vrca-10k_20191231.htm

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, DC 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019

OR

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

Commission File Number: 001-38529

 

Verrica Pharmaceuticals Inc.

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

46-3137900

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

10 North High Street, Suite 200

West Chester, PA

19380

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (484) 453-3300

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

 

Title of Each Class

Trading Symbol

Name of Each Exchange on which Registered

Common Stock, $0.0001 par value

VRCA

The Nasdaq Stock Market, LLC

 

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

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

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

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

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

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, 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

 

☐  

  

Small 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 Verrica Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates as of June 28, 2019 (the last business day of the registrant's most recently completed second fiscal quarter) based on the closing sale price of $11.62 as reported on the Nasdaq Global Market on that date was approximately $181.4 million.

As of March 6, 2020, the registrant had 25,814,493 shares of common stock, $0.0001 par value per share, outstanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Annual Report”) contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. The forward-looking statements are contained principally in Part I, Item 1. “Business,” Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors,” and Part II, Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” but are also contained elsewhere in this Annual Report. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the words “may,” “might,” “will,” “could,” “would,” “should,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “objective,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “project,” “potential,” “continue” and “ongoing,” or the negative of these terms, or other comparable terminology intended to identify statements about the future. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to be materially different from the information expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this Annual Report, we caution you that these statements are based on a combination of facts and factors currently known by us and our expectations of the future, about which we cannot be certain. Forward-looking statements include statements about:

 

our plans to develop and commercialize our product candidates;

 

the timing of our planned clinical trials for VP-102 and our other product candidates;

 

the timing of and our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum and our other product candidates;

 

the clinical utility of our product candidates;

 

our commercialization, marketing and manufacturing capabilities and strategy;

 

our expectations about the willingness of healthcare professionals to use VP-102;

 

our expectations about third-party payors to reimburse or patients to pay for VP-102;

 

our intellectual property position;

 

our plans to in-license, acquire, develop and commercialize additional product candidates for other dermatological conditions to build a fully integrated dermatology company;

 

our competitive position and the development of and projections relating to our competitors or our industry;

 

our ability to identify, recruit and retain key personnel;

 

the impact of laws and regulations;

 

our expectations regarding the time during which we will be an emerging growth company under the JOBS Act;

 

our plans to identify additional product candidates with significant commercial potential that are consistent with our commercial objectives; and

 

our estimates regarding future revenue, expenses and needs for additional financing.

You should refer to Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report for a discussion of important factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by our forward‑looking statements. As a result of these factors, we cannot assure you that the forward‑looking statements in this Annual Report will prove to be accurate. Furthermore, if our forward‑looking statements prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward‑looking statements, you should not regard these statements as a representation or warranty by us or any other person that we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame, or at all. The forward-looking statements in this Annual Report represent our views as of the date of this Annual Report. We anticipate that subsequent events and developments may cause our views to change. However, while we may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward‑looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law. You should, therefore, not rely on these forward-looking statements as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this Annual Report.

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Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

 

PART I

 

Item 1.

Business

3

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

25

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

69

Item 2.

Properties

69

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

69

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

70

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

Item 5.

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

71

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

71

Item 7.

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

72

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

81

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

82

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

103

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

103

Item 9B.

Other Information

104

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

105

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

108

Item 12.

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

120

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

122

Item 14.

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

125

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

127

Item 16.

Form 10-K Summary

129

Signatures

130

 

 

 

 

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PART I

ITEM 1. BUSINESS

Overview

We are a dermatology therapeutics company committed to the development and commercialization of novel treatments that provide meaningful benefit for people living with skin diseases. Our lead product candidate, VP-102, is a proprietary drug-device combination of our novel topical solution of cantharidin, a widely recognized, naturally sourced agent to treat topical dermatological conditions, administered through our single-use precision applicator. We are initially developing VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum contagiosum, or molluscum, a highly contagious and primarily pediatric viral skin disease, and common warts. There are currently no products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, nor is there an established standard of care for either of these diseases, resulting in significant undertreated populations in two of the largest unmet needs in dermatology. In addition to patent protection we are seeking, VP-102 has the potential to be the first FDA-approved product for molluscum and for its active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API, to be characterized as a new chemical entity, or NCE, with the five years of non-patent regulatory exclusivity associated with that designation. We also believe VP-102 has the potential to qualify for pediatric exclusivity in common warts, which would provide for an additional six months of non-patent exclusivity.

In January 2019, we reported positive top-line results from our Phase 3 CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 pivotal trials with VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum. Both clinical trials evaluated the safety and efficacy of VP-102 compared to placebo. In each trial, we observed that a clinically and statistically significant proportion of subjects treated with VP-102 achieved complete clearance of all treatable molluscum lesions compared to subjects treated with placebo. VP-102 was well-tolerated in both trials, with no serious adverse events reported in VP-102 treated subjects. Based on the results from these trials, we submitted a new drug application, or NDA, to the FDA for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum in September 2019.  In November 2019, we received notice that the FDA accepted the NDA for filing, with a Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, goal date of July 13, 2020. CAMP-1 was conducted under a special protocol assessment, or SPA, agreement with the FDA. In June 2019, we announced positive topline results from our COVE-1 Phase 2 open label clinical trial of VP-102 for the treatment of verruca vulgaris, or common warts. Based on the results of the COVE-1 trial, and following an End-of-Phase 2 meeting with the FDA we plan to initiate two Phase 3 clinical trials in the first half of 2020.

In addition, we are also developing VP-102 for the treatment of external genital warts. We initiated a Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the optimal dose regimen, efficacy, safety and tolerability of VP-102 in patients with external genital warts in June 2019.  We expect to report topline data results from this trial in the second half of 2020.  In addition, we are conducting necessary preclinical activities for VP-103, our second cantharidin-based product candidate, and plan to initiate a Phase 2 clinical trial in subjects with plantar warts in mid-2020. We retain exclusive, royalty-free rights to our product candidates across all indications.

Molluscum is a highly contagious common skin disease caused by a pox virus that produces multiple raised flesh-colored papules, or skin lesions. Molluscum typically presents with 10 to 30 lesions and can present with over 100 lesions. If left untreated, molluscum lesions persist for an average of 13 months, with some cases remaining unresolved for more than two years. The symptoms of molluscum tend to cause considerable anxiety, and parents frequently seek treatment due to its highly contagious nature and physical appearance.

We estimate approximately 6 million people in the United States have molluscum. Of the 6 million people with molluscum, we estimate that approximately 1 million are diagnosed annually.  Molluscum has a 5% to 11% prevalence rate in children with the greatest incidence in individuals aged one to 14 years old. Accordingly, we estimate this represents a total addressable U.S. market of over $1 billion. We believe that the molluscum prevalence rate in the European Union is at least as high as in the United States.

Compounded cantharidin has been used for many years by dermatologists to treat molluscum, but it has many limitations. Those limitations include that it is not FDA-approved, could have highly variable purity, is not readily available and is often not produced in accordance with good manufacturing practices, or GMP. In addition, the

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formulation and administration of compounded cantharidin is not standardized and is poorly controlled. Other existing therapies, such as cryotherapy, curettage and laser surgery are also used, but are often painful and may lead to scarring. The potential for scarring and pain makes many of these treatments particularly unsuitable for children. As a result, a significant need exists for a clinically proven and FDA-approved treatment for molluscum.

We have designed VP-102 to address the significant limitations of current compounded cantharidin formulations for the treatment of molluscum, including with respect to safety, purity, efficacy, stability and ease of administration. VP-102 contains the first GMP-controlled formulation of cantharidin with a defined pharmaceutical batch process and an API that is greater than 99% pure. We believe VP-102 addresses the shortcomings associated with current therapies, including pain and discomfort, potential scarring and inconsistent outcomes, and has the potential to be the first FDA-approved product for the treatment of molluscum.

We are also developing VP-102 for the treatment of common warts. Common warts typically result in two to five lesions. We estimate approximately 22 million people in the United States have common warts and the total addressable U.S. market to be over $1 billion with an estimated 2 million patient visits for common warts each year. In the United States, approximately 50% of the patients who seek treatment for common warts are children, and approximately 25% of common warts patients are treated by pediatricians. We believe that the common wart patient opportunity in the European Union is at least as large as that in the United States. There are currently no FDA-approved products indicated for the treatment of common warts. While common warts can be treated with slow acting, over-the-counter products, the warts tend to be highly refractory and a cause for multiple consultations. We believe that cantharidin’s role as a widely recognized and effective blistering agent for the treatment of skin lesions, coupled with VP-102’s safety and efficacy data in clinical trials for the treatment of molluscum and convenient ease of administration, will allow VP-102 to address many of the shortcomings associated with current therapies. In June 2019, we announced positive topline results from our COVE-1 Phase 2 open label clinical trial of VP-102 for the treatment of common warts. COVE-1 included two cohorts that evaluated the safety and efficacy of VP-102 in subjects with up to six warts. In both cohorts, VP-102 achieved positive results in both the primary endpoint of complete clearance of all treatable warts at Day 84 and the secondary endpoint of the percentage reduction of warts, VP-102 was well-tolerated with no serious adverse events reported.  Based on the results of the COVE-1 trial and following an End-of-Phase 2 meeting with the FDA, we plan to initiate two Phase 3 clinical trials in the first half of 2020. Subjects in the Phase 3 trials will also be evaluated in a long-term extension to evaluate safety and efficacy of treatment for up to one year.

In addition, we are also developing VP-102 for the treatment of external genital warts. External genital warts are a viral skin disease caused by the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which forms lesions on the surface of the skin.  An estimated 17% of the approximately 4.1 million patient visits for all types of warts are for the treatment of external genital warts.  We initiated a Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the optimal dose regimen, efficacy, safety and tolerability of VP-102 in patients with external genital warts in June 2019.  We expect to report topline data results from this trial in the second half of 2020.

We also intend to develop our second cantharidin-based product candidate, VP-103, for the treatment of plantar warts. An estimated one-third of the approximately 4.1 million annual patient visits for all types of warts are for the treatment of plantar warts, which are warts located on the bottom of the foot. We are conducting necessary preclinical activities for VP-103 and plan to initiate a Phase 2 clinical trial in subjects with plantar warts in mid-2020. We believe we have the opportunity to expand our proprietary cantharidin formulations for the treatment of additional dermatological conditions with high unmet needs.

We believe the current medical dermatology landscape provides an opportunity to establish ourselves as a leader in the space. With a more concentrated prescribing base of dermatologists versus other medical specialties, our management’s proven track record and experience in new product launches, and the significant clinical benefits described above, we believe a targeted sales and marketing organization of approximately 50 to 60 sales representatives should enable us to capture market share swiftly in the United States, particularly in our current indications of focus.

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Our Pipeline

The following table summarizes our product candidates. We retain exclusive, royalty-free rights for all our product candidates.

VP-102 for the Treatment of Molluscum

We are developing VP-102 as a proprietary drug-device combination of a novel 0.7% w/v topical solution of cantharidin administered through our single-use precision applicator. VP-102 has the potential to be the first FDA-approved treatment for molluscum and we believe it will address many of the shortcomings associated with current therapies, including pain and discomfort, scarring and lack of effectiveness.

We have designed VP-102 to address the significant limitations of current compounded cantharidin formulations for the treatment of molluscum, with respect to safety, purity, efficacy, stability and ease of administration. VP-102 contains the first GMP-controlled formulation of cantharidin with a defined pharmaceutical batch process and an API that is greater than 99% pure.

Our proprietary single-use applicator allows for precise application to each lesion. Our applicator contains a sealed glass ampule providing long-term room temperature stability without the changes in concentration due to evaporation seen in compounded formulations.

Clinical Development for Molluscum

In January 2019, we announced positive topline results from our Phase 3 CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 pivotal trials with VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum. Based on the results from these trials, we submitted an NDA to the FDA for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum in September 2019. In November 2019, we received notice that the FDA accepted the NDA for filing, with a PDUFA goal date of July 13, 2020.

 

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Below is a summary of our clinical development for the indication of molluscum.

 

 

Trial and Status

Formulation and

Application Method

 

Trial Design

 

Trial Objectives

Phase 3 Clinical Trials (CAMP-1 and CAMP-2) (n=266 and 262, respectively)

 

Top-line results reported in January 2019

VP-102

•    Randomized, double-blinded, multicenter, placebo-controlled

 

•    Safety and efficacy evaluated every 21 days for up to 4 applications

•    To evaluate the efficacy of dermal application of

VP-102 relative to placebo for complete clearance at Day 84

 

•    To assess the safety and tolerability of VP-102

Phase 2 Innovate Trial

(n=32)

 

Results reported in September 2018

VP-102

•    Open-label, single- center

 

•    24-hour treatment

 

•    Blood draws in subjects with more than 21 lesions for evaluating PK

 

•    Safety and efficacy evaluated every 21 days for up to four applications

 

•    Impact of quality of life assessed via the CDLQI

 

•    Duration: 12 weeks

•    To determine any possible systemic exposure from a single 24-hour application of

VP-102

 

•    To confirm safety and efficacy with applicator

 

•    To assess impact on quality of life

 

Phase 2 Pilot Trial

(n=30)

 

Completed in September

2017

 

Our proprietary formulation of cantharidin used in

VP-102, applied with the wooden stick part of a cotton-tipped swab

 

•    Open-label, single- center

 

•    Six hour and 24- hour treatment cohorts

 

•    Safety and efficacy evaluated every 21 days for up to four applications

 

•    Impact of quality of life assessed via the CDLQI

 

•    Duration: 12 weeks

 

•    To evaluate safety and efficacy and determine optimal treatment duration

 

•    To assess impact on quality of life

 

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Phase 3 Clinical Trials—CAMP-1 and CAMP-2

In January 2019, we announced positive topline results from our Phase 3 CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 pivotal trials with VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum. The two trials, identical in design, were randomized, double-blind, multicenter, placebo-controlled trials of VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum. CAMP-1 was conducted under a SPA with the FDA. The primary objective of the trials was to evaluate the efficacy of dermal application of VP-102 relative to placebo in subjects 2 years of age and older with molluscum, when treated once every 21 days for up to four applications, by assessing the proportion of subjects achieving complete clearance of all treatable molluscum lesions at Day 84 (Week 12/End of Study visit). Secondary endpoints included the proportion of subjects with complete clearance at study visits on Days 21 (Week 3), 42 (Week 6) and 63 (Week 9).

CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 enrolled 528 subjects in total and were conducted at 31 centers in the United States. Results from CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 showed 46% and 54% of subjects treated with VP-102, respectively, achieved complete clearance of all treatable molluscum lesions at Day 84 versus 18% and 13% of subjects in the placebo groups (p<0.0001).  By Day 84, VP-102 treated subjects had a 69% and 83% mean reduction in the number of molluscum lesions, a pre-specified endpoint, in CAMP-1 and CAMP-2, respectively, compared to a 20% increase and a 19% reduction for subjects on placebo.

Consistent with the results from the Phase 2 clinical trials, VP-102 was also well-tolerated in the Phase 3 trials, with side effects that were primarily mild to moderate. The most frequently reported adverse events were application site reactions that are well-known, reversible side effects related to the mechanism of action of cantharidin, a blistering agent, which is the active ingredient in VP-102. There were no treatment-related serious adverse events reported in CAMP-1 or CAMP-2.

Based on the results of these trials, we submitted an NDA to the FDA for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum. In November 2019, we received notice that the FDA accepted the NDA for filing, with a PDUFA goal date of July 13, 2020.

Phase 2 Clinical Trial—Innovate Trial

In September 2018, we announced results from an open-label Phase 2 clinical trial, which we refer to as the Innovate trial. The primary objective of the Innovate trial was to determine any potential systemic exposure from a single 24-hour dermal application of VP-102 when applied to molluscum lesions on pediatric subjects 2 years of age and older. The trial enrolled 33 subjects at a single center into either an exposure group (n=17) or a standard group (n=16) with 32 subjects completing the trial. Following an initial treatment of all subjects with VP-102 and a 21-day evaluation period, treatment continued once every 21 days for three additional applications allowing further evaluation of safety, efficacy and impact on quality of life.

Systemic exposure was negligible, as indicated by plasma drug levels that were below the limits of quantification in 65 of 66 samples which were taken either pre-dose or post-dose at timepoints of 2, 6 and 24 hours after treatment with VP-102.  One sample was above the limit of quantification at 2 hours after VP-102 treatment, but systemic exposure was not detectable at the 6-hour and 24-hour timepoints in this subject. At the end of trial visit (Week 12), there was a mean reduction in molluscum lesions of 90% compared to baseline across all subjects enrolled in the Innovate trial and 50% of subjects who completed the trial experienced complete clearance of their treatable molluscum lesions.  VP-102 was well-tolerated and no serious adverse events were reported.

Phase 2 Clinical Trial—Pilot Trial

In 2016, we conducted an open-label, Phase 2 clinical trial, which we refer to as the Pilot Trial, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of our proprietary cantharidin formulation and to determine the optimal treatment regimen and estimate power for the pivotal trials. The trial enrolled 30 subjects at a single center and was completed in September 2017. The trial utilized a single-use screw-top vial of our proprietary 0.7% cantharidin formulation, with application via the wooden part of a cotton-tipped swab, which is the method of application historically used with compounded cantharidin. The subjects were divided into two cohorts, with the first cohort instructed to wash off the treatment after a six-hour exposure and the second cohort washing off the product after 24-hour exposure. Subjects were treated every three weeks for up to four treatments. Safety and efficacy measures were evaluated every three

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weeks. Primary efficacy measures were the percentage of subjects who achieved complete clearance by Day 42 (visit 3) and Day 84 (visit 5). Secondary efficacy measures included a quality of life assessment, as measured by the Children’s Dermatology Life Quality Index, or CDLQI, score, and the percentage of subjects who achieved clearance of at least 90% of their lesions with comparison to the efficacy data obtained with compounded cantharidin. The CDLQI scale is a validated tool for measuring the impact of skin disease on quality of life for subjects five to sixteen years of age and ranges from a score of 0 to 30. Lower CDLQI scores indicate lower impairment of a patient’s quality of life.

In the Pilot Trial, our proprietary cantharidin formulation was applied to over 1,700 molluscum lesions in 30 subjects, and was observed to be well tolerated, with no serious adverse events or unexpected treatment related adverse events recorded. The trial’s first cohort investigated a six-hour treatment duration. Fourteen subjects were enrolled in this cohort and 13 subjects completed the trial. Of these 13 subjects, six showed complete clearance on or before Day 84 (visit 5) (46% complete clearance rate). The second cohort investigated a 24-hour treatment duration. Sixteen subjects were enrolled in this cohort and 12 completed the trial. Of these 12 subjects, five showed complete clearance on or before Day 84 (visit 5) (42% complete clearance rate).

VP-102 for the Treatment of Common Warts

We are also developing VP-102 for the treatment of common warts. Published studies and clinical use provide support for cantharidin as a safe and effective treatment for common warts. We believe that VP-102 has the potential to address many of the shortcomings associated with current therapies, including pain and discomfort, scarring, and lack of effectiveness. In addition, we believe VP-102’s convenient ease of administration will differentiate it from existing alternative unapproved therapies.

We conducted an open-label COVE-1 Phase 2 clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy, safety and tolerability of VP-102 in subjects with up to six common warts. In this study, there were two cohorts. Cohort 1 was conducted at a single site with 21 subjects age 2 years and older receiving up to 4 treatments with VP-102 at least 14 days between treatments with longer treatment intervals allowed at the discretion of the investigator depending on a specific subject’s clinical response.  Cohort 2 was conducted at four sites with 35 subjects age 12 years and older receiving up to 4 treatments with VP-102 every 21 days.  Paring of warts, a technique commonly used by dermatologists to prepare the wart for treatment, was allowed in Cohort 2 to remove any adherent thick scale from a wart prior to application of study drug. The primary objective of both cohorts was to evaluate the efficacy of up to 4 dermal applications of VP-102 when applied to common warts by assessing the proportion of subjects achieving complete clearance of all treatable warts at Day 84. Complete clearance of warts at Day 84 for Cohort 1 was observed in 19.0% of subjects, and for Cohort 2 complete clearance was observed in 51.4% of subjects. By Day 84, there was a mean decrease from baseline in the number of warts of 31.2% for Cohort 1 subjects and 53.8% for Cohort 2 subjects. In both cohorts, the most frequently reported adverse events were anticipated application site skin reactions that were primarily mild or moderate in intensity, including vesicles, pain, erythema, pruritus, scabbing, dryness, edema, and post-inflammatory pigmentation changes. There were no deaths or serious adverse events reported, and there were no adverse events leading to trial drug discontinuation.

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Trial and Status

 

Formulation

 

 

Trial Design

 

Trial Objectives

Phase 2 COVE-1 Trial

 

Results reported in June 2019

VP-102

•    Open-label, multi- center

•    2 cohorts

•    Dosing regimens of 14 (Cohort 1) and 21 (Cohort 2) days evaluated for up to 4 applications

•    24-hour treatment

•    Wart paring allowed in the second cohort

•    To evaluate safety and efficacy over four treatments

 

Based on the results of the COVE-1 trial, and following an End-of-Phase 2 meeting with the FDA, we plan to initiate two Phase 3 clinical trials in the first half of 2020. Subjects in the Phase 3 trials will also be evaluated in a long-term extension phase to evaluate safety and efficacy of treatment for up to one year.

VP-102 for the Treatment of External Genital Warts

We are also developing VP-102 for the treatment of external genital warts. External genital warts are a viral skin disease caused by HPV which forms lesions on the surface of the skin. An estimated 17% of the approximately 4.1 million patient visits for all types of warts are for the treatment of external genital warts. We believe VP-102 may have the potential to offer a safe and effective treatment for external genital warts because of the shared characteristics with molluscum. We initiated a Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the optimal dose regimen, efficacy, safety and tolerability of VP-102 in patients with external genital warts in June 2019, as summarized in the table below. We expect to report topline data results from this trial in the second half of 2020.

 

 

Trial and Status

 

Formulation

 

 

Trial Design

 

Trial Objectives

Phase 2 CARE-1 Trial

 

Ongoing

VP-102

•    Randomized, placebo-controlled, multi-center

•    Two-part (n=108 total)

•    Dosing regimens of every 21 days evaluated for up to 4 applications

•    Duration of skin exposure was evaluated for 2, 6 and 24-hours treatment

•    To evaluate safety and efficacy over four treatments

VP-103 for the Treatment of Plantar Warts

We also intend to develop our second cantharidin-based product candidate, VP-103, for the treatment of plantar warts, which are warts located on the bottom of the foot. An estimated one-third of the approximately 4.1

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million patient visits for all types of warts are for the treatment of plantar warts. To date, plantar warts have been difficult to treat, as they are refractory and available treatments often lead to both pain and scarring. We are conducting necessary preclinical activities for VP-103 and plan to initiate a Phase 2 clinical trial in subjects with plantar warts in mid-2020.

Manufacturing

We do not have any manufacturing facilities. We have been relying on third parties for the manufacture of our product candidates for preclinical studies and clinical trials and will continue to rely on these third parties in the near term for the commercial manufacture of our drug products if they are approved during the initial commercial phase. Manufacturing of the API for our product candidates requires a raw material that is derived from a natural source.

To date, we have obtained naturally-sourced cantharidin directly or indirectly from suppliers based in the People’s Republic of China. On July 16, 2018, we entered into a Supply Agreement, or the Supply Agreement, with Funing County Development Brucea Javanica Professional Cooperatives, or the Supplier, pursuant to which the Supplier has agreed to supply naturally-sourced cantharidin to us for a specified fixed price. Pursuant to the Supply Agreement, the Supplier has agreed that it will not supply cantharidin, any beetles or other raw material from which cantharidin is derived to any other customer in North America, subject to specified minimum annual purchase orders and forecasts.

Pursuant to the Supply Agreement, we have provided the Supplier with purchase orders in 2018 and 2019 and may submit additional purchase orders from time to time, so long as the purchase orders are at least six months prior to the proposed delivery date. As of January 31, 2020, we possess total inventories in a combination of raw cantharidin and converted API adequate to produce over 15 million finished drug product applicators in the United States, with additional raw cantharidin already manufactured awaiting shipment.

The term of the Supply Agreement is five years and thereafter will be renewed automatically for 12-month periods, unless terminated by either party at least 12 months prior to the end of the applicable term. In addition, either party has the right to terminate the Supply Agreement under certain circumstances, including (i) upon a material breach of the Supply Agreement if the breaching party has failed to remedy the breach within 45 days or if the breach is not capable of remedy within 45 days or (ii) the other party becomes insolvent or goes into liquidation.

Our contract manufacturers and primary packaging vendor are FDA-registered establishments and have a history of supplying products to the pharmaceutical industry.

We have demonstrated capability to successfully manufacture both the API as well as the bulk drug intermediate at our proposed commercial batch sizes. We are confident of the ability to scale the applicator final assembly process to commercial scale as this process is well understood. Validation activities for the commercial manufacturing and assembly processes have commenced and, based upon current project timelines, are expected to be completed in 2020.  Given the nature of both the API as well as several of the excipients, special handling will be required to minimize risks to personnel during processing. Analytical testing methods for both the API as well as the finished drug product have been developed and satisfactorily qualified to enable release of clinical materials for human use. It is expected that these methods will prove appropriate for release of commercial product with minimal additional effort.

Our proprietary individual applicator and its parts are fabricated using common methods and materials and we currently plan to have our applicators built using semi-custom equipment performing well established automated assembly techniques. The proposed commercial applicator assembly has successfully undergone both engineering testing as well as evaluation in the clinical setting.

Commercialization

We intend to commercialize VP-102, or any other product candidates that we may successfully develop, in the United States by building a specialized sales organization focused on pediatric dermatologists, dermatologists and select pediatricians. We believe a scientifically oriented, customer-focused team of approximately 50 to 60 sales representatives would allow us to reach the approximately 400 pediatric dermatologists and 5,000 to 6,000 dermatologists in the United States with the highest potential for using VP-102. In the future, we may develop and commercialize VP-102 for additional geographic regions, independently or with a strategic partner. We intend to seek

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drug product reimbursement for VP-102. Based on a survey of 40 physicians that we commissioned, 87% of physicians reported they would use VP-102 if the cost of the drug were covered. Furthermore, in April 2018, we commissioned a market research study, which surveyed 15 payor organizations representing over 105 million lives. The surveyed payors recognized that there is a significant unmet need for molluscum and a current lack of an effective treatment. Given the unmet need and the results of clinical trials of VP-102 to date, the surveyed payors anticipate the majority of patients would have access to VP-102, if approved, with minimal to no restrictions. We believe dermatologists tend to be particularly focused on the safety of pharmaceutical products because, while skin diseases can have profound effects on patients quality of life, few are life-threatening. As a result, we believe that dermatologists, as well as their patients, often prefer to use topical treatments when possible to limit the risk of systemic side effects. Dermatologists also tend to place a high level of emphasis on products that are easy to use because they often manage high volumes of patients. We believe this also contributes to a general preference for topical treatments. Finally, in our experience, dermatologists tend to engage with sales and medical affairs personnel from the pharmaceutical industry regarding the scientific evidence supporting dermatology products and the challenges experienced by physicians and patients in the use of these products. Dermatologists often rely on trusted relationships with scientifically oriented, customer-focused sales representatives who can provide them with the necessary information to support their use of appropriate treatments.

Competition

The pharmaceutical industry is subject to rapidly advancing technologies, intense competition and a strong emphasis on proprietary products. We face potential competition from many different sources, including major pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, compounding facilities, academic institutions, governmental agencies and public and private research institutions. Any product candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with existing treatments and new treatments that may become available in the future.

The key competitive factors affecting the success of VP-102, if approved, are likely to be its efficacy, safety, convenience, pricing and stability. With respect to VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, we will be primarily competing with therapies such as other topical products, curettage, cryotherapy, laser surgery, natural oils, off-label drugs, natural remedies and compounded unstandardized cantharidin. Under Section 503A of the FDCA, if VP-102 is approved, compounded topical cantharidin products with the same, similar or an easily substitutable dosage strength would be considered essentially copies of VP-102 and may not be compounded regularly or in inordinate amounts, subject to certain limited individual exceptions. These exceptions include if there is a difference between the compounded product and VP-102 that is made for an individual patient, and a prescribing practitioner determines produces a significant difference for that patient. In addition, pursuant to Section 503B of the FDCA, once VP-102 is approved, compounding facilities registered as outsourcing facilities would not be able to compound cantharidin products, unless there is a difference from VP-102 that produces a clinical difference for an individual patient, as determined by a prescribing practitioner. With respect to VP-102 for common warts and VP-103 for plantar warts, we will primarily be competing with over-the-counter products, cryotherapy, curettage, laser surgery, or other off-label therapies. There are currently no FDA-approved prescription pharmaceutical therapies for the treatment of molluscum, common warts, or plantar warts. With respect to VP-102 for external genital warts, we will be competing with cryosurgery, laser surgery, and topical destructive therapies such as trichloroacetic acid. There are also several FDA-approved prescription pharmaceutical therapies for external genital warts including imiquimod, podofilox, and sinecatechins. In addition, external genital warts are caused by HPV and may be prevented or treated by HPV vaccines that are FDA-approved.

We are aware of several other product candidates in earlier stages of development as potential treatments for the indications we intend to target. Veloce Biopharma, Leo Pharma and Novan have initiated clinical trials with different programs in molluscum. There are a number of other companies developing products for common wart, including Aclaris Therapeutics. Aclaris has conducted late-stage clinical trials and is pursuing FDA approval for their common wart product candidate. In addition, other drugs have been used off label as treatments for molluscum and common warts.

Intellectual Property

Our commercial success depends in part on our ability to obtain and maintain proprietary protection for VP-102 and our proprietary applicator and any of our future product candidates, medical devices, synthetic

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methodologies, novel discoveries, drug development technologies and know-how; to operate without infringing on or otherwise violating the proprietary rights of others; and to prevent others from infringing or otherwise violating our proprietary rights. Our policy is to seek to protect our proprietary position by, among other methods, filing U.S. and foreign patent applications related to our product candidate and other proprietary technologies, inventions, and improvements that are important to the development and implementation of our business. We also rely on trademarks, trade secrets, know-how, continuing technological innovation, and potential in-licensing opportunities to develop and maintain our proprietary position.

While we seek broad coverage under our pending patent applications, our granted patent and pending patent applications do not include any claims drawn to the active pharmaceutical agent cantharidin per se or for the broad use of our API alone for the treatment of warts or molluscum. However, our granted patent and pending patent applications do claim our cantharidin preparations, cantharidin formulations, applicator devices, dosing regimens, methods of preparation including methods of synthesis, and methods of use. Despite these patent filings, there is always a risk that modification of the specific formulation, manufacturing process, method of application, and/or specific method of use may allow a competitor to avoid infringement claims. In addition, patents, if granted, will expire, and we cannot provide any assurance that any additional patents will issue from our pending or any future patent applications.

We currently have one granted Australian patent covering our formulation of VP-102, applicator devices and systems comprising the formulation and methods of using the same.  Additionally, as of February 11, 2020, we have nationalized five international patent applications for utility patents, four of which have been nationalized in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Israel, India, Japan, South Korea, and Mexico, and one of which has been nationalized in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Two of these European patent applications have been registered in Hong Kong. In addition, we have one pending international patent applications and one patent application for a United States design patent. These patent applications relate to VP-102, our proprietary applicator, and other inventions related to VP-102. Our patent applications related to VP-102 and our proprietary applicator include proposed claims relating to (i) methods for the synthesis of cantharidin, (ii) our specific formulations and preparations of VP-102, (iii) methods for purifying cantharidin, (iv) methods for detecting impurities in cantharidin, (v) the design of our proprietary applicator, including both the general design and specific design elements, (vi) claims related to safety features included in the VP-102 formulation, including colorants and bittering agents, and (vii) the method of administration of VP-102 for the treatment of skin lesions. Excluding any patent term adjustment and patent term extension, any utility patents to issue from these patent applications are projected to expire between 2034 and 2039. The design patent to issue from the design patent application will expire fifteen years from the date of issuance. We cannot provide any assurance as to whether any additional patents will issue from these patent applications or, if any patents do issue, the scope of the claims that will be allowed.

Individual patents extend for varying periods depending on the date of filing of the patent application or the date of patent issuance and the legal term of patents in the countries, in which they are obtained. Generally, patents issued from regularly filed applications in the United States are granted for a term of 20 years from the earliest effective non-provisional filing date. In addition, in certain instances, a patent term can be adjusted to recapture a portion of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO, delay in issuing the patent, and extended to recapture a portion of the patent term effectively lost as a result of the FDA regulatory review period of the drug covered by the patent. However, as to the FDA component, the restoration period cannot be longer than five years, the total patent term including the restoration period must not exceed 14 years following FDA approval of the drug, and the extension may only apply to one patent that covers the approved drug (and to only those patent claims covering the approved drug or a method for using it). There can be no assurance that any such patent term adjustment or extension will be obtained. The duration of foreign patents varies in accordance with provisions of applicable local law, but typically is also 20 years from the earliest effective non-provisional filing date. However, the actual protection afforded by a patent varies on a product-by-product basis, from country to country and depends upon many factors, including the type of patent, the scope of its coverage, the availability of regulatory-related extensions, the availability of legal remedies in a particular country, and the validity and enforceability of the patent.

Furthermore, we rely upon trade secrets, know-how, and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. We seek to protect our proprietary information, in part, using confidentiality agreements with our commercial partners, collaborators, employees, and consultants and invention assignment agreements with our employees. We also have confidentiality agreements or invention assignment agreements with

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our commercial partners and selected consultants. These agreements are designed to protect our proprietary information and, in the case of the invention assignment agreements, to grant us ownership of technologies that are developed through a relationship with a third party. These agreements may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. To the extent that our commercial partners, collaborators, employees, and consultants use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights in related or resulting know-how and inventions.

Government Regulation and Product Approval

Government authorities in the United States, at the federal, state and local levels, and in other countries, extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, packaging, storage, recordkeeping, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, marketing, import and export of pharmaceutical products, such as those we are developing. We, along with third-party contractors, will be required to navigate the various chemistry, manufacturing and controls, preclinical, clinical and commercial approval requirements of the governing regulatory agencies of the countries in which we wish to conduct studies or seek approval of our product candidates. The processes for obtaining regulatory approvals in the United States and in foreign countries, along with subsequent compliance with applicable statutes and regulations, require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.

United States Government Regulation

In the United States, the FDA regulates drugs under the FDCA and its implementing regulations. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations requires the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. Failure to comply with the applicable United States requirements at any time during the drug development process, approval process or after approval, may subject an applicant to a variety of administrative or judicial sanctions, such as the FDA’s refusal to approve pending new drug applications, or NDAs, withdrawal of an approval, imposition of a clinical hold, issuance of warning or untitled letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement or civil or criminal penalties.

The process required by the FDA before a drug may be marketed in the United States generally involves:

 

completion of preclinical laboratory tests, animal studies and formulation studies in compliance with the FDA’s good laboratory practice, or GLP, regulations;

 

submission to the FDA of an IND, which must become effective before human clinical trials may begin;

 

approval by an independent institutional review board, or IRB, at each clinical site before each clinical trial may be initiated;

 

performance of adequate and well-controlled clinical trials in accordance with good clinical practice, or GCP, requirements to establish the safety and efficacy of the proposed drug for each indication;

 

submission to the FDA of an NDA;

 

satisfactory completion of an FDA advisory committee review, if applicable;

 

satisfactory completion of chemistry, manufacturing and controls testing, an FDA inspection of the manufacturing facility or facilities at which the product is produced to assess compliance with cGMP requirements, and to assure that the facilities, methods and controls are adequate to preserve the drug’s identity, strength, quality and purity;

 

satisfactory completion of an FDA inspection of selected clinical sites to assure compliance with GCPs and the integrity of the clinical data;

 

payment of user fees; and

 

FDA review and approval of the NDA.

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VP-102 is designed to be administered to patients via a proprietary applicator by a healthcare professional. In the United States, products composed of components that would normally be regulated by different centers at the FDA are known as combination products. Typically, the FDA’s Office of Combination Products assigns a combination product to a specific Agency center as the lead reviewer. The FDA determines which center will lead a product’s review based upon the product’s primary mode of action. Depending on the type of combination product, its approval, clearance or licensure may usually be obtained through the submission of a single marketing application. We anticipate that VP-102 will be regulated as a drug, and that the FDA will permit a single regulatory submission seeking approval of VP-102 with the applicator in each indication for which we seek approval. Even when a single marketing application is required for a combination product, such as an NDA for a combination pharmaceutical and device product, both the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health may participate in the review. An applicant will also need to discuss with the Agency how to apply certain premarket requirements and post-marketing regulatory requirements, including conduct of clinical trials, adverse event reporting and good manufacturing practices, to their combination product.

Preclinical Studies

Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluation of product chemistry, toxicity and formulation, as well as animal studies to assess potential safety and efficacy. An IND sponsor must submit the results of the nonclinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data and any available clinical data or literature, among other things, to the FDA as part of an IND. Some nonclinical testing may continue even after the IND is submitted. An IND automatically becomes effective and a clinical trial proposed in the IND may begin 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless before that time the FDA raises concerns or questions related to one or more proposed clinical trials and places the clinical trial on a clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. As a result, submission of an IND may not result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to commence.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational new drug to human subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators in accordance with GCP requirements, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent in writing for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the trial, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. A protocol for each clinical trial and any subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. In addition, an IRB at each institution participating in the clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial before it commences at that institution, and the IRB must continue to oversee the clinical trial while it is being conducted. Information about certain clinical trials must be submitted within specific timeframes to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, for public dissemination on their ClinicalTrials.gov website.

Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases, which may overlap or be combined. In Phase 1, the drug is initially introduced into healthy human subjects or patients with the target disease or condition and tested for safety, dosage tolerance, absorption, metabolism, distribution, excretion and, if possible, to gain an initial indication of its effectiveness. In Phase 2, the drug typically is administered to a limited patient population to identify possible adverse effects and safety risks, to preliminarily evaluate the efficacy of the product for specific targeted diseases and to determine dosage tolerance and optimal dosage. In Phase 3, the drug is administered to an expanded patient population, generally at geographically dispersed clinical trial sites, in well-controlled clinical trials to generate enough data to statistically evaluate the safety and efficacy of the product for approval, to establish the overall risk-benefit profile of the product and to provide adequate information for the labeling of the product.

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

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Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted, at least annually, to the FDA, and more frequently if serious adverse events occur. Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, or at all. Furthermore, the FDA or the sponsor may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements, or if the drug has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients.

Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal studies and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the product and 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, the manufacturer must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality and purity of the final product. 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.

Marketing Approval

Assuming successful completion of the required clinical testing, the results of the preclinical studies and clinical trials, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacture, controls data and proposed labeling, among other things, are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the product for one or more indications. In most cases, the submission of an NDA is subject to a substantial application user fee. Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, guidelines that are currently in effect, the FDA has a goal of ten months from the date of “filing” of a standard NDA for a new molecular entity to review and act on the submission. This review typically takes twelve months from the date the NDA is submitted to the FDA because the FDA has sixty days from receipt to make a decision as to whether the application has been accepted for filing.

In addition, under the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003 as amended and reauthored, certain NDAs or supplements to an NDA must contain data that are adequate to assess the safety and effectiveness of the drug for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations, and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The FDA may, on its own initiative or at the request of the applicant, grant deferrals for submission of some or all pediatric data until after approval of the product for use in adults, or full or partial waivers from the pediatric data requirements.

The FDA also may require submission of a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, or REMS, plan to ensure that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks. The REMS plan could include medication guides, physician communication plans, assessment plans, and/or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries or other risk minimization tools.

The FDA conducts a preliminary review of all NDAs within the first 60 days after submission, before accepting them for filing, to determine whether they are sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. The FDA may request additional information rather than accept an NDA for filing. In this event, the application must be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application is also subject to review before the FDA accepts it for filing. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth substantive review. The FDA reviews an NDA to determine, among other things, whether the drug is safe and effective and whether the facility in which it is manufactured, processed, packaged or held meets standards designed to assure the product’s continued safety, quality and purity.

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

Before approving an NDA, the FDA typically will inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product

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within required specifications. Additionally, before approving an NDA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical trial sites to assure compliance with GCP requirements.

The testing and approval process for an NDA requires substantial time, effort and financial resources, and each may take several years to complete. Data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing are not always conclusive and may be susceptible to varying interpretations, which could delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. The FDA may not grant approval of an NDA on a timely basis, or at all.

After evaluating the NDA and all related information, including the advisory committee recommendation, if any, and inspection reports regarding the manufacturing facilities and clinical trial sites, the FDA may issue an approval letter, or, in some cases, a complete response letter. A complete response letter generally contains a statement of specific conditions that must be met in order to secure final approval of the NDA and may require additional chemistry, manufacturing and controls documentation, clinical or preclinical testing in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. Even with submission of this additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval. If and when those conditions have been met to the FDA’s satisfaction, the FDA will typically issue an approval letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the drug with specific prescribing information for specific indications.

Even if the FDA approves a product, it may limit the approved indications for use of the product, require that contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling, require that post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, be conducted to further assess a drug’s safety after approval, require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution and use restrictions or other risk management mechanisms under a REMS, which can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the product. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs. After approval, some types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes, and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval.

Special Protocol Assessment

A sponsor may request a Special Protocol Assessment, or (SPA), the purpose of which is to reach agreement with the FDA on the Phase 3 clinical trial protocol design and analysis that will form the primary basis of an efficacy claim. A SPA request must be made before the proposed trial begins, and all open issues must be resolved before the trial begins for a SPA to be approved. If a written agreement is reached, it will be documented in a SPA letter or the minutes of a meeting between the sponsor and the FDA and made part of the administrative record.

Even if the FDA agrees to the design, execution and analyses proposed in protocols reviewed under the SPA process, the FDA may revoke or alter its agreement under the following circumstances:

 

public health concerns emerge that were unrecognized at the time of the protocol assessment, or the director of the review division determines that a substantial scientific issue essential to determining safety or efficacy has been identified after testing has begun;

 

a sponsor fails to follow a protocol that was agreed upon with the FDA; or

 

the relevant data, assumptions, or information provided by the sponsor in a request for SPA change, are found to be false statements or misstatements, or are found to omit relevant facts.

A documented SPA may be modified, and such modification will be deemed binding by the FDA review division, except under the circumstances described above, if the FDA and the sponsor agree in writing to modify the protocol and such modification is intended to improve the study. A SPA, however, does not guarantee that a trial will be successful.

Orange Book Listing

In seeking approval for a drug through an NDA, applicants are required to list with the FDA certain patents whose claims cover the applicant’s product. Upon approval of an NDA, each of the patents listed in the application for the drug is then published in the FDA’s Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations, known as the Orange Book. Any applicant who files an Abbreviated New Drug Application, or ANDA, seeking

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approval of a generic equivalent version of a drug listed in the Orange Book or a 505(b)(2) NDA referencing a drug listed in the Orange Book must certify, for each patent listed in the Orange Book for the referenced drug, to the FDA that (1) no patent information on the drug product that is the subject of the application has been submitted to the FDA, (2) such patent has expired, (3) the date on which such patent expires or (4) such patent is invalid or will not be infringed upon by the manufacture, use or sale of the drug product for which the application is submitted. The fourth certification described above is known as a paragraph IV certification. A notice of the paragraph IV certification must be provided to each owner of the patent that is the subject of the certification and to the holder of the approved NDA to which the ANDA refers. The applicant may also elect to submit a “section viii” statement certifying that its proposed label does not contain (or carves out) any language regarding the patented method-of-use rather than certify to a listed method-of-use patent. This section viii statement does not require notice to the patent holder or NDA owner. There might also be no relevant patent certification.

If the reference NDA holder and patent owners assert a patent challenge directed to one of the Orange Book listed patents within 45 days of the receipt of the paragraph IV certification notice, the FDA is prohibited from approving the application until the earlier of 30 months from the receipt of the paragraph IV certification expiration of the patent, settlement of the lawsuit, or a decision in the infringement case that is favorable to the applicant. Even if the 45 days expire, a patent infringement lawsuit can be brought and could delay market entry, but it would not extend the FDA-related 30-month stay of approval.

The ANDA or 505(b)(2) application also will not be approved until any applicable non-patent exclusivity listed in the Orange Book for the branded reference drug has expired. Specifically, the holder of the NDA for the listed drug may be entitled to a period of non-patent exclusivity, during which the FDA cannot approve an ANDA or 505(b)(2) application that relies on the listed drug. For example, a pharmaceutical manufacturer may obtain five years of non-patent exclusivity upon NDA approval of a New Chemical Entity, or (NCE), which is a drug that contains an active moiety that has not been approved by FDA in any other NDA. An “active moiety” is defined as the molecule or ion responsible for the drug substance’s physiological or pharmacologic action. During the five-year exclusivity period, the FDA cannot accept for filing any ANDA seeking approval of a generic version of that drug or any 505(b)(2) NDA for the same active moiety and that relies on the FDA’s findings regarding that drug, except that FDA may accept an application for filing after four years if the follow-on applicant makes a paragraph IV certification. This exclusivity period may be extended by an additional six months if certain requirements are met to qualify the product for pediatric exclusivity, including the receipt of a written request from the FDA that we conduct certain pediatric studies, the submission of study reports from such studies to the FDA after receipt of the written request and satisfaction of the conditions specified in the written request.

Post-Approval Requirements

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

Even if the FDA approves a product, it may limit the approved indications for use of the product, require that contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling, including a boxed warning, require that post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, be conducted to further assess a drug’s safety after approval, require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution restrictions or other risk management mechanisms under a REMS, which can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the product. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs.

In addition, drug manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved drugs are required to register their establishments with the FDA and state agencies and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and these state agencies for compliance with cGMP requirements. Changes to the manufacturing process are strictly regulated and often require prior FDA approval before being implemented. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from cGMP and impose reporting and documentation requirements upon the sponsor and any third-party manufacturers that the sponsor may decide to use.

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Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain cGMP compliance.

Once an approval is granted, the FDA may withdraw the approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market or if requested by the Sponsor. 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 mandatory revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information; imposition of post-market studies or clinical trials to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential FDA enforcement actions include, among other things:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of products. Drugs may be promoted only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label, although physicians, in the practice of medicine, may prescribe approved drugs for unapproved indications. Companies may also share truthful and not misleading information that is otherwise consistent with the labeling. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses, and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label uses may be subject to significant liability. However, physicians may, in their independent medical judgement, prescribe legally available products for off-label uses.  The FDA does not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments but the FDA does restrict manufacturer’s communications on the subject of off-label use of their products.

In addition, the distribution of prescription pharmaceutical products is subject to the Prescription Drug Marketing Act, or PDMA, which regulates the distribution of drugs and drug samples at the federal level and sets minimum standards for the registration and regulation of drug distributors by the states. Both the PDMA and state laws limit the distribution of prescription pharmaceutical product samples and impose requirements to ensure accountability in distribution.

Regulation of Compounding Pharmacies

Compounding is a practice in which a licensed pharmacist, a licensed physician, or in the case of an outsourcing facility, a person under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, combines, mixes, or alters ingredients of a drug to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual patient. Although we are not engaged in compounding, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in our product candidate VP-102 has historically been used in the compounding of topical pharmaceutical products, and we could be subject to competition by compounders upon approval of VP-102, subject to the requirements set forth in Sections 503A and 503B of the FDCA.

Section 503A of the FDCA exempts licensed pharmacists or licensed physicians who compound products for identified, individual patients, based on the receipt of a valid prescription order, from the FDCA’s new drug approval requirements, cGMP requirements, and the requirement to label products with adequate directions for use, provided certain conditions are met. These conditions include that the pharmacist or physician does not compound regularly or in inordinate amounts any drug product that is essentially a copy of a commercially available drug product, unless there is a difference between the compounded product and the commercially available product that is made for an individual patient, and which the prescribing practitioner determines produces a significant difference for that patient. The FDA has interpreted this prohibition to mean that the compounding of a product with the same active pharmaceutical ingredient as a commercially available drug, that has the same, similar, or an easily substitutable dosage strength as the commercially available drug, and that can be used by the same route of administration as the commercially available drug, cannot be conducted under Section 503A usually, very often, or

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at regular times or intervals, or more frequently or in larger quantities than needed to address unanticipated emergency circumstance, unless the limited exception described above applies.

In addition, compounding under Section 503A may only use bulk drug substances that appear on a list issued by FDA through regulations, and/or that comply with certain other conditions specified in the statute.

Unlike Section 503A, Section 503B of the FDCA allows certain entities to compound drugs that are not necessarily prepared in response to prescriptions for identified, individual patients. Such facilities must register with the FDA as outsourcing facilities, and once registered (including payment of a fee), the outsourcing facility must meet certain conditions in order to be exempt from the FDCA’s approval requirements and the requirement to label products with adequate directions for use. Under Section 503B, a drug must be compounded in compliance with cGMP, by or under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist in order to be so exempt. The outsourcing facility must also report specific information about the products that it compounds, including a list of all of the products it compounded during the previous six months, and information about the compounded products, such as the source of the active ingredients used to compound pursuant to Section 503B(b)(2). If the outsourcing facility compounds using bulk drug substances, the bulk drug substances must either appear on a list established by the FDA of bulk drug substances for which there is a clinical need or be used to compound drugs that appear on a list established by the FDA of drugs for which there is a shortage. Although the FDA has not yet established a list of bulk drug substances for which there is a clinical need, the FDA has announced an interim policy pursuant to which bulk drug substances may be nominated for inclusion on such list and, provided certain conditions are met, outsourcing facilities may compound with such bulk drug substances pending evaluation of the substances for inclusion on the FDA’s list of bulk drug substances for which there is a clinical need. Cantharidin is currently listed among those nominated substances for which bulk drug substance may be used in compounding by outsourcing facilities pending FDA’s evaluation. In March 2019, the FDA issued Guidance for Industry addressing the criteria by which the FDA intends to evaluate whether there exists a clinical need for compounding with a bulk drug substance, including, in the case of a bulk drug substance that is a component of an FDA-approved drug, an evaluation of whether there exists an attribute of the approved drug that makes it medically unsuitable to treat certain patients; whether the drug product proposed to be compounded is intended to address that attribute; and whether the drug product proposed to be compounded must be compounded from a bulk drug substance rather than from the finished, FDA-approved drug product. If FDA implements these criteria as in the Guidance for Industry, and if VP-102 is approved, an outsourcing facility would need to satisfy these criteria before being permitted to compound a cantharidin product using bulk cantharidin.

In addition, an outsourcing facility must meet other conditions described in Section 503B, including reporting adverse events and labeling compounded products with certain information. Registered outsourcing facilities are prohibited from selling compounded drugs through a wholesale distributor, or from compounding drugs that are essentially copies of FDA-approved drugs. A drug is “essentially a copy of an approved drug” if it is identical or nearly identical to an approved drug, which the FDA has interpreted to mean that it has the same active ingredient(s), route of administration, dosage form, dosage strength and excipients as the approved drug, or if it has the same active ingredient as an approved drug and there is not a change from the approved drug that produces a clinical difference for an individual patient, as determined by the prescribing practitioner. Registered outsourcing facilities are subject to FDA inspection, and FDA conducts inspections on a risk-based frequency under Section 503B(b)(4) of the FDCA.

Federal and State Fraud and Abuse, Data Privacy and Security, and Transparency Laws and Regulations

In addition to FDA restrictions on marketing of pharmaceutical products, federal and state healthcare laws and regulations restrict business practices in the biopharmaceutical industry. These laws may impact, among other things, our current and future business operations, including our clinical research activities, and proposed sales, marketing and education programs and constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships with healthcare providers and other parties through which we market, sell and distribute our products for which we obtain marketing approval. These laws include anti-kickback and false claims laws and regulations, data privacy and security, and transparency laws and regulations, including, without limitation, those laws described below.

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The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, individuals or entities from knowingly and willfully offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind to induce or in return for purchasing, leasing, ordering or arranging for or recommending the purchase, lease or order of any item or service reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid or other federal healthcare programs. The term “remuneration” has been broadly interpreted to include anything of value. The federal Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on one hand and prescribers, purchasers, formulary managers, and other individuals and entities on the other hand. Although 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 require strict compliance to offer protection. Practices that involve remuneration that may be alleged to be intended to induce prescribing, purchases or recommendations may be subject to scrutiny if they do not qualify for an exception or safe harbor.

In addition, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of this statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation. Further, the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the False Claims Act and the civil monetary penalties statute.

The federal civil and criminal false claims laws, including the False Claims Act, which prohibit, among other things, any individual or entity from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a false claim for payment to the federal government or 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. A claim includes “any request or demand” for money or property presented to the U.S. government. Several 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 products for unapproved, and thus non-reimbursable, uses.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, created additional federal criminal statutes that prohibit, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, including private third-party payors and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up 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. Similar to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation.

HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, and their respective implementing regulations, impose certain requirements relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information without appropriate authorization on certain health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and certain healthcare providers, known as covered entities, and their respective business associates, independent contractors that perform certain services involving the use or disclosure of individually identifiable health information. HITECH also created new tiers of civil monetary penalties, amended HIPAA to make civil and criminal penalties directly applicable to business associates, and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce HIPAA and seek attorneys’ fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions.

The federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with specific exceptions, to report annually to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, information related to payments or other transfers of value made to physicians and teaching hospitals, and applicable manufacturers and applicable group purchasing organizations to report annually to CMS ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members.

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We may also be subject to state and foreign law equivalents of each of the above federal laws; state laws that require manufacturers to report information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians and other healthcare providers or marketing expenditures; state 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 that otherwise restrict payments that may be made to healthcare providers; state laws that require reporting of information related to drug pricing; state and local laws that require the registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives; as well as state and foreign laws that govern the privacy and security of health information in some circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.

Efforts to ensure that our business arrangements with third parties will comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors available, it is possible that some of our business activities could be subject to challenge under one or more of such laws. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices may not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of these laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, exclusion from participating in government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, additional reporting requirements and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, contractual damages, reputational harm and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. To the extent that any of our products are sold in a foreign country, we may be subject to similar foreign laws and regulations, which may include, for instance, applicable post-marketing requirements, including safety surveillance, anti-fraud and abuse laws and implementation of corporate compliance programs and reporting of payments or transfers of value to healthcare professionals.

Coverage and Reimbursement

Market acceptance and sales of any drug products depend in part on coverage and the extent to which adequate reimbursement for drug products will be available from third-party payors, including government health administration authorities, managed care organizations and other private health insurers. Coverage and reimbursement for our product also depends on coverage and adequate reimbursement for the procedures using VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum and/or common warts. Obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement for our products may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices often associated with drugs administered under the supervision of a physician. Separate reimbursement for the product itself or the treatment or procedure in which our product is used may not be available. Even if the procedure using our product is covered, third-party payors may package the cost of the drug into the procedure payment and not separately reimburse the physician for the costs associated with our product. A decision by a third-party payor not to cover or separately reimburse for our products could reduce physician utilization of our products once approved. Additionally, in the United States, there is no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement among third-party payors. Third-party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own coverage and reimbursement policies. However, decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided is made on a payor-by-payor basis. One payor’s determination to provide coverage for a drug product does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage, and adequate reimbursement.

Third-party payors determine which medical procedures they will cover and establish reimbursement levels. Even if a third-party payor covers a particular procedure, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate. Patients who are treated in-office for a medical condition generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with the procedure and may be unwilling to undergo such procedures for the treatment of molluscum and/or common warts in the absence of such coverage and adequate reimbursement.

Reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that a procedure is safe, effective, and medically necessary; appropriate for the specific patient; cost-effective; supported by peer-reviewed medical journals; included in clinical practice guidelines; and neither cosmetic, experimental, nor investigational.

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Further, from time to time, typically on an annual basis, payment rates are updated and revised by third-party payors. Such updates could impact the demand for our product candidates, to the extent that customers who are prescribed our product candidates, if approved, are not separately reimbursed for the cost of the product candidates. An example of payment updates is the Medicare program updates to physician payments, which is done on an annual basis. In the past, when the application of the formula resulted in lower payment, Congress has passed interim legislation to prevent the reductions. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, or MACRA, ended the use of the statutory formula also referred to as the Sustainable Growth Rate, for certain payment and established a quality payment incentive program, also referred to as the Quality Payment Program.  This program provides clinicians with two ways to participate, including through the Advanced Alternative Payment Models, or APMs, and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS.  In November 2019, CMS issued a final rule finalizing the changes to the Quality Payment Program. At this time, it is unclear how the introduction of the Quality Payment Program will impact overall physician reimbursement under the Medicare program. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors.

Impact of Healthcare Reform on our Business

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 drug product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities, and affect the profitable sale of drug product candidates.

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. In March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or collectively, the ACA, was passed, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both the government and private insurers, and significantly impacts the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things: (i) increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extends the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations; (ii) established 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; (iii) expanded the availability of lower pricing under the 340B drug pricing program by adding new entities to the program; (iv) increased the statutory minimum rebates a manufacturer must pay under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, 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; (v) expanded the eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs by, among other things, allowing states to offer Medicaid coverage to additional individuals, thereby potentially increasing manufacturers’ Medicaid rebate liability; (vi) created a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research; and (vii) established a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug.

There remain judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA, as well as recent efforts by the Trump administration to repeal or replace certain aspects of the ACA. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, bills affecting the implementation of certain taxes under the ACA have been signed into law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or Tax Act, includes a provision repealing, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the ACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate”. In addition, the 2020 federal spending package permanently eliminates, effective January 1, 2020, the ACA-mandated “Cadillac” tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage and medical device tax and, effective January 1, 2021, also eliminates the health insurer tax. Further, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or the BBA, among other things, amends the ACA, effective January 1, 2019, to close the coverage gap in most Medicare drug plans, commonly referred to as the “donut hole.” In December 2018, CMS published a new final rule permitting further collections and payments to and from certain ACA qualified health plans and health insurance issuers under the ACA risk adjustment program in response to the outcome of federal district court litigation regarding the method

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CMS uses to determine this risk adjustment. On December 14, 2018, a Texas U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional in its entirety because the “individual mandate” was repealed by Congress as part of the Tax Act. Additionally, on December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. It is unclear how this decision, future decisions, subsequent appeals, and other efforts to repeal and replace the ACA will impact the ACA.

Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted. These changes include aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which began in 2013, and due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, including the BBA, will remain in effect through 2029 unless additional Congressional action is taken. 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. These new laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding, which could have an adverse effect on customers for our product candidates, if approved, and, accordingly, our financial operations.

Additionally, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny in the United States of pharmaceutical pricing practices in light of the rising cost of prescription drugs and biologics. Such scrutiny has resulted in several recent congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for products. At the federal level, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 contains further drug price control measures that could be enacted during the budget process or in other future legislation, including, for example, measures to permit Medicare Part D plans to negotiate the price of certain drugs under Medicare Part B, to allow some states to negotiate drug prices under Medicaid, and to eliminate cost sharing for generic drugs for low-income patients. Additionally, the Trump administration released a “Blueprint” to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contains additional proposals to increase manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products and reduce the out of pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers. The Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, has solicited feedback on some of these measures and implemented others under its existing authority. For example, in May 2019, CMS issued a final rule to allow Medicare Advantage plans the option to use step therapy 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 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 are increasingly passing legislation and implementing 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.

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 access 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.

Employees

As of December 31, 2019, we had 17 full-time employees. All of our employees are located in the United States. None of our employees is represented by a labor union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.

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Insurance

We currently maintain product liability insurance coverage for our products and clinical trials in amounts consistent with industry standards. However, insurance coverage is becoming increasingly expensive, and we may not be able to obtain or maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses due to liability.

Corporate Information

We were incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware on July 3, 2013. Our principal executive offices are located at 10 North High Street, Suite 200, West Chester, PA 19380 and our telephone number is (484) 453-3300.

Available Information

Our internet website address is www.verrica.com. In addition to the information about us and our subsidiaries contained in this Annual Report, information about us can be found on our website. Our website and information included in or linked to our website are not part of this Annual Report.

Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, are available free of charge through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after they are electronically filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. Additionally the SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information. The address of the SEC's website is www.sec.gov.

 

 

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ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS

You should carefully consider the risks described below, as well as general economic and business risks and the other information in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The occurrence of any of the events or circumstances described below or other adverse events could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and could cause the trading price of our common stock to decline. Additional risks or uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also harm our business.

Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Capital Needs

We have incurred significant losses since our inception. We expect to incur losses over the next several years and may never achieve or maintain profitability.

We are a clinical-stage dermatology therapeutics company with limited operating history. Since inception, we have incurred significant net losses. We incurred net losses of $28.2 million and $20.6 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. As of December 31, 2019, we had an accumulated deficit of $61.2 million. Since inception, we have financed our operations with $123.2 million in gross proceeds raised in our initial public offering and private placements of convertible debt and convertible preferred stock. We have no products approved for commercialization and have never generated any revenue.

We have devoted substantially all of our financial resources and efforts to the development of our novel topical solution of cantharidin and our lead product candidate, VP-102, for the treatment of molluscum, including preclinical studies and clinical trials. We have completed two pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials and submitted an NDA for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum. In addition to developing VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, we are also developing VP-102 as a treatment for common warts and we expect to initiate a Phase 3 program for this indication in the first half of 2020. We also have an ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial for VP-102 as a treatment for external genital warts. We also intend to initiate a Phase 2 clinical trial for our second cantharidin-based product candidate, VP-103, for the treatment of plantar warts, in mid-2020. Therefore, we expect to continue to incur significant expenses and operating losses over the next several years. Our net losses may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially as we:

 

continue our ongoing clinical programs evaluating VP-102 for the treatment of common warts and external genital warts, as well as initiate and complete additional clinical trials as needed;

 

initiate clinical trials evaluating VP-103 for the treatment of plantar warts;

 

pursue regulatory approvals for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, and eventually for the treatment of common warts, external genital warts or any other indications we may pursue for VP-102, as well as for VP-103;

 

seek to discover and develop additional product candidates;

 

establish a commercialization infrastructure and scale up external manufacturing and distribution capabilities to commercialize any product candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval, including VP-102 and VP-103;

 

seek to in-license or acquire additional product candidates for other dermatological conditions;

 

adapt our regulatory compliance efforts to incorporate requirements applicable to marketed products;

 

maintain, expand and protect our intellectual property portfolio;

 

hire additional clinical, manufacturing and scientific personnel;

 

add operational, financial and management information systems and personnel, including personnel to support our product development and planned future commercialization efforts; and

 

incur additional legal, accounting and other expenses in operating as a public company.

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

In cases where we are successful in obtaining regulatory approval to market one or more of our product candidates, our revenue will be dependent, in part, upon the size of the markets in the territories for which we gain regulatory approval, the accepted price for the product, the ability to obtain coverage and reimbursement, and whether we own the commercial rights for that territory. If the number of our addressable patients is not as significant as we estimate, the indication approved by regulatory authorities is narrower than we expect, or the treatment population is narrowed by competition, physician choice or treatment guidelines, we may not generate significant revenue from sales of such products, even if approved.

Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with product development, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of expenses or when, or if, we will be able to achieve profitability. If we are required by regulatory authorities to perform studies in addition to those expected, or if there are any delays in the initiation and completion of our clinical trials or the development of any of our product candidates, our expenses could increase.

Even if we 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 depress the value of our company and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, maintain our development efforts, obtain product approvals, diversify our offerings or continue our operations.

We may need substantial additional funding to meet our financial obligations and to pursue our business objectives. If we are unable to raise capital when needed, we could be forced to curtail our planned operations and the pursuit of our growth strategy.

Identifying potential product candidates and conducting preclinical testing and clinical trials is a time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process that takes years to complete, and we may never generate the necessary data or results required to obtain regulatory approval and achieve product sales. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and operating losses over the next several years as we seek marketing approval for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, pursue clinical trials and marketing approval for VP-102 for the treatment of common warts, external genital warts and other indications, pursue clinical trials and marketing approval for VP-103 for the treatment of plantar warts and advance any of our other product candidates we may develop or otherwise acquire. In addition, our product candidates, if approved, may not achieve commercial success. Our revenue, if any, will be derived from sales of products that are not currently commercially available. If we obtain marketing approval for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum or common warts or any other product candidates that we develop, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product sales, marketing, distribution and manufacturing.

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As of December 31, 2019, we had cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities of $62.0 million. On March 10, 2020, we entered into (i) a mezzanine loan and security agreement, or the Mezzanine Loan Agreement, with Silicon Valley Bank, as administrative agent and collateral agent, or the Agent, and Silicon Valley Bank and West River Innovation Lending Fund VIII, L.P., as lenders, or the Mezzanine Lenders, pursuant to which the Mezzanine Lenders have agreed to lend the Company up to $50.0 million in a series of term loans, and (ii) a loan and security agreement, or the Senior Loan Agreement, and together with the Mezzanine Loan Agreement, the Loan Agreements, with Silicon Valley Bank, as lender, or the Senior Lender, and together with the Mezzanine Lenders, the Lenders, pursuant to which the Senior Lender has agreed to provide the Company a revolving line of credit of up to $5.0 million. Upon entering into the Loan Agreements, the Company borrowed $35.0 million in term loans from the Mezzanine Lenders.

We believe the $35 million in proceeds received at closing of term loan in combination with existing cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities will be sufficient to support our planned operations, which include expenses for the commercialization of YCANTH™, if approved, and continued full clinical development of VP-102 for additional indications, including common warts and external genital warts, as well as VP-103 for plantar warts, at least through the second quarter of 2021. This estimate is based on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could use our available capital resources sooner than we expect. Changes may occur beyond our control that would cause us to consume our available capital before that time, including changes in and progress of our development activities, acquisitions of additional product candidates, and changes in regulation. Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors, including:

 

the progress and results of our Phase 3 clinical program and any other additional clinical trials evaluating VP-102 as a potential treatment for common warts;

 

the scope, progress, results and costs of the development programs evaluating VP-102 as a potential treatment for external genital warts and any other indications of VP-102 we may decide to pursue and VP-103;

 

the extent to which we develop, in-license or acquire other product candidates and technologies;

 

the number and development requirements of other product candidates that we may pursue;

 

the costs, timing and outcome of regulatory review of our product candidates;

 

the costs and timing of future commercialization activities, including product manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution, for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, if approved, and any of our product candidates for which we receive marketing approval;

 

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

 

our ability to establish collaborations to commercialize VP-102 or any of our other product candidates outside the United States; and

 

the costs and timing of preparing, filing and prosecuting patent applications, maintaining and enforcing our intellectual property rights and defending any intellectual property-related claims.

We may require additional capital to commercialize VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, common warts and/or external genital warts, and/or VP-103 for the treatment of plantar warts. If we receive regulatory approval for VP-102 or VP-103 for these indications, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product manufacturing, sales, marketing and distribution, depending on where we choose to commercialize. Additional funds may not be available on a timely basis, on favorable terms, or at all, and such funds, if raised, may not be sufficient to enable us to continue to implement our long-term business strategy. If we are unable to raise sufficient additional capital, we could be forced to curtail our planned operations and the pursuit of our growth strategy.

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

Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial revenue, we may finance our cash needs through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings and license and collaboration agreements. We do not currently have

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any committed external source of funds. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, your ownership interest will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a common stockholder. Debt financing and preferred equity financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends. For instance, under the Loan Agreements as described below, we are restricted from paying dividends or making other distributions or payments on our capital stock, subject to limited exceptions.

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

We have a limited operating history and no history of commercializing products, which may make it difficult for you to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.

We commenced operations in 2013, and our operations to date have been largely focused on raising capital and developing our novel topical solution of cantharidin and our lead product candidate, VP-102, for the treatment of molluscum and common warts, including undertaking preclinical studies and conducting clinical trials. VP-102 is our only product candidate for which we have conducted clinical trials. We have not yet demonstrated our ability to successfully obtain regulatory approvals, manufacture a product on a commercial scale, or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful commercialization. Consequently, any predictions you make about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing and commercializing products.

We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known or unknown factors in achieving our business objectives. We will need to transition at some point from a company with a development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities. We may not be successful in such a transition.

We may not be able to generate sufficient cash to service our indebtedness.

We have entered into a Mezzanine Loan Agreement and a Senior Loan Agreement with our Lenders, pursuant to which we have borrowed an aggregate of $35.0 million. Our obligations under the Senior Loan Agreement and the Mezzanine Loan Agreement are secured by, respectively, a first priority perfected security interest and second priority perfected security interest in substantially all of our current and future assets, other than our intellectual property (except rights to payment from the sale, licensing or disposition of such intellectual property).  We have also agreed not to encumber our intellectual property assets, except as permitted by the Loan Agreements.

We are subject to a number of affirmative and restrictive covenants pursuant to the Loan Agreements, including covenants regarding achieving minimum product revenues, delivery of financial statements, maintenance of inventory, payment of taxes, maintenance of insurance, protection of intellectual property rights, dispositions of property, business combinations or acquisitions, incurrence of additional indebtedness or liens, investments and transactions with affiliates, among other customary covenants. Our obligations under the Loan Agreements are subject to acceleration upon the occurrence of specified events of default, including our failure to satisfy our payment obligations under the Loan Agreements, the breach of certain of our other covenants under the Loan Agreements, or the occurrence of a material adverse change, cross defaults to other indebtedness or material agreements, judgment defaults and defaults related to failure to maintain governmental approvals failure of which to maintain could result in a material adverse effect. We are currently in compliance with these covenants. We may also enter into other debt agreements in the future which may contain similar or more restrictive terms.

Our ability to make scheduled monthly payments or to refinance our debt obligations depends on numerous factors, including the amount of our cash reserves and our actual and projected financial and operating performance.

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These amounts and our performance are subject to certain financial and business factors, as well as prevailing economic and competitive conditions, some of which may be beyond our control. We cannot assure you that we will maintain a level of cash reserves or cash flows from operating activities sufficient to permit us to pay the principal, premium, if any, and interest on our existing or future indebtedness. If our cash flows and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt service obligations, we may be forced to reduce or delay capital expenditures, sell assets or operations, seek additional capital or restructure or refinance our indebtedness. We cannot assure you that we would be able to take any of these actions, or that these actions would permit us to meet our scheduled debt service obligations. Failure to comply with the conditions of the Loan Agreements could result in an event of default, which could result in an acceleration of amounts due under the Loan Agreements. We may not have sufficient funds or may be unable to arrange for additional financing to repay our indebtedness or to make any accelerated payments, and the Lenders could seek to enforce security interests in the collateral securing such indebtedness, which would harm our business.

Risks Related to the Development of Our Product Candidates

Our lead product candidate, VP-102, is being developed for the treatment of molluscum, common warts and external genital warts, for which we are currently conducting clinical trials. If we are unable to successfully develop, receive regulatory approval for and commercialize VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, common warts, external genital warts or any other indications, or successfully develop any other product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be harmed.

We currently have no products that are approved for commercial sale. We have only one product candidate, VP-102 for which we have conducted clinical trials. We have completed two pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials and submitted a New Drug Application, or (NDA) for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum in the U.S. Our NDA is presently under review by FDA and there can be no assurance that we will receive approval. In addition to developing VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, we are also developing VP-102 as a treatment for common warts and plan to initiate two Phase 3 clinical trials for this indication in the first half of 2020. We also have an ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial for VP-102 as a treatment for external genital warts. We also intend to initiate a Phase 2 clinical trial for VP-103 for the treatment of plantar warts in mid-2020. We have not completed the development and regulatory approval process of any product candidates and we may never be able to develop marketable products. We have invested substantially all of our efforts and financial resources in the development of our cantharidin formula and VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, common warts and genital warts. Our ability to generate revenue from our product candidates, will depend heavily on their successful development, regulatory approval and eventual commercialization of these product candidates. The success of VP-102, VP-103 or any other product candidates that we develop or otherwise may acquire will depend on several factors, including: timely and successful completion of preclinical studies and our clinical trials;

 

successful development of, or making arrangements with third-party manufacturers for, our commercial manufacturing processes for any of our product candidates that receive regulatory approval;

 

receipt of timely marketing approvals from applicable regulatory authorities;

 

launching commercial sales of products, if approved;

 

acceptance of our products, if approved, by patients, the medical community and third-party payors, for their approved indications;

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our success in educating physicians and patients about the benefits, administration and use of VP-102 or any other product candidates, if approved;

 

the prevalence and severity of adverse events experienced with VP-102 or our other product candidates;

 

the availability, perceived advantages, cost, safety and efficacy of alternative treatments for molluscum and/or common warts or any other indications which we may pursue for VP-102 or any other product candidates;

 

our ability to produce VP-102 or any other product candidates on a commercial scale;

 

obtaining and maintaining patent, trademark and trade secret protection and regulatory exclusivity for our product candidates and otherwise protecting our rights in our intellectual property portfolio;

 

maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements, including current good manufacturing practices, or cGMPs;

 

competing effectively with other procedures; and

 

maintaining a continued acceptable safety, tolerability and efficacy profile of the products following approval.

Whether regulatory approval will be granted is unpredictable and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of the regulatory authorities. Our product candidates’ success in clinical trials is not guaranteed, and even if clinical trials are successful, it will not guarantee regulatory approval. Following submission of an NDA, it may not be accepted for substantive review, or even if it is accepted for substantive review, the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require that we conduct additional studies or clinical trials, provide additional data, take additional manufacturing steps, or require other conditions before they will reconsider or approve our application. If the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities require additional studies, clinical trials or data, we would incur increased costs and delays in the marketing approval process, which may require us to expend more resources than we have available. In addition, the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities may not consider sufficient any additional required studies, clinical trials, data or information that we perform and complete or generate, or we may decide to abandon the program.

It is possible that VP-102, VP-103 or any of our other product candidates we may develop or otherwise acquire will never obtain regulatory approval, even if we expend substantial time and resources seeking such approval. If we do not achieve one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully commercialize our product candidates, which would harm our business.

Clinical product development involves a lengthy and expensive process, with an uncertain outcome. We may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of our product candidates.

The risk of failure for product candidates is high. It is impossible to predict when or if any of our product candidates will prove effective or safe in humans or will receive regulatory approval. Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the sale of any product candidate, we must complete preclinical development and then conduct extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our product candidates in humans. Clinical testing is expensive, difficult to design and implement, can take many years to complete and is inherently uncertain as to outcome. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing or at any time during the trial process. The outcome of preclinical testing and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the results of later clinical trials, and interim results of a clinical trial do not necessarily predict final results. Moreover, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that have believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval of their products.

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We cannot assure you that any clinical trial that we have conducted, are currently conducting, or may conduct in the future, will demonstrate consistent or adequate efficacy and safety to obtain regulatory approval to market our product candidates.

We may experience delays in ongoing clinical trials for our product candidates, and we do not know whether future clinical trials, if any, will begin on time, need to be redesigned, enroll an adequate number of patients on time or be completed on schedule, if at all. For example, following the initiation of our Phase 2 trial of VP-102 for the treatment of common warts, we discovered the need to amend the treatment regimen of the protocol in order to introduce greater flexibility of the treatment interval. We amended the trial protocol in order to add a second cohort to the trial with the desired treatment frequency. We may experience numerous unforeseen events during or as a result of clinical trials that could delay or prevent our ability to receive marketing approval or commercialize our product candidates, including:

 

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

 

we may experience delays in reaching, or fail to reach, agreement on acceptable clinical trial contracts or clinical trial protocols with prospective trial sites or prospective contract research organizations, or CROs, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;

 

clinical trials of our product candidates may produce negative or inconclusive results, including failure to demonstrate statistical significance, and we may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon product development programs;

 

the number of patients required for clinical trials of our product candidates may be larger than we anticipate, enrollment in these clinical trials may be slower than we anticipate, or participants may drop out of these clinical trials or fail to return for post-treatment follow-up at a higher rate than we anticipate;

 

our product candidates may have undesirable side effects or other unexpected characteristics, causing us or our investigators, regulators or institutional review boards to suspend or terminate the trials;

 

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

 

regulators or institutional review boards may require that we or our investigators suspend or terminate clinical development for various reasons, including noncompliance with regulatory requirements or a finding that the participants are being exposed to unacceptable health risks;

 

the cost of clinical trials of our product candidates may be greater than we anticipate; and

 

the supply or quality of our product candidates or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials of our product candidates may be insufficient or inadequate.

We could also encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, by the institutional review boards of the institutions in which such trials are being conducted, by the data safety monitoring board for such trial or by the FDA or other regulatory authorities. Such authorities may impose such a suspension or termination due to a number of factors, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols, inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial site by the FDA or other regulatory authorities resulting in the imposition of a clinical hold, unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects, failure to demonstrate a benefit from using a product, changes in governmental regulations or administrative actions or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial. If we experience delays in the completion of, or termination of, any clinical trial of our product candidates, the commercial prospects of our product candidates will be harmed, and our ability to generate product revenues from any of these product candidates will be delayed. In addition, any delays in completing our clinical trials will increase our costs, slow down our product candidate development and approval process and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates. If we are required to conduct additional clinical trials or other testing

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of our product candidates beyond those that we currently contemplate, if we are unable to successfully complete clinical trials of our product candidates or other testing, if the results of these trials or tests are not favorable or if there are safety concerns, we may:

 

be delayed in obtaining marketing approval for our product candidates;

 

not obtain marketing approval at all;

 

obtain approval for indications or patient populations that are not as broad as intended or desired;

 

obtain approval with labeling that includes significant use or distribution restrictions or safety warnings;

 

be subject to additional post-marketing testing requirements; or

 

have the product removed from the market after obtaining marketing approval.

Our product development costs will also increase if we experience delays in testing or marketing approvals. We do not know whether any of our preclinical studies or clinical trials will begin as planned, will need to be restructured or will be completed on schedule, or at all. Significant preclinical study or clinical trial delays also could 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 and impair our ability to successfully commercialize, or receive approval for, our product candidates. For example, if a competitor obtained FDA approval for a product containing cantharidin before we are able to obtain approval for our product, this could result in the approval of our product being delayed until the expiration of any NCE exclusivity or other regulatory exclusivity received by such competitor.

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

Successful and timely completion of clinical trials will require that we enroll a sufficient number of patients. Patient enrollment, a significant factor in the timing of clinical trials, is affected by many factors including the size and nature of the patient population. Trials may be subject to delays as a result of patient enrollment taking longer than anticipated or patient withdrawal. We may not be able to initiate or continue clinical trials for our product candidates if we are unable to locate and enroll a sufficient number of eligible patients to participate in these trials as required by the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside the United States. We cannot predict how successful we will be at enrolling subjects in future clinical trials. Subject enrollment is affected by other factors including:

 

the eligibility criteria for the trial in question;

 

the perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate in the trial;

 

the availability of products and other treatments to treat the skin disease in the trial;

 

the willingness of patients to be enrolled in our clinical trials;

 

the efforts to facilitate timely enrollment in clinical trials;

 

the patient referral practices of physicians;

 

the ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment; and

 

the proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective patients.

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Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for clinical trials would result in significant delays and could require us or them to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. For example, parents may be reluctant to enroll their children in our clinical trials that have a relatively high risk of their child being assigned to placebo when in the alternative, they could decline participation, and receive compounded cantharidin outside of the clinical trial, if available, or pursue other alternative therapies. Enrollment delays in these clinical trials may result in increased development costs for our product candidates, which would cause the value of our company to decline and limit our ability to obtain additional financing. Furthermore, we rely on and expect to continue to rely on CROs and clinical trial sites to ensure the proper and timely conduct of our clinical trials and we will have limited influence over their performance.

Furthermore, even if we are able to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials, we may have difficulty maintaining patients in our clinical trials.

Success in preclinical studies or earlier clinical trials may not be indicative of results in future clinical trials.

Success in preclinical testing and early clinical trials does not ensure that later clinical trials will generate the same results or otherwise provide adequate data to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of a product candidate. Preclinical tests and Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials are primarily designed to test safety, to study pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and to understand the side effects of product candidates at various doses and schedules. Success in preclinical or animal studies and early clinical trials does not ensure that later large-scale efficacy trials will be successful, nor does it predict final results. Our product candidates may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy in clinical development despite positive results in preclinical studies or having successfully advanced through initial clinical trials.

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. As an organization, we have limited experience designing clinical trials and may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial to support regulatory approval. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials even after achieving promising results in preclinical testing and earlier-stage clinical trials. Data obtained from preclinical 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 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.

Interim “top-line” and preliminary results from our clinical trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more patient data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.

From time to time, we may publish interim top-line or preliminary results from our clinical trials. Interim results 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 top-line results 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 data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Differences between preliminary or interim data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects and may cause the trading price of our common stock to fluctuate significantly.

Our clinical trials may fail to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our product candidates, or serious adverse or unacceptable side effects may be identified during the development of our product candidates, which could prevent or delay regulatory approval and commercialization, increase our costs or necessitate the abandonment or limitation of the development of some of our product candidates.

Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of our product candidates, we must demonstrate through lengthy, complex and expensive preclinical testing and clinical trials that our product candidates are both safe and effective for use in each target indication, and failures can occur at any stage of testing. Clinical trials often fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy of the product candidate studied for the target indication.

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If our product candidates are associated with side effects in clinical trials or have characteristics that are unexpected, we may need to abandon their development or limit development to more narrow uses in which the side effects or other characteristics are less prevalent, less severe or more acceptable from a risk-benefit perspective. The FDA or an institutional review board may also require that we suspend, discontinue, or limit our clinical trials based on safety information, or that we conduct additional animal or human studies regarding the safety and efficacy of our product candidates which we have not planned or anticipated. Such findings could further result in regulatory authorities failing to provide marketing authorization for our product candidates or limiting the scope of the approved indication, if approved. Many product candidates that initially showed promise in early stage testing have later been found to cause side effects that prevented further development of the product candidate.

Additionally, if one or more of our product candidates receives marketing approval, and we or others identify undesirable side effects caused by such products, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:

 

regulatory authorities may withdraw approvals of such product;

 

regulatory authorities may require additional warnings on the labels;

 

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

 

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

 

our reputation and physician or patient acceptance of our products may suffer.

There can be no assurance that we will resolve any issues related to any product-related adverse events to the satisfaction of the FDA or any regulatory agency in a timely manner or at all. Moreover, any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the particular product candidate, if approved, and could significantly harm our business, results of operations and prospects.

While we have negotiated a SPA agreement with the FDA relating to one of our Phase 3 clinical trials for VP-102, this agreement does not guarantee approval of VP-102 or any other particular outcome with respect to regulatory review of the study or the product candidate.

We have completed two Phase 3 clinical trials of VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, one of which was conducted under a SPA with the FDA. The FDA’s SPA process is designed to facilitate the FDA’s review and approval of drugs by allowing the FDA to evaluate the proposed design and size of Phase 3 clinical trials that are intended to form the primary basis for determining a drug product’s efficacy. Upon specific request by a clinical trial sponsor, the FDA will evaluate the protocol and respond to a sponsor’s questions regarding, among other things, primary efficacy endpoints, trial conduct and data analysis, within 45 days of receipt of the request. The FDA ultimately assesses whether the protocol design and planned analysis of the trial are acceptable to support regulatory submission for the product candidate with respect to the indication studied. All agreements and disagreements between the FDA and the sponsor regarding a SPA must be clearly documented in a SPA letter or the minutes of a meeting between the sponsor and the FDA.

However, a SPA agreement does not guarantee approval of a product candidate, and even if the FDA agrees to the design, execution, and analysis proposed in protocols reviewed under the SPA process, the FDA may revoke or alter its agreement in certain circumstances. In particular, a SPA agreement is not binding on the FDA if public health concerns emerge that were unrecognized at the time of the SPA agreement, other new scientific concerns regarding product safety or efficacy arise, the sponsor fails to comply with the agreed upon trial protocols, or the relevant data, assumptions or information provided by the sponsor in a request for the SPA change or are found to be false or omit relevant facts. After a SPA agreement is finalized, the SPA agreement may be modified, and such modification will be deemed binding on the FDA review division, except under the circumstances described above, if the FDA and the sponsor agree in writing to modify the protocol and such modification is intended to improve the study. The FDA retains significant latitude and discretion in interpreting the terms of the SPA agreement and the data and results from any study that is the subject of the SPA agreement.

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We cannot assure you that our Phase 3 clinical trial conducted under the SPA will be deemed acceptable to the FDA under our SPA agreement or will result in any FDA approval for VP-102. If the FDA revokes or alters its agreement under the SPA, believes that the manner in which the study was conducted was not consistent with the terms of our SPA, or interprets the data collected from the clinical trial differently than we do, the FDA may not deem the data sufficient to support an application for marketing approval, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

VP-102 is a drug-device combination involving a proprietary applicator, which may result in additional regulatory and other risks.

VP-102 is a drug-device combination product for administration of our cantharidin formulation through our proprietary applicator. We may experience delays in obtaining regulatory approval of VP-102 given the increased complexity of the review process when approval of a drug and a delivery device is sought under a single marketing application. VP-102 will be regulated as a drug-device combination product, which requires coordination within the FDA and similar foreign regulatory agencies for review of the product candidate’s device and drug components. We have filed a single marketing application for the approval of a drug-device combination product, with guidance by the FDA. Although the FDA and similar foreign regulatory agencies have systems in place for the review and approval of combination products such as ours, we may experience delays in the development, approval, and commercialization of our product candidate due to regulatory timing constraints and uncertainties in the product development and approval process, the inherent complexities of combination products, as well as coordination between two different centers within FDA responsible for review of the different components of the combination product.

Failure to successfully develop or supply the device, delays in or failure of the studies conducted by us, our collaborators, or third-party providers, or failure of our company, our collaborators, or third-party providers to obtain or maintain regulatory approval or clearance of the device component of VP-102 could result in increased development costs, delays in or failure to obtain regulatory approval, and associated delays in VP-102 reaching the market. Further, failure to successfully develop or supply the device, or to gain or maintain its approval, could adversely affect sales of VP-102.

Changes in methods of product candidate manufacturing or formulation may result in additional costs or delay.

As product candidates proceed through preclinical studies to late-stage clinical trials towards potential approval and commercialization, it is common that various aspects of the development program, such as manufacturing methods and formulation, 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. 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 conducted with the altered materials. Such changes may also require additional testing, FDA notification or FDA approval. This could delay completion of clinical trials, require the conduct of bridging clinical trials or the repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical trial costs, delay approval of our product candidates and jeopardize our ability to commence sales and generate revenue.

We may not be successful in our efforts to increase our pipeline of product candidates, including by pursuing additional indications for our current product candidate or in-licensing or acquiring additional product candidates for other dermatological conditions.

A key element of our strategy is to build and expand our pipeline of product candidates, including by developing VP-102 for the treatment of common warts and external genital warts and potentially other dermatological conditions and VP-103 for the treatment of plantar warts. In addition, we intend to in-license or acquire additional product candidates for other dermatological conditions to build a fully integrated dermatology company. We may not be able to identify or develop product candidates that are safe, tolerable and effective. Even if we are successful in continuing to build our pipeline, the potential product candidates that we identify, in-license or acquire may not be suitable for clinical development, including as a result of being shown to have harmful side effects or other characteristics that indicate that they are unlikely to be products that will receive marketing approval and achieve market acceptance.

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

Because we have limited financial and management resources, we focus on development programs and product candidates that we identify for specific indications. As such, we are currently primarily focused on the development of VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum, common warts and external genital warts, as well as VP-103 for the treatment of plantar warts. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications for VP-102 and VP-103 that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future development programs and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable products. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to such product candidate.

The regulatory approval processes of the FDA and comparable foreign authorities are lengthy, time consuming and inherently unpredictable. If we are not able to obtain required regulatory approval for our product candidates, our business will be substantially harmed.

The time required to obtain approval or other marketing authorizations by the FDA and comparable foreign authorities is unpredictable but typically takes many years following the commencement of clinical trials and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of the regulatory authorities. In addition, 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 clinical development and may vary among jurisdictions. We have not obtained regulatory approval for VP-102 or any product candidate and it is possible that neither VP-102 nor any product candidates we may seek to develop in the future will ever obtain regulatory approval. Neither we nor any future collaborator is permitted to market VP-102 or any future drug product candidates in the United States until we receive regulatory approval of an NDA from the FDA. To date, we have not met or discussed with the European Medicines Agency or any other comparable foreign authority regarding regulatory approval for VP-102 or any other product candidate outside of the United States.

Prior to obtaining approval to commercialize VP-102 and any other drug product candidate in the United States or abroad, we must demonstrate with substantial evidence from well-controlled clinical trials, and to the satisfaction of the FDA or foreign regulatory agencies, that such product candidates are safe and effective for their intended uses. Results from nonclinical studies and clinical trials can be interpreted in different ways. Even if we believe the nonclinical or clinical data for our product candidates are promising, such data may not be sufficient to support approval by the FDA and other regulatory authorities. The FDA may also require us to conduct additional nonclinical studies or clinical trials for our product candidates either prior to or after approval, or it may object to elements of our clinical development program.

Of the large number of products in development, only a small percentage successfully complete the FDA or foreign regulatory approval processes and are commercialized. The lengthy approval or marketing authorization process as well as the unpredictability of future clinical trial results may result in our failing to obtain regulatory approval or marketing authorization to market our product candidates, which would significantly harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We have invested a significant portion of our time and financial resources in the development of VP-102. Our business is dependent on our ability to successfully complete preclinical and clinical development of, obtain regulatory approval for, and, if approved, successfully commercialize VP-102 and any future product candidates in a timely manner.

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Even if we eventually complete clinical testing and receive approval of an NDA or foreign marketing application for VP-102 or any future product candidates, the FDA or the applicable foreign regulatory agency may grant approval or other marketing authorization contingent on the performance of costly additional clinical trials, including post-market clinical trials. The FDA or the applicable foreign regulatory agency also may approve or authorize for marketing a product candidate for a more limited indication or patient population that we originally request, and the FDA or applicable foreign regulatory agency may not approve or authorize the labeling that we believe is necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of a product candidate. Any delay in obtaining, or inability to obtain, applicable regulatory approval or other marketing authorization would delay or prevent commercialization of that product candidate and would materially adversely impact our business and prospects.

In addition, the FDA and other regulatory authorities may change their policies, issue additional regulations or revise existing regulations, or take other actions, which may prevent or delay approval of our future products under development on a timely basis. Such policy or regulatory changes could impose additional requirements upon us that could delay our ability to obtain approvals, increase the costs of compliance or restrict our ability to maintain any marketing authorizations we may have obtained.

Furthermore, even if we obtain regulatory approval for VP-102 and any future product candidates, we will still need to develop a commercial organization, establish a commercially viable pricing structure and obtain approval for adequate reimbursement from third-party and government payors. If we are unable to successfully commercialize VP-102 and any future product candidates, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to continue our business.

Risks Related to the Commercialization of Our Product Candidates

Even if any of our product candidates receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.

If any of our product candidates receives marketing approval, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community. If our product candidates do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant revenue and we may not become profitable. The degree of market acceptance of our product candidates, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:

 

the efficacy, safety and potential advantages compared to alternative treatments, including for VP-102, compared to compounded cantharidin;

 

our ability to offer our products for sale at competitive prices;

 

the convenience and ease of administration compared to alternative treatments, including compounded cantharidin;

 

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

 

our ability to hire and retain a sales force in the United States;

 

the strength of marketing and distribution support;

 

the availability of third-party coverage and adequate reimbursement for VP-102 and any other potential product candidates;

 

the prevalence and severity of any side effects; and

 

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

In the case of VP-102, the failure of healthcare professionals or patients to perceive the benefits of using VP-102 instead of compounded cantharidin or other alternative therapies, such as curettage or cryotherapy, would adversely affect the commercial success of VP-102, if approved.

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If we are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for VP-102 or any other product candidate that may receive regulatory approval, we may not be successful in commercializing those product candidates if and when they are approved.

We do not have sales or marketing infrastructure. To achieve commercial success for VP-102 and any other product candidate for which we may obtain marketing approval, we will need to establish a sales and marketing organization. In the future, we expect to build a focused sales and marketing infrastructure to market or co-promote some of our product candidates in the United States, if and when they are approved. There are risks involved with establishing our own sales, marketing and distribution capabilities. For example, recruiting and training a sales force is expensive and time consuming and could delay any product launch. If the commercial launch of a product candidate for which we recruit a sales force and establish marketing capabilities is delayed or does not occur for any reason, we would have prematurely or unnecessarily incurred these commercialization expenses. This may be costly, and our investment would be lost if we cannot retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel.

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

 

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

 

the inability of sales personnel to obtain access to physicians or educate adequate numbers of physicians  on the benefits of prescribing any future products;

 

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

 

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

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

We face substantial competition, including from compounded cantharidin products that may compete with VP-102 and any other product candidates, which may result in a smaller than expected commercial opportunity and/or others discovering, developing or commercializing products before or more successfully than we do.

The development and commercialization of new products is highly competitive. We face competition with respect to our current product candidates and will face competition with respect to any product candidates that we may seek to develop or commercialize in the future, from many different sources, including major pharmaceutical and specialty pharmaceutical companies, compounding facilities, academic institutions and governmental agencies and public and private research institutions.

We are aware of several other product candidates in earlier stages of development as potential treatments for the indications we intend to target. Veloce Biopharma, Leo Pharma, and Novan have initiated clinical trials with different programs in molluscum. There are a number of other companies developing products for common warts, including Aclaris Therapeutics, or Aclaris.  Aclaris has conducted late-stage clinical trials and is pursuing FDA approval for its product candidate for the treatment of common warts. In addition, other drugs have been and may continue to be used off label as treatment for molluscum, common warts, external genital warts, and plantar warts, and there are other existing alternative therapies such as curettage or cryotherapy.

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In addition, some of the market demand for cantharidin may be satisfied by compounding pharmacies and registered outsourcing facilities regulated under Sections 503A and 503B of the FDCA. If we receive approval for VP-102, any compounding by licensed pharmacists or licensed physicians under Section 503A would not be legally permitted to include, regularly or in inordinate amounts, the compounding of any drug that is essentially a copy of VP-102. The FDA has announced that it intends to consider a compounded drug product to be essentially a copy of a commercially available drug under Section 503A if it has the same API, has the same, similar, or an easily substitutable dosage strength, and can be used by the same route of administration. However, a compounded product would not be considered essentially a copy of VP-102, and could be compounded under Section 503A, if there were a difference between the compounded product and VP-102 that was made for an individual patient, and which the prescribing practitioner determines produces a significant difference for that patient. Similarly, any compounding by outsourcing facilities under Section 503B would not be legally permitted to include the compounding of a drug that is essentially a copy of VP-102, if approved, where the compounded drug would be considered essentially a copy if it were identical or nearly identical to VP-102 (which the FDA has interpreted to mean that it has the same active ingredient(s), route of administration, dosage form, dosage strength and excipients as the approved drug), or if it contains the active ingredient in VP-102 (cantharidin), unless there is a change from the approved drug that produces a clinical difference for an individual patient as determined by the prescribing practitioner.

Compounding pharmacies and registered outsourcing facilities may therefore be permitted to compound cantharidin drug products, even if we receive approval for VP-102, if a prescribing practitioner determines that a compounded product prescribed for a specific patient features a change from VP-102 that produces a significant difference for the patient (under Section 503A), or if a prescribing practitioner determines that a compounded cantharidin product features a change from VP-102 that produces a clinical difference for the patient (under Section 503B). Physicians may determine that such differences exist for some or all of their patients and may choose to prescribe compounded cantharidin products for such patients. Moreover, under Section 503B, outsourcing facilities are not limited to compounding in response to prescriptions for identified, individual patients, and could compound using bulk cantharidin provided cantharidin appears on a list established by the FDA of bulk drug substances for which there is a clinical need or satisfies certain other limited conditions. Although the FDA has not yet established a list of bulk drug substances for which there is a clinical need, the FDA has announced an interim policy pursuant to which bulk drug substances may be nominated for inclusion on such list and, provided certain conditions are met, outsourcing facilities may compound with such bulk drug substances pending evaluation of the substances for inclusion on the FDA’s list of bulk drug substances for which there is a clinical need. Cantharidin is currently listed among those nominated substances for which bulk drug substance may be used in compounding by outsourcing facilities pending FDA’s evaluation.

In March 2019, the FDA issued Guidance for Industry addressing the criteria by which the FDA intends to evaluate whether there exists a clinical need for compounding with a bulk drug substance, including, in the case of a bulk drug substance that is a component of an FDA-approved drug, an evaluation of whether there exists an attribute of the approved drug that makes it medically unsuitable to treat certain patients; whether the drug product proposed to be compounded is intended to address that attribute; and whether the drug product proposed to be compounded must be compounded from a bulk drug substance rather than from the finished, FDA-approved drug product. If the FDA implements these criteria as in the Guidance for Industry, and if VP-102 is approved, an outsourcing facility may be permitted to compound a cantharidin product using bulk cantharidin notwithstanding our approval provided it satisfies these and other criteria set forth in the FDA’s guidance.

In addition, the FDA may, in its enforcement discretion, not prioritize enforcement of the restrictions under Sections 503A and 503B on compounding drugs that are essentially copies of VP-102, if approved, in which case compounded drug product that is essentially a copy of VP-102 could be made available to physicians and their patients. In the event compounders are authorized to continue to compound cantharidin products following approval of VP-102, if approved, we could be subject to significant competition.

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In addition, our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient or are less expensive than VP-102 or any other product that we may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for our product, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market or, if a competitor obtained FDA approval for a product containing cantharidin before we are able to obtain approval for our product, could result in the approval of our product being delayed until the expiration of any NCE exclusivity or other regulatory exclusivity received by such competitor.

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

We intend to seek NCE exclusivity and/or pediatric exclusivity for VP-102 and future product candidates, and we may be unsuccessful.

As part of our business strategy, we intend to seek NCE exclusivity for VP-102 or future product candidates. In the United States, a pharmaceutical manufacturer may obtain five years of non-patent exclusivity upon NDA approval of an NCE which is a drug that contains an active moiety that has not been approved by the FDA in any other NDA. An “active moiety” is defined as the molecule or ion responsible for the drug substance’s physiological or pharmacologic action. During the five-year exclusivity period, the FDA cannot accept for filing any ANDA seeking approval of a generic version of that drug or any 505(b)(2) NDA for the same active moiety and that relies on the FDA’s findings regarding that drug, except that FDA may accept an application for filing after four years if the follow-on applicant makes a paragraph IV certification. This exclusivity period may be extended by an additional six months if certain requirements are met to qualify the product for pediatric exclusivity, including the receipt of a written request from the FDA that we conduct certain pediatric studies, the submission of study reports from such studies to the FDA after receipt of the written request and satisfaction of the conditions specified in the written request. We believe that cantharidin constitutes an NCE, such that VP-102 should, if approved, be eligible for NCE exclusivity and that our planned clinical trials will qualify VP-102 for pediatric exclusivity if a written request from the FDA is received. However, there can be no guarantee that we will successfully obtain such exclusivity, and if any of our competitors obtains FDA approval of an NDA for a cantharidin drug product before we do, they, and not us, may be eligible for NCE exclusivity. If we do not obtain NCE exclusivity for VP-102, or if a competitor obtains NCE exclusivity for a cantharidin product before we receive approval of an NDA for VP-102, our ability to commence sales and generate revenue would be adversely affected.

Moreover, even if we obtain NCE exclusivity and/or pediatric exclusivity for VP-102, such exclusivity would not block the sale of compounded cantharidin products in those situations where compounding would be permitted under Sections 503A or 503B of the FDCA.

The success of VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum and common warts will depend significantly on coverage and adequate reimbursement or the willingness of patients to pay for these procedures.

We believe our success depends on continued coverage and adequate reimbursement for procedures using VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum and/or common warts or, in the absence of coverage and adequate reimbursement, on the extent to which patients will be willing to pay out of pocket for such procedures. Obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement for our products may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices often associated with drugs administered under the supervision of a physician. Separate reimbursement for the product itself or the treatment or procedure in which our product is used may not be available. Even if the procedure using our product is covered, third-party payors may package the cost of the drug into the procedure payment and not separately reimburse the physician for the costs associated with our product. A decision by a third-party payor

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not to cover or separately reimburse for our products could reduce physician utilization of our products once approved. Additionally, in the United States, there is no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement among third-party payors. Third-party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own coverage and reimbursement policies. However, decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided is made on a payor-by-payor basis. One payor’s determination to provide coverage for a drug product does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage, and adequate reimbursement.

Third-party payors determine which medical procedures they will cover and establish reimbursement levels. Even if a third-party payor covers a particular procedure, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate. Patients who are treated in-office for a medical condition generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with the procedure and may be unwilling to undergo such procedures for the treatment of molluscum and/or common warts in the absence of such coverage and adequate reimbursement. Physicians may be unlikely to offer procedures for such treatment if they are not covered by insurance and may be unlikely to purchase and use our product candidates, if approved, for molluscum and/or common warts unless coverage is provided, and reimbursement is adequate.

Reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that a procedure is safe, effective and medically necessary; appropriate for the specific patient; cost-effective; supported by peer-reviewed medical journals; included in clinical practice guidelines; and neither cosmetic, experimental, nor investigational.

Further, from time to time, typically on an annual basis, payment rates are updated and revised by third-party payors. Such updates could impact the demand for our product candidates, to the extent that patients who are prescribed our product candidates, if approved, are not separately reimbursed for the cost of the product candidates. An example of payment updates is the Medicare program updates to physician payments, which is done on an annual basis. In the past, when the application of the formula resulted in lower payment, Congress has passed interim legislation to prevent the reductions. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, or MACRA, ended the use of the statutory formula and also referred to as the Sustainable Growth Rate, for certain payment and established a quality payment incentive program, also referred to as the Quality Payment Program. This program provides clinicians with two ways to participate, including through the Advanced Alternative Payment Models, or APMs and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS. In November 2019, CMS issued a final rule finalizing the changes to the Quality Payment Program. At this time, it is unclear how the introduction of the Quality Payment Program will impact overall physician reimbursement under the Medicare program. Any resulting decrease in payment under the merit-based reimbursement system may adversely affect our revenue and results of operations. In addition, the Medicare physician fee schedule has been adapted by some private payors into their plan-specific physician payment schedule. We cannot predict how pending and future healthcare legislation will impact our business, and any changes in coverage and reimbursement that further restricts coverage of our product candidates or lowers reimbursement for procedures using our products could harm our business.

Foreign governments also have their own healthcare reimbursement systems, which vary significantly by country and region, and we cannot be sure that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be made available with respect to the treatments in which our products are used under any foreign reimbursement system.

There can be no assurance that VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum and/or common warts, if approved for sale in the United States or in other countries, will be considered medically reasonable and necessary, that they will be considered cost-effective by third-party payors, that coverage or an adequate level of reimbursement will be available, or that reimbursement policies and practices in the United States and in foreign countries where our products are sold will not adversely affect our ability to sell our product candidates profitably, if they are approved for sale.

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The market for VP-102 and any other product candidates may not be as large as we expect.

Our lead indications for VP-102 are for molluscum and common warts, both of which are skin diseases that are currently undertreated with no standard of care. If VP-102 is approved for either indication, individuals may continue to decline treatment for molluscum and/or common warts as, if left untreated, these skin diseases will eventually be resolved by the body’s immune system.

In addition, our estimates of the potential market opportunity for VP-102 and any other product candidates include several key assumptions based on our industry knowledge, industry publications, third-party research reports and surveys of dermatologists commissioned by us. These assumptions include the prevalence of molluscum, common warts and other skin diseases as well as the estimated reimbursement levels for VP-102, if approved. However, there can be no assurance that any of these assumptions are, or will remain, accurate. Furthermore, even if our estimates relating to the prevalence of molluscum, common warts and other skin diseases as well as the estimated reimbursement levels for VP-102, if approved, are accurate, the degree of market acceptance by the medical community and those infected by such skin diseases following regulatory approval, if any, could impact our assumptions and reduce the market size for VP-102 in molluscum, common warts or any other indication. For example, if VP-102 is approved for either molluscum or common warts, there can be no assurance that the medical community will prescribe VP-102 for patients over current forms of available alternative therapies. Furthermore, the market research study we commissioned surveying payor organizations has no bearing on the payors, and any assumptions or interpretations based on the results of this study, may ultimately be inaccurate. If the actual market for VP-102 in molluscum, common warts or any other indication we may pursue for VP-102 or for any other product candidate we may develop is smaller than we expect, our revenues, if any, may be limited and it may be more difficult for us to achieve or maintain profitability.

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 candidates in human clinical trials and will face an even greater risk if we commercially sell any products that we may develop. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against claims that our product candidates or drugs caused injuries, we will incur substantial liabilities. Regardless of merit or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

 

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

 

injury to our reputation and significant negative media attention;

 

withdrawal of clinical trial participants;

 

significant costs to defend the related litigation;

 

substantial monetary awards paid to trial participants or patients;

 

loss of revenue;

 

reduced resources of our management to pursue our business strategy; and

 

the inability to commercialize any products that we may develop.

We currently hold $10 million in product liability insurance coverage in the aggregate, with a per incident limit of $10 million, which may not be adequate to cover all liabilities that we may incur. We may need to increase our insurance coverage as we expand our clinical trials or if we commence commercialization of our product candidates. Insurance coverage is increasingly expensive. 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.

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Our business activities involve the use of hazardous materials, which require compliance with environmental and occupational safety laws regulating the use of such materials. If we or our vendors violate these laws, we could be subject to significant fines, liabilities or other adverse consequences.

Our business activities involve the controlled use of hazardous materials, including corrosive, explosive and flammable chemicals and other hazardous compounds in addition to certain biological hazardous waste. Ultimately, the activities of our third-party product manufacturers when a product candidate reaches commercialization will also require the use of hazardous materials. Accordingly, we are subject to federal, state and local laws governing the use, handling and disposal of these materials. For example, cantharidin is classified as an extremely hazardous substance in the United States and is subject to strict reporting requirements. Furthermore, the excipients in our product candidate are combustible and flammable. If not handled properly, there is a risk of explosion which could carry liability risk and affect the availability or capacity of the affected vendor. Although we believe that our and our vendors’ safety procedures for handling and disposing of these materials comply in all material respects with the standards prescribed by local, state and federal regulations, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials. In addition, our collaborators may not comply with these laws. In the event of an accident or failure to comply with environmental laws, we could be held liable for damages that result, and any such liability could exceed our assets and resources, or we could be subject to limitations or stoppages related to our use of these materials which may lead to an interruption of our business operations or those of our third-party contractors. While we believe that our existing insurance coverage is generally adequate for our normal handling of these hazardous materials, it may not be sufficient to cover pollution conditions or other extraordinary or unanticipated events. Furthermore, an accident could damage or force us to shut down our operations or one of our vendors. Changes in environmental laws may impose costly compliance requirements on us or otherwise subject us to future liabilities and additional laws relating to the management, handling, generation, manufacture, transportation, storage, use and disposal of materials used in or generated by the manufacture of our products or related to our clinical trials. In addition, we cannot predict the effect that these potential requirements may have on us, our suppliers and contractors or our customers.

Our business and operations would suffer in the event of computer system failures, cyber-attacks or a deficiency in our cyber-security.

Despite the implementation of security measures, our internal computer systems, and those of third parties on which we rely, are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, malware, natural disasters, terrorism, war, telecommunication and electrical failures, cyber-attacks or cyber-intrusions over the Internet, attachments to emails, persons inside our organization, or persons with access to systems inside our organization. The risk of a security breach or disruption, particularly through cyber-attacks or cyber intrusion, including by computer hackers, foreign governments, and cyber terrorists, has generally increased as the number, intensity and sophistication of attempted attacks and intrusions from around the world have increased. If such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our product development programs. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from completed or ongoing or planned clinical trials could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. To the extent that any disruption or security breach was to result in a loss of or damage to our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur material legal claims and liability, damage to our reputation, and the further development of our product candidates could be delayed.

Risks Related to Our Dependence on Third Parties

We will rely on third parties to conduct our future clinical trials for product candidates, and those third parties may not perform satisfactorily, including failing to meet deadlines for the completion of such trials.

We have engaged a CRO historically to conduct our clinical trials and expect to engage a CRO for future clinical trials for VP-102 or other product candidates that we may progress to clinical development. We expect to continue to rely on third parties, such as clinical data management organizations, medical institutions and clinical investigators, to conduct those clinical trials. If any of our relationships with these third parties terminate, we may not be able to timely enter into arrangements with alternative third parties or to do so on commercially reasonable terms, if at all. In addition, any third parties conducting our clinical trials will not be our employees, and except for remedies available to us under our agreements with such third parties, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time and resources to our clinical programs. 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

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of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure 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 our product candidates. Consequently, 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 revenue could be delayed significantly.

Switching or adding CROs involves substantial cost and requires management time and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new CRO commences work. As a result, delays occur, which can materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines. Though we intend to carefully manage our relationships with our CROs, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter 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.

We rely on these parties for execution of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, and generally do not control their activities. Our reliance on these third parties for research and development activities will reduce our control over these activities but will not relieve us of our responsibilities. For example, we will remain responsible for ensuring that each of our clinical trials is conducted in accordance with the general investigational plan and protocols for the trial. Moreover, the FDA requires us to comply with standards, commonly referred to as good clinical practices, or GCPs, for conducting, recording and reporting the results of clinical trials to assure that data and reported results are credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of trial participants are protected. We also are required to register ongoing clinical trials and post the results of completed clinical trials on a government-sponsored database, ClinicalTrials.gov, within specified timeframes. Failure to do so can result in fines, adverse publicity and civil and criminal sanctions. If we or any of our CROs or other third parties, including trial sites, fails to comply with applicable GCPs, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA, EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that upon inspection by a given regulatory authority, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our clinical trials complies with GCP regulations. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with product produced under cGMP conditions. Our failure to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process.

In addition, principal investigators for our clinical trials may serve as scientific advisors or consultants to us from time to time and receive compensation in connection with such services. Under certain circumstances, we may be required to report some of these relationships to the FDA. The FDA may conclude that a financial relationship between us and a principal investigator has created a conflict of interest or otherwise affected interpretation of the trial. The FDA may therefore question the integrity of the data generated at the applicable clinical trial site and the utility of the clinical trial itself may be jeopardized. This could result in a delay in approval, or rejection, of our marketing applications by the FDA and may ultimately lead to the denial of marketing approval of VP-102 and any other product candidates.

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

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We currently rely on a third party to supply our raw material used in VP-102, and if we encounter any extended difficulties in procuring, or creating an alternative for, our raw material in VP-102 or any of our other product candidates we may develop, our business operations would be impaired.

To date, we have obtained naturally-sourced cantharidin, which is the raw material used to manufacture the API for VP-102 and is obtained from blister beetles, directly or indirectly from suppliers based in the People’s Republic of China, or the PRC. We are exposed to a number of environmental risks, including:

 

risk of contamination being introduced in the beetle population through environmental factors that we cannot control, which would result in unexpected anomalies or new impurities in the cantharidin;

 

loss of the beetle’s habitat and other similar environmental risks to the beetle population whether due to climate change, over-development, or otherwise; and

 

risk of disease in the beetles.

In addition, any business, public health or economic challenges our existing supplier faces, whether in the ordinary course or not, could impair its ability to meet our cantharidin supply needs. For instance, in December 2019, a novel strain of COVID-19 was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China.  The extent to which COVID-19 impacts supplies of our product will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including new information which may emerge concerning the severity of COVID-19 and the actions to contain COVID-19 or treat its impact, among others. Accordingly, there is a risk that supplies of our product may be significantly delayed by or may become unavailable for an extended period of time as a result of any issues affecting our supplier’s supply and production of naturally-sourced cantharidin.

Furthermore, our supplier’s operations may be curtailed or delayed in the event the regulators in the PRC determine that our supplier is not acting in accordance with laws or under appropriate permits or licenses. We may also face additional supply chain risks due to the regulatory and political structure of the PRC, or as a result of the international relationship between the PRC and the United States or any of the other countries in which our products are marketed. For example, any deterioration in the trade relationship between the U.S. and China, which imposes any restrictions, tariffs or limitations on the export of cantharidin from China would impact our ability to meet our raw material needs. We are also exposed to foreign exchange risks, and fluctuations in exchange rates between the U.S. dollar and the Renminbi could negatively impact the commercial viability of importing cantharidin from the PRC.

While we have successfully developed a lab scale process for synthesizing the cantharidin molecule, there is risk that we will be unable to scale the process to produce a sufficient quantity of synthetically derived cantharidin to meet our needs and, even if we are ultimately able to scale the proposed process successfully, we cannot predict when we will be able to do so. If we are unable to scale the developed process for manufacturing cantharidin synthetically to a satisfactory commercial scale, we may be forced to continue to rely on naturally sourced cantharidin.

Any extended difficulties we face in maintaining our supply of cantharidin, or limitations we face in increasing our supply to meet commercial needs for VP-102 or any of our other product candidates, whether such cantharidin is naturally sourced or synthetically derived, would impair our business operations.

 

COVID-19 could adversely impact our business.

 

In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China. Since then, COVID-19 has spread to multiple countries, including the United States and several European countries. If COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States, we may experience disruptions that could severely impact our business, supply chain and clinical trials, including:

 

 

delays or inability to obtain raw material, ingredients, or components;

 

 

delays or difficulties in enrolling patients in our clinical trials;

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delays or difficulties in clinical site initiation, including difficulties in recruiting clinical site investigators and clinical site staff;

 

 

diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials, including the diversion of hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials;

 

 

interruption of key clinical trial, process validation, or launch preparation activities, such as clinical trial site monitoring, due to limitations on travel or access to third-party facilities imposed or recommended by federal or state governments, employers, suppliers, and others;

 

 

delays in review of regulatory filings by regulatory authorities; and

 

 

limitations in employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including because of sickness of employees or their families or the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people.

 

The global outbreak of COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve. The extent to which the COVID-19 may impact our business, supply chain, clinical trials and regulatory filings will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the ultimate geographic spread of the disease, the duration of the outbreak, travel restrictions and social distancing in the United States and other countries, business closures or business disruptions and the effectiveness of actions taken in the United States and other countries to contain and treat the disease.

We contract with third parties for the manufacture of VP-102 for preclinical and clinical testing and expect to continue to do so for commercialization. This reliance on third parties increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of VP-102 or such quantities at an acceptable cost, which could delay, prevent or impair our development or commercialization efforts.

We do not have any manufacturing facilities or personnel. We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the manufacture of VP-102, or any other product candidates which we may pursue, for preclinical and clinical testing as well as for commercial manufacture if VP-102 or any other product candidate which we may pursue receives marketing approval. This reliance on third parties increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of VP-102 or be able to obtain quantities at an acceptable cost or quality, which could delay, prevent or impair our ability to timely conduct our clinical trials or our other development or commercialization efforts.

We also expect to rely on third-party manufacturers or third-party collaborators for the manufacture of commercial supply of VP-102 or any other product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. The facilities used by our contract manufacturers to manufacture our product candidates must be approved by the FDA or other regulatory authorities pursuant to inspections that will be conducted prior to approval of our NDA, if at all, and in the future of additional NDAs or comparable marketing application to the FDA or other regulatory authority. We do not have control over a supplier’s or manufacturer’s compliance with laws, regulations and applicable cGMP standards and other laws and regulations, such as those related to environmental health and safety matters. If our contract manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or others, they will not be able to secure and maintain regulatory approval for their manufacturing facilities. In addition, we have no control over the ability of our contract manufacturers to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates or if it withdraws any such approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our product candidates, if approved.

We may be unable to establish any agreements with future third-party manufacturers or to do so on acceptable terms. Even if we are able to establish agreements with third-party manufacturers, qualifying and validating such

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manufacturers may take a significant period of time and reliance on third-party manufacturers entails additional risks, including:

 

reliance on the third party for regulatory compliance and quality assurance;

 

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

 

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

 

the possible increase in costs for the applicator components, raw materials or API in VP-102; and

 

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

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

Our product candidates and any drugs that we may develop may compete with other product candidates and drugs for access to manufacturing facilities. There are no assurances we would be able to enter into similar commercial arrangements with other 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.

To date, all assembly of our single-use precision applicators has been done using manual processes. In order to meet anticipated volume requirements, we will need to successfully validate our proposed automated assembly process as designed. If our current contract manufacturers cannot perform as agreed, we may be required to replace such manufacturers. We may incur added costs and delays in identifying and qualifying any such replacement. We expect to continue to depend on third-party contract manufacturers for the foreseeable future. Our current and anticipated future dependence upon others for the manufacture of our product candidates or drugs may adversely affect our future profit margins and our ability to commercialize any drugs that receive marketing approval on a timely and competitive basis. If there is any disruption in our supply chain, it could take a significant period of time to qualify and validate a replacement on terms acceptable to us, if we are able to at all.

We may seek collaborations with third parties for the development or commercialization of our product candidates. If those collaborations are not successful, we may not be able to capitalize on the market potential of these product candidates.

We may seek third-party collaborators for the development and commercialization of our product candidates, including for the commercialization of any of our product candidates that are approved for marketing outside the United States. Our likely collaborators for any collaboration arrangements include large and mid-size pharmaceutical companies, regional and national pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies. If we do enter into any such arrangements with any third parties, we will likely have limited control over the amount and timing of resources that our collaborators dedicate to the development or commercialization of our product candidates. Our ability to generate revenue from these arrangements will depend on our collaborators’ abilities to successfully perform the functions assigned to them in these arrangements.

Collaborations involving our product candidates would pose the following risks to us:

 

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

 

collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected;

 

collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates that achieve regulatory approval or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization

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programs based on clinical trial results, changes in the collaborators’ strategic focus or available funding, or external factors, such as an acquisition, that divert resources or create competing priorities;

 

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

 

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

 

product candidates discovered in collaboration with us may be viewed by our collaborators as competitive with their own product candidates or drugs, which may cause collaborators to cease to devote resources to the commercialization of our product candidates;

 

a collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more of our product candidates that achieve regulatory approval may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of such products;

 

disagreements with collaborators, including disagreements over proprietary rights, contract interpretation or the preferred course of development, might cause delays or termination of the research, development or commercialization of product candidates, might lead to additional responsibilities for us with respect to product candidates, or might result in litigation or arbitration, any of which would be time-consuming and expensive;

 

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

 

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

 

collaborations may be terminated for the convenience of the collaborator and, if terminated, we could be required to raise additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates.

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

If we are not able to establish collaborations, we may have to alter our development and commercialization plans.

Our product development programs and the potential commercialization of our product candidates will require substantial additional capital. For some of our product candidates, we may decide to collaborate with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for the development and potential commercialization of those 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, the existence of uncertainty with respect to our ownership of technology, which can exist if there is a challenge to such ownership without regard to the merits of the challenge and industry and market conditions generally. The collaborator may also consider alternative product candidates or technologies for similar indications that may be available to collaborate on and whether such a collaboration could be more attractive than the one with us for our product candidate. Collaborations are complex and time- consuming to negotiate and

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document. In addition, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future collaborators.

We may not be able to negotiate collaborations on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to do so, we may have to curtail the development of such product candidate, 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 candidates or bring them to market and generate revenue.

Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property

If we are unable to obtain or protect intellectual property rights related to any of our product candidates, we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.

We plan to rely upon a combination of patents, trade secret protection, and confidentiality agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our product candidates. The issuance, scope, validity, enforceability, strength, and commercial value of patents in the pharmaceutical field involves complex legal and scientific questions and can be uncertain. We currently have one issued patent, and the patent applications that we own may fail to result in other issued patents with claims that cover the product candidates in the United States or in foreign jurisdictions. If this were to occur, early generic competition could be expected against our product candidates in development. There may be relevant prior art relating to our future patents and patent applications which could invalidate a patent or prevent a patent from issuing based on a pending patent application. In particular, because the API in many of our product candidates has been available and used for many years, it is possible that these products have previously been used in such a manner that such prior usage would affect our ability to obtain patents based on our patent applications. Moreover, because numerous parties have developed and/or commercialized, or are developing, a wide variety of applicator devices for use with topical dermatological medications, it is possible that prior art related to applicator devices could affect our ability to obtain patent protection for our planned product applicator device or that disputes may arise related to whether third-party applicator devices infringe patents we have applied for.

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The patent prosecution process is expensive and time-consuming. We may not be able to prepare, file, and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications for a commercially reasonable cost or in a timely manner or in all jurisdictions. It is also possible that we may fail to identify patentable aspects of inventions made in the course of development and commercialization activities before it is too late to obtain patent protection on them. Moreover, depending on the terms of any future in-licenses to which we may become a party, we may not have the right to control the preparation, filing, and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain the patents, covering technology in-licensed from third parties. Therefore, these patents and patent applications may not be prosecuted and enforced in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business.

In addition to the protection we hope to receive from patents we have applied for, we rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary know-how that is not patentable, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our drug development and reformulation processes that involve proprietary know-how, information, or technology that is not covered by patents. Although we generally require all of our employees to assign their inventions to us, and all of our employees, consultants, advisors, and any third parties who have access to our proprietary know-how, information, or technology to enter into confidentiality agreements, we cannot provide any assurances that all such agreements have been duly executed, or that our trade secrets and other confidential proprietary information will not be disclosed. Moreover, our competitors may independently develop knowledge, methods and know-how equivalent to our trade secrets. Competitors could purchase our products and replicate some or all of the competitive advantages we derive from our development efforts for technologies on which we do not have patent protection. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor, we would have no right to prevent them, or those to whom they communicate it, from using that technology or information to compete with us. If any of our trade secrets were to be disclosed to or independently developed by a competitor, our competitive position would be harmed.

We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach. Also, if the steps taken to maintain our trade secrets are deemed inadequate, we may have insufficient recourse against third parties for misappropriating the trade secret. In addition, others may independently discover our trade secrets and proprietary information. For example, the FDA is considering whether to make additional information publicly available on a routine basis, including information that we may consider to be trade secrets or other proprietary information, and it is not clear at the present time how the FDA’s disclosure policies may change in the future. If we are unable to prevent material disclosure of the non-patented intellectual property related to our technologies to third parties, and there is no guarantee that we will have any such enforceable trade secret protection, we may not be able to establish or maintain a competitive advantage in our market, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We may enjoy only limited geographical protection with respect to certain patents and we may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.

Filing and prosecuting patent applications and defending patents covering our product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive. Competitors may use our 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 have patent protection, but enforcement rights are not as strong as that in the United States or Europe. These products may compete with our product candidates, and our current and future patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.

In addition, we may decide to abandon national and regional patent applications before grant. The examination of each national or regional patent application is an independent proceeding. As a result, patent applications in the same family may issue as patents in some jurisdictions, such as in the United States, but may issue as patents with claims of different scope or may even be refused in other jurisdictions. It is also quite common that depending on the country, the scope of patent protection may vary for the same product candidate or technology.

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While we intend to protect our intellectual property rights in our expected significant markets, we cannot ensure that we will be able to initiate or maintain similar efforts in all jurisdictions in which we may wish to market our product candidates. Accordingly, our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights in such countries may be inadequate, which may have an adverse effect on our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates in all of our expected significant foreign markets. If we encounter difficulties in protecting, or are otherwise precluded from effectively protecting, the intellectual property rights important for our business in such jurisdictions, the value of these rights may be diminished, and we may face additional competition from others in those jurisdictions.

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

Some countries also have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties. In addition, some countries limit the enforceability of patents against government agencies or government contractors. In those countries, the patent owner may have limited remedies, which could materially diminish the value of such patents. If we are forced to grant a license to third parties with respect to any patents relevant to our business, our competitive position may be impaired.

Recent patent reform legislation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our future patents.

Our ability to obtain patents is highly uncertain because, to date, some legal principles remain unresolved, there has not been a consistent policy regarding the breadth or interpretation of claims allowed in patents in the United States and the specific content of patents and patent applications that are necessary to support and interpret patent claims is highly uncertain due to the complex nature of the relevant legal, scientific, and factual issues. Changes in either patent laws or interpretations of patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of our intellectual property or narrow the scope of our patent protection.

For example, on September 16, 2011, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the Leahy-Smith Act, was signed into law. The Leahy-Smith Act includes a number of significant changes to United States patent law. These include provisions that affect the way patent applications will be prosecuted and may also affect patent litigation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, has developed new and untested regulations and procedures to govern the full implementation of the Leahy-Smith Act, and many of the substantive changes to patent law associated with the Leahy-Smith Act, and in particular, the first to file provisions, only became effective in March 2013. The Leahy-Smith Act has also introduced procedures making it easier for third parties to challenge issued patents, as well as to intervene in the prosecution of patent applications. Finally, the Leahy-Smith Act contains new statutory provisions that require the USPTO to issue new regulations for their implementation, and it may take the courts years to interpret the provisions of the new statute. It is too early to tell what, if any, impact the Leahy-Smith Act will have on the operation of our business and the protection and enforcement of our intellectual property. However, the Leahy-Smith Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our future patents. Further, 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 or weakening the rights of patent owners in certain situations. In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our ability to obtain patents in the future, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value of patents, once obtained. Depending on actions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that would weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce patents that we have owned or licensed or that we might obtain in the future. An inability to obtain, enforce, and defend patents covering our proprietary technologies would materially and adversely affect our business prospects and financial condition.

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Similarly, changes in patent laws and regulations in other countries or jurisdictions or changes in the governmental bodies that enforce them or changes in how the relevant governmental authority enforces patent laws or regulations may weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce patents that we may obtain in the future. Further, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect proprietary rights to the same extent or in the same manner as the laws of the United States. As a result, we may encounter significant problems in protecting and defending our intellectual property both in the United States and abroad. For example, if the issuance to us, in a given country, of a patent covering an invention is not followed by the issuance, in other countries, of patents covering the same invention, or if any judicial interpretation of the validity, enforceability, or scope of the claims, or the written description or enablement, in a patent issued in one country is not similar to the interpretation given to the corresponding patent issued in another country, our ability to protect our intellectual property in those countries may be limited. Changes in either patent laws or in interpretations of patent laws in the United States and other countries may materially diminish the value of our intellectual property or narrow the scope of our patent protection.

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

Periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, annuity fees, and various other government fees on patents and/or applications will be due to be paid to the USPTO and various government patent agencies outside of the United States over the lifetime of our patents and/or applications and any patent rights we may obtain in the future. We rely on our outside counsel to pay these fees. The USPTO and various non-U.S. government patent agencies require compliance with several procedural, documentary, fee payment, and other similar provisions during the patent application process. We employ reputable law firms and other professionals to help us comply. In many cases, an inadvertent lapse can be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules. There are situations, however, in which non-compliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patents or patent applications, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, potential competitors might be able to enter the market, and this circumstance could harm our business.

The patent applications that we have covering our product candidates are limited to specific formulations, preparations and devices, and methods of use and manufacturing processes, and our market opportunity for our product candidates may be limited by the lack of patent protection for the active ingredient itself and by competition from other formulations and manufacturing processes, as well as administration methods that may be developed by competitors.

Cantharidin is a naturally occurring compound found in many species of blister beetles and has been used since ancient times for medicinal purposes. Therefore, the composition of matter for the chemical structure of cantharidin itself, which is the API used in our product candidates, is not eligible for patent protection. We seek to obtain patent protection for our manufacturing technology, drug administering technology and our product candidates, including specific formulations, preparations and devices, and methods of use and manufacturing processes. Although the protection afforded by our patent and patent applications may be significant with respect to VP-102, when looking at the ability of the patent and applications to block competition, the protection offered by the patent and applications may be, to some extent, more limited than the protection provided by a patent claiming the composition of matter of an entirely new chemical entity previously unknown. As a result, generic products that do not infringe the claims of our future patents covering formulations, preparations, devices, methods of use, and manufacturing processes may be available while we are marketing our products. In general, method of use patents are more difficult to en