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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

 

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

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019.

 

OR

 

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

 

For the transition period from                    to                   

 

Commission file number 001-38944

 

Akero Therapeutics, Inc.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

 

 

Delaware

    

81‑5266573

(State or Other Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)

 

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

 

 

 

170 Harbor Way, 3rd Floor

South San Francisco, CA

 

94080

(Address of Principal Executive Offices)

 

(Zip Code)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code (650) 487‑6488

 

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

 

 

 

 

Title of each class

Trading Symbol(s)

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, par value $0.0001 per share

AKRO

The Nasdaq Global Select Market

 

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

 

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

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

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

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted 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 whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer”, “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large Accelerated Filer

    

Accelerated Filer

    

Non-accelerated Filer 

    

Smaller reporting company  

 

Emerging growth company  

 

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

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

 

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was $195,939,947 as of June 28, 2019 (based on a closing price of $19.15 per share as quoted by the Nasdaq Global Select Market as of such date). In determining the market value of non-affiliate common stock, shares of the registrant’s common stock beneficially owned by officers, directors and affiliates have been excluded. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.

As of March 6, 2020, the total number of shares outstanding of the registrant’s Common Stock was 28,607,913  shares.

 

Documents Incorporated by Reference:

 

Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K incorporates by reference certain information from the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for its 2020 annual meeting of shareholders, which the registrant intends to file pursuant to Regulation 14A with the Securities and Exchange Commission not later than 120 days after the registrant’s fiscal year end of December 31, 2019. Except with respect to information specifically incorporated by reference in this Form 10-K, the Proxy Statement is not deemed to be filed as part of this Form 10-K.

 

 

 

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

    

Page

PART I 

Item 1. 

 

Business

 

4

Item 1A. 

 

Risk Factors

 

56

Item 1B. 

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

98

Item 2. 

 

Properties

 

99

Item 3. 

 

Legal Proceedings

 

99

Item 4. 

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

99

PART II 

Item 5. 

 

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

 

99

Item 6. 

 

Selected Financial Data

 

100

Item 7. 

 

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

 

101

Item 7A. 

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

 

114

Item 8. 

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

115

Item 9. 

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

144

Item 9A. 

 

Controls and Procedures

 

144

Item 9B. 

 

Other Information

 

145

PART III 

Item 10. 

 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

145

Item 11. 

 

Executive Compensation

 

145

Item 12. 

 

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

 

145

Item 13. 

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

145

Item 14. 

 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

145

PART IV 

Item 15. 

 

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

 

146

Item 16 

 

Form 10-K Summary

 

146

 

 

 

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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). These statements involve risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to be materially different from the information expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including statements regarding our strategy, future operations, future financial position, future revenue, projected costs, prospects, plans and objectives of management and expected market growth are forward-looking statements. The words “anticipate,” “believe,” “continue,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “project,” “should,” “target,” “would” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words.

These forward-looking statements include, among other things, statements about:

·

the success, cost and timing of our product development activities and clinical trials, including statements regarding the timing of initiation and completion of studies or trials and related preparatory work, the period during which the results of the trials will become available, and our research and development programs;

·

our ability to advance any product candidate into or successfully complete any clinical trial;

·

our ability or the potential to successfully manufacture our product candidates for clinical trials or for commercial use, if approved;

·

the potential for our identified research priorities to advance our technologies;

·

our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval, if obtained, of AKR-001 or any future product candidates, and any related restrictions, limitations and/or warnings in the label of an approved product candidate;

·

the ability to license additional intellectual property relating to any future product candidates and to comply with our existing license agreement;

·

our ability to commercialize our products in light of the intellectual property rights of others;

·

the success of competing therapies that are or become available;

·

our ability to obtain funding for our operations, including funding necessary to complete further development and commercialization of our product candidates;

·

the commercialization of our product candidates, if approved;

·

our plans to research, develop and commercialize our product candidates;

·

our ability to attract collaborators with development, regulatory and commercialization expertise;

·

future agreements with third parties in connection with the commercialization of our product candidates and any other approved product;

·

the size and growth potential of the markets for our product candidates, and our ability to serve those markets;

·

the rate and degree of market acceptance of our product candidates;

·

regulatory developments in the United States and foreign countries;

·

our ability to contract with third-party suppliers and manufacturers and their ability to perform adequately;

·

our ability to attract and retain key scientific or management personnel;

·

the accuracy of our estimates regarding expenses, future revenue, capital requirements and needs for additional financing;

·

the impact of laws and regulations; and

·

our expectations regarding our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection for our product candidates.

 

We may not actually achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in our forward-looking statements, and you should not place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements. Actual results or events could differ materially from the plans, intentions and expectations disclosed in the forward-looking statements we make. We have included important factors in the cautionary statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, particularly in the “Risk Factors” section, that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements

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that we make. Our forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any future acquisitions, mergers, dispositions, collaborations, joint ventures or investments that we may make or into which we may enter.

You should read this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the documents that we reference herein and have filed or incorporated by reference as exhibits hereto completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. We do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.

NOTE REGARDING TRADEMARKS

Akero Therapeutics, Inc. is the owner of the AKERO trademark, as well as certain other trademarks, including design versions of some of these trademarks.  The symbols ™ and ® are not used in connection with the presentation of these trademarks in this report and their absence does not indicate a lack of trademark rights.  Certain other trademarks used in this report are the property of third-party trademark owners and may be presented with or without trademark references. 

PART I

All brand names or trademarks appearing in this report are the property of their respective owners. Unless the context requires otherwise, references in this report to “Akero,” the “Company,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to Akero Therapeutics, Inc. and its subsidiary.  

Item 1.   Business

Overview

We are a cardio-metabolic nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, company dedicated to developing pioneering medicines that restore metabolic balance and improve overall health. NASH is a severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, characterized by inflammation and fibrosis in the liver that can progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer and death. Our lead product candidate, AKR-001, is an analog of fibroblast growth factor 21, or FGF21, which is an endogenously expressed hormone that regulates metabolism of lipids, carbohydrates and proteins throughout the body. FGF21 also plays a critical role in protecting many types of cells from various forms of stress. In previous clinical trials in patients with type 2 diabetes, or T2D, administration of AKR-001 was associated with substantial improvements in lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity. We believe these data, coupled with clinical results from other FGF21 analogs, demonstrate AKR-001's potential to serve as a cornerstone for the treatment of NASH. We are currently conducting a Phase 2a clinical trial, the BALANCED study, which is evaluating AKR-001 in the treatment of NASH patients. We expect to complete collection of data for the BALANCED main study week 12 primary endpoint, and report top-line results related to reductions in liver fat, in the first quarter of 2020. Top-line results related to secondary endpoints, including safety and tolerability as well as paired biopsies, will be reported in the second quarter of 2020. We also plan to expand the BALANCED study to include an additional cohort of subjects with NASH who have compensated cirrhosis (F4), Child-Pugh Class A, with study initiation expected in the second quarter of 2020.

The rapidly rising prevalence of NAFLD and NASH is driven by the global obesity epidemic. Poor diet and lack of exercise lead to caloric overburdening of the liver and accumulation of excessive liver fat. In patients with NASH, excessive liver fat leads to hepatocyte stress, which triggers localized inflammation and, as disease progresses, can lead to fibrosis and ultimately cirrhosis. According to a study published in Hepatology (2018), the prevalence of NASH in the United States is projected to increase from an estimated 17.3 million in 2016 to 27.0 million by 2030. In particular, the prevalence of patients with advanced fibrosis in the United States is projected to more than double between 2016 and 2030. NASH is the liver manifestation of metabolic syndrome and is frequently associated with insulin resistance and T2D. Additionally, patients with NASH have high rates of cardiovascular-related events, such as stroke and heart attack, with cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death in patients with NASH. There are currently no approved therapies for NASH, while emerging potential NASH therapies in late-stage clinical development have shown limited efficacy or may be limited by unwanted side effects.

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AKR-001 is an FGF21 analog with unique properties that we believe has the potential to address the core processes underlying NASH pathogenesis, thereby enabling it to restore healthy fat metabolism in the liver, reduce hepatocyte stress, mitigate inflammation and resolve fibrosis. FGF21 is an endocrine hormone that acts on the liver, pancreas, muscle and adipose tissue to regulate the metabolism of lipids, carbohydrates and proteins. Acting as a paracrine hormone, FGF21 also plays a critical role in protecting cells against stress. These attributes make FGF21 agonism a compelling therapeutic mechanism, but native FGF21 is limited by its short half-life in the bloodstream. AKR-001 has been engineered to increase human FGF21's half-life sufficiently to enable dosing once-weekly or once every two weeks, while retaining the native biological activity of FGF21.

AKR-001 was administered to a total of 83 patients with T2D in two Phase 1 clinical trials. In a Phase 1b clinical trial, it was observed that AKR-001 substantially improved plasma lipoprotein levels, including reductions of up to 69% in triglycerides and 30% in non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol, or non-HDL-C following once-weekly administration. In the Phase 1b clinical trial, it was also observed that once-weekly administration of AKR-001 was associated with substantially improved markers of insulin sensitivity, including reductions of up to 37% in C-peptide and 55% in the homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance, or HOMA-IR. We believe these results indicate the potential of AKR-001 to redirect calories away from the liver, reduce liver fat, alleviate hepatocyte stress, inhibit inflammation and resolve fibrosis in patients with NASH, as well as reduce susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. This belief is also supported by data from Phase 2 clinical trials of other endocrine FGF analogs in patients with NASH, in which substantial reductions in liver fat content,  improvements in biomarkers of liver fibrosis, and improvements in histological measures have been observed.

We therefore believe that AKR-001 has the potential to be a leading endocrine FGF analog, if approved, for treatment of this rapidly growing patient population that lacks effective treatment options.

In June 2018, we acquired exclusive global development and commercialization rights to AKR-001 from Amgen Inc., or Amgen, which leveraged its deep protein engineering expertise to design and develop AKR-001. As of December 31, 2019, our patent portfolio relating to AKR-001 and other peptides included 125 issued patents and 32 pending patents worldwide, with expected patent exclusivity up to 2034 in the United States, including potential patent term extension. Since AKR-001 is a biologic, marketing approval would also provide twelve years of market exclusivity from the approval date of a Biologics License Application, or BLA, in the United States.

Our management team has extensive experience in drug discovery, development and commercialization, and has been involved in the approvals of more than 20 medicines. Our Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cheng, MD, PhD, previously Chief Medical Officer at Gilead, was responsible for clinical development for Gilead's HIV program. Our Chief Development Officer, Kitty Yale, led global clinical operations and management of Gilead’s oncology, HIV, inflammation and liver disease trials. Our Chief Scientific Officer, Tim Rolph, DPhil, formerly Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer's Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease Research Unit, previously oversaw Pfizer's FGF21 program. We believe that our team is well positioned to leverage its collective experience in drug development and in-depth knowledge of FGF21 biology and metabolic diseases to develop and commercialize products that will have significant benefits for patients with NASH and other serious metabolic diseases with high unmet medical need.

Our strategy

Our goal is to become a leading biotechnology company focused on developing and commercializing transformative treatments for serious metabolic diseases with high unmet medical need. The key components of our strategy are to:

Advance AKR-001 through clinical development in NASH. We believe that AKR-001's differentiated profile as an FGF21 analog has the potential to result in a leading endocrine FGF analog, if approved, for the treatment of NASH. Our IND application, which included a Phase 2a clinical trial protocol, was cleared by the FDA on May 24, 2019. We closed enrollment for our Phase 2a clinical trial on December 16, 2019, which is assessing the efficacy and safety of AKR-001 in patients with NASH and inform dose selection for larger, longer-term trials. Consistent with recently published draft guidance from the FDA on NASH development, we are committed to exploring ways to accelerate development of AKR-001 through innovative clinical trial designs.

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Scale our capabilities to support development and commercialization of AKR-001. We plan to scale our manufacturing and organizational capabilities to capitalize on our exclusive, global rights to market AKR-001 for all indications. We have contracted with Boehringer Ingelheim to manufacture new drug substance for future clinical trials and support the potential commercialization of AKR-001 with commercial-scale manufacturing. When appropriate, we intend to develop the commercial infrastructure required for bringing AKR-001 to patients with NASH in the United States, if approved. We also plan to evaluate options for delivering AKR-001, if approved, to patients in other key markets, such as Europe, Japan and China, which may include strategic collaborations.

Enhance our position as a leading metabolic disease company by leveraging our knowledge of FGF21 biology. Numerous publications have shown that increases in endogenous FGF21 expression occur in response to various types of metabolic and cellular stress arising from obesity, diabetes, mitochondrial diseases and cardiovascular disease, as well as NASH. AKR-001 has been engineered to reproduce the biological activity profile of native FGF21 while also addressing certain therapeutic limitations, such as a short half-life. We plan to explore opportunities to develop AKR-001 for additional indications where there is a compelling scientific rationale, strong clinical tractability and significant unmet medical need.

Develop, acquire or in-license product candidates that enhance our potential to become a leading metabolic disease company. We are continually evaluating opportunities to build a robust pipeline of potential leading treatments for metabolic diseases. Additional assets may be selected for their potential as stand-alone monotherapies or for eventual use in combination with other products.

NASH overview

We are developing AKR-001 as a potential treatment for patients with NASH, a disease with high unmet medical need and no approved therapies. NASH is a severe form of NAFLD, which is driven by the global obesity epidemic. Patients with NAFLD have an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver resulting from an excess of caloric intake over energy needs. In patients with NASH, excessive liver fat leads to hepatocyte stress, which triggers localized inflammation and can ultimately lead to fibrosis and scarring in the liver, or cirrhosis.

Patients with NASH are at increased risk of liver-related morbidity and mortality, including liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma. As NASH progresses, cardiovascular-related morbidity and mortality also increase, such that the most frequent cause of death in patients with NASH is cardiovascular disease. In particular, the prevalence of patients with advanced fibrosis in the United States is projected to more than double between 2016 and 2030. We believe that AKR-001 has the potential to be a leading endocrine FGF analog, if approved, for treatment of this rapidly growing patient population. This belief is based, in part, on AKR-001's observed effects on lipoproteins and markers of insulin sensitivity, when viewed in the context of similar measurements taken in clinical trials with other endocrine FGF analogs.

Etiology of NASH

NASH is primarily driven by chronic excess caloric intake, or ingesting more energy than the body expends over a sustained period, which results in people becoming overweight and obese. Body fat, also known as adipose tissue, and muscle respond to becoming saturated with energy by reducing sensitivity to insulin, which would otherwise drive uptake of energy by these peripheral tissues. Consequently, the liver becomes the repository for the energy that is unwanted by the rest of the body.

While there is a lack of scientific consensus on how best to characterize NASH pathogenesis, we believe there are five core processes:

·

Caloric overburdening of the liver;

·

Excessive liver fat and fat oxidation;

·

Hepatocyte cell stress, injury and death;

·

Localized inflammation triggered by hepatocyte death; and

·

Fibrosis.

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These processes can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer and death. Figures 1 and 2 below illustrate these five processes. Figure 1 shows how multiple organs of the body contribute to caloric overburdening of the liver, which manifests as excessive accumulation of liver fat, or steatosis, and high rates of fat oxidation within the liver. Figure 2 depicts the cellular-level processes that arise from hepatocyte stress caused by high levels of certain lipid molecules, or lipotoxicity, and oxidative stress. Hepatocyte stress leads to cell death, which in turn activates local inflammatory responses in the liver, potentially leading to fibrosis. Parenthetical references in the text below correspond to sequential labels in Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1—NASH pathogenesis: Caloric overburdening causes excessive deposition of liver fat and high rates of fat oxidation

Picture 1

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Figure 2—NASH pathogenesis: Oxidative stress and lipotoxicity induce hepatocyte death, local inflammation and fibrosis

Picture 2

Caloric overburdening of the liver

When intake of energy chronically exceeds demand, the body adapts its metabolism to find alternate locations to store the excess energy. Absorption of dietary fat (A), dietary carbohydrates and protein (B1), and lipids from adipose tissue (D1) all contribute to caloric overburdening of the liver.

Excessive deposition of fat and high rates of fat oxidation in the liver

Healthy individuals typically have liver fat levels of less than 5%. In patients with NASH, liver fat levels typically range from 10% to 30%. Liver fat, and fat oxidation, increase in response to caloric overburdening of the liver.

The largest source of liver fat is from adipose tissue (D1), accounting for approximately 40% to 50%, on average, of liver fat in patients with NASH. Flux of fat from adipose tissue to the liver through lipolysis (D2) is driven by resistance to insulin. This resistance to insulin also means dietary fat transported as chylomicrons (A) and very low density lipoprotein, or VLDL (D3), a form of fat packaged by the liver for delivery to the body's organs, are not taken up by adipose tissue. As a result, the level of plasma triglycerides (D4) increases, manifesting as hypertriglyceridemia, which is frequently observed in NASH. The second largest source of fat in liver is from synthesis of new fat, known as de novo lipogenesis, or DNL (B2), which utilizes dietary carbohydrates and protein (B1) to make new fat, and accounts for approximately 30% to 40%, on average, of liver fat in patients with NASH. The final source of liver fat is fat ingested in diet (A), accounting for approximately 10% to 20%, on average, of liver fat in patients with NASH.

The liver responds to increased flow of fat from adipose tissue by increasing the rate at which it burns fat, a process known as fat oxidation (E), which in turn releases substantial amounts of energy. Initially, this surplus energy is consumed by additional DNL. However, if the high rate of DNL continues chronically, hepatocytes become saturated with stores of fat, or fat depots (C), and the rate of DNL slows. In this situation, excess energy from fat oxidation causes oxidative stress, which together with lipotoxicity arising from fat depots, results in hepatocyte stress (G).

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Hepatocyte stress, injury and death

Later-stage NASH pathogenesis is driven by hepatocyte stress and cell death, or apoptosis, which lead to inflammation and fibrosis. In particular, increased fat oxidation in the liver leads to formation of highly reactive molecules, known as free radicals, which cause oxidative stress. A free radical is an energetically unstable, reactive entity containing an atom of oxygen with an unpaired electron. A free radical is stabilized by pairing this electron with an electron acquired by the oxygen atom from another molecule. Cells have defense mechanisms to neutralize free radicals by donation of an electron from molecules known as antioxidants. When the quantity of free radicals exceeds the capacity of antioxidants to neutralize them, free radicals react with other constituents of cells such as DNA, proteins, or lipids to acquire an electron. The attack on these macromolecules leads to mitochondrial stress (G1), DNA damage (G2), formation of lipid peroxides (G3) and synthesis of damaged proteins (G4), all of which disrupt cellular processes and homeostasis, thereby increasing hepatocyte stress. Damaged proteins stress the endoplasmic reticulum, or ER (G5), which is the cell's machinery for making proteins. Accumulation of damaged proteins in the ER impairs assembly of proteins, thereby triggering the unfolded protein response.

Apoptosis of hepatocytes manifests as ballooning of the cells, a characteristic microscopic feature of NASH liver tissue. Hepatocyte stress, injury and death are the bridge between oxidative stress and lipotoxicity arising from excessive delivery of fat and calories to the liver and the downstream sequelae of inflammation and fibrosis.

Inflammatory response to hepatocyte stress and death

Hepatocytes undergoing apoptosis release danger signal molecules known as damage-associated molecular patterns, or DAMPs (J1). DAMPs activate a population of specialist immune-effector cells resident within the liver, known as Kupffer cells (J2), which typically clear debris from dying liver cells and defend against microbial infections. Once activated, Kupffer cells release various pro-inflammatory molecules, including cytokines (such as TNF, TGF, IL-1, and IL-6), chemokines (such as MCP-1/CCL2), prostanoids and nitric oxide (J3). Cytokines and chemokines serve to attract other immune system cells stored in the bone marrow, known as monocytes, which in turn become pro-inflammatory macrophages and amplify inflammation within the liver. Among the cytokines released, TNF and TGF also act to induce apoptosis of neighboring hepatocytes (J4), thereby creating a cycle of hepatocyte death that stimulates more inflammation and results in extensive loss of hepatocytes and metabolic capacity. This, in turn, places more stress on the remaining hepatocytes.

Fibrosis and cirrhosis

High local levels of cytokines, particularly TGF, activate another group of liver-resident cells known as hepatic stellate cells, or HSC, (K1). HSCs are normally dormant. However, when activated, they produce large amounts of collagen. At first, in a process known as fibrogenesis (K2), the extracellular collagen forms isolated fibrotic structures largely surrounded by healthy cells. As collagen continues to be deposited, the fibrotic structures interconnect, a process known as bridging fibrosis (K3). When hepatic stellate cells are chronically activated, collagen deposition becomes excessive and ultimately leads to scarring, or cirrhosis. If a liver progresses to cirrhosis, blood flow through the liver is greatly reduced, causing inadequate delivery of oxygen and nutrients, which in extreme cases results in acute liver failure and death.

Disease diagnosis and disease burden

NASH is currently diagnosed only through liver biopsy and its severity is measured using scoring systems that assess the extent and severity of steatosis, lobular inflammation, hepatocellular ballooning and fibrosis. Some patients may be diagnosed with NASH after presenting with symptoms such as general fatigue and nondescript abdominal discomfort. However, NASH diagnosis more commonly follows detection of elevated liver enzymes on routine lab tests or detection of an enlarged steatotic liver by abdominal imaging. Although non-invasive methods, including a combination of imaging such as MRI-PDFF and plasma biomarkers of fibrosis, such as PRO-C3, are being evaluated as potential diagnostic tools, none have yet been validated for use in formal NASH diagnosis.

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Two different scoring systems are most commonly used in the United States to measure the severity of NASH: the NAFLD activity score, or NAS, and fibrosis stage. The NAS, which was developed for, and generally only used in, clinical trials, is a measure of liver histology that grades disease activity in patients with NAFLD and NASH. A patient may receive a composite NAS score of zero to eight, which is comprised of three individual scores: (1) steatosis, scored zero to three according to the percentage of a microscopic field showing steatosis, (2) lobular inflammation, scored zero to three according to the number of immune cell foci per 20x optical field in a microscope, and (3) hepatocellular ballooning, scored zero to two according to the number of ballooning cells in a microscopic field. In addition, fibrosis staging is used to classify the extent and severity of fibrosis. A scoring system based on a scale from zero to four (F0-F4) is used. Early, discrete fibrosis is classified as F1 or F2, whereas bridging fibrosis is classified as F3. As more hepatocytes die and scarring becomes extensive, the liver becomes cirrhotic, which is classified as stage F4. F0 corresponds to steatohepatitis with no evidence of fibrosis.

Patients with NASH are at increased risk of liver damage and other complications. Fibrosis is generally reversible in its early-to-mid stages. However, late-stage fibrosis can be irreversible and prevents the liver from performing its natural functions.

As shown in Figure 3 below, NASH is commonly associated with metabolic comorbidities, including obesity, T2D, dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome, and with hypertension.

Figure 3—Prevalence of comorbidities among NASH patients

Picture 3

Liver-related mortality increases with fibrosis stage, as shown in Figure 4 below. As compared to healthy individuals, patients with NASH also experience higher all-cause morbidity and mortality resulting from major adverse cardiovascular events, or MACE, and non-liver cancers. The most common cause of death in NASH patients is cardiovascular disease. As with liver-related mortality, all-cause mortality also increases with fibrosis stage.

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Figure 4—All-cause NASH mortality

Picture 4

Market size and trends

According to studies published in Hepatology (2018) and F1000Research (2018), more than one billion people worldwide were estimated to have NAFLD in 2016, including an estimated 85 million individuals in the United States. Approximately 10-20% of patients with NAFLD progress to NASH, including an estimated 17.3 million individuals in the United States and 16.4 million aggregate individuals in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Japan in 2016. As the population ages, the prevalence of NASH is projected to increase approximately 50% by 2030 to a total of 27.0 million individuals in the United States and 22.5 million aggregate individuals in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan. However, NASH afflicts all age groups, including teenagers and young adults, for whom the loss of quality-adjusted life years will be very substantial unless progression to late-stage diseases can be halted or reversed. According to a study published in Hepatology (2016), in the absence of approved therapies, direct healthcare costs associated with NAFLD and NASH in the United States were estimated to be approximately $100 billion in 2016.

As shown in Figure 5 below, growth in prevalence of NASH in the United States from 2015 to 2030 is projected to be greatest, at approximately 140%, in patients with stage F3-F4 fibrosis. By 2030, there are projected to be eight million individuals in the United States and six million aggregate individuals in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Japan with stage F3-F4 NASH. This rapid growth in advanced fibrosis reflects the time required for the late 20th century obesity epidemic to result in patients progressing through NAFLD to advanced NASH.

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Figure 5—United States NASH prevalence by fibrosis stage

Picture 5

Emerging therapies in development

There are no therapies currently approved for the treatment of NASH. The current standard of care is diet and exercise. Although diet and exercise are effective in the treatment of NASH when maintained, adherence to this treatment regimen is generally poor.

The multistep progression of NASH pathogenesis offers multiple potential approaches for therapeutic intervention. Some of the most advanced therapeutic candidates in development have targeted inflammation and fibrosis, but not the early stages of NASH pathogenesis. The mechanisms of these therapies are generally labeled as "anti-fibrotic." Early indications from long-term clinical trials suggest that focusing on suppressing inflammation and fibrosis may not deliver sustained reversal or resolution of NASH, because the processes underlying NASH pathogenesis are not being addressed.

Therapeutic mechanisms that target earlier-stages of NASH pathogenesis, including excessive liver fat accumulation, are generally characterized as “metabolic.” Two relevant precedents indicate that targeting the processes underlying inflammation and fibrosis of the liver can lead to reversal of fibrosis, even without a directly anti-fibrotic intervention. First, anti-viral treatment of hepatitis C has been shown to reverse fibrosis when viral load is suppressed, even though the treatment does not act directly on fibrosis. This is attributable to the capacity of liver to regenerate, or heal itself once the chronic underlying driver of inflammation and fibrosis has been addressed. Second, the current standard of care for NASH treatment, diet and exercise, has also been shown to reverse fibrosis. For example, a sustained weight loss of 10% or more through diet and exercise has been shown to reverse NASH fibrosis, including advanced fibrosis, without any direct pharmacological anti-fibrotic effect.

Early indications from Phase 2 clinical trials of third-party agents suggest that metabolic mechanisms may have robust effects on certain measures of NASH disease progression, including reductions in fibrosis. However, some of these metabolic therapeutic mechanisms have unwanted side effects that may limit their ability to be used as treatment for patients with NASH. For instance, some NASH candidates have been shown to substantially increase plasma levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL-C, or triglycerides, each of which is an independent causal risk factor for cardiovascular disease. We believe interventions that may increase cardiovascular risk will be scrutinized by prescribing physicians, as patients with NASH are already at increased risk for cardiovascular events.

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Figure 6 provides some examples of therapeutic approaches to NASH and potential limitations of these therapeutic targets.

Figure 6—Selected NASH interventions under development

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Some NASH candidates are being evaluated for use in combination with one or more other candidates that intervene in different processes underlying NASH pathogenesis. In other cases, combination approaches are being evaluated to mitigate unwanted side effects, such as using statins in combination with FXR and FGFR4 agonists to reduce LDL-C. However, combining multiple interventions, particularly multiple small molecules, places an additional burden of drug metabolism and clearance upon already stressed hepatocytes.

Some individual interventions, including PPAR, FGF19 and FGF21 analogs, target multiple processes underlying NASH pathogenesis. Of these, we believe AKR-001 has unique properties with the potential to address each of the five core processes underlying NASH pathogenesis, thereby reducing liver fat, hepatocytes stress and reversing fibrosis in patients with NASH.

Our approach to NASH: harnessing FGF21's natural potential for therapeutic effect

FGF21 is an endogenous hormone that has both local, or paracrine, effects on cells and systemic, or endocrine, effects on metabolic organs. FGF21's natural recruitment to alleviate many forms of cellular stress, and to regulate whole-body metabolism, make it a compelling therapeutic target. However, native FGF21 has several limitations that prevent it from being used effectively as a therapy, including a half-life estimated to be less than two hours, as found in published studies such as the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism (2009) and Endocrinology (2007). AKR-001 is a recombinantly-engineered version of FGF21 designed to retain the native biological activity of FGF21 while enhancing its therapeutic utility. Specifically, AKR-001 features Fc-mediated half-life extension and substitution of specific amino acids within the protein sequence of FGF21. AKR-001 has a resulting half-life of three to four days in humans, which enables once-weekly or once every other week subcutaneous administration. Pharmacology studies have shown AKR-001 reproduces the balanced potency of native FGF21, acting specifically on three cell-surface receptors. AKR-001 also reproduces native FGF21's weak potency as an agonist of another cell-surface receptor known to be associated with higher plasma LDL-C.

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We believe that AKR-001, with its activity on both liver and adipose tissue, has the potential to intervene in the five core processes relevant to NASH pathogenesis. Specifically, we believe that AKR-001 can:

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Redirect calories away from the liver;

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Restore healthy fat metabolism in the liver;

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Reduce hepatocyte stress;

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Mitigate inflammation; and

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Resolve fibrosis.

Overview of FGF21 biology

Fibroblast growth factors, or FGFs, are a large family of cell-signaling proteins involved in the regulation of many processes within the body. A sub-family of FGFs, known as endocrine FGFs, which include FGF21 and FGF19, are unique among FGFs because they initiate their biological effects by binding tightly to a cell surface receptor known as Beta Klotho, or Klotho.

After this initial binding, FGF21 and FGF19 trigger signaling pathways within cells, such as hepatocytes and adipocytes, by binding to a second class of cell-surface receptor, known as the FGF receptors, or FGFRs. Both FGF21 and FGF19 bind to three specific FGFRs, known as FGFR1c, FGFR2c, and FGFR3c, which, based on nonclinical studies and clinical trials, appear to be responsible for mediating the desired therapeutic actions of FGF21 and FGF19 in NASH. However, unlike FGF21, FGF19 also binds specifically to another FGFR known as FGFR4. We believe, based on published nonclinical studies and clinical trials, that activation of FGFR4 does not ameliorate the underlying steatosis and insulin resistance and is instead associated with undesirable biological effects such as elevating LDL-C and potentially increasing the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.

As illustrated in Figure 7, the C-terminus of FGF21 initially binds to Klotho (A). This enables the N-terminus to form an expanded complex with one of the FGFRs (B). Once the co-receptor complex has formed with  Klotho and one of the FGFRs, a series of intracellular signaling cascades is initiated (C). These signaling cascades enable FGF21 to exert its biological functions, which include regulation of energy homeostasis, glucose-lipid-protein metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and modulation of pathways that mitigate against intracellular stress. FGF21 cannot signal through cell membranes without both an intact C-terminus and an intact N-terminus to bind, respectively, to Klotho and FGFR.

Figure 7—FGF21's two-step receptor binding with Klotho and FGFRs

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Overcoming the limitations of native FGF21 as a therapeutic by rational engineering of a recombinant protein

FGF21's role in regulating whole-body metabolism and alleviating cellular stress makes it an attractive candidate with potential to treat metabolic diseases. Numerous nonclinical studies show that elevated levels of FGF21 protect against development of NASH histopathology and fibrosis resulting from a range of insults, including excess intake of fat and fructose, excess alcohol, a diet deficient in methionine and choline, and chemical toxins, such as carbon tetrachloride and nitrosamine.

However, there are several inherent limitations that mean using an unmodified form of human FGF21 would not be effective:

FGF21 is rapidly broken down in the bloodstream and cleared through the kidneys. The half-life of FGF21 is estimated to be less than two hours based on nonclinical studies in rodents and non-human primates. Extending the half-life of FGF21 requires reducing renal clearance and protecting both ends of the protein from proteolysis, the body's natural process for breaking-down a protein by cleaving it at specific sites. If the C-terminus of FGF21 protein is not intact, FGF21 is unable to bind to Klotho, and if the N-terminus is not intact, FGF21 is unable to signal through one of the FGFRs.

Recombinantly-expressed human FGF21, or rhFGF21, molecules are susceptible to aggregation when formulated into a solution suitable for injection into humans. Aggregation can disrupt binding of rhFGF21 to its receptors, thereby causing it to lose its biological activity. Aggregates of rhFGF21 can become so large they are insoluble and fall out of solution, or precipitate, leading to loss of biological activity in storage.

FGF21's cell signaling depends on binding affinity to a co-receptor complex of Klotho and FGFR1c/2c/3c, which have tissue-dependent expression. Reproducing native FGF21's biology depends on retaining both binding affinity to Klotho and balanced signaling through FGFR1c, FGFR2c and FGFR3c. For example, in adipose tissue FGFR1c appears to be the major signaling co-receptor, while in the liver FGFR2c and FGFR3c appear to be more important as signaling receptors. Thus, balanced in vivo FGFR agonism is necessary to ensure effective activation of FGFR1c, 2c and 3c throughout the body.

AKR-001 has been engineered to: (1) protect against proteolysis and reduce renal clearance, (2) provide a half-life of three to four days in humans by protecting against proteolysis, (3) minimize potential for aggregation in solution and (4) improve binding affinity for Klotho, while (5) retaining balanced agonism across FGFR1c, FGFR2c and FGFR3c. Figure 8 below illustrates the structural engineering of AKR-001, which is also further described in the text that follows. We believe AKR-001’s differentiated profile has the potential to result in a leading endocrine FGF analog, if approved, for treatment of NASH. This belief is based, in part, on AKR-001’s observed effects on lipoproteins and markers of insulin sensitivity, when viewed in the context of similar measurements taken in clinical trials with other endocrine FGF analogs.

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Figure 8—Protein engineering of AKR-001

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Fc-fusion (A). AKR-001 is an Fc-fusion protein, whereby a modified FGF21 is fused to the fragment crystallizable, or Fc, region of human immunoglobulin, or Ig, sub-type G1 antibody. Fusion with Fc is an established approach for increasing a biological molecule's half-life, enabling a longer dosing interval during which therapeutic concentrations can be maintained. Fc-fusion technology has been leveraged to produce multiple highly successful therapeutics approved by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, including Enbrel and Trulicity. These and other Fc-fusion protein products elicit minimal immune reactions in humans. AKR-001 is manufactured as a dimer, with two Fc-FGF21 molecules linked by two disulfide bridges to form a single molecule. The N-terminus of the FGF21 moiety is connected to the Fc portion of AKR-001 through a polyglycine-serine linker. Our patents include claims directed to Fc fusion with a recombinantly modified FGF21.

FGF21 mutation at position 98 (B). rhFGF21 is susceptible to aggregation, which can disrupt binding of rhFGF21 to its receptors, thereby reducing its biological activity, and cause instability of FGF21 during storage in solution. Substitution of a hydrophilic arginine residue for the hydrophobic leucine residue at position 98, labeled as L98R, was found to yield the lowest rate of aggregation of any FGF21 modification tested during AKR-001's development. We expect that AKR-001's resistance to aggregation will be consistent across large manufacturing lots and confer adequate stability in formulation for injection. Our patents include claims directed to an FGF21 polypeptide comprising this point mutation at position 98 in combination with other advantageous amino acid substitutions.

FGF21 mutation at position 171 (C). FGF21 is cleaved between amino acid positions 171 and 172 near the C-terminus of FGF21 by the proteolytic endopeptidase enzyme fibroblast activation protein, or FAP. FAP's action on FGF21 prevents binding to Klotho. Therefore, FGF21 loses its biological activity when cleaved by FAP. AKR-001 remedies this limitation through a point mutation that substitutes a glycine for the proline residue at position 171, which is labeled as P171G. An FGF21 analog without protection against FAP is likely to remain susceptible to FAP-induced degradation, thus losing its biological activity even if the N-terminus remains intact. Protecting against FAP appears to be particularly critical to using FGF21 as a therapeutic agent in patients with NASH because FAP is the most over-expressed protein in liver of patients with NASH relative to protein expression by healthy livers. Our patents include claims directed to an FGF21 polypeptide comprising this point mutation at position 171 in combination with other advantageous amino acid substitutions.

FGF21 mutation at position 180 (D). Stabilization of FGF21 at position 171 was found to increase FGF21's susceptibility to degradation at position 180. Subsequent empirical studies led to the discovery that substituting glutamic acid for alanine at position 180, labeled as A180E, confers further resistance to proteolysis and increases affinity for  Klotho. Our patents include claims directed to an FGF polypeptide comprising this point mutation at position 180 in combination with other advantageous amino acid substitutions.

We believe these modifications result in the improved half-life and adequate stability that have been observed with AKR-001, while preserving FGF21's balanced potency.

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Demonstrating AKR-001's reproduction of FGF21's balanced potency

The engineering of AKR-001 was an empirical discovery process that incorporated in vitro and in vivo measurements of receptor agonism to assess which of many tested discovery candidates yielded the most attractive drug properties. AKR-001 was selected for clinical evaluation over earlier discovery candidates, which included a proprietary PEGylated FGF21 analog, identified as AMG-PEG21, and two versions of a two-point mutation Fc-fusion protein known as RG (with mutations at positions 98 and 171, but not 180), one of which had the Fc fused to the C-terminus (FGF21-Fc(RG)) while the other had it fused to the N-terminus of the modified FGF21 (Fc-FGF21(RG)). In comparative receptor agonism assays, as shown in Figure 9 below, AKR-001 exhibited the greatest potency for each of FGFR1c, FGFR2c, and FGFR3c among the candidates tested. Furthermore, as shown in Figure 10 below, the potency of AKR-001 for FGFR1c, FGFR2c and FGFR3c was comparable to that of recombinantly-expressed human FGF19, or rhFGF19, and rhFGF21. However, neither rhFGF21 nor AKR-001 are agonists of FGFR4, in contrast to rhFGF19's potent agonism of FGFR4.

Figure 11 shows the EC50 for each of the six compounds referenced above for each of FGFR1c, FGFR2c, FGFR3c, and FGFR4. EC50 refers to the half-maximal effective concentration, or the concentration at which one half of the maximal FGF receptor agonist effect is observed. Non-linear regression is used to model an agonist concentration-response curve, allowing interpolation of the EC50 from the observed data. For very low-potency agonists, such as FGF21's interaction with FGFR4, the agonist effect appears to be partial at the highest dose tested, so the EC50 cannot be calculated precisely.

Figure 9—Comparison of AKR-001's agonism of FGF receptors with three FGF21 discovery candidates identified prior to selecting AKR-001 for clinical evaluation

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Figure 10—Comparison of AKR-001's agonism of FGF receptors with unmodified rhFGF19 and rhFGF21

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Figure 11—Relative potency of rhFGF21, AKR-001, rhFGF19 and other discovery candidates against FGF receptors

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Clinical validation of endocrine FGF receptor agonism

Data from clinical trials in NASH or high-risk NAFLD patients evaluating four different FGF compounds acting on FGFR1c, FGFR2c and/or FGFR3c further validate the potential of FGF21 agonism as a NASH treatment. One compound is an FGF19 analog, which has been observed to substantially reduce liver fat, to resolve NASH, and to reverse fibrosis in patients with NASH, but also appears to increase LDL-C. Published nonclinical and clinical data suggest that activation of FGFR4 increases LDL-C but does not meaningfully contribute to the pharmacodynamic effects of FGF19 on lipid metabolism in the liver. Consequently, we believe the optimal NASH therapeutic profile for an endocrine FGF analog is to have high, balanced potency for FGFR1c, 2c and 3c with minimal activity at FGFR4.

A second compound is a PEGylated FGF21 analog, which has been observed to extend FGF21 half-life to approximately 24 hours but does not have any modifications to FGF21’s amino acid sequence. Although the effects do not appear to be as substantial as those seen with FGF19 agonism, clinical data suggest that the PEGylated FGF21 analog reduced liver fat and had positive effects on markers of liver injury and fibrosis in NASH patients. PEGylation of other compounds has been shown to result in increased concentrations in liver relative to exposure in other organs, which may lead to greater activity on FGF receptors in the liver (FGFR2c and FGFR3c) than in adipose tissue (FGFR1c). Such an effect could account for the apparently smaller effects on adipose tissue lipolysis than those effects observed with FGF19 agonism or previously tested FGF21 analogs.

Two other compounds are based on a monoclonal antibody, or mAb, designed to target only FGFR1c and its co-receptor, βKlotho. Consistent with nonclinical data, preliminary clinical data in patients with NAFLD suggest that administration of these FGFR1c-specific agonists was associated with substantial reductions in liver fat and improvements in lipoproteins, which may be attributable to lower rates of adipose tissue lipolysis.

Taken together, clinical trials of these three compounds provide important evidence that activation of FGFR1c, FGFR2c, and FGFR3c has significant potential to treat patients with NASH.

AKR-001 has potential to address the five core processes underlying NASH pathogenesis

We believe intervening in the core processes underlying NASH pathogenesis is the most effective way to restore health to the liver of patients with NASH and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading contributor to mortality and morbidity among these patients. Figures 12 and 13 below illustrate how, by mimicking FGF21, AKR-001 has the potential to intervene in each of the five core processes underlying NASH pathogenesis. Figure 12 illustrates how AKR-001 acts to leverage whole-body metabolism to redirect calories away from the liver to peripheral adipose tissue, thereby reducing fat deposited in the liver and decreasing the rate of fat oxidation by the liver. Figure 13 depicts how AKR-001 acts to alleviate hepatocyte stress and to reduce inflammation and fibrosis of the liver. In nonclinical studies, it has been observed that FGF21 agonism protects hepatocytes and other cell types against cellular stress by modulating multiple specialized intracellular proteins called transcription factors, or TFs. As master regulators of gene expression, TFs ensure proteins appropriate to the needs of cells are produced at the right time and in the right amounts.

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Figure 12—AKR-001's redirection of calories away from liver leads to lower fat deposition and reduced rate of oxidation of fat

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Figure 13—AKR-001's suppression of pathways leading to cell death reduces downstream liver inflammation and fibrosis

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FGF21 leverages whole-body metabolism to redirect calories away from liver to peripheral adipose tissue

We believe AKR-001 intervenes in the first step of NASH pathogenesis by redirecting calories, including calories derived from dietary fat (A1), carbohydrates and protein (B1) in the GI tract, away from the liver. This effect of AKR-001 appears to be mediated by enhancing insulin's action (A2 and B4) on adipose tissue to increase uptake of energy, which is stored as fat within adipose tissue (D1). Enhancing insulin's action also suppresses release of fat from adipose tissue, or lipolysis, back to the liver (D2). At the same time, it promotes greater uptake by adipose tissue of two forms of triglyceride transported by blood: VLDL secreted by liver (D3) and chylomicrons secreted by the GI tract (A2), thereby reducing plasma triglycerides (D4). The net effect of a sustained redirection of energy away from liver is to reduce both the amount of fat in liver and the rate of fat oxidation.

The beneficial impact of enhancing adipose tissue's sensitivity to insulin is clinically precedented by the observed ability of pioglitazone to reduce liver fat in patients with NASH. Likewise, FGF21 agonism has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in nonclinical studies. Translation of this effect to humans has been observed clinically with AKR-001. However, in contrast with pioglitazone, no weight gain was observed in clinical trials with AKR-001. FGF21 agonism also reduced plasma triglyceride levels in nonclinical studies. Again, the reduction in plasma triglyceride has been observed clinically with AKR-001, and with a third party's FGFR1c-specific FGF21 analog that likely acts primarily on adipose tissue.

Reducing fat deposited in liver and rates of fat oxidation by liver

Redirecting calories away from the liver to peripheral adipose tissue helps reduce accumulation of fat in the liver and decreases the rate of fat oxidation by the liver in patients with NASH. Specifically, AKR-001 is expected to act on all three sources of increased liver fat by:

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reducing flow of fat from adipose tissue to liver by activating the FGFR1c receptor expressed in adipose tissue (D2), which leads to lower rates of fat oxidation (E);

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redirecting carbohydrates and protein absorbed from the GI tract away from the liver to adipose tissue (B1), thereby reducing DNL-dependent deposition of fat in the liver (B2 and C); and

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redirecting fat absorbed from the GI tract (A1) away from liver to adipose tissue (A2), which also reduces the amount of fat deposited in liver (C).

Nonclinical studies provide evidence that FGF21 agonism is associated with reduced steatosis. Mice with five-fold increases in FGF21 plasma levels due to overexpression of FGF21, as well as mice treated with rhFGF21, were observed to have less fat in the liver when fed a high-fat diet than appropriate controls. On the other hand, FGF21 knockout mice had higher liver fat, resulting in liver inflammation and fibrosis.

FGF21 agonism directly suppresses DNL in liver by suppressing a TF known as SREBP1c. Suppression of SREBP1c reduces the amount of lipid droplets, comprised of triglyceride and phospholipid species, deposited within hepatocytes, and lowers the amount of triglyceride secreted as VLDL into the circulation. FGF21’s inhibition of SREBP1c is believed to be mediated through FGFRs expressed in the liver, predominantly FGFR2c and 3c (B3). High levels of plasma triglyceride increase susceptibility of NASH patients to cardiovascular disease. Substantial reduction of plasma triglyceride by FGF21 would therefore be predicted to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

Reducing liver cell stress, injury and death

A key driver of NASH progression is hepatocyte stress (G), which is triggered by increased oxidative stress as well as stress caused by lipotoxicity, or excessive amounts of certain lipids, in the liver (F). FGF21 inhibits oxidative stress and lipotoxicity in two ways. First, as described above, FGF21 leverages multiple body systems to reduce the flux of fat through the liver, which limits fat oxidation and thus oxidative stress, and reduces levels of lipotoxic species e.g. saturated long-chain fatty acids. Second, FGF21 directly alleviates oxidative stress through induction of TFs known as PGC1 and NRF2, which induce expression of antioxidant enzymes that protect against oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals. PGC1 also improves mitochondrial function, which reduces oxidative stress.

Alleviating oxidative stress and lipotoxicity reduces hepatocyte stress in the forms of less mitochondrial stress (G1), less DNA damage (G2), fewer lipid peroxides (G3), and less damaged proteins (G4). FGF21 agonism also directly limits stress caused by damaged proteins, through induction of a TF known as TFEB, which increases the capacity of lysosomes to break-down misfolded and damaged proteins arising from oxidative stress (H). This both reduces the UPR and allows cells to synthesize new proteins, such as the antioxidant enzymes necessary to protect against oxidative stress.

By reducing hepatocyte stress, FGF21 agonism mitigates progression from hepatocyte stress to apoptosis (I). FGF21 agonism also directly inhibits apoptosis by suppressing expression of a TF known as ATF4, which triggers apoptosis, particularly in response to ER stress.

Reducing inflammation and fibrosis

Inhibiting apoptosis helps mitigate the amount of danger signaling through DAMPs that trigger inflammation. In addition, data from nonclinical studies suggest that FGF21 agonism directly suppresses activation of macrophages, and by inference Kupffer cells (J2), thereby reducing release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (J3) and promoting a pro-repair macrophage phenotype. By inhibiting hepatocyte apoptosis and suppressing release of pro-apoptotic TNF and TGF from Kupffer cells, FGF21 agonism interrupts the pathological cycle of increased hepatocyte apoptosis and inflammation (J4). Further, in nonclinical studies in human-derived and rodent-derived hepatic stellate cell lines, FGF21 agonism was observed to directly inhibit collagen-producing myofibroblasts (K1), thereby reducing fibrogenesis (K2) and fibrosis (K3).

In sum, as shown in Figure 14 below, we believe FGF21 acts on both liver and adipose tissue to reduce the caloric burden on the liver, thereby lowering both the level of fat and rate of fat oxidation in hepatocytes, and acts directly and indirectly on the liver to reduce hepatocyte stress.

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Figure 14—Potential Benefits of AKR-001 on NASH Pathogenesis

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AKR-001 clinical development

Prior to our ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial, AKR-001 was administered to a total of 83 patients with T2D in two Phase 1 clinical trials. In a Phase 1b clinical trial, it was observed that AKR-001 substantially improved plasma lipoprotein levels, including reductions of up to 69% in triglycerides and 30% in non-HDL-C. In these clinical trials, it was also observed that administration of AKR-001 was associated with substantially improved markers of insulin sensitivity, including reductions of up to 37% in C-peptide and 55% in HOMA-IR. No changes in body weight were observed, except for isolated significant reductions at the highest dose tested. AKR-001’s effects were observed to be rapid, sustained and durable for at least two to three weeks after cessation of dosing.

These results are consistent with effects that would be expected for balanced agonism of FGFR1c, FGFR2c, and FGFR3c, without activating FGFR4, and suggest that AKR-001 has substantial potential as a treatment for NASH. The observed magnitude and significance of AKR-001’s biological effects on lipoprotein parameters and markers of insulin sensitivity are either equivalent to or greater than those reported to date in clinical trials of any other endocrine FGF analog.

On May 24, 2019, the FDA's Division of Gastroenterology and Inborn Errors Products cleared our IND to conduct a Phase 2a clinical trial evaluating AKR-001 in the treatment of NASH patients. We dosed our first patient for our Phase 2a clinical trial on July 2, 2019 and administered the first dose to the last-enrolled patient on December 16, 2019. This trial, the BALANCED study, is assessing the efficacy and safety of AKR-001 in patients with NASH, which will help inform dose selection for larger, longer-term trials.

Phase 1b clinical trial of AKR-001 in patients with T2D for 28 days

A Phase 1b clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of AKR-001 in patients with T2D. This trial was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, ascending multiple-dose clinical trial. Sixty-nine patients enrolled into one of eight cohorts were randomized to receive AKR-001 or placebo. Fifty-two patients received AKR-001 and 17 received placebo. Doses of 7mg, 21mg, 70mg and 140mg were administered subcutaneously either once every two weeks, or Q2W, or once weekly, or QW, over a 28-day treatment period. Patients in Q2W cohorts received doses of AKR-001 on Days 1 and 15, while subjects in QW cohorts received doses of AKR-001 on Days 1, 8, 15 and 22.

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AKR-001 exhibited linear, dose-proportional pharmacokinetics

Linear, dose-proportional pharmacokinetics were observed across the range of AKR-001 doses tested. The observed median time of maximum serum concentration, or Tmax, ranged from two to 3.5 days. The observed half-life of the intact C-terminus of AKR-001 ranged from three to four days. By contrast, half-life of the intact C-terminus of other FGF21 analogs evaluated clinically in T2D or NASH patients has ranged from six to 24 hours. The three-to-four-day half-life of another FGF21 analog, which recently reported data from a Phase 1 single ascending dose study in healthy volunteers, appears similar to the three-to-four-day half-life of AKR-001.

As shown in Figure 15 below, there was an approximately two-fold accumulation of AKR-001 observed in serum following repeated QW administration, with steady state achieved by the third or fourth dose. No meaningful accumulation was observed following administration of two Q2W doses. QW dosing was also associated with a four-fold smaller peak-to-trough ratio than observed with Q2W dosing, suggesting that serum concentrations of AKR-001 are maintained more effectively with QW than Q2W dosing.

Figure 15: Pharmacokinetics of AKR-001 administered weekly and every other week

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AKR-001 effects on pharmacodynamic measures of lipoproteins and insulin sensitivity following once-weekly or every-other-week dosing

Figures 16 and 17 below show effects on pharmacodynamic measures for patients treated with AKR-001 either QW or Q2W, respectively. Fasting levels of plasma glucose, insulin, C-peptide, plasma triglyceride, HDL-C, LDL-C and calculated HOMA-IR, as well as post-meal levels of free fatty acids, or FFA, and body weight were analyzed in accordance with the pre-specified statistical analysis plan. Fasting levels of plasma non-HDL-C, adiponectin and apolipoprotein B, or ApoB, have been derived from post-hoc analyses using a statistical methodology similar to that used for all pre-specified endpoints.

As shown in Figure 16 below, dose-related effects on pharmacodynamic measures were observed for the QW cohorts, with maximal or near-maximal effects achieved with the 70mg QW dose of AKR-001. Significant decreases in triglycerides and increases in HDL-C were observed for all dose groups, with additional significant decreases in non-HDL-C observed at doses greater than or equal to 70mg QW. Multiple markers of insulin sensitivity were also observed

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to be improved following treatment at a dose of 70mg QW. Significant decreases in C-peptide observed following the fourth dose of 21mg QW suggests that insulin sensitivity may be improved by longer-term treatment with doses lower than 70mg QW.

As discussed above, AKR-001 acts to redirect calories away from the liver to peripheral tissues, such as adipose tissue. Importantly, though, AKR-001 was observed to be weight-neutral in the four-week Phase 1b clinical trial, consistent with reports from earlier clinical studies with third-party FGF21 analogs. With AKR-001, there was a trend toward slight weight loss of up to 3% at 140mg QW and up to 2% at 70mg QW, which we do not believe contributed to the substantial improvement of lipoproteins and markers of insulin sensitivity observed at 70mg QW.

As shown in Figure 17 below, dose-related changes in fasting lipoprotein markers were also observed following Q2W dosing of AKR-001, with significant increases in HDL-C and adiponectin following treatment at doses greater than or equal to 21mg Q2W, and significant decreases in triglycerides at doses greater than or equal to 70mg Q2W, illustrating the biological impact of AKR-001’s half-life extension of three to four days even with an inter-dose interval equivalent to four half-lives.

A comparison of the magnitude of pharmacodynamic changes between the 70mg QW and 140mg Q2W cohorts underscores the additional benefit likely to be gained from weekly dosing. These two doses yielded approximately equivalent total drug exposure (7-day exposure of 31,900 day*ng/mL for 70mg QW vs. 14-day exposure of 55,600 day*ng/mL for 140mg Q2W). However, the magnitude and level of significance for effects at 70mg QW were much higher than at 140mg Q2W. On most measures, the effects observed at 70mg QW were two-fold or more higher than the corresponding changes at 140mg Q2W.

In Figures 16 and 17 below, N represents the number of patients in a particular group. P or p-values are commonly interpreted as the probability that random chance caused the result (e.g., a p-value = 0.001 suggests there is a 0.1% probability that the difference between placebo and treatment groups is due to random chance). A p-value of 0.05 or less is a commonly used threshold for statistical significance and may be supportive of a finding of efficacy by regulatory authorities. However, regulatory authorities, including the FDA and EMA, do not set strict statistical significance thresholds as criteria for marketing approval, instead maintaining flexibility to evaluate the overall risks and benefits of a treatment.

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Figure 16: Pharmacodynamic effects of AKR-001 administered once-weekly (QW)

 

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Figure 17: Pharmacodynamic effects of AKR-001 administered every other week (Q2W)

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AKR-001 dose-related effects within target dose range of 21mg to 70mg QW

We have identified AKR-001 doses in the range of 21mg to 70mg QW as the target dose range for evaluation in future clinical trials in patients with NASH, including in the ongoing BALANCED study. In the Phase 1b clinical trial in patients with T2D, significant decreases in triglycerides and increases in HDL-C were observed even at the 7mg QW dose; however, improvements in insulin sensitivity, which we believe will have a therapeutic effect on NASH pathogenesis, appear to require at least a 21mg QW dose. Among all doses tested to date, 70mg QW appears to offer the greatest potential for the treatment of patients with NASH. The 140mg QW dose level did not appear to confer any meaningful benefit beyond the 70mg QW dose.

Figures 18 and 19 below illustrate the dose-related changes from baseline for lipoproteins and markers of insulin sensitivity, respectively, observed following administration of 21mg and 70mg QW doses of AKR-001, compared to placebo. Significant improvements for each marker of insulin sensitivity were observed at the 70mg QW dose, consistent with agonism of FGFR1c in adipose tissue. At 21mg QW, there were also indications of improved sensitivity to insulin, with a significantly lower level of C-peptide observed after the fourth dose, and a trend toward lower levels of insulin and lower calculated value of HOMA-IR. These data are consistent with the results of our pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling, which suggests that a dose between 21mg and 70mg QW could provide roughly 60% to 75% or more of the beneficial effects observed at 70mg QW. Although liver fat was not measured in this trial, we believe the magnitude and robustness of effects on lipoproteins at 21mg and 70mg QW will likely translate into substantial reductions in liver fat with longer-term treatment.

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Figure 18: AKR-001 effects (percent change from baseline) on lipoproteins and free fatty acids: placebo, 21mg QW, and 70mg QW

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Figure 19: AKR-001 effects (percent change from baseline) on markers of insulin sensitivity: placebo, 21mg QW, and 70mg QW

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Figure 20 below provides the data underlying Figures 18 and 19, shown in units of mg/dL.

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Figure 20: Absolute change in metabolic and lipoprotein parameters at target dose range of 21mg-70mg QW

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AKR-001 70mg QW showed rapid, durable effects

AKR-001's effects on lipoproteins and markers of insulin sensitivity were observed to be rapid, consistent, and durable at the 70mg QW dose, with significant effects persisting after the fourth and final dose (on Day 22) for up to five weeks (on Day 57). Figure 21 below shows the observed effect of AKR-001 administered at the 70mg QW dose on HDL-C, non-HDL-C, and triglycerides at all time points from baseline through Day 57, plotted against serum AKR-001 concentration. Figure 22 below similarly provides an integrated-time course plot for markers of insulin sensitivity: glucose, insulin, C-peptide, and HOMA-IR. Data is shown in both figures as placebo-corrected percent change from baseline, which makes it possible to compare the magnitude of effects on multiple endpoints in the context of exposure to AKR-001. The red arrows indicate dosing on Days 1, 8, 15 and 22.

As shown in Figures 21 and 22, maximal or near maximal effects were observed by the third dose of 70mg QW for lipoproteins, and by the fourth dose for markers of insulin sensitivity. Reductions in triglyceride and increases in HDL-C were significant at all time points from Day 4 through Day 57, while non-HDL-C was significantly lower from Day 15 through Day 57. Taken together with published clinical data for third-party FGF21 analogs, the time-course and magnitude of changes in lipoproteins observed at the 70mg QW dose suggest that AKR-001 has the potential to rapidly and durably reduce liver fat in patients with NASH. Notably, AKR-001’s effects appear to be sustained for three weeks after the final dose, including significant increases of 39% in HDL-C and significant reductions of 28% and 67% in non-HDL-C and triglycerides, respectively, observed on Day 43.

Figure 23 below shows time-course plots for ApoB and adiponectin. These endpoints were measured only on Days 4, 15, 29 and 57. Significant improvements on both measures were observed by Day 15 at the 70mg QW dose of AKR-001. On both measures, a greater effect was observed on Day 29 than Day 15. No results for ApoB were available on day 57 for 70mg QW AKR-001.

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Figure 21: Time-course plots of AKR-001 70mg QW lipoprotein effects

Picture 28

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Figure 22: Time-course plots of AKR-001 70mg QW effects on markers of insulin sensitivity

Picture 29

Figure 23: Time-course plots of AKR-001 70mg QW effects on apolipoprotein B and adiponectin

Picture 30

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AKR-001 safety and tolerability in Phase 1b clinical trial

AKR-001 was reported to be well-tolerated among 52 patients with T2D in a Phase 1b clinical trial conducted by Amgen. There were no patient deaths and no serious adverse events. The most common adverse events were gastrointestinal disorders, such as mild diarrhea and nausea, consistent with the experience following treatment with other FGF21 investigational drug products.

Withdrawals from investigational product due to adverse events, or AEs, were reported for six subjects in the Phase 1b clinical trial (AKR-001, N=5; placebo, N=1). Four of the patients to withdraw were in the 140mg QW group. We do not plan to investigate this dose level further. The reasons for withdrawal by each of the four subjects dosed at 140mg QW were reported to be diarrhea; vomiting; tremor; and tremor/nausea. The remaining two withdrawals (one following treatment with 7mg QW; one on placebo) were attributed by the investigator to hyperglycemia and were considered unrelated to investigational product. Subjects were washed off anti-diabetic medications two weeks prior to the first dose and remained so until end of study. Figure 24 below provides a summary of investigational product-related treatment-emergent adverse events and withdrawals.

Figure 24: Investigational product (IP)-related, treatment-emergent adverse events with two or more observations, and IP-related withdrawals from treatment

Picture 31

The most common treatment-related, treatment-emergent AEs at doses from 7mg to 70mg QW were nausea, diarrhea and increased appetite. All of these treatment-related AEs were assessed as mild in severity, except for one instance of injection site rash in the 21mg QW cohort assessed as of moderate severity. All of these treatment-related AEs were transient.

Seven of 52 subjects were observed to be positive for anti-AKR-001 antibodies post-baseline. Antibodies from the 7 subjects were non-neutralizing and did not appear to affect the pharmacokinetics or safety profile of AKR-001. Three of seven patients in the Phase 1b clinical trial who developed anti-AKR-001 antibodies returned for follow-up approximately two months after receiving the final dose of AKR-001. In all three of these patients, anti-AKR-001 antibodies could no longer be detected.

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Phase 1a clinical trial in type 2 diabetic patients

An earlier Phase 1a, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, ascending single-dose clinical trial was conducted by Amgen in patients with T2D to evaluate the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of AKR-001. A total of 42 patients received a single-dose of either placebo (N=11) or AKR-001 (N=31) and completed the trial. Single subcutaneous, or SC, AKR-001 doses of 2.1mg, 7mg, 21mg, 70mg, or 210mg (N=6 per cohort) were administered. In addition, one patient received a single 70mg IV dose of AKR-001.

At doses of 21mg SC and higher, significant increases were observed in HDL (up to 50% increase on Day 14 after a single 70mg SC dose, p<0.001) along with significant reductions in triglycerides (up to 50% reduction on Day 11 after a single 70mg SC dose, p<0.001), compared to placebo. No changes were noted in metabolic parameters of glucose, insulin, glucagon and free fatty acids under fasted conditions at doses of 70mg SC or less. A significant reduction in body weight was observed by Day 5 in all dose groups at or above 21mg SC, with significant decreases in body weight following a single dose of 70mg SC observed on days 5 through 22, up to a maximum of a 2% decrease in body weight.

Doses of 70mg SC or less were reported to be well tolerated. Following administration of a 210mg dose, three of six subjects reported diarrhea and four of six subjects reported increased appetite. Neither diarrhea nor increased appetite were reported for subjects receiving any other dose of AKR-001. No other adverse events were reported by more than one subject. All adverse events were reported as either mild or moderate, with the exception of two adverse events graded as severe but considered unrelated to the investigational product by the investigator.

One subject experienced a severe adverse event of vasovagal syncope secondary to blood draw following randomization to the 2.1mg cohort, but prior to receiving any investigational product. This event was not considered related to investigational product by the investigator. The one subject who received AKR-001 70mg IV had a serious adverse event of cholecystitis initially reported as abdominal pain beginning on Day 11. The subject thereafter reported having experienced intermittent abdominal pain for many years. Findings from a subsequent cholecystectomy were consistent with chronic cholecystitis. This event was considered unrelated to investigational product by the investigator.

Anti-AKR-001 binding antibodies were detected in four of 31 subjects. In all instances the antibodies were non-neutralizing and did not appear to affect the tolerability profile or pharmacokinetics of AKR-001.

Ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial, the BALANCED study

We submitted our IND application to the FDA on April 24, 2019, which included a Phase 2a clinical trial protocol, audited draft reports for our 120-day toxicology studies in non-human primates and rodents, and stability data on drug product for use in the Phase 2a clinical trial. The FDA recommended additional trial design elements, which were incorporated into our final Phase 2a clinical trial protocol. The FDA cleared our IND on May 24, 2019. We dosed our first patient in the BALANCED study on July 2, 2019, and we closed enrollment for the main part of the study on December 16, 2019. The final liver fat measurement for completion of the primary analysis at week 12 was taken on March 6, 2020. We plan to expand the BALANCED study to include an additional cohort of subjects with NASH who have compensated cirrhosis (F4), Child-Pugh Class A, or Cohort C, with study initiation expected in the second quarter of 2020.

The BALANCED main study is a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-ranging trial in biopsy-confirmed patients with NASH. We enrolled 80 total patients who were randomized to receive weekly subcutaneous dosing of AKR-001 or placebo for up to 16 weeks. The three active treatment arms are doses of 28mg, 50mg and 70mg QW, all within the target dose range of 21mg to 70mg QW based on observed results from the Phase 1b clinical trial. Figure 25 below illustrates key design elements of the BALANCED main study.

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Figure 25: Clinical Trial Design of BALANCED Main Study

Picture 15

The primary objective of the BALANCED main study is to evaluate absolute change from baseline in hepatic fat fraction assessed by Magnetic Resonance Imaging—Proton Density Fat Fraction, or MRI-PDFF, at Week 12.

The secondary objectives of the BALANCED main study are to:

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Evaluate percent change from baseline in hepatic fat fraction assessed by MRI-PDFF at Week 12;

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Evaluate the proportion of patients who achieve a clinically meaningful reduction of at least 30% in relative liver fat content as measured by MRI-PDFF at Week 12;

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Evaluate the responder based on NAFLD Activity Score (NAS) system of subjects who had a decrease of ≥ 2 points in NAS with at least a 1-point reduction in either lobular inflammation or hepatocellular ballooning and with no concurrent worsening of fibrosis stage; and

·

Assess the safety and tolerability of AKR-001 in subjects with NASH, including analyses of treatment-emergent adverse events, clinical chemistry and hematology, vital signs, electrocardiogram, body weight, and incidence of anti-AKR-001 antibodies.

Exploratory objectives of the BALANCED main study include:

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Change from baseline in markers of liver injury and liver function;

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Changes in biomarkers of liver fibrosis;

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Changes in histological parameters on biopsies; and

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Changes in markers of lipid metabolism, insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.

We plan to report 12-week top-line results related to the primary endpoint—including change from baseline in absolute liver fat and relative reduction in liver fat, as well as the proportion of patients who achieve at least a 30% relative reduction in liver fat—in the first quarter of 2020. As indicated in Figure 25, the study remains blinded through an additional four weeks of treatment to week 16. Safety and tolerability results will therefore be reported following completion of treatment along with secondary endpoints, including biopsy results, which we plan to report in the second quarter of this year.

We plan to expand the BALANCED study in Cohort C by enrolling thirty NASH subjects, demonstrated at baseline by liver biopsy to have cirrhosis with a fibrosis score of 4, who will be randomized 2:1 to receive either 50 mg of AKR-001 or placebo for 16 weeks. The selection of the 50 mg dose for this cohort is based on modeling of data from

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the Phase 1b trial in Type 2 diabetes as well as availability of drug product. The primary objective of this expansion Cohort C is to assess safety and tolerability of treatment with AKR-001 in NASH patients at greatest risk of progressing to end-stage liver disease. Additional objectives include evaluating the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of AKR-001, changes in liver stiffness as measured by fibroscan, and non-invasive markers of fibrosis, including Pro-C3 and ELF. Figure 26 below illustrates key design elements for Cohort C of the BALANCED study.

Figure 26: Clinical Trial Design for Cohort C of the BALANCED Study

Picture 17

Potential improvement of cardiovascular risk factors

We believe the effects observed following treatment with AKR-001 in clinical trials to date indicate that AKR-001 has potential to have cardiovascular benefits when tested in patients with NASH, for whom cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. Figure 27 below describes the extent of reduction in cardiovascular risk associated with improvement in individual lipoproteins, which are believed to be causal of cardiovascular disease. We believe these reductions help to provide context for the changes in lipoproteins observed in the Phase 1b clinical trial of AKR-001. If the magnitude of improvement in lipoprotein profiles is reproduced in patients with NASH in larger, longer-term trials, AKR-001 could have the potential to improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Figure 27: Rationale for AKR-001's potential cardiovascular benefits

 

Picture 19

 

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Additional clinical data supporting FGF21 in treatment of NASH

Other endocrine FGF analogs in development have shown encouraging signs of liver fat reduction, improved lipid profiles and reduced fibrosis in clinical trials in patients with NASH or obese insulin resistant subjects with NAFLD. In a 24-week placebo-controlled clinical trial, daily injections of an FGF19 analog in NASH patients were reported to be associated with a 39% relative reduction in liver fat as measured by MRI-PDFF, compared with 13% for placebo. In addition, 38% of patients treated with active drug were observed to have a ≥1 stage improvement in fibrosis score with no worsening of NASH, compared with 18% for placebo. In a 16-week placebo-controlled clinical trial, daily and weekly injections of a PEGylated FGF21 analog in NASH patients were reported to be associated with 38% and 26% relative reductions in liver fat, respectively, compared with 6% for placebo, along with positive changes in Pro-C3, a marker of liver fibrogenesis. A clinical trial evaluating a single injection of a mAb developed to mimic FGF21's effects on FGFR1c and Klotho, but with no activity on FGFR2c and 3c, was reported in obese insulin resistant subjects with NAFLD to be associated with a 37% relative reduction of liver fat on Day 36. A placebo-controlled clinical trial in NAFLD subjects evaluating a different mAb FGF21 mimetic, also with activity at FGFR1c but not FGFR2c or FGFR3c, was reported to be associated with up to a 38% relative reduction of liver fat at adequately tolerated doses after 12 weeks of treatment. The pattern and magnitude of changes in plasma lipoproteins varied across these four analogs. The FGF19 analog and FGF21 mAbs substantially reduced plasma triglyceride and increased HDL-C in comparison to the PEGylated FGF21 analog. Treatment with the FGF19 analog was associated with a nearly 50% placebo-corrected increase in LDL-C. This increase in LDL-C is consistent with FGF19's potent agonism of FGFR4. Of the four FGF21 analogs tested in insulin resistant or type 2 diabetic subjects, three did not improve markers of insulin sensitivity or glycemic control, FGF19 analog, pegylated FGF21 and one of the FGFR1c-specific mAbs, while one of the FGFR1c-specific mAbs did.

Exclusive license agreement with Amgen Inc.

In June 2018, we entered into an exclusive license agreement with Amgen Inc., or Amgen, pursuant to which we have been granted an exclusive, royalty-bearing license to certain intellectual property rights owned or controlled by Amgen, to commercially develop, manufacture, use, distribute and sell therapeutic products, or Products. In particular, we have been granted licenses under patents filed in both the United States and foreign jurisdictions that are owned or controlled by Amgen, including an exclusive license under certain patents claiming polypeptides comprised of an FGF21 portion with certain point mutations, a linker, and an Fc domain. Our exclusively licensed patents include, but are not limited to, the composition of AKR-001 and methods of using the same. In connection with the license, Amgen also licensed and transferred to us certain know-how related to the manufacture of AKR-001 as well as certain quantities of AKR-001 drug substance manufactured to Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, for clinical use, master cell bank, not-for-human use AKR-001 drug product suitable for nonclinical studies and critical reagents.

Pursuant to the terms of the license agreement, we must use commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize a Product in each of several major market territories. In addition, Amgen provided us, at its expense, consulting support in connection with the transfer of the licensed materials and the exploitation of the Products. We are also entitled to sublicense the rights granted to us under the license agreement.

As initial consideration for the license, we paid Amgen an upfront payment of $5.0 million and also issued 2,653,333 shares of our Series A preferred stock to Amgen at the time of the initial closing in June 2018 with a subsequent 3,205,128 shares of our Series A preferred stock issued at the time of the second closing in November 2018, representing 10% of total shares outstanding at such times. In August 2019 we made an additional payment of $2.5 million in connection with dosing the first patient in our Phase 2a clinical trial, which was the first development milestone under the license agreement. As additional consideration for the license, we are required to pay Amgen up to $37.5 million upon the achievement of specified remaining clinical and regulatory milestones and aggregate milestone payments of up to $75.0 million upon the achievement of specific commercial milestones. No commercial milestones have been achieved to date under the license agreement. We are also required to pay tiered royalties of low to high single-digit percentages on annual net sales of the products covered by the license. The royalty rate with respect to the net sales is subject to customary reductions, including in the event that the exploitation of a Product is not covered by a valid claim with the licensed patent rights. The royalty term will terminate on a country-by-country basis on the later of

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(i) the expiration date of the last valid claim within the licensed patent rights, (ii) the loss of regulatory exclusivity in such country, and (iii) the tenth anniversary of the first commercial sale of such product in such country.

The license agreement shall expire upon the expiration of the last-to-expire royalty term for the Products in the territory. Upon expiration of the license agreement, the licenses granted to us shall be considered fully paid-up, irrevocable and non-exclusive. Either we or Amgen may terminate the license agreement if the other party commits a material breach of the agreement or defaults in the performance thereunder and fails to cure that breach within 90 days (or 30 days in the case of failure to make any payment as and when due under the agreement) after written notice is provided or in the event of bankruptcy, insolvency, dissolution or winding up. Amgen shall have the right to terminate the license agreement in full upon written notice to us in the event we, our affiliates or sublicensees, directly challenge the patentability, enforceability or validity of any licensed patents, unless, in the event of a sublicensee challenge, we terminate the sublicense within 60 days’ notice. We shall have the right to terminate the license agreement within 90 days written notice to Amgen if we conclude, due to scientific, technical, regulatory or commercial reasons, that the exploitation of the Products is no longer commercially practicable.

In connection with the license agreement, Amgen entered into certain stockholder agreements related to this investment. See "Certain relationship and related party transactions."

Intellectual property

Our success depends in part upon our ability to protect our core technology and intellectual property. To protect our intellectual property rights, we rely on patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secret laws, confidentiality procedures, and employee disclosure and invention assignment agreements. Our intellectual property is critical to our business and we strive to protect it through a variety of approaches, including by obtaining and maintaining patent protection in the United States and internationally for our product candidates, novel biological discoveries, new targets and applications, and other inventions that are important to our business. For our product candidates, we generally intend to pursue patent protection covering compositions of matter, methods of making and methods of use, including combination therapies. As we continue the development of our product candidates, we intend to identify additional means of obtaining patent protection that would potentially enhance commercial success, including through claims covering additional methods of use and biomarkers and complementary diagnostic and/or companion diagnostic related claims. As of December 31, 2019, we have licensed from Amgen Inc. approximately 157 patents and pending patent applications in the U.S. and foreign jurisdictions, including 125 granted U.S. and foreign patents and 32 pending U.S. and foreign patent applications. There are currently no pending U.S. provisional patent applications.

As of December 31, 2019, our patent portfolio relating to AKR-001 includes twelve issued U.S. patents, one pending U.S. patent application, and issued and pending foreign counterpart patents in Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia, and Mexico. Seven issued U.S. patents include claims directed to the AKR-001 product, the FGF21 polypeptide component of the AKR-001 product, nucleic acids encoding the product and related polypeptides, polypeptide multimers, related compositions, and methods of using AKR-001 to, e.g., treat diabetes, lower blood glucose in patients suffering from a metabolic disorder, improve glucose tolerance, lower body weight, or reduce triglyceride levels in patients. These issued U.S. patents are expected to expire in 2029. The pending U.S. patent application and related foreign counterparts are directed to a method of treating a patient with excess bile acid; if issued, the resulting U.S. patent is expected to expire in 2036. The portfolio further includes five issued U.S. patents that are directed to related polypeptides and methods of use.

In addition to patents, we rely upon unpatented trade secrets and know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. However, trade secrets and know-how can be difficult to protect. We seek to protect our proprietary information, in part, by executing confidentiality agreements with our collaborators and scientific advisors, and non-solicitation, confidentiality, and invention assignment agreements with our employees and consultants. We have also executed agreements requiring assignment of inventions with selected scientific advisors and collaborators. The confidentiality agreements we enter into are designed to protect our proprietary information and the agreements or clauses requiring assignment of inventions to us are designed to grant us ownership of technologies that are developed through our relationship with the respective counterparty. We cannot guarantee, however, that we have executed such agreements with all applicable counterparties, such agreements will not be

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breached, or that these agreements will afford us adequate protection of our intellectual property and proprietary rights. For more information, see "Risk factors—Risks related to our intellectual property."

Manufacturing and supply

We manage several external commercial manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, to develop and manufacture AKR-001.

AKR-001 drug substance is manufactured by fermentation of a recombinant strain of the bacterium E. coli. Product accumulates as insoluble particles (inclusion bodies) within the cells and is recovered by cell disruption, followed by solubilization of the inclusion bodies, protein refolding and several chromatographic separation steps to yield product with target quality attributes. We have an agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim Biopharmaceuticals GmbH, or Boehringer Ingelheim, to manufacture GMP drug substance for future clinical trials and plan to enter into a future agreement for commercial supply at the appropriate time. We have successfully manufactured AKR-001 drug substance at commercial scale as an engineering run at Boehringer Ingelheim. Yield was comparable to the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) drug substance originally manufactured by Amgen. Analysis of the drug substance produced by Boehringer Ingelheim confirmed it met the same release specification as previously used for Amgen GMP drug substance.  The Company expects to release drug product produced in compliance with current GMP requirements by the fourth quarter of 2020.

We acquired approximately 475 grams of AKR-001 drug substance, or DS, as part of our license from Amgen, divided into 10 one-liter bottles and stored in frozen storage at –30 degrees Celsius. We used this DS, which was manufactured by Amgen in compliance with GMP, to prepare drug product for our Phase 2a clinical trial and to conduct  toxicology studies in rats and non-human primates to support our clinical program. GMP drug product was manufactured for use in our Phase 2a clinical trial by Vetter Pharma International GmbH.

The new GMP drug product used for the BALANCED study is based on an Amgen platform formulation used in the early stages of clinical development. It is stored as a frozen liquid until immediately before administration to trial subjects. We plan to use this same frozen liquid formulation in a Phase 2b clinical trial. We have engaged a third party to develop a new refrigerated liquid or freeze-dried, lyophilized formulation for use in Phase 3 clinical trials. The development of a medical device is envisaged for convenient subcutaneous administration of the new drug product formulation.

Sales and marketing

Successful marketing of a new drug for the treatment of NASH will require a targeted commercial infrastructure. We expect to begin making plans for commercialization following completion of our Phase 2a clinical trial. We have contracted with a third-party manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, to support future clinical trials and the potential commercialization of AKR-001 with commercial-scale manufacturing. When appropriate, we intend to develop the commercial infrastructure required for bringing AKR-001 to patients in the United States, if approved. We also plan to evaluate options for delivering AKR-001, if approved, to patients in other key markets, such as Europe, Japan and China, which may include strategic collaborations.

Competition

The biotechnology industry is intensely competitive and subject to rapid and significant technological change. Our competitors include multinational pharmaceutical companies, specialized biotechnology companies and universities and other research institutions. We understand that a number of pharmaceutical companies, including AbbVie, Inc., Allergan plc, AstraZeneca PLC/MedImmune LLC, Boehringer Ingelheim AG, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Inc., Eisai, Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Novo Nordisk A/S, Pfizer Inc., Roche Holding AG, Sanofi and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, as well as large and small biotechnology companies such as Albireo Pharma, Inc., Cirius Therapeutics, Inc., CymaBay Therapeutics, Inc., 89bio, Inc., Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Galectin Therapeutics Inc., Galmed Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Genfit SA, Gilead Sciences, Inc., Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Inventiva Pharma SA, Madrigal Pharmaceuticals, Inc., MediciNova, Inc.,

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Metacrine, Inc., NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., North Sea Pharmaceuticals, Terns Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Viking Therapeutics, Inc., are pursuing the development or marketing of pharmaceuticals that target NASH. It is also probable that the number of companies seeking to develop products and therapies for the treatment of serious metabolic diseases, such as NASH, will increase. Many of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, human and other resources than we do and may be better equipped to develop, manufacture and market technologically superior products. In addition, many of these competitors have significantly greater experience than we have in undertaking nonclinical studies and human clinical trials of new pharmaceutical products and in obtaining regulatory approvals of human therapeutic products. Accordingly, our competitors may succeed in obtaining FDA approval for superior products. Many of our competitors have established distribution channels for the commercialization of their products, whereas we have no such channel or capabilities. In addition, many competitors have greater name recognition and more extensive collaborative relationships. Smaller and earlier-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large, established companies.

Our competitors may obtain regulatory approval of their products more rapidly than we do or may obtain patent protection or other intellectual property rights that limit our ability to develop or commercialize our product candidate or any future product candidates. Our competitors may also develop drugs that are more effective, more convenient, more widely used and less costly or have a better safety profile than our products and these competitors may also be more successful than we are in manufacturing and marketing their products. If we are unable to compete effectively against these companies, then we may not be able to commercialize our product candidate or any future product candidates or achieve a competitive position in the market. This would adversely affect our ability to generate revenue. Our competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific, management and commercial personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.

Government Regulation

The FDA and other regulatory authorities at federal, state, and local levels, as well as in foreign countries, extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, import, export, safety, effectiveness, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, record keeping, approval, advertising, promotion, marketing, post-approval monitoring, and post-approval reporting of biologics such as those we are developing. We, along with third-party contractors, will be required to navigate the various nonclinical, clinical and commercial approval requirements of the governing regulatory agencies of the countries in which we wish to conduct studies or seek approval or licensure of our product candidates.

U.S. biological product development

In the United States, biological products are subject to regulation under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FD&C Act, and the Public Health Service Act, or PHS Act, and other federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations. The process required by the FDA before a biological product may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:

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completion of nonclinical laboratory tests and animal studies performed in accordance with the FDA's Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) regulation;  

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submission to the FDA of an investigational new drug application, or IND, which must become effective before clinical trials may begin and must be updated annually or when significant changes are made; 

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approval of a clinical trial protocol and related documentation by an independent Institutional Review Board, or IRB, or ethics committee at each clinical site before the trial may be initiated; 

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performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials according to FDA's regulations commonly referred to as Good Clinical Practices, or GCPs, and any additional requirements for the protection of human research subjects and their health information, to establish the safety, purity and potency of the proposed biologic product candidate for its intended use; 

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preparation of and submission to the FDA of a Biologics License Application, or BLA, for marketing authorization that includes substantive evidence of safety, purity, and potency from results of nonclinical testing and clinical trials;

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satisfactory completion of an FDA Advisory Committee review, if applicable; 

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a determination by the FDA within 60 days of its receipt of a BLA to file the application for review;  

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satisfactory completion of an FDA inspection of the manufacturing facility or facilities where the biological product is produced to assess compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMPs, and to assure that the facilities, methods and controls are adequate to preserve the biological product's identity, strength, quality and purity; 

·

potential FDA audit of the nonclinical and clinical trial sites that generated the data in support of the BLA in accordance with any applicable expedited programs or designations; 

·

payment of user fees for FDA review of the BLA (unless a fee waiver applies); and 

·

FDA review and approval, or licensure, of the BLA to permit commercial marketing of the product for particular indications for use in the United States.

Nonclinical and clinical development

Before testing any biological product candidate in humans, the product candidate enters the nonclinical testing stage. Nonclinical tests, also referred to as nonclinical studies, include laboratory evaluations of product biological characteristics, chemistry, toxicity and formulation, as well as animal studies to assess the potential safety and activity of the product candidate. The conduct of the nonclinical tests must comply with federal regulations and requirements including GLPs.

Prior to beginning the first clinical trial with a product candidate, we must submit an IND to the FDA. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational new drug product to humans. The central focus of an IND submission is on the general investigational plan and the protocol(s) for clinical studies. The IND also includes results of the nonclinical tests, including animal and in vitro studies assessing the toxicology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacology, and pharmacodynamic characteristics of the product; chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC) information; and any available human data or literature to support the use of the investigational product. An IND must become effective before human clinical trials may begin. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA places the clinical trial on a clinical hold within the 30-day time period. In such a case, the IND may be placed on clinical hold and the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns or questions before the clinical trial can begin. The FDA also may impose clinical holds on a biological product candidate at any time before or during clinical trials due to, among other considerations, unreasonable or significant safety concerns, inability to assess safety concerns, lack of qualified investigators, a misleading or materially incomplete investigator brochure, study design deficiencies, interference with the conduct or completion of a study designed to be adequate and well-controlled for the same or another investigational drug, insufficient quantities of investigational product, lack of effectiveness, or non-compliance. Accordingly, we cannot be sure that submission of an IND will result in the FDA allowing a clinical trial to begin, or that, once begun, issues or circumstances will not arise that delay, suspend or terminate such studies.

Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational product to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by or under the study sponsor's control, in accordance with GCPs, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical study. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the study, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria, and the parameters to be used in monitoring subject safety, including stopping rules that assure a clinical trial will be stopped if certain adverse events

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should occur. A separate submission to the existing IND must be made for each successive clinical trial conducted during product development and for any subsequent protocol amendments. Furthermore, an independent IRB for each site proposing to conduct the clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial and its related documentation before the clinical trial begins at that site, and must monitor the study until completed. Regulatory authorities, the IRB or the sponsor may suspend a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk or that the trial is unlikely to meet its stated objectives. Some studies also include oversight by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical study sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board, which provides authorization for whether or not a study may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the study and may halt the clinical trial if it determines that there is an unacceptable safety risk for subjects or other grounds, such as no demonstration of efficacy. There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical studies and clinical study results to public registries.

A sponsor who wishes to conduct a clinical trial outside of the United States may, but need not, obtain FDA authorization to conduct the clinical trial under an IND. If a foreign clinical trial is not conducted under an IND, the sponsor may submit data from the clinical trial to the FDA in support of a BLA. The FDA may accept a well-designed and well-conducted foreign clinical study not conducted under an IND if the study was conducted in accordance with GCP requirements, and the FDA is able to validate the data through an onsite inspection if deemed necessary.

Clinical trials typically are conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:

Phase 1—The investigational product is initially introduced into healthy human subjects. These studies are designed to test the safety, dosage tolerance, absorption, metabolism and distribution of the investigational product in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and, if possible, to gain early evidence on effectiveness. In the cases of some products for severe of life-threatening diseases, especially when the product may be too inherently toxic to ethically administer to healthy volunteers, the initial human testing is often conducted in the targeted patient population. 

Phase 2—The investigational product is administered to a limited patient population with a specified disease or condition to evaluate the preliminary efficacy, optimal dosages and dosing schedule and to identify possible adverse side effects and safety risks. Multiple Phase 2 clinical trials may be conducted to obtain information prior to beginning Phase 3 clinical trials. 

Phase 3—The investigational product is administered to an expanded patient population to further evaluate dosage, to provide significant evidence of clinical efficacy and to further test for safety, generally at multiple geographically dispersed clinical trial sites. These clinical trials are intended to establish the overall risk/benefit ratio of the investigational product and to provide an adequate basis for product approval or licensure and product labeling.

In some cases, the FDA may require, or companies may voluntarily pursue, additional clinical trials after a product is approved to gain more information about the product. These so called Phase 4 studies may be made a condition to approval of the BLA.

During all phases of clinical development, regulatory agencies require extensive monitoring and auditing of all clinical activities, clinical data, and clinical trial investigators. Annual progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted to the FDA. Written IND safety reports must be promptly submitted to the FDA and the investigators for serious and unexpected adverse events, any findings from other studies, tests in laboratory animals or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human subjects, or any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. The sponsor must submit an IND safety report within 15 calendar days after the sponsor determines that the information qualifies for reporting. The sponsor also must notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction within seven calendar days after the sponsor's initial receipt of the information. Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, if at all. The FDA or the sponsor, acting on its own or based on a recommendation from the sponsor's data safety monitoring board may suspend a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being

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conducted in accordance with the IRB's requirements or if the biological product has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients.

Concurrent with clinical trials, companies may complete additional animal studies and develop additional information about the biological characteristics of the product candidate, and must finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product candidate and, among other things, must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality and purity of the final product, or for biologics, the safety, purity and potency. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.

BLA submission and review

Assuming successful completion of all required testing in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements, the results of product development, nonclinical studies and clinical trials are submitted to the FDA as part of a BLA requesting approval to market the product for one or more indications. FDA approval of a BLA must be obtained before a biologic may be marketed in the United States. The BLA must include all relevant data available from pertinent nonclinical and clinical studies, including negative or ambiguous results as well as positive findings, together with detailed information relating to the product's chemistry, manufacturing, controls, and proposed labeling, among other things. The submission of a BLA requires payment of a substantial application user fee to FDA, unless a waiver or exemption applies.

Within 60 days following submission of the application, the FDA reviews a BLA submitted to determine if it is substantially complete before the FDA accepts it for filing. The FDA may refuse to file any BLA that it deems incomplete or not properly reviewable at the time of submission and may request additional information. In this event, the BLA must be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application also is subject to review before the FDA accepts it for filing. Under the performance goals and policies implemented by the FDA under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, for original BLAs, the FDA targets ten months from the filing date in which to complete its initial review of a standard application and respond to the applicant, and six months from the filing date for an application with priority review. In both standard and priority reviews, the FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates, and the review process is often significantly extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification. This review typically takes twelve months from the date the BLA is submitted to the FDA because the FDA has approximately two months to make a "filing" decision. The review process and the PDUFA goal date may be extended by three months if the FDA requests or the BLA sponsor otherwise provides additional information or clarification regarding information already provided in the submission within the last three months before the PDUFA goal date.

Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth substantive review of the BLA. The FDA reviews a BLA to determine, among other things, whether a proposed product is safe, pure and potent, for its intended use, and the facility in which it is manufactured, processed, packed, or held meets standards designed to assure the product's continued safety, purity and potency. Further, the FDA may convene an advisory committee to provide clinical insight on application review questions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.

Before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve a product unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP requirements. If the FDA determines that the application, manufacturing process or manufacturing facilities are not acceptable, it will outline the deficiencies in the submission and often will request additional testing or information. Notwithstanding the submission of any requested additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval.

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After the FDA evaluates a BLA and conducts inspections of manufacturing facilities where the investigational product and/or its drug substance will be produced, the FDA may issue an approval letter or a Complete Response letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the product with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A Complete Response letter will describe all of the deficiencies that the FDA has identified in the BLA, except that where the FDA determines that the data supporting the application are inadequate to support approval, the FDA may issue the Complete Response letter without first conducting required inspections, testing submitted product lots, and/or reviewing proposed labeling. In issuing the Complete Response letter, the FDA may recommend actions that the applicant might take to place the BLA in condition for approval, including requests for additional information or clarification. The FDA may delay or refuse approval of a BLA if applicable regulatory criteria are not satisfied, require additional testing or information and/or require post-marketing testing and surveillance to monitor safety or efficacy of a product.

If regulatory approval of a product is granted, such approval will be granted for particular indications and may entail limitations on the indicated uses for which such product may be marketed. For example, the FDA may approve the BLA with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, to ensure the benefits of the product outweigh its risks. A REMS is a safety strategy to manage a known or potential serious risk associated with a product and to enable patients to have continued access to such medicines by managing their safe use, and could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. The FDA also may condition approval on, among other things, changes to proposed labeling or the development of adequate controls and specifications. Once approved, the FDA may withdraw the product approval if compliance with pre- and post-marketing requirements is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the marketplace. The FDA may require one or more Phase 4 post-market studies and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product's safety and effectiveness after commercialization, and may limit further marketing of the product based on the results of these post-marketing studies.

Expedited development and review programs

The FDA has various programs, including Fast Track designation, breakthrough therapy designation, accelerated approval and priority review, that are intended to expedite or simplify the process for the development and FDA review of biologics that are intended for the treatment of serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions. These programs do not change the standards for approval but may help expedite the development or approval process. To be eligible for Fast Track designation, new biological products must be intended to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and demonstrate the potential to address an unmet medical need for the condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a new biologic may request the FDA to designate the biologic as a Fast Track product at any time during the clinical development of the product. One benefit of Fast Track designation, for example, is that the FDA may consider for review sections of the marketing application for a product that has received Fast Track designation on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted.

Under the FDA's breakthrough therapy program, products intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition may be eligible for the benefits of the Fast Track program when preliminary clinical evidence demonstrates that such product may have substantial improvement on one or more clinically significant endpoints over existing therapies. Additionally, the FDA will seek to ensure the sponsor of a breakthrough therapy product receives timely advice and interactive communications to help the sponsor design and conduct a development program as efficiently as possible.

Any product is eligible for priority review if it treats a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and has the potential, if approved, to provide a significant improvement in safety and effectiveness. The FDA will attempt to direct additional resources to the evaluation of an application for a new biological product designated for priority review in an effort to facilitate the review. Under priority review, the FDA's goal is to review an application in six months once it is filed, compared to ten months for a standard review.

Additionally, a product may be eligible for accelerated approval (also referred to as Subpart E approval). Biological products studied for their safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening illnesses and that

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provide meaningful therapeutic benefit over existing treatments, as demonstrated by a surrogate or intermediate clinical endpoint, may receive accelerated approval. Specifically, this means that they may be approved on the basis of clinical data establishing that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit, or on the basis of an effect on an intermediate clinical endpoint other than survival or irreversible morbidity. As a condition of approval, the FDA may require that a sponsor of a biological product receiving accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing confirmatory clinical trials. In addition, the FDA currently requires as a condition for accelerated approval pre-approval of promotional materials, which could adversely impact the timing of the commercial launch of the product.

Pediatric information

Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, a BLA or supplement to a BLA must contain data to assess the safety and efficacy 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 product is safe and effective. The FDA may grant deferrals for submission of pediatric data or full or partial waivers. A sponsor who is planning to submit a marketing application for a drug that includes a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen, or new route of administration must submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan, or PSP, within 60 days of an end-of-Phase 2 meeting or, if there is no such meeting, as early as practicable before the initiation of the Phase 3 of Phase 2/3 study. The initial PSP must include an outline of the pediatric study or studies that the sponsor plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, age groups, relevant endpoints, and statistical approach, or a justification for not including such detailed information, and any request for a deferral of pediatric assessments or a full or partial waiver of the requirement to provide data from pediatric studies along with supporting information. The FDA and the sponsor must reach an agreement on the PSP. A sponsor can submit amendments to an agreed-upon initial PSP at any time if changes to the pediatric plan need to be considered based on data collected from nonclinical studies, early phase clinical trials, and/or other clinical development programs.

Post-Approval requirements

Any products manufactured or distributed by us pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to record-keeping, reporting of adverse experiences, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, and advertising and promotion of the product. After approval, most changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications or other labeling claims, are subject to prior FDA review and approval. There also are continuing user fee requirements, under which FDA assesses an annual program fee for each product identified in an approved BLA. Biologic manufacturers and their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for ongoing compliance with cGMP, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements upon us and our third-party manufacturers. Changes to the manufacturing process are strictly regulated, and, depending on the significance of the change, may require prior FDA approval before being implemented. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from cGMP and impose reporting requirements upon us and any third-party manufacturers that we may decide to use. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP and other aspects of regulatory compliance.

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

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

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

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

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

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injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

The FDA closely regulates the marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of biologics. A company can make only those claims relating to safety and efficacy, purity and potency that are approved by the FDA and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in, among other things, adverse publicity, warning letters, corrective advertising and potential civil and criminal penalties. Physicians may prescribe legally available products for uses that are not described in the product's labeling and that differ from those tested by us and approved by the FDA. Such off-label uses are common across medical specialties. Physicians may believe that such off-label uses are the best treatment for many patients in varied circumstances. The FDA does not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments. The FDA does, however, restrict manufacturer's communications on the subject of off-label use of their products.

U.S. patent term restoration and marketing exclusivity

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

A biological product can obtain pediatric market exclusivity in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity, if granted, adds six months to existing exclusivity periods, including some regulatory exclusivity periods tied to patent terms. This six-month exclusivity, which runs from the end of other exclusivity protection or patent term, may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric study in accordance with an FDA-issued "Written Request" for such a study.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or collectively, the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, includes a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA, which created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-approved reference biological product. To date, a number of biosimilars have been licensed under the BPCIA, and numerous biosimilars have been approved in Europe. The FDA has issued several guidance documents outlining an approach to review and approval of biosimilars.

Biosimilarity, which requires that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the biological product and the reference product in terms of safety, purity, and potency, can be shown through analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical study or studies. Interchangeability requires that a product is biosimilar to the reference product and the product must demonstrate that it can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in any given patient and, for products that are administered multiple times to an individual, the biologic and the reference biologic may be alternated or switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or

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risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic. Complexities associated with the larger, and often more complex, structures of biological products, as well as the processes by which such products are manufactured, pose significant hurdles to implementation of the abbreviated approval pathway that are still being worked out by the FDA.

Under the BPCIA, a reference biological product is granted four and 12 year exclusivity periods from the time of first licensure of the product. FDA will not accept an application for a biosimilar or interchangeable product based on the reference biological product until four years after the date of first licensure of the reference product, and FDA will not approve an application for a biosimilar or interchangeable product based on the reference biological product until twelve years after the date of first licensure of the reference product. "First licensure" typically means the initial date the particular product at issue was licensed in the United States. Date of first licensure does not include the date of licensure of (and a new period of exclusivity is not available for) a biological product if the licensure is for a supplement for the biological product or for a subsequent application by the same sponsor or manufacturer of the biological product (or licensor, predecessor in interest, or other related entity) for a change (not including a modification to the structure of the biological product) that results in a new indication, route of administration, dosing schedule, dosage form, delivery system, delivery device or strength, or for a modification to the structure of the biological product that does not result in a change in safety, purity, or potency. Therefore, one must determine whether a new product includes a modification to the structure of a previously licensed product that results in a change in safety, purity, or potency to assess whether the licensure of the new product is a first licensure that triggers its own period of exclusivity. Whether a subsequent application, if approved, warrants exclusivity as the "first licensure" of a biological product is determined on a case-by-case basis with data submitted by the sponsor.

The BPCIA is complex and continues to be interpreted and implemented by the FDA. In addition, recent government proposals have sought to reduce the 12-year reference product exclusivity period. Other aspects of the BPCIA, some of which may impact the BPCIA exclusivity provisions, have also been the subject of recent litigation. As a result, the ultimate impact, implementation, and impact of the BPCIA is subject to significant uncertainty.

Other U.S. healthcare and Data Privacy laws and compliance requirements

In the United States, our current and future operations are subject to regulation by various federal, state and local authorities in addition to the FDA, including but not limited to, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, other divisions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS (such as the Office of Inspector General, Office for Civil Rights and the Health Resources and Service Administration), the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, and individual U.S. Attorney offices within the DOJ, and state and local governments. For example, our clinical research, sales, marketing and scientific/educational grant programs may have to comply with the anti-fraud and abuse provisions of the Social Security Act, the false claims laws, the privacy and security provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, and similar state laws, each as amended, as applicable.

The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, any person or entity, from knowingly and willfully offering, paying, soliciting or receiving any remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce or in return for purchasing, leasing, ordering, arranging for or recommending the purchase, lease or order of any item or service reimbursable, in whole or in part, under Medicare, Medicaid or other federal healthcare programs. The term remuneration has been interpreted broadly to include anything of value. The federal Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between therapeutic product manufacturers on one hand and prescribers, purchasers, and formulary managers on the other. There are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting some common activities from prosecution. The exceptions and safe harbors are drawn narrowly and practices that involve remuneration that may be alleged to be intended to induce prescribing, purchasing or recommending may be subject to scrutiny if they do not qualify for an exception or safe harbor. Failure to meet all of the requirements of a particular applicable statutory exception or regulatory safe harbor _does not make the conduct per se illegal under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Instead, the legality of the arrangement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on a cumulative review of all of its facts and circumstances. Our practices may not meet the criteria for protection under a statutory exception or regulatory safe harbor.

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Additionally, the intent standard under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute was amended by the Affordable Care Act, such that a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation. In addition, the Affordable Care Act codified case law that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal False Claims Act, or FCA (discussed below).

The federal false claims and civil monetary penalty laws, including the FCA, which can be enforced by private citizens through civil qui tam actions, prohibit any person or entity from, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment to, or approval by, the federal government, including federal healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, knowingly making, using, or causing to be made or used a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim to the federal government, or knowingly making a false statement to improperly avoid, decrease or conceal an obligation to pay money to the federal government. A claim includes "any request or demand" for money or property presented to the U.S. government. For instance, historically, pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies have been prosecuted under these laws for allegedly providing free product to customers with the expectation that the customers would bill federal programs for the product. Other companies have been prosecuted for causing false claims to be submitted because of the companies' marketing of the product for unapproved, off-label, and thus generally non-reimbursable, uses.

HIPAA created additional federal criminal statutes that prohibit, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud or to obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises, any money or property owned by, or under the control or custody of, any healthcare benefit program, including private third-party payors, willfully obstructing a criminal investigation of a healthcare offense, and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up by trick, scheme or device, a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services. Like the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the Affordable Care Act amended the intent standard for certain healthcare fraud statutes under HIPAA such that a person or entity no longer needs to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation.

Also, many states have similar, and typically more prohibitive, fraud and abuse statutes or regulations that apply to items and services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs, or, in several states, apply regardless of the payor.

We may be subject to data privacy and security regulations by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, and their implementing regulations, as well as the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the "CCPA"), impose requirements relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information. Among other things, HITECH makes HIPAA's privacy and security standards directly applicable to business associates, independent contractors, or agents of covered entities, which include certain healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, that receive or obtain protected health information in connection with providing a service on behalf of a covered entity. HITECH also created four new tiers of civil monetary penalties, amended HIPAA to make civil and criminal penalties directly applicable to business associates, and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce HIPAA and seek attorneys' fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions. In addition, many state laws govern the privacy and security of health information in specified circumstances. For example, in California the CCPA establishes a new privacy framework for covered businesses by creating an expanded definition of personal information, establishing new data privacy rights for consumers in the State of California, imposing special rules on the collection of consumer data from minors, and creating a new and potentially severe statutory damages framework for violations of the CCPA and for businesses that fail to implement reasonable security procedures and practices to prevent data breaches. Many of the state laws differ from each other in significant ways and are often not pre-empted by HIPAA, and may have a more prohibitive effect than HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.

We may develop products that, once approved, may be administered by a physician. Under currently applicable U.S. law, certain products not usually self-administered (including injectable drugs) may be eligible for coverage under Medicare through Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B is part of original Medicare, the federal health care program that

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provides health care benefits to the aged and disabled, and covers outpatient services and supplies, including certain pharmaceutical products, that are medically necessary to treat a beneficiary's health condition. As a condition of receiving Medicare Part B reimbursement for a manufacturer's eligible drugs, the manufacturer is required to participate in other government healthcare programs, including the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and the 340B Drug Pricing Program. The Medicaid Drug Rebate Program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to enter into and have in effect a national rebate agreement with the Secretary of HHS as a condition for states to receive federal matching funds for the manufacturer's outpatient drugs furnished to Medicaid patients. Under the 340B Drug Pricing Program, the manufacturer must extend discounts to entities that participate in the program.

In addition, many pharmaceutical manufacturers must calculate and report certain price reporting metrics to the government, such as average sales price, or ASP, and best price. Penalties may apply in some cases when such metrics are not submitted accurately and timely. Further, these prices for drugs may be reduced by mandatory discounts or rebates required by government healthcare programs or private payors.

Additionally, the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, or the Sunshine Act, within the Affordable Care Act, and its implementing regulations, require that certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biological and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (with certain exceptions) report annually to CMS information related to certain payments or other transfers of value made or distributed to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, or to entities or individuals at the request of, or designated on behalf of, physicians and teaching hospitals and to report annually certain ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Effective January 1, 2022, these reporting obligations will extend to include transfers of value made to certain non-physician providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners. In addition, many states also govern the reporting of payments or other transfers of value, many of which differ from each other in significant ways, are often not pre-empted, and may have a more prohibitive effect than the Sunshine Act, thus further complicating compliance efforts.

In order to distribute products commercially, we must comply with state laws that require the registration of manufacturers and wholesale distributors of drug and biological products in a state, including, in certain states, manufacturers and distributors who ship products into the state even if such manufacturers or distributors have no place of business within the state. Some states also impose requirements on manufacturers and distributors to establish the pedigree of product in the chain of distribution, including some states that require manufacturers and others to adopt new technology capable of tracking and tracing product as it moves through the distribution chain. Several states have enacted legislation requiring pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to establish marketing compliance programs, file periodic reports with the state, make periodic public disclosures on sales, marketing, pricing, clinical trials and other activities, and/or register their sales representatives, as well as to prohibit pharmacies and other healthcare entities from providing certain physician prescribing data to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for use in sales and marketing, and to prohibit certain other sales and marketing practices. All of our activities are potentially subject to federal and state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.

Ensuring business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations is a costly endeavor. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the federal and state healthcare laws described above or any other current or future governmental regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including without limitation, civil, criminal and/or administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, individual imprisonment, exclusion from participation in government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, injunctions, private "qui tam" actions brought by individual whistleblowers in the name of the government, or refusal to allow us to enter into government contracts, contractual damages, reputational harm, administrative burdens, diminished profits and future earnings, additional reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or other agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.

Coverage, pricing and reimbursement

Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any product candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval. In the United States and in foreign markets, sales of any products for which we

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receive regulatory approval for commercial sale will depend, in part, on the extent to which third-party payors provide coverage and establish adequate reimbursement levels for such products. In the United States, third-party payors include federal and state healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, private managed care providers, health insurers and other organizations. Adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors are critical to new product acceptance.

Our ability to commercialize any products successfully also will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from third-party payors. Third-party payors decide which therapeutics they will pay for and establish reimbursement levels. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor's determination that use of a therapeutic is:

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a covered benefit under its health plan;

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safe, effective and medically necessary;

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appropriate for the specific patient;

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cost-effective; and

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neither experimental nor investigational.

We cannot be sure that reimbursement will be available for any product that we commercialize and, if coverage and reimbursement are available, what the level of reimbursement will be. Coverage may also be more limited than the purposes for which the product is approved by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Reimbursement may impact the demand for, or the price of, any product for which we obtain regulatory approval.

Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the price, examining the medical necessity, and reviewing the cost-effectiveness of medical products, therapies and services, in addition to questioning their safety and efficacy. Obtaining reimbursement for our products may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices often associated with branded drugs and drugs administered under the supervision of a physician. We may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of our products, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA approvals. Our product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost-effective. Obtaining coverage and reimbursement approval of a product from a government or other third-party payor is a time-consuming and costly process that could require us to provide to each payor supporting scientific, clinical and cost-effectiveness data for the use of our product on a payor-by-payor basis, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be obtained. A third-party payor's decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Further, in the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors. Private third-party payors tend to follow Medicare coverage and reimbursement limitations to a substantial degree, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Therefore, one payor's determination to provide coverage for a product does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage for the product. Adequate third-party reimbursement may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development. If reimbursement is not available or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize any product candidate that we successfully develop.

Different pricing and reimbursement schemes exist in other countries. In the European Union, governments influence the price of pharmaceutical products through their pricing and reimbursement rules and control of national health care systems that fund a large part of the cost of those products to consumers. Some jurisdictions operate positive and negative list systems under which products may only be marketed once a reimbursement price has been agreed. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval, some of these countries may require the completion of clinical trials that compare the cost effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. Other member states allow companies to fix their own prices for medicines, but monitor and control company profits. The downward pressure on health care costs has become intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new

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products. In addition, in some countries, cross-border imports from low-priced markets exert a commercial pressure on pricing within a country.

The marketability of any product candidates for which we receive regulatory approval for commercial sale may suffer if third-party payors fail to provide coverage and adequate reimbursement. In addition, emphasis on managed care, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations, and additional legislative changes in the United States has increased, and we expect will continue to increase, the pressure on healthcare pricing. The downward pressure on the rise in healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription medicines, medical devices and surgical procedures and other treatments, has become very intense. Coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which we receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.

Healthcare reform

In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and continue to be, several legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities, and affect the ability to profitably sell product candidates for which marketing approval is obtained. Among policy makers and payors in the United States and elsewhere, there is significant interest in promoting changes in healthcare systems with the stated goals of containing healthcare costs, improving quality and/or expanding access. In the United States, the pharmaceutical industry has been a particular focus of these efforts and has been significantly affected by major legislative initiatives.

For example, the Affordable Care Act has substantially changed healthcare financing and delivery by both governmental and private insurers. Among the Affordable Care Act provisions of importance to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, in addition to those otherwise described above, are the following:

·

an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports certain specified branded prescription drugs and biologic agents apportioned among these entities according to their market share in some government healthcare programs that began in 2011; 

·

an increase in the statutory minimum rebates a manufacturer must pay under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, retroactive to January 1, 2010, to 23.1% and 13% of the average manufacturer price for most branded and generic drugs, respectively, and capped the total rebate amount for innovator drugs at 100% of the Average Manufacturer Price, or AMP; 

·

a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 50% (increased to 70%, the current discount owed as of January 1, 2019 pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or BBA) point-of-sale discounts, off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturers' outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D; 

·

extension of manufacturers' 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 additional individuals beginning in 2014 and by adding new mandatory eligibility categories for individuals with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, thereby potentially increasing manufacturers' Medicaid rebate liability; 

·

expansion of the entities eligible for discounts under the 340B Drug Discount Program; 

·

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

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·

expansion of healthcare fraud and abuse laws, including the FCA and the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, new government investigative powers, and enhanced penalties for noncompliance; 

·

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; 

·

requirements to report certain financial arrangements with physicians and teaching hospitals; 

·

a requirement to annually report certain information regarding drug samples that manufacturers and distributors provide to physicians;  

·

establishment of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending; and 

·

a licensure framework for follow on biologic products.

Since its enactment, there have been numerous judicial, administrative, executive, and  legislative challenges to certain aspects of the ACA, and we expect there will be additional challenges and amendments to the ACA in the future. For example, various portions of the ACA are currently undergoing legal and constitutional challenges in the Fifth Circuit Court and the United States Supreme Court, and the Trump Administration has issued various Executive Orders which eliminated cost sharing subsidies and various provisions that would impose a fiscal burden on states or a cost, fee, tax, penalty or regulatory burden on individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. Additionally, Congress has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at significantly revising or repealing the ACA. It is unclear whether the ACA will be overturned, repealed, replaced, or further amended. We cannot predict what affect further changes to the ACA would have on our business.

Additionally, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. At the federal level, the Trump administration's budget proposal for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 contain further drug price control measures that could be enacted during the budget process or in other future legislation, including, for example, measures to permit Medicare Part D plans to negotiate the price of certain drugs under Medicare Part B, to allow some states to negotiate drug prices under Medicaid, and to eliminate cost sharing for generic drugs for low-income patients. Further, the Trump administration released a "Blueprint", or plan, to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contains additional proposals to increase drug manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products, and reduce the out of pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers. HHS has already started the process of soliciting feedback on some of these measures and, at the same, is immediately implementing others under its existing authority. For example, in May 2019, CMS issued a final rule to allow Medicare Advantage Plans the option of using step therapy, a type of prior authorization, for Part B drugs beginning January 1, 2020. This final rule codified CMS’s policy change that was effective January 1, 2019. While a number of these and other proposed measures may require additional authorization to become effective, Congress and the Trump administration have each indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs. Individual states in the United States have also increasingly passed legislation and implemented regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing.

Further, on May 30, 2018, the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017, or the Right to Try Act, was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to request access to certain investigational new drug products that have completed a Phase I clinical trial and that are undergoing investigation for FDA approval. Under certain circumstances, eligible patients can

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seek treatment without enrolling in clinical trials and without obtaining FDA permission under the FDA expanded access program. There is no obligation for a pharmaceutical manufacturer to make its drug products available to eligible patients as a result of the Right to Try Act.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, prohibits any U.S. individual or business from paying, offering, or authorizing payment or offering of anything of value, directly or indirectly, to any foreign official, political party or candidate for the purpose of influencing any act or decision of the foreign entity in order to assist the individual or business in obtaining or retaining business. The FCPA also obligates companies whose securities are listed in the United States to comply with accounting provisions requiring us to maintain books and records that accurately and fairly reflect all transactions of the corporation, including international subsidiaries, and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls for international operations.

Government regulations outside the United States

In addition to regulations in the United States, we are subject to a variety of regulations in other jurisdictions governing, among other things, research and development, clinical trials, testing, manufacturing, safety, efficacy, labeling, packaging, storage, record keeping, distribution, reporting, advertising and other promotional practices involving biological products as well as authorization and approval of our products.

Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product, we must obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. Certain countries outside of the United States have a similar process that requires the submission of a clinical trial application much like the IND prior to the commencement of human clinical trials. In the European Union, for example, a Clinical Trial Application, or CTA, must be submitted for each clinical trial to each country's national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and an IRB, respectively. Once the CTA is approved in accordance with a country's requirements, the corresponding clinical trial may proceed. The requirements and process governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. In all cases, the clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with GCP and the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.

Regulation in the European Union

In the European Union, medicinal products are subject to extensive pre- and post-market regulation by regulatory authorities at both the European Union and national levels. To obtain regulatory approval of an investigational product under European Union regulatory systems, we must submit a Marketing Authorization Application, or MAA. The application used to submit the BLA in the United States is similar to that required in the European Union, with the exception of, among other things, region-specific document requirements. The European Union also provides opportunities for market exclusivity. For example, in the European Union, upon receiving marketing authorization, innovative medicinal products generally receive eight years of data exclusivity and an additional two years of market exclusivity. If granted, data exclusivity prevents regulatory authorities in the European Union from referencing the innovator's data to assess a generic or biosimilar application. During the additional two-year period of market exclusivity, a generic or biosimilar marketing authorization can be submitted, and the innovator's data may be referenced, but no generic or biosimilar product can be marketed until the expiration of the market exclusivity. However, there is no guarantee that a product will be considered by the European Union's regulatory authorities to be an innovative medicinal product, and products may not qualify for data exclusivity.

Pediatric development in the European Union

In the European Union, companies developing a new medicinal product must agree upon a Pediatric Investigation Plan, or PIP, with the EMA, and must conduct pediatric clinical trials in accordance with that PIP, unless a waiver applies, (e.g., because the relevant disease or condition occurs only in adults). The marketing authorization application for the product must include the results of pediatric clinical trials conducted in accordance with the PIP,

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unless a waiver applies, or a deferral has been granted, in which case the pediatric clinical trials must be completed at a later date. Products that are granted a marketing authorization on the basis of the pediatric clinical trials conducted in accordance with the PIP are eligible for a six month extension of the protection under a supplementary protection certificate (if any is in effect at the time of approval) or, in the case of orphan medicinal products, a two year extension of the orphan market exclusivity. This pediatric reward is subject to specific conditions and is not automatically available when data in compliance with the PIP are developed and submitted.

Post-approval controls in the European Union

The holder of a marketing authorization must establish and maintain a pharmacovigilance system and appoint an individual qualified person for pharmacovigilance, who is responsible for oversight of that system. Key obligations include expedited reporting of suspected serious adverse reactions and submission of periodic safety update reports, or PSURs.

All new MAAs must include a risk management plan, or RMP, describing the risk management system that the company will put in place and documenting measures to prevent or minimize the risks associated with the product. The regulatory authorities may also impose specific obligations as a condition of the marketing authorization. Such risk-minimization measures or postauthorization obligations may include additional safety monitoring, more frequent submission of PSURs, or the conduct of additional clinical trials or post-authorization safety studies. RMPs and PSURs are routinely available to third parties requesting access, subject to limited redactions.

All advertising and promotional activities for the product must be consistent with the approved Summary of Product Characteristics, or SmPC, and therefore all off-label promotion is prohibited. Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines is also prohibited in the European Union. Although general requirements for advertising and promotion of medicinal products are established under EU directives, the details are governed by regulations in each European Union Member State and can differ from one country to another.

European data collection

The collection and use of personal health data in the European Union is governed by the provisions of the Data Protection Directive, and as of May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This directive imposes more stringent requirements relating to the consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, the information provided to the individuals, notification of data processing obligations to the competent national data protection authorities, and the security and confidentiality of the personal data. The Data Protection Directive and GDPR also impose strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the European Union to the United States. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, the GDPR, and the related national data protection laws of the European Union Member States may result in fines and other administrative penalties. The GDPR introduces new data protection requirements in the European Union and substantial fines for breaches of the data protection rules, specifically fines are increased to levels of up to 4% total worldwide annual turnover or up to €20 million (whichever is higher). The GDPR regulations may impose additional responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process and we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms ensuring compliance with the new data protection rules. We are subject to the GDPR if we have a presence or "establishment" in the European Union or E.U. (e.g. E.U. based subsidiary or operations), when conducting clinical trials with E.U. based data subjects (whether the trials are conducted directly by us or through a clinical vendor or partner) or offering approved products or services (if relevant) to E.U. based data subjects (regardless of whether involving our E.U. based subsidiary or operations). The GDPR regulations may be onerous and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.

European Union drug marketing

Much like the Anti-Kickback Statute prohibition in the United States, the provision of benefits or advantages to physicians to induce or encourage the prescription, recommendation, endorsement, purchase, supply, order, or use of medicinal products is also prohibited in the European Union. The provision of benefits or advantages to physicians is governed by the national anti-bribery laws of European Union Member States. Infringement of these laws could result in substantial fines and imprisonment.

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Payments made to physicians in certain European Union Member States must be publicly disclosed. Moreover, agreements with physicians often must be the subject of prior notification and approval by the physician's employer, his or her competent professional organization, and/or the regulatory authorities of the individual European Union Member States. These requirements are provided in the national laws, industry codes, or professional codes of conduct, applicable in the European Union Member States. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in reputational risk, public reprimands, administrative penalties, fines, or imprisonment.

Brexit and the Regulatory Framework in the United Kingdom

On June 23, 2016, the electorate in the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the European Union (commonly referred to as “Brexit”). Thereafter, on March 29, 2017, the country formally notified the European Union of its intention to withdraw pursuant to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The United Kingdom formally left the European Union on January 31, 2020. A transition period began on February 1, 2020, during which European Union pharmaceutical law remains applicable to the United Kingdom. This transition period is due to end on December 31, 2020. Since the regulatory framework for pharmaceutical products in the United Kingdom covering quality, safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products, clinical trials, marketing authorization, commercial sales and distribution of pharmaceutical products is derived from European Union directives and regulations, Brexit could materially impact the future regulatory regime which applies to products and the approval of product candidates in the United Kingdom. It remains to be seen how, if at all, Brexit will impact regulatory requirements for product candidates and products in the United Kingdom.

Rest of world regulation

For other countries outside the European Union and the United States, such as countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, or Asia, the requirements governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing, and reimbursement vary from country to country. Additionally, the clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with GCP requirements and the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.

If we fail to comply with applicable foreign regulatory requirements, we may be subject to, among other things, fines, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals, product recalls, seizure of products, operating restrictions, or criminal prosecution.

Additional regulation

In addition to the foregoing, local, state and federal laws regarding such matters as safe working conditions, manufacturing practices, environmental protection, fire hazard control and hazardous substances, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Resource Conservancy and Recovery Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act, affect our business. These and other laws govern our use, handling and disposal of various biological, chemical and radioactive substances used in, and wastes generated by, our operations. If our operations result in contamination of the environment or expose individuals to hazardous substances, we could be liable for damages and governmental fines. We believe that we are in material compliance with applicable environmental laws and that continued compliance therewith will not have a material adverse effect on our business. We cannot predict, however, how changes in these laws may affect our future operations. We may incur significant costs to comply with such laws and regulations now or in the future.

Employees

As of March 6, 2020, we employed 13 full-time employees, including seven in research and development and six in general and administrative and one part-time employee. Five of our employees hold M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. We have never had a work stoppage, and none of our employees is represented by a labor organization or under any collective-bargaining arrangements. We consider our employee relations to be good.

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Corporate Information

We were incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware on in January 2017 as Pippin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. On May 16, 2018, we changed our name to Akero Therapeutics, Inc. Our mailing address and executive offices are located at 170 Harbor Way, 3rd Floor, South San Francisco, California 94080 and our telephone number at that address is (650) 487-6488. We maintain an Internet website at the following address: www.akerotx.com. The information on our website is not incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K or in any other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC.

Available Information

We make available on or through our website certain reports and amendments to those reports that we file with or furnish to the SEC in accordance with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These include our annual reports on Form 10-K, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, and our current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act. We make this information available on or through our website free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file the information with, or furnish it to, the SEC.

A copy of our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics and the charters of the Audit Committee, Compensation Committee and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee are posted on our website, www.akerotx.com, under “Investors – Corporate Governance.”

The SEC maintains an Internet website that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding us and other issuers that file electronically with the SEC. The SEC’s Internet website address is http://www.sec.gov.

Item 1A. Risk Factors.

In evaluating the Company and our business, careful consideration should be given to the following risk factors, in addition to the other information set forth in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and in other documents that we file with the SEC. Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. If any such risks or uncertainties actually occur, our business, financial condition or operating results could differ materially from the plans, projections and other forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report, including in the foregoing Business section and later in the section titled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and elsewhere in this report and in our other public filings and public statements. The trading price of our common stock could decline due to any of these risks, and as a result, our stockholders may lose all or part of their investment. The risks described below are not intended to be exhaustive and are not the only risks facing the Company. New risk factors can emerge from time to time, and it is not possible to predict the impact that any factor or combination of factors may have on our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations.

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Risks related to our business, financial position, and need for additional capital

We have incurred significant losses since our inception and we expect to incur losses for the foreseeable future.

We have no products approved for commercial sale and have not generated any revenue to date, and we continue to incur significant research and development and other expenses related to our ongoing operations. As a result, we are not profitable and have incurred significant losses in each period since our inception in January 2017. For the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, we reported net losses of $43.8 million and $81.7 million, respectively. The net loss for the year ended December 31, 2018 included non-cash charges of $62.2 million related to the change in fair value of our preferred stock tranche obligation and $5.8 million related to the change in fair value of our anti- dilution right liability. As of December 31, 2019, we had an accumulated deficit of $130.3 million. We expect to continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future, and we expect these losses to increase as we continue our research and development of, and seek regulatory approvals for, our product candidate. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if, and as, we:

·

conduct larger scale clinical trials for our product candidate, AKR-001, and any future product candidates;

·

discover and develop new product candidates, and conduct nonclinical studies and clinical trials;

·

manufacture, or have manufactured, clinical and commercial supplies of our product candidates;

·

seek regulatory approvals for our product candidate or any future product candidates;

·

commercialize AKR-001 or any future product candidates, if approved;

·

attempt to transition from a company with a development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities, including establishing sales, marketing and distribution infrastructure;

·

hire additional clinical, scientific, and management personnel;

·

add operational, financial, and management information systems and personnel;

·

identify additional compounds or product candidates and acquire rights from third parties to those compounds or product candidates through licenses; and

·

incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company.

 

Even if we succeed in commercializing AKR-001 or any future product candidates, we may continue to incur substantial research and development and other expenditures to develop and market additional product candidates. We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other unknown factors that may adversely affect our business. The size of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of future growth of our expenses and our ability to generate revenue. Our prior losses and expected future losses have had and will continue to have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity and working capital.

We currently have a limited operating history, have not generated any revenue to date, and may never become profitable.

We are a clinical-stage biotechnology company with a limited operating history. Our operations to date have been limited to organizing and staffing our company, acquiring, developing and securing our technology and product candidate, AKR-001, and conducting nonclinical studies and clinical trials of AKR-001. We have not yet demonstrated our ability to complete clinical trials, obtain regulatory approval, formulate and manufacture a commercial-scale product, or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Investment in biotechnology product development is highly speculative because it entails substantial upfront expenditures in contract research organizations and contract manufacturing organizations and significant risk that any potential product candidate will fail to demonstrate adequate effect or an acceptable safety profile, gain regulatory approval and become commercially viable. Consequently, any predictions you may make about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history.

Though AKR-001 is currently in Phase 2a clinical development, we do not expect to receive revenue from AKR-001 for a number of years, if ever. To date, we have not generated any revenue and we will not be able to generate product revenue unless and until AKR-001, or any future product candidate, successfully completes clinical trials,

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receives regulatory approval, and is commercialized. We may seek to obtain revenue from collaboration or licensing agreements with third parties. Our ability to generate future product revenue from AKR-001 or any future product candidates also depends on a number of additional factors, including our, or our current and future contractors’ and collaborators’, ability to:

·

successfully complete nonclinical studies and clinical trials for AKR-001 and any future product candidates;

·

seek and obtain marketing approvals for any product candidates that complete clinical development;

·

establish and maintain supply and manufacturing relationships with third parties, and ensure adequate and legally compliant manufacturing of bulk drug substances and drug products to maintain that supply;

·

launch and commercialize any product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval, and, if launched independently, successfully establish a sales, marketing and distribution infrastructure;

·

demonstrate the necessary safety data post-approval to ensure continued regulatory approval;

·

obtain coverage and adequate product reimbursement from third-party payors, including government payors;

·

achieve market acceptance for any approved products;

·

address any competing technological and market developments;

·

maintain our rights under our existing license agreement with Amgen Inc., or Amgen, and any similar agreements we may enter into in the future;

·

negotiate favorable terms in any collaboration, licensing or other arrangements into which we may enter in the future and performing our obligations in such collaborations;

·

establish, maintain, protect and enforce our intellectual property rights; and

·

attract, hire and retain qualified personnel.

 

In addition, because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with biotechnology product development, including that our product candidate may not advance through development or achieve the endpoints of applicable clinical trials, we are unable to predict the timing or amount of increased expenses, or if or when we will achieve or maintain profitability. In addition, our expenses could increase beyond expectations if we decide, or are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, or foreign regulatory authorities, to perform nonclinical studies or clinical trials in addition to those that we currently anticipate. Even if we complete the development and regulatory processes described above, we anticipate incurring significant costs associated with launching and commercializing any approved product.

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 our 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 also could cause you to lose all or part of your investment.

We will require additional capital to finance our operations, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. As a result, we may not complete the development and commercialization of our product candidate or develop any future product candidates.

As a research and development company, our operations have consumed substantial amounts of cash since inception. We expect our research and development expenses to increase substantially in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we advance AKR-001 into later-stage clinical development.

As of December 31, 2019, we had $136.4 million of cash, cash equivalents and short-term marketable securities, which includes proceeds from our initial public offering, or IPO, of $95.5 million, net of underwriting discounts, commissions and offering expenses. Any forecast of the period of time through which our financial resources will adequately support our operations is a forward-looking statement and involves risks and uncertainties, and actual results could vary as a result of a number of factors, including the factors discussed elsewhere in this ‘‘Risk factors’’ section. The assumptions underlying any estimate may prove to be wrong, and we could utilize our available capital

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resources sooner than we currently expect. Our future funding requirements, both short and long-term, will depend on many factors, including, but not limited to:

·

the initiation, progress, timing, costs and results of nonclinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidate or any future product candidates we may develop;

·

the cost and timing of manufacturing our product candidate for use in clinical trials;

·

our ability to maintain our license to AKR-001 from Amgen;

·

the outcome, timing and cost of seeking and obtaining regulatory approvals from the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities, including the potential for such authorities to require that we perform more nonclinical studies or clinical trials than those that we currently expect or change their requirements on studies that had previously been agreed to;

·

the cost to establish, maintain, expand, enforce and defend the scope of our intellectual property portfolio, including the amount and timing of any payments we may be required to make, or that we may receive, in connection with licensing, preparing, filing, prosecuting, defending and enforcing any patents or other intellectual property rights;

·

the effect of competing technological and market developments;

·

market acceptance of any approved product candidates, including product pricing, as well as product coverage and the adequacy of reimbursement by third-party payors;

·

the cost of acquiring, licensing or investing in additional businesses, products, product candidates and technologies;

·

the cost and timing of selecting, auditing and potentially validating a manufacturing site for commercial scale manufacturing;

·

the cost of establishing sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for any product candidates for which we may receive regulatory approval and that we determine to commercialize; and

·

our need to implement additional internal systems and infrastructure, including financial and reporting systems.

 

We do not have any committed external source of funds or other support for our development efforts and we cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. Until we can generate sufficient revenue to finance our cash requirements, which we may never do, we expect to finance our future cash needs through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, strategic alliances, licensing arrangements, and other marketing or distribution arrangements. If we raise additional funds through public or private equity offerings, the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect our stockholders’ rights. Further, to the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of common stock or securities convertible or exchangeable into common stock, your ownership interest will be diluted. If we raise additional capital through debt financing, we could be subject to fixed payment obligations and may be subject to covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends. If we raise additional capital through marketing and distribution arrangements or other collaborations, strategic alliances or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish certain valuable rights to our product candidates, technologies, future revenue streams or research programs or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. We also could be required to seek collaborators for one or more of our current or any future product candidates at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable or relinquish our rights to product candidates or technologies that we otherwise would seek to develop or commercialize ourselves. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue the development or commercialization of one or more of our products or product candidates or one or more of our other research and development initiatives. Any of the above events could significantly harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations and cause the price of our common stock to decline.

We are heavily dependent on the success of AKR-001, our only product candidate.

We currently have no products that are approved for commercial sale and may never be able to develop marketable products. We expect that a substantial portion of our efforts and expenditures over the next several years will be devoted to AKR-001, which is currently our only product candidate. Accordingly, our business currently depends heavily on the successful development, regulatory approval, and commercialization of AKR-001. We cannot be certain

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that AKR-001 will receive regulatory approval or be successfully commercialized even if we receive regulatory approval. If we were required to discontinue development of AKR-001 or if AKR-001 does not receive regulatory approval or fails to achieve significant market acceptance, we would be delayed by many years in our ability to achieve profitability, if ever.

The research, testing, manufacturing, safety, efficacy, labeling, approval, sale, marketing, and distribution of AKR-001 is, and will remain, subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities. Failure to obtain regulatory approval for AKR-001 in the United States, Europe, Japan or other jurisdictions will prevent us from commercializing and marketing AKR-001 in such jurisdictions.

Clinical development of AKR-001 prior to the ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial was conducted in patients with type 2 diabetes, or T2D. We believe that the data from clinical trials of AKR-001 in patients with T2D support development of AKR-001 for the treatment of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. We did not conduct any of the development of AKR-001 related to clinical trials in patients with T2D, and we have relied on Amgen to have conducted such research and development in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal, regulatory, and scientific standards, have accurately reported the results of all nonclinical studies and clinical trials conducted prior to our license of AKR-001, and have correctly collected and interpreted the data from these studies and trials. Our ongoing and any future clinical trials may not be able to support continued development of AKR-001 in NASH. To the extent any of the foregoing has not occurred, our expected development time and development costs for AKR-001 may be increased.

Even if we were to successfully obtain approval from the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities for AKR-001, any approval might contain significant limitations related to use, including limitations on the stage of disease AKR-001 is approved to treat, as well as restrictions for specified age groups, warnings, precautions or contraindications. Furthermore, even if we obtain regulatory approval for AKR-001, we will still need to develop a commercial infrastructure or develop relationships with collaborators to commercialize, establish a commercially viable pricing structure and obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors, including government healthcare programs otherwise. If we, or any future collaborators, are unable to successfully commercialize AKR-001, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to continue our business.

We may be required to make significant payments under our license agreement for AKR-001.

We acquired worldwide, exclusive rights to AKR-001 pursuant to our license agreement with Amgen, which we refer to as the Amgen Agreement. Under the Amgen Agreement, in consideration for the license, we made an upfront payment of $5.0 million to Amgen and also issued 2,653,333 shares of our Series A convertible preferred stock to Amgen at the time of the initial closing of our Series A Preferred Stock financing in June 2018, with a subsequent 3,205,128 shares of our Series A convertible preferred stock issued at the time of the second closing of the Series A Preferred Stock financing in November 2018. On July 2, 2019, we announced the dosing of the first patient in our Phase 2a clinical study of AKR-001, which resulted in a $2.5 million milestone obligation under the Amgen Agreement. As additional consideration for the license, we are required to pay Amgen remaining aggregate milestone payments of up to $37.5 million upon the achievement of specified remaining clinical and regulatory milestones and aggregate milestone payments of up to $75.0 million upon the achievement of specified commercial milestones. Commencing on the first commercial sale of licensed products, we are obligated to pay tiered royalties of low to high single-digit percentages on annual net sales of the products covered by the license. If milestone or other non-royalty obligations become due, we may not have sufficient funds available to meet our obligations, which will materially adversely affect our business operations and financial condition.

If we are not successful in discovering, developing, receiving regulatory approval for and commercializing AKR-001 and any future product candidates, our ability to expand our business and achieve our strategic objectives would be impaired.

Although we plan to devote a majority of our resources to the continued nonclinical and clinical testing and potential approval of AKR-001 for the treatment of patients with NASH, another key element of our strategy is to discover, develop and commercialize a portfolio of products. We are seeking to do so through the identification and potential development of additional pipeline programs, but our resources are limited, and those that we have are geared towards

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nonclinical and clinical testing and seeking regulatory approval of AKR-001 for the treatment of patients with NASH. We may also explore strategic collaborations for the development or acquisition of new product candidates, but we may not be successful in entering into such relationships. AKR-001 is our only product candidate in clinical stages of development. Research programs to identify product candidates require substantial technical, financial and human resources, regardless of whether any product candidates are ultimately identified. Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential product candidates, yet fail to yield product candidates for clinical development for many reasons, including:

·

the research methodology used may not be successful in identifying potential product candidates;

·

competitors may develop alternatives that render our product candidates obsolete;

·

product candidates we develop may nevertheless be covered by third parties’ patents or other exclusive rights;

·

a product candidate may, on further study, be shown to have harmful side effects or other characteristics that indicate it is unlikely to be effective or otherwise does not meet applicable regulatory criteria;

·

a product candidate may not be capable of being produced in commercial quantities at an acceptable cost, or at all;

·

an approved product may not be accepted as safe and effective by trial participants, the medical community or third-party payors; and

·

intellectual property or other proprietary rights of third parties for product candidates we develop may potentially block our entry into certain markets or make such entry economically impracticable.

 

If we fail to develop and successfully commercialize other product candidates, our business and future prospects may be harmed and our business will be more vulnerable to any problems that we encounter in developing and commercializing our product candidate.

Our product candidate and any future product candidates must undergo rigorous clinical trials and regulatory approvals, and success in nonclinical studies or earlier-stage clinical trials may not be indicative of results in future clinical trials. AKR-001 and any future product candidates will be subject to rigorous and extensive clinical trials and extensive regulatory approval processes implemented by the FDA and similar regulatory bodies in other jurisdictions. The approval process is typically lengthy and expensive, and approval is never certain. As a company, our only experience with clinical trials is our ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial, and we have not yet completed the clinical trials required to obtain regulatory approval. We may not be able to conduct clinical trials at preferred sites, enlist clinical investigators, enroll sufficient numbers of participants or begin or successfully complete clinical trials in a timely fashion, if at all. Our anticipated clinical trials may be insufficient to demonstrate that our potential products will be active, safe or effective. Additional clinical trials may be required if clinical trial results are negative or inconclusive, which will require us to incur additional costs and significant delays.

Success in nonclinical studies and earlier-stage clinical trials does not ensure that later clinical trials will generate the same results or otherwise provide adequate data to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of a product candidate. In addition, the design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product, and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. We may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial to support regulatory approval for a NASH therapy. In addition, there is a high failure rate for drugs and products proceeding through clinical trials. In fact, many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials even after achieving promising results in nonclinical studies and earlier-stage clinical trials. Similarly, the outcome of nonclinical studies may not predict the success of clinical trials. Moreover, data obtained from nonclinical and clinical activities are subject to varying interpretations, which may delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. In addition, we may experience regulatory delays or rejections as a result of many factors, including due to changes in regulatory policy during the period of our product candidate development. Any such delays could negatively impact our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. From time to time, we may publish interim ‘‘top-line’’ or preliminary data from our clinical trials. Preliminary or interim data from clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available. Preliminary or interim data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data we previously published. As a result, interim and preliminary

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data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Adverse differences between preliminary or interim data and final data could significantly harm our business and financial prospects.

We are subject to many manufacturing risks, any of which could substantially increase our costs, delay clinical programs and limit supply of our products.

To date, we have not manufactured the drug substance (active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API) for our product candidate under GMP conditions as a company. While we received a supply of AKR-001 drug substance from Amgen that we believe provides sufficient quantities to complete our ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial, we have contracted with a third-party manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals GmbH, to make new drug substance to support future clinical trials and for commercial sale, if approved. To date, transfer of the former Amgen drug substance manufacturing process to our third-party contract manufacturer has been completed successfully at pilot scale. Our contract manufacturer may not be able to scale up the manufacturing process as practiced by Amgen in a timely manner to support our future clinical trials. The process of manufacturing our product is complex, highly regulated and subject to several risks, including:

·

the manufacturing process is susceptible to product loss due to contamination by adventitious microorganisms, equipment failure, improper installation or operation of equipment, vendor or operator error and improper storage conditions. Even minor deviations from normal manufacturing processes could result in reduced production yields and quality as well as other supply disruptions. If microbial, viral or other contaminations are discovered in our products or in the manufacturing facilities in which our products are made, the manufacturing facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and eliminate the contamination;

·

the manufacturing facilities in which our products are made could be adversely affected by equipment failures, labor and raw material shortages, financial difficulties of our contract manufacturers, natural disasters, power failures, local political unrest and numerous other factors; and

·

any adverse developments affecting manufacturing operations for our products may result in shipment delays, inventory shortages, lot failures, product withdrawals or recalls or other interruptions in the supply of our products. We may also have to record inventory write-offs and incur other charges and expenses for products that fail to meet specifications, undertake costly remediation efforts or seek more expensive manufacturing alternatives.

 

The manufacture of our product candidate requires significant expertise and capital investment, including the development of advanced manufacturing techniques and in-process controls. Manufacturers of these products sometimes encounter difficulties in production, especially during scale-up from the manufacturing process used for early clinical trials to a validated and qualified process needed for pivotal clinical trials and commercial launch. These problems include failure to meet target production costs and yields, failure to meet product release specifications, including stability of the product, quality assurance system failures, operator error and shortages of qualified personnel, as well as compliance with strictly enforced federal, state and foreign regulations. We cannot assure you that any product quality issues relating to the manufacture of our product candidate or any future product candidates will not occur in the future.

We do not have, and we do not currently plan to acquire or build the facilities or internal capabilities to manufacture bulk drug substance or finished drug product for use in clinical trials or commercialization. To a large extent, that makes us dependent on the goodwill of our contract manufacturing partners to quickly fix deviations that will inevitably occur during the manufacturing of our product. Any delay or interruption in the supply of clinical trial materials could delay the completion of clinical trials, increase the costs associated with maintaining clinical trial programs and, depending upon the period of delay, require us to commence new clinical trials at additional expense or terminate clinical trials altogether.

In addition, we plan to develop a new drug product formulation for late stage clinical trials and commercialization. We have entered into a contract with a formulation development company, Coriolis Pharma Research GmbH, to explore both a new refrigerated liquid formulation and a freeze-dried, or lyophilized, formulation. Based on the results of these parallel efforts, we plan to select one approach to progress for use in Phase 3 clinical development. We also plan to begin development of a pen-type autoinjector for the new drug product formulation in advance of commercialization. There is no assurance that we will be successful in developing a new drug product

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formulation or an autoinjector on a timely basis or at all, which could impede our development and commercialization strategy for AKR-001. Further, the FDA or other similar foreign regulatory bodies could require nonclinical studies or clinical trials to support introduction of any new formulation and autoinjector, which could increase our development costs and delay or prevent us from proceeding with future clinical trials or commercialization of AKR-001, if approved.

We may encounter difficulties in managing our growth, which could adversely affect our operations.

As of December 31, 2019, we had thirteen full-time employees. As we continue development and pursue the potential commercialization of our product candidate, as well as function as a public company, we will need to expand our financial, development, regulatory, manufacturing, marketing and sales capabilities or contract with third parties to provide these capabilities for us. As our operations expand, we expect that we will need to manage additional relationships with various strategic collaborators, suppliers and other third parties. Our future financial performance and our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidate and to compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to manage any future growth effectively.

We may acquire additional technology and complementary businesses in the future. Acquisitions involve many risks, any of which could materially harm our business, including the diversion of management’s attention from core business concerns, failure to effectively exploit acquired technologies, failure to successfully integrate the acquired business or realize expected synergies or the loss of key employees from either our business or the acquired businesses.

We incur significant costs and expend significant time and effort, as a result of operating  as a public company, and our management is required to devote substantial time to compliance initiatives and corporate governance practices.

We incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses, and expend significant time and effort by management and other personnel, to comply with the rules applicable to us as a public company. We will be subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, which will require, among other things, that we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), annual, quarterly, and current reports with respect to our business and financial condition. Effective internal control over financial reporting is necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports in a timely manner. As a public company, we are subject Section 404, or Section 404, of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or Sarbanes-Oxley, and the rules and regulations of Nasdaq. These regulations impose significant requirements on public companies, including requiring establishment and maintenance of effective disclosure and financial controls and changes in corporate governance practices. As  a public company, we are now required to comply with the SEC’s rules that implement Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and are therefore required to make a formal assessment of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting for that purpose, which will require management to certify financial and other information in our quarterly and annual reports and provide an annual management report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting commencing with our second annual report. This assessment will need to include the disclosure of any material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting identified by our management or our independent registered public accounting firm.

Further, in July 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the Dodd-Frank Act) was enacted. There are significant corporate governance and executive compensation related provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act that require the SEC to adopt additional rules and regulations in these areas, such as “say on pay” and proxy access. Recent legislation permits emerging growth companies to implement many of these requirements over a longer period and up to five years from the pricing of our IPO. We intend to take advantage of this new legislation but cannot guarantee that we will not be required to implement these requirements sooner than budgeted or planned and thereby incur unexpected expenses. Stockholder activism, the current political environment, and the current high level of government intervention and regulatory reform may lead to substantial new regulations and disclosure obligations, which may lead to additional compliance costs and impact the manner in which we operate our business in ways we cannot currently anticipate.

We expect the rules and regulations applicable to public companies to substantially increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some activities more time-consuming and costly. If these requirements divert the

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attention of our management and personnel from other business concerns, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. The increased costs will decrease our net income or increase our net loss and may require us to reduce costs in other areas of our business or increase the prices of our products or services. For example, we expect these rules and regulations to make it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance and we may be required to incur substantial costs to maintain the same or similar coverage. We cannot predict or estimate the amount or timing of additional costs we may incur to respond to these requirements. The impact of these requirements could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve on our board of directors, our board committees, or as executive officers.

When we lose our status as an ‘‘emerging growth company,’’ as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, as amended, or the JOBS Act, our independent registered public accounting firm will be required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404. We could be an ‘‘emerging growth company’’ for up to five years from the closing of our initial public offering. An independent assessment of the effectiveness of our internal controls could detect problems that our management’s assessment might not. Undetected material weaknesses in our internal controls could lead to financial statement restatements and require us to incur the expense of remediation.

If we fail to comply with these rules, including maintaining proper and effective systems of internal controls over financial reporting, the accuracy and timeliness of our financial reporting may be adversely affected, and we could be subject to sanctions or other penalties that would harm our business.

Ensuring that we have adequate internal financial and accounting controls and procedures in place so that we can produce accurate consolidated financial statements on a timely basis is a costly and time-consuming effort that needs to be re-evaluated frequently. Our internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of consolidated financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. If we identify any material weakness or significant deficiency, the accuracy and timing of our financial reporting may be adversely affected, we may be unable to maintain compliance with securities law requirements regarding timely filing of periodic reports in addition to applicable stock exchange listing requirements, investors may lose confidence in our financial reporting, and our stock price may decline as a result. We also could become subject to investigations by Nasdaq, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, or other regulatory authorities. Failure to remedy any material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting, or to implement or maintain other effective control systems required of public companies, could also restrict our future access to the capital markets. In addition, investors’ perceptions that our internal controls are inadequate or that we are unable to produce accurate consolidated financial statements on a timely basis may harm our stock price and make it more difficult for us to effectively market and sell our products to new and existing customers.  

We must attract and retain highly skilled employees in order to succeed. If we are not able to retain our current senior management team and our scientific advisors or continue to attract and retain qualified scientific, technical and business personnel, our business will suffer.

To succeed, we must recruit, retain, manage and motivate qualified clinical, scientific, technical and management personnel and we face significant competition for experienced personnel. If we do not succeed in attracting and retaining qualified personnel, particularly at the management level, it could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan and harm our operating results. We are dependent on the members of our management team and our scientific advisors for our business success. We do not maintain ‘‘key person’’ insurance for any of our key personnel. An important element of our strategy is to take advantage of the research and development expertise of our current management and to utilize the expertise of our scientific advisors in the NASH field. We currently have employment agreements with all of our executive officers. Our employment agreements with our executive officers are terminable by them without notice and some provide for severance and change in control benefits. The loss of any one of our executive officers or key scientific consultants could result in a significant loss in the knowledge and experience that we, as an organization, possess and could cause significant delays, or outright failure, in the development and further commercialization of our product candidate or any future product candidates.

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There is intense competition for qualified personnel, including management, in the technical fields in which we operate, and we may not be able to attract and retain qualified personnel necessary for the successful research, development and commercialization of our product candidate or any future product candidates. In particular, we have experienced a very competitive hiring environment in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we are headquartered. Many of the other pharmaceutical companies that we compete against for qualified personnel have greater financial and other resources, different risk profiles and a longer history in the industry than we do. They also may provide more diverse opportunities and better chances for career advancement. Some of these characteristics may be more appealing to high-quality candidates than what we have to offer. If we are unable to continue to attract and retain high-quality personnel, the rate and success with which we can discover and develop product candidates and our business will be limited.

Our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners and vendors may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements.

We cannot ensure that our compliance controls, policies, and procedures will in every instance protect us from acts committed by our employees, agents, contractors, or collaborators that would violate the law or regulation, including, without limitation, healthcare, employment, foreign corrupt practices, environmental, competition, and patient privacy and other privacy laws and regulations. Such improper actions could subject us to civil or criminal investigations, and monetary and injunctive penalties, and could adversely impact our ability to conduct business, operating results, and reputation.

We are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other illegal activity by our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners and vendors. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct that fails to comply with the laws enforced by the FDA and other similar foreign regulatory bodies, fails to provide true, complete and accurate information to the FDA and other similar foreign regulatory bodies, fails to comply with manufacturing standards we have established, fails to comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws in the United States and similar foreign laws, or fails to report financial information or data accurately or to disclose unauthorized activities to us. If we obtain FDA approval of any of our product candidates and begin commercializing those products in the United States, our potential exposure under these laws will increase significantly, and our costs associated with compliance with these laws are also likely to increase. Additionally, we are subject to the risk that a person could allege such fraud or other misconduct, even if none occurred. These laws may impact, among other things, our current activities with principal investigators and research patients, as well as proposed and future sales, marketing and education programs. 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 civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and curtailment of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations. It is not always possible to identify and deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from government 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 result in significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, integrity oversight and reporting obligations, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations.

We may develop AKR-001, and potentially future product candidates, in combination with other therapies, which exposes us to additional risks.

We may develop AKR-001 and future product candidates in combination with one or more approved therapies. Even if any product candidate we develop were to receive marketing approval or be commercialized for use in combination with other existing therapies, we would continue to be subject to the risks that the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside of the United States could revoke approval of the therapy used in combination with our product candidate or that safety, efficacy, manufacturing or supply issues could arise with these existing therapies. This could result in our own products being removed from the market or being less successful commercially.

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We may also evaluate AKR-001 or any other future product candidates in combination with one or more other therapies that have not yet been approved for marketing by the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside of the United States. We will not be able to market and sell AKR-001 or any product candidate we develop in combination with any such unapproved therapies that do not ultimately obtain marketing approval. If the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside of the United States do not approve these other drugs or revoke their approval of, or if safety, efficacy, manufacturing, or supply issues arise with, the drugs we choose to evaluate in combination with AKR-001 or any other product candidate we develop, we may be unable to obtain approval of or market AKR-001 or any other product candidate we develop.

Enrollment and retention of patients in clinical trials is an expensive and time-consuming process and could be made more difficult or rendered impossible by multiple factors outside our control, including difficulties in identifying patients with NASH and significant competition for recruiting such patients in clinical trials.

Identifying and qualifying patients to participate in our current and future clinical trials is critical to our success. We may encounter delays in enrolling or be unable to retain a sufficient number of patients to complete our Phase 2a clinical trial and may encounter delays in enrolling or be unable to enroll or retain a sufficient number of patients in any of our future clinical trials. In particular, as a result of the inherent difficulties in diagnosing NASH and the significant competition for recruiting patients with NASH in clinical trials, there may be delays in enrolling the patients we need to complete clinical trials on a timely basis, or at all. This risk may be more significant for us than other companies conducting clinical trials for the treatment of patients with NASH because we are enrolling only patients with a biopsy-confirmed diagnosis of NASH in our Phase 2a clinical trial and subsequent clinical trials.

Factors that may generally affect patient enrollment include:

·

the size and nature of the patient population;

·

the number and location of clinical sites we enroll;

·

competition with other companies for clinical sites or patients;

·

the eligibility and exclusion criteria for the trial;

·

the design of the clinical trial;

·

inability to obtain and maintain patient consents;

·

risk that enrolled participants will drop out before completion; and

·

competing clinical trials and clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of the drug being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs that may be approved for the indications we are investigating.

 

In addition, if any significant adverse events or other side effects are observed in any of our future clinical trials, it may make it more difficult for us to recruit patients to our clinical trials and patients may drop out of our trials, or we may be required to abandon the trials or our development efforts of one or more product candidates altogether. Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials could result in significant delays, which would increase our costs and have an adverse effect on our company.

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

The biotechnology industry is intensely competitive and subject to rapid and significant technological change. Our competitors include multinational pharmaceutical companies, specialized biotechnology companies and universities and other research institutions. We understand that a number of pharmaceutical companies, including AbbVie, Inc., Allergan plc, AstraZeneca PLC/MedImmune LLC, Boehringer Ingelheim AG, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Inc., Eisai, Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Novo Nordisk A/S, Pfizer Inc., Roche Holding AG, Sanofi and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, as well as large and small biotechnology companies such as Albireo Pharma, Inc., Cirius Therapeutics, Inc., CymaBay Therapeutics, Inc., 89bio, Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Galectin Therapeutics Inc., Galmed Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Genfit SA, Gilead Sciences, Inc., Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Inventiva Pharma SA, Madrigal Pharmaceuticals, Inc., MediciNova, Inc., Metacrine, Inc., NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., North Sea Pharmaceuticals, Terns Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Viking

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Therapeutics, Inc. are pursuing the development or marketing of pharmaceuticals that target NASH. It is also probable that the number of companies seeking to develop products and therapies for the treatment of serious metabolic diseases, such as NASH, will increase. Many of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, human and other resources than we do and may be better equipped to develop, manufacture and market technologically superior products. In addition, many of these competitors have significantly greater experience than we have in undertaking nonclinical studies and human clinical trials of new pharmaceutical products and in obtaining regulatory approvals of human therapeutic products. Accordingly, our competitors may succeed in obtaining FDA approval for superior products. In addition, many competitors have greater name recognition and more extensive collaborative relationships.

Smaller and earlier-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large, established companies.

Our competitors may obtain regulatory approval of their products more rapidly than we do or may obtain patent protection or other intellectual property rights that limit our ability to develop or commercialize our product candidate or any future product candidates. Our competitors may also develop drugs that are more effective, more convenient, more widely used and less costly or have a better safety profile than our products and these competitors may also be more successful than we are in manufacturing and marketing their products. If we are unable to compete effectively against these companies, then we may not be able to commercialize our product candidate or any future product candidates or achieve a competitive position in the market. This would adversely affect our ability to generate revenue. Our competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific, management and commercial personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.

Our business and operations would suffer in the event of computer system failures, cyber-attacks or deficiencies in our or related parties’ cyber security.

Given our limited operating history, we are still in the process of implementing our internal security measures. Our internal computer systems and those of current and future third parties on which we rely may fail and are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses and unauthorized access. Our information technology and other internal infrastructure systems, including corporate firewalls, servers, leased lines and connection to the Internet, face the risk of systemic failure that could disrupt our operations. While we have not, to our knowledge, experienced any such material system failure 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. Likewise, we currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the manufacture of our product candidate or any future product candidates and to conduct clinical trials, and similar events relating to their computer systems could also have a material adverse effect on our business. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were 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, our competitive position could be harmed and the further development and commercialization of our product candidate or any future product candidates could be hindered or delayed.

Business or economic disruptions or global health concerns could seriously harm our development efforts and increase our costs and expenses.

Broad-based business or economic disruptions could adversely affect our ongoing or planned research and development activities. For example, in December 2019 an outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and has since spread to a number of other countries, including the United States. To date, this outbreak has already resulted in extended shutdowns of certain businesses in the Wuhan region and has had ripple effects to businesses around the world. Global health concerns, such as coronavirus, could also result in social, economic, and labor instability in the countries in which we or the third parties with whom we engage operate. We cannot presently predict the scope and severity of any potential business shutdowns or disruptions, but if we or any of the third parties with whom we engage, including the suppliers, clinical trial sites, regulators and other third parties with whom we conduct business, were to experience shutdowns or other business disruptions, our ability to conduct our business in the

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manner and on the timelines presently planned could be materially and negatively impacted.  It is also possible that global health concerns such as this one could disproportionately impact the hospitals and clinical sites in which we conduct any of our clinical trials, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and our results of operation and financial condition.

Changes in tax laws could adversely affect our business and financial condition.

The rules dealing with U.S. federal, state and local income taxation are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department.  Changes to tax laws (which changes may have retroactive application) could adversely affect us or holders of our common stock. In recent years, many such changes have been made and changes are likely to continue to occur in the future. For example, the ‘‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,’’ or the Tax Act, significantly revised the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code. The Tax Act, among other things, included a reduction of the corporate tax rate from a top marginal rate of 35% to a flat rate of 21%, a limitation of the tax deduction for net interest expense to 30% of adjusted earnings (except for certain small businesses), a limitation of the deduction for net operating losses to 80% of current year taxable income and an elimination of net operating loss carrybacks, in each case, for losses generated after December 31, 2017 (though any such net operating losses may be carried forward indefinitely), and the modification or repeal of many business deductions and credits (including a reduction to the business tax credit for certain clinical testing expenses incurred in the testing of certain drugs for rare diseases or conditions generally referred to as ‘‘orphan drugs’’). Future changes in tax laws could have a material adverse effect on our business, cash flow, financial condition or results of operations. We urge investors to consult with their legal and tax advisers regarding the implications of potential changes in tax laws on an investment in our common stock.

We might not be able to utilize a significant portion of our net operating loss carryforwards and research and development tax credit carryforwards.

As of December 31, 2019, we had federal and state net operating loss, or NOL, carryforwards of $51.1 million and $10.2 million, respectively, and federal and state research and development tax credit carryforwards of $1.1 million and $0.2 million, respectively. If not utilized, such NOL carryforwards (other than any federal NOL carryforwards arising in taxable years ending after December 31, 2017) and research and development credits will expire at various dates beginning in 2037 and 2032, respectively. We do not anticipate generating revenue from sales of products for the foreseeable future, if ever, and we may never achieve profitability. These NOL and tax credit carryforwards could expire unused and be unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities. Under the Tax Act, NOL carryforwards generated in tax years ending after December 31, 2017 are not subject to expiration. However, utilization of NOL carryforwards generated in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017 are limited to a maximum of 80% of the taxable income for such year determined without regard to such NOL carryforwards. In addition, under Section 382 of the Code, the amount of benefits from our NOL carryforwards may be impaired or limited if we incur a cumulative ownership change of more than 50%, as interpreted by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, over a three-year period. We experienced ownership changes on March 24, 2017 and on June 7, 2018 as a result of pre-IPO financing activities and we may experience ownership changes again in the future, some of which may be outside our control. As a result, our use of federal NOL carryforwards could be limited. State NOL carryforwards may be similarly limited. Any such disallowances may result in greater tax liabilities than we would incur in the absence of such a limitation and any increased liabilities could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial position and cash flows.

We use and generate materials that may expose us to material liability.

Our research programs involve the use of hazardous materials and chemicals, which are currently only handled by third parties. We are subject to foreign, federal, state and local environmental and health and safety laws and regulations governing, among other matters, the use, manufacture, handling, storage and disposal of hazardous materials and waste products. We may incur significant costs to comply with these current or future environmental and health and safety laws and regulations. In addition, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from hazardous materials and may incur material liability as a result of such contamination or injury. In the event of an accident, an injured party may seek to hold us liable for any damages that result. Any liability could exceed the limits or fall outside the coverage of our workers’ compensation, property and business interruption insurance and we may not be

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able to maintain insurance on acceptable terms, if at all. We currently carry no insurance specifically covering environmental claims.

Risks related to government regulation

The regulatory approval processes of the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities are lengthy, time-consuming and inherently unpredictable. Our inability to obtain regulatory approval for AKR-001 or any future product candidate would substantially harm our business.

The time required to obtain approval from the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities is unpredictable but typically takes many years following the commencement of nonclinical studies and clinical trials and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of regulatory authorities. In addition, approval policies, regulations or the type and amount of clinical data necessary to gain approval may change during the course of a product candidate’s development and may vary among jurisdictions. For example, in December 2018, the FDA published draft guidance regarding NASH clinical development on which we relied, in part, in designing our Phase 2a clinical trial of AKR-001 in that indication. However, this guidance is not yet final and is subject to change, and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may adopt new or contradictory guidance in the future.

AKR-001 or our future product candidates could fail to receive regulatory approval from the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority for many reasons, including:

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disagreement with the design or implementation of our clinical trials;

·

failure to demonstrate that a product candidate is safe and effective for its proposed indication;

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failure of clinical trials to meet the level of statistical significance required for approval;

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failure to demonstrate that a product candidate’s clinical and other benefits outweigh its safety risks;

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disagreement with our interpretation of data from nonclinical studies or clinical trials;

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the insufficiency of data collected from clinical trials of our product candidate or any future product candidates to obtain regulatory approval;

·

failure to obtain approval of the manufacturing processes or facilities of third-party manufacturers with whom we contract for clinical and commercial supplies; or

·

changes in the approval policies or regulations that render our nonclinical and clinical data insufficient for approval.

 

The FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority may require more information, including additional nonclinical or clinical data to support approval, which may delay or prevent approval and our commercialization plans, or we may decide to abandon the development program for other reasons. If we were to obtain approval, regulatory authorities may approve any of our product candidate or any future product candidates for fewer or more limited indications than we request, may require labeling or a Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, that includes significant use or distribution restrictions or safety warnings, precautions, or contraindications, may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials or may approve a product candidate with a label that does not include the labeling claims necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of that product candidate.

Failures or delays in the commencement or completion of, or ambiguous or negative results from, our planned clinical trials of our product candidates could result in increased costs to us and could delay, prevent, or limit our ability to generate revenue and continue our business.

We do not know whether our Phase 2a clinical trial will be completed or any future clinical trials will begin or be completed on schedule, if at all, as the commencement and completion of clinical trials can be delayed or prevented for a number of reasons, including, among others:

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the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may not authorize us or our investigators to commence our planned clinical trials or any other clinical trials we may initiate, or may suspend our clinical trials, for

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example, through imposition of a clinical hold, and may request additional data to permit allowance of our investigational new drug, or IND;

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delays in filing or receiving allowance of additional IND applications that may be required;

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lack of adequate funding to continue our clinical trials and nonclinical studies;

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negative results from our ongoing nonclinical studies;

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delays in reaching or failing to reach agreement on acceptable terms with prospective CROs and clinical study sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and study sites;

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inadequate quantity or quality of a product candidate or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials, for example delays in the manufacturing of sufficient supply of finished drug product;

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difficulties obtaining ethics committee or Institutional Review Board, or IRB, approval to conduct a clinical study at a prospective site or sites;

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challenges in recruiting and enrolling subjects to participate in clinical trials, the proximity of subjects to study sites, eligibility criteria for the clinical study, the nature of the clinical study protocol, the availability of approved effective treatments for the relevant disease, and competition from other clinical study programs for similar indications;

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severe or unexpected drug-related side effects experienced by subjects in a clinical trial;

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we may decide, or regulatory authorities may require us, to conduct additional nonclinical or clinical trials or abandon product development programs;

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delays in validating, or inability to validate, any endpoints utilized in a clinical trial;

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the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may disagree with our clinical study design and our interpretation of data from clinical trials, or may change the requirements for approval even after it has reviewed and commented on the design for our clinical trials; and

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difficulties retaining subjects who have enrolled in a clinical trial but may be prone to withdraw due to rigors of the clinical trials, lack of efficacy, side effects, personal issues, or loss of interest.

 

Clinical trials may also be delayed or terminated as a result of ambiguous or negative interim results. In addition, a clinical study may be suspended or terminated by us, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, the IRBs at the sites where the IRBs are overseeing a clinical study, a data and safety monitoring board, or DSMB, overseeing the clinical study at issue or other regulatory authorities due to a number of factors, including, among others;

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failure to conduct the clinical study in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols;

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inspection of the clinical study operations or study sites by the FDA or other regulatory authorities that reveals deficiencies or violations that require us to undertake corrective action, including in response to the imposition of a clinical hold;

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unforeseen safety issues or safety signals, including any that could be identified in our ongoing nonclinical studies or clinical trials, adverse side effects or lack of effectiveness;

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changes in government regulations or administrative actions;

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problems with clinical supply materials; and

·

lack of adequate funding to continue clinical trials.

 

Any inability to successfully complete nonclinical and clinical development could result in additional costs to us or impair our ability to generate revenue. In addition, if we make changes to a product candidate, such as changes to the formulation, we may need to conduct additional nonclinical studies or clinical trials to bridge or demonstrate the comparability of our modified product candidate to earlier versions, which could delay our clinical development plan or marketing approval for our current product candidate and any future product candidates. Clinical trial delays could also shorten any periods during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates or allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, which could impair our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates and may harm our business and results of operations.

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We have no experience in conducting clinical trials and have never obtained approval for any product candidates, and may be unable to do so successfully.

As a company, other than our ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial, we have no experience in designing, conducting or completing clinical trials and have never progressed a product candidate through to regulatory approval. In part because of this lack of experience, our clinical trials may require more time and incur greater costs than we anticipate. We cannot be certain that the planned clinical trials will begin or conclude on time, if at all. Large-scale trials will require significant additional financial and management resources. Any performance failure on the part of such third parties could delay the clinical development of our product candidate or any future product candidates or delay or prevent us from obtaining regulatory approval or commercializing our current or any future product candidates, depriving us of potential product revenue and resulting in additional losses. 

The advancement of healthcare reform may negatively impact our ability to profitably sell our product candidate or any future product candidates, if approved.

The United States and many foreign jurisdictions have enacted or proposed legislative and regulatory changes affecting the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of our product candidate or any future product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities and affect our ability to profitably sell any product for which we obtain marketing approval. Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements; (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling; (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products; or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements.

In March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or collectively, the Affordable Care Act, was enacted, which includes measures that have significantly changed the way health care is financed by both governmental and private insurers. Since its enactment, there have been numerous judicial, administrative, executive, and  legislative challenges to certain aspects of the ACA, and we expect there will be additional challenges and amendments to the ACA in the future. For example, various portions of the ACA are currently undergoing legal and constitutional challenges in the Fifth Circuit Court and the United States Supreme Court, and the Trump Administration has issued various Executive Orders which eliminated cost sharing subsidies and various provisions that would impose a fiscal burden on states or a cost, fee, tax, penalty or regulatory burden on individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. Additionally, Congress has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at significantly revising or repealing the ACA. It is unclear whether the ACA will be overturned, repealed, replaced, or further amended. We cannot predict what affect further changes to the ACA would have on our business.

In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. In August 2011, President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act of 2011, which, among other things, created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to recommend to Congress proposals in spending reductions. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction did not achieve a targeted deficit reduction, which triggered the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers of, on average, 2% per fiscal year through 2025 unless Congress takes additional action. These reductions were extended through 2029. In January 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.

Recently, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. At the federal level, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 contain further drug price control measures that could be enacted during the budget process or in other future legislation, including, for example, measures to permit Medicare

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

We expect that the healthcare reform measures that have been adopted and may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved product and could seriously harm our future revenues. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private third-party payors.

Additionally, in December 2019, the FDA issued a draft guidance document outlining a potential pathway for manufacturers to obtain an additional National Drug Code, or NDC, for an FDA-approved drug that was originally intended to be marketed in a foreign country and that was authorized for sale in that foreign country. The regulatory and market implications of the draft guidance are unknown at this time. 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 products that we may develop and adversely affect our future revenues and prospects for profitability.

Further, on May 30, 2018, the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017, or the Right to Try Act, was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to request access to certain investigational new drug products that have completed a Phase I clinical trial and that are undergoing investigation for FDA approval. Under certain circumstances, eligible patients can seek treatment without enrolling in clinical trials and without obtaining FDA permission under the FDA expanded access program. There is no obligation for a pharmaceutical manufacturer to make its drug products available to eligible patients as a result of the Right to Try Act.

There have been, and likely will continue to be, legislative and regulatory proposals at the foreign, federal and state levels directed at broadening the availability of healthcare and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability, or commercialize our product. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenue from product candidates that we may successfully develop and for which we may obtain regulatory approval and may affect our overall financial condition and ability to develop product candidates.

Our relationships with customers and third-party payors will be subject to applicable anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, transparency and other healthcare laws and regulations, which, if violated, could expose us to criminal sanctions, civil penalties, contractual damages, reputational harm, administrative burdens and diminished profits and future earnings.

Healthcare providers, physicians and third-party payors will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. Our current and future arrangements with healthcare providers, 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

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which we research, and if approved, market, sell and distribute our products. Restrictions under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, include the following:

·

the federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits persons from, among other things, 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, the referral of an individual for the furnishing or arranging for the furnishing, or the purchase, lease or order, or arranging for or recommending purchase, lease or order, of any good or service for which payment may be made under a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare and Medicaid;

·

federal civil and criminal false claims laws and civil monetary penalty laws, including the federal False Claims Act, which can be enforced through civil whistleblower or qui tam actions, prohibit individuals or entities from, among other things knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the federal government or a government contractor, grantee, or other recipient of federal funds, 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, or HIPAA, imposes criminal liability for knowingly and willfully executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, knowingly and willfully embezzling or stealing from a healthcare benefit program, willfully obstructing a criminal investigation of a healthcare offense or knowingly and willfully making false statements relating to healthcare matters;

·

HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, and their implementing regulations, imposes obligations on certain healthcare providers, health plans and healthcare clearinghouses, known as covered entities, as well as their business associates, which are individuals and entities that perform certain services involving the use or disclosure of individually identifiable health information, including mandatory contractual terms, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information;

·

the federal Open Payments program, created under Section 6002 of the Affordable Care Act and its implementing regulations, requires manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (with certain exceptions) to report annually to CMS information related to “payments or other transfers of value” made to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by physicians (as defined above) and their immediate family members.  Effective January 1, 2022, these reporting obligations will extend to include transfers of value made to certain non-physician providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners; and

·

analogous state, local, and foreign laws and regulations, such as state anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by non-governmental third-party payors, including private insurers; state and foreign laws that require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government or otherwise restrict payments that may be made to healthcare providers; state and foreign laws that require drug manufacturers to report information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians and other healthcare providers, marketing expenditures or drug prices; state and local laws that require the registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives; and state and foreign laws that govern the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.

 

Efforts to ensure that our business arrangements with third parties 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 interpreting 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, disgorgement, imprisonment, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, integrity oversight and reporting obligations, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. If any of the physicians or other healthcare providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found

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not to be in compliance with applicable laws, that person or entity may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs.

Failure to comply with health and data protection laws and regulations could lead to government enforcement actions (which could include civil or criminal penalties), private litigation, and/or adverse publicity and could negatively affect our operating results and business.

We and any potential collaborators may be subject to federal, state, and foreign data protection laws and regulations (i.e., laws and regulations that address privacy and data security). In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including federal health information privacy laws, state data breach notification laws, state health information privacy laws, and federal and state consumer protection laws (e.g., Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”)), that govern the collection, use, disclosure and protection of health-related and other personal information could apply to our operations or the operations of our collaborators. The state of California, for example, recently adopted the CCPA, which went into effect beginning in January 2020. The CCPA has been characterized as the first “GDPR-like” privacy statute to be enacted in the United States because it mirrors a number of the key provisions of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) (discussed below in the European Data Collection subsection). The CCPA establishes a new privacy framework for covered businesses by creating an expanded definition of personal information, establishing new data privacy rights for consumers in the State of California, imposing special rules on the collection of consumer data from minors, and creating a new and potentially severe statutory damages framework for violations of the CCPA and for businesses that fail to implement reasonable security procedures and practices to prevent data breaches. In addition, we may obtain health information from third parties (including research institutions from which we obtain clinical trial data) that are subject to privacy and security requirements under HIPAA, as amended by HITECH. While there is currently an exception for protected health information that is subject to HIPAA and clinical trial regulations, as currently written, the CCPA may impact some of our business activities. Depending on the facts and circumstances, we could be subject to civil, criminal, and administrative penalties if we knowingly obtain, use, or disclose individually identifiable health information maintained by a HIPAA-covered entity in a manner that is not authorized or permitted by HIPAA.

Compliance with U.S. and international data protection laws and regulations, including the EU GDPR and other EU data protection laws could require us to take on more onerous obligations in our contracts, restrict our ability to collect, use and disclose data, or in some cases, impact our ability to operate in certain jurisdictions. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations could result in government enforcement actions (which could include civil, criminal and administrative penalties), private litigation, and/or adverse publicity and could negatively affect our operating results and business. Moreover, clinical trial subjects, employees and other individuals about whom we or our potential collaborators obtain personal information, as well as the providers who share this information with us, may limit our ability to collect, use and disclose the information. Claims that we have violated individuals’ privacy rights, failed to comply with data protection laws, or breached our contractual obligations, even if we are not found liable, could be expensive and time-consuming to defend and could result in adverse publicity that could harm our business.

In the event we decide to conduct clinical trials or continue to enroll subjects in our ongoing or future clinical trials, we may be subject to additional privacy restrictions. The collection, use, storage, disclosure, transfer, or other processing of personal data regarding individuals in the EU, including personal health data, is subject to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which became effective on May 25, 2018. The GDPR is wide-ranging in scope and imposes numerous requirements on companies that process personal data, including requirements relating to processing health and other sensitive data, obtaining consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, providing information to individuals regarding data processing activities, implementing safeguards to protect the security and confidentiality of personal data, providing notification of data breaches, and taking certain measures when engaging third-party processors. The GDPR also imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data to countries outside the EU, including the United States, and permits data protection authorities to impose large penalties for violations of the GDPR, including potential fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual global revenues, whichever is greater. The GDPR also confers a private right of action on data subjects and consumer associations to lodge complaints with supervisory authorities, seek judicial remedies, and obtain compensation for damages resulting from violations of the GDPR. In addition, the GDPR includes restrictions on cross-border data transfers. The GDPR may increase our responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process where such processing is subject to the GDPR, and we may be

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required to put in place additional mechanisms to ensure compliance with the GDPR, including as implemented by individual countries. Compliance with the GDPR will be a rigorous and time-intensive process that may increase our cost of doing business or require us to change our business practices, and despite those efforts, there is a risk that we may be subject to fines and penalties, litigation, and reputational harm in connection with our European activities. Further, the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, often referred to as Brexit, has created uncertainty with regard to data protection regulation in the United Kingdom. In particular, it is unclear how data transfers to and from the United Kingdom will be regulated now that the United Kingdom has officially left the EU.

Governments outside the United States tend to impose strict price controls, which may adversely affect our revenue, 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. In addition, there can be considerable pressure by governments and other stakeholders on prices and reimbursement levels, including as part of cost containment measures. Political, economic and regulatory developments may further complicate pricing negotiations. To obtain coverage and reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost-effectiveness of our drug candidate to other available procedures. If reimbursement of our drugs is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business could be harmed, possibly materially.

Clinical development is uncertain and our clinical trials for AKR-001 and any future product candidates may experience delays, which would adversely affect our ability to obtain regulatory approvals or commercialize these programs on a timely basis or at all, which would have an adverse effect on our business.

We cannot be sure that we will be able to continue development of AKR-001, or submit INDs or similar applications for any future product candidates, on the timelines we expect, if at all. To proceed with our development plans and ultimately commercialization, we may need to conduct and meet regulatory requirements for additional preclinical studies and clinical trials. We cannot be certain of the timely completion or outcomes of our preclinical testing and studies and cannot predict if the FDA or other regulatory authorities will accept our proposed clinical programs or if the outcomes of our preclinical studies and clinical trials will enable any future clinical trials to begin under a proposed protocol.

Even if we are able to obtain regulatory approvals for our product candidate or any future product candidates, if they exhibit harmful side effects after approval, our regulatory approvals could be revoked or otherwise negatively impacted, and we could be subject to costly and damaging product liability claims.

Clinical trials are conducted in representative samples of the potential patient population which may have significant variability. Even if we receive regulatory approval for AKR-001 or any of our future product candidates, we will have tested them in only a small number of patients during our clinical trials. Clinical trials are by design based on a limited number of subjects and of limited duration for exposure to the product used to determine whether, on a potentially statistically significant basis, the planned safety and efficacy of any product candidate can be achieved. As with the results of any statistical sampling, we cannot be sure that all side effects of our product candidates may be uncovered, and it may be the case that only with a significantly larger number of patients exposed to the product candidate for a longer duration, may a more complete safety profile be identified. Further, even larger clinical trials may not identify rare serious adverse effects or the duration of such studies may not be sufficient to identify when those events may occur. If our applications for marketing are approved and more patients begin to use our product, new risks and side effects associated with our products may be discovered. There have been other products that have been approved by the regulatory authorities but for which safety concerns have been uncovered following approval. Such safety concerns have led to labelling changes or withdrawal of products from the market, and any of our product candidates may be subject to similar risks. Additionally, we may be required to conduct additional nonclinical and clinical trials, require additional warnings on the label of our product, reformulate our product or make changes, create a medication guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients and obtain new approvals for our and our suppliers’ manufacturing facilities for AKR-001 and any future product candidates. We might have to withdraw or recall our products from the marketplace. We may also experience a significant drop in the potential sales of our product

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if and when regulatory approvals for such product are obtained, experience harm to our reputation in the marketplace or become subject to lawsuits, including class actions. Any of these results could decrease or prevent any sales of our approved product or substantially increase the costs and expenses of commercializing and marketing our product.

Even if our current product candidate or any future product candidates receive regulatory approval, they will remain subject to extensive regulatory scrutiny and may still face future development and regulatory difficulties.

Even if we obtained regulatory approval for a product candidate, regulatory authorities may still impose significant restrictions on our product candidates, including their indicated uses or marketing, or impose ongoing requirements for potentially costly post-approval studies. For example, if AKR-001 is approved by the FDA based on a surrogate endpoint pursuant to accelerated approval regulations (also referred to as Subpart E regulations), we will be required to conduct additional confirmatory clinical trials demonstrating the clinical benefit on the ultimate outcome of NASH. Further, even if we obtained regulatory approval for a product candidate, it would be subject to ongoing requirements by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities governing the manufacture, quality control, further development, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, safety surveillance, import, export, advertising, promotion, recordkeeping and reporting of safety and other post-market information.

The FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities will continue to closely monitor the safety profile of any product even after approval. If the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities become aware of new safety information after approval of our product candidate or any future product candidates, they may require labeling changes or establishment of a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy or similar strategy, impose significant restrictions on a product’s indicated uses or marketing or impose ongoing requirements for potentially costly post-approval studies or post-market surveillance.

In addition, manufacturers of drug products and their facilities are subject to continual review and periodic inspections by the FDA and other regulatory authorities for compliance with cGMP, regulations and standards. If we or a regulatory agency discover previously unknown problems with a product, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facility where the product is manufactured, a regulatory agency may impose restrictions on that product, the manufacturing facility or us, including requiring recall or withdrawal of the product from the market or suspension of manufacturing. If we, our product candidate or any future product candidates or the manufacturing facilities for our product candidate or any future product candidates fail to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, or undesirable side effects caused by such products are identified, a regulatory agency may:

·

issue safety alerts, Dear Healthcare Provider letters, press releases or other communications containing warnings about such product;

·

mandate modifications to promotional materials or require us to provide corrective information to healthcare practitioners;

·

require that we conduct post-marketing studies;

·

require us to enter into a consent decree, which can include imposition of various fines, reimbursements for inspection costs, required due dates for specific actions and penalties for noncompliance;

·

seek an injunction or impose civil or criminal penalties or monetary fines;

·

suspend marketing of, withdraw regulatory approval of or recall such product;

·

suspend any ongoing clinical trials;

·

refuse to approve pending applications or supplements to applications filed by us;

·

suspend or impose restrictions on operations, including costly new manufacturing requirements; or

·

seize or detain products, refuse to permit the import or export of products or require us to initiate a product recall.

 

The occurrence of any event or penalty described above may inhibit our ability to commercialize our product and generate revenue.

Advertising and promotion of any product candidate that obtains approval in the United States will be heavily scrutinized by the FDA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector

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General, state attorneys general, members of Congress and the public. Violations, including promotion of our products for unapproved (or off-label) uses, are subject to enforcement letters, inquiries and investigations, and civil and criminal sanctions by the government. Additionally, comparable foreign regulatory authorities will heavily scrutinize advertising and promotion of any product candidate that obtains approval outside of the United States.

In the United States, engaging in the impermissible promotion of our products for off-label uses can also subject us to false claims litigation under federal and state statutes, which can lead to civil and criminal penalties and fines and agreements that materially restrict the manner in which a company promotes or distributes drug products. These false claims statutes include the federal False Claims Act, which allows any individual to bring a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company on behalf of the federal government alleging submission of false or fraudulent claims, or causing to present such false or fraudulent claims, for payment by a federal program such as Medicare or Medicaid. If the government prevails in the lawsuit, the individual will share in any fines or settlement funds. Since 2004, these federal False Claims Act lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies have increased significantly in volume and breadth, leading to several substantial civil and criminal settlements regarding certain sales practices promoting off-label drug uses involving fines in excess of $1 billion. This growth in litigation has increased the risk that a pharmaceutical company will have to defend a false claim action, pay settlement fines or restitution, agree to comply with burdensome reporting and compliance obligations and be excluded from Medicare, Medicaid and other federal and state healthcare programs. If we do not lawfully promote our approved products, we may become subject to such litigation and, if we do not successfully defend against such actions, those actions may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The FDA’s policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidate or any future product candidates. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained, which would adversely affect our business, prospects and ability to achieve or sustain profitability.

Healthcare insurance coverage and reimbursement may be limited or unavailable for our product candidate, if approved, which could make it difficult for us to sell our product candidate or other therapies profitably.

The success of our product candidate, if approved, depends on the availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors including governmental healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, commercial payors, and health maintenance organizations. We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for, or accurately estimate the potential revenue from, our product candidates or assure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for any product that we may develop.

Patients who are provided medical treatment for their conditions generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with their treatment. Coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors is critical to new product acceptance.

Third-party payors decide which drugs and treatments they will cover and the amount of reimbursement. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that use of a product is:

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a covered benefit under its health plan;

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safe, effective and medically necessary;

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appropriate for the specific patient;

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cost-effective; and

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neither experimental nor investigational.

 

In the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors. As a result, obtaining coverage and reimbursement approval of a product from a third-party payor is a time consuming and costly process that could require us to provide to each payor supporting scientific, clinical and cost effectiveness data for the use of our products on a payor-by-payor basis, with no assurance that coverage and adequate

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reimbursement will be obtained. There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. In the United States, the principal decisions about reimbursement for new medicines are typically made by CMS, an agency within HHS, as CMS decides whether and to what extent a new medicine will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare. Private third-party payors tend to follow Medicare coverage and reimbursement limitations to a substantial degree, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Even if we obtain coverage for a given product, the resulting reimbursement payment rates might not be adequate for us to achieve or sustain profitability or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high.

Our failure to obtain regulatory approval in international jurisdictions would prevent us from marketing our product candidate or any future product candidates outside the United States.

We intend to market any approved products in the United States, the European Union, Japan and other foreign jurisdictions. Even if our products are approved for marketing in the United States, in order to market and sell our products in other jurisdictions, we must obtain separate marketing approvals and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements. The approval procedure varies among countries and can involve additional testing. The time required to obtain approval may differ substantially from that required to obtain FDA approval. The regulatory approval process outside the United States generally includes all of the risks associated with obtaining FDA approval. In addition, in many countries outside the United States, we must secure product reimbursement approvals before regulatory authorities will approve the product for sale in that country. Obtaining foreign regulatory approvals and compliance with foreign regulatory requirements could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in certain countries. Further, clinical trials conducted in one country may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other countries and regulatory approval in one country does not ensure approval in any other country, while a failure or delay in obtaining regulatory approval in one country may have a negative effect on the regulatory approval process in others.

Also, regulatory approval for our product candidate or any future product candidates may be withdrawn if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements, if problems occur after the product candidate reaches the market or for other reasons. If we fail to comply with the regulatory requirements in international markets and fail to receive applicable marketing approvals, our target market will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of our product candidate or any future product candidates will be harmed and our business will be adversely affected. We may not obtain foreign regulatory approvals on a timely basis, if at all. Approval by the FDA does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions. Approval by one regulatory authority outside the United States does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions or by the FDA. If we fail to obtain approval of our product candidate or any future product candidates by regulatory authorities in another country, we will be unable to commercialize our product in that country, and the commercial prospects of that product candidate and our business prospects could decline.

Our activities in the United States subject us to various laws relating to foreign investment and the export of certain technologies, and our failure to comply with these laws or adequately monitor the compliance of our suppliers and others we do business with could subject us to substantial fines, penalties and even injunctions, the imposition of which on us could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.

Because we have substantial operations in the United States, we are subject to U.S. laws that regulate foreign investments in U.S. businesses and access by foreign persons to technology developed and produced in the United States. These laws include Section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended by the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018, and the regulations at 31 C.F.R. Parts 800 and 801, as amended, administered by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States; and the Export Control Reform Act of 2018, which is being implemented in part through Commerce Department rulemakings to impose new export control restrictions on “emerging and foundational technologies” yet to be fully identified. Application of these laws, including as they are implemented through regulations being developed, may negatively impact our business in various ways, including by restricting our access to capital and markets; limiting the collaborations we may pursue; regulating the export our products, services, and technology from the United States and abroad; increasing our costs and the time necessary to obtain required authorizations and to ensure compliance; and threatening monetary fines and other penalties if we do not.

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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, or FCPA, 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 collaborators 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 to sell our products sell our products outside the United States, to conduct clinical trials, 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 collaborators, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have actual knowledge of such activities. Any 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.

Changes in funding for the FDA, the SEC and other government agencies could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, prevent new or existing product candidates from being developed or commercialized in a timely manner or otherwise prevent those agencies from performing normal functions on which the operation of our business may rely, which could negatively impact our business.

The ability of the FDA to review and approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept payment of user fees, and statutory, regulatory, and policy changes. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of the SEC and other government agencies on which our operations may rely, including those that fund research and development activities is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable.

Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new drugs to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the SEC, have had to furlough critical FDA, SEC and other government employees and stop critical activities. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Further, in our operations as a public company, future government shutdowns could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.

Risks related to our intellectual property

Our success depends upon our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection for our products and technologies. It is difficult and costly to protect our proprietary rights and technology, and we may not be able to ensure their protection.

Our success will depend in significant part on our and our current or future licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ ability to establish and maintain adequate protection of our intellectual property covering the product candidates we plan to develop, and the ability to develop these product candidates and commercialize the products resulting therefrom, without infringing the intellectual property rights of others. We strive to protect and enhance the proprietary technologies that we believe are important to our business, including seeking patents intended to cover our

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products and compositions, their methods of use, and any other inventions that are important to the development of our business. In addition to taking other steps to protect our intellectual property, we have applied for, and intend to continue to apply for, patents with claims covering our technologies, processes and product candidates when and where we deem it appropriate to do so. Our in-licensed patents and patent applications in both United States and certain foreign jurisdictions relate to AKR-001 and related Fc-fusion polypeptides. There can be no assurance that the claims of our patents or any patent application that issues as a patent, will exclude others from making, using or selling our product candidate or any future product candidates or products that are substantially similar to our product candidate or any future product candidates. We also rely on trade secrets to protect aspects of our business that are not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection. In countries where we have not and do not seek patent protection, third parties may be able to manufacture and sell our product candidate or any future product candidates without our permission, and we may not be able to stop them from doing so.

With respect to patent rights, we do not know whether any of the pending patent applications for our product candidate or any future product candidates will result in the issuance of patents that effectively protect our technologies, processes and product candidates, or if any of our issued patents or our current or future licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ issued patents will effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies, processes and products. Publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing or in some cases not at all, until they are issued as a patent. Therefore, we cannot be certain that we or our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators were the first to make or file on the inventions claimed in our owned or licensed patents or pending patent applications, or that we or our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions. There is also no assurance that all of the potentially relevant prior art relating to our patents and patent applications has been found, which could be used by a third party to challenge the validity of our patents, should they issue, or prevent a patent from issuing from a pending patent application. Any of the foregoing could harm our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.

Any changes we make to our product candidate or any future product candidates, including formulations that may be required for commercialization, or that cause them to have what we view as more advantageous properties may not be covered by our existing patents and patent applications, and we may be required to file new applications and/or seek other forms of protection for any such altered product candidates. The patent landscape surrounding the technology underlying our product candidate or any future product candidates is crowded, and there can be no assurance that we would be able to secure patent protection that would adequately cover an alternative to our product candidate or any future product candidates.

The patent prosecution process is expensive and time-consuming, and we and our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators 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 current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators 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 for them. Moreover, in some circumstances, we may not have the right to control the preparation, filing and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain or enforce the patents, covering technology that we license from or license to third parties and may be reliant on our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators to perform these activities, which means that these patent applications may not be prosecuted, and these patents enforced, in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business. If our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators fail to establish, maintain, protect or enforce such patents and other intellectual property rights, such rights may be reduced or eliminated. If our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators are not fully cooperative or disagree with us as to the prosecution, maintenance or enforcement of any patent rights, such patent rights could be compromised.

The patent positions of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, including our patent position, involve complex legal and factual questions, which in recent years have been the subject of much litigation, and, therefore, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability, and commercial value of any patent claims that we have rights or may obtain cannot be predicted with certainty. No consistent policy regarding the breadth of claims allowed in biotechnology and pharmaceutical patents has emerged to date in the United States or in many foreign jurisdictions. Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of our

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patents or narrow the scope of our patent protection. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our and our current or future licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ patent rights are highly uncertain. Our and our current or future licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued that protect our technology or product candidates, or products resulting therefrom, in whole or in part, or that effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and products. The patent examination process may require us or our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators to narrow the scope of the claims of pending and future patent applications, which would limit the scope of patent protection that is obtained, if any. Our and our current or future licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties practicing the technology that is currently claimed in such applications unless and until a patent issues from such applications, and then only to the extent the claims that issue are broad enough to cover the technology being practiced by third parties.

Furthermore, given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after the resulting products are commercialized. As a result, our owned and in-licensed patents may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours. We expect to seek extensions of patent terms for our issued patents, where available. This includes in the United States under the Hatch-Waxman Act, which permits a patent term extension of up to five years beyond the original expiration date of the patent as compensation for regulatory delays. However, such a patent term extension cannot lengthen the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date. Only one patent applicable to an approved drug is eligible for the extension and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent and within 60 days of product approval. During the period of patent term extension, the claims of a patent are not enforceable for their full scope but are instead limited to the scope of the approved product. In addition, the applicable authorities, including the FDA in the United States, and any equivalent regulatory authority in other countries, may not agree with our assessment of whether such extensions are available, and may refuse to grant extensions to our patents, or may grant more limited extensions than we request. In addition, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failing to apply within applicable deadlines, failing to apply prior to the expiration of relevant patents or otherwise failing to satisfy applicable requirements. If this occurs, any period during which we have the right to exclusively market our product will be shorter than we would otherwise expect, and our competitors may obtain approval of and launch products earlier than might otherwise be the case.

If we breach our license agreement with Amgen related to AKR-001, we could lose the ability to continue the development and commercialization of AKR-001.

We are dependent on patents, know-how and proprietary technology in-licensed from Amgen. Our commercial success depends upon our ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidate or any future product candidates and use our and our licensor’s proprietary technologies without infringing the proprietary rights of third parties. Amgen may have the right to terminate the license agreement in full in the event we materially breach or default in the performance of any of the obligations under the license agreement. A termination of the license agreement with Amgen could result in the loss of significant rights and could harm our ability to commercialize our product candidates.

Disputes may also arise between us and Amgen, as well as any future potential licensors, regarding intellectual property subject to a license agreement, including:

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

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

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

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our diligence obligations with respect to the use of the licensed technology in relation to our development and commercialization of our product candidate and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations; and

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

 

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If disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangements on acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates.

In addition, the Amgen Agreement under which we currently license intellectual property is complex, and certain provisions may be susceptible to multiple interpretations. The resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement that may arise could narrow what we believe to be the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property, or increase what we believe to be our financial or other obligations under the Amgen Agreement, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Moreover, if disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangement on commercially acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.

We are generally also subject to all of the same risks with respect to protection of intellectual property that we license, as we are for intellectual property that we own, which are described below. If we or our licensors fail to adequately protect this intellectual property, our ability to commercialize products could suffer.

Patent terms may be inadequate to protect our competitive position on our product candidate or any future product candidates for an adequate amount of time.

Patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, if all maintenance fees are timely paid, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years from its earliest U.S. non-provisional filing date. Various extensions may be available, but the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. A number of U.S. patents directed to various aspects of AKR-001 will expire in 2029; we currently anticipate that a composition of matter patent will be eligible for patent term extension to 2034. Even if patents covering our product candidate or any future product candidate are obtained, once the patent life has expired, we may be open to competition from competitive products. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting our product candidate or any future product candidate might expire before or shortly after we or our partners commercialize those candidates. As a result, our owned and licensed patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.

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

The legal protection afforded to inventors and owners of intellectual property in countries outside of the United States may not be as protective or effective as that in the United States and we may, therefore, be unable to acquire and enforce intellectual property rights outside the United States to the same extent as in the United States. Whether filed in the United States or abroad, our patent applications may be challenged or may fail to result in issued patents.

In addition, our existing patents and any future patents we obtain may not be sufficiently broad to prevent others from practicing our technologies or from developing or commercializing competing products. Furthermore, others may independently develop or commercialize similar or alternative technologies or drugs, or design around our patents. Our patents may be challenged, invalidated, circumvented or narrowed, or fail to provide us with any competitive advantages. In many foreign countries, patent applications and/or issued patents, or parts thereof, must be translated into the native language. If our patent applications or issued patents are translated incorrectly, they may not adequately cover our technologies; in some countries, it may not be possible to rectify an incorrect translation, which may result in patent protection that does not adequately cover our technologies in those countries.

Filing, prosecuting, enforcing and defending patents on product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States are less extensive than those in the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and certain state laws in the United States. Consequently, we and our licensor may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our and our licensor’s inventions in all countries outside the United States, or from selling or importing products made using our and our licensor’s inventions in and into the

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United States or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our and our licensor’s technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we and our licensor have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our product candidate or any future product candidates and our and our licensor’s patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.

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

The requirements for patentability differ in certain countries, particularly developing countries. For example, China has a heightened requirement for patentability and, specifically, requires a detailed description of medical uses of a claimed drug. In addition, India, certain countries in Europe and certain developing countries, including Thailand, have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties. In those countries, we and our licensor may have limited remedies if patents are infringed or if we or our licensor are compelled to grant a license to a third party, which could materially diminish the value of those patents. This could limit our potential revenue opportunities. In addition, 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. Accordingly, our and our licensor’s efforts to enforce intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we own or license.

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

Periodic maintenance and annuity fees on issued United States patents and most foreign patent applications and patents must be paid to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, and foreign patent agencies, respectively, in order to maintain such patents and patent applications. The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application, examination and issuance processes. While an inadvertent lapse can, in some cases, be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. Non-compliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application include failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, non-payment of fees and failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents. If we or our licensor fail to maintain the patents and patent applications covering our product candidate or any future product candidates, our competitors might be able to enter the market with similar or identical products or technology, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We may be unable to obtain intellectual property rights or technology necessary to develop and commercialize our product candidate or any future product candidates.

Several third parties are actively researching and seeking and obtaining patent protection in the NASH field, and there are issued third-party patents and published third-party patent applications in these fields. However, we may not be aware of all third-party intellectual property rights potentially relating to our product candidate or any future product candidates and technologies.

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Depending on what patent claims ultimately issue and how courts construe the issued patent claims, as well as depending on the ultimate formulation and method of use of our product candidate or any future product candidates, we may need to obtain a license under such patents. There can be no assurance that such licenses will be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. If a third party does not offer us a necessary license or offers a license only on terms that are unattractive or unacceptable to us, we might be unable to develop and commercialize one or more of our product candidate or any future product candidates, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, even if we obtain licenses to such intellectual property, but subsequently fail to meet our obligations under our license agreements, or such license agreements are terminated for any other reasons, we may lose our rights to in-licensed technologies.

The licensing or acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and several more established companies may pursue strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider attractive or necessary. These established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, capital resources and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us. We also may be unable to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights on terms that would allow us to make an appropriate return on our investment, or at all. If we are unable to successfully obtain rights to required third-party intellectual property rights or maintain the existing intellectual property rights we have, we may have to abandon development of the relevant program or product candidate, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We may become involved in lawsuits or other proceedings to protect or enforce our intellectual property, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful and have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.

Third parties may infringe our or our licensor’s patents or misappropriate or otherwise violate our or our licensor’s intellectual property rights. In the future, we or our licensor may initiate legal proceedings to enforce or defend our or our licensor’s intellectual property rights, to protect our or our licensor’s trade secrets or to determine the validity or scope of intellectual property rights we own or control. Also, third parties may initiate legal proceedings against us or our licensor to challenge the validity or scope of intellectual property rights we own, control or to which we have rights. For example, generic or biosimilar drug manufacturers or other competitors or third parties may challenge the scope, validity or enforceability of our or our licensor’s patents, requiring us or our licensor to engage in complex, lengthy and costly litigation or other proceedings. These proceedings can be expensive and time-consuming and many of our or our licensor’s adversaries in these proceedings may have the ability to dedicate substantially greater resources to prosecuting these legal actions than we can. Moreover, the outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. Accordingly, despite our or our licensor’s efforts, we or our licensor may not be able to prevent third parties from infringing upon or misappropriating intellectual property rights we own, control or have rights to, particularly in countries where the laws may not protect those rights as fully as in the United States. Litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of management resources, which could harm our business and financial results. In addition, if we or our licensor initiated legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering a product candidate, the defendant could counterclaim that such patent is invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. In an infringement or declaratory judgment proceeding, a court may decide that a patent owned by or licensed to us is invalid or unenforceable, or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our or our licensor’s patents do not cover the technology in question. An adverse result in any litigation proceeding could put one or more of our or our licensor’s patents at risk of being invalidated, narrowed, held unenforceable or interpreted in such a manner that would not preclude third parties from entering the market with competing products.

Third-party pre-issuance submission of prior art to the USPTO, or opposition, derivation, revocation, reexamination, inter partes review or interference proceedings, or other pre-issuance or post-grant proceedings or other

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patent office proceedings or litigation in the United States or other jurisdictions provoked by third parties or brought by us or our licensor, may be necessary to determine the inventorship, priority, patentability or validity of inventions with respect to our or our licensor’s patents or patent applications. An unfavorable outcome could leave our technology or product candidates without patent protection, allow third parties to commercialize our technology or product candidates and compete directly with us, without payment to us, or could require us or our licensor to obtain license rights from the prevailing party in order to be able to manufacture or commercialize our product candidate or any future product candidates without infringing third-party patent rights. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us or our licensor a license on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Even if we or our licensor obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us or our licensor. In addition, if the breadth or strength of protection provided by our or our licensor’s patents and patent applications is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to license, develop or commercialize current or any future product candidates. Even if we successfully defend such litigation or proceeding, we may incur substantial costs and it may distract our management and other employees. In addition, the uncertainties associated with litigation could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise the funds necessary to continue our clinical trials, continue our research programs, license necessary technology from third parties, or enter into collaborations.

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. In addition, many foreign jurisdictions have rules of discovery that are different than those in the United States and which may make defending or enforcing our or our licensor’s patents extremely difficult. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of shares of our common stock.

Third parties may initiate legal proceedings against us alleging that we infringe their intellectual property rights or we may initiate legal proceedings against third parties to challenge the validity or scope of intellectual property rights controlled by third parties, the outcome of which would be uncertain and could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.

Our commercial success depends upon our ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell any product candidates that we may develop and use our proprietary technologies without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property and proprietary rights of third parties. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by extensive litigation regarding patents and other intellectual property rights. Third parties may initiate legal proceedings against us or our licensor alleging that we or our licensor infringe their intellectual property rights or we or our licensor may initiate legal proceedings against third parties to challenge the validity or scope of intellectual property rights controlled by third parties, including in oppositions, interferences, revocations, reexaminations, inter partes review or derivation proceedings before the USPTO or its counterparts in other jurisdictions. These proceedings can be expensive and time-consuming and many of our or our licensor’s adversaries in these proceedings may have the ability to dedicate substantially greater resources to prosecuting these legal actions than we or our licensor can.

An unfavorable outcome in any such proceeding could require us or our licensor to cease using the related technology or developing or commercializing our product candidate or any future product candidates, or to attempt to license rights to it from the prevailing party, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all.

We could be found liable for monetary damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees, if we are found to have willfully infringed a patent. A finding of infringement could prevent us from commercializing our product candidate or any future product candidates or force us to cease some of our business operations, which could materially harm our business.

We perform searches of patent and scientific databases in order to identify documents that may be of potential relevance to the freedom-to-operate and/or patentability of our product candidate or any future product candidates. In general, such searches are conducted based on keywords, sequences, inventors/authors and assignees/entities to capture U.S. and European patents and patent applications, PCT publications and scientific journal articles.

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The patent landscape around our AKR-001 product candidate is complex, and we may not be aware of all third-party intellectual property rights potentially relating to our product candidate or any future product candidates and technologies. Moreover, it is possible that we are or may become aware of patents or pending patent applications that we think do not relate to our product candidate or any future product candidates or that we believe are invalid or unenforceable, but that may nevertheless be interpreted to encompass our product candidate or any future product candidates and to be valid and enforceable. As to pending third-party applications, we cannot predict with any certainty which claims will issue, if any, or the scope of such issued claims. If any third party intellectual property claims are asserted against us, even if we believe the claims are without merit, there is no assurance that a court would find in our favor, e.g., on questions of infringement, validity, enforceability or priority. A court of competent jurisdiction could hold that these third-party patents are valid, enforceable and infringed, which could materially and adversely affect our ability and the ability of our licensor to commercialize any product candidates we may develop, and any other product candidates or technologies covered by the asserted third-party patents. In order to successfully challenge the validity of any such U.S. patent in federal court, we would need to overcome a presumption of validity. As this burden is a high one requiring us to present clear and convincing evidence as to the invalidity of any such U.S. patent claim, there is no assurance that a court of competent jurisdiction would invalidate the claims of any such U.S. patent. If any such third-party patents (including those that may issue from such applications) were successfully asserted against us or our licensor or other commercialization partners and we were unable to successfully challenge the validity or enforceability of any such asserted patents, then we or our licensor and other commercialization partners may be prevented from commercializing our product candidate or any future product candidates, or may be required to pay significant damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees if we are found to willfully infringe the asserted patents, or obtain a license to such patents, which may not be available 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, and it could require us to make substantial licensing and royalty payments. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation or administrative proceedings, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure. In addition, any uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of any litigation could have material adverse effect on our ability to raise additional funds or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. Any of the foregoing would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results.

We may be subject to claims by third parties asserting that our employees or we have misappropriated a third party’s intellectual property, or claiming ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.

Many of our employees, including our senior management, were previously employed at other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Some of these employees executed proprietary rights, non-disclosure and non-competition agreements in connection with such previous employment. We may be subject to claims that we or these employees have used or disclosed confidential information or intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such employee’s former employer, or that third parties have an interest in our patents as an inventor or co-inventor. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in prosecuting or defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel or sustain other damages. Such intellectual property rights could be awarded to a third party, and we could be required to obtain a license from such third party to commercialize our technology or products. Such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Even if we successfully prosecute or defend against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and distract management.

In addition, while it is our policy to require our employees and contractors who may be involved in the conception or development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who, in fact, conceives or develops intellectual property that we regard as our own. The assignment of intellectual property rights may not be self-executing, or the assignment agreements may be breached, and we may be forced to bring claims against third parties, or defend claims that they may bring against us, to determine the ownership of what we regard as our intellectual property. Such claims could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

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Our inability to protect our confidential information and trade secrets would harm our business and competitive position.

In addition to seeking patents for some of our technology and products, in our activities we also rely substantially on trade secrets, including unpatented know-how, technology and other proprietary materials and information, to maintain our competitive position. We seek to protect these trade secrets, in part, by entering into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to them, such as our employees, corporate collaborators, outside scientific collaborators, contract manufacturers, consultants, advisors and other third parties. We also enter into confidentiality and invention or patent assignment agreements with our employees and consultants. However, these steps may be inadequate, we may fail to enter into agreements with all such parties or any of these parties may breach the agreements and disclose our proprietary information and there may be no adequate remedy available for such breach of an agreement. We cannot assure you that our proprietary information will not be disclosed or that we can meaningfully protect our trade secrets. 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 both within and outside the United States may be less willing, or unwilling, to protect trade secrets. If a competitor lawfully obtained or independently developed any of our trade secrets, we would have no right to prevent such competitor from using that technology or information to compete with us, which could harm our competitive position.

Intellectual property rights do not necessarily address all potential threats.

The degree of future protection afforded by our intellectual property rights is uncertain because intellectual property rights have limitations and may not adequately protect our business or permit us to maintain our competitive advantage. For example:

·

others may be able to make products that are similar to any product candidates we may develop or utilize similar technology but that are not covered by the claims of the patents that we license or may own in the future;

·

we, or our current or future collaborators, might not have been the first to make the inventions covered by the issued patents and pending patent applications that we license or may own in the future;

·

we, or our current or future collaborators, might not have been the first to file patent applications covering certain of our or their inventions;

·

others may independently develop similar or alternative technologies or duplicate any of our technologies without infringing our owned or licensed intellectual property rights;

·

it is possible that our pending patent applications or those that we may own in the future will not lead to issued patents;

·

issued patents that we hold rights to may be held invalid or unenforceable, including as a result of legal challenges by our competitors;

·

our competitors might conduct research and development activities in countries where we do not have patent rights and then use the information learned from such activities to develop competitive products for sale in our major commercial markets;

·

we may not develop additional proprietary technologies that are patentable;

·

the patents of others may harm our business; and

·

we may choose not to file a patent application in order to maintain certain trade secrets or know-how, and a third party may subsequently file a patent covering such intellectual property.

 

Should any of these events occur, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

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Issued patents covering our product candidates could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or the USPTO.

If we or our licensing partner initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering our product candidate or any future product candidates, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product candidate, as applicable, is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace, and there are numerous grounds upon which a third party can assert invalidity or unenforceability of a patent. Third parties may also raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. These types of mechanisms include inter partes review, post grant review, and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions (e.g., opposition proceedings). These types of proceedings could result in revocation or amendment to our patents such that they no longer cover our product candidates. The outcome for any particular patent following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which we, our patent counsel and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity and/or unenforceability, or if we are otherwise unable to adequately protect our rights, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our product candidates. A loss of patent protection for our product candidates could have a material adverse impact on our ability to commercialize or license our technology and product candidates and, resultantly, on our business, financial condition, prospects and results of operations.

Likewise, patents directed to our proprietary technologies and our product candidates may expire before or soon after our first product achieves marketing approval in the United States or foreign jurisdictions. Upon the expiration of our current patents, we may lose the right to exclude others from practicing these inventions. The expiration of these patents could also have a similar material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, prospects and results of operations. A number of U.S. patents directed to various aspects of AKR-001 will expire in 2029; we currently anticipate that a composition of matter patent will be eligible for patent term extension to 2034.

Changes in patent law could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our product candidate or any future product candidates.

As is the case with other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, our success is heavily dependent on intellectual property, particularly patents. Obtaining and enforcing patents in the biotechnology industry involves technological and legal complexity, and obtaining and enforcing biotechnology patents is costly, time-consuming and inherently uncertain. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several patent cases in recent years, either narrowing the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances, weakening the rights of patent owners in certain situations or ruling that certain subject matter is not eligible for patent protection. In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our and our licensor’s 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 Congress, the federal courts, the USPTO and equivalent bodies in foreign jurisdictions, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that would weaken our and our licensor’s ability to obtain new patents or to enforce existing patents and patents we and our licensor may obtain in the future.

Patent reform laws, such as the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the Leahy-Smith Act, as well as changes in how patent laws are interpreted, could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our and our licensor’s patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our or our licensor’s issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Risks related to our reliance on third parties

We rely and will continue to rely on third parties to conduct our clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines or comply with regulatory requirements, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of or commercialize any potential product candidates.

We depend and will continue to depend upon third parties, including independent investigators, to conduct our clinical trials under agreements with universities, medical institutions, CROs, strategic partners and others. We expect to have to negotiate budgets and contracts with CROs and trial sites, which may result in delays to our development timelines and increased costs.

We rely heavily on third parties over the course of our clinical trials, and, as a result, have limited control over the clinical investigators and limited visibility into their day-to-day activities, including with respect to their compliance with the approved clinical protocol. Nevertheless, our reliance on third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities and we are responsible for ensuring that each of our trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal and regulatory requirements and scientific standards. We and these third parties are required to comply with good clinical practice, or GCP, requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for product candidates in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCP requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, clinical investigators and trial sites. If we or any of these third parties fail to comply with applicable GCP requirements, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to suspend or terminate these trials or perform additional nonclinical studies or clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot be certain that, upon inspection, regulatory authorities will determine that any of our clinical trials comply with the GCP requirements. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with products produced under current good manufacturing practice, or cGMP, requirements and may require a large number of patients. Our failure or any failure by these third parties to comply with these applicable regulations or to recruit a sufficient number of patients may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process. Moreover, our business may be implicated if any of these third parties violates federal or state fraud and abuse or false claims laws and regulations or healthcare privacy and security laws.

The third parties who conduct our future clinical trials are not our employees and, except for remedies that may be available to us under our agreements with those third parties, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time and resources to our ongoing nonclinical and clinical programs. These third parties may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical trials or other product development activities, which could affect their performance on our behalf. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or regulatory requirements or for other reasons, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated and we may not be able to complete development of, obtain regulatory approval of or successfully commercialize our product candidates in a timely manner or at all. As a result, our financial results and the commercial prospects for our product candidates would be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.

If any of our relationships with these third-party CROs or others terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs or other third parties or to do so on commercially reasonable terms. Switching or adding additional CROs involves additional cost and requires management time and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new CRO begins work. As a result, delays may occur, which can materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines. Though we carefully manage our relationships with our CROs, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter similar challenges or delays in the future or that these delays or challenges will not have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and prospects.

If CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure (including by clinical sites or investigators) to adhere to our clinical protocols, regulatory requirements or for other reasons, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated and we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval for or successfully commercialize

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our product candidates. As a result, our results of operations and the commercial prospects for our product candidates would be harmed, our costs could increase substantially and our ability to generate revenues could be delayed significantly.

We contract with third parties for the manufacture of our product candidate or any future product candidates for nonclinical testing and expect to continue to do so for clinical trials and for commercialization. This reliance on third parties increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of our product candidate or any future product candidates or medicines or that such supply will not be available to us at an acceptable cost, which could delay, prevent or impair our development or commercialization efforts.

We do not have any manufacturing facilities. We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third-party manufacturers for the manufacture of our product candidate or any future product candidates for nonclinical and clinical testing and for commercial supply of any of these product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. Reliance on third-party manufacturers may expose us to different risks than if we were to manufacture product candidates ourselves. To the extent any issues arise with our third-party manufacturers, we may be unable to establish any agreements with any other third-party manufacturers or to do so on acceptable terms. Even if we are able to establish agreements with third-party manufacturers, reliance on third-party manufacturers entails additional risks, including:

·

the possible breach of the manufacturing agreement by the third party;

·

the possible termination or nonrenewal of the agreement by the third party at a time that is costly or inconvenient for us; and

·

reliance on the third party for regulatory compliance, quality assurance and safety and pharmacovigilance reporting.

 

Third-party manufacturers may not be able to comply with cGMP regulations or similar regulatory requirements outside the United States. Our failure, or the failure of third-party manufacturers, to comply with applicable regulations could result in sanctions being imposed on us, including fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, license revocation, seizures or recalls of product candidates or medicines, operating restrictions and criminal prosecutions, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our medicines and harm our business and results of operations.

Any medicines that we may develop may compete with other product candidates and products for access to manufacturing facilities. There are a limited number of manufacturers that operate under cGMP regulations and that might be capable of manufacturing for us.

Any performance failure on the part of our existing or future manufacturers could delay clinical development or marketing approval. We do not currently have arrangements in place for redundant supply for bulk drug substances. If any one of our current contract manufacturers cannot perform as agreed, we may be required to replace that manufacturer. Although we believe that there are several potential alternative manufacturers who could manufacture our product candidate or any future product candidates, we may incur added costs and delays in identifying and qualifying any such replacement.

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

The manufacture of our product candidates is complex and we may encounter difficulties in production. If we or any of our third-party manufacturers encounter such difficulties, or fail to meet rigorously enforced regulatory standards, our ability to provide supply of our product candidates for clinical trials or our products for patients, if approved, could be delayed or stopped, or we may be unable to maintain a commercially viable cost structure.

The processes involved in manufacturing our drug product candidates are complex, expensive, highly-regulated, and subject to multiple risks. Further, as product candidates are developed through nonclinical studies to late-stage clinical trials towards approval and commercialization, it is common that various aspects of the development

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program, such as manufacturing methods, are altered along the way in an effort to optimize processes and results. Such changes carry the risk that they will not achieve these intended objectives, and any of these changes could cause our product candidates to perform differently and affect the results of planned clinical trials or other future clinical trials.

In addition, the manufacturing process for any products that we may develop is subject to FDA and other comparable foreign regulatory authority approval processes and continuous oversight, and we will need to contract with manufacturers who can meet all applicable FDA and foreign regulatory authority requirements, including, for example, complying with cGMPs, on an ongoing basis. If we or our third-party manufacturers are unable to reliably produce products to specifications acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory authorities, we may not obtain or maintain the approvals we need to commercialize such products. Even if we obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, there is no assurance that either we or our contract manufacturers will be able to manufacture the approved product to specifications acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory authorities, to produce it in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements for the potential launch of the product, or to meet potential future demand. Any of these challenges could delay completion of clinical trials, require bridging or comparability nonclinical or clinical trials or the repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical study costs, delay approval of our product candidate, impair commercialization efforts, increase our cost of goods, and have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and growth prospects.

We may seek to establish collaborations, and, if we are not able to establish them on commercially reasonable terms, we may have to alter our development and commercialization plans.

We may pursue collaborations in order to develop and commercialize AKR-001 and any future product candidates. We face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Whether we reach a definitive agreement for a collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration and the proposed collaborator’s evaluation of a number of factors. 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 subject product candidate, the costs and complexities of manufacturing and delivering such product candidate to patients, the potential of competing products and 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 collaborators 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 for our product candidate.

Collaborations are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. In addition, there have been a significant number of 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 any future product candidates or bring them to market and generate product revenue.

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Risks related to commercialization

Even if we commercialize our product candidate or any future product candidates, these products may become subject to unfavorable pricing regulations, third-party reimbursement practices or healthcare reform initiatives, which could harm our business.

The regulations that govern marketing approvals, pricing and reimbursement for new drug products vary widely from country to country. Current and future legislation may significantly change the approval requirements in ways that could involve additional costs and cause delays in obtaining approvals. Some countries require approval of the sale price of a drug before it can be marketed. In many countries, the pricing review period begins after marketing or product licensing approval is granted. In some foreign markets, prescription pharmaceutical pricing remains subject to continuing governmental control even after initial approval is granted. As a result, we might obtain marketing approval for a product in a particular country, but then be subject to price regulations that delay or limit our commercial launch of the product, possibly for lengthy time periods, which could negatively impact the revenue we generate from the sale of the product in that particular country. Adverse pricing limitations may hinder our ability to recoup our investment in one or more product candidates, even if our product candidate or any future product candidates obtain marketing approval.

Our ability to commercialize any products successfully also will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from third-party payors such as government health administration authorities, private health insurers and other organizations. Third-party payors determine which medications they will cover and establish reimbursement levels. 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 and reimbursement will be available for any product that we commercialize and, if reimbursement is available, what the level of reimbursement will be. Coverage and reimbursement may impact the demand for, or the price of, any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval, if any. If coverage and reimbursement are not available or reimbursement is available only to limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize any product candidate for which marketing approval is obtained, if any.

There may be significant delays in obtaining coverage and reimbursement for newly approved drugs, and coverage may be more limited than the purposes for which the drug is approved by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Moreover, eligibility for coverage and reimbursement does not imply that a drug 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 new drugs, if applicable, may also not be sufficient to cover our costs and may only be temporary. Reimbursement rates may vary according to the use of the drug and the clinical setting in which it is used, may be based on reimbursement levels already set for lower cost drugs and may be incorporated into existing payments for other services. Net prices for drugs 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 drugs from countries where they may be sold at lower prices than in the United States. Our inability to promptly obtain coverage and profitable reimbursement rates third-party payors for any approved products that we develop could have a material adverse effect on our operating results, our ability to raise capital needed to commercialize products and our overall financial condition.

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

We do not currently have an infrastructure for the sales, marketing, and distribution of pharmaceutical products. In order to market our product candidates, if approved by the FDA or any other regulatory body, we must build our sales, marketing, managerial, and other non-technical capabilities, or make arrangements with third parties to perform these services. There are risks involved with both establishing our own commercial capabilities and entering into arrangements with third parties to perform these services. For example, recruiting and training a sales force or reimbursement specialists is expensive and time-consuming and could delay any product launch. If the commercial

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launch of a product candidate for which we recruit a sales force and establish marketing and other commercialization 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 commercialization personnel.

If we enter into arrangements with third parties to perform sales, marketing, commercial support, and distribution services, our product revenue or the profitability of product revenue may be lower than if we were to market and sell any products we may develop ourselves. In addition, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to commercialize our product candidates or may be unable to do so on terms that are favorable to us. We may have little control over such third parties, and any of them may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our products effectively and they could expose our company to regulatory enforcement and legal risk in the execution of their sales and commercialization activities. If we do not establish commercialization capabilities successfully, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we will not be successful in commercializing our product candidates if approved.

If we are unable to establish adequate sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities, whether independently or with third parties, or if we are unable to do so on commercially reasonable terms, our business, results of operations, financial condition, and prospects will be materially adversely affected.

Our product candidate or any future product candidates may not achieve adequate market acceptance among physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.

Even if our product candidate or any future product candidates receive regulatory approval, they may not gain adequate market acceptance among physicians, patients, third-party payors, pharmaceutical companies and others in the medical community. Demonstrating the safety and efficacy of our product candidate or any future product candidates and obtaining regulatory approvals will not guarantee future revenue. Our commercial success also depends on coverage and adequate reimbursement of our product candidate or any future product candidates by third-party payors, including government payors and private insurers, which may be difficult or time-consuming to obtain, may be limited in scope and may not be obtained in all jurisdictions in which we may seek to market our products. Third-party payors closely examine medical products to determine whether they should be covered by reimbursement and, if so, the level of reimbursement that will apply. We cannot be certain that third-party payors will sufficiently reimburse sales of our product or enable us to sell our product at a profitable price. Similar concerns could also limit the reimbursement amounts that health insurers or government agencies in other countries are prepared to pay for our products. In many regions, including Europe, Japan and Canada, where we may market our products, the pricing of prescription drugs is controlled by the government or regulatory agencies. Regulatory agencies in these countries could determine that the pricing for our products should be based on prices of other commercially available drugs for the same disease, rather than allowing us to market our products at a premium as new drugs. The degree of market acceptance of any of our approved product candidates will depend on a number of factors, including:

·

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

·

the timing of market introduction of the product candidate as well as competitive products;

·

the clinical indications for which the product candidate is approved;

·

acceptance of the product candidate as a safe and effective treatment by clinics and patients;

·

the potential and perceived advantages of the product candidate over alternative treatments, including any similar generic treatments;

·

the cost of treatment in relation to alternative treatments;

·

the availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement and pricing by third-party payors;

·

the relative convenience and ease of administration;

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the frequency and severity of adverse events;

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the effectiveness of sales and marketing efforts; and

·

unfavorable publicity relating to our product candidate or any future product candidates.

 

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Sales of medical products also depend on the willingness of physicians to prescribe the treatment, which is likely to be based on a determination by these physicians that the products are safe, therapeutically effective and cost effective. In addition, the inclusion or exclusion of products from treatment guidelines established by various physician groups and the viewpoints of influential physicians can affect the willingness of other physicians to prescribe the treatment. We cannot predict whether physicians, physicians’ organizations, hospitals, other healthcare providers, government agencies or private insurers will determine that our product is safe, therapeutically effective and cost effective as compared with competing treatments. If any product candidate is approved but does not achieve an adequate level of acceptance by such parties, we may not generate or derive sufficient revenue from that product candidate and may not become or remain profitable.

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

We face an inherent risk of product liability exposure related to the testing of our product candidate or any future product candidates in human clinical trials and will face an even greater risk if we commercialize any resulting products. Product liability claims may be brought against us by subjects enrolled in our clinical trials, patients, their family members, healthcare providers or others using, administering or selling our products. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against claims that our product candidate or any future product candidates or products that we may develop caused injuries, we could incur substantial liabilities. Regardless of merit or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

·

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

·

termination of clinical trial sites or entire trial programs;

·

injury to our reputation and significant negative media attention;

·

withdrawal of clinical trial participants;

·

significant costs to defend the related litigation;

·

substantial monetary awards to trial subjects or patients;

·

loss of revenue;

·

diversion of management and scientific resources from our business operations;

·

the inability to commercialize any products that we may develop; and

·

a decline in our stock price.

 

Our clinical trial liability insurance coverage may not adequately cover all liabilities that we may incur. We may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in an amount adequate to satisfy any liability that may arise. Our inability to obtain product liability insurance at an acceptable cost or to otherwise protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or delay the commercialization of any products or product candidates that we develop. We intend to expand our insurance coverage for products to include the sale of commercial products if we obtain marketing approval for our product candidate or any future product candidates in development, but we may be unable to obtain commercially reasonable product liability insurance for any products approved for marketing. Large judgments have been awarded in lawsuits based on drugs that had unanticipated side effects. If we are sued for any injury caused by our products, product candidates or processes, our liability could exceed our product liability insurance coverage and our total assets. Claims against us, regardless of their merit or potential outcome, may also generate negative publicity or hurt our ability to obtain physician adoption of our product or expand our business.

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Risks related to our common stock

The market price of our stock may be volatile, and you could lose all or part of your investment.

The trading price of our common stock is likely to be volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which we cannot control. In addition to the factors discussed in this “Risk Factors” section and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, these factors include:

·

developments associated with our license with Amgen, including any termination or other change in our relationship with Amgen;

·

the success of competitive products or technologies;

·

regulatory actions with respect to our product candidate or any future product candidates or our competitors’ product candidates or products;

·

results of clinical trials of our product candidate or any future product candidates or those of our competitors;

·

actual or anticipated changes in our growth rate relative to our competitors;

·

announcements by us or our competitors or collaborators of significant acquisitions, strategic collaborations, joint ventures, collaborations or capital commitments;

·

regulatory, legal or payor developments in the United States and other countries;

·

developments or disputes concerning patent applications, issued patents or other proprietary rights;

·

the recruitment or departure of key personnel;

·

the level of expenses related to any of our product candidate or any future product candidates or clinical development programs;

·

the results of our efforts to in-license or acquire additional product candidates or products;

·

actual or anticipated changes in estimates as to financial results, development timelines or recommendations by securities analysts;

·

variations in our financial results or those of companies that are perceived to be similar to us;

·

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

·

share price and volume fluctuations attributable to inconsistent trading volume levels of our shares;

·

announcement or expectation of additional financing efforts;

·

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

·

changes in the structure of healthcare payment systems;

·

market conditions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors; and

·

general economic, industry and market conditions.

 

In addition, the stock market in general, and the market for biotechnology companies in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of these companies. Broad market and industry factors may negatively affect the market price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance. The realization of any of the above risks or any of a broad range of other risks, including those described in this “Risk Factors” section, could have a dramatic and material adverse impact on the market price of our common stock.

Because of potential volatility in our trading price and trading volume, we may incur significant costs from class action securities litigation.

Holders of stock in companies that have a volatile stock price frequently bring securities class action litigation against the company that issued the stock. We may be the target of this type of litigation in the future. If any of our stockholders were to bring a lawsuit of this type against us, even if the lawsuit is without merit, we could incur substantial costs defending the lawsuit. A stockholder lawsuit could also divert the time and attention of our management. Securities litigation against us could result in substantial costs and divert our management’s attention from other business concerns, which could seriously harm our business.

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We are an “emerging growth company” as defined in the JOBS Act and a “smaller reporting company” as defined in the Exchange Act and will be able to avail ourselves of reduced disclosure requirements applicable to emerging growth companies and smaller reporting companies, which could make our common stock less attractive to investors and adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

For so long as we remain an “emerging growth company” as defined in the JOBS Act, we may take advantage of certain exemptions from various requirements applicable to public companies that are not “emerging growth companies” including:

·

the provisions of Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requiring that our independent registered public accounting firm provide an attestation report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting;

·

the “say on pay” provisions (requiring a non-binding shareholder vote to approve compensation of certain executive officers) and the “say on golden parachute” provisions (requiring a non-binding shareholder vote to approve golden parachute arrangements for certain executive officers in connection with mergers and certain other business combinations) of the Dodd-Frank Act and some of the disclosure requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act relating to compensation of our executive officers; and

·

the requirement to provide detailed compensation discussion and analysis in proxy statements and reports filed under the Exchange Act and instead provide a reduced level of disclosure concerning executive compensation.

 

We may take advantage of these reporting exemptions until we are no longer an emerging growth company, which in certain circumstances could be for up to five years. We will remain an emerging growth company until the earlier of (1) the last day of the fiscal year (a) following the fifth anniversary of the completion of the IPO (b) in which we have total annual gross revenue of at least $1.07 billion or (c) in which we are deemed to be a large accelerated filer, which requires the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates to exceed $700.0 million as of the prior June 30th, and (2) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the prior three-year period. We cannot predict if investors will find our common stock less attractive because we may rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and our stock price may be more volatile.

We are also a “smaller reporting company” as defined in the Exchange Act. We may continue to be a smaller reporting company even after we are no longer an emerging growth company. We may take advantage of certain of the scaled disclosures available to smaller reporting companies until the fiscal year following the determination that our voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates is more than $250.0 million measured on the last business day of our second fiscal quarter, or our annual revenues are more than $100.0 million during the most recently completed fiscal year and our voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates is more than $700.0 million measured on the last business day of our second fiscal quarter.

Although we are still evaluating the JOBS Act, we currently intend to take advantage of some, but not all, of the reduced regulatory and reporting requirements that will be available to us so long as we qualify as an “emerging growth company” and “smaller reporting company.” We have elected to avail ourselves of this exemption and, therefore, we are not subject to the same new or revised accounting standards as other public companies that are not emerging growth companies or smaller reporting companies. As a result, changes in rules of U.S. generally accepted accounting principles or their interpretation, the adoption of new guidance or the application of existing guidance to changes in our business could significantly affect our financial position and results of operations. In addition, our independent registered public accounting firm will not be required to provide an attestation report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting so long as we qualify as an “emerging growth company,” which may increase the risk that material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting go undetected. Likewise, so long as we qualify as a “smaller reporting company” or an “emerging growth company,” we may elect not to provide you with certain information, including certain financial information and certain information regarding compensation of our executive officers, that we would otherwise have been required to provide in filings we make with the SEC, which may make it more difficult for investors and securities analysts to evaluate our company. We cannot predict if investors will find our common stock less attractive because we may rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our common

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stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock, and our stock price may be more volatile and may decline.

We do not intend to pay dividends on our common stock so any returns will be limited to the value of our stock.

We currently anticipate that we will retain future earnings for the development, operation and expansion of our business and do not anticipate declaring or paying any cash dividends for the foreseeable future. Any return to stockholders will therefore be limited to the appreciation of their stock.

Our disclosure controls and procedures may not prevent or detect all errors or acts of fraud.

We designed our disclosure controls and procedures to reasonably assure that information we must disclose in reports we file or submit under the Exchange Act is accumulated and communicated to management, and recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the rules and forms of the SEC. We believe that any disclosure controls and procedures or internal controls and procedures, no matter how well-conceived and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met.

These inherent limitations include the realities that judgments in decision-making can be faulty, and that breakdowns can occur because of simple error or mistake. Additionally, controls can be circumvented by the individual acts of some persons, by collusion of two or more people or by an unauthorized override of the controls. Accordingly, because of the inherent limitations in our control system, misstatements due to error or fraud may occur and not be detected.

Anti-takeover provisions under our organizational documents and Delaware law could delay or prevent a change of control, which could limit the market price of our common stock and may prevent or frustrate attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.

Our fourth amended and restated certificate of incorporation and second amended and restated bylaws contain provisions that could delay or prevent a change of control of our company or changes in our board of directors that our stockholders might consider favorable. Some of these provisions include:

·

a board of directors divided into three classes serving staggered three-year terms, such that not all members of the board will be elected at one time;

·

a prohibition on stockholder action through written consent, which requires that all stockholder actions be taken at a meeting of our stockholders;

·

a requirement that special meetings of the stockholders may be called only by the board of directors acting pursuant to a resolution approved by the affirmative vote of a majority of the directors then in office, and special meetings of stockholders may not be called by any other person or persons;

·

advance notice requirements for stockholder proposals and nominations for election to our board of directors;

·

a requirement that no member of our board of directors may be removed from office by our stockholders except for cause and, in addition to any other vote required by law, upon the approval of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of all outstanding shares of our voting stock then entitled to vote in the election of directors;

·

a requirement of approval of not less than a majority of all outstanding shares of our voting stock to amend any bylaws by stockholder action and not less than two-thirds (2/3) of all outstanding shares of our voting stock to amend specific provisions of our certificate of incorporation; and

·

the authority of the board of directors to issue preferred stock on terms determined by the board of directors without stockholder approval, which preferred stock may include rights superior to the rights of the holders of common stock.

 

In addition, because we are incorporated in Delaware, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporate Law, which may prohibit certain business combinations with stockholders owning 15% or more of our outstanding voting stock. These anti-takeover provisions and other provisions in our fourth amended and

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restated certificate of incorporation and second amended and restated bylaws could make it more difficult for stockholders or potential acquirers to obtain control of our board of directors or initiate actions that are opposed by the then-current board of directors and could also delay or impede a merger, tender offer or proxy contest involving our company. These provisions could also discourage proxy contests and make it more difficult for you and other stockholders to elect directors of your choosing or cause us to take other corporate actions you desire. Any delay or prevention of a change of control transaction or changes in our board of directors could cause the market price of our common stock to decline.

Our second amended and restated bylaws which became effective upon the effectiveness of our registration statement designates the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the sole and exclusive forum for certain types of actions and proceedings that may be initiated by our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees.

Our second amended and restated bylaws that became effective upon the effectiveness of our registration statement provide that, unless we consent in writing to an alternative forum, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for state law claims for (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers, and employees to us or our stockholders, (iii) any action asserting a claim against us or any of our current or former directors, officers, or other employees or stockholders, arising out of or pursuant to any provision of the Delaware General Corporation Law, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation or our second amended and restated bylaws or (iv) any action asserting a claim that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine, in each case subject to the Court of Chancery having personal jurisdiction over the indispensable parties named as defendants therein. This exclusive forum provision will not apply to any causes of action arising under the Exchange Act or any other claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction. In addition, our second amended and restated bylaws will provide that any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring any interest in shares of our common stock is deemed to have notice of and consented to the foregoing provisions. Additionally, the forum selection clause in our second amended and restated bylaws may limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us.

We have chosen the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the exclusive forum for such causes of action because we are incorporated in the State of Delaware and we are familiar with the procedures and rules applicable in such forum.

If securities or industry analysts do not publish research, or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research, about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.

The trading market for our common stock will depend, in part, on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. Securities and industry analysts do not currently, and may never, publish research on our company. If no securities or industry analysts commence coverage of our company or if they cease to cover our company, the trading price for our stock would likely be negatively impacted. In the event that securities or industry analysts initiate coverage, if one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade our stock or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price would likely decline. In addition, if our operating results fail to meet the forecast of analysts, our stock price would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our stock could decrease, which might cause our stock price and trading volume to decline.

 

Item 1B.  Unresolved Staff Comments.

None

 

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Item 2.  Properties.

 

We lease office space where our corporate headquarters are located, which consists of 3,691 square feet located at 170 Harbor Way, South San Francisco, California. Our lease expires on February 27, 2021, subject to automatic renewals for successive thirty (30) day periods.

 

On February 14, 2020, the Company entered into a seven-year lease agreement for 6,647 square feet of office space in South San Francisco, California.  Under the agreement, the Company is required to make $2.3 million in minimum payments during the lease term, which does not automatically renew.  The Company anticipates that it will assume occupancy in June 2020. We believe our current office space is sufficient to meet our office needs until the expiration of the leases, and that suitable additional alternative spaces will be available in the future on commercially reasonable terms, if required.

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

From time to time, we may be involved in lawsuits, claims, investigations and proceedings, consisting of intellectual property, commercial, employment and other matters which arise in the ordinary course of business. While the outcome of any such proceedings cannot be predicted with certainty, as of December 31, 2019, we were not party to any legal proceedings that we would expect to have a material adverse impact on our financial position, results of operations or cash flow.

 

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

Not applicable.

 

 

PART II

 

 

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

On June 20, 2019 our common stock began trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “AKRO”. Prior to that time, there was no public market for our common stock.

Stockholders

As of March 6, 2020, there were 11 stockholders of record of our common stock. The actual number of holders of our common stock is greater than this number of record holders, and includes stockholders who are beneficial owners, but whose shares are held in street name by brokers or held by other nominees. This number of holders of record also does not include stockholders whose shares may be held in trust by other entities.

Dividend Policy

We have never paid or declared any cash dividends on our common stock, and we do not anticipate paying any cash dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future. We intend to retain all available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and expansion of our business. Any future determination to pay dividends will be at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend upon a number of factors, including our results of operations, financial condition, future prospects, contractual restrictions, restrictions imposed by applicable law and other factors that our board of directors deems relevant.

Equity Compensation Plans

The information required by Item 5 of Form 10-K regarding equity compensation plans is incorporated herein by reference to Item 12 of Part III of this Annual Report.

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Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

We did not purchase any of our registered equity securities during the period covered by this Annual Report.

Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities 

Set forth below is information regarding stock options granted and exercised by us during the period covered by this Annual Report on Form 10-K that were not registered under the Securities Act. Included is the consideration, if any, we received for such shares and options and information relating to the section of the Securities Act or the Securities and Exchange Commission, under which exemption from registration was claimed.

Grants and Exercises of Stock Options under Equity Plans

During the period covered by this Form 10-K, we granted options to purchase an aggregate of 1,111,826 shares of common stock, with exercise prices ranging from $6.36 to $7.01 per share, to directors, employees and consultants pursuant to our 2018 Stock Option and Grant Plan, as amended (the “2018 Plan”). In 2019, 655,710, shares of common stock were issued for gross proceeds of $0.4 million upon the exercise of stock options pursuant to the 2018 Plan.

From January 1, 2019 to our initial public offering on June 19, 2019, 487,933 shares of common stock were issued by us in connection with the exercise of certain employee stock options for a total of $0.3 million, to officers of the Company who render bona fide services under a written agreement, none of which services are in connection with the offer and sale of securities in a capital-raising transaction and are exempt from registration under Rule 701 promulgated under Section 3(b) of the Securities Act.

No underwriters were involved in the foregoing issuance of securities. The issuances of the securities described above were deemed to be exempt from registration pursuant to Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act or Rule 701 promulgated under the Securities Act as transactions pursuant to compensatory benefit plans. The shares of common stock issued upon the exercise of options are deemed to be restricted securities. All recipients either received adequate information about us or had access, through employment or other relationships, to such information.

Use of Proceeds from our Public Offering of Common Stock

On June 19, 2019, our Registration Statement on Form S-1, as amended (Registration No. 333-231747) was declared effective by the SEC for our initial public offering. At the closing of the offering on June 24, 2019, we sold 6,612,500 shares of common stock, including the exercise in full by the underwriters of their option to purchase up to 862,500 additional shares of common stock, at a public offering price of $16.00 per share.  The aggregate net proceeds to us from the public offering, inclusive of the over-allotment exercise and after underwriting discounts and offering expenses, were approximately $95.5 million. J.P. Morgan, Jefferies and Evercore acted as joint book-running managers for the offering. No offering expenses were paid directly or indirectly to any of our directors or officers (or their associates) or persons owning 10% or more of any class of our equity securities or to any other affiliates.

Information related to use of proceeds from registered securities is incorporated herein by reference to the “Use of Proceeds” section of our initial public offering as described in our final prospectus dated June 19, 2019 and filed with the SEC on June 20, 2019 pursuant to Rule 424(b)(4) of the Securities Act. There has been no material change in the planned use of proceeds as described in our final prospectus.

Item 6.  Selected Financial Data.

 

Information required by this Item is not applicable as we are electing scaled disclosure requirements available to Smaller Reporting Companies with respect to this Item.

 

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

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with our financial statements and accompanying footnotes appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Some of the information contained in this discussion and analysis or set forth elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including information with respect to our plans and strategy for our business and related financing, includes forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. See “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.” Because of many factors, including those factors set forth in Part 1, Item 1A, “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, our actual results could differ materially from the results described in or implied by the forward-looking statements contained in the following discussion and analysis. We do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.

Overview

We are a cardio-metabolic nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, company dedicated to developing pioneering medicines that restore metabolic balance and improve overall health for NASH patients. NASH is a severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, characterized by inflammation and fibrosis in the liver that can progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer and death. Our lead product candidate, AKR-001, is an analog of fibroblast growth factor 21, or FGF21, which is an endogenously expressed hormone that regulates metabolism of lipids, carbohydrates and proteins throughout the body. FGF21 also plays a critical role in protecting many types of cells from various forms of stress. In previous clinical trials in patients with type 2 diabetes, or T2D, administration of AKR-001 was associated with substantial improvements in lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity. We believe these data, coupled with clinical results from other FGF21 analogs, demonstrate AKR-001's potential to serve as a cornerstone for the treatment of NASH. We are currently conducting a Phase 2a clinical trial, the BALANCED study, which is evaluating AKR-001 in the treatment of NASH patients. We expect to complete collection of data for the BALANCED main study week 12 primary endpoint, and report top-line results related to reductions in liver fat, in the first quarter of 2020. Top-line results related to secondary endpoints, including safety and tolerability as well as paired biopsies, will be reported in the second quarter of 2020. We also plan to expand the BALANCED study to include an additional cohort of subjects with NASH who have compensated cirrhosis (F4), Child-Pugh Class A, with study initiation expected in the second quarter of 2020.

We were incorporated in January 2017 and have devoted substantially all of our efforts to organizing and staffing our company, business planning, raising capital, in-licensing rights to AKR-001, research and development activities for AKR-001, building our intellectual property portfolio and providing general and administrative support for these operations. To date, we have principally raised capital through the issuance of convertible preferred stock and the initial public offering of our common stock.

We have incurred significant operating losses since inception. Our ability to generate product revenue sufficient to achieve profitability will depend heavily on the successful development and eventual commercialization of AKR-001 and any future product candidates. Our net losses were $43.8 million and $81.7 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. The net loss for the year ended December 31, 2018 included non-cash charges of $62.2 million related to the change in fair value of our preferred stock tranche obligation and $5.8 million related to the change in fair value of our anti-dilution right liability. As of December 31, 2019, we had an accumulated deficit of $130.3 million. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses for at least the next several years as we advance AKR-001 through later-stage clinical development, develop additional product candidates and seek regulatory approval of any product candidates that complete clinical development. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for any product candidates, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution. We may also incur expenses in connection with the in-licensing or acquisition of additional product candidates.

As a result, we will need substantial additional funding to support our continuing operations and pursue our growth strategy. Until such time as we can generate significant revenue from product sales, if ever, we expect to finance our operations through the sale of equity, debt financings, or other capital sources, which may include collaborations with other companies or other strategic transactions. We may be unable to raise additional funds or enter into such other agreements or arrangements when needed on favorable terms, or at all. If we fail to raise capital or enter into such

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agreements as and when needed, we may have to significantly delay, reduce or eliminate the development and commercialization of one or more of our product candidates or delay our pursuit of potential in-licenses or acquisitions.

Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with product development, we are unable to predict the timing or amount of increased expenses or when or if we will be able to achieve or maintain profitability. Even if we are able to generate product sales, we may not become profitable. If we fail to become profitable or are unable to sustain profitability on a continuing basis, then we may be unable to continue our operations at planned levels and be forced to reduce or terminate our operations.

As of December 31, 2019, we had cash,  cash equivalents and short-term marketable securities of $136.4 million.

Components of our results of operations

Revenue

We have not generated any revenue since our inception and do not expect to generate any revenue from the sale of products in the near future, if at all. If our development efforts for AKR-001 or additional product candidates that we may develop in the future are successful and result in marketing approval or if we enter into collaboration or license agreements with third parties, we may generate revenue in the future from a combination of product sales or payments from such collaboration or license agreements.

Operating expenses

Research and development expenses

Research and development expenses consist primarily of costs incurred in connection with the development of AKR-001, as well as unrelated discovery program expenses. We expense research and development costs as incurred. These expenses include:

·

employee-related expenses, including salaries, related benefits and stock-based compensation expense, for employees engaged in research and development functions;

·

expenses incurred under agreements with contract research organizations, or CROs, that are primarily engaged in the oversight and conduct of our clinical trials; contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, that are primarily engaged to provide drug substance and product for our clinical trials, research and development programs, as well as investigative sites and consultants that conduct our clinical trials, nonclinical studies and other scientific development services;

·

the cost of acquiring and manufacturing nonclinical and clinical trial materials, including manufacturing registration and validation batches;

·

costs related to compliance with quality and regulatory requirements; and

·

payments made under third-party licensing agreements.

 

Advance payments that we make for goods or services to be received in the future for use in research and development activities are recorded as prepaid expenses. Such amounts are recognized as an expense as the goods are delivered or the related services are performed, or until it is no longer expected that the goods will be delivered or the services rendered.

Product candidates in later stages of clinical development, such as AKR-001, generally have higher development costs than those in earlier stages of clinical development, primarily due to the increased size and duration of later-stage clinical trials. We expect that our research and development expenses will increase substantially in connection with our planned clinical development activities in the near term and in the future. At this time, we cannot accurately estimate or know the nature, timing and costs of the efforts that will be necessary to complete the clinical development of AKR-001 and any future product candidates.

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Our clinical development costs may vary significantly based on factors such as:

·

per patient trial costs;

·

the number of trials required for approval;

·

the number of sites included in the trials;

·

the countries in which the trials are conducted;

·

the length of time required to enroll eligible patients;

·

the number of patients that participate in the trials;

·

the number of doses that patients receive;

·

the drop-out or discontinuation rates of patients enrolled in clinical trials;

·

potential additional safety monitoring requested by regulatory agencies;

·

the duration of patient participation in the trials and follow-up;

·

the cost and timing of manufacturing our product candidates;

·

the phase of development of our product candidates; and

·

the efficacy and safety profile of our product candidates.

The successful development and commercialization of product candidates is highly uncertain. This is due to the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with product development and commercialization, including the following:

·

the timing and progress of nonclinical and clinical development activities;

·

the number and scope of nonclinical and clinical programs we decide to pursue;

·

the ability to raise necessary additional funds;

·

the progress of the development efforts of parties with whom we may enter into collaboration arrangements;

·

our ability to maintain our current development program and to establish new ones;

·

our ability to establish new licensing or collaboration arrangements;

·

the successful initiation and completion of clinical trials with safety, tolerability and efficacy profiles that are satisfactory to the FDA or any comparable foreign regulatory authority;

·

the receipt and related terms of regulatory approvals from applicable regulatory authorities;

·

the availability of drug substance and drug product for use in production of our product candidate;

·

establishing and maintaining agreements with third-party manufacturers for clinical supply for our clinical trials and commercial manufacturing, if our product candidate is approved;

·

our ability to obtain and maintain patents, trade secret protection and regulatory exclusivity, both in the United States and internationally;

·

our ability to protect our rights in our intellectual property portfolio;

·

the commercialization of our product candidate, if and when approved;

·

obtaining and maintaining third-party insurance coverage and adequate reimbursement;

·

the acceptance of our product candidate, if approved, by patients, the medical community and third-party payors;

·

competition with other products; and

·

a continued acceptable safety profile of our therapies following approval.

A change in the outcome of any of these variables with respect to the development of our product candidates could significantly change the costs and timing associated with the development of that product candidate. We may never succeed in obtaining regulatory approval for any of our product candidates.

General and administrative expenses

General and administrative expenses consist primarily of salaries and related costs for personnel in executive, finance, corporate and business development, and administrative functions. General and administrative expenses also include legal fees relating to patent and corporate matters; professional fees for accounting, auditing, tax and administrative consulting services; insurance costs; administrative travel expenses; marketing expenses and other operating costs.

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We anticipate that our general and administrative expenses will increase in the future as we increase our headcount to support development of AKR-001 and our continued research activities. We also anticipate that we will incur increased accounting, audit, legal, tax, regulatory, compliance, and director and officer insurance costs, as well as investor and public relations expenses associated with maintaining compliance with exchange listing and SEC requirements.

Other income (expense), net

Change in fair value of preferred stock tranche obligation

In connection with our June 2018 issuance and sale of Series A preferred stock, we provided for a first tranche closing, a second tranche closing, and a call option to purchase additional shares of Series A preferred stock. We classified the preferred stock tranche obligation for the future purchase and option to purchase Series A preferred stock as a liability on our consolidated balance sheets as the preferred stock tranche obligation is a freestanding financial instrument that will require us to transfer equity instruments upon future closings of the Series A preferred stock. The preferred stock tranche obligation liability was initially recorded at fair value upon the date of issuance and was subsequently remeasured to fair value at each reporting date. Changes in the fair value of the preferred stock tranche obligation are recognized as a component of other expense in the consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss. Changes in the fair value of the preferred stock tranche obligation were recognized until the tranche obligations were fulfilled or otherwise extinguished in the fourth quarter of 2018.

 

In November 2018, in connection with our issuance and sale of Series A preferred stock, we satisfied our obligation to issue additional shares under the second tranche closing and accordingly reclassified the carrying value of the preferred stock tranche obligation associated with the future purchase obligation, equal to the then current value of $32.8 million, to the carrying value of the Series A preferred stock. In December 2018, in connection with our issuance and sale of Series B preferred stock, we terminated the option to purchase Series A preferred stock provided under the Series A Preferred Stock Purchase Agreement, or 2018 Series A Agreement. We accounted for the termination of the call option associated with the preferred stock tranche obligation as a liability extinguishment between related parties and recognized a gain on extinguishment of $36.8 million, equal to the then current fair value, within additional paid-in capital in the statement of stockholder's equity (deficit).

Change in fair value of anti-dilution right liability

We classified the anti-dilution right under our license agreement with Amgen Inc., or the Amgen Agreement, as a derivative liability on our consolidated balance sheets as the anti-dilution right represented a freestanding financial instrument that required us to transfer equity instruments upon future equity closings. The anti-dilution right liability was initially recorded at fair value upon the date of issuance and was subsequently remeasured to fair value at each reporting date. The issuance date fair value of the derivative liability was recognized as a research and development expense upon entering into the agreement with Amgen. Changes in the fair value of the anti-dilution right liability were recognized as a component of other expense in the consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss. Changes in the fair value of the anti-dilution right liability were recognized until the anti-dilution rights obligation was satisfied in the fourth quarter of 2018.

 

In November 2018, in connection with our issuance and sale of Series A preferred stock, we satisfied our anti-dilution rights obligation under the Amgen Agreement by issuing 3,205,128 shares of Series A preferred stock to Amgen for a total value of $7.4 million. We reclassified the carrying value of the anti-dilution right liability, equal to the then current fair value of $7.4 million, to the carrying value of the Series A preferred stock.

Other income (expense), net

Other income (expense), net consists primarily of interest income earned on our cash,  cash equivalents and short-term marketable securities.

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Income taxes

Since our inception, we have not recorded any income tax benefits for the net losses we have incurred in each period or for our earned research and development tax credits, as we believe, based upon the weight of available evidence, that it is more likely than not that all of our net operating loss carryforwards and tax credits will not be realized. As of December 31, 2019, we had U.S. federal and state net operating loss carryforwards of $51.1 million and $10.2 million, respectively, which may be available to offset future income tax liabilities and expire at various dates beginning in 2037. The federal net operating loss carryforwards include $48.8 million, which may be carried forward indefinitely As of December 31, 2019, we also had U.S. federal and state research and development tax credit carryforwards of $1.1 million and $0.2 million, respectively, which may be available to offset future tax liabilities which expire at various dates beginning in 2032. We have recorded a full valuation allowance against our net deferred tax assets at each balance sheet date.

Results of operations

Comparison of the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018

The following table summarizes our results of operations for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31, 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

2019

    

2018

    

$ Change

    

% Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and development

 

$

37,046

 

$

11,882

 

$

25,164

 

212

%

General and administrative

 

 

8,605

 

 

1,896

 

 

6,709

 

354

%

Total operating expenses

 

 

45,651

 

 

13,778

 

 

31,873

 

231

%

Loss from operations

 

 

(45,651)

 

 

(13,778)

 

 

(31,873)

 

(231)

%

Other income (expense), net:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change in fair value of preferred stock tranche obligation

 

 

 —

 

 

(62,150)

 

 

62,150

 

*

 

Change in fair value of anti-dilution right liability

 

 

 —

 

 

(5,765)

 

 

5,765

 

*

 

Other income (expense), net

 

 

1,896

 

 

(21)

 

 

1,917

 

*

 

Total other income (expense), net

 

 

1,896

 

 

(67,936)

 

 

69,832

 

*

 

Net loss

 

$

(43,755)

 

$

(81,714)

 

$

37,959

 

46

%


* Percentage change is not meaningful

 

Research and development expenses

The following table summarizes our research and development expenses incurred during the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31, 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

2019

    

2018

    

$ Change

    

% Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

 

Research and development expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Direct AKR-001 program expenses

 

$

33,978

 

$

10,894

 

$

23,084

 

212

%

Personnel and related costs

 

 

3,068

 

 

988

 

 

2,080

 

211