Apricus wields ax to its pipeline, staff after key testosterone drug fails

Apricus CEO Richard Pascoe

Less than a week after a huge late-stage blow that saw its shares take a nosedive, Apricus Biosciences ($APRI) is now shedding nearly all of its research projects and 30% of its staff.

The San Diego-based biotech posted disappointing results for its testosterone-boosting drug fispemifene last Monday, showing it failed both the primary and secondary endpoints in a Phase IIb study among men with secondary hypogonadism and sexual dysfunction.

The company's shares were routed on the news, leaving Apricus in penny stock territory.

Now the fallout begins as in a statement released by the company today, Apricus said it will "immediately discontinue all ongoing fispemifene clinical activities on secondary hypogonadism and deprioritize work for other indications," while also cutting its staff--including the executive team--by around 30%.

The biotech said it would slash the board's expenses by getting rid of some directors and for those remaining, cut their cash compensation. It also aims to reduce operating expenses (excluding non-cash stock-based compensation expense and depreciation expense) by around 30% in 2016 and will double that to 60% for next year.

This will leave the company with just two remaining assets: the erectile dysfunction cream Vitaros, which is already on the market in Europe and Canada, and its investigational drug RayVa for the circulatory disorder Raynaud's phenomenon.

For Vitaros, the company said it would explore further delivery device improvements for the drug. Last year it in-licensed the U.S. rights from Allergan ($AGN) for the topical treatment and already has a number of marketing partners for the treatment, including Takeda and Ferring.

Apricus will also look to create a RayVa Phase IIb delivery device and study protocol, adding that it will seek to gain a U.S. and EU orphan designation before starting any costly clinical studies in the future.

"After reviewing the potential for our current assets with our board of directors and our larger shareholders following the disappointing fispemifene Phase IIb study results, we have decided to focus only on the priorities that we believe are most likely to generate strategic value, while reducing our capital needs," said Richard Pascoe, Apricus CEO.

"Apricus' development priority is now focused on Vitaros, both to accelerate commercialization outside of the U.S. and to attempt to bring this novel erectile dysfunction therapy to patients in the U.S. next year, with the goal of achieving profitability in 2017. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the talented employees affected by the reduction in force and to our valued employees who remain committed to our long-term success."

The stock closed at $0.60 on Tuesday near the bottom of a 52-week range of $0.56-$1.99 and is down 55.56% since August 28, 2015.

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