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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

Form 10-K

 

(Mark One)

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

OR

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

For the transition period from                      to                     

Commission file number: 000-31615

 

DURECT CORPORATION

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Delaware

 

94-3297098

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

 

10260 Bubb Road

Cupertino, CA 95014

(Address of principal executive offices, including zip code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (408777-1417

 

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

 

Title of Each Class

Trading Symbol(s)

Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered

Common Stock $0.0001 par value per share

DRRX

The NASDAQ Capital 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 Section 15 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 than 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

  

 

Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  

 

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

The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $169,632,305 as of June 30, 2020 based upon the closing sale price on The Nasdaq Global Market reported for such date. Shares of Common Stock held by each officer and director and by each person who may be deemed to be an affiliate have been excluded. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.

There were 227,201,863 shares of the registrant’s Common Stock issued and outstanding as of March 1, 2021.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Part III incorporates information by reference from the definitive Proxy Statement for the 2020 annual meeting of stockholders, which is expected to be filed not later than 120 days after the Registrant’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.

 

 

 

 


 

DURECT CORPORATION

ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K

FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Page

 

 

PART I

 

 

ITEM 1.

 

Business

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 1A.

 

Risk Factors

 

26

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

58

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 2.

 

Properties

 

58

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

 

58

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 5.

 

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

 

59

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 7.

 

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

 

61

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

76

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

78

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

112

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

112

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9B.

 

Other Information

 

113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 10.

 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

113

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

113

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 12.

 

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

 

113

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

113

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 14.

 

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

 

113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 15.

 

Exhibits, and Financial Statement Schedules

 

114

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit Index

 

119

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 16.

 

Form 10-K Summary

 

120

 

 

 

 

 

Signatures

 

121

 

 

 

 


 

PART I

 

Item 1.Business.

Overview

We are a biopharmaceutical company advancing novel and potentially lifesaving investigational therapies derived from our Epigenetic Regulator Program.  DUR‑928, a new chemical entity in clinical development, is the lead candidate in our Epigenetic Regulator Program.  An endogenous, orally bioavailable small molecule, DUR-928 has been shown in preclinical studies to play an important regulatory role in lipid homeostasis, inflammation, and cell survival.  Alcohol-associated hepatitis (AH) is a life-threatening acute liver condition with no approved therapeutics and a 28-day historical mortality rate of 26%.  After completing a Phase 2a trial where 100% of AH patients treated with DUR-928 survived the 28-day study period, we are now conducting a double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 2b clinical trial called AHFIRM, in which we are evaluating DUR-928’s life saving potential compared to the current standard of care in patients with severe AH. If the AHFIRM trial is successful, it may support an NDA filing, and we may decide to develop our own commercial, sales and marketing organization. DUR-928 is also being investigated in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

In addition to our Epigenetic Regulator Program, we developed a novel and proprietary post-surgical pain product called POSIMIR® that utilizes our innovative SABER® platform technology to enable continuous sustained delivery of bupivacaine, a non-opioid local analgesic, over 3 days in adults. In February 2021, we announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved POSIMIR for infiltration use in adults for administration into the subacromial space under direct arthroscopic visualization to produce post-surgical analgesia for up to 72 hours following arthroscopic subacromial decompression. The approval was based on positive data from a randomized, multicenter, assessor-blinded, placebo‑controlled clinical trial in patients undergoing arthroscopic subacromial decompression surgery with an intact rotator cuff. The primary outcome measures were mean pain intensity and total opioid rescue analgesia administered, both evaluated over the first 72 hours after surgery versus placebo. POSIMIR demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in both primary outcome measures: a 1.3 point, or 20%, reduction in mean pain intensity on a 0-10 point pain scale (p=0.01), and a 67% reduction in intravenous morphine-equivalent rescue opioid use, from a median of 12 mg in the placebo group to 4 mg in the POSIMIR group (p=0.01).  We are in discussions with potential licensees regarding commercialization rights to POSIMIR, for which we hold worldwide rights. 

As a result of the assignment of certain patent rights, DURECT also receives single digit sales-based earn-out payments from U.S. net sales of Indivior’s PERSERIS (risperidone) drug for schizophrenia, which was launched commercially in the U.S. February 2019.  In addition, in September 2020, our licensee, Orient Pharma informed us that it had launched Methydur Sustained Release Capsules (Methydur) for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Taiwan.  We receive a single digit royalty on sales of Methydur by Orient Pharma.  We also manufacture and sell ALZET osmotic pumps used in laboratory research and have several early-stage development programs with corporate collaborators on terms which typically call for our collaborator to fund all or a substantial portion of future development costs of the program and make milestone payments to us based on specific development or commercial achievements and royalty payments on product sales.

 

NOTE: POSIMIR®, SABER®, CLOUDTM, ORADURand ALZET ® are trademarks of DURECT Corporation. Other trademarks referred to belong to their respective owners. Full prescribing information for POSIMIR, including BOXED WARNING and Medication Guide can be found at www.posimir.com. Full prescribing information for PERSERIS, including BOXED WARNING and Medication Guide can be found at www.perseris.com.

 


1


 

Epigenetic Regulator Program and New Chemical Entities

Epigenetic regulation involves biochemical modification of either DNA itself or proteins that are intimately associated with DNA.  These modifications lead to changes in gene expression that facilitate downstream biological effects.  

 

DURECT’s Epigenetic Regulator Program involves a multi-year collaborative effort with the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the VCU Medical Center and the McGuire VA Medical Center. The knowledge base supporting this program is a result of more than 30 years of lipid research by Shunlin Ren, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Internal Medicine at the VCU Medical Center. The lead compound from this program, DUR-928, is an endogenous, orally bioavailable small molecule that modulates the gene expression of various nuclear receptors that play important regulatory roles in lipid homeostasis, inflammation, and cell survival. Under a license with VCU, we hold the exclusive royalty-bearing worldwide right to develop and commercialize DUR-928 and related molecules discovered in the program.

The biological activity of DUR-928 has been demonstrated in over a dozen different animal disease models involving three animal species. Some of these models represent acute organ injuries (e.g., endotoxin shock, acute oxidative stress, ischemic-reperfusion injury in the kidney and brain) and several represent chronic metabolic disorders involving hepatic lipid accumulation and dysfunction (e.g., NASH and NAFLD).

Our major product research and development efforts for DUR-928 are in the following table:

 

 

 

In pharmacokinetic (PK) and toxicology studies conducted in mice, hamsters, rats, rabbits, dogs, minipigs and monkeys, DUR-928 has been found to be tolerable and safe by all routes of administration tested to date. These results support the use of DUR-928 in completed, ongoing and planned human safety, PK, proof-of-concept, and efficacy trials. The chronic toxicity of DUR-928 was further assessed in a 6-month oral study in rats and in a 9-month oral study in dogs. These studies were completed successfully and support long duration human clinical trials of DUR-928.

 

2


 

Acute Organ Injury Program with Injectable DUR-928

Market Opportunity.    Alcohol-associated hepatitis (also called alcoholic hepatitis or AH), an acute form of alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD), is associated with long-term heavy intake of alcohol and often occurs after a recent period of increased alcohol consumption. AH is typically characterized by recent onset jaundice and hepatic failure.  An analysis of 77 studies published between 1971 and 2016, which included data from a total of 8,184 patients, showed the overall mortality from AH was 26% at 28 days and 29% at 90 days. According to the most recent data provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there were 122,000 hospitalizations for patients with AH in 2017. From a recent publication analyzing the mortality and costs associated with AH, the cost per patient is estimated at over $50,000 in the first year. ALD is one of the leading causes of liver transplants in the US, each of which cost over $875,000.

Clinical Program.    In 2019, we completed a Phase 2a clinical trial evaluating intravenously infused DUR-928 in patients with moderate and severe AH.  This was an open label, dose escalation (30, 90 and 150 mg), multi-center U.S. study, originally designed to be conducted in two sequential parts.  Part A included patients with moderate AH and Part B included patients with severe AH.  Severity of AH was determined by the Model of End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) scores, a common scoring system to assess the severity and prognosis of AH patients; moderate was defined as MELD 11-20 and severe as MELD 21-30.  

In this Phase 2a trial, dose escalation was permitted following review of safety and pharmacokinetic (PK) results of the prior dose level by a Dose Escalation Committee. The target number of patients for the study was 4 per dose group. Final enrollment included 19 patients with moderate and severe AH, who were administered DUR-928 intravenously at three different doses.  Eight patients (four moderate and four severe) were dosed at 30mg, seven patients (three moderate and four severe) were dosed at 90mg and four patients (all severe) were dosed at 150mg.  After being discharged on day two, one patient did not return for the scheduled day seven and day 28 follow-up visits; therefore Lille, bilirubin and MELD data reported below are based on 18 patients. The objectives of this study included assessment of safety, PK and pharmacodynamic (PD) signals, including liver biochemistry, biomarkers, and prognostic scores, including the Lille score, following DUR-928 treatment.  

 

In November 2019, the results from this Phase 2a clinical trial of DUR-928 in alcoholic hepatitis (AH) were presented as a late-breaking oral presentation at The Liver Meeting®.  The study results were also selected for inclusion in the ‘Best of The Liver Meeting’ summary slide presentation in the alcohol-related liver disease category.  

 

All 19 patients treated with DUR-928 in this trial survived the 28-day follow-up period and there were no drug-related serious adverse events.  Using an alternative measure of AH severity to MELD, Maddrey’s Discrimination Function (DF), 15 of the 19 patients had DF scores of 32 or greater, indicating that they had severe AH. Patients treated with DUR-928 had a statistically significant reduction from baseline in bilirubin at day 7 and 28 and MELD at day 28.  Lille scores, described below, were also statistically significantly lower than those from a well-matched group of patients in a contemporary ongoing trial as well as several published historical controls.  74% of all DUR-928 treated patients and 67% of those with severe AH were discharged from the hospital within four days of receiving a single dose of DUR-928.

 

Lille

Lille scores are used in clinical practice to help determine the prognosis and response of AH patients after seven days of treatment.  The lower the Lille score, the better the prognosis.  Patients with a Lille score below 0.45 have a six-month survival rate of 85% compared to those with Lille scores above 0.45, who have only a 25% six-month survival rate.  The chart below shows the Lille scores for individual AH patients treated with DUR-928 plotted as a function of their baseline MELD scores.  In our study, the median Lille score for patients treated with DUR-928 was 0.10.  The median Lille score among a cohort of 15 patients treated with standard of care at the University of Louisville (UL) was 0.41 (shown as historical control).

3


 

The chart below shows individual patient Lille scores plotted as a function of their baseline MELD scores.

 

 

1)

Our advisor, Dr. Craig McClain from the University of Louisville (UL), shared anonymized data from his study, in which 15 AH patients with initial MELD scores ranging from 15-30 received either supportive care alone (n=8 moderate AH patients) or supportive care with corticosteroids (n=7 severe AH patients). Two of the UL control patients died by day 28.

 

2)

One patient in the DUR-928 group did not return for the day 7 or 28 visit. All 19 patients, including this one, treated with DUR-928 in this trial survived the 28-day follow-up period.

 

3)

Lille scores in the DUR-928 group were significantly lower than that of the UL patients (p=0.01; Wilcoxon's Rank Sum Test).

 

4


 

As shown below, 100% of patients in the 30 mg and 90 mg DUR-928 dosing groups were treatment responders based on their Lille scores.  89% of the overall DUR-928 patient population were treatment responders based on Lille.  Patients with severe AH, as defined by Maddrey’s Discriminant Function (DF) 32 or MELD 21-30, and baseline serum bilirubin above 8 mg/dL, had similarly high response rates to DUR-928 treatment.

 

AH Patient Category

 

n1

Responders

(Lille<0.45)

Lille

Median (Quartile)

All Patients2

30 or 90 mg DUR-9283

 

18

14

89%

100%

0.10 (0.04, 0.20)

0.05 (0.04, 0.19)

DF32 (SAH)2, 4

30 or 90 mg DUR-9283

 

15

11

87%

100%

0.19 (0.05, 0.22)

0.12 (0.05, 0.19)

MELD 21-302

30 or 90 mg DUR-9283

 

12

8

83%

100%

0.19 (0.11, 0.25)

0.19 (0.10, 0.19)

Baseline bilirubin >8mg/dl2

30 or 90 mg DUR-9283

 

11

8

82%

100%

0.10 (0.05, 0.20)

0.10 (0.05, 0.19)

 

1)

One patient did not return for Day 7 and 28 visits;

 

2)

Including patients receiving 30, 90 and 150 mg of DUR-928;

 

3)

Excluding patients receiving 150 mg of DUR-928.

 

4)

Maddrey’s Discriminant Function (MDF or DF) is calculated using the patient’s prothrombin time and serum bilirubin level. DF was introduced in 1978 as a predictor of significant mortality risk for AH patients. A DF≥32 identified AH patients with a 30-day mortality rate of ≥50%.

 

The Lille scores of patients treated with DUR-928 in this trial were also significantly lower than several selected published historical studies (Hepatology 2007, 45:1348-1354; Gut 2011, 60:255-260), in which patients had similar baseline bilirubin, albumin, creatinine, prothrombin time and DF scores, and were treated with standard of care with or without corticosteroids.  Of course, due to the historical nature of these studies, such comparisons should be taken cautiously.

A sub-group analysis was conducted to compare severe AH patients in the 30 mg and 90 mg dosing groups (n=8) with well-matched severe AH patients (n=13) who received corticosteroids for 28 days in a contemporaneous study at the University of Louisville (UL).  Patients shown below in the UL steroid group had a mean baseline MELD of 24.46 and mean baseline Maddrey’s DF score of 62.98. The 8 patients in the DUR-928 group had baseline mean MELD of 24.50 and mean baseline Maddrey’s DF score of 61.25.  All patients treated with DUR-928 survived the 28-day follow up period, while 3 of the 13 patients (23%) in the UL steroid group died within the first 28 days.

5


 

The steroid group in the above graph includes the 7 severe AH patients treated with steroids from the UL group shown in the MELD vs Lille graph above plus an additional 6 severe AH patients subsequently treated in the UL study.

 

Bilirubin

Bilirubin is formed by the breakdown of red blood cells in the body.  The level of total bilirubin in the blood is an indication of how the liver is functioning.  High bilirubin levels are associated with liver dysfunction and disease.  In this trial, patients treated with DUR-928 had a significant early reduction from baseline in bilirubin by day 7.  Patients with more elevated bilirubin at baseline (serum bilirubin >8 mg/dL) had a median reduction from baseline of 25% by day 7 and 48% by day 28.

 

 

*p<0.05 compared to baseline (Wilcoxon's Signed Rank Test)

 

MELD is another common scoring system used to assess the severity and prognosis of AH patients.  Patients with MELD scores of 11-20 are classified as having moderate AH and patients with MELD scores of 21-30 are classified as having severe AH.  As with Lille scores, the lower the MELD score, the better the prognosis for the AH patient. In this study (shown in the chart below), the median reduction from baseline in MELD among all DUR-928 treated patients was >2 points and among those with baseline bilirubin levels >8 mg/dL was 5 points by day 28.

 

 

6


 

 

 

*p<0.05 compared to baseline (Wilcoxon's Signed Rank Test)

MELD is calculated based on (a) bilirubin, (b) serum creatinine (sCr), and (c) International Normalized Ratio (INR), which is a measure of prothrombin time.

 

Safety and Pharmacokinetics

In the Phase 2a study of DUR-928 in AH, DUR-928 was well tolerated at all doses tested.  There were no drug-related serious adverse events and only three adverse events designated as possibly or probably related to DUR-928: one occurrence of moderate generalized pruritus, one mild rash and one grade two alkaline phosphatase elevation.  There were no discontinuations, early withdrawals or termination of study drug or study participation due to adverse events.  All patients treated with DUR-928 survived through the 28-day follow-up period. Drug exposures were dose proportional and were not affected by the severity of the disease.

In December 2020, we announced that the FDA had granted DUR-928 Fast Track Designation for the treatment of AH.  The FDA grants Fast Track Designation to facilitate development and expedite the review of therapies with the potential to treat a serious condition where there is an unmet medical need. A therapeutic that receives Fast Track Designation can benefit from early and frequent communication with the agency in addition to a rolling submission of the marketing application, with the objective of getting important new therapies to patients more quickly.

In January 2021, we announced the dosing of the first patient in our Phase 2b study in subjects with AH to evaluate saFety and effIcacy of DUR-928 treatMent (AHFIRM).  AHFIRM is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, international, multi-center Phase 2b study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of DUR-928 in approximately 300 patients with severe AH. The study is comprised of three arms targeting approximately 100 patients each: (1) Placebo plus standard of care (SOC, which may include the use of methylprednisolone, a corticosteroid, at the discretion of the treating physician); (2) DUR-928 (30 mg); and (3) DUR-928 (90 mg). Patients receive an intravenous (IV) dose of DUR-928 or placebo (sterile water) on day 1 and a second IV dose on day 4 if they are still hospitalized.  The primary outcome measure will be the 90-day survival rate for patients treated with DUR-928 compared to those treated with placebo plus SOC.  Secondary endpoints include 28-day survival, the rate of adverse events, Lille and MELD (prognostic scores), and time in the intensive care unit. We are targeting 40-50 clinical trial sites in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Phase 1 trials of DUR-928 administered through injection have supported the development of DUR-928 in AH. The initial Phase 1 trial in healthy subjects was a single-site, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, single-ascending-dose study that evaluated the safety, tolerability and PK of intramuscular (IM) injected DUR-928. The 24-subject study (16 healthy volunteers on the drug and 8 on

7


placebo) of four escalating dose levels resulted in dose proportional systemic exposure of DUR-928 with peak plasma concentrations greater than 1000-fold higher than endogenous levels. DUR-928 was well-tolerated at all dose levels, with no serious treatment-related adverse events reported. We also conducted a multiple-dose study involving 10 healthy subjects, in which participants received IM-injected DUR-928 for 5 consecutive days (8 subjects on the drug, 2 on placebo) using the next to highest dose from the single dose study. No serious treatment related adverse events were reported, no subjects withdrew from the study, no accumulation in plasma concentrations were observed with repeat dosing, and the pain scores and injection site reactions were minimal. We also conducted a single-ascending dose intravenous (IV) infusion study with 16 healthy subjects and observed no treatment-related serious adverse events. The systemic exposure following IV infusion was dose proportional.

A Phase 1 drug-drug interaction study conducted in healthy subjects demonstrated that neither orally administered nor intravenously injected DUR-928 at doses tested affected the safety and PK of midazolam, a drug metabolized by CYP3A4, which is one of the important enzymes associated with clinically relevant drug-drug interactions.

We have also conducted a Phase 1b study with injected DUR-928 in patients with impaired kidney function (stage 3 and 4 chronic kidney disease (CKD)) and matched control subjects (MCS), matched by age, body mass and gender with normal kidney function. This study was a single-site, open-label, single-ascending-dose study in two successive cohorts (first a low dose of 30 mg and then a high dose of 120 mg) evaluating safety and PK of intramuscular injected DUR-928. The low dose cohort consisted of 6 patients with CKD and 3 MCS; the high dose cohort consisted of 5 CKD patients and 3 MCS.  In this trial, DUR-928 was well tolerated among all subjects and the PK parameters between the kidney function impaired patients and the MCS were comparable. The results of this Phase 1b trial were presented at Kidney Week 2018 in San Diego.

 

COVID-19 Program with Intravenous DUR-928

 

Since we initiated our clinical trial of DUR-928 in patients with COVID-19, several vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 have been approved and are being deployed worldwide.  Treatment regimens for patients with COVID-19 have also evolved, the disease landscape has changed and additional therapies have entered clinical trials. Consequently, there have been a limited number of patients eligible or willing to enroll in our trial, and we have elected to discontinue the trial.

Chronic Liver Disease Program with Orally Administered DUR-928

Market Opportunity.    Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common form of chronic liver disease in both children and adults.   It is estimated that NAFLD affects approximately 30% to 40% of adults and 10% of children in the United States. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more severe and progressive form of NAFLD, is one of the most common chronic liver diseases worldwide, with an estimated prevalence of 3-5% globally. No drug is currently approved for treatment of NAFLD or NASH.  Moreover, alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD), including its more advanced stage, alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH), develops in approximately 90% of individuals who drink more than 60 grams/day of alcohol, but may occur in individuals who drink less, and is a major contributor to the global burden of liver cirrhosis.  In addition to these liver diseases, there are a number of orphan liver diseases for which we may seek to develop DUR-928.

Clinical Program.    In 2020, we completed a Phase 1b randomized, multi-center, and open-label clinical study in the United States to evaluate safety, PK and signals of biological activity of DUR-928 in NASH patients with stage 1-3 fibrosis. DUR-928 (at doses of 50 mg QD, 150 mg QD and 300 mg BID) was administered orally for 28 days with 20 patients or more per dose group for a total of 65 patients in the trial as shown below. Key endpoints included safety and PK, clinical chemistry and biomarkers (e.g., ALT, AST, GGT, triglycerides, Non-HDL-C, CK-18s, inflammatory cytokines) as well as liver fat content and liver stiffness by imaging (e.g., MRI-PDFF and FibroScan®).

8


 

 

 

In May 2020, we reported positive topline results from this Phase 1b clinical study of orally administered DUR-928 in NASH patients. In November 2020, we presented additional safety data and efficacy signals at the The AASLD Liver Meeting Digital Experience™ (TLMdX).

A total of 65 patients completed the study, in which DUR-928 was orally administered daily for 4 weeks at 50 mg (n=23), 150 mg (n=21), or 600 mg (300 mg BID (n=21)) and followed up for an additional 4 weeks. Both the 50 mg and 600 mg dose groups showed a statistically significant median reduction at day 28 from baseline of serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels at -16% and -17%, respectively. The 600 mg dose group also showed statistically significant median reductions at day 28 from baseline of serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) (-18%) and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) (-8%), and the 50 mg dose group had a statistically significant reduction at day 28 from baseline in liver stiffness as measured by Fibroscan (-10%).

Patients in the 50 mg or 150 mg dose groups also had statistically significant median reduction at day 28 from baseline of serum triglycerides (-13% in the 50 mg group) or LDL-C (-11% in the 150mg group). Patients with elevated baseline triglycerides (≥200 mg/dL; n=16) across all dose groups had a median reduction at day 28 from baseline of -24% (p <0.01). 

At day 28, 43% of patients in all three dose groups showed ≥ 10% liver fat reduction from baseline as measured by magnetic resonance imaging - proton density fat fraction (MRI-PDFF). In this subgroup, there was a significant reduction from baseline in median liver fat content (-18%, -19%, and -23%, in the 50 mg, 150 mg and 600 mg groups respectively). The reduction of liver fat content was accompanied by a significant median reduction from baseline of serum ALT (-21%, -19%, and -32%, in the 50 mg, 150 mg and 600 mg groups respectively), as well as both CK-18, M30 and M65 in the 50 mg and 600 mg groups. We may report additional efficacy signals of this trial at a future medical conference.

DUR-928 was well tolerated at all three doses evaluated. There were no serious adverse events reported during the study, and no discontinuations, early withdrawals or termination of study drug or study participation due to adverse events. PK parameters after repeat dosing were comparable to those after a single dose (from a prior study), indicating no accumulation of the drug after repeat dosing.  


9


 

 

Topline Data Summary (Day 28 vs Baseline)

 

 

Median at Day 28

* p < 0.05

** p < 0.01

*** p < 0.001

All Subjects

Patients with ≥ 10% Reduction in

MRI-PDFF

50 mg QD

(n=21-23)

150 mg QD

(n=20-21)

300 mg BID

(n=20-21)

50 mg QD

(n=9)

150 mg QD

(n=8)

300 mg BID

(n=9)

Liver Enzymes

ALT

-16%*

-10%

-17%***

-21%**

-19%*

-32%***

AST

-14%

-9%

-18%**

-24%**

-21%

-39%***

GGT

-6%

-1%

-8%*

-13%***

-16%*

-14%

Imaging

MRI-PDFF

-7%

-7%

-4%

-18%***

-19%***

-23%***

FibroScan

-10%**

-9%

-1%

-7%

-9%**

-9%

Serum Lipids

LDL-C

-6%

-11%*

-7%

-7%

-11%

-8%*

Non-HDL-C

-8%

-5%

-1%

-10%

-8%*

-12%*

Triglycerides

-13%*

-3%

-2%

-9%

0%

-8%

Biomarkers

CK-18, M30

-14.6%

-8.6%

-16.1%

-22.8%***

-3.8%

-42.1%*

CK-18, M65

-18.1%

-9.9%

-35.0%

-28.1%***

-8.7%

-55.8%*

 

ALT (alanine aminotransferase); AST (aspartate aminotransferase); GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase); MRI-PDFF (Magnetic Resonance Imaging - Proton Density Fat Fraction) is a non-invasive measure of the proportion of liver tissue which is composed of fat; FibroScan is a specialized ultrasound machine that measures the stiffness of liver tissue. LDL-C ( Low-Density Lipoprotein – Cholesterol); Non-HDL-C (Total cholesterol excluding High-Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol); QD (once a day); BID (twice a day); CK-18 (cytokeritin 18)

 

We have completed multiple Phase I trials in healthy subjects with orally administered DUR-928. These included single-ascending-dose and multiple-ascending-dose studies as well as a food effect study. In all of these studies DUR-928 was well-tolerated at all dose levels, with no serious treatment-related adverse events reported. Dose related increases in plasma concentrations were observed and no accumulation in plasma concentrations or food effects were observed with repeat dosing.  

We also conducted a Phase 1b trial in cirrhotic and non-cirrhotic NASH patients and matched control subjects (MCS) (matched by age, body mass index and gender with normal liver function) utilizing orally administered DUR-928. This was an open-label, single-ascending-dose safety and PK study conducted in Australia in two successive dose cohorts (first a low dose of 50 mg and then a high dose of 200 mg). Both cohorts consisted of 10 NASH patients and 6 MCS. Data from this study was presented at the International Liver Congress™ 2017 organized by the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) in Amsterdam in April 2017. All patients and MCS in this study tolerated DUR-928 well.  One patient (with a prior history of arrhythmia and an ongoing viral infection) in the high dose cohort experienced a serious adverse event (shortness of breath), which occurred without unusual

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biochemical changes and resolved without intervention but was considered possibly treatment related by the physician due to its temporal association with dosing.  In both low and high dose cohorts, the PK parameters were comparable between the NASH patients and the MCS.  In addition, the systemic exposure following the low and high doses of DUR-928 was dose dependent.

While this study was not designed to assess efficacy, we observed statistically significant reductions from baseline of several biomarkers after both doses of DUR-928.   A single oral dose of DUR-928 significantly reduced the levels of both full-length (M65) and cleaved (M30) cytokeratin-18 (CK-18), bilirubin, hsCRP, and IL-18 in these subjects.  The mean decrease of full-length CK-18 (a generalized cell death marker) at the measured time point of greatest effect (12 hours after dosing) was 33% in the low dose cohort and 41% in the high dose cohort.  The mean decrease of cleaved CK-18 (a cell apoptosis marker) at the measured time point of greatest effect (12 hours after dosing) was 37% in the low dose cohort and 47% in the high dose cohort.  The mean reduction of total bilirubin (a liver function marker) at the measured time point of greatest effect (12 hours after dosing) was 27% in the low dose cohort and 31% in the high dose cohort.  The mean decrease of high sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) (a marker of inflammation) at the measured time point of greatest effect (24 hours after dosing) was 8% in the low dose cohort and 13% in the high dose cohort.   The mean decrease of IL-18 (an inflammatory mediator) at the measured time point of greatest effect (8 hours after dosing) was 4% in the low dose cohort and 8% in the high dose cohort.

Collectively, the biological signals observed in NASH patients plus results from our animal and cell culture studies suggest potential therapeutic activity of DUR-928 for patients with liver diseases.  However, additional studies are required to evaluate the safety and efficacy of DUR-928, and there is no assurance that these biomarker, clinical chemistry and liver imaging effects will be associated with clinically relevant benefits, or that DUR-928 will demonstrate safety or efficacy in treating liver diseases in our ongoing or future trials.  

We have also conducted a Phase 1b safety and PK study in subjects with moderate and severe hepatic function impairment (Child-Pugh Class B (n=10) and C (n=7) and matched control subjects (n=10)) following a single oral dose of DUR-928 to support potential inclusion of patients with advanced fibrosis (f4) and cirrhosis in future clinical trials. DUR-928 was well tolerated by these subjects with no drug-related serious adverse events reported in this trial. We plan to report results of this trial at a future medical conference.

 

 

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Approved and Commercial Pharmaceutical Products

 

 

POSIMIR® (bupivacaine solution)

POSIMIR (bupivacaine solution) for infiltration use is a novel and proprietary product that combines the strength of 660 mg of bupivacaine base with the innovative SABER® platform technology, enabling continuous sustained delivery of a non-opioid local analgesic over 3 days in adults, which we believe coincides with the time period of the greatest need for post-surgical pain control in most patients. POSIMIR contains more bupivacaine than any other approved single-dose sustained-release bupivacaine product.  At the end of surgery, POSIMIR is administered into the subacromial space under direct arthroscopic visualization, where it continuously releases bupivacaine for 72 hours or more. We are in discussions with potential licensees regarding commercialization rights to POSIMIR, for which we hold worldwide rights.

In February 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved POSIMIR for infiltration use in adults for administration into the subacromial space under direct arthroscopic visualization to produce post-surgical analgesia for up to 72 hours following arthroscopic subacromial decompression. The approval was based on positive data from a randomized, multicenter, assessor-blinded, placebo‑controlled clinical trial in patients undergoing arthroscopic subacromial decompression surgery with an intact rotator cuff. The primary outcome measures were mean pain intensity and total opioid rescue analgesia administered, both evaluated over the first 72 hours after surgery versus placebo. POSIMIR demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in both primary outcome measures: a 1.3 point, or 20%, reduction in mean pain intensity on a 0-10 point pain scale (p=0.01), and a 67% reduction in I.V. morphine-equivalent rescue opioid use, from a median of 12 mg in the placebo group to 4 mg in the POSIMIR group (p=0.01). In connection with this approval, we or our licensee, will be required to conduct two postmarketing non-clinical studies. Full Prescribing Information, including the Boxed Warning, is available at www.POSIMIR.com.


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Market Opportunity.    Arthroscopic Subacromial Decompression (ASD) Shoulder Surgery

 

Subacromial decompression is a type of shoulder surgery used to treat impingement syndrome, a common repetitive-use injury that causes pain when the arm is raised over the head. The procedure is typically performed arthroscopically, meaning that several small incisions are made in the skin and muscle of the shoulder through which a camera lens (arthroscope) and surgical instruments are inserted during surgery. Arthroscopic subacromial decompression is generally considered outpatient surgery, and most patients go home within a few hours of surgery. The recovery period may extend from weeks to months, but the most intense pain typically occurs during the first 3 days after surgery and is often managed with oral opioids. There are over 600,000 surgeries involving arthroscopic subacromial decompression performed each year in the U.S.

 

While ASD is the first approved indication for POSIMIR, there may be opportunities to expand the indication and addressable patient population based on existing data or data generated from additional POSIMIR trials.  According to data published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 72 million ambulatory and inpatient surgical procedures performed annually in the U.S. Insufficient postoperative pain control remains a significant problem, with studies indicating that roughly 65% of patients experience moderate-to-extreme pain after surgery. The current standard of care for post-surgical pain includes a variety of opiate and non-opiate analgesics and muscle relaxants. While systemic opioids can effectively reduce post-surgical pain, they commonly cause side effects including drowsiness, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and cognitive impairment, and have the potential for addiction and abuse. Post-surgical pain also can be treated effectively with local anesthetics; however, their usefulness often is limited by their short duration of action.

 

PERSERIS(risperidone)

In September 2017, we entered into an agreement with Indivior, under which we assigned to Indivior certain patents that may provide further intellectual property protection for PERSERIS, Indivior’s extended-release injectable suspension for the treatment of schizophrenia in adults.  In consideration for such assignment, Indivior has made non-refundable upfront and milestone payments to DURECT of $17.5 million.  Under the terms of the agreement with Indivior, DURECT receives quarterly earn-out payments that are based on a single digit percentage of U.S. net sales of PERSERIS into 2026.   Indivior commercially launched PERSERIS in the U.S. in February 2019.

ORADUR-ADHD Program

In collaboration with Orient Pharma (OP), we developed a drug candidate based on our ORADUR technology for the treatment of ADHD. This drug candidate is intended to provide once-a-day dosing. In August 2009, we entered into a development and license agreement, as amended, with OP, a diversified multinational pharmaceutical, healthcare and consumer products company with headquarters in Taiwan, under which we granted to OP development and commercialization rights in certain defined Asian and South Pacific countries to ORADUR-Methylphenidate ER. We retain rights to North America, Europe and all other countries not specifically licensed to OP.

OP has informed us that they launched Methydur commercially in Taiwan in September 2020. Methydur is indicated for the treatment of ADHD and is available in three strengths (22 mg, 33 mg and 44 mg) in Taiwan. They may seek a partner in China and pursue regulatory approvals in selected other countries in Southeast Asia where OP has commercialization rights and a commercialization presence. We receive a single digit royalty on sales of Methydur by OP and retain rights to this product in markets not specifically licensed to OP.  

 

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Drug Delivery Technologies and Programs

Our drug delivery technologies are designed to deliver the right drug to the right place, in the right amount and at the right time to treat a variety of chronic, acute and episodic diseases and conditions. We aim to improve therapy for a given disease or patient population by controlling the rate and duration of drug administration. In addition, if advantageous for the therapy, our technologies can target the delivery of the drug to its intended site of action.

Our technologies are suitable for providing long-term drug therapy because they can often store highly concentrated, stabilized drugs in a small volume and protect the drug from degradation by the body. This, in combination with the ability to continuously deliver desired doses of a drug, can extend the therapeutic value of a wide variety of drugs, including, in some cases, those which would otherwise be ineffective, too unstable, too potent or cause adverse side effects. In some cases, delivering the drug directly to the intended site of action can improve efficacy while minimizing unwanted side effects elsewhere in the body, which often limit the long-term use of many drugs. Our technologies may thus provide better therapy for chronic diseases or conditions, or for certain acute conditions where longer drug dosing is required or advantageous, by replacing multiple injection therapy or oral dosing, improving drug efficacy, reducing side effects and ensuring dosing compliance. Our technology may thereby improve patients’ quality of life by eliminating more repetitive treatments, reducing dependence on caregivers and allowing patients to lead more independent lives.

We currently have several active drug delivery technology platforms:

The SABER and CLOUD Bioerodible Injectable Depot Systems

Our bioerodible injectable depot systems include our SABER and CLOUD platform technologies. SABER uses a high viscosity base component, such as sucrose acetate isobutyrate (SAIB), to provide controlled release of a drug. When the high viscosity SAIB is formulated with drug, biocompatible excipients and other additives, the resulting formulation is easily injectable with standard syringes and needles. After injection of a SABER formulation, the excipients diffuse away over time, leaving a viscous depot which provides controlled sustained release of drug. CLOUD is a class of bioerodible injectable depot technology which generally does not contain SAIB but includes various other release rate modifying excipients and/or bioerodible polymers to achieve the delivery of drugs for periods of days to months from a single injection.

The SABER technology is the basis of POSIMIR (described above). The SABER technology is also utilized in our ophthalmic program with Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Santen), as well as in feasibility programs.

The SABER technology is also the basis for SucroMate Equine, an injectable animal health drug utilizing our SABER technology to deliver the peptide deslorelin. This was the first FDA approved SABER injectable product when it was launched in 2011 by CreoSalus, Inc.

Sustained Release Gel Cap Technology

We believe that our ORADUR sustained release technology can transform short-acting oral capsule dosage forms into sustained release oral products. Products based on our ORADUR technology can take the form of an easy to swallow capsule that uses a high-viscosity base component such as sucrose acetate isobutyrate (SAIB) to provide controlled release of active ingredients for an extended period of time. Oral dosage forms based on the ORADUR gel-cap may also have the added benefit of being less prone to abuse (e.g., by crushing and then snorting, smoking, injecting or extracting by mixing with alcohol or water). These properties have the potential to make ORADUR-based products an attractive option for pharmaceutical companies that seek to develop abuse-deterrent oral products.

The ORADUR technology is the basis of our ORADUR-Methylphenidate ER program (described above).

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DURECT Strategy

Our objective is to develop multiple pharmaceutical products that address significant unmet medical needs and improve patients’ quality of life. To achieve this objective, our strategy includes the following key elements:

Focus on Areas with the Potential for Significant Value Creation.  We view patients, physicians, the healthcare system, payers, and strategic partners, as all being important stakeholders in our company.  We believe that developing the products in our pipeline, which may address significant unmet medical needs and may create value for our stakeholders, also has the potential to create value for our shareholders.

Apply our Drug Development Expertise to New Chemical Entities Derived from our Epigenetic Regulator Program.    We have assembled a core team of employees with considerable experience in drug development, and it is our intent to leverage their capabilities by developing pharmaceuticals derived from our Epigenetic Regulator Program. We believe that these new chemical entities may have utility in acute organ injuries such as AH, in various orphan diseases, and for several metabolic diseases such as NASH.  We believe that these product candidates may be of interest to other pharmaceutical companies and that it may be possible to license the rights to certain products, formulations, indications or territories from this program while retaining the rights to other product candidates, formulations, indications or territories for either our own development and commercialization or for licensing at a later stage of development. The sale of the LACTEL product line to Evonik in the fourth quarter of 2020 has streamlined the company and sharpened our focus on developing DUR-928, the lead product candidate in our Epigenetic Regulator Program.

 

 

Focus on Certain Acute Indications, Chronic Debilitating Medical Conditions and Certain Local Pain Conditions.    Many of the diseases and disorders that present great challenges to medicine include acute organ injury, metabolic disorders, pain management, CNS disorders, cardiovascular disease, ophthalmic conditions and other acute and chronic conditions. Our current efforts focus on exploiting our Epigenetic Regulator Program through which we have identified new chemical entities that may have utility in conditions such as acute organ injuries and chronic metabolic/lipid disorders and on using our versatile drug delivery platform technologies to develop products that improve current treatment options.

Diversify Risk by Pursuing Multiple Programs in Development.    In order to reduce the risks inherent in pharmaceutical product development, we have diversified our product pipeline such that, we are pursuing multiple indications with our lead epigenetic regulator, DUR-928, and we have several early-stage programs being developed in collaboration with partners.  Between our own programs and those where we have collaborated, we have multiple programs with the potential to generate significant value. We believe that having multiple indications and programs in development helps mitigate the negative consequences to us of any setbacks or delays in any one of our indications or programs.

Enable Product Development Through Strategic Agreements.    We believe that entering into selective strategic collaborations and other arrangements with respect to our product development programs and technology can enhance the success of our product development and commercialization, leverage and exploiting the value of our intellectual property portfolio, mitigate our risk and enable us to better manage our operating costs. Additionally, such collaborations and arrangements enable us to leverage investment by third parties and reduce our net cash burn, while retaining significant economic rights.

Build Our Own Commercial Organization.    In the future, we may elect to build our own commercial, sales and marketing capability in order to capture more of the economic value of certain products that we may develop. If we choose to enter into third-party collaborations to commercialize our pharmaceutical product candidates, we may in the future enter into these alliances under circumstances that allow us to participate in the sales and marketing of these products.

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Strategic Agreements

We have entered into the following strategic collaboration and other key agreements:

Virginia Commonwealth University Intellectual Property Foundation. We have entered into an exclusive in-license and research and development agreement with the Virginia Commonwealth University Intellectual Property Foundation regarding certain new chemical entities under development through our Epigenetic Regulator Program, including DUR-928. Under this licensing arrangement, we have agreed to undertake certain efforts to bring licensed products to market, pay for prosecution of related patents and report on progress to VCU. In addition, we are obligated to pay low single-digit percentage patent royalties on net sales of licensed products, subject to annual minimum payments and additional milestone payments. This license includes rights to nine patent families. We may terminate this agreement at any time by written notice, and VCU may terminate this agreement by written notice if there is an uncured material breach.

Indivior UK Ltd.  In September 2017, we entered into a patent purchase agreement (the “Indivior Agreement”) with Indivior.  Pursuant to the Indivior Agreement, we assigned to Indivior certain patents that may provide further intellectual property protection for PERSERIS, Indivior’s once-monthly injectable risperidone product for the treatment of schizophrenia.  In consideration for such assignment, Indivior made an upfront and milestone non-refundable payment to us of $12.5 million, and also agreed to make an additional $5 million payment to us contingent upon FDA approval of PERSERIS, as well as quarterly earn-out payments based on a single digit percentage of U.S. net sales for certain products covered by the assigned patent rights, including PERSERIS. The assigned patent rights include granted patents extending into at least 2026.  We also receive a non-exclusive right under the assigned patents to develop and commercialize certain risperidone-containing products and products that do not contain risperidone or buprenorphine.  The agreement contains customary representations, warranties and indemnities of the parties. We received the non-refundable payment of $12.5 million from Indivior in September 2017 and recognized this amount as revenue from sale of intellectual property rights in the year ended December 31, 2017 as we did not have any continuing obligations under the purchase agreement.  In July 2018, Indivior announced that the FDA had approved the NDA for PERSERIS thereby triggering the $5.0 million payment, which was received by DURECT in August 2018.  Indivior launched PERSERIS in the U.S. in February 2019.

Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.    In December 2014, we and Santen entered into a definitive agreement (the “Santen Agreement”). Pursuant to the Santen Agreement, we have granted Santen an exclusive worldwide license to our proprietary SABER formulation platform and other intellectual property to develop and commercialize a sustained release product utilizing our SABER technology to deliver an ophthalmology drug. Santen controls and funds the development and commercialization program, and the parties have established a joint management committee to oversee, review and coordinate the development activities of the parties under the Agreement.

In connection with the license agreement, Santen paid us a non-refundable upfront fee of $2.0 million in cash and agreed to make contingent cash payments to us of up to $76.0 million upon the achievement of certain milestones, of which $13.0 million are development-based milestones (none of which has been achieved as of December 31, 2020), and $63.0 million are commercialization-based milestones including milestones requiring the achievement of certain product sales targets (none of which has been achieved as of December 31, 2020). Santen will also pay for certain of our costs incurred in the development of the licensed product. If the product is commercialized, we would also receive a tiered royalty on annual net product sales ranging from single-digit to the low double digits, determined on a country-by-country basis. Santen may terminate the Agreement without cause at any time upon prior written notice, and either party may terminate the Agreement upon certain circumstances including a material uncured breach. As of December 31, 2020, the cumulative aggregate payments received by us under this agreement were $3.3 million. In January 2018, we were notified by Santen that due to a shift in priorities, Santen has elected to reallocate research and development resources and put our program on pause until further notice. While the main program is on pause, the parties are working together on a limited set of research and development activities funded by Santen.

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Commercial Product Lines

ALZET

The ALZET product line consists of miniature, implantable osmotic pumps and accessories used for research in mice, rats and other laboratory animals. These pumps are neither approved nor intended for human use. ALZET pumps continuously deliver drugs, hormones and other test agents at controlled rates from one day to six weeks without the need for external connections, frequent handling or repeated dosing. In laboratory research, these infusion pumps can be used for systemic administration when implanted under the skin or in the body. They can be attached to a catheter for intravenous, intracerebral, or intra-arterial infusion or for targeted delivery, where the effects of a drug or test agent are localized in a particular tissue or organ. The wide use and applications of the ALZET product line is evidenced by the more than 20,000 scientific references that now exist.

LACTEL® Absorbable Polymers

On December 31, 2020, we closed an Asset Purchase Agreement with Evonik Corporation (Evonik), pursuant to which Evonik purchased certain assets related to our LACTEL Absorbable Polymers product line. Under the terms of the Asset Purchase Agreement, Evonik paid us approximately $15 million subject to certain adjustments, and also agreed to assume certain liabilities with respect to the transferred assets and assembled workforce.

Marketing and Sales

Historically, we have established strategic distribution and marketing alliances for our product candidates to leverage the established sales organizations that certain pharmaceutical companies have in markets we are targeting. In the future, we may elect to build our own commercial, sales and marketing capability in order to capture more of the economic value of certain products that we may develop. If we choose to enter into third-party collaborations to commercialize our pharmaceutical product candidates, we may in the future enter into these alliances under circumstances that allow us to participate in the sales and marketing of these products. We will continue to pursue strategic alliances and collaborators from time to time consistent with our strategy to leverage the established sales organizations of third-party collaborators.

We market and sell our ALZET product line through a direct sales force in the U.S. and through a network of distributors outside of the U.S.

Suppliers

We purchase the DUR-928 drug substance from a third-party manufacturer and DUR-928 clinical trial materials from another third party manufacturer. As needed, we purchase sucrose acetate isobutyrate, a raw material for our ORADUR and SABER-based pharmaceutical systems, including Methydur, POSIMIR, and SucroMate, from Eastman Chemical Company. We expect that we will continue to be able to obtain sufficient supply of these raw materials to meet our needs for the foreseeable future. We do not have in place long term supply agreements with respect to all of the components of any of our pharmaceutical product candidates, however, and are subject to the risk that we may not be able to procure all required components in adequate quantities with acceptable quality, within acceptable time frames or at reasonable cost.

Customers

Our product revenues principally are derived from sales of the ALZET product line to academic and pharmaceutical industry researchers, and from the sale of certain key excipients that are included in Methydur Sustained Release Capsules, SucroMate and other products. Until such time that we are able to bring our pharmaceutical product candidates to market, if at all, we expect these to be our principal sources of product revenue. We also receive revenue from collaborative research and development arrangements with our third-party collaborators. In 2020, 2019, and 2018, Gilead accounted for 76%, 68% and 33% or our total revenues, respectively, pursuant to an agreement that has been terminated, and in 2018, Indivior accounted for 17% of our total revenues.  

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Manufacturing

The process for manufacturing our pharmaceutical product candidates is technically complex, requires special skills, and must be performed in qualified facilities. We have entered into development and commercial manufacturing agreements with third parties for the manufacture of DUR-928 and POSIMIR. In addition, we have a small multi-discipline manufacturing facility in California that we have used to manufacture research and clinical supplies of several of our pharmaceutical product candidates under GMP, including DUR-928 dosage forms and POSIMIR. In the future, we may develop additional manufacturing capabilities for our pharmaceutical product candidates and components to meet our demands and those of our third-party collaborators by contracting with third party manufacturers and by potentially constructing additional manufacturing space at our current facilities in California. We manufacture our ALZET product line and certain key components for POSIMIR and Methydur at one of our California facilities.

Patents and Proprietary Rights

Our success depends in part on our ability to obtain patents, to protect trade secrets, to operate without infringing upon the proprietary rights of others and to prevent others from infringing on 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 proprietary molecules and technology, inventions and improvements that are important to the development of our business. As of March 1, 2021, we owned or exclusively in-licensed over 35 unexpired issued U.S. patents and over 145 unexpired issued foreign patents (which include granted European patent rights that have been validated in various EU member states). In addition, we have over 55 pending U.S. patent applications and over 145 foreign applications pending in Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada and other countries.

The patent status of our most advanced drug candidates is as follows:

Our Epigenetic Regulator Program includes nine in-licensed patent families and four patent families solely owned by us. Three patent families each include at least one granted patent that could provide protection until 2026, 2032, and 2034, respectively. The other patent families include pending patent applications, which if granted, could result in patents expiring in 2033, 2035, 2037, 2037, 2037, 2040, 2040, 2041, 2041 and 2041, respectively.  Patent terms are potentially subject to terminal disclaimers as well as patent term adjustments and extensions. Of the thirteen patent families covering DUR-928 and/or other molecules in the Epigenetic Regulator Program, two were only filed in the United States, and the other eleven have been filed or likely will be filed both in the U.S. and internationally. Since DUR-928 is an endogenous molecule, patent claims directed to DUR-928 compositions of matter may be more difficult to maintain or enforce in the United States under Myriad Genetics and other recent court decisions. One of the U.S. patents issued before Myriad Genetics, and seven of the DUR-928 U.S. patents issued after Myriad Genetics. The granted claims in the U.S. include both composition of matter and method of treatment claims. There can be no assurance that the pending patent applications will be granted. Further, there can be no assurance that VCU will not attempt to terminate their license to us, which termination could result in the loss of our rights to these patent families.

In the United States, POSIMIR is covered by four patent families. One patent family includes granted patents that could provide protection until 2025. The other three patent families include pending patent applications, which if granted, could result in patents expiring in 2026, 2041, and 2042, respectively. In Europe, POSIMIR is covered by four granted patents with two that could expire in 2025 and two that could expire in 2026.  The families that could provide protection until at least 2041 and 2042, respectively, will likely be filed in Europe.

In the United States, our ORADUR-Methylphenidate ER patent portfolio includes four patent families. Two patent families include granted patents that could provide protection until at least 2023 and 2029, respectively. The other patent families include pending patent applications, which if granted, could provide protection until 2026 and 2037, respectively. There can be no assurance that the pending patent applications will be granted.

Proprietary rights relating to our planned and potential products will be protected from unauthorized use by third parties only to the extent that they are covered by valid and enforceable patents or are

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effectively maintained as trade secrets. Patents owned by or licensed to us may not afford protection against competitors, and our pending patent applications now or hereafter filed by or licensed to us may not result in patents being issued. In addition, the laws of certain foreign countries may not protect our intellectual property rights to the same extent as do the laws of the U.S.

The patent positions of biopharmaceutical companies involve complex legal and factual questions and, therefore, their enforceability cannot be predicted with certainty. Our patents or patent applications, or those licensed to us, if issued, may be challenged, invalidated or circumvented, and the rights granted thereunder may not provide proprietary protection or competitive advantages to us against competitors with similar technology. Furthermore, our competitors may independently develop similar technologies or duplicate any technology developed by us. Because of the extensive time required for development, testing and regulatory review of a potential product, it is possible that, before any of our products can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in existence for only a short period following commercialization, thus reducing any advantage of the patent, which could adversely affect our ability to protect future product development and, consequently, our operating results and financial position.

Because patent applications in the U.S. are typically maintained in secrecy for at least 18 months after filing and since publication of discoveries in the scientific or patent literature often lag behind actual discoveries, we cannot be certain that we were the first to make the inventions covered by each of our issued or pending patent applications or that we were the first to file for protection of inventions set forth in such patent applications.

Our planned or potential products may be covered by third-party patents or other intellectual property rights, in which case we would need to obtain a license to continue developing or marketing these products. Any required licenses may not be available to us on acceptable terms, if at all. If we do not obtain any required licenses, we could encounter delays in product introductions while we attempt to design around these patents, or could find that the development, manufacture or sale of products requiring such licenses is foreclosed. Litigation may be necessary to defend against or assert such claims of infringement, to enforce patents issued to us, to protect trade secrets or know-how owned by us, or to determine the scope and validity of the proprietary rights of others. In addition, interference, derivation, post-grant oppositions, and similar proceedings may be necessary to determine rights to inventions in our patents and patent applications. Litigation or similar proceedings could result in substantial costs to and diversion of effort by us, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. These efforts by us may not be successful.

We may rely, in certain circumstances, on trade secrets to protect our technology. However, trade secrets are difficult to protect. We seek to protect our proprietary technology and processes, in part, by confidentiality agreements with our employees and certain contractors. There can be no assurance that these agreements will not be breached, that we will have adequate remedies for any breach, or that our trade secrets will not otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. To the extent that our employees, consultants or contractors use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may also arise as to the rights in related or resulting know-how and inventions.

 

Government Regulation

The Food and Drug Administration.    The FDA and comparable regulatory agencies in state and local jurisdictions and in foreign countries impose substantial requirements upon the development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceutical products. These agencies and other federal, state and local entities regulate research and development activities and the testing, manufacture, quality control, safety, effectiveness, labeling, storage, distribution, record keeping, approval, advertising and promotion of our products. We believe that our products in development will be regulated as drugs by the FDA rather than as biologics or devices.

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The process required by the FDA under the new drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (the Act) before our products in development may be marketed in the U.S. generally involves the following:

 

preclinical laboratory and animal tests;

 

submission of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application which must become effective before clinical trials may begin;

 

adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of the proposed pharmaceutical products candidates in their intended uses; and

 

FDA approval of a new drug application.

Section 505 of the Act describes three types of new drug applications: (1) an application that contains full reports of investigations of safety and effectiveness (section 505(b)(1)); (2) an application that contains full reports of investigations of safety and effectiveness but where at least some of the information required for approval comes from studies not conducted by or for the applicant and for which the applicant has not obtained a right of reference (section 505(b)(2)); and (3) an application that contains information to show that the proposed product is identical in active ingredient, dosage form, strength, route of administration, labeling, quality, performance characteristics and intended use, among other things, to a previously approved product (section 505(j)). We expect that our drug candidates deriving from our Epigenetic Regulator Program will be evaluated for approval after submission of a new drug application under section 505(b)(1).

The testing and approval process require substantial time, effort, and financial resources, and we cannot be certain that any approval will be granted on a timely basis, if at all. Even though several of our pharmaceutical products candidates utilize active drug ingredients that are commercially marketed in the United States in other dosage forms, we need to establish safety and effectiveness of those active ingredients in the formulation and dosage forms that we are developing.

Preclinical tests include laboratory evaluation of the product, its chemistry, formulation and stability, as well as animal studies to assess the potential safety and efficacy of the pharmaceutical product candidate. We then submit the results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information and analytical data, to the FDA as part of an IND, which must become effective before we may begin human clinical trials. Each subsequent new clinical protocol must also be submitted to the FDA under the IND. An IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA, within the 30-day time period, raises concerns or questions about the conduct of the trials as outlined in the IND and imposes a clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before clinical trials can begin. Our submission of an IND may not result in FDA authorization to commence clinical trials. Further, an independent Institutional Review Board at each medical center proposing to conduct the clinical trials must review and approve any clinical study as well as the related informed consent forms and authorization forms that permit us to use individually identifiable health information of study participants.

Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases which may overlap:

 

Phase 1:    The drug is initially introduced into healthy human subjects or patients and tested for safety, dosage tolerance, absorption, metabolism, distribution and excretion.

 

Phase 2:    Involves clinical trials in a limited patient population to identify possible adverse effects and safety risks, to determine the efficacy of the product for specific targeted diseases and to determine dosage tolerance and optimal dosage.

 

Phase 3:    When Phase 2 clinical trials demonstrate that a dosage range of the product is effective and has an acceptable safety profile, Phase 3 clinical trials are undertaken to further evaluate dosage, clinical efficacy and to further test for safety in an expanded patient population, at multiple, geographically dispersed clinical study sites.

In the case of products for severe diseases, such as chronic pain, or life-threatening diseases such as cancer, the initial human testing is often conducted in patients with disease rather than in healthy

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volunteers. Since these patients already have the target disease or condition, these studies may provide initial evidence of efficacy traditionally obtained in Phase 2 trials, and thus these trials are frequently referred to as Phase 1/2 clinical trials or Phase 1b trials. We cannot be certain that we will successfully complete Phase 1, Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical trials of our pharmaceutical products in development within any specific time period, if at all. Furthermore, the FDA or the Institutional Review Board or the sponsor may suspend clinical trials at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. During the clinical development of products, sponsors frequently meet and consult with the FDA in order to ensure that the design of their studies will likely provide data both sufficient and relevant for later regulatory review; however, no assurance of approvability can be given by the FDA.

The results of product development, preclinical studies and clinical studies are submitted to the FDA as part of a new drug application, or NDA, for approval of the marketing and commercial shipment of the product. Submission of an NDA may require the payment of a substantial user fee to the FDA, and although the agency has defined user fee goals for the time in which to respond to sponsor applications, there can be no assurance that the FDA will act in any particular timeframe. The FDA may deny a new drug application if the applicable regulatory criteria are not satisfied or may require additional clinical trials be conducted. Even if such data is submitted, the FDA may ultimately decide that the new drug application does not satisfy the criteria for approval. Once issued, the FDA may withdraw product approval if compliance with regulatory standards is not maintained or if safety problems occur after the product reaches the market. Requirements for additional Phase 4 studies (post approval marketing studies) to confirm safety and effectiveness in a broader commercial use population may be imposed as a condition of marketing approval. In addition, the FDA requires surveillance programs to monitor approved products which have been commercialized, and the agency has the power to require changes in labeling or to prevent further marketing of a product based on the results of these post-marketing programs. Any comparative claims comparing a product to other dosage forms or competitive products typically need to be supported by two adequate and well-controlled head-to-head clinical trials.

Satisfaction of FDA requirements or similar requirements of state, local and foreign regulatory agencies typically takes several years and the actual time required may vary substantially, based upon the type, complexity and novelty of the pharmaceutical product. Government regulation may delay or prevent marketing of potential products for a considerable period of time and impose costly procedures upon our activities. We cannot be certain that the FDA or any other regulatory agency will grant approval for any of our pharmaceutical products under development on a timely basis, if at all. Success in preclinical or early stage clinical trials does not assure success in later stage clinical trials. Data obtained from preclinical and clinical activities is not always conclusive and may be susceptible to varying interpretations which could delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. Evolving safety concerns can result in the imposition of new requirements for expensive and time-consuming tests, such as for QT interval cardiotoxicity testing. Even if a product receives regulatory approval, the approval may be significantly limited to specific indications. Further, even after regulatory approval is obtained, any problems associated with a product may result in restrictions on the product or even complete withdrawal of the product from the market. Any pharmaceutical products that we may develop and obtain approval for would also be subject to adverse findings of the active drug ingredients being marketed in different dosage forms and formulations. Delays in obtaining, or failures to obtain regulatory approvals would have a material adverse effect on our business. Marketing our pharmaceutical products abroad will require similar regulatory approvals and is subject to similar risks. In addition, we cannot predict what adverse governmental regulations may arise from future U.S. or foreign governmental action.

There are several FDA programs intended to help facilitate the development of new drugs that meet certain criteria. Specifically, new drugs are eligible for Fast Track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life- threatening condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a new drug may request the FDA to designate the drug as a Fast Track product at any time during the clinical development of the product. Under a Fast Track designation, the FDA may consider for review sections of the marketing application on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the application, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the application and determines that the

21


schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the application.

A product is eligible for priority review if it has the potential to provide safe and effective therapy where no satisfactory alternative therapy exists or a significant improvement in the treatment, diagnosis or prevention of a disease compared to marketed products. The FDA will attempt to direct additional resources to the evaluation of an application for a new drug or biological product designated for priority review to facilitate the review.

A product that is being studied for safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening illnesses and provides meaningful therapeutic benefit over existing treatments may receive accelerated approval, which means that it may be approved on the basis of adequate and well-controlled clinical trials establishing that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit, or on the basis of an effect on a clinical endpoint other than survival or irreversible morbidity. As a condition of approval, the FDA may require that a sponsor of a drug receiving accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical trials. In addition, the FDA currently requires pre-approval of promotional materials as a condition for accelerated approval, which could adversely impact the timing of the commercial launch of the product.

Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan drug designation to drugs intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an NDA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process. If a product that has orphan drug designation subsequently receives FDA approval for the disease for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan product exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same drug for the same disease, except in limited circumstances, for seven years. These circumstances are an inability to supply the drug in sufficient quantities or a situation in which a new formulation of the drug has shown superior safety or efficacy or a major contribution to patient care. This exclusivity, however, could also block the approval of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains earlier approval of the same drug for the same indication.

A product may also be eligible for receipt of a Breakthrough Therapy designation. The Breakthrough Therapy designation is intended to expedite the FDA’s review of a potential new drug for serious or life-threatening diseases where “preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development.” The designation of a drug as a Breakthrough Therapy provides the same benefits as are available under the Fast Track program, as well as intensive FDA guidance on the product’s development program. Fast Track designation, priority review, accelerated approval and Breakthrough Therapy designation do not change the standards for approval, but they may expedite the development or approval process.

Any pharmaceutical products manufactured or distributed by us pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including record-keeping requirements and reporting of adverse experiences with the product or the active pharmaceutical ingredient or other components of the product. The FDA may also require post-approval clinical or non-clinical trials.  Drug manufacturers and their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and state agencies for compliance with good manufacturing practices, which impose procedural and documentation requirements upon us and our third party manufacturers. We cannot be certain that we or our present or future suppliers will be able to comply with the GMP regulations and other FDA regulatory requirements.

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The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act strictly regulates drug product marketing, prohibits manufacturers from marketing drug products for off-label use and regulates the distribution of drug samples. The FDA has actively enforced regulations prohibiting the marketing of products for unapproved uses, and federal and state authorities are also actively litigating against sponsors who promote their drugs for unapproved uses under various fraud and abuse and false claims act statutes. We and our products are also subject to a variety of state laws and regulations in those states or localities where our products are or will be marketed. Any applicable state or local regulations may hinder our ability to market our products in those states or localities. We are also subject to numerous federal, state and local laws relating to such matters as safe working conditions, manufacturing practices, environmental protection, fire hazard control, and disposal of hazardous or potentially hazardous substances. We may incur significant costs to comply with such laws and regulations now or in the future.

The FDA’s policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted which could prevent or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. Moreover, increased attention to the containment of health care costs in the U.S. and in foreign markets could result in new government regulations that could have a material adverse effect on our business. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of adverse governmental regulation that might arise from future legislative or administrative action, either in the U.S. or abroad.  The Drug Enforcement Administration.    The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulates chemical compounds as Schedule I, II, III, IV or V substances, with Schedule I substances considered to present the highest risk of substance abuse and Schedule V substances the lowest risk. Certain active ingredients in ORADUR-Methylphenidate are listed by the DEA as Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Consequently, their manufacture, research, shipment, storage, sale and use are subject to a high degree of oversight and regulation. For example, all Schedule II drug prescriptions must be signed by a physician, physically presented to a pharmacist and may not be refilled without a new prescription. Furthermore, the amount of Schedule II substances we can obtain for clinical trials and commercial distribution is limited by the DEA and our quota may not be sufficient to complete clinical trials or meet commercial demand. There is a risk that DEA regulations may interfere with the supply of the drugs used in our clinical trials, and, in the future, our ability to produce and distribute our products in the volume needed to meet commercial demand, which could negatively impact us and our collaborators.

Other Healthcare Laws.  In addition to FDA and DEA restrictions on the marketing of pharmaceutical products, other foreign, federal and state healthcare regulatory laws restrict business practices in the pharmaceutical industry. These laws include, but are not limited to, federal and state anti‑kickback, false claims, data privacy and security, and physician payment and drug pricing transparency laws.

The U.S. federal Anti‑Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, any person or entity from knowingly and willfully offering, paying, soliciting, receiving or providing any remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, to induce or in return for purchasing, leasing, ordering, or arranging for or recommending the purchase, lease, or order of any good, facility, item or service reimbursable, in whole or in part, under Medicare, Medicaid or other federal healthcare programs. The term “remuneration” has been broadly interpreted to include anything of value. The Anti‑Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers, formulary managers and beneficiaries 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. 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 meet the requirements of a statutory or regulatory exception or safe harbor. Failure to meet all of the requirements of a particular applicable statutory exception or regulatory safe harbor does not make the conduct per se illegal under the U.S. federal Anti‑Kickback Statute. Instead, the legality of the arrangement will be evaluated on a case‑by‑case basis based on a cumulative review of all its facts and circumstances. Several courts have interpreted the statute’s intent requirement to mean that if any one purpose of an arrangement involving remuneration is to induce referrals of federal healthcare covered business, the statute has been violated. In addition, 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. Moreover, a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the U.S. federal Anti‑Kickback Statute

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constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal civil False Claims Act. The majority of states also have anti‑kickback laws, which establish similar prohibitions and in some cases may apply to items or services reimbursed by any third‑party payor, including commercial insurers.

In addition, there has been a recent trend of increased federal and state regulation of payments made to physicians and certain other healthcare providers. The Affordable Care Act imposed, among other things, new annual reporting requirements through the Physician Payments Sunshine Act for covered manufacturers for certain payments and “transfers of value” provided to physicians and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Failure to submit timely, accurately and completely the required information for all payments, transfers of value and ownership or investment interests may result in civil monetary penalties. Covered manufacturers must submit reports by the 90th day of each subsequent calendar year and the reported information is publicly made available on a searchable website. In addition, certain states require implementation of compliance programs and compliance with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government, impose restrictions on marketing practices and/or require the tracking and reporting of marketing expenditures and pricing information as well as gifts, compensation and other remuneration or items of value provided to physicians and other healthcare professionals and entities.  Finally, the Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law prohibits physicians from referring Medicare or Medicaid patients to providers of “designated health services” with whom the physician or a member of the physician’s immediate family has an ownership interest or compensation arrangement, unless a statutory or regulatory exception applies.

Competition

We may face competition from other companies in numerous industries including pharmaceuticals, medical devices and drug delivery.

Competition for DUR-928, if approved, will depend on the specific indications for which DUR-928 is approved. 89Bio, AbbVie, Afimmune, Akero Therapeutics, Ascletis, AstraZeneca, BMS, Cirius Therapeutics, CytoDyn, Dr. Falk Pharma, Eli Lilly, Enanta, ENYO Pharma, Galectin, Galmed, Genentech, Genfit, Gilead, Hanmi, HighTide Biopharma, Intercept, Inventiva Pharma, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Isotechnika, Kowa, LifeMax, Lipidio, Lipocine, Madrigal, MediciNova, MedImmune, Mitsubishi Tanabe, NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Nimbus, NorthSea Therapeutics, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, PharmaKing, Poxel, Promethera Biosciences, Seal Rock Therapeutics, Terns Pharmaceutical, Thera Technologies, Viking, and others have development plans for products to treat NAFLD/NASH, AH or other liver diseases. Some of these competitors may be addressing the same therapeutic areas or indications as we are. Our current and potential competitors may succeed in obtaining patent protection or commercializing products before us. Many of these entities have significantly greater research and development capabilities than we do, as well as substantially more marketing, manufacturing, financial and managerial resources. These entities represent significant competition for us. Acquisitions of, or investments in, competing pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies by large corporations could increase such competitors’ financial, marketing, manufacturing and other resources.

POSIMIR will compete with currently marketed oral opioids, transdermal opioids, injectable local anesthetics, implantable materials containing local anesthetics, local anesthetic patches, implantable and external infusion pumps which can be used for infusion of opioids and local anesthetics. Products of these types are marketed by Pacira, Purdue Pharma, AbbVie, Janssen, Actavis, Medtronic, Endo, AstraZeneca, Pernix Therapeutics, Tricumed, Halyard Health, Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, Acorda Therapeutics, Mallinckrodt, Inspirion Delivery Technologies, Mylan, Shire, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Novartis, Zyla Life Sciences, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Collegium Pharmaceutical and others. Additional competition for POSIMIR may come from Heron Therapeutics if their product candidate, HTX-011, is approved, or from Innocoll if their recently approved product candidate, XARACOLL® is commercially launched. PERSERIS competes with currently marketed or approved products by Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Otsuka, Alkermes, Merck, Allergan, Novartis, and others.  Methydur competes with currently marketed or approved products by Shire, Johnson & Johnson, UCB, Novartis, Noven, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and others. Many of these entities have significantly greater research and development capabilities than we

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do, as well as substantially more marketing, manufacturing, financial and managerial resources. These entities represent significant competition for us.

Competition for our ALZET product line primarily consists of customers choosing to utilize delivery methods for their research projects other than an osmotic pump.  We also face competition for our ALZET product line from other companies including low cost foreign competitors.

Any pharmaceutical products we develop will compete in highly competitive markets. Many of our potential competitors in these markets have greater development, financial, manufacturing, marketing, and sales resources than we do and we cannot be certain that they will not succeed in developing products or technologies which will render our technologies and products obsolete or noncompetitive. In addition, many of those potential competitors have significantly greater experience than we do in their respective fields.

Corporate History, Headquarters and Website Information

We were incorporated in Delaware in February 1998. Our principal executive offices are located at 10260 Bubb Road, Cupertino, California 95014. Our telephone number is (408) 777-1417, and our website address is www.durect.com. We make our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to these reports available free of charge on our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file these reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. The SEC’s website to access all of this information is www.sec.gov. Our Code of Ethics can be found on our website.

Human Capital Resources

We consider our ability to recruit, retain and motivate our employees to be critical to our success. We are an equal opportunity employer and we are fundamentally committed to creating and maintaining a work environment in which employees are treated with respect and dignity. All  human resources policies, practices and actions related to hiring, promotion, compensation, benefits and termination are administered in accordance with the principal of equal employment opportunity, meaning that they are made on the basis of individual skills, knowledge, abilities, job performance and other legitimate criteria and without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, any veteran status, any military status or application for military service, or membership in any other category protected under applicable law.

As of March 1, 2021, we had 81 employees, including 46 in research and development, 10 in manufacturing and 25 in selling, general and administrative. At least 41 of our employees have advanced degrees of some sort (e.g., MD, PhD, DVM, JD, MBA).  Of our employees, 40% are male and 60% are female.  From time to time, we also employ independent contractors to support our research, development and administrative organizations. None of our employees are represented by a collective bargaining unit, and we have never experienced a work stoppage. We consider our relations with our employees to be good.

 

Executive Officers of the Registrant

Our executive officers and their ages as of March 1, 2021 are as follows:

 

Name

 

Age

 

Position

James E. Brown, D.V.M.

 

64

 

President, Chief Executive Officer and Director

Michael H. Arenberg, J.D., M.B.A.

 

51

 

Chief Financial Officer

Norman L. Sussman, M.D.

 

68

 

Chief Medical Officer

Judy R. Joice

 

64

 

Senior Vice President, Operations and Corporate Quality Assurance

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James E. Brown, D.V.M. co-founded DURECT in February 1998 and has served as our President, Chief Executive Officer and a Director since June 1998. He previously worked at ALZA Corporation as Vice President of Biopharmaceutical and Implant Research and Development from June 1995 to June 1998. Prior to that, Dr. Brown held various positions at Syntex Corporation, a pharmaceutical company, including Director of Business Development from May 1994 to May 1995, Director of Joint Ventures for Discovery Research from April 1992 to May 1995, and held a number of positions including Program Director for Syntex Research and Development from October 1985 to March 1992. Dr. Brown holds a B.A. from San Jose State University and a D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) from the University of California, Davis where he also conducted post-graduate work in pharmacology and toxicology.

Michael H. Arenberg was appointed Chief Financial Officer effective October 2018.  Mr. Arenberg has been with DURECT since 1999, most recently serving as Senior Vice President, Corporate and Business Development, where he negotiated and closed over 50 collaborations, including several important in-licensing transactions.  Mr. Arenberg earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado, his law degree from the University of Denver, his MBA from the Leavy School of Business at Santa Clara University.

Norman L. Sussman, M.D., FAASLD, joined DURECT as Chief Medical Officer in November 2020. He has extensive clinical experience and expertise in the field of liver disease and brings over 30 years of clinical research and development experience in academia and industry. Prior to joining DURECT he was an Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and a faculty member of Baylor College of Medicine intermittently since 1985. During that time, he served as a Principal Investigator for research focused on the assessment and management of acute liver failure and artificial liver support. Dr. Sussman gained leadership experience in industry as the founder and Vice President of both Amphioxus Cell Technologies from 1995 to 2003 and Hepatix, Inc from 1993 to 1995. Most recently, he has also served in senior leadership roles as a member of the Baylor Faculty Senate and as Director of the telehealth program, Project ECHO®, at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Dr. Sussman received his MBBCh from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He then completed his residency at St. Louis University Hospital and his post-doctoral fellowship at Washington University. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Transplant Hepatology. Dr. Sussman is also a Fellow of the American Association of the Study of Liver Disease, which is a designation that recognizes his superior level of professional achievement in the field of hepatology.

Judy R. Joice has served as our Senior Vice President, Operations and Corporate Quality Assurance since March 2014 and as our Vice President, Operations and Corporate Quality Assurance since April 2011. Previously, Ms. Joice served as our Vice President, Corporate Quality Assurance since July 2008 and as our Executive Director, Quality Assurance from July 2007 to July 2008. She has over 30 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry with such companies as Nektar Therapeutics, Oread, Roche Pharmaceuticals, and Syntex Research. During her career, Ms. Joice has gained broad experience in CMC development activities including novel excipients, new chemical entities, devices, and combination products. She has developed, implemented and managed all aspects of company-wide quality systems and compliance functions, ranging from drug development through commercial manufacturing. Ms. Joice has a B.S. in Chemistry from California State University, Hayward.

 

 

Item  1A.

Risk Factors.

In addition to the other information in this Form 10-K, a number of factors may affect our business and prospects. These factors include but are not limited to the following, which you should consider carefully in evaluating our business and prospects. If any of the following risks actually occur, our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects may be materially and adversely affected.

Summary

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We are dependent on the success of DUR-928 and we cannot be certain that it will ever receive regulatory approval or be successfully commercialized and the path to regulatory approval is uncertain

Fast Track Designation for DUR-928 in AH may not actually lead to faster FDA review or an approval

Indications of activity from completed DUR-928 clinical trials may not predict efficacy in future trials

Open-label design of completed trials of DUR-928 have inherent limitations

Ongoing and planned clinical trials for DUR-928 may not demonstrate efficacy or safety

Clinical trial delays could increase expenses, delay clinical data and delay or prevent approvals

The COVID-19 outbreak has and will adversely impact our business, including posing challenges to conducting clinical trials.

We are in discussion with potential commercialization partners for POSIMIR and may be unable to enter an agreement

The approved indication for POSIMIR may limit its market, and we or a commercialization partner may not be able to expand the label to include additional indications

In connection with the approval of POSIMIR, we are required to conduct two postmarketing non-clinical studies. If the results from either of these studies are unfavorable, the FDA may require additional studies, or may take actions that are adverse to the regulatory status, commercial prospects and market acceptability of POSIMIR

We have a significant amount of debt. Compliance with repayment obligations and other covenants may be difficult; failure to fulfill our obligations may cause the repayment obligations to accelerate

We will require and may have difficulty raising needed capital in the future

For certain of our product candidates, we depend on third-party collaborators, and we have limited or no control over their development, regulatory strategy or potential commercialization

Cancellation of collaborations may adversely affect potential economic benefits

Our revenues may decrease and losses may increase due to the sale of the LACTEL product line

Our business strategy includes entering into additional collaborative agreements to support development, clinical trials, manufacturing and commercialization of product candidates. We may not be able to successfully negotiate or enter into acceptable collaboration agreements

We and our third-party collaborators may not be able to manufacture sufficient quantities of our product candidates and components at an acceptable cost or in compliance with applicable government regulations, and we have limited manufacturing experience

Failure to comply with governmental regulations could materially harm our business

We have a history of operating losses, expect to continue to have losses and may never achieve profitability; and we may not successfully manage our company through varying business cycles

We may develop our own sales force and commercial group to market future products but we have limited sales and marketing experience and may not be able to do so effectively

Key product candidate components are provided by limited numbers of suppliers, and supply shortages or loss of these suppliers could result in interruptions in supply or increased costs

Write-offs related to impairment of goodwill, long-lived assets, inventories and other non-cash charges may adversely impact profitability and cause cash flows to differ from reported revenues

Global credit and financial market conditions could negatively impact the value of our investments

We depend upon key personnel who may terminate their employment with us at any time, and we may not be able to attract and retain sufficient qualified personnel

Cyber-attacks or other failures in telecommunications or information technology systems could result in information theft, data corruption and significant disruption of our business operations

Our corporate headquarters, certain manufacturing facilities and personnel are located in a seismically active area near wildfire zones; Our business also involves environmental risks and risks related to handling regulated substances

As a non-accelerated filer, we are not required to comply with auditor attestation requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and, consequently, investors may find our common stock less attractive

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If we are unable to protect, maintain or enforce our IP rights or secure rights to third-party IP, we may lose valuable assets, lose market share or incur costly litigation or our third-party collaborators may choose to terminate their agreements with us, which may depend on our IP

We may be sued by third parties claiming that our product candidates infringe on their IP rights, particularly because there is substantial uncertainty about the validity and breadth of medical patents

Competitive products or technologies could impair our ability to maintain or grow our business

We could be exposed to significant product liability claims and we are subject to healthcare laws and regulations, which could expose us to criminal sanctions, civil penalties, contractual damages and reputational harm

Healthcare reform measures could hinder or prevent our product candidates’ commercial success

Market acceptance of our product candidates is uncertain, and failure to achieve market acceptance or adequate reimbursement from third-party payers will harm our future revenues and profitability

Inability to train physicians to use our products may prevent market acceptance of our products

Risks related to actions on trade by the U.S. and foreign governments, new accounting pronouncements and legislative actions could adversely affect the Company's results of operations and financial condition

Our operating history makes evaluating our stock difficult, the price of our stock may be volatile

Investors may experience substantial dilution of their investment

Our ability to use net operating losses and other tax attributes is uncertain and may be limited

We have broad discretion over the use of our cash and investments, which may not always yield a favorable return

Our certificate of incorporation, bylaws and Delaware law could discourage an acquisition of us

Having Delaware as the exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes


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Risks Related To Our Business

We are dependent on the success of DUR-928 and we cannot be certain that it will receive regulatory approval or be commercialized

Our business depends substantially on the successful development of DUR-928, which has completed a Phase 1b clinical trial in NASH and a Phase 2a clinical trial in AH, and is currently recruiting patients for a Phase 2b clinical trial (AHFIRM) in patients with severe AH.  Ongoing and future clinical trials will need to establish clinically and statistically significant proof of efficacy, and/or sufficient evidence of safety to support filing for regulatory approval and/or additional clinical trials and ultimately regulatory approval. DUR-928 will require additional development, including more clinical trials as well as further preclinical studies, including those designed to evaluate its dosage, dosing regimen, toxicology, carcinogenicity, pharmacokinetics and other non-clinical parameters, as well as regulatory clearances before it can be commercialized. Positive results obtained during early development do not necessarily mean later development will succeed or that regulatory clearances will be obtained. Our drug development efforts may not lead to commercial drugs, for several reasons such as if DUR-928 fails to be shown to be safe and effective or if we do not have adequate financial or other resources to advance DUR-928 through the pre-clinical and clinical development and approval processes. We consider DUR-928 to be our lead and most important asset. If DUR-928 fails to demonstrate safety or efficacy at any time or during any phase of development, we would experience potentially significant delays in, or be required to abandon, development of DUR-928, any of which would materially harm our business. Even if the Phase 2b AHFIRM trial successfully demonstrates a survival benefit over placebo, (1) additional clinical trial(s) may be required to support an NDA filing and ultimately to support approval by FDA and/or other regulatory bodies; and (2) accelerated regulatory pathways (such as an FDA priority review designation) may not be available.

We do not anticipate that DUR-928 will be eligible to receive regulatory approval from the FDA or comparable foreign authorities and begin commercialization for a number of years, if ever. Even if we ultimately receive regulatory approval for DUR-928, we or our potential future partners, if any, may be unable to commercialize it successfully for a variety of reasons. These include, for example, the availability of alternative, potentially superior or less expensive treatments or vaccines, lack of cost-effectiveness, the lack of favorable access and/or commercial pricing, the cost or technical challenges of manufacturing the product on a commercial scale and competition with other drugs or vaccines. The success of DUR-928 may also be limited by the prevalence and severity of any adverse side effects, including mortality. If we fail to commercialize DUR-928, we may be unable to generate sufficient revenues to attain or maintain profitability, and our financial condition and stock price may decline.

Fast Track designation of DUR-928 by the FDA may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process

The FDA grants Fast Track designation to therapies that are considered capable of addressing unmet medical needs and possess the potential to treat serious or life-threatening disease conditions in order to facilitate its development and expedite the review procedure. Even though DUR-928 has received Fast Track designation for the treatment of alcoholic hepatitis, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval, or receive FDA approval at all, in that indication or any other compared to conventional FDA procedures. A Fast Track designation does not change the standards for approval. The FDA may also withdraw Fast Track designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program.

 

Early indications of activity from Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of DUR-928 may not predict therapeutic efficacy

Although Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials of DUR-928 have shown positive initial data in AH patients, including reductions in bilirubin and MELD scores from baseline and promising Lille scores, and demonstrated that DUR-928 can lead to the reduction from baseline in liver enzymes, liver stiffness and serum lipids as well as certain biomarkers, such initial results, indications of activity and biomarker

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changes may ultimately not be correlated with treatment or improvement in the associated disease, and there is a risk that DUR-928 may not demonstrate therapeutic efficacy in larger controlled trials, despite encouraging initial data and improvements in biomarker levels in smaller, early trials. The failure of DUR-928 to show efficacy in one indication may negatively affect its perceived value in other indications, and the emergence of safety signals in ongoing or future clinical trials would significantly harm our business.  

Open-label trials of DUR-928 in NASH and AH have inherent limitations

The most recently completed NASH and AH trials of DUR-928 are open-label trials with no control groups. Open label trials have inherent risk of bias given that the patients and physicians know that they received active study drug, which can lead to placebo effects. Trials without control groups have an inherent risk in that the comparisons used to determine the study drug’s effect and side effect profile are based on comparisons with baseline (pre-treatment) levels (for blood chemistry and biomarker endpoints) and/or with historical controls, which may not have been conducted under similar enough conditions to make accurate comparisons and/or draw accurate conclusions from those comparisons.  Any initial data collected from these open-label trials also cannot be meaningfully analyzed or relied upon until after the completion of the trials due to the limited number of patients involved, open-label nature and lack of control groups. Additionally, larger controlled clinical trials will be required to evaluate the safety and efficacy of DUR-928 to treat any indication, including AH and NASH. There can be no assurance that ongoing or future studies will demonstrate the safety or efficacy of DUR-928 in a statistically significant or clinically meaningful manner.

The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted and will adversely impact our business

The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our operations and delayed our clinical trials. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the initiation of our AHFIRM Phase 2b clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of DUR-928 in severe alcohol-associated hepatitis (AH) patients, and it may delay the pace of enrollment in this trial and other clinical trials. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are also supply shortages of components needed for commercialization supplies of POSIMIR, which has delayed and may further delay availability of commercial supplies of POSIMIR and may adversely affect the timing for the commercial launch of POSIMIR, and there has been reduced demand for our ALZET products, which are used in scientific and pre-clinical research. In addition, COVID-19 may have an adverse impact on the economies and financial markets of many countries, resulting in a severe and prolonged global economic downturn that could continue to affect demand for our ALZET product lines and POSIMIR and impact our operating results. We also need to raise additional capital to provide sufficient funding to continue our product development efforts, including clinical trials. COVID-19 initially had an adverse impact on the capital markets and could again, which would make it more difficult for companies such as ours to access capital. The extent to which the coronavirus impacts our operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including the duration and severity of the outbreak, and the actions that may be required to contain the coronavirus or treat its impact. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may continue to experience disruptions that could severely impact our business, preclinical studies and clinical trials including:

 

 

 

delays or difficulties in enrolling patients in our clinical trials;

 

 

 

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 activities, such as clinical trial site data monitoring, due to limitations on travel imposed or recommended by federal or state governments, employers and others or interruption of clinical trial subject visits and study procedures, which may impact the integrity of subject data and clinical study endpoints, the ability to collect, ship and analyze biological samples from clinical trial patients due to concerns about potential contamination of samples and/or exposure of clinical staff to patients with the COVID-19;

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interruption or delays in the operations of the FDA or other regulatory authorities, which may impact review and approval timelines;

 

 

 

disruption or delays in manufacturing of clinical and commercial supplies due to issues experienced by our contract manufacturing organizations and/or shortages and delays in obtaining raw materials and supplies required in the manufacturing processes;

 

 

 

interruption of, or delays in receiving, supplies of our product candidates from our contract manufacturing organizations due to staffing shortages, production slowdowns or stoppages, prioritization of pandemic-related activities over ours  and disruptions in delivery systems;

 

 

 

interruptions in preclinical studies due to restricted or limited operations at laboratory facilities;

 

 

 

limitations on 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; and

 

 

 

material delays and complications with respect to our research and development programs.

We may not successfully manage our company through varying business cycles, including the COVID-19 pandemic

Our success will depend on properly sizing our company through growth and contraction cycles caused in part by changing business conditions, which places a significant strain on our management and on our administrative, operational and financial resources. For example, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked most of our personnel, including all of our administrative employees, to work remotely, restricted on-site staff to only those personnel who must perform activities that must be completed on-site, implemented social distancing on-site, and closed certain of our offices temporarily.  Our increased reliance on personnel working from home may negatively impact productivity, or disrupt, delay, or otherwise adversely impact our business.  In addition, this could increase our cyber security risk, create data accessibility concerns, and make us more susceptible to communication disruptions, any of which could adversely impact our business operations or delay necessary interactions with the FDA, manufacturing sites, research or clinical trial sites. To manage through such cycles, we may expand or contract our facilities, our operational, financial and management systems and our personnel. If we were unable to manage growth and contractions effectively our business would be harmed.

Ongoing and planned clinical trials for DUR-928 in AH may be delayed and may not demonstrate efficacy or safety in the indications tested

The Phase 2b AHFIRM trial of DUR-928 in patients with AH is subject to potential delays resulting from COVID-19 as well as timing of entering contracts with clinical sites and contract research organizations, obtaining institutional review board approvals and delays in other activities that need to be put in place prior to clinical trial initiation at each clinical trial site.  Given uncertainty of COVID-19-related impacts on clinical trial sites, the timing of availability of top-line data from this trial cannot be predicted with certainty. There can be no assurance that the trial will enroll as anticipated if at all, and delays in enrollment could add to the costs and expenses of this trial and harm our business.  There can also be no assurance that biological activity demonstrated in previous animal disease models or earlier clinical trials of DUR-928 will also be seen in ongoing trials or future clinical trials, or that any clinically relevant biological activity will be observed, or that enrollment rates will be favorable or that these additional trials will not identify safety issues.  Failure of the AHFIRM trial to achieve desired results in its anticipated timeframe would negatively impact our business and ability to raise additional capital.

 

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The path to regulatory approval of DUR-928 is uncertain

DUR-928 is in clinical development for the potential treatment of AH; NASH is also being explored. We are currently developing DUR-928 in several indications, including AH and NASH. In AH and NASH, there are no currently approved drugs. Accordingly, as the treatment landscape changes, we will have to interact with the FDA and other regulatory agencies regarding important aspects of the clinical development program, potentially including the size of clinical trials, the specific primary and secondary endpoints for the clinical trials, inclusion and exclusion criteria, stopping rules, duration of follow up, size of the safety databases, statistical analysis plans and other matters.  This uncertainty may make it difficult to predict the timing or expense required to obtain regulatory approval for DUR-928.  We also may need to revise our clinical development plans after trials have commenced or been completed, which could add to the time and expense associated with the clinical development of DUR-928.  If we are unable to reach agreement with the FDA or other regulatory agencies regarding clinical development plans for DUR-928, we may curtail or limit our development activities for this product candidate.

We are in discussions with potential commercialization partners for POSIMIR and may be unable to enter an agreement

We are in discussions to license POSIMIR to a third party for commercialization. There can be no assurance that we will be able to enter into an agreement with a third party for the commercialization of POSIMIR at all, or that any agreement we enter into will result in material payments to us. If we are not able to enter into such an agreement we may not commercially launch POSIMIR, or if such agreement does not result in material payments to us, our financial prospects may be harmed.

The approved indication for POSIMIR may limit its market, and we or a commercialization partner may not be able to expand the label to include additional indications

The FDA approval for POSIMIR is limited to use in arthroscopic subacromial decompression surgery and contains a Boxed Warning about risks of intravenous administration.  We or a commercialization partner cannot currently promote POSIMIR for use in other indications, and the Boxed Warning may deter physicians from using it, which may limit the market opportunity for POSIMIR.  While we intend to seek approval from FDA for POSIMIR in additional indications, there is no assurance that we or a commercialization partner will be able to do so, in which case sales of POSIMIR may be limited.

In connection with the approval of POSIMIR, the Company is required to conduct two postmarketing non-clinical studies. If the results from either of these studies are unfavorable, the FDA may require additional studies, or may take actions that are adverse to the regulatory status, commercial prospects and market acceptability of POSIMIR

In connection with the approval of POSIMIR, we are required to conduct two postmarketing non-clinical studies to determine the ultimate impact of the drug product and fate of the vehicle if it is inadvertently administered into the intravascular space and to assess the potential serious risk of POSIMIR-induced Local Anesthetic Systemic Toxicity (LAST) following inadvertent intravenous route of administration and the ability of lipid infusions to treat the clinical manifestations of LAST.  We will need to reach agreement with the FDA on the appropriate protocols for these non-clinical studies, complete them and submit final reports to the FDA by September 2023.

The FDA may require us to update POSIMIR’s labeling with the results from these studies, including any positive or negative results, which could have adverse impact on POSIMIR’s commercial prospects and market acceptability. We may be unable to complete our postmarketing studies in accordance with the required timeline, if at all. For example, it may not be feasible to assess the risk of LAST following inadvertent intravenous route of administration and the ability of lipid infusions to treat the clinical manifestations of LAST. If the FDA determines the study cannot be completed as designed, but the study objectives remain important, the FDA may require one or more new postmarketing studies with new commitments and schedules. The FDA may also amend the labeling or take other actions that are adverse to POSIMIR’s regulatory status. If there are delays in completing the postmarketing studies,

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the FDA may post information about the delayed status on its website. Any of the above FDA actions could adversely affect us or POSIMIR’s commercial prospects, or have other collateral effects, such as making it more difficult for us to find a third-party licensee to commercialize POSIMIR. In POSIMIR clinical studies, no inadvertent intravascular injections were observed.

If we experience delays or difficulties in the enrollment of subjects in clinical trials, our product development expenses may increase, clinical trial data could be delayed and 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 subjects and/or patients. Enrollment, a significant factor in the timing of clinical trials, is affected by many factors including the size and nature of the patient population, our ability to recruit clinical sites and the ability of clinical sites to successfully recruit subjects to participate in clinical trials. Initiation of and enrollment in many clinical trials is being adversely affected by COVID-19, which has caused many institutions to stop enrolling patients, has created a large number of clinical trial proposals for potential clinical trial sites to review and consider, and has caused many individuals to avoid contact with hospitals or other healthcare providers.  Additionally, some of the patients in our clinical trials, including AH patients, are hospitalized and concerns about exposure to COVID-19 limit clinical trial staff’s access to patients, the frequency of interactions between patients and staff, the ability to obtain blood draws and other biological sample collection, and may limit the ability to ship samples to outside laboratories for analysis. In areas heavily impacted by COVID-19, there may be limited hospital staff available for clinical trial activities due to staff becoming infected or due to deprioritization of clinical trial activities. 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 DUR-928 if we are unable to sign sufficient clinical sites, 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 or if we are unable to collect and analyze biological samples required for trial endpoints. It is possible that the inclusion and exclusion criteria for patients to be included in these trials or COVID-19-related issues may make the trials more difficult to conduct or may significantly extend the time required for enrollment and the cost of these trials.

We cannot predict how successful we will be at enrolling patients in our clinical trials. Enrollment is affected by other factors including:

 

the eligibility criteria for the trial in question;

 

the prevalence and incidence of the conditions being studied in the clinical trials;

 

COVID-19-related challenges with patient access, hospital prioritization, clinical trial staff availability, ability to collect, ship and analyze patients’ biological samples, availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), swabs, reagents and other materials and supplies;

 

the perceived risks and benefits of our product candidates;

 

clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs or therapeutic biologics that may be approved for the indications we are investigating;

 

the efforts to facilitate timely enrollment in clinical trials;

 

competition for clinical sites and patients from other clinical trials;

 

the willingness of potential clinical trial patients to provide informed consent to participate in the trial;

 

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 sign up sufficient clinical trial sites and/or enroll a sufficient number of patients for clinical trials would result in significant delays and could require us to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. Enrollment delays in these clinical trials may result in increased development costs for our drug candidates or delays in regulatory filings and progression, which would cause the value of our company to decline and limit our ability to obtain additional financing.

The FDA may require more information or clinical studies for all of our product candidates, and our product candidates may never be approved

The failure to adequately demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of a pharmaceutical product candidate under development to the satisfaction of FDA and other regulatory agencies will result in delays to the regulatory approval or non-approvability of our product candidates, and could materially harm our business. Clinical trials may not demonstrate the sufficient levels of safety and efficacy necessary to obtain the requisite regulatory approvals for our product candidates, or may require such significant numbers of patients or additional costs to make it impractical to satisfy the FDA’s requirements, and thus our product candidates may not be approved for marketing. During the review process, the FDA may request more information regarding the safety of our product candidates, as they did in their Complete Response Letter for POSIMIR, and answering such questions could require significant additional work and expense, and take a significant amount of time, resulting in a material delay of approval or the failure to obtain approval or lead the company to abandon the development of that product candidate. During the review process, the FDA may also request more information regarding the chemistry, manufacturing or controls related to our product candidates, and answering such questions could require significant additional work and expense, and take a significant amount of time, resulting in a material delay of approval or the failure to obtain approval or abandonment of the product candidate. Additionally, even if our product candidates receive FDA approval, the FDA may require that we conduct additional clinical or non-clinical studies after such approval, place limitations on the use of our products in applicable labels, require marketing under a REMS program, include commercially unattractive language in the approved product label, delay approval to market our products or limit the indicated use of our products, which may harm our business and results of operations.

We currently have a significant amount of debt. Compliance with repayment obligations and other covenants may be difficult, and failure by us to fulfill our obligations under the applicable loan agreements may cause the repayment obligations to accelerate

In July 2016, we entered into a Loan and Security Agreement (the Loan Agreement) with Oxford Finance LLC (Oxford Finance), pursuant to which Oxford Finance provided a $20 million secured single-draw term loan to us with an initial maturity date of August 1, 2020. The term loan was fully drawn at close and the proceeds may be used for working capital and general business requirements. The term loan repayment schedule provided initially for interest only payments for the first 18 months, followed by consecutive monthly payments of principal and interest in arrears starting on March 1, 2018 and continuing through the maturity date of August 1, 2020. Following three amendments, we make interest only payments under the amended Loan Agreement until December 1, 2021 and the final maturity date of the loan is May 1, 2024.  The Loan Agreement provides for a floating interest rate (7.95% initially and 7.95% as of December 31, 2020) based on an index rate plus a spread and an additional payment equal to 10% of the principal amount of the term loan, which is due when the term loan becomes due or upon the prepayment of the facility. If we elect to prepay the loan, there is also a prepayment fee between 0.75% and 2.5% of the principal amount of the term loan depending on the timing of prepayment.   Our debt repayment obligations under the Loan Agreement, as amended, may prove a burden to the Company as they become due, particularly following the expiration of the interest-only period.

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The Loan Agreement contains customary events of default, including, among other things, our failure to fulfill certain of our obligations under the Loan Agreement and the occurrence of a material adverse change in our business, operations or condition (financial or otherwise), a material impairment of the prospect of repayment of any portion of the loan, the failure to deliver an unqualified audit report and board approved financial projections within time periods set forth in the Loan Agreement, or a material impairment in the perfection or priority of lender’s lien in the collateral or in the value of such collateral. In the event of default by us under the Loan Agreement, the lender would be entitled to exercise its remedies thereunder, including the right to accelerate the debt, upon which we may be required to repay all amounts then outstanding under the Loan Agreement, which could harm our business, operations and financial condition.

In addition, the term loan is secured by substantially all of our assets, except that the collateral does not include any equity interests in the Company, any intellectual property (including all licensing, collaboration and similar agreements relating thereto), and certain other excluded assets. The Loan Agreement contains customary representations, warranties and covenants by us, which covenants limit our ability to convey, sell, lease, transfer, assign or otherwise dispose of certain of our assets; engage in any business other than the businesses currently engaged in by us or reasonably related thereto; liquidate or dissolve; make certain management changes; undergo certain change of control events; create, incur, assume, or be liable with respect to certain indebtedness; grant certain liens; pay dividends and make certain other restricted payments; make certain investments; make payments on any subordinated debt; and enter into transactions with any of our affiliates outside of the ordinary course of business or permit our subsidiaries to do the same. Complying with these covenants may make it more difficult for us to successfully execute our business strategy.

We will require and may have difficulty raising needed capital in the future

Our business currently does not generate sufficient revenues to meet our capital requirements and we do not expect that it will do so in the near future. We have expended and will continue to expend substantial funds to complete the research, development and clinical testing of our product candidates. We will require additional funds for these purposes, to establish additional clinical- and commercial-scale manufacturing arrangements and facilities, and to provide for the marketing and distribution of our product candidates. Additional funds may not be available on acceptable terms, if at all, and such availability will depend on a number of factors, some of which are outside of our control, including general capital markets conditions and investors’ view of our prospects and valuation. If adequate funds are unavailable from operations or additional sources of financing, we may have to delay, reduce the scope of or eliminate one or more of our research or development programs which would materially harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We believe that our cash, cash equivalents and investments and anticipated revenues will be adequate to satisfy our capital needs for at least the next 12 months from the date the financial statements are filed. However, our independent auditors may not agree with this assessment, and our actual capital requirements will depend on many factors, including:

 

success in entering into collaboration agreements and achieving milestones under such agreements;

 

the continuation of our collaborative agreements that provide financial funding for our activities;

 

regulatory actions with respect to our and our collaborators’ product candidates;

 

continued progress and cost of our research and development programs;

 

progress with preclinical studies and clinical trials;

 

the time and costs involved in obtaining regulatory clearance;

 

costs involved in preparing, filing, prosecuting, maintaining, defending and enforcing patent claims;

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costs of developing sales, marketing and distribution channels and our ability and that of our collaborators to sell our products, products we have a financial interest in and eventually, product candidates;

 

costs involved in establishing manufacturing capabilities for pre-clinical, non-clinical, clinical and commercial quantities of our product candidates;

 

competing technological and market developments;

 

market acceptance of our products, products we have a financial interest in and, eventually, product candidates;

 

any failure to comply with the covenants in our debt instruments that results in acceleration of repayment obligations;

 

impacts of the COVID-19 crisis;

 

costs for recruiting and retaining employees and consultants; and

 

unexpected legal, accounting and other costs and liabilities related to our business.

We may consume available resources more rapidly than currently anticipated, resulting in the need for additional funding. We may seek to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings, convertible debt financings, collaborative arrangements with corporate collaborators or other sources, which may be dilutive to existing stockholders and may cause the price of our common stock to decline. In addition, in the event that additional funds are obtained through arrangements with collaborators or other sources, we may have to relinquish rights to some of our technologies or pharmaceutical product candidates that we would otherwise seek to develop or commercialize ourselves. If adequate funds are not available, we may be required to significantly reduce or refocus our product development efforts, resulting in delays in generating future product revenue.

We do not control the commercialization of PERSERIS or Methydur

We rely on Indivior for the commercialization of PERSERIS.  Indivior has stated that it launched PERSERIS in February 2019 in the United States. There can be no assurance that Indivior will obtain market acceptance and meaningful sales.  If Indivior does not successfully commercialize PERSERIS, the earn-out payments we receive under our agreement with them may be limited. We rely on Orient Pharma for the commercialization of Methydur in the territories licensed to Orient Pharma. If Orient Pharma does not successfully commercialize Methydur throughout their territory, the royalty payments we receive under our agreement with them may be limited. The sales of both of these products may be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Development of our pharmaceutical product candidates is not complete, and we cannot be certain that our product candidates will be able to be commercialized

To be profitable, we or our third-party collaborators must successfully research, develop, obtain regulatory approval for, manufacture, introduce, market and distribute our pharmaceutical product candidates under development. For each product candidate that we or our third-party collaborators intend to commercialize, we must successfully meet a number of critical developmental milestones for each disease or medical condition targeted, including:

 

with respect to each product candidate based on a new chemical entity, determining appropriate indication(s);

 

with respect to our Proprietary Pharmaceutical Programs based on our drug delivery technologies, selecting and developing a drug delivery technology to deliver the proper dose of drug over the desired period of time;

 

determining the appropriate route of administration and drug dosage for each product candidate in each indication;

 

developing product candidates that will be tolerated, safe and effective;

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demonstrating each product candidate will be chemically and physically stable for commercially reasonable time periods;

 

demonstrating through clinical trials that each product candidate is safe and effective in patients for the intended indication at an achievable dose and that the product candidate’s benefits outweigh its risks; and

 

completing the manufacturing development and scale-up to permit manufacture of the product candidate in commercial quantities and at acceptable cost.

The time frame necessary to achieve these developmental milestones for any individual product candidate is long and uncertain, and we may not successfully complete these milestones for any of our product candidates in development.  Except for marketing authorization for POSIMIR in the U.S. for post-surgical pain reduction for up to 72 hours following arthroscopic subacromial decompression (ASD), PERSERIS by Indivior in the U.S. and for Orient Pharma’s approval of Methydur in Taiwan, development is incomplete for all product candidates in our development programs, including DUR-928. We may not be able to finalize the design or formulation of any of our product candidates. In addition, we may select components, solvents, excipients or other ingredients to include in our product candidates that have not been previously approved for use in pharmaceutical products, which may require us or our collaborators to perform additional studies and may delay clinical testing and regulatory approval of our product candidates. Even after we complete the design of a product candidate, the product candidate must still complete required clinical trials and additional safety testing in animals before approval for commercialization. We are continuing testing and development of our product candidates and may explore possible design or formulation changes to address issues of safety, manufacturing efficiency, stability and performance. We or our collaborators may not be able to complete development of any product candidates that will be safe and effective and that will have a commercially reasonable treatment and storage period. If we or our third-party collaborators are unable to complete development of DUR-928 or other product candidates, we will not be able to earn revenue from them, which would materially harm our business.

For certain of our product candidates, we depend to a large extent on third-party collaborators, and we have limited or no control over the development, sales, distribution and disclosure for those product candidates which are the subject of third-party collaborative or license agreements

Our performance for certain of our product candidates depends to a large extent on the ability of our third-party collaborators to successfully develop and obtain approvals for certain of our pharmaceutical product candidates. We have entered into agreements with Indivior, Santen and Orient Pharma under which we granted such third parties the right to develop, apply for regulatory approval for, market, promote or distribute certain product candidates, subject to payments to us in the form of product royalties, earn-out and other payments. We have limited or no control over the expertise or resources that any collaborator may devote to the development, clinical trial strategy, regulatory approval, marketing or sale of these product candidates, or the timing of their activities. Any of our present or future collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected. These collaborators may breach or terminate their agreement with us or otherwise fail to conduct their collaborative activities successfully and in a timely manner. Enforcing any of these agreements in the event of a breach by the other party could require the expenditure of significant resources and consume a significant amount of management time and attention. Our collaborators may also conduct their activities in a manner that is different from the manner we would recommend or would have chosen, had we been developing such product candidates ourselves. Further, our collaborators may elect not to develop or commercialize product candidates arising out of our collaborative arrangements or not devote sufficient resources to the development, clinical trials, regulatory approval, manufacture, marketing or sale of these product candidates. If any of these events occur, we may not recognize revenue from the commercialization of our product candidates based on such collaborations. In addition, these third parties may have similar or competitive products to the ones which are the subject of their collaborations with us, or relationships with our competitors, which may reduce their interest in developing or selling our product candidates. We may not be able to control public disclosures made by some of our third-party collaborators, which could negatively impact our stock price.

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Cancellation of collaborations regarding our product candidates may adversely affect potential economic benefits

Third-party collaboration agreements typically allow the third party to terminate the agreement (or a specific program within an agreement) at will by providing notice. Termination can result from failure of the collaboration to achieve anticipated milestones, for changes in strategy of the other party or for other reasons. In these cases, the product rights revert to us or certain rights of the partner to use our proprietary technology are terminated. If there have been payments under such agreements that are being recognized over time, termination of such agreements (or programs) can lead to a near-term increase in our reported revenues resulting from the immediate recognition of the balance of such payments. Termination deprives us of potential future economic benefits under such agreements, and may make it more difficult or impossible to enter into agreements with other third parties for use of the assets and/or technologies that were subject to the terminated agreement. For example, termination of our agreements with Santen or Orient Pharma could have negative effects on the Company.  

A significant component of our revenues resulted from collaboration agreements with other companies that have terminated

Our revenues have been based to a significant extent on collaborative arrangements with third parties, pursuant to which we receive payments based on our performance of research and development activities set forth in these agreements. For example, approximately 58% of our total revenues were derived from our collaboration agreement with Gilead in 2019.  In June 2020, Gilead notified us that they were terminating this collaboration.  In addition, we have seen periodic fluctuations in revenues associated with our other collaboration agreements, which reflect the current development stage of the product candidates subject to those agreements, and our collaborator’s needs for our services. Long-term growth of our collaboration revenues requires us to enter into new collaboration agreements, and there can be no assurance that we will do so. Even if we enter into new collaboration agreements, we may not be able to fulfill our obligations or attain milestones set forth in any specific agreement, which could cause our revenues and/or cash flows to fluctuate or be less than anticipated and may expose us to liability for contractual breach. In addition, these agreements may require us to devote significant time and resources to communicating with and managing our relationships with such collaborators and resolving possible issues of contractual interpretation which may detract from time our management would otherwise devote to managing our operations. Such agreements are generally complex and contain provisions that could give rise to legal disputes, including potential disputes concerning ownership of intellectual property under collaborations. Such disputes can delay or prevent the development of potential new product candidates, or can lead to lengthy, expensive litigation or arbitration. In general, our collaboration agreements, including our agreements with Orient Pharma with respect to Methydur and Santen with respect to an investigational ophthalmic product may be terminated by the other party at will or upon specified conditions including, for example, if we fail to satisfy specified performance milestones or if we breach the terms of the agreement. Acquisitions of our collaborators or strategic changes or re-organizations or re-prioritizations of our collaborators can lead to turnover of program staff, a review of development programs and strategies by the acquirer, and other events that can disrupt a program, resulting in program delays or discontinuations.

If we do not enter into new collaboration agreements, our anticipated revenues and/or cash flows will be reduced relative to periods of increased R&D revenues, such as occurred in 2020.

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Our cash flows are likely to differ from our reported revenues

Our revenues will likely differ from our cash flows from revenue-generating activities. Upfront payments received upon execution of collaborative agreements are recorded as deferred revenue and generally recognized over the period of our performance obligations with the third-party collaborator pursuant to the applicable agreement. The period of performance obligations may also be revised on a prospective basis. As of December 31, 2020, we had $812,000 of deferred revenue which will be recognized in future periods and may cause our reported revenues to be greater than cash flows from our ongoing revenue-generating activities. Assumptions related to revenue recognition of deferred revenue are reviewed in each accounting period and changes are recorded in the current period. In certain circumstances, changes in assumptions related to the timing and amount of work required to complete a performance obligation tied to deferred revenue can result in negative revenue for an accounting period or the accelerated recognition of non-cash revenue.

Our revenues may decrease and our losses may increase compared to prior years as a result of the sale of the LACTEL® polymer product line

In December 2020 we completed the sale of our LACTEL polymer product line to Evonik for approximately $15 million subject to certain adjustments. Sales of LACTEL polymers contributed to our product revenues and earnings, and the loss of these revenues and earnings will decrease our future period product related revenues and operating results.

Our business strategy includes the entry into additional collaborative agreements. We may not be able to enter into additional collaborative agreements or may not be able to negotiate commercially acceptable terms for these agreements

Our current business strategy includes the entry into additional collaborative agreements for the development and commercialization of our product candidates, including, but not limited to POSIMIR, DUR-928 and others. The negotiation and consummation of these types of agreements typically involve simultaneous discussions with multiple potential collaborators and require significant time and resources from our officers, business development, legal, and research and development staff. In addition, in attracting the attention of pharmaceutical and biotechnology company collaborators, we compete with numerous other third parties with product opportunities as well as the collaborators’ own internal product opportunities. We may not be able to consummate additional collaborative agreements, or we may not be able to negotiate commercially acceptable terms for these agreements. If we do not consummate additional collaborative agreements, we may have to consume money more rapidly on our product development efforts, defer development activities or forgo the exploitation of certain opportunities, abandon development of certain product candidates or indications for certain product candidates, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

We and our third-party collaborators may not be able to manufacture sufficient quantities of our pharmaceutical product candidates and components to support the non-clinical, clinical and commercial requirements of our collaborators and ourselves at an acceptable cost or in compliance with applicable government regulations, and we have limited manufacturing experience

We or our third-party collaborators to whom we have assigned such responsibility must manufacture our product candidates, and components (including active ingredients and excipients) in non-clinical (e.g., toxicology), clinical and commercial quantities, either directly or through third parties, in compliance with regulatory requirements and at an acceptable cost. The manufacturing processes associated with our product candidates are complex. We and our third-party collaborators, where relevant, have not yet completed development of the manufacturing process for any of our product candidates or components that are in pre-clinical or clinical development, including DUR-928.  If we and our third-party collaborators, where relevant, fail to timely complete the development of the manufacturing process for our product candidates, we and our third-party collaborators, where relevant, will not be able to timely produce supplies for non-clinical, clinical trials and commercialization of our product candidates. We have also committed to manufacture and supply product candidates or components under a number of our collaborative agreements with third-party companies. We have limited experience manufacturing pharmaceutical products, and we may not be able to timely accomplish these tasks. If we and our third-

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party collaborators, where relevant, fail to develop manufacturing processes to permit us to manufacture a product candidate or component at an acceptable quality and cost, then we and our third-party collaborators may not be able to develop or commercialize that product candidate or we may be in breach of our supply obligations to our third-party collaborators.

Our manufacturing facility in Cupertino is a multi-disciplinary site that we have used to manufacture only research and clinical trial supplies of several of our product candidates, including DUR-928 and POSIMIR. If we experience delays or technical difficulties in developing acceptable manufacturing processes or scaling up the manufacturing of our product candidates, it could result in delays or added cost in our development programs. We have not manufactured commercial quantities of any of our product candidates at our Cupertino facility. In the future, we may develop additional manufacturing capabilities for our product candidates and components to meet our demands and those of our third-party collaborators by contracting with third-party manufacturers and/or by potentially constructing additional manufacturing space at our facilities in California or elsewhere. We have limited experience building and validating manufacturing facilities, and we may not be able to accomplish these tasks in a timely or cost-effective manner.

If we and our third-party collaborators, where relevant, are unable to manufacture our product candidates or components in a timely manner or at an acceptable cost, quality or performance level, and are unable to attain and maintain compliance with applicable regulations, the non-clinical and clinical trials and the commercial sale of our product candidates and those of our third-party collaborators could be delayed or never occur. Additionally, we may need to alter our facility design or manufacturing processes, install additional equipment or do additional construction or testing in order to meet regulatory requirements, optimize the production process, increase efficiencies or production capacity or for other reasons, which may result in additional cost to us or delay production of product needed for the non-clinical trials, clinical trials, chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC) and commercial launch of our product candidates and those of our third-party collaborators.

If we or our third-party collaborators cannot manufacture our pharmaceutical product candidates or components in time to meet the clinical or commercial requirements of our collaborators or ourselves or at an acceptable cost, our operating results will be harmed.

Failure to comply with ongoing governmental regulations for our pharmaceutical product candidates could materially harm our business in the future

Developing, manufacturing, marketing or promoting a drug is subject to very strict regulations and controls. Furthermore, clearance or approval may entail ongoing requirements for post-marketing studies. The manufacture and marketing of drugs are subject to continuing FDA and foreign regulatory review and requirements that we update our regulatory filings. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, manufacturer or facility, or our failure to update regulatory files, may result in restrictions, including withdrawal of the product from the market. Any of the following or other similar events, if they were to occur, could delay or preclude us from further developing, marketing or realizing full commercial use of our product candidates, which in turn would materially harm our business, financial condition and results of operations:

 

failure to obtain or maintain requisite governmental approvals;

 

failure to meet GMP, GLP and/or other governmental requirements for drug development;

 

failure to obtain approvals for clinically intended uses of our pharmaceutical product candidates under development; or

 

FDA required product withdrawals or warnings arising from identification of serious adverse side effects in our product candidates.

Manufacturers of drugs must comply with the applicable FDA good manufacturing practice (GMP) regulations, which include production design controls, testing, quality control and quality assurance requirements as well as the corresponding maintenance of records and documentation. Compliance with current GMP regulations is difficult and costly. Manufacturing facilities are subject to ongoing periodic inspection by the FDA and corresponding state and in some cases, foreign agencies, including unannounced inspections, and must be licensed before they can be used for the commercial manufacture

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of our product candidates. We and/or our present or future suppliers and distributors may be unable to comply with the applicable GMP regulations and other FDA and/or foreign regulatory requirements. If we, our third-party collaborators or our respective suppliers do not achieve compliance for our product candidates we or they manufacture, the FDA or foreign equivalents may refuse or withdraw marketing clearance, put our or our partner’s clinical trial on hold, withdraw or reject an investigational new drug (IND) application or require product recall, which may cause interruptions or delays in the development, manufacture and sale of our product candidates.

We have a history of operating losses, expect to continue to have losses in the future and may never achieve or maintain profitability

We have incurred significant operating losses since our inception in 1998 and, as of December 31, 2020, had an accumulated deficit of approximately $489.8 million. We expect to continue to incur significant operating losses over the next several years as we continue to incur significant costs for research and development, clinical trials, manufacturing, sales, and general and administrative functions. Our ability to achieve profitability depends upon our ability, alone or with others, to successfully complete the development of our proposed product candidates, obtain the required regulatory clearances, and manufacture and market our proposed product candidates. Development of pharmaceutical product candidates is costly and requires significant investment. In addition, we may choose to license from third parties either additional drug delivery platform technology or rights to particular drugs or other appropriate technology and/or intellectual property rights for use in our product candidates. The license fees for these technologies or rights would increase the costs of our product candidates.

To date, we have not generated significant revenue from the commercial sale of our pharmaceutical product candidates and do not expect to do so in the near future. Our current revenues are from the ALZET product line, from certain excipient sales, from earn-out payments from Indivior related to sales of PERSERIS, from royalty payments from Orient Pharma related to sales of Methydur in Taiwan, and from payments under collaborative research and development agreements with third parties. We do not expect our product revenues to increase significantly in the near future, and we do not expect that collaborative research and development revenues will exceed our actual operating expenses in the near future. We do not anticipate meaningful revenues to derive from the commercialization and marketing of our product candidates in development in the near future, and therefore do not expect to generate sufficient revenues to cover expenses or achieve profitability in the near future.

We may develop our own sales force and commercial group to market future products but we have limited sales and marketing experience with respect to pharmaceuticals and may not be able to do so effectively

We have a small sales and marketing group focused on our ALZET product line. We may choose to develop our own sales force and commercial group to market products that we have developed or may develop in the future, including POSIMIR and/or DUR-928, if approved. Developing a sales force and commercial group would require substantial expenditures and the hiring of qualified personnel. We have limited sales and marketing experience, and may not be able to effectively recruit, train or retain sales and marketing personnel. If we are not able to put in place an appropriate sales force and commercial group for our products in development, we may not be able to effectively launch these products. We may not be able to effectively sell our product candidates, if approved, and our failure to do so could limit or materially harm our business.

We and our third-party collaborators may not sell our product candidates effectively

We and our third-party collaborators compete with many other companies that currently have extensive and well-funded marketing and sales operations. Our marketing and sales efforts and those of our third-party collaborators may be unable to compete successfully against these other companies. We and our third-party collaborators, if relevant, may be unable to establish a sufficient sales and marketing organization on a timely basis, if at all. We and our third-party collaborators, if relevant, may be unable to engage qualified distributors. Even if engaged, these collaborators and distributors may:

 

fail to satisfy financial or contractual obligations to us;

 

fail to adequately market our product candidates;

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cease operations with little or no notice to us;

 

offer, design, manufacture or promote competing product lines;

 

fail to maintain adequate inventory and thereby restrict use of our product candidates; or

 

build up inventory in excess of demand thereby limiting future purchases of our product candidates resulting in significant quarter-to-quarter variability in our sales.

The failure of us or our third-party collaborators to effectively develop, gain regulatory approval for, sell, manufacture and market our product candidates will hurt our business, prospects, financial results and may impact our access to capital.

We rely heavily on third parties to support development, clinical testing and manufacturing of our product candidates

We rely on third-party contract research organizations, consultants, service providers and suppliers to provide critical services to support development, clinical testing, and manufacturing of our product candidates. For example, we currently depend on third-party vendors to manage and monitor most of our clinical trials. We rely on third-parties to manufacture or perform manufacturing steps relating to our product candidates or components. We anticipate that we will continue to rely on these and other third-party contractors to support development, clinical testing, and manufacturing of our product candidates. These third parties may not execute their responsibilities and tasks competently in compliance with applicable laws and regulations or in a timely or cost-effective fashion. Failure of these contractors to provide the required services in a competent or timely manner or on reasonable commercial terms could materially delay the development and approval of our product candidates, increase our expenses and materially harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and access to capital.

Key components of our product candidates are provided by limited numbers of suppliers, and supply shortages or loss of these suppliers could result in interruptions in supply or increased costs

Certain components and drug substances used in our and our collaborators’ products and product candidates, including DUR-928, POSIMIR, Methydur, and PERSERIS, are currently purchased from a single or a limited number of outside sources. In particular, Eastman Chemical is the sole supplier of our requirements of sucrose acetate isobutyrate, a necessary component of POSIMIR and certain other pharmaceutical product candidates we have under development. A third-party manufacturer is our sole supplier for future commercial supplies of POSIMIR. Another third- party manufacturer is our sole supplier for future non-clinical, clinical and commercial supplies of DUR-928. The reliance on a sole or limited number of suppliers could result in:

 

delays associated with redesigning a pharmaceutical product candidate due to a failure to obtain a single source component;

 

delays associated with finding and contracting with a new supplier (if we can find one capable of replacing the old supplier and negotiate commercially reasonable terms) and then transferring the technology required to perform the services to the new supplier;

 

an inability to obtain an adequate supply of required product candidate, active pharmaceutical ingredient or excipients or other components; and

 

reduced control over pricing, quality and delivery time.

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While we have entered into contract manufacturing agreements with multiple vendors for DUR-928, we currently have a third-party sole supplier for GMP supplies of DUR-928. This third party is our sole source for the drug product required for development and commercialization of this drug candidate. There can be no assurance that we will receive sufficient quantities of DUR-928 to commence and conduct the non-clinical trials, clinical trials and CMC activities we are planning, and delays in supply could delay development of DUR-928. In addition, certain of our third-party manufacturers and suppliers may be experiencing delays as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic or have otherwise encountered delays in providing their services. As a result, we may not be able to manufacture our product candidates for our clinical trials and conduct other research and development operations and maintain current clinical and pre-clinical timelines. In addition, if additional third parties in our supply chain are adversely impacted by restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, including staffing shortages, raw material shortages, production slowdowns and disruptions in delivery systems, our supply chain may be disrupted in other ways, further limiting our ability to manufacture our product candidates for our clinical trials and conduct our research and development operations.

We have entered into a commercial manufacturing and packaging agreement with a third-party manufacturer for future supply of POSIMIR. This third party is our sole source for the drug product required for commercialization of this drug candidate. There may be technical risks associated with establishing an alternative commercial manufacturer that could entail delays in supply, quality issues or delays in the possible regulatory approval of POSIMIR. Furthermore, we and our contract manufacturer may also need or choose to subcontract with additional third-party contractors to perform manufacturing steps of POSIMIR or supply required components for POSIMIR. Where third party contractors perform manufacturing services for us, we will be subject to the schedule, expertise and performance of third parties as well as incur significant additional costs. Failure of third parties to perform their obligations could adversely affect our operations, development timeline and financial results. If we proceed with the commercialization of POSIMIR, we expect to put in place in the future second source supply arrangements, which may be costly and time consuming.

We have supply agreements in place for certain components of our pharmaceutical product candidates, but do not have in place long term supply agreements with respect to all of the components of any of our products or product candidates. Therefore, the supply of a particular component could be terminated at any time without penalty to the supplier. In addition, we may not be able to procure required components or drugs from third-party suppliers at a quantity, quality, cost and timing acceptable to us. In addition, certain of our suppliers may be experiencing delays as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic or have otherwise encountered delays in providing their services. Any interruption in the supply of single source components (including active pharmaceutical ingredients, excipients, or components like vials, stoppers, filters and the like) or product candidates, could cause us to seek alternative sources of supply or manufacture these items internally if feasible. Furthermore, in some cases, we are relying on our third-party collaborators to procure supply of necessary components. If the supply of any components for our product candidates is interrupted, components from alternative suppliers may not be available in sufficient volumes or at acceptable quality levels within required timeframes, if at all, to meet our needs or those of our third-party collaborators. This could delay our ability to complete development and obtain approval for commercialization and marketing of our product candidates, causing us to lose sales, incur additional costs, delay new product introductions and could harm our reputation and make access to capital more difficult, expensive or impossible. The spread of COVID-19 has and is likely to continue to affect the manufacturing and shipment of goods globally. Many countries have imposed or are imposing certain restrictions on the movement of people and goods and may continue to lift and reimpose such restrictions as needed. Any delay in production or delivery of the components and drug substances used in our product candidates due to an extended closure of our suppliers’ plants as a result of efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 could adversely impact our business and hinder our growth.

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Write-offs related to the impairment of our goodwill, long-lived assets, inventories and other non-cash charges, as well as stock-based compensation expenses may adversely impact or delay our profitability

We may incur significant non-cash charges related to impairment write-downs of our long-lived assets, including goodwill. We are required to perform periodic impairment reviews of our goodwill at least annually. The carrying value of goodwill on our balance sheet was $6.2 million at December 31, 2020. To the extent these reviews conclude that the expected future cash flows generated from our business activities are not sufficient to recover the cost of our long-lived assets, we will be required to measure and record an impairment charge to write-down these assets to their realizable values. We completed our last review during the fourth quarter of 2020 and determined that goodwill was not impaired as of December 31, 2020. However, there can be no assurance that upon completion of subsequent reviews a material impairment charge will not be recorded. If future periodic reviews determine that our assets are impaired and a write-down is required, it will adversely impact or delay our profitability.

Inventories, in part, include certain excipients that are sold to customers and included in product candidates in development. These inventories are capitalized based on management’s judgment of probable sale prior to their expiration date which in turn is primarily based on management’s internal estimates. The valuation of inventory requires us to estimate the value of inventory that may become expired prior to use. We may be required to expense previously capitalized inventory costs upon a change in our judgment, due to, among other potential factors, a denial or delay of approval of a product by the necessary regulatory bodies, changes in product development timelines, or other information that suggests that the inventory will not be saleable.  

Global credit and financial market conditions could negatively impact the value of our current portfolio of cash equivalents, short-term investments or long-term investments and our ability to meet our financing objectives

Our cash and cash equivalents are maintained in highly liquid investments with remaining maturities of 90 days or less at the time of purchase. Our short-term investments consist primarily of readily marketable debt securities with original maturities of greater than 90 days from the date of purchase but remaining maturities of less than one year from the balance sheet date. Our long-term investments consist primarily of readily marketable debt securities with maturities in one year or beyond from the balance sheet date. While, as of the date of this filing, we are not aware of any downgrades, material losses, or other significant deterioration in the fair value of our cash equivalents, short-term investments or long-term investments since December 31, 2020, no assurance can be given that deterioration in conditions of the global credit and financial markets would not negatively impact our current portfolio of cash equivalents, short-term investments or long-term investments or our ability to meet our financing objectives.

We depend upon key personnel who may terminate their employment with us at any time, and we may need to hire additional qualified personnel

Our success will depend to a significant degree upon the continued services of key management, technical and scientific personnel. In addition, our success will depend on our ability to attract and retain other highly skilled personnel, particularly as we develop and expand our Epigenetic Regulator Program. Competition for qualified personnel is intense, and the process of hiring and integrating such qualified personnel is often lengthy. We may be unable to recruit such personnel on a timely basis, if at all. Our management and other employees may voluntarily terminate their employment with us at any time. The loss of the services of key personnel, or the inability to attract and retain additional qualified personnel, could result in delays to product development or approval, loss of sales and diversion of management resources as well as difficulties or inability to raise sufficient capital to fund the Company’s operations.

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Our business involves environmental risks and risks related to handling regulated substances

In connection with our research and development activities and our manufacture of materials and product candidates, we are subject to federal, state and local laws, rules, regulations and policies governing the use, generation, manufacture, storage, air emission, effluent discharge, handling and disposal of certain materials, biological specimens and wastes. Although we believe that we have complied with the applicable laws, regulations and policies in all material respects and have not been required to correct any material noncompliance, we may be required to incur significant costs to comply with environmental and health and safety regulations in the future. Our research and development involves the use, generation and disposal of hazardous materials, including but not limited to certain hazardous chemicals, solvents, agents and biohazardous materials. The extent of our use, generation and disposal of such substances has increased substantially when we started manufacturing and selling biodegradable polymers. Although we believe that our safety procedures for storing, handling and disposing of such materials comply with the standards prescribed by state and federal regulations, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials. We currently contract with third parties to dispose of these substances generated by us, and we rely on these third parties to properly dispose of these substances in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. If these third parties do not properly dispose of these substances in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, we may be subject to legal action by governmental agencies or private parties for improper disposal of these substances. The costs of defending such actions and the potential liability resulting from such actions are often very large. In the event we are subject to such legal action or we otherwise fail to comply with applicable laws and regulations governing the use, generation and disposal of hazardous materials and chemicals, we could be held liable for any damages that result, and any such liability could exceed our resources.

Cyber-attacks or other failures in telecommunications or information technology systems could result in information theft, data corruption and significant disruption of our business operations

We utilize information technology, systems and networks to process, transmit and store electronic information in connection with our business activities. As use of digital technologies has increased, cyber incidents, including deliberate attacks and attempts to gain unauthorized access to computer systems and networks, have increased in frequency and sophistication. These threats pose a risk to the security of our systems and networks and the confidentiality, availability and integrity of our data, and may cause a disruption in our operations, harm our reputation, cause us to pay to retrieve our data if it becomes infected or otherwise subject to ransomware and increase our stock trading risk. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in preventing cyber-attacks or successfully mitigating their effects. Similarly, there can be no assurance that our third-party collaborators, distributors and other contractors and consultants will be successful in protecting our clinical and other data that is stored on their systems. Any cyber-attack or destruction or loss of data could have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects. In addition, we may suffer reputational harm or face litigation or adverse regulatory action as a result of cyber-attacks or other data security breaches and may incur significant additional expense to implement further data protection measures.

Our corporate headquarters, certain manufacturing facilities and personnel are located in a geographical area that is seismically active and near wildfire zones

Our corporate headquarters, certain manufacturing facilities and personnel are located in a geographical area that is known to be seismically active and prone to earthquakes, as well as wildfires and related power outages or power shortages. Should such a natural disaster occur or power outage or power shortage, our ability to conduct our business could be severely restricted, and our business and assets, including the results of our research, development and manufacturing efforts, could be harmed or destroyed.

 

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As a non-accelerated filer, we are not required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and, consequently, some investors may find our common stock less attractive

We are a non-accelerated filer as defined by Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act, and as such, are not required to provide an auditor attestation of management’s assessment of internal control over financial reporting, which is generally required for SEC reporting companies under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Therefore, our internal controls over financial reporting will not receive the level of review provided by the process relating to the auditor attestation included in annual reports of issuers that are subject to the auditor attestation requirements. Because we are not required to have our auditors provide an attestation of our management’s assessment of internal control over financial reporting, a material weakness in internal control may remain undetected for a longer period. In addition, we cannot predict if investors will find our common stock less attractive because we are not required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and the trading price for our common stock may be negatively affected.

 

Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property

If we are unable to adequately protect, maintain or enforce our intellectual property rights or secure rights to third-party patents, we may lose valuable assets, experience reduced market share or incur costly litigation to protect our rights or our third-party collaborators may choose to terminate their agreements with us

Our ability to commercially exploit our products will depend significantly on our ability to obtain and maintain patents, maintain trade secret protection and operate without infringing the proprietary rights of others.

As of March 1, 2021, we owned or exclusively in-licensed over 35 unexpired issued U.S. patents and over 145 unexpired issued foreign patents (which include granted European patent rights that have been validated in various EU member states). In addition, we have over 55 pending U.S. patent applications and over 145 foreign applications pending in Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada and other countries.

There can be no assurance that the pending patent applications will be granted. Further, there can be no assurance that VCU will not attempt to terminate their license to us, which termination could result in the loss of our rights to these patent families

The patent positions of pharmaceutical companies, including ours, are uncertain and involve complex legal and factual questions. In addition, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued. Consequently, our patent applications or those that are licensed to us may not issue into patents, and any issued patents may not provide protection against competitive technologies or may be held invalid if challenged. Our competitors may also independently develop products similar to ours or design around or otherwise circumvent patents issued to us or licensed by us. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries may not protect our proprietary rights to the same extent as U.S. law.

We also rely upon trade secrets, technical know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. We require our employees, consultants, advisors and collaborators to execute appropriate confidentiality and assignment-of-inventions agreements with us. These agreements typically provide that all materials and confidential information developed or made known to the individual during the course of the individual’s relationship with us is to be kept confidential and not disclosed to third parties except in specific circumstances, and that all inventions arising out of the individual’s relationship with us will be our exclusive property. These agreements may be breached, and in some instances, we may not have an appropriate remedy available for breach of the agreements. Furthermore, our competitors may independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques, reverse engineer our information and techniques, or otherwise gain access to our proprietary technology.

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We may be unable to meaningfully protect our rights in trade secrets, technical know-how and other non-patented technology. We may have to resort to litigation or arbitration to protect our intellectual property rights, or to determine their scope, validity or enforceability. In addition, interference, derivation, post-grant oppositions, and similar proceedings may be necessary to determine rights to inventions in our patents and patent applications. Enforcing or defending our proprietary rights is expensive, could cause diversion of our resources and may be unsuccessful. Any failure to enforce or protect our rights could cause us to lose the ability to exclude others from using our technology to develop or sell competing products.

Our collaboration agreements may depend on our intellectual property

We are party to collaborative agreements with Orient Pharma and Santen among others. Our third-party collaborators have entered into these agreements based on the exclusivity that our intellectual property rights confer on the products being developed. The loss or diminution of our intellectual property rights could result in a decision by our third-party collaborators to terminate their agreements with us. In addition, these agreements are generally complex and contain provisions that could give rise to legal disputes, including potential disputes concerning ownership of intellectual property and data under collaborations. Such disputes can lead to lengthy, expensive litigation or arbitration requiring us to devote management time and resources to such dispute which we would otherwise spend on our business.

We may be sued by third parties claiming that our product candidates infringe on their intellectual property rights, particularly because there is substantial uncertainty about the validity and breadth of medical patents

We or our collaborators may be exposed to future litigation by third parties based on claims that our product candidates or activities infringe the intellectual property rights of others or that we or our collaborators have misappropriated the trade secrets of others. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that the validity and breadth of claims covered in medical technology, pharmaceutical and biotechnology patents and the breadth and scope of trade secret protection involve complex legal and factual questions for which important legal principles are unresolved. Any litigation or claims against us or our collaborators, whether or not valid, could result in substantial costs, could place a significant strain on our financial resources and could harm our reputation. We also may not have sufficient funds to litigate against parties with substantially greater resources. In addition, pursuant to our collaborative agreements, we have provided our collaborators with the right, under specified circumstances, to defend against any claims of infringement of the third-party intellectual property rights, and such collaborators may not defend against such claims adequately or in the manner that we would do ourselves. Intellectual property litigation or claims could force us or our collaborators to do one or more of the following, any of which could harm our business or financial results:

 

cease selling, incorporating or using any of our product candidates that incorporate the challenged intellectual property, which would adversely affect our revenue;

 

obtain a license from the holder of the infringed intellectual property right, which license may be costly or may not be available on reasonable terms, if at all; or

 

redesign our product candidates, which would be costly and time-consuming.

Risks Related To Our Industry

The markets for our pharmaceutical product candidates and for our ALZET product line are rapidly changing and competitive, and new products or technologies developed by others could impair our ability to maintain or grow our business and remain competitive

The pharmaceutical industry is subject to rapid and substantial technological change. Developments by others may render our product candidates under development or technologies noncompetitive or obsolete, or we may be unable to keep pace with technological developments or other market factors. Technological competition in the industry from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, universities, governmental entities and others diversifying into the field is intense and is expected to increase.

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We may face competition from other companies in numerous industries including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices and drug delivery. Competition for DUR-928, if approved, will depend on the specific indications for which DUR-928 is approved. 89Bio, AbbVie, Afimmune, Akero Therapeutics, Ascletis, AstraZeneca, BMS, Cirius Therapeutics, CytoDyn, Dr. Falk Pharma, Eli Lilly, Enanta, ENYO Pharma, Galectin, Galmed, Genentech, Genfit, Gilead, Hanmi, HighTide Biopharma, Intercept, Inventiva Pharma, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Isotechnika, Kowa, LifeMax, Lipidio, Lipocine, Madrigal, MediciNova, MedImmune, Mitsubishi Tanabe, NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Nimbus, NorthSea Therapeutics, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, PharmaKing, Poxel, Promethera Biosciences, Seal Rock Therapeutics, Terns Pharmaceutical, Thera Technologies, Viking, and others have development plans for products to treat NAFLD/NASH, AH or other liver diseases.

POSIMIR, if commercially launched, will compete with currently marketed oral opioids, transdermal opioids, local anesthetic patches, implantable and external infusion pumps which can be used for infusion of opioids and local anesthetics. Products of these types are marketed by Pacira, Purdue Pharma, AbbVie, Janssen, Actavis, Medtronic, Endo, AstraZeneca, Pernix Therapeutics, Tricumed, Halyard Health, Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, Acorda Therapeutics, Mallinckrodt, Inspirion Delivery Technologies, Mylan, Shire, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Novartis, Zyla Life Sciences, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Collegium Pharmaceutical and others. Additional competition for POSIMIR may come from Heron Therapeutics if their product candidate, HTX-011, is approved or from Innocoll if their recently approved product candidate, XARACOLL® is commercially launched. PERSERIS competes with currently marketed or approved products by Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Otsuka, Alkermes, Merck, Allergan, Novartis, and others.  Orient Pharma’s Methydur competes with multiple ADHD products in Taiwan.

Numerous companies are applying significant resources and expertise to the problems of drug delivery and several of these are focusing or may focus on delivery of drugs to the intended site of action, including Pacira, Heron Therapeutics, Alkermes, Immune Pharmaceuticals, Innocoll, Nektar, Acorda Therapeutics, Flamel, Alexza, Mallinckrodt, Pfizer, Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, Zyla Life Sciences, Acura, Elite Pharmaceuticals, Phosphagenics, Intellipharmaceutics, Collegium Pharmaceutical, Charleston Laboratories, Daiichi Sankyo and others. Some of these competitors may be addressing the same therapeutic areas or indications as we are. Our current and potential competitors may succeed in obtaining patent protection or commercializing products before us. Many of these entities have significantly greater research and development capabilities than we do, as well as substantially more marketing, manufacturing, financial and managerial resources. These entities represent significant competition for us. Acquisitions of, or investments in, competing pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies by large corporations could increase such competitors’ financial, marketing, manufacturing and other resources.

Competition for our ALZET product line primarily consists of customers choosing to utilize delivery methods for their research projects other than an osmotic pump. We may also face competition for our ALZET product line from other companies including low cost foreign competitors.

We are engaged in the development of novel therapeutic technologies. Our resources are limited and we may experience technical challenges inherent in such novel technologies. Competitors have developed or are in the process of developing technologies that are, or in the future may be, the basis for competitive products. Some of these products may have an entirely different approach or means of accomplishing similar therapeutic effects than our product candidates. Our competitors may develop products that are safer, more effective or less costly than our product candidates and, therefore, present a serious competitive threat to our product offerings.

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The widespread acceptance of therapies that are alternatives to ours may limit market acceptance of our product candidates even if commercialized. Post-operative pain is currently being treated by oral medication, transdermal drug delivery systems, such as drug patches, injectable products and implantable drug delivery devices which will be competitive with our product candidates. Many of these treatments are widely accepted in the medical community and have a long history of use. The established use of these competitive products may limit the potential for our product candidates to receive widespread acceptance if commercialized.

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

Healthcare providers, physicians and third-party payers will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of POSIMIR and any additional product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. Our future arrangements with third-party payers and customers may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we may market, sell and distribute our products. As a pharmaceutical company, even though we do not and may not control referrals of healthcare services or bill directly to Medicare, Medicaid or other third-party payers, federal and state healthcare laws and regulations pertaining to fraud and abuse and patients’ rights are and will be applicable to our business. These regulations include:

 

the Federal Healthcare Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons from knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, receiving or providing remuneration, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward, or in return for, either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, order or recommendation of, any good or service, for which payment may be made under a federal healthcare program such as Medicare and Medicaid, and which will constrain our marketing practices and the marketing practices of our licensees, educational programs, pricing policies, and relationships with healthcare providers or other entities;

 

the federal physician self-referral prohibition, commonly known as the Stark Law, which prohibits physicians from referring Medicare or Medicaid patients to providers of “designated health services” with whom the physician or a member of the physician’s immediate family has an ownership interest or compensation arrangement, unless a statutory or regulatory exception applies;

 

federal false claims laws that prohibit, among other things, individuals or entities from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, claims for payment from Medicare, Medicaid, or other government reimbursement programs that are false or fraudulent, and which may expose entities that provide coding and billing advice to customers to potential criminal and civil penalties, including through civil whistleblower or qui tam actions, and including as a result of claims presented in violation of the Federal Healthcare Anti-Kickback Statute, the Stark Law or other healthcare-related laws, including laws enforced by the FDA;

 

the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which imposes criminal and civil liability for executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program and also created federal criminal laws that prohibit knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false statements in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services, and which as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, also imposes obligations, including mandatory contractual terms, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information;

 

federal physician sunshine requirements under the Affordable Care Act, which requires manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies to report annually to HHS

49


 

information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians, other healthcare providers, and teaching hospitals, and ownership and investment interests held by physicians and other healthcare providers and their immediate family members and applicable group purchasing organizations;

 

the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which, among other things, strictly regulates drug product marketing, prohibits manufacturers from marketing drug products for off-label use and regulates the distribution of drug samples; and

 

state and foreign law equivalents of each of the above federal laws, such as anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by non- governmental third-party payers, including private insurers, state laws requiring pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government and which may require drug manufacturers to report information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians and other healthcare providers or marketing expenditures, and state and foreign laws governing the privacy and security of health information in specified circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by federal laws such as 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. 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, imprisonment, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. If any physicians or other healthcare providers or entities with whom we expect to do business are found to not be in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs.

Healthcare reform measures could hinder or prevent our product candidates’ commercial success

In the United States and some non-U.S. jurisdictions, there have been, and we expect there will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes to the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of our product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities, affect our ability to profitably sell any product candidates for which we obtain marketing and otherwise affect our future revenue and profitability and the future revenue and profitability of our collaborators or potential collaborators.

For example, in March 2010, the Affordable Care Act was enacted in the United States to broaden access to health insurance, reduce or constrain the growth of healthcare spending, enhance remedies against fraud and abuse, add new transparency requirements for healthcare and health insurance industries, impose new taxes and fees on the health industry and impose additional health policy reforms. The law appears likely to continue the downward pressure on the pricing of medical items and services, especially under the Medicare program, and increased the industry’s regulatory burdens and operating costs.

50


The previous U.S. presidential administration signed two Executive Orders designed to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act or otherwise circumvent some of the requirements for health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Concurrently, Congress has considered legislation that would repeal or repeal and replace all or part of the Affordable Care Act. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, two bills affecting the implementation of certain taxes under the Affordable Care Act have been signed into law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 includes a provision repealing, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the Affordable Care Act 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.” As legislative and regulatory developments are ongoing, we cannot predict the ultimate content, timing or effect of healthcare reform legislation or the impact of potential legislation on our business.

In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. These changes include reductions to Medicare payments to providers of up to 2% per fiscal year that will remain in effect through 2027; the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several types of providers and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. More recently, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries and proposed bills 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 pharmaceutical products.  For example, the marketing, pricing and sale of the Company’s products are subject to regulation, investigations and legal actions including under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program under the Affordable Care Act, which has increased the statutory minimum rebates a manufacturer must pay under the program as well as a new methodology by which rebates are owed for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected.  We are also subject to federal and state false claims acts, as well as federal and state antitrust and consumer protection laws. Increased scrutiny of health care industry business practices in recent years by government agencies and state attorneys general in the U.S., and any resulting investigations and prosecutions, carry risk of significant civil and criminal penalties including, but not limited to, debarment from participation in such government healthcare programs.

Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly aggressive in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product and medical device 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. For example, in October 2017, California passed a new law, effective in January 2019, which requires transparency from biopharmaceutical companies regarding price increases for prescription drugs. In addition, regional healthcare authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and medical devices to purchase and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other healthcare programs.

We expect that the Affordable Care Act, as well as other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria, new payment methodologies and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved or cleared product. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, our products and product candidates may lose any regulatory approval that may have been obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability, or be able to enter attractive collaboration agreements, which would adversely affect our business.

We could be exposed to significant product liability claims which could be time consuming and costly to defend, divert management attention and adversely impact our ability to obtain and maintain insurance coverage

The testing, clinical development, manufacture, marketing and sale of our product candidates involve an inherent risk that product liability claims will be asserted against us. Although we are insured against such risks up to an annual aggregate limit in connection with clinical trials and commercial sales of our product candidates, our present product liability insurance may be inadequate and may not fully cover the costs of any claim or any ultimate damages we might be required to pay. Product liability

51


claims or other claims related to our product candidates, regardless of their outcome, could require us to spend significant time and money in litigation or to pay significant damages. Any successful product liability claim may prevent us from obtaining adequate product liability insurance in the future on commercially desirable or reasonable terms. In addition, product liability coverage may cease to be available in sufficient amounts or at an acceptable cost. An inability to obtain sufficient insurance coverage at an acceptable cost or otherwise to protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the commercialization of our product candidates. A product liability claim could also significantly harm our reputation and delay market acceptance of our product candidates.

Acceptance of our pharmaceutical product candidates in the marketplace is uncertain, and failure to achieve market acceptance will delay our ability to generate or grow revenues

Our future financial performance will depend upon the successful introduction and customer acceptance of our product candidates in research and development, including DUR-928, and our FDA approved product, POSIMIR, if commercially launched, and including Indivior’s PERSERIS and Orient Pharma’s Methydur. Even if approved for marketing, these products and product candidates may not achieve market acceptance. The degree of market acceptance will depend upon a number of factors, including:

 

the receipt of regulatory clearance of marketing claims for the uses that we are developing;

 

the approved product labeling;

 

pricing, reimbursement and formulary access;

 

the establishment and demonstration in the medical community of the safety and clinical efficacy of our products and their potential advantages over existing therapies; and

 

pricing and reimbursement policies of government and third-party payors such as insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, hospital formularies and other health plan administrators.

Physicians, patients, payers or the medical community in general may be unwilling to accept, utilize or recommend any of our products. If we are unable to obtain regulatory approval, commercialize and market our current and future products when planned and achieve market acceptance, we will not achieve meaningful revenues.

If users of our products are unable to obtain adequate reimbursement from third-party payers, or if new restrictive legislation is adopted, market acceptance of our products may be limited and we may not achieve meaningful revenues

The continuing efforts of government and insurance companies, health maintenance organizations and other payers of healthcare costs to contain or reduce costs of health care may affect our future revenues and profitability, and the future revenues and profitability of our potential customers, suppliers and third-party collaborators and the availability of capital. For example, in certain foreign markets, pricing or profitability of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to government control. In the United States, recent federal and state government initiatives have been directed at lowering the total cost of health care, and the U.S. Congress and state legislatures will likely continue to focus on health care reform, the cost of prescription pharmaceuticals and on the reform of the Medicare and Medicaid systems. While we cannot predict whether any such legislative or regulatory proposals will be adopted, the announcement or adoption of such proposals could materially harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The successful commercialization of our product candidates will depend in part on the extent to which appropriate reimbursement levels for the cost of our product candidates and related treatment are obtained from governmental authorities, private health insurers and other organizations, such as HMOs. Third-party payers often limit payments or reimbursement for medical products and services. Also, the trend toward managed health care in the United States and the concurrent growth of organizations such as HMOs, which could control or significantly influence the purchase of health care services and products, as well as legislative proposals to reform health care or reduce government insurance programs, may limit reimbursement or payment for our products. The cost containment measures that health care payers and providers are instituting and the effect of any health care reform could materially harm our ability to operate profitably and access capital.

52


If we or our third-party collaborators are unable to train physicians to use our pharmaceutical product candidates to treat patients’ diseases or medical conditions, we may incur delays in market acceptance of our products

Broad use of certain of our product candidates, such as POSIMIR, will require extensive training of numerous physicians on their proper and safe use. The time required to begin and complete training of physicians could delay introduction of our products and adversely affect market acceptance of our products. We or third parties selling our product candidates may be unable to rapidly train physicians in numbers sufficient to generate adequate demand for our product candidates. Any delay in training would materially delay the demand for our product candidates and harm our business and financial results. In addition, we may expend significant funds towards such training before any orders are placed for our products, which would increase our expenses and harm our financial results.

Potential new accounting pronouncements and legislative actions are likely to impact our future financial position or results of operations

Future changes in financial accounting standards may cause adverse, unexpected fluctuations in the timing of the recognition of revenues or expenses and may affect our financial position or results of operations. New pronouncements and varying interpretations of pronouncements have occurred with frequency and may occur in the future and we may make changes in our accounting policies in the future. Compliance with changing regulation of corporate governance and public disclosure may result in additional expenses. Changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, new SEC regulations, PCAOB pronouncements and NASDAQ rules, are creating uncertainty for companies such as ours and insurance, accounting and auditing costs are high as a result of this uncertainty and other factors. Compliance with evolving corporate governance and public disclosure standards may result in increased general and administrative expenses and a diversion of management time and attention from value-creating activities to compliance activities.

Risks related to actions on trade by the U.S. and foreign governments could adversely affect the Company's results of operations and financial condition

The U.S. government under the previous administration indicated its intent to adopt a new approach to trade policy and in some cases to renegotiate, or potentially terminate, certain existing bilateral or multilateral trade agreements.   It also initiated the imposition of tariffs on certain foreign products. Changes in U.S. trade policy have resulted in, and could continue to result in, one or more U.S. trading partners adopting responsive trade policy making it more difficult or costly for us to export our products to those countries. These measures could also result in increased costs for goods imported into the United States. This in turn could require us to increase prices to our customers which may reduce demand, or, if we are unable to increase prices, result in lowering our margin on products sold.

There is also a concern that the imposition of additional tariffs by the United States could result in the adoption of tariffs by other countries. A potential resulting trade war could have a significant adverse effect on world trade and the world economy.  We cannot predict future trade policy or the terms of any renegotiated trade agreements and their impact on our business. The adoption and expansion of trade restrictions, the occurrence of a trade war, or other governmental action related to tariffs or trade agreements or policies has the potential to adversely impact demand for our products, our costs, our customers, our suppliers, and the U.S. economy, which in turn could adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Risks Related To Our Common Stock

Our operating history makes evaluating our stock difficult

Our quarterly and annual results of operations have historically fluctuated and we expect will continue to fluctuate for the foreseeable future. We believe that period-to-period comparisons of our operating results should not be relied upon as predictive of future performance. Our prospects must be considered in light of the risks, expenses and difficulties encountered by companies with a limited number of approved pharmaceutical products, particularly companies in new and rapidly evolving markets such as

53


pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. To address these risks, we must, among other things, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize our product candidates, which may not occur. We may not be successful in addressing these risks and difficulties. We may require additional funds to complete the development of our product candidates and to fund operating losses to be incurred in the next several years.

Investors may experience substantial dilution of their investment

In order to raise capital and for other purposes, we may in the future offer and issue additional shares of our common stock or other securities convertible into or exchangeable for our common stock, and the price per share at which we sell additional shares of our common stock or other securities convertible into or exchangeable for our common stock in future transactions may be higher or lower than the price per share at which investors in our common stock bought their shares. In August 2018, we filed a shelf registration statement on Form S-3 with the SEC that allows us to offer up to $175 million of securities from time to time in one or more public offerings, inclusive of up to $75.0 million of additional shares of common stock which the Company may sell, subject to certain limitations, under the 2015 Sales Agreement through Cantor Fitzgerald, acting as agent. Through several financings between 2019 and March 1, 2021, and through our 2015 Sales Agreement with Cantor Fitzgerald during this period, we have raised an aggregate of $79.4 million, so that we may sell an additional $95.6 million under our existing shelf registration statement. We may also file a new shelf registration statement on Form S-3 for the potential sale of additional securities.  Any additional sales in the public market of our common stock, under our 2015 Sales Agreement with Cantor Fitzgerald, in other offerings under the shelf registration statement or otherwise, could adversely affect prevailing market prices for our common stock. In addition, as of December 31, 2020, 27,274,439 shares of our common stock were issuable upon exercise of stock options outstanding under our stock option plans at a weighted average exercise price of $1.45 per share, 7,599,531 additional shares of common stock were reserved for potential future issuance under our stock option plan, and an aggregate of 497,270 shares of common stock were reserved for potential future issuance under our 2000 Employee Stock Purchase Plan. Investors will incur dilution from the sale of any additional shares or upon the issuance of any shares pursuant to such plans, or upon exercise of any outstanding options.

Our stock price has in the past and may in the future not meet the minimum bid price for continued listing on Nasdaq. Our ability to continue operations or to publicly or privately sell equity securities and the liquidity of our common stock could be adversely affected if we are delisted from Nasdaq

In several instances in the past, including as recently as December 2018, we received written notification from Nasdaq informing us that because the closing bid price of our common stock was below $1.00 for 30 consecutive trading days, our shares no longer complied with the minimum closing bid price requirement for continued listing on Nasdaq under Nasdaq Marketplace Rules. Each time, we were given a period of 180 days from the date of the notification and in one case an extra 180-day period to regain compliance with Nasdaq’s listing requirements by having the closing bid price of our common stock listed on Nasdaq be at least $1.00 for at least 10 consecutive trading days.

While we have regained compliance within the applicable time periods in the past, if our shares again no longer comply with the minimum closing bid price requirement for continued listing on the Nasdaq Capital Market under Nasdaq Marketplace Rule 5550(a)(2) and we do not regain compliance within the applicable 180-day time period, Nasdaq will notify us that our securities will be subject to delisting. One strategy to regain compliance in such circumstances would be to implement a reverse stock split. The Company may appeal Nasdaq’s determination to delist its securities to a Hearings Panel. During any appeal process, shares of our common stock would continue to trade on the Nasdaq Capital Market.

There can be no assurance that we will maintain compliance with the requirements for listing our common stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market. Delisting from Nasdaq would constitute an event of default under our loan facility with Oxford, entitling Oxford to accelerate our obligations under such facility, among other actions. Under such circumstances, we could be required to renegotiate the repayment terms of our loan facility, on terms which would not be as favorable to the Company as our current terms, or we could be required to take other actions, such as discontinuing some or all of our operations, selling assets, or other action. Delisting could also adversely affect our ability to raise additional financing through the

54


public or private sale of equity securities, would significantly affect the ability of investors to trade our securities and would negatively affect the value and liquidity of our common stock. Delisting could also have other negative results, including the potential loss of confidence by employees, the loss of institutional investor interest and fewer business development opportunities.

Our ability to use net operating losses and certain other tax attributes is uncertain and may be limited

Our ability to use our federal and state net operating losses to offset potential future taxable income and related income taxes that would otherwise be due is dependent upon our generation of future taxable income before the expiration dates of the net operating losses, and we cannot predict with certainty when, or whether, we will generate sufficient taxable income to use all of our net operating losses. In addition, utilization of net operating losses to offset potential future taxable income and related income taxes that would otherwise be due is subject to annual limitations under the “ownership change” provisions of Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (Internal Revenue Code) and similar state provisions, which may result in the expiration of net operating losses before future utilization. In general, under the Code, if a corporation undergoes an “ownership change,” generally defined as a greater than 50% change (by value) in its equity ownership over a three-year period, the corporation’s ability to use its pre-change net operating losses and other pre-change tax attributes (such as research and development credit carryforwards) to offset its post-change taxable income or taxes may be limited. Our equity offerings and other changes in our stock ownership, some of which are outside of our control, may have resulted or could in the future result in an ownership change. If an ownership change limitation were to apply, utilization of our domestic net operating losses and tax credit carryforwards could be limited in future periods and a portion of the carryforwards could expire before being available to reduce future income tax liabilities.

The price of our common stock may be volatile

The stock markets in general, and the markets for pharmaceutical stocks in particular, have experienced extreme volatility that has often been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. These broad market fluctuations may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.

Price declines in our common stock could result from general market and economic conditions and a variety of other factors, including:

 

adverse results (including adverse events or failure to demonstrate safety or efficacy) or delays in our clinical and non-clinical trials of DUR-928 or other product candidates;

 

announcements of FDA non-approval of our product candidates, approvals with commercially limiting labels, or delays in the FDA or other foreign regulatory agency review process;

 

adverse actions taken by regulatory agencies or law enforcement agencies with respect to our product candidates, clinical trials, manufacturing processes, accounting practices or sales and marketing activities, or those of our third-party collaborators;

 

announcements of technological innovations, patents, product approvals or new products by our competitors;

 

failure of third-party collaborators to continue development or commercialization of the respective product candidates they are developing or commercializing;

 

regulatory, judicial and patent developments in the United States and foreign countries;

 

any lawsuit or arbitration involving us or our product candidates including intellectual property infringement or product liability suits;

 

announcements concerning our competitors, or the biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries in general;

55


 

developments concerning our strategic alliances or acquisitions or termination of such alliances;

 

actual or anticipated variations in our operating results;

 

changes in recommendations by securities analysts, misstatements or mischaracterizations in analyst reports or dropping or lack of analyst coverage;

 

negative press coverage or online misinformation about the Company or its partners or their respective products or personnel;

 

deviations in our operating results from the estimates of analysts;

 

sales of our common stock by our executive officers or directors or sales of substantial amounts of common stock by us or others;

 

potential failure to meet continuing listing standards from The Nasdaq Capital Market;

 

loss or disruption of facilities due to natural disasters;

 

acceleration of our debt obligations due to a determination by our lender that a material adverse change has occurred;

 

changes in accounting principles; or

 

loss of any of our key scientific or management personnel.

The market price of our common stock may fluctuate significantly in response to factors which are beyond our control. The stock market in general has recently experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations. For example, the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, oil price volatility and other factors have caused broad stock market and industry fluctuations. In addition, the market prices of securities of technology and pharmaceutical companies have also been extremely volatile, and have experienced fluctuations that often have been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of these companies. These broad market fluctuations could result in extreme fluctuations in the price of our common stock, which could cause a decline in the value of our common stock.

In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a particular company’s securities, litigation has often been brought against that company. If litigation of this type is brought against us, it could be extremely expensive, particularly if we were to lose the lawsuit and have to pay damages, and divert management’s attention and our company’s resources.

We have broad discretion over the use of our cash and investments, and their investment may not always yield a favorable return

Our management has broad discretion over how our cash and investments are used and may from time to time invest in ways with which our stockholders may not agree and that do not yield favorable returns.

Our certificate of incorporation, our bylaws and Delaware law contain provisions that could discourage another company from acquiring us

Provisions of Delaware law, our certificate of incorporation and bylaws may discourage, delay or prevent a merger or acquisition that stockholders may consider favorable, including transactions in which you might otherwise receive a premium for your shares. These provisions include:

 

authorizing the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock without any need for action by stockholders;

 

providing for a classified board of directors with staggered terms;

 

requiring supermajority stockholder voting to effect certain amendments to our certificate of incorporation and bylaws;

 

eliminating the ability of stockholders to call special meetings of stockholders;

56


 

 

prohibiting stockholder action by written consent; and

 

establishing advance notice requirements for nominations for election to the board of directors or for proposing matters that can be acted on by stockholders at stockholder meetings.

Our bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees

Our bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the exclusive forum for any derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf of the Company, any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any director, officer or other employee of the Company, any action asserting a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the General Corporation Law of Delaware or our Certificate of Incorporation or bylaws or any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine. The choice of forum provision may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other employees, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and other employees.

Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provision contained in our certificate of incorporation to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

 

 

57


 

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments.

None.

 

 

Item 2.

Properties.

The following chart indicates the facilities that we lease, the location and size of each such facility and their designated use.

 

Location

 

Approximate

Square Feet

 

Operation

 

Expiration

Cupertino, CA

 

30,149 sq. ft.

 

Office, Laboratory and Manufacturing

 

Lease expires 2024 (with an option to renew for an additional five years)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cupertino, CA

 

20,100 sq. ft.

 

Office and Laboratory

 

Lease expires 2024 (with an option to renew for an additional five years)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacaville, CA

 

24,634 sq. ft.

 

Manufacturing

 

Lease expires 2023 (with an option to renew for an additional five years)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We believe that our existing facilities are adequate to meet our current and foreseeable requirements or that suitable additional or substitute space will be available as needed.

 

 

Item 3.

We are not a party to any material legal proceedings.

 

 

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures.

Not applicable.

 

 

58


 

PART II

Item 5.

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

Our common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Capital Market under the symbol “DRRX”.

 

As of March 1, 2021, there were approximately 101 holders of record of the common stock. This does not include the number of persons whose stock is in nominee or “street name” accounts through brokers.

Dividend Policy

We have never paid cash dividends on our common stock. We currently intend to retain any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. Therefore, we do not currently anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future.

STOCK PERFORMANCE GRAPH

The following graph compares the cumulative total stockholder return data for our stock with the cumulative return of (i) The NASDAQ Stock Market (U.S.) Index and (ii) the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index since December 31, 2015. The graph assumes that $100 was invested on December 31, 2015. The stock price performance on the following graph is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.

 

 

 

*

$100 Invested on 12/31/15 in stock or index—including reinvestment of dividends. Fiscal year ending December 31.

59


DURECT CORPORATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/31/15

 

 

12/31/16

 

 

12/31/17

 

 

12/31/18

 

 

12/31/2019

 

 

12/31/2020

 

DURECT CORPORATION

 

 

100.00

 

 

 

60.63

 

 

 

41.63

 

 

 

21.72

 

 

 

171.95

 

 

 

93.67

 

NASDAQ STOCK MARKET (U.S.)

 

 

100.00

 

 

 

107.50

 

 

 

137.86

 

 

 

132.51

 

 

 

179.19

 

 

 

257.38

 

NASDAQ BIOTECHNOLOGY

 

 

100.00

 

 

 

78.32

 

 

 

94.81

 

 

 

85.97

 

 

 

106.95

 

 

 

134.42

 

 

Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers

None.

 

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data.

 

Information under this item is omitted in compliance with recently adopted rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

60


Item 7.

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

This Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations as of December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018 should be read in conjunction with our Financial Statements, including the Notes thereto, and “Risk Factors” section included elsewhere in this Form 10-K. This Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. When used in this report or elsewhere by management from time to time, the words “believe,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “plan,” “estimate,” “expect,” “potential,” “possibility,” and similar expressions are forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements contained herein are based on current expectations.

Forward-looking statements made in this report include, for example, statements about:

 

the clinical trial plans for DUR-928;

 

potential uses and benefits of DUR-928 to treat alcohol-associated hepatitis (also called alcoholic hepatitis or AH), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), or other conditions, including acute kidney injury (AKI), and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease;

 

the results and timing of clinical trials, the ability to enroll patients in clinical trials in a timely and cost-effective manner;

 

the likelihood of future clinical trial results of DUR-928 being similar to results from previous trials, the possible commencement of future clinical trials, enrollment rates and announcements of the findings of our clinical trials;

 

the potential earn-out payments we may receive from Indivior related to the commercialization of PERSERIS and milestone and royalty payments we may receive from Santen or Orient Pharma;

 

the progress of our third-party collaborations, including estimated milestones;

 

our intention to seek, and ability to enter into and maintain strategic alliances and collaborations, including for the commercialization of POSIMIR;

 

POSIMIR’s commercial prospects, differentiating product attributes, potential for reimbursement and formulary access, the timing of post-marketing commitments and timing of potential commercial launch.

 

the potential benefits and uses of our product candidates and technologies, including POSIMIR and our SABER and ORADUR technologies;

 

responsibilities of our third-party collaborators, including the responsibility to make cost reimbursement, milestone, royalty and other payments to us, and our expectations regarding our collaborators’ plans with respect to our product candidates and continued development of our product candidates;

 

our responsibilities to our third-party collaborators, including our responsibilities to conduct research and development, clinical trials and manufacture products or product candidates;

 

market opportunities for product candidates in our product development pipeline;

 

potential regulatory filings for or approval of DUR-928 or any of our or any third parties’ other product candidates;

 

the progress and results of our research and development programs and our evaluation of additional development programs;

 

requirements for us to purchase supplies and raw materials from third parties, and the ability of third parties to provide us with required supplies and raw materials;

 

conditions for obtaining regulatory approval of our product candidates;

 

submission and timing of applications for regulatory approval and timing of responses to our regulatory submissions;

 

the impact of FDA, EMA and other government regulation on our business;

 

Our ability to obtain, assert and protect patents and other intellectual property rights, including intellectual property licensed to our collaborators, as well as avoiding the intellectual property rights of others;

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products and companies that will compete with the product candidates we develop and/or license to third-party collaborators;

 

the possibility we may commercialize our own products and build up our commercial, sales and marketing capabilities and other required infrastructure;

 

the possibility that we may develop additional manufacturing capabilities;

 

our employees, including the number of employees and the continued services of key management, technical and scientific personnel;

 

our future performance, including our anticipation that we will not derive meaningful revenues from our product candidates in development for at least the next twelve months, potential for future inventory write-offs and our expectations regarding our ability to achieve profitability;

 

sufficiency of our cash resources, anticipated capital requirements and capital expenditures, our ability to comply with covenants of our term loan, and our need or desire for additional financing, including potential sales under our shelf registration statement;

 

our expectations regarding research and development expenses, and selling, general and administrative expenses;

 

the composition of future revenues; and

 

accounting policies and estimates.

Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties. Actual events or results may differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors. For a more detailed discussion of such forward looking statements and the potential risks and uncertainties that may impact upon their accuracy, see the “Risk Factors” section and “Overview” section of this Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. These forward-looking statements reflect our view only as of the date of this report. We undertake no obligations to update any forward-looking statements. You should also carefully consider the factors set forth in other reports or documents that we file from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Overview

We are a biopharmaceutical company advancing novel and potentially lifesaving investigational therapies derived from our Epigenetic Regulator Program.  DUR‑928, a new chemical entity in clinical development for three different indications, is the lead candidate in our Epigenetic Regulator Program.  An endogenous, orally bioavailable small molecule, DUR-928 has been shown in preclinical studies to play an important regulatory role in lipid homeostasis, inflammation, and cell survival.  Alcohol-associated hepatitis (AH) is a life-threatening acute liver condition with no approved therapeutics and a 28-day historical mortality rate of 26%.  After completing a Phase 2a trial where 100% of AH patients treated with DUR-928 survived the 28-day study period, we are now conducting a double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 2b clinical trial called AHFIRM, in which we are evaluating DUR-928’s life saving potential compared to the current standard of care in patients with severe AH. If the AHFIRM trial is successful, it may support an NDA filing and we may decide to develop our own commercial, sales and marketing organization.  DUR-928 is also being investigated in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

In addition to our Epigenetic Regulator Program, we developed a novel and proprietary post-surgical pain product called POSIMIR that utilizes our innovative SABER platform technology to enable continuous sustained delivery of bupivacaine, a non-opioid local analgesic, over 3 days in adults. In February 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved POSIMIR for infiltration use in adults for administration into the subacromial space under direct arthroscopic visualization to produce post-surgical analgesia for up to 72 hours following arthroscopic subacromial decompression. The approval was based on positive data from a randomized, multicenter, assessor-blinded, placebo‑controlled clinical trial in patients undergoing arthroscopic subacromial decompression surgery with an intact rotator cuff. The primary outcome measures were mean pain intensity and total opioid rescue analgesia administered, both evaluated over the first 72 hours after surgery versus placebo. POSIMIR demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in both primary outcome measures: a 1.3 point, or 20%, reduction in mean pain intensity on a 0-10 point pain scale (p=0.01), and a 67% reduction in intravenous morphine-

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equivalent rescue opioid use, from a median of 12 mg in the placebo group to 4 mg in the POSIMIR group (p=0.01).  We are in discussions with potential licensees regarding commercialization rights to POSIMIR, for which we hold worldwide rights. 

As a result of the assignment of certain patent rights, DURECT also receives single digit sales-based earn-out payments from U.S. net sales of Indivior’s PERSERIS (risperidone) drug for schizophrenia, which was launched commercially in the U.S. in February 2019.  In addition, in September 2020, our licensee, Orient Pharma informed us that it had launched Methydur (Methydur) for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Taiwan.  We receive a single digit royalty on sales of Methydur by Orient Pharma.  We also manufacture and sell osmotic pumps used in laboratory research and have several early-stage development programs with corporate collaborators on terms which typically call for our collaborator to fund all or a substantial portion of future development costs and then pay us milestone payments based on specific development or commercial achievements plus royalties on product sales.

Recent Developments

The COVID-19 global pandemic poses a significant life-threatening and economic risk throughout the world. The rapid spread of the disease has resulted in a pandemic with over 100 million of confirmed cases and millions of deaths worldwide. While most cases result in mild symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, some rapidly progress into Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), multi-organ failure, and death.  Many of these patients may experience severe systemic inflammation that leads to acute injuries in multiple organs including the liver and the kidney.

We continue to actively advance all of our research and development programs, we are assessing on an ongoing basis the impact of COVID-19 on our clinical trials, product candidate testing, expected timelines and costs.

COVID-19 has also had a negative impact on our business.  In light of recent developments relating to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the focus of healthcare providers and hospitals has been on the prioritization of healthcare resources toward fighting the virus and clinical site initiations. As a result, patient enrollment and activities that require visits to clinical sites, including data monitoring, have been and may continue to be delayed. We are also evaluating the impact of the COVID-19 on orders for our ALZET product line. In addition, in response to the spread of COVID-19, other than laboratory and manufacturing employees, many of our other employees are working from home, and, in keeping with social distancing requirements, we have limited the number of staff in our facilities. This partial disruption, although expected to be temporary, may impact our operations and overall business by delaying the progress of our research and development programs, including our planned preclinical studies and clinical trials. The impact of COVID-19 is evolving rapidly and its future effects are uncertain. Given the uncertainty of the situation, the duration of the disruption and related financial impact cannot be reasonably estimated at this time. We will continue to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business and expect to reevaluate the timing of our anticipated preclinical and clinical objectives as we learn more and the impact of COVID-19 on our industry becomes clearer.

For additional information on the various risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, please read Item 1A. Risk Factors included in this report.

 

Collaborative Research and Development and Other Revenues

Collaborative research and development and other revenues