CHARLESTON, S.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: AEZS) (TSX: AEZS) (the “Company”), announced today that the special committee of independent directors (the “Strategic Review Committee”) has engaged a consulting firm and a financial advisor to assist in its efforts. As previously announced, the Strategic Review Committee has been tasked to consider and evaluate various strategic and financing alternatives available to the Company to maximize shareholder value, including continuing to execute on its existing business plan and/or considering and recommending changes to the Company’s management and governance.
Both selected firms have well regarded reputations in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences sectors. The Strategic Review Committee retained these firms in part to validate the commercial potential of Macrilien™ in order to determine the best means of maximizing value, which includes evaluating and recommending modes of distribution including entering into partnerships or building an internal sales force, raising capital including through an investment from a strategic partner, or selling some or all of the company and its assets.
As shareholders are also aware, the board of directors of the Company (the “Board”) recently appointed Michael Ward as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Ward and the Board have quickly aligned on the Company’s priorities, including ensuring that the Company’s expenditures are focused on the greatest risk-adjusted opportunities for shareholders including Macrilien™.
Mr. Ward has taken steps to reduce and rationalize overhead over the next several months, including reducing or eliminating expenses, resources and overhead that were associated with the Company’s discontinued Zoptrex™ product. Mr. Ward has also assumed the role of Managing Director of Frankfurt operations and in that role, he implemented a restructuring plan, reaching an agreement with the local “Works Council” to support the realignment of resources focused on Macrilien™. The Company has also eliminated an executive position in South Carolina. These efforts are expected to result in significant net savings to the Company.
The Board welcomes Mr. Ward’s fresh perspective on the Company’s future plans and his readiness to execute on those plans.
The Board and the Strategic Review Committee will also consider certain enhancements that have been under discussion at the Board for the last several months. These include ensuring that the Board has the commensurate mix of skills and experience to guide the Company in the execution of its business plan and has individuals who reflect a diversity of backgrounds including gender diversity. The Board has also discussed formally adopting a director share ownership requirement to ensure an even greater level of alignment with shareholders. Currently, Board compensation is split between cash and equity consideration, a best practice the Board adopted some time ago.
There can be no assurance that evaluation of strategic alternatives will result in any transaction being pursued, entered into or consummated. The Company does not intend to make further comment in regard to this process except as required by applicable securities laws or the policies of NASDAQ and the Toronto Stock Exchange.
About MacrilenTM (macimorelin)
Macimorelin, a ghrelin agonist, is an orally-active small molecule that stimulates the secretion of growth hormone. Macimorelin has been granted orphan drug designation by the FDA for diagnosis of AGHD. The Company owns the worldwide rights to this patented compound and has significant patent protection left. The Company’s U.S. composition of matter patent expires in 2022 and its U.S. utility patent runs through 2027. The Company proposes, subject to FDA approval, to market macimorelin under the tradename Macrilen™.
AGHD affects approximately 75,000 adults across the U.S., Canada and Europe. Growth hormone not only plays an important role in growth from childhood to adulthood, but also helps promote a hormonally-balanced health status. AGHD mostly results from damage to the pituitary gland. It is usually characterized by a reduction in bone mineral density, lean body mass, exercise capacity, and overall quality of life as well as an increase of cardiovascular risks.
About Aeterna Zentaris Inc.
Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company engaged in developing and commercializing novel pharmaceutical therapies. We are engaged in drug development activities and in the promotion of products for others. We recently resubmitted an NDA to the FDA seeking approval of Macrilen™, an internally developed compound. The focus of our business development efforts is the acquisition of licenses to products that are relevant to our therapeutic areas of focus. We also intend to license out certain commercial rights of internally developed products to licensees in non-U.S. territories where such out-licensing would enable us to ensure development, registration and launch of our product candidates. Our goal is to become a growth-oriented specialty biopharmaceutical company by pursuing successful development and commercialization of our product portfolio, achieving successful commercial presence and growth, while consistently delivering value to our shareholders, employees and the medical providers and patients who will benefit from our products. For more information, visit www.aezsinc.com.
This press release contains forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provision of the U.S. Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which reflect our current expectations regarding future events. Forward-looking statements may include, but are not limited to statements preceded by, followed by, or that include the words “expects,” “believes,” “intends,” “anticipates,” and similar terms that relate to future events, performance, or our results. Forward-looking statements involve known risks and uncertainties, many of which are discussed under the caption “Key Information – Risk Factors” in our most recent Annual Report on Form 20-F filed with the relevant Canadian securities regulatory authorities in lieu of an annual information form and with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Such statements include, but are not limited to, statements about the progress of our research, development and clinical trials and the timing of, and prospects for, regulatory approval and commercialization of our product candidates, the timing of expected results of our studies, anticipated results of these studies, statements about the status of our efforts to establish a commercial operation and to obtain the right to promote or sell products that we did not develop and estimates regarding our capital requirements and our needs for, and our ability to obtain, additional financing. Known and unknown risks and uncertainties could cause our actual results to differ materially from those in forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, among others, the availability of funds and resources to pursue our research and development projects and clinical trials, the successful and timely completion of clinical studies, the risk that safety and efficacy data from any of our Phase 3 trials may not coincide with the data analyses from previously reported Phase 1 and/or Phase 2 clinical trials, the rejection or non-acceptance of any new drug application by one or more regulatory authorities and, more generally, uncertainties related to the regulatory process (including whether or not the regulatory authorities will definitively accept the Company’s conclusions regarding Macrilen™ and approve its registration following the Company’s re-submission of an NDA for the product as described elsewhere in this press release), the ability of the Company to efficiently commercialize one or more of its products or product candidates, the degree of market acceptance once our products are approved for commercialization, our ability to take advantage of business opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry, our ability to protect our intellectual property, and the potential of liability arising from shareholder lawsuits and general changes in economic conditions. Investors should consult the Company’s quarterly and annual filings with the Canadian securities commissions and the SEC for additional information on risks and uncertainties. Given these uncertainties and risk factors, readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. We disclaim any obligation to update any such factors or to publicly announce any revisions to any of the forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect future results, events or developments, unless required to do so by a governmental authority or applicable law.