July 10, 2014

2014 Annual CEO Letter (pt. 1)

On Tuesday Provectus management published their annual CEO letter.
Our financial position and corporate governance are such that we expect to continue to meet the relevant listing requirements of NYSE MKT. We believe our efforts to obtain regulatory clarity will be helpful to facilitate such transactions with potential partners. Additionally, the existing and forthcoming clinical and nonclinical mechanism of action data for both PV-10 and PH-10 are expected to further aid in both regulatory clarity and transactions with potential partners. The Company's current cash position is sufficient to meet our obligations. In addition, management is returning $8.96 million to the Company as a result of the previously announced settlement of a shareholder derivative lawsuit (subject to a 2:1 credit to the executives, such that total actual repayment by the executives may be $1.12 million per executive) and further enhanced our strength by management's recent exercise of options. In total, we have adequate funds to operate without a further injection of capital through mid-2015.
The relevant verbiage of the paragraph, "[i]n total, we have adequate funds to operate without a further injection of capital through mid-2015," is inartful when one (or two, both Peter and Eric) previously said the company has adequate capital to reach the point of an interim data readout of the Phase 3 trial for unresected locally advanced cutaneous melanoma. "Previously" would refer to the conference calls (e.g., May 23rd, June 3rd, June 19th), yet we have the above from the July 8th CEO letter. If we take Eric's previous comment Provectus would have interim data as early as 15 months after the Phase 3 study starts accruing patients, and previous guidance of a 3Q14 trial commencement (say, September 2014), data would (could) be available five quarters later starting in 4Q15 (say, November 2015).

Quarterly cash burn has trended downward, and the company projects a go forward, 12-month annual expense run rate (not including Phase 3 trial expenses) of $10 million (an average of $2.5 million a quarter), which would include salaries, overhead, PV-10 and PH-10 mechanism of action study costs, liver study costs (expanded Phase 1), FDA regulatory affair consulting costs, etc.
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Without consideration of the melanoma Phase 3 trial, the projected cash balance should look something like the below. At a projected $2.5 million average quarterly burn, Provectus would approach its accounting firm BDO LLC's minimum cash threshold figure of about $4 million in the 4Q15 timeframe (potential fund raising would occur before that so the threshold is not met of course).
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Now, layering on potential expenses related to the Phase 3 trial -- e.g., per patients costs of $25-50K, pay-as-you-go CRO expenses, enrollment of about 12 patients per month, a September 2014 start to enrollment -- the company would approach BDO' threshold (the purple colored lines below are Phase 3 trial adjusted cash balance scenarios) in 3Q15 timeframe.
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With a 210-patient study (N), 105 progressions (i.e., 50%) [P] are required to occur before the data are examined by the independent data monitoring committee. The study would be deemed a success if the necessary differential occurred in the events between the two arms. The greenish line above tabulates cumulative patients enrolled; consider 1 progression event occurrence per patient and 1 progression for every 2 patients accrued/enrolled/treated. An interim readout (interim meaning half of the patients) would require half of the above mentioned progressions (P1 would equal about 53), which would suggest accrual/enrollment/treatment of about 103 patients (N1).

When Eric said interim data would be available as early as 15 months after the study started accruing, I think he meant interim data on N=210 (I could be wrong of course), and not N1=103:
  • Assume about 12 patients are enrolled per month (about 36 per quarter), which comes from a 210 patient figure and an accrual/enrollment period of 18 months (210 ÷ 18 = 11.67),
  • Assume all patients irrespective of arm would progress, and
  • 105 progressions requires 105 patients accrued, which would take about 9 months (105 ÷ 11.67 = 9).
If there is a non-normal distribution of events (e.g., a substantial fraction of patients in one arm are not progressing within the projected timeframe) or an unexpected distribution of events (e.g., patients in one arm are faring much better than predicted), the time to accumulate the necessary number of events could be delayed. To address this possibility I imagine Eric would have designed the study to trigger a review of the data upon the first of (i) accumulating the necessary number of events or (ii) reaching a prescribed period of time after which said events would be expected (e.g., two or three times the predicted progression free survival ("PFS") for the last patient in the PV-10 arm).

Predicted PFS for the PV-10 arm would derive from the projected hazard ratio ("HR") of the Phase 3 trial, which we do not know; however:
  • Assume the projected HR is 0.545 (from the 180-patient, SPA-designed Phase 3 trial), or 0.6-0.65 (if the HR inched upward to reflect the increased number of patients). See my Trial Math: Meeting the Primary Endpoint, Pt. 1 blog post,
  • Assume a projected comparator (DTIC) PFS of 1.5 months,
  • Calculate a projected PV-10 trial PFS of 2-3 months (1.5 ÷ 0.545 = 3, rounded, or 1.5 ÷ 0.636 = 2, rounded) and
  • Calculate a prescribed period of time after which the necessary number of events would be expected of 6 months (PFS of 3 months × 2 = 6, or PFS of 2 months × 3 = 6).
15 months, for N, then should comprise 9 months of accrual time and 6 months of time as the prescribed period after which the necessary number of events would be expected.

N1, however, might suggest a 10.5 month period (three-and-a-half quarters). Assuming a 3Q14 trial commencement (i.e., September 2014), such data could be available starting in 3Q15 (say, July 2015).
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Understanding that the above is a rough analysis, that there are ranges to every figures used (i.e., give or take, plus or minus), and that folks can have different starting points and assumptions, I think one could make a reasonable argument Provectus may have enough money to provide an interim readout (N1) without a further injection of capital.

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