Form 10-Q for PROTALEX INC
We are focused on the development of a class of biopharmaceutical drugs for treating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP). Our lead product candidate, PRTX-100, is a highly-purified form of Staphylococcal protein A, which is a bacterial protein known to modify aspects of the human immune system. PRTX-100 has demonstrated effectiveness in animal models of autoimmune diseases and has demonstrated activity on cultured human immune cells at very low concentrations, although the effectiveness of PRTX-100 shown in pre-clinical studies using animal models may not be predictive of the results that we would see in future human clinical trials. The safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics (“PK”) of PTRX-100 in humans have now been characterized in five clinical studies.
In March 2015, the FDA accepted our Investigational New Drug (IND) application for a Phase I/II open-label, dose-escalating study of PRTX-100 in adults with persistent/chronic ITP (the “PRTX-100-202 Study”). In June 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) to PRTX-100 for the treatment of ITP. In July 2015, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) granted approval for a Phase 1b open-label, dose-escalating study of PRTX-100 in adult patients with persistent/chronic ITP (the “PRTX-100-203 Study”). In September 2015, the EMA Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP) issued a positive opinion recommending PRTX-100 for designation as an orphan medicinal product for the treatment of ITP. We expect to enroll our first patient in a PRTX-100 ITP study before year end. We do not anticipate generating operating revenue for the foreseeable future and do not currently have any products that are marketable.
In August 2010, we commenced a multi-center Phase 1b clinical trial of PRTX-100 in South Africa in adult patients with active RA on methotrexate or leflunomide (the “PRTX-100-103 Study”). In January 2012, we completed patient dosing in the PRTX-100-103 Study with a total of 37 patients enrolled in four cohorts ranging from 0.15 micrograms/kg to 1.50 micrograms/kg of PRTX-100 or placebo, administered weekly for four weeks. Measures of safety, PK and disease activity were evaluated over 16 weeks following the first dose. The PRTX-100-103 Study results demonstrated that PRTX-100 was generally safe and well-tolerated in patients with active RA at all tested dose levels.
In November 2012, we commenced enrollment in the United States for a new multicenter Phase 1b randomized, multiple-dose, dose-escalation study (the “PRTX-100-104 Study”) of PRTX-100 in combination with methotrexate or leflunomide in adult patients with active RA. The sequential dose-escalation phase of this study was expected to enroll patients into five cohorts ranging from 1.50 micrograms/kg up to 18.0 micrograms/kg of PRTX-100 or placebo. At each dose, one quarter of patients would receive a placebo treatment. Similar to the PRTX-100-103 Study, the primary objective of the PRTX-100-104 Study was to assess the safety and tolerability of intravenous PRTX-100 administered weekly over five weeks in patients with active RA on methotrexate or leflunomide therapy. The secondary objectives included determining the effects of PRTX-100 on measures of disease activity, assessing the immunogenicity and evaluating the PK parameters after repeated doses, and determining possible relationships between the immunogenicity of PRTX-100 and safety and PK.
In August 2013, upon completion of the fourth cohort, we expanded the 3.0 microgram, 6.0 microgram, and 12.0 micrograms/kg dose cohorts of the PRTX-100-104 Study. An additional nine patients were enrolled in the expansion cohort that was completed in October 2013. In total, the first four dose-escalating cohorts of the PRTX-100-104 Study, which included these three expanded cohorts, enrolled 41 patients with doses ranging from 1.5 micrograms/kg up to 12.0 micrograms/kg.
In November 2013, we initiated enrollment of the fifth and final cohort (Cohort
5) in the PRTX 100-104 Study. The Cohort 5 sub-study enrolled 20 patients who received five weekly fixed-weight doses of PRTX-100 followed by up to four additional monthly maintenance doses of PRTX-100 in weeks 8, 12, 16, and 20. The primary objective of the Cohort 5 sub-study was to assess safety and tolerability of these doses administered on a modified schedule. In total, 11 out of 20 patients in Cohort 5 completed all study visits by August 2014 per protocol.
In the Cohort 5 sub-study, the amount of PRTX-100 administered and its dosing frequency were varied from Cohorts 1 through 4 to explore effects on safety, tolerability and measures of disease activity. The addition of four monthly maintenance doses after the five weekly doses did not increase the rate or type of AEs, even in those patients who developed ADAs nor indicate any apparent correlation between the development of ADAs and effects on measures of RA disease activity. In addition, Cohort 5 patients showed improvement in measures of disease activity, including ACR20 scores, compared to Cohort 1 through 4 patients who did not receive any monthly maintenance doses, suggesting that the addition of monthly maintenance administration of PRTX-100 and weight-based dosing were an important aspect of the dosing protocol and should be considered in future trials of PRTX-100.
A total of 61 patients enrolled across five cohorts in the PRTX 100-104 Study at nine study sites in the United States. For patients in all five cohorts, PRTX-100 appeared safe and well tolerated in all individuals, including those who developed anti-drug antibodies (ADAs), and the Adverse Event (AE) profile was consistent with our prior clinical trial results.
In February 2015, we commenced enrollment, at a single U.S. site, of a Phase I/II open-label, multiple, fixed-dose study (the “PRTX-100-105 Study”) which is open only to PRTX-100-104 Study patients who indicated their desire for additional treatment. The PRTX-100-105 Study is an open-label, single group study with up to 12 former participants from the 104 Study who will receive a fixed dose of PRTX-100 over a 6-month period. The primary study endpoint of the 105 Study is the safety and tolerability of a fixed dose of PRTX-100 administered over an extended period. The secondary endpoints include immunogenicity, effects on measures of RA disease activity, evaluation of anti-PRTX-100 antibody presence, and feasibility of joint evaluations with ultrasound and biomarkers as disease markers. A total of seven patients have completed all 105 Study visits and an additional two patients are currently on-study and expected to complete all study visits in the first quarter of 2016.
We maintain an administrative office in Florham Park, New Jersey and currently outsource all of our product development and regulatory activities, including clinical trial activities, manufacturing and laboratory operations, to third-party contract research organizations, consultants and facilities.
In April 2009, under prior management, we ceased all operations and terminated all employees in light of insufficient funds to continue our clinical trials and related product development. Our business was dormant until current management took control of our operations in November 2009 following the change in control transaction more fully described below. We are currently actively pursuing the commercial development of PRTX-100 for the treatment of RA and ITP.
Change in Control and Incremental Financing Transactions
On November 11, 2009 (the “Effective Date”), we consummated a financing transaction (the “Financing”) in which we raised $3,000,000 of working capital pursuant to a Securities Purchase Agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”) with Niobe Ventures, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (“Niobe”). Pursuant to the Purchase Agreement, we issued to Niobe (i) 8,695,652 restricted shares of our common stock, with par value of $0.00001 per share (“Common Stock”) at a purchase price of $0.23 per share (or $2 million in the aggregate) and (ii) a senior secured convertible promissory note in the principal amount of $1 million convertible into shares of our Common Stock at an initial conversion price equal to $0.23 per share (the “$1 Million Secured Note”). On February 11, 2011, Niobe converted the $1 Million Secured Note, including $37,500 of accrued interest thereon, into 4,510,870 shares of Common Stock.
As contemplated by the Purchase Agreement, all of our executive officers and all of the members of our Board of Directors (the “Board”) prior to the closing of the Financing, with the exception of Frank M. Dougherty, resigned effective concurrently with the closing of the Financing. Mr. Dougherty resigned effective upon the expiration of the 10-day notice period required by Rule 14f-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). In addition, effective upon the closing of the Financing, our Board appointed Arnold P. Kling as a director and then elected him as our president and elected Kirk M. Warshaw as our chief financial officer and secretary.
On February 11, 2011, for the purpose of providing us with additional working capital, pursuant to an existing Credit Facility Agreement dated as of December 2, 2009 (the “Facility”) with Niobe, we issued to Niobe a senior secured convertible promissory note in the principal amount of $2 million (the “$2 Million Secured Convertible Note”). The $2 Million Secured Convertible Note provided for conversion into shares of our Common Stock at a conversion price of $0.23 per share, for an aggregate of 8,695,652 shares of our Common Stock (net of accrued interest thereon), bore interest at a rate of 3% per annum and matured on December 31, 2013. The original maturity was December 31, 2012 but in December 2012 Niobe agreed, for no consideration, to extend the maturity date to December 31, 2013.
The $2 Million Secured Convertible Note was convertible at any time, by the holder, subject only to the requirement that we have sufficient authorized shares of Common Stock after taking into account all outstanding shares of Common Stock and the maximum number of shares issuable under all issued and outstanding convertible securities. In addition, the $2 Million Secured Convertible Note would automatically be converted if we undertake certain Fundamental Transactions, as defined in the $2 Million Secured Convertible Note, (such as a merger, sale of all of our assets, exchange or tender offer, or reclassification of our stock or compulsory exchange). The $2 Million Secured Convertible Note also provided for the adjustment of the conversion price in the event of stock dividends and stock splits, and provides for acceleration of maturity, at the holder’s option, upon an event of default, as defined in the $2 Million Secured Convertible Note. On August 27, 2013, Niobe elected to convert the principal and accrued interest of $2,155,000 under the $2 Million Secured Convertible Note into 9,369,565 shares of Common Stock.
On February 1, 2012, we raised $1,000,000 of working capital pursuant to a loan from Niobe. We issued to Niobe a secured promissory note in the principal amount of $1,000,000 (the “February 2012 Secured Note”). The February 2012 Secured Note bore interest at a rate of 3% per annum and had a maturity date of February 1, 2014.
On June 5, 2012, we raised an additional $1,000,000 of working capital pursuant to an incremental loan from Niobe and issued to Niobe a secured promissory note in the principal amount of $1,000,000, which bore interest at a rate of 3% per annum and had a maturity date of May 31, 2014 (the “June 2012 Secured Note”).
On October 1, 2012, we raised $800,000 of additional working capital pursuant to an incremental loan from Niobe and issued to Niobe a secured promissory note in the principal amount of $800,000, which bore interest at a rate of 3% per annum and had a maturity date of October 1, 2014 (the “October 2012 Secured Note”).
On December 3, 2012, we raised $700,000 of additional working capital pursuant to an incremental loan from Niobe and issued to Niobe a secured promissory note in the principal amount of $700,000, which bore interest at a rate of 3% per annum and had a maturity date of October 1, 2014 (the “December 2012 Secured Note”).
Collectively, the February 2012 Secured Note, the June 2012 Secured Note, the October 2012 Secured Note and the December 2012 Secured Note are hereinafter referred to as the “2012 Secured Notes.”
On January 18, 2013, we raised $2,500,000 of additional working capital pursuant to an incremental loan from Niobe and issued to Niobe a secured promissory note in the principal amount of $2,500,000, which bore interest at a rate of 3% per annum and had a maturity date of January 15, 2015 (the “January 2013 Secured Note”).
On May 13, 2013, we raised $2,000,000 of additional working capital pursuant to an incremental loan from Niobe and issued to Niobe a secured promissory note in the principal amount of $2,000,000, which bore interest at a rate of 3% per annum and had a maturity date of May 13, 2015 (the “May 2013 Secured Note”).
On August 27, 2013, we raised $1,000,000 of additional working capital pursuant to an incremental loan from Niobe and issued to Niobe a secured promissory note in the principal amount of $1,000,000, which bears interest at a rate of 3% per annum and matures on August 27, 2015 (the “August 2013 Secured Note”).
Collectively, the January 2013 Secured Note, the May 2013 Secured Note, and the August 2013 Secured Note are hereinafter referred to as the “2013 Secured Notes.”
Collectively, the 2012 Secured Notes and the 2013 Secured Notes represent a total of $9,000,000 in principal amount of loans from Niobe and are hereinafter referred to as the “Secured Notes.”
On October 11, 2013, we issued a Consolidated, Amended and Restated Promissory Note to Niobe in the principal amount of $9,219,366 (the “Consolidated Note”). The face amount of the Consolidated Note reflects the $9.0 million aggregate principal amount of the Secured Notes plus interest accrued at 3% per annum on each note from its respective date of issuance. The terms of the Consolidated Note were identical to the Secured Notes except that: (a) the maturity date was September 1, 2015, which is after the latest maturity date of any of the Secured Notes; and (b) it provided for partial mandatory repayment in the event that the Company received aggregate gross proceeds in excess of $7.5 million from a single or multiple “Liquidity Events” in an amount equal to twenty-five (25%) percent of such gross proceeds (the “Mandatory Repayment”). A “Liquidity Event” means (a) the sale of any of our equity, or equity-linked, securities, and (b) the receipt of proceeds, directly or indirectly related to a development and/or commercialization relationship entered into with an unaffiliated third party. In the Secured Notes, the entire principal amount of each note was due, at Niobe’s election, upon the consummation of an equity financing of $7.5 million or greater. Consistent with the terms of the Secured Notes and related security agreements entered into, our obligations under the Consolidated Note are secured by a first priority perfected security interest in all of our assets pursuant to a Consolidated, Amended and Restated Security Agreement dated October 11, 2013. Effective as of October 1, 2014, the maturity date of the Consolidated Note was extended until September 1, 2016. All other terms and provisions of the Consolidated Note remained unchanged and in full force and effect.
On January 23, 2014, we consummated a private placement financing to accredited investors of 471,334 shares of Common Stock at $6.00 per share, yielding gross proceeds of $2,828,000. No commissions were payable in connection with the financing transaction. Proceeds of the financing have been, and will continue to be, used for working capital purposes, principally to fund ongoing clinical trials and studies and related activities. The investors in the offering were granted piggy-back registration rights in connection with certain registration statements filed by us, subject to certain exceptions, including a registration statement filed in connection with a primary offering.
On November 4, 2014, we entered into a new Credit Facility Agreement (the “2014 Credit Facility Agreement”) pursuant to which we may borrow up to an additional $5.0 Million from Niobe, in the form of secured loans, in accordance with the 2014 Credit Facility Agreement at any time prior to the December 31, 2015 expiration date. Each loan made under the 2014 Credit Facility Agreement will be represented by a senior secured promissory note bearing interest at a rate of 3% per annum and maturing on September 1, 2016 (each a “Note”). Our obligations under each Note will be secured by a first priority perfected security interest in all of our assets pursuant to the Second Consolidated, Amended and Restated Security Agreement between us and Niobe, entered into at the same time as the 2014 Credit Facility Agreement (the “Security Agreement”).
In addition, on November 4, 2014, we entered into a Note Modification Agreement (the “Note Modification Agreement”) with Niobe pursuant to which the Consolidated Note, as modified in October 2014, was further amended to increase the threshold amount requiring a Mandatory Prepayment from $7.5 Million to more than $10 Million. As a result, partial prepayment will now be triggered in the event of a Liquidity Event in which we receive gross proceeds in excess of $10 million. All other terms and provisions of the Consolidated Note remained unchanged and in full force and effect.
In accordance with, and pursuant to, the 2014 Credit Facility Agreement, during the three months ended August 31, 2015, we borrowed an additional $1,035,000 from Niobe and issued them three new Notes in the principal amount of $345,000 each (for an aggregate of $1,035,000).
Pursuant to the terms and condition of the 2014 Credit Facility Agreement, as of August 31, 2015, we had borrowed an aggregate of $4,340,000. Payment of the principal and accrued interest on the Notes will, at Niobe’s election, automatically become immediately due and payable if we undertake certain Fundamental Transactions or upon an Event of Default, both as defined in the Notes. Our obligations under the Notes are secured by the Security Agreement.
On October 6, 2015, we borrowed an additional $345,000 under the terms of the 2014 Credit Facility Agreement and issued Niobe a Note for the loan in the same principal amount.
All of the securities issued in the aforementioned financings were issued in reliance upon the exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Act”) pursuant to Section 4(a)(5) and Rule 506 of Regulation D thereof. The offer, sale and issuance of such securities were made without general solicitation or advertising. The securities were offered and issued only to “accredited investors” as such term is defined in Rule 501 under the Act.
PRTX-100 is a proprietary highly purified form of the Staphylococcal bacterial protein known as Protein A which is a bacterial protein known to modify aspects of the human immune system. PRTX-100 has the ability, at very low concentrations, to bind to human B-lymphocytes and macrophages and to modulate immune processes. Pre-clinical studies also demonstrate that low doses of PRTX-100 have potent therapeutic effects in certain models of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. Both the PRTX-100-103 and the PRTX-100-104 studies demonstrated that PRTX-100 was generally safe and well tolerated at all dose levels, and at certain higher doses, more patients showed improvement in measures of disease activity than did patients at the lower dose or placebo cohorts.
Protalex’s lead product candidate, PRTX-100, has demonstrated positive results in several standard mouse models of autoimmunity, including the following:
Collagen-Induced Arthritis -PRTX-100 has demonstrated reproducible efficacy in this well-established animal model of RA. Mice received two injections of collagen in order to stimulate an inflammatory response. One group was treated with various doses of PRTX-100, a second group received Enbrel�, a leading commercially available treatment for RA, and the control group was injected with vehicle saline solution. The mice were observed for clinical symptoms, joint size and loss of function. The results showed that low doses of PRTX-100 and standard doses of Enbrel� suppressed clinical symptoms including joint swelling over the first two to three weeks of treatment, and slowed disease progression as compared with the control group. Thereafter, the PRTX-100-treated mice continued to remain disease-free whereas the mice treated with Enbrel� showed a resumption of joint inflammation and tissue damage. This response to Enbrel� was expected because the mice developed immune response to it because it is a foreign protein. Overall, these results indicate that PRTX-100 is a potential treatment for RA in humans. The data from these studies has served as a rationale for conducting clinical trials in human patients.
BXSB Mice – These animals are genetically predisposed to autoimmune diseases. This model is used to evaluate drugs for autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and other autoimmune diseases. This genetic model more closely approximates the human condition in that it is complex, multi-factorial and usually treated by multiple drug regimens. In these studies, mice were treated with PRTX-100 and sacrificed at regular intervals. Their organs were weighed and sectioned for histological analysis and their spleens were used for immunological assays. Spleen enlargement, or splenomegaly, was significantly reduced in treated animals compared with the controls at almost every time point, demonstrating the ability of PRTX-100 to delay the onset and severity of this disease.
Completed pre-clinical safety studies in animals showed no drug-related toxicity at doses up to 5-fold the highest currently planned clinical trial dose. These studies were conducted on New Zealand white rabbits and on cynomolgus monkeys. No differences were observed in body weight gain or food consumption, nor in hematology, clinical chemistry, urinalysis, or organ weight data in animals treated with PRTX-100 compared with controls treated with vehicle. These study results represent a necessary component of our IND application with the FDA.
Additional studies in monkeys have further characterized the PK, toxicity, and pharmacodynamics of PRTX-100 with up to 12 weekly doses.
Favorable pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies for our lead compound, PRTX-100, laid the foundation for the IND for treating RA. We submitted the IND to the FDA in March 2005 and later in March 2005 the FDA verbally disclosed to us that it had placed our IND on clinical hold, pending additional product characterization. In August 2005, we formally replied to the FDA and in September 2005, the FDA notified us that it had lifted the clinical hold on our IND and that our proposed study could proceed. We have completed three clinical trials and are in the process of completing a fourth clinical trial under this IND. Our first Phase I single-dose clinical trial commenced in December 2005 and was completed in March 2006. This trial was performed in healthy volunteers and was designed primarily to assess the safety and tolerability of a single intravenous dose of PRTX-100. This study demonstrated that PRTX-100 appears safe and well-tolerated at the doses administered. There were no deaths or serious adverse events. The PK profile was determined and found consistent with that projected from pre-clinical models.
In May 2007, we filed an amendment to the IND with the FDA. This amendment included the final Phase I safety study report from the 2006 trial, changes to our techniques for purification and characterization of PRTX-100, a Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) update, and a protocol for a second single-dose Phase I clinical trial. In July and August 2007 a second Phase I study was performed under the IND, to further characterize the safety, PK, and pharmacodynamic profile of a single-dose of PRTX-100 in healthy volunteers at doses in the projected therapeutic range. Final results indicated that the drug appears safe and well-tolerated. In August 2009, a Phase 1b randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multiple dose, dose-escalation and tolerability study of PRTX-100 in combination with methotrexate or leflunomide in patients with active RA, (the “PRTX 100-103 Study”) was approved by the South African Medicines Control Agency. The PRTX-100-103 Study commenced in August 2010 at three sites in South Africa and was completed in January 2012 as detailed below.
In November 2012, we commenced enrollment and dosing of patients at a total of nine sites in the United States for the PRTX-100-104 Study, a second multicenter Phase 1b randomized, multiple-dose, dose-escalation study of PRTX-100 in combination with methotrexate or leflunomide in adults with active RA which is still in progress as detailed below. The PRTX-100-104 Study sequentially escalated the weekly dose of PRTX-100 from 1.5 micrograms/kg, the highest dose in the prior RA patient study, to doses of 3.0, 6.0, and 12.0 micrograms/kg. of PRTX-100. In July 2014, the last patient in the PRTX-100-104 Study received their last dose in the fifth and final cohort.
In February 2015, we commenced enrollment, at a single U.S. site, in the PRTX-100-105 Study which is open only to PRTX-100-104 Study patients who indicated their desire for additional treatment. The PRTX-100-105 Study is an open-label, single group study with up to 12 former participants from the 104 Study who will receive a fixed dose of PRTX-100 over a 6-month period. The primary study endpoint of the 105 Study is the safety and tolerability of a fixed dose of PRTX-100 administered over an extended period. The secondary endpoints include immunogenicity, effects on measures of RA disease activity, evaluation of anti-PRTX-100 antibody presence, and feasibility of joint evaluations with ultrasound and biomarkers as disease markers. A total of seven patients have completed all 105 Study visits and an additional two patients are currently on -study and expected to complete all study visits in the first quarter 2016.
Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP)- ITP is an uncommon autoimmune bleeding disorder characterized by insufficient platelets in the blood. The affected individuals make antibodies against their own platelets leading to the platelets’ destruction, which in turn leads to the abnormal bleeding. A small clinical trial in adult patients with chronic ITP was designed to provide safety data on repeated weekly dosing with PRTX-100 (the “PRTX-100b-103 Study”). This clinical study was to be conducted under the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Notification procedure, not under a U.S. IND, and was initiated, but not completed. A leading Australian clinical research organization was contracted to manage and monitor this clinical trial. After the approval of the clinical protocol by ethics committees at six sites in Australia and one in New Zealand, the PRTX-100b-103 Study began enrolling patients in the second quarter of 2008. The PRTX-100b-103 Study was designed to evaluate the safety and PK of up to four doses of PRTX-100, starting at the lowest dose, and escalating upwards after safety review of the prior dose.
The PRTX-100b-103 Study proved difficult to enroll due to other on-going ITP Phase III studies and subsequent availability of two new and effective medicines for ITP. Nine patients were dosed at the first two dose levels by the end of the first quarter of 2009. At this point further recruitment of patients was suspended. No side effects or toxicities were noted with repeated weekly doses of PRTX-100 at doses of 0.075 and 0.15 micrograms per kg that were not seen with single doses in healthy volunteer trials. This repeated-dose safety data from the PRTX-100b-103 Study was included in the clinical trial application to evaluate PRTX-100 in patients with RA.
In March 2015, the FDA accepted our Investigational New Drug (IND) application for a Phase I/II open-label, dose-escalating study of PRTX-100 in adults with . . .