10-Q 1 howl-20240331.htm 10-Q howl-20240331
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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
______________________________________________________________________________________
FORM 10-Q
______________________________________________________________________________________
(Mark One)
QUARTERLY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the quarterly period ended March 31, 2024
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from____________to_____________.
Commission File Number 001-40366
______________________________________________________________________________________
WEREWOLF THERAPEUTICS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
______________________________________________________________________________________
Delaware82-3523180
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)
200 Talcott Ave, 2nd Floor
Watertown, Massachusetts
(Address of principal executive offices)
02472
(Zip Code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (617) 952‑0555
(Former name, former address and former fiscal year, if changed since last report)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each classTrading Symbol(s)Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, $0.0001 par value per share
HOWL
The Nasdaq Global Select Market
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S‑T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non‑accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company.
See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b‑2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filerAccelerated filer
Non‑accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, 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 Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b‑2 of the Exchange Act). Yes No
As of April 29, 2024, there were 43,455,367 shares of common stock, $0.0001 par value per share, outstanding.



Table of Contents
 
Page
Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023


References to Werewolf
Throughout this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q, or Quarterly Report, the “Company,” “Werewolf,” “Werewolf Therapeutics,” “we,” “us,” “our,” and similar references, except where the context requires otherwise, refer to Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiary, and “board of directors” refers to the board of directors of Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements and Industry Data
This Quarterly Report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Exchange Act, that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Quarterly Report, including statements regarding our strategy, future operations, future financial position, future revenue, projected costs, prospects, plans, objectives of management and expected market growth, are forward-looking statements.
The words “aim,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “continue,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “goal,” “intend,” “may,” “might,” “objective,” “ongoing,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “project,” “should,” “target,” “will,” “would,” or the negative of these words or other similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. These forward-looking statements include, among other things, statements about:
the initiation, timing, progress and results of our research and development programs, preclinical studies and ongoing and planned clinical trials, including the anticipated timing of data announcements;
our estimates regarding expenses, capital requirements, need for additional financing and the period over which we believe our existing cash and cash equivalents will be sufficient to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements;
our plans to develop and, if approved, subsequently commercialize product candidates;
the timing of and our ability to submit applications and obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for product candidates;
the potential advantages of our PREDATOR platform and our ability to use our platform to identify and develop future product candidates;
our estimates regarding the potential market opportunities for our product candidates;
our commercialization, marketing and manufacturing capabilities and strategy;
our intellectual property position and our expectations regarding our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection;
our ability to identify additional products, product candidates or technologies with significant commercial potential that are consistent with our commercial objectives;
the impact of government laws and regulations;
our competitive position and expectations regarding developments and projections relating to our competitors and any competing therapies that are or become available; and
developments and expectations regarding developments and projections relating to our competitors and our industry.
There are a number of important risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements. We may not actually achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in our forward-looking statements, and you should not place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements. Actual results or events could differ materially from the plans, intentions and expectations disclosed in the forward-looking statements we make. We have included important factors in the cautionary statements included in this Quarterly Report, particularly in Part II, Item 1A. “Risk Factors”, that we believe could cause actual results or events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements that we make. New risk factors and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements we make. Our forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any future acquisitions, mergers, dispositions, collaborations, joint ventures or investments that we may make or enter into.
You should read this Quarterly Report and the documents that we have filed or incorporated by reference as exhibits to this Quarterly Report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. The forward-looking statements contained in this Quarterly Report are made as of the date of this Quarterly Report, and
1

we do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.
In addition, statements that “we believe” and similar statements reflect our beliefs and opinions on the relevant subject. These statements are based upon information available to us as of the date of this Quarterly Report, and while we believe such information forms a reasonable basis for such statements, such information may be limited or incomplete. Our statements should not be read to indicate that we have conducted an exhaustive inquiry into, or review of, all potentially available relevant information. These statements are inherently uncertain, and you are cautioned not to unduly rely on these statements.
Trademarks and Trade names
We own or have rights to trademarks, service marks and trade names that we use in connection with the operation of our business, including our corporate name, logos and website names. The service marks and trademarks that we own include the marks PREDATOR™ and INDUKINE™. Other trademarks, service marks and trade names appearing in this Quarterly Report are the property of their respective owners. Solely for convenience, some of the trademarks, service marks and trade names referred to in this Quarterly Report are listed without the ® and ™ symbols, but we will assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights to our trademarks, service marks and trade names.
Risk Factor Summary
Our business is subject to numerous risks that, if realized, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and future growth prospects. These risks are discussed more fully in Part II, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Quarterly Report. These risks include, but are not limited to, the following:
We have a limited operating history, have incurred significant operating losses since our inception and expect to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future.
We have no products approved for commercial sale and have not generated any revenue from product sales. We may never generate any revenue from product sales or become profitable or, if we achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain it.
We will need to obtain substantial additional funding to finance our operations and complete the development and any commercialization of WTX-124, WTX-330 and any future product candidates.
We are early in our development efforts and our current product candidates will require successful completion of preclinical and clinical development before we can seek regulatory approval for any product candidates.
Our business is highly dependent on the success of our initial INDUKINE molecules, which are in the early stages of development and will require significant additional preclinical and clinical development before we can seek regulatory approval for and launch a product commercially.
Our approach to the discovery and development of product candidates based on our PREDATOR platform is unproven, and we do not know whether we will be able to develop any products of commercial value.
Manufacturing INDUKINE molecules is subject to risk since they are a novel class of multi-domain biologics that include protease cleavable linkers, and they have never been produced on a commercial scale. We may be unable to manufacture INDUKINE molecules at the scale needed for clinical development and commercial production on a timely basis or at all.
Preclinical studies and clinical trials are expensive, time-consuming and difficult to design and implement, and involve uncertain outcomes.
We may encounter substantial delays in the commencement or completion, or termination or suspension, of our clinical trials, which could result in increased costs to us, delay or limit our ability to generate revenue and adversely affect our commercial prospects.
If we experience delays or difficulties in the enrollment of patients in clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
We are developing WTX-124, and could develop WTX-330 and potentially future product candidates, in combination with third-party drugs, some of which may still be in development, and we will have limited or no control over the safety, supply, regulatory status or regulatory approval of such drugs.
We face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before or more successfully than we do.
2

We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines or comply with regulatory requirements, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of or commercialize any product candidates.
The manufacturing of biologics is complex, and we do not have our own clinical manufacturing capabilities. We will rely on third parties to produce preclinical, clinical and commercial supplies of all current and any future product candidates.
We rely on our license agreement with Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc. for patent rights with respect to our product candidates and may in the future acquire additional third-party intellectual property rights on which we may similarly rely. We face risks with respect to such reliance, including the risk that we could lose these rights that are important to our business if we fail to comply with our obligations under these licenses.
Our proprietary position in part depends upon patents that are manufacturing, formulation or method-of-use patents, which may not prevent a competitor or other third party from using the same product candidate for another use.
In the past, we have identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, and if we are unable to implement and maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in the future, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports, and the market price of our common stock may be materially adversely affected.
3

PART I. FINANCIAL INFORMATION
Item 1. Financial Statements
Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc.
Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets (unaudited)
(amounts in thousands, except share and per share amounts)
March 31,
2024
December 31,
2023
Assets
Current assets:
Cash and cash equivalents
$139,189 $134,343 
Prepaid expenses and other current assets
2,320 2,677 
Other receivables775 1,350 
Total current assets
142,284 138,370 
Property and equipment, net
7,529 7,958 
Restricted cash and cash equivalents, net of current portion
21,027 21,023 
Operating lease right of use asset
6,512 6,888 
Other assets
248 594 
Total assets
$177,600 $174,833 
Liabilities and stockholders’ equity
Current liabilities:
Accounts payable
$1,594 $1,336 
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities
6,215 8,860 
Operating lease liability, current
1,236 1,608 
Deferred revenue, current
502 907 
Note payable, current
11,667 6,667 
Total current liabilities
21,214 19,378 
Operating lease liability, net of current portion
10,620 10,992 
Deferred revenue, net of current portion
431 433 
Note payable, net of discount, issuance costs, and current portion
27,748 32,656 
Total liabilities
60,013 63,459 
Commitments and contingencies
Stockholders’ equity:
Preferred stock, $0.0001 par value, 5,000,000 shares authorized as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023; no shares issued or outstanding as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023
  
Common stock, $0.0001 par value, 200,000,000 shares authorized as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023; 43,282,371 and 39,107,048 shares issued and outstanding as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023, respectively
4 4 
Additional paid-in capital
477,849 455,443 
Accumulated deficit
(360,266)(344,073)
Total stockholders’ equity
117,587 111,374 
Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity
$177,600 $174,833 
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these condensed consolidated financial statements.
4


Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc.
Condensed Consolidated Statements of Operations (unaudited)
(amounts in thousands, except share and per share amounts)
Three Months Ended
March 31,
20242023
Revenue:
Collaboration revenue$742 $4,464 
Operating expenses:
Research and development
12,908 11,706 
General and administrative
4,996 4,981 
Total operating expenses
17,904 16,687 
Operating loss
(17,162)(12,223)
Other income:
Interest income1,973 1,519 
Interest expense(1,003)(172)
Other expense, net(1)(1,106)
Total other income
969 241 
Net loss
$(16,193)$(11,982)
Net loss per common share, basic and diluted
$(0.39)$(0.34)
Weighted-average common shares outstanding, basic and diluted
41,607,279 34,784,682 
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these condensed consolidated financial statements.
5

Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc.
Condensed Consolidated Statements of Stockholders’ Equity (unaudited)
(amounts in thousands, except share amounts)
Common Stock
Additional Paid-in Capital
Accumulated Deficit
Total Stockholders’ Equity
Shares
Amount
Balance at December 31, 202339,107,048 $4 $455,443 $(344,073)$111,374 
Issuance of common stock from at the market offering, net of issuance costs of $985
4,169,324 — 20,089 — 20,089 
Stock-based compensation expense— — 2,305 — 2,305 
Stock option exercises
5,999 — 12 — 12 
Net loss
— — — (16,193)(16,193)
Balance at March 31, 202443,282,371 $4 $477,849 $(360,266)$117,587 
Common Stock
Additional Paid-in Capital
Accumulated Deficit
Total Stockholders’ Equity
Shares
Amount
Balance at December 31, 202231,515,074 $3 $429,039 $(306,705)$122,337 
Issuance of common stock from at the market offering, net of issuance cost of $370
3,824,249 — 8,610 — 8,610 
Stock-based compensation expense— — 2,108 — 2,108 
Net loss
— — — (11,982)(11,982)
Balance at March 31, 202335,339,323 $3 $439,757 $(318,687)$121,073 
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these condensed consolidated financial statements.
6

Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc.
Condensed Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows (unaudited)
(amounts in thousands)
Three Months Ended
March 31,
20242023
Operating activities:
Net loss
$(16,193)$(11,982)
Adjustments to reconcile net loss to net cash used in operating activities:
Stock-based compensation expense
2,305 2,108 
Depreciation expense
464 425 
Non-cash interest expense92 13 
Non-cash lease expense
376 336 
Change in fair value of success payment liability (1,021)
Amortization of debt issuance costs 60 
Changes in operating assets and liabilities:
Prepaid expenses and other assets    
704 1,425 
Other receivables575 673 
Accounts payable, accrued expenses and other liabilities
(2,469)903 
Deferred revenue(407)(2,343)
Operating lease liability
(744)(495)
Net cash used in operating activities
(15,297)(9,898)
Investing activities:
Purchases of property and equipment
(111)(168)
Net cash used in investing activities
(111)(168)
Financing activities:
Proceeds from at the market offering of common stock, net of issuance costs
20,247 8,623 
Proceeds from drawdown of term loans 40,000 
Proceeds from stock option exercises
12  
Net cash provided by financing activities
20,259 48,623 
Net increase in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents
4,851 38,557 
Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents—beginning of period
155,577 130,529 
Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents—end of period
$160,428 $169,086 
Reconciliation of cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents to the condensed consolidated balance sheets
Cash and cash equivalents
$139,189 $147,868 
Prepaid expenses and other current assets
212 207 
Restricted cash and cash equivalents, net of current portion
21,027 21,011 
Total cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents
$160,428 $169,086 
Supplemental disclosure of cash flow information:
Cash paid for interest$910 $ 
Supplemental disclosure of non-cash investing and financing activities:
Purchases of property and equipment in accounts payable and accrued expenses$ $79 
Issuance costs in accounts payable and accrued expenses
$194 $17 
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these condensed consolidated financial statements.
7

Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc.
Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements
(unaudited)
1. Nature of Business
Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc. was incorporated in the state of Delaware in October 2017. As used throughout these unaudited, condensed consolidated financial statements, the terms “Werewolf,” “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to the business of Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc., and its wholly owned subsidiary. We are an innovative biopharmaceutical company pioneering the development of therapeutics engineered to stimulate the body’s immune system for the treatment of cancer. Our headquarters are located in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Since inception, we have devoted substantially all of our efforts and financial resources to organizing and staffing the company; business planning; raising capital; developing and optimizing our platform technology; identifying potential product candidates; enhancing our intellectual property portfolio; undertaking research, preclinical studies, and clinical trials; and enabling manufacturing for our development programs. We are subject to risks and uncertainties common to early-stage companies in the biotechnology industry including, but not limited to, technical risks associated with the successful research, development and manufacturing of product candidates, development by competitors of new technological innovations, dependence on key personnel, protection of proprietary technology, compliance with government regulations and the ability to secure additional capital to fund operations. Current and future programs will require significant research and development efforts, including extensive preclinical and clinical testing and regulatory approval prior to commercialization. These efforts require significant amounts of additional capital, adequate personnel and infrastructure. Even if our product development efforts are successful, it is uncertain when, if ever, we will realize significant revenue from product sales.
We had cash and cash equivalents of $139.2 million at March 31, 2024. We expect that our cash and cash equivalents will enable us to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements for at least twelve months from the date of issuance of the condensed consolidated financial statements in this Form 10-Q. However, additional funding will be necessary beyond this point to fund future preclinical and clinical activities. We expect to finance our future cash needs through a combination of equity or debt financings, collaboration agreements, strategic alliances and licensing arrangements.
2. Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
Basis of Presentation and Consolidation
The accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023, and for the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023, have been prepared in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) and generally accepted accounting principles in the United States of America (“GAAP”) as found in the Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) and Accounting Standards Updates (“ASU”) of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) for condensed consolidated financial information. Accordingly, they do not include all of the information and footnotes required by GAAP for complete financial statements. In the opinion of management, these condensed consolidated financial statements reflect all normal recurring adjustments which are necessary for a fair presentation of our financial position and results of our operations, as of and for the periods presented. These condensed consolidated financial statements should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and notes thereto contained in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2023 filed with the SEC on March 7, 2024 (the “2023 Annual Report”).
The information presented in the condensed consolidated financial statements and related notes as of March 31, 2024, and for the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023, is unaudited. The December 31, 2023 condensed consolidated balance sheet included herein was derived from the audited financial statements as of that date, but does not include all disclosures, including notes, required by GAAP for complete financial statements.
Interim results for the three months ended March 31, 2024 are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2024, or any future period.
The accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements include the accounts of Werewolf Therapeutics, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Werewolf Therapeutics Mass Securities, Inc. All intercompany transactions and balances have been eliminated in consolidation.
Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
The significant accounting policies and estimates used in the preparation of the condensed consolidated financial statements are described in our audited financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2023, and the notes thereto, which are included in the 2023 Annual Report. There have been no material changes in our significant accounting policies during the three months ended March 31, 2024.
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Use of Estimates
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the amounts reported in the financial statements and accompanying notes. Significant estimates and assumptions reflected in these condensed consolidated financial statements include, but are not limited to, those related to revenue recognition, accrued expenses, assumptions used in the valuation of stock-based compensation expense and income taxes. Actual results could differ from those estimates.
Recent Accounting Pronouncements
In December 2023, the FASB issued ASU No. 2023-09, Income Taxes (Topic 740): Improvements to Income Tax Disclosures (“ASU No. 2023-09”), which enhances the transparency and decision usefulness of income tax disclosures primarily related to rate reconciliation and income taxes paid. The provisions of ASU No. 2023-09 are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2024, with early adoption permitted, and are required to be applied on a prospective basis. Our management is currently evaluating the impact that this standard will have on our consolidated financial statements.
Other accounting standards that have been issued or proposed by the FASB or other standards-setting bodies that do not require adoption until a future date are not expected to have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements upon adoption.
Subsequent Events
We have evaluated subsequent events and transactions that occurred after the balance sheet date up to the date that the financial statements were issued. Other than as described in these condensed consolidated financial statements, we did not identify any subsequent events that require adjustment or disclosure in the condensed consolidated financial statements.
3. Collaboration and License Agreement
Detailed description of the contractual terms and our accounting for the agreement described below is included in our audited financial statements and notes in the 2023 Annual Report.
During the three months ended March 31, 2024, we continued to perform under our exclusive global collaboration and license agreement (the “Collaboration Agreement”) with Jazz Pharmaceuticals Ireland Limited ("Jazz"), pursuant to which we recognize revenue utilizing the cost-to-cost input method, which best depicts the research and development services performed for the customer. As a result, we recognize revenue from the transaction price over time as research and development services are performed. The following table summarizes research and development costs incurred and revenue recognized in connection with our performance under the Collaboration Agreement:
Three Months Ended March 31,
20242023
(in thousands)
Revenue recognized
$742 $4,464 
Cost incurred
$335 $2,121 
The following table presents changes in our contract liabilities during the three months ended March 31, 2024:
Balance as of December 31, 2023AdditionsReductionsBalance as of March 31, 2024
(in thousands)
Contract liabilities:
Deferred revenue$1,340 $ $(407)$933 
Total contract liabilities
$1,340 $ $(407)$933 
The remaining deferred revenue is expected to be recognized as revenue over a term of approximately 2.1 years.
Unbilled receivables related to the Collaboration Agreement of $0.3 million and $0.4 million are included within other receivables in the accompanying condensed consolidated balance sheets as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023, respectively. Receivables related to the Collaboration Agreement of $0.4 million and $0.9 million are included within other receivables in the accompanying condensed consolidated balance sheets as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023, respectively. Revenue recognized during the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023, includes $0.4 million and $2.3 million of revenue that was included in deferred revenue as of December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively.
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At the end of each reporting period, we re-evaluate our estimate of the transaction price associated with the Collaboration Agreement and determine if variable consideration previously excluded from the transaction should be included in the transaction price based on changes in circumstances, if any. During the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023, we did not recognize any adjustment to the transaction price associated with variable consideration previously excluded from the transaction price.
As of March 31, 2024, we have not received any royalty payments under the Collaboration Agreement.
4. Financial Instruments and Fair Value Measurements
Our assets that are required to be measured at fair value on a recurring basis consist of money market funds, classified as cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents on our condensed consolidated balance sheets as March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023. We did not have any liabilities that are required to be measured at fair value on a recurring basis as of March 31, 2024 or December 31, 2023.
The carrying amounts reflected in the condensed consolidated balance sheets for cash, prepaid expenses and other current assets, accounts payable and accrued expenses approximate their fair values, due to their short-term nature.
Assets measured at fair value on a recurring basis as of March 31, 2024 were as follows:
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Total
(in thousands)
Assets:
Money market funds
$153,810 $ $ $153,810 
Total assets
$153,810 $ $ $153,810 
Assets measured at fair value on a recurring basis as of December 31, 2023 were as follows:
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Total
(in thousands)
Assets:
Money market funds
$149,294 $ $ $149,294 
Total assets
$149,294 $ $ $149,294 
There were no changes in valuation techniques during the three months ended March 31, 2024.
Success Payment Liability
We have entered into an amended and restated loan and security agreement (the “PWB Loan Agreement”) with Pacific Western Bank (“PWB”), as described below in Note 6. In conjunction with the PWB Loan Agreement, we became obligated to pay to PWB a one-time success payment of up to $1.6 million (the “Success Fee”) upon achieving certain conditions defined in the PWB Loan Agreement (the “Success Fee Event”). The Success Fee Event occurred during the second quarter of 2023, resulting in the immediate payment in full of the required Success Fee.
Prior to the occurrence of the Success Fee Event, we recognized a success payment liability that was stated at fair value and was considered Level 3 because its fair value measurement was based, in part, on significant inputs not observed in the market. Upon completion of the Success Fee Event, we paid the total $1.6 million success payment and removed the corresponding success payment liability. We remeasured the success payment liability at each reporting date and immediately prior to the Success Fee Event. During the three months ended March 31, 2023, we recognized expense of $1.0 million associated with the change in the fair value of the success payment liability which is included in other expense, net in the accompanying condensed consolidated statements of operations. We had no outstanding obligation associated with the Success Fee as of March 31, 2024 or December 31, 2023.
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5. Accrued Expenses and Other Current Liabilities
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities were comprised as follows:
March 31,
2024
December 31,
2023
(in thousands)
Manufacturing$2,119$2,772
Employee compensation and benefits1,3503,627
Contract research9151,049
Professional fees910655
Accrued interest310 310 
Other611 447 
Total accrued expenses and other current liabilities
$6,215$8,860
6. Term Loan
In April 2022, we entered into the PWB Loan Agreement with PWB. Under the terms of the PWB Loan Agreement, PWB made available a term loan in an aggregate principal amount of up to $20.0 million (“Tranche I Loan”) available at any time after the closing date until February 28, 2024 as extended to August 31, 2024 upon the satisfaction of certain conditions set forth in the PWB Loan Agreement (such date, the “Amortization Date”). Based on the satisfaction of certain conditions defined in the PWB Loan Agreement, PWB was also obligated to make available an additional term loan in the aggregate principal amount of up to $20.0 million (“Tranche II Loan”, or collectively with the Tranche I Loan, the “Term Loans”) available at any time after the closing date until the Amortization Date upon the acceptance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”) of two investigational new drug (“IND”) submissions on or before March 31, 2023. As of March 31, 2024, we have drawn down $40.0 million of the Term Loans.
The outstanding notes payable balance under the Term Loans consists of the following:
March 31, 2024
(in thousands)
Note payable$40,000 
Unamortized debt discount and issuance costs(585)
Net carrying amount of note payable39,415 
Less: current portion of note payable (11,667)
Note payable, net, less current portion$27,748 
Subsequent to the interest-only period, which ends on August 31, 2024, we are required to make equal monthly principal payments plus interest until the Term Loans mature on August 31, 2026. The Term Loans will bear interest on the outstanding daily balance at a floating annual rate equal to greater of: (i) 0.5% above the prime rate then in effect or (ii) 4.5%. If the prime rate changes throughout the term, the interest rate will be adjusted effective on the date of the prime rate change. All interest chargeable under the PWB Loan Agreement is computed on a 360-day year for the actual number of days elapsed, with interest payable monthly. We recognized interest expense related to the PWB Loan Agreement of $1.0 million and $0.2 million during the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023, respectively.
The following table presents the total principal payments scheduled to become due during each of the years ended December 31:
Principal Payments
(in thousands)
2024 (remaining as of March 31, 2024)$6,667 
202520,000 
202613,333 
$40,000 
We were obligated to pay PWB a one-time fee in the event of certain corporate transactions equal to either (i) the greater of (a) $0.2 million and (b) 2.0% of the amount drawn under the Term Loans, for a transaction occurring on or before March 31, 2023, or (ii) for any transaction occurring thereafter, the greater of (a) $0.4 million and (b) 4.0% of the amount drawn under the Term
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Loans (the “Success Fee”). The Success Fee Event occurred during the second quarter of 2023, resulting in the immediate payment in full of the $1.6 million required Success Fee.
All outstanding obligations under the PWB Loan Agreement are secured by our personal property (exclusive of any intellectual property) and are subject to acceleration in the event of default. In the event of a late payment or default, we are obligated to pay a fee equal to 5.0% of such unpaid amounts. In connection with the PWB Loan Agreement, we are required to comply with certain negative covenants, which among other things, restrict us from (i) incurring future debt or granting liens, (ii) effectuating a merger or consolidation with or into any other business organization, (iii) paying dividends or making certain other distributions, (iv) selling or otherwise transferring our assets, (v) making investments in any entities or instruments other than certain investments specified in the PWB Loan Agreement and (vi) making capitalized expenditures in excess of 125% of the amount provided for in the annual budget approved by our board of directors. The PWB Loan Agreement also contains standard affirmative covenants, including with respect to the issuance of audited consolidated financial statements, insurance, and maintenance of good standing and government compliance in our state of formation. On or before September 30, 2023, we were required to raise aggregate gross cash process of at least $50.0 million from the sale or issuance of our equity or from strategic partnerships or any similar transaction. Since receipt of those proceeds, we are required to maintain at all times at least $20.0 million of otherwise unrestricted cash in accounts with PWB, which is included within restricted cash and cash equivalents, net of current portion on our condensed consolidated balance sheet as of March 31, 2024 and December 31, 2023. On April 17, 2023, we achieved the $50.0 million funding milestone, triggering the corresponding $20.0 million cash covenant, full payment of the Success Fee of $1.6 million, and the updated Amortization Date of August 31, 2024.
PWB has the right to accelerate all of our outstanding obligations under the PWB Loan Agreement or terminate any remaining Term Loan commitments in the event of a material adverse effect on (i) our operations, business or financial condition, (ii) our ability to repay any portion of the Term Loans or perform any of our other obligations under the PWB Loan Agreement, and (iii) our interest in, or the value, perfection or priority of PWB’s security interest in the collateral.
7. Common and Preferred Stock
Common Stock
We are authorized to issue 200,000,000 shares of common stock. Common stockholders are entitled to dividends if and when declared by our board of directors. As of March 31, 2024, no dividends on common stock had been declared by us.
On May 10, 2022, we entered into a Sales Agreement (the “Sales Agreement”) with Leerink Partners LLC (“Leerink Partners”), formerly known as SVB Securities LLC, pursuant to which we may offer and sell shares of our common stock (the “ATM Offering”). The Sales Agreement provides that Leerink Partners will be entitled to a sales commission equal to 3.0% of the gross sales price per share of all shares sold under the ATM Offering. We were initially entitled to offer and sell shares of our common stock having an aggregate offering price of up to $50.0 million in the ATM Offering. On February 9, 2024, we filed a prospectus supplement (the “Prospectus Supplement”) under our shelf registration statement for the offer and sale of shares of our common stock having an offering price of up to an additional $25.0 million in the ATM Offering. Following our filing of the Prospectus Supplement, we are now entitled to offer and sell shares of our common stock with an aggregate offering price of up to $75.0 million pursuant to the Sales Agreement. During the three months ended March 31, 2024, we sold 4,169,324 shares of our common stock at an average price of $5.05 per share for net proceeds of $20.1 million after deducting sales commissions and offering expenses. During the three months ended March 31, 2023, we sold 3,824,249 shares of our common stock at an average price of $2.35 per share for net proceeds of $8.6 million after deducting sales commissions and offering expenses.
We have reserved shares of common stock for issuance as follows:
As of March 31,As of December 31,
20242023
Shares reserved for exercises of outstanding stock options
7,450,8645,700,070
Shares reserved for vesting of restricted stock units
361,500361,500
Shares reserved for exercises of warrants
58,90458,904
Shares reserved for future issuance under the 2021 Employee Stock Purchase Plan
507,113507,113
Shares reserved for future issuance under the 2021 Stock Incentive Plan2,110,2191,911,660
Total shares reserved for future issuance
10,488,6008,539,247
Preferred Stock
We are authorized to issue 5,000,000 shares of undesignated preferred stock in one or more series. As of March 31, 2024, no shares of preferred stock were issued or outstanding.
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8. Stock-based Compensation
2017 Stock Incentive Plan
In December 2017, we adopted the 2017 Stock Incentive Plan (as amended and restated, the “2017 Plan”), under which we could grant incentive stock options (“ISOs”), non-qualified stock options, restricted stock awards (“RSAs”), restricted stock units (“RSUs”), stock appreciation rights and other stock-based awards to eligible employees, officers, directors and consultants. The terms of stock options and RSAs, including vesting requirements, were determined by our board of directors, subject to the provisions of the 2017 Plan.
2021 Stock Incentive Plan
In April 2021, our board of directors adopted and our stockholders approved the 2021 Stock Incentive Plan (the “2021 Plan”), which became effective immediately prior to the effectiveness of our initial public offering (“IPO”). As a result of the adoption of the 2021 Plan, no further awards will be made under the 2017 Plan.
The 2021 Plan provides for the grant of ISOs, non-qualified stock options, RSAs, RSUs, stock appreciation rights and other stock-based awards. Our employees, officers, directors, consultants and advisors are eligible to receive awards under the 2021 Plan. The terms of awards, including vesting requirements, are determined by our board of directors, subject to the provisions of the 2021 Plan.
We initially registered 3,352,725 shares of common stock under the 2021 Plan, pursuant to a Registration Statement on Form S-8 filed with the SEC on April 30, 2021, which was comprised of (i) 2,843,116 shares of common stock reserved for issuance under the 2021 Plan, (ii) 31,884 shares of common stock originally reserved for issuance under the 2017 Plan that became available for issuance under the 2021 Plan upon the completion of the IPO, and (iii) 477,725 shares of unvested restricted stock subject to repurchase by us that may become issuable under the 2021 Plan following such repurchase. The 2021 Plan also provides that an additional number of shares will be added annually to the shares authorized for issuance under the 2021 Plan on the first day of each fiscal year, beginning with the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022 and continuing until, and including, the fiscal year ending December 31, 2031. The number of shares added each year will be equal to the lesser of (i) 5% of the number of outstanding common stock on such date and (ii) such amount as determined by our board of directors. As of March 31, 2024, a total of 4,911,502 additional shares have been added to the total shares authorized for issuance under the 2021 Plan in accordance with these terms.
As of March 31, 2024, there were 2,110,219 shares available for future issuance under the 2021 Plan.
2021 Employee Stock Purchase Plan
The 2021 ESPP permits eligible employees to purchase shares of our common stock at a discount and consists of consecutive six-month offering periods, each containing a single six-month purchase period. On the first day of each offering period, each employee who is enrolled in the 2021 ESPP will automatically receive an option to purchase up to a whole number of shares of our common stock. The purchase price of each of the shares purchased, in a given purchase period, will be equal to 85% of the lesser of the closing price of a share of our common stock on (i) the first day of the offering period, or (ii) the last day of the offering period. During the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023, no shares of our common stock were purchased by participants of the 2021 ESPP.
Stock-Based Compensation Expense
Total stock-based compensation expense recognized in the condensed consolidated statements of operations was as follows:
Three Months Ended
March 31,
20242023
(in thousands)
Research and development
$1,182 $1,020 
General and administrative
1,123 1,088 
Total stock-based compensation
$2,305 $2,108 
RSA Activity
We may, at our discretion, repurchase unvested shares of restricted stock issued pursuant to the 2017 Plan at the initial purchase price if the employees or non-employees terminate their service relationship with us. The shares are recorded in stockholders’ deficit as they vest.
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As of December 31, 2023, all RSAs granted to employees or non-employees had become fully vested or had been previously forfeited. No RSAs were granted during the three months ended March 31, 2024. Accordingly, we had no unrecognized stock-based compensation expense related to unvested RSAs as of March 31, 2024.
The aggregate fair value of RSAs that vested during the three months ended March 31, 2023, based upon the fair values of the stock underlying the RSAs on the date of vesting, was $0.1 million.
RSU Activity
We have granted RSUs to our employees under the 2021 Plan. The following table summarizes RSU activity during the three months ended March 31, 2024:
Shares/UnitsWeighted-Average
Grant Date Fair
Value Per Share
(in thousands)
Unvested at December 31, 2023361,500 $3.92 
Granted
 $ 
Vested
 $ 
Forfeited
 $ 
Unvested at March 31, 2024361,500 $3.92 
As of March 31, 2024, we had unrecognized stock-based compensation expense related to unvested RSUs of $0.3 million, which we expect to recognize over a weighted-average period of approximately 0.4 years.
No RSUs vested during the three months ended March 31, 2024 or 2023.
Stock Option Activity
During the year ended December 31, 2022, we granted performance-based stock options to certain executive officers for the purchase of an aggregate of 883,352 shares of common stock with a grant date fair value of $3.36 per share. These stock options would have vested only upon achievement of specified performance targets related to certain business objectives on or before December 31, 2023. As of March 31, 2023, none of these options were vested because none of the specified performance targets had been achieved. Because achievement of the specified performance targets was not deemed probable as of March 31, 2023, we did not record any expense for these stock options during the three months ended March 31, 2023. As of December 31, 2023, the specified performance targets had not been achieved, and accordingly, all outstanding performance-based stock options expired without vesting. No additional performance-based stock options have been granted during the three months ended March 31, 2024.
The fair value of stock options granted during the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023 was calculated on the date of grant using the following weighted-average assumptions:
Three Months Ended
March 31,
20242023
Risk-free interest rate
3.9 %3.9 %
Expected term (in years)
6.06.0
Expected annual dividend yield
 % %
Expected volatility
92.6 %82.6 %
Using the Black-Scholes option pricing model, the weighted-average grant date fair value of stock options granted during the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023 was $3.59 and $1.48 per share, respectively.
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The following table summarizes stock option activity during the three months ended March 31, 2024: 
Options Outstanding
Number of Options
Weighted-Average Exercise Price per Share
Weighted-Average Remaining
Contractual Life
(in years)
Aggregate Intrinsic Value (in millions)
Outstanding at December 31, 20235,700,070 $6.89 
Granted
2,058,389 $4.64 
Exercised
(5,999)$2.05 
Cancelled
(301,596)$5.38 
Outstanding at March 31, 20247,450,864 $6.33 7.91$15.2 
Exercisable at March 31, 20243,583,777 $7.48 6.84$6.5 
The aggregate intrinsic fair value of stock options exercised during the three months ended March 31, 2024 was nominal. There were no stock options exercised during the three months ended March 31, 2023.
As of March 31, 2024, we had unrecognized stock-based compensation expense related to unvested stock options of $14.1 million, which we expect to recognize over a weighted-average period of approximately 2.6 years.
9. Related Parties
In May 2022, we entered into a sublease agreement with Crossbow Therapeutics, Inc. (“Crossbow”), for which entities affiliated with MPM Capital (“MPM Capital”) are also beneficial owners, to sublease the entirety of our office and laboratory space in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Luke Evnin, Ph.D., the chair of our board of directors, co-founded MPM Capital and serves as Managing Director of MPM Capital. Briggs Morrison, who serves on our board of directors, serves as Executive Partner of MPM Capital and Chief Executive Officer of Crossbow. The term of the sublease agreement commenced in June 2022 and ended in March 2024, with no option to extend. We received cash payments under the sublease of approximately $0.4 million during the three months ended March 31, 2024. In addition, we received $0.2 million from Crossbow in June 2022 as a security deposit that is included within accrued expenses and other current liabilities in the accompanying condensed consolidated balance sheet as of March 31, 2024. Following the conclusion of the sublease agreement, the security deposit is expected to be remitted to Crossbow upon satisfactory inspection of the subleased premises.
10. Net Loss Attributable to Common Stockholders per Share
For purposes of the diluted net loss attributable to common stockholders per share calculation, outstanding stock options, unvested RSAs, unvested RSUs and warrants to purchase common stock are considered to be potentially dilutive securities, however the following outstanding shares of common stock equivalents were excluded from the calculation of diluted net loss attributable to common stockholders per share because their effect would be anti-dilutive:
March 31,
20242023
Outstanding stock options
7,450,864 6,664,468 
Unvested RSUs361,500 322,725 
Warrants to purchase common stock
58,904 58,904 
Commons stock to be issued under the 2021 ESPP
34,227 32,679 
Unvested RSAs 38,065 
Total
7,905,495 7,116,841 
11. Subsequent Event
On May 2, 2024, we, as borrower, entered into a loan and security agreement (the “Loan Agreement”) with K2 HealthVentures LLC, or K2HV (“K2HV,” and together with any other lender from time to time, as the “Lenders”); K2HV, as administrative agent for the Lenders; and Ankara Trust Company, LLC, as collateral trustee for the Lenders. The Loan Agreement provides up to $60.0 million principal in term loans. We received $30.0 million in gross loan proceeds at closing, $25.0 million from the first tranche commitment upon closing and $5.0 million from the second tranche commitment. We used the $29.5 million in net loan proceeds received at closing, together with $10.5 million in existing cash, to repay all amounts outstanding under the PWB Loan Agreement in May 2024. A third tranche commitment of up to $10.0 million is available to be drawn at our option during
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certain availability periods, subject to the achievement, as determined by the administrative agent in its discretion, of certain time-based, clinical and regulatory milestones and receipt of not less than $60.0 million in net cash proceeds from certain financing activities, with at least $50.0 million from a single offering of common stock. A fourth tranche commitment of up to $20.0 million is available to be drawn down at our option through May 1, 2026 or if the third tranche is funded, May 1, 2027, subject to Lender’s review of our clinical, financial and operating plan and subject to Lender’s consent in its sole and absolute discretion.
The term loan matures on May 1, 2028, and we are obligated to make interest only payments for the first 24 months, or 36 months if the third tranche is funded, and then interest and equal principal payments for the next 24 or 12 months, as applicable. The term loan bears a variable interest rate equal to the greater of (i) 10.3%, and (ii) the sum of (A) the prime rate last quoted in The Wall Street Journal (or a comparable replacement rate if The Wall Street Journal ceases to quote such rate) and (B) 1.8%. We may prepay, at our option, all, but not less than all, of the outstanding principal balance and all accrued and unpaid interest with respect to the principal balance being prepaid of the term loans, subject to a prepayment premium to which the Lenders are entitled and certain notice requirements. We were required to pay the Lenders’ certain customary fees and expenses at closing and will be required to pay additional fees that may be due upon maturity or prepayment such as final payment fees and prepayment fees.
The Lenders may elect prior to the full repayment of the term loans to convert up to $5.0 million of outstanding principal of the term loans into shares of our common stock, at a conversion price of the lesser of $6.32 per share and the lowest effective price per share of our next equity financing, subject to customary adjustments and 9.99% and 19.99% beneficial ownership limitations. There will be no prepayment penalty for any principal amount converted into common stock. The Loan Agreement provides the Lenders with certain piggyback registration rights with respect to the shares of common stock issuable upon conversion of term loans under the Loan Agreement.
The Loan Agreement contains customary representations and warranties, events of default and affirmative and negative covenants, including covenants that limit or restrict our ability to, among other things, dispose of assets, make changes to the our business, management, ownership or business locations, merge or consolidate, incur additional indebtedness, incur additional liens, pay dividends or other distributions or repurchase equity, make investments, and enter into certain transactions with affiliates, in each case subject to certain exceptions. As security for our obligations under the Loan Agreement, we granted the Lenders a first priority security interest on substantially all of our assets (other than intellectual property), subject to certain exceptions.
Subject to certain conditions, we granted the Lenders the right, prior to repayment of the term loans, to invest up to $5.0 million in the aggregate in future offerings of capital stock subject to certain exceptions and conditions.


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Item 2. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
The following discussion and analysis is meant to provide material information relevant to an assessment of the financial condition and results of operations of our company, including an evaluation of the amounts and uncertainties of cash flows from operations and from outside resources, so as to allow investors to better view our company from management’s perspective. The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read together with our condensed consolidated financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q, or Quarterly Report, and our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2023, or the 2023 Annual Report that was filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, on March 7, 2024. In addition to historical information, the discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors. We discuss factors we believe could cause or contribute to these differences below and elsewhere in this Quarterly Report, including those factors set forth in the section entitled “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements and Industry Data” and in the section entitled “Risk Factors” in Part II, Item 1A of this Quarterly Report. You should carefully read the section entitled “Risk Factors” in Part II, Item 1A of this Quarterly Report.
Overview
We are an innovative biopharmaceutical company pioneering the development of therapeutics engineered to stimulate the body’s immune system for the treatment of cancer. We are leveraging our proprietary PREDATOR platform to design conditionally activated molecules that stimulate both adaptive and innate immunity with the goal of addressing the limitations of conventional proinflammatory immune therapies. Our molecules, which we refer to as INDUKINE molecules, are intended to activate selectively in the tumor microenvironment. Our most advanced product candidates, WTX-124 and WTX-330, are systemically delivered, conditionally activated Interleukin-2 and Interleukin-12, respectively, INDUKINE molecules for the treatment of multiple tumor types.
We are currently evaluating WTX-124 in a Phase 1/1b clinical trial as a monotherapy and in combination with Merck & Co., Inc.’s anti-PD-1 therapy KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) in patients with immunotherapy sensitive advanced or metastatic solid tumors who have failed standard of care treatment, including checkpoint inhibitor therapy. In November 2023, we announced preliminary first-in-human clinical data from the initial monotherapy dose-escalation cohorts in the Phase 1/1b clinical trial. The preliminary data established proof of mechanism for WTX-124 and proof of concept for our INDUKINE design, and included assessments of safety and tolerability, pharmacokinetics, relevant biomarkers and preliminary antitumor activity. The preliminary data included data collected as of October 18, 2023, from 16 heavily pretreated patients from the first four monotherapy dose escalation cohorts (1, 3, 6, and 12 mg) supportive of continued dose escalation. Dose escalation is ongoing in the monotherapy and combination therapy arms of the trial. In the first half of 2024, we expect to report updated interim data from the monotherapy dose-escalation arms of the Phase 1/1b clinical trial, select a recommended dose for expansion and initiate monotherapy dose expansion arms, and report initial data from the combination dose escalation cohorts of the Phase 1/1b clinical trial.
We are also currently evaluating WTX-330 in a Phase 1 clinical trial for the treatment of immunotherapy resistant advanced or metastatic solid tumors or lymphoma, to be followed by expansion arms in relapsed/refractory tumors following treatment with checkpoint inhibitors or tumors for which checkpoint inhibitors are not approved. We announced the initiation of patient dosing in February 2023. The trial is currently open for enrollment. We plan to report initial data from the Phase 1 clinical trial in the second quarter of 2024. During the three months ended March 31, 2024, we received alignment from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, on the comparability path for WTX-330 for an improved manufacturing process, which we expect to integrate into our clinical development program.
In April 2022, we entered into a global collaboration and license agreement, or the Collaboration Agreement, with Jazz Pharmaceuticals Ireland Limited, or Jazz, under which Jazz acquired exclusive global development and commercialization rights related to Interferon alpha, or IFNα, INDUKINE molecule, JZP898 (formerly WTX-613), as well as products containing certain isolated recombinant polypeptides comprising IFNα that meet specified criteria (each such product, a Licensed Product). Pursuant to the terms of the Collaboration Agreement, we are responsible for certain preclinical development activities with respect to JZP898 and other development activities specified in mutually agreed upon development plans. Jazz will generally reimburse us for the cost of such activities. Jazz will be responsible for all other development and commercialization activities conducted to exploit the Licensed Products. Jazz received IND application clearance from the FDA for JZP898 in July 2023 and initiated a Phase 1 clinical trial of JZP898 in the fourth quarter of 2023.
We continue to further the development of our preclinical product candidates, WTX-518, a systemically delivered, conditionally activated Interleukin-18 INDUKINE molecule in development for the treatment of cancer designed to promote activation of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, resulting in antitumor immunity, and WTX-712, a systemically delivered, conditionally activated Interleukin-21, or IL-21, INDUKINE molecule that is being developed to minimize the severe toxicities that have been observed with recombinant IL-21 therapy and maximize clinical benefit when administered as
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monotherapy or in combination with checkpoint inhibitors in refractory and/or immunologically unresponsive tumors. In April 2024, we presented preclinical data for both WTX-518 and WTX-712 at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. Our preclinical models demonstrate that WTX-518 exhibits remarkable tumor-selective activation, resistance to IL-18BP and robust immune activation, while WTX-712 acts through a unique mechanism that robustly activates tumor-specific T lymphocytes with an expanded therapeutic window through its selective release of wild-type IL-21 in the tumor microenvironment.
Financial Operations Overview
Revenue
All of our revenue has been generated from the Collaboration Agreement with Jazz. For the three months ended March 31, 2024, we recognized $0.7 million of revenue. Revenue from the transaction price for the Collaboration Agreement is recognized based on a cost-to-cost input method and includes upfront, milestone, and cost reimbursement payments. The Collaboration Agreement includes multiple development and regulatory and sales-based milestones, which were excluded from the transaction price at inception of the Collaboration Agreement based on our assessment that there was a high level of uncertainty of achieving the milestones. During the three months ended March 31, 2024, we re-evaluated this assessment for any milestones that continue to be excluded from the transaction price, and concluded not to recognize any adjustment to the transaction price associated with variable consideration previously excluded from the transaction price.
In the future, our ability to generate revenue from the Collaboration Agreement will depend on successfully achieving the various development and regulatory and sales-based milestones, as well as incurring costs for research activities that are reimbursable by Jazz. We may also generate revenue from product sales or other collaboration agreements, strategic alliances and licensing arrangements. We expect that potential future revenue, if any, will fluctuate from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year based upon our pattern of performance under the Collaboration Agreement and as a result of the timing and amount of milestones, reimbursement of costs incurred and other payments and product sales, to the extent any are successfully commercialized. If we fail to complete the development of our product candidates in a timely manner or obtain regulatory approval for them, our ability to generate future revenue, and our results of operations and financial position, would be materially adversely affected.
Operating Expenses
Research and Development Expenses
Research and development expenses consist primarily of costs incurred for our research activities, including our discovery efforts and the development of our product candidates, and include:
salaries, benefits and other related costs, including stock-based compensation expense, for personnel engaged in research and development functions;
expenses incurred under agreements with third parties that conduct research, preclinical and clinical activities on our behalf;
costs of outside consultants, including their fees, stock-based compensation and related travel expenses;
costs of laboratory supplies and acquiring, developing and manufacturing preclinical study and clinical trial materials; and
facility-related expenses, which include direct depreciation costs and allocated expenses for rent and maintenance of facilities and other operating costs.
We expense research and development costs as incurred. Costs for external development activities are recognized based on an evaluation of the progress to completion of specific tasks using information provided to us by our vendors. Payments for these activities are based on the terms of the individual agreements, which may differ from the pattern of performance of the individual arrangements, which may differ from the pattern of billings incurred, and are reflected in our condensed consolidated financial statements as prepaid or accrued research and development expenses.
We typically use our employee and infrastructure resources across our development programs. We track external development costs by product candidate or development program, but generally we do not allocate personnel costs, license payments made under our licensing arrangements or other internal costs to specific development programs or product candidates.
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Our external development costs were as follows:
Three Months Ended
March 31,
20242023
(in thousands)
WTX-330$4,038 $1,664 
WTX-1241,807 1,340 
JZP898324 1,573 
WTX-712206 73 
WTX-51814 — 
Pre-development candidates248 985 
Total external development costs
$6,637 $5,635 
Research and development activities are central to our business model. We expect that our research and development expenses will continue to increase substantially for the foreseeable future as we progress our clinical trials of WTX-124 and WTX-330, continue preclinical development of WTX-712 and WTX-518, and continue to discover and develop additional product candidates. As a result of our entry into the Collaboration Agreement, which commenced in April 2022, our external preclinical development costs for JZP898 will generally be reimbursed by Jazz.
The process of conducting the necessary clinical research to obtain regulatory approval is costly and time-consuming. We cannot reasonably estimate or know the nature, timing and estimated costs of the efforts that will be necessary to complete development of our current or future product candidates. The actual probability of success for our product candidates will depend on a variety of factors, including:
the scope, rate of progress and expenses of our ongoing research activities as well as any preclinical studies and clinical trials, including our ongoing Phase 1/1b clinical trial for WTX-124 and Phase 1 clinical trial for WTX-330, and other research and development activities;
establishing an appropriate safety profile;
successful enrollment in and completion of clinical trials;
whether our product candidates show safety and efficacy in our clinical trials;
receipt of marketing approvals from applicable regulatory authorities;
establishing commercial manufacturing capabilities or making arrangements with third-party manufacturers;
obtaining and maintaining patent and trade secret protection and regulatory exclusivity for our product candidates;
commercializing product candidates, if and when approved, whether alone or in collaboration with others; and
continued acceptable safety profile of the products following any regulatory approval.
A change in the outcome of any of these variables with respect to the development of our current and future product candidates would significantly change the costs and timing associated with the development of those product candidates and we may never succeed in achieving regulatory approval for any of our product candidates. As a result of the uncertainties discussed above, we are unable to determine the duration and completion costs of our research and development activities.
General and Administrative Expenses
General and administrative expenses consist primarily of salaries, benefits and other related costs, including stock-based compensation, for personnel in our executive, finance, people operations, business development, legal, information technology and administrative functions. General and administrative expenses also include legal fees relating to intellectual property and corporate matters; professional fees for accounting, audit, tax and consulting services; insurance costs; travel expenses; and facility-related expenses, which include direct depreciation costs and allocated expenses for rent and maintenance of facilities and other operating costs.
We expect that our general and administrative expenses will increase in the future as we increase our personnel headcount to support the increasing size and complexity of our research, development and manufacturing activities.
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Other Income
Interest Income
Interest income consists of interest earned from cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents invested in money market funds.
Interest Expense
Interest expense represents interest incurred from our loan agreement with Pacific Western Bank, or PWB, and non-cash interest expense related the amortization of debt issuance costs.
Other Expense, Net
Other expense, net primarily consists of foreign currency gains and losses related to services performed by foreign vendors.
Results of Operations
Comparison of the Three Months Ended March 31, 2024 and 2023
The following table summarizes our results of operations:
 Three Months Ended
March 31,
$ Change
20242023
(in thousands)
Revenue:
Collaboration revenue$742 $4,464 $(3,722)
Operating expenses:
Research and development
12,908 11,706 1,202 
General and administrative
4,996 4,981 15 
Total operating expenses
17,904 16,687 1,217 
Operating loss
(17,162)(12,223)(4,939)
Other income:
Interest income1,973 1,519 454 
Interest expense(1,003)(172)(831)
Other expense, net(1)(1,106)1,105 
Total other income
969 241 728 
Net loss
$(16,193)$(11,982)$(4,211)
Revenue
Revenue was $0.7 million for the three months ended March 31, 2024, which is comprised of partial recognition of the $15.0 million upfront payment received in April 2022 upon the execution of the Collaboration Agreement with Jazz, costs incurred for research services to be reimbursed by Jazz, and revenue related to the achievement of certain variable consideration components. Comparatively, we recognized $4.5 million in collaboration revenue during the three months ended March 31, 2023. This $3.7 million decrease in collaboration revenue is primarily driven by a higher volume of development activity during the three months ended March 31, 2023 in preparation of IND submission of JZP898.
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Research and Development Expenses
The following table summarizes our research and development expenses:
 Three Months Ended
March 31,
$ Change
20242023
(in thousands)
Personnel$4,470 $4,009 $461 
Manufacturing3,809 2,862 947 
Clinical trial costs1,769 1,517 252 
Contract research organization1,059 1,256 (197)
Facility costs892 688 204 
Lab consumables750 1,196 (446)
Other159 178 (19)
Total research and development expenses$12,908 $11,706 $1,202 
Research and development expenses for the three months ended March 31, 2024 were $12.9 million, compared to $11.7 million for the three months ended March 31, 2023. The increase of $1.2 million was primarily due to:
$1.2 million of a combined increase in manufacturing costs of $0.9 million and clinical trial costs of $0.3 million. The increases in both our manufacturing and clinical trial costs are driven by an increase of $2.3 million in costs associated with our continued development efforts of WTX-124 and WTX-330, which continue to progress through their respective clinical trials, including manufacturing to support those clinical trials. This increase was partially offset by a decrease of $0.9 million in manufacturing costs associated with JZP898, which were higher during the three months ended March 31, 2023 as we prepared for IND submission of JZP898; and
$0.5 million of increased personnel costs due to the timing and valuation of stock-based awards granted to employees, combined with annual cost of living adjustments.
These increases were partially offset by a decrease of $0.4 million in lab consumables due to a shift in priorities from discovery efforts to a higher focus on furthering the research and development of our existing product candidates.
General and Administrative Expenses
The following table summarizes our general and administrative expenses:
 Three Months Ended
March 31,
$ Change
20242023
(in thousands)
Personnel$2,599 $2,540 $59 
Professional services1,263 1,083 180 
Facility costs383 322 61 
Corporate insurance322 684 (362)
Information technology costs180 142 38 
Other249 210 39 
Total general and administrative expenses$4,996 $4,981 $15 
General and administrative expenses were $5.0 million for each of the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023. Significant fluctuations in general and administrative expenses include:
$0.4 million of decreased corporate insurance costs, driven by a reduction in associated premiums; and
$0.2 million of increased professional services costs, driven by costs incurred to protect our intellectual property and general corporate matters.
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Interest Income
Interest income was $2.0 million for the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to $1.5 million for the three months ended March 31, 2023. This increase in interest income was primarily a result of higher yields on our cash equivalents during the three months ended March 31, 2024 compared to the three months ended March 31, 2023.
Interest Expense
During the three months ended March 31, 2024 we recognized interest expense of $0.9 million related to the unpaid principal balance of our term loans under the loan agreement with PWB, compared to $0.2 million of interest expense recognized during the three months ended March 31, 2023. Additionally, we recognized $0.1 million of non-cash interest related to the amortization of debt issuance costs during the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to a nominal amount of non-cash interest recognized during the three months ended March 31, 2023. The increase in the total interest expense recognized during the three months ended March 31, 2024 compared to three months ended March 31, 2023 was due to the timing of when we drew down on our term loans, which occurred on March 15, 2023. Prior to drawing down on the term loans, we incurred no interest expense.
Other Expense, Net
Other expense, net for the three months ended March 31, 2023 primarily consisted of $1.0 million in losses recognized for the change in the fair value of the success payment liability during the period. As the success payment liability was settled during the second quarter of 2023, we incurred no such losses during the three months ended March 31, 2024. Other expense, net for the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023 also consists of foreign currency gains and losses related to services performed by foreign vendors. No material foreign currency gains or losses were recognized during either period.
Liquidity and Capital Resources
Sources of Liquidity
Since our inception in 2017, we have devoted substantially all of our efforts and financial resources to organizing and staffing our company; business planning; raising capital; developing and optimizing our platform technology; identifying potential product candidates; enhancing our intellectual property portfolio; undertaking research, preclinical studies, and clinical trials; and enabling manufacturing for our development programs. Our net loss was $16.2 million and $12.0 million for the three months ended March 31, 2024 and 2023, respectively. As of March 31, 2024, we had an accumulated deficit of $360.3 million. As we have no products that are approved for sale, we have not generated any revenue from product sales to date, and we do not expect to generate any such revenue for the foreseeable future, if at all. Instead, we have financed our operations primarily through aggregate cash proceeds from convertible promissory notes, private placements of our convertible preferred stock, our initial public offering, payments from Jazz under the Collaboration Agreement, sales of common stock through our at-the-market program, and the drawdown of our term loans. Because our product candidates are in clinical development and the outcome of our efforts is uncertain, we cannot estimate the actual costs necessary to successfully complete the development and commercialization of our product candidates, or when we may achieve profitability, if at all.
We expect to continue to incur substantial and increasing expenses and net losses for the foreseeable future, as we continue to advance our current and future product candidates through preclinical and clinical development, manufacture drug product and drug supply, seek regulatory approval for our current and future product candidates, maintain and expand our intellectual property portfolio, hire additional research and development and business personnel and operate as a public company. As a result, we expect that our accumulated deficit will also increase significantly.
As a result, we will need substantial additional funding to support our continuing operations and pursue our growth strategy. Until we can generate significant revenue from product sales, if ever, we expect to finance our operations through a combination of public or private equity offerings and debt financings or other sources, such as potential collaboration agreements, strategic alliances and licensing arrangements. We may be unable to raise additional funds or enter into such other agreements or arrangements when needed on acceptable terms, or at all. Our failure to raise capital or enter into such agreements as and when needed could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Term Loan Facilities
In April 2022, we entered into an amended and restated loan and security agreement, or the PWB Loan Agreement, with PWB, which amended and restated in its entirety our previous loan and security agreement with PWB. Under the terms of the PWB Loan Agreement, PWB made available term loans in an aggregate principal amount of up to $40.0 million, or the Term Loans, consisting of (i) a term loan in the aggregate principal amount of up to $20.0 million available at any time until February 28, 2024 (which was extended to August 31, 2024 upon the satisfaction of certain conditions set forth in the PWB Loan Agreement), or the Amortization Date, and (ii) a term loan in the aggregate principal amount of up to $20.0 million available at
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any time until the Amortization Date upon the acceptance by the FDA of two IND submissions on or before March 31, 2023. In March 2023, we drew down $40.0 million of the Term Loans.
The Term Loans bore interest on the outstanding daily balance at a floating annual rate equal to greater of: (i) 0.5% above the prime rate then in effect or (ii) 4.50%. If the prime rate changed throughout the term, the interest rate would be adjusted effective on the date of the prime rate change. All interest chargeable under the PWB Loan Agreement was computed on a 360-day year for the actual number of days elapsed, with interest payable monthly. The PWB Loan Agreement provided for interest-only payments until the Amortization Date, at which time the aggregate outstanding principal balance of the Term Loans was required to be repaid in monthly installments on a 24-month repayment schedule. All unpaid principal and accrued and unpaid interest with respect to the Term Loans was due and payable in full on August 31, 2026. At our option, we were permitted to elect to prepay all, or any part, of the outstanding Term Loans at any time without premium or penalty.
We were obligated to pay PWB a one-time fee in the event of certain corporate transactions equal to either (i) the greater of (a) $200,000 and (b) 2.00% of the amount drawn under the Term Loans for a transaction occurring on or prior to March 31, 2023, or (ii) for any transaction occurring thereafter, the greater of (a) $400,000 and (b) 4.00% of the amount drawn under the Term Loans, which fee is referred to as the Success Fee, upon the occurrence of a Success Fee Event (as defined in the PWB Loan Agreement). In April 2023, the Success Fee Event occurred and, as such, we became obligated to pay the corresponding Success Fee to PWB, in accordance with the terms of the PWB Loan Agreement. We removed the corresponding financial instrument for the Success Fee liability and paid the total $1.6 million upon the occurrence of the Success Fee Event. Upon occurrence of the Success Fee Event, the Amortization Date was extended to August 31, 2024, thereby extending the date for all unpaid principal and accrued and unpaid interest with respect to the Term Loans to August 31, 2026.
In May 2024, we repaid all amounts outstanding under the PWB Loan Agreement, using $29.5 million in net loan proceeds received under our loan agreement with K2 HealthVentures LLC, or K2HV, as described below, together with $10.5 million in existing cash. Under the PWB Loan Agreement, we were required to maintain at least $20.0 million of restricted cash in PWB accounts. As a result of the repayment, we are no longer required to maintain $20.0 million of restricted cash.
On May 2, 2024, we, as borrower, entered into a loan and security agreement, or the Loan Agreement with K2HV (we refer to K2HV, together with any other lender from time to time, as the Lenders); K2HV, as administrative agent for the Lenders; and Ankara Trust Company, LLC, as collateral trustee for the Lenders. The Loan Agreement provides up to $60.0 million principal in term loans. We received $30.0 million in gross loan proceeds at closing, $25.0 million from the first tranche commitment upon closing and $5.0 million from the second tranche commitment. A third tranche commitment of up to $10.0 million is available to be drawn at our option during certain availability periods, subject to the achievement, as determined by the administrative agent in its discretion, of certain time-based, clinical and regulatory milestones and receipt of not less than $60.0 million in net cash proceeds from certain financing activities, with at least $50.0 million from a single offering of common stock. A fourth tranche commitment of up to $20.0 million is available to be drawn down at our option through May 1, 2026 or if the third tranche is funded, May 1, 2027, subject to Lender’s review of our clinical, financial and operating plan and subject to Lender’s consent in its sole and absolute discretion.
The term loan matures on May 1, 2028, and we are obligated to make interest only payments for the first 24 months, or 36 months if the third tranche is funded, and then interest and equal principal payments for the next 24 or 12 months, as applicable. The term loan bears a variable interest rate equal to the greater of (i) 10.3%, and (ii) the sum of (A) the prime rate last quoted in The Wall Street Journal (or a comparable replacement rate if The Wall Street Journal ceases to quote such rate) and (B) 1.8%. We may prepay, at our option, all, but not less than all, of the outstanding principal balance and all accrued and unpaid interest with respect to the principal balance being prepaid of the term loans, subject to a prepayment premium to which the Lenders are entitled and certain notice requirements. We were required to pay the Lenders’ certain customary fees and expenses at closing and will be required to pay additional fees that may be due upon maturity or prepayment such as final payment fees and prepayment fees.
The Lenders may elect prior to the full repayment of the term loans to convert up to $5.0 million of outstanding principal of the term loans into shares of our common stock, at a conversion price of the lesser of $6.32 per share and the lowest effective price per share of our next equity financing, subject to customary adjustments and 9.99% and 19.99% beneficial ownership limitations. There will be no prepayment penalty for any principal amount converted into common stock. The Loan Agreement provides the Lenders with certain piggyback registration rights with respect to the shares of common stock issuable upon conversion of term loans under the Loan Agreement.
The Loan Agreement contains customary representations and warranties, events of default and affirmative and negative covenants, including covenants that limit or restrict our ability to, among other things, dispose of assets, make changes to our business, management, ownership or business locations, merge or consolidate, incur additional indebtedness, incur additional liens, pay dividends or other distributions or repurchase equity, make investments, and enter into certain transactions with affiliates, in each case subject to certain exceptions. As security for our obligations under the Loan Agreement, we granted the
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Lenders a first priority security interest on substantially all of our assets (other than intellectual property), subject to certain exceptions.
For additional information about the terms of the Loan Agreement, please see Part II, Item 5, “Other Information.”
ATM Offering
On May 10, 2022, we entered into a sales agreement, or the Sales Agreement, with Leerink Partners LLC, or Leerink Partners, pursuant to which, from time to time, we may offer and sell shares of our common stock, which we refer to as the ATM Offering. The Sales Agreement provides that Leerink Partners is entitled to a sales commission equal to 3.0% of the gross sales price per share of all shares sold under the ATM Offering. We were initially entitled to offer and sell shares of our common stock having an aggregate offering price of up to $50.0 million in the ATM Offering. On February 9, 2024, we filed a prospectus supplement, or the Prospectus Supplement, under our shelf registration statement for the offer and sale of shares of our common stock having an offering price of up to an additional $25.0 million in the ATM Offering. Following our filing of the Prospectus Supplement, we are entitled to offer and sell shares of our common stock with an aggregate offering price of up to $75.0 million pursuant to the Sales Agreement. During the three months ended March 31, 2024, we sold 4,169,324 shares of our common stock at an average price of $5.05 per share for net proceeds of $20.1 million after deducting sales commissions and offering expenses.
Jazz Collaboration
As of March 31, 2024, we have received $20.0 million in payments from Jazz, excluding payments for reimbursed costs, under the terms of the Collaboration Agreement. We are eligible to receive up to an additional $515.0 million in development and regulatory milestones, and up to $740.0 million in sales-based milestones for all Licensed Products. In addition, we are eligible to receive tiered mid-single digit royalties based on Jazz’s, and any of its affiliates’ and sublicensees’, annual net sales of Licensed Products, subject to reduction in specified circumstances.
Plan of Operation and Future Funding Requirements
As of March 31, 2024, we had cash and cash equivalents of $139.2 million. We also had restricted cash and cash equivalents of $21.2 million as of March 31, 2024, of which $20.0 million became unrestricted upon the repayment of the PWB Loan Agreement. We expect that our existing cash and cash equivalents will be sufficient to fund our operational expenses and capital expenditure requirements through at least twelve months from the date the condensed consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Quarterly Report are issued on May 3, 2024. We believe that our existing cash and cash equivalents at March 31, 2024, together with cash impacts of the loan refinancing, will be sufficient to fund our operational expenses and capital expenditure requirements through at least the first quarter of 2026. We have based this estimate on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, however, and we could use our capital resources sooner than we expect. Our need to raise additional funds may be accelerated if our research and development expenses exceed our current expectations, if we acquire a third party, or if we acquire or license rights to additional product candidates or new technologies from one or more third parties.
The timing and amount of our operating expenditures will depend largely on:
the scope, progress, timing, costs and results of researching and developing our current product candidates or any future product candidates, including with respect to our clinical trials of WTX-124 and WTX-330 and the costs associated with attracting, hiring and retaining skilled personnel and consultants as our preclinical and clinical activities increase;
the cost of manufacturing our product candidates WTX-124, WTX-330, and any future product candidates for clinical trials and, if we are able to obtain marketing approval, for commercial sale;
the costs of any third-party products used in our combination clinical trials that are not covered by such third parties or other sources;
the success of our collaboration with Jazz;
the timing of, and the cost involved in, obtaining marketing approval for WTX-124 and WTX-330 or any future product candidates, and our ability to obtain marketing approval and generate revenue from any potential commercial sales of such product candidates;
the cost of building a sales force in anticipation of product commercialization and the cost of commercialization activities for WTX-124, WTX-330 or any future product candidates if we receive marketing approval, including marketing, sales and distribution costs;
the potential emergence of competing therapies and other adverse market developments;
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the amount and timing of any payments we may be required to make pursuant to our license agreement with Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc., or Harpoon, or other future license agreements or collaboration agreements;
our ability to establish future collaborations, licensing or other arrangements and the financial terms of any such agreements, including the timing and amount of any future milestone, royalty or other payments due under any such agreement;
the costs involved in preparing, filing, prosecuting, maintaining, expanding, defending and enforcing patent claims, including litigation costs and the outcome of such litigation;
any product liability or other lawsuits related to our product candidates;
the extent to which we in-license or acquire other products and technologies; and
the costs of operating as a public company.
Our cash and cash equivalents will not be sufficient to complete development of WTX-124, WTX-330 or any other product candidates. Accordingly, we will be required to obtain further funding to achieve our business objectives.
Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial revenue from product sales, we expect to fund our operations and capital funding needs through equity and/or debt financing. We may also consider entering into collaboration arrangements or selectively partnering for clinical development and commercialization. The sale of additional equity may result in additional dilution to our stockholders. The incurrence of debt financing would result in debt service obligations and the instruments governing such debt could provide for operating and financing covenants that would restrict our operations or our ability to incur additional indebtedness or pay dividends, among other items. If we raise additional funds through governmental funding, collaborations, strategic partnerships and alliances or marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams, research programs or product candidates or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. If we are not able to secure adequate additional funding, we may be forced to make reductions in spending, extend payment terms with suppliers, liquidate assets where possible, and/or suspend or curtail planned programs. Any of these actions could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and prospects.
Cash Flows
The following table provides information regarding our cash flows:
 Three Months Ended
March 31,
20242023
(in thousands)
Net cash (used in) provided by:
Operating activities
$(15,297)$(9,898)
Investing activities
(111)(168)
Financing activities
20,259 48,623 
Net increase in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and cash equivalents
$4,851 $38,557 
Operating Activities
Net cash used in operating activities for the three months ended March 31, 2024 was $15.3 million, compared to $9.9 million for the three months ended March 31, 2023. This increase of $5.4 million was primarily attributable to a decrease in revenue from our Collaboration Agreement of $3.7 million, primarily driven by a higher volume of development activity during the three months ended March 31, 2023 in preparation of IND submission of JZP898, combined with an increase in research and development expenses of $1.2 million, primarily driven by our continued development efforts of our other product candidates.
Investing Activities
Net cash used in investing activities for the three months ended March 31, 2024 was $0.1 million, compared to $0.2 million for the three months ended March 31, 2023. The activity for both periods represents capital expenditures of property and equipment used in our operations.
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Financing Activities
Net cash provided by financing activities for the three months ended March 31, 2024 was $20.3 million, compared to $48.6 million for the three months ended March 31, 2023. Cash provided by financing activities for the three months ended March 31, 2024 primarily consisted of net proceeds from our ATM Offering during the period. Comparatively, cash provided by financing activities for the three months ended March 31, 2023 consisted of proceeds from the $40.0 million drawdown of the Term Loans combined with $8.6 million in net proceeds from our ATM Offering during the period.
Contractual Obligations
Overview
In the normal course of business, we enter into agreements with contract research organizations, or CROs, contract manufacturers, vendors and other third parties for preclinical studies and clinical trials, manufacturing services and other services and products for operating purposes. These contracts do not contain minimum purchase commitments and are cancellable by us upon prior written notice. Payments due upon cancellation consist only of payments for services provided or expenses incurred, including noncancelable obligations of our service providers, up to the date of cancellation.
Term Loan Facility
See “Liquidity and Capital Resources – Sources of Liquidity – Term Loan Facilities” for descriptions of our PWB Loan Agreement and our Loan Agreement.
Lease Agreements
In April 2019, we entered into a lease for office and laboratory as our previous headquarters. In May 2022, we entered into a sublease agreement with Crossbow Therapeutics, Inc., or Crossbow, a related party, to sublease the entirety of this space. The terms for both our original lease and our sublease with Crossbow expired in March 2024.
The lease for office and laboratory space that we entered into in June 2021 commenced in May 2022 and expires in May 2030. Total estimated base rent payments over the remaining term of the lease are approximately $15.0 million.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
Our management’s discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based on our condensed consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States. The preparation of these condensed consolidated financial statements and related disclosures requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, costs and expenses and the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities in our financial statements and accompanying notes. On an ongoing basis, we evaluate our estimates which include, but are not limited to those related to revenue recognition, accrued expenses, assumptions used in the valuation of stock-based compensation expense and income taxes. We base our estimates on historical experience, known trends and events and various other factors that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. Actual results could differ from those estimates under different assumptions and conditions.
Our critical accounting policies are described under the heading “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates” in our 2023 Annual Report, which was filed with the SEC on March 7, 2024. During the three months ended March 31, 2024, there were no material changes to our critical accounting policies from those previously disclosed.
Item 3. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk.
We are a smaller reporting company as defined by Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Exchange Act, and are not required to provide the information under this item.
Item 4. Controls and Procedures.
Evaluation of Disclosure Controls and Procedures
Our management, with the participation of our principal executive officer and our principal financial officer, evaluated the effectiveness of our disclosure controls and procedures as of March 31, 2024. The term “disclosure controls and procedures,” as defined in Rules 13a-15(e) and 15d-15(e) under the Exchange Act means controls and other procedures of a company that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by the company in the reports that it files or submits under the Exchange Act is recorded, processed, summarized and reported, within the time periods specified in the SEC’s rules and forms. Disclosure controls and procedures include, without limitation, controls and procedures designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by a company in the reports that it files or submits under the Exchange Act is accumulated and communicated to the company’s management, including its principal executive and principal financial officers, or persons performing similar functions, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure. Our management
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recognizes that any controls and procedures, no matter how well designed and operated, can provide only reasonable assurance of achieving their objectives and our management necessarily applies its judgment in evaluating the cost-benefit relationship of possible controls and procedures. Based on the evaluation of our disclosure controls and procedures as of March 31, 2024, our principal executive officer and principal financial officer concluded that, as of such date, our disclosure controls and procedures were effective at the reasonable assurance level.
Remediation of Material Weakness
During the second quarter of 2023, our management identified a material weakness in our internal controls over financial reporting, specifically related to the application of invoices to purchase orders and processes to estimate progress on open purchase orders and to identify inaccurate expense estimates within purchase orders. Since identifying the material weakness, we have taken several measures to enhance and strengthen our internal control over financial, including:
hiring additional qualified accounting personnel, including an Assistant Controller and Senior Accountant;
conducting a review of our procurement process and software, as well as sunsetting the historical software;
engaging a professional accounting services firm to help us assess and commence documentation of our internal controls for complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002;
strengthening, formalizing, documenting, and testing accounting processes and internal controls;
engaging consultants to provide additional technical accounting expertise; and
implementing procedures around our estimation processes with key vendors as well as adding analytical tools to help identify possible material errors.
The processes and controls intended to remediate the material weakness described above have been in operation for a sufficient period of time for management to be able to conclude that these controls are operating effectively. As a result, management has concluded that, as of March 31, 2024, we had remediated the previously reported material weakness.
Changes in Internal Control over Financial Reporting
There have been no changes in our internal control over financial reporting (as defined in Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f) under the Exchange Act) that occurred during the most recent financial quarter covered by this Quarterly Report that has materially affected, or is reasonably likely to materially affect, our internal control over financial reporting.
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PART II—OTHER INFORMATION
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
Our business is subject to numerous risks. You should carefully consider the risks described below, as well as the other information in this Quarterly Report, including our condensed consolidated financial statements and the related notes and Item 2. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. The occurrence of any of the events or developments described below could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and future growth prospects. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial also may impair our business operations. This Quarterly Report also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of a number of factors, including the risks described below.
Risks Related to Our Limited Operating History, Financial Position and Capital Requirements
We have a limited operating history, have incurred significant operating losses since our inception and expect to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future.
We are an early-stage biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history upon which our business and prospects can be evaluated. We commenced operations in 2017. To date, we have focused primarily on organizing and staffing our company; business planning; raising capital; developing and optimizing our platform technology; identifying potential product candidates; enhancing our intellectual property portfolio; undertaking research, preclinical studies, and clinical trials; and enabling manufacturing for our development programs. Our approach to the discovery and development of product candidates based on our PREDATOR platform is unproven, and we do not know whether we will be able to develop any approved products of commercial value. In addition, we currently only have two product candidates that we are developing independently, WTX-124 and WTX-330, and all of our other development programs are in discovery or preclinical stages. We have not yet demonstrated an ability to successfully complete any Phase 1, Phase 2 or pivotal clinical trials, obtain regulatory approvals, manufacture a commercial-scale product, or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct the sales and marketing activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Consequently, any predictions made about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a history of successfully developing and commercializing biopharmaceutical products.
We have incurred significant operating losses since our inception and have not yet generated any product revenue. If our product candidates are not successfully developed and approved, we may never generate any product revenue. Our net loss was $16.2 million for the three months ended March 31, 2024. As of March 31, 2024, we had an accumulated deficit of $360.3 million. We expect to continue to incur losses for the foreseeable future, and we anticipate these losses will increase substantially as WTX-124 and WTX-330 advance through development, and any future product candidates advance through preclinical studies and into and through clinical trials, and as we expand our clinical, regulatory, quality and manufacturing capabilities and incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company. If we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, we will incur significant commercialization expenses for marketing, sales, manufacturing and distribution. We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known or unknown factors in achieving our business objectives. We will need to develop commercial capabilities, and we may not be successful in doing so. The net losses we incur may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year.
We have no products approved for commercial sale and have not generated any revenue from product sales. We may never generate any revenue or become profitable or, if we achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain it.
To date, we have not generated any revenue from our product candidates or product sales, we do not expect to generate any revenue from the sale of products for a number of years and we may never generate revenue from the sale of products. Our ability to generate product revenue depends on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, our ability to:
successfully complete our ongoing and planned preclinical studies;
successfully submit investigational new drug, or IND, submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, for any future product candidates;
successfully complete clinical trials for WTX-124 and WTX-330;
successfully enroll subjects in and complete future clinical trials;
initiate and successfully complete all safety and efficacy studies to obtain U.S. and foreign regulatory approval for our product candidates;
establish clinical and commercial manufacturing capabilities or make arrangements with third party manufacturers for clinical supply and commercial manufacturing;
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obtain and maintain patent and trade secret protection or regulatory exclusivity for our product candidates;
launch commercial sales of our products, if and when approved, whether alone or in collaboration with others;
obtain and maintain acceptance of the products, if and when approved, by patients, the medical community and third-party payors;
effectively compete with other therapies;
obtain and maintain healthcare coverage and adequate reimbursement;
enforce and defend intellectual property rights and claims; and
maintain a continued acceptable safety profile of our products following approval.
Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with biopharmaceutical product development, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of expenses we may incur in connection with these activities prior to generating product revenue. In addition, we may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, may never generate revenues that are significant enough to achieve profitability. Even if we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable would depress the value of our company and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, maintain our research and development efforts, diversify our product candidates or even continue our operations. A decline in the value of our company could also cause our stockholders to lose all or part of their investment.
We will need to obtain substantial additional funding to finance our operations and complete the development and any commercialization of WTX-124, WTX-330 and any future product candidates. If we are unable to raise this capital when needed, we may be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate one or more of our research and development programs or other operations.
Identifying potential product candidates and conducting preclinical testing and clinical trials is a time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process that takes years to complete, and we may never generate the necessary data or results required to obtain regulatory approval and achieve product sales. We expect to incur increasing expenses and operating losses over the next several years as we pursue clinical development of our product candidates and implement the additional infrastructure necessary to support our operations as a public reporting company. Our revenue, if any, will be derived from sales of products that we do not expect to be commercially available for a number of years, if at all. If we obtain marketing approval for WTX-124, WTX-330 or any other product candidates that we develop, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product sales, marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Some of these expenses may be incurred in advance of marketing approval and could be substantial.
As of March 31, 2024, we had cash and cash equivalents of $139.2 million. We expect that our cash and cash equivalents as of March 31, 2024 will allow us to complete the development of WTX-124 through dose escalation and expansion as a monotherapy or in combination with pembrolizumab and the development of WTX-330 through dose escalation and expansion as a monotherapy.
Our cash and cash equivalents will not be sufficient to complete development of WTX-124, WTX-330 or any other product candidate. Accordingly, we will be required to obtain further funding through public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations and licensing arrangements or other sources. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. Our failure to raise capital as and when needed, on attractive terms or at all, would have a negative effect on our financial condition and our ability to develop and commercialize our current and any future product candidates, and otherwise pursue our business strategy and we may be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our research and development programs or future commercialization efforts.
In addition, our cash forecasts are based on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could use our available capital resources earlier than we currently expect. Changing circumstances could cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, and we may need to seek additional financing sooner than planned. In addition, we may seek additional capital due to favorable market conditions or strategic considerations even if we believe we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans.
Our future capital requirements, both short-term and long-term, will depend on many factors, including:
the scope, progress, timing, costs and results of researching and developing our current product candidates, including with respect to WTX-124 and WTX-330, or any future product candidates;
the costs associated with attracting, hiring and retaining skilled personnel and consultants as our preclinical and clinical activities increase;
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the cost of manufacturing our lead product candidates, WTX-124 and WTX-330, and any future product candidates for clinical trials and, if we are able to obtain marketing approval, for commercial sale;
the costs of any third-party products used in our combination clinical trials that are not covered by such third parties or other sources;
the timing of, and the cost involved in, obtaining marketing approval for WTX-124, WTX-330 or any future product candidates, and our ability to obtain marketing approval and generate revenue from any potential commercial sales of such product candidates;
the cost of building a sales force in anticipation of product commercialization and the cost of commercialization activities for WTX-124, WTX-330 or any future product candidates if we receive marketing approval, including marketing, sales and distribution costs;
the potential emergence of competing therapies and other adverse market developments;
the amount and timing of any payments we may be required to make pursuant to our license agreement with Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc., or Harpoon, or other future license agreements or collaboration agreements;
our ability to establish future collaborations, licensing or other arrangements and the financial terms of any such agreements, including the timing and amount of any future milestone, royalty or other payments due under any such agreement;
the costs involved in preparing, filing, prosecuting, maintaining, expanding, defending and enforcing patent claims, including litigation costs and the outcome of such litigation;
any product liability or other lawsuits related to our product candidates;
the extent to which we in-license or acquire other products and technologies; and
the costs of operating as a public company.
We do not have any committed external source of funds, and adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. In addition, our ability to raise additional capital may be adversely impacted by potential worsening global economic conditions both inside and outside the U.S. Our failure to raise capital as and when needed or on acceptable terms would have a negative impact on our financial condition and our ability to pursue our business strategy, and we may have to delay, reduce the scope of, suspend or eliminate one or more of our research-stage programs, clinical trials or future commercialization efforts or other operations.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our platform technology or product candidates.
Unless and until we can generate a substantial amount of product revenue, we expect to seek additional capital through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations and licensing arrangements or other sources. Our issuance of additional securities, whether equity or debt, or the possibility of such issuance, may cause the market price of our common stock to decline, and our stockholders may not agree with our financing plans or the terms of such financings. For example, pursuant to the terms of our loan agreement, or the Loan Agreement, with K2 HealthVentures LLC, or K2HV, the lenders have the right to convert any portion of the outstanding principal amount of the first tranche part A term loan then outstanding into shares of our common stock, which right, if exercised, could have a dilutive impact on our stockholders' ownership interests. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, our stockholders’ ownership interests will be diluted and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect our stockholders’ rights. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in payment obligations and could require us to comply with certain restrictive covenants, such as limitations on our ability to incur additional debt, limitations on our ability to declare dividends, limitations on our ability to acquire or license intellectual property rights and other operating restrictions that could adversely impact our ability to conduct our business. Further, our ability to obtain additional debt financing may be limited by covenants we have made under the Loan Agreement with K2HV, including our pledge of substantially all of our assets, other than our intellectual property, as collateral. If we raise additional funds through collaborations and licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our platform technology or product candidates or grant licenses on terms unfavorable to us. In addition, securing additional financing would require a substantial amount of time and attention from our management and may divert a disproportionate amount of their attention away from day-to-day activities, which may adversely affect our management’s ability to oversee the development of our product candidates.
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We have a term loan facility that requires us to comply with certain operating covenants and places restrictions on our operating and financial flexibility.
All outstanding obligations under the Loan Agreement are secured by our personal property (exclusive of any intellectual property) and are subject to acceleration upon an event of default. Under the Loan Agreement, we are required to comply with certain negative covenants, which among other things, restrict us from incurring future debt or granting liens, effectuating a merger or consolidation with or into any other business organization, paying dividends or making certain other distributions or repurchasing our equity, disposing of our assets, and making investments in any entities or instruments, subject, in each case, to certain exceptions specified in the Loan Agreement. The Loan Agreement also contains standard affirmative covenants, including with respect to the issuance of audited consolidated financial statements, insurance, and maintenance of good standing and government compliance in our state of formation. Our failure to comply with any of the foregoing covenants would result in an event of default under the Loan Agreement.
Our financial obligations and contractual commitments under the Loan Agreement could have significant adverse consequences, including:
requiring us to dedicate a portion of our cash resources to the payment of interest and principal, reducing money available to fund working capital, capital expenditures, product development and other general corporate purposes;
increasing our vulnerability to adverse changes in general economic, industry and market conditions;
subjecting us to restrictive covenants that may reduce our ability to take certain corporate actions or obtain further debt or equity financing;
limiting our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we compete; and
placing us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors that have less debt or better debt servicing options.
Under our Loan Agreement, the occurrence of an event or circumstance that could be expected to have a material adverse effect on our business, operations, properties, assets or condition is an event of default. If an event of default occurs and the lenders accelerate the amounts due, we may not be able to make accelerated payments, and the lenders could seek to enforce security interests in the collateral securing such indebtedness, which includes substantially all of our assets other than our intellectual property. In addition, the covenants under our Loan Agreement, the pledge of our assets as collateral and the negative pledge with respect to our intellectual property could limit our ability to obtain additional debt financing.
Changes in tax laws or in their implementation or interpretation could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
Changes in tax laws or in their implementation or interpretation may adversely affect our business or financial condition. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or TCJA, as amended by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, significantly revised the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code. The TCJA, among other things, contains significant changes to corporate taxation, including the reduction of the corporate tax rate from a top marginal rate of 35% to a flat rate of 21% and the limitation of the deduction for net operating losses to 80% of current year taxable income for losses arising in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 (though any such net operating losses may be carried forward indefinitely but no longer carried back). In addition, beginning in 2022, the TCJA eliminated the option to deduct research and development expenditures currently and generally requires corporations to capitalize and amortize them over five years or 15 years (for expenditures attributable to foreign research).
In addition to the CARES Act, as part of Congress’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic relief legislation was enacted in 2020 and 2021 containing tax provisions. The Inflation Reduction Act, or the IRA, which was signed into law in August 2022, also introduced new tax provisions, including a one percent excise tax imposed on certain stock repurchases by publicly traded companies, which generally applies to any acquisition of stock by the publicly traded company (or certain of its affiliates) from a stockholder of the company in exchange for money or other property (other than stock of the company itself), subject to a de minimis exception. Thus, the excise tax could apply to certain transactions that are not traditional stock repurchases. Regulatory guidance under the TCJA and such additional legislation is and continues to be forthcoming, and such guidance could ultimately increase or lessen their impact on our business and financial condition. In addition, it is uncertain if and to what extent various states will conform to the TCJA and additional tax legislation.
Our ability to utilize our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes may be limited.
We have incurred substantial losses during our history. We do not anticipate generating revenue from sales of products for the foreseeable future, if ever, and we may never achieve profitability. As of December 31, 2023, we had federal and state net operating loss carryforwards of $96.6 million and $44.9 million, respectively. Under Section 382 of the Code, if a corporation
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undergoes an “ownership change” (generally defined as a greater than 50 percentage point change (by value) in the ownership of its equity by certain stockholders over a three-year period), the corporation’s ability to use its pre-change net operating loss carryforwards and other pre-change tax attributes to offset its post-change income may be limited. As a result of our prior private placement financings or other transactions, we have experienced ownership changes on June 10, 2019, August 2, 2019 and August 31, 2022, and we may in the future experience ownership changes as a result of subsequent changes in our stock ownership for purposes of Section 382. As a result, if we earn net taxable income, our ability to use our pre-change net operating loss carryforwards and other pre-change tax attributes to offset U.S. federal taxable income are subject to limitations, which could result in increased future tax liability to us and could have an adverse effect on our future results of operations. There is also a risk that due to regulatory changes, such as suspension of the use of net operating losses, or for other unforeseen reasons, our existing net operating losses and other tax attributes could expire or otherwise become unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities. As described above in “Changes in tax laws or in their implementation or interpretation could adversely affect our business and financial condition,” the TCJA, as amended by the CARES Act, includes changes to U.S. federal tax rates and rules governing net operating loss carryforwards that may significantly impact our ability to utilize net operating losses to offset taxable income in the future. In addition, state net operating losses generated in one state cannot be used to offset income generated in another state. For these reasons, we may be unable to use a material portion of our net operating losses and other tax attributes.
Risks Related to the Discovery, Development, Regulatory Approval and Commercialization of Our Product Candidates
We are early in our development efforts and our current product candidates will require successful completion of preclinical and clinical development before we can seek regulatory approval for any product candidates.
We are early in our development efforts and have invested substantially all of our efforts and financial resources in building our PREDATOR platform and developing our initial INDUKINE molecules by leveraging our PREDATOR platform. Our lead product candidates are in the early stages of clinical trial development. Additionally, we have a portfolio of programs that are in even earlier stages of preclinical development and may never advance to clinical-stage development. Our ability to generate product revenue, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend heavily on the successful development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates, which may never occur. We currently generate no revenue from sales of any product, and we may never be able to develop or commercialize a marketable product.
Our business is highly dependent on the success of our initial INDUKINE molecules, which are in the early stages of development and will require significant additional preclinical and clinical development before we can seek regulatory approval for and launch a product commercially.
Our business and future success is highly dependent on our ability to obtain regulatory approval of and then successfully launch and commercialize our initial INDUKINE molecules, including our most advanced product candidates, WTX-124 and WTX-330.
Commencing clinical trials in the United States is subject to acceptance by the FDA of an IND and finalizing the trial design based on discussions with the FDA and other regulatory authorities. In the event that the FDA requires us to complete additional preclinical studies or we are required to satisfy other FDA requests prior to commencing clinical trials, the start of a clinical trial may be delayed. Even after we receive and incorporate guidance from these regulatory authorities, the FDA or other regulatory authorities could disagree that we have satisfied their requirements to commence any clinical trial or change their position on the acceptability of our trial design or the clinical endpoints selected, which may require us to complete additional preclinical studies or clinical trials or impose stricter approval conditions than we currently expect. There are equivalent processes and risks applicable to clinical trial applications in other countries, including countries in the European Union.
We may experience issues surrounding preliminary trial execution, such as delays in FDA acceptance of our INDs, revisions in trial design and finalization of trial protocols, difficulties with patient recruitment and enrollment, quality and provision of clinical supplies, or early safety signals.
We are not permitted to market any biological product in the United States until we receive approval of a Biologics License Application, or BLA, or a new drug application, or NDA, from the FDA. We have not previously submitted a BLA or an NDA to the FDA, or similar marketing application to comparable foreign regulatory authorities. A BLA or an NDA must include extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to establish that the product candidate is safe, pure and potent for each desired indication. A BLA or an NDA must also include significant information regarding the chemistry, manufacturing and controls for the product, and the manufacturing facilities must complete a successful pre-license inspection.
FDA approval of a BLA or an NDA is not guaranteed, and the review and approval process is expensive and uncertain and may take several years. The FDA also has substantial discretion in the approval process. The number and types of preclinical studies and clinical trials that will be required for BLA or NDA approval varies depending on the product candidate, the disease or the
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condition that the product candidate is designed to treat and the regulations applicable to any particular product candidate. Despite the time and expense associated with preclinical studies and clinical trials, failure can occur at any stage.
The FDA may also require a panel of experts, referred to as an Advisory Committee, to deliberate on the adequacy of the safety and efficacy data to support approval. The opinion of the Advisory Committee, although not binding, may have a significant impact on our ability to obtain approval of any product candidate that we develop based on the completed clinical trials.
Our ability to generate product revenues, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend heavily on our ability to successfully develop and commercialize WTX-124, WTX-330 and any future product candidates. The success of our product candidates will depend on several factors, including the following:
completion of preclinical studies and clinical trials with favorable results;
acceptance of INDs by the FDA or similar regulatory filing by comparable foreign regulatory authorities for the conduct of clinical trials of our product candidates and our proposed design of future clinical trials;
receipt of marketing approvals from applicable regulatory authorities, including BLAs or NDAs from the FDA and maintaining such approvals;
making arrangements with our third-party manufacturers for, or establishing, commercial manufacturing capabilities;
maintaining an acceptable safety profile of our products following approval; and
maintaining and growing an organization of scientists and business people who can develop our products and technology.
Generally, public concern regarding the safety of biopharmaceutical products could delay or limit our ability to obtain regulatory approval, result in the inclusion of unfavorable information in our labeling or require us to undertake other activities that may entail additional costs. We have not obtained FDA approval for any product. This lack of experience may impede our ability to obtain FDA approval in a timely manner, if at all, for WTX-124, WTX-330 or any future product candidates.
The success of our business, including our ability to finance our company and generate any revenue in the future, will primarily depend on the successful development, regulatory approval and commercialization of WTX-124, WTX-330 and any future product candidates, which may never occur. Given our early stage of development, it will be years before we are able to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of a treatment sufficient to warrant approval for commercialization, and we may never be able to do so. If we are unable to develop, or obtain regulatory approval for, or, if approved, successfully commercialize our current or any future product candidates, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to continue our business.
Our approach to the discovery and development of product candidates based on our PREDATOR platform is unproven, and we do not know whether we will be able to develop any products of commercial value.
The success of our business depends primarily upon our ability to discover, develop and commercialize products based on our novel PREDATOR platform. While we have had favorable preclinical study results related to WTX-124 and WTX-330, both of which we are developing by leveraging our PREDATOR platform, and have announced favorable early-stage clinical trial results related to WTX-124, we have not yet succeeded and may not succeed in demonstrating efficacy and safety for any product candidates in clinical trials or in obtaining marketing approval thereafter. We have no assurance that our PREDATOR platform will be able to produce product candidates that will successfully progress from preclinical studies into clinical development and ultimately marketing approval. We have invested substantially all of our efforts and financial resources in building our PREDATOR platform and developing our initial INDUKINE molecules by leveraging our PREDATOR platform, and our future success is highly dependent on the continued successful development of our platform and product candidates that we develop by leveraging our platform. Because all of our product candidates are based upon our PREDATOR platform, any development problems we may experience in the future related to any of our product candidates has the potential to impact the development of our other product candidates and any such development problems have the potential to cause significant delays or unanticipated costs and may ultimately not be able to be solved.
In addition, the clinical trial requirements of the FDA and other regulatory agencies and the criteria these regulators use to determine the safety and efficacy of a product candidate may vary according to the type, complexity, novelty and intended use and market of the potential products. The regulatory approval process for novel product candidates can be more expensive and take longer than for other, better known or extensively studied pharmaceutical or other product candidates. As a result, we may face a greater regulatory burden to initiate clinical trials or to obtain regulatory approval of our product candidates as compared to product candidates based on more established technology. In addition, any product candidates for which we may be able to obtain marketing approval may be subject to extensive post-approval regulatory requirements, including requirements pertaining to manufacturing, distribution and promotion. We may need to devote significant time and resources to compliance with these requirements.
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Manufacturing INDUKINE molecules is subject to risk since they are a novel class of multi-domain biologics that include protease cleavable linkers, and they have never been produced on a commercial scale. We may be unable to manufacture INDUKINE molecules at the scale needed for late-stage clinical development and commercial production on a timely basis or at all, which would adversely affect our ability to conduct clinical trials and seek regulatory approvals or commercialize our programs, which would have an adverse effect on our business.
The manufacturing cell line currently in use, and any future cell line that may be used, to manufacture multi-domain proteins that include our protease cleavable linkers presents a risk that unintended proteolysis may occur during the manufacture of INDUKINE molecules and that undesired fragments may not be able to be sufficiently removed by the purification process. The novel multi-domain composition of INDUKINE molecules may present a risk due to its complexity and challenges inherent to the manufacture of biologics. As a result, the risk of delays or failure in the manufacture of our INDUKINE molecules is high. Additionally, each INDUKINE molecule that we may develop is unique, from a manufacturing perspective, so any learnings from the manufacture of other INDUKINE molecules may not apply to the manufacture of new INDUKINE molecules. Before commencing clinical trials for new product candidates, the manufactured INDUKINE molecules must complete extensive analytical testing and be qualified for use in human studies. We cannot be certain of the timely completion or outcome of our analytical testing and suitability for human studies and cannot predict if the FDA or other regulatory authorities will accept our proposed clinical material or if the outcome of our analytical testing will ultimately support the further development of future programs or clinical trials. As a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to submit INDs or similar applications for any future clinical programs on the timelines we expect, if at all, and we cannot be sure that the submission of INDs or similar applications will result in the FDA or other regulatory authorities allowing future clinical trials to begin. In addition, we cannot be certain that we will be able to produce product candidates at the scale required for our clinical trials and, for any approved products, commercial production on a timely basis or at all, which could also have an adverse effect on our business.
We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.
We have chosen to initially develop our lead product candidates, WTX-124 and WTX-330, for the treatment of advanced solid tumors and the treatment of relapsed or refractory advanced or metastatic tumors or lymphoma, respectively. Nevertheless, our development efforts will be limited to a small number of cancer types and we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities in other cancer types that may prove to have greater potential. Likewise, we may forego or delay the pursuit of opportunities with other potential product candidates that may prove to have greater commercial potential.
Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable product candidates. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing or other similar arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to the product candidate.
Preclinical development is uncertain. Our preclinical programs may experience delays or may never advance to clinical trials, which would adversely affect our ability to obtain regulatory approvals or commercialize these programs on a timely basis or at all, which would have an adverse effect on our business.
Risk of failure for preclinical product candidates is high. Before we can commence clinical trials for our preclinical product candidates, we must complete extensive preclinical testing and studies that support INDs in the United States, or similar applications in other jurisdictions. We cannot be certain of the timely completion or outcome of our preclinical testing and studies and cannot predict if the FDA or other regulatory authorities will accept our proposed clinical programs or if the outcome of our preclinical testing and studies will ultimately support the further development of our programs. As a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to successfully submit INDs or similar applications for our preclinical programs on the timelines we expect, if at all, and we cannot be sure that submission of INDs or similar applications will result in the FDA or other regulatory authorities allowing clinical trials to begin.
Preclinical studies and clinical trials are expensive, time-consuming and difficult to design and implement, and involve uncertain outcomes. Furthermore, results of earlier preclinical studies and clinical trials may not be predictive of results of future preclinical studies or clinical trials.
The risk of failure for our current and any future product candidates is high. It is impossible to predict when or if any of our future product candidates will successfully complete preclinical studies, or if any of our current or future product candidates will complete clinical trials evaluating their safety and effectiveness in humans or will ultimately receive regulatory approval. To obtain the requisite regulatory approvals to market and sell any of our product candidates, we must demonstrate through extensive preclinical studies and clinical trials that our product candidates are safe and effective in humans for use in each target
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indication. Preclinical and clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and the outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the preclinical or clinical trial process. The outcome of preclinical testing and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the results of later clinical trials, and interim results of a clinical trial do not necessarily predict final results. In particular, while we have conducted certain preclinical studies of WTX-124 and WTX-330 and have entered early clinical stage development, we do not know whether either of these product candidates will perform in our clinical trials as it has performed in these prior preclinical studies. Similarly, there can be no assurance that interim or preliminary clinical data or results, including, without limitation, the preliminary Phase 1/1b clinical data reported for WTX-124, will be predictive of future clinical data or results, and there can be no assurance that success in early clinical trials will lead to success in later clinical trials. Many companies in the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in early-stage development and we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. These setbacks have been caused by, among other things, preclinical findings made while clinical trials were underway, or safety or efficacy observations made in preclinical studies and clinical trials, including previously unreported adverse events. Moreover, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that have believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval of their products.
In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety or efficacy results between different clinical trials of the same product candidate due to numerous factors, including changes in clinical trial procedures set forth in protocols, differences in the size and type of the patient populations, adherence to the dosing regimen and other clinical trial protocols, and the rate of dropout among clinical trial participants. If we fail to produce positive results in our planned preclinical studies or clinical trials of any of our product candidates, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for our product candidates, and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects, would be materially and adversely affected.
We may encounter substantial delays in the commencement or completion, or termination or suspension, of our clinical trials, which could result in increased costs to us, delay or limit our ability to generate revenue and adversely affect our commercial prospects.
Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the sale of our product candidates, we must conduct extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the product candidate for its intended indications. We cannot guarantee that any clinical trials will be conducted as planned or completed on schedule, if at all. We may experience numerous unforeseen events during or as a result of clinical trials that could delay or prevent our ability to receive marketing approval or commercialize our current or future product candidates, including:
we may be unable to generate sufficient preclinical, toxicology, or other in vivo or in vitro data to obtain regulatory authorizations to commence a clinical trial;
we may experience issues in reaching a consensus with regulatory authorities on trial design;
regulators or institutional review boards, or 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;
we may experience delays in reaching, or fail to reach, agreement on acceptable terms with prospective trial sites and prospective contract research organizations, or CROs, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;
clinical trial sites may deviate from a trial protocol or drop out of a trial or fail to conduct the trial in accordance with regulatory requirements;
the number of subjects required for clinical trials of our product candidates may be larger than we anticipate or subjects may fail to enroll or remain in clinical trials at the rate we expect;
subjects that enroll in our studies may misrepresent their eligibility or may otherwise not comply with the clinical trial protocol, resulting in the need to drop the subject from the trial, increase the needed enrollment size for the clinical trial or extend its duration;
subjects may choose an alternative treatment for the indication for which we are developing our product candidates, or participate in competing clinical trials;
subjects may experience severe or unexpected drug-related adverse effects;
clinical trials of our product candidates may produce unfavorable, inconclusive, or clinically insignificant results;
we may decide to, or regulators or IRBs or ethics committees may require us to, make changes to a clinical trial protocol or conduct additional preclinical studies or clinical trials, or we may decide to abandon product development programs;
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we may need to add new or additional clinical trial sites;
our third-party contractors, including those manufacturing our product candidates or conducting clinical trials on our behalf, may fail to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all;
we may experience manufacturing delays, and any changes to manufacturing processes or third party contractors that may be necessary or desired could result in other delays;
we or our third party contractors may experience delays due to complications associated with public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic;
the cost of preclinical testing and studies and clinical trials of any product candidates may be greater than we anticipate or greater than our available financial resources;
the supply or quality of our product candidates or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials of our product candidates may be insufficient or inadequate or we may not be able to obtain sufficient quantities of combination therapies for use in clinical trials;
reports may arise from preclinical or clinical testing of other cancer therapies that raise safety or efficacy concerns about our product candidates; and
regulators may revise the requirements for approving our product candidates, or such requirements may not be as we anticipate.
If we are required to conduct additional clinical trials or other testing of our product candidates beyond the clinical trials and testing that we contemplate, if we are unable to successfully complete clinical trials or other testing of our product candidates, if the results of these clinical trials or tests are unfavorable or are only modestly favorable or if there are safety concerns associated with any of product candidates, we may:
incur additional unplanned costs;
be required to suspend or terminate ongoing clinical trials;
be delayed in obtaining marketing approval, if at all;
obtain approval for indications or patient populations that are not as broad as intended or desired;
obtain approval with labeling that includes significant use or distribution restrictions or safety warnings;
be subject to additional post-marketing testing or other requirements;
be required to perform additional clinical trials to support approval;
have regulatory authorities withdraw, or suspend, their approval of the drug or impose restrictions on its distribution in the form of a modified risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, or REMS;
be subject to the addition of labeling statements, such as warnings or contraindications;
have the product removed from the market after obtaining marketing approval;
be subject to lawsuits; or
experience damage to our reputation.
Conducting clinical trials in foreign countries, as we may do for our product candidates, presents additional risks that may delay completion of our clinical trials. These risks include the failure of enrolled patients in foreign countries to adhere to clinical protocols as a result of differences in healthcare services or cultural customs, managing additional administrative burdens associated with foreign regulatory schemes, as well as political and economic risks relevant to such foreign countries.
Moreover, principal investigators for our clinical trials may serve as scientific advisors or consultants to us from time to time and receive compensation in connection with such services. Under certain circumstances, we may be required to report some of these relationships to the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority may conclude that a financial relationship between us and a principal investigator has created a conflict of interest or otherwise affected interpretation of the trial. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority may therefore question the integrity of the data generated at the applicable clinical trial site and the utility of the clinical trial itself may be jeopardized. This could result in a delay in approval, or rejection, of our marketing applications by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, as the case may be, and may ultimately lead to the denial of marketing approval of one or more of our product candidates.
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In addition, the FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies with respect to clinical trials may change and additional government regulations may be enacted. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies governing clinical trials, our development plans may be impacted. For example, in December 2022 with the passage of the Food and Drug Omnibus Reform Act of 2022, Congress required sponsors to develop and submit a diversity action plan for each Phase 3 clinical trial or any other “pivotal study” of a new drug or biological product. These plans are meant to encourage the enrollment of more diverse patient populations in late-stage clinical trials of FDA-regulated products. Specifically, actions plans must include the sponsor’s goals for enrollment, the underlying rationale for those goals, and an explanation of how the sponsor intends to meet them. In addition to these requirements, the legislation directs the FDA to issue new guidance on diversity action plans.
Similarly, the regulatory landscape related to clinical trials in the European Union, or EU, recently evolved. The EU Clinical Trials Regulation, or CTR, which was adopted in April 2014 and repeals the EU Clinical Trials Directive, became applicable on January 31, 2022. While the Clinical Trials Directive required a separate clinical trial application, or CTA, to be submitted in each member state, to both the competent national health authority and an independent ethics committee, the CTR introduces a centralized process and only requires the submission of a single application to all member states concerned. The CTR allows sponsors to make a single submission to both the competent authority and an ethics committee in each member state, leading to a single decision per member state. The assessment procedure of the CTA has been harmonized as well, including a joint assessment by all member states concerned, and a separate assessment by each member state with respect to specific requirements related to its own territory, including ethics rules. Each member state’s decision is communicated to the sponsor via the centralized EU portal. Once the CTA is approved, clinical study development may proceed. If we are not able to adapt to these and other changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies governing clinical trials, our development plans may be impacted.
In addition to the factors above, we may make formulation or manufacturing changes to our product candidates, in which case we may need to conduct additional preclinical studies to bridge our modified product candidates to earlier versions, which may be costly, time consuming and may not be successful at all.
Our failure to successfully initiate and complete clinical trials of our product candidates and to demonstrate the efficacy and safety necessary to obtain regulatory approval to market any of our product candidates would significantly harm our business. We cannot provide assurances that our clinical trials will begin as planned or be completed on schedule, if at all, or that we will not need to restructure our clinical trials. Significant preclinical study or clinical trial delays could also shorten any periods during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates or allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do and impair our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates, which may harm our business and results of operations. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, delays of clinical trials may ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates.
If we experience delays or difficulties in the enrollment of patients in clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
We may experience difficulties in patient enrollment in our clinical trials for a variety of reasons. The timely completion of clinical trials in accordance with their protocols depends, among other things, on our ability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who remain in the study until its conclusion. We may experience difficulties in patient enrollment in our clinical trials for a variety of reasons. The enrollment of patients depends on many factors, including:
the severity of the disease under investigation;
the patient eligibility and the inclusion and exclusion criteria defined in the protocol;
the size and health of the patient population required for analysis of the trial’s primary endpoints;
the proximity of patients to trial sites;
the design of the trial;
our ability to recruit clinical trial investigators with the appropriate competencies and experience;
clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of the drug candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs that may be approved for the indications we are investigating;
our ability to obtain and maintain patient consents;
our ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment;
the risk that patients enrolled in clinical trials will drop out of the trials before completion; and
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factors we may not be able to control, including the impacts of public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which may limit the availability of patients, principal investigators or staff or clinical sites.
In addition, our clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials for product candidates that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates, and this competition will reduce the number and types of patients available to us, because some patients who might have opted to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by one of our competitors. Since the number of qualified clinical investigators is limited, we expect to conduct some of our clinical trials at the same clinical trial sites that some of our competitors use, which will reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials at such clinical trial site.
Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials would result in significant delays or might require us to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. Enrollment delays in our clinical trials may result in increased development costs for our product candidates, slow down or halt our product candidate development and approval process and jeopardize our ability to seek and obtain the marketing approval required to commence product sales and generate revenue, which would cause the value of our company to decline and limit our ability to obtain additional financing, if needed.
Our product candidates may cause undesirable or unexpectedly severe side effects that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial profile of an approved label, or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.
Undesirable or unexpectedly severe side effects caused by our product candidates could cause us to interrupt, delay or halt preclinical studies or 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 or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. It is likely that, as is the case with many treatments for cancer, there may be side effects associated with the use of our product candidates. Results of our trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of these or other side effects. In such an event, our trials could be suspended or terminated and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval of our product candidates for any or all targeted indications. Treatment-related side effects could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the trial or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Further, by design, clinical trials rely on a sample of the potential patient population. With a limited number of patients and limited duration of exposure, rare and severe side effects of our product candidates may only be uncovered when a significantly larger number of patients is exposed to the product candidate. If our product candidates receive marketing approval and we or others identify undesirable side effects caused by such product candidates after such approval, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:
regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, such as a “black box” warning or a contraindication;
we may be required to create a medication guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients;
regulatory authorities may require a REMS plan to mitigate risks, which could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools;
we may be required to change the way such product candidates are distributed or administered, conduct additional clinical trials or change the labeling of the product candidates;
we may be subject to regulatory investigations and government enforcement actions;
regulatory authorities may withdraw or limit their approval of such product candidates;
we may decide to remove such product candidates from the marketplace;
we could be sued and held liable for injury caused to individuals exposed to or taking our product candidates; and
we may suffer reputational harm.
Any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the particular product candidate, if approved, and could significantly harm our business, results of operations and prospects.
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Interim top-line and preliminary data from our clinical trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more patient data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.
From time to time, we may publish interim top-line or preliminary data from our clinical trials. Interim data from clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available. Preliminary or “top-line” data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data previously published. As a result, interim and preliminary data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Adverse differences between preliminary or interim data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects.
We are developing WTX-124, and could potentially develop WTX-330 and future product candidates, in combination with third-party drugs, some of which may still be in development, and we will have limited or no control over the safety, supply, regulatory status or regulatory approval of such drugs.
We are developing WTX-124, and could potentially develop WTX-330 and other future product candidates, in combination with third-party cancer drugs, which may be either approved or unapproved. For example, we are conducting a clinical trial of WTX-124 both as monotherapy and in combination with pembrolizumab. Our ability to develop and ultimately commercialize our current product candidates, and any future product candidates, used in combination with third-party drugs will depend on our ability to access such drugs on commercially reasonable terms for clinical trials and their availability for use with our commercialized product, if approved. We cannot be certain that current or potential future commercial relationships will provide us with a steady supply of such drugs on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Any failure to maintain or enter into new successful commercial relationships, or the expense of purchasing such third-party drugs in the market, may delay our development timelines, increase our costs and jeopardize our ability to develop our current product candidates and any future product candidates as commercially viable therapies. If any of these occur, our business, financial condition, operating results, or prospects may be materially harmed.
Moreover, the development of product candidates for use in combination with another product or product candidate may present challenges that are not faced for single agent product candidates. For example, our clinical trial for WTX-124 in combination with pembrolizumab may result in adverse events based on the combination therapy that may negatively impact the reported safety profile of the monotherapy in such clinical trials. Checkpoint inhibitors have been shown to have adverse events, including immune-related adverse events involving the lung, liver and other organ systems, which may limit the maximum dose in our clinical trials or otherwise negatively impact our combination clinical trials. In addition, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to use more complex clinical trial designs in order to evaluate the contribution of each product and product candidate to any observed effects. It is possible that the results of such trials could show that any positive previous trial results are attributable to the third-party drug and not our product candidate. Developments related to the third-party drug may also impact our clinical trials for the combination as well as our commercial prospects should we receive regulatory approval. Such developments may include changes to the third-party drug’s safety or efficacy profile, changes to the availability of the third-party drug, quality, and manufacturing and supply issues with respect to the third-party drug.
If we are able to obtain marketing approval, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require that products used in conjunction with each other be cross labeled for combined use. To the extent that we do not have rights to the third-party drug, this may require us to work with such third party to satisfy such a requirement. We would also continue to be subject to the risks that the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could revoke approval of the third-party drug used in combination with our product candidate or that safety, efficacy, manufacturing or supply issues could arise with such drug. Similarly, if the third-party drugs we use in combination with our product candidates are replaced as the standard of care for the indications we choose for any of our product candidates, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to conduct additional clinical trials. The occurrence of any of these risks could result in our own products, if approved, being removed from the market or being less successful commercially.
We may not be successful in our efforts to identify or discover additional product candidates.
Although we intend to explore other therapeutic opportunities in addition to the product candidates that we are currently developing, we may fail to identify or discover viable new product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons. If we fail to identify additional potential product candidates, our business could be materially harmed.
Research programs to pursue the development of our existing and planned product candidates for additional indications and to identify new product candidates and disease targets require substantial technical, financial and human resources whether or not
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they are ultimately successful. Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential indications and/or product candidates, yet fail to yield results for clinical development for a number of reasons, including:
the research methodology used may not be successful in identifying potential indications and/or product candidates;
potential product 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 than we will possess to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our product candidates or to develop suitable potential product candidates through internal research programs, thereby limiting our ability to develop, diversify and expand our product portfolio.
Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will ever be able to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our current product candidates or to develop suitable additional product candidates through internal research programs, which could materially adversely affect our future growth and prospects.
We may become exposed to costly and damaging liability claims, either when testing our product candidates in the clinic or following commercial sale, and any product liability insurance we may obtain may not cover all damages from such claims.
We are exposed to potential product liability risks that are inherent in the research, development, manufacturing, marketing and use of biopharmaceutical products. The use of product candidates by us in clinical trials, and any sale of approved products in the future, may expose us to liability claims. For example, we may be sued if our product candidates cause or are perceived to cause injury or are found to be otherwise unsuitable during clinical trials, 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 product, negligence, strict liability or a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts.
Although the clinical trial process is designed to identify and assess potential side effects, it is always possible that a drug, even after regulatory approval, may exhibit unforeseen side effects. If any of our product candidates were to cause adverse side effects during clinical trials or after approval thereof, we may be exposed to substantial liabilities. Physicians and patients may not comply with any warnings that identify known potential adverse effects and patients who should not use our product candidates. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we may incur substantial liabilities or be required to limit or cease the development or commercialization of our product candidates or any products for which we may have received marketing approval. Even a successful defense would require significant financial and management resources. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:
delay or termination of clinical trials;
decreased demand for any product candidates or products that we may develop;
injury to our reputation and significant negative media attention;
withdrawal of clinical trial participants or difficulties in recruiting new trial participants;
initiation of investigations by regulators;
costs to defend or settle 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;
significant negative financial impact; and
the inability to commercialize any of our product candidates, if approved.
Although we will seek to procure and maintain product liability insurance coverage, such insurance may not be adequate to cover all liabilities that we may incur. We may need to increase our insurance coverage each time we commence a clinical trial and if we successfully commercialize any product candidate. As the expense of insurance coverage is increasing, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in an amount adequate to satisfy any liability that may arise. If a successful product liability claim or series of claims is brought against us for uninsured liabilities or in excess of insured liabilities, our assets may not be sufficient to cover such claims and our business operations could be materially harmed.
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We have never commercialized a product candidate and we may lack the necessary expertise, personnel and resources to successfully commercialize any products that receive regulatory approval, either on our own or together with collaborators.
We have never commercialized a product candidate. We currently have no sales force or marketing or distribution capabilities. To achieve commercial success of our product candidates, if any are approved, we will have to develop our own sales, marketing and supply capabilities or outsource these activities to one or more third parties.
Factors that may affect our ability to commercialize our product candidates on our own include our ability to recruit and retain adequate numbers of effective sales and marketing personnel and obtain access to or persuade adequate numbers of physicians to prescribe our product candidates, as well as any unforeseen costs we may incur in connection with creating an independent sales and marketing organization. Developing a sales and marketing organization requires significant investment, is time-consuming and could delay the launch of our product candidates. We may not be able to build an effective sales and marketing organization in the United States, the European Union or other key global markets. To the extent we need to rely upon one or more third parties, we may have little or no control over the marketing and sales efforts of those third parties and our revenue from product sales may be lower than if we had commercialized our product candidates ourselves. We will also face competition in any search for third parties to assist us with sales and marketing efforts for our product candidates. If we are unable to build our own distribution and marketing capabilities or to find suitable partners for the commercialization of our product candidates, we may have difficulties generating revenue from them.
We face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before or more successfully than we do.
The development and commercialization of new drug products is highly competitive. We face competition with respect to our current product candidates and will face competition with respect to any product candidates that we may seek to develop or commercialize in the future, from major pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies among others. We compete in the segments of the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and other related markets that develop immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. There are other companies working to develop immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer including divisions of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies of various sizes. Some of these competitive therapies are based on scientific approaches that are the same as or similar to our approach, and others are based on entirely different approaches. Potential competitors also include academic institutions, government agencies and other public and private research organizations that conduct research, seek patent protection and establish collaborative arrangements for research, development, manufacturing and commercialization.
We are developing our initial product candidates for the treatment of cancer and have not received marketing approval for any of our product candidates. There are already a variety of available therapies marketed for cancer and some of the currently approved therapies are branded and subject to patent protection, and others are available on a generic basis. Many of these approved therapies are well-established and widely accepted by physicians, patients and third-party payors. Insurers and other third-party payors may also encourage the use of generic products. We expect that if our product candidates are approved, they will be priced at a significant premium over competitive generic products. This may make it difficult for us to achieve our business strategy of using our product candidates in combination with existing therapies or replacing existing therapies with our product candidates. Competition may further increase with advances in the commercial applicability of technologies and greater availability of capital for investment in these industries.
We are aware of a number of companies that are developing cytokines as immunotherapies, as well as different modalities, including monoclonal antibodies, cell therapies, oncolytic viruses and vaccines.
Our lead product candidate, WTX-124, if approved, may face competition from other Interleukin-2, or IL-2, based cancer therapies. Proleukin (aldesleukin), a synthetic protein very similar to IL-2, is approved and marketed for the treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma and melanoma. In addition, we are aware that a number of other companies have modified IL-2 programs in development for the treatment of cancer, including Anaveon AG, Anwita Biosciences, Inc., Ascendis Pharma A/S, Asher Biotherapeutics, Inc., Aulos Bioscience, Inc., BioNTech SE, Cue Biopharma, Inc., DEKA Biosciences, Inc., Merck & Co., Inc., Medicenna Therapeutics Corp., Mural Oncology PLC, F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Synthekine, Inc., and Xilio Therapeutics, Inc.
There are no approved IL-12 therapies currently on the market for the treatment of cancer. However, if approved, WTX-330 may face competition from other IL-12 cytokine programs in clinical and preclinical development for oncology indications, including programs from Sanofi S.A. (Amunix), DEKA Biosciences, Inc., DragonFly Therapeutics, Inc., Juno Therapeutics, Inc. (Bristol-Myers Squibb Company), Turnstone Biologics Corp. (partnered with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited), Philogen S.p.A., OncoSec Medical Incorporated, Sonnet BioTherapeutics, Inc., Xilio Therapeutics, Inc. and Zymeworks Inc.
Our competitors may succeed in developing, acquiring or licensing, on an exclusive basis, products that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient or are less expensive than any products that we may develop. We also compete with these organizations in establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as
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well as in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel, which could negatively affect our level of expertise and our ability to execute our business plan.
Many of our competitors, either alone or with their collaborators, have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical and clinical testing, obtaining regulatory approvals and reimbursement and marketing approved products than we do. Established pharmaceutical companies may invest heavily to accelerate discovery and development of novel product candidates or to in-license novel product candidates that could make our product candidates less competitive or obsolete. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, including through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. In addition, any new product that competes with an approved product must demonstrate compelling advantages in efficacy, convenience, tolerability and safety in order to overcome price competition and to be commercially successful. The availability of competing products could limit the demand and the price we are able to charge for product candidates we commercialize, if any. The inability to compete with existing or subsequently introduced drugs would harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The sizes of the potential markets for our product candidates are difficult to estimate and, if any of our assumptions are inaccurate, the actual markets for our product candidates may be smaller than our estimates.
The potential market opportunities for our product candidates are difficult to estimate and, if our product candidates are approved, will ultimately depend on, among other things, the indications for which our product candidates are approved for sale, any drugs with which our product candidates are co-administered, the success of competing therapies and therapeutic approaches, acceptance by the medical community, patient access, product pricing and reimbursement. Our estimates of the potential market opportunities for our product candidates are predicated on many assumptions, which may include industry knowledge and publications, third-party research reports and other surveys. Although we believe that our internal assumptions are reasonable, these assumptions involve the exercise of significant judgment on the part of our management, are inherently uncertain, and their reasonableness has not been assessed by an independent source. If any of the assumptions proves to be inaccurate, the actual markets for our product candidates could be smaller than our estimates of the potential market opportunities.
The successful commercialization of our product candidates will depend in part on the extent to which we obtain and maintain favorable coverage, adequate reimbursement levels and pricing policies with third party payors.
The availability and adequacy of coverage and reimbursement by third-party payors, including governmental healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, managed care organizations, and private health insurers, are essential for most patients to be able to afford prescription medications such as our product candidates, if approved. Our ability to achieve acceptable levels of coverage and reimbursement for products by third-party payors will have an effect on our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates. We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement in the United States, the European Union or elsewhere will be available for our product candidates, if approved, or any product that we may develop, and any reimbursement that may become available may be decreased or eliminated in the future.
Third-party payors increasingly are challenging prices charged for pharmaceutical products and services, and many third-party payors may refuse to provide coverage and reimbursement for particular drugs or biologics when an equivalent generic drug, biosimilar or a less expensive therapy is available. It is possible that a third-party payor may consider our product candidates as substitutable and only offer to reimburse patients for the less expensive product. Even if we show improved efficacy or improved convenience of administration with our product candidates, pricing of existing third-party therapeutics may limit the amount we will be able to charge for our product candidates. These payors may deny or revoke the reimbursement status of a given product or establish prices for new or existing marketed products at levels that are too low to enable us to realize an appropriate return on our investment in our product candidates, if approved. Even if our product candidates are approved and we obtain coverage for our product candidates by a third-party payor, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. Interim reimbursement levels for new medicines, if applicable, may also not be sufficient to cover our costs and may not be made permanent. Net prices for medicines may be reduced by mandatory discounts or rebates required by government healthcare programs or private payors and by any future relaxation of laws that presently restrict imports of medicines from countries where they may be sold at lower prices than in the United States. If reimbursement is not available or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our product candidates, if approved, and may not be able to obtain a satisfactory financial return on our product candidates.
There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. The regulations that govern marketing approvals, pricing and reimbursement for new medicines vary widely from country to country. In the United States, third-party payors play an important role in determining the extent to which new drugs and biologics will be covered. The Medicare and Medicaid programs increasingly are used as models in the United States for how third-party payors develop their coverage and reimbursement policies for drugs and biologics. Some third-party payors may require pre-approval of coverage for new or innovative devices or drug therapies before they will reimburse healthcare
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providers who use such therapies. We cannot predict at this time what third-party payors will decide with respect to the coverage and reimbursement for our product candidates, if approved.
No uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors in the United States. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for products can differ significantly from payor to payor and coverage and reimbursement by one payor does not guarantee coverage and reimbursement by another payor. As a result, the coverage determination process is often a time-consuming and costly process that will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our product candidates to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. Furthermore, rules and regulations regarding reimbursement change frequently, in some cases on short notice, and we believe that changes in these rules and regulations are likely.
Even if a product candidate we develop receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, third-party payors and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.
If any product candidate we develop receives marketing approval, whether as a single agent or in combination with other therapies, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, third-party payors, and others in the medical community. For example, cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy and certain existing immunotherapies are well established in the medical community, and doctors may continue to rely on these therapies. If the product candidates we develop do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenues and we may not become profitable.
The degree of market acceptance of any product, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:
its efficacy, safety and potential advantages compared to alternative treatments;
the prevalence and severity of any side effects;
the product’s convenience and ease of administration compared to alternative treatments;
the clinical indications for which the product is approved;
the willingness of the target patient population to try a novel treatment and of physicians to prescribe such treatments;
the recommendations with respect to the product in guidelines published by scientific organizations;
the ability to obtain sufficient third-party insurance coverage and adequate reimbursement, including, if applicable, with respect to the use of the product as a combination therapy;
the strength of marketing, sales and distribution support;
the effectiveness of our sales and marketing efforts;
the approval of other new products for the same indications; and
our ability to offer the product for sale at competitive prices.
If we obtain marketing approval for a product but such product does not achieve an adequate level of market acceptance, we may not generate or derive significant revenue from that product and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.
We expect that WTX-124 and WTX-330, and other product candidates we develop, will be regulated as biological products, or biologics, and therefore they may be subject to competition sooner than anticipated.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or collectively the ACA, includes a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA, which created an abbreviated approval pathway for biologic products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-licensed reference biologic product. Under the BPCIA, a reference biological product is granted 12 years of non-patent exclusivity from the time of first licensure of the product, and the FDA will not accept an application for a biosimilar or interchangeable product based on the reference biological product until four years after the date of first licensure of the reference product. In addition, the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was first licensed. During this 12-year period of exclusivity, another company may still market a competing version of the reference product if the FDA approves a BLA for the competing product containing the sponsor’s own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity, and potency of the other company’s product.
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We believe that any of our product candidates approved as a biologic product under a BLA should qualify for the 12-year period of exclusivity. However, there is a risk that this exclusivity could be shortened due to congressional action or otherwise, or that the FDA will not consider our investigational medicines to be reference products for competing products, potentially creating the opportunity for biosimilar competition sooner than anticipated. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once licensed, will be substituted for any one of our reference products in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for non-biologic products is not yet clear, and will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing.
If competitors are able to obtain regulatory approval for biosimilars referencing our product candidates, our product candidates may become subject to competition from such biosimilars, with the attendant competitive pressure and consequences.
Risks Related to Our Dependence on Third Parties
We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines or comply with regulatory requirements, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of or commercialize any product candidates.
We depend, and expect to continue to depend, upon third parties, including independent investigators and contract research organizations, or CROs, to conduct preclinical studies and clinical trials. We expect to have to negotiate budgets and contracts with CROs and trial sites, and any of these third parties may terminate their engagements with us at any time, any of which may result in delays to our development timelines and increased costs.
Our reliance on these third parties for research and development activities will reduce our control over these activities but will not relieve us of our responsibility to ensure that each of our trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal and regulatory requirements and scientific standards, and our reliance on third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and these third parties are required to comply with current Good Clinical Practices, or cGCP, requirements for clinical trials, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for product candidates in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these cGCP requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, clinical investigators and trial sites. If we or any of these third parties fail to comply with applicable cGCP requirements, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to suspend or terminate these trials or perform additional preclinical studies or clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot be certain that, upon inspection, such regulatory authorities will determine that any of our clinical trials comply with the cGCP requirements. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with biologic product produced under current Good Manufacturing Practice, or cGMP, requirements.
Our failure or any failure by these third parties to comply with the applicable regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process. Moreover, our business may be implicated if any of these third parties violates federal or state fraud and abuse or false claims laws and regulations or healthcare privacy and security laws.
Any third parties conducting our clinical trials will not be our employees and, except for remedies that may be available to us under our agreements with such third parties, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time and resources to our clinical trials. These third parties may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical trials or other product development activities, which could affect their performance on our behalf. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or regulatory requirements or for other reasons, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated and we may not be able to complete development of, obtain regulatory approval of or successfully commercialize our product candidates. As a result, our financial results and the commercial prospects for our product candidates would be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.
If any of our relationships with these third-party CROs or others terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs or other third parties or to do so on commercially reasonable terms. Switching or adding additional CROs involves additional cost and requires management time and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new CRO begins work. As a result, delays may occur, which could materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines. Though we plan to carefully manage our relationships with CROs, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter challenges or delays in the future or that these delays or challenges will not have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and prospects.
The manufacturing of biologics is complex and we do not have our own clinical manufacturing capabilities. We will rely on third parties to produce preclinical, clinical and commercial supplies of all current and any future product candidates.
To date, we have produced limited quantities of our product candidates at our own facilities for preclinical evaluation. However, going forward we will rely on third-party contract manufacturers to manufacture some of our preclinical supply and
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all of our clinical trial supply. We do not own manufacturing facilities capable of producing drug products at clinical scale. We have in the past experienced delays in receiving preclinical product supplies from third-party manufacturers and there can be no assurance that our preclinical and clinical development product supplies from third parties will not in the future be limited or interrupted, or be of satisfactory quality or continue to be available at acceptable prices. Additionally, the process of manufacturing biologics is complex, highly regulated, and subject to multiple risks. Manufacturing biologics is highly susceptible to product loss due to contamination, equipment failure, improper installation or operation of equipment, vendor or operator error, inconsistency in yields, variability in product characteristics and difficulties in scaling the production process. Even minor deviations from normal manufacturing processes could result in reduced production yields, product defects, other supply disruptions and higher costs. If microbial, viral or other contaminations are discovered at the facilities of our contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, such facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination, which could delay clinical trials, result in higher costs of drug product and adversely affect our business.
We have engaged CMOs to provide certain services to support our clinical and preclinical development. Pursuant to the terms of separate contract manufacturing services agreements, we have engaged one CMO to provide drug substance manufacturing process development and to manufacture WTX-124 and WTX-330 drug substance to cGMP specifications for use in the further manufacture of clinical supply, a second CMO to provide drug product manufacturing process development and to manufacture clinical supply of WTX-124 and WTX-330 vialled drug product to cGMP specifications, and additional CMOs to provide drug substance and drug product manufacturing for JZP898. To support the manufacture of drug substance and drug product, our CMOs will conduct substantial analytical testing of drug substance and vialled drug product. If our CMOs are unable to supply us with sufficient clinical grade quantities of WTX-124 or WTX-330, and we are unable to timely establish an alternate supply from one or more third-party contract manufacturers, we will experience delays in our development efforts as we seek to locate and qualify new manufacturers. In particular, any replacement of our CMOs could require significant effort and expertise because there may be a limited number of qualified replacements or capacity could be limited at each of the qualified replacements. Additionally, contract manufacturers may rely on single source suppliers for certain of the raw materials for our preclinical and clinical product supplies. If current or future suppliers are delayed or unable to supply sufficient raw materials to manufacture product for our preclinical studies and clinical trials, we may experience delays in our development efforts as materials are obtained or we locate and qualify new raw material manufacturers. Further, for our combination clinical trial of WTX-124 with pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor, we will need to procure supply of pembrolizumab for use in the clinical trials. If we are unable to procure sufficient supply from third-party manufacturers or other sources, we may be required to purchase our supply of checkpoint inhibitors on the open market, which may result in significant additional expense.
The manufacturing process for a clinical candidate is subject to FDA and foreign regulatory authority review. Suppliers and manufacturers must meet applicable manufacturing requirements and undergo rigorous facility and process validation tests required by regulatory authorities in order to comply with their standards, such as cGMPs. In the event that any of our CMOs fail to comply with such requirements or to perform their obligations to us in relation to quality, timing or otherwise, or if our supply of components or other materials becomes limited or interrupted for other reasons, we may be forced to manufacture the materials ourselves, for which we currently do not have the capabilities or resources, or enter into an agreement with another third-party, which we may not be able to do on reasonable terms, if at all. The transfer of the manufacturing of biologic products to a new CMO and any additional process development that may be necessary can be lengthy and involve significant additional costs. If we are required to change CMOs for any reason, we will be required to verify that the new CMO maintains facilities and procedures that comply with quality standards and with all applicable regulations and guidelines. The delays associated with the verification of a new CMO would negatively affect our ability to develop product candidates in a timely manner or within budget.
Further, our reliance on third-party manufacturers exposes us to risks beyond our control, including the:
inability to meet our drug specifications and quality requirements consistently;
inability to initiate or continue preclinical studies or clinical trials of product candidates under development;
delay or inability to procure or expand sufficient manufacturing capacity;
manufacturing and drug quality issues, including related to scale-up of manufacturing;
failure to comply with cGMP and similar foreign standards;
reliance on a limited number of sources, and in some cases, single sources for drug components and raw materials, such that if we are unable to secure a sufficient supply of these drug components and raw materials, we will be unable to manufacture and sell our future product candidate in a timely fashion, in sufficient quantities or under acceptable terms;
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lack of qualified backup suppliers for those components and raw materials that are purchased from a sole or single source supplier;
inability to negotiate manufacturing agreements with third parties under commercially reasonable terms;
termination or nonrenewal of manufacturing agreements with third parties in a manner or at a time that is costly or damaging to us;
disruption of operations by conditions unrelated to our business or operations, including the bankruptcy of the manufacturer or supplier or the issuance of an FDA Form 483 notice or warning letter, or as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on third-party manufacturers;
carrier disruptions or increased costs that are beyond our control;
failure to deliver our drugs under specified storage conditions and in a timely manner; and
the possible misappropriation of our proprietary information, including our trade secrets and know-how.
Some of these events could be the basis for FDA action, including injunction, recall, seizure or total or partial suspension of production, any of which could result in a failure to begin our clinical trials or having to stop ongoing clinical trials. In addition, our CMOs and suppliers are subject to FDA inspection from time to time. Failure by our CMOs and suppliers to pass such inspections and otherwise satisfactorily complete the FDA approval regimen with respect to our product candidate may result in regulatory actions such as the issuance of FDA Form 483 notices of observations, warning letters or injunctions or the loss of operating licenses. In addition, our CMOs and suppliers are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of waste products, and failure to comply with such laws and regulations could result in significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties for such third parties. Based on the severity of the regulatory action, our clinical or commercial supply of drug and packaging and other services could be interrupted or limited, which could harm our business.
In addition, our CMOs are or may be engaged with other companies to supply and manufacture materials or products for such companies, which also exposes our suppliers and CMOs to regulatory risks for the production of such materials and products. As a result, failure to meet the regulatory requirements for the production of those materials and products may also affect the regulatory clearance of a contract supplier’s or CMO’s facility, which could impact the contract supplier’s or CMO’s ability to manufacture drug product for us.
We have entered into, and may in the future seek to enter into, collaborations or other similar arrangements for our product candidates. If we are unable to enter into such collaborations, or if these collaborations are not successful, our business could be adversely affected.
A part of our strategy is to strategically evaluate and, as deemed appropriate, enter into collaborations in the future on an asset-by-asset basis to maximize the value of each of our programs. For example, in April 2022, we entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement, or the Collaboration Agreement, with Jazz Pharmaceuticals Ireland Limited, or Jazz, pursuant to which we granted Jazz certain licenses to develop and commercialize products containing our Interferon alpha, or IFNα, INDUKINE molecule, JZP898, as well as products containing certain isolated recombinant polypeptides comprising IFNα that meet specified criteria. We may also enter into collaborations in connection with our platform technology in order to advance the development of programs beyond our initial focus in cytokines. Such collaborations may include the development and commercialization of any of our product candidates or the commercialization of any of our product candidates that are approved for marketing outside the United States. Our likely collaborators for any collaboration arrangements include large and mid-size pharmaceutical companies, regional and national pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies. We have limited capabilities for product development and do not yet have any capability for commercialization. Accordingly, we may enter into collaborations with other companies to provide us with important technologies and funding for our programs and platform technology. We will face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. We may not be successful in our efforts to establish a strategic partnership or other alternative arrangements for any product candidates because they may be deemed to be at too early of a stage of development for collaborative effort and third parties may not view such product candidates as having the requisite potential to demonstrate safety and efficacy. We may also be restricted under future license agreements from entering into agreements on certain terms or at all with potential collaborators.
Existing and future collaborations involving our product candidates may pose significant risks to us, including the following:
collaborators have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to these collaborations;
collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected;
we could grant exclusive rights to our collaborators that would prevent us from collaborating with others;
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collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates that achieve regulatory approval or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on clinical trial results, changes in the collaborators’ strategic focus or available funding, or external factors, such as an acquisition, that divert resources or create competing priorities;
collaborators may delay clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for a clinical trial program, stop a clinical trial or abandon a product candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials or require a new formulation of a product candidate for clinical testing;
collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidates if the collaborators believe that competitive products are more likely to be successfully developed or can be commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours;
product candidates discovered in collaboration with us may be viewed by our collaborators as competitive with their own product candidates or drugs, which may cause collaborators to cease to devote resources to the commercialization of our product candidates;
a collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more of our product candidates that achieve regulatory approval may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of such products;
a collaborator’s sales and marketing activities or other operations may not be in compliance with applicable laws resulting in civil or criminal proceedings;
disagreements with collaborators, including disagreements over proprietary rights, contract interpretation or the preferred course of development, might cause delays in or termination of the research, development or commercialization of product candidates, might lead to additional responsibilities for us with respect to product candidates, or might result in litigation or arbitration, any of which would be time-consuming and expensive;
collaborators may not properly maintain or defend our or their intellectual property rights or may use our or their proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate such intellectual property or proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation;
collaborators may infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;
collaborators may not provide us with timely and accurate information regarding development, regulatory or commercialization status or results, which could adversely impact our ability to manage our own development efforts, accurately forecast financial results or provide timely information to our stockholders regarding our out-licensed product candidates;
if a collaborator of ours were to be involved in a business combination, the continued pursuit and emphasis on our product development or commercialization program could be delayed, diminished or terminated; and
collaborations may be terminated, including for the convenience of the collaborator, and, if terminated, we may find it more difficult to enter into future collaborations or be required to raise additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates.
Any collaborations that we enter into may not be successful. The success of our collaboration arrangements will depend heavily on the efforts and activities of our collaborators. Collaboration agreements may not lead to development or commercialization of product candidates in the most efficient manner or at all. In addition, all of the risks relating to product development, regulatory approval and commercialization described in this Quarterly Report will apply to the activities of any of our collaborators.
Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property
If we are unable to obtain and maintain patent protection for any product candidates we develop or for our PREDATOR platform and other proprietary technologies we may develop, or if the scope of the patent protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize product candidates and technology similar or identical to our product candidates and technology, and our ability to successfully commercialize any product candidates we may develop, and our technology may be adversely affected.
Our success depends in large part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent protection in the United States and other countries with respect to our PREDATOR platform, our product candidates, their respective components, formulations, combination therapies, methods used to manufacture them and methods of treatment and development that are important to our business. If we do not adequately protect our intellectual property rights, competitors may be able to erode or negate any competitive advantage we may have, which could harm our business and ability to achieve profitability. To protect our proprietary position,
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we file patent applications in the United States and abroad related to our PREDATOR platform and our product candidates that are important to our business; we also license and may in the future license or purchase additional patents and patent applications filed by others. If we are unable to secure or maintain patent protection with respect to our PREDATOR platform, our product candidates and any proprietary products and technology we develop, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially harmed.
If the scope of the patent protection we or our potential licensors obtain is not sufficiently broad, we may not be able to prevent others from developing and commercializing technology and products similar or identical to ours. The degree of patent protection we require to successfully compete in the marketplace may be unavailable or severely limited in some cases and may not adequately protect our rights or permit us to gain or keep any competitive advantage. We cannot provide any assurances that any of our patents have, or that any of our pending patent applications that mature into issued patents will include, claims with a scope sufficient to protect our current and future product candidates or otherwise provide any competitive advantage. In addition, to the extent that we license intellectual property in the future, we cannot provide assurances that those licenses will remain in force. In addition, the laws of foreign countries may not protect our rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. Furthermore, patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years after it is filed. Various extensions may be available; however, the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized.
Our patents and pending patent applications, if issued, may not provide us with any meaningful protection or prevent competitors from designing around our patent claims to circumvent our patents by developing similar or alternative technologies or therapeutics in a non-infringing manner. For example, a third party may develop a competitive therapy that provides benefits similar to one or more of our product candidates but that uses a formulation and/or a device that falls outside the scope of our patent protection. If the patent protection provided by the patents and patent applications we hold or pursue with respect to our product candidates is not sufficiently broad to impede such competition, our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates could be negatively affected, which would harm our business.
Patent positions of life sciences companies can be uncertain and involve complex factual and legal questions. No consistent policy governing the scope of claims allowable in the field of engineered therapeutic proteins has emerged in the United States. The scope of patent protection in jurisdictions outside of the United States is also uncertain. Changes in either the patent laws or their interpretation in any jurisdiction that we seek patent protection may diminish our ability to protect our inventions, maintain and enforce our intellectual property rights; and, more generally, may affect the value of our intellectual property, including the narrowing of the scope of our patents and any that we may license.
The patent prosecution process is complex, expensive, time-consuming and inconsistent across jurisdictions. We may not be able to file, prosecute, maintain, enforce, or license all necessary or desirable patent rights at a commercially reasonable cost or in a timely manner. In addition, we may not pursue or obtain patent protection in all relevant markets. It is possible that we will fail to identify important patentable aspects of our research and development efforts in time to obtain appropriate or any patent protection. While we enter into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to confidential or patentable aspects of our research and development efforts, including for example, our employees, external academic scientific collaborators, CROs, contract manufacturers, consultants, advisors and other third parties, any of these parties may breach the agreements and disclose our confidential or proprietary information before a patent application is filed, thereby endangering our ability to seek patent protection. In addition, publications of discoveries in the scientific and scholarly literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, or in some cases not at all. Consequently, we cannot be certain that we were the first to file for patent protection on the inventions claimed in our patents or pending patent applications.
The issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our patent rights are highly uncertain. Pending patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties unless, and until, patents issue from such applications, and then only to the extent the issued claims cover the technology. There can be no assurance that our patent applications or any patent applications that we may license in the future will result in patents being issued. Further, the scope of the invention claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued, and this scope can be reinterpreted after issuance. Even if patent applications we currently own or that we may license in the future issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with adequate protection to prevent competitors or other third parties from competing with us, or otherwise provide us with a competitive advantage. Any patents that eventually issue may be challenged, narrowed or invalidated by third parties. Consequently, we do not know whether our PREDATOR platform or any of our product candidates will be protectable or remain protected by valid and enforceable patent rights. Our competitors or other third parties may be able to evade our patent rights by developing new products that are similar to our product candidates, biosimilars of our product candidates, or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner.
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The issuance or grant of a patent is not irrefutable 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. There may be prior art of which we are not aware that may affect the validity or enforceability of a patent claim. There also may be prior art of which we are aware, but which we do not believe affects the validity or enforceability of a claim, which may, nonetheless, ultimately be found to affect the validity or enforceability of a claim. We may in the future, become subject to a third-party pre-issuance submission of prior art or opposition, derivation, revocation, re-examination, post-grant and inter partes review, or interference proceeding and other similar proceedings challenging our patent rights or the patent rights of others in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, or other foreign patent office. An unfavorable determination in any such submission, proceeding or litigation could reduce the scope of, or invalidate, our patent rights, allow third parties to commercialize our technology or products and compete directly with us, without payment to us, or extinguish our ability to manufacture or commercialize products without infringing third-party patent rights.
In addition, given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, our intellectual property may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours. Moreover, some of our owned and in-licensed patents and patent applications may in the future be co-owned with third parties. If we are unable to obtain an exclusive license to any such third-party co-owners’ interest in such patents or patent applications, such co-owners may be able to license their rights to other third parties, including our competitors, and our competitors could market competing products and technology. In addition, we or our licensors may need the cooperation of any such co-owners of our owned and in-licensed patents in order to enforce such patents against third parties, and such cooperation may not be provided to us or our licensors. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations and prospects.
We rely on the Harpoon Agreement for patent rights with respect to our product candidates and may in the future acquire additional third-party intellectual property rights on which we may similarly rely. We face risks with respect to such reliance, including the risk that we could lose these rights that are important to our business if we fail to comply with our obligations under these licenses.
We rely on our Second Amended and Restated Assignment and License Agreement, or the Harpoon Agreement, with Harpoon, pursuant to which we have non-exclusive and exclusive rights to technology that is incorporated into our PREDATOR platform, development programs and product candidates. The Harpoon Agreement gives us non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialize products containing certain of Harpoon’s patented technology and exclusive, irrevocable rights to certain other Harpoon inventions that may be made during a limited collaboration period. The Harpoon Agreement imposes disclosure, royalty payment and other obligations on us.
Moreover, the growth of our business may depend in part on our ability to acquire, in-license or use additional third-party intellectual property rights. The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and a number of more established companies are also pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider attractive. These established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, cash resources and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us. Licenses to additional third-party intellectual property, technology and materials that may be required for the development and commercialization of our product candidates or technology may not be available at all or on commercially reasonable terms. In that event, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to redesign our product candidates or to develop or license replacement technology, all of which may not be feasible on a technical or commercial basis. If we are unable to do so, we may be unable to develop or commercialize our future product candidates or technologies, which could materially harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
Under the Harpoon Agreement, Harpoon is responsible for prosecution and maintenance of the licensed patents and any future third party from whom we may license patent rights may similarly be responsible for prosecution and maintenance of such patents. We have limited control over the activities that are the responsibility of Harpoon and would have limited control over the activities that are the responsibility of any future licensor, and it is possible that prosecution and maintenance of licensed patents by Harpoon or any future licensor may be less vigorous than had we conducted such activities ourselves. Furthermore, the Harpoon Agreement is subject to, and we expect our future license agreements may also be subject to, a reservation of rights by the licensor and/or one or more third parties. 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 could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
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Disputes may arise regarding intellectual property subject to the Harpoon Agreement or any future license agreements of ours, including:
the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation-related issues;
our or our licensor’s ability to defend intellectual property and to enforce intellectual property rights against third parties;
the extent to which our technology, product candidates and processes infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate any intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the licensing agreement;
the sublicensing of patent and other rights under the license agreement;
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 any partners of ours; and
the priority of invention of patented technology.
If disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed prevent or impair our ability to maintain our licensing arrangements on acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates. We are generally also subject to all of the same risks described in this Quarterly Report with respect to protection of intellectual property that we license as we are for intellectual property that we own. If we or our licensors fail to adequately protect this intellectual property, our ability to commercialize products could suffer.
Harpoon and any potential future licensors might conclude that we have materially breached our license agreements and might therefore terminate the relevant license agreements, thereby removing our ability to develop and commercialize products and technology covered by such license agreements. If any of our current or future inbound license agreements are terminated, or if the underlying patents fail to provide the intended exclusivity, competitors would have the freedom to seek regulatory approval of, and to market, products that are covered by such license agreements and underlying patents, which might be identical to our products or product candidates. This could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations and growth prospects. Our business also would suffer if any current or future licensors fail to abide by the terms of the license or fail to enforce licensed patents against infringing third parties, if the licensed patents or other rights are found to be invalid or unenforceable, or if we are unable to enter into necessary licenses on acceptable terms. Moreover, our licensors may own or control intellectual property that has not been licensed to us and, as a result, we may be subject to claims, regardless of their merit, that we are infringing or otherwise violating the licensor’s rights.
Any licensor of ours may have relied on third-party consultants or collaborators or on funds from third parties, such as the United States government, such that such licensor is not the sole and exclusive owners of the patents we in-licensed. If other third parties have ownership rights or other rights to our in-licensed patents, they may be able to license such patents to our competitors, and our competitors could market competing products and technology. This could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.
In addition, while we cannot currently determine the amount of the royalty obligations we would be required to pay on sales of future products, if any, the amounts may be significant. The amount of our future royalty obligations will depend on the technology and intellectual property we use in products that we successfully develop and commercialize, if any. Therefore, even if we successfully develop and commercialize products, we may be unable to achieve or maintain profitability.
If our efforts to protect the proprietary nature of the intellectual property related to our technologies and product candidates are not adequate, we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.
Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies generally, and we in particular, compete in a crowded competitive space characterized by rapidly evolving technologies and aggressive defense of intellectual property. The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other provisions during the patent process. Our or our licensor’s failure to comply with all such provisions during the patent process could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application that we own or license, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, competitors might be able to enter the market and compete with us earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
We rely upon a combination of patents, confidentiality agreements, trade secret protection and license agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our technologies and our product candidates. Any disclosure to or misappropriation by third parties of our confidential proprietary information could enable competitors to quickly duplicate or surpass our technological achievements and product candidates, thus eroding our competitive position in our market. We, or any future partners, collaborators, or licensees, may fail to identify patentable aspects of inventions made in the course of development and
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commercialization activities before it is too late to obtain patent protection on them. Therefore, we may miss potential opportunities to strengthen our patent position.
It is possible that defects of form in the preparation or filing of our patents or patent applications may exist, or may arise in the future, for example with respect to proper priority claims, inventorship, claim scope, or requests for patent term adjustments. If we or our partners, collaborators, licensees or licensors fail to establish, maintain or protect such patents and other intellectual property rights, such rights may be reduced or eliminated. If our partners, collaborators, licensees or licensors 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. If there are material defects in the form, preparation, prosecution, or enforcement of our patents or patent applications, such patents may be invalid and/or unenforceable, and such applications may never result in valid, enforceable patents. Any of these outcomes could impair our ability to prevent competition from third parties, which may have an adverse impact on our business.
We seek or plan to seek patent protection for our PREDATOR platform and product candidates by filing and prosecuting patent applications in the United States and other countries as appropriate. However, we cannot predict:
if and when patents will issue;
if patents will issue with claims that cover our product candidates;
the degree and range of protection any issued patents will afford us against competitors including whether third parties will find ways to invalidate or otherwise circumvent our patents;
whether any of our intellectual property will provide any competitive advantage;
whether any of our patents that may be issued may be challenged, invalidated, modified, revoked, circumvented, found to be unenforceable or otherwise may not provide any competitive advantage;
whether or not others will obtain patents claiming aspects similar to those covered by our patents and patent applications; or
whether we will need to initiate or defend litigation or administrative proceedings which may be costly regardless of whether we win or lose.
Additionally, we cannot be certain that the claims in our pending patent applications covering our product candidates, PREDATOR platform and research programs will be considered patentable by the USPTO, or by patent offices in foreign countries, or that the claims in any of our issued patents will be considered valid by courts in the United States or foreign countries.
The strength of patents in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical field involves complex legal and scientific questions and can be uncertain. The patent applications that we own or in-license may fail to result in issued patents with claims that cover our product candidates or technology or uses thereof in the United States or in other foreign countries. Even if patents do successfully issue, third parties may challenge the validity, enforceability or scope thereof, which may result in such patents being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable. Furthermore, even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications may not adequately protect our intellectual property or prevent others from designing around our claims. If the breadth or strength of protection provided by the patents and patent applications we hold with respect to our product candidates or technology is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to develop, and threaten our ability to commercialize, our product candidates. Further, if we encounter delays in our clinical trials, the period of time during which we could market our product candidates under patent protection would be reduced. Since patent applications in the United States and most other countries are confidential for a period of time after filing, we cannot be certain that we were the first to file any patent application related to our product candidates. Furthermore, for U.S. applications in which all claims are entitled to a priority date before March 16, 2013, an interference proceeding can be provoked by a third-party or instituted by the USPTO to determine who was the first to invent any of the subject matter covered by the patent claims of our applications. We cannot be certain that we are the first to invent the inventions covered by pending patent applications and, if we are not, we may be subject to priority disputes. We may be required to disclaim part or all of the term of certain patents or all of the term of certain patent applications. Various post-grant review proceedings, such as inter partes review, post-grant review and derivation proceedings, are available and may be pursued by any interested third party in the USPTO to challenge the patentability of claims issued in patents to us or our licensors. No assurance can be given as to the outcome of any such post-grant review proceedings. No assurance can be given that if challenged, our patents would be declared by a court to be valid or enforceable or that even if found valid and enforceable, a competitor’s technology or product would be found by a court to infringe our patents. We may analyze patents or patent applications of our competitors that we believe are relevant to our activities, and consider that we are free to operate in relation to our product candidates, but our competitors may achieve issued claims, including in patents we consider to be unrelated, which block our efforts or may potentially result in our product candidates or our activities infringing such claims. The possibility exists that others will develop products which have the same effect as our
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products on an independent basis which do not infringe our patents or other intellectual property rights, or will design around the claims of patents that we have had issued that cover our products.
Recent or future patent reform legislation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents. In March 2013, under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or America Invents Act, the United States moved from a “first to invent” to a “first-to-file” system. Under a “first-to-file” system, assuming the other requirements for patentability are met, the first inventor to file a patent application generally will be entitled to a patent on the invention regardless of whether another inventor had made the invention earlier. The America Invents Act includes a number of other significant changes to U.S. patent law, including provisions that affect the way patent applications are prosecuted, redefine prior art and establish a USPTO-administered post-grant review system that has affected patent litigation. The America Invents Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
The degree of future protection for our proprietary rights is uncertain because legal means afford only limited protection and may not adequately protect our rights or permit us to gain or keep our competitive advantage. For example:
others may be able to make or use polypeptides or nucleic acids that are similar to our product candidates or components of our product candidates but that are not covered by the claims of our patents;
the active biological ingredients in our current product candidates will eventually become commercially available in biosimilar drug products, and no patent protection may be available with regard to formulation or method of use;
we or our licensors, as the case may be, may fail to meet our obligations to the U.S. government in regards to any patents and patent applications funded by U.S. government grants, leading to the loss of patent rights;
we or our licensors, as the case may be, might not have been the first to file patent applications for these inventions;
others may independently develop similar or alternative technologies or duplicate any of our technologies;
it is possible that our pending patent applications will not result in issued patents;
it is possible that there are prior public disclosures that could invalidate our or our licensors’ patents, as the case may be, or parts of our or their patents;
it is possible that others may circumvent our owned or in-licensed patents;
it is possible that there are unpublished applications or patent applications maintained in secrecy that may later issue with claims covering our products or technology similar to ours;
the laws of foreign countries may not protect our or our licensors’, as the case may be, proprietary rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States;
the claims of our owned or in-licensed issued patents or patent applications, if and when issued, may not cover our product candidates or technology;
our owned or in-licensed issued patents may not provide us with any competitive advantages, may be narrowed in scope, or be held invalid or unenforceable as a result of legal challenges by third parties;
the inventors of our owned or in-licensed patents or patent applications may become involved with competitors, develop products or processes which design around our patents, or become hostile to us or the patents or patent applications on which they are named as inventors;
it is possible that our owned or in-licensed patents or patent applications omit individual(s) that should be listed as inventor(s) or include individual(s) that should not be listed as inventor(s), which may cause these patents or patents issuing from these patent applications to be held invalid or unenforceable;
we have engaged in scientific collaborations in the past and will continue to do so in the future, and such collaborators may develop adjacent or competing products to ours that are outside the scope of our patents;
we may not develop additional proprietary technologies for which we can obtain patent protection;
it is possible that product candidates or technology we develop may be covered by third parties’ patents or other exclusive rights; or
the patents of others may have an adverse effect on our business.
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Our proprietary position in part depends upon patents that are manufacturing, formulation or method-of-use patents, which may not prevent a competitor or other third party from using the same product candidate for another use.
Composition of matter patents for biological and pharmaceutical products are generally considered to be the strongest form of intellectual property protection for those types of products, as such patents provide protection without regard to any method of making or method of use. We have issued patents with certain composition of matter claims with respect to WTX-124 and IL-12 INDUKINE molecules and also have pending patent applications with other composition of matter claims with respect to our product candidates. We cannot be certain, however, that the claims in our pending patent applications, including those claims covering the composition of matter of our product candidates, will be considered patentable by the USPTO or by patent offices in foreign countries, or that the claims in any of our patents that have issued or may issue will be considered valid and enforceable by courts in the United States or foreign countries. Furthermore, in some cases, we may not be able to obtain issued claims covering compositions of matter relating to our product candidates, and instead may need to rely on filing patent applications with claims covering a method of use and/or method of manufacture. Method of use patents protect a specified method of using a product, such as a method of use for treating a particular medical indication. This type of patent does not prevent a competitor from making and marketing a product that is identical to our product for an indication that is outside the scope of the patented method. Moreover, even if competitors do not actively promote their products for our targeted indications, physicians may prescribe these products “off-label” for those uses that are covered by our method of use patents. Although off-label prescriptions may infringe or contribute to the infringement of method of use patents, the practice is common and such infringement is difficult to prevent by enforcing patent rights or otherwise. There can be no assurance that any such patent applications will issue as granted patents, and even if they do issue, such patent claims may be insufficient to prevent third parties, such as our competitors, from utilizing our technology. Any failure to obtain or maintain patent protection with respect to our product candidates could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
If we are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, our business and competitive position would be harmed.
In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we seek to rely on trade secret protection, confidentiality agreements, and license and other agreements to protect proprietary know-how that is not patentable, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our product discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know-how, information, or technology that is not covered by patents. We cannot be certain that our trade secrets and other confidential proprietary information will not be disclosed or that competitors will not otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or independently develop substantially equivalent information and techniques. Furthermore, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect proprietary rights to the same extent or in the same manner as the laws of the United States. As a result, we may encounter significant problems in protecting and defending our intellectual property both in the United States and abroad. If we are unable to prevent unauthorized material disclosure of our intellectual property to third parties, we will not be able to establish or maintain a competitive advantage in our market, which could materially adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition.
Courts outside the United States are sometimes less willing to protect trade secrets. If we choose to go to court to stop a third party from using any of our trade secrets, we may incur substantial costs. These lawsuits may consume our time and other resources even if we are successful. For example, significant elements of our product candidates and PREDATOR platform, including aspects of sample preparation, methods of manufacturing, cell culturing conditions, computational-biological algorithms and related processes are based on unpatented trade secrets that are not publicly disclosed. Although we take steps to protect our proprietary information and trade secrets, including through contractual means with our employees and consultants, third parties may independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques or otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or disclose our technology.
Thus, we may not be able to meaningfully protect our trade secrets. It is our policy to require our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors to execute confidentiality agreements upon the commencement of employment or consulting relationships with us. These agreements provide that all confidential information concerning our business or financial affairs developed or made known to the individual or entity during the course of the party’s relationship with us is to be kept confidential and not disclosed to third parties except in specific circumstances. In the case of employees, the agreements provide that all inventions conceived by the individual, and which are related to our current or planned business or research and development or made during normal working hours, on our premises or using our equipment or proprietary information, are our exclusive property. In addition, we take other appropriate precautions, such as physical and technological security measures, to guard against misappropriation of our proprietary technology by third parties. We have also adopted policies and conduct training that provides guidance on our expectations, and our advice for best practices, in protecting our trade secrets. However, we cannot provide assurance that these agreements and policies will not be breached by our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors and that our trade secrets and other proprietary and confidential information will not be disclosed to publicly or to competitors.
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Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may prevent or delay our product discovery and development efforts.
Our commercial success depends in part on our avoiding infringement of the patents and proprietary rights of third parties. There is a substantial amount of litigation involving patents and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as administrative proceedings for challenging patents, including interference, reexamination, and post-grant review proceedings before the USPTO or oppositions and other comparable proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. We may be exposed to, or threatened with, future litigation by third parties having patent or other intellectual property rights alleging that our product candidates and/or proprietary technologies infringe their intellectual property rights. Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications, which are owned by third parties, exist in the fields in which we are developing our product candidates. As the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our product candidates may give rise to claims of infringement of the patent rights of others. Moreover, it is not always clear to industry participants, including us, which patents cover various types of drugs, products or their methods of use or manufacture. Thus, because of the large number of patents issued and patent applications filed in our fields, there may be a risk that third parties may allege they have patent rights encompassing our product candidates, technologies or methods.
If a third party claims that we infringe its intellectual property rights, we may face a number of issues, including, but not limited to:
infringement and other intellectual property claims which, regardless of merit, may be expensive and time-consuming to litigate and may divert our management’s attention from our core business;
substantial damages for infringement, which we may have to pay if a court decides that the product candidate or technology at issue infringes on or violates the third party’s rights, and, if the court finds that the infringement was willful, we could be ordered to pay treble damages and the patent owner’s attorneys’ fees;
a court prohibiting us from developing, manufacturing, marketing or selling our product candidates, or from using our proprietary technologies, unless the third party licenses its product rights to us, which it is not required to do;
if a license is available from a third party, we may have to pay substantial royalties, upfront fees and other amounts, and/or grant cross-licenses to intellectual property rights for our products; and
redesigning our product candidates or processes so they do not infringe third party intellectual property rights, which may not be possible or may require substantial monetary expenditures and time.
Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of complex patent litigation more effectively than we can because they have substantially greater resources. In addition, any uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of any litigation could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise the funds necessary to continue our operations or could otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Third parties may assert that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization. Generally, conducting preclinical and clinical trials and other development activities in the United States is not considered an act of infringement. If WTX-124, WTX-330, JZP898, WTX-712, WTX-518 or another product candidate we develop in the future is approved by the FDA, a third party may then seek to enforce its patent by filing a patent infringement lawsuit against us. For example, we have received, and we may in the future receive, correspondence from third parties or their legal counsel disclosing that such third party owns patents that may encompass one or more of our product candidates. It is also possible that a third party may file a lawsuit against us alleging infringement of its patents. The outcome of any such proceeding is uncertain and would likely result in the expenditure of significant financial resources and the diversion of management’s time and resources, which could harm our business. While we do not believe that any claims that could otherwise have a materially adverse effect on the commercialization of our product candidates are valid and enforceable, we may be incorrect in this belief, or we may not be able to prove it in litigation. In this regard, patents issued in the United States by law enjoy a presumption of validity that can be rebutted only with evidence that is “clear and convincing,” a heightened standard of proof. There may be issued third-party patents of which we are currently unaware with claims to compositions, formulations, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment related to the use or manufacture of our product candidates. Patent applications can take many years to issue. There may be currently pending patent applications which may later result in issued patents that our product candidates may infringe. In addition, third parties may obtain patents in the future and claim that use of our technologies infringes upon these patents. Moreover, we may fail to identify relevant patents or incorrectly conclude that a patent is invalid, not enforceable, exhausted, or not infringed by our activities. If any third-party patents were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover the manufacturing process of our product candidates, constructs or molecules used in or formed during the manufacturing process, or any final product itself, the holders of any such patents may be able to block our ability to commercialize the product candidate unless we obtained 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 third-party 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
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methods, the holders of any such patent may be able to block our ability to develop and commercialize the product candidate unless we obtained a license 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. If we are unable to obtain a necessary license to a third-party patent on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, our ability to commercialize our product candidates may be impaired or delayed, which could in turn significantly harm our business. Even if we obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us. In addition, if the breadth or strength of protection provided by our patents and patent applications is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to license, develop or commercialize current or future product candidates.
Parties making claims against us may seek and obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could effectively block our ability to further develop and commercialize our product candidates. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, could involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. In the event of a successful claim of infringement against us, we may have to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees for willful infringement, obtain one or more licenses from third parties, pay royalties or redesign our infringing products, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure. We cannot predict whether any such license would be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Furthermore, even in the absence of litigation, we may need or may choose to obtain licenses from third parties to advance our research or allow commercialization of our product candidates. We may fail to obtain any of these licenses at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, if at all. In that event, we would be unable to further develop and commercialize our product candidates, which could harm our business significantly.
We may not be successful in obtaining or maintaining necessary rights to product components and processes for our development pipeline through acquisitions and in-licenses.
Presently we have certain intellectual property rights, under patents and patent applications that we own or will own and under the Harpoon Agreement, related to WTX-124, WTX-330, JZP898, WTX-712, WTX-518 and other product candidates we may develop in the future. Our development of additional product candidates may require the use of proprietary rights held by third parties, the growth of our business will likely depend in part on our ability to acquire, in-license or use these proprietary rights. In addition, while we have patent rights directed to certain INDUKINE constructs we may not be able to obtain intellectual property to broad INDUKINE polypeptides or engineered INDUKINE constructs.
Our product candidates may also require specific formulations to work effectively and efficiently, and rights to such formulation technology may be held by others. Similarly, efficient production or delivery of our product candidates may also require specific compositions or methods, and the rights to these may be owned by third parties. We may be unable to acquire or in-license any compositions, methods of use, processes or other third-party intellectual property rights from third parties that we identify as necessary or important to our business operations. We may fail to obtain any of these licenses at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, if at all, which would harm our business. We may need to cease use of the compositions or methods covered by such third-party intellectual property rights and may need to seek to develop alternative approaches that do not infringe on such intellectual property rights which may entail additional costs and development delays, even if we were able to develop such alternatives, which may not be feasible. Even if we are able to obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us. In that event, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to develop or license replacement technology. Moreover, the specific components, such as linkers and antibody fragments, that will be used with our product candidates may be covered by the intellectual property rights of others.
Additionally, we may collaborate with or sponsor research at academic institutions to accelerate our preclinical research or development under written agreements with these institutions. In certain cases, these institutions may provide us with an option to negotiate a license to any of the institution’s rights in technology resulting from the collaboration or sponsorship. Regardless of such option, we may be unable to negotiate a license within the specified timeframe or under terms that are acceptable to us. If we are unable to do so, the institution may offer the intellectual property rights to others, potentially blocking our ability to pursue our program. If we are unable to successfully obtain rights to required third-party intellectual property or to maintain the existing intellectual property rights we have, we may have to abandon development of such program and our business and financial condition could suffer.
The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and companies, which may be more established, or have greater resources than we do, may also be pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider necessary or attractive in order to commercialize our product candidates. More established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, cash resources and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities.
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We may be involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents or the patents of our licensors, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe our patents or the patents of our licensors. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file lawsuits with infringement claims, which can be expensive and time-consuming. In addition, in an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that one or more of our patents is not valid or is unenforceable or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology in question. An adverse result in any litigation or defense proceedings could put one or more of our patents at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable, or interpreted narrowly and could put our patent applications at risk of not issuing. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. In the event of a successful claim of infringement against us, we may have to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees for willful infringement, obtain one or more licenses from third parties, pay royalties or redesign our infringing products, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure.
Post-grant proceedings provoked by third parties or brought by the USPTO may be necessary to determine the validity or priority of inventions with respect to our patents or patent applications or those of our licensors. An unfavorable outcome could result in a loss of our current patent rights and could require us to cease using the related technology or to attempt to license rights to it from the prevailing party. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us a license on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Litigation or post-grant proceedings may result in a decision adverse to our interests and, even if we are successful, may result in substantial costs and distract our management and other employees. We may not be able to prevent, alone or with our licensors, 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 intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock.
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.
Some of our patent applications have been granted or may be granted or allowed in the future. We cannot be certain that an allowed patent application will become an issued patent. There may be events that can cause the allowance of a patent application to be withdrawn. For example, after a patent application has been allowed, but prior to being issued, material that could be relevant to patentability may be identified. In such circumstances, the applicant may pull the application from allowance in order for the USPTO to review the application in view of the new material. We cannot be certain that the USPTO will re-allow the application in view of the new material. Further, periodic maintenance fees on any issued patent are due to be paid to the USPTO and foreign patent agencies in several stages over the lifetime of the patent. The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application process and following the issuance of a patent. We rely on our outside counsel and other professionals or our licensing partners to pay these fees due to the USPTO and non-U.S. government patent agencies and to help us comply with other procedural, documentary and other similar requirements and we are also dependent on our licensors to take the necessary action to comply with these requirements with respect to our licensed intellectual property. While an inadvertent lapse can in many cases be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. Noncompliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application include, but are not limited to, failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, non-payment of fees and failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents. In such an event, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.
Issued patents covering our product candidates or technology could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or the USPTO.
If we or one of our licensors initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering one of our product candidates or our technology, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product candidate or technology, as applicable, is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace, and there are numerous grounds upon which a third party can assert invalidity or unenforceability of a patent. Third parties may also raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, inter partes review, post-grant review
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and equivalent proceedings in foreign 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 our product candidates or technology. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no 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, or if we are otherwise unable to adequately protect our rights, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our product candidates or technology. Such a loss of patent protection could have a material adverse impact on our business and our ability to commercialize or license our technology and product candidates.
Changes to patent law in the United States and in foreign jurisdictions could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products.
As is the case with other biopharmaceutical companies, our success is heavily dependent on intellectual property, particularly patents. Obtaining and enforcing patents in the biopharmaceutical industry involve both technological and legal complexity, and is therefore costly, time-consuming and inherently uncertain. In addition, the United States continues to adapt to wide-ranging patent reform legislation that became effective starting in 2012. Moreover, 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. Depending on decisions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents 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 the case Assoc. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that certain claims to DNA molecules are not patentable. While we do not believe that any of the patents owned or licensed by us will be found invalid based on this decision, we cannot predict how future decisions by the courts, Congress or the USPTO may impact the value of our patents. Similarly, changes in the patent laws of other jurisdictions could adversely affect our ability to obtain and effectively enforce our patent rights, which would have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
We have limited foreign intellectual property rights and may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
We have obtained granted patents in the United States that we consider to be important for certain of our product candidates, however, we may have less robust intellectual property rights outside the United States, and, in particular, we may not be able to pursue generic coverage of our PREDATOR platform or of our INDUKINE molecules outside of the United States. Filing, prosecuting and defending patents on product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States can be less extensive than those in the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection to develop their own products and further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our products and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing. Most of our patent portfolio is at the very early stage. We will need to decide whether and in which jurisdictions to pursue protection for the various inventions in our portfolio prior to applicable deadlines.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biopharmaceutical products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.
In addition, many countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties. Many countries also limit the enforceability of patents against government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, the patent owner may have limited remedies, which could materially diminish the value of such patent. If we or any of our licensors is forced to grant a license to third parties with respect to any patents relevant to our business, our competitive position may be impaired, and our business and financial condition may be adversely affected.
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We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of our patents and other intellectual property.
We generally enter into confidentiality and intellectual property assignment agreements with our employees, consultants, and contractors. These agreements generally provide that inventions conceived by the party in the course of rendering services to us will be our exclusive property. However, those agreements may not be honored and may not effectively assign intellectual property rights to us. Moreover, there may be some circumstances, where we are unable to negotiate for such ownership rights. Disputes regarding ownership or inventorship of intellectual property can also arise in other contexts, such as collaborations and sponsored research. If we are subject to a dispute challenging our rights in or to patents or other intellectual property, such a dispute could be expensive and time consuming. If we were unsuccessful, we could lose valuable rights in intellectual property that we regard as our own.
We may be subject to damages resulting from claims that we or our employees have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information of our competitors or are in breach of non-competition or non-solicitation agreements with our competitors.
Many of our employees were previously employed at other pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors, in some cases until recently. We may be subject to claims that we or our employees have inadvertently or otherwise used or disclosed trade secrets or other confidential information of these former employers or competitors. In addition, we have been and may in the future be subject to claims that we caused an employee to breach the terms of his or her non-competition or non-solicitation agreement. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. Even if we are successful in defending against these claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and could be a distraction to management. If our defense to those claims fails, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. Any litigation or the threat thereof may adversely affect our ability to hire employees. A loss of key personnel or their work product could hamper or prevent our ability to commercialize product candidates, which could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If we do not obtain patent term extension and data exclusivity for any of our current or future product candidates, our business may be materially harmed.
Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of any FDA marketing approval of any of our current or future product candidates, one or more of our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, or the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent extension term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. A patent term extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval, only one patent may be extended and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it, or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. However, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failing to exercise due diligence during the testing phase or regulatory review process, 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 patent term extension or term of any such extension is less than we request, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration, and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects could be materially harmed.
If our trademarks and trade names are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our marks of interest and our business may be adversely affected.
Our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented, declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We rely on both registration and common law protection for our trademarks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names or may be forced to stop using these names, which we need for name recognition by potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. During the trademark registration process, we may receive Office Actions from the USPTO objecting to the registration of our trademark. Although we would be given an opportunity to respond to those objections, we may be unable to overcome such rejections. In addition, in the USPTO and in comparable agencies in many foreign jurisdictions, third parties are given an opportunity to oppose pending trademark applications and/or to seek the cancellation of registered trademarks. Opposition or cancellation proceedings may be filed against our trademarks, and our trademarks may not survive such proceedings. If we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected.
Numerous factors may limit any potential competitive advantage provided by our intellectual property rights.
The degree of future protection afforded by our intellectual property rights, whether owned or in-licensed, is uncertain because intellectual property rights have limitations, and may not adequately protect our business, provide a barrier to entry against our competitors or potential competitors, or permit us to maintain our competitive advantage. Moreover, if a third party has intellectual property rights that cover the practice of our technology, we may not be able to fully exercise or extract value from
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our intellectual property rights. The factors that may limit any potential competitive advantage provided by our intellectual property rights include:
pending patent applications that we own or license may not lead to issued patents;
patents, should they issue, that we own or license, may not provide us with any competitive advantages, or may be challenged and held invalid or unenforceable;
others may be able to develop and/or practice technology that is similar to our technology or aspects of our technology but that is not covered by the claims of any of our owned or in-licensed patents, should any such patents issue;
third parties may compete with us in jurisdictions where we do not pursue and obtain patent protection;
we (or our licensors) might not have been the first to make the inventions covered by a pending patent application that we own or license;
we (or our licensors) might not have been the first to file patent applications covering a particular invention;
others may independently develop similar or alternative technologies without infringing our intellectual property rights;
we may not be able to obtain and/or maintain necessary licenses on reasonable terms or at all;
third parties may assert an ownership interest in our intellectual property and, if successful, such disputes may preclude us from exercising exclusive rights, or any rights at all, over that intellectual property;
we may not be able to maintain the confidentiality of our trade secrets or other proprietary information;
we may not develop or in-license additional proprietary technologies that are patentable; and
the patents of others may have an adverse effect on our business.
Should any of these events occur, they could significantly harm our business and results of operation.
Risks Related to Regulatory Approval and Marketing of Our Product Candidates and Other Legal Compliance Matters
Even if we complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials, the regulatory approval process is expensive, time consuming and uncertain and may prevent us from obtaining approvals for the commercialization of some or all of our product candidates. As a result, we cannot predict when or if, and in which territories, we will obtain marketing approval to commercialize a product candidate.
The research, testing, manufacturing, labeling, approval, selling, marketing, promotion and distribution of products are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities. We are not permitted to market our product candidates in the United States or in other countries until we receive approval of an NDA or BLA from the FDA or marketing approval from applicable regulatory authorities outside the United States. Our product candidates are in various stages of development and are subject to the risks of failure inherent in development. We have not submitted an application for or received marketing approval for any of our product candidates in the United States or in any other jurisdiction. We have no experience as a company in filing and supporting the applications necessary to gain marketing approvals and expect to rely on third-party CROs to assist us in this process.
The process of obtaining marketing approvals, both in the United States and abroad, is lengthy, expensive and uncertain. It may take many years, if approval is obtained at all, and can vary substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity and novelty of the product candidates involved. Securing marketing approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information, including manufacturing information, to regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the product candidate’s safety and efficacy. The FDA or other regulatory authorities may determine that our product candidates are not safe and effective, only moderately effective or have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use.
In addition, changes in marketing approval policies during the development period, changes in or the enactment or promulgation of additional statutes, regulations or guidance or changes in regulatory review for each submitted product application, may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application. Regulatory authorities have substantial discretion in the approval process and varying interpretations of the data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing could delay, limit or prevent marketing approval of a product candidate. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render the approved product not commercially viable.
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Further, under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, a BLA or supplement to a BLA for certain biological products must contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the biological product in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective, unless the sponsor receives a deferral or waiver from the FDA. A deferral may be granted for several reasons, including a finding that the product or therapeutic candidate is ready for approval for use in adults before pediatric trials are complete or that additional safety or effectiveness data needs to be collected before the pediatric trials begin. The applicable legislation in the EU also requires sponsors to either conduct clinical trials in a pediatric population in accordance with a Pediatric Investigation Plan approved by the Pediatric Committee of the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, or to obtain a waiver or deferral from the conduct of these studies by this Committee. For any of our product candidates for which we are seeking regulatory approval in the U.S. or the EU, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to obtain a waiver or alternatively complete any required studies and other requirements in a timely manner, or at all, which could result in associated reputational harm and subject us to enforcement action.
Any delay in obtaining or failure to obtain required approvals could negatively affect our ability or that of any future collaborators to generate revenue from the particular product candidate, which likely would result in significant harm to our financial position and adversely impact our stock price.
Failure to obtain marketing approval in foreign jurisdictions would prevent our product candidates from being marketed abroad. Any approval we may be granted for our product candidates in the United States would not assure approval of our product candidates in foreign jurisdictions and any of our product candidates that may be approved for marketing in a foreign jurisdiction will be subject to risks associated with foreign operations.
In order to market and sell our products in the EU and other foreign jurisdictions, we must obtain separate marketing approvals and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements. The approval procedure varies among countries and can involve additional testing. The time required to obtain approval may differ substantially from that required to obtain FDA approval. The marketing approval process outside the United States generally includes all of the risks associated with obtaining FDA approval. We may not obtain approvals from regulatory authorities outside the United States on a timely basis, if at all. Approval by the FDA does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions, and approval by one regulatory authority outside the United States does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions or by the FDA. We may file for marketing approvals but not receive necessary approvals to commercialize our products in any market.
In many countries outside the United States, a product candidate must also be approved for reimbursement before it can be sold in that country. In some cases, the price that we intend to charge for our products, if approved, is also subject to approval. Obtaining non-U.S. regulatory approvals and compliance with non-U.S. regulatory requirements could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and could delay or prevent the introduction of our product candidates in certain countries. In addition, if we fail to obtain the non-U.S. approvals required to market our product candidates outside the United States or if we fail to comply with applicable non-U.S. regulatory requirements, our target markets will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of our product candidates will be harmed and our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be adversely affected.
Additionally, we could face heightened risks with respect to obtaining marketing authorization in the UK as a result of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit. The UK is no longer part of the European Single Market and EU Customs Union. As of January 1, 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, became responsible for supervising medicines and medical devices in Great Britain, comprising England, Scotland and Wales under domestic law, whereas under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland is currently subject to EU rules. The UK and EU have however agreed to the Windsor Framework which fundamentally changes the existing system under the Northern Ireland Protocol, including with respect to the regulation of medicinal products in the UK. Once implemented, the changes introduced by the Windsor Framework will see the MHRA be responsible for approving all medicinal products destined for the UK market (i.e., Great Britain and Northern Ireland), and the EMA will no longer have any role in approving medicinal products destined for Northern Ireland. Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any marketing authorizations, as a result of Brexit or otherwise, may force us to restrict or delay efforts to seek regulatory approval in the UK for our product candidates, which could significantly and materially harm our business.
In addition, foreign regulatory authorities may change their approval policies and new regulations may be enacted. For instance, the EU pharmaceutical legislation is currently undergoing a complete review process, in the context of the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe initiative, launched by the European Commission in November 2020. The European Commission’s proposal for revision of several legislative instruments related to medicinal products (potentially reducing the duration of regulatory data protection, revising the eligibility for expedited pathways, etc.) was published on April 26, 2023. The proposed revisions remain to be agreed and adopted by the European Parliament and European Council and the proposals may therefore
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be substantially revised before adoption, which is not anticipated before early 2026. The revisions may however have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry and our business in the long term.
We expect that we will be subject to additional risks in commercializing any of our product candidates that receive marketing approval outside the United States, including tariffs, trade barriers and regulatory requirements; economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability in particular foreign economies and markets; compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad; foreign currency fluctuations, which could result in increased operating expenses and reduced revenue, and other obligations incident to doing business in another country; and workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States.
We may not be able to obtain orphan drug designation or orphan drug exclusivity for our product candidates and, even if we do, that exclusivity may not prevent the FDA or the EMA from approving competing products.
Regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the United States and Europe, may designate drugs for relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a product as an orphan drug if it is a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally defined as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals annually in the United States. Generally, a product with orphan drug designation only becomes entitled to orphan drug exclusivity if it receives the first marketing approval for the indication for which it has such designation, in which case the FDA or the EMA will be precluded from approving another marketing application for the same product for that indication for the applicable exclusivity period. The applicable exclusivity period is seven years in the United States and ten years in Europe. The European exclusivity period can be reduced to six years if a product no longer meets the criteria for orphan drug designation or if the product is sufficiently profitable so that market exclusivity is no longer justified.
We may seek orphan drug designations for our product candidates and may be unable to obtain such designations. Even if we do secure such designations and orphan drug exclusivity for a product, that exclusivity may not effectively protect the product from competition because different products can be approved for the same condition. Further, the FDA can subsequently approve the same drug for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the later product is clinically superior in that it is shown to be safer, to be more effective or to make a major contribution to patient care. Finally, orphan drug exclusivity may be lost if the FDA or the EMA determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantity of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.
The FDA may further re-evaluate the Orphan Drug Act and its regulations and policies. This may be particularly true in light of a decision from the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in September 2021 finding that, for the purpose of determining the scope of exclusivity, the term “same disease or condition” means the designated “rare disease or condition” and could not be interpreted by the FDA to mean the “indication or use.” Thus, the Court of Appeals concluded that orphan drug exclusivity applies to the entire designated disease or condition rather than the “indication or use.” Although there have been legislative proposals to overrule this decision, they have not been enacted into law. On January 23, 2023, the FDA announced that, in matters beyond the scope of that court order, it will continue to apply its existing regulations tying orphan-drug exclusivity to the uses or indications for which the orphan drug was approved. We do not know if, when, or how the FDA or Congress may change the orphan drug regulations and policies in the future, and it is uncertain how any changes might affect our business. Depending on what changes the FDA may make to its orphan drug regulations and policies, our business could be adversely impacted.
Any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval is subject to ongoing regulation and could be subject to restrictions or withdrawal from the market, and we may be subject to substantial penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements, when and if any of our product candidates are approved.
Any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval will be subject to continual requirements of and review by the FDA and other regulatory authorities. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration and listing requirements, cGMP requirements relating to quality control and manufacturing, quality assurance and corresponding maintenance of records and documents, and requirements regarding the distribution of samples to physicians and recordkeeping. In addition, the approval may be subject to limitations on the indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for costly post-marketing testing and surveillance to monitor the safety or efficacy of the medicine, including the requirement to implement a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy.
In addition, later discovery of previously unknown adverse events or other problems with any product for which we may obtain marketing approval and its manufacturers or manufacturing processes or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may yield various results, including:
restrictions on such products, manufacturers or manufacturing processes;
restrictions on the labeling or marketing of a product;
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restrictions on distribution or use of a product;
requirements to conduct post-marketing studies or clinical trials;
warning letters or untitled letters;
withdrawal of the products from the market;
refusal to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications that we submit;
recall of products;
damage to relationships with collaborators;
unfavorable press coverage and damage to our reputation;
fines, restitution or disgorgement of profits or revenues;
suspension or withdrawal of marketing approvals;
refusal to permit the import or export of our products;
product seizure;
injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties; and
litigation involving patients using our products.
Finally, our ability to develop and market new drug products may be impacted by ongoing litigation challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. Specifically, on April 7, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas stayed the approval by the FDA of mifepristone, a drug product which was originally approved in 2000 and whose distribution is governed by various conditions adopted under a REMS. In reaching that decision, the district court made a number of findings that may negatively impact the development, approval and distribution of drug products in the U.S. Among other determinations, the district court held that plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their claim that FDA had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving mifepristone without sufficiently considering evidence bearing on whether the drug was safe to use under the conditions identified in its labeling. Further, the district court read the standing requirements governing litigation in federal court as permitting a plaintiff to bring a lawsuit against the FDA in connection with its decision to approve an NDA or establish requirements under a REMS based on a showing that the plaintiff or its members would be harmed to the extent that FDA’s drug approval decision effectively compelled the plaintiffs to provide care for patients suffering adverse events caused by a given drug.
On April 12, 2023, the district court decision was stayed, in part, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Thereafter, on April 21, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court entered a stay of the district court’s decision, in its entirety, pending disposition of the appeal of the district court decision in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the disposition of any petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held oral argument in the case on May 17, 2023 and, on August 16, 2023, issued its decision. The court declined to order the removal of mifepristone from the market, finding that a challenge to the FDA’s initial approval in 2000 is barred by the statute of limitations. However, the Appeals Court did hold that plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their claim that changes allowing for expanded access of mifepristone that the FDA authorized in 2016 and 2021 were arbitrary and capricious. On September 8, 2023, the Justice Department and a manufacturer of mifepristone filed petitions for a writ of certiorari, requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Appeals Court decision. The Supreme Court granted these petitions for writ of certiorari for the appeals court decision, heard oral arguments in the first quarter of 2024 and a ruling is expected in mid-2024.
Post-approval restrictions apply to the approval of products in the EU. The holder of a marketing authorization is required to comply with a range of requirements applicable to the manufacturing, marketing, promotion and sale of medicinal products. These include: compliance with the EU’s stringent pharmacovigilance or safety reporting rules, which can impose post-authorization studies and additional monitoring obligations; the manufacturing of authorized medicinal products, for which a separate manufacturer’s license is mandatory; and the marketing and promotion of authorized drugs, which are strictly regulated in the EU and are also subject to EU Member State laws. The failure to comply with these and other EU requirements can also lead to significant penalties and sanctions.
Accordingly, if we receive marketing approval for one or more of our product candidates, we will continue to expend time, money and effort in all areas of regulatory compliance, including manufacturing, production, product surveillance and quality control. If we fail to comply with these requirements, we could have the marketing approvals for our products withdrawn by regulatory authorities and our ability to market any products could be limited, which could adversely affect our ability to achieve or sustain profitability.
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Any regulatory approval to market our products will be limited by indication. If we fail to comply or are found to be in violation of FDA regulations restricting the promotion of our products for unapproved uses, we could be subject to criminal penalties, substantial fines or other sanctions and damage awards.
The regulations relating to the promotion of products for unapproved uses are complex and subject to substantial interpretation by the FDA, EMA, MHRA and other government agencies. In September 2021, the FDA published final regulations which describe the types of evidence that the agency will consider in determining the intended use of a drug product. Physicians may nevertheless prescribe our products off-label to their patients in a manner that is inconsistent with the approved label. We intend to implement compliance and training programs designed to ensure that our sales and marketing practices comply with applicable regulations. Notwithstanding these programs, the FDA or other government agencies may allege or find that our practices constitute prohibited promotion of our products for unapproved uses. We also cannot be sure that our employees will comply with company policies and applicable regulations regarding the promotion of products for unapproved uses.
Notwithstanding the regulatory restrictions on off-label promotion, the FDA and other regulatory authorities allow companies to engage in truthful, non-misleading, and non-promotional scientific communications concerning their products in certain circumstances. For example, in October 2023, the FDA published draft guidance outlining the agency’s non-binding policies governing the distribution of scientific information on unapproved uses to healthcare providers. This draft guidance calls for such communications to be truthful, non-misleading, factual, and unbiased and include all information necessary for healthcare providers to interpret the strengths and weaknesses and validity and utility of the information about the unapproved use. In addition, under some relatively recent guidance from the FDA and the Pre-Approval Information Exchange Act signed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, companies may also promote information that is consistent with the prescribing information and proactively speak to formulary committee members of payors regarding data for an unapproved drug or unapproved uses of an approved drug. We may engage in these discussions and communicate with healthcare providers, payors and other constituencies in compliance with all applicable laws, regulatory guidance and industry best practices. We will need to carefully navigate the FDA’s various regulations, guidance and policies, along with recently enacted legislation, to ensure compliance with restrictions governing promotion of our products.
In recent years, a significant number of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have been the target of inquiries and investigations by various federal and state regulatory, investigative, prosecutorial and administrative entities in connection with the promotion of products for unapproved uses and other sales practices, including the Department of Justice and various U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA, the Federal Trade Commission, or the FTC, and various state Attorneys General offices. These investigations have alleged violations of various federal and state laws and regulations, including claims asserting antitrust violations, violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the False Claims Act, the Prescription Drug Marketing Act and anti-kickback laws and other alleged violations in connection with the promotion of products for unapproved uses, pricing and Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursement. Many of these investigations originate as qui tam actions under the False Claims Act. Under the False Claims Act, any individual can bring a claim on behalf of the government alleging that a person or entity has presented a false claim or caused a false claim to be submitted to the government for payment. The person bringing a qui tam suit is entitled to a share of any recovery or settlement. Qui tam suits, also commonly referred to as whistleblower suits, are often brought by current or former employees. In a qui tam suit, the government must decide whether to intervene and prosecute the case. If it declines, the individual may pursue the case alone.
If the FDA or any other governmental agency initiates an enforcement action against us or if we are the subject of a qui tam suit and it is determined that we violated prohibitions relating to the promotion of products for unapproved uses, we could be subject to substantial civil or criminal fines or damage awards and other sanctions such as consent decrees and corporate integrity agreements pursuant to which our activities would be subject to ongoing scrutiny and monitoring to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Any such fines, awards or other sanctions would have an adverse effect on our revenue, business, financial prospects and reputation.
We may seek certain designations for our product candidates, including Breakthrough Therapy, Fast Track and Priority Review designations, but we might not receive such designations, and even if we do, such designations may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.