Arbutus Reports Second Quarter 2021 Financial Results and Provides Corporate Update
August 05, 2021 at 07:30 AM EDT
New data on AB-729, Arbutus’ proprietary subcutaneously delivered RNAi agent, highlighted in four abstracts at the EASL International Liver Congress™; all AB-729 abstracts selected for best of ILC™
Announced two additional proof-of-concept clinical collaborations to evaluate AB-729 in combination with agents from Vaccitech plc and Antios Therapeutics, Inc.
Announced U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization to proceed with an Investigational New Drug (IND) application in a Phase 2a clinical trial to investigate the safety and anti-viral activity of AB-729 in combination with ongoing nucleos(t)ide analog (NA) therapy and short courses of Peg-IFNα-2a in subjects with chronic HBV
Presentation at EASL of pre-clinical data for AB-836, Arbutus’ proprietary oral capsid inhibitor, suggests the potential for increased efficacy and an enhanced resistance profile relative to previous generation capsid inhibitors
Conference Call and Webcast Scheduled Today at 8:45 AM ET
WARMINSTER, Pa., Aug. 05, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Arbutus Biopharma Corporation (Nasdaq: ABUS), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company primarily focused on discovering, developing and commercializing a cure for people with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, as well as therapies to treat coronaviruses (including COVID-19), today reports its second quarter 2021 financial results and provides a corporate update.
William Collier, President and Chief Executive Officer of Arbutus, stated, “We had a productive second quarter, particularly in advancing our efforts to position AB-729 as a potential cornerstone therapy in future HBV combination regimens. Our recently announced proof-of-concept clinical collaborations with Vaccitech plc and Antios Therapeutics, Inc. to evaluate AB-729 with other agents reflects this objective as does our planned Phase 2a clinical trial to evaluate AB-729 in combination with Peg-IFNα-2a.”
Mr. Collier added, “Looking ahead, we expect a productive second half of 2021 including: additional data from the ongoing Phase 1a/1b clinical trial with AB-729, specifically 90 mg multi-dose data (dosing interval every 12 weeks) in HBV DNA negative subjects and 90 mg multi-dose data (dosing interval every 8 weeks) in HBV DNA positive subjects, initiation of two Phase 2a proof-of-concept clinical trials for AB-729, and initial Phase 1a/1b data from our proprietary oral capsid inhibitor, AB-836.”
Mean (range) change in HBsAg with repeat dosing of AB-729:
ⱡ subjects switched to AB-729 60 mg Q12W after Week 20 dose
AB-836: Oral Capsid Inhibitor
HBV Discovery Programs
Research Efforts to Combat COVID-19 and Future Coronavirus Outbreaks
Cash, Cash Equivalents and Investments
Arbutus had cash, cash equivalents and investments totaling $121.3 million as of June 30, 2021, as compared to $123.3 million as of December 31, 2020. During the six months ended June 30, 2021, Arbutus used $31.9 million in operating activities, which was offset by $30.7 million of net proceeds from the issuance of common shares under Arbutus’s “at-the-market” offering program. The Company believes its cash, cash equivalents and investments of $121.3 million as of June 30, 2021 are sufficient to fund the Company’s operations through the third quarter of 2022.
Net loss attributable to common shares for the three months ended June 30, 2021 was $22.7 million ($0.23 basic and diluted loss per common share) as compared to $17.1 million ($0.25 basic and diluted loss per common share) for the three months ended June 30, 2020. Net loss attributable to common shares for the three months ended June 30, 2021 and 2020 included non-cash expense for the accrual of coupon on the Company’s convertible preferred shares of $3.3 million and $3.0 million, respectively.
Research and development expenses were $15.4 million for the three months ended June 30, 2021 compared to $10.5 million in the same period in 2020. The increase in research and development expenses for the three months ended June 30, 2021 versus the same period in 2020 was due primarily to higher expenses for the Company’s clinical development and discovery programs, including activities under our collaboration with Assembly and internal research efforts to treat COVID-19 and future coronavirus outbreaks, both of which initiated in mid-2020. General and administrative expenses were $4.4 million for the three months ended June 30, 2021 compared to $3.6 million for the same period in 2020. This increase was due primarily to increases in non-cash stock-based compensation expense and professional fees.
The Company had approximately 97.7 million common shares issued and outstanding as of June 30, 2021. In addition, the Company had approximately 13.3 million stock options outstanding and 1.164 million convertible preferred shares outstanding, which (including the annual 8.75% coupon) will be mandatorily convertible into approximately 23 million common shares on October 18, 2021.
In December 2019 an outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in Wuhan, China. This virus continues to spread globally, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and has spread to nearly every country in the world. The impact of this pandemic has been, and will likely continue to be, extensive in many aspects of society. The pandemic has resulted in and will likely continue to result in significant disruptions to businesses. A number of countries and other jurisdictions around the world have implemented extreme measures to try and slow the spread of the virus. These measures include the closing of businesses and requiring people to stay in their homes, the latter of which raises uncertainty regarding the ability to travel to hospitals in order to participate in clinical trials. Additional measures that have had, and will likely continue to have, a major impact on clinical development, at least in the near-term, include shortages and delays in the supply chain, and prohibitions in certain countries on enrolling subjects in new clinical trials. While we have been able to progress with our clinical and pre-clinical activities to date, it is not possible to predict if the COVID-19 pandemic will materially impact our plans and timelines in the future.
Conference Call and Webcast Today
Arbutus will hold a conference call and webcast today, Thursday, August 5, 2021 at 8:45 AM Eastern Time to provide a corporate update. You can access a live webcast of the call, which will include presentation slides, through the Investors section of Arbutus’ website at www.arbutusbio.com or directly at Live Webcast. Alternatively, you can dial (866) 393-1607 or (914) 495-8556 and reference conference ID 2719108.
An archived webcast will be available on the Arbutus website after the event. Alternatively, you may access a replay of the conference call by calling (855) 859-2056 or (404) 537-3406, and reference conference ID 2719108.
AB-729 is an RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutic targeted to hepatocytes using Arbutus’ novel covalently conjugated N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) delivery technology that enables subcutaneous delivery. AB-729 inhibits viral replication and reduces all HBV antigens, including hepatitis B surface antigen in preclinical models. Reducing hepatitis B surface antigen is thought to be a key prerequisite to enable reawakening of a patient’s immune system to respond to the virus. Based upon clinical data generated thus far in an ongoing single- and multi-dose Phase 1a/1b clinical trial, AB-729 has demonstrated positive safety and tolerability data and meaningful reductions in hepatitis B surface antigen.
AB-836 is an oral HBV capsid inhibitor. HBV core protein assembles into a capsid structure, which is required for viral replication. The current standard-of-care therapy for HBV, primarily nucleos(t)ide analogues that work by inhibiting the viral polymerase, significantly reduce virus replication, but not completely. Capsid inhibitors inhibit replication by preventing the assembly of functional viral capsids. They also have been shown to inhibit the uncoating step of the viral life cycle thus reducing the formation of new covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), the genetic reservoir which the virus uses to replicate itself.
Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by HBV. HBV can cause chronic infection which leads to a higher risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. Chronic HBV infection represents a significant unmet medical need. The World Health Organization estimates that over 250 million people worldwide suffer from chronic HBV infection, while other estimates indicate that approximately 2 million people in the United States suffer from chronic HBV infection. Approximately 900,000 people die every year from complications related to chronic HBV infection despite the availability of effective vaccines and current treatment options.
Arbutus Biopharma Corporation is a publicly traded (Nasdaq: ABUS) biopharmaceutical company primarily focused on discovering, developing and commercializing a cure for people with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The Company is advancing multiple product candidates with distinct mechanisms of action that it believes have the potential to provide a new curative regimen for chronic HBV infection. Arbutus has also initiated a drug discovery and development effort for treating coronaviruses (including COVID-19). For more information, visit www.arbutusbio.com.
Forward-Looking Statements and Information
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and forward-looking information within the meaning of Canadian securities laws (collectively, “forward-looking statements”). Forward-looking statements in this press release include statements about our future development plans for AB-729 and AB-836, including our expectations that in the second half of 2021 we will (a) have additional data from the ongoing Phase 1a/1b clinical trial with AB-729, (b) initiate two Phase 2a proof-of-concept clinical trials for AB-729, and (c) have initial Phase 1a/1b data for AB-836; our expectation to file a CTA in the second half of 2021 and initiate another proof-of-concept clinical trial in early 2022; our expectations and goals for our collaborations with third parties and any potential benefits related thereto; the potential for AB-836 to have increased efficacy and an enhanced resistance profile; our expected cash runway through the third quarter of 2022; and our expectations regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business and clinical trials.
With respect to the forward-looking statements contained in this press release, Arbutus has made numerous assumptions regarding, among other things: the effectiveness and timeliness of preclinical studies and clinical trials, and the usefulness of the data; the timeliness of regulatory approvals; the continued demand for Arbutus’ assets; and the stability of economic and market conditions. While Arbutus considers these assumptions to be reasonable, these assumptions are inherently subject to significant business, economic, competitive, market and social uncertainties and contingencies, including uncertainties and contingencies related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, there are known and unknown risk factors which could cause Arbutus’ actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements contained herein. Known risk factors include, among others: anticipated pre-clinical studies and clinical trials may be more costly or take longer to complete than anticipated, and may never be initiated or completed, or may not generate results that warrant future development of the tested product candidate; Arbutus may elect to change its strategy regarding its product candidates and clinical development activities; Arbutus may not receive the necessary regulatory approvals for the clinical development of Arbutus’ products; economic and market conditions may worsen; Arbutus and its collaborators may never realize the expected benefits of the collaborations; market shifts may require a change in strategic focus; and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could significantly disrupt Arbutus’ clinical development programs.
A more complete discussion of the risks and uncertainties facing Arbutus appears in Arbutus’ Annual Report on Form 10-K, Arbutus’ Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and Arbutus’ continuous and periodic disclosure filings, which are available at www.sedar.com and at www.sec.gov. All forward-looking statements herein are qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement, and Arbutus disclaims any obligation to revise or update any such forward-looking statements or to publicly announce the result of any revisions to any of the forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect future results, events or developments, except as required by law.
Investors and Media
William H. Collier