SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended
Date of event requiring this shell company report
For the transition period from __________ to __________
Commission file number:
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in its Charter)
(Translation of Registrant’s Name into English)
(Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)
Aptorum Group Limited
Fax: +44 20 3928 8277
(Address of principal executive offices and
Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and
Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of Each Class||Trading Symbol||Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered|
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.
Class A Ordinary Shares:
Class B Ordinary Shares:
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well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐
If this report is an annual or transition report,
indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act
of 1934. Yes ☐
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for the past 90 days.
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Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer,” accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer||☐||Accelerated filer||☐||☒|
|Emerging growth company|
If an emerging growth company that prepares its
financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition
period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards+ provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange
|+||The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.|
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant
has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial
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Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
|International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board ☐||Other ☐|
|*||If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow. Item 17 ¨ Item 18 ¨|
If this is an annual report, indicate by check
mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|ITEM 1.||IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS||1|
|ITEM 2.||OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE||1|
|ITEM 3.||KEY INFORMATION||1|
|ITEM 4.||INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY||58|
|ITEM 4A.||UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS||103|
|ITEM 5.||OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS||103|
|ITEM 6.||DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES||118|
|ITEM 7.||MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS||131|
|ITEM 8.||FINANCIAL INFORMATION||134|
|ITEM 9.||THE OFFER AND LISTING||135|
|ITEM 10.||ADDITIONAL INFORMATION||135|
|ITEM 11.||QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK||142|
|ITEM 12.||DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES||142|
|ITEM 13.||DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES||143|
|ITEM 14.||MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS||143|
|ITEM 15.||CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES||143|
|ITEM 16A.||AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT||144|
|ITEM 16B.||CODE OF ETHICS||145|
|ITEM 16C.||PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES||145|
|ITEM 16D.||EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES||145|
|ITEM 16E.||PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS||145|
|ITEM 16F.||CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT||145|
|ITEM 16G.||CORPORATE GOVERNANCE||145|
|ITEM 16H.||MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE||145|
|ITEM 16I.||DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS||145|
|ITEM 17.||FINANCIAL STATEMENTS||146|
|ITEM 18.||FINANCIAL STATEMENTS||146|
Unless the context otherwise requires, in this annual report on Form 20-F references to:
|●||“505(b)(2) Application” refers to an application for which one or more of the investigations relied upon by the applicant for approval “were not conducted by or for the applicant and for which the applicant has not obtained a right of reference or use from the person by or for whom the investigations were conducted” (21 U.S.C. 355(b)(2)).|
|●||“A*STAR” refers to Agency for Science, Technology and Research.|
|●||“Acticule” refers to Acticule Life Sciences Limited, an 80% owned subsidiary of Aptorum Group.|
|●||“Aeneas Group” refers to Aeneas Limited and its subsidiaries. Aeneas Limited is 76.8% owned by Jurchen Investment Corporation. Because Mr. Huen, a director, holds 100% equity interest in Jurchen Investment Corporation, we refer Aeneas Group as a fellow subsidiary of Aptorum Group.|
|●||“AML” refers to Aptorum Medical Limited, a 90% owned subsidiary of Aptorum Group, as of the date of this report.|
|●||“AML Clinic” refers to an outpatient medical clinic operated by AML under the name of Talem Medical.|
|●||“Aptorum Group,” and “Group” refer to Aptorum Group Limited, a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability whose principal place of business is in Hong Kong, all of its subsidiaries and the consolidated VIEs to which we are regarded as the primary beneficiary for accounting purposes.|
|●||“Aptorum Non-Therapeutics Group” refers to the Company’s non-therapeutics segment that encompasses: diagnostics projects including the novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics (“PathsDx Test”, formerly known as “RPIDD”) technology, natural supplement products including NativusWell®, and the AML Clinic.|
|●||“Aptorum Therapeutics Group” refers to the Company’s therapeutics segment that is operated through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Aptorum Therapeutics Limited, a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability, whose principal place of business is in Hong Kong and its indirect subsidiary companies, whose principal places of business are in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Hong Kong.|
|●||“At The Market Offering” or “ATM Offering” refers to the offering and sale of the Company’s Class A Ordinary Shares, offered pursuant to the prospectus supplement and the accompanying prospectus to the registration statement on Form F-3 (File No. 333-268873), in which H.C. Wainwright & Co., LLC (“Wainwright”), acted as the Company’s sales agent in accordance with certain at the market offering agreement (the “Sales Agreement”), dated as of March 26, 2021, by and between the Company and Wainwright.|
|●||“cGCP” refers to Current Good Clinical Practice as adopted by the applicable regulatory authority.|
|●||“cGLP” refers to Current Good Laboratory Practice as adopted by the applicable regulatory authority.|
|●||“cGMP” refers to Current Good Manufacturing Practice as adopted by the applicable regulatory authority.|
|●||“Class A Ordinary Shares” refers to the Company’s Class A Ordinary Shares, par value $0.00001 per share.|
|●||“Class B Ordinary Shares” refers to the Company’s Class B Ordinary Shares, par value $0.00001 per share.|
|●||“Company,” “we” and “us” refer to Aptorum Group Limited, a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability whose principal place of business is in Hong Kong.|
|●||“CMC” refers to chemical, manufacturing and control.|
|●||“Covar” refers to Covar Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, a contract research organization engaged by the Company.|
|●||“CROs” refers to contract research organizations.|
|●||“CTA” refers to Clinical Trial Application.|
|●||“EEA” refers to the European Economic Area.|
|●||“EMA” refers to the European Medicines Agency.|
|●||“EMEA” refers to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.|
|●||“EPO” refers to the European Patent Organization or the European Patent Office operated by it.|
|●||“European Patent” refers to patents issuable by the EPO.|
|●||“EU” refers to the European Union.|
|●||“Exchange Act” refers to the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.|
|●||“FDA” refers to U.S. Food and Drug Administration.|
|●||“FDCA” refers to the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.|
|●||“Fiscal year” refers to the period from January 31 of each calendar year to December 31 of the following calendar year.|
|●||“HKD” refers to Hong Kong Dollars.|
|●||“Hong Kong” or “H.K.” refers to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.|
|●||“Hong Kong Doctors” refers to the doctors in Hong Kong under the employment of AML Clinic.|
|●||“IND” refers to Investigational New Drugs.|
|●||“IP” refers to intellectual property.|
|●||“IPO” or “Offering” means the initial public offering by the Company of 76,142 Class A Ordinary Shares consummated on December 17, 2018.|
|●||“Jurchen” refers to Jurchen Investment Corporation, a company wholly-owned by one of our directors and former CEO, Ian Huen, and a holding company of Aptorum Group.|
|●||“Lead Projects” refers to ALS-4, SACT-1 and PathsDx Test (formerly known as RPIDD).|
|●||“Libra” refers to Libra Sciences Limited, a VIE in which we hold 97.27% economic interest and 31.51% voting power. Libra is incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. We are not deemed as the primary beneficiary of Libra for accounting purposes.|
|●||“Major Patent Jurisdictions” refers to the United States, member states of the European Patent Organization and the People’s Republic of China.|
|●||“Mios” refers to Mios Pharmaceuticals Limited, a consolidated VIE in which we indirectly hold 97.93% economic interest and 36.17% voting power. Aptorum is regarded as the primary beneficiary of Mios for accounting purposes.|
|●||“Nativus” refers to Nativus Life Sciences Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aptorum Group.|
|●||“NMPA” refers to China’s National Medical Products Administration and its predecessor, the China Food and Drug Administration.|
|●||“NDA” refers to a New Drug Application issued by the FDA.|
|●||“Ordinary Shares” refers to the Class A Ordinary Shares and Class B Ordinary Shares collectively.|
|●||“PRC” and “China” refer to the People’s Republic of China.|
|●||“Registered Direct Offering” means the registered direct offering by the Company of 135,135 Class A Ordinary Shares and warrants to purchase up to 135,135 Class A Ordinary Share consummated on February 28, 2020.|
|●||“Restructure” refers to the Company’s change from an investment fund with management shares and non-voting participating redeemable preference shares to a holding company with operating subsidiaries, effective as of March 1, 2017.|
|●||“Registration Statement” refers to the Company’s Registration Statement on Form F-1 (File No. 333-227198) for the sale of up to 349,397 Class A Ordinary Shares (including Class A Ordinary Shares underlying certain warrants and a bond, as fully described therein) which initially filed on September 5, 2018 and became effective on December 3, 2018.|
|●||“R&D” refers to research and development.|
|●||“R&D Center” refers to an in-house pharmaceutical development center located in Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.|
|●||“Securities Exchange Commission,” “SEC,” “Commission” or similar terms refer to the Securities Exchange Commission.|
|●||“Sarbanes-Oxley Act” refers to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.|
|●||“Scipio” refers to Scipio Life Sciences Limited, a consolidated VIE in which we indirectly hold 97.93% economic interest and 35.06% voting power. Aptorum is regarded as the primary beneficiary of Scipio for accounting purposes.|
|●||“Securities Act” refers to the Securities Act of 1933.|
|●||“UK” refers to the United Kingdom.|
|●||“United States,” “U.S.” and “US” refer to the United States of America.|
|●||“Videns” refers to Videns Incorporation Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aptorum Group.|
|●||“VIE” refers to a variable interest entity.|
|●||“US$,” “U.S. dollars,” or “dollars” are to the legal currency of the United States.|
Discrepancies in any table between the amounts identified as total amounts and the sum of the amounts listed therein are due to rounding.
This annual report on Form 20-F includes our audited consolidated balance sheets as of December 31, 2022 and 2021, and the related consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive (loss) income, equity and cash flows for the years ended December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020.
Our operations and equity are funded in U.S. dollars and we currently incur the majority of our expenses in U.S. dollars or in H.K. dollars. H.K. dollar is currently pegged to the U.S. dollar; however, we cannot guarantee that such peg will continue to be in place in the future. Our exposure to foreign exchange risk primarily relates to the limited cash denominated in currencies other than the functional currencies of each entity and limited revenue contracts dominated in H.K. dollars in certain PRC operating entities. We do not believe that we currently have any significant direct foreign exchange risk and have not hedged exposures denominated in foreign currencies or any other derivative financial instruments.
Item 1. IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
Item 2. OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
Item 3. KEY INFORMATION
All share and per share amounts have been retroactively adjusted to reflect the reverse stock split that occurred on January 23, 2023.
B. Capitalization and Indebtedness
C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
D. Risk Factors
Our business faces significant risks. You should carefully consider all of the information set forth in this annual report on Form 20-F and in our other filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, including the following risk factors which we face and which are faced by our industry. Our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects could be materially adversely affected by any of these risks. This report also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our results could materially differ from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements, as a result of certain factors including the risks described below and elsewhere in this annual report and our other SEC filings. See “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” below.
Summary Risk Factors
The following summarizes some, but not all, of the risks provided below. Please carefully consider all of the information discussed in this Item 3.D. “Risk Factors” in this annual report for a more thorough description of these and other risks.
Risks Related to Doing Business in Hong Kong
|●||Risks relating to legal and regulatory risks associated with our operations in Hong Kong.|
|●||If we become directly subject to the recent scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity involving U.S.-listed Chinese companies, we may have to expend significant resources to investigate and resolve the matter which could harm our business operations, stock price and reputation and could result in a loss of your investment in our stock, especially if such matter cannot be addressed and resolved favorably.|
|●||The recent joint statement by the SEC, proposed rule changes submitted by Nasdaq, and an act passed by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, all call for additional and more stringent criteria to be applied to emerging market companies. These developments could add uncertainties to our offering, business operations, share price and reputation.|
|●||Our business, financial condition and results of operations, and/or the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares or our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors may be materially and adversely affected to the extent the laws and regulations of the PRC become applicable to a company such as us.|
|●||Our Class A Ordinary Shares may be delisted under the HFCA Act if the PCAOB is unable to inspect our auditors. The delisting of our Class A Ordinary Shares, or the threat of their being delisted, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment. Furthermore, on December 29, 2022, a legislation entitled “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023” (the “Consolidated Appropriations Act”), was signed into law by President Biden. The Consolidated Appropriations Act contained, among other things, an identical provision to the Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (the “AHFCAA”), which reduces the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the HFCA Act from three years to two.|
|●||Even though our auditor is based in New York, New York and under full inspection by the PCAOB and that it is not currently subject to the determinations announced by the PCAOB on December 16, 2021, if any PRC law relating to the access of the PCAOB to auditor files were to apply to a company such as Marcum Asia CPAs LLP (formerly known as Marcum Bernstein & Pinchuk LLP) or its auditor, the PCAOB may be unable to fully inspect our auditor, which may result in our securities being delisted or prohibited from being traded “over-the-counter” pursuant to the HFCA Act and materially and adversely affect the value and/or liquidity of your investment.|
|●||The uncertainties with respect to the Chinese legal system, including uncertainties regarding the enforcement of laws, and sudden or unexpected changes in laws and regulations in China with little advance notice could adversely affect us and limit the legal protections available to you and us.|
Risks Related to the Preclinical and Clinical Development of Our Drug Candidates
|●||Risks relating to not generate sufficient revenue|
|●||Risks relating to uncertainty in preclinical development process|
|●||Risks relating to fail to identify additional drug candidates|
|●||Risks relating to conduct clinical trials in or outside the U.S.|
Risks Related to Obtaining Regulatory Approval for Our Drug Candidates
|●||Risks relating to fail or delay to obtain regulatory approval|
|●||Risks relating to undesirable adverse event|
|●||Risks relating to fail to complete the 505(b)(2) pathway for the pediatric formulation|
|●||Risks relating to our third-party suppliers fail to comply with the FDA’s good manufacturing practice regulations or fail to respond to an FDA Form 483 or subsequent Warning Letter|
Risks Related to Commercialization of Our Drug Candidates
|●||Risks relating to fail to achieve market acceptance|
Risks Related to Our IP
|●||Risks relating to being unaware of others’ pending patent applications|
|●||Risks relating to unable to protect and enforce our IP rights throughout the world|
|●||Risks relating to lawsuits for protecting our IP or against infringing IP rights of other parties|
|●||Risks relating to non-compliance with patent protection requirements or obligations in the license agreements|
|●||Risks relating to the terms and scope of our patents not sufficient to protect our candidates|
|●||Risks relating to unable to obtain or maintain rights of the developing technology through acquisitions or licenses|
Risks Related to Our Reliance on Unrelated Parties
|●||Risks relating to manufacturers fail to provide sufficient quantities of clinical supply on our candidate at acceptable quality levels or prices|
Risks Related to AML Clinic, Natural Supplements and Diagnostic Technology
Risks Related to Our Industry, Business and Operation
|●||Risks relating to not complying with laws|
|●||Risks relating to difficulties in managing our growth|
|●||Risks relating to unable to collaborations, strategic alliances or acquisitions or enter into royalty-seeking or sublicensing arrangements|
|●||Risks relating to our disclosure controls and procedures and internal financial reporting controls|
|●||Risks relating to do business internationally|
|●||Risks relating to product liability lawsuits arise from clinical trials|
|●||Risks relating to inadequate insurance coverage|
|●||Risks relating to failure in safeguarding our computer network system|
|●||Risks relating to outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, or other pandemic, epidemic or outbreak of an infectious disease|
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
|●||Risks relating to our Class B shareholders have higher voting rights|
Risks Related to our Securities
|●||Risks relating to certain existing shareholders have substantial influence over our Company and their interests may not be aligned with the interests of our other shareholders|
|●||Risks relating to conduct substantially all of our operations outside the United States|
|●||Risks relating to adopt certain home country practices or take advantage of certain reduced reporting requirements|
Risks Related to the Preclinical and Clinical Development of Our Drug Candidates
We currently do not generate revenue from product sales and may never become profitable; unless we can raise more capital through additional financings, of which there can be no guarantee, our principal source of revenue will be from AML Clinic, which may not be substantial.
Our ability to generate revenue and become profitable depends upon our ability to successfully complete the development of, and obtain the necessary regulatory approvals for, the drug candidates in our Lead Projects and any future drug candidates we may develop, as we do not currently have any drugs that are available for commercial sale. We expect to continue to incur losses before commercialization of our drug candidates and any future drug candidates. None of our drug candidates has been approved for marketing in the U.S., Europe, the PRC or any other jurisdictions and may never receive such approval. Our ability to generate revenue and achieve profitability is dependent on our ability to complete the development of our drug candidates and any future drug candidates we develop in our portfolio, obtain necessary regulatory approvals, and have our drugs products under development manufactured and successfully marketed, of which there can be no guarantee. Although AML Clinic commenced operations in June 2018 and we have received some revenue from such operations, even at full capacity, AML Clinic may not bring enough revenue to support our operation and R&D. Thus, we may not be able to generate a profit until our drug candidates become profitable.
Even if we receive regulatory approval and marketing authorization for one or more of our drug candidates or one or more of any future drug candidates for commercial sale, a potential product may not generate revenue at all unless we are successful in:
|●||developing a sustainable and scalable manufacturing process for our drug candidates and any approved products, including establishing and maintaining commercially viable supply relationships with third parties;|
|●||launching and commercializing drug candidates following regulatory approvals and marketing authorizations, either directly or with a collaborator or distributor;|
|●||obtaining market acceptance of our drug candidates as viable treatment options;|
|●||addressing any competing technological and market developments;|
|●||negotiating and maintaining favorable terms in any collaboration, licensing or other arrangement into which we may enter to commercialize drug candidates for which we have obtained required approvals and marketing authorizations; and|
|●||maintaining, protecting and expanding our portfolio of IP rights, including patents, trade secrets and know-how.|
In addition, our ability to achieve and maintain profitability depends on timing and the amount of expenses we will incur. Our expenses could increase materially if we are required by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities to perform studies in addition to those that we currently have anticipated. Even if our drug candidates are approved for commercial sale, we anticipate incurring significant costs associated with the commercial launch of these products.
Our ability to become and remain profitable depends on our ability to generate revenue. Even if we are able to generate revenues from AML Clinic or the sale or sublicense of any products we may develop or license, we may not become profitable on a sustainable basis or at all. Our failure to become and remain profitable would decrease the value of our Company and adversely affect the market price of our Class A Ordinary Shares, which could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business or continue our operations.
AML Clinic’s operations and the initial commercialization of our NativusWell® (NLS-2) natural supplements may be our principal source of revenue for the foreseeable future and most likely, without additional financing, such revenue will not be sufficient for us to carry out all of our plans.
As stated above, we have not generated any revenue and do not foresee generating any revenue from our drug candidates in the near future. Effective as of March 2018, we leased the property in Central, Hong Kong that is the home to AML Clinic, which commenced operations in June 2018. We have also launched NativusWell® (NLS-2) in Hong Kong through HKTV Mall, a leading online shopping mall in Hong Kong, in September 2022, and in China through one of the largest e-commerce platform in China, JD.com, in March 2023.
Until our therapeutic candidates produce revenue, our principal source of revenue is from AML Clinic, but it is not sufficient by itself to fund our other operations; even if we receive revenue from NativusWell® (NLS-2) natural supplements, it will not provide sufficient revenue. We believe that available cash, together with the efforts from management plans and actions described elsewhere in this report, should enable the Company to meet presently anticipated cash needs for at least the next 12 months after the date that the financial statements are issued and the Company has prepared the consolidated financial statements on a going concern basis. However, the Company continues to have ongoing obligations and it expects that it will require additional capital in order to execute its longer-term development plan. If the Company encounters unforeseen circumstances that place constraints on its capital resources, management will be required to take various measures to conserve liquidity, which could include, but not necessarily be limited to, deferring some of its research and seeking to dispose of marketable securities. Management cannot provide any assurance that the Company will raise additional capital if needed.
Because we rely upon third parties to perform the payment processing for our sales of on the e-commerce platforms, the failure or inability of the third party to provide these services could impair our business and operation.
The third party payment service providers such as UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay are used by most e-commerce platforms in China for their convenience, reliability and cost-effectiveness. However, the payment processing business is highly regulated, and it is subject to a number of risks that could materially and adversely affect their abilities to provide payment processing services to us, including:
|●||increased regulatory focus and the requirement that it comply with numerous complex and evolving laws, rules and regulations;|
|●||increases in the costs to the third party, including fees charged by banks to process funds through the third parties, which could result in increased costs to us and to our participants;|
|●||dissatisfaction with the third parties’ services;|
|●||a decline in the use of the third parties’ services generally which could result in increases in costs to users such as us and our participants;|
|●||the ability of the third parties to maintain adequate security procedures to prevent the hacking or other unauthorized access to account and other information provided by us and the participants who use the system;|
|●||system failures or failure to effectively scale the system to handle large and growing transaction volumes;|
|●||the failure or inability of the third parties to manage funds accurately or the loss of funds by the third parties, whether due to employee fraud, security breaches, technical errors or otherwise; and|
|●||the failure or inability of these third parties to adequately manage business and regulatory risks.|
We rely on the convenience and ease of use that third party’s payment methods for our sales of NativusWell® (NLS-2) on the e-commerce platforms. If the quality, utility, convenience or attractiveness of these payment services declines for any reason, the attractiveness of our product could be materially impaired. If we need to migrate to other third-party payment services for any reason, the transition could require considerable time and management resources, and the third-party payment services may not be as effective, efficient or well-received by our clients. Further, our customers may be reluctant to use a different payment system.
Preclinical development is a long, expensive and uncertain process, and we may terminate one or more of our current preclinical development programs.
Traditionally, drug discovery and development is a time-consuming, costly and high-risk business. On average, the cost of launching a new drug is estimated to approach US$2.6 billion and can take around 12 years to make it to the market (4 key benefits of drug repositioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.totalbiopharma.com/2012/07/04/4-key-benefits-drug-repositioning/). Despite the huge expenditures, only approximately 1 in 1,000 potential drugs is graduated to human clinical trials after pre-clinical testing in the United States, (Norman, G. A. Drugs, Devices, and the FDA: Part 1. JACC: Basic to Translational Science, 1(3), 170-179, 2016) and nearly 86.2% of drug candidates entering phase 1 trials fails to achieve drug approval. (Wong C. H., Siah K. W. & Lo A. W. (2019, April), “Estimation of clinical trial success rates and related parameters,” retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/biostatistics/article/20/2/273/4817524). Even after a drug is commercialized, there are just too many factors affecting the sales of pharmaceutical products, including unmet need/burden of disease (68.2%), clinical efficacy (47.3%), comparator choice (36.4%), safety profile (36.4%), and price (35.5%) (Sendyona, S., Odeyemi, I., & Maman, K. “Perceptions and factors affecting pharmaceutical market access: Results from a literature review and survey of stakeholders in different settings” Journal of Market Access & Health Policy, 4(1), 31660, 2016). In the end, on average, only 20% of approved new drugs generate revenues that exceed the average R&D investment. (Rosenblatt, M. (2014, December 19) “The Real Cost of “High-Priced” Drugs,” retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/11/the-real-cost-of-high-priced-drugs). We may determine that certain preclinical product candidates or programs do not have sufficient potential to warrant the allocation of resources toward them. Accordingly, we may elect to terminate our programs for and, in certain cases, our licenses to, such product candidates or programs. If we terminate a preclinical program in which we have invested significant resources, we will have expended resources on a program that will not provide a full return on our investment and missed the opportunity to have allocated those resources to potentially more productive uses.
Management has discretion to terminate the development of any of our projects at any time.
In light of the costs, both in time and expense, as well as the preclinical results and general business considerations, management may decide not to continue developing a particular preclinical program without announcement. Management will always base its decision on what it believes to be the most efficient use of the Company’s resources to provide the most value to its shareholders. As a result, investors may not always be aware of the termination of a previously announced study or trial. The Company will continue to provide update on its active preclinical projects in its SEC filings and/or press releases, as appropriate.
We may not be successful in our efforts to identify or discover additional drug candidates. Due to our limited resources and access to capital, we must continue to prioritize development of certain drug candidates; such decisions may prove to be wrong and may adversely affect our business.
Although we intend to explore other therapeutic opportunities in addition to the drug candidates that we are currently developing, we may fail to identify other drug candidates for a number of reasons. For example, our research methodology may be unsuccessful in identifying potential drug candidates or those we identify may be shown to have harmful side effects or other undesirable characteristics that make them unmarketable or unlikely to receive regulatory approval.
Research programs to pursue the development of our drug candidates for additional indications and to identify new drug candidates and disease targets require substantial technical, financial and human resources whether or not we ultimately are successful. Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential indications and/or drug candidates, yet fail to yield results for clinical development for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
|●||the research methodology used may not be successful in identifying potential indications and/or drug candidates;|
|●||potential drug candidates may, after further study, be shown to have harmful adverse effects or other characteristics that indicate they are unlikely to be effective drugs; or|
|●||it may take greater human and financial resources to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our drug candidates or to develop suitable potential drug candidates through internal research programs than we will possess, thereby limiting our ability to diversify and expand our drug portfolio.|
Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we have chosen to focus at present on our three Lead Projects, which may ultimately prove to be unsuccessful. As a result of this focus, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other drug candidates, or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential or a greater likelihood of success. Even if we determine to pursue alternative therapeutic or diagnostic drug candidates, these other drug candidates or other potential programs may ultimately prove to be unsuccessful. In short, our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities.
Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will ever be able to develop suitable potential drug candidates through internal research programs. This could materially adversely affect our future growth and prospects.
If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
Although we obtained CTA/FDA approval to initiate clinical trials for our Lead Projects, there can be no assurance, 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 meet the trial criteria and remain in the trial until its conclusion. We may experience difficulties enrolling and retaining appropriate patients in our clinical trials for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
|●||the size and nature of the patient population;|
|●||patient eligibility criteria defined in the clinical protocol;|
|●||the size of study population required for statistical analysis of the trial’s primary endpoints;|
|●||the proximity of patients to trial sites;|
|●||the design of the trial and changes to the design of the trial;|
|●||our ability to recruit clinical trial investigators with the appropriate competencies and experience;|
|●||competing clinical trials for similar therapies or other new therapeutics exist and will reduce the number and types of patients available to us;|
|●||clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages and side effects of the drug candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs or treatments that may be approved for the indications we are investigating;|
|●||our ability to obtain and maintain patient consents;|
|●||patients enrolled in clinical trials may not complete a clinical trial; and|
|●||the availability of approved therapies that are similar to our drug candidates.|
Even if we are able to enroll a sufficient number of patients in our clinical trials, 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 trials and adversely affect our ability to advance the development of our drug candidates.
Clinical drug development involves a lengthy and expensive process and could fail at any stage of the process. We have limited experience in conducting clinical trials and results of earlier studies and trials may not be reproduced in future clinical trials.
For our drug candidates, clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, while failure can occur at any time during the clinical trial process. The results of studies in animals and early clinical trials of our drug candidates may not predict the results of later-stage clinical trials. Drug candidates in later stages of clinical trials may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy traits despite having progressed through studies in animals and initial clinical trials. In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety and/or efficacy results between different trials of the same drug candidate due to numerous factors, including changes in trial procedures set forth in protocols, differences in the size and type of the patient populations (including genetic differences), patient adherence to the dosing regimen and the patient dropout rate. Results in later trials may also differ from earlier trials due to a larger number of clinical trial sites and additional countries and languages involved in such trials. In addition, the design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a drug candidate, and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced and significant expense has been incurred.
A number of companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of demonstrated efficacy or adverse safety profiles, notwithstanding promising results in earlier trials. Clinical trials of potential products often reveal that it is not practical or feasible to continue development efforts. Furthermore, if the trials we conduct fail to meet their primary statistical and clinical endpoints, they will not support the approval from the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities for our drug candidates. If this occurs, we would need to replace the failed study with new trials, which would require significant additional expense, cause substantial delays in commercialization and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, cash flows and results of operations.
If clinical trials of our drug candidates fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities, or do not otherwise produce positive results, we may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of our drug candidates.
Before applying for and obtaining regulatory approval for the sale of any of our drug candidates, we must conduct extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our drug candidates in humans. Clinical testing is expensive, difficult to design and implement, can take many years to complete and may fail. A failure of one or more of our clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing and successful interim results of a clinical trial do not necessarily predict successful final results.
We and our CROs are required to comply with current Good Clinical Practices (“cGCP”) requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and other comparable regulatory authorities for all drugs in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these cGCP through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, principal investigators and trial sites. Compliance with cGCP can be costly and if we or any of our CROs fail to comply with applicable cGCP, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or comparable regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications.
We may experience numerous unexpected events during, or as a result of, clinical trials that could delay or prevent our ability to receive regulatory approval or commercialize our drug candidates, including but not limited to:
|●||regulators, institutional review boards (“IRBs”) or ethics committees may not authorize us or our investigators to commence a clinical trial or conduct a clinical trial at a prospective trial site;|
|●||clinical trials of our drug candidates may produce negative or inconclusive results, and we may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon drug development programs;|
|●||the number of patients required for clinical trials of our drug candidates may be larger than we anticipate, enrollment may be insufficient or slower than we anticipate or patients may drop out at a higher rate than we anticipate;|
|●||our contractors and investigators may fail to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all;|
|●||we might have to suspend or terminate clinical trials of our drug candidates for various reasons, including a lack of clinical response or a determination that participants are being exposed to unacceptable health risks;|
|●||regulators, IRBs or ethics committees may require that we or our investigators suspend or terminate clinical research for various reasons, including non-compliance with regulatory requirements;|
|●||the cost of clinical trials of our drug candidates may be greater than we anticipate;|
|●||the supply or quality of our drug candidates or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials of our drug candidates may be insufficient or inadequate; and|
|●||our drug candidates may cause adverse events, have undesirable side effects or other unexpected characteristics, causing us, our investigators, or regulators to suspend or terminate the trials.|
If we are required to conduct additional clinical trials or other testing of our drug candidates beyond those that we currently contemplate, if we are unable to successfully complete clinical trials of our drug candidates or other testing, if the results of these trials or tests are not positive or are only modestly positive or if they raise safety concerns, we may:
|●||be delayed in obtaining regulatory approval for our drug candidates;|
|●||not obtain regulatory approval at all;|
|●||obtain approval for indications that are not as broad as intended;|
|●||have a drug removed from the market after obtaining regulatory approval;|
|●||be subject to additional post-marketing testing requirements;|
|●||be subject to restrictions on how a drug is distributed or used; or|
|●||be unable to obtain reimbursement for use of a drug.|
Delays in testing or approvals may result in increases in our drug development costs. We do not know whether any clinical trials will begin as planned, will need to be restructured, or will be completed on schedule, or at all. Clinical trials may produce negative or inconclusive results. Moreover, these trials may be delayed or proceed less quickly than intended. Delays in completing our clinical trials will increase our costs, slow down our drug candidate development and approval process, and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues and we may not have sufficient funding to complete the testing and approval process. Any of these events may significantly harm our business, financial condition and prospects, lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our drug candidates or allow our competitors to bring drugs to market before we do, impairing our ability to commercialize our drugs if and when approved.
Significant clinical trial delays also could shorten any periods during which we have the exclusive right to commercialize our drug candidates or allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, impair our ability to commercialize our drug candidates and may harm our business and results of operations.
We may in the future conduct clinical trials for our drug candidates in sites outside the U.S. and the FDA may not accept data from trials conducted in such locations.
We may in the future conduct certain of our clinical trials outside the U.S. Although the FDA may accept data from clinical trials conducted outside the U.S. for our New Drug Application (“NDA”), acceptance of this data is subject to certain conditions imposed by the FDA. There can be no assurance the FDA will accept data from any of the clinical trials we conduct outside the U.S. If the FDA does not accept the data from any of our clinical trials conducted outside the U.S., it would likely result in the need for additional clinical trials in the U.S., which would be costly and time-consuming and could delay or prevent the commercialization of any of our drug candidates.
Risks Related to Obtaining Regulatory Approval for Our Drug Candidates
The regulatory approval processes of the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and other comparable regulatory authorities are lengthy, time-consuming and inherently unpredictable, and if we are ultimately unable to obtain regulatory approval for our current drug candidates or any future drug candidates we may develop, our business will be substantially harmed.
We cannot commercialize drug candidates without first obtaining regulatory approval to market each drug from the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or comparable regulatory authorities. Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of any drug candidate for a target indication, we must demonstrate in studies in animals and well-controlled clinical trials, and, with respect to approval in the United States and other regulatory agencies, to the satisfaction of the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or comparable regulatory authorities, that the drug candidate is safe and effective for use for that target indication and that the manufacturing facilities, processes and controls are adequate.
The time required to obtain approval from the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and other comparable regulatory authorities is unpredictable but typically takes many years following the commencement of studies in animals 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 can differ among regulatory authorities and may change during the course of the development of a drug candidate. We have not obtained regulatory approval for any drug candidate. It is possible that neither our existing drug candidates nor any drug candidates we may discover or acquire for development in the future will ever obtain regulatory approval. Even if we obtain regulatory approval in one jurisdiction, we may not obtain it in other jurisdictions.
Our drug candidates could fail to receive regulatory approval from any of the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities for many reasons, including but not limited to:
|●||disagreement with regulators regarding the design or implementation of our clinical trials;|
|●||failure to demonstrate that a drug candidate is safe and effective or safe, pure and potent for its proposed indication;|
|●||failure of clinical trial results to meet the level of statistical significance required for approval;|
|●||failure to demonstrate that a drug candidate’s clinical and other benefits outweigh its safety risks;|
|●||disagreement with regulators regarding our interpretation of data from studies in animals or clinical trials;|
|●||insufficiency of data collected from clinical trials of our drug candidates to support the submission and filing of a New Drug Application (“NDA”), or other submission or to obtain marketing approval;|
|●||the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or a comparable regulatory authority’s finding of deficiencies related to the manufacturing processes or facilities of third-party manufacturers with whom we contract for clinical and commercial supplies; and|
|●||changes in approval policies or regulations that render our preclinical studies and clinical data insufficient for approval.|
Any of the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities may require more information, including additional preclinical studies or clinical data, to support approval, which may delay or prevent approval and our commercialization plans, or we may decide to abandon the development program. If we were to obtain approval, regulatory authorities may approve any of our drug candidates for fewer or more limited indications than we request. Regulatory authorities also may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials, or may approve a drug candidate with a label that is not desirable for the successful commercialization of that drug candidate. In addition, if our drug candidate produces undesirable side effects or involves other safety issues, the FDA may require the establishment of a Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy (“REMS”), or NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities may require the establishment of a similar strategy. Such a strategy may, for instance, restrict distribution of our drug candidates, require patient or physician education, or impose other burdensome implementation requirements on us.
Regulatory approval may be substantially delayed or may not be obtained for one or all of our drug candidates if regulatory authorities require additional time or studies to assess the safety or efficacy of our drug candidates.
We currently do not have any drug candidates that have gained approval for sale by the FDA, NMPA or EMA, Health Canada or other regulatory authorities in any other country, and we cannot guarantee that we will ever have marketable drugs. Despite SACT-1 having been granted orphan drug status, this is not an approval for sale by the FDA. Our business is substantially dependent on our ability to complete the development of, obtain marketing approval for and successfully commercialize drug candidates in a timely manner. We cannot commercialize drug candidates without first obtaining marketing approval from the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and comparable regulatory authorities. In the U.S., we hope to file INDs for the drug candidates from our Lead Projects and, subject to the approval of IND, Phase 1 clinical trials in humans. Even if we are permitted to commence such clinical trials, they may not be successful and regulators may not agree with our conclusions regarding the data generated by our clinical trials.
We may be unable to complete development of our drug candidates or initiate or complete development of any future drug candidates we may develop on our projected schedule. While we believe that our existing cash will likely enable us to complete the preclinical development of at least one of our current Lead Projects, the full clinical development, manufacturing and launch of that drug candidate, will take significant additional time and likely require funding beyond the existing cash. In addition, if regulatory authorities require additional time or studies to assess the safety or efficacy of our drug candidates, we may not have or be able to obtain adequate funding to complete the necessary steps for approval for our drug candidates or any future drug candidates.
Preclinical studies in animals and clinical trials in humans to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our drug candidates are time-consuming, expensive and take several years or more to complete. Delays in preclinical or clinical trials, regulatory approvals or rejections of applications for regulatory approval in the U.S., Europe, the PRC or other markets may result from many factors, including but not limited to:
|●||our inability to obtain sufficient funds required to conduct or continue a trial, including lack of funding due to unforeseen costs or other business decisions;|
|●||regulatory reports for additional analysts, reports, data, preclinical studies and clinical trials;|
|●||failure to reach agreement with, or inability to comply with conditions imposed by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other regulators regarding the scope or design of our clinical trials;|
|●||regulatory questions regarding interpretations of data and results and the emergence of new information regarding our drug candidates or other products;|
|●||delay or failure in obtaining authorization to commence a clinical trial or inability to comply with conditions imposed by a regulatory authority regarding the scope or design of a clinical trial;|
|●||withdrawal of clinical trial sites from our clinical trials as a result of changing standards of care or the ineligibility of a site to participate in our clinical trials;|
|●||unfavorable or inconclusive results of clinical trials and supportive non-clinical studies, including unfavorable results regarding effectiveness of drug candidates during clinical trials;|
|●||difficulty in maintaining contact with patients during or after treatment, resulting in incomplete data;|
|●||our inability to obtain approval from IRBs or ethics committees to conduct clinical trials at their respective sites;|
|●||our inability to enroll and retain a sufficient number of patients who meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria in a clinical trial;|
|●||our inability to conduct a clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols;|
|●||clinical sites and investigators deviating from trial protocol, failing to conduct the trial in accordance with regulatory requirements, withdrawing from or dropping out of a trial, or becoming ineligible to participate in a trial;|
|●||failure of our clinical trial managers to satisfy their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines;|
|●||manufacturing issues, including problems with manufacturing or timely obtaining from third parties sufficient quantities of a drug candidate for use in a clinical trial;|
|●||ambiguous or negative interim results, or results that are inconsistent with earlier results;|
|●||feedback from the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada, an IRB, data safety monitoring boards, or comparable entities, or results from earlier stage or concurrent studies in animals and clinical trials, regarding our drug candidates, including which might require modification of a trial protocol;|
|●||unacceptable risk-benefit profile or unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects; and|
|●||a decision by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada, an IRB, comparable entities, or the Company, or recommendation by a data safety monitoring board or comparable regulatory entity, to suspend or terminate clinical trials at any time for safety issues or for any other reason.|
Changes in regulatory requirements and guidance may also occur, and we may need to amend clinical trial protocols submitted to applicable regulatory authorities to reflect these changes. Amendments may require us to resubmit clinical trial protocols to IRBs or ethics committees for re-examination, which may increase the costs or time required to complete a clinical trial.
If we experience delays in the completion of, or the termination of, a clinical trial, of any of our drug candidates, the commercial prospects of our drug candidates will be harmed, and our ability to generate product sales revenues from any of those drug candidates will be delayed. In addition, any delay in completing our clinical trials will increase our costs, slow down our drug candidate development and approval process, and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our drug candidates.
If we are required to conduct additional clinical trials or other studies with respect to any of our drug candidates beyond those that we initially contemplated, if we are unable to successfully complete our clinical trials or other studies or if the results of these studies are not positive or are only modestly positive, we may be delayed in obtaining regulatory approval for that drug candidate, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval at all or we may obtain approval for indications that are not as broad as intended. Our product development costs will also increase if we experience delays in testing or approvals, and we may not have sufficient funding to complete the testing and approval process. Significant clinical trial delays could allow our competitors to bring their products to market before we do and impair our ability to commercialize our drugs, if and when approved. If any of this occurs, our business will be materially harmed.
Our drug candidates may cause undesirable adverse events or have other properties that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial profile of an approved label, or result in significant negative consequences following any regulatory approval.
Undesirable adverse events caused by our drug candidates or any future drug candidates we may develop could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities. Results of our potential clinical trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity or prevalence of adverse effects. In such event, our trials could be suspended or terminated and the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of, or deny approval of, our drug candidates for any or all target indications. Drug-related adverse events could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled subjects to complete the trial, could result in potential product liability claims and may harm our reputation, business, financial condition and business prospects significantly.
Additionally, if any of our current or future drug candidates receives regulatory approval, and we or others later identify undesirable side effects caused by such drugs, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including but not limited to:
|●||suspending the marketing of the drug;|
|●||having regulatory authorities withdraw approvals of the drug;|
|●||adding warnings on the label;|
|●||developing a REMS for the drug or, if a REMS is already in place, incorporating additional requirements under the REMS, or to develop a similar strategy as required by a comparable regulatory authority;|
|●||conducting post-market studies;|
|●||being sued and held liable for harm caused to subjects or patients; and|
|●||damage to our reputation.|
Any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the particular drug candidate, if approved, and could significantly harm our business, results of operations and prospects.
Even if we receive regulatory approval for our drug candidates, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our drug candidates.
If our drug candidates or any future drug candidates we develop are approved, they will be subject to ongoing regulatory requirements for manufacturing, labeling, packaging, storage, advertising, promotion, sampling, record-keeping, conduct of post-marketing studies, and submission of safety, efficacy, and other post-market information, including both federal and state requirements in the United States and requirements of comparable regulatory authorities outside of the United States.
Manufacturers and manufacturers’ facilities are required to comply with extensive requirements from the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and comparable regulatory authorities, including, in the United States, ensuring that quality control and manufacturing procedures conform to cGMP regulations. As such, our contract manufacturers will be subject to continual review and inspections to assess compliance with cGMP and adherence to commitments made in any NDA, other marketing application, and previous responses to inspection observations. Accordingly, we and others with whom we work must continue to expend time, money and effort in all areas of regulatory compliance, including manufacturing, production and quality control.
Any regulatory approvals that we receive for our drug candidates may be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the drug may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-marketing testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the drug candidate. The regulatory authorities may also require risk management plans or programs as a condition of approval of our drug candidates (such as REMS of the FDA and risk-management plan of the EMA), which could entail requirements for long-term patient follow-up, 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. In addition, if the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or a comparable regulatory authority approves our drug candidates, we will have to comply with requirements including, for example, submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration, as well as continued compliance with cGCP and cGMP, for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval.
The FDA may impose consent decrees or withdraw approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the drug reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with our drug candidates, 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 revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information; imposition of post-market studies or clinical studies to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution restrictions or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential consequences include, among other things:
|●||restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of our drug candidates, withdrawal of the product from the market, or voluntary or mandatory product recalls;|
|●||fines, untitled or warning letters, or holds on clinical trials;|
|●||refusal by the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications filed by us or suspension or revocation of license approvals;|
|●||product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of our drug candidates; and|
|●||injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.|
The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of products that are placed on the market. Companies may promote drugs only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label and may not promote drugs for any off-label use, such as uses that are not described in the product’s labeling and that differ from those approved by the regulatory authorities. However, physicians may prescribe drug products for off-label uses and such off-label uses are common across some medical specialties. Thus, they may, unbeknownst to us, use our product for an “off label” indication for a specific treatment recipient. The FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and other regulatory authorities actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses, and if we are found to be out of compliance with the requirements and restrictions imposed on us under those laws and restrictions, we may be subject to significant liability, including civil and administrative remedies as well as criminal sanctions, and the off-label use of our products may increase the risk of product liability claims. In addition, management’s attention could be diverted from our business operations and our reputation could be damaged.
The policies of the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and other regulatory authorities may change and we cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. 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 regulatory approval that we may have obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
Despite FDA’s consent for us to pursue the 505(b)(2) development pathway for SACT-1, we may be unable to successfully complete the 505(b)(2) pathway for the pediatric formulation of SACT-1 to treat neuroblastoma as planned, which would materially impact our likelihood of obtaining FDA approval.
Even though the FDA is allowing us to pursue the 505(b)(2) regulatory pathway for our product candidates, we will need to conduct additional clinical trials, provide additional data and information and meet additional standards for regulatory approval. If this were to occur, the time and financial resources required to obtain FDA approval for our product candidates would likely substantially increase. We cannot assure you that we will receive the requisite or timely approvals for commercialization of such product candidate. Any failure to obtain regulatory approval of our product candidates would significantly limit our ability to generate revenues, and any failure to obtain such approval for all of the indications and labeling claims we deem desirable could reduce our potential revenues.
If we or our third-party suppliers fail to comply with the FDA’s good manufacturing practice regulations or fail to adequately, timely, or sufficiently respond to an FDA Form 483 or subsequent Warning Letter, this could impair our ability to market our products in a cost-effective and timely manner and could result in FDA enforcement action.
We and our third-party suppliers are required to comply with the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) which covers the methods and documentation of the design, testing, production, control, quality assurance, labeling, packaging, sterilization, storage and shipping of our products. The FDA audits compliance with the cGMP and related regulations through periodic announced and unannounced inspections of manufacturing and other facilities. The FDA may conduct these inspections or audits at any time. If, during the inspection, FDA identifies issues which, in FDA’s judgment, may constitute violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or FDA’s regulations, the FDA inspector may issue an FDA Form 483 listing these observations.
Note that if an entity does not address observations found in an FDA Form 483 to FDA’s satisfaction, the FDA could take enforcement action, including any of the following sanctions:
|●||untitled letters, warning letters, fines, injunctions, consent decrees and civil penalties;|
|●||customer notifications or recall, detention or seizure of our product;|
|●||operating restrictions or partial suspension or total shutdown of production;|
|●||refusing or delaying our requests for pre-market approval of new products;|
|●||withdrawing pre-market approvals that have already been granted;|
|●||refusal to grant export approval for our product; or|
Any of the foregoing actions could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition and operating results.
Risks Related to Commercialization of Our Drug Candidates
Even if any of our drug candidates receive regulatory 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.
After we complete clinical trials and receive regulatory approval for any of our drug candidates, which may not happen for some time, we recognize that such candidate(s) may ultimately fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community. We may not be able to achieve or maintain market acceptance of our products over time if new products or technology are introduced that are more favorably received than our products, are more cost effective or render our drug obsolete. We will face competition with respect to our drug candidates from other pharmaceutical companies developing products in the same disease/therapeutic area and specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies worldwide. Many of the companies against which we may be competing have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, animal testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and marketing approval for drugs than we do. Physicians, patients and third-party payors may prefer other novel products to ours, which means that we may not generate significant sales revenues for that product and that product may not become profitable. The degree of market acceptance of our drug candidates, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including but not limited to:
|●||clinical indications for which our drug candidates are approved;|
|●||physicians, hospitals, and patients considering our drug candidates as a safe and effective treatment;|
|●||the potential and perceived advantages of our drug candidates over alternative treatments;|
|●||the prevalence and severity of any side effects;|
|●||product labeling or product insert requirements of the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities;|
|●||limitations or warnings contained in the labeling approved by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities;|
|●||the timing of market introduction of our drug candidates as well as competitive drugs;|
|●||the cost of treatment in relation to alternative treatments and their relative benefits;|
|●||the availability of adequate coverage, reimbursement and pricing by third-party payors and government authorities;|
|●||lack of experience and financial and other limitations on our ability to create and sustain effective sales and marketing efforts or ineffectiveness of our sales and marketing partners; and|
|●||changes in legislative and regulatory requirements that could prevent or delay regulatory approval of our drug candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities and affect our ability to profitably sell any drug candidates for which we obtain regulatory approval.|
We depend substantially on the success of the drug candidates being researched as our current Lead Projects. If we are unable to license or sublicense, sell or otherwise commercialize our drug candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
Our business and the ability to generate revenue related to product sales, if ever achieved, will depend on the successful development, regulatory approval and licensing or sublicensing or other commercialization of our drug candidates or any other drug candidates we may develop. We have invested a significant amount of financial resources in the development of our drug candidates and we may invest in other drug candidates. The success of our drug candidates and any other potential drug candidates will depend on many factors, including but not limited to:
|●||successful enrollment in, and completion of, studies in animals and clinical trials;|
|●||other parties’ ability in conducting our clinical trials safely, efficiently and according to the agreed protocol;|
|●||receipt of regulatory approvals from the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada and other comparable regulatory authorities for our drug candidates;|
|●||our ability to establish commercial manufacturing capabilities by making arrangements with third-party manufacturers;|
|●||reliance on other parties to conduct our clinical trials swiftly and effectively;|
|●||launch of commercial sales of our drug candidates, if and when approved;|
|●||obtaining and maintaining patents, trade secrets and other IP protection and regulatory exclusivity, as well as protecting our rights in our own IP;|
|●||ensuring that we do not infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate patents, trade secrets or other IP rights of other parties;|
|●||obtaining acceptance of our drug candidates by doctors and patients;|
|●||obtaining reimbursement from third-party payors for our drug candidates, if and when approved;|
|●||our ability to compete with other drug candidates and drugs; and|
|●||maintenance of an acceptable safety profile for our drug candidates following regulatory approval, if and when received.|
We may not achieve regulatory approval and commercialization in a timely manner or at all. Significant delays in obtaining approval for and/or to successfully commercialize our drug candidates would materially harm our business and we may not be able to generate sufficient revenues and cash flows to continue our operations.
Risks Related to Our IP
A significant portion of our IP portfolio currently includes pending patent applications that have not yet been issued as granted patents and if the pending patent applications covering our product candidates fail to be issued, our business will be adversely affected. If we or our licensors are unable to obtain and maintain patent protection for our technology and drugs, our competitors could develop and commercialize technology and drugs similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize our technology and drugs may be adversely affected.
Our success depends largely on our ability to obtain and maintain patent protection and other forms of IP rights for the composition of matter, method of use and/or method of manufacture for each of our drug candidates. Failure to obtain, maintain protection, enforce or extend adequate patent and other IP rights could materially adversely affect our ability to develop and market one or more of our drug candidates. We also rely on trade secrets and know-how to develop and maintain our proprietary and IP position for each of our drug candidates. Any failure to protect our trade secrets and know-how with respect to any specific drug and diagnostics technology candidate could adversely affect the market potential of that potential product.
As of the date of this report, the Company has, through its licenses, obtained rights to patents and patent applications covering some or all its drug and diagnostics technology candidates that have been filed in major jurisdictions such as the United States, member states of the European Patent Organization (the “EPO”) and the PRC (collectively, “Major Patent Jurisdictions”), as well as in other countries. We have also filed a number of provisional applications to establish earlier filing dates for certain of our other ongoing researches, the specifics of which are currently proprietary and confidential. To the extent we do not seek or obtain patent protection in a particular jurisdiction, we may not have commercial incentive to seek marketing authorization in such jurisdiction. Nonetheless, other parties might enter those markets with generic versions or copies of our products and received regulatory approval without having significantly invested in their own research and development costs compared to the Company’s investment. For more information about our IP portfolio, please refer to the Intellectual Property section below.
With respect to issued patents in certain jurisdictions, for example in the U.S. and under the EPO, we may be entitled to obtain a patent term extension to extend the patent expiration date provided we meet the applicable requirements for obtaining such patent term extensions. We have sought to support our proprietary position by working with our licensors in filing patent applications in the names of the licensors in the United States and through the PCT, related to the Lead Projects and certain other drug candidates. In the future, we intend to file patent applications on supplemental or improvement IP derived from the licensed technologies, where those IP would be solely or jointly owned by the Company pursuant to the terms of respective license agreements. Filing patents covering multiple technologies in multiple countries is time-consuming and expensive, and we may not have the resources file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications in a timely manner. 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.
We cannot be certain that patents will be issued or granted with respect to patent applications that are currently pending, or that issued or granted patents will not later be found to be invalid or unenforceable.
The patent position of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies is generally uncertain because it involves complex legal and factual considerations. The standards applied by the EPO, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, and foreign patent offices in granting patents are not always applied uniformly or predictably. For example, there is no uniform worldwide policy regarding patentable subject matter or the scope of claims allowable in biotechnology and pharmaceutical patents. Consequently, patents may not issue from our pending patent applications and even if they do issue, such patents may not issue in a form that effectively prevents others from commercializing competing products. As such, we do not know the degree of future protection that we will have on our proprietary products and technology.
Additionally, the issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity or enforceability, and our patents may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. Even if patents do successfully issue and even if such patents cover our drug candidates, other parties may initiate, for patents filed before March 16, 2013 (i.e., the enactment of the America Invents Act), interference or re-examination proceedings, for patents filed on or after March 16, 2013, post-grant review, inter partes review, nullification or derivation proceedings, in court or before patent offices, or similar proceedings challenging the validity, enforceability or scope of such patents, which may result in the patent claims being narrowed or invalidated. Successful defense of its patents can constitute a material factor in a company’s expenses. According to an article published by BlueIron (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/current-patent-litigation-costs-between-120200165.html), depending on the value at stake, the American Intellectual Property Law Association’s “2019 Report of the Economic Survey” reported the average costs of a patent litigation are between $2.3 million to $4.0 million.
In addition, the fact that the Company has exclusive rights to prevent others from using a patented invention does not necessarily mean that the Company itself will have the unrestricted right to use that invention. Other parties may obtain ownership or licenses to patents or other IP rights that cover the manufacture, use or sale of our current or future products (or elements thereof). This may enable such other parties to enforce their patents or IP rights against us, and may, as a result, affect the commercialization of our products or exploitation of our own technology. We endeavor to identify early patents and patent applications which may block development of a product or technology and minimize this risk by conducting prior art searches before and during the projects. However, relevant documents may be overlooked, yet-to-be published or missed, which may in turn impact on the freedom to commercialize the relevant asset. In such cases, we may not be in a position to develop or commercialize products or drug candidates unless we successfully pursue litigation to nullify or invalidate the other IP rights concerned, or enter into a license agreement with the IP right holder, if available on commercially reasonable terms.
If we are unable to obtain and maintain the appropriate scope for our patents, our competitors could develop and commercialize technology and drugs similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize our technology and drugs may be adversely affected.
We may not obtain sufficient claim scope in those patents to prevent another party from competing successfully with our drug and diagnostics technology candidates. Even if our patent applications issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent competitors from competing with us or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. Our competitors may be able to circumvent our patents by developing similar or alternative technology or drug and diagnostics technology candidates in a non-infringing manner. The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its scope, validity or enforceability, and our patents may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. Such challenges may result in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, which could limit our ability to stop or prevent us from stopping others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and drug and diagnostics technology candidates, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our technology and drug and diagnostics technology candidates. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new drug and diagnostics technology candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, our patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing drug and diagnostics technology candidates similar or identical to ours.
Further, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our and our current or future licensors’ or collaboration partners’ patent rights are highly uncertain. Our and our licensors’ pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued which protect our technology or products, in whole or in part, or which effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and products.
We may not be able to protect and enforce our IP rights throughout the world.
Our commercial success will depend, in part, on our ability to maintain IP protection for our drug candidates in which we seek to develop and commercialize. While we rely primarily upon a combination of patents, trademarks, trade secrets and other contractual obligations to protect the IP related to our brands, products and other proprietary technologies, these legal means may afford only limited protection.
Filing and prosecuting patents on drug candidates and defending the validity of the same (if challenged) in all countries throughout the world could be prohibitively expensive for us, and our IP rights in countries outside the Major Patent Jurisdictions can be less extensive than those in the Major Patent Jurisdictions. In addition, the laws of some countries in the rest of the world such as India do not protect IP rights to the same extent as laws in the Major Patent Jurisdictions. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent other parties from practicing our inventions in the rest of the world, despite our continued efforts in enforcing our IP rights through legal means. Competitors may use our technology in jurisdictions where we have not or not yet obtained patent protection to develop their own drugs and further, may export otherwise infringing drugs to non-U.S. jurisdictions where we have patent protection.
Our, our licensors’ or collaboration partners’ patent applications cannot be enforced against other 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. In addition, patents and other IP rights also will not protect our technology, drug candidates if another party, including our competitors, design around our protected technology, drug candidates without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating our patents or other IP rights.
Moreover, currently and as our R&D continues to progress, some of our patents and patent applications are or may be co-owned with another party. Some of our licenses already provide that future-developed technologies (and any resulting patents) will be co-owned with the licensors and other patents for technologies we may acquire or develop with other parties may also be jointly owned. If we are unable to obtain an exclusive license to any such co-owners’ interest in such patents or patent applications, such co-owners may be able to license their rights to other persons, including our competitors, and our competitors could market competing products and technology, and we will be unable to transfer or grant exclusive rights to potential purchasers or development partners of such co-owned technologies. In addition, we may need the cooperation of any such co-owners of our patents in order to enforce such patents against other parties, and such cooperation may not be provided to us. Any of the foregoing could limit the revenue we might generate from our patents or patent applications and thus have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.
Because patent applications are confidential for a period of time after filing, and some remain so until issued, we cannot be certain that we or our licensors or collaborators were or will be the first to file any patent application related to a drug and diagnostics technology candidate. Furthermore, in the United States, if patent applications of other parties have an effective filing date before March 16, 2013, an interference proceeding can be initiated by such other party to determine who was the first to invent any of the subject matter covered by the patent claims of our applications. If patent applications of other parties have an effective filing date on or after March 16, 2013, in the United States a derivation proceeding can be initiated by such other parties to determine whether our invention was derived from theirs.
Even where we have a valid and enforceable patent, we may not be able to exclude others from practicing our invention where the other party can show that they used the invention in commerce before our filing date or the other party benefits from a compulsory license. In addition, we may be subject to other challenges regarding our exclusive ownership of our IP. If another party were successful in challenging our exclusive ownership of any of our IP, we may lose our right to use such IP, such other party may be able to license such IP to other parties, including our competitors, and our competitors could market competing products and technology. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending IP rights in jurisdictions outside Major Patent Jurisdictions. The legal systems of some countries do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other IP, which could make it difficult in those jurisdictions for us to stop the infringement or misappropriation of our patents or other IP rights, or the marketing of competing drugs in violation of our proprietary rights generally.
To date, we have not sought to enforce any issued patents in any jurisdictions. Proceedings to enforce our patent and other IP rights in any jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business.
Furthermore, such proceedings could put our patents at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable, or interpreted narrowly, could put our patent applications at risk of not issuing, and could provoke other parties to assert claims of infringement or misappropriation against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate in jurisdictions where opposition proceedings are available and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. The requirements for patentability may differ in certain countries, particularly developing countries. Certain countries in Europe, the PRC, and developing countries including India, have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to other parties. In those countries, we and our licensors may have limited remedies if patents are infringed or if we or our licensors are compelled to grant a license to another party, which could materially diminish the value of those patents. This could limit our potential revenue opportunities. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our IP rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the IP that we develop.
We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our IP, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful. Our patent rights relating to our drug and diagnostics technology candidates could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or before the USPTO or comparable non-U.S. authority.
Competitors may infringe our patent rights or misappropriate or otherwise violate our IP rights. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce or defend our IP rights, to protect our trade secrets or determine the validity and scope of our own IP rights or the proprietary rights of others. This can be expensive and time-consuming. Any claim that we assert against perceived infringers could also provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us alleging that we infringe their IP rights. Many of our current and potential competitors have the ability to dedicate substantially greater resources to enforce and/or defend their IP rights than we can. Accordingly, despite our efforts, we may not be able to prevent other parties from infringing upon or misappropriating our IP. Litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of management resources, which could harm our business and financial results. In addition, in an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that patent rights or other IP rights owned by us are invalid or unenforceable, or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patent rights or other IP rights do not cover the technology in question. An adverse result in any litigation proceeding could put our patent, as well as any patents that may issue in the future from our pending patent applications, at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable or interpreted narrowly. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with IP litigation, there is risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation.
If we initiate legal proceedings against another party to enforce our patent, or any patents that may be issued in the future from our patent applications, that relates to one of our drug and diagnostics technology candidates, the defendant could counterclaim that such patent rights are invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace, and there are numerous grounds upon which another party can assert invalidity or unenforceability of a patent. Parties may also raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include ex parte re-examination, inter partes review, post-grant review, derivation and equivalent proceedings in non-U.S. jurisdictions, such as opposition proceedings. Such proceedings could result in revocation or amendment to our patents in such a way that they no longer cover and protect our drug and diagnostics technology candidates. With respect to the validity of our patents, for example, there may be invalidating prior art of which we, our patent counsel, and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity and/or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our drug and diagnostics technology candidates. Such a loss of patent protection could have a material adverse impact on our business.
We may not be able to prevent misappropriation of our trade secrets or confidential information, particularly in countries where the laws may not protect those rights as fully as in the United States. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with IP litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship of our patents and other IP.
Although we are not currently experiencing any claims challenging the inventorship of our patents or ownership of our IP, we may in the future be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other parties have an interest in our patents or other IP as inventors or co-inventors. For example, we may have inventorship disputes arise from conflicting obligations of consultants or others who are involved in developing our drug and diagnostics technology candidates and who have not clearly contracted to transfer or assign any rights they may have to the Company. In addition, for our licensed patents, although a majority of our licensors have procured assignment forms and records from inventors to affirm their ownership in the licensed IP, another party or former employee or collaborator of our licensors not named in the patents may challenge the inventorship of claim an ownership interest in one or more of our or our licensors’ patents. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these and other claims challenging inventorship. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose rights such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, our patent rights or other IP. 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.
If we are sued for infringing IP rights of other parties, such litigation could be costly and time-consuming and could prevent or delay us from developing or commercializing our drug candidates, the outcome of which would be uncertain and could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
Our commercial success depends in part on our avoiding infringement of the patents and other IP rights of other parties. There is a substantial amount of litigation involving patent and other IP rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Numerous issued patents, provisional patents and pending patent applications, which are owned by other parties, exist in the fields in which we are developing drug candidates. As the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our drug candidates may give rise to claims of infringement of the patent rights of others.
Other parties may assert that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization. There may be other patents of which we are currently unaware with claims to materials, formulations, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment related to the use or manufacture of our drug candidates. Because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending patent applications or provisional patents which may later result in issued patents that our drug candidates may infringe. In addition, other parties may obtain patents in the future and claim that use of our technology infringes upon these patents. If any other patents were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover the manufacturing process of any of our drug candidates, any molecules formed during the manufacturing process or any final drug itself, the holders of any such patents may be able to prevent us from commercializing such drug candidate unless we obtain a license under the applicable patents, or until such patents expire or they are finally determined to be held invalid or unenforceable. Similarly, if any other patent were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover aspects of our formulations, processes for manufacture or methods of use, including combination therapy or patient selection methods, the holders of any such patent may be able to block our ability to develop and commercialize the applicable drug candidate unless we obtain a license, limit our uses, or until such patent expires, or is finally determined to be held invalid or unenforceable. In either case, such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all.
Other parties who bring successful claims against us for infringement of their IP rights may obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could prevent us from developing and commercializing one or more of our drug candidates. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merits, would involve substantial litigation expense and be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. In the event of a successful claim of infringement or misappropriation against us, we may have to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees in the case of willful infringement, obtain one or more licenses from other parties, pay royalties or redesign our infringing drug candidates, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure. In the event of an adverse result in any such litigation, or even in the absence of litigation, we may need to obtain licenses from other parties to advance our research or allow commercialization of our drug candidates. Any required license may not be available at all, or may not be available on commercially reasonable terms. In the event that we are unable to obtain such a license, we would be unable to further develop and commercialize one or more of our drug candidates, which could harm our business significantly. We may also elect to enter into license agreements in order to settle patent infringement claims or resolve disputes prior to litigation, and any such license agreements may require us to pay royalties and other fees that could significantly reduce our profitability for any product related to that patent and thus harm our business.
Even if resolved in our favor, litigation or other legal proceedings relating to IP claims may cause us to incur significant expenses, and could distract our technical personnel, management personnel, or both from their normal responsibilities. 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 market price of our Class A Ordinary Shares. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing or distribution activities. We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to adequately conduct such litigation or proceedings. 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. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete in the marketplace.
There may be patent applications pending of which we are not aware, but which cover similar products to the ones we are attempting to license or develop, which may result in lost time and money, as well as litigation.
It is possible that we have failed to identify relevant outstanding patents or applications. For example, U.S. applications filed before November 29, 2000 and certain U.S. applications filed after that date that will not be filed outside the United States remain confidential until patents are issued. Patent applications filed in the United States after November 29, 2000 and generally filed elsewhere are published approximately 18 months after the earliest filing for which priority is claimed, with such earliest filing date being commonly referred to as the priority date. Therefore, patent applications covering our products could have been filed by others without our knowledge. Additionally, pending patent applications which have been published can, subject to certain limitations, be later amended in a manner that could cover our products or the use of our products. Holders of any such unanticipated patents or patent applications may actively bring infringement claims against us, with the same potential litigation consequences as alluded to elsewhere in this annual report. Any of these events could require us to divert substantial financial and management resources that we would otherwise be able to devote to our business.
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 fees on any issued patent are due to be paid to the USPTO and other patent agencies in several stages over the lifetime of the patent. The USPTO and various non-U.S. governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment, and other similar provisions during the patent application process. Although 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 non-compliance 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 submit documents requesting an extension of time. In any such event, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.
The terms of our patents may not be sufficient to effectively protect our drug and diagnostics technology candidates and business.
In most countries in which we file, including the United States, the term of an issued patent is generally 20 years from the earliest claimed filing date of a non-provisional patent application in the applicable country. Although various extensions may be available, the life of a patent and the protection it affords is limited. For example, depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of the FDA regulatory approval for our drug candidates, one or more of our U.S. patents, if issued, might be eligible for limited patent term restoration under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent term extension of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during drug development and the FDA regulatory review process. Patent term extensions, however, cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of drug approval by the FDA, and only one patent can be extended for a particular drug. The application for patent term extension is subject to approval by the USPTO, in conjunction with the FDA. We may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failing to apply within applicable deadlines, failing to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents or otherwise failing to satisfy applicable requirements. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. If we are unable to obtain a patent term extension for a given patent or the term of any such extension is less than we request, the period during which we will have the right to exclusively market our drug will be that of the originally issued patents themselves.
Even if patents covering one of our drug candidates are obtained, thereby giving us a period of exclusivity for manufacturing and marketing that drug, we will not be able to assert such patent rights upon the expiration of the issued patents against potential competitors who may begin marketing generic copies of our medications, and our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.
Changes in patent law in the United States could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our drug and diagnostics technology candidates.
The United States has recently enacted and is currently implementing wide-ranging patent reform legislation. Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have narrowed the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances and weakened 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, if any. Depending on decisions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents in the United States could change in unpredictable ways that would weaken our ability to obtain new patents, or to enforce our existing patents and patents that we might obtain in the future. For example, in a recent case, Assoc. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that certain claims to naturally-occurring substances are not patentable. Although we do not believe that any of the patents owned or licensed by us will be found invalid based on this decision, future decisions by the courts, the U.S. Congress or the USPTO may impact the value of our patent rights. There could be similar changes in the laws of foreign jurisdictions that may impact the value of our patent rights or our other IP rights.
In addition, recent patent reform legislation in the U.S., including the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the America Invents Act, could increase those uncertainties and costs. The America Invents Act was signed into law on September 16, 2011, and many of the substantive changes became effective on March 16, 2013. The America Invents Act reforms U.S. patent law in part by changing the U.S. patent system from a “first to invent” system to a “first inventor to file” system, expanding the definition of prior art, and developing a post-grant review system, thus changing the U.S. patent law in a way that may weaken our ability to obtain patent protection in the U.S. for those applications filed after March 16, 2013. Further, the America Invents Act created new procedures to challenge the validity of issued patents in the U.S., including post-grant review and inter partes review proceedings, which some other parties have been using to cause the cancellation of selected or all claims of issued patents of competitors. For a patent with an effective filing date of March 16, 2013 or later, a petition for post-grant review can be filed by another party in a nine-month window from issuance of the patent. A petition for inter partes review can be filed immediately following the issuance of a patent if the patent has an effective filing date prior to March 16, 2013. A petition for inter partes review can be filed after the nine-month-period for filing a post-grant review petition has expired for a patent with an effective filing date of March 16, 2013 or later. Post-grant review proceedings can be brought on any ground of invalidity, whereas inter partes review proceedings can only raise an invalidity challenge based on published prior art and patents. These adversarial actions at the USPTO review patent claims without the presumption of validity afforded to U.S. patents in lawsuits in U.S. federal courts, and use a lower burden of proof than used in litigation in U.S. federal courts. Therefore, it is generally considered easier for a competitor or other party to have a U.S. patent invalidated in a USPTO post-grant review or inter partes review proceeding than invalidated in a litigation in a U.S. federal court. If any of our patents are challenged by another party in such a USPTO proceeding, there is no guarantee that we or our licensors or collaborators will be successful in defending the patent, which would result in our loss of the challenged patent right.
If we are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, our business and competitive position would be harmed.
In addition to our issued patents, provisional patent, and pending patent applications, we expect to rely on trade secrets, including unpatented know-how, technology and other proprietary information, to maintain our competitive position and protect our drug and diagnostics technology candidates. We seek to protect these trade secrets, in part, by entering into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties that have access to them, such as our employees, corporate collaborators, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers, contract manufacturers, consultants, advisors and other parties. We also enter into confidentiality and invention or patent assignment agreements with our employees and consultants. However, any of these parties may breach such agreements and disclose our proprietary information, and we may not be able to obtain adequate remedies for such breaches. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. If trade secrets which are material to our business were to be obtained by a competitor, our competitive position would be harmed.
We may be subject to claims that our employees have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade secrets of their former employers.
Although we try to ensure that our employees do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or these employees have used or disclosed IP, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such employee’s former employer. In addition, while we typically require our employees, consultants and contractors who may be involved in the development of IP to execute agreements assigning such IP to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who in fact develops IP that we regard as our own, which may result in claims by or against us related to the ownership of such IP. We are not aware of any threatened or pending claims that any of our projects involve misappropriated IP or other proprietary information, but in the future litigation may be necessary to defend against such claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable IP rights. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management.
We may be unable to execute on the optimal development plan for one or more of our existing product candidates if we are unable to obtain or maintain necessary rights for some aspect of the developing technology through acquisitions or licenses.
Our existing programs currently use or may in the future use additional technologies subject to proprietary rights held by others, such as particular compositions or methods of manufacture, treatment or use. The licensing and acquisition of IP rights is a competitive area, and more established companies may pursue strategies to license or acquire such IP rights that we may consider necessary or useful. These established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, cash resources and greater capabilities in clinical development and commercialization.
In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us. We also may be unable to license or acquire IP rights on terms that would allow us to make an appropriate return on our investment. If we are unable to successfully obtain or maintain licenses or other rights from other parties to use IP of those parties, our business, financial condition and prospects for growth could suffer.
If we fail to comply with our obligations in the agreements under which we license IP rights from other parties or otherwise experience disruptions to our business relationships with our licensors, we could be required to pay monetary damages or could lose license rights that are important to our business.
Many of our projects (including our Lead Projects) are based on IP which we have licensed from other parties. (See “Item 4. Information on the Company – B. Business Overview – Intellectual Property”) Certain of these license agreements impose diligence, development or commercialization obligations on us, such as obligations to pay royalties on net product sales of our drug candidates once commercialized by us, to pay a percentage of sublicensing revenues if the licensed product is sublicensed, to make other specified milestone and/or annual payments relating to our drug candidates or to pay license maintenance and other fees, as well as obligations to pursue commercialization with due diligence. Specifically, a number of our license agreements also require us to meet development timelines in order to maintain the related license(s). In spite of our efforts, our licensors might conclude that we have materially breached our obligations under such license agreements and might therefore seek to terminate the license agreements. If one of our licensors, despite our efforts, were to be successful in terminating its agreement with us, we would not be able to continue to develop, manufacture or market any drug candidate under that license agreements, and we could face claims for monetary damages or other penalties under that agreement. Such an occurrence would diminish or eliminate the value of that project to our Company, even if we are able to negotiate new or reinstated agreements, which may have less favorable terms. Depending on the importance of the IP and the related project, any such development could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.
Moreover, disputes may arise regarding intellectual property subject to a licensing agreement, including:
|●||the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation-related issues;|
|●||the extent to which our technology and processes infringe on intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the licensing agreement;|
|●||the sublicensing of patent and other rights under our collaborative development relationships;|
|●||our diligence obligations under the license agreement and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations;|
|●||the inventorship and ownership of inventions and know-how resulting from the joint creation or use of intellectual property by our licensors and us and our partners; and|
|●||the priority of invention of patented technology.|
In addition, the agreements under which we currently license intellectual property or technology from other parties are complex, and certain provisions in such agreements may be susceptible to multiple interpretations. The resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement that may arise could narrow what we believe to be the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property or technology, or increase what we believe to be our financial or other obligations under the relevant agreement, either of which (depending on the importance of the IP and the related project) could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Moreover, if disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangement for a project on commercially acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected drug and diagnostics technology candidates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.
We may not have complete control of the preparation, filing and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain patents, licensed by us from other parties.
The Company has in-licensed, and may in the future in-license patents owned or controlled by others for our use as part of our development plans. We also may out-license or sublicense patents which we own or control in collaborations with others for development and commercialization of our products. In either case, the continuing right to control the preparation, filing and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain the patents, covering technology under development is a matter for negotiation and we may not always be the party that obtains such control, in which case we will be reliant on our licensors, collaboration partners or sublicensees for determining strategies with respect to those patents. For our existing licenses, while we have an understanding with most of the licensors who maintain control over patent prosecution and we have jointly appointed and engaged patent agents nominated by us under one or more of our licenses, we cannot guarantee that such licensors or collaborators will always accept prosecution strategies proposed by us and/or our patent agents. Therefore, these patents and applications may not be prosecuted and enforced in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business. If our current or future licensors or collaboration partners fail to establish, maintain or protect such patents and other IP rights, such rights may be reduced or eliminated. If our licensors or joint development partners 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.
Risks Related to Our Reliance on Unrelated Parties
We rely on unrelated parties to conduct discovery and further improvement of our innovations and licensed technologies, as well as our preclinical studies and clinical trials. If these unrelated parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval for or commercialize our drug candidates, and our business could be substantially harmed.
We have relied upon and plan to continue to rely upon CROs and collaborating institutions to monitor and manage data for our ongoing preclinical studies and programs. We rely on these parties for execution of preclinical studies and clinical trials, and control only certain aspects of their activities. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our studies is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal, and regulatory requirements and scientific standards, and our reliance on the CROs and collaborating institutions does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. If CROs, collaborating institutions or clinical investigators do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, development of our product candidates could be delayed and our business could be adversely affected.
In addition, our CROs and collaborating institutions, 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 waste. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from our use of hazardous materials, we might be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We could also be subject to civil or criminal fines and penalties, and significant associated costs.
If an IND for one of our drug candidates requires significantly larger quantities of the candidate to be tested, we expect to rely on unrelated parties to manufacture supplies of that candidate. If those unrelated parties fail to provide us with sufficient quantities of clinical supply on that candidate or fail to do so at acceptable quality levels or prices, or fail to maintain required cGMP licenses, we may not be able to manufacture that candidate in sufficient quantities to conduct the necessary human trials. Should the failure by the CRO occur in anticipation of or after marketing approval of that candidate, we may be unable to generate as much revenue as rapidly (and such revenue may not be as profitable) as we had anticipated.
The manufacture of many drug products, particularly in commercial quantities, can be complex and may require significant expertise and capital investment, particularly if the development of advanced manufacturing techniques and process controls are required. We intend to contract with outside contractors to manufacture clinical supplies and process our drug candidates. We have not yet had our drug candidates to be manufactured or processed on a commercial scale and may not be able to do so for any of our drug candidates.
As we expect to engage contract manufacturers, the Company will be exposed to the following risks:
|●||we might be unable to identify manufacturers on acceptable terms or at all because the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities must approve any manufacturers we determine to use and any potential manufacturer may be unable to satisfy federal, state or international regulatory standards;|
|●||although we would be choosing manufacturers with the type of experience most suitable for our drug candidates, it is possible that our contract manufacturers may not be able to execute unique manufacturing procedures and other logistical support requirements we have developed and they might require a significant amount of support from us to implement and maintain the infrastructure and processes required to manufacture our particular drug candidates;|
|●||our contract manufacturers might be unable to reproduce the quantity and quality of the drugs we need to meet our clinical and commercial needs within the time frames when we require those drugs;|
|●||our contract manufacturers may breach their contracts with us, including by not performing as agreed or not devoting sufficient resources to our drug candidates, or they may not remain in the contract manufacturing business for the time required to supply our clinical trials or to successfully produce, store and distribute our products;|
|●||even if initially accepted by regulatory authorities, a manufacturer remains subject to ongoing periodic unannounced inspection by regulatory authorities to ensure strict compliance with cGMP and other government regulations, and our contract manufacturers may fail to comply with these regulations and requirements, resulting in rescission of cGMP licenses and our inability to continue using their services, requiring us to find a replacement manufacturer;|
|●||depending on the terms of our agreement with a manufacturer, we may not own, or may have to share, the IP rights to any improvements made by the manufacturer in the manufacturing process for our drug candidates; and|
|●||our contract manufacturers may have unacceptable or inconsistent product quality success rates and yields.|
Each of these risks could delay or prevent the completion of our clinical trials or the approval of any of our drug candidates by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities, result in higher costs or adversely impact commercialization of our drug candidates.
We are also responsible for quality control by our manufacturers. We intend to rely on those unrelated-party manufactures to perform certain quality assurance tests on our drug candidates prior to delivery to patients. If these tests are not appropriately done and test data are not reliable, patients could be put at risk of serious harm and the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities could place significant restrictions on our Company until deficiencies are remedied.
Manufacturers of drug products often encounter difficulties in production, particularly in scaling up or out, validating the production process, and assuring high reliability of the manufacturing process (including the absence of contamination). These problems include logistics and shipping, difficulties with production costs and yields, quality control, including stability of the product, product testing, operator error, availability of qualified personnel, as well as compliance with strictly enforced federal, state and non-U.S. regulations. Furthermore, if contaminants are discovered in our supply of our drug candidates or in the manufacturing facilities, such manufacturing facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination. It is possible that stability failures or other issues relating to the manufacture of our drug candidates may occur in the future. Additionally, our manufacturers may experience manufacturing difficulties due to resource constraints, or as a result of labor disputes or unstable political environments. If our manufacturers were to encounter any of these difficulties, or otherwise fail to comply with their contractual obligations, our ability to provide our drug candidate to patients in clinical trials would be jeopardized. Any delay or interruption in the manufacturing of clinical trial supplies could delay the completion of clinical trials, increase the costs associated with maintaining clinical trial programs and, depending upon the period of delay, require us to begin new clinical trials with additional costs or terminate clinical trials completely.
Review of changes in the manufacturing process of our drug candidates could cause delays resulting from the need for additional regulatory approvals.
Changes in a process or procedure for manufacturing one of our drug candidates, including a change in the location where the drug candidate is manufactured or a change of a contract manufacturer, could require prior review by the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities and approval of the manufacturing process and procedures in accordance with the FDA, NMPA, EMA, or Health Canada’s regulations, or comparable requirements. This review may be costly and time-consuming and could delay or prevent the launch of a product. The new facility will also be subject to pre-approval inspection. In addition, we would have to demonstrate that the product made at the new facility is equivalent to the product made at the former facility by physical and chemical methods, which are costly and time-consuming. It is also possible that the FDA, NMPA, EMA, Health Canada or other comparable regulatory authorities may require clinical testing as a way to prove equivalency, which would result in additional costs and delay.
Risks Related to AML Clinic
Failure to comply with all laws and regulations applicable to the business of AML Clinic could have a material, adverse impact on the Company’s business.
Operation of AML Clinic subjects the Company to a variety of Hong Kong laws and regulations specific to companies and professionals in the business of delivering medical care. We and our employees will be subject to licensing and professional qualifications that do not apply to our other businesses. Breach of any of these laws, regulations or licensing requirements could subject the Company to significant fines and other penalties and possibly damage the Company’s reputation, which could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business.
Risks Related to Our Natural Supplements
We may be subject to government regulations for natural supplements
From a regulatory perspective, some of the Company’s non-drug candidates (including those developed under the project company Nativus), may be regulated as natural supplements, including NativusWell® (NLS-2). For those non-drug candidates that the Company plans to develop, they are subject to extensive and rigorous domestic government regulation, including regulation by the FDA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, other divisions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, state and local governments and their respective foreign equivalents. The FDA regulates natural supplements, cosmetics and drugs under different regulatory schemes.
For example, the FDA regulates the processing, formulation, safety, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, advertising and distribution of natural supplements and cosmetics under its natural supplement and cosmetic authority, respectively. The FDA also regulates the research, development, pre-clinical and clinical testing, manufacture, safety, effectiveness, record keeping, reporting, labeling, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale, distribution, import and export of pharmaceutical products under various regulatory provisions. If any drug products we develop are tested or marketed abroad, they will also be subject to extensive regulation by foreign governments, whether or not we have obtained FDA approval for a given product and its uses. Such foreign regulation may be equally or more demanding than corresponding U.S. regulation.
Government regulation substantially increases the cost and risk of researching, developing, manufacturing and selling products. Our failure to comply with these regulations could result in, by way of example, significant fines, criminal and civil liability, product seizures, recalls, withdrawals, withdrawals of approvals and exclusion and debarment from government programs. Any of these actions, including the inability of our hormone therapy drug candidates to obtain and maintain regulatory approval, would have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
In addition, the FDA’s policies may change and additional government regulations may be issued that could prevent, limit, or delay regulatory approval of our drug candidates, or impose more stringent product labeling and post-marketing testing and other requirements.
We have launched and marketed NativusWell® (NLS-2) in Hong Kong through HKTV Mall, a leading online shopping mall in Hong Kong in September 2022, and in China through one of the largest e-commerce platform in China, JD.com in March 2023. In Hong Kong, natural supplements are defined as “health food” products. “Health food” containing medicines are subject to the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap 138) and such “health food” containing Chinese medicines are regulated by the Chinese Medicine Ordinance (Cap 549), where they must meet the requirements in respect of safety, quality and efficacy before they can be registered.
For other “health food” products which cannot be classified as Chinese medicine or western medicine are regulated under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132) as general food products. The Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance requires the manufacturers and sellers of food to ensure that their products are fit for human consumption and comply with the requirements in respect of food safety, food standards and labelling. In addition, all prepackaged food should bear labels which correctly list out the ingredients of the food under the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap 132W) under the Ordinance.
The NativusWell® (NLS-2) is made with the bioactive ingredient extracted Chinese yam powder and does not contain any western or Chinese medicine; therefore, registration is not required under the local laws for marketing in Hong Kong. We will, however, ensure the compliance of the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap 132W) with by proper labelling in place.
Risks Related to Our Diagnostics Technology
Our products could in the future be subject to additional regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or other domestic and international regulatory agencies, which could increase our costs and delay our commercialization efforts, thereby materially and adversely affecting our business and results of operations.
The FDA has statutory authority to assure that medical devices and in vitro diagnostics, including those where the PathsDx Test technology may be utilized, are safe and effective for their intended uses. Should the PathsDx Test technology be utilized in U.S. as a Laboratory Developed Test (LDT), the FDA has historically exercised its enforcement discretion and may not enforce applicable provisions of the FDC Act and regulations with respect to LDTs. We believe the PathsDx Test may not be subject to the FDA’s enforcement of its medical device regulations and the applicable FDC Act provisions.
However, if and when we utilize the PathsDx Test technology in the U.S., the FDA may disagree with our assessment that the PathsDx Test falls within the definition of an LDT and seek to regulate the PathsDx Test as medical devices. If the FDA determines that our products are subject to such requirements, we could be subject to enforcement action, including administrative and judicial sanctions, and additional regulatory controls and submissions for the PathsDx Test, all of which could be burdensome.
In the future, certain of our products or related applications could be subject to additional FDA regulation. Even where a product is not subject to FDA clearance or approval requirements, the FDA may impose restrictions as to the types of customers to which we can market and sell our products. Such regulation and restrictions may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Other regulatory regimes that do not currently present material challenges but that could in the future subject to regulations include biosecurity should our PathsDx Test technology be utilized in the U.S.
In addition, many countries have laws and regulations that could affect our products and which could limit our ability to sell our products in those countries. The number and scope of these requirements are increasing. We may not be able to obtain regulatory approvals in such countries or may incur significant costs in obtaining or maintaining foreign regulatory approvals. For example, the European Union, or EU, is transitioning from the existing European Directive 98/79/EC on in vitro diagnostic medical devices, or In Vitro Diagnostic Directive (IVDD), to the In Vitro Diagnostic Device Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (IVDR), which imposes stricter requirements for the marketing and sale of medical devices, including in the area of clinical evaluation requirements, quality systems and post-market surveillance. The IVDR is expected to become effective in May 2022. It is likely that we will be impacted by this new regulation, either directly as a manufacturer of IVDs, or indirectly as a supplier to customers who are placing IVDs in the EU market for clinical or diagnostic use. Complying with the requirements of the IVDR may require us to incur significant expenditures. Failure to meet these requirements could adversely impact our business in the EU and other regions that tie their product registrations or chemical regulations to the EU requirements.
Risks Related to Our Industry, Business and Operation
If we do not comply with laws regulating the protection of the environment and health and human safety, our business could be adversely affected.
Our research, development and clinic operations involve the use of hazardous materials, chemicals and various radioactive compounds/radiation and AML Clinic may create medical waste and radiation. Our R&D Center may maintain quantities of various flammable and toxic chemicals in our facilities that are required for our research, development and manufacturing activities. We are subject to local laws and regulations governing the use, manufacture, storage, handling and disposal of these hazardous materials and of medical waste at the jurisdictions where we operate our clinic and research facilities, which are currently limited to Hong Kong. We believe our procedures for storing, handling and disposing of these materials comply with the relevant guidelines and laws of the jurisdictions in which our facilities are located. Although we believe that our safety procedures for handling and disposing of these materials comply with the standards mandated by applicable regulations, the risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials cannot be eliminated. If an accident occurs, we could be held liable for resulting damages, which could be substantial. We are also subject to numerous environmental, health and workplace safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures, exposure to blood-borne pathogens and the handling of biohazardous materials and medical waste.
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 these materials, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. We do not maintain insurance for environmental liability or toxic tort claims that may be asserted against us in connection with our storage or disposal of biological, hazardous or radioactive materials. Additional federal, state and local laws and regulations affecting our operations may be adopted in the future. We may incur substantial costs to comply with, and substantial fines or penalties, if we violate any of these laws or regulations.
Our future success depends on our ability to retain our Chief Executive Officer, our scientific and clinical advisors, and other key executives and to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel.
We are highly dependent on Darren Lui, our Chief Executive Officer, as well as, other principal members of our management teams, scientific teams as well as scientific and clinical advisors. Although we have formal employment agreements, which we refer to as appointment letters, with all of our executive officers, these agreements do not prevent our executives from terminating their employment with us at any time, subject to applicable notice periods. Nevertheless, the loss of the services of any of these persons could impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives.
To induce valuable employees to remain at our Company, in addition to salary and cash incentives, we provide share incentive grants that vest over time. The value to employees of these equity grants that vest over time may be significantly affected by movements in the price of our Class A Ordinary Shares that are beyond our control, and may at any time be insufficient to counteract more lucrative offers from other companies. Although we have appointment letters with our key employees, any of our employees could resign at any time, with 1-month to 3-months prior written notice or with payment in lieu of notice.
Recruiting and retaining qualified officers, scientific, clinical, sales and marketing personnel or consultants will also be critical to our success. In addition, we rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our discovery and preclinical studies development and commercialization strategy. The loss of the services of our executive officers or other key employees and consultants could impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives and seriously harm our ability to successfully implement our business strategy.
Furthermore, replacing executive officers and key employees or consultants 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 drug and diagnostics technology candidates. Competition to hire from this limited pool is intense, and we may be unable to hire, train, retain or motivate these key personnel or consultants 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. Our consultants and advisors may be employed by employers other than us and 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.
We will need to increase the size and capabilities of our organization, and we may experience difficulties in managing our growth.
As of the date of this annual report, we have 18 full-time and 1 part-time employees. Of these, 6 full-time are engaged in research and development and laboratory operations, 7 full-time are engaged in general and administrative functions and 5 full-time and 1 part-time are engaged in the clinic operation. As of the date of this annual report, 18 of our employees are located in Asia and 1 of our employees is located in Europe. In addition, we have engaged and may continue to engage 66 independent contracted consultants and advisors to assist us with our operations. As our development and commercialization plans and strategies develop, and as we have transitioned into operating as a public company, we will need to establish and maintain effective disclosure and financial controls and make changes in our corporate governance practices. We will need to add a significant number of additional managerial, operational, sales, marketing, financial and other personnel with the appropriate public company experience and technical knowledge and we may not successfully recruit and maintain such personnel. Future growth will impose significant added responsibilities on members of management, including:
|●||identifying, recruiting, integrating, maintaining and motivating additional employees;|
|●||managing our internal development efforts effectively, including clinical, the FDA or other comparable regulatory authority review process for our drug and diagnostics technology candidates, while complying with our contractual obligations to contractors and others; and|
|●||improving our operational, financial and management controls, reporting systems and procedures.|
Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize our drug candidates will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage our 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.
We currently rely, and for the foreseeable future will continue to rely, in substantial part on certain independent organizations, advisors and consultants for significant input in selecting and evaluating new products to pursue. These independent organizations, advisors and consultants may not continue to be available to us on a timely basis when needed, and in such case, we may not have the ability to find qualified replacements. In addition, if we are unable to effectively manage our outsourced activities, or if the quality or accuracy of the services provided by consultants is compromised for any reason, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of our drug candidates or otherwise advance our business. Furthermore, we may not be able to manage our existing consultants or find other competent outside contractors and consultants on economically reasonable terms, if at all.
If we are not able to effectively expand our organization by hiring new employees and expanding our groups of consultants and contractors, we may not be able to successfully implement the tasks necessary to further develop and commercialize our drug and diagnostics technology candidates and, accordingly, may not achieve our research, development and commercialization goals.
We intend to seek additional collaborations, strategic alliances or acquisitions or enter into royalty-seeking or sublicensing arrangements in the future, but we may not realize the benefits of these arrangements.
We intend to form or seek strategic alliances, create joint ventures or collaborations, acquire complimentary products, IP rights, technology or businesses or enter into additional licensing arrangements with unrelated parties that we determine may complement or augment our development and commercialization efforts with respect to our drug and diagnostics technology candidates. Any of these relationships may require us to incur non-recurring and other charges, increase our near and long-term expenditures, issue securities that dilute our existing shareholders, or disrupt our management and business.
We will face significant competition in seeking appropriate strategic partners and the negotiation process is likely to be time-consuming, costly and complex. Moreover, we may not be successful in our efforts to establish a strategic partnership or another alternative arrangement for any of our drug and diagnostics technology candidates because their state of development may be deemed to be too early for collaborative effort and others may not view our drug candidates as having the requisite potential to demonstrate safety and efficacy. If and when we enter into an agreement with a collaboration partner or sublicensee for development and commercialization of a drug or diagnostics technology candidate, we can expect to relinquish some or all of the control over the future success of that drug candidate to the unrelated-party.
Further, even if we enter into a collaboration involving any of our drug and diagnostics technology candidates, the arrangement will be subject to numerous risks, which may include the following:
|●||the collaborators will likely have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to a collaboration;|
|●||the collaborator may ultimately choose not pursue development and commercialization of our drug or diagnostics technology candidates or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs, based on clinical trial results, changes in their strategic focus due to the acquisition of competitive drugs, availability of funding, or other external factors, such as a business combination that diverts resources or creates competing priorities;|
|●||the collaborator may delay clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for a clinical trial, stop a clinical trial, abandon a drug or diagnostics technology candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials, or require a new formulation of a drug or diagnostics technology candidate for clinical testing;|
|●||the collaborator could independently develop, or develop with unrelated parties, drugs that compete directly or indirectly with our drugs or drug candidates;|
|●||the collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more drugs may not commit sufficient resources to their marketing and distribution;|
|●||the collaborator may not properly maintain or defend our IP rights or may use our IP or proprietary information in a way that gives rise to actual or threatened litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our IP or proprietary information or expose us to potential liability;|
|●||disputes may arise between us and the collaborator that cause the delay or termination of the research, development or commercialization of our drug and diagnostics technology candidates, or that result in costly litigation or arbitration that diverts management attention and resources;|
|●||the collaboration may be terminated and, if terminated, may result the Company needing additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable drug and diagnostics technology candidates;|
|●||the collaborator may own or co-own IP covering our drugs that results from our collaborating with them, and in such cases, we would not have the exclusive right to commercialize such IP;|
|●||the collaboration may result in increased operating expenses or the assumption of indebtedness or contingent liabilities; and|
|●||the collaboration arrangement may result in the loss of key personnel and uncertainties in our ability to maintain key business relationships.|
As a result, if we enter into collaboration agreements and strategic partnerships or license our drugs, we may not be able to realize the benefit of such transactions, which could delay our timelines or otherwise adversely affect our business. Following a strategic transaction or license, we may not achieve the revenue or specific net income that justifies such transaction. If we are unable to reach agreements with a suitable collaborator on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all, we may have to curtail the development of a drug or diagnostics technology candidate, reduce or delay its development program or one or more of our other development programs, delay its potential commercialization or reduce the scope of any sales or marketing activities, or increase our expenditures and undertake development or commercialization activities at our own expense.
If we fail to enter into collaborations, we may seek to fund and undertake development or commercialization activities on our own, but we may not have sufficient funds or expertise to undertake the necessary development and commercialization activities. In such a case, we may not be able to further develop our drug and diagnostics technology candidates or bring them to market and generate product sales revenue, which would harm our business prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners and vendors may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards and requirements.
We are exposed to the risk of fraud, misconduct or other illegal activity by our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners and vendors. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional, reckless and negligent conduct that fails to: comply with the laws of the FDA and other similar non-U.S. regulatory authorities; provide true, complete and accurate information to the FDA and other similar non-U.S. regulatory authorities; comply with manufacturing standards we have established; comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws in the United States and similar non-U.S. fraudulent misconduct laws; or report financial information or data accurately or to disclose unauthorized activities to us. If we obtain the FDA approval for any of our drug and diagnostics technology candidates and begin commercializing those drugs in the United States, our potential exposure under U.S. laws will increase significantly and our costs associated with compliance with such laws are also likely to increase. These laws may impact, among other things, our current activities with principal investigators of our sponsored researches and research patients and our use of information obtained in the course of patient recruitment for clinical trials, as well as proposed and future sales, marketing and education programs. In particular, the promotion, sales and marketing of healthcare items and services, as well as certain business arrangements in the healthcare industry, are subject to extensive laws designed to prevent fraud, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, structuring and commission(s), certain customer incentive programs and other business arrangements generally.
It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct by employees and other 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. 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 significant fines or other sanctions.
Our disclosure controls and procedures may not prevent or detect all errors or acts of fraud.
Our disclosure controls and procedures are designed to reasonably assure that information required to be disclosed by us in reports we file or submit under the Exchange Act is accumulated and communicated to management, and recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the rules and forms of the SEC.
We believe that any disclosure controls and procedures, or internal controls and procedures, no matter how well conceived and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met.
These inherent limitations include the realities that judgments in decision-making can be faulty, and that breakdowns can occur because of simple error or mistake. Additionally, controls can be circumvented by the individual acts of some persons, by collusion of two or more people or by an unauthorized override of the controls. Accordingly, because of the inherent limitations in our control system, misstatements due to error or fraud may occur and not be detected, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could in turn limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations, and lead to a decline in the trading price of our Class A Ordinary Shares. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions. We may also be required to restate our financial statements from prior periods.
If we fail to establish and maintain proper internal financial reporting controls, our ability to produce accurate financial statements or comply with applicable regulations could be impaired.
Pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we are required to file a report by our management on our internal control over financial reporting, including an attestation report on internal control over financial reporting issued by our independent registered public accounting firm. However, while we remain an emerging growth company, we will not be required to include an attestation report on internal control over financial reporting issued by our independent registered public accounting firm. The presence of material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting could result in financial statement errors which, in turn, could lead to errors in our financial reports and/or delays in our financial reporting, which could require us to restate our operating results. In connection with the audit of our financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2022, we and our independent registered public accounting firm identified one material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting, as defined in the standards established by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board of the United States. The material weakness identified was the lack of dedicated resources to take responsibility for the finance and accounting functions and the preparation of financial statements in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or U.S. GAAP.
Since 2019, we took actions to remediate the abovementioned material weakness:
|●||provide trainings to staff regarding to the preparation of financial statements in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States;|
|●||change to a new and well-established accounting system to enhance effectiveness and financial and system control;|
|●||establish clear roles and responsibilities for accounting and financial reporting staff to address finance and accounting issues; and|
|●||continue to monitor the improvement on internal control over financial reporting.|
However, since we are still in the process of replenishing and building up a qualified finance and accounting team with sufficient dedicated resources, our management assessed that the deficiency related to the lack of dedicated resources to take responsibility for the finance and accounting functions and the preparation of financial statements in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or U.S. GAAP, still existed as of December 31, 2022. We cannot assure you that we will not identify additional material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in the future.
Our management concluded that our internal controls over financial reporting were not effective as of December 31, 2022. Investors may lose confidence in our operating results, the price of the Class A Ordinary Shares could decline and we may be subject to litigation or regulatory enforcement actions. In addition, if we are unable to meet the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Class A Ordinary Shares may not be able to remain listed on the NASDAQ Global Market.
We may market our products, if approved, globally; if we do, we will be subject to the risk of doing business internationally.
We operate and expect to operate in various countries, and we may not be able to market our products in, or develop new products successfully for, these markets. We may also encounter other risks of doing business internationally including but not limited to:
|●||unexpected changes in, or impositions of, legislative or regulatory requirements;|
|●||efforts to develop an international sales, marketing and distribution organization may increase our expenses, divert our management’s attention from the acquisition or development of drug candidates or cause us to forgo profitable licensing opportunities in these geographies;|
|●||the occurrence of economic weakness, including inflation or political instability;|
|●||the effects of applicable non-U.S. tax structures and potentially adverse tax consequences;|
|●||differences in protection of our IP rights including patent rights of other parties;|
|●||the burden of complying with a variety of foreign laws including difficulties in effective enforcement of contractual provisions;|
|●||delays resulting from difficulty in obtaining export licenses, tariffs and other barriers and restrictions, potentially longer payment cycles, greater difficulty in accounts receivable collection and potentially adverse tax treatment; and|
|●||production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad.|
In addition, we are subject to general geopolitical risks in foreign countries where we operate, such as political and economic instability and changes in diplomatic and trade relationships, which could affect, among other things, customers’ inventory levels and consumer purchasing, which could cause our results to fluctuate and our net sales to decline. The occurrence of any one or more of these risks of doing business internationally, individually or in the aggregate, could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
If we engage in future acquisitions or strategic partnerships, this may increase our capital requirements, dilute our shareholders, cause us to incur debt or assume contingent liabilities, and subject us to other risks.
We may evaluate various acquisitions and strategic partnerships, including licensing or acquiring complementary products, IP rights, technology or businesses. Any potential acquisition or strategic partnership may entail numerous risks, including, but not limited to:
|●||increase in operating expenses and cash requirements;|
|●||the assumption of additional indebtedness or contingent liabilities;|
|●||the issuance of our equity securities;|
|●||assimilation of operations, IP and products of an acquired company, including difficulties associated with integrating new personnel;|
|●||the diversion of our management’s attention from our existing product programs and initiatives in pursuing such a strategic merger or acquisition;|
|●||retention of key employees, the loss of key personnel, and uncertainties in our ability to maintain key business relationships;|
|●||risks and uncertainties associated with the other party to such a transaction, including the prospects of that party and their existing drugs or drug and diagnostics technology candidates and regulatory approvals; and|
|●||our inability to generate revenue from acquired technology and/or products sufficient to meet our objectives in undertaking the acquisition or even to offset the associated acquisition and maintenance costs.|
In addition, if we undertake 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 expense. 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.
If we fail to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), or other anti-bribery laws, including the Bribery Act 2010 of the United Kingdom (UK Bribery Act”), our reputation may be harmed and we could be subject to penalties and significant expenses that have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are subject to the FCPA. The FCPA and UK Bribery Act generally prohibits us from making improper payments to non-U.S. officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or other benefits. We are also subject to the anti-bribery laws of other jurisdictions, particularly the PRC. As our business expands, the applicability of the FCPA and other anti-bribery laws to our operations will increase. Our procedures and controls to monitor anti-bribery compliance may fail to protect us from reckless or criminal acts committed by our employees or agents. If we, due to either our own deliberate or inadvertent acts or those of others, fail to comply with applicable anti-bribery laws, our reputation could be harmed and we could incur criminal or civil penalties, other sanctions and/or significant expenses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, including our financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and prospects.
Our business and results of operations may be negatively impacted by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
On June 23, 2016, the UK held a referendum in which a majority of voters approved an exit from the EU, or Brexit, and the UK formally left the EU on January 31, 2020. There was a transition period during which EU pharmaceutical laws continued to apply to the UK, which expired on December 31, 2020. However, the EU and the UK have concluded a trade and cooperation agreement, or TCA, which was provisionally applicable since January 1, 2021 and has been formally applicable since May 1, 2021. The TCA includes specific provisions concerning pharmaceuticals, which include the mutual recognition of GMP, inspections of manufacturing facilities for medicinal products and GMP documents issued, but does not foresee wholesale mutual recognition of UK and EU pharmaceutical regulations. At present, Great Britain has implemented EU legislation on the marketing, promotion and sale of medicinal products through the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (as amended) (under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the EU regulatory framework will continue to apply in Northern Ireland). The regulatory regime in Great Britain therefore currently aligns in the most part with EU regulations, however it is possible that these regimes will diverge in the future now that Great Britain’s regulatory system is independent from the EU and the TCA does not provide for mutual recognition of UK and EU pharmaceutical legislation. For example, the new Clinical Trials Regulation which became effective in the EU on January 31, 2022 and provides for a streamlined clinical trial application and assessment procedure covering multiple EU Member States has not been implemented into UK law, and a separate application will need to be submitted for clinical trial authorization in the UK. In addition, as we are headquartered in the UK, it is possible that Brexit may impact some or all of our current operations. For example, Brexit will impact our ability to freely move employees from our headquarters in the UK to other locations in the EU. Furthermore, if other EU Member States pursue withdrawal, barrier-free access among the EEA overall could be diminished or eliminated.
The long-term effects of Brexit will depend in part on how the terms of the TCA continue to take effect in practice and the terms of any further agreements the UK makes with the EU. Such a withdrawal from the EU is unprecedented, and it is unclear how the restrictions on the UK’s access to the European single market for goods, capital, services and labor, or single market, and the wider commercial, legal and regulatory environment, will impact our future operations (including business activities conducted by third parties and contract manufacturers on our behalf) and clinical activities in the UK in the long term.
If we commence clinical trials of one of our drug or diagnostics technology candidates, and product liability lawsuits are brought against us, we may incur substantial liabilities and the commercialization of such drug or diagnostics technology candidates may be affected.
If any of our drug or diagnostics technology candidates enter clinical trials, we will face an inherent risk of product liability suits and will face an even greater risk if we obtain approval to commercialize any drugs. For example, we may be sued if our drug candidates cause or are perceived to cause injury or are found to be otherwise unsuitable during clinical testing, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the drug, negligence, strict liability or a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we may incur substantial liabilities or be required to limit commercialization of our drug candidates. Even successful defense would require significant financial and management resources. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:
|●||decreased demand for our drugs;|
|●||injury to our reputation;|
|●||withdrawal of clinical trial participants and inability to continue clinical trials;|
|●||initiation of investigations by regulators;|
|●||costs to defend the related litigation;|
|●||a diversion of management’s time and our resources;|
|●||substantial monetary awards to trial participants or patients;|
|●||product recalls, withdrawals or labeling, marketing or promotional restrictions;|
|●||loss of revenue;|
|●||exhaustion of any available insurance and our capital resources;|
|●||the inability to commercialize any drug candidate; and|
|●||a decline in the price of our Class A Ordinary Shares.|
We shall seek to obtain the appropriate insurance once our candidates are ready for clinical trial. However, our inability to obtain sufficient product liability insurance at an acceptable cost to protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the commercialization of drugs we develop, alone or with collaborators. We currently do not have in place product liability insurance and although we plan to have in place such insurance as and when the products are ready for commercialization, as well as insurance covering clinical trials, the amount of such insurance coverage may not be adequate, we may be unable to maintain such insurance, or we may not be able to obtain additional or replacement insurance at a reasonable cost, if at all. Our insurance policies may also have various exclusions, and we may be subject to a product liability claim for which we have no coverage. We may have to pay any amounts awarded by a court or negotiated in a settlement that exceed our coverage limitations or that are not covered by our insurance, and we may not have, or be able to obtain, sufficient capital to pay such amounts. Even if our agreements with any future corporate collaborators entitle us to indemnification against losses, such indemnification may not be available or adequate should any claim arise.
Additionally, we may be sued if the products that we commercialize, market or sell cause or are perceived to cause injury or are found to be otherwise unsuitable, and may result in:
|●||decreased demand for those products;|
|●||damage to our reputation;|
|●||costs incurred related to product recalls;|
|●||limiting our opportunities to enter into future commercial partnership; and|
|●||a decline in the price of our Class A Ordinary Shares.|
Our insurance coverage may be inadequate to protect us against losses.
We currently maintain property insurance for our office premises (including two units of server and accessories). We hold employer’s liability insurance generally covering death or work-related injury of employees; we maintain “Office Care Plan Insurance” for those persons working in our offices and “Medical Plan” for our employee. We hold public liability insurance covering certain incidents involving unrelated parties that occur on or in the premises of the Company. We have directors and officers liability insurance. We do not have key-man life insurance on any of our senior management or key personnel, or business interruption insurance. Our insurance coverage may be insufficient to cover any claim for product liability, damage to our fixed assets or employee injuries. If any claims for damage are brought against us, or if we experience any business disruption, litigation or natural disaster, we might incur substantial costs and diversion of resources.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could result in foreign currency exchange losses
Our operations and equity are funded in U.S. dollars and we currently incur the majority of our expenses in U.S. dollars or in H.K. dollars. H.K. dollar is currently pegged to the U.S. dollar; however, we cannot guarantee that such peg will continue to be in place in the future. Our exposure to foreign exchange risk primarily relates to the limited cash denominated in currencies other than the functional currencies of each entity and limited revenue contracts dominated in H.K. dollars in certain Hong Kong operating entities. We do not believe that we currently have any significant direct foreign exchange risk and have not hedged exposures denominated in foreign currencies or any other derivative financial instruments.
If we are exposed to foreign currency exchange risk as our results of operations, cash flows maybe subject to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. For example, if a significant portion of our clinical trial activities may be conducted outside of the United States, and associated costs may be incurred in the local currency of the country in which the trial is being conducted, which costs could be subject to fluctuations in currency exchange rates. We currently do not engage in hedging transactions to protect against uncertainty in future exchange rates between particular foreign currencies and the U.S. dollar. A decline in the value of the U.S. dollar against currencies in countries in which we conduct clinical trials could have a negative impact on our research and development costs. Foreign currency fluctuations are unpredictable and may adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Our investments are subject to risks that could result in losses.
We had unrestricted cash of $1.88 million, $8.13 million, and $3.50 million as of December 31, 2022, 2021, and 2020, respectively. We may invest our cash in a variety of financial instruments. All of these investments are subject to credit, liquidity, market and interest rate risk. Such risks, including the failure or severe financial distress of the financial institutions that hold our cash, cash equivalents and investments, may result in a loss of liquidity, impairment to our investments, realization of substantial future losses, or a complete loss of the investments in the long-term, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, liquidity and financial condition. While we believe our cash position does not expose us to excessive risk, future investments may be subject to adverse changes in market value.
We are exposed to risks associated with our computer hardware, network security and data storage.
Similar to all other computer network users, our computer network system is vulnerable to attack of computer virus, worms, trojan horses, hackers or other similar computer network disruptive problems. Any failure in safeguarding our computer network system from these disruptive problems may cause breakdown of our computer network system and leakage of confidential information of the Company. Any failure in the protection of our computer network system from external threat may disrupt our operation and may damage our reputation for any breach of confidentiality to our customers, which in turn may adversely affect our business operation and performance. In the event that our confidential information is stolen and misused, we may become exposed to potential risks of losses from litigation and possible liability.
In addition, we are highly dependent on our IT infrastructure to store research data and information and manage our business operations. We do not backup all data on a real-time basis and the effectiveness of our business operations may be materially affected by any failure in our IT infrastructure. If our communications and IT systems do not function properly, or if there is any partial or complete failure of our systems, we could suffer financial losses, business disruption or damage to our reputation.
Business disruptions could seriously harm our future revenue and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses.
Our operations, and those of our research institution collaborators, CROs, suppliers and other contractors and consultants, could be subject to supply chain disruptions, earthquakes, power shortages, telecommunications failures, damage from computer viruses, material computer system failures, water shortages, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, fires, extreme weather conditions, medical epidemics and other natural or man-made disasters or business interruptions. In addition, we partially rely on our research institution collaborators for conducting research and development of our drug candidates, and they may be affected by government shutdowns or withdrawn funding. The occurrence of any of these business disruptions could seriously harm our operations and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses. We rely on contract manufacturers to produce and process our drug candidates. Our ability to obtain clinical supplies of our drug candidates could be disrupted if the operations of these suppliers are affected by a man-made or natural disaster or other business interruption. A large portion of our contract manufacturer’s operations is located in a single facility. Damage or extended periods of interruption to our corporate or our contract manufacturer’s development or research facilities due to fire, natural disaster, power loss, communications failure, unauthorized entry or other events could cause us to cease or delay development of some or all of our drug candidates.
We may be exposed to various risks related to the regulatory environment of the pharmaceutical industry in the PRC.
We have sold NativusWell® through JD.com in China since 2023; we are the exclusive licensee to certain PRC patents directed to our drug candidates; and we also intend to file application for certain products in the PRC. The pharmaceutical industry in the PRC is subject to comprehensive government regulation and supervision, encompassing the approval, registration, manufacturing, packaging, licensing and marketing of new drugs. (See “Item 4. Information on the Company – B. Business Overview – Regulations”). In recent years, the regulatory framework in the PRC regarding the pharmaceutical industry has undergone significant changes, and we expect that it will continue to undergo significant changes. Any such changes or amendments may result in increased compliance costs on our business or cause delays in or prevent the successful development or commercialization of our drug candidates in the PRC and reduce the current benefits that we believe are available to us from developing and manufacturing drugs in the PRC. Chinese authorities have become increasingly vigilant in enforcing laws in the pharmaceutical industry and any failure by us or our partners to maintain compliance with applicable laws and regulations or obtain and maintain required licenses and permits may result in the suspension or termination of our business activities in the PRC. We believe our strategy and approach is aligned with the PRC government’s policies, but we cannot ensure that our strategy and approach will continue to be aligned.
Changes in the political and economic policies of the PRC government may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and may result in our inability to sustain our growth and expansion strategies. Our financial condition and results of operation in the PRC could be materially and adversely affected by government control over capital investments or changes in tax regulations that are applicable to us, and consequently have a material adverse effect on our businesses, financial condition and results of operations.
If the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or the PCAOB, is unable to inspect our auditors as required under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, the SEC will prohibit the trading of our Class A Ordinary Shares. A trading prohibition for our Class A Ordinary Shares, or the threat of a trading prohibition, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment. Additionally, the inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of our auditors would deprive our investors of the benefits of such inspections.
The U.S. Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCA Act, was enacted into law on December 18, 2020. Under the HFCA Act, if the SEC determines that we have filed audit reports issued by a registered public accounting firm that has not been subject to inspection by the PCAOB for three consecutive years, the SEC will prohibit our securities, including our Class A Ordinary Shares, from being traded on a U.S. national securities exchange, including NASDAQ, or in the over-the-counter trading market in the U.S. Furthermore, on June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the AHFCAA, which, if signed into law, would amend the HFCA Act and require the SEC to prohibit an issuer’s securities from trading on any U.S. stock exchanges if its auditor is not subject to the PCAOB inspections for two consecutive years instead of three consecutive years, thus reducing the time period for triggering the prohibition on trading. On September 22, 2021, the PCAOB adopted a final rule implementing the HFCA Act, which provides a framework for the PCAOB to use when determining, as contemplated under the HFCA Act, whether the Board is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms located in a foreign jurisdiction because of a position taken by one or more authorities in that jurisdiction. On November 5, 2021, the SEC approved the PCAOB’s Rule 6100, Board Determinations Under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act. Rule 6100 provides a framework for the PCAOB to use when determining, as contemplated under the HFCA Act, whether it is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms located in a foreign jurisdiction because of a position taken by one or more authorities in that jurisdiction. On December 2, 2021, the SEC issued amendments to finalize rules implementing the submission and disclosure requirements in the HFCA Act. The rules apply to registrants that the SEC identifies as having filed an annual report with an audit report issued by a registered public accounting firm that is located in a foreign jurisdiction and that PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely because of a position taken by an authority in foreign jurisdictions. The process for implementing trading prohibitions pursuant to the HFCA Acts will be based on a list of registered public accounting firms that the PCAOB has been unable to inspect and investigate completely as a result of a position taken by a non-U.S. government, or the Relevant Jurisdiction, and such identified auditors, the PCAOB Identified Firms. The first list of PCAOB Identified Firms was included in a release by the PCAOB on December 16, 2021, or the PCAOB December 2021 Release. The SEC will review annual reports filed with it for fiscal years beginning after December 18, 2020 to determine if the auditor used for such reports was so identified by the PCAOB, and such issuers will be designated as “Commission Identified Issuers” on a list to be published by the SEC. If an issuer is a Commission Identified Issuer for two consecutive years (which will be determined after the second such annual report), the SEC will issue a trading order that will implement prohibitions described above.
On December 29, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, was signed into law by President Biden. The Consolidated Appropriations Act contained, among other things, an identical provision to AHFCAA, which reduce the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the HFCA Act from three years to two.
Our current independent accounting firm, Marcum Asia CPAs LLP (formerly known as Marcum Bernstein & Pinchuk LLP), whose audit report is included in this annual report on Form 20-F, is headquartered in Manhattan, New York, and was not included in the list of PCAOB Identified Firms in the PCAOB December 2021 Release. Our ability to retain an auditor subject to PCAOB inspection and investigation, including but not limited to inspection of the audit working papers related to us, may depend on the relevant positions of U.S. and Chinese regulators. Marcum Asia CPAs LLP’s audit working papers related to us are located in China. With respect to audits of companies with operations in China, such as the Company, there are uncertainties about the ability of our auditor to fully cooperate with a request by the PCAOB for audit working papers in China without the approval of Chinese authorities. If in the future Marcum Asia CPAs LLP is included in the list of PCAOB Identified Firms and we are unable to retain a PCAOB-registered auditor subject to PCAOB inspection and investigation, a trading prohibition for our Class A Ordinary Shares could be issued shortly after our filing of the second consecutive annual report on Form 20-F for which we have retained a PCAOB Identified Firm.
If our Class A Ordinary Shares are subject to a trading prohibition under the HFCA Act, the price of our Class A Ordinary Shares may be adversely affected, and the threat of such a trading prohibition would also adversely affect their price. If we are unable to be listed on another securities exchange that provides sufficient liquidity, such a trading prohibition may substantially impair your ability to sell or purchase our Class A Ordinary Shares when you wish to do so. Furthermore, if we are able to maintain a listing of our Class A Ordinary Shares on a non-U.S. exchange, investors owning our Class A Ordinary Shares may have to take additional steps to engage in transactions on that exchange, including establishing non-U.S. brokerage accounts.
The HFCA Act also imposes additional certification and disclosure requirements for Commission Identified Issuers, and these requirements apply to issuers in the year following their listing as Commission Identified Issuers. The additional requirements include a certification that the issuer is not owned or controlled by a governmental entity in the Relevant Jurisdiction, and the additional requirements for annual reports include disclosure that the issuer’s financials were audited by a firm not subject to PCAOB inspection, disclosure on governmental entities in the Relevant Jurisdiction’s ownership in and controlling financial interest in the issuer, the names of Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, members on the board of the issuer or its operating entities, and whether the issuer’s article’s include a charter of the CCP, including the text of such charter.
In addition to the issues under the HFCA discussed above, the PCAOB’s inability to conduct inspections in China and Hong Kong prevents it from fully evaluating the audits and quality control procedures of the independent registered public accounting firm, consequently, investors would be deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections. Our current independent registered public accounting firm, Marcum Asia CPAs LLP, is headquartered in Manhattan, New York, and has been inspected by the PCAOB on a regular basis with the last inspection in 2020. However, in the event it is later determined that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely our auditor because of a position taken by an authority in a foreign jurisdiction, then such lack of inspection could cause trading in our securities to be prohibited under the HFCA Act, and ultimately result in a determination by a securities exchange to delist our Class A Ordinary Shares.
The SEC could take the position that we are an “investment company” subject to the extensive requirements of the Investment Company Act of 1940. Such a characterization and the associated compliance requirements could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Our business had historically included passive healthcare related investments in early stage companies primarily in the United States. Although we are in the process of liquidating those securities that remain in our portfolio, we still hold some such investments and these are included as assets of our Company on a consolidated basis. As part of the Restructure, we resolved to exit such portfolio investments over an appropriate timeframe and focus our resources on our current business. Since the date of the Restructure, we have not held ourselves out as an investment company and we do not believe we are an “investment company” under the Investment Company Act of 1940. If the SEC or a court, however, were to disagree with us, we could be required to register as an investment company. This would subject us to disclosure and accounting rules geared toward investment companies, rather than operating companies, which may limit our ability to borrow money, issue options, issue multiple classes of stock and debt, and engage in transactions with affiliates, and may require us to undertake significant costs and expenses to meet the disclosure and regulatory requirements to which we would be subject as a registered investment company.
If we are classified as a passive foreign investment company for U.S. federal income tax purposes, United States holders of our Class A Ordinary Shares may be subject to adverse United States federal income tax consequences.
A non-U.S. corporation will be a passive foreign investment company (“PFIC”) for U.S. federal income tax purposes, for such year, if either
|●||At least 75% of its gross income for such year is passive income; or|
|●||The average percentage of our assets (determined at the end of each quarter) during such year which produce passive income or which are held for the production of passive income is at least 50%.|
Passive income generally includes dividends, interests, rents and royalties (other than rents or royalties derived from the active conduct of a trade or business) and gains from the disposition of passive assets.
A separate determination must be made after the close of each taxable year as to whether a non-U.S. corporation is a PFIC for that year. For purposes of the PFIC analysis, in general, a non-U.S. corporation is deemed to own its pro rata share of the gross income and assets of any entity in which it is considered to own at least 25% of the equity by value. Based on the current and anticipated value of our assets, we believe we were a PFIC for U.S. federal income tax purposes for our taxable year ending December 31, 2022, and we may be a PFIC for U.S. federal income tax purposes for our current taxable year ending December 31, 2023.
In determining whether we are a PFIC, cash and investments are considered by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) to be a passive asset. During our taxable year ending December 31, 2022, we believe that the amount of restricted and unrestricted cash we had on hand and investments were greater than 50% of our total assets. The composition of our assets during the current taxable year may cause us to continue to be classified as a PFIC. The determination of whether we will be a PFIC for our current taxable year or a future year may depend in part upon how quickly we spend our liquid assets, and on the value of our goodwill and other unbooked intangibles not reflected on our balance sheet, which may depend upon the market value of our Class A Ordinary Shares from time to time. Further, while we will endeavor to use a classification methodology and valuation approach that is reasonable, the IRS may challenge our classification or valuation of our goodwill and other unbooked intangibles for purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC in the current or one or more future taxable years.
If we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. Holder owns our Class A Ordinary Shares or warrants, certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences could apply to such U.S. Holder. As discussed under “Taxation – Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations for U.S. Holders – Passive Foreign Investment Company Rules”, a U.S. Holder may be able to make certain tax elections that would lessen the adverse impact of PFIC status; however, in order to make such elections the U.S. holder will usually have to have been provided information about the company by us, and there is no assurance that the company will provide such information.
For a more detailed discussion of the application of the PFIC rules to us and the consequences to U.S. holders if we were determined to be a PFIC. (See “Item 10. Additional Information – E. Taxation – Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations for U.S. Holders – Passive Foreign Investment Company Rules”)
Our results of operation may be negatively affected should the 2019-nCov virus (Coronavirus) continue to spread on a wider scale.
Our business could be adversely affected by the effects of a widespread outbreak of contagious disease, including the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. Any outbreak of contagious diseases, and other adverse public health developments, particularly in China, could have a material and adverse effect on our business operations. These could include disruptions or restrictions on our ability to travel or to distribute our products, as well as temporary closures of our facilities or the facilities of our suppliers or customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly evolve. The extent to which the outbreak impacts our business, preclinical studies and clinical trials will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the ultimate geographic spread of the disease, the duration of the pandemic, travel restrictions and social distancing in various countries, business closures or business disruptions and the effectiveness of actions taken to contain and treat the disease. If we or any of the third parties with whom we engage were to experience shutdowns, undergo the compulsory universal testing by the HKSAR Government or other business disruptions, our ability to conduct our business in the manner and on the timelines presently planned could be materially and negatively impacted.
In addition, the trading prices for our Class A Ordinary Shares and other biopharmaceutical companies have been highly volatile as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we may face difficulties raising capital through sales of our securities or such sales may be on unfavorable terms.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, or other pandemic, epidemic or outbreak of an infectious disease may materially and adversely impact our preclinical studies and clinical trials.
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, or similar pandemics, we have and may in the future experience disruptions that could materially and adversely impact our manufacturing, preclinical development activities, preclinical studies and planned clinical trial. Potential disruptions include but are not limited to:
|●||delays or difficulties in enrolling patients in our clinical trials, should the relevant clinical trials be approved;|
|●||delays or difficulties in initiating or expanding clinical trials, including delays or difficulties with clinical site initiation and recruiting clinical site investigators and clinical site staff;|
|●||increased rates of patients withdrawing from our clinical trials following enrollment as a result of contracting COVID-19 or other health conditions or being forced to quarantine;|
|●||diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials, including the diversion of hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials;|
|●||interruption of key clinical trial activities, such as clinical trial site data monitoring, due to limitations on travel imposed or recommended by governments, employers and others or interruption of clinical trial subject visits and study procedures, which may impact the integrity of subject data and clinical study endpoints;|
|●||interruption or delays in the operations of the FDA or other regulatory authorities, which may impact review and approval timelines for regulatory submission and trial initiation;|
|●||interruption or delays in our CROs and collaborators meeting expected deadlines or complying with regulatory requirements related to preclinical development activities, preclinical studies and planned clinical trials;|
|●||delays or disruptions in preclinical experiments and investigational new drug application-enabling or clinical trial application-enabling studies due to restrictions of on-site staff and unforeseen circumstances at contract research organizations and vendors;|
|●||interruption of, or delays in receiving, supplies of our product candidates from our contract manufacturing organizations due to staffing shortages, production slowdowns or stoppages and disruptions in delivery systems;|
|●||limitations on our ability to recruit and hire key personnel due to our inability to meet with candidates because of travel restrictions and “shelter in place” orders;|
|●||limitations on employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including because of sickness of employees or their families or the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people; and|
|●||interruption or delays to our sourced discovery and clinical activities.|
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
One of our directors controls a majority of our voting shares.
One of our Non-Executive Directors and former CEO, Mr. Ian Huen, and his affiliates, over which he is deemed to have control and/or have substantial influence, has voting rights with respect to an aggregate of 2,068,627 Ordinary Shares, on an as converted basis (462,480 Class A Ordinary Shares and 1,606,147 Class B Ordinary Shares), representing approximately 71% of the voting power of our outstanding ordinary shares as of the date hereof. As a result, Mr. Huen has the ability to control the outcome of matters submitted to our shareholders for approval, including the election of directors and any merger, consolidation, or sale of all or substantially all of our assets. Additionally, in the event that Mr. Huen controls our company at the time of his death, control may be transferred to a person or entity that he designates as his successor. As a board member, Mr. Huen owes a fiduciary duty to our shareholders and must act in good faith in a manner he reasonably believes to be in the best interests of our shareholders. As a shareholder, even a controlling shareholder, Mr. Huen is entitled to vote his shares, and shares over which he has voting control as a result of voting agreements, in his own interests, which may not always be in the interests of our shareholders generally.
As a “controlled company” under the rules of the NASDAQ Global Market, we may choose to exempt our company from certain corporate governance requirements that could have an adverse effect on our public shareholders.
Our directors and officers beneficially own a majority of the voting power of our outstanding Class A Ordinary Shares. Under the Rule 4350(c) of the NASDAQ Global Market, a company of which more than 50% of the voting power is held by an individual, group or another company is a “controlled company” and may elect not to comply with certain corporate governance requirements, including the requirement that a majority of our directors be independent, as defined in the NASDAQ Global Market Rules, and the requirement that our compensation and nominating and corporate governance committees consist entirely of independent directors. Although we do not intend to rely on the “controlled company” exemption under the Nasdaq listing rules, we could elect to rely on this exemption in the future. If we elect to rely on the “controlled company” exemption, a majority of the members of our board of directors might not be independent directors and our nominating and corporate governance and compensation committees might not consist entirely of independent directors. Accordingly, during any time while we remain a controlled company relying on the exemption and during any transition period following a time when we are no longer a controlled company, you would not have the same protections afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to all of the NASDAQ Global Market corporate governance requirements. Our status as a controlled company could cause our Class A Ordinary Share to look less attractive to certain investors or otherwise harm our trading price.
We may not be able to consolidate the financial results of some of our affiliated companies or such consolidation could materially adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.
The Company has three VIEs which are incorporated under the laws of Cayman Islands and conduct operations in Hong Kong. The Company currently consolidates two of those VIEs since the Group has a variable interest in them and is determined to be the primary beneficiary of those two VIEs under U.S. GAAP. This determination is based on whether the Group has a variable interest (or combination of variable interests) that provides the Company with (a) the power to direct the activities that most significantly impact the VIEs’ economic performance and (b) the obligation to absorb losses or right to receive benefits that could be potentially significant to the VIE. The Group continually reassesses whether it is the primary beneficiary of a VIE throughout the entire period the Group is involved with the VIE. According to those standards, we determined that we have the power to manage and make decisions that affect Mios and Scipio’s research and development activities, which activities most significantly impact Mios and Scipio’s economic performance. However, we do not have such power over Libra’s research and development activities, which activities most significantly impact Libra’s economic performance. Accordingly, we determined that we are the primary beneficiary of Mios and Scipio, but not the primary beneficiary of Libra. As a result, Mios and Scipio’s financial results are consolidated in our consolidated financial statements. In the event that in the future the VIEs no longer meet the definition of a VIE, or we are deemed not to be the primary beneficiary of the VIE for accounting purpose, we would not be able to consolidate line by line that VIE’s financial results in our consolidated financial statements. Also, if in the future an affiliate company becomes a VIE and we become the primary beneficiary of it for accounting purposes, we would be required to consolidate that entity’s financial results in our consolidated financial statements. If such entity’s financial results were negative, this could have a corresponding negative impact on our operating results.
The economic substance legislation of the Cayman Islands may adversely impact us or our operations.
The Company is subject to Cayman Islands economic substance legislation (“ESA”) requiring that where the Company carries on a relevant activity (as defined in the ESA) it must maintain economic substance within the Cayman Islands, including adequate premises and employees within the Cayman Islands. As an entity subject to the ESA, the Company is required to assess its operations to determine the required compliance (if any) with the ESA, to file an annual notification with the Cayman Islands Registrar of Companies disclosing whether the Company is carrying out any relevant activities within the meaning of the ESA and an annual return with the Department of International Tax Co-Operation. Where applicable, the Company must establish that its operations satisfy the economic substance requirements of the ESA. The Company is required to monitor its operations to ensure it remains in compliance with all requirements under the ESA. Failure to satisfy these requirements may subject the Company to penalties under the ESA.
EU AML High-Risk Third Countries List
On March 13, 2022, the European Commission (“EC”) updated its list of ‘high-risk third countries’ (“EU AML List”) identified as having strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing regimes to add nine countries, including the Cayman Islands. The EC has noted it is committed to there being a greater alignment between the EU AML List and the FATF listing process. The addition of the Cayman Islands to the EU AML List is a direct result of the inclusion of the Cayman Islands on the FATF grey list in February 2021. It is unclear how long this designation will remain in place and what ramifications, if any, the designation will have for the Company.
The Financial Action Task Force has increased monitoring of the Cayman Islands.
In February 2021, the Cayman Islands was added to the Financial Action Task Force (“FATF”) list of jurisdictions whose anti-money laundering practices are under increased monitoring, commonly referred to as the “FATF grey list.” When the FATF places a jurisdiction under increased monitoring, it means the country has committed to resolve swiftly the identified strategic deficiencies within agreed timeframes and is subject to increased monitoring during that timeframe. In its October 2021 and October 2022 plenary, the FATF recognized the progress made by the Cayman Islands to improve its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime. Despite this recognition, it is still unclear how long this designation will remain in place and what ramifications, if any, the designation will have for the Company.
Risks Related to our Securities
If we fail to comply with the continued listing requirements of NASDAQ, we would face possible delisting, which would result in a limited public market for our shares and make obtaining future debt or equity financing more difficult for us.
On February 8, 2023, the Company received a deficiency letter from the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Department (the “Staff”) of the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (“Nasdaq”) notifying the Company that the Company does not meet the minimum Market Value of Publicly Held Shares (“MVPHS”) of $5,000,000 for the previous 30 consecutive business days. The Nasdaq deficiency letter has no immediate effect on the listing of the Company’s Class A Ordinary Shares, and its Class A Ordinary Shares will continue to trade on The Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “APM” at this time.
In accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5810(c)(3)(D), the Company has been given 180 calendar days, or until August 7, 2023, to regain compliance with Rule 5450(b)(1)(C). If at any time before August 7, 2023, the MVPHS closes at $5,000,000 or more for a minimum of ten consecutive business days, the Staff will provide written confirmation that the Company has achieved compliance and the matter will be closed.
If the Company does not regain compliance with Rule 5450(b)(1)(C) by August 7, 2023, the Company will receive written notification that its securities are subject to delisting and the Company may appeal the delisting determination to a Hearing’s Panel. Alternatively, the Company may consider applying to transfer the Class A Ordinary Shares to The Nasdaq Capital Market. The Company intends to remain on the Nasdaq Global Market and will actively monitor its MVPHS and will consider available options to resolve the deficiency and regain compliance with Rule 5450(b)(1)(C).
If the Company fails to regain compliance with any other listing rules when required in the future, we could be subject to suspension and delisting proceedings. If our securities lose their status on the Nasdaq Capital Market, our securities would likely trade in the over-the-counter market. If our securities were to trade on the over-the-counter market, selling our securities could be more difficult because smaller quantities of securities would likely be bought and sold, transactions could be delayed, and security analysts’ coverage of us may be reduced. In addition, in the event our securities are delisted, broker-dealers have certain regulatory burdens imposed upon them, which may discourage broker-dealers from effecting transactions in our securities, further limiting the liquidity of our securities. These factors could result in lower prices and larger spreads in the bid and ask prices for our securities. Such delisting from the NASDAQ Capital Market and continued or further declines in our share price could also greatly impair our ability to raise additional necessary capital through equity or debt financing, and could significantly increase the ownership dilution to shareholders caused by our issuing equity in financing or other transactions.
Class A Ordinary Shares eligible for future sale may adversely affect the market price of our Class A Ordinary Shares if the shares are successfully listed on NASDAQ or other stock markets, as the future sale of a substantial amount of outstanding Class A Ordinary Shares in the public marketplace could reduce the price of our Class A Ordinary Shares.
The market price of our Class A Ordinary Shares could decline as a result of sales of substantial amounts of our Class A Ordinary Shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur. In addition, these factors could make it more difficult for us to raise funds through future offerings of our Class A Ordinary Shares. An aggregate of 1,719,522 Class A Ordinary Shares are outstanding as of the date of this annual report. 860,989 of the Class A Ordinary Shares are freely transferable without restriction or further registration under the Securities Act. The remaining Class A Ordinary Shares will be “restricted securities” as defined in Rule 144. These Class A Ordinary Shares may be sold without registration under the Securities Act to the extent permitted by Rule 144 or other exemptions under the Securities Act.
A sale or perceived sale of a substantial number of our Ordinary Shares may cause the price of our Class A Ordinary Shares to decline.
If our shareholders sell substantial amounts of our Class A Ordinary Shares in the public market, the market price of our Class A Ordinary Shares could fall. Moreover, the perceived risk of this potential dilution could cause shareholders to attempt to sell their shares and investors to short our Class A Ordinary Shares. These sales also may make it more difficult for us to sell equity or equity-related securities in the future at a time and price that we deem reasonable or appropriate.
Issuances by us of additional securities, could affect ownership and voting rights over us. In addition, the issuance of preferred shares, or options or warrants to purchase those preferred shares, could negatively impact the value of the Ordinary Shares as the result of preferential dividend rights, conversion rights, redemption rights and liquidation provisions granted to the stockholders of such preferred shares.
From time to time, we may issue in public or private sales additional securities to third party investors. Such securities may provide holders with ownership and voting rights that could provide the holders thereof with substantial influence over our business. Any preferred shares that may be issued shall have such rights, preferences, privileges and restrictions as may be designated from time-to-time by our board, including preferential dividend rights, voting rights, conversion rights, redemption rights and liquidation provisions. There cannot be any assurance that we will not issue preferred securities with rights and preferences that are more beneficial than those provided to our Ordinary Shares.
We have not paid dividends in the past and do not expect to pay dividends in the future, and any return on investment may be limited to the value of our shares.
We have never paid any cash dividends on our Class A Ordinary Shares and do not anticipate paying any cash dividends on our Class A Ordinary Shares in the foreseeable future, and any return on investment may be limited to the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares. We plan to retain any future earnings to finance growth.
Our dividend policy is subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors and will depend on, among other things, our earnings, financial condition, capital requirements and other factors. There is no assurance that our Board of Directors will declare dividends even if we are profitable. Under Cayman Islands law, dividends may be declared and paid only out of funds legally available therefor, namely out of either profit or our share premium account, and provided further that a dividend may not be paid if this would result in our Company being unable to pay its debts as they fall due in the ordinary course of business and the realizable value of assets of our Company will not be less than the sum of our total liabilities, other than deferred taxes as shown on our books of account, and our capital.
Our Class B Ordinary Shares have greater voting power than our Class A Ordinary Shares and certain existing shareholders have substantial influence over our Company and their interests may not be aligned with the interests of our other shareholders.
We have a dual-class voting structure consisting of Class A Ordinary Shares and Class B Ordinary Shares. Under this structure, holders of Class A Ordinary Shares are entitled to one vote per share, and holders of Class B Ordinary Shares are entitled to one hundred votes per share, which can cause the holders of Class B Ordinary Shares to have an unbalanced, higher concentration of voting power. Our management team as a group beneficially owns over 1.8 million Class B Ordinary Shares representing approximately 81% voting power. As a result, until such time as their collective voting power is below 50%, our management team as a group of controlling shareholders have substantial influence over our business, including decisions regarding mergers, consolidations and the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, election of directors and other significant corporate actions. They may take actions that are not in the best interests of us or our other shareholders. These corporate actions may be taken even if they are opposed by our other shareholders. Further, concentration of ownership of our Class B Ordinary Shares may discourage, prevent or delay the consummation of change of control transactions that shareholders may consider favorable, including transactions in which shareholders might otherwise receive a premium for their shares. Future issuances of Class B Ordinary Shares may also be dilutive to the holders of Class A Ordinary Shares. As a result, the market price of our Class A Ordinary Shares could be adversely affected.
Shareholders who hold shares of Class B Ordinary Shares, including our executive officers and their affiliates, hold approximately 99% of the voting power of our outstanding ordinary shares. Because of the one hundred-to-one voting ratio between our Class B and Class A Ordinary Shares, the holders of our Class B Ordinary Shares will collectively continue to control a majority of the combined voting power of our Ordinary Shares and therefore be able to control all matters submitted to our shareholders for approval, so long as the Class B Ordinary Shares represent at least 1.0% of all outstanding shares of our Ordinary Shares.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our shareholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our technology or drug and diagnostics technology candidates.
We may seek additional funding through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, licensing arrangements, strategic alliances and marketing or distribution arrangements. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, your ownership interest will be diluted, and the terms may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a holder of our Class A Ordinary Shares. The incurrence of additional indebtedness or the issuance of certain equity securities could result in increased fixed payment obligations, and could also result in certain additional restrictive covenants, such as limitations on our ability to incur additional debt or issue additional equity, limitations on our ability to acquire or license IP rights and other operating restrictions that could adversely impact our ability to conduct our business. In addition, issuance of additional equity securities, or the possibility of such issuance, may cause the market price of our Class A Ordinary Shares to decline. In the event that we enter into collaborations or licensing arrangements to raise capital, we may be required to accept unfavorable terms, including relinquishing or licensing to another party on unfavorable terms our rights to technology or drug and diagnostics technology candidates that we otherwise would seek to develop or commercialize ourselves or potentially reserve for future potential arrangements when we might be able to achieve more favorable terms.
Since we are a Cayman Islands exempted company, the rights of our shareholders may be more limited than those of shareholders of a company organized in the United States.
Our corporate affairs are governed by our Third Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association (as may be amended from time to time) (“Memorandum and Articles”), the Companies Act (2023 Revision) of the Cayman Islands (the “Companies Law”) and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against the directors, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. This common law is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from English common law, which has persuasive, but not binding, authority on a court in the Cayman Islands. Under the laws of some jurisdictions in the United States, majority and controlling shareholders generally have certain fiduciary responsibilities to the minority shareholders. Shareholder action must be taken in good faith, and actions by controlling shareholders which are obviously unreasonable may be declared null and void. Cayman Islands law protecting the interests of minority shareholders may not be as protective in all circumstances as the law protecting minority shareholders in some U.S. jurisdictions. In addition, the circumstances in which a shareholder of a Cayman Islands company may sue the company derivatively, and the procedures and defenses that may be available to the company, may result in the rights of shareholders of a Cayman Islands company being more limited than those of shareholders of a company organized in the United States. Accordingly, shareholders may have fewer alternatives available to them if they believe that corporate wrongdoing has occurred. The Cayman Islands courts are also unlikely to recognize or enforce judgments from U.S. courts based on certain liability provisions of U.S. securities laws that are penal in nature. There is no statutory recognition in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States, although the courts of the Cayman Islands will generally recognize and enforce non-penal judgment of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction for a liquidated sum without retrial on its merits which is not obtained in a manner contrary to public policy in the Cayman Islands and in respect of which there are no concurrent proceedings in the Cayman Islands. This means, even if shareholders were to sue us successfully, they may not be able to recover anything to make up for the losses suffered.
Furthermore, our directors have the power to take certain actions without shareholder approval which would require shareholder approval under the laws of most U.S. jurisdictions. For example, the directors of a Cayman Islands company, without shareholder approval, may implement a sale of any assets, property, part of the business, or securities of the Company.
While Cayman Islands law allows a dissenting shareholder to express the shareholder’s view that a court sanctioned reorganization of a Cayman Islands company would not provide fair value for the shareholder’s shares, Cayman Islands statutory law does not specifically provide for shareholder appraisal rights on a merger or consolidation of a company. This may make it more difficult for you to assess the value of any consideration you may receive in a merger or consolidation or to require that the acquirer gives you additional consideration if you believe the consideration offered is insufficient. However, Cayman Islands’ statutory law does provide a mechanism for a dissenting shareholder in a merger or consolidation to apply to the Grand Court for a determination of the fair value of the dissenter’s shares, if it is not possible for the Company and the dissenter to agree a fair price within the time limits prescribed.
Shareholders of Cayman Islands exempted companies, such as our Company, have no general rights under Cayman Islands’ law to inspect corporate records and accounts or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders. Our directors have discretion under our Memorandum and Articles to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain the information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder motion or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest.
Lastly, under the law of the Cayman Islands, there is little statutory law for the protection of minority shareholders. The principal protection under statutory law is that shareholders may bring an action to enforce the constituent documents of the corporation, our Memorandum and Articles. Shareholders are entitled to have the affairs of the company conducted in accordance with the general law and the memorandum and articles of association.
There are common law rights for the protection of shareholders that may be invoked, largely dependent on English company law, since the common law of the Cayman Islands for business companies is limited. Under the general rule pursuant to English company law known as the rule in Foss v. Harbottle, a court will generally refuse to interfere with the management of a company at the insistence of a minority of its shareholders who express dissatisfaction with the conduct of the company’s affairs by the majority or the board of directors. However, every shareholder is entitled to have the affairs of the company conducted properly according to law and the constituent documents of the company. As such, if those who control the company have persistently disregarded the requirements of company law or the provisions of the company’s memorandum and articles of association, then the courts will grant relief. Generally, the areas in which the courts will intervene are the following: (1) an act complained of which is outside the scope of the authorized business or is illegal or not capable of ratification by the majority; (2) acts that constitute fraud on the minority where the wrongdoers control the company; (3) acts that infringe on the personal rights of the shareholders, such as the right to vote; and (4) where the company has not complied with provisions requiring approval of a special or extraordinary majority of shareholders, which are more limited than the rights afforded minority shareholders under the laws of many states in the United States subject to limited exceptions, under Cayman Islands Law a minority shareholder may not bring a derivative action against directors. Our Cayman Islands’ counsel has advised us that they are aware of one recent as yet unreported derivative action having been brought in a Cayman Islands’ court. Class actions are not recognized in the Cayman Islands, but groups of shareholders with identical interests may bring representative proceedings, which are similar.
As a result, you may be limited in your ability to protect your interests if you are harmed in a manner that would otherwise enable you to sue in a United States federal court. In addition, shareholders of Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in U.S. federal courts.
As a result of all of the above, shareholders of our Company may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by management, members of the board of directors or controlling shareholders than they would have as shareholders of a public U.S. company.
You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through the U.S. federal courts may be limited because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law, we currently conduct substantially all of our operations outside the United States and some of our directors and executive officers reside outside the United States.
We are incorporated in the Cayman Islands and currently conduct substantially all of our operations outside the United States through our subsidiaries. Some of our directors and executive officers reside outside the United States and a substantial portion of their assets are located outside of the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the Cayman Islands, the United Kingdom or in Hong Kong, in the event that you believe that your rights have been infringed under the securities laws of the United States or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers. There is no statutory recognition in the Cayman Islands of judgments obtained in the United States, the United Kingdom or Hong Kong, although the courts of the Cayman Islands will generally recognize and enforce a non-penal judgment of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction without retrial on the merits if such judgment is final, for a liquidated sum, not in the nature of taxes, a fine or penalty, is not inconsistent with a Cayman Islands’ judgment in respect of the same matters, and was not obtained in a manner which is contrary to public policy. In addition, a Cayman Islands court may stay proceedings if concurrent proceedings are being brought elsewhere.
As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to adopt certain home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters that differ significantly from the NASDAQ Global Market corporate governance listing standards. These practices may afford less protection to shareholders than they would enjoy if we complied fully with corporate governance listing standards.
As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to take advantage of certain provisions in the NASDAQ Global Market listing rules that allow us to follow Cayman Islands law for certain governance matters. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands may differ significantly from corporate governance listing standards as, except for general fiduciary duties and duties of care, Cayman Islands law has no corporate governance regime which prescribes specific corporate governance standards. We may follow Cayman Islands corporate governance practices in lieu of the corporate governance requirements of the Nasdaq Global Market in respect of the following. For instance, Cayman law does not require that we obtain shareholder approval to issue 20% or more of our outstanding Ordinary Shares in a private offering nor we make our interim results available to shareholders, although as a NASDAQ listed company we are required to publicly file interim results for the first six months of our fiscal year. Therefore, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would have under corporate governance listing standards applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.
We are an emerging growth company within the meaning of the Securities Act and will take advantage of certain reduced reporting requirements.
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the JOBS Act and take advantage of certain exemptions from various requirements applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies including, most significantly, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for so long as we are an emerging growth company. As a result, if we elect not to comply with such auditor attestation requirements, our investors may not have access to certain information they may deem important.
The JOBS Act also provides that an emerging growth company does not need to comply with any new or revised financial accounting standards until such date that a private company is otherwise required to comply with such new or revised accounting standards. The Company has elected to use the extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standard under Section 102(b)(2) of the Jobs Act, that allows the Company to delay the adoption of new or revised accounting standards that have different effective dates for public and private companies until those standards apply to private companies.
Risks Related to Doing Business in Hong Kong
Our company currently only has limited operations to sell its NativusWell® through one of mainland China’s largest e-commerce platforms. Accordingly, the laws and regulations of the PRC do not currently have any material impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. However, if certain PRC laws and regulations were to become applicable to a company such as us in the future, the application of such laws and regulations may have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, any of which may cause the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares, to significantly decline or become worthless. See the following risk factors of “Our business, financial condition and results of operations, and/or the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares or our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors may be materially and adversely affected to the extent the laws and regulations of the PRC become applicable to a company such as us” and “The PRC government exerts substantial influence and discretion over the manner in which companies incorporated under the laws of PRC must conduct their business activities. If we were to become subject to such direct influence or discretion, it may result in a material change in our operations and/or the value of your Class A Ordinary Shares, which would materially affect the interests of investors.”
Political risks associated with conducting business in Hong Kong.
Most of our operations are based in Hong Kong. Accordingly, our business operations and financial conditions will be affected by the political and legal developments in Hong Kong. During the period covered by the financial information incorporated by reference into and included in this Report, we maintain substantially most of our operations in Hong Kong. Any adverse economic, social and/or political conditions, material social unrest, strike, riot, civil disturbance or disobedience, as well as significant natural disasters, may affect the market may adversely affect the business operations of our operations. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the PRC and the basic policies of the PRC regarding Hong Kong are reflected in the Basic Law (the “Hong Kong Basic Law” or the “Basic Law”), namely, Hong Kong’s constitutional document, which provides Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy and executive, legislative and independent judicial powers, including that of final adjudication under the principle of “one country, two systems”. However, there is no assurance that there will not be any changes in the economic, political and legal environment in Hong Kong in the future. Since our operation is based in Hong Kong, any change of such political arrangements may pose immediate threat to the stability of the economy in Hong Kong, thereby directly and adversely affecting our results of operations and financial positions.
Under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong is exclusively in charge of its internal affairs and external relations, while the government of the PRC is responsible for its foreign affairs and defense. As a separate customs territory, Hong Kong maintains and develops relations with foreign states and regions. Based on certain recent development including the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region issued by the Standing Committee of the PRC National People’s Congress in June 2020, the U.S. State Department has indicated that the United States no longer considers Hong Kong to have significant autonomy from China and Former President Trump signed an executive order and Hong Kong Autonomy Act (“HKAA”) to remove Hong Kong’s preferential trade status and to authorize the U.S. administration to impose blocking sanctions against individuals and entities who are determined to have materially contributed to the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The United States may impose the same tariffs and other trade restrictions on exports from Hong Kong that it places on goods from mainland China. These and other recent actions may represent an escalation in political and trade tensions involving the U.S., China and Hong Kong, which could potentially harm our business.
Given the relatively small geographical size of Hong Kong, any of such incidents may have a widespread effect on our business operations, which could in turn adversely and materially affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. It is difficult to predict the full impact of the HKAA on Hong Kong and companies with operations in Hong Kong like us. Furthermore, legislative or administrative actions in respect of China-U.S. relations could cause investor uncertainty for affected issuers, including us, and the market price of our Ordinary Shares could be adversely affected.
If we become directly subject to the recent scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity involving U.S.-listed Chinese companies, we may have to expend significant resources to investigate and resolve the matter which could harm our business operations, stock price and reputation and could result in a loss of your investment in our stock, especially if such matter cannot be addressed and resolved favorably.
Recently, U.S. public companies that have substantially all of their operations in China, including Hong Kong, have been the subject of intense scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity by investors, financial commentators and regulatory agencies, such as the SEC. Much of the scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity has centered around financial and accounting irregularities and mistakes, a lack of effective internal controls over financial accounting, inadequate corporate governance policies or a lack of adherence thereto and, in many cases, allegations of fraud. As a result of the scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity, the publicly traded stock of many U.S. listed Chinese companies has sharply decreased in value and, in some cases, has become virtually worthless. Many of these companies are now subject to shareholder lawsuits and SEC enforcement actions and are conducting internal and external investigations into the allegations. It is not clear what effect this sector-wide scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity will have on our company, our business and our stock price. If we become the subject of any unfavorable allegations, whether such allegations are proven to be true or untrue, we will have to expend significant resources to investigate such allegations and/or defend our company. This situation will be costly and time consuming and distract our management from growing our company.
The recent joint statement by the SEC, proposed rule changes submitted by Nasdaq, and an act passed by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, all call for additional and more stringent criteria to be applied to emerging market companies. These developments could add uncertainties to our offering, business operations, share price and reputation.
U.S. public companies that have substantially all of their operations in China and Hong Kong have been the subject of intense scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity by investors, financial commentators and regulatory agencies, such as the SEC. Much of the scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity has centered on financial and accounting irregularities and mistakes, a lack of effective internal controls over financial accounting, inadequate corporate governance policies or a lack of adherence thereto and, in many cases, allegations of fraud.
On April 21, 2020, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and PCAOB Chairman William D. Duhnke III, along with other senior SEC staff, released a joint statement highlighting the risks associated with investing in companies based in or have substantial operations in emerging markets including China, including Hong Kong, reiterating past SEC and PCAOB statements on matters including the difficulty associated with inspecting accounting firms and audit work papers in China and Hong Kong and higher risks of fraud in emerging markets and the difficulty of bringing and enforcing SEC, Department of Justice and other U.S. regulatory actions, including in instances of fraud, in emerging markets generally.
On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the HFCA Act requiring a foreign company to certify it is not owned or controlled by a foreign government if the PCAOB is unable to audit specified reports because the company uses a foreign auditor not subject to PCAOB inspection. If the PCAOB is unable to inspect the company’s auditors for three consecutive years, the issuer’s securities are prohibited to trade on a national exchange. On December 2, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the HFCA Act.
On May 21, 2021, Nasdaq filed three proposals with the SEC to (i) apply minimum offering size requirement for companies primarily operating in a “Restrictive Market”, (ii) prohibit Restrictive Market companies from directly listing on Nasdaq Capital Market, and only permit them to list on Nasdaq Global Select or Nasdaq Global Market in connection with a direct listing and (iii) apply additional and more stringent criteria to an applicant or listed company based on the qualifications of the company’s auditors.
On March 24, 2021, the SEC announced the adoption of interim final amendments to implement the submission and disclosure requirements of the HFCA Act. In the announcement, the SEC clarifies that before any issuer will have to comply with the interim final amendments, the SEC must implement a process for identifying covered issuers. The announcement also states that the SEC staff is actively assessing how best to implement the other requirements of the HFCA Act, including the identification process and the trading prohibition requirements.
On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the AHFCAA, which, if signed into law, would amend the HFCA Act and require the SEC to prohibit an issuer’s securities from trading on any U.S. stock exchanges if its auditor is not subject to the PCAOB inspections for two consecutive years instead of three consecutive years.
On September 22, 2021, the PCAOB adopted a final rule implementing the HFCA Act, which provides a framework for the PCAOB to use when determining, as contemplated under the HFCA Act, whether the board of directors of a company is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms located in a foreign jurisdiction because of a position taken by one or more authorities in that jurisdiction.
On December 2, 2021, the SEC adopted amendments to finalize rules implementing the submission and disclosure requirements in the HFCA Act.
On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued a report on its determinations that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and in Hong Kong because of positions taken by PRC and Hong Kong authorities in those jurisdictions.
On December 29, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed into law by President Biden. The Consolidated Appropriations Act contained, among other things, an identical provision to AHFCAA, which reduce the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the HFCA Act from three years to two.
The lack of access to the PCAOB inspection in China prevents the PCAOB from fully evaluating audits and quality control procedures of the auditors based in China. As a result, investors may be deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of these accounting firm’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to the PCAOB inspections, which could cause investors and potential investors in our Class A Ordinary Shares to lose confidence in our audit procedures and reported financial information and the quality of our financial statements.
Our auditor, Marcum Asia CPAs LLP, as the auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the U.S. and registered with the PCAOB, are subject to laws in the U.S., pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess their compliance with the applicable professional standards. Marcum Asia CPAs LLP is headquartered in Manhattan, New York, and have been inspected by the PCAOB on a regular basis, with the last inspections in 2020, and Marcum Asia CPAs LLP is not subject to the determinations announced by the PCAOB on December 16, 2021.
However, the recent developments would add uncertainties to our ability to offer or continue to offer securities and we cannot assure you whether the national securities exchange we apply to for listing or regulatory authorities would apply additional and more stringent criteria to us after considering the effectiveness of our auditor’s audit procedures and quality control procedures, adequacy of personnel and training, or sufficiency of resources, geographic reach, or experience as it relates to our audit. In addition, the HFCA Act, as amended, which requires that the PCAOB be permitted to inspect an issuer’s public accounting firm within two years, may result in the delisting of our Company or prohibition of trading in our Class A Ordinary Shares in the future if the PCAOB is unable to inspect our accounting firm at such future time.
On August 26, 2022, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the MOF, and the PCAOB signed the Protocol governing inspections and investigations of audit firms based in mainland China and Hong Kong, taking the first step toward opening access for the PCAOB to inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong. Pursuant to the fact sheet with respect to the Protocol disclosed by the SEC, the PCAOB shall have independent discretion to select any issuer audits for inspection or investigation and has the unfettered ability to transfer information to the SEC. On December 15, 2022, the PCAOB Board determined that the PCAOB was able to secure complete access to inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong and voted to vacate its previous determinations to the contrary. However, should PRC authorities obstruct or otherwise fail to facilitate the PCAOB’s access in the future, the PCAOB Board will consider the need to issue a new determination.
As a result of this scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity, the publicly traded stock of many U.S. listed Chinese and Hong Kong companies sharply decreased in value and, in some cases, has become virtually worthless. Many of these companies are now subject to shareholder lawsuits and SEC enforcement actions and are conducting internal and external investigations into the allegations. It is not clear what effect this sector-wide scrutiny, criticism and negative publicity will have on us, our ability to offer or continue to offer securities, business and our share price. If we become the subject of any unfavorable allegations, whether such allegations are proven to be true or untrue, we will have to expend significant resources to investigate such allegations and/or defend our company. This situation will be costly and time consuming and distract our management from developing our growth. If such allegations are not proven to be groundless, we and our business operations will be severely affected and you could sustain a significant decline in the value of our share.
Nasdaq may apply additional and more stringent criteria for our continued listing because our insiders hold a large portion of our listed securities.
Nasdaq Listing Rule 5101 provides Nasdaq with broad discretionary authority over the initial and continued listing of securities in Nasdaq and Nasdaq may use such discretion to deny initial listing, apply additional or more stringent criteria for the initial or continued listing of particular securities, or suspend or delist particular securities based on any event, condition, or circumstance that exists or occurs that makes initial or continued listing of the securities on Nasdaq inadvisable or unwarranted in the opinion of Nasdaq, even though the securities meet all enumerated criteria for initial or continued listing on Nasdaq. In addition, Nasdaq has used its discretion to deny initial or continued listing or to apply additional and more stringent criteria in the instances, including but not limited to: (i) where the company engaged an auditor that has not been subject to an inspection by PCAOB, an auditor that PCAOB cannot inspect, or an auditor that has not demonstrated sufficient resources, geographic reach, or experience to adequately perform the company’s audit; (ii) where the company planned a small public offering, which would result in insiders holding a large portion of the company’s listed securities; and (iii) where the company did not demonstrate sufficient nexus to the U.S. capital market, including having no U.S. shareholders, operations, or members of the board of directors or management. The insiders of our Company hold a large portion of the company’s listed securities. Therefore, we may be subject to the additional and more stringent criteria of Nasdaq for our continued listing, which might result in deficiency letters or inquiries that will take management’s time away from focusing on our operations.
Our business, financial condition and results of operations, and/or the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares or our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors may be materially and adversely affected to the extent the laws and regulations of the PRC become applicable to a company such as us.
We currently do not have or intend to have any subsidiary or any contractual arrangement to establish a variable interest entity structure with any entity in mainland China. All of our operating entities are in jurisdictions outside of mainland China, including all three of our VIEs which are incorporated under the laws of Cayman Islands and conduct operations in Hong Kong. However, as our principal place of business is in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, there is no guarantee that if certain existing or future laws of the PRC become applicable to a company such as us, it will not have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations and/or our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, any of which may cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or be worthless.
Except for the Basic Law, the national laws of the PRC do not apply in Hong Kong unless they are listed in Annex III of the Basic Law and applied locally by promulgation or local legislation. National laws that may be listed in Annex III are currently limited under the Basic Law to those which fall within the scope of defense and foreign affairs as well as other matters outside the limits of the autonomy of Hong Kong. National laws and regulations relating to data protection, cybersecurity and anti-monopoly have not been listed in Annex III and so do not apply directly to Hong Kong.
The laws and regulations in the PRC are evolving, and their enactment timetable, interpretation and implementation involve significant uncertainties. To the extent any PRC laws and regulations become applicable to us, we may be subject to the risks and uncertainties associated with the legal system in the PRC, including with respect to the enforcement of laws and the possibility of changes of rules and regulations with little or no advance notice. We currently do not have plan to expand our operation or acquire any operation in the mainland China. However, we may also become subject to the laws and regulations of the PRC to the extent we commence business and customer facing operations in mainland China as a result of any future acquisition, expansion or organic growth.
The PRC government exerts substantial influence and discretion over the manner in which companies incorporated under the laws of PRC must conduct their business activities. If we were to become subject to such direct influence or discretion, it may result in a material change in our operations and/or the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares, which would materially affect the interest of the investors.
The PRC legal system is evolving rapidly and the PRC laws, regulations, and rules may change quickly with little advance notice. In particular, because these laws, rules and regulations are relatively new, and because of the limited number of published decisions and the non-precedential nature of these decisions, the interpretation of these laws, rules and regulations may contain inconsistences, the enforcement of which involves uncertainties. The PRC government has exercised and continues to exercise substantial control over many sectors of the PRC economy through regulation and/or state ownership. Government actions have had, and may continue to have, a significant effect on economic conditions in the PRC and businesses which are subject to such government actions.
We have business operations in Hong Kong, with limited operations to sell its NativusWell® through e-commerce in mainland China, and we directly, or indirectly via our subsidiaries, own equity interests in our operating entities, none of which are located in mainland China, although all three of our VIEs are incorporated under the laws of Cayman Islands and conduct operations in Hong Kong. Our principal executive offices are located in Europe, but our principal place of business is in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. The PRC government currently does not exert direct influence and discretion over the manner in which we conduct our business activities outside of mainland China, however, there is no guarantee that we will not be subject to such direct influence or discretion in the future due to changes in laws or other unforeseeable reasons or as a result of our future expansion or acquisition of operations in mainland China. See “- Our business, financial condition and results of operations, and/or the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares or our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors may be materially and adversely affected to the extent the laws and regulations of the PRC become applicable to a company such as us.”
We currently do not have plans to expand our operation or acquire any operation in the mainland China. However, if we were to become subject to the direct intervention or influence of the PRC government at any time due to changes in laws or other unforeseeable reasons or as a result of our future development, expansion or acquisition of operations in the PRC, it may require a material change in our operations and/or result in increased costs necessary to comply with existing and newly adopted laws and regulations or penalties for any failure to comply. In addition, the market prices of our Class A Ordinary Shares could be adversely affected as a result of anticipated negative impacts of any such government actions, as well as negative investor sentiment towards Hong Kong-based companies subject to direct PRC government oversight and regulation, regardless of our actual operating performance. There can be no assurance that the Chinese government would not intervene in or influence our operations at any time.
We were not required to obtain permission from the PRC government to list on a U.S. securities exchange, however there is no guarantee that this will continue to be the case in the future in relation to the continued listing of our securities on a securities exchange outside of the PRC, or even when such permission is obtained, it will not be subsequently denied or rescinded. Any actions by the PRC government to exert more oversight and control over offerings (including of businesses whose primary operations are in Hong Kong) that are conducted overseas and/or foreign investments in Hong Kong-based issuers could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of our securities, including our Class A Ordinary Shares, to significantly decline or be worthless.
The enactment of Law of the PRC on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the “Hong Kong National Security Law”) could impact our Hong Kong holding subsidiary.
On June 30, 2020, the Standing Committee of the PRC National People’s Congress adopted the Hong Kong National Security Law. This law defines the duties and government bodies of the Hong Kong National Security Law for safeguarding national security and four categories of offences - secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security - and their corresponding penalties. On July 14, 2020, the former U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, or HKAA, into law, authorizing the U.S. administration to impose blocking sanctions against individuals and entities who are determined to have materially contributed to the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. On August 7, 2020 the U.S. government imposed HKAA-authorized sanctions on eleven individuals, including former HKSAR chief executive Carrie Lam. On October 14, 2020, the U.S. State Department submitted to relevant committees of Congress the report required under HKAA, identifying persons materially contributing to “the failure of the Government of China to meet its obligations under the Joint Declaration or the Basic Law.” The HKAA further authorizes secondary sanctions, including the imposition of blocking sanctions, against foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct a significant transaction with foreign persons sanctioned under this authority. The imposition of sanctions may directly affect the foreign financial institutions as well as any third parties or customers dealing with any foreign financial institution that is targeted. It is difficult to predict the full impact of the Hong Kong National Security Law and HKAA on Hong Kong and companies located in Hong Kong. If our Hong Kong subsidiaries are determined to be in violation of the Hong Kong National Security Law or the HKAA by competent authorities, our business operations, financial position and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
The Hong Kong legal system embodies uncertainties which could limit the availability of legal protections.
As one of the conditions for the handover of the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China, China accepted conditions such as Hong Kong’s Basic Law. The Basic Law ensured Hong Kong will retain its own currency (Hong Kong Dollar), legal system, parliamentary system and people’s rights and freedom for fifty years from 1997. This agreement has given Hong Kong the freedom to function with a high degree of autonomy. The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong is responsible for its own domestic affairs including, but not limited to, the judiciary and courts of last resort, immigration and customs, public finance, currencies and extradition. Hong Kong continues using the English common law system.
However, if the PRC attempts to alter its agreement to allow Hong Kong to function autonomously, this could potentially impact Hong Kong’s common law legal system and may in turn bring about uncertainty in, for example, the enforcement of our contractual rights. This could, in turn, materially and adversely affect our business and operations. Additionally, intellectual property rights and confidentiality protections in Hong Kong may not be as effective as in the United States or other countries. Accordingly, we cannot predict the effect of future developments in the Hong Kong legal system, including the promulgation of new laws, changes to existing laws or the interpretation or enforcement thereof, or the preemption of local regulations by national laws. These uncertainties could limit the legal protections available to us, including our ability to enforce our agreements with our customers.
There remain some uncertainties as to whether we will be required to obtain approvals from Chinese authorities to list on the U.S. exchanges and offer or continue to offer securities in the future, and if required, we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain such approval.
The Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Companies by Foreign Investors (the “M&A Rules”), adopted by six PRC regulatory agencies in 2006 and amended in 2009, requires an overseas special purpose vehicle formed for listing purposes through acquisitions of PRC domestic companies and controlled by PRC companies or individuals to obtain the approval of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (“CSRC”) prior to the listing and trading of such special purpose vehicle’s securities on an overseas stock exchange.
We are also aware that recently, the PRC government initiated a series of regulatory actions and statements to regulate business operations in certain areas in mainland China with little advance notice, including cracking down on illegal activities in the securities market, enhancing supervision over mainland-China-based companies listed overseas using variable interest entity structure, adopting new measures to extend the scope of cybersecurity reviews, and expanding the efforts in anti-monopoly enforcement. For example, on July 6, 2021, the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council jointly issued a document to crack down on illegal activities in the securities market and promote the high-quality development of the capital market, which, among other things, requires the relevant governmental authorities to strengthen cross-border oversight of law-enforcement and judicial cooperation, to enhance supervision over mainland-China-based companies listed overseas, and to establish and improve the system of extraterritorial application of the PRC securities laws.
On December 28, 2021, the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”), and other PRC authorities promulgated the Cybersecurity Review Measures, which took effect on February 15, 2022. In addition, the Cybersecurity Law, which was adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on November 7, 2016 and came into force on June 1, 2017, and the Cybersecurity Review Measures, or the “Review Measures”, provide that personal information and important data collected and generated by a critical information infrastructure operator in the course of its operations in mainland China must be stored in mainland China, and if a critical information infrastructure operator purchases internet products and services that affect or may affect national security, it should be subject to national security review by the CAC together with competent departments of the State Council. In addition, for critical information infrastructure operators, or the “CIIOs”, that purchase network-related products and services, the CIIOs shall declare any network-related product or service that affects or may affect national security to the Office of Cybersecurity Review of the CAC for cybersecurity review. Due to the lack of further interpretations, the exact scope of what constitutes a “CIIO” remains unclear. Further, the PRC government authorities may have wide discretion in the interpretation and enforcement of these laws. In addition, the Review Measures stipulates that any online platform operators holding more than one million users/users’ individual information shall be subject to cybersecurity review before listing abroad. As of the date of the annual report, neither we nor our subsidiaries have received any notice from any authorities identifying us or our subsidiaries as a CIIO or requiring us or our subsidiaries to undertake a cybersecurity review by the CAC. Further, as of the date of the annual report, neither we nor our subsidiaries have been subject to any penalties, fines, suspensions, or investigations from any competent authorities for violation of the regulations or policies that the CAC has issued.
On June 10, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress promulgated the Data Security Law, which took effect on September 1, 2021. The Data Security Law requires that data shall not be collected by theft or other illegal means, and it also provides for a data classification and hierarchical protection system. The data classification and hierarchical protection system protects data according to its importance in economic and social development, and the damages it may cause to national security, public interests, or the legitimate rights and interests of individuals and organizations if the data is falsified, damaged, disclosed, illegally obtained or illegally used, which protection system is expected to be built by the state for data security in the near future. On November 14, 2021, CAC published the Regulations on the Data Security Administration Draft, or the “Data Security Regulations Draft”, to solicit public opinion and comments. Under the Data Security Regulations Draft, an overseas initial public offering to be conducted by a data processor processing the personal information of more than one million individuals shall apply for a cybersecurity review. Data processor means an individual or organization that independently makes decisions on the purpose and manner of processing in data processing activities, and data processing activities refers to activities such as the collection, retention, use, processing, transmission, provision, disclosure, or deletion of data. Currently we do not expect the Review Measures to have an impact on the business and operations of our Hong Kong subsidiaries, because (i) our Hong Kong subsidiaries are incorporated and operating in Hong Kong without any subsidiary or variety interest entity (“VIE”) structure in mainland China, and it is unclear whether the Review Measures shall be applied to a Hong Kong company; (ii) as of the date of the annual report, our Hong Kong subsidiaries have not collected or stored personal information of any individual clients of mainland China; and (iii) as of the date of this annual report, our Hong Kong subsidiaries have not been informed by any PRC governmental authority of any requirement that it file for a cybersecurity review for the offering. Based on laws and regulations currently in effect in the PRC as of the date of this annual report, we believe our Hong Kong subsidiaries are not required to pass the cybersecurity review of the CAC in order to list our Class A Ordinary Shares in the U.S.
In addition, on February 17, 2023, the CSRC promulgated the Trial Administrative Measures of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies, or the Trial Measures, and five supporting guidelines, which came into effect on March 31, 2023. Pursuant to the Trial Measures, domestic companies that seek to offer or list securities overseas, both directly and indirectly, shall complete filing procedures with the CSRC pursuant to the requirements of the Trial Measures within three working days following its submission of initial public offerings or listing application. If a PRC company fails to complete required filing procedures or conceals any material fact or falsifies any major content in its filing documents, such PRC company may be subject to administrative penalties, such as order to rectify, warnings, fines, and its controlling shareholders, actual controllers, the person directly in charge and other directly liable persons may also be subject to administrative penalties, such as warnings and fines. In addition, on February 24, 2023, the CSRC, together with Ministry of Finance of the PRC, National Administration of State Secrets Protection and National Archives Administration of China, revised the Provisions on Strengthening Confidentiality and Archives Administration for Overseas Securities Offering and Listing which was issued by the CSRC, National Administration of State Secrets Protection and National Archives Administration of China in 2009, or the Provisions. The revised Provisions is issued under the title the Provisions on Strengthening Confidentiality and Archives Administration of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies, and came into effect on March 31, 2023 together with the Trial Measures. One of the major revisions to the revised Provisions is expanding its application to cover indirect overseas offering and listing, as is consistent with the Trial Measures. The revised Provisions require that, including but not limited to (a) a domestic company that plans to, either directly or indirectly through its overseas listed entity, publicly disclose or provide to relevant individuals or entities including securities companies, securities service providers and overseas regulators, any documents and materials that contain state secrets or working secrets of government agencies, shall first obtain approval from competent authorities according to law, and file with the secrecy administrative department at the same level; and (b) domestic company that plans to, either directly or indirectly through its overseas listed entity, publicly disclose or provide to relevant individuals and entities including securities companies, securities service providers and overseas regulators, any other documents and materials that, if leaked, will be detrimental to national security or public interest, shall strictly fulfill relevant procedures stipulated by applicable national regulations. As of the date of this annual report, we have not received any formal inquiry, notice, warning, sanction, or objection from the CSRC with respect to the listing of our Class A Ordinary Shares. However, there remains significant uncertainty as to the enactment, interpretation and implementation of regulatory requirements related to overseas securities offerings and other capital markets activities. If it is determined that we are subject to the Trial Measures for the listing of the Ordinary Shares on the Nasdaq, we may fail to obtain required approval, complete required filing or meet such requirements in a timely manner or at all, or completion could be rescinded. Any failure or perceived failure of us to fully comply with such new regulatory requirements could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, cause significant disruption to our business operations, and severely damage our reputation, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations and could cause the value of our securities to significantly decline or be worthless.
If we are determined to be subject to the Draft Rules Regarding Overseas Listings, we cannot assure you that we will be able to receive clearance of such filing requirements in a timely manner, or at all, even though we believe that none of the situations that would clearly prohibit overseas listing and offering applies to us. Based on laws and regulations currently in effect in the PRC as of the date of this annual report, we believe our Hong Kong subsidiaries are not required to obtain regulatory approval from the CSRC in order to list our Class A Ordinary Shares in the U.S.
Since these proposed rules, statements and regulatory actions are new, it is highly uncertain how soon the legislative or administrative regulation making bodies will respond and what existing or new laws or regulations or detailed implementations and interpretations will be modified or promulgated, if any. Any failure of us to fully comply with new regulatory requirements may significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer the Class A Ordinary Shares, cause significant disruption to our business operations, severely damage our reputation, materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations, and cause the Class A Ordinary Shares to significantly decline in value or become worthless.
As of the date of this annual report, we believe are not required to obtain approvals from the PRC authorities to operate our business or list on the U.S. exchanges and offer or continue to offer securities; specifically, we are currently not required to obtain any permission or approval from the CSRC, the CAC or any other PRC governmental authority to operate our business or to list our securities on a U.S. securities exchange or issue securities to foreign investors. However, if we and our Hong Kong subsidiaries (i) do not receive or maintain such approval, should the approval be required in the future by the PRC government, (ii) inadvertently conclude that such approval is not required, or (iii) applicable laws, regulations, or interpretations change and we are required to obtain such approval in the future, our operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected, and our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors could be significantly limited or completely hindered and the securities currently being offered may substantially decline in value and become worthless.
Nevertheless, since these statements and regulatory actions are new, it is highly uncertain how soon the legislative or administrative regulation making bodies will respond and what existing or new laws or regulations or detailed implementations and interpretations will be modified or promulgated, if any. It is also highly uncertain what potential impact such modified or new laws and regulations will have on Aptorum Group’s daily business operations, our ability to accept foreign investments and the listing of our Class A Ordinary Shares on a U.S. or other foreign exchanges. If there is significant change to current political arrangements between mainland China and Hong Kong, the PRC government intervenes or influences operations of companies operated in Hong Kong like us, or exerts more control through change of laws and regulations over offerings conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in issuers like us, it may result in a material change in our operations and/or the value of the securities we are registering for sale or could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or become worthless.
It may be difficult for overseas shareholders and/or regulators to conduct investigations or collect evidence within China.
Shareholder claims or regulatory investigations that are common in the United States generally are difficult to pursue as a matter of law or practicality in China. For example, in China, there are significant legal and other obstacles to providing information needed for regulatory investigations or litigation initiated outside China. Although the authorities in China may establish a regulatory cooperation mechanism with the securities regulatory authorities of another country or region to implement cross-border supervision and administration, such cooperation with the securities regulatory authorities in the Unities States may not be efficient in the absence of mutual and practical cooperation mechanisms. Furthermore, according to Article 177 of the PRC Securities Law, or Article 177, which became effective in March 2020, no overseas securities regulator is allowed to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within the territory of the PRC. While detailed interpretation of or implementation rules under Article 177 have yet to be promulgated, the inability for an overseas securities regulator to directly conduct investigation or evidence collection activities within China may further increase difficulties faced by you in protecting your interests.
Our auditor’s audit working papers are located in PRC. In the event that the U.S. regulators carry out investigation on us and there is a need to conduct investigation or collect evidence within the territory of the PRC, the U.S. regulators may not be able to carry out such investigation or evidence collection directly in the PRC under the PRC laws. The U.S. regulators may consider cross-border cooperation with securities regulatory authority of the PRC by way of judicial assistance, diplomatic channels or regulatory cooperation mechanism established with the securities regulatory authority of the PRC.
Item 4. INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
A. History and Development of the Company
Aptorum was incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands on September 13, 2010. Our share capital is $100,000,000.00 divided into 9,999,996,000,000 Class A Ordinary Shares with a nominal or par value of $0.00001 each and 4,000,000 Class B Ordinary Shares with a nominal or par value of $0.00001 each.
Aptorum is not a Chinese operating company. Aptorum is a Cayman Islands holding company with operations conducted through our subsidiaries and the variable interest entities (VIEs). We have determined that we have three VIEs, namely, Libra, Mios and Scipio, according to the U.S. GAAP. In accordance with ASC 810, we concluded that we are the primary beneficiary of two VIEs, Mios and Scipio, therefore, are able to consolidate their financial statements into ours. Mios and Scipio are incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands and conduct operations in Hong Kong. Our corporate structure is based on the equity ownership and control we have over our subsidiaries and the consolidated VIEs. Our corporate structure was not set up to be used to provide investors with exposure to foreign investment in China-based companies where Chinese law prohibits direct foreign investment in the operating companies. Foreign investment can be made directly into the VIEs, however, your investments into Aptorum are made into the Cayman Islands holding company, not any of our VIEs, and you may never own any equity into the VIEs or any other subsidiary.
Aptorum Therapeutics Limited, a Cayman Islands company with limited liability, entered into two concerted action agreements (“Concerted Action Agreements”), with Peace Range Limited, a shareholder of the two consolidated VIEs, on December 30, 2021.
Pursuant to the two Concerted Action Agreements, Peace Range Limited and Aptorum Therapeutics Limited agreed to act in concert and give the same expression of intentions in regard with (1) exercising voting rights at shareholders’ meetings; (2) making proposals to shareholder’s meetings; (3) nominating candidates of directors and supervisors; (4) making material decisions for the consolidated VIEs (save for the administrative and managerial duty of work being managed by the board of directors and executives of the consolidated VIEs); (5) exercising the rights as shareholders of the consolidated VIEs in accordance with their articles of association and other relevant agreements or documents between the consolidated VIEs and other related parties; (6) performing the obligations as shareholders of the consolidated VIEs in accordance with the articles of association and other relevant agreements or documents between the consolidated VIEs and other related parties; and (7) exercising other rights granted to shareholders of the consolidated VIEs under laws, administrative regulations, other normative documents, and the articles of association of the consolidated VIEs. The Concerted Action Agreements are governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong. The copies of the Concerted Action Agreements were filed as exhibits 4.47 and 4.48 to the Form 20-F filed on April 29, 2022. The Concerted Action Agreements are governed by the laws of Hong Kong. The “acting in concert” agreements like the Concerted Actions Agreements with substantially the same nature have been tested in the courts in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong courts will enforce unless the agreements are unenforceable for other reason(s) such as the agreements are, among others, illegal or made to mislead others, or for the purpose of avoidance of legal requirements and lack a bona fide business purpose. We do not believe that the Concerted Actions Agreements fall within the exceptions that will make them unenforceable in Hong Kong courts.” (Please see the risk factor section, “Risks Related to our Corporate Structure” and “Risks Related to Doing Business in Hong Kong” for more information about the VIEs).
Our current business consists of “therapeutics” and “non-therapeutics” segments, all of which we operate through our subsidiaries (See the ownership chart on page 67).
We refer to our therapeutics segment as Aptorum Therapeutics Group, which is operated through Aptorum’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aptorum Therapeutics Limited, a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability, whose principal place of business is in Hong Kong and whose subsidiaries (who we sometimes refer to herein as project companies) are based in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Hong Kong.
We refer to our non-therapeutics segment as Aptorum Non-Therapeutics Group. The Non-Therapeutics Group consists of: (i) diagnostics projects including PathsDx Test, a novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology, (ii) natural supplements including NativusWell®, and (iii) AML Clinic. PathsDx Test technology is currently under co-development with A*STAR. The sale of natural supplements is operated through Nativus Life Sciences Limited (“Nativus”), a subsidiary of Aptorum Therapeutics Limited incorporated in the Cayman Islands. The Group’s outpatient clinic is operated through our subsidiary, Aptorum Medical Limited, which is a Hong Kong-based company incorporated in the Cayman Islands with an office in Central, Hong Kong.
On September 25, 2020, Aptorum, via its subsidiaries, enters into a series of transactions with Accelerate Technologies Pte. Ltd.’s (“Accelerate Technologies”), the commercialization arm of the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research (“A*STAR”), in relation to the research and development of PathsDx Test, a novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology, through its subsidiaries. Specifically, Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited (formerly known as Aptorum Innovations Holding Pte. Limited), one of the Company’s subsidiaries, entered into an Exclusive Licence Agreement with Accelerate Technologies to co-develop the PathsDx Test technology. The term of the Exclusive Licence Agreement is described in Exhibit 4.62 on Form 20-F filed with the SEC on April 19, 2021. Furthermore, Accelerate Technologies, the inventors of the PathsDx Test technologies in A*STAR (“Founding Scientists”), Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited, and Paths Innovations Limited (formerly known as Aptorum Innovations Holding Limited), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, entered into a Share Subscription & Shareholders Agreement on the same day to subscribe ordinary shares of Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited. The shares are subscribed and issued in two tranches, the first tranche has taken place at closing of the Share Subscription & Shareholders Agreement, while the second tranche will take place after the certain first milestone is met. The total number of shares subscribed by the shareholders under the Share Subscription & Shareholders Agreement is around 2.7 million. After the two tranches of subscription, Aptorum, Accelerate Technologies and the Founding Scientists are expected to control 71.23%, 14.25% and 9.53% of the share of Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited respectively, with 4.99% of the shares reserved for its employee share plan.
APTUS CAPITAL LIMITED, which has since been renamed to AENEAS CAPITAL LIMITED, was always under the direct ownership of Jurchen and not under the ownership chain of Aptorum Group. However, Aptus Asia Financial Holdings Limited (“AAFH”), which has since been renamed to Aeneas Group Limited, was transferred out of the Aptorum Group on November 10, 2017 to be held directly by Jurchen Investment Corporation and that subsequently, APTUS CAPITAL LIMITED was then transferred to be under AAFH.
On May 4, 2017, Mr. Huen transferred all of the ordinary shares in the Company he owned (in the amount of 2,230,760) to Jurchen, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and wholly-owned by Mr. Huen. On October 13, 2017, as part of the Conversions (as defined below) the ordinary shares held by Jurchen were redesignated as 223,076 Class A Ordinary Shares and 2,007,684 Class B Ordinary Shares.
On February 21 and March 1, 2017, the Company’s board of directors and shareholders resolved to restructure the Company from an investment fund with management shares and non-voting participating redeemable preference shares to a holding company with operating subsidiaries, respectively (the “Restructuring Plan”).
According to the Restructuring Plan, the 256,571.12 then issued participating shares with par value of $0.01 (“Participating Shares”) were redeemed and 4,743,418.88 unissued Participating Shares were cancelled; following such redemption and cancellation, we no longer have any Participating Shares authorized or issued. Additionally, the Company authorized a class of securities consisting of 10,000,000 ordinary shares, par value $10.00 per share and issued 2,565,711 ordinary shares to our original investors.
During the period March 1, 2017 through October 13, 2017, an aggregate of 220,703 ordinary shares were issued at a price of approximately $39 per share in a private placement we described as a “Series A” offering. Each investor of the Series A offering, in addition to a subscription agreement, signed a shareholder agreement, which set forth the basic governance terms of the Company, as well as our capital structure. The shareholders agreement was terminated in October 2017.
On October 13, 2017, ordinary resolutions were passed at an extraordinary general meeting of the Company approving (the “Conversions”): (i) converting 7,213,587 of authorized but unissued ordinary shares into 5,457,362 authorized but unissued Class A Ordinary Shares, par value of $10.00 per share and 1,756,225 authorized but unissued Class B Ordinary Shares, par value of $10.00 per share, respectively; (ii) converting 2,493,085 ordinary shares held by three shareholders into an aggregate of 249,309 Class A Ordinary Shares and 2,243,776 Class B Ordinary Shares; and (iii) converting 293,330 ordinary shares held by 24 shareholders into an aggregate 293,330 Class A Ordinary Shares. Following these issuances, we had 27 shareholders of record.
On October 19, 2017, we changed our name from APTUS Holdings Limited to our current name, Aptorum Group Limited.
On March 23, 2018, Jurchen transferred 44,615 Class A Ordinary Shares and 401,537 Class B Ordinary Shares to CGY Investments Limited, a company incorporated in Hong Kong and which we deem Mr. Darren Lui jointly controls and/or of which he has substantial influence on the disposition rights and voting rights of such shares. Following this transfer, Jurchen owns approximately 33% and 72% of our Class A Ordinary Shares and Class B Ordinary Shares, respectively.
On December 17, 2018, the Company consummated its IPO of 76,142 Class A Ordinary Shares. The Registration Statement was declared effective by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on December 3, 2018 (the “Effective Date”). The shares were sold at a price of $158 per share, generating gross proceeds to the Company of approximately $12,030,420.
On May 26, 2021, the Company entered into a private placement shares purchase agreement with Jurchen, issuing 138,793 Class A Ordinary Shares, par value $10 per share, at $28.82 per share, representing a 10% premium to the last closing price of the Company’s Class A Ordinary Shares on the NASDAQ stock exchange on that date. The Company received aggregate gross proceeds of $4,000,000 from the purchase of these shares. Following the purchase, Mr. Huen’s total shareholding represented 55.52% of the total issued share capital of the Company.
On January 23, 2023, the Company effectuated a ten-for-one share consolidation of its authorized share capital, such that every 10 Class A Ordinary Shares, par value of US$1.00 per share, in the authorized share capital of the Company (including issued and unissued share capital) be consolidated into 1 Class A Ordinary Share, par value of US$10.00 per share, and that every 10 Class B Ordinary Shares, par value of US$1.00 per share in the authorized share capital of the Company (including issued and unissued share capital) be consolidated into 1 Class B Ordinary Share, par value of US$10.00 per share (the “Share Consolidation” or “Reverse Split”).
On February 21, 2023, the shareholders of the Company approved a merger of the Company with Aptorum Group Cayman Limited, a newly established wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, whereby the Company was the surviving company, on the terms of the plan of merger that includes the change in par value in the authorized shares of the Company from $10 to $0.00001. In addition, among other things, the shareholders approved to increase the voting rights of the Class B Ordinary Shares from 10 votes per share to 100 votes per share, and to increase the number of Class A Ordinary Shares authorized to 9,999,996,000,000 shares, par value $0.00001 each. These corporate actions were effective as of February 21, 2023.
Over the past three years, we have invested approximately $0.5 million towards our principal capital expenditures, which include laboratory equipment, premises, leasehold improvements, and medical and other equipment.
The following diagram illustrates our corporate structure as of the date of this annual report:
Note 1: Both Mios Pharmaceuticals Limited (“Mios”) and Scipio Life Sciences Limited (“Scipio”) issued Class A and Class B ordinary shares to various parties; for each such entity, each Class A ordinary share is entitled to 1 vote and 1 share of economic interest of the respective company, while each Class B ordinary share is entitled to 10 votes and 0.001 share of economic interest of the respective company.
As of the date of this annual report, we indirectly hold 97.93% economic interest and 36.17% voting power in Mios, and 97.93% economic interest and 35.06% voting power in Scipio. An independent third party shareholder, Peace Range Limited, holds 0.15% economic interest and 63.61% voting power in Mios, and 0.15% economic interest and 64.72% voting power in Scipio. The remaining shareholders hold 1.92% economic interest and 0.22% voting power in Mios, and 1.92% economic interest and 0.22% voting power in Scipio respectively. Our ownership interest in these entities is through direct equity ownership and not through any contractual arrangements.
Note 2: Dr. Clark Cheng, an Executive Director of Aptorum Group, holds the remaining 10% shareholding of Aptorum Medical Limited.
Note 3: Angen Funds Limited, a company designated by an investor of ALS series projects, holds the remaining 20% shareholding of Acticule Life Sciences Limited.
Note 4: Accelerate Technologies Pte. Ltd., the commercialization arm of the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research (“A*STAR”), hold 15% shareholding of Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited. The inventors of PathsDx Test technologies in A*STAR hold the remaining 10% of shareholding of Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited.
Note 5: An investor of project VLS-2 holds the remaining 10% shareholding of mTor (Hong Kong) Limited.
Currently, we conduct the majority of our operations through the following subsidiaries: Aptorum Therapeutics Limited, Acticule Life Sciences Limited, Nativus Life Sciences Limited, Aptorum Medical Limited and Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited. All investments into our company are into the parent company, Aptorum Group Limited, a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability whose principal place of business is in Hong Kong; you may never hold direct equity interests in our subsidiaries or the VIEs.
In accordance with the provisions of Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) 810, Consolidation, we consolidate any VIE of which we are regarded as the primary beneficiary for accounting purposes. The typical condition for a controlling financial interest ownership is holding a majority of the voting interests of an entity; however, a controlling financial interest may also exist in entities, such as VIEs, through arrangements that do not involve controlling voting interests. On December 30, 2021, Libra (formerly known as Aptorum Pharmaceutical Development Limited), Mios and Scipio, issued Class A and Class B ordinary shares to various parties; for each such entity, each Class A ordinary share is entitled to 1 vote and 1 share of economic benefit of the respective company, while each Class B ordinary share is entitled to 10 votes and 0.001 share of economic benefit of the respective company. Following such share issuances, the Group lost its majority voting rights in each of these three companies and only holds 48.33%, 48.39% and 48.36% economic interest in Libra, Mios and Scipio, respectively. However, the Group still holds a majority of each of these three company’s outstanding Class A ordinary shares and therefore will absorb/receive portions of these entities’ expected losses or residual returns. In addition, none of these three companies have sufficient equity to sustain its own activities, and they have two classes of ordinary shares which have different rights, benefits and obligations. We determined that all these three companies are VIEs. On December 31, 2021, Libra, Mios and Scipio further issued Class A ordinary shares to the Group in exchange of certain projects licenses. Upon these share issuances, the Group was holding 97.27% economic interest and 31.51% voting power in Libra, 97.93% economic interest and 36.17% voting power in Mios, and 97.93% economic interest and 35.06% voting power in Scipio, respectively.
We have considered each of these entity’s Memorandum and Article of Association and their respective board of directors (the sole director of each of Mios and Scipio is an executive director of the Group), and determined that we have the power to manage and make decisions that affect Mios and Scipio’s research and development activities, which activities most significantly impact Mios and Scipio’s economic performance. However, we do not have such power over Libra’s research and development activities, which activities most significantly impact Libra’s economic performance. Accordingly, we determined that we are regarded as the primary beneficiary of Mios and Scipio for accounting purposes, but not the primary beneficiary of Libra.
Emerging Growth Company Status
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”), and we are eligible to take advantage of certain exemptions from various reporting and financial disclosure requirements that are applicable to other public companies, that are not emerging growth companies, including, but not limited to, (1) not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, (2) reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements, and (3) exemptions from the requirements of holding a non-binding advisory vote on executive compensation and shareholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. We intend to take advantage of these exemptions.
In addition, Section 107 of the JOBS Act also provides that an emerging growth company can take advantage of the extended transition period provided in Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act, for complying with new or revised accounting standards. As a result, an emerging growth company can delay the adoption of certain accounting standards until those standards would otherwise apply to private companies.
We could remain an emerging growth company for up to five years, or until the earliest of (1) the last day of the first fiscal year in which our annual gross revenues exceed $1.235 billion, (2) the date that we become a “large accelerated filer” as defined in Rule 12b-2 under the Exchange Act, which would occur if the market value of our Ordinary Shares that is held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the last business day of our most recently completed second fiscal quarter and we have been publicly reporting for at least 12 months, or (3) the date on which we have issued more than $1 billion in non-convertible debt during the preceding three-year period.
Foreign Private Issuer Status
We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the Exchange. As such, we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to United States domestic public companies. For example:
|●||we are not required to provide as many Exchange Act reports, or as frequently, as a domestic public company;|
|●||for interim reporting, we are permitted to comply solely with our home country requirements, which are less rigorous than the rules that apply to domestic public companies;|
|●||we are not required to provide the same level of disclosure on certain issues, such as executive compensation;|
|●||we are exempt from provisions of Regulation FD aimed at preventing issuers from making selective disclosures of material information;|
|●||we are not required to comply with the sections of the Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act; and|
|●||we are not required to comply with Section 16 of the Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their share ownership and trading activities and establishing insider liability for profits realized from any “short-swing” trading transaction.|
B. Business Overview
Overview of our Company
Aptorum is not a Chinese operating company. Aptorum is a Cayman Islands holding company with operations conducted through our subsidiaries and the variable interest entities (VIEs). We have determined that we have three VIEs, namely, Libra, Mios and Scipio, according to the U.S. GAAP. All three of the VIEs are incorporated in Cayman Islands and operate in Hong Kong. In accordance with ASC 810, we concluded that we are the primary beneficiary of two VIEs, Mios and Scipio, therefore, are able to consolidate their financial statements into ours. Our corporate structure is based on the equity ownership and control we have over our subsidiaries and the consolidated VIEs. Our corporate structure was not set up to be used to provide investors with exposure to foreign investment in China-based companies where Chinese law prohibits direct foreign investment in the operating companies. Foreign investment can be made directly into Mios and Scipio; however, your investments into Aptorum are made into the Cayman Islands holding company, not any of the consolidated VIEs, and you may never own any equity into the VIEs or any other subsidiary.
Since the consolidated VIEs operate in Hong Kong, they face various legal and operational risks and uncertainties associated with doing business in Hong Kong. Our current corporate structure does not contain any variable interest entity in mainland China and we do not have intention establishing any VIEs in mainland China in the future. However, if in the future there is any significant change to the current political arrangements between mainland China and Hong Kong and mainland China’s expanded authority in Hong Kong result in the PRC regulatory authorities disallowing our current corporate structure, or if in the future our structure were to contain a VIE and the mainland PRC regulatory authorities expand to Hong Kong and disallow our corporate structure, it would likely result in a material adverse change in the VIE’s operations, and the value of our securities may decline significantly in value or become worthless.
Although currently we do not have any business operations or VIE in mainland China and we believe that the laws and regulations of the PRC applicable in China do not currently have any material impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations, we face risks and uncertainties associated with the complex and evolving PRC laws and regulations and as to whether and how the recent PRC government statements and regulatory developments, such as those relating to VIE, data and cyberspace security, and anti-monopoly concerns, would be applicable to a company such as Mios and Scipio given their substantial operations in Hong Kong and the Chinese government’s significant oversight authority over the conduct of business in Hong Kong.
In light of China’s recent expansion of authority in Hong Kong, we are subject to the risks of uncertainty about any future actions of the PRC government or authorities in Hong Kong. The Chinese government may intervene or influence our current and future operations in Hong Kong at any time, or may exert more control over offerings conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in issuers likes ourselves. We believe that, on the basis that we currently do not have any business operations in mainland China, we currently are not required to obtain approvals from Chinese authorities to operate our business or list on the U.S. exchanges and offer securities; specifically, none of Mios or Scipio is currently required to obtain any permission or approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (“CSRC”), Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) or any other PRC governmental authority to operate its business or for us to continue to list our securities on a U.S. securities exchange or issue securities to foreign investors. However, there is no assurance that there will not be any changes in the economic, political and legal environment in Hong Kong in the future. Should the PRC government choose to affect operations of any company with any level of operations in Hong Kong, or should certain PRC laws and regulations or these statements or regulatory actions become applicable to the VIEs in the future. Such governmental actions: (i) could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to continue our operations; (ii) could significantly limit or hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer our Class A Ordinary Shares to investors; and (iii) may cause the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or be worthless.
We are also aware that recently, the PRC government initiated a series of regulatory actions and statements to regulate business operations in certain areas in mainland China with little advance notice, including cracking down on illegal activities in the securities market, enhancing supervision over mainland Chinese companies listed overseas using variable interest entity structure, adopting new measures to extend the scope of cybersecurity reviews, and expanding the efforts in anti-monopoly enforcement. Nevertheless, since these statements and regulatory actions are new, it is highly uncertain how soon the legislative or administrative regulation making bodies will respond and what existing or new laws or regulations or detailed implementations and interpretations will be modified or promulgated, if any. It is also highly uncertain what the potential impact such modified or new laws and regulations will have on the VIEs’ daily business operation, and the continued listing of our Class A Ordinary Shares on a U.S. or other foreign exchanges. If any or all of the foregoing were to occur, it may significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to complete this offering or cause the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or become worthless. See “Risk Factors - Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure” and “Risk Factors - Risks Relating to Doing Business in Hong Kong”.
In addition, our Class A Ordinary Shares may be prohibited from trading on a national exchange or over-the-counter under the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, as amended (the “HFCA Act”) if the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (the “PCAOB”) is unable to inspect our auditors for two consecutive years beginning in 2021. Our auditor, Marcum Asia CPAs LLP, have been inspected by the PCAOB on a regular basis, with the last inspections in 2020, and Marcum Asia CPAs LLP is not subject to the determinations announced by the PCAOB on December 16, 2021. If trading in our Class A Ordinary Shares is prohibited under the HFCA Act in the future because the PCAOB determines that it cannot inspect or fully investigate our auditor at such future time, Nasdaq may determine to delist our Class A Ordinary Shares and trading in our Class A Ordinary Shares could be prohibited. While our auditor is based in the U.S. and is registered with the PCAOB and subject to PCAOB inspection, in the event it is later determined that the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely our auditor because of a position taken by an authority in a foreign jurisdiction, then such lack of inspection could cause trading in our Ordinary Shares to be prohibited under the HFCA Act, and ultimately result in a determination by a securities exchange to delist our Ordinary Shares. On August 26, 2022, the PCAOB signed a Statement of Protocol (the “SOP”) Agreement with the CSRC and China’s Ministry of Finance. The SOP Agreement, together with two protocol agreements (collectively, “SOP Agreements”), governing inspections and investigations of audit firms based in mainland China and Hong Kong, taking the first step toward opening access for the PCAOB to inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong. Pursuant to the fact sheet with respect to the Protocol disclosed by the SEC, the PCAOB shall have independent discretion to select any issuer audits for inspection or investigation and has the unfettered ability to transfer information to the SEC. On December 15, 2022, the PCAOB Board determined that the PCAOB was able to secure complete access to inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong and voted to vacate its previous determinations to the contrary. However, should PRC authorities obstruct or otherwise fail to facilitate the PCAOB’s access in the future, the PCAOB Board will consider the need to issue a new determination.
Cash Transfers and Dividend Distribution
Our management is directly supervising cash management. Our finance department is responsible for establishing the cash management policies and procedures among our departments and the operating entities. Majority of the cash are managed by a few of the subsidiaries of Aptorum Group. Each department or operating entity initiates a cash request by putting forward a payment requisition form, which explains the specific amount and timing of cash requested, and submitting it to designated management members of our Company, based on the amount and the nature of payment. The designated management member examines and approves the cash transfer based on the sources of cash and the priorities of the needs, and submit it to the cashier specialists of our finance department for a second review. Other than the above, we currently do not have other cash management policies or procedures that dictate how funds are transferred.
We are permitted under the laws of Cayman Islands to provide funding to our subsidiaries and the consolidated VIEs through loans or capital contributions without restrictions on the amount of the funds. Under the Cayman Islands law, the VIEs are permitted to pay a dividend on its shares out of either profit or share premium amount, provided that in no circumstances may a dividend be paid if this would result in the consolidated VIEs being unable to pay its debts due in the ordinary course of business.
As of the date of this annual report, none of our subsidiaries or the consolidated VIEs have made any dividends or distributions to our Company and our Company has not made any dividends or distributions to our shareholders. We intend to keep any future earnings to finance the expansion of our business, and we do not anticipate that any cash dividends will be paid in the foreseeable future. Subject to the passive foreign investment company (“PFIC”) rules, the gross amount of distributions we make to investors with respect to our Class A Ordinary Shares (including the amount of any taxes withheld therefrom) will be taxable as a dividend, to the extent that the distribution is paid out of our current or accumulated earnings and profits, as determined under U.S. federal income tax principles.
On December 31, 2021, Mios and Scipio has issued Class A ordinary shares to Aptorum Therapeutics Limited, in exchange of Aptorum Therapeutics Limited’s granting of license of certain patents to each of them. Other than this, there has been no transfer of cash or other assets occurred between us, our subsidiaries, and the consolidated VIEs.
We are a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery, development and commercialization of therapeutic assets to treat diseases with unmet medical needs, particularly in oncology (including orphan oncology indications) and infectious diseases. The pipeline of Aptorum is also enriched through (i) the establishment of drug discovery platforms that enable the discovery of new therapeutics assets through, e.g. systematic screening of existing approved drug molecules, and microbiome-based research platform for treatments of metabolic diseases; and (ii) the co-development of PathsDx Test, a novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology, with Accelerate Technologies Pte Ltd, commercialization arm of the Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
In addition to the above main focus, we are also pursuing therapeutic projects in neurology, gastroenterology, metabolic disorders, women’s health and other disease areas. We also have projects focused on natural supplements for women undergoing menopause and experiencing related symptoms. We also opened a medical clinic, AML Clinic, in June 2018.
Our goal is to develop a broad range of novel and repurposed therapeutics and diagnostics technology across a wide range of disease/therapeutic areas. Key components of our strategy for achieving this goal include: (for details of our strategy, See “Business Overview – Our Strategy”)
|●||Developing therapeutic and diagnostic innovations across a wide range of disease/therapeutic areas;|
|●||Selectively expanding our portfolio with potential products that may be able to attain orphan drug designation and/or satisfy current unmet medical needs;|
|●||Collaborating with leading academic institutions and CROs;|
|●||Expanding our in-house pharmaceutical development center;|
|●||Leveraging our management’s expertise, experience and commercial networks;|
|●||Obtaining and leveraging government grants to fund project development.|
We have devoted a substantial portion of the proceeds from our offerings, to our Lead Projects. Our Lead Projects are ALS-4, SACT-1 and PathsDx Test. In January 2022, we announced that we completed Phase 1 clinical trial for ALS-4 and Phase 1 clinical trial for assessing relative bioavailability and food effect of SACT-1. No serious adverse events were observed and there were no relevant clinical changes in respect of vital signs. In March 2023, we announced that we completed the Pre-IND discussions with the US FDA on ALS-4. With the positive feedback on the overall development strategy from the US FDA, we are proceeding towards the IND submission of ALS-4. In March 2023, we also announced the completion of the End of Phase 1 (EOP1) meeting with the US FDA. The FDA generally agreed with the chemistry-manufacturing-control (CMC) strategy and our proposed clinical development plan for SACT-1 Phase 1/2 trials. In 2023, we expect to be able (i) to submit IND application to the US FDA seeking to initiate a Phase 2 clinical study to assess the efficacy of ALS-4 in patients and (ii) submit a clinical protocol to the US FDA seeking to initiate our planned Phase 1b/2a trial for SACT-1, subject to regulatory review. We commenced clinical validation of our molecular based PathsDx Test and will continue to undergo validations during 2023, in parallel with its pre-commercialization process in 2023.
Our current business consists of “therapeutics” and “non-therapeutics” segments. However, our focus is on the therapeutics segments. Because of the risks, costs and extended development time required for successful drug development, we have determined to pursue projects within our non-therapeutics segments, such as AML Clinic and NativusWell®, to provide some interim revenue, as well as diagnostics technology that may be brought to market and generate revenue more quickly.
Therapeutics Segment. In our therapeutics segment (“Aptorum Therapeutics Group”), we are currently seeking to develop various drug molecules (including projects seeking to use extracts or derivatives from natural substances to treat diseases) and certain technologies for the treatment of human disease conditions to tackle unmet needs, in particular, two of our Lead Projects targeting infectious disease and cancer (including orphan oncology indications). In addition to our main areas of focus above, we are also pursuing therapeutic projects in neurology, gastroenterology, metabolic disorders, women’s health and other disease areas. Aptorum Therapeutics Group is operated through Aptorum’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aptorum Therapeutics Limited, a Cayman Islands exempted company with limited liability, whose principal place of business is in Hong Kong and whose subsidiaries (who we sometimes refer to herein as project companies) are based in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Non-Therapeutics Segment. The non-therapeutics segment (“Aptorum Non-Therapeutics Group”) encompasses three businesses: (i) diagnostics projects including PathsDx Test, a novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology, (ii) natural supplements including NativusWell®, and (iii) AML Clinic. PathsDx Test technology is currently under co-development with A*STAR. The core objectives of PathsDx Test are to rapidly and accurately identify and detect existing or emerging unknown pathogens (including DNA/RNA-based viruses such as coronavirus, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, fungi, etc.), in a cost-effective, unbiased and broad-spectrum manner, through liquid biopsy (patients’ blood samples and is potentially adaptable for other sample types), genome sequencing and artificial intelligence driven software analytics. A key objective is also to develop PathsDx Test to leverage existing and emerging Next-Generation Sequencing platforms for pathogenic genome sequencing analysis. The sale of natural supplements is operated through Nativus Life Sciences Limited (“Nativus”), a subsidiary of Aptorum Therapeutics Limited. The production of Aptorum Group’s dioscorea opposita bioactive nutraceutical tablets has commenced production in Canada and is marketed under the brand name NativusWell®; we are selling NativusWell® online through HKTV Mall, JD.com and NativusWell® website. The outpatient clinic is operated through our subsidiary, Aptorum Medical Limited. Effective as of March 2018, we leased office space in Central, Hong Kong as the home to AML Clinic. AML Clinic commenced operations under the name of Talem Medical in June 2018.
Prior to March 2017, the Company had pursued passive healthcare related investments in early stage companies primarily in the United States. However, we have since ceased pursuing further passive investment operations and intend to exit all such portfolio investments over an appropriate timeframe to focus resources on our current business.
On September 25, 2020, Aptorum, via its subsidiaries, enters into a series of transactions with Accelerate Technologies Pte. Ltd.’s (“Accelerate Technologies”), the commercialization arm of the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research (“A*STAR”), in relation to the research and development of PathsDx Test, a novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology, through its subsidiaries. Specifically, Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited, one of the Company’s subsidiaries, entered into an Exclusive Licence Agreement with Accelerate Technologies to co-develop the PathsDx Test technology. The term of the Exclusive Licence Agreement is described in Exhibit 4.62 on Form 20-F filed with the SEC on April 19, 2021. Furthermore, Accelerate Technologies, the inventors of the PathsDx Test technologies in A*STAR (“Founding Scientists”), Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited, and Paths Innovations Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, entered into a Share Subscription & Shareholders Agreement on the same day to subscribe ordinary shares of Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited. The shares are subscribed and issued in two tranches, the first tranche has taken place at closing of the Share Subscription & Shareholders Agreement, while the second tranche will take place after the certain first milestone is met. The total number of shares subscribed by the shareholders under the Share Subscription & Shareholders Agreement is around 2.7 million. After the two tranches of subscription, Aptorum, Accelerate Technologies and the Founding Scientists are expected to control 71.23%, 14.25% and 9.53% of the share of Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited respectively, with 4.99% of the shares reserved for its employee share plan.
On December 30, 2020, Paths Innovations Limited, one of the Company’s wholly-owned subsidiaries, entered into an Evaluation Agreement with Illumina Inc (“Illumina”). Pursuant to the agreement, Paths Innovations Limited will evaluate the data and performance of Illumina’s sequencing technology based on the workflow of PathsDx Test, a novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology, at Paths Innovations Limited’s Singapore based evaluation site.
Although we plan to continue the development and improvement of a broad range of novel therapeutics and diagnostics across a wide range of disease/therapeutic areas, over the next 24-36 months we plan to concentrate on development of our Lead Projects, maintaining our AML Clinic and sale of natural supplements.
We believe that execution of this strategy will position the Company to catalyze the development and improvement of a broad range of novel and repurposed therapeutics and diagnostics across a wide range of disease/therapeutic areas. Failure to achieve positive results in at least one of the programs for a Lead Project could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s prospects and business.
To achieve this goal, we are implementing the following strategies:
|●||Developing therapeutic and diagnostic innovations across a wide range of disease/therapeutic areas. We are currently developing drug candidates in several disease/therapeutic areas. We believe that by diversifying our research efforts, it would increase the likelihood that at least one of our projects will achieve clinical success and therefore add value to the Company. As of date of this annual report, the Company is developing 10 projects covering therapeutic assets, diagnostic assets, and natural supplements, in broad range of areas across infectious diseases, cancers (including rare oncology indications), neurology, gastroenterology, metabolic disorders and women’s health. The 10 projects are comprised of 10 exclusively licensed projects (including Lead Project ALS-4 being exclusively licensed from the University of Hong Kong and PathsDx Test being exclusively licensed from A*STAR) and 7 proprietary projects developed by our scientists (including Lead Project SACT-1). Our initial focus will be on developing our Lead Projects, but intend to continue developing our other current projects and may seek new licensing opportunities where we determine that the market potential justifies the additional commitment of our limited resources.|
|●||Selectively expanding our portfolio with potential products that may be able to attain orphan drug designation and/or satisfy current unmet medical needs. We have selected innovations for development which we believe are of superior scientific quality, whilst taking into account the potential market size and demand for same, for example, taking into consideration whether the relevant product can satisfy significant unmet medical needs. In particular, Aptorum Group Limited has established a Scientific Advisory Board, which helped us to select our current projects and which we expect will provide input from a scientific perspective towards any future opportunities for acquiring or licensing life science innovations. We intend to continue expanding our line of projects under development, and subject to our financial and other resource limitations, exploring acquisitions or licenses of additional products which may be able to attain orphan drug designations (e.g., rare types of cancer) or satisfy significant unmet medical needs and that show strong preclinical and/or early clinical data to provide promising opportunities for clinical and commercial success.|
|●||Collaborating with leading academic institutions and CROs. In building and developing our product portfolio, we believe that accessing external innovation, expertise and technology through collaboration with leading academic institutions and CROs is a vital and cost-efficient strategy. We have established strong relationships with leading academic institutions around the world and expect to continue to strengthen our collaborations by, for example, seeking to provide their affiliated Principal Investigators resources through sponsorship to conduct further research in specialty fields of interest and association with personnel connected to our current project companies, in exchange for obtaining for the Company the first right to negotiate for an exclusive license to any resulting innovations. In addition, we have entered and will continue to actively source arrangements with pharmaceutical companies, in most cases in roles as contract research organizations, to streamline the development of our projects. This may include outsourcing part of the preclinical, clinical studies and clinical supplies manufacturing to externally accredited cGLP, cGMP and cGCP standard contract research organizations or laboratories in order to attain the required studies for submission to the regulatory authorities as part of the clinical development plan. (See “Item 4. Information on the Company – B. Business Overview – Arrangements with Other Parties”)|
|●||Expanding our in-house pharmaceutical development center. We believe collaborations between the R&D Center and the scientists engaged in work for our project companies will enhance clinical and commercial potential of the projects. In addition, we will assist the project companies by engaging external pharmaceutical companies and/or contract research organizations to outsource any part of the preclinical or clinical development work that cannot be performed by the R&D Center in order to obtain the resources necessary for our development process.|
|●||Leveraging our management’s expertise, experience and commercial networks. We believe the combination of our management’s expertise and experience, with their academic and commercial networks make us an effective platform for advancing healthcare innovations towards clinical studies and commercialization in key global markets. We have assembled a management team with global experience and an extensive record of accomplishments in medical research, consulting and financing, and identification and acquisition of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical drug candidates. Our Head of Research and Development also has extensive experiences in drug development. We also employ key management personnel with banking and financial experience, which enhances our capability to establish the most efficient financial structure for the development of our programs.|
|●||Obtaining and leveraging government grants to fund project development. Governments across the world pays close attention to the development of the biotechnology sector and provides support and funding. We intend to aggressively seek government support from the governments in the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere for our product development and to facilitate the development of some of our projects.|
Arrangements with Other Parties
As mentioned above, part of our business model includes collaborating with research entities such as academic institutions and CROs, as well as highly regarded experts in their respective fields. We engage these entities and researchers either for purposes of exploring new innovations or advancing preclinical studies of our existing licensed drug candidates. Although the financial cost of these arrangements does not represent a material expense to the Company, the relationships we can access through, specifically, sponsored research arrangements (“SRAs”) with academic institutions and organizations can provide significant value for our business; for example, we may decide whether to continue development of certain early-staged projects and/or out-license a project based on the data and results from research governed by SRAs. However, as of the date of this annual report, we do not consider the particulars of any of our SRAs to be material to the success of our current business plans.
Our drug discovery programs are based upon licenses from universities and are mainly conducted in universities via SRAs. As for the development of our drug candidates, our R&D Center conducts part of the CMC work. However, since our current facilities are not cGMP, cGLP or cGCP qualified, we will have to rely on CROs to conduct that type of work, if and when our drug candidates reach the level of development that requires such qualification.
Lead Projects, Natural Supplements and Other Projects under Development
We are actively operating and managing the development of our drug candidates through various subsidiaries. Each candidate is being researched in a subsidiary with a medical/scientific area of focus related to the drug candidate in development. We refer to these as our “Project Companies” and their products or areas of focus as our Lead Projects (i.e., ALS-4, SACT-1 and PathsDx Test), our natural supplements (i.e., NativusWell®) or Other Projects under Development (as defined below). The selection of a drug candidate is based on our estimate of the market potential for that candidate, the scientific expertise required to develop it, and our overall corporate strategy, including our ability to commit personnel and future investment to that candidate.
To pursue a number of our current projects, our Project Companies have entered into standard license agreements with various universities and licensing entities customized to the nature of each project. These license agreements largely contain the same terms, as is typically seen in license agreements for an early-stage life science invention; such terms include a worldwide license with licensed field comprising indications in the intended treatment areas, having upfront payments, certain royalty rates, sublicensing royalties, as well as provisions for payments upon occurrence of development and/or regulatory milestones. Under the license agreements, the Project Company must also adhere to certain diligence obligations (which may include specific diligence) and the types of activities or achievements that will satisfy those diligence obligations. Additionally, our Project Company may or may not be required to obtain prior consent from the licensor to sublicense the invention. The license terms of our Lead Projects are discussed in detail below.
Generally speaking, pharmaceutical development consists of preclinical and clinical phases. The preclinical phase can further sub-divided into the following stages:
|●||Target Identification & Selection: The target is the naturally existing cellular or modular structure that appears to have an important role in a particular disease pathway and will be targeted by the drug that will subsequently be developed. Target validation techniques for different disease areas can be very different but typically include from in vitro and in silico methods through to the use of whole animal models.|
|●||Lead Discovery: Following “Target Identification & Selection,” compound screening assays are developed as part of the Lead Discovery. ‘Lead’ molecules can mean slightly different things to different researches or companies, but in this annual report, we refer to Lead Discovery as the process of identifying one or more small molecules with the desired activity against the identified targets. Leads can be identified through one or more approaches, which can depend on the target and what, if any, previous knowledge exists.|
|●||Lead Optimization: In this stage of the drug discovery process, the aim is to produce a preclinical drug candidate by maintaining the desired and favorable properties in the lead compounds, while repairing or reducing deficiencies in their structures. For example, to optimize the chemical structures to improve, among others, efficacy, reduce toxicity, improve metabolism, absorption and pharmacokinetic properties.|
|●||CTA-Enabling Studies: Includes all the essential studies such as GLP toxicology studies, pharmacology and efficacy, pharmacokinetics, in vitro metabolism, CMC studies, and the data of which are used for CTA submission.|
|●||IND-Enabling Studies: Includes all the essential studies such as GLP toxicology studies, pharmacology and efficacy, pharmacokinetics, in vitro metabolism, CMC studies, and the data of which are used for IND submission.|
|●||In vitro validation: At this stage, the efficacy and safety of a drug candidate are assessed at cellular levels.|
|●||In vivo validation: At this stage, the efficacy, safety and pharmacokinetic of a drug candidate are assessed in animal models.|
|●||IND Preparation and Submission: Preparation of a package of documents for different sections such as CMC, clinical, nonclinical, etc. and getting them reviewed, approved and final checked and followed by submission to regulatory agencies.|
Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:
|●||Phase 1. Phase 1 includes the initial introduction of an investigational new drug into humans. These studies are closely monitored and may be conducted in patients, but are usually conducted in healthy volunteer subjects. These studies are designed to determine the metabolic and pharmacologic actions of the drug in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and, if possible, to gain early evidence on effectiveness. During Phase 1, sufficient information about the drug’s pharmacokinetics and pharmacological effects should be obtained to permit the design of well-controlled, scientifically valid, Phase 2 studies. Phase 1 studies also evaluate drug metabolism, structure-activity relationships, and the mechanism of action in humans. These studies also determine which investigational drugs are used as research tools to explore biological phenomena or disease processes. The total number of subjects included in Phase 1 studies varies with the drug, but is generally in the range of twenty to eighty.|
|●||Phase 2. Phase 2 includes the early controlled clinical studies conducted to obtain some preliminary data on the effectiveness of the drug for a particular indication or indications in patients with the disease or condition. This phase of testing also helps determine the common short-term side effects and risks associated with the drug. Phase 2 studies are typically well-controlled, closely monitored, and conducted in a relatively small number of patients, usually involving several hundred people.|
|●||Phase 3. Phase 3 studies are expanded controlled and uncontrolled trials. They are performed after preliminary evidence suggesting effectiveness of the drug has been obtained in Phase 2, and are intended to gather the additional information about effectiveness and safety that is needed to evaluate the overall benefit-risk relationship of the drug. Phase 3 studies are designed to provide an adequate basis for extrapolating the results to the general population and transmitting that information in the physician labeling. Phase 3 studies usually include several hundred to several thousand people.|
Our non-therapeutics projects can be sub-divided into the following stages:
|●||Development and Experimentation: Early development work for proof-of-concept.|
|●||Product Optimization: The practice of making changes or adjustments to a product to make it more desirable.|
|●||Clinical Validation: Confirming the performance of a technology using clinical/patient samples.|
|●||Pre-commercialization preparation: The logistics that need to be accomplished before commercialization.|
|●||Formulation: Preparation of a marketed dosage form from active ingredients and excipients/additives.|
|●||Commercialization: The process of introducing a new product or production method into commerce—making it available on the market.|
Another subsidiary, Aptorum Medical Limited (“AML”),1 is our vehicle for developing our business of delivering medical services in the form of AML Clinic.
We anticipate allocating approximately 20% of our resources to develop projects other than our Lead Projects (such other projects being referred to herein as “Other Projects under Development”), with a strong focus on NativusWell®, and AML Clinic. The production of Aptorum Group’s dioscorea opposita bioactive nutraceutical tablets has commenced production in Canada and is marketed under the brand name NativusWell®; we are selling NativusWell® online through HKTV Mall, JD.com and NativusWell® website. AML Clinic is expected to provide us with a modest amount of revenue. Even though NativusWell® achieves commercial sales, revenue from these products alone will not be sufficient for us to carry out all of our plans, but it will assist with name recognition and supplement our income while we develop our Lead Projects.
|1||Clark Cheng, our Chief Medical Officer and an Executive Director, owns 10% of Aptorum Medical Limited as of the date of this annual report.|
After consideration of various factors, such as time and resources required for further development, potential success rate and market size, the Group decided to focus the majority of its resources on ALS-4 and SACT-1 and PathsDx as the current Lead Projects. The Group will continue to invest some of its resources to develop other projects, including those previously classified as Lead Projects.
ALS-4: Small molecule for the treatment of bacterial infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus including but not limited to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”)
Just as certain strains of viruses, such as human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”) and influenza have developed resistance to drugs developed to treat them, certain bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa have become “superbugs”, having developed resistance to many, if not all, of the existing drugs available to treat them, rendering those treatments ineffective in many instances. MRSA is one such bacterium, a gram-positive bacterium that is genetically different from other strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA can cause a variety of problems ranging from skin infections and sepsis to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. It is estimated that about one out of every three people (33%) carry Staphylococcus aureus in their nose, usually without any illness; about two in a hundred (2%) carry MRSA (source: https://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/tracking/index.html). Both adults and children may carry MRSA.
Most MRSA infections occur in people who have been in hospital or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers (source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mrsa/symptoms-causes/syc-20375336), which is known as Healthcare-Associated MRSA (“HA-MRSA”). HA-MRSA infections are typically associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints. Another type of MRSA infection, known as Community-Associated MRSA (“CA-MRSA”), has occurred in wider community among healthy people. It often begins as a painful skin boil and spreads by skin-to-skin contact. About 85% of serious, invasive MRSA infections are healthcare associated infections (https://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2007/r071016.htm). The incidence of CA-MRSA varies according to population and geographic location. In the U.S., more than 94,000 people develop serious MRSA infection and about 19,000 patients die as a result each year (https://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2007/r071016.htm). According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA, caused about 11% of healthcare-associated infections in 2011 (source: http://www.healthcommunities.com/mrsa-infection/incidence.shtml). Each year in the U.S., around one out of every twenty-five hospitalized patients contracts at least one infection in the hospital (N Engl J Med. 2014, 27;370(13):1198-208). In the U.S., there were over 80,000 invasive MRSA infections and 11,285 related deaths in 2011 (source: https://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/28/us/mrsa-fast-facts/index.html). Indeed, severe MRSA infections most commonly occur during or soon after inpatient medical care. More than 290,000 hospitalized patients are infected with Staphylococcus aureus and of these staphylococcal infections, approximately 126,000 are related to MRSA (source: http://www.healthcommunities.com/mrsa-infection/incidence.shtml).
ALS-4 is a small drug molecule which appears to target the products produced by bacterial genes that facilitate the successful colonization and survival of the bacterium in the body or that cause damage to the body’s systems. These products of bacterial genes are referred to as “virulence expression.” Targeting bacterial virulence is an alternative approach to antimicrobial therapy that offers promising opportunities to overcome the emergence and increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Professor Richard Kao from The University of Hong Kong (who is also the Founder and Principal Investigator of Acticule and Inventor of ALS-1, ALS-2, ALS-3 and ALS-4) initiated a high throughput approach for screening compounds which are active against virulence expression, which resulted in the discovery of ALS-1, ALS-2, ALS-3 and ALS-4.
ALS-4 targets an enzyme essential for Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA) survival in vivo. This enzyme is involved in the production of Staphyloxanthin, a carotenoid pigment produced by Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA, and is responsible for the characteristic golden color. This pigment has proven to be an important factor in promoting bacterial invasion as well as rendering the bacteria resistant to attack from reactive oxygen species (ROS) and neutrophils. In other words, pigmented bacteria have increased resistance to the host’s immune defenses. ALS-4 may have particular value if it can be shown to be an effective therapy in situations where a Staphylococcus aureus infection is resistant to available antibiotics (i.e., where the pathogen is MRSA).
In a study by the inventor, Prof. Richard Kao, ALS-4 demonstrates potent activity against Staphylococcus aureus pigment formation in vitro, as indicated in Figure 1, with an IC50 (IC50 is defined as the concentration of a drug which inhibits half of the maximal response of a biochemical process. In this case, inhibition of the formation of the golden pigment is the response) equal to 20 nM.
Figure 1: In vitro pigment inhibition by compound ALS-4: Inhibition of staphyloxathin (the golden pigment in S. Aureus) in the presence of increasing concentrations of ALS-4
Efficacy of ALS-4 in a MRSA Wound Infection Mouse Model
A study conducted by a third-party contract research organization, assessed ALS-4’s effect in the healing of open wounds infected with MRSA in a mouse model. Compared with topical dosing of 2% Mupirocin and oral dosing of Linezolid at 100mg/kg twice a day, oral dosing of ALS-4 at 30mg/kg twice a day showed statistically significant improvement in wound healing. Specifically, at the end of the study on Day 7, ALS-4 exhibited 63.8% of wound closure compared with 48.4% for oral Linezolid and 43.2% for topical Mupirocin 2%. The results are further illustrated in the graph below.
|*||Unpaired student’s t-test, p<0.05|
Figure 2: Result of study on ALS-4’s effect in the healing of open wounds infected with MRSA in a mouse model
Efficacy of ALS-4 in a Bacteraemia Mouse Model
In a further round of in vivo studies, conducted by a third-party contract research organization, in a non-lethal MRSA bacteraemia mouse model, the mice were orally administered with different doses of ALS-4 from 0.3 to 30mg/kg twice a day for 7 days, compared to those who received vancomycin only group (3mg/kg of vancomycin administered intravenously) and a no treatment control group.
At the conclusion of the study on Day 7, ALS-4 brought a statistically significant reduction in bacterial counts in major organs such as the kidneys, lungs, liver and spleen compared with the no drug control and vancomycin only groups (unpaired student’s t-test, p<0.05). This is in addition to the previous in vivo results announced in February 2020, whereby ALS-4 demonstrated on a statistically significant basis better survival rates (56% vs 0% control group) in the lethal MRSA bacteraemia rat model (Figure 3a) and higher reduction of bacterial load (by 99.5% against the control group) in the non-lethal MRSA bacteraemia rat model (Figure 3b).
Figure 3a: Oral Formulation of ALS-4 in an MRSA Survival Study
Figure 3b: Oral Formulation of ALS-4 in a Non-Lethal Bacteremia Model
CFU = Colony Forming Unit, a unit used to estimate the number of viable bacteria in a sample
A Clinical Trial Application (“CTA”) was submitted with the Public Health Agency of Canada (Health Canada) to conduct a Phase 1 clinical trial of ALS-4, an orally administered small molecule drug for the treatment of infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Q4 2020. ALS-4 received clearance from Health Canada regarding the CTA to initiate a Phase 1 clinical study in January 2021. In March 2021, we announced dosing the first human subject in its Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating ALS-4. In January 2022, we further announced the completion of our Phase I clinical trial for ALS-4. The first-in-human Phase 1 trial was a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, single and multiple ascending dose study designed to evaluate safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of orally administered ALS-4 in healthy male and female adult volunteers. The single-ascending dose studies (SAD) and multiple-ascending dose studies (MAD) have been completed for a total of 72 healthy subjects and no subjects were dropped from the studies. There were no serious adverse events observed and no relevant clinical changes in respect of vital signs. In March 2023, we announced the completion of the Pre-IND discussions with the US FDA. The Pre-IND discussions focused on overall development plan in preparation for the IND application of ALS-4 targeting Acute Bacterial Skin and Skin Structure Infections (ABSSSI) initially.
With the positive feedback on the overall development strategy from the US FDA, we are proceeding towards the IND submission of ALS-4 seeking to initiate a Phase 2 clinical study to assess the efficacy of ALS-4 in patients in 2023.
On October 18, 2017, the Company’s subsidiary, Acticule, entered into an exclusive license agreement with Versitech Limited, the licensing entity of HKU, for ALS-4. Subsequently on June 7, 2018, the parties entered into a first amendment to the exclusive license agreement, and on July 10, 2019, the parties entered into a second amendment to the license agreement.
On January 11, 2019, Acticule and Versitech Limited entered into a second license agreement for ALS-4, where Acticule exclusively licensed the intellectual property rights on certain HKU-owned improvements to the original licensed invention.
Under the exclusive license agreements, we were granted an exclusive, royalty-bearing, sublicensable licenses to develop, make, have made, use, sell, offer for sale and import products that are covered by the licensed patents (as described below). The territory of the licenses is worldwide and the field of the licenses is for treatment or prevention of bacterial infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA and bacterial virulence.
We paid an upfront fee upon entering into the license agreements. We are required to pay less than 10% of the net sales of the licensed products sold by us or our affiliates as royalties, as well as a low teens percentage of sublicense royalties that we receive from our sublicensees, if any. In addition, we agreed to pay to the licensor aggregate regulatory milestones of up to US$1 million subject to the following achievements: submission of investigational new drug application; completion of phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials; and submission of new drug application; grant of regulatory approval. We also agreed to pay to the licensor aggregate sales milestones of up to US$7.8 million subject to the following achievement: first commercial sale; and annual net sales exceeding US$100 million in one jurisdiction.
Pursuant to the license agreements, Acticule became the exclusive licensee of 2 pending U.S. non-provisional patent applications and 2 PCT applications (now expired). Prior to the expiration of the PCT applications, we filed national phase applications in member states of the PCT including Europe, PRC and 12 other jurisdictions. The claimed inventions are described as: “Compounds Affecting Pigment Production and Methods for Treatment of Bacterial Diseases.”
Four (4) US patents and two (2) Israeli patents have been granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Israel Patent office respectively.
Acticule has the right to grant sublicenses to third parties under the license agreements without prior approval from Versitech Limited and to assign the agreements to any successor to the business related to the licenses. In the event that Acticule makes an improvement to the licensed technologies, so long as the improvement does not incorporate any licensed patents, Acticule will be the owner to such improvement, subject to a non-exclusive royalty-free license being granted back to Versitech Limited for academic and research purposes only.
The exclusive license agreements shall be in effect until the expiration of all licensed patents (please refer to the patent expiration dates under “Item 4. Information on the Company – B. Business Overview – Intellectual Property”). Acticule may terminate the licenses at any time with 6-month written notice in advance. Either party may terminate the agreements upon a material breach by other party.
SACT-1: A Repurposed Drug for the Treatment of Neuroblastoma
Drug repurposing is a strategy for identifying new indications for approved or investigational drugs that are outside the scope of the original medical uses. It is often viewed as a lower-cost method for drug commercialization, as it is based on already-approved drugs (which has been proven to be safe for human use by the respective governing regulatory agency) and explores new target indications. (Ashburn, T. T. & Thor, K. B. Drug repositioning: identifying and developing new uses for existing drugs. Nat. Rev. Drug Discov. 3, 673–683, 2004).
One of the advantages of drug repurposing is a lower development risk due to safety and toxicity, as well as other properties related to water solubility, absorption, distribution and metabolism, as the safety and CMC profiles of marketed drugs are usually well-established. Due to the same reason, the development time is also shortened because there is no need to repeat the whole spectrum of the safety assessment. As a result, the drug repurposing approach appears to be attractive due to its superior risk management, smaller capital investment and quicker financial return. (Sudeep Pushpakom, et. al. Drug repurposing: progress, challenges and recommendations. Nat. Rev. Drug Discov. 18, 41-58, 2019)
The cost of bringing a repurposed drug is estimated to be around US$300 million, which is only one-tenth of the development cost for a new drug. (Nosengo, N. Can you teach old drugs new tricks? Nature. 534, 314-316, 2016).
In summary, drug repurposing offers the following advantages:
|●||Well-established safety profiles: The development risk for new indications can be substantially reduced by applying existing drugs that are approved or have been shown to be safe in large scale late-stage trials. Since safety accounts for approximately 30% of drug failures in clinical trials, this is a key advantage that repositioned drugs can harness to great effect. (The benefits of drug repositioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ddw-online.com/the-benefits-of-drug-repositioning-1779-201104/)|
|●||Time-saving: As repositioned drugs can rely on existing data, including efficacy and toxicity studies, the process is usually faster than de novo development. Developing a new chemical entity (NCE) can take 10 to 17 years, depending on indications. (Roin, B. N. Solving the Problem of New Uses, 2013). For a drug repositioning company, the development process from compound identification to launch can be around 3 to 8 years. (Walker, N. (2017, December 07). Accelerating Drug Development Through Repurposing, Repositioning and Rescue. Retrieved from https://www.pharmoutsourcing.com/Featured-Articles/345076-Accelerating-Drug-Development-Through-Repurposing-Repositioning-and-Rescue/)|
|●||Cost-saving: Along with time-saving, money-saving is also a key benefit. The cost to relaunch a repositioned drug averages $8.4 million, whereas to relaunch a new formulation of an existing drug in its original indication costs an average $41.3 million. Given that the average cost of launching a new chemical entity (NCE) is more than $1.3 billion, successfully bringing a repositioned drug to market seems to cost approximately 160 times less than the current standard of NCE development. Even if this differential is off by a hundred times or more, from the purely financial perspective, repositioning is in a completely different league of investment needed to create a new drug product in the market. (https://www.ddw-online.com/the-benefits-of-drug-repositioning-1779-201104/)|
|●||Potential for out-licensing: Pharmaceutical companies are said to be exploring new models to out-license some of their clinical drug candidates that may have been shelved for pure business reasons unrelated to safety or efficacy, even though they have met their endpoints and have proven themselves to be safe. If such drugs were to be repositioned, the pharmaceutical company increases the attractiveness of these drugs and gives itself more options to find interested buyers. (https://www.ddw-online.com/the-benefits-of-drug-repositioning-1779-201104/)|
|●||Lower failure rate: According to BCC Research, approval rates for repurposed drugs are close to 30%, which is greater than the approval rate for new drug applications. (Front Oncol. 2017; 7: 273)|
One of the major limitations of the current drug repurposing and repositioning practice is that there is a lack of a systematic way to identify and reinvestigate drugs that are approved and/or have failed approval.
SACT-1 is the first repurposed drug candidate to be developed under the Smart-ACT® drug discovery platform. SCAT-1 is one of the Company’s proprietary technologies. Our first targeted indication is neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a rare form of cancer, and classified as an orphan disease, that forms in certain types of nerve tissue and most frequently in the adrenal glands as well as spine, chest, abdomen or neck, predominantly in children, especially for those aged 5 years and below. For the high-risk group, which is close to 20% (Annu Rev Med. 2015; 66: 49–63.) of total new patient population per year, the 5-year survival rate of this condition is around 40-50% as observed by the American Cancer Society (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/neuroblastoma/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html). The current high drug treatment cost for high risk patients can average USD200,000 per regimen (all 6 cycles) (https://www.cadth.ca/sites/default/files/pcodr/Reviews2019/10154DinutuximabNeuroblastoma_fnEGR_NOREDACT-ABBREV_Post_26Mar2019_final.pdf). In addition, most pediatric patients often do not tolerate or survive the relevant chemotherapy stage which, subject to further clinical studies, may be positively addressed by the SACT-1 candidate due to the potential synergistic effects when applied with standard chemotherapy.
In our studies, SACT-1 has been shown to be effective against numerous neuroblastoma cell lines, of which 2 are MYCN-amplified cells, which represent the high-risk neuroblastoma patient group. In addition, by using a bliss score as a quantitative measure of the extent of drug interaction, Aptorum Group has seen a high and robust synergism between SACT-1 and traditional chemotherapy in vitro (Figure 4), indicating a potential efficacy enhancement/dose reduction of the chemotherapy.
Figure 4: synergism between SACT-1 and traditional chemotherapy in vitro
In addition, in our study, the maximum tolerable dose of SACT-1 in a rodent model was determined to be higher than 400mg/kg. Compared with the MTD of standard chemotherapy such as paclitaxel (20-30mg/kg) (Clin Cancer Res. 5(11):3632-8) and cisplatin (6mg/kg) (BMC Cancer 17: 684 (2017)), the safety profile of SACT-1 appears to be very impressive. Based on our internal observations of pre-existing information from approved products, (subject to FDA’s approval and on a case-by-case basis, a 505(b)(2) Application can rely in part on existing information from approved products (such as the FDA’s previous findings on safety and efficacy) or products in literature (such as data available). However, typically speaking, the applicant is nonetheless required to carry out a Phase 1 bridging study to compare the Reference Listed Drug and reference the established safety and efficacy information), SACT-1 also exhibits a well-established safety profile: at 150mg/day, the death rate was 0% in prior clinical studies with no dosage related adverse events (Table 1). In addition, the pharmacokinetic profile of SACT-1 has also been reported (Table 2).
Table 1: Safety Profiles of SACT-1 in Human Clinical Trials
Table 2: The pharmacokinetic Profile of SACT-1 in Humans
We have developed a pediatric formulation of SACT-1 to better address the needs of neuroblastoma patients who are exclusively children younger than 5. Positive data from our latest internal in vivo studies show significant activity against neuroblastoma tumor reduction when treated with the compound SACT-1 in combination with standard of care (SOC) chemotherapy.
Separately, we also screened SACT-1 for its in vitro activity against over 300 cancer cell lines and showed positive results in a number of cancer types including in particular colorectal cancer, leukemia and lymphoma, etc. Similar to our previous findings against neuroblastoma cell lines, SACT-1 exhibits similar anti-tumor efficacy across one or more other major cancer types, including but not limited to colorectal cancer, leukemia and lymphoma cell lines. As a result, in addition to treating neuroblastoma, SACT-1 may have potential applications in the treatment of other cancers. Based on this discovery, we plan to carry out further in vivo studies to study the efficacy of SACT-1 over other types of cancers to maximize the potential of SACT-1. Based on the initial 22 day data of a recent study we conducted in a xenograft mouse model of neuroblastoma, SACT-1 was orally administered daily at 60mg/kg in combination of SOC chemotherapy brought a statistically significant tumor shrinkage (unpaired student’s t-test, p<0.01) from Day 15 to Day 22, compared to the control group which received SOC only. The combination reduced the tumor size by up to 54.2% in the first 22 days compared with the control (SOC only). SACT-1 appears to be effective in accelerating the effect of the SOC in early time points (from Day 1 - 7 vs control). This further supports our earlier in vitro observation that SACT-1 promotes tumor DNA damage and tumor cell death.
Figure 5: 22 days data of in vivo studies in a xenograft mouse model of neuroblastoma
|**||Unpaired student’s t-test, p<0.01, n=8 (based on initial 22 days period)|
In September 2021, we announced that we received clearance from the US FDA regarding the IND application to initiate clinical trials of SACT-1. In January 2022, we further announced that the completion of our Phase I clinical trial for assessing relative bioavailability and food effect of SACT-1, and no serious adverse events were observed. SACT-1’s Phase 1 clinical trial is an Open-label Randomized, Single Cross Over Bioavailability and Food Effect Study of SACT-1 in healthy adult volunteers. In additions, the US FDA has granted Orphan Drug Designation to SACT-1 in January 2022. In March 2023, we further announced the completion of the End of Phase 1 (EOP1) meeting with the US FDA on SACT-1. The EOP1 meeting was focused on gaining alignment with the US FDA regarding the clinical and regulatory pathway for SACT-1 for the treatment of neuroblastoma in pediatric patients aged 2-18. The FDA generally agreed with the chemistry-manufacturing-control (CMC) strategy and our proposed clinical development plan for Phase 1/2 trials.
We are on track to submit an IND application to the US FDA in 2023 seeking to initiate our planned Phase 1b/2a trial for SACT-1.
In January 2022, the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted the first patent regarding Aptorum’s SACT-1 (through Aptorum’s subsidiary) repurposed drug for the treatment of various cancers including but not limited to neuroblastoma (US Patent 11,166,952). Another US patent (US Patent 11,571,422) was granted in February 2023, and altogether the SACT-1 patent portfolio has Nine (9) active national phase patent applications all over the world.
PathsDx Test: A novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology
Infectious disease diagnostic standard of care (SOC) often involves techniques that are slow (e.g., bacterial culturing takes several days) or expensive (e.g., current pathogen diagnostic sequencing solutions are not comprehensive, are expensive, and often inaccessible to physicians). Although infectious disease diagnosis capabilities have been improving in recent years, there are still issues with the public health capacity to control infectious disease threats.
Infectious disease diagnostic standard of care (SOC) does not necessarily provide the physician a comprehensive diagnosis or report. Most point of care diagnostic solutions, while rapid, screen only for a single pathogen and only focus on common and widespread pathogens (e.g., HIV). Thus, for infectious disease patients in developed nations that present with an uncommon, novel or emerging pathogen threat, diagnosis is often slow (2-5 days) and inconclusive leaving time for pathogen spread and increased patient suffering and/or death.
PathsDx Test is a rapid infectious disease diagnostic test that we believe will be potentially able to identify all pathogens in a patient’s sample, both known and unknown, by employing Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). The goal of PathsDx Test is to cost-effectively return a 99% accurate result within 24-48 hours. Our internal results show that, in principle, PathsDx Test can identify pathogens such as viruses (e.g. COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2) or any other known or emerging infectious disease event in one test (e.g., DNA or RNA-based pathogens). With these properties, PathsDx Test is expected to track the infectome landscape (e.g., tracking mutations), rapidly identify antibiotic resistant microbials in the process, and be more affordable than current NGS-based diagnostic platforms, which will make it a superior product to those currently on the market.
Preliminary data from our internal studies, which have not been verified or confirmed by third parties, presented below demonstrate additional points of innovation and proof of concept feasibility data.
Case Study #1: We examined a bio banked blood sample from a patient with a diagnosed Hepatitis B infection (Figure 6). Our technology successfully detected the presence of Hepatitis B, as well as additional pathogens.
Figure 6: Aptorum’s technology successfully confirmed a known Hepatitis B diagnosis in a bio banked sample.
Case Study #2: A patient was undergoing chemotherapy and developed a severe lung infection that was refractory to first-line antibiotics but eventually responded to the traditional trial and error approach. Using our technology, we found that 10% of all reads came from Leuconostoc, a Gram+ bacteria (Figure 7). Importantly, Leuconostoc was not identified by physicians, demonstrating that our technology can identify pathogens that allude a traditional diagnosis.
Figure 7: Aptorum’s technology identified pathogen(s) that allude the traditional diagnostic approach.
PathsDx Test has the revolutionary potential to cover simultaneously over 1300 pathogens due to the unbiased approach in analyzing pathogen genome information and caters to patients who are infected with multi-strains of pathogen. The technology can be updated through our software analytics on an ongoing basis as further pathogenic genome sequences are updated through public databases, ensuring that it is up-to-date on new and emerging pandemic threats.
PathsDx Test is currently undergoing Clinical Validation to confirm the performance of PathsDx Test using clinical/patient samples. PathsDx Test will continue to undergo validations during 2023, in parallel with its pre-commercialization process in 2023.
Patent License and Application
On September 25, 2020, the Company’s subsidiary, Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited, entered into an exclusive licence agreement with Accelerate Technologies Pte Ltd, the commercialization arm of the Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (“A*STAR”), to co-develop PathsDx Test, a novel molecular-based rapid pathogen identification and detection diagnostics technology. No upfront fee or royalty on net sales is payable under the license agreements, although we are required to pay a mid-teens to mid-twenties percentage of sublicense revenue that we receive from our sublicensees, if any. In addition, we agreed to pay to the licensor aggregate development milestones of up to US$250,000. When specific development milestone is reached, we are also required to satisfy certain diligence obligations, including recruitment of staff, establishment of relationship with potential customers and exercise commercially reasonable efforts in selling the Licensed Products.
We filed two (2) US provisional patent applications and one (1) Singapore patent application was filed in 2021, but subsequently abandoned. In addition, one (1) US non-provisional patent application was filed on October 8, 2021 and we entered two (2) Paris Convention (PCT) applications on February 24, 2022 and January 7, 2023 respectively. The claimed inventions are described as: “Unbiased And Simultaneous Amplification Method For Preparing A Double-Stranded DNA Library From A Sample Of More Than One Type Of Nucleic Acid” and “Method of Degrading Nucleic Acids and Associated Compositions.”
The term statistical significance is to define the probability that a measured difference between two groups (e.g. two treatment groups, treatment versus control groups) is the result of a real difference in the tested variations and not the result of chance. It means that the result of a test does not appear randomly or by chance, but because of a specific change that is tested, so it can be attributed to a specific cause.
The confidence level indicates to what percentage the test results will not commit a type 1 error, the false positive. A false positive occurs when a change in the result is due to randomness (or other noise) and not the change in variations. At a 95% confidence level (p = 0.05), there is a 5% chance that the test results are due to a type 1 error. 95% has become the standard and usually be the minimum confidence level for the tests. To make the test more stringent, a 99% confidence level (p = 0.01) is also commonly employed, which means that there is a 1% chance that the test results are due to a type 1 error.
In other words, a p value represents the confidence level. For example, if the p-value for a test is < 0.05, it means that there is less than 5% chance the difference between two groups is due to random error or by chance. If the p-value is < 0.01, it means that there is less than 1% chance the difference between two groups is due to random error or by chance.
We employed statistical testing to compare different treatment groups in animal studies simply for proof of concept and to aid internal decision making for further development. We do not intend to use this standard for any regulatory submission. The US FDA or other regulatory agencies may not necessarily employ the same statistical standard to assess the efficacy in clinical trials, the results of which would be submitted for regulatory approval. Although a p-value of 0.05 has become the standard, the US FDA or other regulatory agencies may also individualize their efficacy standard for different clinical programs based on the indications, the purpose of a clinical trial, among others.
FDA Application Status
As of the date of this the annual report, we received CTA and IND approvals for ALS-4 and SACT-1 from Health Canada and the US FDA to initiate human clinical trial. We have not submitted other applications for IND to the FDA or other regulatory agencies.
Other Projects under Development
The following provides additional detail regarding Other Projects under Development. As noted elsewhere in this report, based on certain criteria, we sometimes cease work on certain projects to focus on projects we believe are more promising. We have discontinued the development of certain candidates because patent applications protecting such technologies could not be obtained from USPTO, so we decided to focus our capital and efforts on other candidates. We typically discontinue the development of a candidate because the expected result could not be generated, so we focus our capital and efforts on our other candidates. The patents and patent applications covering the Other Projects are either owned by the Company or have been in-licensed.
On April 20, 2021, the Company’s subsidiary, Aptorum Therapeutics Limited, entered into an Option Agreement with Yale University to evaluate the certain classes of autoimmune anti-inflammatory drug. The agreement ends on July 14, 2022.
SACT-COV19: Drug repurposing for the treatment of infections caused by COVID-19
SACT-COV19 is a drug repurposing program for the treatment of infections caused by COVID-19. We have completed initial screening under the Smart-ACT® platform to select, out of more than 2,600 small drug molecules that were previously approved for other indications, at least 3 potential candidates for further preclinical investigation against the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19. We are collaborating with Toronto based Covar Pharmaceuticals and University of Oxford, and have also entered into agreement with the University of Hong Kong’s Microbiology Department to conduct further preclinical investigation of the selected candidates prior to seeking approval from regulatory agencies to initiate clinical trials on suitable candidates.
Drug candidates from the SACT-COV19 program are currently undergoing in vitro validation.
ALS-1: Small molecule intended for the treatment of viral infections caused by Influenza virus A
Professor Richard Kao, the Inventor of ALS-1, was the first to identify viral nucleoproteins (NP) as an effective drug target (Nature Biotechnology. 28:600-605) We are exploring ALS-1 as a potential treatment for viral infections caused by Influenza virus A.
It is our hypothesis that Influenza A NP is an essential protein for the proliferation of the influenza virus. ALS-1 targets NP and triggers the aggregation of NP and this prevents the aggregated NP from entering the nucleus. In an animal study published by the inventor, Prof. Richard Kao, in Nature Biotechnology (28 (6): 600, 2010), after treating with ALS-1, 50% of the mice receiving two doses of ALS-1 (100 μl of 2.3 mg/ml ALS-1) per day for 7 days survived for more than 21 days compared with 100% mortality in the treatment-free control group within 7 days. In addition, about a 10x reduction of viral load in the lungs of the ALS-1-treated mice was observed compared to the untreated control group. The animal study results suggest that ALS-1 has the potential to be developed into a useful anti-influenza therapeutic.
ALS-1 is designed to target a broad range of NP variants, a novel therapeutic target. Compared with the currently marketed antiviral drugs for which the viruses have acquired extensive resistance, ALS-1 acts on a completely different therapeutic target.
ALS-1 is currently undergoing Lead Optimization to optimize its drug-like properties.
ALS-2/ 3: Small molecules for the treatment of bacterial infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA
ALS-2/3 is a potential class of next generation small molecules targeting bacterial virulence for the treatment of bacterial infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA. In a recent paper published by the inventor, Professor Richard Kao from The University of Hong Kong (also the Founder and Principal Investigator of Acticule), in PNAS (115(310: 8003, 2018), ALS-2/3 suppresses the expression of multiple virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus simultaneously. In a lethal infection mouse model, compared with the vehicle group, ALS-2/3 protected against Staphylococcus aureus for all the mice in the group, with significant differences between the treatment and control groups [P = 0.0057, by log-rank (Mantel-Cox) test].
ALS-2/3 small molecules are currently at the Lead Optimization stage to optimize its drug-like properties.
NLS-1: A Derivative of Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (“Pro-EGCG”) for the treatment of Endometriosis
NLS-1, a drug molecule derived from natural products (green tea), is currently under development for the treatment of endometriosis, a disease in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus.
NLS-1 acts as an anti-angiogenic to offer a potential novel treatment of endometriosis. In a paper published by the inventors in Angiogenesis (16:59, 2013), NLS-1 brought a statistically significantly reduction in the lesion size and weight compared with EGCG and the control without any treatment in an experimental endometriosis mouse model (Student t-test, p < 0.05). In addition, the inhibition by NLS-1 in all of the angiogenesis parameters was statistically significantly greater than that by EGCG (Student t-test, p < 0.05). In addition, NLS-1 significantly (Student t-test, p < 0.05) reduces the lesion size in both prevention and treatment group compared with both saline and EGCG groups. Moreover, NLS-1 also had better bioavailability and greater antioxidation and anti-angiogenesis capacities compared with EGCG. As a follow-up study in an animal model of endometriosis, orally administered NLS-1 reduced the lesion size significantly better than oral EGCG (p<0.05-0.001 at week 3- 8, ANOVA) and other hormone-based therapy such as intramuscular GnRH analog (p<0.05 at week 4-8, ANOVA) and other synthetic anti-angiogenesis agents such as intraperitoneal PTK787 (p<0.05-0.01 at week 4-8, ANOVA). Regarding safety, there was no signs of stress to NLS-1 administration were observed during the treatment period. No significant weight change was observed over the course of the experiment. Histological examination revealed no obvious reproductive effects on ovarian follicles and endometrial glands under NLS-1 treatments. Also, vascularization of the ovaries and the uterus was not affected in the NLS-1 treatment group.
We are currently undergoing some activities to enable NLS-1 to enter IND-enabling studies. Besides, we are exploring possibilities to develop a non-drug formulation for NLS-1.
On May 6, 2021, we announced that we entered into an agreement with Exeltis (“Exeltis”) (a division of the global pharmaceutical group Insud Pharma) to develop, manufacture and commercialize NLS-1 in the following territories: the European Union and Latin America (with an option to expand the collaboration to the United States). This novel candidate is intended to target woman’s health and gynecological conditions, such as endometriosis or related conditions. Under this agreement, Aptorum Group will retain the development rights in other jurisdictions in the world, as well as the right to develop the novel candidate into a drug product. Commercialization of the product is subject to relevant regulatory approvals in their respective jurisdictions.
Aptorum Medical Limited - AML Clinic
Incorporated in August 2017, Aptorum Medical Limited is a Hong Kong-based company incorporated in Cayman Islands focused on delivering premium healthcare and clinic services. AML can draw on the expertise of many of the region’s most experienced medical practitioners, and is committed to providing a comprehensive cross-functional facility for healthcare professionals to practice evidence-based medicine and offer high-quality medical services to their patients. We also intend that AML will offer to conduct clinical trials of both the Company’s and third parties’ new drug products.
Effective as of March 2018, we leased office space in Central, Hong Kong, the commercial and financial heart of Hong Kong, as the home to AML Clinic. We operate the AML Clinic under the name of Talem Medical. AML Clinic commenced operation in June 2018.
The renovated medical center is staffed by our group of medical professionals and offers state-of-the-art facilities. Initially we expect to focus our expertise on treatment of chronic diseases resulting from modern sedentary lifestyles and an aging population.
NLS-2: NativusWell®, a Bioactive Ingredient (DOI) in Chinese Yam for the Relief of Menopausal Symptoms as a Natural Supplement.
NativusWell® (NLS-2) is a natural supplement made with the bioactive ingredient extracted Chinese yam powder containing “DOI”, which is Aptorum Group’s non-hormonal approach intended to meet certain growing consumer nutritional trends and concerns. It is estimated that 1.2 billion women worldwide will be menopausal or postmenopausal by the year 20301. The global woman’s health supplement market for menopausal symptoms is projected to reach over USD$50bn by 2025 with a CAGR rate of 16.4% (2016-2025)2. Initially, the supplement will be commercialized and sold in Hong Kong; the Company is seeking regulatory clearance to market the product in other major jurisdictions. We previously entered into a regional distribution and marketing agreement, but have since decided to commercialize NLS-2 through our own efforts.
The production of Aptorum Group’s dioscorea opposita bioactive nutraceutical tablets has commenced production in Canada and is marketed under the brand name NativusWell®; we are selling it online through HKTV Mall, JD.com and NativusWell® website.
NativusWell® tablets are natural, non-hormonal supplements containing DOI. The yam powder with DOI utilizes a non-hormonal approach that is intended to boost the general wellness of women undergoing menopause. Third party scientific studies indicate that DOI, the naturally occurring bioactive ingredient in Chinese yam, appears to stimulate estradiol biosynthesis, induce estradiol and progesterone secretion and increase bone density, thereby potentially counteracting the progression of osteoporosis3, one of the common symptoms associated with menopause4.
Our industry is highly competitive and subject to rapid and significant change. While we believe that our development and commercialization experience, scientific knowledge and industry relationships provide us with competitive advantages, we face competition from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including specialty pharmaceutical companies, and generic drug companies, academic institutions, government agencies and research institutions.
There are a number of large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that currently market and sell drugs or are pursuing the development of drugs for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases for which we are developing products or technology. Moreover, a number of additional drugs are currently in clinical trials and may become competitors if and when they receive regulatory approval.
|1||World Health Technical Report Series. Research on the Menopause in the 1990’s. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 1996.|
|3||https://www.ke.hku.hk/story/innovation/the-magic-of-chinese-yam-for-treatment-of-menopausal-syndrome; see also, Scientific Reports, 5-10179.|
Many of our competitors have longer operating histories, better name recognition, stronger management capabilities, better supplier relationships, a larger technical staff and sales force and greater financial, technical or marketing resources than we do. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop or market products or other novel therapies that are more effective, safer or less costly than our current drug candidates, or any future drug candidates we may develop, or obtain regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for our current drug candidates or any such future drug candidates. Our success will be based in part on our ability to identify, develop and manage a portfolio of drug candidates that are safer and more effective than competing products.
Inflation affects us by generally increasing our cost of labor and research and development costs, the way it does to all labor and research costs. However, we do not anticipate that inflation will materially affect our business in the foreseeable future.
We believe our operation and sales do not experience seasonality.
As of the date of this the annual report, we have 18 full-time and 1 part-time employees. Of these, 6 full-time are engaged in research and development and laboratory operations, 7 full-time are engaged in general and administrative functions and 5 full-time and 1 part-time are engaged in the clinic operation. As of the date of this annual report, 18 of our employees are located in Asia and 1 of our employees is located in Europe. In addition, we have engaged and may continue to engage 66 independent contracted consultants and advisors to assist us with our operations. None of our employees are represented by a labor union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement. We have never experienced any employment related work stoppages, and we consider our relations with our employees to be good.
The technologies underlying our various research and development projects are the subject of various patents and patent applications claiming, in certain instances, composition of matter and, in other instances, methods of use. Prosecution, maintenance and enforcement of these patents, as well as those on any future protectable technologies we may acquire, are and will continue to be an important part of our strategy to develop and commercialize novel medicines, as described in more detail below. Through entering into license agreements with their owners, we have obtained exclusive rights to these patents, applications and related know-how in the U.S. and certain other countries to develop, manufacture and commercialize the products using or incorporating the protected inventions that are described in this annual report and that are expected to contribute significant value to our business. The technologies protected by these patents may also for the basis for the development of other products.
In addition to licensed intellectual property, our in-house science team has been actively developing our own proprietary intellectual property. No non-provisional patent application has yet been filed in the Company’s own name for the Lead Projects. We have, however, filed a number of provisional applications to establish earlier filing dates for certain of our other ongoing researches, the specifics of which are currently proprietary and confidential.
The U.S. patent system permits the filing of provisional and non-provisional patent applications (i.e., a regular patent application). A non-provisional patent application is examined by the USPTO, and can mature into a patent once the USPTO determines that the claimed invention meets the standards for patentability. On the other hand, a provisional patent application is not examined for patentability, and automatically expires 12 months after its filing date. As a result, a provisional patent application cannot mature into a patent.
Provisional applications are often used, among other things, to establish an earlier filing date for a subsequent non-provisional patent application. The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term of the patents in the countries in which they are obtained.
The effective filing date of a non-provisional patent application is used by the USPTO to determine what information is prior art when it considers the patentability of a claimed invention. If certain requirements are satisfied, a non-provisional patent application can claim the benefit of the filing date of an earlier filed provisional patent application. As a result, the filing date accorded by the provisional patent application may supersede information that otherwise could preclude the patentability of an invention.
A provisional patent application is not eligible to become an issued patent unless, among other things, we file a non-provisional patent application within 12 months of the filing date of the provisional patent application. If we do not timely file a non-provisional patent application claiming priority to said provisional application, we may lose our priority date with respect to our provisional patent applications. Further, if any (self or by others) publication of the invention is made after such priority date, and if we do not file a non-provisional application claiming priority to said provisional application, our invention may become unpatentable.
Moreover, we cannot predict whether such future patent applications will result in the issuance of patents that effectively protect any of our product candidates or will effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive products.
We do not expect to incur material expenses in the prosecution of the provisional applications or other licensed patent applications. We expect to fund the patent costs from our cash and restricted cash.
The value of our drug products will depend significantly on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for those products, preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets and operate without infringing the valid and enforceable patents and proprietary rights of other parties.
As of the date hereof, we are the patentee of a number of provisional and non-provisional patent applications, both on our proprietarily developed projects and improvement to our in-licensed projects.
The following table sets forth a list of our patent rights under the exclusive licenses as of the date of this annual report related to our Lead Projects, ALS-4 and PathsDx Test; on the other hand, our other Lead Project, SACT-1 is a proprietary technology not subject to any license agreement:
|Project Company / Project name||License Agreement||Licensor(s)||Licensee||Licensed / IP Rights||Patent Expiration Dates|
|Acticule / ALS-4||
Exclusive Patent License Agreement, dated October 18, 2017
First Amendment to Exclusive License Agreement, dated June 7, 2018
Second Amendment to Exclusive License Agreement dated July 10, 2019
Exclusive Patent License Agreement dated January 11, 2019
|Versitech Limited||Acticule Life Sciences Limited||
Exclusive licensee: 2 pending U.S. applications (16/867,540 and 17/006,985), 1 pending European applications (EP18835238.9), 1 pending PRC application (CN201880048674.5), 12 pending applications in other foreign jurisdictions including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Eurasia, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore
The licensed IP rights include granted patents in the U.S. and pending patent applications in the U.S., Europe, PRC and other foreign jurisdictions.
The U.S. patents will expire in 2038; any other patent based on the pending application, if granted, will have a 20-year patent term from 2018.
|PathsDx Test||Exclusive Patent License Agreement, dated September 25, 2020||Accelerate Technologies Pte Ltd||Paths Diagnostics Pte. Limited||Exclusive licensee: 4 U.S. patents US7635566, US8241850, US9920355, US10472667, 1 European patent EP3224374, 1 Great Britain patent GB2532749||The U.S. patents will expire in 2027, 20282034 and 2037 respectively. The UK patent will expire in 2034. The European patent will expire in 2035.|
Because of the extensive time required for clinical development and regulatory review of a drug we may develop, it is possible that, before any of our drug candidates can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in force for only a short period following commercialization, thereby reducing any advantage of any such patent. If appropriate, the Company may seek to extend the period during which it has exclusive rights to a product by pursuing patent term extensions and marketing exclusivity periods that are available from the regulatory authorities of certain countries (including the United States) and the EPO.
Even though the Company has certain patent rights, the ability to obtain and maintain protection of biotechnology and pharmaceutical products and processes such as those we intend to develop and commercialize involves complex legal and factual questions. No consistent policy regarding the breadth of claims allowed in such patents has emerged to date in the U.S. The scope of patent protection outside the United States is even more uncertain. Changes in the patent laws or in interpretations of patent laws in the United States and other countries have diminished (and may further diminish) our ability to protect our inventions and enforce our IP rights and, more generally, could affect the value of IP.
While we have already secured rights to a number of issued patents directed to our drug candidates, we cannot predict the breadth of claims that may issue from the pending patent applications and provisional patents that we have licensed or that we have filed. Substantial scientific and commercial research has been conducted for many years in the areas in which we have focused our development efforts, which has resulted in other parties having a number of issued patents, provisional patents and pending patent applications relating to such areas. The patent examiner in any particular jurisdiction may take the view that prior issued patents and prior publications render our patent claims “obvious” and therefore unpatentable or require us to reduce the scope of the claims for which we are seeking patent protection.
In addition, patent applications in the United States and elsewhere generally are not available to the public until at least 18 months from the priority date, and the publication of discoveries in the scientific or patent literature frequently occurs substantially later than the date on which the underlying discoveries were made. Therefore, patent applications relating to drugs similar to our drug candidates may have already been filed, which (if they result in issued patents) could restrict or prohibit our ability to commercialize our drug candidates.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by extensive litigation regarding patents and other IP rights. Our ability to prevent competition for our drug candidates and technologies will depend on our success in obtaining patents containing substantial and enforceable claims for those candidates and enforcing those claims once granted. With respect to any applications which have not yet resulted in issued patents, there can be no assurance that meaningful claims will be obtained. Even issued patents may be challenged or invalidated. If others have prepared and filed patent applications in the United States that also claim technology to which we have filed patent applications or otherwise wish to challenge our patents, we may have to participate in interferences, post-grant reviews, inter parties reviews, derivation or other proceedings in the USPTO and other patent offices to determine issues such as priority of claimed invention or validity of such patent applications as well as our own patent applications and issued patents. Patents may also be circumvented, and our competitors may be able to independently develop and commercialize similar drugs or mimic our technology, business model or strategy without infringing our patents. The rights granted under any issued patents may not provide us with proprietary protection or competitive advantages against competitors with similar technology.
We may rely, in some limited circumstances, on unpatented trade secrets and know-how to protect aspects of our technology. However, it is challenging to monitor and prevent the disclosure of trade secrets. We seek to protect our proprietary trade secrets and know-how, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with consultants, scientific advisors and contractors and invention assignment agreements with our employees. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, giving our competitors knowledge of our trade secrets and know-how, and we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach, in which case our business could be adversely affected. Our trade secrets will not prevent our competitors from independently discovering or developing the same know-how. Although our agreements with our consultants, contractors or collaborators require them to provide us only original work product and prohibit them from incorporating or using IP owned by others in their work for us, if they breach these obligations, disputes may arise as to the rights in any know-how or inventions that arise from their work.
Our commercial success will also depend in part on not infringing the proprietary rights of other parties. Although we seek to review the patent landscape relevant to our technologies on an ongoing basis, we may become aware of a new patent which has been issued to others with claims covering or related to aspects of one of our drug candidate. The issuance of such a patent could require us to alter our development plans for that candidate, redesign the candidate, obtain a license from the patent holder or cease development. Our inability to obtain a license to proprietary rights that we may require to develop or commercialize any of our drug candidates would have a material adverse impact on us.
As of the date of this annual report, we own trademark registrations covering the trade names and logos of Aptorum and our subsidiaries, including but not limited to “APTORUM”, “APTORUM THERAPEUTICS,” “VIDENS LIFE SCIENCES,” “ACTICULE LIFE SCIENCES,” “NATIVUS LIFE SCIENCES,” “NativusWell,” “TALEM” in jurisdictions Hong Kong, EU and the United Kingdom and PRC. Furthermore, we are in the process of applying for registration of trademarks in jurisdictions including the U.S., EU, the United Kingdom, Australia and PRC.
We also own certain unregistered trademark rights.
All other trade names, trademarks and service marks of other companies appearing in this annual report are the property of their respective holders. Solely for convenience, the trademarks and trade names in annual report are referred to without the ® and ™ symbols, but such references should not be construed as any indicator that their respective owners will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, their rights thereto. We do not intend our use or display of other companies’ trademarks and trade names to imply a relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship of us by, any other companies.
Government authorities in the United States at the federal, state and local level and in other countries extensively regulate, among other things, the research and clinical development, testing, manufacture, quality control, approval, labeling, packaging, storage, record-keeping, promotion, advertising, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, marketing, pricing, export and import of drug products (“Regulated Products”), such as those we are developing. Generally, before a new Regulated Product can be marketed, considerable data demonstrating its quality, safety and efficacy must be obtained, organized to address the requirements of and in the format specific to each regulatory authority, submitted for review and approved by the regulatory authority. This process is very lengthy and expensive, and success is uncertain.
Regulated Products are also subject to other federal, state and local statutes and regulations in the United States and other countries, as applicable. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. Failure to comply with the applicable regulatory requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process or after approval, may subject an applicant to administrative or judicial sanctions. These sanctions could include, among other actions, the regulatory authority’s refusal to approve pending applications, withdrawal of an approval, clinical holds, untitled or warning letters, voluntary product recalls or withdrawals from the market, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, disbarment, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement, or civil or criminal penalties. Any such administrative or judicial enforcement action could have a material adverse effect on us.
As AML Clinic and part of the Company’s principal place of business is in Hong Kong, the Company is subject to various Hong Kong laws and regulation covering its business activities there, described in further detail below. Also, the Company anticipates that, if it obtains marketing approval for any of its drug candidates, it intends to focus its marketing and sales efforts primarily in three regions: the United States, Canada, Europe and PRC. The regulatory framework for each of these regions is described below.
U.S. Drug Development Process
The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and maintaining 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 after approval, may subject an applicant to administrative or judicial sanctions or lead to voluntary product recalls. Administrative or judicial sanctions could include the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications, withdrawal of an approval, a clinical hold, untitled or warning letters, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement or civil or criminal penalties. The process required by the FDA before a drug may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:
|●||completion of non-clinical laboratory tests, preclinical studies according to cGLP and manufacturing of clinical supplies according to cGMP;|
|●||submission to the FDA of an IND, which must become effective before human clinical trials may begin;|
|●||approval by an independent IRB, at each clinical site before each trial may be initiated;|
|●||performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials according to cGCP, to establish the safety and efficacy of the proposed product for its intended use;|
|●||preparation and submission to the FDA of an NDA, for a drug;|
|●||satisfactory completion of an FDA advisory committee review, if applicable;|
|●||satisfactory completion of an FDA inspection of the manufacturing facility or facilities at which the product, or components thereof, are produced to assess compliance with cGMP; and|
|●||payment of user fees and the FDA review and approval of the NDA.|
The testing and approval process requires substantial time, effort and financial resources and we cannot be certain that any approvals for our drug candidates, or any future drug candidates we may develop, will be granted on a timely basis, if at all.
Once a drug candidate is identified for development, it enters the non-clinical testing stage. Non-clinical tests include laboratory evaluations of product chemistry, toxicity, formulation and stability, as well as preclinical studies. An IND sponsor must submit the results of the non-clinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data and any available clinical data or literature, to the FDA as part of the IND prior to commencing any testing in humans. An IND sponsor must also include a protocol detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety, and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated if the initial clinical trial lends itself to an efficacy evaluation. Some non-clinical testing may continue even after the IND is submitted. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA raises concerns or questions related to a proposed clinical trial and places the trial on a clinical hold within that 30-day time period. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. Clinical holds also may be imposed by the FDA at any time before or during clinical trials due to safety concerns or non-compliance, and may be imposed on all products within a certain class of products. The FDA also can impose partial clinical holds, for example, prohibiting the initiation of clinical trials for certain duration or for certain doses.
All clinical trials must be conducted under the supervision of one or more qualified investigators in accordance with cGCP regulations. These regulations include the requirement that all research subjects provide informed consent in writing before their participation in any clinical trial. Further, an IRB representing each institution participating in a clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial before it commences at that institution, and the IRB must conduct continuing review and reapprove the study at least annually. An IRB is responsible for protecting the rights of clinical trial subjects and considers, among other things, whether the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trial are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the information regarding the clinical trial and the 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. Each new clinical protocol and any amendments to the protocol must be submitted to the FDA for review, and to the IRBs for approval. Protocol detail, among other things, includes the objectives of the clinical trial, testing procedures, sublease selection and exclusion criteria, and the parameters to be used to monitor subject safety.
Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:
|●||Phase 1. Phase 1 includes the initial introduction of an investigational new drug into humans. These studies are closely monitored and may be conducted in patients, but are usually conducted in healthy volunteer subjects. These studies are designed to determine the metabolic and pharmacologic actions of the drug in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and, if possible, to gain early evidence on effectiveness. During Phase 1, sufficient information about the drug’s pharmacokinetics and pharmacological effects should be obtained to permit the design of well-controlled, scientifically valid, Phase 2 studies. Phase 1 studies also evaluate drug metabolism, structure-activity relationships, and the mechanism of action in humans. These studies also determine which investigational drugs are used as research tools to explore biological phenomena or disease processes. The total number of subjects included in Phase 1 studies varies with the drug, but is generally in the range of twenty to eighty.|
|●||Phase 2. Phase 2 includes the early controlled clinical studies conducted to obtain some preliminary data on the effectiveness of the drug for a particular indication or indications in patients with the disease or condition. This phase of testing also helps determine the common short-term side effects and risks associated with the drug. Phase 2 studies are typically well-controlled, closely monitored, and conducted in a relatively small number of patients, usually involving several hundred people.|
|●||Phase 3. Phase 3 studies are expanded controlled and uncontrolled trials. They are performed after preliminary evidence suggesting effectiveness of the drug has been obtained in Phase 2, and are intended to gather the additional information about effectiveness and safety that is needed to evaluate the overall benefit-risk relationship of the drug. Phase 3 studies are designed to provide an adequate basis for extrapolating the results to the general population and transmitting that information in the physician labeling. Phase 3 studies usually include several hundred to several thousand people.|
Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted at least annually to the FDA and safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and clinical investigators within 15 calendar days for serious and unexpected suspected adverse events, any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator’s brochure, or any findings from other studies or animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk in humans exposed to the drug candidate. Additionally, a sponsor must notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction no later than 7 calendar days after the sponsor’s receipt of the information. There is no assurance that Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 testing can be completed successfully within any specified period, or 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 product has been associated with unexpected serious harm to subjects.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional preclinical studies and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the product and finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product drug and, among other things, the manufacturer must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality and purity of the final product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the product drug does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.
The results of product development, non-clinical studies and clinical trials, together with other detailed information regarding the manufacturing process, analytical tests conducted on the product, proposed labeling and other relevant information, are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the new drug. The FDA reviews all NDAs submitted within 60 days of submission to ensure that they are sufficiently complete for substantive review before it accepts them for filing. If the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth substantive review.
The approval process is lengthy and difficult and the FDA may refuse to approve an NDA if the applicable regulatory criteria are not satisfied or may require additional clinical data or other data and information. Even if such data and information are submitted, the FDA may ultimately decide that the NDA does not satisfy the criteria for approval. Data obtained from clinical trials are not always conclusive, and the FDA may interpret data differently than we interpret the same data. The FDA will issue a complete response letter if the agency decides not to approve the NDA in its present form. The complete response letter usually describes all of the specific deficiencies that the FDA identified in the NDA that must be satisfactorily addressed before it can be approved. The deficiencies identified may be minor, for example, requiring labeling changes, or major, for example, requiring additional clinical trials. Additionally, the complete response letter may include recommended actions that the applicant might take to place the application in a condition for approval. If a complete response letter is issued, the applicant may either resubmit the NDA, addressing all of the deficiencies identified in the letter, or withdraw the application or request an opportunity for a hearing.
If after such review a product receives regulatory approval, the approval may be significantly limited to specific diseases and dosages or the indications for use may otherwise be limited, which could restrict the commercial value of the product. Further, the FDA may require that certain contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling. Any products for which we receive the FDA approval would be subject to continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, record-keeping requirements, reporting of adverse experiences with the product, providing the FDA with updated safety and efficacy information, product sampling and distribution requirements, complying with certain electronic records and signature requirements and complying with the FDA promotion and advertising requirements. In addition, the FDA may require post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, to further assess a product’s safety and effectiveness after NDA approval and may require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the safety of approved products that have been commercialized. The FDA also may conclude that an NDA may only be approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy designed to mitigate risks through, for example, a medication guide, physician communication plan, or other elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools.
Any products for which we receive the FDA approval are subject to continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, record-keeping requirements, reporting of adverse experiences with the product, providing the FDA with updated safety and efficacy information, product sampling and distribution requirements, complying with certain electronic records and signature requirements and complying with the FDA promotion and advertising requirements. The FDA strictly regulates labeling, advertising, promotion and other types of information on products that are placed on the market. Products may be promoted only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. Further, manufacturers must continue to comply with cGMP requirements, which are extensive and require considerable time, resources and ongoing investment to ensure compliance. In addition, changes to the manufacturing process generally require prior the FDA approval before being implemented and other types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications and additional labeling claims, are also subject to further the FDA review and approval.
The FDA may withdraw a product approval if compliance with regulatory requirements is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product may result in restrictions on the product’s marketing or even complete withdrawal of the product from the market. Further, the failure to maintain compliance with regulatory requirements may result in administrative or judicial actions, such as fines, untitled or warning letters, holds on clinical trials, product seizures, product detention or refusal to permit the import or export of products, refusal to approve pending applications or supplements, restrictions on marketing or manufacturing, injunctions or consent decrees, or civil or criminal penalties, or may lead to voluntary product recalls.
Patent Term Restoration and Marketing Exclusivity
Because drug approval can take an extended period of time, there may be limited remaining life for the patents covering the approved drug, meaning that the company has limited time to use the patents to protect the sponsor’s exclusive rights to make, use and sell that drug. In such a case, 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 Act. The Hatch-Waxman Act permits a patent restoration term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during product development and the FDA regulatory review process. However, patent term restoration cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date.
In addition, the FDCA provides a five-year period of non-patent marketing exclusivity within the United States to the first applicant to gain approval of an NDA for a new chemical entity. A drug is a new chemical entity if the FDA has not previously approved any other new drug containing the same active moiety, which is the molecule or ion responsible for the action of the drug substance. During the exclusivity period, the FDA may not accept for review an abbreviated new drug application (“ANDA”) or a 505(b)(2) Application submitted by another company for another version of such drug where the applicant does not own or have a legal right of reference to all the data required for approval.
In the future, if appropriate, we intend to apply for restorations of patent term and/or marketing exclusivity for some of our products; however, there can be no assurance that any such extension or exclusivity will be granted to us.
Disclosure of Clinical Trial Information
Sponsors of clinical trials of the FDA-regulated products, including drugs are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information, which is publicly available at www.clinicaltrials.gov. Information related to the product, patient population, phase of investigation, study sites and investigators, and other aspects of the clinical trial is then made public as part of the registration. Sponsors are also obligated to disclose the results of their clinical trials after completion. Disclosure of the results of these trials can be delayed until the new product or new indication being studied has been approved. Competitors may use this publicly available information to gain knowledge regarding the progress of development programs.
Pharmaceutical Coverage, Pricing and Reimbursement
Much of the revenue generated by new Regulated Products depends on the willingness of third-party payors to reimburse the price of the product. Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval. In the United States, sales of any products for which we may receive regulatory approval for commercial sale will depend in part on the availability of coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors. Third-party payors include government authorities, managed care providers, private health insurers and other organizations. The process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the product. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list, or formulary, which is not required to include all of the FDA-approved products for a particular indication. Moreover, a payor’s decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Adequate third-party reimbursement may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development.
Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the price and examining the medical necessity and cost- effectiveness of medical products and services, in addition to their safety and efficacy. To obtain coverage and reimbursement for any product that might be approved for sale, we may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of any products, in addition to the costs required to obtain regulatory approvals. Our product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost-effective. If third-party payors do not consider a product to be cost-effective compared to other available therapies, they may not cover the product after approval as a benefit under their plans or, if they do, the level of payment may not be sufficient to allow a company to sell its products at a profit.
The U.S. government and state legislatures 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 generic products for branded prescription drugs. Adoption of government controls and measures, and tightening of restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could limit payments for pharmaceuticals.
Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which we receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future. Unfavorable coverage or reimbursement policies regarding any of the Company’s products would have a material adverse impact on the value of that product.
Other Healthcare Laws and Compliance Requirements
If we obtain regulatory approval of our products, we may be subject to various federal and state laws targeting fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry. These laws may impact, among other things, our proposed sales, marketing and education programs. In addition, we may be subject to patient privacy regulation by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business.
Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act, enacted in March 2010, includes measures that have or will significantly change the way health care is financed in the United States by both governmental and private insurers. Among the provisions of the Affordable Care Act of greatest importance to the pharmaceutical industry are the following:
|●||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 Affordable Care Act increased pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebate liability on most branded prescription drugs from 15.1% of the average manufacturer price to 23.1% of the average manufacturer price, added a new rebate calculation for line extensions of solid oral dosage forms of branded products, and modified the statutory definition of average manufacturer price. The Affordable Care Act also expanded the universe of Medicaid utilization subject to drug rebates by requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay rebates on Medicaid managed care utilization and expanding the population potentially eligible for Medicaid drug benefits.|
|●||In order for a pharmaceutical product to receive federal reimbursement under the Medicare Part B and Medicaid 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 Affordable Care Act expanded the types of entities eligible to receive discounted 340B pricing.|
|●||The Affordable Care Act imposed a requirement on manufacturers of branded drugs to provide a 50% discount off the negotiated price of branded drugs dispensed to Medicare Part D patients in the coverage gap (i.e., the “donut hole”).|
|●||The Affordable Care Act imposed an annual, non-deductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports certain branded prescription drugs, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs, although this fee does not apply to sales of certain products approved exclusively for orphan indications.|
In addition to these provisions, the Affordable Care Act established a number of bodies whose work may have a future impact on the market for certain pharmaceutical products. These include the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, established to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which has authority to recommend certain changes to the Medicare program to reduce expenditures by the program, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending.
These and other laws may result in additional reductions in healthcare funding, which could have a material adverse effect on customers for our product candidates, if we gain approval for any of them. Although we cannot predict the full effect on our business of the implementation of existing legislation or the enactment of additional legislation pursuant to healthcare and other legislative reform, we believe that legislation or regulations that would reduce reimbursement for, or restrict coverage of, our products could adversely affect how much or under what circumstances healthcare providers will use our product candidates if we gain approval for any of them.
In Canada, our pharmaceutical product candidates and our research and development activities are primarily regulated by the Food and Drugs Act and the rules and regulations thereunder, which are enforced by Health Canada. Health Canada regulates, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, packaging, storage, recordkeeping, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, post-approval monitoring, marketing and import and export of pharmaceutical products. Drug approval laws require licensing of manufacturing facilities, carefully controlled research and testing of products, government review and approval of experimental results prior to giving approval to sell drug products. Regulators also typically require that rigorous and specific standards such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Laboratory Practices, or GLP, and Good Clinical Practices, or GCP, are followed in the manufacture, testing and clinical development, respectively, of any drug product. The processes for obtaining regulatory approvals in Canada, along with subsequent compliance with applicable statutes and regulations, require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.
The principal steps required for drug approval in Canada is as follows:
Preclinical Toxicology Studies
Non-clinical studies are conducted in vitro and in animals to evaluate pharmacokinetics, metabolism and possible toxic effects to provide evidence of the safety of the drug candidate prior to its administration to humans in clinical studies and throughout development. Such studies are conducted in accordance with applicable laws and GLP.
Initiation of Human Testing
In Canada, the process of conducting clinical trials with a new drug cannot begin until we have received a NOL (No objection Letter) from Health Canada, typically within 30 days (during Covid the 30 days extended to 45 days) of a CTA submission. Similar regulations apply in Canada to a CTA as to an IND in the United States. Once approved, two key factors influencing the rate of progression of clinical trials are the rate at which patients can be enrolled to participate in the research program and whether effective treatments are currently available for the disease that the drug is intended to treat. Patient enrollment is largely dependent upon the incidence and severity of the disease, the treatments available and the potential side effects of the drug to be tested and any restrictions for enrollment that may be imposed by regulatory agencies.
Similar regulations apply in Canada regarding clinical trials as in the United States. In Canada, Research Ethics Boards, or REBs, instead of IRBs, are used to review and approve clinical trial plans. Clinical trials involve the administration of an investigational new drug to human subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators in accordance with current Good Clinical Practices, or cGCP, requirements, which include review and approval by REBs. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the trial, the trial procedures, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety and the efficacy criteria to be evaluated and a statistical analysis plan. Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases, as discussed above in similar context to government regulation in the United States.
The manufacture of investigational drugs for the conduct of human clinical trials is subject to current Good Manufacturing Practice, or cGMP, requirements. Investigational drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients imported into Canada are also subject to regulation by Health Canada relating to their labeling and distribution. Post authorization requirements include reporting of serious adverse events and clinical trial site inspection program. Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials are subject to a clinical trial application (CTA) for each phase of study. Furthermore, in Canada, Health Canada or the sponsor may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an REB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the REB’s requirements or if the drug has been associated with unexpected serious harm to subjects. 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 regularly reviews accumulated data and advises the study sponsor regarding the continuing safety of trial subjects, potential trial subjects and the continuing validity and scientific merit of the clinical trial. We may also suspend or terminate a clinical trial based on evolving business objectives or competitive climate.
New Drug Submission (NDS)
Upon successful completion of Phase 3 clinical trials, in Canada the company sponsoring a new drug then assembles all the preclinical and clinical data and other testing relating to the product’s pharmacology, chemistry, manufacture, and controls, and submits it to Health Canada as part of a New Drug Submission, or NDS. The NDS is then reviewed by Health Canada for approval to market the drug.
As part of the approval process, an additional application for a Drug Establishment License (DEL) 90 days prior the NDS submission to Health Canada to initiate review and inspection of the facility or the facilities at which the drug is manufactured are compliant with GMP requirements. Health Canada will not approve the product unless compliance with cGMP—a quality system regulating manufacturing—is satisfactory and the NDS contains data that provide substantial evidence that the drug is safe and effective in the indication studied. In addition, before approving an NDS, Health Canada will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP.
The testing and approval process for an NDS requires substantial time, effort and financial resources, and may take several years to complete. Data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing are not always conclusive and may be susceptible to varying interpretations, which could delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. Health Canada may not grant approval of an NDS on a timely basis, or at all. In Canada, NDSs are subject to user fees and these fees are typically increased annually to reflect inflation.
Even if Health Canada approves a product candidate, the relevant authority may limit the approved indications for use of the product candidate, require that contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling, including a black box warning, require that post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, be conducted to further assess a drug’s safety after approval, require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution restrictions or other risk management mechanisms.
Health Canada may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs. After approval, some types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes, and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements, notification, and regulatory authority review and approval. Further, should new safety information arise, additional testing, product labeling or regulatory notification may be required.
European Union Regulation
Regulation in the European Union
The process governing approval of medicinal products in the EU generally follows the same lines as in the United States. It entails satisfactory completion of pharmaceutical development, non-clinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of the medicinal product for each proposed indication. It also requires the submission to relevant competent authorities for clinical trials authorization and to the European Medicines Authority, or EMA, for a marketing authorization application, or MAA, and granting of a marketing authorization by these authorities before the product can be marketed and sold in the EU.
Clinical Trial Approval
Pursuant to the currently applicable Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC and the Directive 2005/28/EC on cGCP, a system for the approval of clinical trials in the EU (the equivalent of the IND process in the United States) has been implemented through national legislation of the EU member states. Under this system, an applicant must obtain approval from the competent national authority of an EU member state in which the clinical trial is to be conducted or in multiple EU member states if the clinical trial is to be conducted in a number of EU member states. Furthermore, the applicant may only start a clinical trial at a specific study site after the independent ethics committee has issued a favorable opinion. The clinical trial application, or CTA, must be accompanied by an investigational medicinal product dossier with supporting information prescribed by Directive 2001/20/EC and Directive 2005/28/EC and corresponding national laws of the EU member states and further detailed in applicable guidance documents.
In April 2014, the EU adopted a new Clinical Trials Regulation (EU) No 536/2014, which is set to replace the current Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC. It is expected that the new Clinical Trials Regulation will apply in 2019. It will overhaul the current system of approvals for clinical trials in the EU. Specifically, the new regulation, which will be directly applicable in all EU member states, aims at simplifying and streamlining the approval of clinical trials in the EU. For instance, the new Clinical Trials Regulation provides for a streamlined application procedure using a single entry point and strictly defined deadlines for the assessment of clinical trial applications.
To obtain a marketing authorization for a product under the EU regulatory system (the equivalent of the NDA process in the United States), an applicant must submit an MAA, either under a centralized procedure administered by the EMA or one of the procedures administered by competent authorities in EU member states (decentralized procedure, national procedure, or mutual recognition procedure). A marketing authorization may be granted only to an applicant established in the EU. Regulation (EC) No. 1901/2006 provides that prior to obtaining a marketing authorization in the EU, an applicant must demonstrate compliance with all measures included in an EMA-approved Pediatric Investigation Plan, or PIP, covering all subsets of the pediatric population, unless the EMA has granted a product-specific waiver, class waiver, or a deferral for one or more of the measures included in the PIP.
The centralized procedure provides for the grant of a single marketing authorization by the European Commission that is valid for all EU member states. Pursuant to Regulation (EC) No. 726/2004, the centralized procedure is compulsory for specific products, including for medicines produced by certain biotechnological processes, products designated as orphan medicinal products, advanced therapy products and products with a new active substance indicated for the treatment of certain diseases, including products for the treatment of cancer. For products with a new active substance indicated for the treatment of other diseases and products that are highly innovative or for which a centralized process is in the interest of patients, the centralized procedure may be optional.
Under the centralized procedure, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or the CHMP, established by the EMA is responsible for conducting the assessment of a product to define its risk/benefit profile. Under the centralized procedure, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of an MAA is 210 days, excluding clock stops when additional information or written or oral explanation is to be provided by the applicant in response to questions of the CHMP. Accelerated evaluation may be granted by the CHMP in exceptional cases, when a medicinal product is of major interest from the point of view of public health and, in particular, from the viewpoint of therapeutic innovation.
If the CHMP accepts such a request, the time limit of 210 days will be reduced to 150 days, but it is possible that the CHMP may revert to the standard time limit for the centralized procedure if it determines that it is no longer appropriate to conduct an accelerated assessment.
Periods of Authorization and Renewals
A marketing authorization is valid for five years, in principle, and it may be renewed after five years on the basis of a reevaluation of the risk benefit balance by the EMA or by the competent authority of the authorizing Member State. To that end, the marketing authorization holder must provide the EMA or the competent authority with a consolidated version of the file in respect of quality, safety and efficacy, including all variations introduced since the marketing authorization was granted, at least six months before the marketing authorization ceases to be valid. Once renewed, the marketing authorization is valid for an unlimited period, unless the European Commission or the competent authority decides, on justified grounds relating to pharmacovigilance, to proceed with one additional five-year renewal period. Any authorization that is not followed by the placement of the drug on the EU market (in the case of the centralized procedure) or on the market of the authorizing Member State within three years after authorization ceases to be valid.
Regulatory Requirements after Marketing Authorization
Following approval, the holder of the marketing authorization is required to comply with a range of requirements applicable to the manufacturing, marketing, promotion and sale of the medicinal product. These include compliance with the EU’s stringent pharmacovigilance or safety reporting rules, pursuant to which post-authorization studies and additional monitoring obligations can be imposed. In addition, the manufacturing of authorized products, for which a separate manufacturer’s license is mandatory, must also be conducted in strict compliance with the EMA’s cGMP requirements and comparable requirements of other regulatory bodies in the EU, which mandate the methods, facilities and controls used in manufacturing, processing and packing of drugs to assure their safety and identity. Finally, the marketing and promotion of authorized products, including industry-sponsored continuing medical education and advertising directed toward the prescribers of drugs and/or the general public, are strictly regulated in the EU under Directive 2001/83EC, as amended.
Orphan Drug Designation and Exclusivity
Regulation (EC) No. 141/2000 and Regulation (EC) No. 847/2000 provide that a product can be designated as an orphan drug by the European Commission if its sponsor can establish: that the product is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of (1) a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition affecting not more than five in ten thousand persons in the EU when the application is made, or (2) a life-threatening, seriously debilitating or serious and chronic condition in the EU and that without incentives it is unlikely that the marketing of the drug in the EU would generate sufficient return to justify the necessary investment. For either of these conditions, the applicant must demonstrate that there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of the condition in question that has been authorized in the EU or, if such method exists, the drug has to be of significant benefit compared to products available for the condition.
An orphan drug designation provides a number of benefits, including fee reductions, regulatory assistance and the possibility to apply for a centralized EU marketing authorization. Marketing authorization for an orphan drug leads to a ten-year period of market exclusivity. During this market exclusivity period, neither the EMA nor the European Commission or the EU member states can accept an application or grant a marketing authorization for a “similar medicinal product.” A “similar medicinal product” is defined as a medicinal product containing a similar active substance or substances as contained in an authorized orphan medicinal product, and which is intended for the same therapeutic indication. The market exclusivity period for the authorized therapeutic indication may, however, be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the product no longer meets the criteria for orphan drug designation because, for example, the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify market exclusivity.
We are selling NativusWell® through JD.com in PRC. In order to protect our potential market in the PRC, we have obtained an exclusive license of certain PRC patents directed to certain of the drug candidates that we are developing and are currently seeking approval of additional patent and other IP filings in the PRC. Seeking IP approval in the PRC subjects us to some of the rules and practices of the PRC government. Since the Company intends eventually to market its products in the PRC, at least some of our drug candidates may become subject to regulatory approval and marketing authorization in the PRC.
Permission Required from the PRC Authorities
As of the date of this annual report, we are not required to obtain approvals from the PRC authorities to operate our business or list on the U.S. exchanges and offer or continue to offer securities; specifically, we are currently not required to obtain any permission or approval from the CSRC, the CAC or any other PRC governmental authority to operate our business or to list our securities on a U.S. securities exchange or issue securities to foreign investors. The laws and regulations of mainland China do not currently have any material impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations and we are currently not subject to the PRC government’s direct influence or discretion over the manner in which we conduct our business activities outside of the mainland China.
Nevertheless, we are aware that recently, the PRC government initiated a series of regulatory actions and statements to regulate business operations in certain areas in mainland China with little advance notice, including cracking down on illegal activities in the securities market, enhancing supervision over mainland Chinese companies listed overseas using a VIE structure, adopting new measures to extend the scope of cybersecurity reviews, and expanding the efforts in anti-monopoly enforcement. Since these statements and regulatory actions are new, it is highly uncertain how soon the legislative or administrative regulation making bodies will respond and what existing or new laws or regulations or detailed implementations and interpretations will be modified or promulgated, if any. It is also highly uncertain what potential impact such modified or new laws and regulations will have on Aptorum Group’s daily business operations, its ability to accept foreign investments and the listing of our Class A Ordinary Shares on a U.S. or other foreign exchange. If there is significant change to current political arrangements between mainland China and Hong Kong, the PRC government intervenes or influences operations of companies operated in Hong Kong like us, or exerts more control through change of laws and regulations over offerings conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in issuers like us, it may result in a material change in our operations and/or the value of the securities we are registering for sale or could significantly limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors and cause the value of our Class A Ordinary Shares to significantly decline or become worthless. (Please see the risk factor section, “Risks Related to our Corporate Structure” and “Risks Related to Doing Business in Hong Kong” for more information).
Hong Kong Regulation
The operations of AML Clinic and sales of NativusWell® in Hong Kong are subject to certain general laws and regulations in relation to clinic medical professionals, trade description and safety of consumer goods, medical advertisement and importation, exportation, dealing in and sale of pharmaceutical products and drugs.
Medical Clinics Ordinance
The Medical Clinics Ordinance provides for the registration, control and inspection of medical clinics. It requires a medical clinic to be registered, with name and address and other prescribed particulars. “Medical clinic” means any premises used or intended to be used for the medical diagnosis or treatment of persons suffering from, or believed to be suffering from, any disease, injury or disability of mind or body, with specific exceptions, including private consulting rooms used exclusively by registered medical practitioners in the course of their practice on their own account and not bearing any title or description which includes the word “clinic” or “polyclinic” in the English language.
The application of registration may be refused if:
|(i)||the income derived or to be derived from the establishment or operation of the clinic is not, or will not be, applied solely towards the promotion of the objects of the clinic; or|
|(ii)||any portion of such income, except payment of remuneration to employed registered medical practitioners, nurses and menial servants, will be paid by way of dividend, bonus or otherwise howsoever by way of profit to the applicant himself, or to any persons properly so employed, or to any other persons howsoever.|
We do not believe that the Medical Clinic Ordinance is applicable to the business of our Company and its subsidiaries, having considered, among others, the following:
|(iii)||the legislative intent behind the Medical Clinics Ordinance was to provide for registration of non-profit making clinics;|
|(iv)||the Food and Health Bureau of Hong Kong published a consultation document, “Regulation of Private Healthcare Facilities” in 2014 which specifically states that the Medical Clinics Ordinance and the Code of Practice For Clinics Registered Under The Medical Clinics Ordinance (Chapter 343 of the Laws of Hong Kong) set out the regulatory framework for non-profit-making medical clinics and that other private healthcare facilities, such as ambulatory medical centers and clinics operated by medical groups or individual medical practitioners, are not subject to direct statutory control beyond the regulation of an individual’s professional practice; and|
|(v)||our business is one which makes and intends to continue making profit as a listed entity. The payment of bonuses to some of our Hong Kong Doctors is clearly a reflection of the profit-making nature of our business.|
Hence, we do not believe that AML Clinic is required to be registered under the Medical Clinics Ordinance.