ANN ARBOR—Esperion Therapeutics Inc., a developer of a new class of cholesterol-reducing drugs, announced that the compensation committee of its board of directors granted non-qualified stock options to purchase an aggregate of 39,500 shares of its common stock and 35,388 restricted stock units (RSUs) to 18 new employees under Esperion’s 2017 Inducement Equity Incentive Plan.

The 2017 Inducement Equity Incentive Plan is used to grant shares to individuals who were not previously an employee or non-employee director of Esperion (or following a bona fide period of non-employment), as an inducement material to such individual’s entering into employment with Esperion, pursuant to Rule 5635(c)(4) of the NASDAQ Listing Rules.

The options have an exercise price of $36.73 per share, which is equal to the closing price of Esperion’s common stock on Aug. 27, 2019. Each option and RSU will vest and become exercisable as to 25 percent of the shares on the one year anniversary of the recipient’s start date, and will vest and become exercisable as to the remaining 75 percent of the shares in twelve equal quarterly installments at the end of each quarter following the anniversary, subject to each employee’s continued employment with Esperion on the vesting dates.

Esperion’s lead drug candidate is bempedoic acid, currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Bempedoic acid is a first-in-class, ATP Citrate Lyase (ACL) inhibitor that reduces cholesterol biosynthesis and lowers LDL-C by up-regulating the LDL receptor. Similar to statins, bempedoic acid also reduces high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease. Completed Phase 3 studies conducted in more than 4,000 patients, with more than 2,600 patients treated with bempedoic acid, demonstrated up to 18 percent placebo corrected LDL-C lowering when used with moderate- and high-intensity statins and 21 to 28 percent placebo corrected LDL-C lowering when used with low dose or no background statin.

Esperion is also testing a tablet containing both bempedoic acid and ezetimibe, which inhibits cholesterol absorption. Phase 3 clinical trial data demonstrated that this combination resulted in a 29 percent placebo corrected LDL-C lowering when used with maximally tolerated statins, a 44 percent LDL-C lowering when used with no background statin, and a 34 percent reduction in hsCRP.