid‑size pharmaceutical companies, regional and national pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies. If we enter into any such arrangements with any third parties, we will likely have limited control over the amount and timing of resources that our collaborators dedicate to the development or commercialization of gemcabene or any future product candidate. Our ability to generate revenues from these arrangements will depend on our collaborators’ abilities to successfully perform the functions assigned to them in these arrangements. We cannot be certain that, following a strategic transaction or license, we will achieve the revenue or specific net income that justifies such transaction.

Collaborations involving gemcabene or any future product candidate pose the following risks to us:

·

collaborators have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to these collaborations;

·

collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected;

·

collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on clinical trial results, changes in the collaborator’s strategic focus or available funding or external factors such as an acquisition that diverts resources or creates competing priorities;

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·

collaborators may delay clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for a clinical trial program, stop a clinical trial or abandon a product candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials or require a new formulation of a product candidate for clinical testing;

·

collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidate if the collaborators believe that competitive products are more likely to be successfully developed or can be commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours;

·

a collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more product candidates may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of any such product candidate;

·

collaborators may not properly maintain or defend our intellectual property rights or may use our proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation;

·

collaborators may infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;

·

disputes may arise between the collaborators and us that result in the delay or termination of the research, development or commercialization of our product candidate or that result in costly litigation or arbitration that diverts management attention and resources;

·

we may lose certain valuable rights under circumstances identified in our collaborations, including if we undergo a change of control;

·

collaborations may be terminated and, if terminated, may result in a need for additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates;

·

collaborators may learn about our discoveries and use this knowledge to compete with us in the future;

·

the results of collaborators’ preclinical or clinical studies could harm or impair other development programs;

·

there may be conflicts between different collaborators that could negatively affect those collaborations and potentially others;

·

the number and type of our collaborations could adversely affect our attractiveness to future collaborators or acquirers;

·

collaboration agreements may not lead to development or commercialization of our product candidate in the most efficient manner or at all. If a present or future collaborator of ours were to be involved in a business combination, the continued pursuit and emphasis on our product development or commercialization program under such collaboration could be delayed, diminished or terminated; and

·

collaborators may be unable to obtain the necessary marketing approvals.

If future collaboration partners fail to develop or effectively commercialize gemcabene or any future product candidate for any of these reasons, such product candidate may not be approved for sale and our sales of such product candidate, if approved, may be limited, which would have an adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.

If we are not able to establish new collaborations on commercially reasonable terms, we may have to alter our development and commercialization plans.

We face significant competition in attracting collaborators. Whether we reach a definitive agreement for collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and

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conditions of the proposed collaboration and the proposed collaborator’s evaluation of a number of factors related to the associated product candidate. Those factors may include the design or results of clinical trials, the likelihood of approval by the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside the United States, the potential market for the product candidate, the costs and complexities of manufacturing and delivering such product candidate to patients, the potential of competing products, the existence of uncertainty with respect to our ownership of technology, which can exist if there is a challenge to such ownership without regard to the merits of the challenge and industry and market conditions generally. The collaborator may also consider alternative product candidates or technologies for similar indications that may be available to collaborate on and whether such a collaboration could be more attractive than the one with us.

Much of the potential revenue from future collaborations may consist of contingent payments, such as payments for achieving regulatory milestones or royalties payable on sales of our product candidate, if approved. The milestone and royalty revenue that we may receive under these collaborations will depend upon our collaborators’ ability to successfully develop, introduce, market and sell new our product candidate, if approved. In addition, collaborators may decide to enter into arrangements with third parties to commercialize products developed under collaborations related to our product candidate, which could reduce the milestone and royalty revenue received, if any.

We may also be restricted under existing collaboration agreements from entering into future agreements on certain terms with potential collaborators. Collaborations are complex and time‑consuming to negotiate and document. In addition, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future collaborators.

We may not be able to negotiate collaborations on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to do so, we may have to curtail the development of the product candidate for which we are seeking to collaborate, reduce or delay its development program or one or more of our other development programs, delay its potential commercialization or reduce the scope of any sales or marketing activities, or increase our expenditures and undertake development or commercialization activities at our own expense. If we elect to increase our expenditures to fund development or commercialization activities on our own, we may need to obtain additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. If we do not have sufficient funds, we may not be able to further develop our product candidate or bring it to market and generate product revenue.

Risks Related to our Intellectual Property

If we are unable to adequately protect our proprietary technology or maintain issued patents sufficient to protect gemcabene or any future product candidate, others could compete against us more directly, which would have an adverse impact on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.

Our commercial success will depend in part on our success obtaining and maintaining issued patents and other intellectual property rights in the United States and elsewhere and protecting our proprietary technology. If we do not adequately protect our intellectual property and proprietary technology, competitors may be able to use our technologies and erode or negate any competitive advantage we may have, which could harm our business and ability to achieve profitability.  We licensed patents relating to our current product candidate, gemcabene, from Pfizer. Pursuant to the license agreement, we are responsible for filing, prosecuting and maintaining the patent rights in Pfizer’s name at our own cost and expense. In connection with this obligation, we are granted the first right to control the enforcement of the license patents against any third‑party infringement actions. Risks related to our Pfizer license are discussed elsewhere in this “Risk Factors” section under “We depend on intellectual property licensed from Pfizer for gemcabene, and the termination of this license would harm our business.” The termination of this license could result in the loss of significant rights, which would harm our business.

As of February 26, 2018, our patent estate, including patents we own or license from third parties, on a worldwide basis, included five issued U.S. patents, sixteen pending U.S. patent applications, 41 issued patents in foreign jurisdictions including Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Mexico and Spain and 29 pending patent applications in foreign jurisdictions including Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and Mexico. Our worldwide patents and pending applications all relate to our product candidate, gemcabene. Our patents claiming the gemcabene composition of matter generically, which were in‑licensed from Pfizer, have all expired; however, our clinical formulation comprises a specific calcium salt crystal form of gemcabene, which form is claimed in U.S. Patent Number 6,861,555. This patent, which was in‑licensed from Pfizer, is expected to expire in 2021, absent any patent term extension. Our current patent estate includes fifteen patent families that have claims directed to methods of treatment

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using gemcabene. These patent families include, for example, U.S. Patent Number 8,557,835, licensed from Pfizer that has claims directed to using a statin‑gemcabene combination for treating hyperlipidemia, angina pectoris and atherosclerosis. U.S. Patent Number 8,557,835 is expected to expire in 2021, absent any patent term extension, and corresponding foreign patents are expected to expire in 2018, absent any adjustment or extension. Additionally, U.S. Patent Number 8,846,761 and U.S. Patent Application Number 14/370,722, are owned by us. U.S. Patent Number 8,846,761 is directed to methods of decreasing a subject’s risk for developing pancreatitis by administering gemcabene and is expected to expire in 2032, absent any patent term extension. Any foreign patent in this family that may issue is expected to expire in 2031, absent any patent term extension. U.S. Patent Application Number 14/370,722, is directed to methods of decreasing a patient’s risk for developing coronary heart disease or preventing, delaying or reducing the severity of a secondary cardiovascular event by administering gemcabene with a statin. Related patent applications are pending in foreign jurisdictions including Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Japan and Mexico. Any patent that may issue in this family, absent any patent term adjustment or extension, is expected to expire in 2033. 

In 2015-2017, we filed U.S. patent application 14/942,765 and 14 foreign non-provisional patent applications on methods of large scale manufacturing for making dicarboxyalkyl ethers, any patent issuing from this patent family is expected to expire in 2035. In addition, in 2017, we filed U.S. provisional patent applications 62/477,831, 62/578,782, 62/467,407, 62/486,822, 62,486,728, 62/569,358, 62/584,576, 62/505,085, 62/560,540, 62/560,888 and in 2018 we filed 62/624,564, all of which are pending. In 2017, we also filed two PCT applications one for methods of treating mixed dyslipidemia using gemcabene in combination with statins and treatment of NASH using gemcabene as a monotherapy (PCT/US2016/060837), and the other relating to fixed dose combinations and modified release formulations of gemcabene and statins (PCT/US2016/060849). Two U.S. Patent Applications were filed as continuations of PCT/US2016/060837, U.S. Patent Application Number 15/416,911, now U.S. 9,849,104, is directed to methods of treating NASH by administering gemcabene as a monotherapy, U.S. Patent Application Number 15/424,620, is directed methods for treating Mixed Dyslipidemia by administering gemcabene and a statin, and one divisional U.S. Patent Application Number 15/814,118 directed to other aspects of NASH.  Any patent that may issue in either of these two families, absent any patent term adjustment or extension, is expected to expire in 2037.

The patent prosecution process is expensive and time‑consuming, and we and our current or future licensors, licensees or collaboration partners may not be able to prepare, file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. It is also possible that we or our licensors will fail to identify patentable aspects of inventions made in the course of development and commercialization activities before it is too late to obtain patent protection on them. Our and our licensors’ patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties practicing the technology claimed in such applications unless and until a patent issues from such applications, and then only to the extent the issued claims cover the technology.

We cannot assure you that any of our patents have, or that any of our pending patent applications will mature into issued patents that will include, claims with a scope sufficient to protect gemcabene or any future product candidate. Others have developed technologies that may be related or competitive to our approach, and may have filed or may file patent applications and may have received or may receive patents that overlap or conflict with our patent applications, either by claiming the same methods or formulations or by claiming subject matter that could dominate our patent position. The patent positions of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, including our patent position, involve complex legal and factual questions, and, therefore, the issuance, scope, validity and enforceability of any patent claims that we may obtain cannot be predicted with certainty. Patents, if issued, may be challenged, deemed unenforceable, invalidated, or circumvented. U.S. patents and patent applications may also be subject to interference proceedings, ex parte reexamination, or inter partes review proceedings, supplemental examination and challenges in district court. Patents may be subjected to opposition, post‑grant review, or comparable proceedings lodged in various national and regional patent offices. These proceedings could result in either loss of the patent or denial of the patent application or loss or reduction in the scope of one or more of the claims of the patent or patent application. In addition, such interference, re‑examination, opposition, post‑grant review, inter partes review, supplemental examination or revocation proceedings may be costly. Thus, any patents that we may own or exclusively license may not provide any protection against competitors. Furthermore, an adverse decision in an interference proceeding can result in a third‑party receiving the patent right sought by us, which in turn could affect our ability to develop, market or otherwise commercialize gemcabene.

Furthermore, the issuance of a patent, while presumed valid, is not conclusive as to its validity or its enforceability and it may not provide us with adequate proprietary protection or competitive advantages against competitors with similar products. Competitors may also be able to design around our patents. Other parties may develop and obtain patent

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protection for more effective technologies, designs or methods. We may not be able to prevent the unauthorized disclosure or use of any technical knowledge or trade secrets by consultants, vendors, former employees and current employees. The laws of some foreign countries do not protect our proprietary rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States, and we may encounter significant problems in protecting our proprietary rights in these countries. If these developments were to occur, they could have a material adverse effect on our sales.

Our ability to enforce our patent rights depends on our ability to detect infringement. It is difficult to detect infringers who do not advertise the components that are used in their products. Moreover, it may be difficult or impossible to obtain evidence of infringement in a competitor’s or potential competitor’s product. Any litigation to enforce or defend our patent rights, if any, even if we were to prevail, could be costly and time‑consuming and would divert the attention of our management and key personnel from our business operations. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded if we were to prevail may not be commercially meaningful.

In addition, proceedings to enforce or defend our patents could put our patents at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable, or interpreted narrowly. Such proceedings could also provoke third parties to assert claims against us, including that some or all of the claims in one or more of our patents are invalid or otherwise unenforceable. If, in any proceeding, a court invalidated or found unenforceable our patents covering gemcabene or any future product candidate, our financial position and results of operations would be adversely impacted. In addition, if a court found that valid, enforceable patents held by third parties covered gemcabene or any future product candidate, our financial position and results of operations would also be adversely impacted.

The degree of future protection for our proprietary rights is uncertain, and we cannot ensure that:

·

any of our patents, or any of our pending patent applications, if issued, will include claims having a scope sufficient to protect gemcabene;

·

any of our pending patent applications will result in issued patents;

·

we will be able to successfully commercialize gemcabene or any future product candidate, if approved, before our relevant patents expire;

·

we were the first to make the inventions covered by each of our patents and pending patent applications;

·

we were the first to file patent applications for these inventions;

·

others will not develop similar or alternative technologies that do not infringe our patents;

·

any of our patents will be valid and enforceable;

·

any patents issued to us will provide a basis for an exclusive market for our commercially viable products, will provide us with any competitive advantages or will not be challenged by third parties;

·

we will develop additional proprietary technologies or product candidates that are separately patentable; or

·

that our commercial activities or products will not infringe upon the patents of others.

Patents have a limited lifespan. The natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years after its effective filing date. Various extensions may be available; however, the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Given the extensive period of time between patent filing and regulatory approval for a product candidate, the time during which we can market a product candidate under patent protection is limited, and our patent may expire before we obtain such approval. Without patent protection for gemcabene or any future product candidates, we may be open to competition from generic versions of our product candidates, which may affect the profitability of our product candidates.

If we do not obtain protection under the Hatch‑Waxman Act and similar foreign legislation by extending the patent terms and obtaining data exclusivity for our product candidate, our business may be materially harmed.

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Depending upon the timing, duration of regulatory review, and date of FDA marketing approval of gemcabene or any future product candidate, if any, one of our U.S. patents may be eligible for patent term restoration under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch‑Waxman Act. The Hatch‑Waxman Act provides for a patent restoration term of up to five years as compensation for the time the product is under FDA regulatory review (patent term extension). The duration of patent term extension is calculated based on the time spent in the regulatory review process. Our basic U.S. composition of matter patent for gemcabene has expired. We plan to seek patent term extension for one of our patents related to gemcabene. However, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failing to apply within the applicable deadline, expiration of relevant patents prior to obtaining approval, or otherwise failing to satisfy applicable requirements. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. If we are unable to obtain patent term extension or the term of any such extension is less than we request, our revenue could be reduced, possibly materially.

In addition, we believe that gemcabene is a NCE in the United States and may be eligible for data exclusivity under the Hatch‑Waxman Act. A single‑ingredient drug can be classified as a NCE if the FDA has not previously approved any other new drug containing the same active ingredient. Under sections 505(c)(3)(E)(ii) and 505(j)(5)(F)(ii) of the FDC Act, as amended, a NCE that is granted marketing approval may, even in the absence of patent protections, be eligible for five years of data exclusivity in the United States following marketing approval. During the data exclusivity period, if granted, the FDA is precluded from approving 505(b)(2) applications or abbreviated new drug applications submitted by another company that references the FDA’s findings of safety and efficacy for the approved NDA. In the European Union, NCEs qualify for eight years of data exclusivity upon marketing authorization and an additional two years of market exclusivity. This data exclusivity, if granted, prevents regulatory authorities in the European Union from reviewing a generic application for eight years, after which generic marketing authorization can be approved but the generic drug may not be marketed during the two‑year marketing exclusivity period. However, gemcabene may not be considered to be a NCE for these purposes or be entitled to the period of data exclusivity. If we are not able to gain or exploit the period of data exclusivity, we may face significant competitive threats to our commercialization of gemcabene from other manufacturers, including the manufacturers of generic alternatives. Further, even if our compound is considered to be a NCE and we are able to gain the prescribed period of data exclusivity, another company nevertheless could gain marketing approval for the same compound if they independently generate preclinical and clinical data and get market approval through the NDA process without benefit of our data.

If we fail to maintain orphan drug exclusivity for gemcabene for HoFH, we will have to rely on data and marketing exclusivity for HoFH that is not based on an orphan drug designation, if any, and on our intellectual property rights.

As part of our business strategy, in the United States we have obtained orphan drug designation for gemcabene for the treatment of HoFH. We may submit an application to the FDA for other orphan drug designations for gemcabene such as for the treatment of TG greater than approximately 750 mg/dL (F) or Familial Partial Lipodystrophy under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a product as an orphan drug if it is a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition, defined, in part, as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 in the United States.

In the United States, the company that first obtains FDA approval for a designated orphan drug for the specified rare disease or condition receives orphan drug marketing exclusivity for that drug for a period of seven years. This orphan drug exclusivity prevents the FDA from approving another application, including a full NDA, to market the same drug for the same orphan indication, except in very limited circumstances. For purposes of small molecule drugs, the FDA defines “same drug” as a drug that contains the same active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and is intended for the same use as the drug in question. A designated orphan drug may not receive orphan drug exclusivity if it is approved for a use that is broader than the indication for which it received orphan designation. In addition, orphan drug exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantity of the drug to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.

The EMA grants orphan drug designation to promote the development of products that may offer therapeutic benefits for life‑threatening or chronically debilitating conditions affecting not more than five in 10,000 people in the European Union. Orphan drug designation from the EMA provides ten years of marketing exclusivity following drug approval, subject to reduction to six years if the designation criteria are no longer met.

Even if we are able to obtain and maintain orphan drug exclusivity for gemcabene for HoFH, the designation may not effectively protect it from competition for HoFH because different drugs can be approved for the same condition.

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Moreover, even with an orphan drug designation, the FDA can subsequently approve a different formulation of the same API for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the later formulation of the API is safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care.

Changes in U.S. patent law could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect gemcabene and any product candidate we may pursue in the future.

In 2011, the United States enacted wide‑ranging patent reform legislation with the America Invents Act (AIA).

An important change introduced by the AIA is that, as of March 16, 2013, the United States transitioned to a “first‑to‑file” system for deciding which party should be granted a patent when two or more patent applications are filed by different parties claiming the same invention. A third party that files a patent application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) after that date but before us could therefore be awarded a patent covering an invention of ours even if we had made the invention before it was made by the third party. This will require us to be cognizant going forward of the time from invention to filing of a patent application, but circumstances could prevent us from promptly filing patent applications on our inventions.

Among some of the other changes introduced by the AIA are changes that limit where a patentee may file a patent infringement suit and providing opportunities for third parties to challenge any issued patent in the USPTO. This applies to all of our U.S. patents, even those issued before March 16, 2013. Because of a lower evidentiary standard in USPTO proceedings compared to the evidentiary standard in U.S. federal courts necessary to invalidate a patent claim, a third party could potentially provide evidence in a USPTO proceeding sufficient for the USPTO to hold a claim invalid even though the same evidence would be insufficient to invalidate the claim if first presented in a district court action. Accordingly, a third party may attempt to use the USPTO procedures to invalidate our patent claims that would not have been invalidated if first challenged by the third party as a defendant in a district court action. The AIA and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents.

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several patent cases in recent years, such as Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (Myriad I),  Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. and Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, 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 with regard to 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 the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents 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.

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

In jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection, competitors may use our intellectual property to develop their own products and further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but where it is more difficult to enforce a patent as compared to the U.S. Competitor products may compete with gemcabene, if approved, or any future product candidate in jurisdictions where we do not have issued or granted patents or where our issued or granted patent claims or other intellectual property rights are not sufficient to prevent competitor activities in these jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, make it difficult to enforce patents and such countries may not recognize other types of intellectual property protection, particularly that relating to pharmaceuticals. This could make it difficult for us to prevent the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally in certain jurisdictions. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial cost and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business.

The laws of some jurisdictions do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws in the United States, and many companies have encountered significant difficulties in protecting and defending such rights in such jurisdictions. If we, or our licensors, encounter difficulties in protecting, or are otherwise precluded from effectively protecting, the intellectual property rights important for our business in such jurisdictions, the value of these rights may be diminished and we may face additional competition from others in those jurisdictions. Many countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties. In addition,

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many countries limit the enforceability of patents against government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, the patent owner may have limited remedies, which could materially diminish the value of such patent. If we, or any of our licensors, are forced to grant a license to third parties with respect to any patents relevant to our business, our competitive position in the relevant jurisdiction may be impaired and our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.

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

Competitors may infringe our patents and other intellectual property rights. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time consuming. In addition, in an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that a patent of ours is invalid or unenforceable, or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology in question. An adverse result in any litigation proceeding could put one or more of our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly. 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. Moreover, there can be no assurance that we will have sufficient financial or other resources to file and pursue such infringement claims, which typically last for years before they are concluded.

Litigation proceedings may fail and, even if successful, may result in substantial costs and distraction of our management and other employees. We may not be able to prevent, alone or with our collaborators, misappropriation of our proprietary rights, particularly in countries where the laws may not protect those rights as fully as in the United States.

In addition, there could 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 substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock.

Third parties may initiate legal proceedings alleging that we are infringing their intellectual property rights, the outcome of which would be uncertain and could have an adverse effect on the success of our business.

Our commercial success depends upon our ability and the ability of our collaborators to develop, manufacture, market and sell gemcabene and any other product candidate we may pursue in the future and use our proprietary technologies without infringing the proprietary rights and intellectual property of third parties. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by extensive litigation regarding patents and other intellectual property rights. We may in the future become party to, or threatened with, adversarial proceedings or litigation regarding intellectual property rights with respect to our medicines and technology, including interference or derivation proceedings, post‑grant reviews, inter partes reviews, or other procedures before the USPTO or other similar procedures in foreign jurisdictions. Third parties may assert infringement claims against us based on existing patents or patents that may be granted in the future. If we are found to infringe a third party’s intellectual property rights, we could be required to obtain a license from such third party to continue developing and marketing our medicines and technology. However, we may not be able to obtain any required license on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we were able to obtain a license, it could be non‑exclusive, thereby giving our competitors and other third parties access to the same technologies licensed to us. We could be forced, including by court order, to cease developing and commercializing the infringing technology or medicine. In addition, we could be found liable for substantial monetary damages, potentially including treble damages and attorneys’ fees, if we are found to have willfully infringed. A finding of infringement could prevent us from commercializing a product candidate or force us to cease some of our business operations, which could harm our business. Alternatively, we may need to redesign our infringing products, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure. Claims that we have misappropriated the confidential information or trade secrets of third parties could have a similar negative impact on our business.

The cost to us of any litigation or other proceeding relating to patent or other proprietary rights, even if resolved in our favor, could be substantial and may result in substantial costs and distraction of our management and other employees. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of complex patent litigation more effectively than we can because they have substantially greater resources. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could delay our research and development efforts and limit our ability to continue our operations.

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We may be subject to damages resulting from claims that our employees or we have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade secrets of their former employers.

Our employees and consultants have been previously employed at other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Although we are not aware of any claims currently pending against us, we may be subject to claims that these employees or we have inadvertently or otherwise used or disclosed trade secrets or other proprietary information or intellectual property of the former employers of our employees. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. Even if we are successful in defending against these claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management. If we fail in defending such claims, in addition to paying money claims, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. A loss of key personnel or their work product could hamper or prevent our ability to commercialize gemcabene, which would adversely affect our commercial development efforts.

If we are not able to adequately prevent disclosure of trade secrets and other proprietary information, the value of any product we may pursue could be significantly diminished.

We may rely upon trade secrets, know‑how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. However, trade secrets are difficult to protect. We rely in part on confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers, contract manufacturers, vendors 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, we cannot guarantee that we have executed these agreements with each party that may have or have had access to trade secrets.

Moreover, because we acquired certain rights to gemcabene from Pfizer, we must rely on Pfizer’s practices, and those of its predecessors, with regard to parties that may have had access to trade secrets related thereto. Any party with whom they or we have executed such an agreement may breach that agreement and disclose our proprietary information, including our trade secrets, and we may not be able to obtain adequate remedies for such breaches. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret is difficult, expensive and time‑consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. In addition, some courts inside and outside the United States are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor, we would have no right to prevent them, or those to whom they disclose such trade secrets, from using that technology or information to compete with us. If any of our trade secrets were to be disclosed to or independently developed by a competitor or other third‑party, our competitive position would be harmed.

We have registration for three United States trademarks and for one European Union trademark.

We have registrations for three United States trademarks, “Gemphire”, the Gemphire logo and “Advancing a class on top of statins”, and a registration of “Gemphire Therapeutics Inc.” in the European Union. If we do not secure and maintain registrations for our trademarks, we may encounter more difficulty in enforcing them against third parties than we otherwise would, which could affect our business. We have also not yet registered trademarks for any product candidate in any jurisdiction. When we file trademark applications for a product candidate, those applications may not be allowed for registration, and registered trademarks may not be obtained, maintained or enforced. During trademark registration proceedings in the United States and foreign jurisdictions, we may receive rejections. We are given an opportunity to respond to those rejections, but we may not be able to overcome such rejections. In addition, in the USPTO and in comparable agencies in many foreign jurisdictions, third parties are given an opportunity to oppose pending trademark applications and to seek to cancel registered trademarks. Opposition or cancellation proceedings may be filed against our trademarks, and our trademarks may not survive such proceedings.

In addition, any proprietary name we propose to use with gemcabene or any future product candidate in the United States must be approved by the FDA, regardless of whether we have registered it, or applied to register it, as a trademark. The FDA typically conducts a review of proposed drug names, including an evaluation of potential for confusion with other drug names. If the FDA objects to any proposed proprietary drug name for any product candidate, we may be required to expend significant additional resources in an effort to identify a suitable substitute proprietary drug name that would qualify under applicable trademark laws, not infringe the existing rights of third parties and be acceptable to the FDA.

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If we register any of our trademarks, our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented or declared generic or determined to infringe on other marks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names or may be forced to stop using these names, which we need for name recognition by potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. If we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected.

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

The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment or other provisions during the patent application process. In addition, periodic maintenance and annuity fees on any issued patent are due to be paid to the USPTO and foreign patent agencies in several stages over the lifetime of the patent. While an inadvertent lapse can in many cases be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which would have an adverse effect on our business.

Risks Related to Employee Matters and Managing Growth

We are dependent on our key personnel, and if we are not successful in attracting and retaining highly qualified personnel, we may not be able to successfully implement our business strategy.

We are highly dependent on our management, scientific and medical personnel. We have entered into employment agreements with our executive officers, other than Dr. Gullans, our Interim President and Chief Executive Officer and a director, with whom we have an offer letter, but any employee may terminate his or her employment with us. The loss of the services of any of our executive officers, other key employees or consultants and other scientific and medical advisors in the foreseeable future, might impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives. We rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our development and commercialization strategy. Our consultants and advisors may be employed by employers other than us and may have commitments under consulting or advisory contracts with other entities that may limit their availability to us. Recruiting and retaining qualified scientific personnel and business and commercial personnel will also be critical to our success. We may not be able to attract and retain these personnel on acceptable terms given the competition among numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for similar personnel. We also experience competition for the hiring of scientific personnel from universities and research institutions. Failure to succeed in clinical trials may also make it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified scientific personnel.

We will need to develop and expand our company, and we may encounter difficulties in managing this development and expansion, which could disrupt our operations.

As of December 31, 2017, we had seventeen full‑time employees, and we expect to increase our number of employees and the scope of our operations as we further the clinical development of gemcabene and continue to operate as a public company. To manage our anticipated development and expansion, we must continue to implement and improve our managerial, operational and financial systems, expand our facilities and continue to recruit and train additional qualified personnel. Also, our management may need to divert a disproportionate amount of its attention away from its day‑to‑day activities and devote a substantial amount of time to managing these development activities. Due to our limited resources, we may not be able to effectively manage the expansion of our operations or recruit and train additional qualified personnel. This may result in weaknesses in our infrastructure, and give rise to operational mistakes, loss of business opportunities, loss of employees and reduced productivity among remaining employees. The physical expansion of our operations may lead to significant costs and may divert financial resources from other projects, such as the development of gemcabene. If our management is unable to effectively manage our expected development and expansion, our expenses may increase more than expected, our ability to generate or increase our revenue could be reduced and we may not be able to implement our business strategy. Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize gemcabene or any future product candidate, if approved, and compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage the future development and expansion of our company.

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A variety of risks associated with operating internationally for us and our collaborators could adversely affect our business.

In addition to our U.S. operations, we may pursue international operations in the future and would face risks associated with such global operations, including possible unfavorable regulatory, pricing and reimbursement, legal, political, tax and labor conditions, which could harm our business. We plan to conduct clinical trials outside of the United States. We are subject to numerous risks associated with international business activities, including:

·

compliance with differing or unexpected regulatory requirements for gemcabene or any other product candidate;

·

different medical practices and customs affecting acceptance of gemcabene, if approved, or any other approved product in the marketplace;

·

language barriers;

·

the interpretation of contractual provisions governed by foreign law in the event of a contract dispute;

·

difficulties in staffing and managing foreign operations, and an inability to control commercial or other activities where we are relying on third parties;

·

workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States;

·

potential liability under the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act of 1977 or comparable foreign regulations;

·

production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capability abroad;

·

foreign government taxes, regulations and permit requirements;

·

U.S. and foreign government tariffs, trade restrictions, price and exchange controls and other regulatory requirements;

·

economic weakness, including inflation, natural disasters, war, events of terrorism or political instability in particular foreign countries;

·

fluctuations in currency exchange rates, which could result in increased operating expenses and reduced revenues;

·

compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws, regulations and restrictions for employees living or traveling abroad;

·

changes in diplomatic and trade relationships; and

·

challenges in enforcing our contractual and intellectual property rights, especially in those foreign countries that do not respect and protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the United States.

Our business and operations would suffer in the event of system failures or unplanned events.

Despite the implementation of security measures, our internal computer systems and those of our current and future contractors and consultants are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, natural disasters, terrorism, war and telecommunication and electrical failures. While we are not aware of any such material system failure, accident or security breach to date, if such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our development programs and our business operations. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from completed or future 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 were

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to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability and the further development and commercialization of our product candidates could be delayed.

Furthermore, any unplanned event, such as flood, fire, explosion, tornadoes, earthquake, extreme weather condition, medical epidemics, power shortage, telecommunication failure or other natural or manmade accidents or incidents that result in us being unable to fully utilize the facilities, may have an adverse effect on our ability to operate our business, particularly on a daily basis, and have significant negative consequences on our financial and operating conditions. Loss of access to these facilities may result in increased costs, delays in the development of our product candidates or interruption of our business operations.

Risks Related to our Common Stock

The price of our common stock may be volatile and fluctuate substantially, which could result in substantial losses of our common stock.

The trading price of our common stock is likely to be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control, including limited trading volume. In addition to the factors discussed in this “Risk Factors” section and elsewhere in this report, these factors include:

·

adverse results or delays in preclinical studies, clinical trials, regulatory decisions or the development status of gemcabene or any product candidates we may pursue in the future;

·

decisions to initiate a clinical trial, not initiate a clinical trial, or terminate an existing clinical trial;

·

adverse regulatory decisions, including failure to receive regulatory approval for gemcabene;

·

changes in applicable laws, rules or regulations;

·

disputes with Pfizer regarding our licensed rights to gemcabene;

·

adverse developments concerning our manufacturers, suppliers, collaborators and other third parties;

·

our failure to commercialize gemcabene or any product candidates we may pursue in the future;

·

the success of competitive drugs;

·

additions or departures of key scientific or management personnel;

·

unanticipated safety concerns related to the use of gemcabene or any product candidates we may pursue in the future;

·

our announcements or our competitor’s announcements regarding new products, enhancements, significant contracts, acquisitions or strategic partnerships and investments;

·

changes in the structure of healthcare payment systems;

·

the size and growth of our target markets;

·

our failure, or companies perceived to be similar to us, to meet external expectations or management guidance;

·

fluctuations in our quarterly financial results or the quarterly financial results of companies perceived to be similar to us;

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·

publication of research reports about us or our industry, recommendations, earning results or estimates or withdrawal of research coverage by securities analysts;

·

changes in the market valuations of similar companies;

·

changes in general economic, political and market conditions in any of the regions in which we conduct our business;

·

changes in our capital structure or dividend policy, future issuances of securities, sales of large blocks of common stock by our stockholders or our incurrence of additional debt;

·

trading volume of our common stock;

·

changes in accounting practices and ineffectiveness of our internal controls;

·

disputes, litigation or developments relating to proprietary rights;

·

timing of milestones and royalty payments; and

·

other events or factors, many of which are beyond our control.

In addition, the stock market in general, NASDAQ, and the stock of biopharmaceutical companies in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of these companies. Broad market and industry factors may negatively affect the market price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance. In the past, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against companies following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities. This type of litigation, if instituted, could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources, which would harm our business, operating results or financial condition.

Provisions in our corporate charter documents and under Delaware law could make an acquisition of us, which may be beneficial to our stockholders, more difficult and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.

Provisions in our corporate charter and our bylaws may discourage, delay or prevent a merger, acquisition or other change in control of us that stockholders may consider favorable, including transactions in which you might otherwise receive a premium for your shares. These provisions could also limit the price that investors might be willing to pay in the future for shares of our common stock, thereby depressing the market price of our common stock. In addition, because our board of directors is responsible for appointing the members of our management team, these provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our board of directors. Among other things, these provisions:

·

establish a classified board of directors such that not all members of the board are elected at one time;

·

allow the authorized number of our directors to be changed only by resolution of our board of directors;

·

limit the manner in which stockholders can remove directors from the board;

·

establish advance notice requirements for stockholder proposals that can be acted on at stockholder meetings and nominations to our board of directors;

·

require that stockholder actions must be effected at a duly called stockholder meeting and prohibit actions by our stockholders by written consent;