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ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Certain information required in Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K will be included in an amendment to this Annual Report on Form 10-K, filed with the Commission within 120 days after December 31, 2022, and is incorporated by reference herein.
Table of Contents
Cautionary Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statement
All statements other than statements of historical fact included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K (“Report”), including, without limitation, statements under “Business” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” regarding our financial position, business strategy and the plans and objectives of management for future operations, are forward-looking statements. When used in this Report, words and phrases such as “designed to,” “intended to,” “may,” “might,” “can,” “will,” “to be,” “could,” “would,” “should,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “objective,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “project,” “potential,” “likely,” “continue” and “ongoing,” or the negative of such terms or other similar expressions, as they relate to us or our management, identify forward-looking statements.
Any statements in this Report, or incorporated herein, about our expectations, beliefs, plans, objectives, assumptions or future events or performance are not historical facts and are forward-looking statements. Within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Exchange Act, these forward-looking statements include statements regarding:
These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to be materially different from the information expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Except as required by law, we assume no obligation to update these forward-looking statements publicly, or to revise any forward-looking statements to reflect events or developments occurring after the date of this Report, even if new information becomes available in the future.
Item 1. Business.
We are an immuno-oncology company focused on the discovery and development of next-generation therapeutics for cancer patients. Through our TMAb (Tumor Microenvironment Activated Biologics) platform, we are developing highly selective therapeutics designed to disable immunosuppressive signals or activate immunostimulatory signals selectively in the tumor microenvironment to unleash T cells against tumors. Our strategy is to generate novel product candidates that incorporate next-generation technologies or approaches using our robust set of R&D capabilities. We plan to efficiently develop these product candidates by incorporating state-of-the-art biomarker approaches and mechanistic understanding into clinical trial designs targeted to well-defined patient populations.
We have developed our TMAb platform to address resistance to immunotherapy and believe our product candidates and TMAb technology represent large market opportunities. For example, therapeutic drugs targeting the programmed cell death protein 1, or PD-1, and its related ligand, or PD-L1, have emerged as one of the most promising classes of therapeutics for the treatment of cancer. Drugs utilizing PD-1 blockade have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, to treat at least 20 different types of cancer and, in 2020, generated sales of approximately $30 billion worldwide. By 2026, the total global market for drugs utilizing PD-1 blockade is estimated to exceed $90 billion. However, despite the widespread use of checkpoint inhibitors, approximately 70% of patients do not achieve survival benefit from treatment.
We believe there are multiple opportunities and significant potential for patients within our product pipeline. Each program, summarized in the chart below, is derived from our TMAb platform and targets immunosuppressive signals.
We currently have three investigational product candidates in various stages of early development:
Upon successful candidate selection for SNS-102 and/or SNS-103, we expect to initiate IND-enabling studies for at least one product candidate. We have also initiated early discovery efforts for a potential fourth TMAb product candidate that is being designed to activate immunostimulatory signals.
Our TMAb Platform
Our TMAb platform is designed to “unleash” the anti-tumor potential of T cells and is comprised of human monoclonal antibodies that are selectively active in the tumor microenvironment and target immune checkpoints or other critical immune pathways. Selective activation within the tumor is a critical aspect of TMAb and has the potential to “unlock” previously undruggable immune targets for use in oncology applications.
There are several unique features of tumors that TMAb antibodies can leverage to design antibodies that are selectively active within the tumor while potentially displaying little or no activity outside the tumor. One key differentiating feature of tumors relative to most normal human tissue is their relative acidity or low pH, which is typically approximately pH 6.0 compared with normal physiologic pH of 7.4. The acidic environment within tumors is a result of their altered metabolic program, utilizing aerobic glycolysis, resulting in lactic acid production (so called Warburg effect).
Other TMAb approaches could potentially leverage other “divergent” biochemical parameters such as altered REDOX state, high extracellular ATP or DNA, and hypoxia. We utilize yeast-based surface display technology of antibody libraries to identify rare clones, which exhibit desired binding properties under these “tumor-like” biochemical parameters (e.g., selective binding to target at pH 6.0 versus pH 7.4).
pH-sensitive Antibodies Designed to Bind Their Targets Only in a Low pH Environment
Our Portfolio of Product Candidates
SNS-101: Conditionally Active Monoclonal Antibody Targeting VISTA
We believe that anti-VISTA antibodies have the potential to become the backbone of the next generation of cancer immunotherapy. Based on our expertise and deep understanding of this myeloid checkpoint target, our conditionally active human monoclonal antibody targeting VISTA is designed to overcome the challenges of the previous generation of anti-VISTA monoclonal antibodies, and we believe it has the potential to become first anti-VISTA monoclonal antibody approved as a therapeutic agent.
VISTA is an important immunoregulatory target and is highly expressed on various immune system cells, though predominantly myeloid lineage cells, including neutrophils, monocytes, macrophages, basophils and dendritic cells, or DCs. While expressed on CD4 T helper cells and certain T regulatory cells, it exhibits much lower expression on CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes, or CTLs. Effective cancer immunotherapy is often confounded by immune checkpoints such as VISTA and VISTA’s presence within tumors is often indicative of a poor prognosis. Effective VISTA blockade appears to dramatically modulate the tumor microenvironment towards a state that favors an immune system response, resulting in improved T cell effector function and anti-tumor activity.
VISTA has been historically challenging to target for cancer therapy for several reasons. Because significant amounts of VISTA are expressed in immune cells of the blood, the binding of anti-VISTA antibodies using traditional technologies occurs at significant levels outside of the tumor, resulting in a phenomenon known as target-mediated drug disposition, or TMDD. TMDD presents a pharmacological “sink” effect whereby the antibody is effectively drained from the body by binding to VISTA on normal cells in the blood, effectively limiting distribution of anti-VISTA monoclonal antibodies within the tumor. Thus, TMDD results in the need for ever-higher doses to reach a biological active concentration within the tumor and, subsequently, increases the likelihood of on-target, off-tumor toxicity.
The second reason anti-VISTA drug development has lagged behind other checkpoints (e.g., PD-1) is that until recently the critical inhibitory receptor on T cells was not known. Recently, however, the primary receptor on T cells that is critical to VISTA’s immune checkpoint function within the tumor microenvironment was discovered: PSGL-1 (P-selectin glycoprotein ligand-1). Importantly, the VISTA:PSGL-1 interaction only occurs at low pH (~pH 6), like that found within the tumor microenvironment. The high affinity interaction between VISTA and PSGL-1 at low pH is strictly dependent upon protonation of key histidine residues in the extracellular PSGL1-binding domain of VISTA. In effect, the low pH microenvironment of the tumor induces VISTA to convert from an inactive, un-protonated form (physiological pH) to its “active,” protonated form. Thus, we believe VISTA is an ideal target for our TMAb platform, which we have used to identify SNS-101 as a pH-dependent monoclonal antibody with a greater than 600-fold selective binding for the active versus the inactive form of VISTA. We believe that SNS-101 will successfully (1) avoid binding to VISTA in the blood, which results in TMDD and on-target, off-tumor toxicity; and (2) bind “active” VISTA at low pH and block VISTA’s immune checkpoint function within the tumor via inhibition of the interaction with PSGL-1.
A third challenge to prior efforts to generate effective antibodies targeting VISTA is the understanding that an active Fc region is optimal for activity. Thus, we have designed SNS-101 on an IgG1 antibody framework that retains an active Fc region. We believe that anti-VISTA IgG1 monoclonal antibodies bind to VISTA on, among other cell types, tumor-associated macrophages, or TAMs. This binding leads to clustering of the IgG1 domains and transactivation of Fc gamma receptors, or FcgRs, on adjacent TAMs. This interaction between TAMs is likely not unidirectional or even restricted to cell pairs. Each VISTA+ cell could play a role in activating multiple VISTA+ neighbors. Although this myeloid-on-myeloid VISTA/mAb/FcgRs-mediated activation and proinflammatory cytokine release is beneficial within the confines of the tumor microenvironment, it would be potentially deleterious if it were to occur in the blood. We believe that this myeloid-on-myeloid activation is precisely the mechanism underlying the cytokine release syndrome, or CRS, observed in third-party clinical trials with anti-VISTA monoclonal antibodies, as was seen at low doses in the Phase 1 trial of JNJ-61610588 (now CI-8993), a potent non-pH-dependent anti-VISTA monoclonal antibody. Dose limiting toxicities of CRS resulted in early termination of this development program. In contrast, we anticipate that SNS-101 will have significantly less “in blood” activation due to its lack of significant binding to VISTA at physiological pH.
In summary, we believe that there are three critical design parameters required to achieve optimal biologic activity of inhibitory anti-VISTA antibodies:
We believe SNS-101 is the only anti-VISTA antibody in development that was designed with these three salient features in mind.
We have conducted multiple preclinical studies, summarized below, to evaluate the safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetic profile of SNS-101. In addition, we have conducted multi-dose non-human primate, or NHP, toxicology studies and plan to disclose the data in the first half of 2023.
We have observed that SNS-101 binds to VISTA at low pH with a greater than 600-fold differential affinity compared to VISTA at physiological pH of 7.4.
Monovalent Affinity (KD) [nM]
(No pharmacologically relevant binding)
Crystal Structure Analysis
A crystal structure analysis was performed to elucidate the mechanism of action of SNS-101. This analysis determined the epitope of SNS-101 by co-crystallization of VISTA with the Fab domain of SNS-101 and suggests that SNS-101 blocks the PSGL-1 binding site, in addition to several other putative receptors, on VISTA. The figures depicted below were generated from a technique called “X-ray crystallography,” in which crystals made from complexes of highly purified VISTA and SNS-101 Fab fragments were exposed to an X-ray beam, and the patterns of diffracted beams were measured to reveal the high-resolution three-dimensional molecular structure of the proteins.
Figure A shows how SNS-101 binds to VISTA. As with other antibodies, SNS-101 has two binding arms (termed Fab fragments), each consisting of two amino acid chains (shown in blue and orange) that together form the binding site (only a part of the full antibody is shown in the figure). The surface of the VISTA protein covered by SNS-101 is colored red, and the rest of VISTA is shown in green. Figure B is a 90° rotated version of (A) where SNS-101 was removed to get a clear view of the interaction of SNS-101 on the surface of VISTA. Figure C shows the same orientation of VISTA as (B), indicating areas interacting with the receptors PSGL-1 (blue), VSIG-3 (brown) and LRIG-1 (orange). The overlap of the footprint of SNS-101 with the binding sites for these receptors suggest a simple mechanism for how SNS-101 could block their interaction with VISTA.
Mechanism of Action
We assessed the mechanism of action, or MOA, of SNS-101 in a dose-response study (3, 10, or 30 mg/kg) in combination with different anti-mPD-1 doses (1 or 5 mg/kg) again in MC38 tumors and analyzed tumor-infiltrating CD8 T cells at the end of the study. Antibody treatment was again well tolerated, as no significant body weight changes were observed. Tumor growth is represented below as "spider plots" in which each line represents the growth of the tumor in the respective mouse for each particular treatment group. Anti-mPD-1 at 1 mg/kg did not result in any discernible tumor growth inhibition (5%, P>0.05) and although anti-mPD-1 at 5 mg/kg resulted in substantial tumor growth inhibition (41%), this did not reach statistical significance in this study. However, the combination of SNS-101 at 10 and 30 mg/kg with 1 mg/kg of anti-mouse PD-1 resulted in statistically significant tumor growth inhibition (52%, P<0.01 and 53% P<0.02, respectively) compared to anti-mPD-1 group at 1 mg/kg. At the end of the study tumors were removed from the mice and tumor-infiltrating CD8 T cells were then enumerated.
Myeloid cells, like monocytes and macrophages, are part of the innate immune response to pathogens, wounds, and even cancers, and play key roles in inflammatory responses. Depending on the environmental signals they receive, these cells take on different characteristics that allow them to perform various tasks. Some of these functions can promote tumor killing responses (anti-tumor immunity, or the M1 phenotype), while others actively suppress immune responses and allow tumors to thrive, or the M2 phenotype.
Our goal in targeting VISTA signaling with SNS-101 is to shape the environment of these myeloid cells in order to shift the balance of macrophage phenotypes towards anti-tumoral responses. Furthermore, altering these myeloid responses in the tumor microenvironment may create favorable conditions for other components of the adaptive immune system to join the fight against the tumor.
Taken together, MOA studies in VISTA-KI mice implanted with the syngeneic tumor model MC38 demonstrated that SNS-101 enhanced anti-PD-1 response and dose-dependently increased tumor-infiltrating CD8 T cells. Additionally, these studies indicate that SNS-101 in combination with anti-PD-1 therapy promotes a shift toward a pro-inflammatory and anti-tumor state.
Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS) Assay
CRS assays (IFN-g, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, TNF-a) in an ex vivo system using circulating fresh human whole blood indicated no significant cytokine induction by SNS-101 compared to a clinical stage, non-pH-selective anti-VISTA antibody.
SNS-101 has been observed to bind to human and cynomolgus macaque VISTA, but not to rodent VISTA. Therefore, the pharmacokinetic profile of SNS-101 was assessed in human VISTA knock-in, or KI, mice and NHPs. The mouse data demonstrated that SNS-101 had a long mean residence time in the blood, indicating a lack of significant TMDD and clearance in non-malignant tissues. The NHP data showed linear elimination kinetics for SNS-101, while a non-pH-sensitive antibody bound VISTA+ immune cells, induced monocyte activation followed by a decrease in cell numbers, and was rapidly cleared from circulation.
We have conducted multiple preclinical studies to assess the pharmacological activity of SNS-101. As SNS-101 does not bind to mouse VISTA, wild-type mice cannot be used to study the pharmacology of SNS-101. Accordingly, we utilized human VISTA KI mice to assess anti-tumor activity of SNS-101 alone and in combination with anti-mouse PD-1 (anti-mPD-1). Antibodies were administered every three days for two weeks. Antibody treatment was well tolerated, as no significant body weight changes were observed. Anti-mPD-1 at 5mg/kg resulted in significant tumor growth inhibition of 52% (P<0.01). Monotherapy of SNS-101 at 10mg/kg showed modest tumor growth inhibition of 36% but did not reach statistical significance in this model. However, combination of SNS-101 with anti-mPD-1 resulted in statistically significant tumor growth inhibition of 77% (P<0.0001) compared to the isotype control group, which also was statistically significantly different compared to anti-mPD-1 group (P=0.0021). Survival analysis shows that the combination of SNS-101 with anti-mPD-1 results in a 50% survival benefit (green line) vs 12.5% in anti-mouse PD-1 alone (blue line, P<0.05). The data suggest that VISTA inhibition by SNS-101 enhanced anti-mouse PD-1 response in the MC38 tumor model.
We have conducted anti-tumor efficacy studies with VISTA KI mice implanted with the syngeneic tumor model MC38-7r. In this study we treated anti-mPD-1 insensitive MC-38 tumors (MC38-7r) with either SNS-101 at 30mg/kg, anti-mPD-1 at 5mg/kg or in combination. Anti-mPD-1 at 5mg/kg did not result in significant tumor growth inhibition in this tumor model, a dose which showed anti-tumor efficacy in MC38. However, monotherapy of SNS-101 at 30mg/kg showed significant tumor growth inhibition compared to the isotype control group. These data show that SNS-101, as a monotherapy, demonstrated improved efficacy in this anti-mPD-1 insensitive tumor model.
Additionally, SNS-101 re-sensitized anti-PD-1-resistant 1956 sarcoma tumors, resulting in tumor rejection. We treated anti-mPD-1 insensitive 1956 sarcoma tumors with either SNS-101 at 20mg/kg, anti-mPD-1 at 10mg/kg or in combination. Anti-mPD-1 at
10mg/kg induced only one complete tumor rejection (blue line), whereas the combination of SNS-101 with anti-mPD-1 induced five complete tumor rejections (green line).
1956 Sarcoma Tumor Model
Collectively, we believe the preclinical data described above demonstrate SNS-101’s potential for broad anti-tumor efficacy as monotherapy and in combination with PD-1 blockade. Additional work is ongoing to determine other mechanisms with potential for synergistic activity in combination with SNS-101.
Sponsored Research Agreement - Washington University, St. Louis
In November 2022, we announced the execution of a Sponsored Research Agreement with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, pursuant to which research will be conducted in the laboratory of Robert Schreiber, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology & Immunology and Director of the Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs, to evaluate the underlying molecular mechanisms that may enable SNS-101 to overcome myeloid cell-driven immunosuppression within the tumor microenvironment.
Cooperative Research and Development Agreement - National Cancer Institute
In February 2023, we announced the execution of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to expand the development of SNS-101. Under the terms of the CRADA, we will collaborate with the NCI to conduct preclinical studies to assess the mechanism of action of SNS-101 in combination with novel therapeutic modalities. Additionally, the NCI may act as a clinical site for our planned Phase 1/2 clinical trial of SNS-101 and may conduct future clinical trials of SNS-101 in combination with novel therapeutic modalities that are discovered in preclinical studies conducted by the NCI.
Planned Phase 1/2 Clinical Trial
In March 2023 we submitted an IND to the FDA for a Phase 1/2 clinical trial. Subject to regulatory clearance, the Company is planning to initiate a first-in-human Phase 1/2 open-label, multi-center, dose escalation and expansion study trial in 2023 to evaluate the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and efficacy of SNS-101 as monotherapy and/or in combination with cemiplimab in patients with advanced solid tumors. In January 2023, we entered into a supply agreement with Regeneron pursuant to which Regeneron will supply cemiplimab for our planned Phase 1/2 trial.
We expect the primary objectives for the Phase 1 portion of the clinical trial will be to evaluate safety and tolerability and determine the maximum tolerated dose and recommended monotherapy and combination dose for the Phase 2 portion of the trial. Secondary objectives are expected to include determination of the pharmacokinetic profile of SNS-101, immunogenicity and preliminary evidence of anti-tumor activity as monotherapy and in combination with cemiplimab. As exploratory endpoints we plan to assess biomarkers of SNS-101, which may include serum cytokine/chemokine analysis, blood cell phenotyping, and tumor and blood sequencing/phenotyping.
For the Phase 2 portion of the clinical trial, in addition to continuing to evaluate the safety and efficacy of SNS-101 as monotherapy and in combination with cemiplimab, we plan to evaluate exploratory endpoints such as multiplex immunohistochemistry, circulating tumor DNA, tumor and blood cell sequencing (RNA and DNA), and single-cell RNA sequencing.
SNS-102: Conditionally Active Monoclonal Antibody Targeting VSIG4
VSIG-4 (V-set and Ig domain-containing 4; also known as CRIg, or complement receptor of the Ig superfamily) is a B7-related family member, which is highly expressed on macrophages, including TAMs. VSIG-4 has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of T
cell proliferation. Furthermore, VSIG-4 inhibits proinflammatory macrophage activity through metabolic reprogramming. These complementary immunosuppressive features of VSIG-4 make it an interesting and high-potential myeloid immunotherapeutic target.
Expression of VSIG-4 in normal tissues, chiefly on tissue-resident macrophage populations such as the Kupffer cells of the liver, suggest the presence of a large peripheral target sink and potential for on-target/off-tumor toxicities. Taken together, these features make VSIG-4 a strong candidate for a TMAb-based approach.
We have identified eight parental pH-sensitive VSIG4 antibodies, which have undergone further lead optimization and are currently being characterized. We expect to select a product candidate in 2023.
SNS-103: Conditionally Active Monoclonal Antibody Targeting ENTPDase1 (CD39)
ENTPDase1 (also known as CD39, or ecto-nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolase-1) is the upstream, rate-limiting enzyme, leading to the breakdown of extracellular adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Extracellular ATP represents a potent immunologic “danger signal,” which drives immune activation. The ultimate downstream product of this pathway, adenosine, has potent immunosuppressive activity through binding to adenosine receptors. Upregulation of CD39 by tumors is common and leads to decreased extracellular ATP and a diminished anti-tumor immune response.
Pharmacologic inhibition of CD39 activity has shown anti-tumor activity in a variety of experimental tumor models. Several of these molecules are currently being evaluated as cancer therapeutics in early phase clinical trials. CD39, although upregulated in tumors, is also expressed in normal tissue on a variety of different cell populations. The expression of CD39 on endothelial cells is particularly problematic, as this is anticipated to result in significant on-target/off-tumor binding, leading to TMDD, a poor PK profile and potential toxicities.
We have identified eight parental pH-selective CD39 antibodies, and a lead antibody set is currently undergoing further optimization. We expect to select a product candidate in 2023.
We rely on contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, to produce our TMAb product candidates. We require that our CMOs produce bulk drug substances and finished drug products in accordance with cGMP, and all other applicable laws and regulations. We may also rely on CMOs for additional parts of the process, like filling and labelling of our products for commercial sale. Any agreements with potential and existing manufacturers will include confidentiality and intellectual property provisions to protect our proprietary rights related to our product candidates.
Intellectual property is of vital importance in our field and in biotechnology generally. We seek to protect and enhance proprietary technology, inventions, and improvements that are commercially important to the development of our business by seeking, maintaining, and defending patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from third parties. We will also seek to rely on regulatory protection afforded through inclusion in expedited development and review, data exclusivity, market exclusivity and patent term extensions where available.
Wherever possible, we pursue claims directed to the clinical product or product candidates. Such applications may not result in issued patents and, even if patents do issue, such patents may not be in a form that will provide us with meaningful protection for our product. We also rely on trade secrets that may be important to the development of our business. Trade secrets are difficult to protect and provide us with only limited protection.
We expect to file additional patent applications in support of current and new clinical candidates as well as new platform and core technologies. Our commercial success will depend in part on obtaining and maintaining patent protection and trade secret protection of our current and future product candidates and the methods used to develop and manufacture them, as well as successfully defending these patents against third-party challenges and operating without infringing on the proprietary rights of others. Our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing our products depends on the extent to which we have rights under valid and enforceable patents or trade secrets that cover these activities. We cannot be sure that patents will be granted with respect to any of our pending patent applications or with respect to any patent applications filed by us in the future, nor can we be sure that any patents that may be granted to us in the future will be commercially useful in protecting our product candidates, discovery programs and processes. For this and more comprehensive risks related to our intellectual property, please see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term of the patents in the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries in which we file, including the United States, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing a non-provisional patent application. In the United States, a patent’s term may be lengthened by patent term adjustment, which compensates a patentee
for administrative delays by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, in examining and granting a patent, or may be shortened if a patent is terminally disclaimed over an earlier filed patent. In the United States, the patent term of a patent that covers an FDA-approved drug may also be eligible for patent term extension, which permits patent term restoration as compensation for the patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. The Hatch-Waxman Act permits a patent term extension of up to five years beyond the expiration of the patent. The length of the patent term extension is related to the length of time the drug is under regulatory review. Patent term extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval, only one patent applicable to an approved drug may be extended and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it, or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. Similar provisions are available in Europe and other foreign jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved drug. In the future, if and when our products receive FDA approval, we expect to apply for patent term extensions on patents covering those products. We plan to seek patent term extensions to any issued patents we may obtain in any jurisdiction where such patent term extensions are available, however there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities, including the FDA in the United States, will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and if granted, the length of such extensions. For more information regarding the risks related to our intellectual property, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
In some instances, we submit patent applications directly with the USPTO as provisional patent applications. Corresponding non-provisional patent applications must be filed not later than 12 months after the provisional application filing date. While we intend to timely file non-provisional patent applications relating to our provisional patent applications, we cannot predict whether any such patent applications will result in the issuance of patents that provide us with any competitive advantage.
We file U.S. non-provisional applications and Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT, applications that claim the benefit of the priority date of earlier filed provisional applications, when applicable. The PCT system allows a single application to be filed within 12 months of the original priority date of the patent application, and to designate all of the PCT member states in which national patent applications can later be pursued based on the international patent application filed under the PCT. The PCT searching authority performs a patentability search and issues a non-binding patentability opinion which can be used to evaluate the chances of success for the national applications in foreign countries prior to having to incur the filing fees. Although a PCT application does not issue as a patent, it allows the applicant to seek protection in any of the member states through national-phase applications. At the end of the period of two and a half years from the first priority date of the patent application, separate patent applications can be pursued in any of the PCT member states either by direct national filing or, in some cases by filing through a regional patent organization, such as the European Patent Office. The PCT system delays expenses, allows a limited evaluation of the chances of success for national/regional patent applications and enables substantial savings where applications are abandoned within the first two and a half years of filing.
For all patent applications, we determine claiming strategy on a case-by-case basis. Advice of counsel and our business model and needs are always considered. We seek to file patents containing claims for protection of all useful applications of our proprietary technologies and any products, as well as all new applications and/or uses we discover for existing technologies and products, assuming these are strategically valuable. We continuously reassess the number and type of patent applications, as well as the pending and issued patent claims to pursue maximum coverage and value for our processes, and compositions, given existing patent office rules and regulations. Further, claims may be modified during patent prosecution to meet our intellectual property and business needs.
We recognize that the ability to obtain patent protection and the degree of such protection depends on a number of factors, including the extent of the prior art, the novelty and non-obviousness of the invention, and the ability to satisfy the enablement requirement of the patent laws. In addition, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted or further altered even after patent issuance. Consequently, we may not obtain or maintain adequate patent protection for any of our future product candidates or for our technology platform. We cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient proprietary protection from competitors. Any patents that we hold may be challenged, circumvented or invalidated by third parties.
In addition to patent protection, we also rely on trademark registration, trade secrets, know how, other proprietary information and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. We seek to protect and maintain the confidentiality of proprietary information to protect aspects of our business that are not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection. Although we take steps to protect our proprietary information and trade secrets, including through contractual means with our employees and consultants, third parties may independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques or otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or disclose our technology. Thus, we may not be able to meaningfully protect our trade secrets. It is our policy to require our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors to execute confidentiality agreements upon the commencement of employment or consulting relationships with us. These agreements provide that all confidential information concerning our business or financial affairs developed or made known to the individual during the course of the individual’s relationship with us is to be kept confidential and not disclosed to third parties except in specific circumstances. Our agreements with employees also provide that all inventions conceived
by the employee in the course of employment with us or from the employee’s use of our confidential information are our exclusive property. However, such confidentiality agreements and invention assignment agreements can be breached and we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. To the extent that our consultants, contractors or collaborators use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights in related or resulting trade secrets, know-how and inventions. For more information regarding the risks related to our intellectual property, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Intellectual Property.”
The patent positions of biotechnology companies like ours are generally uncertain and involve complex legal, scientific and factual questions. Our commercial success will also depend in part on not infringing upon the proprietary rights of third parties. Third-party patents could require us to alter our development or commercial strategies, or our products or processes, obtain licenses or cease certain activities. Our breach of any license agreements or our failure to obtain a license to proprietary rights required to develop or commercialize our future products may have a material adverse impact on us. If third parties prepare and file patent applications in the United States that also claim technology to which we have rights, we may have to participate in interference or derivation proceedings in the USPTO to determine priority of invention. For more information, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Intellectual Property.”
When available to expand market exclusivity, our strategy is to obtain, or license additional intellectual property related to current or contemplated development platforms, core elements of technology and/or clinical candidates.
As of March 1, 2023, our solely owned patent estate included two issued U.S. patents, four issued foreign patents, two pending U.S. patent applications, and one international patent application.
We own one U.S. non-provisional and one international patent application relating to composition of matter of our SNS-101 product candidate and method claims including use in combination with immune checkpoint protein inhibitors. Subject to payment of required maintenance fees, annuities, and other charges, any patents, if issued, are projected to expire in 2042.
On July 14, 2021, we entered into a First Amended and Restated Collaboration Agreement, or the Adimab Agreement, with Adimab, LLC, or Adimab. Under the Adimab Agreement, we selected a number of biological targets against which Adimab used its proprietary platform technology to discover and/or optimize antibodies based upon mutually agreed upon research plans, and we have the ability to select a specified number of additional biological targets against which Adimab will provide additional antibody discovery and optimization services. During the research term and evaluation term for a given research program with Adimab, or Research Program, we have a non-exclusive worldwide license under Adimab’s technology to perform certain research activities and to evaluate the program antibodies to determine whether we want to exercise our option to obtain an exclusive license to exploit such antibodies, referred to herein as a “Development and Commercialization Option.”
Pursuant to the Adimab Agreement, we previously paid Adimab a one-time, non-creditable, non-refundable technology access fee of $50,000. We are also obligated to make certain technical milestone payments to Adimab for each Research Program up to $275,000. Upon exercise of a Development and Commercialization Option, we are obligated to pay to Adimab a non-creditable, nonrefundable option exercise fee of $500,000 plus an amount equal to any technical milestone payment which was not previously paid with respect to such Research Program and less any option extension fees paid with respect to such Research Program. On a product-by-product basis, we will pay Adimab upon the achievement of various clinical and regulatory milestone events with total milestone payments up to an aggregate of $13.3 million for the first product from a Research Program and up to an aggregate of $6.6 million for each subsequent product from a Research Program. For any product that is commercialized, on a country-by-country and product-by-product basis, we are obligated to pay to Adimab a low-to-mid single-digit percentage of annual worldwide net sales of such product during the applicable royalty period in each country.
SNS-101 is subject to the terms of the Adimab Agreement, and in December 2022 we exercised our Development and Commercialization Option for the Research Program from which SNS-101 was generated. To date, we have paid $825,000 to Adimab pursuant to the Adimab Agreement for the upfront payment, the Development and Commercialization Option and program delivery fees.
Trademarks, Trade Secrets and Know-How
Our trademark portfolio currently consists of two registered trademarks and one trademark application. In addition to patent and trademark protection, we rely upon unpatented trade secrets and know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. We seek to protect our proprietary information, in part, using confidentiality agreements with our
commercial partners, collaborators, employees, and consultants, and employees. These and other agreements, such as invention assignment agreements, grant us ownership of technologies that are developed through a relationship with a third party.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries have made substantial investments in recent years into the rapid development of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of a range of pathologies, including cancers and infectious diseases, making this a highly competitive market.
We face substantial competition from multiple sources, including large and specialty pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic research institutions and governmental agencies and public and private research institutions. Our competitors compete with us on the level of the technologies employed, or on the level of development of product candidates. In addition, many small biotechnology companies have formed collaborations with large, established companies to (i) obtain support for their research, development and commercialization of products or (ii) combine several treatment approaches to develop longer lasting or more efficacious treatments that may potentially directly compete with our current or future product candidates. We anticipate that we will continue to face increasing competition as new therapies and combinations thereof, technologies, and data emerge within the field of immunotherapy and, furthermore, within the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases.
In addition to the current standard of care treatments for patients with cancers and infectious diseases, numerous commercial and academic preclinical studies and clinical trials are being undertaken by a large number of parties to assess novel technologies and product candidates in the field of immunotherapy. Results from these studies and trials have fueled increasing levels of interest in the field of immunotherapy.
Large pharmaceutical companies that have commercialized or are developing immunotherapies to treat cancer include AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Roche/Genentech. In addition, we may compete with other immuno-oncology companies in our industry, such as Hummingbird Bioscience, Kineta, PharmAbcine, Pierre Fabre and Curis, each of which are developing antibodies targeting VISTA, the target of our lead product candidate SNS-101.
Many of our competitors, either alone or in combination with their respective strategic partners, have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, the regulatory approval process, and marketing than we do. Mergers and acquisition activity in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and biotechnology sector is likely to result in greater resource concentration among a smaller number of our competitors.
Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through sizeable collaborative arrangements with established companies. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retain qualified scientific and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.
Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if one or more of our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, better tolerated, or of greater convenience or economic benefit than our proposed product offering. Our competitors also may be in a position to obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly, resulting in a stronger or dominant market position before we are able to enter the market. The key competitive factors affecting the success of all of our programs are likely to be product safety, efficacy, convenience and treatment cost.
Government authorities in the United States at the federal, state and local level and in other countries regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, approval, labeling, packaging, storage, record-keeping, promotion, advertising, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, marketing and export and import of biological products. Generally, before a new drug or biologic can be marketed, considerable data demonstrating its quality, safety and efficacy must be obtained, organized into a format specific for each regulatory authority, submitted for review and approved by the regulatory authority.
U.S. Biological Product Development
In the United States, the FDA regulates biologics under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, the Public Health Service Act, or the PHSA, and their implementing regulations. Biologics also are subject to other federal, state and local statutes and regulations. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state and local statutes and regulations requires the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. Failure to comply with the applicable U.S.
requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process or post-market may subject an applicant to administrative or judicial sanctions. These sanctions could include, among other actions, the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications, suspension or revocation of a license, a clinical hold, untitled or warning letters, product recalls or market withdrawals, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement and civil or criminal penalties.
Our product candidates and any future biological product candidates we develop must be approved by the FDA through a biologics license application, or BLA, before they may be legally marketed in the United States. The BLA is a request for approval to market the biologic for one or more specified indications and must contain proof of safety, purity and potency. The FDA review and approval process generally involves the following:
Preclinical Studies and IND
Before testing any biological product candidate in humans, the product candidate enters the preclinical testing stage. Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluation of product biological characteristics, chemistry and formulation, as well as in vitro and animal studies to assess the potential for adverse events and in some cases to establish a rationale for therapeutic use. The conduct of preclinical studies is subject to federal regulations and requirements, including GLP regulations for safety/toxicology studies.
An IND sponsor must submit the results of the preclinical studies, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, any available clinical data or literature and plans for clinical trials, among other things, to the FDA as part of an IND. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational product to humans, and must become effective before human clinical trials may begin. Some long-term preclinical testing may continue after the IND is submitted. An IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless before that time, the FDA raises concerns or questions related to one or more proposed clinical trials and places the trial on clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. As a result, submission of an IND may not result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to commence.
The clinical stage of development involves the administration of the investigational product to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by or under the trial sponsor’s control, in accordance with GCP requirements, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria and the parameters to be used to monitor subject safety and assess efficacy, including stopping rules that assure a clinical trial will be stopped if certain adverse events should occur. Each protocol, and any subsequent amendments to the protocol, must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Further, each clinical trial
must be reviewed and approved by an IRB for each institution at which the clinical trial will be conducted to ensure that the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trials are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the informed consent form that must be provided to each clinical trial subject or his or her legal representative, and must monitor the clinical trial until completed. There also are requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed clinical trial results to public registries.
A sponsor who wishes to conduct a clinical trial outside of the United States may, but need not, obtain FDA authorization to conduct the clinical trial under an IND. If a foreign clinical trial is not conducted under an IND, the sponsor may submit data from the clinical trial to the FDA in support of a BLA. The FDA will accept a well-designed and well-conducted foreign clinical trial not conducted under an IND if the study was conducted in accordance with GCP requirements, and the FDA is able to validate the data through an onsite inspection if deemed necessary.
Clinical trials generally are conducted in three sequential phases, known as Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3, and may overlap or be combined, such that the objectives of multiple phases are addressed within the design of a single trial.
In August 2018, the FDA released a draft guidance entitled “Expansion Cohorts: Use in First-In-Human Clinical Trials to Expedite Development of Oncology Drugs and Biologics,” which outlines how developers can utilize an adaptive trial design commonly referred to as a seamless trial design in early stages of oncology biological product development (i.e., the Phase 1 first-in-human clinical trial) to compress the traditional three phases of trials into one continuous trial called an expansion cohort trial. Information to support the design of individual expansion cohorts are included in IND applications and assessed by FDA. Expansion cohort trials can potentially bring efficiency to biological product development and reduce developmental costs and time.
Post-approval trials, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials, may be conducted after initial marketing approval. These trials are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication. In certain instances, the FDA may mandate the performance of Phase 4 clinical trials as a condition of approval of a BLA. Failure to exhibit due diligence with regard to conducting required Phase 4 clinical trials could result in withdrawal of licensure for biological products.
During all phases of clinical development, regulatory agencies require extensive monitoring and auditing of all clinical activities, clinical data, and clinical trial investigators. Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials, among other information, must be submitted at least annually to the FDA and written IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and the investigators for serious and unexpected suspected adverse events, findings from other studies or animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human subjects, and any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure.
Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, if at all. The FDA or the sponsor may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the biological product candidate has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients. Additionally, some clinical trials are overseen by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical trial sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board or committee. This group provides authorization for whether a trial may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the trial. There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical studies and clinical study results to public registries. Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal studies and also must develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the biological product candidate as well as finalize a process for manufacturing the product candidate in
commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product and, among other things, companies must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, purity and potency of the final product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over their shelf life.
FDA Review Process
Following completion of the clinical trials, data are analyzed to assess whether the investigational product is safe and effective for the proposed indicated use or uses. The results of preclinical studies and clinical trials are then submitted to the FDA as part of a BLA, along with proposed labeling, chemistry and manufacturing information to ensure product quality and other relevant data. The BLA may include both negative and ambiguous results of preclinical studies and clinical trials, as well as positive findings. Data may come from company-sponsored clinical trials intended to test the safety and efficacy of a product candidate’s use or from a number of alternative sources, including studies initiated by investigators. To support marketing approval, the data submitted must be sufficient in quality and quantity to establish the safety, purity and potency of the investigational product to the satisfaction of FDA. FDA approval of a BLA must be obtained before a biologic may be marketed in the United States.
Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, as amended, each BLA must be accompanied by a user fee. The FDA adjusts the PDUFA user fees on an annual basis. The sponsor of an approved BLA is also subject to an annual prescription drug program fee. Fee waivers or reductions are available in certain circumstances, including a waiver of the application fee for the first application filed by a small business. Additionally, no user fees are assessed on BLAs for products designated as orphan drugs, unless the product also includes a non-orphan indication.
The FDA reviews all submitted BLAs before it accepts them for filing, and may request additional information rather than accepting the BLA for filing. The FDA decides whether to accept a BLA for filing within 60 days of receipt, and such decision could include a refusal to file by the FDA. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth review of the BLA. Under the goals and policies agreed to by the FDA under PDUFA, the FDA has ten months from the filing date in which to complete its initial review of an original BLA and respond to the applicant, and six months from the filing date of an original BLA designated for priority review. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs, and the review process is often extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification.
Before approving a BLA, the FDA will conduct a pre-approval inspection of the manufacturing facilities for the new product to determine whether they comply with cGMP requirements. The FDA will not approve the product unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. The FDA also may audit data from clinical trials to ensure compliance with GCP requirements. Additionally, the FDA may refer applications for novel products or products which present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee, typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions, if any. The FDA is not bound by recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations when making decisions on approval. The FDA likely will reanalyze the clinical trial data, which could result in extensive discussions between the FDA and the applicant during the review process. After the FDA evaluates a BLA, it will issue an approval letter or a complete response letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the biologic with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A complete response letter indicates that the review cycle of the application is complete and the application will not be approved in its present form. A complete response letter usually describes all of the specific deficiencies in the BLA identified by the FDA. The complete response letter may require additional clinical data, pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial(s) as well as other significant and time-consuming requirements related to clinical trials, preclinical studies or manufacturing. If a complete response letter is issued, the applicant may either resubmit the BLA, addressing all of the deficiencies identified in the letter, or withdraw the application. Even if such data and information are submitted, the FDA may decide that the BLA does not satisfy the criteria for approval.
Orphan Drug Designation
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a biological product intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or more than 200,000 individuals in the United States and for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making the product available in the United States for this type of disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product. Orphan drug designation for a biologic must be requested before submitting a BLA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process.
Orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as opportunities for grant funding towards clinical trial costs, tax advantages and user fee waivers. If a product that has orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same biological product for the same indication for seven years from the date of such approval, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan exclusivity by means of greater effectiveness, greater safety or providing a major contribution to patient care or in instances of drug supply issues. Competitors, however, may receive approval of either a different product for the same indication or the same product for a different indication but that could be used off-label in the orphan indication. Orphan drug exclusivity also could block the approval of one of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains approval before we do for the same product, as defined by the FDA, for the same indication we are seeking approval, or if our product is determined to be contained within the scope of the competitor’s product for the same indication or disease. If a biological product designated as an orphan drug receives marketing approval for an indication broader than that which is designated, it may not be entitled to orphan drug exclusivity. Orphan drug status in the European Union has similar, but not identical, requirements and benefits.
Expedited Development and Review Programs
The FDA has a fast track program that is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing new biologics that meet certain criteria. Specifically, new biological product candidates are eligible for fast track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and preclinical or clinical data demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Fast track designation applies to both the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a biological product candidate can request the FDA to designate the product for fast track status any time before receiving BLA approval, but ideally no later than the pre-BLA meeting.
Any product submitted to the FDA for marketing, including under a fast track program, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite development and review, such as priority review and accelerated approval. Any product candidate is eligible for priority review if it treats a serious or life-threatening condition and, if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety and effectiveness compared to available therapies. The FDA will attempt to direct additional resources to the evaluation of an application for a new biologic designated for priority review in an effort to facilitate the review.
A product candidate may also be eligible for accelerated approval, if it treats a serious or life-threatening condition and generally provides a meaningful advantage over available therapies. In addition, it must demonstrate an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, or IMM, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on IMM or other clinical benefit. As a condition of approval, the FDA may require that a sponsor of a biological product candidate receiving accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical trials. If the FDA concludes that a biological product candidate shown to be effective can be safely used only if distribution or use is restricted, it will require such post-marketing restrictions, as it deems necessary to assure safe use of the product. If the FDA determines that the conditions of approval are not being met, the FDA can withdraw its accelerated approval for such biologic.
Additionally, a biological product candidate may be eligible for designation as a breakthrough therapy if the product candidate is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs or biologics, to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product candidate may demonstrate substantial improvement over currently approved therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. The benefits of breakthrough therapy designation include the same benefits as fast track designation, plus intensive guidance from the FDA to ensure an efficient drug development program.
Fast track designation, priority review, accelerated approval and breakthrough therapy designation do not change the standards for approval, but may expedite the development or approval process.
Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, or PREA, a BLA or supplement to a BLA must contain data to assess the safety and efficacy of the biological product candidate for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The FDA may grant deferrals for submission of pediatric data or full or partial waivers. Unless otherwise required by regulation, PREA does not apply to any biological product candidate for an indication for which orphan designation has been granted.
The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, or FDASIA, amended the FDCA to require that a sponsor who is planning to submit a marketing application for a drug that includes a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen or new route of administration submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan, or PSP, within 60 days of an end-of-Phase 2
meeting or, if there is no such meeting, as early as practicable before the initiation of the registration-enabling trial. The initial PSP must include an outline of the pediatric study or studies that the sponsor plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, age groups, relevant endpoints and statistical approach, or a justification for not including such detailed information, and any request for a deferral of pediatric assessments or a full or partial waiver of the requirement to provide data from pediatric studies along with supporting information. The FDA and the sponsor must reach an agreement on the PSP. A sponsor can submit amendments to an agreed-upon initial PSP at any time if changes to the pediatric plan need to be considered based on data collected from preclinical studies, early phase clinical trials as well as other clinical development programs.
Following approval of a new product, the manufacturer and the approved product are subject to continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, monitoring and record-keeping activities, reporting of adverse experiences, complying with promotion and advertising requirements, which include restrictions on promoting products for unapproved uses or patient populations (known as “off-label use”) and limitations on industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities. Although physicians may prescribe legally available products for off-label uses, manufacturers may not market or promote such uses. Prescription drug and biologic promotional materials must be submitted to the FDA in conjunction with their first use. Further, if there are any modifications to the biologic, including changes in indications, labeling or manufacturing processes or facilities, the applicant may be required to submit and obtain FDA approval of a new BLA or BLA supplement, which may require the development of additional data or preclinical studies and clinical trials. The FDA may also place other conditions on approvals including the requirement for a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, to assure the safe use of the product. If the FDA concludes a REMS is needed, the sponsor of the BLA must submit a proposed REMS. The FDA will not approve the BLA without an approved REMS, if required. A REMS could include medication guides, physician communication plans or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. Any of these limitations on approval or marketing could restrict the commercial promotion, distribution, prescription or dispensing of products. Product approvals may be withdrawn for non-compliance with regulatory standards or if problems occur following initial marketing.
FDA regulations require that products be manufactured in specific facilities and in accordance with cGMP regulations. We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the production of clinical and commercial quantities of our products in accordance with cGMP regulations. These manufacturers must comply with cGMP regulations that require, among other things, quality control and quality assurance, the maintenance of records and documentation and the obligation to investigate and correct any deviations from cGMP. Manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved biologics are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with cGMP requirements and other laws. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain cGMP compliance. The discovery of violations, including failure to conform to cGMP regulations, could result in enforcement actions, and the discovery of post-approval problems with a product may result in restrictions on a product, manufacturer or holder of an approved BLA, including recall.
U.S. Healthcare Reform and Other U.S. Healthcare Laws
Manufacturing, sales, promotion and other activities following product approval are also subject to regulation by numerous regulatory authorities in the United States in addition to the FDA, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, other divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and state and local governments.
Healthcare providers, physicians and third-party payors in the United States and elsewhere play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of pharmaceutical products. Arrangements with third-party payors and customers can expose pharmaceutical manufactures to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations, including, without limitation, the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the federal False Claims Act, or FCA, which may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which companies sell, market and distribute pharmaceutical products. In addition, transparency laws and patient privacy regulations by federal and state governments and by governments in foreign jurisdictions can apply to the manufacturing, sales, promotion and other activities of pharmaceutical manufactures. The applicable federal, state and foreign healthcare laws and regulations that can affect a pharmaceutical company’s operations include:
Pricing and rebate programs must comply with the Medicaid rebate requirements of the U.S. Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 and more recent requirements in the ACA. If products are made available to authorized users of the Federal Supply Schedule of the General Services Administration, additional laws and requirements apply. Products must meet applicable child-resistant packaging requirements under the U.S. Poison Prevention Packaging Act.
The distribution of pharmaceutical products is subject to additional requirements and regulations, including extensive record-keeping, licensing, storage and security requirements intended to prevent the unauthorized sale of pharmaceutical products.
The scope and enforcement of each of these laws is uncertain and subject to rapid change in the current environment of healthcare reform, especially in light of the lack of applicable precedent and regulations with respect to certain laws. Federal and state enforcement bodies have recently increased their scrutiny of interactions between healthcare companies and healthcare providers, which has led to a number of investigations, prosecutions, convictions and settlements in the healthcare industry. Prohibitions or restrictions on sales or withdrawal of future marketed products could materially affect our business in an adverse way. Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements; (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling; (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products; or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect the operation of our business.
Ensuring our business arrangements comply with applicable healthcare laws, as well as responding to possible investigations by government authorities, can be time- and resource-consuming and can divert a company’s attention from the business.
It is possible that governmental and enforcement authorities will conclude that a pharmaceutical manufacturer’s business practices do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law interpreting applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. The failure to comply with any of these laws or regulatory requirements subjects companies to possible legal or regulatory action. Depending on the circumstances, failure to meet applicable regulatory requirements can result in civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, individual imprisonment, possible exclusion from participation in federal and state funded healthcare programs, contractual damages and the curtailment or restricting of our operations, as well as additional reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or other agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws. Additionally, private individuals have the ability to bring actions on behalf of the U.S. government under the federal FCA as well as under the false claims laws of several states against a pharmaceutical manufacturer. The approval and commercialization of a pharmaceutical manufacturer’s product candidates outside the United States will also likely subject it to foreign equivalents of the healthcare laws mentioned above, among other foreign laws. Lastly, if any of the physicians or other healthcare providers or entities with whom we expect to do business are found to be not in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs, which may also adversely affect our business. Any action for violation of these laws, even if successfully defended, could cause a pharmaceutical company to incur significant legal expenses and divert management’s attention from the operation of the business.
In the United States, there have been and continue to be a number of legislative initiatives to contain healthcare costs. For example, in March 2010, the ACA was passed, which substantially changes the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impacts the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, subjects biological products to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars, addresses a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, increases the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extends the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, establishes annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs, and creates a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must now, as amended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, effective January 1, 2019, agree to offer 70% point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition to coverage under Medicare Part D for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs.
There have been executive, judicial and congressional challenges. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, there have been a number of significant changes to the ACA and its implementation. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs
Act of 2017, or Tax Act, included a provision repealing, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the ACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” On June 17, 2021 the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge on procedural grounds that argued the ACA is unconstitutional in its entirety because the “individual mandate” was repealed by Congress. Further, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, on January 28, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructs certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA. In addition, on August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, or IRA, into law, which among other things, extends enhanced subsidies for individuals purchasing health insurance coverage in ACA marketplaces through plan year 2025. The IRA also eliminates the “donut hole” under the Medicare Part D program beginning in 2025 by significantly lowering the beneficiary maximum out-of-pocket cost and creating a new manufacturer discount program. It is unclear how any such challenges, and the healthcare reform measures of the Biden administration will impact the ACA and our business.
Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. On August 2, 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year. These reductions went into effect on April 1, 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, will remain in effect through 2031 unless additional congressional action is taken. Under current legislation, the actual reduction in Medicare payments will vary from 1% in 2022 to up to 4% in the final fiscal year of this sequester. On January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several types of providers and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. These laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding.
Moreover, payment methodologies may be subject to changes in healthcare legislation and regulatory initiatives which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services and result in reduced demand for certain pharmaceutical products or additional pricing pressures.
Additionally, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs.
At the federal level, the former Trump administration used several means to propose or implement drug pricing reform, including through federal budget proposals, executive orders and policy initiatives. For example, in July 2021, the Biden administration released an executive order, “Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” with multiple provisions aimed at prescription drugs. In response to Biden’s executive order, on September 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, released a Comprehensive Plan for Addressing High Drug Prices that outlines principles for drug pricing reform and sets out a variety of potential legislative policies that Congress could pursue to advance these principles. In addition, the IRA, among other things, (i) directs HHS to negotiate the price of certain high-expenditure, single-source drugs and biologics covered under Medicare, and subject drug manufacturers to civil monetary penalties and a potential excise tax by offering a price that is not equal to or less than the negotiated “maximum fair price” for such drugs and biologics under the law, and (ii) imposes rebates with respect to certain drugs and biologics covered under Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation. The IRA permits HHS to implement many of these provisions through guidance, as opposed to regulation, for the initial years. These provisions will take effect progressively starting in fiscal year 2023, although they may be subject to legal challenges. It is currently unclear how the IRA will be implemented but is likely to have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry. Further, the Biden administration released an additional executive order on October 14, 2022, directing HHS to submit a report on how the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation can be further leveraged to test new models for lowering drug costs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. It is unclear whether this executive order or similar policy initiatives will be implemented in the future. In addition, Congress is considering drug pricing as part of other reform initiatives.
At the state level, individual states are increasingly aggressive in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. In addition, regional health care authorities and individual hospitals are
increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other health care programs. These measures could reduce the ultimate demand for our products, once approved, or put pressure on our product pricing.
We expect that additional foreign, federal and state healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, and result in reduced demand for our current product candidates and any future product candidates or additional pricing pressures. It is possible that additional governmental action is taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislative and regulatory proposals, and enactment of laws, at the foreign, federal and state levels, directed at containing or lowering the cost of healthcare, will continue into the future. Further, we cannot predict the likelihood, nature, or extent of healthcare reform initiatives that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, particularly as a result of the recent presidential election.
U.S. Patent-Term Restoration and Marketing Exclusivity
Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of FDA approval of our product candidates and any future product candidates we develop, some of our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, commonly referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit restoration of the patent term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during product development and FDA regulatory review process. Patent-term restoration, however, cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date. The patent-term restoration period is generally one-half the time between the effective date of an IND and the submission date of a BLA plus the time between the submission date of a BLA and the approval of that application, except that the review period is reduced by any time during which the applicant failed to exercise due diligence. Only one patent applicable to an approved biologic is eligible for the extension and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent. The USPTO in consultation with the FDA, reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension or restoration. In the future, we may apply for restoration of patent term for our currently owned or licensed patents to add patent life beyond its current expiration date, depending on the expected length of the clinical trials and other factors involved in the filing of the relevant BLA.
An abbreviated approval pathway for biological products shown to be similar to, or interchangeable with, an FDA-licensed reference biological product was created by the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 as part of the ACA. This amendment to the PHSA, in part, attempts to minimize duplicative testing. Biosimilarity, which requires that the biological product be highly similar to the reference product notwithstanding minor differences in clinically inactive components and that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the product and the reference product in terms of safety, purity and potency, can be shown through analytical studies, animal studies and a clinical trial or trials. Interchangeability requires that a biological product be biosimilar to the reference product and that the product can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in any given patient and, for products administered multiple times to an individual, that the product and the reference product may be alternated or switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biological product without such alternation or switch. A reference biological product is granted 12 years of data exclusivity from the time of first licensure of the product, and the FDA will not accept an application for a biosimilar or interchangeable product based on the reference biological product until four years after the date of first licensure of the reference product. “First licensure” typically means the initial date the particular product at issue was licensed in the United States. Date of first licensure does not include the date of licensure of (and a new period of exclusivity is not available for) a biological product if the licensure is for a supplement for the biological product or for a subsequent application by the same sponsor or manufacturer of the biological product (or licensor, predecessor in interest, or other related entity) for a change (not including a modification to the structure of the biological product) that results in a new indication, route of administration, dosing schedule, dosage form, delivery system, delivery device or strength, or for a modification to the structure of the biological product that does not result in a change in safety, purity, or potency. Therefore, one must determine whether a new product includes a modification to the structure of a previously licensed product that results in a change in safety, purity, or potency to assess whether the licensure of the new product is a first licensure that triggers its own period of exclusivity. Whether a subsequent application, if approved, warrants exclusivity as the “first licensure” of a biological product is determined on a case-by-case basis with data submitted by the sponsor.
Pediatric exclusivity is another type of regulatory market exclusivity in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity, if granted, adds six months to existing regulatory exclusivity periods. This six-month exclusivity, which runs from the end of other exclusivity protection or patent term, may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric trial in accordance with an FDA-issued “Written Request” for such a trial.
U.S. regulation of companion diagnostics
Our product candidates may require use of an in vitro diagnostic to identify appropriate patient populations. These diagnostics, often referred to as companion diagnostics, are regulated as medical devices. In the United States, the FDCA and its implementing regulations, and other federal and state statutes and regulations govern, among other things, medical device design and development, preclinical and clinical testing, premarket clearance or approval, registration and listing, manufacturing, labeling, storage, advertising and promotion, sales and distribution, export and import and post-market surveillance. Unless an exemption applies, companion diagnostic tests require marketing clearance or approval from the FDA prior to commercial distribution. The two primary types of FDA marketing authorization applicable to a medical device are premarket notification, also called 510(k) clearance, and premarket approval, or PMA approval.
If use of companion diagnostic is essential to safe and effective use of a drug or biologic product, then the FDA generally will require approval or clearance of the diagnostic contemporaneously with the approval of the therapeutic product. On August 6, 2014, the FDA issued a final guidance document addressing the development and approval process for “In Vitro Companion Diagnostic Devices.” According to the guidance, for novel candidates such as our product candidates, a companion diagnostic device and its corresponding drug or biologic candidate should be approved or cleared contemporaneously by FDA for the use indicated in the therapeutic product labeling. The guidance also explains that a companion diagnostic device used to make treatment decisions in clinical trials of a biologic product candidate generally will be considered an investigational device, unless it is employed for an intended use for which the device is already approved or cleared. If used to make critical treatment decisions, such as patient selection, the diagnostic device generally will be considered a significant risk device under the FDA’s Investigational Device Exemption, or IDE, regulations. Thus, the sponsor of the diagnostic device will be required to comply with the IDE regulations. According to the guidance, if a diagnostic device and a drug are to be studied together to support their respective approvals, both products can be studied in the same investigational study, if the study meets both the requirements of the IDE regulations and the IND regulations. The guidance provides that depending on the details of the study plan and subjects, a sponsor may seek to submit an IND alone, or both an IND and an IDE. In July 2016, the FDA issued a draft guidance document intended to further assist sponsors of therapeutic products and sponsors of in vitro companion diagnostic devices on issues related to co-development of these products.
The FDA generally requires companion diagnostics intended to select the patients who will respond to cancer treatment to obtain approval of a PMA for that diagnostic contemporaneously with approval of the therapeutic. The review of these in vitro companion diagnostics in conjunction with the review of therapeutic candidates involves coordination of review by the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and by the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The PMA process, including the gathering of clinical and preclinical data and the submission to and review by the FDA, can take several years or longer. It involves a rigorous premarket review during which the applicant must prepare and provide the FDA with reasonable assurance of the device’s safety and effectiveness and information about the device and its components regarding, among other things, device design, manufacturing and labeling. PMA applications are also subject to an application fee.
PMAs for certain devices must generally include the results from extensive preclinical and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and effectiveness of the device for each indication for which FDA approval is sought. In particular, for a diagnostic, the applicant must demonstrate that the diagnostic produces reproducible results when the same sample is tested multiple times by multiple users at multiple laboratories. In addition, as part of the PMA review, the FDA will typically inspect the manufacturer’s facilities for compliance with the Quality System Regulation, or QSR, which imposes elaborate testing, control, documentation and other quality assurance requirements.
If the FDA evaluations of both the PMA application and the manufacturing facilities are favorable, the FDA will either issue an approval letter or a not-approvable letter, which usually contains a number of conditions that must be met in order to secure the final approval of the PMA, such as changes in labeling, or specific additional information, such as submission of final labeling, in order to secure final approval of the PMA. If the FDA concludes that the applicable criteria have been met, the FDA will issue a PMA for the approved indications, which can be more limited than those originally sought by the applicant. The PMA can include post-approval conditions that the FDA believes necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the device, including, among other things, restrictions on labeling, promotion, sale and distribution.
If the FDA’s evaluation of the PMA or manufacturing facilities is not favorable, the FDA will issue an order denying approval of the PMA or issue a not approvable order. A not approvable letter will outline the deficiencies in the application and, where practical, will identify what is necessary to make the PMA approvable. The FDA may also determine that additional clinical trials are necessary, in which case the PMA approval may be delayed for several months or years while the trials are conducted and then the data submitted in an amendment to the PMA. Once granted, PMA approval may be withdrawn by the FDA if compliance with post approval requirements, conditions of approval or other regulatory standards is not maintained or problems are identified following initial marketing. PMA approval is not guaranteed, and the FDA may ultimately respond to a PMA submission with a not approvable
determination based on deficiencies in the application and require additional clinical trial or other data that may be expensive and time-consuming to generate and that can substantially delay approval.
After a device is placed on the market, it remains subject to significant regulatory requirements. Medical devices may be marketed only for the uses and indications for which they are cleared or approved. Device manufacturers must also establish registration and device listings with the FDA. A medical device manufacturer’s manufacturing processes and those of its suppliers are required to comply with the applicable portions of the QSR, which cover the methods and documentation of the design, testing, production, processes, controls, quality assurance, labeling, packaging and shipping of medical devices. Domestic facility records and manufacturing processes are subject to periodic unscheduled inspections by the FDA. The FDA also may inspect foreign facilities that export products to the United States.
European Union Drug Development
In the European Union, or EU, our future products also may be subject to extensive regulatory requirements. As in the United States, medicinal products can be marketed only if a marketing authorization from the competent regulatory agencies has been obtained.
Similar to the United States, the various phases of preclinical and clinical research in the European Union are subject to significant regulatory controls. Although the EU Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC has sought to harmonize the EU clinical trials regulatory framework, setting out common rules for the control and authorization of clinical trials in the EU, the EU member states have transposed and applied the provisions of the Directive differently. This has led to significant variations in the member state regimes. Under the current regime, before a clinical trial can be initiated it must be approved in each of the EU countries where the trial is to be conducted by two distinct bodies: the National Competent Authority, or NCA, and one or more Ethics Committees, or ECs. Under the current regime all suspected unexpected serious adverse reactions to the investigated drug that occur during the clinical trial have to be reported to the NCA and ECs of the member state where they occurred.
The EU clinical trials legislation currently is undergoing a transition process mainly aimed at harmonizing and streamlining clinical-trial authorization, simplifying adverse-event reporting procedures, improving the supervision of clinical trials and increasing their transparency. Recently enacted Clinical Trials Regulation EU No 536/2014 ensures that the rules for conducting clinical trials in the EU will be identical.
European Union Drug Review and Approval
In the European Economic Area, or EEA, which is comprised of the 28 member states of the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, medicinal products can only be commercialized after obtaining a Marketing Authorization, or MA. There are two types of marketing authorizations.
European Union Orphan Designation and Exclusivity
In the European Union, the EMA’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products grants orphan drug designation to promote the development of products that are intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of life-threatening or chronically debilitating conditions affecting not more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union community (or where it is unlikely that the development of the medicine would generate sufficient return to justify the investment) and for which no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment has been authorized (or, if a method exists, the product would be a significant benefit to those affected).
In the European Union, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers and ten years of market exclusivity is granted following medicinal product approval. This period may be reduced to six years if the orphan drug designation criteria are no longer met, including where it is shown that the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an application for MA. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
European Union Drug Marketing
Much like the Anti-Kickback Statute prohibition in the United States, the provision of benefits or advantages to physicians to induce or encourage the prescription, recommendation, endorsement, purchase, supply, order or use of medicinal products is also prohibited in the EU. The provision of benefits or advantages to physicians is governed by the national anti-bribery laws of European Union member states, such as the U.K. Bribery Act 2010. Infringement of these laws could result in substantial fines and imprisonment.
Payments made to physicians in certain EU member states must be publicly disclosed. Moreover, agreements with physicians often must be the subject of prior notification and approval by the physician’s employer, his or her competent professional organization as well as the regulatory authorities of the individual EU member states. These requirements are provided in the national laws, industry codes or professional codes of conduct, applicable in the EU member states. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in reputational risk, public reprimands, administrative penalties, fines or imprisonment.
European Data Collection
The collection and use of personal health data in the EU is governed by the provisions of the Data Protection Directive, and as of May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This directive imposes several requirements relating to the consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, the information provided to the individuals, notification of data processing obligations to the competent national data protection authorities and the security and confidentiality of the personal data. The Data Protection Directive and GDPR also impose strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the EU to the United States. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, the GDPR, and the related national data protection laws of the EU member states may result in fines and other administrative penalties. The GDPR introduces new data protection requirements in the EU and substantial fines for breaches of the data protection rules. The GDPR regulations may impose additional responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process and we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms ensuring compliance with the new data protection rules. This may be onerous and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Rest of the World Regulation
For other countries outside of the EU and the United States, such as countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America or Asia, the requirements governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. Additionally, the clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with GCP requirements and the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.
If we fail to comply with applicable foreign regulatory requirements, we may be subject to, among other things, fines, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals, product recalls, seizure of products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecution.
Sales of our products, when and if approved, will depend, in part, on the extent to which our products will be covered by third-party payors, such as government health programs, commercial insurance and managed healthcare organizations. In the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for drug or biological products exists. Accordingly, decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided for any of our products will be made on a payor-by-payor basis. As a result,
coverage determination is often a time-consuming and costly process that will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our products to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be obtained. Additionally, we, or our collaborators, will be required to obtain coverage and reimbursement for our companion diagnostic tests separate and apart from the coverage and reimbursement we may seek for our product candidates.
The U.S. government, state legislatures and foreign governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost containment programs to limit the growth of government-paid health care costs, including price-controls, restrictions on reimbursement and requirements for substitution of biosimilars for branded prescription drugs. For example, the ACA contains provisions that may reduce the profitability of drug products through increased rebates for drugs reimbursed by Medicaid programs, extension of Medicaid rebates to Medicaid managed care plans, mandatory discounts for certain Medicare Part D beneficiaries and annual fees based on pharmaceutical companies’ share of sales to federal healthcare programs. Adoption of general controls and measures, coupled with the tightening of restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could limit payments for pharmaceutical drugs.
The Medicaid Drug Rebate Program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to enter into and have in effect a national rebate agreement with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as a condition for states to receive federal matching funds for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs furnished to Medicaid patients. The ACA made several changes to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, including increasing pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebate liability by raising the minimum basic Medicaid rebate on most branded prescription drugs from 15.1% of average manufacturer price, or AMP, to 23.1% of AMP and adding a new rebate calculation for “line extensions” (i.e., new formulations, such as extended release formulations) of solid oral dosage forms of branded products, as well as potentially impacting their rebate liability by modifying the statutory definition of AMP. The ACA also expanded the universe of Medicaid utilization subject to drug rebates by requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay rebates on Medicaid managed care utilization and by enlarging the population potentially eligible for Medicaid drug benefits. On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law, which eliminates the statutory Medicaid drug rebate cap, currently set at 100% of a drug’s average manufacturer price, for single source and innovator multiple source drugs, beginning January 1, 2024.
The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, or the MMA, established the Medicare Part D program to provide a voluntary prescription drug benefit to Medicare beneficiaries. Under Part D, Medicare beneficiaries may enroll in prescription drug plans offered by private entities that provide coverage of outpatient prescription drugs. Unlike Medicare Part A and B, Part D coverage is not standardized. While all Medicare drug plans must give at least a standard level of coverage set by Medicare, Part D prescription drug plan sponsors are not required to pay for all covered Part D drugs, and each drug plan can develop its own drug formulary that identifies which drugs it will cover and at what tier or level. However, Part D prescription drug formularies must include drugs within each therapeutic category and class of covered Part D drugs, though not necessarily all the drugs in each category or class. Any formulary used by a Part D prescription drug plan must be developed and reviewed by a pharmacy and therapeutic committee. Government payment for some of the costs of prescription drugs may increase demand for products for which we receive marketing approval. However, any negotiated prices for our products covered by a Part D prescription drug plan likely will be lower than the prices we might otherwise obtain. Moreover, while the MMA applies only to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payors often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own payment rates. Any reduction in payment that results from the MMA may result in a similar reduction in payments from non-governmental payors.
For a drug product to receive federal reimbursement under the Medicaid or Medicare Part B programs or to be sold directly to U.S. government agencies, the manufacturer must extend discounts to entities eligible to participate in the 340B drug pricing program. The required 340B discount on a given product is calculated based on the AMP and Medicaid rebate amounts reported by the manufacturer. As of 2010, the ACA expanded the types of entities eligible to receive discounted 340B pricing, although, under the current state of the law, with the exception of children’s hospitals, these newly eligible entities will not be eligible to receive discounted 340B pricing on orphan drugs. In addition, as 340B drug pricing is determined based on AMP and Medicaid rebate data, the revisions to the Medicaid rebate formula and AMP definition described above could cause the required 340B discount to increase.
As noted above, the marketability of any products for which we receive regulatory approval for commercial sale may suffer if the government and third-party payors fail to provide coverage and reimbursement. Obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement for newly approved drugs and biologics is a time-consuming and costly process, and coverage may be more limited than the purposes for which a drug is approved by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Assuming coverage is obtained for a given product by a third-party payor, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. Additionally, coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Patients who are prescribed medications for the treatment of their conditions, and their prescribing physicians, generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with their prescription drugs. Patients are unlikely to use products unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover all or a significant portion of the cost of prescribed products.
In addition, in most foreign countries, the proposed pricing for a drug must be approved before it may be lawfully marketed. The requirements governing drug pricing and reimbursement vary widely from country to country. For example, the EU provides options for its member states to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. A member state may approve a specific price for the medicinal product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for pharmaceutical products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our products. Historically, products launched in the European Union do not follow price structures of the United States and generally prices tend to be significantly lower.
Employees and Human Capital Resources
As of March 1, 2023, we had 28 full-time employees. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.
On December 5, 2022, our Board of Directors approved a restructuring plan, or the Restructuring, to reduce the Company’s current workforce by approximately 40% to decrease operating expenses and to focus on developing our TMAb platform. We expect expenditures and operating expenses associated with the Restructuring, estimated at $1.3 million, to be substantially completed in the first quarter of 2023. The estimated costs of the Restructuring include $1.2 million for one-time employee termination costs, including severance payments and extended benefits coverage support, and were contingent upon the impacted employees’ execution and non-revocation of separation agreements. A total of $1.1 million of Restructuring costs was recorded in the fourth quarter of 2022 and the remainder will be recorded in 2023.
Our human capital resources objectives include, as applicable, identifying, recruiting, retaining, incentivizing and integrating our existing and new employees, advisors and consultants. The principal purposes of our equity incentive plans are to attract, retain and reward personnel through the granting of stock-based compensation awards in order to increase stockholder value and the success of our company by motivating such individuals to perform to the best of their abilities and achieve our objectives.
Our common stock is listed on The Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “SNSE”.
We were originally incorporated as Panacea Pharmaceuticals, Inc., or Panacea, under the laws of the state of Maryland in 1999. In December 2017, we reincorporated in Delaware and changed our name to Sensei Biotherapeutics, Inc. Our principal executive offices are located at 1405 Research Blvd, Rockville, MD 20850. Our telephone number is (240) 243-8000.
The Sensei design logo, “Sensei”, “TMAb,” and our other registered or common law trademarks, service marks, or trade names appearing in this Report are the property of Sensei Biotherapeutics, Inc. Other trade names, trademarks and service marks used in this Report are the property of their respective owners. Solely for convenience, trademarks and trade names referred to in this Report exclude the ® or TM symbols.
Our website address is www.senseibio.com. Our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to reports filed pursuant to Sections 13(a) and 15(d) of the Exchange Act are made available free of charge on or through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after such reports are filed with, or furnished to, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. The information contained on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K or in any other report or document we file with the SEC, and any references to our website are intended to be inactive textual references only.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
You should carefully consider the risks described below, as well as general economic and business risks and the other information in this Report. The occurrence of any of the events or circumstances described below or other adverse events could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and could cause the trading price of our common stock to decline. Additional risks or uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also harm our business.
SUMMARY OF RISK FACTORS
The risk factors summarized below could materially harm our business, operating results, and/or financial condition, impair our future prospects, and/or cause the price of our common stock to decline. These risks are discussed more fully below. Material risks that may affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and trading price of our common stock include the following:
Risks Related to Our Financial Position
We will need additional funding to complete the development of our product candidates. A failure to obtain this necessary capital when needed could force us to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development or commercialization efforts.
We will require substantial additional funding to meet our financial needs and to pursue our business objectives. If we are unable to raise capital when needed, we could be forced to delay, reduce or altogether cease our product development programs or commercialization efforts.
Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors, including:
To date, we have primarily financed our operations through the sale of equity securities. We may seek to raise any necessary additional capital through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, strategic alliances, licensing arrangements and other marketing and distribution arrangements. We cannot assure you that we will be successful in acquiring additional funding at levels sufficient to fund our operations or on terms favorable to us. While the long-term economic impact of each of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and recent and potential future disruptions in access to bank deposits or lending commitments due to bank failures are difficult to assess or predict, each of these events has caused significant disruptions to the global financial markets and contributed to a general global economic slowdown. Furthermore, inflation rates, particularly in the United States and the U.K., have increased recently to levels not seen in decades. Increased inflation may result in increased operating costs (including labor costs) and may affect our operating budgets. In addition, the U.S. Federal Reserve has raised, and is expected to further raise, interest rates in response to concerns about inflation. Increases in interest rates, especially if coupled with reduced government spending and volatility in financial markets, may further increase economic uncertainty and heighten these risks. If the disruptions and slowdown deepen or persist, we may not be able to access additional capital on favorable terms, or at all, which could in the future negatively affect our financial condition and our ability to pursue our business strategy.
We cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue the development or commercialization of our product candidates or other research and development initiatives. Any of our current or future license agreements may also be terminated if we are unable to meet the payment or other obligations under the agreements.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our technologies or product candidates.
We expect that significant additional capital may be needed in the future to continue our planned operations, including conducting clinical trials, commercialization efforts, expanded research and development activities and costs associated with operating a public company. Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial product revenues, we expect to finance our cash needs through any or a combination of securities offerings, debt financings, license and collaboration agreements and research grants. If we raise capital through securities offerings, such sales are likely to result in material dilution to our existing stockholders, and new investors could gain rights, preferences and privileges senior to the holders of our common stock.
To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity, warrants to purchase equity, and/or convertible debt securities, your ownership interest will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a stockholder. Debt financing and preferred equity financing, if available, could result in fixed payment obligations, and we may be required to accept terms that restrict our ability to incur additional indebtedness, force us to maintain specified liquidity or other ratios or restrict our ability to pay dividends or make acquisitions.
If we raise additional funds through collaborations, strategic alliances or marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may be required to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams, research programs or product candidates or to grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. In addition, we could also be required to seek funds through arrangements with collaborators or others at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable. If we raise funds through research grants, we may be subject to certain requirements, which may limit our ability to use the funds or require us to share information from our research and development. If we are unable to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development or future commercialization efforts or grant rights to a third party to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves. Raising additional capital through any of these or other means could adversely affect our business and the holdings or rights of our stockholders, and may cause the market price of our common stock to decline.
In addition, we may seek additional capital due to favorable market conditions or strategic considerations even if we believe that we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans. If we raise additional funds through collaboration and licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish some rights to our technologies or our product candidates on terms that are not favorable to us. Any additional capital raising efforts may divert our management from their day-to-day activities, which may adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our current and future product candidates, if approved. If we are unable to raise capital when needed or on attractive terms, we could be forced to delay, reduce or altogether cease our research and development programs or future commercialization efforts.
We have incurred significant losses in every year since our inception. We expect to continue to incur losses over the next several years and may never achieve or maintain profitability.
We have incurred significant operating losses since our inception. Our net loss was $48.6 million and $36.8 million for the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021, respectively. As of December 31, 2022, we had an accumulated deficit of $197.8 million. We have funded our operations to date primarily with proceeds from the sale of our equity securities and borrowings of convertible debt.
We have no products approved for commercial sale, have not generated any revenue from commercial sales of our product candidates, and are devoting substantially all of our financial resources and efforts to research and development of our TMAb platform. Investment in therapeutic product development is highly speculative because it entails substantial upfront capital expenditures and significant risk that any potential product candidate will fail to demonstrate adequate effect or an acceptable safety profile, gain regulatory approval and/or become commercially viable.
We expect that it will take at least several years until any of our product candidates receive marketing approval and are commercialized, and we may never be successful in obtaining marketing approval and commercializing product candidates. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and increasing operating losses for the foreseeable future. These net losses will adversely impact our stockholders’ equity and net assets and may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially as we:
To become and remain profitable, we must succeed in developing and eventually commercializing products that generate significant revenue. Achievement will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities, including completing preclinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates, obtaining regulatory approval, manufacturing, marketing and selling any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval, as well as discovering and developing additional product candidates. We may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, may never generate revenues that are significant enough to achieve profitability.
Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with the development and commercialization of therapeutic product candidates, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of expenses or when, or if, we will be able to achieve and maintain profitability. If we are required by regulatory authorities to perform studies in addition to those currently expected, or if there are any delays in the initiation and completion of our clinical trials or the development of any of our product candidates, our expenses could increase and profitability could be further delayed.
Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with the development and commercialization of therapeutic product candidates, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of expenses or when, or if, we will be able to achieve and maintain profitability. If we are required by regulatory authorities to perform studies in addition to those currently expected, or if there are any delays in the initiation and completion of our clinical trials or the development of any of our product candidates, our expenses could increase and profitability could be further delayed.
Even if we achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable would depress the value of our common stock and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, maintain our research and development efforts or continue our operations. A decline in the value of our common stock could also cause you to lose all or part of your investment.
Our operating history may make it difficult for you to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.
As an organization, we have not demonstrated an ability to successfully complete clinical trials, obtain regulatory approvals, manufacture our product candidates at commercial scale or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful commercialization, or obtain reimbursement in the countries of sale. We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, and delays in achieving our business objectives. Our operating history makes any assessment of our future success or viability subject to significant uncertainty. If we do not address these risks successfully or are unable to transition at some point from a company with a research and development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities, then our business will suffer.
Risks Related to the Development of our Product Candidates
Our development efforts are in the early stages. If we are unable to advance our product candidates through clinical development, obtain regulatory approval and ultimately commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
There is no assurance that any future clinical trials of our product candidates will be successful or will generate positive clinical data and we may not receive marketing approval from the FDA or other regulatory agencies for any of our product candidates. Our product candidates are in preclinical development. Although we submitted an IND for SNS-101 to the FDA in March 2023, there can be no assurance that the FDA will permit such IND, or any future IND for our other product candidates, to go into effect in a timely manner or at all. Without the IND, we will not be permitted to conduct our planned clinical trial of SNS-101, nor would we be permitted to conduct further clinical trials in the United States without future INDs for our other product candidates.
Biopharmaceutical development is a long, expensive and uncertain process, and delay or failure can occur at any stage of any of our clinical trials. Failure to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates will prevent us from commercializing and marketing our product candidates. The success in the development of our product candidates will depend on many factors, including:
Many of these factors are beyond our control, including the time needed to adequately complete clinical testing and the regulatory submission process. It is possible that none of our product candidates will ever obtain regulatory approval, even if we expend substantial time and resources seeking such approval. If we do not achieve one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, or any other factors impacting the successful development of biopharmaceutical products, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully develop our product candidates, which could materially harm our business.
The therapeutic efficacy of our product candidates, including SNS-101, is unproven in humans, and we may not be able to successfully develop and commercialize drug candidates pursuant to these programs.
Our TMAb product candidates are novel chemical and biologic entities and their potential benefit as therapeutic cancer drugs is unproven. For example, SNS-101 is a human monoclonal antibody targeting the novel immune checkpoint VISTA. There are currently no approved therapies that target VISTA. Our ability to generate revenues from our TMAb product candidates, which we do not expect will occur in the short-term, if ever, will depend heavily on their successful development and commercialization, which is subject to many potential risks. For example, our product candidates may not prove to be effective inhibitors of the molecular targets they are being designed to act against and may not demonstrate in patients any or all of the pharmacological benefits that may have been demonstrated in preclinical studies. These product candidates may interact with human biological systems in unforeseen, ineffective or harmful ways. If the FDA determines that any of our drug candidates are associated with significant side effects or have characteristics that are unexpected, we may need to delay or abandon their development or limit development to certain uses or subpopulations in which the undesirable side effects or other characteristics are less prevalent, less severe or more acceptable from a risk benefit perspective. Moreover, we may determine after conducting clinical trials or related studies that certain of our product candidates or platforms do not possess the anticipated therapeutic characteristics, and we may decide to abandon or discontinue any one of our studies, product candidates or platforms. For example, in June 2021 we announced the discontinuation of our SNS-301 program and terminated the Phase 1/2 clinic trial studying SNS-301 due to a lack of efficacy. In November 2022, we announced the suspension of our ImmunoPhage platform entirely and we are now focused exclusively on developing our TMAb platform.
Many drug candidates that initially showed promise in early stage testing for treating cancer have later been found to be ineffective and/or cause side effects that prevented further development of the compound or resulted in their removal from the market. For example, in a third-party clinical trial of an anti-VISTA monoclonal antibody, dose limiting toxicities caused by cytokine release
syndrome resulted in early termination of the clinical trial. Although we have generated preclinical data suggesting that the conditionally active properties of SNS-101 have the potential to avoid poor pharmacokinetics and lower the risk of cytokine release syndrome, those data were generated from either animal studies or ex vivo studies using human samples and there can be no assurances that similar results will be achieved in clinical trials of SNS-101 with human subjects. As a result of these and other risks described herein that are inherent in the development and commercialization of novel therapeutic agents, we may not successfully develop and commercialize our drug candidates, in which case we may not achieve profitability and the value of our stock may decline.
The regulatory approval processes of the FDA and comparable foreign authorities are lengthy, time-consuming and inherently unpredictable, and if we are ultimately unable to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates, our business will be substantially harmed.
We do not have any products that have gained regulatory approval. Our business is substantially dependent on our ability to obtain regulatory approval for our preclinical programs. We cannot commercialize product candidates in the United States without first obtaining regulatory approval for the product from the FDA. Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of any product candidate for a particular indication, we must demonstrate with substantial evidence gathered in preclinical and clinical studies that the product candidate is safe and effective for that indication and that the manufacturing facilities, processes and controls are adequate with respect to such product candidate. Prior to seeking approval for any of our product candidates, we will need to confer with the FDA and other regulatory authorities regarding the design of our clinical trials and the type and amount of clinical data necessary to seek and gain approval for our product candidates.
The time required to obtain approval by the FDA and other regulatory authorities is unpredictable and typically takes many years following the commencement of preclinical studies and clinical trials and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of the regulatory authorities. In addition, approval policies, regulations, or the type and amount of clinical data necessary to gain approval may change during the course of a product candidate’s clinical development and may vary among jurisdictions. It is possible that none of our existing product candidates or any future product candidates will ever obtain regulatory approval.
Our product candidates could fail to receive regulatory approval from the FDA or other comparable regulatory authorities for many reasons, including:
Many of these risks are beyond our control, including the risks related to clinical development. If we are unable to develop, receive regulatory approval for, or successfully commercialize our product candidates, or if we experience delays as a result of any of these risks or otherwise, our business could be materially harmed.
The FDA or a comparable regulatory authority may require more information, including additional preclinical or clinical data to support approval, including data that would require us to perform additional clinical trials or modify our manufacturing processes, which may delay or prevent approval and our commercialization plans, or we may decide to abandon the development program. If we change our manufacturing processes, we may be required to conduct additional clinical trials or other studies, which also could delay or prevent approval of our product candidates. If we were to obtain approval, regulatory authorities may approve any of our product candidates for fewer indications than we request (including failing to approve the most commercially promising indications), may limit indications, may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials or other post-marketing commitments, or may approve a product candidate with a label that does not include the labeling claims necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of that product candidate.
Even if a product candidate were to successfully obtain approval from the FDA or other comparable regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions, any approval might contain significant limitations related to use restrictions for specified age groups, warnings, precautions or contraindications, or may be subject to burdensome post-approval study or risk management requirements. If we are unable to obtain regulatory approval for one of our product candidates in one or more jurisdictions, or any approval contains significant limitations, we may not be able to obtain sufficient funding to continue the development of that product candidate or generate revenues attributable to that product candidate. Also, any regulatory approval of our current or future product candidates, once obtained, may be withdrawn.
Our business is highly dependent on the success of our product candidates that we advance into the clinic. All of our product candidates may require significant additional preclinical, clinical and manufacturing development before we may be able to seek regulatory approval for and launch a product commercially and we may not be successful in our efforts to build a pipeline of product candidates.
A key element of our strategy is utilizing our TMAb platform to develop conditionally active monoclonal antibodies, which we believe could generate safer and more effective cancer therapies. However, we currently have no products that are approved for commercial sale and may never be able to develop marketable products. We are very early in our development efforts, and although we submitted an IND for SNS-101 in March 2023, none of our product candidates are currently in clinical development. If any of our product candidates, including SNS-101, encounters safety or efficacy problems, development delays, regulatory issues or other problems, our development plans and forecasted timelines and business could be significantly harmed. Our TMAb platform is designed to generate next-generation antibodies that have potential to block immunosuppressive signals or activate immunostimulatory signals selectively within the tumor microenvironment. However, our TMAb platform may not produce product candidates that are safe and effective, or which compare favorably with other commercially available alternatives. Even if we are successful in continuing to build our pipeline and develop next-generation antibodies, the potential product candidates that we identify may not be suitable for clinical development, including as a result of lack of safety, lack of tolerability, or other characteristics that indicate that they are unlikely to be products that will receive marketing approval, achieve market acceptance or obtain reimbursements from third-party payors. We cannot provide you with any assurance that we will be able to successfully advance any of these additional product candidates through the development process. Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential product candidates, yet fail to yield product candidates for clinical development or commercialization for many reasons, including the following:
If any of these events occur, we may be forced to abandon our development efforts for a program or programs, or we may not be able to identify, discover, develop, or commercialize additional product candidates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and could potentially cause us to cease operations.
If we do not successfully develop and commercialize product candidates or collaborate with others to do so, we will not be able to obtain product revenue in future periods, which could significantly harm our financial position and adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.
We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or have a greater likelihood of success.
Because we have limited financial and management resources, we focus on research programs and product candidates that we identify for specific indications. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target
market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to such product candidate. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable products. For example, in June 2021 we announced the discontinuation of our SNS-301 program and terminated the Phase 1/2 clinic trial studying SNS-301 due to a lack of efficacy. SNS-301 had been our lead product candidate and only clinical stage program. Furthermore, in November 2022 we announced the suspension of our ImmunoPhage platform entirely, including SNS-401-NG, which we were developing for the treatment of patients with Merkel cell carcinoma. As a result, we are now focused exclusively on developing our TMAb product candidates.
If the clinical trials of any of our product candidates fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of the FDA or other comparable regulatory authorities, or do not otherwise produce favorable results, we may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of our product candidates.
Our product candidates are still in the preclinical development stage, and the risk of failure of preclinical programs is high. Before we can commence clinical trials for a product candidate, we must complete extensive preclinical testing and studies to obtain regulatory clearance to initiate human clinical trials. We cannot be certain of the timely completion or outcome of our preclinical testing and studies and cannot predict if the FDA or other regulatory authorities will accept our proposed clinical programs or if the outcome of our preclinical testing and studies will ultimately support the further development of our programs. As a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to submit INDs or similar applications for our preclinical programs on the timelines we expect, if at all, and we cannot be sure that submission of INDs or similar applications will result in the FDA or other regulatory authorities allowing clinical trials to begin. It is impossible to predict accurately when or if any of our product candidates will prove effective or safe in humans and will receive regulatory approval. Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the commercial sale of any of our product candidates, we must demonstrate through lengthy, complex and expensive preclinical testing and clinical trials that our product candidates are both safe and effective for use in each target indication. Clinical testing is expensive, difficult to design and implement, can take many years to complete and is uncertain as to outcome. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing.
We may experience numerous unforeseen events prior to, during, or as a result of, clinical trials that could delay or prevent our ability to receive marketing approval or commercialize any of our product candidates, including:
To the extent that the results of the trials are not satisfactory for the FDA or regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdiction to approve our BLA or other comparable application, the commercialization of our product candidates may be significantly delayed, or we may be required to expend significant additional resources, which may not be available to us, to conduct additional trials in support of potential approval of our product candidates.
Clinical trials are difficult to design and implement, can be lengthy and expensive, involve uncertain outcomes and may not ultimately be successful.
It is impossible to predict when or if any of our current or future product candidates will prove effective and safe in humans or will receive regulatory approval. Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the sale of any product candidate, we must complete preclinical studies and then conduct extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our product candidates in humans. Human clinical trials are expensive, can take many years to complete, and are difficult to design and implement, in part because they are subject to rigorous regulatory requirements. The design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. As an organization, we have limited experience designing clinical trials and may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial to support regulatory approval. There is a high failure rate for oncology product candidates proceeding through clinical trials. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials even after achieving promising results in preclinical testing and earlier-stage clinical trials. Data obtained from preclinical and clinical activities are subject to varying interpretations, which may delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. In addition, we may experience regulatory delays or rejections as a result of many factors, including changes in regulatory policy during the period of our product candidate development. Any such delays could negatively impact our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Success in preclinical studies or clinical trials may not be predictive of results in future clinical trials.
Results from preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of later clinical trials, and interim results of clinical trials are not necessarily predictive of final results. We have not yet begun clinical trials for our current product candidates, including SNS-101. For that reason, we do not know whether these candidates will be effective for the intended indications or safe in humans. Our product candidates may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy in preclinical or clinical development despite positive results observed in early preclinical studies or having successfully advanced through initial clinical trials. For example, although we have generated preclinical data suggesting that the conditionally active properties of SNS-101 have the potential to lower the risk of side effects such as cytokine release syndrome, enhance the anti-tumor effects of PD-1 blockade, and produce anti-tumor activity as a monotherapy, those data were generated either from animal studies or ex vivo studies with human samples and there can be no assurances that similar results will be achieved in clinical trials of SNS-101 with human subjects. Any failure to establish sufficient efficacy and safety could cause us to abandon clinical development of our product candidates, including SNS-101.
Additionally, our planned clinical trial of SNS-101 will utilize an open-label study design. An “open-label” clinical trial is one where both the patient and investigator know whether the patient is receiving the investigational product candidate or either an existing approved therapy or placebo. Most typically, open-label clinical trials test only the investigational product candidate and sometimes may do so at different dose levels. Open-label clinical trials are subject to various limitations that may exaggerate any therapeutic effect, as patients in open-label clinical trials are aware when they are receiving treatment. Open-label clinical trials may be subject to a “patient bias” where patients perceive their symptoms to have improved merely due to their awareness of receiving an experimental treatment. Moreover, patients selected for early clinical studies often include the most severe sufferers and their symptoms may have been bound to improve notwithstanding the new treatment. In addition, open-label clinical trials may be subject to an “investigator bias” where those assessing and reviewing the physiological outcomes of the clinical trials are aware of which patients have received treatment and may interpret the information of the treated group more favorably given this knowledge.
Interim topline and preliminary data from our clinical trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more patients are enrolled and additional data become available, and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.
We expect to publish from time to time interim topline or preliminary data from our planned clinical trials. Interim data from clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully and carefully evaluate all data. As a result,
the topline or preliminary results that we report may differ from future results of the same studies, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results, once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Preliminary or topline data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data we previously published. As a result, interim and preliminary data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. From time to time, we may also disclose interim data from our planned clinical trials. Interim data from clinical trials are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available or as patients from our clinical trials continue other treatments for their disease. Adverse differences between preliminary or interim data and final data could significantly harm our reputation and business prospects. Further, disclosure of interim data by us or by our competitors could result in volatility in the price of our common stock.
Further, others, including regulatory agencies, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions or analyses or may interpret or weigh the importance of data differently, which could impact the potential of the particular program, the likelihood of marketing approval or commercialization of the particular product candidate, any approved product, and our company in general. In addition, the information we choose to publicly disclose regarding a particular study or clinical trial is derived from information that is typically extensive, and you or others may not agree with what we determine is material or otherwise appropriate information to include in our disclosure.
If the interim, topline, or preliminary data that we report differ from actual results, or if others, including regulatory authorities, disagree with the conclusions reached, our ability to obtain approval for, and commercialize, our product candidates may be harmed, which could harm our business, operating results, prospects or financial condition.
We depend on timely enrollment of patients in our planned clinical trials for our product candidates. If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
Identifying and qualifying patients to participate in planned clinical trials of our product candidates is critical to our success. We may experience difficulties in patient enrollment in our planned clinical trials for a variety of reasons. The timely completion of clinical trials in accordance with their protocols depends, among other things, on our ability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who remain in the study until its conclusion. The enrollment of patients depends on many factors, including:
In addition, because the number of qualified clinical investigators is limited, we expect to conduct some of our clinical trials at the same clinical trial sites that some of our competitors use, which could further reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials in these clinical trial sites.
Delays in patient enrollment may result in increased costs or may affect the timing or outcome of the planned clinical trials, which could prevent completion of these clinical trials and adversely affect our ability to advance the development of our product candidates. In addition, many of the factors that may lead to a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates.
The market opportunities for certain of our product candidates may be limited to those patients who are ineligible for or have failed prior treatments and, therefore, may be small, and our projections regarding the size of the addressable market may be incorrect.
Our immuno-oncology approach is based on novel ideas and technologies that are unproven and may not result in marketable products, which makes it difficult for us to predict the time and cost of product development and potential for regulatory approval. Cancer therapies are sometimes characterized as first line, second line or third line, and the FDA often approves new therapies initially only for third line use. When cancers are detected they are treated with first line of therapy with the intention of curing the cancer. This treatment generally consists of chemotherapy, radiation, antibody drugs, tumor targeted small molecules, or a combination of these. If the patient’s cancer relapses, then the patient is given a second line or third line therapy, which can consist of more chemotherapy, radiation, antibody drugs, tumor targeted small molecules, or a combination of these. Generally, the higher the line of therapy, the lower the chance of a cure. With third or higher line, the goal of the therapy is to control the growth of the tumor and extend the life of the patient, as a cure is unlikely to happen. Patients are generally referred to clinical trials in these situations.
There is no guarantee that any of our product candidates, even if approved, would be approved for an early line of therapy. In addition, we may have to conduct additional large randomized clinical trials prior to gaining approval for the earlier line of therapy.
Our projections of both the number of people who have the cancers we are targeting, as well as the size of the patient population subset of people with these cancers in a position to receive first, second, third and fourth line therapy and who have the potential to benefit from treatment with our product candidates, are based on our beliefs and estimates. These estimates have been derived from a variety of sources, including scientific literature, surveys of clinics, patient foundations, or market research and may prove to be incorrect. Further, new studies may change the estimated incidence or prevalence of these cancers. The number of patients may turn out to be fewer than expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our product candidates may be limited or may not be amenable to treatment with our product candidates. Even if we obtain significant market share for our product candidates, because the potential target populations are small, we may never achieve significant revenues without obtaining regulatory approval for additional indications or as part of earlier lines of therapy.
Adverse side effects or other safety risks associated with our product candidates could delay or preclude approval, cause us to suspend or discontinue clinical trials, cause us to abandon product candidates, could limit the commercial profile of an approved label, or could result in significant negative consequences following any potential marketing approval.
Our planned clinical trials will include cancer patients who are very sick and whose health is deteriorating. It is possible that some of these patients may experience similar side effects and that additional patients may die during our clinical trials for various reasons. The causes of death could include receiving our product candidates because the patient’s disease is too advanced or because the patient experiences medical problems that may not be related to our product candidate. Even if the patient deaths are not related to our product candidate, the deaths could affect perceptions regarding the safety of our product candidates, including SNS-101.
Patient deaths and severe side effects caused by our product candidates, or by products or product candidates of other companies that are thought to have similarities with our therapeutic candidates, could result in the delay, suspension, clinical hold or termination of our clinical trials, the FDA or other regulatory authorities for a number of reasons. If we elect or are required to delay, suspend or terminate any clinical trial of any product candidates that we develop, the commercial prospects of such product candidates will be harmed and our ability to generate product revenues from any of these product candidates would be delayed or eliminated. Serious adverse events observed in clinical trials could hinder or prevent market acceptance of the product candidate at issue. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations significantly.
Additionally, if one or more of our product candidates receives marketing approval, and we or others later identify undesirable side effects caused by such products, including during any long-term follow-up observation period recommended or required for patients who receive treatment using our products, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:
Any of the foregoing could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the particular product candidate, if approved, and could significantly harm our business, results of operations, and prospects.
Even if we complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials, the marketing approval process is expensive, time-consuming and uncertain and may prevent us or any future collaboration partners from obtaining approvals for the commercialization of any other product candidate we develop.
Any product candidate we may develop and the activities associated with their development and commercialization, including their design, testing, manufacture, safety, efficacy, recordkeeping, labeling, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution, are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory authorities in the United States and by comparable authorities in other countries. Failure to obtain marketing approval for a product candidate will prevent us from commercializing the product candidate in a given jurisdiction. We have not received approval to market any product candidates from regulatory authorities in any jurisdiction and it is possible that none of the product candidates we may seek to develop in the future will ever obtain regulatory approval. We have no experience in filing and supporting the applications necessary to gain marketing approvals and expect to rely on third-party contract research organizations, or CROs, or regulatory consultants to assist us in this process. Securing regulatory approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to the various regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the biologic product candidate’s safety, purity, efficacy and potency. Securing regulatory approval also requires the submission of information about the product manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the relevant regulatory authority. Any product candidates we develop may not be effective, may be only moderately effective, or may prove to have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that may preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use.
The process of obtaining marketing approvals, both in the United States and abroad, is expensive, may take many years if additional clinical trials are required, if approval is obtained at all, and can vary substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity, and novelty of the product candidates involved. Changes in marketing approval policies during the development period, changes in or the enactment of additional statutes or regulations, or changes in regulatory review for each submitted product application, may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application. The FDA and comparable authorities in other countries have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or may decide that our data are insufficient for approval and require additional preclinical, clinical or other studies. In addition, varying interpretations of the data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing could delay, limit, or prevent marketing approval of a product candidate. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render the approved product not commercially viable.
If we experience delays in obtaining approval or if we fail to obtain approval of any product candidates we may develop, the commercial prospects for those product candidates may be harmed, and our ability to generate revenues may be materially impaired.
Risks Related to Manufacturing and our Dependence on Third Parties
We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties to conduct, supervise, and monitor our preclinical studies, as well as our planned clinical trials. If those third parties do not perform satisfactorily, including failing to meet deadlines for the completion of such planned clinical trials or failing to comply with regulatory requirements, we may be unable to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates.
We currently rely, and with respect to planned clinical trials expect to rely, on third-party contract research organizations, or CROs, academic institutions, study sites, clinical investigators and others to conduct, supervise, and monitor our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including our planned clinical trial of SNS-101. We expect to continue to rely on third parties, such as CROs, clinical data management organizations, medical institutions, and clinical investigators, to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials. Although we currently have or plan to enter into agreements governing the activities of these third parties, we have limited influence over their actual performance and control only certain aspects of their activities. The failure of these third parties to successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines, including as a result of the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, could substantially harm our business because we may be delayed in completing or unable to complete the studies required to develop SNS-101 and other current and future product candidates, or we may not obtain marketing approval for, or commercialize, SNS-101 or our other current and future product candidates in a timely manner or at all.
Moreover, these agreements might terminate for a variety of reasons, including a failure to perform by the third parties. If we need to enter into alternative arrangements our product development activities could be delayed and our business, financial condition, results of operations, stock price and prospects may be materially harmed.
Our reliance on these third parties for development activities reduces our control over these activities. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our studies is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal, regulatory, and scientific standards and our reliance on third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. For example, we will remain responsible for ensuring that each of our trials is conducted in accordance with the general investigational plan and protocols for the trial. We must also ensure that our preclinical studies are conducted in accordance with the FDA’s GLP regulations, as appropriate.
Moreover, the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities require us to comply with GCPs for conducting, recording, and reporting the results of clinical trials to assure that data and reported results are credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity, and confidentiality of trial participants are protected. Regulatory authorities enforce these requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, clinical investigators, and trial sites. If we or any of our third parties fail to comply with applicable GCPs or other regulatory requirements, we or they may be subject to enforcement or other legal actions, the data generated in our trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional studies.
In addition, we will be required to report certain financial interests of our third-party investigators if these relationships exceed certain financial thresholds or meet other criteria. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may question the integrity of the data from those clinical trials conducted by investigators who may have conflicts of interest.
We cannot assure you that upon inspection by a given regulatory authority, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our planned clinical trials comply with the applicable regulatory requirements. In addition, our planned clinical trials must be conducted with product candidates that were produced under cGMP regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process. We also are required to register certain clinical trials and post the results of certain completed clinical trials on a government-sponsored database, ClinicalTrials.gov, within specified timeframes. Failure to do so can result in enforcement actions and adverse publicity.
The third parties with which we work may also have relationships with other entities, some of which may be our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting trials or other therapeutic development activities that could harm our competitive position. In addition, such third parties are not our employees, and except for remedies available to us under our agreements with such third parties we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time and resources to the development of our product candidates. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, meet expected deadlines or conduct our preclinical studies or clinical trials in accordance with regulatory requirements or our stated protocols, if these parties are adversely impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic limiting or materially affecting their ability to carry out their contractual duties, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our protocols, regulatory requirements or for other reasons, our trials may be repeated, extended, delayed, or terminated; we may not be able to obtain, or may be delayed in obtaining, marketing approvals for current and future product candidates; we may not be able to, or may be delayed in our efforts to, successfully commercialize current and future product candidates; or we or they may be subject to regulatory enforcement actions. As a result, our results of operations and the commercial prospects for current and future product candidates may be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenues could be delayed. To the extent we are unable to successfully identify and manage the performance of third-party service providers in the future, our business, financial condition, results of operations, stock price and prospects may be materially harmed.
We collaborate with academic institutions for the development of our product candidates, including, for instance, our collaboration with the University of Washington pursuant to which we are conducting preclinical studies for our SNS-101 program. We may enter into additional collaborations for our other current or future product candidates or technologies. We cannot control the timing or quantity of resources that our existing or future collaborators will dedicate to research, preclinical and clinical development. Our collaborators may not perform their obligations according to our expectations or standards of quality. Our collaborators could terminate our existing agreements for a number of reasons.
We will also rely on other third parties to store and distribute our product candidates for the clinical trials that we plan to conduct. Any performance failure on the part of our distributors could delay clinical development, marketing approval, or commercialization of current and future product candidates, which could result in additional losses and deprive us of potential product revenue.
If any of our relationships with these third parties terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative providers or to do so on commercially reasonable terms. Switching or adding additional third parties involves additional cost and requires management’s time and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new third party commences work. As a result, delays could occur, which could compromise our ability to meet our desired development timelines.
We expect that certain of our current and future product candidates, including SNS-101, will be evaluated in combination with third-party drugs, and we will have limited or no control over the supply, regulatory status, or regulatory approval of such drugs.
We expect that certain of our current and future product candidates, including SNS-101, will be evaluated in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, or CPIs. Our ability to develop and ultimately commercialize current and future product candidates used in combination with CPIs or other compounds will depend on our ability to access such drugs on commercially reasonable terms for clinical trials and their availability for use with the commercialized product, if approved. In January 2023, we entered into a supply agreement with Regeneron to evaluate SNS-101 in combination with cemiplimab in our planned Phase 1/2 clinical trial. However, we cannot be certain that such agreement or any future commercial relationships will provide us with a steady supply of such drugs on commercially reasonable terms or at all.
Any failure to enter into successful commercial relationships, or inability to source or purchase CPIs or other potential combination agents in the market, may delay our development timelines, increase our costs and jeopardize our ability to develop SNS-101 and other current and future product candidates as potential combination therapies, which may materially harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, stock price and prospects. Moreover, the development of product candidates for use in combination with another product or product candidate may present challenges that are not encountered when developing single-agent product candidates. For example, the FDA may require us to use more complex clinical trial designs in order to evaluate the contribution of each product and product candidate to any observed effects. Additionally, following product approval, the FDA may require that products used in conjunction with each other be cross labeled for combined use. To the extent that we do not have rights to the other product, this may require us to work with a third party under terms unfavorable to us to satisfy such a requirement. Moreover, developments related to the other product may impact our clinical trials for the combination as well as our commercial prospects should we receive marketing approval. Such developments may include changes to the other product’s safety or efficacy profile, changes to the availability of the approved product, and changes to the standard of care.
In the event that Regeneron or any potential future collaborator or supplier cannot continue to supply their products on commercially reasonable terms, we would need to identify alternatives for accessing such CPIs. Additionally, should the supply from Regeneron or any future collaborator or supplier be interrupted, delayed or otherwise be unavailable to us or our collaborators, our clinical collaborations may be delayed. In the event we are unable to source an alternative supply, or are unable to do so on commercially reasonable terms, our business, financial condition, results of operations, stock price and prospects may be materially harmed.
We currently rely on CMOs for the production of SNS-101 and we expect to rely on CMOs for our other product candidates. This reliance on CMOs increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of such materials, product candidates, or any therapies that we may develop and commercialize, or that such supply will not be available to us at an acceptable cost, which could delay, prevent, or impair our development or commercialization efforts.
We currently have no plans to build our own clinical or commercial scale manufacturing capabilities for our TMAb product candidates. Instead, we expect to rely on third parties for the manufacture of our product candidates and related raw materials for future pre-clinical and clinical development, as well as for commercial manufacture if any of our product candidates receive marketing approval. We have entered into arrangements with a limited number of third-party contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, as part of our development of our TMAb product candidates. These CMOs will provide drug substance intermediate and drug product that will be subsequently labeled, packaged and distributed to our CROs. We may also enter into agreements with additional companies for the supply of substances for use in the development of our TMAb product candidates or any future product candidates or for the manufacture of such product candidates.
We or our third-party suppliers or manufacturers may encounter shortages in the raw materials or active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API, necessary to produce SNS-101 or any other current and future product candidates we may develop in the quantities needed for our clinical trials or, if any current or future product candidates we may develop are approved, in sufficient quantities for commercialization or to meet an increase in demand, as a result of capacity constraints or delays or disruptions in the market for the raw materials or API, including shortages caused by the purchase of such raw materials or API by our competitors or others. Even if raw materials or API are available, we may be unable to obtain sufficient quantities at an acceptable cost or quality. The failure by us or our third-party suppliers or manufacturers to obtain the raw materials or API necessary to manufacture sufficient quantities of any current or future product candidates we may develop could delay, prevent or impair our development efforts and may have a material adverse effect on our business.
The facilities used by third-party manufacturers to manufacture SNS-101 or any other current or future product candidates must be authorized by the FDA pursuant to inspections that will be conducted after we submit a BLA to the FDA. We do not control the manufacturing process of, and are completely dependent on, third-party manufacturers for compliance with cGMP requirements for manufacture of drug products and other laws and regulations. If these third-party manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or others, they will not be able to secure and maintain regulatory approval for their manufacturing facilities. In addition, we have no control over the ability of third-party manufacturers to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates or if it withdraws any such approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which could significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our product candidates, if approved.
Finding new CMOs or third-party suppliers involves additional cost and requires our management’s time and focus. In addition, there is typically a transition period when a new CMO commences work. Although we do not intend to begin a clinical trial unless we believe we have on hand, or will be able to obtain, a sufficient supply of our product candidates to complete the clinical trial, any significant delay in the supply of our product candidates or the raw materials needed to produce our product candidates, could considerably delay conducting our planned clinical trials and potential regulatory approval of any of our product candidates. Additionally, any changes implemented by a new CMO could delay completion of clinical trials, require the conduct of bridging
clinical trials or studies, require the repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical trial costs, delay approval of our current and future product candidates and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenue.
If any CMO with whom we contract fails to perform its obligations, we may be forced to manufacture the materials ourselves, for which we may not have the capabilities or resources, or enter into an agreement with a different CMO, which we may not be able to do on reasonable terms, if at all. In either scenario, our clinical trials or commercial supply could be delayed significantly as we establish alternative supply sources. In some cases, the technical skills required to manufacture our products or product candidates may be unique or proprietary to the original CMO and we may have difficulty, or there may be contractual restrictions prohibiting us from, transferring such skills to a back-up or alternate supplier, or we may be unable to transfer such skills at all. In addition, if we are required to change CMOs for any reason, we will be required to verify that the new CMO maintains facilities and procedures that comply with quality standards and with all applicable regulations. We will also need to verify, such as through a manufacturing comparability study, that any new manufacturing process will produce our product candidate according to the specifications previously submitted to or approved by the FDA or another regulatory authority. The delays associated with the verification of a new CMO could negatively affect our ability to develop product candidates or commercialize our products in a timely manner or within budget. Furthermore, a CMO may possess technology related to the manufacture of our product candidates that such CMO owns independently. This would increase our reliance on such CMO or require us to obtain a license from such CMO in order to have another CMO manufacture our product candidates or products. In addition, in the case of CMOs that supply our product candidates, changes in manufacturers often involve changes in manufacturing procedures and processes, which could require that we conduct bridging studies between our prior clinical supply used in our clinical trials and that of any new manufacturer. We may be unsuccessful in demonstrating the comparability of clinical supplies which could require the conduct of additional clinical trials.
As part of their manufacture of our product candidates, our CMO and third-party suppliers are expected to comply with and respect the intellectual property and proprietary rights of others. If our CMO or third-party supplier fails to acquire the proper licenses or otherwise infringes, misappropriates or otherwise violates the intellectual property or proprietary rights of others in the course of providing services to us, we may have to find alternative CMOs or third-party suppliers or defend against applicable claims, either of which could significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or commercialize our product candidates, if approved.
Our failure, or the failure of our third-party manufacturers, to comply with applicable regulations could result in sanctions being imposed on us, including clinical holds, fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, seizures or recalls of product candidates or products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecutions, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our products. In addition, we may be unable to establish any agreements with third-party manufacturers or to do so on acceptable terms.
Even if we are able to establish agreements with third-party manufacturers, reliance on third-party manufacturers entails additional risks, including:
Any product candidates that we may develop may compete with other product candidates and products for access to manufacturing facilities. Any performance failure on the part of our existing or future manufacturers could delay clinical development or marketing approval, and any related remedial measures may be costly or time-consuming to implement. We do not currently have arrangements in place for redundant supply or a second source for all required raw materials used in the manufacture of our product candidates. If our current third-party CMO cannot perform as agreed, we may be required to replace such manufacturer and we may be unable to replace them on a timely basis or at all.
Because we rely on a limited number of suppliers for the raw materials used in our drug candidates, any delay, shortage or interruption in the supply of such raw materials or contamination in our manufacturing process could lead to delays in the manufacture and supply of our drug candidates.
We rely on third-parties to supply certain raw materials necessary to produce our drug candidates for preclinical studies and planned clinical trials. For example, we rely on third-parties to supply certain reagents, which are substances used in our manufacturing processes to bring about chemical or biological reactions, and other specialty materials and equipment, some of which are manufactured or supplied by small companies with limited resources. There are a small number of suppliers for certain raw materials that we use to manufacture our drug candidates. We work with our CMOs to purchase these materials from our suppliers who may not always have long-term supply agreements in place, which could expose us to a variety of risks, including a potential inability to obtain critical materials and reduced control over production costs, delivery schedules, reliability and quality. Any unanticipated disruption to our contract manufacturing caused by problems at suppliers could delay shipment of our product candidates, increase our cost of goods sold and result in lost sales with respect to any approved products. Any significant delay in the supply of raw materials for our drug candidates for a preclinical study or a clinical trial due to the need to replace a third-party supplier could considerably delay completion of certain preclinical studies and/or clinical trials. Moreover, if we are unable to purchase sufficient raw materials after regulatory approval for our drug candidates, the commercial launch of our drug candidates could be delayed, or there could be a supply shortage, each of which could impair our ability to generate revenues from their sale.
In addition, a material shortage, contamination, recall or restriction on the use of substances in the manufacture of our drug candidates, or the failure of any of our key suppliers to deliver necessary components required for the manufacture of our drug candidates, could adversely impact or disrupt the commercial manufacture or the production of clinical material, which could materially and adversely affect our development timelines and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and future prospects.
We have entered, and may in the future enter into, partnership agreements with third parties for the development and commercialization of our product candidates. Our prospects with respect to those product candidates will depend in significant part on the success of those collaborations.
The advancement of our product candidates and development programs and the potential commercialization of our current and future product candidates will require substantial additional cash to fund expenses. For some of our programs, we may decide to collaborate with additional pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies with respect to development and potential commercialization. As such, we have entered into and may seek to enter into additional collaborations or partnerships with third parties for the development and potential commercialization of our product candidates.
We face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Should we seek to collaborate with a third party with respect to a prospective development program, we may not be able to locate a suitable partner or to enter into an agreement on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we succeed in securing partners for the development and commercialization of our product candidates, we have limited control over the time and resources that our partners may dedicate to the development and commercialization of our product candidates. In order to optimize the launch and market penetration of certain of our future product candidates, we may enter into distribution and marketing agreements with pharmaceutical industry leaders. For these product candidates, we would not market our products alone once they have obtained marketing authorization. These partnerships pose a number of risks, including the following:
Thus, partnership agreements may not lead to development, regulatory approval or successful commercialization of product candidates in the most efficient manner or at all. Some partnership agreements are terminable without cause on short notice. Once a partnership agreement is signed, it may not lead to regulatory approval and commercialization of a product candidate. We also face competition in seeking out partners. If we are unable to secure new collaborations that achieve the collaborator’s objectives and meet our expectations, we may be unable to advance our product candidates and may not generate meaningful revenues.
Our employees, principal investigators, CROs and consultants may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards and requirements.
We are exposed to the risk that our employees, principal investigators, CROs and consultants may engage in fraudulent conduct or other illegal activity. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct or disclosure of unauthorized activities to us that violate the regulations of the FDA and other regulatory authorities, including those laws requiring the reporting of true, complete and accurate information to such authorities; healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations in the United States and abroad; or laws that require the reporting of financial information or data accurately. In particular, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Activities subject to these laws also involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of clinical trials or creating fraudulent data in our preclinical studies or clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and cause serious harm to our reputation. We have a code of conduct applicable to all of our employees, but it is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct by employees and other third parties, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with these laws or regulations. Additionally, we are subject to the risk that a person could allege such fraud or other misconduct, even if none occurred. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and curtailment of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.
Risks Related to Regulatory Approval of our Product Candidates and Other Legal Compliance Matters
If we are not able to obtain, or if there are delays in obtaining, required regulatory approvals for our product candidates, we will not be able to commercialize, or will be delayed in commercializing, our product candidates, and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired.
Our product candidates and the activities associated with their development and commercialization, including their design, testing, manufacture, safety, efficacy, recordkeeping, labeling, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale, distribution, import and export are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory agencies in the United States and by comparable authorities in other countries. Before we can commercialize any of our product candidates, we must obtain marketing approval. Currently, all of our product candidates are in development, and we have not received approval to market any of our product candidates from regulatory authorities in any jurisdiction. It is possible that our product candidates, including any product candidates we may seek to develop in the future, will never obtain regulatory approval. Whether the results from our clinical trials will suffice to obtain approval will be a review issue and the FDA may not grant approval and may require that we conduct one or more controlled clinical trials to obtain approval. Additionally, even if FDA does grant approval for one or more of our product candidates, it may be for a more narrow indication than we seek. Regulatory authorities, including the FDA, also may impose significant limitations in the form of narrow indications, warnings or a REMS. These regulatory authorities may require labeling that includes precautions or contra-indications with respect to conditions of use, or they may grant approval subject to the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials. In addition, regulatory authorities may not approve the labeling claims that are necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of any product candidates we may develop.
We have only limited experience in filing and supporting the applications necessary to gain regulatory approvals and expect to rely on third-party CROs and/or regulatory consultants to assist us in this process. Securing regulatory approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to the various regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the product candidate’s safety and efficacy. Securing regulatory approval also requires the submission of information about the product manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the relevant regulatory authority. Our product candidates may not be effective, may be only moderately effective or may prove to have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that may preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use. In addition, regulatory authorities may find fault with our manufacturing process or facilities or that of third-party contract manufacturers. We may also face greater than expected difficulty in manufacturing our product candidates.
The process of obtaining regulatory approvals, both in the United States and abroad, is expensive and often takes many years. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority requires that we perform additional preclinical studies or clinical trials, approval, if obtained at all, may be delayed. The length of such a delay varies substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity and novelty of the product candidates involved. Changes in marketing approval policies during the development period, changes in or the enactment of additional statutes or regulations, or changes in regulatory review for each submitted BLA, premarket approval application, or equivalent application types, may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application. The FDA and comparable authorities in other countries have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or may decide that our data are insufficient for approval and require additional preclinical, clinical or other studies. Our product candidates could be delayed in receiving, or fail to receive, regulatory approval for many reasons, including the following:
Even if we were to obtain approval, regulatory authorities may approve any of our product candidates for fewer or more limited indications than we request, thereby narrowing the commercial potential of the product candidate. In addition, regulatory authorities may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials, or may approve a product candidate with a label that does not include the labeling claims necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of that product candidate. Any of the foregoing scenarios could materially harm the commercial prospects for our product candidates.
If we experience delays in obtaining approval or if we fail to obtain approval of our product candidates, the commercial prospects for our product candidates may be harmed and our ability to generate revenues will be materially impaired.
Obtaining and maintaining regulatory approval of our product candidates in one jurisdiction does not guarantee that we will be successful in obtaining regulatory approval of our product candidates in other jurisdictions.
We may submit marketing applications in countries other than the United States. Regulatory authorities in jurisdictions outside of the United States have requirements for approval of product candidates with which we must comply prior to marketing in those jurisdictions. Obtaining foreign regulatory approvals and compliance with foreign regulatory requirements could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in certain countries. If we fail to comply with the regulatory requirements in international markets and/or receive applicable marketing approvals, our target market will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of our product candidates will be harmed.
Obtaining and maintaining regulatory approval of our product candidates in one jurisdiction does not guarantee that we will be able to obtain or maintain regulatory approval in any other jurisdiction, while a failure or delay in obtaining regulatory approval in one jurisdiction may have a negative effect on the regulatory approval process in others. For example, even if the FDA grants marketing approval of a product candidate, comparable regulatory authorities in foreign jurisdictions must also approve the manufacturing, marketing and promotion of the product candidate in those countries. Approval procedures vary among jurisdictions and can involve requirements and administrative review periods different from, and greater than, those in the United States, including additional nonclinical studies or clinical trials as clinical trials conducted in one jurisdiction may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions. In short, the foreign regulatory approval process involves all of the risks associated with FDA approval. In many jurisdictions outside the United States, a product candidate must be approved for reimbursement before it can be approved for sale in that jurisdiction. In some cases, the price that we may intend to charge for our products will also be subject to approval.
Even if we receive regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense. Additionally, our product candidates, if approved, could be subject to post-market study requirements, marketing and labeling restrictions, and even recall or market withdrawal if unanticipated safety issues are discovered following approval. In addition, we may be subject to penalties or other enforcement action if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements.
If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority approves any of our product candidates, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, storage, advertising, promotion, import, export, recordkeeping, monitoring, and reporting for our product will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, establishment registration and listing, as well as continued compliance with cGMPs and GCPs
for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval. Any regulatory approvals that we receive for our product candidates may also be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-marketing studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the product.
The FDA may require a REMS in order to approve our product candidates, which could entail requirements for a medication guide, physician communication plans or additional elements to ensure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with our third-party manufacturers or manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in, among other things:
The FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained, which could adversely affect our business, prospects and ability to achieve or sustain profitability.
If we are unable to successfully validate, develop and obtain regulatory approval for any required companion diagnostic tests for our product candidates or experience significant delays in doing so, we may fail to obtain approval or may not realize the full commercial potential of these product candidates.
In connection with the clinical development of our product candidates for certain indications, we may develop or engage third parties to develop or obtain access to in vitro companion diagnostic tests to identify patient subsets within a disease category who may derive benefit from our product candidates. Such companion diagnostics may be used during our clinical trials and may be required in connection with the FDA approval of our product candidates. To be successful, we or our collaborators will need to address a number of scientific, technical, regulatory and logistical challenges. Companion diagnostics are subject to regulation by the FDA, EMA and other regulatory authorities as medical devices and require separate regulatory approval prior to commercialization.
We may rely on third parties for the design, development and manufacture of companion diagnostic tests for our therapeutic product candidates that may require such tests. If we enter into such collaborative agreements, we will be dependent on the sustained cooperation and effort of our future collaborators in developing and obtaining approval for these companion diagnostics. We and our future collaborators may encounter difficulties in developing and obtaining approval for the companion diagnostics, including issues relating to selectivity/specificity, analytical validation, reproducibility, or clinical validation of companion diagnostics. We and our future collaborators also may encounter difficulties in developing, obtaining regulatory approval for, manufacturing and commercializing companion diagnostics similar to those we face with respect to our therapeutic product candidates themselves, including issues with achieving regulatory clearance or approval, production of sufficient quantities at commercial scale and with appropriate quality standards, and in gaining market acceptance. If we are unable to successfully develop companion diagnostics for these therapeutic product candidates, or experience delays in doing so, the development of these therapeutic product candidates may be adversely affected, these therapeutic product candidates may not obtain marketing approval or such approval may be delayed, and we may not realize the full commercial potential of any of these therapeutics that obtain marketing approval. As a result, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially harmed. In addition, a diagnostic company with whom we contract may decide to discontinue developing, selling or manufacturing the companion diagnostic test that we anticipate using in connection with development and commercialization of our product candidates or our relationship with such diagnostic company may otherwise terminate. We may not be able to enter into arrangements with another diagnostic company to obtain supplies of an alternative diagnostic test for use in connection with the development and commercialization of our product candidates or do so on commercially reasonable terms, which could adversely affect and/or delay the development or commercialization of our therapeutic product candidates.
Our relationships with customers, healthcare professionals, and third-party payors will be subject to applicable anti-kickback, fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations, which could expose us to significant penalties, including criminal sanctions, administrative civil penalties, exclusion from government healthcare programs, contractual damages, reputational harm and diminished profits and future earnings.
Our current and future business operations and activities may subject us to additional healthcare statutory and regulatory requirements and enforcement by the federal government and the states and foreign governments in which we conduct our business. Healthcare providers and third-party payors play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. Our current and future arrangements with healthcare professionals, third-party payors and customers may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we research as well as market, sell and distribute our product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of ownership, pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, structuring and commission(s), certain customer incentive programs and other business arrangements generally. Restrictions under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, include the following:
Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors available, it is possible that some of our business activities, including compensation of physicians with stock or stock options, could, despite efforts to comply, be subject to challenge under current or future statutes, regulations or case law interpreting applicable fraud and abuse or
other healthcare laws and regulations. Ensuring that our business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations could involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations, including anticipated activities to be conducted by our sales team, were to be found to be in violation of any of these laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, contractual damages, integrity oversight and reporting obligations, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations. If any of the physicians or other providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found not to be in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to significant criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs. In addition, the approval and commercialization of any of our product candidates outside the United States will also likely subject us to foreign equivalents of the healthcare laws mentioned above, among other foreign laws.
Healthcare legislative reform measures may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
The U.S. and many foreign jurisdictions have enacted or proposed legislative and regulatory changes affecting the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of our current or future product candidates or any future product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities and affect our ability to profitably sell a product for which we obtain marketing approval. Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements, (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling, (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect the operation of our business. In the U.S., there have been and continue to be a number of legislative initiatives to contain healthcare costs. For example, in March 2010, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or the ACA was passed, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impacted the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, subjected biological products to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars, addressed a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, increases the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, established annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs, and created a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 70% (increased pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, effective as of 2019) point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D.
There have been executive, judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. For example, on June 17, 2021 the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge on procedural grounds that argued the ACA is unconstitutional in its entirety because the “individual mandate” was repealed by Congress. Further, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, on January 28, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructs certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA. Further, on August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, or IRA, into law, which among other things, extends enhanced subsidies for individuals purchasing health insurance coverage in ACA marketplaces through plan year 2025. The IRA also eliminates the “donut hole” under the Medicare Part D program beginning in 2025 by significantly lowering the beneficiary maximum out-of-pocket cost and through a newly established manufacturer discount program. It is unclear how any such challenges and the healthcare reform measures of the Biden administration will impact the ACA and our business.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted. In August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers up to 2% per fiscal year, and, due to subsequent legislative amendments, will remain in effect until 2031 unless additional Congressional action is taken. Under current legislation, the actual reduction in Medicare payments will vary from 1% in 2022 to up to 4% in the final fiscal year of this sequester. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 among other things, reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.
There has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the U.S. with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. At the federal level, the former Trump administration used several means to propose or implement drug pricing reform including through federal budget proposals, executive orders and policy initiatives In July 2021, the Biden administration released an executive order, “Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” with multiple provisions aimed at prescription drugs. In response to Biden’s executive order, on September 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS released a Comprehensive Plan for Addressing High Drug Prices that outlines principles for drug pricing reform and sets out a variety of potential legislative policies that Congress could pursue to advance these principles. In addition, the IRA, among other things, (1) directs HHS to negotiate the price of certain single-source drugs and biologics covered under Medicare and (2) imposes rebates under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation. These provisions will take effect progressively starting in fiscal year 2023, although they may be subject to legal challenges. It is currently unclear how the IRA will be implemented but is likely to have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry. Further, the Biden administration released an additional executive order on October 14, 2022, directing HHS to submit a report on how the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation can be further leveraged to test new models for lowering drug costs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. It is unclear whether this executive order or similar policy initiatives will be implemented in the future.
At the state level, individual states are increasingly aggressive in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. In addition, regional health care authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other health care programs. These measures could reduce the ultimate demand for our products, once approved, or put pressure on our product pricing.
We expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, particularly in light of the new U.S. presidential administration, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our current or future product candidates or additional pricing pressures. In particular any policy changes through CMS as well as local state Medicaid programs could have a significant impact on our business in light of the higher proportion of SCD patients that utilize Medicare and Medicaid programs to pay for treatments.
Our revenue prospects could be affected by changes in healthcare spending and policy in the U.S. and abroad. We operate in a highly regulated industry and new laws, regulations or judicial decisions, or new interpretations of existing laws, regulations or decisions, related to healthcare availability, the method of delivery or payment for healthcare products and services could negatively impact our business, operations and financial condition.
There have been, and likely will continue to be, legislative and regulatory proposals at the foreign, federal and state levels directed at broadening the availability of healthcare and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare. We cannot predict the initiatives that may be adopted in the future, including repeal, replacement or significant revisions to the ACA. The continuing efforts of the government, insurance companies, managed care organizations and other payors of healthcare services to contain or reduce costs of healthcare and/or impose price controls may adversely affect:
Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors, which may adversely affect our future profitability.
We are subject to the U.K. Bribery Act 2010, or the Bribery Act, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, or the FCPA, and other anti-corruption laws, as well as export control laws, import and customs laws, trade and economic sanctions laws and other laws governing our operations.
Our operations are subject to anti-corruption laws, including the Bribery Act, the FCPA, the U.S. domestic bribery statute contained in 18 U.S.C. §201, the U.S. Travel Act, and other anti-corruption laws that apply in countries where we do business. The Bribery Act, the FCPA and these other laws generally prohibit us and our employees and intermediaries from authorizing, promising,
offering, or providing, directly or indirectly, improper or prohibited payments, or anything else of value, to government officials or other persons to obtain or retain business or gain some other business advantage. Under the Bribery Act, we may also be liable for failing to prevent a person associated with us from committing a bribery offense. We and our commercial partners operate in a number of jurisdictions that pose a high risk of potential Bribery Act, or FCPA, violations, and we participate in collaborations and relationships with third parties whose corrupt or illegal activities could potentially subject us to liability under the Bribery Act, FCPA or local anti-corruption laws, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have actual knowledge of such activities. In addition, we cannot predict the nature, scope or effect of future regulatory requirements to which our international operations might be subject or the manner in which existing laws might be administered or interpreted.
We are also subject to other laws and regulations governing our international operations, including regulations administered by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States, and authorities in the European Union, including applicable export control regulations, economic sanctions and embargoes on certain countries and persons, anti-money laundering laws, import and customs requirements and currency exchange regulations, collectively referred to as the Trade Control laws.
There is no assurance that we will be completely effective in ensuring our compliance with all applicable anti-corruption laws, including the Bribery Act, the FCPA or other legal requirements, including Trade Control laws. If we are not in compliance with the Bribery Act, the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws, we may be subject to criminal and civil penalties, disgorgement and other sanctions and remedial measures, and legal expenses, which could have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. Likewise, any investigation of any potential violations of the Bribery Act, the FCPA, other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws by United Kingdom, United States or other authorities could also have an adverse impact on our reputation, our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If we fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
We are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Our operations involve the use of hazardous and flammable materials, including chemicals and biological materials. Our operations also produce hazardous waste products. We generally contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and wastes. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from these materials. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from our use of hazardous materials, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We also could incur significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties. Furthermore, environmental laws and regulations are complex, change frequently and have tended to become more stringent. We cannot predict the impact of such changes and cannot be certain of our future compliance. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.
Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of hazardous materials or other work-related injuries, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions or liabilities, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks Related to the Commercialization of our Product Candidates
If we are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for our product candidates, or enter into sales, marketing and distribution agreements with third parties, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates, if approved.
We currently plan to work to build our global commercialization capabilities internally over time such that we are able to commercialize any product candidate for which we may obtain regulatory approval. However, we currently have no sales, marketing or distribution capabilities and have no experience in marketing or distributing pharmaceutical products. To achieve commercial success for any product candidate for which we may obtain marketing approval, we will need to expand our sales and marketing organization and establish logistics and distribution processes to commercialize and deliver our product candidates to patients and healthcare providers. The development of sales, marketing and distribution capabilities will require substantial resources, will be time-consuming and could delay any product launch.
If we are unable or decide not to establish internal sales, marketing and distribution capabilities, we would have to pursue collaborative arrangements regarding the sales and marketing of our products. However, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to sell, market and distribute our product candidates or may be unable to do so on terms that are favorable to us, or if we are able to do so, that they would be effective and successful in commercializing our products. Our product
revenues and our profitability, if any, would likely to be lower than if we were to sell, market and distribute any product candidates that we develop ourselves. In addition, we would have limited control over such third parties, and any of them may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our product candidates effectively.
If we do not establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities successfully, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we will not be successful in commercializing our product candidates in the United States or overseas.
We operate in a rapidly changing industry and face significant competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before or more successfully than we do.
The development and commercialization of new biopharmaceutical products is highly competitive and subject to rapid and significant technological advancements. We face competition from major multi-national pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and specialty pharmaceutical companies with respect to our current and future product candidates that we may develop and commercialize in the future. There are a number of large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that currently market and sell products or are pursuing the development of product candidates for the treatment of cancer. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large, established companies. Potential competitors also include academic institutions, government agencies and other public and private research organizations.
In addition to the current standard of care treatments for patients with cancers, numerous commercial and academic preclinical studies and clinical trials are being undertaken by a large number of parties to assess novel technologies and product candidates in the field of immuno-oncology. Results from these studies and trials have fueled increasing levels of interest in the field of immuno-oncology.
Large pharmaceutical companies that have commercialized or are developing immunotherapies to treat cancer include AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Roche/Genentech. In addition, we may compete with other immuno-oncology companies in our industry, such as Curis, Hummingbird Bioscience, Kineta, PharmAbcine and Pierre Fabre, each of which are developing antibodies targeting VISTA, the target of our lead product candidate SNS-101.
Our competitors with development-stage programs may obtain marketing approval from the FDA or other comparable regulatory authorities for their product candidates more rapidly than we do, and they could establish a strong market position before we are able to enter the market. In addition, our competitors may succeed in developing, acquiring or licensing technologies and products that are more effective, more effectively marketed and sold or less costly than any product candidates that we may develop, which could render our product candidates non-competitive and obsolete.
Many of our competitors, either alone or with their strategic collaborators, have substantially greater financial, technical and human resources than we do. Accordingly, our competitors may be more successful than we are in obtaining approval for treatments and achieving widespread market acceptance, which may render our treatments obsolete or non-competitive. Mergers and acquisitions in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical studies, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies.
Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient or are less expensive or better reimbursed than any products that we may commercialize. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position for either the product or a specific indication before we are able to enter the market.
Even if any of our product candidates receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.
Even if we obtain approvals from the FDA or other comparable regulatory agencies and are able to initiate commercialization of our product candidates or any other product candidates we develop, the product candidate may not achieve market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, including pharmacy directors, and third-party payors and, ultimately, may not be commercially successful. The degree of market acceptance of our product candidates, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:
Our efforts to educate physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community on the benefits of our product candidates, if approved, may require significant resources and may never be successful. Such efforts may require more resources than are typically required due to the complexity and uniqueness of our product candidates. Because we expect sales of our product candidates, if approved, to generate substantially all of our product revenue for the foreseeable future, the failure of our product candidates to find market acceptance could harm our business and could require us to seek additional financing.
In addition, although we are not utilizing embryonic stem cells or replication competent vectors, adverse publicity due to the ethical and social controversies surrounding the therapeutic use of such technologies, and reported side effects from any clinical trials using these technologies or the failure of such trials to demonstrate that these therapies are safe and effective, may limit market acceptance our product candidates. If our product candidates are approved but fail to achieve market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, cancer treatment centers or others in the medical community, we will not be able to generate significant revenue.
Even if our product candidates, if approved, achieve market acceptance, we may not be able to maintain that market acceptance over time if new products or technologies are introduced that are more favorably received than our products, are more cost effective or render our products obsolete.
Coverage and adequate reimbursement may not be available for our current or any future product candidates, which could make it difficult for us to sell profitably, if approved.
Market acceptance and sales of any product candidates, if approved, that we commercialize will depend in part on the extent to which reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from third-party payors, including government health administration authorities, managed care organizations and private health insurers. Third-party payors decide which therapies they will pay for and establish reimbursement levels. In the United States, the principal decisions about reimbursement for new medicines are typically made by CMS, an agency within HHS. CMS decides whether and to what extent a new medicine will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare and private payors tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. However, decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided for any product candidates that we develop will be made on a payor-by-payor basis. Further, no uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement exists in the United States, and coverage and reimbursement can differ significantly from payor to payor. As a result, one payor’s determination to provide coverage for a drug does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage and adequate reimbursement for the drug. Additionally, a third-party payor’s decision to provide coverage for a therapy does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate to allow us to establish or maintain pricing sufficient to realize a sufficient return on our investment will be approved. Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the price, examining the medical necessity and reviewing the cost-effectiveness of medical products, therapies and services, in addition to questioning their safety and efficacy. We may incur significant costs to conduct expensive pharmaco-economic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of our product candidates, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA approvals. Our product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost-effective.
Each payor determines whether or not it will provide coverage for a therapy, what amount it will pay the manufacturer for the therapy, and on what tier of its list of covered drugs, or formulary, it will be placed. The position on a payor’s formulary, generally determines the co-payment that a patient will need to make to obtain the therapy and can strongly influence the adoption of such therapy by patients and physicians. Patients who are prescribed treatments for their conditions and providers prescribing such services generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the associated healthcare costs. Patients are unlikely to use our products, and providers are unlikely to prescribe our products, unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of our products and their administration. Therefore, coverage and adequate reimbursement is critical to new medical product acceptance.
In addition, companion diagnostic tests require coverage and reimbursement separate and apart from the coverage and reimbursement for their companion pharmaceutical or biological products. Similar challenges to obtaining coverage and reimbursement, applicable to pharmaceutical or biological products, will apply to companion diagnostics. Additionally, if any companion diagnostic provider is unable to obtain reimbursement or is inadequately reimbursed, that may limit the availability of such companion diagnostic, which could negatively impact prescriptions for our product candidates, if approved.
A primary trend in the U.S. healthcare industry and elsewhere is cost containment. Third-party payors have attempted to control costs by limiting coverage and the amount of reimbursement for particular medications. We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for any drug that we commercialize and, if reimbursement is available, what the level of reimbursement will be. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more product candidates for which we receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future. Inadequate coverage and reimbursement may impact the demand for, or the price of, any drug for which we obtain marketing approval. If coverage and adequate reimbursement are not available, or are available only to limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our current and any future product candidates that we develop. In many countries, the prices of medical products are subject to varying price control mechanisms as part of national health systems. In general, the prices of medicines under such systems are substantially lower than in the United States. Other countries allow companies to fix their own prices for medicines, but monitor and control company profits. Additional foreign price controls or other changes in pricing regulation could restrict the amount that we are able to charge for our product candidates. Accordingly, in markets outside the United States, the reimbursement for products may be reduced compared with the United States and may be insufficient to generate commercially reasonable revenues and profits.
We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement in the United States or elsewhere will be available for any product that we may develop, and any reimbursement that may become available may be decreased or eliminated in the future.
Product liability lawsuits against us could cause us to incur substantial liabilities and to limit commercialization of any products that we may develop.
We face an inherent risk of product liability exposure related to the testing of our product candidates in human clinical trials and will face an even greater risk if we commercially sell any products that we may develop. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against claims that our product candidates or products caused injuries, we will incur substantial liabilities. Regardless of merit or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:
We currently do not have product liability in place as the cost of coverage exceeds the covered amount during clinical trials. Once we are ready for a product launch, we intend to bind a policy with product liability insurance coverage in the aggregate and a per incident limit at an amount adequate to cover estimated liabilities that we may incur. We may need to increase our insurance coverage as we expand our clinical trials or if we commence commercialization of our product candidates. Insurance coverage is increasingly expensive. We may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in an amount adequate to satisfy any liability that may arise.
Inadequate funding for the FDA, the SEC and other government agencies could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, prevent new products and services from being developed or commercialized in a timely manner or otherwise prevent those agencies from performing normal business functions on which the operation of our business may rely, which could negatively impact our business.
The ability of the FDA to review and approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and statutory, regulatory, and policy changes. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of the SEC
and other government agencies on which our operations may rely, including those that fund research and development activities, is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable.
Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for product candidates to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which could adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, the U.S. government has shut down several times, and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the SEC, have had to furlough critical employees and stop critical activities. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews, or other regulatory activities, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Further, future government shutdowns could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.
Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property
If we are unable to obtain and maintain patent protection for our technologies and product candidates, including SNS-101, or if the scope of the patent protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize technology and biologics similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize our technology and product candidates may be impaired.
Our success depends, in large part, on our ability to obtain and maintain patent protection in the United States, Canada, China, the European Union and other countries with respect to our product candidates. We seek to protect our proprietary position by filing patent applications related to our technology and product candidates in the major pharmaceutical markets, including the United States, Canada, China, major countries in Europe and Japan. If we do not adequately protect our intellectual property, competitors may be able to use our technologies and erode or negate any competitive advantage that we may have, which could harm our business and ability to achieve profitability.
To protect our proprietary positions, we typically file patent applications in the United States and other countries related to our novel technologies and product candidates that are important to our business. The patent application and prosecution process is expensive and time-consuming. We may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. We may also fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development before it is too late to obtain patent protection. It is possible that defects of form in the preparation or filing of our patents or patent applications may exist, or may arise in the future, such as with respect to proper priority claims, inventorship, claim scope or patent term adjustments. If any current or future licensors or licensees are not fully cooperative or disagree with us as to the prosecution, maintenance or enforcement of any patent rights, such patent rights could be compromised and we might not be able to prevent third parties from making, using and selling competing products. If there are material defects in the form or preparation of our patents or patent applications, such patents or applications may be invalid and unenforceable. Moreover, our competitors may independently develop equivalent knowledge, methods and know-how. Any of these outcomes could impair our ability to prevent competition from third parties.
It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output before it is too late to obtain patent protection. The patent applications that we own may fail to result in issued patents with claims that cover our current and future product candidates in the United States or in other foreign countries. Our patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties practicing the technology claimed in such applications unless, and until, a patent issues from such applications, and then only to the extent the issued claims cover the technology.
If the patent applications we hold with respect to our development programs and product candidates fail to issue, if their breadth or strength of protection is threatened, or if they fail to provide meaningful exclusivity for our current and future product candidates, it could threaten our ability to commercialize our product candidates. Any such outcome could have a negative effect on our business.
The patent position of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies generally is highly uncertain. Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of our patents or narrow the scope of our patent protection. In addition, the protections offered by laws of different countries vary. No consistent policy regarding the breadth of claims allowed in biotechnology and pharmaceutical patents has emerged to date in the United States or in many foreign jurisdictions. In addition, the determination of patent rights with respect to pharmaceutical compounds and technologies commonly involves complex legal and factual questions, which has in recent years been the subject of much litigation. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our patent rights are highly uncertain. Furthermore, recent changes in patent laws in the United States, may affect the scope, strength and enforceability of our patent rights or the nature of proceedings that may be brought by or against us related to our patent rights. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several patent cases in recent years either narrowing the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances or weakening the rights of patent owners in certain situations. In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our ability to obtain patents in the future, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value of patents, once obtained. Depending on decisions by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. federal courts, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that could weaken our ability to obtain patents or to enforce any patents that we might obtain in the future.
We may not be aware of all third-party intellectual property rights potentially relating to our current and future our product candidates. Publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, or in some cases not at all. Therefore, we cannot be certain that we were the first to make the inventions claimed in our patents or pending patent applications, or that we were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions. Similarly, should we own any patents or patent applications in the future, we may not be certain that we were the first to file for patent protection for the inventions claimed in such patents or patent applications. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity and commercial value of our patent rights cannot be predicted with any certainty. Moreover, we may be subject to a third-party pre-issuance submission of prior art to the USPTO or become involved in opposition, derivation, reexamination, inter partes review or interference proceedings, in the United States or elsewhere, challenging our patent rights or the patent rights of others. An adverse determination in any such submission, proceeding or litigation could reduce the scope of, or invalidate, our patent rights, allow third parties to commercialize our technology or product candidates and compete directly with us, without payment to us, or result in our inability to manufacture or commercialize products without infringing third-party patent rights, which could significantly harm our business and results of operations.
Our pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued that protect our technology or product candidates, in whole or in part, or which effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and products. Even if our patent applications issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection against competing products or processes sufficient to achieve our business objectives, prevent competitors from competing with us or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. Our competitors may be able to circumvent our owned or licensed patents, should they issue, by developing similar or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner. Our competitors may seek approval to market their own products similar to or otherwise competitive with our products. In these circumstances, we may need to defend and/or assert our patents, including by filing lawsuits alleging patent infringement. In any of these types of proceedings, a court or other agency with jurisdiction may find our patents invalid and/or unenforceable.
The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity or enforceability, and our owned and licensed patents may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. Such challenges may result in loss of exclusivity or freedom to operate or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, in whole or in part, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and products, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our technology and products. In addition, given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized.
Third parties may initiate legal proceedings alleging that we are infringing their intellectual property rights, the outcome of which would be uncertain and could significantly harm our business.
Our commercial success depends, in part, on our ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidates and use our TMAb technology without infringing the intellectual property and other proprietary rights of third parties. Numerous third-party U.S. and non-U.S. issued patents exist in the area of biotechnology, including in the area of monoclonal antibodies and including patents held by our competitors. If any third-party patents cover our product candidates or technologies, we may not be free to manufacture or commercialize our product candidates as planned.
There is a substantial amount of intellectual property litigation in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, and we may become party to, or threatened with, litigation or other adversarial proceedings regarding intellectual property rights with respect to our technology or product candidates, including interference proceedings before the USPTO. Intellectual property disputes arise in a number of areas including with respect to patents, use of other proprietary rights and the contractual terms of license arrangements. Third parties may assert claims against us based on existing or future intellectual property rights and claims may also come from competitors against whom our own patent portfolio may have no deterrent effect. The outcome of intellectual property litigation is subject to uncertainties that cannot be adequately quantified in advance. Other parties may allege that our product candidates or the use of our technologies infringes patent claims or other intellectual property rights held by them or that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization. As we continue to develop and, if approved, commercialize our current and future product candidates, competitors may claim that our technology infringes their intellectual property rights as part of business strategies designed to impede our successful commercialization. There are and may in the future be additional third-party patents or patent applications with claims to, for example, materials, compositions, formulations, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment related to the use or manufacture of any one or more of our product candidates. Moreover, we may fail to identify relevant third party patents or patent applications, or we may incorrectly conclude that the claims of an issued patent are invalid or are not infringed by our activities. Because patent applications can take many years to issue, third parties may have currently pending patent applications which may later result in issued patents that any of our product candidates may infringe, or which such third parties claim are infringed by our technologies.
If we are found to infringe a third party’s intellectual property rights, we could be forced, including by court order, to cease developing, manufacturing or commercializing the infringing product candidate or product. Alternatively, we may be required or may choose to obtain a license from such third party in order to use the infringing technology and continue developing, manufacturing or
marketing the infringing product candidate. However, we may not be able to obtain any required license on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we were able to obtain a license, it could be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us. In addition, we could be found liable for monetary damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees if we are found to have willfully infringed a patent. A finding of infringement could prevent us from commercializing our product candidates or force us to cease some of our business operations. Claims that we have misappropriated the confidential information or trade secrets of third parties could have a similar negative effect on our business. Even if successful, the defense of any claim of infringement or misappropriation is time-consuming, expensive and diverts the attention of our management from our ongoing business operations.
We may need to license intellectual property from third parties, and such licenses may not be available or may not be available on commercially reasonable terms.
A third party may hold intellectual property rights, including patent rights, that are important or necessary to the development or manufacture of our product candidates. It may be necessary for us to use the patented or proprietary technology of third parties to commercialize our product candidates, in which case we would be required to obtain a license from these third parties. Such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, and we could be forced to accept unfavorable contractual terms. If we are unable to obtain such licenses on commercially reasonable terms, our business could be harmed.
The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive practice, and companies that may be more established, or have greater resources than we do, may also be pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider necessary or attractive in order to commercialize our product candidates. More established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their larger size and cash resources or greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. We may not be able to successfully complete such negotiations and ultimately acquire the rights to the intellectual property surrounding the additional product candidates that we may seek to acquire.
We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our intellectual property, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe our patents, if issued, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time-consuming and divert the time and attention of our management and scientific personnel. Any claims we assert against perceived infringers could provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us alleging that we infringe their patents, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property. In addition, in a patent infringement proceeding, there is a risk that a court will decide that a patent of ours is invalid or unenforceable, in whole or in part, and that we do not have the right to stop the other party from using the invention at issue. There is also a risk that, even if the validity of such patents is upheld, the court will construe the patent’s claims narrowly or decide that we do not have the right to stop the other party from using the invention at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the invention. An adverse outcome in a litigation or proceeding involving our patents could limit our ability to assert our patents against those parties or other competitors, and may curtail or preclude our ability to exclude third parties from making and selling similar or competitive products. Similarly, if we assert trademark infringement claims, a court may determine that the marks we have asserted are invalid or unenforceable, or that the party against whom we have asserted trademark infringement has superior rights to the marks in question. In this case, we could ultimately be forced to cease use of such trademarks.
In any infringement litigation, any award of monetary damages we receive may not be commercially valuable. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during litigation. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock. Moreover, there can be no assurance that we will have sufficient financial or other resources to file and pursue such infringement claims, which typically last for years before they are concluded. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources and more mature and developed intellectual property portfolios. Even if we ultimately prevail in such claims, the monetary cost of such litigation and the diversion of the attention of our management and scientific personnel could outweigh any benefit we receive as a result of the proceedings. Accordingly, despite our efforts, we may not be able to prevent third parties from infringing, misappropriating or successfully challenging our intellectual property rights. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a negative impact on our ability to compete in the marketplace.
We may be subject to claims by third parties asserting that we or our employees have misappropriated their intellectual property, or claiming ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.
Many of our employees were previously employed at universities or other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies. Although we try to ensure that our employees do not use the proprietary information or know-how of third parties in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that these employees or we have inadvertently or otherwise used intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such employee’s former employer. We may also in the future be subject to claims that
we have caused an employee to breach the terms of his or her non-competition or non-solicitation agreement. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these potential claims.
In addition, while it is our policy to require our employees and contractors who may be involved in the development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, such employees and contractors may breach the agreement and claim the developed intellectual property as their own.
If we fail in prosecuting or defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. A court could prohibit us from using technologies or features that are essential to our products if such technologies or features are found to incorporate or be derived from the trade secrets or other proprietary information of the former employers. Even if we are successful in prosecuting or defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and could be a distraction to management. In addition, any litigation or threat thereof may adversely affect our ability to hire employees or contract with independent service providers. Moreover, a loss of key personnel or their work product could hamper or prevent our ability to commercialize our products.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of our owned patent rights and other intellectual property.
We generally enter into confidentiality and intellectual property assignment agreements with our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors. However, these agreements may not be honored and may not effectively assign intellectual property rights to us. For example, disputes may arise from conflicting obligations of consultants or others who are involved in developing our technology and product candidates. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these and other claims challenging inventorship or ownership. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, valuable intellectual property. Such an outcome could have a material adverse effect on our business. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees.
Any trademarks we may obtain may be infringed or successfully challenged, resulting in harm to our business.
We expect to rely on trademarks as one means to distinguish any of our product candidates that are approved for marketing from the products of our competitors. We have not yet selected trademarks for our product candidates and have not yet begun the process of applying to register trademarks for our product candidates. Once we select trademarks and apply to register them, our trademark applications may not be approved. Third parties may oppose our trademark applications, or otherwise challenge our use of the trademarks. In the event that our trademarks are successfully challenged, we could be forced to rebrand our products, which could result in loss of brand recognition and could require us to devote resources to advertising and marketing new brands. Our competitors may infringe our trademarks and we may not have adequate resources to enforce our trademarks.
In addition, any proprietary name we propose to use with our product candidates or any other product candidate in the United States must be approved by the FDA, regardless of whether we have registered it, or applied to register it, as a trademark. The FDA typically conducts a review of proposed product names, including an evaluation of the potential for confusion with other product names. If the FDA objects to any of our proposed proprietary product names, we may be required to expend significant additional resources in an effort to identify a suitable proprietary product name that would qualify under applicable trademark laws, not infringe the existing rights of third parties and be acceptable to the FDA.
If we are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, our business and competitive position would be harmed.
In addition to seeking patent and trademark protection for our product candidates, we also rely on trade secrets, including unpatented know-how, technology and other proprietary information, to maintain our competitive position. We seek to protect our trade secrets, in part, by entering into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to them, such as our employees, consultants, advisors and other third parties. We also enter into confidentiality and invention or patent assignment agreements with our employees and consultants. Despite these efforts, any of these parties may breach the agreements and disclose our proprietary information, including our trade secrets. Monitoring unauthorized uses and disclosures of our intellectual property is difficult, and we do not know whether the steps we have taken to protect our intellectual property will be effective. In addition, we may not be able to obtain adequate remedies for any such breaches. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret is difficult, expensive and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. Furthermore, some courts inside and outside the United States are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets.
Moreover, our competitors may independently develop knowledge, methods and know-how equivalent to our trade secrets. Competitors could purchase our products and replicate some or all of the competitive advantages we derive from our development efforts for technologies on which we do not have patent protection. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor, we would have no right to prevent them, or those to whom they communicate it, from using that technology or information to compete with us. If any of our trade secrets were to be disclosed to or independently developed by a competitor, our competitive position would be harmed.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
Filing, prosecuting and defending patents on product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States could be less extensive than those in the United States. In some cases, we may not be able to obtain patent protection for certain technology outside the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States, even in jurisdictions where we do pursue patent protection. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, even in jurisdictions where we do pursue patent protection or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other jurisdictions.
Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not pursued and obtained patent protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our product candidates and preclinical programs and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents, if pursued and obtained, or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.
Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment and other requirements imposed by governmental patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for non-compliance with these requirements.
Periodic maintenance and annuity fees on any issued patent are due to be paid to the USPTO and patent agencies outside the United States in several stages over the lifetime of the patent. The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application process. While an inadvertent lapse can in many cases be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. Non-compliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application include failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, non-payment of fees and failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents. If we fail to maintain the patents and patent applications covering our products or product candidates, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which would harm our business. In addition, to the extent that we have responsibility for taking any action related to the prosecution or maintenance of patents or patent application in-licensed from a third party, any failure on our part to maintain the in-licensed rights could jeopardize our rights under the relevant license and may expose us to liability.
Risks Related to our Business Operations
We will need to grow the size of our organization, and we may experience difficulties in managing this growth.
As of March 1, 2023, we had 28 full-time employees. As our development and commercialization plans and strategies develop, and as we continue operating as a public company, we expect to need additional managerial, operational, financial and other personnel, including personnel to support our product development and planned future commercialization efforts. Future growth will impose significant added responsibilities on members of management, including:
There are a small number of individuals with experience in immuno-oncology and the competition for these individuals is high. Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize our product candidates will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage any future growth, and our management may also have to divert a disproportionate amount of its attention away from day-to-day activities in order to devote a substantial amount of time to managing these growth activities.
If we are not able to effectively expand our organization by hiring new employees, we may not be able to successfully implement the tasks necessary to further develop and commercialize our product candidates and, accordingly, may not achieve our research, development and commercialization goals.
Our future success depends on our ability to retain key members of senior management and to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel.
Our ability to compete in the highly competitive biopharmaceutical industry depends upon our ability to attract and retain highly qualified management, research and development, clinical, financial and business development personnel. Our senior management may terminate their employment with us at any time, and we do not maintain “key person” insurance for any of our employees.
Recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and clinical personnel and, if we progress the development of any of our product candidates, commercialization, manufacturing and sales and marketing personnel, will be critical to our success. The loss of the services of members of our senior management or other key employees could impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives and seriously harm our ability to successfully implement our business strategy. Furthermore, replacing members of our senior management and key employees may be difficult and may take an extended period of time because of the limited number of individuals in our industry with the breadth of skills and experience required to successfully develop, gain regulatory approval of and commercialize our product candidates. Our success also depends on our ability to continue to attract, retain and motivate highly skilled junior, mid-level and senior managers, as well as junior, mid-level and senior scientific and medical personnel. Competition to hire from this limited candidate pool is intense, and we may be unable to hire, train, retain or motivate these key personnel on acceptable terms given the competition among numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for similar personnel. We also experience competition for the hiring of scientific and clinical personnel from universities and research institutions. In addition, we rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our research and development and commercialization strategy. Our consultants and advisors may have commitments under consulting or advisory contracts with other entities that may limit their availability to us. If we are unable to continue to attract and retain high-quality personnel, our ability to pursue our growth strategy will be limited.
If we engage in future acquisitions or strategic collaborations, this may increase our capital requirements, dilute our stockholders, cause us to incur debt or assume contingent liabilities and subject us to other risks.
From time to time, we may evaluate various acquisitions and strategic collaborations, including licensing or acquiring complementary products, intellectual property rights, technologies or businesses, as we may deem appropriate to carry out our business plan. For instance, in May 2020, we acquired Alvaxa Biosciences LLC to obtain nanobody assets and know-how. Any potential acquisition or strategic collaboration may entail numerous risks, including:
Additionally, if we undertake future acquisitions, we may issue dilutive securities, assume or incur debt obligations, incur large one-time expenses and acquire intangible assets that could result in significant future amortization expenses. Moreover, we may not be able to locate suitable acquisition opportunities and this inability could impair our ability to grow or obtain access to technology or products that may be important to the development of our business.
Risks Related to our Securities and our Status as a Public Company
An active trading market for our common stock may not continue to develop or be sustained.
Prior to our initial public offering, there was no public market for our common stock, and we cannot assure you that an active trading market for our shares will continue to develop or be sustained. As a result, it may be difficult for you to sell shares at an attractive price or at all.
The trading price of our common stock may be volatile, and you could lose all or part of your investment.
The trading price of our common stock is likely to be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control, including limited trading volume. The stock market in general and the market for biopharmaceutical companies in particular have experienced extreme volatility that has often been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. As a result of this volatility, investors may not be able to sell their common stock at or above the price paid for the common stock. In addition to the factors discussed elsewhere in this “Risk Factors” section, these factors include:
These and other market and industry factors may cause the market price and demand for our common stock to fluctuate substantially, regardless of our actual operating performance, which may limit or prevent investors from selling their common stock at or above the price paid for the common stock and may otherwise negatively affect the liquidity of our common stock. In addition, the stock market in general, and biopharmaceutical companies in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of these companies.
Some companies that have experienced volatility in the trading price of their shares have been the subject of securities class action litigation. From time to time, we have been, and may continue to be, subject to legal proceedings and claims in the ordinary course of business. For instance, during 2017, we became actively involved, along with other defendants, in a breach of contract claim in the Ontario (Canada) Superior Court of Justice seeking declaratory and other relief, including monetary damages. While we believe there is no merit to the allegations of that claim, any lawsuit to which we are a party, with or without merit, may result in an unfavorable judgment. We also may decide to settle lawsuits on unfavorable terms.
Any such negative outcome could result in payments of substantial damages or fines, damage to our reputation or adverse changes to our business practices. Defending against litigation is costly and time-consuming, and could divert our management’s attention and our resources. Furthermore, during the course of litigation, there could be negative public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments, which could have a negative effect on the market price of our common stock.
Our business and operations could be negatively affected by any securities litigation or shareholder activism, which could cause us to incur significant expense, hinder execution of business and growth strategies and impact our share price.
In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been brought against that company. Shareholder activism, which could take many forms or arise in a variety of situations, has been increasing recently. Volatility in the stock price of our common stock or other securities or other reasons may in the future cause us to become the target of securities litigation or shareholder activism.
In March 2023, Apeiron Investment Group Ltd., or Apeiron, nominated three candidates to stand for election at our 2023 annual meeting of stockholders. The date for the annual meeting has not yet been determined. Further, during the course of discussions with Apeiron and in public communications, Apeiron has suggested a proposal for our board of director’s consideration, including that we conduct a tender offer as a means to return capital to stockholders. We expect to continue to engage with Apeiron on these and other topics.
Securities litigation and shareholder activism, including proxy contests, could result in substantial costs and divert management's and the Board’s attention and resources from our business. Further, the contested election of directors by Apeiron, a future proxy contests, or other shareholder activism would most likely result in significant legal fees and proxy solicitation expenses and require significant time and attention. The potential of a proxy contest or other shareholder activism could interfere with our ability to execute on our strategic plan, give rise to perceived uncertainties as to our future direction, result in the loss of potential business opportunities or make it more difficult to attract and retain qualified personnel, any of which could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results. Further, our share price could be subject to significant fluctuation or otherwise be adversely affected by the events, risks and uncertainties of any securities litigation and shareholder activism.
A significant portion of our total outstanding shares are restricted from immediate resale, but may be sold into the market in the near future. This could cause the market price of our common stock to drop significantly, even if our business is doing well.
Sales of a substantial number of our common stock in the public market could occur at any time. If our stockholders sell, or the market perceives that our stockholders intend to sell, substantial amounts of our shares of common stock in the public market, the market price of our common stock could decline significantly.
In addition, we have filed registration statements registering the issuance of approximately 8.8 million shares of common stock subject to options or other equity awards issued or reserved for future issuance under our equity incentive plans. Shares registered under these registration statements will be available for sale in the public market subject to vesting arrangements and exercise of options and, in the case of our affiliates, the restrictions of Rule 144 under the Securities Act.
Additionally, certain holders of our common stock, or their transferees, have rights, subject to some conditions, to require us to file one or more registration statements covering their shares or to include their shares in registration statements that we may file for ourselves or other stockholders. If we were to register the resale of these shares, they could be freely sold in the public market. If these additional shares are sold, or if it is perceived that they will be sold, in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud.
Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and, together with adequate disclosure controls and procedures, are designed to prevent fraud. Any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation, could cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. In addition, any testing by us conducted in connection with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or any subsequent testing by our independent registered public accounting firm, may reveal deficiencies in our internal controls over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses or that may require prospective or retroactive changes to our financial statements or identify other areas for further attention or improvement. Ineffective internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a negative effect on the trading price of our common stock.
We are an “emerging growth company” and a “smaller reporting company,” and we cannot be certain if the reduced reporting requirements applicable to emerging growth companies will make our shares of common stock less attractive to investors.
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in Section 2(a) of the Securities Act. For as long as we continue to be an emerging growth company, we may take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies, including the auditor attestation requirements in the assessment of our internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, compliance with any new requirements adopted by the PCAOB, disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements, and the requirements of holding advisory “say-on-pay” votes on executive compensation and shareholder advisory votes on golden parachute compensation not previously approved. Certain of these reduced reporting requirements and exemptions are also available to us due to the fact that we qualify as a “smaller reporting company” under SEC rules. For instance, smaller reporting companies are
not required to obtain an auditor attestation and report regarding management’s assessment of internal control over financial reporting, are not required to provide a compensation discussion and analysis, are not required to provide a pay-for-performance graph or CEO pay ratio disclosure and may present only two years of audited financial statements and related MD&A disclosure.
Under the JOBS Act, we will remain an emerging growth company until the earliest of (1) the last day of the fiscal year in which we have more than $1.235 billion in annual revenue; (2) the date we qualify as a “large accelerated filer,” with at least $700.0 million of equity securities held by non-affiliates; (3) the issuance, in any three-year period, by our company of more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt securities; and (4) December 31, 2026, which is the last day of the fiscal year following the fifth anniversary of the date of the first sale of our common stock pursuant to an effective registration statement filed under the Securities Act. Under current SEC rules, howeve