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This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements, which reflect our current views with respect to, among other things, our operations and financial performance. We make such forward-looking statements pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other federal securities laws. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including statements regarding our strategy, future operations, future financial position, future revenue, projected costs, prospects, plan, objectives of management and expected market growth are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. You can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “outlook,” “believes,” “expects,” “potential,” “continues,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “seeks,” “approximately,” “predicts,” “intends,” “plans,” “estimates,” “anticipates” or the negative version of these words or other comparable words. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause actual outcomes or results to differ materially from those indicated in these statements. We believe these factors include but are not limited to those described under “Risk Factors” and include, among other things:
All of our forward-looking statements are as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K only. In each case, actual results may differ materially from such forward-looking information. We can give no assurance that such expectations or forward-looking statements will prove to be correct. An occurrence of or any material adverse change in one or more of the risk factors or risks and uncertainties referred to in this Annual Report on Form 10-K or included in our other public disclosures or our other periodic reports or other documents or filings filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, could materially and adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. Except as required by law, we do not undertake or plan to update or revise any such forward-looking statements to reflect actual results, changes in plans, assumptions, estimates or projections or other circumstances affecting such forward-looking statements occurring after the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, even if such results, changes or circumstances make it clear that any forward-looking information will not be realized. Any public statements or disclosures by us following this Annual Report on Form 10-K that modify or impact any of the forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K will be deemed to modify or supersede such statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We caution readers not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements made by us, which speak only as of the date they are made. We disclaim any obligation, except as specifically required by law and the rules of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, to publicly update or revise any such statements to reflect any change in our expectations or in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statements may be based, or that may affect the likelihood that actual results will differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.
SUMMARY RISK FACTORS
Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties that you should be aware of in evaluating our business. These risks include, but are not limited to, the following:
The summary risk factors described above should be read together with the text of the full risk factors below and in the other information set forth in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our consolidated financial statements and the related notes, as well as in other documents that we file with the SEC. If any such risks and uncertainties actually occur, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. The risks summarized above or described in full below are not the only risks that we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us, or that we currently deem to be immaterial may also materially adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
KALEIDO BIOSCIENCES, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we use the following defined terms.
We utilize our human-centric discovery and development platform to study Microbiome Metabolic Therapies, or MMTs, in microbiome samples in an ex vivo setting, followed by advancing MMT candidates rapidly into clinical studies in healthy subjects and patients. “Clinical studies” are conducted under regulations supporting research with food, evaluating safety, tolerability and potential markers of effect. For MMT candidates that are further developed as therapeutics, we conduct “Clinical trials” under an Investigational New Drug application, or IND, or comparable foreign regulatory equivalents outside the U.S., and in Phase 2 or later development.
KALEIDO is a registered trademark and MMT is a trademark of Kaleido Biosciences, Inc. in the United States and in other selected countries. All other brand names or trademarks appearing in this report are the property of their respective holders. Unless the context requires otherwise, references in this report to “KALEIDO,” “Kaleido Biosciences,” “our Company,” “the Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to Kaleido Biosciences, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries.
Item 1. Business
We have initiated a process to explore a range of strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value and have engaged professional advisors, including an investment banker to act as a strategic advisor for this process. Potential strategic alternatives that may be evaluated include a sale or merger of the Company or securing additional financing or partnerships that would enable further development of our programs. There can be no assurance that this strategic review process will result in our pursuing any transaction or that any transaction, if pursued, will be completed. We aim to run this strategic review process into mid-April 2022. Additionally, there can be no assurances that any particular course of action, business arrangement or transaction, or series of transactions, will be pursued, successfully consummated or lead to increased stockholder value. If the strategic process is unsuccessful, our Board may decide to pursue a dissolution and liquidation. In the event of such liquidation or other wind-down event, holders of our securities will likely suffer a total loss of their investment.
We are a clinical-stage healthcare company with a differentiated, chemistry-driven approach focused on leveraging the microbiome to treat disease and improve human health. We have built a human-centric proprietary product platform for discovery and development that we believe will enable the advancement of a broad portfolio of novel product candidates. Our product candidates are Microbiome Metabolic Therapies (“MMT” or “MMTs”) which are designed to modulate the metabolic output and profile of the microbiome by driving the function and composition of existing microbes. We have an industrialized approach to the discovery and development of MMTs, and our initial MMTs are targeted glycans. Each targeted glycan is an ensemble of complex carbohydrates that is intended to modulate microbial metabolism and community composition to drive a specific biological response. We believe our MMTs have the potential to be novel treatments across a variety of diseases and conditions.
The human microbiome is generally a community of more than 30 trillion microbes, organisms that include bacteria, viruses, archaea and fungi, which reside on and inside the human body. By evolving together over thousands of years, microbes and humans have developed an intricate and mutually beneficial relationship. Given the profound impact that microbes have on human health, this highly complex microbial ecosystem has been referred to as a “newly discovered organ.” There is a growing body of research that links a healthy microbiome with overall human health, while dysbiosis, or imbalance, in the microbiome has been correlated with numerous human conditions including those that cause significant morbidity and mortality. Some of these conditions include irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, allergies and ulcerative colitis.
To date, therapeutic approaches to the microbiome have focused primarily on adding or subtracting bacteria, either through fecal microbiota transplant, the introduction of a consortia of bacteria, single strain approaches or antibiotics. We believe our approach is novel in that we seek to deliver MMTs that drive the function and
distribution of the gut microbiome’s existing microbes, enabling an industrialized approach to treat disease and improve human health.
We have developed proprietary synthetic chemistry technologies that allow us to create MMT candidates. We believe the key characteristics of our MMT candidates include that they are orally administered, have limited systemic exposure and are selectively metabolized, structurally diverse, readily scalable, novel and proprietary. We believe that each of our MMT candidates works through one or more mechanisms of action, including selectively targeting the resident microbiome to restore gut-immune homeostasis.
Utilizing our proprietary product platform, we have created a library of more than 1,500 MMT candidates to probe the structure-activity relationships of our MMTs. Our MMT candidates and aspects of the proprietary product platform are supported by our expanding intellectual property portfolio, that includes fifteen U.S. patents, four European Patent Office, or EPO, patents and more than 115 non-provisional applications pending worldwide.
Through the use of our proprietary product platform, the effect of MMTs is first tested ex vivo using a highly multiplexed advanced screening platform with microbiome communities from both healthy and patient populations. To establish how MMTs impact therapeutically relevant pathways, a broad range of bioanalytical technologies are used to analyze metabolites, effector molecules and host responses, while sequencing determines key microbial community changes. A candidate MMT may then either undergo further testing in animal models or go straight into clinical evaluation in humans.
Abbreviated development may be possible because in some cases MMTs are synthesized from naturally occurring carbohydrate monomers, are orally administered with limited systemic exposure and can be designated as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This enables us to gain valuable insights into our MMT candidates’ effects on the microbiome and human health before choosing to allocate additional time and capital to proceed to develop a drug product candidate under an IND or regulatory equivalent outside the United States. In August 2021, we received a warning letter from the FDA for failure to submit an IND prior to conducting two clinical studies, K031 and K032, of KB109 in subjects with COVID-19. Receipt of this warning letter raises doubt that we will be able to conduct future clinical studies of our product candidates utilizing this pathway.
We, and our wholly owned subsidiaries, Cadena Bio, Inc. and Kaleido Biosciences Securities Corporation (collectively referred to as the “Company”) were incorporated in Delaware on January 27, 2015 and have a principal place of business in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Our immediate strategy is to:
In the event that our strategic process is successful, key elements of our strategy are to:
Due to the rapid nature of bacterial growth, the microbiome is inherently amenable to swift change, and it can be readily modulated using existing approaches, such as changes in diet and treatment with antibiotics. Importantly, because microbes in the gut can thrive on compounds, in particular glycans, that are generally not bioavailable to humans, effective targeted modulators of microbial metabolism should have low bioavailability and low systemic exposure. As a result, we believe that targeted modulators will likely have limited off-target activity in humans compared with traditional pharmaceutical agents.
We have developed proprietary synthetic chemistry technologies that we believe allow us to create our MMT candidates. MMTs are novel synthetic glycans that serve as metabolic and growth substrates for the microbiome. We believe the key characteristics of our MMT candidates include the following:
We believe that our MMT candidates work through one or more mechanisms of action that may have profound effects on human health in a variety of diseases and adverse conditions, including by selectively targeting the resident microbiome to restore gut-immune homeostasis.
We synthesize MMT candidates using our proprietary chemistry technologies, which take advantage of the reactivity of carbohydrates and utilize defined mixtures of monosaccharides or polysaccharides as starting materials. We have methodically explored this approach to create a library of initial MMT candidates that vary across a wide range of structural features, including molecular weight, branching, regiochemistry and stereochemistry. By changing certain conditions and parameters, we can generate MMT candidates that have both larger and smaller variances on these structural features. The resulting MMT candidate library can then be used to explore the impact that structure has on the biology of the microbiome. We continue to develop other novel approaches to synthesize MMT candidates.
We have made extensive commitments to discovering cost-effective and proprietary synthetic methods that can produce MMT candidates that drive diverse microbial responses. We believe our computational capabilities enable robust, efficient structural characterization and cross-batch comparison, reducing laborious manual processing steps typically required to determine the structure of complex carbohydrates.
We developed an ex vivo assay that allows the efficient and highly multiplexed screening MMT candidates using healthy volunteer and patient microbiomes. This unique screening and lead-identification process combines advances in drug discovery with microbiome science and is designed to measure the impact of MMTs on a variety of endpoints. To date, we have employed this process to screen a majority of our more than 1,500 MMT candidates for their ability to modulate bacterial metabolites with a documented role in the microbiome-host cross talks underlying the risk for, onset of and progression of disease. In addition, we have deployed this to measure, bacterial growth and community composition. Typically, after screening our library in microbiome samples from healthy volunteers, we test the identified lead compounds in samples from the patient population of interest. This provides the evidence needed to progress directly into clinical studies in healthy subjects, and in many cases, directly into patients or employ additional clinically relevant animal models. Furthermore, we utilize specific in vitro as well as animal models to test hypothesis on mechanism of action.
Rapid advancement into human clinical studies
Regulatory approach: food and drug
Our regulatory approach to developing MMT candidates utilizes clinical research under both food law and drug law. Under this approach, human data is collected earlier in the process as compared to traditional drug development and data collected under both clinical studies and clinical trials may be included in regulatory filings, including filings for marketing approval. The MMT candidates we have been evaluating for use in modulating the microbiome can be classified as food or as drug ingredients depending upon their intended use. When intended for nutrient use to affect the structure or function of the body, they are conventional food or dietary supplement ingredients. For the dietary management of disease, the MMTs could be developed as medical foods. When intended for the prevention, cure, diagnosis or treatment of disease, they are drug candidates. We have initially studied several of our MMT candidates
following food regulation and guidance. These clinical studies are run under guidelines for Good Clinical Practice (“GCP”) and collect similar data as studies run under an IND or CTA. Therefore, these data can support filing an IND at Phase 2 or later, with the ultimate decision based on discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) or comparable foreign regulatory authorities.
Food substances for human use are regulated by the FDA to assure that intended exposures are safe in the general population. This assurance can be provided by a food additive regulation, or by determination by qualified experts that the substance is Generally Recognized as Safe (“GRAS”).
Although food additives must be evaluated by the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety through a food additive petition prior to human use, this requirement excludes “substances that are generally recognized, among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate their safety as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of their intended use.” This can be established through a GRAS determination.
For a substance to be determined to be GRAS, the scientific data and information about its use must be widely known, and there must be a consensus among qualified experts that data and information establish that the substance is safe under the conditions of its intended use and that it meets the standard of “reasonable certainty of no harm.”
A GRAS determination by qualified experts is sufficient to support clinical studies of food in humans. We rely on qualified experts from scientific consulting organizations that are highly experienced in conducting both GRAS evaluations to conduct initial safety assessments of our MMT candidates. These third-party assessments evaluate whether our MMTs are safe for intended use in human clinical studies that are intended to evaluate safety and tolerability and the effects of our MMTs on the structure and function of the microbiome. The resulting conclusion that a substance is GRAS is called a self-determination of GRAS.
Our MMT candidates have been observed to have limited systemic exposure after oral administration, minimizing off-target biological effects. The direct adverse effects that we have observed to date are limited to the symptoms associated with bacterial metabolism when orally administered, such as bloating, flatulence, abdominal cramping and pain and diarrhea, and not those generally associated with systemic exposure. These symptoms are the known dose limiting side effects, and they are localized and generally found to be mild and transient. We believe that we can achieve significantly higher doses with our MMT candidates before triggering dose-limiting side effects, unlike naturally occurring complex carbohydrates, which often result in tolerability challenges at even moderate dosage levels.
When a food substance is intended for the diagnosis, cure, treatment or prevention of disease, then it is regulated as a drug ingredient. If our corporate strategy supports development of an MMT as a drug product, we will need to file an IND with FDA and obtain IND clearance from the FDA before commencing therapeutic clinical trials. An IND requires submission of additional information, including the information that supports the safety of the product for the intended population to be studied and planned exposure, non-clinical toxicology, details of the manufacturing and testing, and clinical protocols describing the proposed human therapeutic clinical trial(s). Equivalent requirements apply for drug clinical studies to be conducted outside the U.S.
Ulcerative colitis (“UC”) is a chronic disease of the large intestine, in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores, or ulcers. Those ulcers produce pus and mucus, cause abdominal pain and result in the need to frequently empty the colon. UC is the result of several factors that are not yet well understood. Abnormal immune response, genetics, microbiome, and environmental factors all contribute to the disease. There is no medical cure for UC and it can occur at any age, though most people are diagnosed prior to their mid-30s. In the United States, approximately one million people are affected with UC. The disease symptoms vary from person to person and over half of all UC patients experience mild-to-moderate symptoms. Reported symptoms include loose stool and urgent bowel movements, bloody stool, abdominal cramps and pain, and persistent diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain and blood in the stool.
Currently available therapies
There is no known curative treatment for the disease. Treatment is multifaceted and includes the use of medication, alterations in diet and nutrition, and sometimes surgical procedures to repair or remove affected portions of a patient’s gastrointestinal tract.
Several types of medication can be used to suppress UC symptoms (induce remission) and decrease the frequency of symptom flares (maintain remission) including anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, and biologics. UC is often a progressive disease meaning that over time patients respond less to a specific medication and need to progress to other treatments.
Ulcerative Colitis and KB295
Evidence suggests that a feature of UC is alteration of the gut microbiome, including an increase in pro-inflammatory bacteria and decrease in commensal diversity which interfere with the normal immune response. In ex vivo studies, KB295 has demonstrated the ability to increase the production of short chain fatty acids and suppress the growth of inflammatory bacteria such as Enterobacteriaceae.
We conducted a non-IND clinical study evaluating MMT candidate KB295 in patients with mild-to-moderate UC. In this non-IND open label, single arm clinical study patients with mild-to-moderate UC received KB295 for eight weeks titrated up to 40g twice daily and then enter a one-month follow-up period. The study evaluated the safety and tolerability of KB295 and other assessments including the Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index composite score, changes in microbiome composition and biomarkers of inflammation.
Infections caused by pathogenic bacteria including multi-drug resistant strains
Gut commensal bacteria minimize colonization of potential pathogens and maintain the intestinal barrier, thus preventing pathogen translocation to the bloodstream and other organs that ultimately causes infection. A diverse microbiome has been associated with numerous positive health outcomes. The administration of chemotherapy or antibiotics reduces diversity of the microbiome, interfering with its ability to perform these critical protective functions. We believe one potential way to restore the diversity of commensal bacteria is through administration of MMTs that can be metabolized exclusively by commensal bacteria, but not by pathogens. This strategy may therefore increase the diversity and biomass of the commensal microbiota and lead to a reduction in the abundance of pathogens. MMTs thus represent an antibiotic-sparing approach with no known mechanism of resistance for the fight against infectious disease caused by MDR bacteria.
Multi-drug resistant (“MDR”) pathogens are a significant and growing global health threat. In the United States alone, antibiotic resistant bacteria cause infections in more than 2.8 million people per year, and this number is growing. As antibiotics become less effective for the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, infections that were once easily managed have become progressively more difficult to treat. Patients who develop MDR infections consume more healthcare resources and have a higher mortality rate than patients infected with non-resistant strains of the same bacteria.
The risk of MDR pathogen colonization is significantly increased in patients with compromised immune systems, those on long term antibiotics, and those with protracted hospitalizations. Our initial focus is in patients scheduled to undergo hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (“HSCT”), a population at high risk of infection in addition to other pathologies where the microbiome is documented to have an impact (Febrile neutropenia, Graft-versus-host-disease). HSCT is used for the treatment of cancer and certain autoimmune diseases. Bacterial infections are common after HSCT, due to pre-transplant immune system ablation. The use of prophylactic antibiotics was instituted to reduce the rate of such infections; however careful studies of mortality have shown that their use is associated with a significantly increased rate of death. Patients with low microbiome diversity had a significantly greater mortality than those maintaining a high diversity (67% vs 36% mortality at three years). This is thought to be mediated by the adverse effect the antibiotics have on the microbiome. The dysbiotic microbiome in turn facilitates colonization with pathogenic organisms, which may then lead to infection. These infections are a significant cause of patient mortality, excluding mortality due to the primary disease. In the United States, approximately 23,000 patients undergo HSCT each year.
Currently available therapies
While there are no treatments currently approved for prevention of infections in patients scheduled to receive HSCT, some clinicians treat patients prophylactically with an antibiotic from one of several classes, such as quinolones, beta-lactams or glycopeptides. If a patient develops an infection, they are treated empirically with antibiotics based on the likely organism and site of infection. While a significant number of antibiotics are commercially available, delays in treating an infection with an effective antibiotic is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, and some MDR infections have limited or no effective treatment options.
MMT candidates—KB109 and KB174
KB109 and KB174 are the MMT candidates for development as a potential prevention of infections caused by MDR bacteria. Nomination of these candidates resulted from their performance relative to a wide range of other MMTs in ex vivo screening of microbiome samples from healthy volunteers, as well as microbiome samples from intensive care unit patients in an experimental set-up that specifically focused on determining the potential of MMTs to decrease the relative abundance of a panel of pathogenic bacteria.
The initial opportunity is to prevent systemic infections in patients undergoing HSCT. Prophylactic treatment with antibiotics lowers gut microbiome diversity and is associated with a higher mortality rate after HSCT. KB109 is a non-antibiotic approach that is hypothesized to selectively enhance the growth of beneficial gut bacteria at the expense of pathogens (e.g. carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus, and extended spectrum beta-lactamase-producing enterobacteriaceae) which may then reduce the risk of subsequent infection. Prior to studying patients undergoing HSCT, we initiated a first-in-human clinical trial in medically stable patients colonized with MDR pathogens but this study was terminated due to enrollment challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to utilize KB109 for our COVID-19 studies.
Future pipeline opportunities
If sufficient funding were available, we could pursue a number of opportunities beyond our initial pipeline. Our proprietary product platform is designed to generate the knowledge and insights required to support discovery and development work in a wide range of areas, including where evidence of a link to the microbiome exists but the biology is not yet fully defined. We believe that these areas of more complex microbiome-human biology present an opportunity to leverage our human-centric discovery and development approach and computational expertise.
We have or have had programs in discovery, including work in ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, atopic immune disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"), pathogens, and immuno--oncology. Correlative data has been published for each of these areas suggesting that the microbiome plays a critical role, and our discovery efforts have been largely focused on either establishing a mechanistic hypothesis or establishing and optimizing an ex vivo screen to address these opportunities. Some of this work has been conducted through collaborations, including with Institute Gustave Roussy in Paris exploring the potential of MMTs to improve the outcome of immune checkpoint inhibitor (“ICI”) treatment, with Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University (St. Louis) studying the mechanisms by which selected MMT candidates are metabolized by the gut microbiome and the impact on key functions in the host, and with Janssen focusing on decreasing the risk of the development of child-onset atopic diseases, including food allergies. We will advance MMT candidates once identified for future pipeline opportunities.
As of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, given the strategic process we are running, our active development initiatives are extremely limited.
We have developed proprietary methods for the manufacture of MMT candidates that we believe are scalable and transferable to current good manufacturing practice requirements (“cGMP”). Our MMT candidates are synthesized and isolated using standard small molecule unit operations. The manufacturing process produces bulk MMT candidates suitable for oral administration in a variety of forms, including liquids and spray dried powders in sachets. In addition, we have established robust analytical methods to assess the identity and purity of our MMT
candidates. We believe that these controlled manufacturing processes and analytical methods will allow us to produce and release cGMP batches of material with consistent quality.
We would rely on third-party manufacturers for the GMP production of larger quantities of MMT candidates for clinical trials.
While we do not have a current need for commercial scale manufacturing capacity, at the appropriate time we intend to evaluate options for further engaging our existing third-party manufacturers and/or building our own pharmaceutical grade cGMP internal capabilities.
We strive to protect the proprietary technology that we believe is important to our business, including seeking and maintaining patent protection in the United States and internationally for our product candidates and discovery platform. We also rely on trademarks, trade secrets, know-how, continuing technological innovation and in-licensing opportunities to develop and maintain our proprietary position.
We plan to continue to expand our intellectual property estate by filing patent applications directed to pharmaceutical compositions, methods of treatment, methods of manufacture or identified from our ongoing development of our product candidates, as well as discovery based on our proprietary product platform. Our level of success will depend on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for commercially important technology, inventions and know-how related to our business, defend and enforce any patents that we may obtain, preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets and operate without infringing the valid and enforceable patents and proprietary rights of third parties.
The patent positions of biopharmaceutical companies like us are generally uncertain and involve complex legal, scientific and factual questions. Consequently, we may not obtain or maintain adequate patent protection for any of our programs and product candidates.
For more information regarding the risks related to our intellectual property, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
Our patent portfolio includes patent applications in varying stages of prosecution in the United States and selected jurisdictions outside of the United States. As of March 31, 2022, our patent portfolio in total consisted of fifteen issued U.S. patents, four issued European patents, twenty-two issued patents in other jurisdictions (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore and South Africa), and over 115 pending non-provisional applications (U.S., EP and other jurisdictions), which include claims directed to compositions, methods of use and manufacturing processes. All patents are owned by us. Certain patents and patent applications described above are licensed exclusively to Midori USA, Inc. for use in the animal health field.
The patent portfolio includes patents and applications (numbers for U.S. and Europe only) with claims directed to the following:
We own seven issued U.S. patents (U.S.11,169,101; 10,752,705; 10,131,721; 9,205,418; 9,079,171; 8,476,388; and 8,466,242), two issued EP patents (EP 3071235 and EP 2681247), and several pending patent families (with national, non-provisional applications) containing composition of matter, method of making and use claims related to our MMT platform and KB195, KB174, KB109, and KB295. The issued patents in the earliest of these families are expected to expire in 2032, not including any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
We own one pending PCT application containing composition of matter, method of treatment and use claims related to our COVID-19 program and KB109. The issued patents in the earliest of these families are expected to expire in 2038, not including any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
We own one issued U.S. patent (U.S. 10,881676), pending national, non-provisional applications containing composition of matter, method of treatment and use claims related to our ulcerative colitis program and KB295. The issued patents in the earliest of these families are expected to expire in 2036, not including any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
Urea Cycle Disorders ("UCD") and Hepatic Encephalopathy ("HE")
We own one issued U.S. patent (U.S. 9,901,595), and several pending national, non-provisional application containing composition of matter, method of treatment and use claims related to our UCD and HE programs and KB195 and KB174. The issued patents in the earliest of these families are expected to expire in 2036, not including any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
We own two issued U.S. patents (U.S. 10,314,853; 9,757,403), one issued EP patent (EP 3071235), and several pending national, non-provisional applications containing method of treatment and use claims related to our pathogen program. The issued patents in the earliest of these families are expected to expire in 2036, not including any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term of the patents in the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries in which we file, including the U.S., the base term is 20 years from the filing date of the earliest-filed non-provisional patent application from which the patent claims priority. The term of a U.S. patent can be lengthened by patent term adjustment. In some cases, the term of a U.S. patent is shortened by terminal disclaimer that reduces its term to that of an earlier-expiring patent. The term of a U.S. patent may be eligible for patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Act. With regard to a drug for which FDA approval is the first permitted marketing of the active ingredient, the Hatch-Waxman Act allows for extension of the term of one U.S. patent that includes at least one claim covering the composition of matter of such an FDA-approved drug, an FDA-approved method of treatment using the drug and/or a method of manufacturing the FDA-approved drug. The extended patent term cannot exceed the shorter of five years beyond the non-extended expiration of the patent or fourteen years from the date of the FDA approval of the drug, and a patent cannot be extended more than once or for more than a single product. During the period of extension, if granted, the scope of exclusivity is limited to the approved product for approved uses. Some foreign jurisdictions, including Europe and Japan, have analogous patent term extension provisions, which allow for extension of the term of a patent that covers a drug approved by the applicable foreign regulatory agency.
If and when our product candidates receive FDA approval, we expect to apply, if appropriate, for patent term extension on patents directed to those product candidates, their methods of use and/or methods of manufacture. However, there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities, including the FDA in the United States, will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and if granted, the length of such extensions. For more information regarding the risks related to our intellectual property, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
In addition to patents, we rely on trade secrets and know-how to develop and maintain our competitive position. We typically rely on trade secrets to protect aspects of our business that are not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection.
Although we take steps to protect our proprietary information and trade secrets, including through contractual means with our employees and consultants, third parties may independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques or otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or disclose our technology. Thus, we may not be able to meaningfully protect our trade secrets. For more information regarding the risks related to our intellectual property, see “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by rapidly advancing technologies, strong competition and an emphasis on proprietary products. While we believe that our technology, knowledge, experience and scientific resources provide us with competitive advantages, we face substantial competition from many different sources, including larger pharmaceutical companies with more resources. Specialty biotechnology companies, academic research institutions, governmental agencies, as well as public and private institutions are also potential sources of competitive products and technologies. We believe that the key competitive factors affecting the success of any of our product candidates will include efficacy, safety profile, method of administration, cost, level of promotional activity and intellectual property protection.
The field of microbiome drug development is rapidly evolving and although there are currently many bacterial product candidates in development by companies that target the microbiome, we believe that we have a differentiated approach and do not consider ourselves to be in competition with these bacterial microbiome approaches.
Although our novel chemistry approach is unique from most other existing or investigational therapies across the disease areas where our development is focused, we will need to compete with all currently or imminently available therapies in these areas. We are aware of marketed and investigational products in each of our leading disease areas.
The FDA and other regulatory authorities at federal, state and local levels, as well as in foreign countries, extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, import, export, safety, effectiveness, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, record keeping, approval (when required), advertising, promotion, marketing, post-approval monitoring and post-approval reporting of drugs such as those we are developing as well as dietary non-drug products and foods. We, along with our contract research organizations and contract manufacturers, will be required to navigate the various preclinical, clinical, manufacturing and commercial approval requirements of the governing regulatory agencies of the countries in which we wish to conduct studies or seek approval for our product candidates. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals of drugs for therapeutic indications or commercialization of non-drug products and ensuring subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations requires the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.
In the United States, the FDA regulates drug products as well as dietary non-drug products such as foods under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FD&C Act”), its implementing regulations and other laws. At this time none of our MMTs have been approved by the FDA for marketing for therapeutic indications in the United States or been authorized for use as a food or medical food. If we fail to comply with applicable FDA or other requirements at any time during product development, clinical testing, the approval process or after approval, we may become subject to administrative or judicial sanctions. These sanctions could include the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications, issuance of clinical holds for ongoing studies, suspension or revocation of approved applications, warning or untitled enforcement letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspensions of manufacturing or distribution, injunctions, fines, civil penalties or criminal prosecution. Any FDA enforcement action could have a material adverse effect on us.
We anticipate that the process required by FDA for our MMT candidates to be marketed in the United States as drugs for therapeutic indications will generally involve the following:
The testing and approval process requires substantial time, effort and financial resources, and we cannot be certain that any approvals for our product candidates will be granted on a timely basis, if at all.
FDA regulation of food uses
To date, we have not elected a product candidate to develop and market as a food and may elect never to do so. If we decide to develop one or more of our MMTs as a conventional food product, we will have to follow regulations applicable to food uses.
The FDA and other regulatory authorities, including the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), regulate the manufacturing, preparation, quality control, import, export, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, safety, and adverse event reporting of conventional foods. Among other things, manufacturers of conventional foods and medical foods must meet relevant cGMP, and certain requirements that govern the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and holding of foods.
With certain exceptions, clinical investigations in which an investigational drug is administered to human subjects must be conducted under an IND, as required by FDA regulations. The FDA has published a guidance document for clinical investigators, sponsors, and IRBs, Investigational New Drug Applications (INDs) — Determining Whether Human Research Studies Can Be Conducted Without an IND, that provides the FDA’s thinking on when an IND is required for human research studies. FDA’s interpretation of its regulations, as articulated in this guidance, do not require human testing of food, dietary supplements, or GRAS substances to be conducted under an IND unless such testing is intended to evaluate the product’s ability to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease or condition. FDA specifically recognizes an IND will not be required when a study is designed to “evaluate the tolerability of a food in a specific susceptible population, including individuals with a disease in a diseased population,” provided the study is not designed to evaluate the product’s ability to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease or condition. There is no assurance that FDA’s thinking on this matter will not change, and if it does, FDA may decide to take enforcement action against testing of GRAS substances that it believes should be conducted under an IND, or the FDA may delay or deny an IND submitted with supporting data from human studies not conducted under an IND, or require alternate or additional data to support such an IND before authorizing an applicant to proceed.
Additionally, depending on the circumstances, the use of a substance in certain clinical investigations may restrict the marketing of such substance in food. Section 301(ll) of the FD&C Act prohibits the marketing of any food to which has been added a drug or biologic for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and for which the existence of such investigations has been made public, unless the substance was marketed in food before any substantial clinical investigations involving the drug or biologic were instituted or one of the other exceptions in section 301(ll) applies. Marketing the substance of interest in food before seeking an IND or beginning any clinical investigations preserves the option to continue to market the substance in those forms after substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and their existence has been made public.
The FDA may classify some or all of our potential product candidates as containing a food additive that is not GRAS. Such classification would cause these product candidates to require pre-market approval for a food additive regulation, which could substantially delay or prevent the commercialization of these product candidates for non-drug uses. Any delay in the regulatory consultation process, or a determination that any of our drug or food product candidates do not meet regulatory requirements of FDA, including any applicable GRAS requirements, could cause a delay in the commercialization of our product candidates, which may lead to reduced acceptance by the public or others or an inability to commercialize those candidates at all.
FDA regulation of medical food uses
In parallel with our development of MMT product candidates for therapeutic indications, we are exploring the development of some of our product candidates as medical food products. To date, we have not elected a product candidate to develop and market as a medical food and may elect never to do so.
The FDA and other regulatory authorities, including the FTC also regulate the manufacturing, preparation, quality control, import, export, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, safety, and adverse event reporting of medical foods. Among other things, manufacturers of medical foods must meet relevant cGMP and certain requirements that govern the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and holding of foods.
Preclinical and clinical trials for drugs
Once a product candidate is identified for development as a drug, it enters the preclinical testing stage. Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluations of drug chemistry, formulation and stability, as well as in vitro and animal studies to evaluate the potential for adverse events, which must be conducted in accordance with federal regulations and requirements, including GLP requirements. The results of the preclinical studies, together with manufacturing information and analytical data as well as the results of our human clinical studies, are submitted to the FDA as part of an IND. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational product to humans and must become effective before human clinical trials may begin. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA, within the 30-day time period, raises concerns or questions about the conduct of the clinical trial, including concerns that human research subjects will be exposed to unreasonable health risks, and imposes a clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. Submission of an IND may result in the FDA not allowing clinical trials to commence or not allowing clinical trials to commence on the terms originally specified in the IND. A separate submission to an existing IND must also be made for each successive clinical trial conducted during product development, and the FDA must grant permission, either explicitly or implicitly by not objecting before each clinical trial can begin.
Clinical trials involve the administration of the product candidate to human volunteers under the supervision of qualified investigators. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria and the parameters and criteria to be used in monitoring safety and evaluating effectiveness. Each protocol for our product candidates for therapeutic indications must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. An IRB for each investigator site proposing to participate in a clinical trial must also review and approve the clinical trial before it can begin at that site. The FDA’s regulations provide additional safeguards for pediatric subjects enrolled in clinical trials of investigational products. For example, under the FDA’s regulations, a clinical investigation involving greater than minimal risk to children but that presents the prospect of direct benefit to individual subjects may involve pediatric subjects only if the IRB finds that the risk is justified by the anticipated benefit to the subjects, the relation of the anticipated benefit to the risk is at least as favorable to the subjects as that presented by available alternative approaches, and adequate provisions are made for soliciting the consent of the pediatric subjects and the permission of their parents and guardians. Further, the IRB must monitor the clinical trial until it is completed. The FDA, the IRB, or the sponsor may suspend or discontinue a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Clinical testing of product candidates for therapeutic indications also must satisfy extensive GCP requirements, including requirements for informed consent.
Human clinical trials for therapeutic indications are typically conducted in three sequential phases, which may overlap or be combined. In certain circumstances, where sufficient evidence of safety and tolerability are collected from preclinical studies and other human experience with a product, such as our human clinical studies, we believe a human clinical trial may begin as late as Phase 3.
Orphan Drug Designation
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug or biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or if it affects more than 200,000 individuals in the United States, there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making the product available in the United States for the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product. Orphan designation must be requested before submitting an NDA or a Biologics License Application. Orphan designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process, though companies developing orphan products are eligible for certain incentives, including tax credits for qualified clinical testing and waiver of application fees.
If a product that has orphan designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a seven-year period of marketing exclusivity during which the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same therapeutic agent for the same indication, except in limited circumstances, such as a subsequent product’s showing of clinical superiority over the product with orphan exclusivity or where the original applicant cannot produce sufficient quantities of product. Competitors, however, may receive approval of different therapeutic agents for the indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity or obtain approval for the same therapeutic agent for a different indication than that for which the orphan product has exclusivity. Orphan product exclusivity could block the approval of one of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains approval for the same therapeutic agent for the same indication before we do, unless we are able to demonstrate that our product is clinically superior. Furthermore, if a designated orphan product receives marketing approval for an indication broader than the rare disease or condition for which it received orphan designation, it may not be entitled to orphan exclusivity.
Expedited development and review programs for drugs
The FDA maintains several programs intended to facilitate and expedite development and review of new drugs and biologics to address unmet medical needs in the treatment of serious or life- threatening diseases or conditions. These programs include Fast Track designation, Breakthrough Therapy designation, Priority Review and Accelerated Approval, and the purpose of these programs is to either expedite the development or review of important new drugs to get them to patients earlier than under standard FDA development and review procedures.
A new drug or biologic is eligible for Fast Track designation if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition. Fast Track designation provides increased opportunities for sponsor interactions with the FDA during preclinical and clinical development, in addition to the potential for rolling review once a marketing application is filed, meaning that the agency may review portions of the marketing application before the sponsor submits the complete application, as well as Priority Review, discussed below. In addition, a new drug or biologic may be eligible for Breakthrough Therapy designation if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. Breakthrough Therapy designation provides all the features of Fast Track designation in addition to intensive guidance on an efficient drug development program beginning as early as Phase 1, and FDA organizational commitment to expedited development, including involvement of senior managers and experienced review staff in a cross-disciplinary review, where appropriate.
Any product submitted to the FDA for approval, including a product with Fast Track or Breakthrough Therapy designation, may also be eligible for additional FDA programs intended to expedite the review and approval process, including Priority Review designation and accelerated approval. A product is eligible for Priority Review if it has the potential to provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness in the treatment, diagnosis or prevention of a serious disease or condition. Under Priority Review, FDA must review an application in six months compared to ten months for a standard review. Additionally, products are eligible for accelerated approval if they can be shown to have an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or an effect on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality which is reasonably likely to predict an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments.
Accelerated approval is usually contingent on a sponsor’s agreement to conduct additional post-approval studies to verify and describe the product’s clinical benefit. In addition, unless otherwise informed by the FDA, the FDA currently requires, as a condition for accelerated approval, that all advertising and promotional materials that are intended for dissemination or publication within 120 days following marketing approval be submitted to the agency for review during the pre-approval review period, and that after 120 days following marketing approval, all advertising and promotional materials must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the intended time of initial dissemination or publication.
Even if a product qualifies for one or more of these programs, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or the time period for FDA review or approval may not be shortened. Furthermore, Fast Track designation, Breakthrough Therapy designation, Priority Review and Accelerated Approval do not change the standards for approval but may expedite the development or review process.
U.S. marketing approval for drugs
Assuming successful completion of the required clinical testing of our product candidates for drug uses, the results of the preclinical and clinical studies, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacture, controls and proposed labeling, among other things, are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the product for one or more indications. In most cases, the submission of an NDA is subject to a substantial application user fee. An NDA is a request for approval to market a new drug for one or more specified indications and must contain proof of the drug’s safety and efficacy. To support marketing approval, the data submitted must be sufficient in quality and quantity to establish the safety and efficacy of the investigational product to the satisfaction of the FDA. FDA approval of an NDA must be obtained before a drug may be marketed in the United States.
In addition, under the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003, as amended and reauthorized, certain NDAs or supplements to an NDA must contain data that are adequate to assess the safety and effectiveness of the drug for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations, and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The FDA may, on its own initiative or at the request of the applicant, grant deferrals for submission of some or all pediatric data until after approval of the product for use in adults, or full or partial waivers from the pediatric data requirements. An Agreed Initial Pediatric Study Plan requesting a waiver from the requirement to conduct clinical studies has been submitted to the FDA.
Before approving an NDA, the FDA typically will inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are compliant with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the Sponsor product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving an NDA, the FDA may inspect one or more clinical trial sites to assure compliance with GCP and other requirements and the integrity of the clinical data submitted to the FDA.
After evaluating the NDA and all related information, including any inspection reports regarding the manufacturing facilities and clinical trial sites, the FDA may issue an approval letter, or, in some cases, a complete response letter. A complete response letter generally contains a statement of specific conditions that must be met in order to secure final approval of the NDA and may require additional clinical or preclinical testing in order for FDA to reconsider the application. Even with submission of this additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval. If and when those conditions have been met to the FDA’s satisfaction, the FDA will typically issue an approval letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the drug with specific prescribing information for specific indications.
Even if the FDA approves a product, depending on the specific risk(s) to be addressed it may limit the approved indications for use of the product, require that contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling, require that post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, be conducted to further assess a drug’s safety after approval, require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution and use restrictions or other risk management mechanisms under a REMS, which can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the product. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs. After approval, some types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes, and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval.
U.S. post-approval requirements for drugs
Drugs manufactured or distributed pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to recordkeeping, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, advertising and promotion and reporting of adverse experiences with the product. There is also a continuing, annual prescription drug product program user fee.
The FDA may impose a number of post-approval requirements as a condition of approval of an NDA. For example, the FDA may require post-market testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness after commercialization.
In addition, drug manufacturers and their subcontractors involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved drugs are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with ongoing regulatory requirements, including cGMP, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements upon us and our contract manufacturers. Failure to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements can subject a manufacturer to possible legal or regulatory action, such as warning letters, suspension of manufacturing, product seizures, injunctions, civil penalties or criminal prosecution.
Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information, requirements for post-market studies or clinical trials to assess new safety risks, or imposition of distribution or other potential consequences up to and including revocation of product approvals.
Other regulatory matters
Manufacturing, sales, promotion and other activities following product approval or commercialization are also subject to regulation by numerous regulatory authorities in the United States in addition to the FDA, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, other divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the FTC, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and state and local governments and governmental agencies.
Packaging and distribution in the United States
If our products are made available to authorized users of the Federal Supply Schedule of the General Services Administration, additional laws and requirements apply. Products must meet applicable child-resistant packaging requirements under the U.S. Poison Prevention Packaging Act. Manufacturing, sales, promotion and other activities also are potentially subject to federal and state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.
The distribution of pharmaceutical products is subject to additional requirements and regulations, including extensive record-keeping, licensing, storage and security requirements intended to prevent the unauthorized sale of pharmaceutical products.
Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements; (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling; (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products; or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect the operation of our business.
Other U.S. environmental, health and safety laws and regulations
We may be subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. From time to time and in the future, our operations may involve the use of hazardous and flammable materials, including chemicals and biological materials, and may also produce hazardous waste products. Even if we contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and waste products, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of contamination or injury resulting from these materials. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from the use or disposal of our hazardous materials, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We also could incur significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties for failure to comply with such laws and regulations.
We maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees, but this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. However, we do not maintain insurance for environmental liability or toxic tort claims that may be asserted against us.
In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. Current or future environmental laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. In addition, failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.
Coverage and Reimbursement
In the United States and markets in other countries, patients generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with their treatment. Government authorities and third-party payors, such as private health insurers and health maintenance organizations, decide which medications they will pay for and establish reimbursement levels. In the United States, the principal decisions about reimbursement for new medicines are typically made by CMS. CMS decides whether and to what extent a new medicine will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare and private payors tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. Factors that payors consider in determining reimbursement are based on whether the product is:
The requirements governing drug pricing vary widely from country to country. For example, the European Union provides options for its Member States to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval, some of these countries may require the completion of clinical trials that compare the cost effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. A Member State may approve a specific price for the medicinal product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the Company placing the medicinal product on the market. Historically, products launched in the European Union do not follow price structures of the U.S. and generally prices tend to be significantly lower.
Other Healthcare and Privacy Laws
Healthcare providers, physicians, and third-party payors will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any products for which we obtain marketing approval. Our business operations and any current or future arrangements with third-party payors, healthcare providers and physicians may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we develop, market, sell and distribute any drugs for which we obtain marketing approval. In the United States, these laws include, without limitation, state and federal anti-kickback, false claims, physician transparency, and patient data privacy and security laws and regulations, including but not limited to those described below.
Current and Future Healthcare Reform Legislation
In both the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes to the healthcare system. In particular, in 2010 the ACA was enacted, which, among other things, subjected biologic products to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars; addressed a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected; increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by most manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program; extended the Medicaid Drug Rebate program to utilization of prescriptions of individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations; subjected manufacturers to new annual fees and taxes for certain branded prescription drugs; created a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 50% (increased to 70% pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, effective as of January 1, 2019) point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D; and provided incentives to programs that increase the federal government’s comparative effectiveness research.
Since its enactment, there have been judicial, Congressional and executive challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA brought by several states without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through August 15, 2021 for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructed certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA. It is unclear how other healthcare reform measures of the Biden administration or other efforts, if any, to challenge, repeal or replace the ACA will impact our business.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 also amends the ACA, effective January 1, 2019, by increasing the point-of-sale discount that is owed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who participate in Medicare Part D and closing the coverage gap in most Medicare drug plans, commonly referred to as the “donut hole,” which will shift costs for name brand drugs away from Part D participants back to the manufacturers, which could have a negative effect on our profits in the event any of our products receive FDA approval and CMS reimbursement. Similarly, CMS recently proposed regulations that would give states greater flexibility in setting benchmarks for insurers in the individual and small group marketplaces, which may have the effect of relaxing the essential health benefits required under the ACA for plans sold through such marketplaces. Additionally, CMS has finalized a rule that would amend the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit regulations to reduce out of pocket costs for plan enrollees and allow Medicare plans to negotiate lower rates for certain drugs. In May 2019, CMS issued a final rule to allow Medicare Advantage Plans the option of using step therapy, a type of prior authorization, for Part B drugs beginning January 1, 2020. This final rule codified CMS’s policy change that was became effective January 1, 2019.
In addition, other legislative and regulatory changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted:
On December 20, 2019, former President Trump signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1865), which repealed the Cadillac tax, the health insurance provider tax, and the medical device excise tax. It is impossible to determine whether similar taxes could be instated in the future.
Additionally, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to drug pricing practices. Specifically, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, and review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs. At the federal level, President Biden signed an Executive Order on July 9, 2021 affirming the administration’s policy to (i) support legislative reforms that would lower the prices of prescription drug and biologics, including by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, by imposing inflation caps, and, by supporting the development and market entry of lower-cost generic drugs and biosimilars; and (ii) support the enactment of a public health insurance option. Among other things, the Executive Order also directs HHS to provide a report on actions to combat excessive pricing of prescription drugs, enhance the domestic drug supply chain, reduce the price that the Federal government pays for drugs, and address price gouging in the industry; and directs the FDA to work with states and Indian Tribes that propose to develop section 804 Importation Programs in accordance with the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, and the FDA’s implementing regulations. FDA released such implementing regulations on September 24, 2020, which went into effect on November 30, 2020, providing guidance for states to build and submit importation plans for drugs from Canada. On September 25, 2020, CMS stated drugs imported by states under this rule will not be eligible for federal rebates under Section 1927 of the Social Security Act and manufacturers would not report these drugs for “best price” or Average Manufacturer Price purposes. Since these drugs are not considered covered outpatient drugs, CMS further stated it will not publish a National Average Drug Acquisition Cost for these drugs. If implemented, importation of drugs from Canada may materially and adversely affect the price we receive for any of our product candidates. Further, on November 20, 2020 CMS issued an Interim Final Rule implementing the Most Favored Nation, or MFN, Model under which Medicare Part B reimbursement rates would have been be calculated for certain drugs and biologicals based on the lowest price drug manufacturers receive in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries with a similar gross domestic product per capita. However, on December 29, 2021 CMS rescinded the Most Favored Nations rule. Additionally, on November 30, 2020, HHS published a regulation removing safe harbor protection for price reductions from pharmaceutical manufacturers to plan sponsors under Part D, either directly or through pharmacy benefit managers, unless the price reduction is required by law. The rule also creates a new safe harbor for price reductions reflected at the point-of-sale, as well as a safe harbor for certain fixed fee arrangements between pharmacy benefit managers and manufacturers. Pursuant to court order, the removal and addition of the aforementioned safe harbors were delayed and recent legislation imposed a moratorium on implementation of the rule until January 1, 2026. Although a number of these and other proposed measures may require authorization through additional legislation to become effective, and the Biden administration may reverse or otherwise change these measures, both the Biden administration and Congress have indicated that they will continue to seek new legislative measures to control drug costs.
Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient
reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain drug access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. Legally mandated price controls on payment amounts by third-party payors or other restrictions could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. In addition, regional healthcare authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other healthcare programs. This could reduce the ultimate demand for our drugs or put pressure on our drug pricing, which could negatively affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Government regulation of drugs outside of the United States
To market any product outside of the United States, we would need to comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries regarding safety and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials, marketing authorization or identification of an alternate regulatory pathway, manufacturing, commercial sales and distribution of our products. For instance, in the European Economic Area (“EEA”) medicinal products must be authorized for marketing by using either the centralized authorization procedure or national authorization procedures.
The Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC, the Directive 2005/28/EC on GCP and the related national implementing provisions of the individual EU Member States govern the system for the approval of clinical trials in the European Union. Under this system, an applicant must obtain prior approval from the competent national authority of the EU Member States in which the clinical trial is to be conducted. Furthermore, the applicant may only start a clinical trial at a specific study site after the competent ethics committee has issued a favorable opinion. The CTA must be accompanied by, among other documents, an investigational medicinal product dossier (the Common Technical Document) with supporting information prescribed by Directive 2001/20/EC, Directive 2005/28/EC, where relevant
the implementing national provisions of the individual EU Member States and further detailed in applicable guidance documents.
The collection and use of personal health data in the European Union, previously governed by the provisions of the Data Protection Directive, is now governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), which became effective on May 25, 2018. While the Data Protection Directive did not apply to organizations based outside the EU, the GDPR has expanded its reach to include any business, regardless of its location, that provides goods or services to residents in the EU. This expansion would incorporate any clinical trial activities in EU member states. The GDPR imposes strict requirements on controllers and processors of personal data, including special protections for “sensitive information” which includes health and genetic information of data subjects residing in the EU. GDPR grants individuals the opportunity to object to the processing of their personal information, allows them to request deletion of personal information in certain circumstances, and provides the individual with an express right to seek legal remedies in the event the individual believes his or her rights have been violated. Further, the GDPR imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the European Union to the United States or other regions that have not been deemed to offer “adequate” privacy protections. Failure to comply with the requirements of the GDPR and the related national data protection laws of the European Union Member States, which may deviate slightly from the GDPR, may result in fines of up to 4% of global revenues, or €20,000,000, whichever is greater. As a result of the implementation of the GDPR, we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms ensuring compliance with the new data protection rules.
There is significant uncertainty related to the manner in which data protection authorities will seek to enforce compliance with GDPR. For example, it is not clear if the authorities will conduct random audits of companies doing business in the EU, or if the authorities will wait for complaints to be filed by individuals who claim their rights have been violated. Enforcement uncertainty and the costs associated with ensuring GDPR compliance are onerous and may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Additionally, should we elect one or more product candidates to develop and market as non-therapeutic dietary non-drug products or food products in foreign countries, such products would also be subject to regulation under various national, local, and international laws that include provision governing, among other things, the formulation, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, advertising. These regulations may prevent or delay entry into the market or prevent or delay the introduction, or require the reformulation, of certain of our non-therapeutic product candidates.
The regulatory environment outside the United States varies and in general is less developed then in the United States, but some exceptions do exist. The regulatory requirements for nutritional non-drug products and food products outside of the United States varies greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction may have its own regulatory framework regarding nutritional non-drug products and food products. The two leading jurisdictions, the United States and the Europe, currently have and may continue to in the future to have distinctly different regulatory regimes with different rules and requirements nutritional non-drug products and food products, with, for example, the European Union having a stronger process for claims review and preapproval for nutritional products. Regulation in Europe is exercised primarily through the European Union, which regulates the combined market of each of its member states. Other European countries, such as Switzerland, have voluntarily adopted laws and regulations that mirror those of the European Union with respect to dietary products.
We cannot predict how the global regulatory landscape regarding our possible nutritional non-drug products or food products, if any, will evolve and we may incur increased regulatory costs as regulations in the jurisdictions in which we operate evolve or change. We cannot predict whether or when any jurisdiction will change its regulations with respect to any of our product candidates.
Should we utilize third part distributors, compliance with such foreign governmental regulations would generally be the responsibility of such distributors, who may be independent contractors over whom we have limited control.
Government regulation of food for special medical purpose in the European Union
The regulatory requirements for foods for special medical purposes (“FSMPs”), in the European Union cover FSMP development and commercialization.
In the European Union, FSMPs are designed to feed patients who, because of a particular disease, disorder or medical condition, have nutritional needs that cannot be met by consuming standard foodstuffs. European Union Regulation defines ‘ food for special medical purposes ’ as food specially processed or formulated and intended for
the dietary management of patients, including infants, to be used under medical supervision; it is intended for the exclusive or partial feeding of patients with a limited, impaired or disturbed capacity to take, digest, absorb, metabolize or excrete ordinary food or certain nutrients contained therein, or metabolites, or with other medically-determined nutrient requirements, whose dietary management cannot be achieved by modification of the normal diet alone.
Businesses intending to commercialize FSMPs in the European Union are required to register their FSMPs by submitting notifications regarding FSMP use, demonstrating compliance with applicable European Union rules, prior to market commercialization. These notifications to competent authority of each European Union Member State include information appearing on the label, and any other information the competent authority may reasonably request to establish compliance with this Regulation.
The European Commission may decide, by means of implementing acts (a) whether a given food falls within the scope of this Regulation; and (b) to which specific category of food a given food belongs. European Food Safety Authority Guidance provides, among other requirements, that the dossier must include an explanation of the scientific and medical basis on which it has been concluded that the use of the specific food product is necessary or is more practical or safer than the exclusive use of non-FSMP foodstuffs.
FSMPs can also fall within the scope of the novel food legislation in the European Union. Where an ingredient used in the FSMP to be marketed in the European Union falls within the definition of a ‘novel food ingredient’ prior authorization for use of the ingredient needs to be sought. A “novel” food or food ingredients as food that has not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the European Union before May 15, 1997 and that falls within one of the ten food categories listed. Novel foods and novel food ingredients can only be authorized if they do not pose a safety risk to human health, their intended use does not mislead the consumer and they do not differ from the food they are intended to replace in such a way that its normal consumption would be nutritionally disadvantageous for the consumer. The authorization procedure is likely to take between 12 and 18 months.
In accordance with European Union clinical trials directives, before a clinical trial site is allowed to start enrolling patients in a clinical trial, the IRB or (IEC), must provide a positive opinion concerning the study protocol and all study-related materials. The competent authorities of the relevant European Union Member State must also provide their related authorization. Clinical trials involving the investigation of the action of non-medicinal products (e.g. foods, such as many FSMPs), are not covered and are not required to register the clinical trial or to complete a CTA for approval by an European Union Member State.
As of December 31, 2021, we had 76 full-time employees, of which 25 have Ph.D. or M.D. degrees and 58 were engaged in research and clinical development activities. The remaining employees were engaged in business development, finance, information systems, facilities, human resources, legal functions, or administrative support. We also engage consultants and temporary workers when needed. The majority of our employees were based in Lexington, MA. No employees were represented by labor unions or subject to collective bargaining agreements. We consider our relationships with our employees to be very strong.
We believe our employees are among the company’s most important assets and are key to achieving our goals and expectations. Our human capital resource priorities and our competitive equity and cash compensation and benefits programs focus on attracting, recruiting, retaining and incentivizing our existing and new employees. We consider our human capital resources strategy to be comprehensive and we foster a strong relationship with and among our employees with ongoing efforts such as employee surveys, training and development programs, social interactions, and other programs.
We are committed to developing policies that promote awareness and behaviors to ensure fair treatment and equality of opportunity, building a culture of diversity and inclusion, and proactively addressing inequality. In line with our core value of collaboration as noted above, we strive to foster an inclusive culture and actively seek diverse perspectives as we believe diverse experiences and expertise enriches our way of thinking and is essential to achieving our goals. This includes policies and practices that uphold these principles throughout the sourcing, hiring, compensation and assessment of candidates and the retention of our employees.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and as part of our commitment to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees, we created an internal team focused on implementing policies and practices consistent with US Government, Massachusetts, and industry standard regulation and guidance in response to the public health emergency. Since mid-March 2020, the majority of our employees have been working from home. Additionally, we put appropriate safety measures in place, including implementing occupancy limits, restricting business travel, providing and requiring the use of personal protective equipment, health screening, cleaning and visitor protocols, and, in cases of possible exposure, external COVID-19 testing to access our workplaces.
Our corporate headquarters are located in Lexington, Massachusetts, where we currently lease 107,000 square feet of laboratory and office space. The lease expires in February 2029, subject to one option to extend the lease for 10 years.
We are not currently a party to any material legal proceedings.
We were incorporated in January 2015 as VL32, Inc. under the laws of the State of Delaware. In November 2015, we changed our name to Kaleido Biosciences, Inc. Our principal executive office is located at 65 Hayden Avenue, Lexington, Massachusetts, and our telephone number is (617) 674-9000. Our website address is www.kaleido.com. Our website and the information contained on, or that can be accessed through, the website will not be deemed to be incorporated by reference in, and are not considered part of, this Annual Report on Form 10-K. You should not rely on any such information in making your decision whether to purchase our common stock.
On March 4, 2019, we completed the IPO of our common stock pursuant to which we issued and sold 5,000,000 shares of our common stock at a price to the public of $15.00 per share. We received aggregate gross proceeds from our IPO of $75.0 million, or aggregate net proceeds of $67.8 million after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and other offering costs. None of the underwriting discounts and commissions or offering expenses were incurred or paid, directly or indirectly, to any of our directors or officers or their associates or to persons owning 10% or more of our common stock or to any of our affiliates.
On June 4, 2020, we completed a public offering (the “Offering”), pursuant to which we issued and sold 4,750,000 shares of our common stock. We received aggregate net proceeds received from the offering were $34.4 million, including 185,000 shares exercised on July 1, 2020 for the Underwriters’ option. During the year ended December 31, 2020, we sold 361,299 shares of our common stock under the at-the-market public offering (the "ATM") which resulted in aggregate net proceeds of $3.4 million after payment of related commissions. In January and February 2021, we sold 309,656 shares of our common stock under the ATM which resulted in aggregate net proceeds of $4.9 million. As of December 31, 2021, there was $41.5 million available under the ATM.
On February 8, 2021, we completed a public offering (the “2021 Offering”) including the Underwriters’ overallotment option, pursuant to which we issued and sold 6,037,500 shares of our common stock for aggregate net proceeds of $65.3 million.
We are an “emerging growth company” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012. We will remain an emerging growth company until the earlier of: (i) the last day of the fiscal year (a) following the fifth anniversary of the completion of the IPO, (b) in which we have total annual gross revenue of at least $1.07 billion, or (c) in which we are deemed to be a large accelerated filer, which means the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates exceeds $700.0 million as of the prior June 30th, and (ii) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the prior three-year period.
Financial Information and Segments
The financial information required under this Item 1 is incorporated herein by reference to the section of this Annual Report titled “Part II—Item 8—Financial Statements and Supplementary Data. The company manages its operations as a single segment for the purposes of assessing performance and making operating decisions. The company is developing red cell therapeutics for the treatment of patients with severe diseases. All of the company’s tangible assets are held in the United States. See Note 2 to our consolidated audited financial statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. For financial information regarding our business, see “Part II—Item 7—Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and our consolidated audited financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our Internet address is www.kaleido.com. Our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, including exhibits, proxy and information statements and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Sections 13(a), 14, and 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, are available through the “Investors and Media” portion of our website free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. Information on our website is not part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K or any of our other securities filings unless specifically incorporated herein by reference. Our filings with the SEC may be accessed through the SEC’s Interactive Data Electronic Applications system at http://www.sec.gov. All statements made in any of our securities filings, including all forward-looking statements or information, are made as of the date of the document in which the statement is included, and we do not assume or undertake any obligation to update any of those statements or documents unless we are required to do so by law.
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 Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our consolidated financial statements and the related notes and “Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations,” and in our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The occurrence of any of the events or developments described below could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects. In such an event, the market price of our common stock could decline, and you may lose all or part of your investment. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial also may impair our business operations.
Risks Related to Strategic Alternative Process and Potential Strategic Transaction
We may not be successful in identifying and implementing any strategic business combination or other transaction and any strategic transactions that we may consummate in the future could have negative consequences. If a strategic transaction is not consummated, our Board may decide to pursue a dissolution and liquidation. In the event of such liquidation or other wind-down event, holders of our securities will likely suffer a total loss of their investment.
In addition to our efforts, if any, to pursue clinical development of our product candidates, we also continue to evaluate all potential strategic options for the company, including a merger, reverse merger, sale, wind-down, liquidation and dissolution or other strategic transaction. However, there can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully consummate any particular strategic transaction. The process of continuing to evaluate these strategic options may be very costly, time-consuming and complex and we have incurred, and may in the future incur, significant costs related to this continued evaluation, such as legal and accounting fees and expenses and other related charges. We may also incur additional unanticipated expenses in connection with this process. A considerable portion of these costs will be incurred regardless of whether any such course of action is implemented or transaction is completed. Any such expenses will decrease the remaining cash available for use in our business.
There can be no assurances that any particular course of action, business arrangement or transaction, or series of transactions, will be pursued, successfully consummated, lead to increased stockholder value, or achieve the anticipated results. If we are unable to consummate a strategic transaction, our Board may decide to pursue a dissolution and liquidation. In the event of such liquidation or other wind-down event, holders of our securities will likely suffer a total loss of their investment.
We may not realize any additional value in a strategic transaction.
Potential counterparties in a strategic transaction involving our company may place minimal or no value on our assets. Further, the development and any potential commercialization of our product candidates will require substantial additional cash to fund the costs associated with conducting the necessary preclinical and clinical testing and obtaining regulatory approval. Consequently, any potential counterparty in a strategic transaction involving our company may choose not to spend additional resources and continue development of our product candidates and may attribute little or no value, in such a transaction, to those product candidates.
If we are successful in completing a strategic transaction, we may be exposed to other operational and financial risks.
Although there can be no assurance that a strategic transaction will result from the process we have undertaken to identify and evaluate strategic alternatives, the negotiation and consummation of any such transaction will require significant time on the part of our management, and the diversion of management’s attention may disrupt our business.
The negotiation and consummation of any such transaction may also require more time or greater cash resources than we anticipate and expose us to other operational and financial risks, including:
Any of the foregoing risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and prospects.
Our ability to consummate a strategic transaction depends on our ability to retain our employees required to consummate such transaction.
Our ability to consummate a strategic transaction depends upon our ability to retain our employees required to consummate such a transaction, the loss of whose services may adversely impact the ability to consummate such transaction. In January 2022, we undertook an organizational restructuring that reduced our workforce in order to conserve our capital resources. Our cash conservation activities may yield unintended consequences, such as attrition beyond our planned reduction in workforce and reduced employee morale, which may cause remaining employees to seek alternative employment. Our ability to successfully complete a strategic transaction depends in large part on our ability to retain certain of our remaining personnel. If we are unable to successfully retain our remaining personnel, we are at risk of a disruption to our exploration and consummation of a strategic alternative as well as business operations.
The impact and results of our ongoing strategic process are uncertain and may not be successful.
Our board of directors remains dedicated to diligently deliberating upon and making informed decisions that the directors believe are in the best interests of the company and its stockholders. There can be no assurance, however, that the company’s current strategic direction, or the board’s evaluation of strategic alternatives, will result in any initiatives, agreements, transactions or plans that will further enhance stockholder value.
In addition, given the substantial restructuring of our operations over the past several years, it may be difficult to evaluate our current business and future prospects on the basis of historical operating performance.
We may become involved in securities litigation that could divert management’s attention and harm the company’s business, and insurance coverage may not be sufficient to cover all costs and damages.
In the past, securities litigation has often followed certain significant business transactions, such as the sale of a company or announcement of any other strategic transaction, or the announcement of negative events, such as negative results from clinical trials. We may be exposed to such litigation even if no wrongdoing occurred. Litigation is usually expensive and diverts management’s attention and resources, which could adversely affect our business and cash resources and our ability to consummate a potential strategic transaction or the ultimate value our stockholders receive in any such transaction.
Risks related to our business, technology and industry
We have identified conditions and events that raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.
We may be forced to amend, delay, limit, reduce terminate the scope of our development programs and/or limit or cease and wind-down our operations if we are unable to obtain additional funding. As of December 31, 2021, we had cash and cash equivalents totaling $38.5 million. Based on our current operating plans, we do not have sufficient cash and cash equivalents to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditures for at least the next 12 months from the filing date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We will require additional capital to sustain our operations, including our development programs. We expect to seek additional funds through equity or debt financings or through collaborations, licensing transactions or other sources that may be identified through our strategic process. However, there can be no assurance that we will be able to complete any such transactions on acceptable terms or otherwise. The failure to obtain sufficient funds on commercially acceptable terms when needed would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition. These factors raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.
The terms of our loan and security agreement with Hercules Capital require us to meet certain operating covenants and place restrictions on our operating and financial flexibility. If we raise additional capital through debt financing, the terms of any new debt could further restrict our ability to operate our business.
On December 31, 2019, we entered into a loan and security agreement, or the Loan Agreement, with the several banks and other financial institutions or entities, or the Lenders, and Hercules Capital, Inc., in its capacity as administrative and collateral agent for itself and the Lenders party to the Loan Agreement. The loan advanced under the Loan Agreement, or the Term Loan, is secured by a security interest covering our assets, other than our intellectual property and other customary collateral exclusions. The Loan Agreement contains customary affirmative and negative covenants and events of default. Affirmative covenants include, among others, covenants requiring us to maintain our legal existence and comply with all applicable laws, deliver certain financial reports, and maintain insurance coverage. Negative covenants include, among others, covenants restricting us from transferring any part of our business or intellectual property, incurring additional indebtedness, engaging in mergers or acquisitions, repurchasing shares, paying dividends or making other distributions, making investments, and creating other liens on our assets, including our intellectual property, in each case subject to customary exceptions. If we raise any additional debt financing, the terms of such additional debt could further restrict our operating and financial flexibility. These restrictions may include, among other things, limitations on borrowing and specific restrictions on the use of our assets, as well as prohibitions on our ability to create liens, pay dividends, redeem capital stock or make investments. If we default under the terms of the Loan Agreement or any future debt facility, the Lenders may accelerate all of our repayment obligations and take control of our pledged assets, potentially requiring us to renegotiate our agreement on terms less favorable to us or to immediately cease operations. Further, if we are liquidated, the Lenders’ right to repayment would be senior to the rights of the holders of our common stock. The Lenders could declare a default upon the occurrence of any event that it interprets as a material adverse effect as defined under the Loan Agreement. Any declaration by the Lenders of an event of default could significantly harm our business and prospects and could cause the price of our common stock to decline. If we raise any additional debt financing, the terms of such additional debt could further restrict our operating and financial flexibility.
Repayment of the amount of the remaining Term Loan will require a significant amount of cash, and we may never have sufficient resources to make payments on our indebtedness.
Our ability to pay the principal of and/or interest on the Term Loan will require a significant inflow of cash from either operations, financings, or other strategic transactions. We have no product candidates approved for commercial sale and do not expect to for the foreseeable future. Since we do not expect to generate any near term cash flow for product sales, in order to repay the Term Loan, we would be required to adopt and implement one or more alternatives, such as selling assets, restructuring indebtedness or obtaining additional debt financing or equity financing on terms that may be onerous or highly dilutive. Our ability to refinance the Term Loan or other future indebtedness will depend on the capital markets and our financial condition at such time. We may not be able to
engage in any of these activities or engage in these activities on desirable terms, which could result in a default on our debt obligations, including the Term Loan.
We have incurred net losses in every year since our inception and anticipate that we will continue to incur net losses in the future.
We are a clinical stage healthcare company with a limited operating history. Investment in product development in the healthcare industry, including of biopharmaceutical products, is highly speculative because it entails substantial upfront capital expenditures and significant risk that any potential product candidate will fail to demonstrate adequate effect or an acceptable safety profile, gain regulatory approval, as necessary, and become commercially viable. Our lead product candidates are currently in clinical development. We have no products approved for commercial sale and have not generated any revenue from product sales to date, and we continue to incur significant research and development and other expenses related to our ongoing operations. As a result, we are not profitable and have incurred losses in each period since our inception in 2015. For the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, we reported net losses of $90.3 million and $81.6 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2021, we had an accumulated deficit of $364.5 million. If we are able to continue as a going concern, we expect to continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future, and we expect these losses to increase as we continue our research and development of, and seek regulatory approvals for, our product candidates.
To become and remain profitable, we or any potential future collaborator must develop and eventually commercialize products with significant market potential at an adequate profit margin after cost of goods sold and other expenses. This will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities, including completing preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials, obtaining marketing approval or identifying alternate regulatory pathways for product candidates, cGMP manufacturing, marketing and selling products for which we may obtain marketing approval or successfully identify alternate regulatory pathways and satisfying any post-marketing requirements. We may never succeed in any or all of these activities and, even if we do, we may never generate revenue that is significant enough to achieve profitability. If we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis.
Even if we succeed in commercializing one or more of our product candidates, we will continue to incur substantial research and development and other expenditures to develop and market additional product candidates. We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other unknown factors that may adversely affect our business. The size of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of future growth of our expenses and our ability to generate revenue. Our prior losses and expected future losses have had and will continue to have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity and working capital.
We will require additional capital to fund our operations and if we fail to obtain necessary financing, we will not be able to complete the development and commercialization of our product candidates.
Our operations have consumed substantial amounts of cash since inception. We expect to continue to spend substantial amounts to conduct further research and development, preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials of our current and future product candidates, to validate the manufacturing process and establish specifications for our product candidates, to seek regulatory approvals for or identify alternate regulatory pathways to market for our product candidates and to launch and commercialize any products for which we receive regulatory approval or identify an alternate regulatory pathway to market, including potentially building our own commercial organization. As of December 31, 2021, we had $38.5 million of cash and cash equivalents on hand. However, our future capital requirements and the period for which our existing resources will support our operations may vary significantly from what we expect, and we will in any event require additional capital in order to complete clinical development of any of our current product candidates. Our monthly spending levels will vary based on new and ongoing development and corporate activities. Because the length of time and activities associated with development of our product candidates is highly uncertain, we are unable to estimate the actual funds we will require for development and any approved marketing and commercialization activities.
In addition, as noted above, we have identified conditions and events that raise substantial doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern if we are unable to obtain funding on a timely basis. Based on our current operating
plans, we do not have sufficient cash and cash equivalents to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditures for at least the next 12 months from the filing date of this Annual Report.
We do not have any committed external source of funds or other support for our development efforts and we cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. Until we can generate sufficient product or royalty revenue to finance our cash requirements, which we may never do, we expect to finance our future cash needs through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, strategic alliances, licensing arrangements and other marketing or distribution arrangements. If we raise additional funds through public or private equity offerings, the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect our stockholders’ rights. Further, to the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of common stock or securities convertible into or exchangeable for common stock, your ownership interest will be diluted. If we raise additional capital through debt financing, we would be subject to fixed payment obligations and may be subject to covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures, declaring dividends or acquiring or licensing intellectual property rights. If we raise additional capital through marketing and distribution arrangements or other collaborations, strategic alliances or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish certain valuable rights to our product candidates, technologies, future revenue streams or research programs or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. We also could be required to seek collaborators for one or more of our current or future product candidates at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable or relinquish our rights to product candidates or technologies that we otherwise would seek to develop or commercialize ourselves. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue the development or commercialization of one or more of our products or product candidates or one or more of our other research and development initiatives. Any of the above events could significantly harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations and cause the price of our common stock to decline.
We have a limited operating history, which may make it difficult to evaluate our technology and product development capabilities and predict our future performance.
We were formed in 2015, have no products approved for commercial sale or marketed via other regulatory pathways (e.g., non-drug products) and have not generated any revenue from product sales. Our ability to generate product revenue or profits, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend on the successful development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates, which may never occur. We may never be able to develop or commercialize a marketable product.
Our current and future therapeutics programs and product candidates require additional discovery research, preclinical development, clinical development, regulatory approval in multiple jurisdictions or identification of alternate regulatory pathways to market, manufacturing validation, obtaining cGMP manufacturing supply, capacity and expertise, building of a commercial and distribution organization, substantial investment and significant marketing efforts before we generate any revenue from product sales. In addition, our drug product candidates must be approved for marketing by the FDA or certain other health regulatory agencies, including the EMA, or we must secure alternate non-therapeutic regulatory pathways to market our non-therapeutic product candidates before we may commercialize any product in the respective jurisdictions.
Our limited operating history may make it difficult to evaluate our technology and industry and predict our future performance. Our short history as an operating company makes any assessment of our future success or viability subject to significant uncertainty. We will encounter risks and difficulties frequently experienced by early-stage companies in evolving fields. If we do not address these risks successfully, our business will suffer. Similarly, we expect that our financial condition and operating results will fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. As a result, our stockholders should not rely upon the results of any quarterly or annual period as an indicator of future operating performance.
In addition, as an early-stage company, we may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown circumstances. As we advance our product candidates, we will need to transition from a company with a research focus to a company capable of supporting clinical development and, if successful, commercial activities. We may not be successful in such a transition.
Microbiome Metabolic Therapies (“MMT” or “MMTs”) are a novel approach and negative perception of any product candidates that we develop could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business, obtain regulatory approvals or identify alternate regulatory pathways to market for such product candidates.
Microbiome therapies and therapy candidates in general, and our MMT candidates in particular, are a relatively new and novel approach. In the United States and the European Union, no products to date have been approved specifically demonstrating an impact on the microbiome as part of their therapeutic effect. MMTs and microbiome therapies in general may not be successfully developed or commercialized or gain the acceptance of the public or the medical community. Our success will depend upon physicians who specialize in the treatment of diseases targeted by our product candidates that we pursue as drugs, prescribing potential treatments that involve the use of our product candidates in lieu of, or in addition to, existing treatments, if available, with which they are more familiar and for which greater clinical data may be available. Our access will also depend on consumer acceptance and adoption of our products that we commercialize. Adverse events in clinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates or in clinical trials by others developing similar products and the resulting publicity, as well as any other adverse events in the field of the microbiome, could result in a decrease in demand for any product that we may develop. In addition, responses by the United States, state or foreign governments to negative public perception or ethical concerns may result in new legislation or regulations that could limit our ability to develop or commercialize any product candidates, obtain or maintain regulatory approval, identify alternate regulatory pathways to market or otherwise achieve profitability. More restrictive statutory regimes, government regulations or negative public opinion would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects and may delay or impair the development and commercialization of our product candidates or demand for any products we may develop.
All of our initial product candidates for which we make a drug development path decision, including any targeting ulcerative colitis ("UC") , will require significant additional preclinical and clinical development before we can seek regulatory approval for and launch a therapeutic product commercially.
For any product candidate that we choose to develop as a drug product candidate, our business and future success depends on our ability to obtain regulatory approval of and then successfully launch and commercialize our initial product candidates, KB109 and KB295, as a drug.
We are currently planning for a Phase 2 clinical trial of KB295 focused on ulcerative colitis. While we have completed preclinical work to support the filing of an IND with the FDA and to file similar clinical trial applications outside of the United States, we have not yet submitted those applications and there is no surety that they will be accepted if filed. If our applications are submitted and accepted, the ulcerative colitis program will require additional clinical development, regulatory review and approval in multiple jurisdictions or identification of alternate non-therapeutic regulatory pathways, substantial investment, access to sufficient validated and cGMP compliant commercial manufacturing capacity and significant marketing efforts before we can generate any revenue from product sales. In addition, because KB295 is our most advanced product candidate, if KB295 encounters safety, efficacy, supply or manufacturing problems, developmental delays, regulatory or commercialization issues or other problems, our development plans, including for other product candidates, and business would be significantly harmed.
The successful development of our product candidates is highly uncertain.
Successful development of product candidates is highly uncertain and is dependent on numerous factors, many of which are beyond our control. Product candidates that appear promising in the early phases of development may fail to reach the market for several reasons, including:
The length of time necessary to complete clinical trials and to submit an application for marketing approval of a drug product candidate for a final decision by a regulatory authority may be difficult to predict for our therapeutic product candidates, in large part because of their limited regulatory history.
Even if we are successful in obtaining market approval for drug products, commercial success of any approved therapeutic products will also depend in large part on marketing acceptance, the availability of insurance coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors, including government payors, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and managed care organizations, which may be affected by existing and future healthcare reform measures designed to reduce the cost of healthcare.
In addition, if any of our drug product candidates is approved for marketing, we will be subject to significant regulatory obligations regarding the submission of safety and other post-marketing information and reports and registration. If approved, our drug products would be subject to restrictions on our products’ labels and other conditions of regulatory approval that may limit our ability to market our products for therapeutic indications. We will also need to comply (and ensure that our third-party contractors comply) with current cGMPs and Good Clinical Practices (“GCPs”), as we (and our third-party contractors) will be required to comply with cGMPs for products used in any clinical trials. In addition, we will need to comply with GCPs for any therapeutic indications we develop for approval and for any additional therapeutic indications we develop after approval of our first drug candidate.
Clinical development is a lengthy and expensive process, with an uncertain outcome. We may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of any product candidates.
To obtain the requisite regulatory approvals to commercialize any product candidates for therapeutic uses, we must demonstrate through extensive preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials that our product candidates are safe and effective in humans for their intended use. Clinical testing is expensive, difficult to design and implement and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. We may be unable to establish clinical endpoints, dose levels and regimens or bioanalytical assay methods that applicable regulatory authorities would consider clinically meaningful, and a clinical trial can fail at any stage of testing. The outcome of preclinical studies, clinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of later preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials, and interim results of these studies or trials do not necessarily predict final results. Differences in trial design between early-stage clinical trials and later-stage clinical trials make it difficult to extrapolate the results of earlier clinical trials to later clinical trials. 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 product candidates.
Successful completion of clinical trials is a prerequisite to submitting an NDA to the FDA, a Marketing Authorization Application to the EMA, and similar marketing applications to comparable other regulatory authorities, for each product candidate for therapeutic indications and, consequently, the ultimate approval and commercial marketing of any product candidates for therapeutic indications. We do not know whether any of our clinical trials will begin or be completed on schedule, if at all.
We may experience delays in completing our preclinical studies and initiating or completing clinical studies and clinical trials. We also may experience numerous unforeseen events during, or as a result of, any future clinical studies or clinical trials that we could conduct that could delay or prevent our ability to receive marketing approval or commercialize our product candidates, including:
We could also encounter delays if a preclinical study, clinical study or clinical trial is suspended or terminated for any reason. A suspension or termination may be imposed due to a number of factors, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols, inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial site by the FDA or other regulatory authorities resulting in the imposition of a clinical hold, unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects, failure to demonstrate a benefit from using a product or treatment, failure to establish or achieve clinically meaningful trial endpoints, changes in governmental regulations or
administrative actions or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial. Many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates for therapeutic indications. Further, the FDA or other regulatory authorities may disagree with our clinical trial design and our interpretation of data from clinical trials or may change the requirements for approval even after they have reviewed and commented on the design for our preclinical studies, clinical studies or clinical trials. For example, we may utilize an “open-label” trial design for some of our future clinical trials. An open-label trial is one where both the patient and investigator know whether the patient is receiving the test article or either an existing approved drug or placebo. Open-label trials are subject to various limitations that may exaggerate any therapeutic effect as patients in open-label studies are aware that they are receiving treatment. Open-label trials may be subject to a “patient bias” where patients perceive their symptoms to have improved merely due to their awareness of receiving an experimental treatment. Open-label trials may be subject to an “investigator bias” where those assessing and reviewing the physiological outcomes of the clinical trials are aware of which patients have received treatment and may interpret the information of the treated group more favorably given this knowledge. The opportunity for bias in clinical trials as a result of open-label design may not be adequately handled and may cause any of our trials that utilize such design to fail and additional trials may be necessary to support future marketing applications.
Our product development costs will increase if we experience delays in clinical testing or marketing approvals. We do not know whether any of our preclinical studies, clinical studies or clinical trials will begin as planned, will need to be restructured or will be completed on schedule, or at all. Significant preclinical studies, clinical studies or clinical trial delays also could shorten any periods during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates and may allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, potentially impairing our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates and harming our business and results of operations. Any delays in our preclinical or future clinical development programs may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Our planned clinical trials or those of our future collaborators may reveal significant adverse events not seen in our preclinical studies, clinical studies or other clinical trials and may result in a safety profile that could inhibit regulatory approval or market acceptance of any of our product candidates.
Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of any products for therapeutic indications, we must demonstrate through lengthy, complex and expensive preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials that our product candidates are both safe and effective for use in each target indication. Preclinical and clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the preclinical or clinical trial process. The results of preclinical studies, clinical studies as well as early clinical trials of our product candidates may not be predictive of the results of later-stage clinical trials. In addition, initial success in clinical trials may not be indicative of results obtained when such clinical trials are completed. There is typically an extremely high rate of attrition from the failure of product candidates proceeding through clinical trials. We believe that our product candidates for therapeutic indications will be well tolerated by participants in our clinical trials, but we are not certain that we will be able to dose trial participants at a high enough dose that will demonstrate efficacy without unacceptable safety risk. Our product candidates are expected to have limited systemic exposure after oral administration but if the product candidates we use in our clinical trials are absorbed by the body, participants may suffer adverse effects. There is also a concern that the microbiome could re-configure itself in such a way as to cause a limited time window of effectiveness and tolerability of our product candidates or unanticipated short or long-term effects.
Product candidates in later stages of clinical trials also may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy profile despite having progressed through preclinical studies and initial clinical trials. A number of companies in the healthcare industry have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or unacceptable safety issues, notwithstanding promising results in earlier clinical trials. Most product candidates that commence clinical trials are never approved as products for therapeutic indications and there can be no assurance that any of our current or future clinical trials will ultimately be successful or support further clinical development or commercialization of any of our product candidates.
If significant adverse events or other side effects are observed in any of our current or future clinical trials, we may have difficulty recruiting patients to our clinical trials, patients may drop out of our clinical trials or we may be
required to significantly redesign or abandon trials or our development efforts of one or more product candidates altogether. We, the FDA or other applicable regulatory authorities or an IRB or EC may suspend clinical trials of a product candidate at any time for various reasons, including a belief that patients in such trials are being exposed to unacceptable health risks or adverse side effects. Some potential therapeutics developed in the healthcare industry that initially showed therapeutic promise in early-stage clinical trials have later been found to cause side effects that prevented their further development. Even if the side effects do not preclude the drug from obtaining or maintaining marketing approval, undesirable side effects may inhibit market acceptance of the approved product due to its tolerability versus other therapies. Any of these developments could materially harm our business, financial condition and prospects.
Positive results from early preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates are not necessarily predictive of the results of later preclinical studies, clinical studies and any future clinical trials of our product candidates for therapeutic indications. If we cannot replicate the positive results from our earlier preclinical studies of our product candidates in our later preclinical studies and future clinical studies and clinical trials, we may be unable to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize our product candidates.
Any positive results from our preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates may not necessarily be predictive of the results from required later preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials. Similarly, even if we are able to complete our planned preclinical studies or any future clinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates according to our current development timeline, the positive results from such preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates may not be replicated in subsequent preclinical studies, clinical studies or clinical trial results.
Many companies in the pharmaceutical 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, clinical 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 believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials nonetheless failed to obtain FDA or EMA approval.
If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical studies or clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
We may experience difficulties in patient identification and enrollment in our clinical studies and clinical trials for a variety of reasons. The timely completion of clinical studies or 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 clinical study or clinical trial until its conclusion. The enrollment of patients depends on many factors, including, but not limited to:
In addition, our clinical studies or trials will compete with other clinical studies or 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 clinical studies or trials may instead opt to enroll in a study or 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 studies or 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 in such clinical trial site. Moreover, because our product candidates represent a departure from more commonly used methods for our targeted therapeutic areas, potential patients and their doctors may be inclined to use conventional therapies, rather than enroll patients in any future clinical study or trial.
Delays in patient enrollment may result in increased costs or may affect the timing or outcome of the planned clinical studies or trials, which could prevent completion of these clinical studies or trials and adversely affect our ability to advance the development of our product candidates.
Interim top-line and preliminary data from our clinical studies or 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 expect to publish interim top-line or preliminary data from our clinical studies and clinical trials. Interim data from these clinical studies and clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the 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 we 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.
If we fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
We are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Our research and development activities involve the use of biological and hazardous materials and produce hazardous waste products. We generally contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and wastes. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from these materials, which could cause an interruption of our commercialization efforts, research and development efforts and business operations, environmental damage resulting in costly clean-up and liabilities under applicable laws and regulations governing the use, storage, handling and disposal of these materials and specified waste products. Although we believe that the safety procedures utilized by our third-party manufacturers for handling and disposing of these materials generally comply with the standards prescribed by these laws and regulations, we cannot guarantee that this is the case or eliminate the risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials. In such an event, we may be held liable for any resulting damages and such liability could exceed our resources and state or federal or other applicable authorities may curtail our use of certain materials and/or interrupt our business operations. Furthermore, environmental laws and regulations are complex, change frequently and have tended to become more stringent. We cannot predict the impact of such changes and cannot be certain of our future compliance. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.
Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of biological waste or hazardous materials or other work-related injuries, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. We do not carry specific biological waste or hazardous waste insurance coverage or workers compensation or property and casualty and general liability insurance policies that include coverage for damages and fines arising from biological or hazardous waste exposure or contamination.
If product liability lawsuits are brought against us, we may incur substantial liabilities and may be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates.
We face an inherent risk of product liability as a result of testing our product candidates in clinical studies and clinical trials and will face an even greater risk if we commercialize any products. 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 studies, clinical trials, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include, but are not limited to, 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. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we may incur substantial liabilities or be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates. Even successful defense would require significant financial and management resources. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:
We maintain clinical trial insurance. We review our clinical trial insurance policy annually and we believe that our coverage is currently adequate to cover any claims that may arise in connection with our clinical studies or clinical trials. There is no guarantee that we will be able to obtain additional clinical trial insurance at an acceptable cost in the future, which could prevent or inhibit the ongoing development of our products.
Since we have not yet commenced marketing of any products, we do not yet hold product liability insurance for commercialization of our products. Our inability to obtain sufficient product liability insurance at an acceptable cost to protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the commercialization of products we develop, alone or with collaborators. If and when coverage is secured, our insurance policies may also have various exclusions, and we may be subject to a product liability claim for which we have no coverage. We may have to pay any amounts awarded by a court or negotiated in a settlement that exceed our coverage limitations or that are not covered by our insurance, and we may not have, or be able to obtain, sufficient capital to pay such amounts. Even if our agreements with any future corporate collaborators entitle us to indemnification against losses, such indemnification may not be available or adequate should any claim arise.
The market opportunities for our product candidates may be limited and our estimates of the incidence and prevalence of our target patient populations may be inaccurate.
Our projections of the market sizes we may target and number of people who have the diseases or conditions we target, as well as the subset of people with these diseases in a position to receive our therapies, if approved, are based on our beliefs and estimates. These estimates have been derived from a variety of sources, including scientific literature, input from key opinion leaders, patient foundations or secondary market research databases, and may prove to be incorrect. Further, new studies may change the estimated incidence or prevalence of these diseases or regulatory approvals may include limitations for use or contraindications that decrease the addressable patient population for product candidates we decide to develop as drug product candidates. The number of individuals may turn out to be lower than expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our product candidates that we decide to develop as drugs may be limited or may not be amenable to treatment with our product candidates. Even if we obtain significant market share for our product candidates, because certain of the potential target populations are small, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining regulatory approval for additional indications or expanding the target market size for non-drug products.
We are early in our development efforts and may not be successful in our efforts to use our proprietary product platform to build a pipeline of product candidates and develop marketable products.
We are developing our proprietary product platform to systematically direct functional outputs of the microbiome organ. However, our proprietary product platform has not yet, and may never lead to, FDA approved or commercialized products. We are developing our initial product candidates and additional product candidates that we intend to use in a number of areas of health and disease, including UC and COPD. We may have problems applying our technologies to these other areas, and our product candidates may not demonstrate a comparable ability in treating disease as our initial product candidates. Even if we are successful in identifying additional product candidates, they may not be suitable for clinical development as a result of our inability to manufacture the compounds, limited efficacy, unacceptable safety profiles or other characteristics that indicate that they are unlikely to be products that will receive marketing approval and achieve market acceptance.
If we do not successfully develop and commercialize product candidates based upon our platform approach, we will not be able to obtain product revenue in future periods, which likely would result in significant harm to our financial position and adversely affect our stock price.
We face significant competition from other healthcare companies, and our operating results will suffer if we fail to compete effectively.
The healthcare industry is characterized by intense competition and rapid innovation. Our competitors may be able to develop other compounds or products that are able to achieve similar or better results. Our potential competitors include major multinational pharmaceutical companies, nutritional foods companies, established biotechnology companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies and universities and other research institutions. Many of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical and other resources, such as larger research and development staff, experienced marketing and manufacturing organizations and well-established sales forces. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large, established companies. Established pharmaceutical companies may also invest heavily to accelerate discovery and development of novel therapeutics or to in-license novel therapeutics that could make the product candidates that we develop obsolete. Mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare industry may result in even more resources being concentrated amongst our competitors. Competition may increase further as a result of advances in the commercial applicability of technologies and greater availability of capital for investment in these industries. Our competitors, either alone or with collaborative partners, may succeed in developing, acquiring or licensing on an exclusive basis microbiome therapies that are more effective, safer, more easily commercialized or less costly than our product candidates or may develop proprietary technologies or secure patent protection that we may need for the development of our technologies and products. We believe the key competitive factors that will affect the development and commercial success of our product candidates are efficacy, safety, tolerability, reliability, convenience of use, price and reimbursement.
We anticipate competing with the largest healthcare companies in the world, all of which have greater financial and human resources than we currently have. In addition to these fully integrated healthcare companies, we also compete
with those companies whose products target the same indications as our product candidates. They include pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, academic institutions and other research organizations. Any treatments developed by our competitors could be superior to our product candidates. It is possible that these competitors will succeed in developing technologies that are more effective than our products or that would render our product candidates obsolete or noncompetitive. We anticipate that we will face increased competition in the future as additional companies enter our market and scientific developments surrounding other therapies targeted at the microbiome continue to accelerate. In addition, there are a number of other companies targeting the microbiome.
Even if we obtain regulatory approval to market our product candidates or are successful in identifying alternate regulatory pathways to market for our product candidates, the availability and price of our competitors’ products could limit the demand and the price we are able to charge for our product candidates. We may not be able to implement our business plan if the acceptance of our product candidates is inhibited by price competition or the reluctance of physicians to switch from existing methods of treatment to our product candidates, or if physicians switch to other new drug or biologic products or choose to reserve our product candidates for use in limited circumstances.
Even if a product candidate we develop as a therapeutic receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, consumers and others in the medical or healthcare community necessary for commercial success.
If any product candidate we develop receives marketing approval as a therapeutic, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, consumers and others in the medical community. 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 candidate, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:
If we are to continue as a going concern, we will need to grow the size of our organization, and we may experience difficulties in managing this growth.
If we continue as a going concern and if our research, development, manufacturing and commercialization plans and strategies develop, we expect to need additional managerial, operational, sales, marketing, financial and other personnel. Future growth would impose significant added responsibilities on members of management, including:
Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize our product candidates will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage any future growth, and our management may also have to divert a disproportionate amount of its attention away from day-to-day activities in order to devote a substantial amount of time to managing these growth activities.
We currently rely, and for the foreseeable future will continue to rely, in substantial part on certain organizations, advisors and consultants to provide certain services, including many aspects of regulatory affairs, clinical management and manufacturing. There can be no assurance that the services of these organizations, advisors and consultants will continue to be available to us on a timely basis when needed or that we can find qualified replacements. In addition, if we are unable to effectively manage our outsourced activities or if the quality or accuracy of the services provided by consultants is compromised for any reason, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of our product candidates or otherwise advance our business. There can be no assurance that we will be able to manage our existing consultants or find other competent outside contractors and consultants on economically reasonable terms, or at all.
If we are not able to effectively expand our organization by hiring new employees and expanding our groups of consultants and contractors, we may not be able to successfully implement the tasks necessary to further develop and commercialize our product candidates and, accordingly, may not achieve our research, development and commercialization goals.
If we lose key management personnel, or if we fail to recruit additional highly skilled personnel, our ability to identify and develop new or next generation product candidates will be impaired, could result in loss of markets or market share and could make us less competitive.
Our ability to compete in the highly competitive healthcare industry depends upon our ability to attract and retain highly qualified managerial, scientific and medical personnel. From time to time, there may be changes in our executive management team resulting from the hiring or departure of executives. The loss of the services of any of our executive officers, other key employees, and other scientific and medical advisors, and our inability to find suitable replacements could result in delays in product development and harm our business to continue as a going concern.
We conduct our operations in Massachusetts. Competition for skilled personnel in our market is intense and may limit our ability to hire and retain highly qualified personnel on acceptable terms or at all. To induce valuable employees to remain at our company, in addition to salary and cash incentives, we have provided restricted stock and stock options that vest over time. The value to employees of stock options that vest over time may be significantly affected by movements in our stock price that are beyond our control and may at any time be insufficient to counteract more lucrative offers from other companies. Despite our efforts to retain valuable employees, members of our management, scientific and development teams may terminate their employment with us on short notice. Employment of our key employees is at-will, which means that any of our employees could leave our employment at any time, with or without notice. We do not maintain “key man” insurance policies on the lives of these individuals or the lives of any of our other employees. Our success also depends on our ability to continue to attract, retain and motivate highly skilled junior, mid-level and senior managers as well as junior, mid-level and senior scientific and medical personnel.
COVID-19 may materially and adversely affect our business and our financial results.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has since spread globally, including to the United States and European countries. The continued spread of COVID-19, including the identification of novel strains of COVID-19, could adversely impact our operations, including our ability to initiate or complete clinical trials, manufacture sufficient supply of our product candidates or to manufacture our product candidates at sufficient scale for commercialization. Any delay in operations could adversely affect our ability to commercialize our product candidates, particularly on our current projected timelines, increase our operating expenses and have a material adverse effect on our business and financial results. For example, because of limitations on patient visits and the impact on new enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Phase 2 clinical trial of one of our prior product candidates was delayed.
If any of our third-party manufacturers is adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or if they divert resources or manufacturing capacity to accommodate the development or manufacture of a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, our supply chain may be disrupted, limiting our ability to supply our product candidates for our research and development. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced, and may continue to experience, disruptions that impact our business, preclinical studies and clinical trials.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in significant governmental measures being implemented to control the spread of the virus, including quarantines, travel restrictions, social distancing and business shutdowns. We have taken temporary precautionary measures intended to help minimize the risk of the virus to our employees, including temporarily requiring most employees to work remotely. We have already suspended non-essential travel worldwide for our employees and are discouraging employee attendance at other gatherings. These measures could negatively affect our business. For instance, temporarily requiring all employees to work remotely may induce absenteeism, disrupt our operations or increase the risk of a cybersecurity incident. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused volatility in the global financial markets and threatened a slowdown in the global economy, which may negatively affect our ability to raise additional capital on attractive terms or at all.
The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic may impact our business will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the duration of the pandemic, the severity of COVID-19 or the effectiveness of actions to contain and treat COVID-19, particularly in the geographies where we or our third party suppliers and contract manufacturers, including those for our approved hospital products portfolio, or contract research organizations operate. We cannot presently predict the scope and severity of any potential business or regulatory shutdowns or disruptions. If we or any of the third parties with whom we engage, however, were to experience shutdowns or other business disruptions, our ability to conduct our business in the manner and on the timelines presently planned could be materially and negatively affected, which could have a material adverse impact on our business and our results of operations and financial condition.
Business disruptions could seriously harm our future revenue and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses.
Our operations, and those of our CROs, contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, and other contractors and consultants, could be subject to earthquakes, power shortages, telecommunications failures, water shortages, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, fires, extreme weather conditions, medical epidemics and other natural or man-made disasters or business interruptions, for which we are predominantly self-insured. The occurrence of any of these business disruptions could seriously harm our operations and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses. For our clinical studies, we rely on third-party manufacturers for spray drying the MMTs substance and filling sachets with the resulting spray-dried powder. For materials to be used in our clinical trials, we plan to rely on an external contract manufacturing organization for the entire manufacturing supply chain. Our ability to obtain clinical supplies of our product candidates could be disrupted if the operations of these suppliers are affected by a man-made or natural disaster or other business interruption.
Our current operations are located in Massachusetts, and we or the third parties upon whom we depend may be adversely affected by natural disasters and our business continuity and disaster recovery plans may not adequately protect us from a serious disaster.
Our current operations are located in Massachusetts. Any unplanned event, such as flood, fire, explosion, earthquake, extreme weather condition, medical epidemics, power shortage, telecommunication failure or other natural or manmade accidents or incidents that result in us being unable to fully utilize our facilities, or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, may have a material and adverse effect on our ability to operate our business, particularly on a daily basis, and have significant negative consequences on our financial and operating conditions. Loss of access to these facilities may result in increased costs, delays in the development of our product candidates or interruption of our business operations. Earthquakes or other natural disasters could further disrupt our operations and have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial
condition, results of operations and prospects. If a natural disaster, power outage or other event occurred that prevented us from using all or a significant portion of our headquarters, that damaged critical infrastructure, such as our research facilities or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, or that otherwise disrupted operations, it may be difficult or, in certain cases, impossible, for us to continue our business for a substantial period of time. The disaster recovery and business continuity plans we have in place may prove inadequate in the event of a serious disaster or similar event. We may incur substantial expenses as a result of the limited nature of our disaster recovery and business continuity plans, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. As part of our risk management policy, we maintain insurance coverage at levels that we believe are appropriate for our business. However, in the event of an accident or incident at these facilities, we cannot assure you that the amounts of insurance will be sufficient to satisfy any damages and losses. If our facilities, or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, are unable to operate because of an accident or incident or for any other reason, even for a short period of time, any or all of our research and development programs may be harmed. Any business interruption may have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Our internal computer systems, or those used by our CROs, CMOs or other contractors or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches.
Despite the implementation of security measures, our internal computer systems and those of our future CROs, CMOs and other contractors and consultants are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses and unauthorized access. While we have not experienced any such material system failure or security breach to date, if such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our development programs and our business operations. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from completed or future clinical trials could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. Likewise, we currently rely on third parties for the manufacture of our product candidates and to conduct clinical trials, and similar events relating to their computer systems could also have a material adverse effect on our business. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability and the further development and commercialization of our product candidates could be delayed.
Regulators globally are also imposing greater monetary fines for privacy violations. For example, in 2016, the European Union adopted a new regulation governing data practices and privacy called the GDPR, which became effective on May 25, 2018. The GDPR applies to any company that collects and uses personal data in connection with offering goods or services to individuals in the European Union or the monitoring of their behavior. Non-compliance with the GDPR may result in monetary penalties of up to €20 million or 4% of worldwide revenue, whichever is higher. The GDPR and other changes in laws or regulations associated with the enhanced protection of certain types of personal data, such as healthcare data or other sensitive information, could greatly increase the cost of providing our product candidates, if approved, or even prevent us from offering our product candidates, if approved, in certain jurisdictions.
Our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners and vendors may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements.
We are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other illegal activity by our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners and vendors. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct that fails to comply with the laws of the FDA and other similar foreign regulatory bodies, provide true, complete and accurate information to the FDA and other similar foreign regulatory bodies, comply with manufacturing standards we have established, comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws in the United States and similar foreign fraudulent misconduct laws or report financial information or data accurately or to disclose unauthorized activities to us. If we obtain FDA approval of any of our product candidates and begin commercializing those products in the United States, our potential exposure under such laws will increase significantly, and our costs associated with compliance with such laws are also likely to increase. These laws may impact, among other things, our current activities with principal investigators and research patients, as well as proposed and future sales, marketing and education programs.
For our drug product candidates, our relationships with healthcare providers, physicians and third-party payors will be subject to applicable anti-kickback, fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations, which
could expose us to criminal sanctions, civil penalties, contractual damages, reputational harm and diminished profits and future earnings.
If we obtain FDA approval for any of our product candidates and begin commercializing those products in the U.S., our operations may be directly, or indirectly through our future, potential customers and third-party payors, subject to various federal and state fraud and abuse laws, including, without limitation, the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”), and data privacy and physician sunshine laws and regulations. These laws or their relevant foreign counterparts may impact, among other things, our proposed sales, marketing, and education programs and our relationships with healthcare providers, physicians and other parties through which we market, sell and distribute our products for which we obtain marketing approval. In addition, we may be subject to patient privacy regulation by the federal government and the states in the U.S. as well as other jurisdictions. See section entitled “Business – Government Regulation – Other Healthcare and Privacy Laws.”
The distribution of pharmaceutical products is subject to additional requirements and regulations, including extensive record-keeping, licensing, storage and security requirements intended to prevent the unauthorized sale of pharmaceutical products.
The scope and enforcement of each of these laws is uncertain and subject to rapid change in the current environment of healthcare reform. Federal and state enforcement bodies have recently increased their scrutiny of interactions between healthcare companies and healthcare providers, which has led to a number of investigations, prosecutions, convictions and settlements in the healthcare industry. Ensuring business arrangements comply with applicable healthcare laws, as well as responding to possible investigations by government authorities, can be time- and resource-consuming, costly, and can divert a company's attention from the business.
It is possible that governmental and enforcement authorities will conclude that our business practices may not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law interpreting applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, disgorgement, monetary fines, imprisonment, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, curtailment of our operations, additional reporting requirements and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of noncompliance with these laws, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.
In addition, the approval and commercialization of any of our product candidates outside the United States will also likely subject us to foreign equivalents of the healthcare laws mentioned above, among other foreign laws.
A variety of risks associated with testing and developing our product candidates internationally could materially adversely affect our business.
We plan to seek regulatory approval of our product candidates for therapeutic and other uses outside of the United States and, accordingly, we expect that we will be subject to additional risks related to operating in foreign countries if we obtain the necessary approvals, including:
Additionally, if we continue as a going concern, we intend to contract with third parties to conduct some of our clinical trials outside the United States, which will subject us to additional risks and regulations. These and other risks associated with our international operations may materially adversely affect our ability to attain or maintain profitable operations.
We currently have no marketing and sales organization and have no experience in marketing products for therapeutic or other non-drug uses. If we are unable to establish marketing and sales capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell our product candidates, we may not be able to generate product revenue.
We currently have no sales, marketing or distribution capabilities and have no experience in marketing products for therapeutic or other uses. If we continue as a going concern, we intend to develop an in-house marketing organization and sales force, which will require significant capital expenditures, management resources and time. We will have to compete with other healthcare companies to recruit, hire, train and retain marketing and sales personnel.
In addition to establishing internal sales, marketing and distribution capabilities, we intend to optimistically pursue collaborative arrangements regarding the sales and marketing of our products, however, there can be no assurance that we will be able to establish or maintain such collaborative arrangements, or if we are able to do so, that they will have effective sales forces. Any revenue we receive will depend upon the efforts of such third parties, which may not be successful.
The FDA, the EMA and other regulatory authorities may implement additional regulations or restrictions on the development and commercialization of products which act on the microbiome, which may be difficult to predict.
The FDA, the EMA and regulatory authorities in other countries have each expressed interest in further regulating biotechnology products and product candidates, such as MMTs. Agencies at both the federal and state level in the United States, as well as the U.S. Congressional committees and other governments or governing agencies, have also expressed interest in further regulating the biotechnology industry. Such action may delay or prevent commercialization of some or all of our product candidates. Adverse developments in clinical studies or clinical trials of MMT products conducted by others may cause the FDA or other oversight bodies to change the requirements for approval of any of our product candidates. Similarly, the EMA governs the development of MMTs as drugs in the European Union and member state regulatory bodies govern the development of MMTs under food regulations and may issue new guidelines concerning the development and marketing authorization for MMT products and require that we comply with these new guidelines. These regulatory review agencies and committees and the new requirements or guidelines they promulgate may lengthen the regulatory review process, require us to perform additional studies or trials, increase our development costs, lead to changes in regulatory positions and interpretations, delay or prevent approval and commercialization of our product candidates or lead to significant post-approval limitations or restrictions. As we advance our product candidates, we will be required to consult with these regulatory agencies and comply with applicable requirements and guidelines. If we fail to do so, we may be required to delay or discontinue development of such product candidates. These additional processes may result in a review and approval process that is longer than we otherwise would have expected, delays as a result of an increased or lengthier regulatory approval process or further restrictions on the development of our product candidates can be costly and could negatively impact our ability to complete clinical trials and commercialize our current and future product candidates in a timely manner, if at all.
Changes in tax laws could affect our business and financial condition.
The rules dealing with U.S. federal, state, and local income taxation are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department. Changes to tax laws (which changes may have retroactive application) could adversely affect us or holders of our common stock. In recent years, many such changes have been made and changes are likely to continue to occur in the future. Future changes in tax laws could have a material adverse effect on our business, cash flow, financial condition or results of operations. We urge investors to consult with their legal and tax advisers regarding the implications of potential changes in tax laws on an investment in our common stock.
Our ability to use net operating losses and research and development credits to offset future taxable income may be subject to certain limitations.
As of December 31, 2021, we had net operating loss, or NOL, carryforwards for U.S. federal and state tax purposes of $318.6 million and $348.4 million, respectively. Federal NOLs of $38.8 million, generated before 2018, will begin expiring in varying amounts in 2035 unless utilized and the remaining NOL of $279.8 million, generated after 2018 will be carried forward indefinitely and could be used up to 80% of taxable income of each future tax year. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not follow federal on NOL carryforwards and as such the Company’s Massachusetts NOLs of $271.6 million will expire in at various times starting in 2035. As of December 31, 2021, we also had U.S. federal and state research and development tax credit carryforwards of $6.5 million and $3.6 million respectively, both of which expire at various dates through 2040. These net operating loss and tax credit carryforwards could expire unused and be unavailable to offset future taxable income or tax liabilities, respectively. In addition, in general, under Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, and corresponding provisions of state law, a corporation that undergoes an “ownership change” is subject to limitations on its ability to utilize its pre-change net operating loss carryforwards or tax credits, or credits, to offset future taxable income or taxes. For these purposes, an ownership change generally occurs where the aggregate stock ownership of one or more stockholders or groups of stockholders who owns at least 5% of a corporation’s stock increases its ownership by more than 50 percentage points over its lowest ownership percentage within a specified testing period. Our existing NOLs or credits may be subject to limitations arising from previous ownership changes, and if we undergo an ownership change, our ability to utilize NOLs or credits could be further limited by Sections 382 and 383 of the Code. In addition, future changes in our stock ownership, many of which are outside of our control, could result in an ownership change under Sections 382 and 383 of the Code. Our NOLs or credits may also
be impaired under state law. Accordingly, we may not be able to utilize a material portion of our NOLs or credits. Furthermore, our ability to utilize our NOLs or credits is conditioned upon our attaining profitability and generating U.S. federal and state taxable income. As described above under “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business, Technology and Industry,” we have incurred significant net losses since our inception and anticipate that we will continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future; and therefore, we do not know whether or when we will generate the U.S. federal or state taxable income necessary to utilize our NOLs or credits that are subject to limitation by Sections 382 and 383 of the Code.
Unstable market, political, and economic conditions may have serious adverse consequences on our business, financial condition and stock price.
As widely reported, global credit and financial markets have experienced extreme volatility and disruptions in the past, including severely diminished liquidity and credit availability, declines in consumer confidence, declines in economic growth, increases in unemployment rates and uncertainty about economic stability. In addition, the current military conflict between Russia and Ukraine could disrupt or otherwise adversely impact our operations and those of third parties upon which we rely. Related sanctions, export controls or other actions that may be initiated by nations including the U.S., the European Union or Russia (e.g., potential cyberattacks, disruption of energy flows, etc.), which could adversely affect our business and/or our supply chain, our CROs, CMOs and other third parties with which we conduct business. There can be no assurance that further deterioration in credit and financial markets and confidence in economic conditions will not occur. Our general business strategy may be adversely affected by any such economic downturn, volatile business environment or continued unpredictable and unstable market conditions. If the current equity and credit markets deteriorate, or do not improve, it may make any necessary debt or equity financing more difficult, more costly, and more dilutive. Failure to secure any necessary financing in a timely manner and on favorable terms could have a material adverse effect on our growth strategy, financial performance and stock price and could require us to delay or abandon clinical development plans. In addition, there is a risk that one or more of our current service providers, manufacturers and other partners may not survive these difficult economic times, which could directly affect our ability to attain our operating goals on schedule and on budget.
As of December 31, 2021, we had cash and cash equivalents of approximately $38.5 million. While we are not aware of any downgrades, material losses or other significant deterioration in the fair value of our cash equivalents since December 31, 2021, no assurance can be given that further deterioration of the global credit and financial markets would not negatively impact our current portfolio of cash equivalents or our ability to meet our financing objectives. Furthermore, our stock price may decline due in part to the volatility of the stock market and the general economic downturn.
Risks related to government regulation
We are very early in our development efforts. All of our product candidates will require significant additional preclinical and clinical development before we seek regulatory approval of our therapeutic product candidates or identify alternate regulatory pathways to market for our non-therapeutic products and launch a product commercially. If we are unable to advance our product candidates to clinical development, obtain regulatory approval and ultimately commercialize our product candidates or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
We are very early in our development efforts and we have invested substantially all of our efforts and financial resources in the identification and early clinical development of MMT candidates, including the development of our initial product candidates. Our ability to generate product revenues, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend on the successful development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates, which may never occur. We currently generate no revenue from sales of any products, and we may never be able to develop or commercialize a marketable product. The success of our product candidates will depend on several factors, including, but not limited to, the following:
If we do not achieve one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully commercialize our product candidates, which would materially harm our business. If we do not receive regulatory approvals or identify alternate regulatory pathways to market for our product candidates, we may not be able to continue our operations.
Regulatory requirements for development of our MMT candidates as drugs and non-drugs are uncertain and evolving. Changes in these laws, including our ability to conduct clinical studies, or the current interpretation or application of these laws would have a significant adverse impact on our ability to develop and commercialize our products.
In the United States, under sections 201(s) and 409 of the FD&C Act, any substance that is reasonably expected to become a component of food is considered to be a food additive, and therefore subject to FDA premarket review and approval, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use. We believe that our initial product candidates are safe for clinical studies, based on initial safety assessments conducted by third-party qualified experts and because they are related to a class of compounds that is GRAS based on their history of safe human exposure, when utilized for particular uses as food substances. As a result, we believe we may use our product candidates to conduct clinical studies in order to evaluate safety, tolerability and biomarkers for non-drug applications in advance of deciding whether or not to file an IND. The FDA may determine that our MMT candidates are not governed by food regulations and therefore may classify any product candidates as being ineligible for use in studies without an IND. The FDA or other regulatory authorities may also take enforcement action, or otherwise delay or prevent further development or commercialization of our product candidates.
The FDA may determine that our product candidates cannot be marketed as or do not meet the regulatory requirements for marketing or testing as conventional foods or medical foods. The FDA may not agree the products meet the medical food definition or the agency may take the position that we failed to satisfy the premarket authorization requirements for GRAS ingredients or new dietary ingredients. Moreover, if we choose to study a product under an IND before the product candidate has been marketed as a food, the first to market provisions of Section 301(ll) could prevent us from marketing the product as a food if we are unable to secure FDA approval as a new drug. Any delay in the regulatory consultation process, or a determination that any of our drug or food product candidates do not meet the regulatory requirements of the FDA, including any applicable GRAS requirements, could subject the company to regulatory enforcement action, cause a delay in the commercialization of our product candidates, which may lead to reduced acceptance by the public or others, and/or may result in some or all of our products may be deemed adulterated or misbranded in violation of the FD&C Act, any or all of which may lead to reduced acceptance by the public or others for any products we are able to commercialize and could materially adversely affect our business.
The FDA may determine that the only pathway for conducting clinical studies is under an IND. Any such determination could prevent our reliance on existing regulatory frameworks to conduct clinical studies for other product candidates and could significantly increase the cost of and delay the commercialization of our product candidates for therapeutic applications. If the FDA were to disagree with our determination that we may conduct clinical studies in advance of filing an IND, they could ask us to halt any clinical trials we have commenced. For example, on August 27, 2021 we received a warning letter from the FDA for failure to submit an IND prior to conducting two clinical studies., K031 and K032, of KB109 in subjects with COVID-19. The warning letter followed receipt of a Form FDA 483 that was provided to us in March 2021 at the conclusion of a clinical inspection. The Form FDA 483 and warning letter were each based on a single observation that we failed to submit an IND for the conduct of these studies.
Should we choose to commercialize our food products, whether as conventional foods or medical foods, and if the FDA determines our product candidates fall outside the food regulations, we may be subject to regulatory enforcement action and the agency could ask us to stop selling, withdraw, recall, re-label or repackage any products we have commercialized as foods or non-drug products from the market. In addition, if new safety issues are raised by clinical studies in advance of deciding whether to file an IND that suggest safety concerns for all of our product candidates, then FDA could ask us to modify approved labeling for or withdraw from the market any previously approved products for therapeutic uses or products being commercialized for other non-drug uses. A decision by the FDA that we cannot conduct clinical studies in advance of filing an IND would significantly impact our current business model and we may incur significant expense and operational difficulties.
Changes in the legal and regulatory environment could limit our future business activities, increase our operating or regulatory costs, reduce demand for our product candidates or result in litigation.
The conduct of our business, including the development, testing, production, storage, distribution, sale, display, advertising, marketing, labeling, health and safety practices, and possible regulatory classification and approval (where necessary) use of many of our product candidates, are subject to various laws and regulations administered by federal, state and local governmental agencies in the United States, as well as to laws and regulations administered by government entities and agencies outside the United States in markets in which our products candidates and components thereof (such as packaging) may be manufactured or sold.
These laws and regulations and interpretations thereof may change, sometimes dramatically, as a result of a variety of factors, including political, economic or social events. Such changes may include, but are not limited to, changes in:
New laws, regulations or governmental policy and their related interpretations, or changes in any of the foregoing, may alter the environment in which we do business and, therefore, may impact our operating results or increase our costs or liabilities.
Inadequate funding for the FDA, the SEC and other US and non US government agencies could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, prevent new products and services from being developed or commercialized in a timely manner or otherwise prevent those agencies from performing normal business functions on which the operation of our business may rely, which could negatively impact our business.
The ability of the FDA to review and approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and statutory, regulatory, and policy changes. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of the SEC and other government agencies on which our operations may rely, including those that fund research and development activities is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable.
Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new drugs to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the SEC, have had to furlough critical FDA, SEC and other government employees and stop critical activities. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Further, in our operations as a public company, future government shutdowns could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.
We may rely on academic and private non-academic institutions to conduct investigator-sponsored clinical studies or trials of our product candidates. Any failure by the investigator-sponsor to meet its obligations with respect to the clinical development of our product candidates may delay or impair our ability to obtain regulatory approval or commercialize for other product candidates.
We may rely on academic and private non-academic institutions to conduct and sponsor clinical studies or trials relating to our product candidates. We will not control the design or conduct of the investigator-sponsored trials, and it is possible that the FDA or non-U.S. regulatory authorities will not view these investigator-sponsored studies or trials as providing adequate support for future clinical trials, whether controlled by us or independent investigators, for any one or more reasons, including elements of the design or execution of the trials or safety concerns or other trial results.
Such arrangements will likely provide us certain information rights with respect to the investigator-sponsored studies or trials, including access to and the ability to use and reference the data, including for our own regulatory filings, resulting from the investigator-sponsored studies or trials. However, we would not have control over the timing and reporting of the data from investigator-sponsored trials, nor would we own the data from the investigator-sponsored studies or trials. If we are unable to confirm or replicate the results from the investigator-sponsored studies or trials or if negative results are obtained, we would likely be further delayed or prevented from advancing further clinical development of our product candidates. Further, if investigators or institutions breach their obligations with respect to the clinical development of our product candidates, or if the data proves to be inadequate compared to the first-hand knowledge we might have gained had the investigator-sponsored studies or trials been sponsored and conducted by us, then our ability to design and conduct any future clinical trials ourselves may be adversely affected.
Additionally, the FDA or non-U.S. regulatory authorities may disagree with the sufficiency of our right of reference to the preclinical, manufacturing or clinical data generated by these investigator-sponsored studies or trials or our interpretation of preclinical, manufacturing or clinical data from these investigator-sponsored studies or trials. If so, the FDA or other non-U.S. regulatory authorities may require us to obtain and submit additional preclinical, manufacturing or clinical data before we may initiate our planned clinical trials and/or may not accept such additional data as adequate to initiate our planned clinical trials. In addition, it could limit or prevent our ability to commercialize product candidates for non-therapeutic uses.
Obtaining and maintaining regulatory approval of our product candidates for therapeutic indications or the ability to commercialize our product candidates through an alternate regulatory pathway in one jurisdiction does not mean that we will be successful in obtaining regulatory approval or identifying a similar alternate regulatory pathway for our product candidates in other jurisdictions.
Obtaining and maintaining regulatory approval for therapeutic indications or identifying an alternate regulatory pathway for our product candidates in one jurisdiction does not guarantee that we will be able to obtain or maintain regulatory approval or identify a similar alternate regulatory pathway in any other jurisdiction, while a failure or delay in obtaining regulatory approval or an alternate regulatory in one jurisdiction may have a negative effect on the regulatory approval process in others. For example, even if the FDA grants marketing approval of a product
candidate for therapeutic indications, comparable regulatory authorities in foreign jurisdictions must also approve the manufacturing, marketing and promotion of the product candidate in those countries. Approval procedures vary among jurisdictions and can involve requirements and administrative review periods different from, and greater than, those in the United States, including additional preclinical studies, clinical studies and clinical trials conducted in one jurisdiction may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions outside the United States, a product candidate must be approved for reimbursement before it can be approved for sale in that jurisdiction. In some cases, the price that we intend to charge for our products is also subject to approval.
Preclinical and clinical development is uncertain. Our preclinical programs, clinical studies and clinical trials may experience delays or may never advance to the next stage of development, which would adversely affect our ability to obtain regulatory approvals or identify alternate regulatory pathways to commercialize these programs on a timely basis or at all, which would have an adverse effect on our business.
Our product candidates are in preclinical stages, and their risk of failure is high. To proceed with our development plans and ultimately commercialization, we may be required to conduct preclinical, clinical studies or clinical trials. For therapeutic applications, the FDA or non-US regulatory authorities may require additional extensive preclinical studies. 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, including the design, dose level, and dose regimen, or if the outcome of our preclinical testing and studies will ultimately support the further development of our clinical programs for therapeutic indications. As a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to submit INDs or similar applications in the case of product candidates for which we pursue a drug pathway or comply with any other regulatory requirements where necessary for commercialization and marketing of drugs or non-drug products 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, be completed or have their data used to support commercialization and required regulatory approvals. We also cannot be certain if our testing and studies will provide support for the further development of product candidates as non-drug products or support for any associated product claims made, and, as a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to successfully pursue alternative regulatory pathways to commercialization as non-drug product for some or all of our product candidates.
If we are not able to obtain, or if there are delays in obtaining, required regulatory approvals for our product candidates for therapeutic indications, we will not be able to commercialize, or will be delayed in commercializing, our product candidates, and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired.
Our product candidates and the activities associated with their development and commercialization for therapeutic indications, including their design, testing, manufacture, safety, efficacy, recordkeeping, labeling, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale, distribution, import and export are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory agencies in the United States and by comparable authorities in other countries. Before we can commercialize any of our product candidates for therapeutic indications, we must obtain marketing approval. We have not received approval to market any of our product candidates from regulatory authorities in any jurisdiction and it is possible that none of our product candidates or any product candidates we may seek to develop in the future will ever obtain regulatory approval. We, as a company, have no experience in filing and supporting the applications necessary to gain regulatory approvals for therapeutic indications and expect to rely on third-party CROs and/or regulatory consultants to assist us in this process. Securing regulatory approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to the various regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the drug candidate’s safety and efficacy.
Securing regulatory approval for therapeutic indications also requires the submission of information about the drug manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the relevant regulatory authority. Our product candidates may not be effective, may be only moderately effective or may prove to have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that may preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use.
The process of obtaining regulatory approvals for therapeutic indications, both in the United States and abroad, is expensive, may take many years if additional clinical trials are required, if approval is obtained at all, and can vary substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity and novelty of the product candidates involved. Changes in marketing approval policies during the development period, changes in or the enactment of
additional statutes or regulations, or changes in regulatory review for each submitted IND, NDA or equivalent application types, may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application. The FDA and comparable authorities in other countries have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or may decide that our data are insufficient for approval and require additional preclinical, clinical or other studies. Our product candidates could be delayed in receiving, or fail to receive, regulatory approval for many reasons, including the following:
Of the large number of drugs in development, only a small percentage successfully complete the FDA or foreign regulatory approval processes and are commercialized. The lengthy approval process as well as the unpredictability of future clinical trial results may result in our failing to obtain regulatory approval to market our product candidates, which would significantly harm our business, results of operations and prospects.
We expect the novel nature of our product candidates to create further challenges in obtaining regulatory approval. As a result, our ability to develop product candidates and obtain regulatory approval for therapeutic indications may be significantly impacted.
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 for therapeutic indications. The opinion of the Advisory Committee, although not binding, may have a significant impact on our ability to obtain approval of any product candidates that we develop based on the completed clinical trials.
In addition, even if we were to obtain approval, regulatory authorities may approve any of our product candidates for fewer or more limited therapeutic indications than we request, may include limitations for use or contraindications that limit the suitable patient population, may not approve the price we intend to charge for our products, may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials or may approve a product candidate with a label that does not include the labeling claims necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of that product candidate. Any of the foregoing scenarios could materially harm the commercial prospects for our product candidates.
If we experience delays in obtaining approval or if we fail to obtain approval of our product candidates, the commercial prospects for our product candidates may be harmed and our ability to generate revenues will be materially impaired.
Our product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial profile of an approved label or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.
Undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates could cause us to interrupt, delay or halt preclinical studies or clinical studies or could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical studies or trials and could result in a more restrictive clinical label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or other regulatory authorities for our product candidates for therapeutic indications. Results of our clinical studies or trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects. In such an event, our clinical studies or 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. Additionally, our regulators could require significant modifications or amendments to ongoing clinical studies or trials that limit the available study population or lead to withdrawal of participation by already enrolled subjects. Any study-related side effects could affect subject recruitment or the ability of enrolled subjects to complete the study or trial or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Further, clinical studies or trials by their nature utilize a sample of the potential study population. With a limited number of subjects and limited duration of exposure, rare and severe side effects of our product candidates may only be uncovered with a significantly larger number of subjects exposed to the product candidate. If our product candidates receive marketing approval for therapeutic indications and we or others identify undesirable side effects caused by such product candidates (or any other similar drugs) after such approval, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, up to and including the withdrawal by regulatory authorities of their approval of such product candidate.
Breakthrough Therapy Designation, Fast Track Designation or Rare Pediatric Disease Designation by the FDA, and equivalents granted by other regulatory authorities, even if granted for any of our product candidates developed for therapeutic indications, may not lead to a faster development, regulatory review or approval process, and it does not increase the likelihood that any of our product candidates will receive marketing approval in any jurisdiction.
We may seek a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for some of our product candidates. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a therapy that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other therapies, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the therapy may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. For therapies that have been designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor of the trial can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens. Therapies designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA may also be eligible for priority review and accelerated approval. Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe one of our product candidates meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. In any event, the receipt of a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for a product candidate may not result in a faster development process, review or approval compared to therapies considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates qualify as breakthrough therapies, the FDA may later decide that such product candidates no longer meet the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.
We may seek Fast Track Designation for some of our product candidates for therapeutic indications. If a therapy is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and the therapy demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for this condition, the therapy sponsor may apply for Fast Track Designation. The FDA has broad discretion whether or not to grant this designation, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for this designation; we cannot assure you that the FDA would decide to grant it. Even if we do receive Fast Track Designation, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. The FDA may withdraw Fast Track Designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program. Fast Track Designation alone does not guarantee qualification for the FDA’s priority review procedures.
We may seek Rare Pediatric Disease Designation and conditional designation of our marketing application as a “rare pediatric disease product application” for some of our product candidates for therapeutic indications, which, if granted, could qualify us to receive a Rare Pediatric Priority Review Voucher. The FDA has broad discretion whether or not to grant this designation, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for this designation, we cannot assure you that the FDA would decide to grant it and determination whether to issue such a voucher is made by FDA only at the time of its review and approval of a marketing application. A Rare Pediatric Priority Review Voucher can be redeemed to receive a priority review of a subsequent marketing application for a different product.
We may seek priority review designation for one or more of our product candidates for therapeutic indications, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not lead to a faster regulatory review or approval process.
If the FDA determines that a product candidate offers a treatment for a serious condition and, if approved, the product would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness, the FDA may designate the product candidate for priority review. A priority review designation means that the goal for the FDA to review an application is six months, rather than the standard review period of ten months. We may request priority review for our product candidates. The FDA has broad discretion with respect to whether or not to grant priority review status to a product candidate, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for such designation or status, the FDA may decide not to grant it. Moreover, a priority review designation does not necessarily result in an expedited regulatory review or approval process or necessarily confer any advantage with respect to approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. Receiving priority review from the FDA does not guarantee approval within the six-month review cycle or at all.
We may fail to obtain and maintain orphan drug designations from the FDA or the EMA for our current and future therapeutic product candidates, as applicable.
Our strategy includes filing for orphan drug designation where available for our product candidates for therapeutic indications that are eligible. In the United States, under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan drug designation to a drug or biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is defined as one occurring in a patient population of fewer than 200,000 in the United States, or a patient population greater than 200,000 in the United States where there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing the drug or biologic will be recovered from sales in the United States. In the United States, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives, such as opportunities for grant funding toward clinical trial costs, tax advantages and user-fee waivers. In addition, if a product that has orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications, including an NDA, to market the same drug or biologic for the same indication for seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan drug exclusivity or where the original manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient product quantity.
In addition, exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be limited if we seek approval for an indication broader than the orphan-designated indication or may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if we are unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the orphan-designated disease or condition. Further, even if we obtain orphan drug exclusivity for a product, that exclusivity may not effectively protect the product from competition because different drugs with different active moieties may receive and be approved for the same condition, and only the first applicant to receive approval will receive the benefits of marketing exclusivity. Even after an orphan-designated product is approved, the FDA can subsequently approve a later drug with the same active moiety for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the later drug is clinically superior if it is shown to be safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. Orphan drug designation neither shortens the development time or regulatory review time of a drug, nor gives the drug any advantage in the regulatory review or approval process. In addition, while we may seek orphan drug designation for our product candidates, we may never receive such designations.
In the European Union, the EMA’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products grants orphan drug designation to the development of products that are intended for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition affecting not more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union. Additionally, designation is granted for products intended for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of a life-threatening, seriously debilitating or serious and chronic condition when, without incentives, it is unlikely that sales of the drug in the European Union would be sufficient to justify the necessary investment in developing the drug or biological product or where there is no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment, or, if such a method exists, the medicine must be of significant benefit to those affected by the condition.
In the European Union, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as reductions of fees or fee waivers. In addition, ten years of market exclusivity is granted following drug product approval, meaning that another application for marketing authorization of a later similar medicinal product for the same indication will generally not be approved in the European Union. This period may be reduced to six years if the orphan designation criteria are no longer met, including where it is shown that the product is not sufficiently profitable to justify maintenance of market exclusivity. The market exclusivity period is extended by two additional years for an orphan-designated condition when the results of specific studies are reflected in the summary of product characteristics addressing the pediatric population and completed in accordance with a fully compliant pediatric investigation plan.
Even if we receive regulatory approval of any product candidates for therapeutic indications, or commercialize our product candidates as non-drug products, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory compliance obligations or continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense. Additionally, any of our product candidates, if approved or commercialized, could be subject to labeling and other restrictions and market withdrawal and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our product candidates.
If any of our product candidates are developed as drug product candidates and approved for therapeutic indications or are commercialized as non-drug products, they will be subject to ongoing regulatory requirements for manufacturing, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, quality, safety, sale, marketing, advertising, promotion, sampling, record-keeping, export, import, conduct of post-marketing studies and submission of safety, efficacy or other post-market information. Such requirements may be imposed as federal and state requirements in the United States and or by comparable foreign regulatory authorities. In addition, we will be subject to continued compliance with cGMP requirements as applicable to drugs and non-drug products and GCP requirements for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval, if applicable.
The FDA or other regulatory authorities may take regulatory enforcement or other legal action or, in the case of drugs, may impose consent decrees or withdraw approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market.
We also cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative or executive action, either in the United States or abroad. For example, certain policies of the current administration may impact our business and industry. Namely, the current administration has taken several executive actions, including the issuance of a number of executive orders, that could impose significant burdens on, or otherwise materially delay, the FDA’s ability to engage in routine regulatory and oversight activities, such as implementing statutes through rulemaking, issuance of guidance and review and approval of marketing applications. It is difficult to predict how these executive actions, including any executive orders, will be implemented, and the extent to which they will impact the FDA’s ability to exercise its regulatory authority. If these executive actions impose constraints on the FDA’s ability to engage in oversight and implementation activities in the normal course, our business may be negatively impacted. In addition, if we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained, where applicable, our ability to continue to market and sell our products, and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
Non-compliance by us or any future collaborator with regulatory requirements, including safety monitoring or pharmacovigilance requirements, where applicable, can also result in significant financial penalties.
Healthcare insurance coverage and reimbursement may be limited or unavailable in certain market segments for our product candidates, if approved, which could make it difficult for us to sell any product candidates or therapies profitably.
The success of our product candidates, if approved for therapeutic indications, depends on the availability of adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors. In addition, because our product candidates represent new approaches to the treatment of the diseases they target, we cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for, or accurately estimate the potential revenue from, our product candidates or assure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for any product that we may develop.
Healthcare insurance often does not cover foods or medical foods administered outside of the hospital setting. This may impact our products if we decide to commercialize them as medical food, which is required to be administered under medical supervision.
Payors, whether domestic or foreign, or governmental or private, are developing increasingly sophisticated methods of controlling healthcare costs and those methods are not always specifically adapted for new technologies such as those we are developing.
In both the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes to the health care system that could impact our ability to sell our products profitably. Among policy-makers and payers in the United States and elsewhere, there is significant interest in promoting changes in healthcare systems with the stated goals of containing healthcare costs, improving quality and/or expanding access to healthcare. In the United States, the pharmaceutical industry has been a particular focus of these efforts and has been significantly affected by major legislative initiatives. There have been, and likely will continue to be, legislative and regulatory proposals at the federal and state levels directed at broadening the availability of healthcare and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare. See section entitled “Business – Government Regulation– Current and Future Healthcare Reform Legislation.”
The continuing efforts of the government, insurance companies, managed care organizations and other payers of healthcare services to contain or reduce costs of healthcare may adversely affect:
Legislative and regulatory proposals have been made to expand post-approval requirements and restrict sales and promotional activities for pharmaceutical and biologic products. We cannot be sure whether additional legislative changes will be enacted, or whether FDA regulations, guidance or interpretations will be changed, or what the impact of such changes on the marketing approvals of our product candidates, if any, may be. In addition, increased scrutiny by Congress of the FDA’s approval process may significantly delay or prevent marketing approval, as well as subject us to more stringent product labeling and post-marketing testing and other requirements.
Moreover, increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payors in the United States and abroad to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and the level of reimbursement for newly approved products and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment for our product candidates. There has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug
pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs.
We expect that the healthcare reform measures that have been adopted and may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved product and could seriously harm our future revenues. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability or commercialize our products.
European Union drug marketing and reimbursement regulations may materially affect our ability to market and receive coverage for our therapeutic products in the European member states.
We may seek approval to market our product candidates in both the United States and in selected foreign jurisdictions. If we obtain approval in one or more foreign jurisdictions for our product candidates, we will be subject to rules and regulations in those jurisdictions. In some foreign countries, particularly those in the European Union, the pricing of pharmaceutical products is subject to governmental control and other market regulations which could put pressure on the pricing and usage of our product candidates. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after obtaining marketing approval of a product candidate. In addition, market acceptance and sales of our product candidates will depend significantly on the availability of adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors for our product candidates and may be affected by existing and future healthcare reform measures. In some countries, we may also be required to conduct a clinical trial or other studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of any of our product candidates to other available therapies in order to obtain or maintain reimbursement or pricing approval. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for pharmaceutical products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our products.
Much like the Anti-Kickback Statute prohibition in the United States, the provision of benefits or advantages to physicians to induce or encourage the prescription, recommendation, endorsement, purchase, supply, order or use of medicinal products is also prohibited in the European Union. The provision of benefits or advantages to physicians is governed by the national anti-bribery laws of European Union Member States, such as the UK Bribery Act 2010. Infringement of these laws could result in substantial fines and imprisonment.
Payments made to physicians in certain European Union Member States must be publicly disclosed. Moreover, agreements with physicians often must be the subject of prior notification and approval by the physician’s employer, his or her competent professional organization and/or the regulatory authorities of the individual European Union Member States. These requirements are provided in the national laws, industry codes or professional codes of conduct, applicable in the European Union Member States. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in reputational risk, public reprimands, administrative penalties, fines or imprisonment.
Failure to comply with health and data protection laws and regulations could lead to government enforcement actions (which could include civil or criminal penalties), private litigation or adverse publicity and could negatively affect our operating results and business.
We and any potential collaborators may be subject to federal, state and foreign data protection laws and regulations (i.e., laws and regulations that address privacy and data security). In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including federal health information privacy laws, state data breach notification laws, state health information privacy laws and federal and state consumer protection laws (e.g., Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act), that govern the collection, use, disclosure and protection of health-related and other personal information could apply to our operations or the operations of our collaborators. For instance, California recently enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which creates new individual privacy rights for California consumers (as defined in the law) and places increased privacy and security obligations on entities handling personal data of consumers or households. The CCPA requires covered companies to provide certain disclosures to consumers about its data collection, use and sharing practices, and to provide affected California residents with ways
to opt-out of certain sales or transfers of personal information. The CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020, and the California Attorney General commenced enforcement actions against violators beginning July 1, 2020. As currently written, the CCPA may impact our business activities; however, there continues to be uncertainty about how the law will be interpreted and enforced. The uncertainty surrounding the implementation of CCPA exemplifies the vulnerability of our business to the evolving regulatory environment related to personal data and protected health information.
In addition, we may obtain health information from third parties (including research institutions from which we obtain Clinical Trial data) that are subject to privacy and security requirements under HIPAA, as amended by HITECH. Depending on the facts and circumstances, we could be subject to civil, criminal and administrative penalties if we knowingly obtain, use or disclose individually identifiable health information maintained by a HIPAA-covered entity in a manner that is not authorized or permitted by HIPAA. HIPAA requires covered entities and business associates to develop and maintain policies and procedures with respect to Protected Health Information, or PHI, that is used or disclosed, including the adoption of administrative, physical and technical safeguards to protect such information and ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic PHI. HIPAA also implemented the use of standard transaction code sets and standard identifiers that covered entities must use when submitting or receiving certain electronic healthcare transactions, including activities associated with the billing and collection of healthcare claims. The United States Office of Civil Rights may impose penalties on a covered entity for a failure to comply with a requirement of HIPAA. Penalties will vary significantly depending on factors such as the date of the violation, whether the covered entity knew or should have known of the failure to comply, or whether the covered entity’s failure to comply was due to willful neglect. These penalties include significant civil monetary penalties, criminal penalties and, in certain instances, imprisonment. HIPAA also authorizes state attorneys general to file suit on behalf of their residents. Courts may award damages, costs and attorneys’ fees related to violations of HIPAA in such cases. While HIPAA does not create a private right of action allowing individuals to sue us in civil court for violations of HIPAA, its standards have been used as the basis for duty of care in state civil suits such as those for negligence or recklessness in the misuse or breach of PHI. Furthermore, in the event of a breach as defined by HIPAA, the covered entity has specific reporting requirements under HIPAA regulations. In the event of a significant breach, the reporting requirements could include notification to the general public. Enforcement activity can result in reputational harm, and responses to such enforcement activity can consume significant internal resources. Additionally, if we are unable to properly protect the privacy and security of PHI, we could be found to have breached our contracts. Determining whether PHI has been handled in compliance with applicable privacy standards and our contractual obligations can be complex and we cannot be sure how these regulations will be interpreted, enforced or applied to our operations.
Compliance with U.S. and international data protection laws and regulations could require us to take on more onerous obligations in our contracts, restrict our ability to collect, use and disclose data or, in some cases, impact our ability to operate in certain jurisdictions. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations could result in government enforcement actions (which could include civil, criminal and administrative penalties), private litigation or adverse publicity and could negatively affect our operating results and business. Moreover, clinical study and clinical trial subjects, employees and other individuals about whom we or our potential collaborators obtain personal information, as well as the providers who share this information with us, may limit our ability to collect, use and disclose the information. Claims that we have violated individuals' privacy rights, failed to comply with data protection laws, or breached our contractual obligations, even if we are not found liable, could be expensive and time-consuming to defend and could result in adverse publicity that could harm our business.
European data collection is governed by restrictive regulations governing the use, processing, and cross-border transfer of personal information.
The collection and use of personal health data in the European Union is governed by the provisions of the Data Protection Directive, and as of May 2018 the GDPR. These directives impose several requirements relating to the consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, the information provided to the individuals, notification of data processing obligations to the competent national data protection authorities and the security and confidentiality of the personal data. The Data Protection Directive and GDPR also impose strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the European Union to the United States. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, the GDPR, and the related national data protection laws of the European Union Member States may result in fines and other administrative penalties. The GDPR introduces new data protection requirements in the European Union and substantial fines for breaches of the data protection rules. The GDPR regulations may impose additional responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process, and we may be required to put in
place additional mechanisms ensuring compliance with the new data protection rules. This may be onerous and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Following the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union on January 31, 2020, the GDPR ceased to apply in the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020. However, as of January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom’s European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 incorporated the GDPR (as it existed on December 31, 2020 but subject to certain UK specific amendments) into United Kingdom law (referred to as the ‘UK GDPR’). The UK GDPR and the UK Data Protection Act 2018 set out the UK’s data protection regime, which is independent from but aligned to the European Union’s data protection regime. Non-compliance with the UK GDPR may result in monetary penalties of up to £17.5 million or 4% of worldwide revenue, whichever is higher. Although the United Kingdom is regarded as a third country under the EU GDPR, the European Commission has now issued a decision recognizing the United Kingdom as providing adequate protection under the EU GDPR and, therefore, transfers of personal data originating in the EEA to the United Kingdom remain unrestricted. Like the EU GDPR, the UK GDPR restricts personal data transfers outside the United Kingdom to countries not regarded by the United Kingdom as providing adequate protection. The United Kingdom government has confirmed that personal data transfers from the United Kingdom to the European Economic Area remain free flowing.
Laws and regulations governing any international operations we may have in the future may preclude us from developing, manufacturing and selling certain products outside of the United States and require us to develop and implement costly compliance programs.
If we expand our operations outside of the United States, we must dedicate additional resources to comply with numerous laws and regulations in each jurisdiction in which we plan to operate. The FCPA prohibits any U.S. individual or business from paying, offering, authorizing payment or offering of anything of value, directly or indirectly, to any foreign official, political party or candidate for the purpose of influencing any act or decision of the foreign entity in order to assist the individual or business in obtaining or retaining business. The FCPA also obligates companies whose securities are listed in the United States to comply with certain accounting provisions requiring the company to maintain books and records that accurately and fairly reflect all transactions of the corporation, including international subsidiaries, and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls for international operations.
Compliance with the FCPA is expensive and difficult, particularly in countries in which corruption is a recognized problem. In addition, the FCPA presents particular challenges in the pharmaceutical industry, because, in many countries, hospitals are operated by the government, and doctors and other hospital employees are considered foreign officials. Certain payments to hospitals in connection with clinical trials and other work have been deemed to be improper payments to government officials and have led to FCPA enforcement actions.
Various laws, regulations and executive orders also restrict the use and dissemination outside of the United States, or the sharing with certain non-U.S. nationals, of information classified for national security purposes, as well as certain products and technical data relating to those products. If we expand our presence outside of the United States, it will require us to dedicate additional resources to comply with these laws, and these laws may preclude us from developing, manufacturing, or selling certain products and product candidates outside of the United States, which could limit our growth potential and increase our development costs.
The failure to comply with laws governing international business practices may result in substantial civil and criminal penalties and suspension or debarment from government contracting. The SEC also may suspend or bar issuers from trading securities on U.S. exchanges for violations of the FCPA’s accounting provisions.
We are subject to certain U.S. and foreign anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, export control, sanctions, and other trade laws and regulations. We can face serious consequences for violations.
Among other matters, U.S. and foreign anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, export control, sanctions, and other trade laws and regulations, which are collectively referred to as Trade Laws, prohibit companies and their employees, agents, clinical research organizations, legal counsel, accountants, consultants, contractors, and other partners from authorizing, promising, offering, providing, soliciting, or receiving directly or indirectly, corrupt or improper payments or anything else of value to or from recipients in the public or private sector. Violations of Trade Laws can result in substantial criminal fines and civil penalties, imprisonment, the loss of trade privileges, debarment, tax reassessments, breach of contract and fraud litigation, reputational harm, and other consequences. We have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies or government-affiliated hospitals, universities, and other organizations. We also expect our non-U.S. activities to increase in time. We plan to engage third parties for clinical trials and/or to obtain necessary permits, licenses, patent registrations, and other regulatory approvals and we can be held liable for the corrupt or other illegal activities of our personnel, agents, or partners, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have prior knowledge of such activities.
Changes in funding for the FDA, the SEC and other government agencies could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, prevent new products and services from being developed or commercialized in a timely manner or otherwise prevent those agencies from performing normal functions on which the operation of our business may rely, which could negatively impact our business.
The ability of the FDA to review and approve new products or take action with respect to other regulatory matters can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept payment of user fees and statutory, regulatory and policy changes. Average review times at the
agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of the SEC and other government agencies on which our operations may rely, including those that fund research and development activities is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable.
Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new drugs to be reviewed or approved, or for other actions to be taken, by relevant government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the SEC, have had to furlough critical FDA, SEC and other government employees and stop critical activities. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Similarly, a prolonged government shutdown could prevent the timely review of our patent applications by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, which could delay the issuance of any U.S. patents to which we might otherwise be entitled. Further, in our operations as a public company, future government shutdowns could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly execute our business plans.
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 proprietary product platform, our competitors could develop and commercialize products or technology similar or identical to ours, 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 product candidates, proprietary product platform and other technologies we may develop. We seek to protect our proprietary position by filing patent applications in the United States and abroad relating to our product candidates and proprietary product platform, as well as other technologies that are important to our business. Given that the development of our technology and product candidates is at an early stage, our intellectual property portfolio with respect to certain aspects of our technology and product candidates is also at an early stage. We have filed or intend to file patent applications on these aspects of our technology and our product candidates; however, there can be no assurance that any such patent applications will issue as granted patents. Furthermore, in some cases, we have only filed provisional patent applications on certain aspects of our technology and product candidates and each of these provisional patent applications is not eligible to become an issued patent until, among other things, we file a non-provisional patent application within 12 months of the filing date of the applicable provisional patent application. Any failure to file a non-provisional patent application within this timeline could cause us to lose the ability to obtain patent protection for the inventions disclosed in the associated provisional patent applications.
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 use. We cannot be certain, however, that the claims in our pending patent applications 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 issued patents 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 proprietary product platform, as well as other technologies that are important to our business, 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 the use of a product for the specified method. 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 or prosecute. 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 and proprietary product platform could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
If any of our owned patent applications do not issue as patents in any jurisdiction, we may not be able to compete effectively.
Changes in either the patent laws or their interpretation in the United States and other countries may diminish our ability to protect our inventions, obtain, maintain, and enforce our intellectual property rights and, more generally, could affect the value of our intellectual property or narrow the scope of our owned patents. With respect to our patent portfolio, as of March 31, 2021, our patent portfolio in total consisted of fifteen issued U.S. patents, four issued European patents, twenty-two issued patents in other jurisdictions (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore and South Africa), and approximately 115 pending non-provisional applications (U.S., EP and other jurisdictions), which include claims directed to compositions, methods of use, and manufacturing processes. With respect to owned intellectual property, we cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient protection from competitors or other third parties.
The patent prosecution process is expensive, time-consuming, and complex, and we may not be able to file, prosecute, maintain, enforce, or license all necessary or desirable patents and patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output in time to obtain patent protection. Although we enter into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to confidential or patentable aspects of our research and development output, such as our employees, corporate collaborators, outside scientific collaborators, CROs, contract manufacturers, consultants, advisors and other third parties, any of these parties may breach such agreements and disclose such output before a patent application is filed, thereby jeopardizing our ability to seek patent protection. In addition, our ability to obtain and maintain valid and enforceable patents depends on whether the differences between our inventions and the prior art allow our inventions to be patentable over the prior art. Furthermore, publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, or in some cases not at all. Therefore, we cannot be certain that we were the first to make the inventions claimed in any of our owned or pending patent applications, or that we were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions.
If the scope of any patent protection we obtain is not sufficiently broad, or if we lose any of our patent protection, our ability to prevent our competitors from commercializing similar or identical technology and product candidates would be adversely affected.
The patent position of healthcare companies generally is highly uncertain, involves complex legal and factual questions, and has been the subject of much litigation in recent years. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability, and commercial value of our patent rights are highly uncertain. Our owned pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued which protect our product candidates, proprietary product platform technology, or other technologies or which effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and product candidates.
No consistent policy regarding the scope of claims allowable in patents in the biotechnology field has emerged in the United States. The patent situation outside of the United States is even more uncertain. Changes in either the patent laws or their interpretation in the United States and other countries may diminish our ability to protect our inventions and enforce our intellectual property rights, and more generally could affect the value of our intellectual property. In particular, our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing products that infringe our intellectual property will depend in part on our success in obtaining and enforcing patent claims that cover our technology, inventions and improvements. With respect to company-owned intellectual property, we cannot be sure that patents will be granted with respect to any of our pending patent applications or with respect to any patent applications filed by us in the future, nor can we be sure that any of our existing patents or any patents that may be granted to us in the future will be commercially useful in protecting our products and the methods used to manufacture those products. Moreover, even our issued patents do not guarantee us the right to practice our technology in relation to the commercialization of our products. The area of patent and other intellectual property rights in biotechnology is an evolving one with many risks and uncertainties, and third parties may have blocking patents that could be used to prevent us from commercializing our patented product candidates and practicing our proprietary technology. Our issued patents and those that may issue in the future may be challenged, invalidated, or circumvented, which could limit our ability to stop competitors from marketing related products or limit the length of the term of patent protection that we may have for our product candidates. In addition, the rights granted under any issued patents may not provide us with protection or competitive advantages against competitors with similar technology. Furthermore, our competitors may independently develop similar technologies. For these reasons, we may have competition for our product candidates. Moreover, because of the extensive time required for development, testing and regulatory review of a potential product, it is possible that, before any particular product candidate can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in force for only a short period following commercialization, thereby reducing any advantage of the patent.
Moreover, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted after issuance. Even if patent applications we own issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent competitors or other third parties from competing with us, or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. Any patents that we own may be challenged, narrowed, circumvented, or invalidated by third parties. Consequently, we do not know whether our product candidates or other technologies will be protectable or remain protected by valid and enforceable patents. Our competitors or other third parties may be able to circumvent our patents by developing similar or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity, or enforceability, and patents that we own may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. We may be subject to a third party preissuance submission of prior art to the USPTO or to foreign patent authorities or become involved in opposition, derivation, revocation, reexamination, post-grant and inter partes review, or interference proceedings or other similar proceedings challenging our owned patent rights. An adverse determination in any such submission, proceeding or litigation could reduce the scope of, or invalidate or render unenforceable, our owned patent rights, allow third parties to commercialize our product candidates, proprietary product platform technologies or other technologies and compete directly with us, without payment to us, or result in our inability to manufacture or commercialize products without infringing third-party patent rights. Moreover, we may have to participate in interference proceedings declared by the USPTO to determine priority of invention or in post-grant challenge proceedings, such as oppositions in a foreign patent office, that challenge our priority of invention or other features of patentability with respect to our owned patents and patent applications. Such challenges may result in loss of patent rights, loss of exclusivity, or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated, or held unenforceable, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and products, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our product candidates, proprietary product platform and other technologies. Such proceedings also may result in substantial cost and require significant time from our scientists and management, even if the eventual outcome is favorable to us.
In addition, given the amount of time required for the development, testing, and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such product candidates might expire before or shortly after such product 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.
We may in the future co-own patent rights relating to future product candidates and our proprietary product platform with third parties. We may need the cooperation of any such co-owners of our patent rights in order to enforce such patent rights against third parties, and such cooperation may not be provided to us. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.
Our rights to develop and commercialize our product candidates and proprietary product platform may be subject, in part, to the terms and conditions of future licenses granted to us by others.
We may rely upon licenses to certain patent rights and proprietary technology from third parties that are important or necessary to the development of our product candidates and proprietary product platform. Patent rights that we in-license in the future may be subject to a reservation of rights by one or more third parties. As a result, any such third parties may have certain rights to such intellectual property.
In addition, subject to the terms of any such license agreements, we may not have the right to control the preparation, filing, prosecution and maintenance, and we may not have the right to control the enforcement, and defense of patents and patent applications covering the technology that we license from third parties. We cannot be certain that our in-licensed patent applications (and any patents issuing therefrom) that are controlled by our licensors will be prepared, filed, prosecuted, maintained, enforced, and defended in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business. If our licensors fail to prosecute, maintain, enforce, and defend such patents rights, or lose rights to those patent applications (or any patents issuing therefrom), the rights we have licensed may be reduced or eliminated, our right to develop and commercialize any of our product candidates and proprietary product platform technologies that are subject of such licensed rights could be adversely affected, and we may not be able to prevent competitors from making, using and selling competing products. Moreover, we cannot be certain that such activities by our potential future licensors will be conducted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations or will result in valid and enforceable patents or other intellectual property rights. In addition, even where we may have the right to control patent prosecution of patents and patent applications that we may license to and from third parties, we may still be adversely affected or prejudiced by actions or inactions of our potential future licensees, licensors and their counsel that took place prior to the date of assumption of control over patent prosecution.
We have limited foreign intellectual property rights and may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
Filing, prosecuting and defending patents on our product candidates, proprietary product platform technologies and other technologies in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and the laws of foreign countries may not protect our rights to the same extent as the laws of 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.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets, and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our intellectual property and proprietary rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our intellectual property and proprietary 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, could put 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 and proprietary rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.
Many countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties. In addition, many countries 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 are 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, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects may be adversely affected.
Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment, and other requirements imposed by government patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for non-compliance with these requirements.
Periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, annuity fees, and various other government fees on patents and applications will be due to be paid to the USPTO and various government patent agencies outside of the United States over the lifetime of our owned patents and applications. The USPTO and various non-U.S. government agencies require compliance with several procedural, documentary, fee payment, and other similar provisions during the patent application process. In some cases, an inadvertent lapse can be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules. There are situations, however, in which non-compliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in a partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, potential competitors might be able to enter the market with similar or identical products or technology, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Changes in U.S. patent law could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products.
Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of patent applications and the enforcement or defense of issued patents. Assuming that other requirements for patentability are met, prior to March 2013, in the United States, the first to invent the claimed invention was entitled to the patent, while outside the United States, the first to file a patent application was entitled to the patent. After March 2013, under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the America Invents Act, enacted in September 2011, the United States transitioned to a first inventor to file system in
which, assuming that other requirements for patentability are met, the first inventor to file a patent application will be entitled to the patent on an invention regardless of whether a third party was the first to invent the claimed invention. A third party that files a patent application in the USPTO after March 2013, but before us could therefore be awarded a patent covering an invention of ours even if we had made the invention before it was made by such third party. This will require us to be cognizant going forward of the time from invention to filing of a patent application. Since patent applications in the United States and most other countries are confidential for a period of time after filing or until issuance, we cannot be certain that we were the first to file any patent application related to our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies.
The America Invents Act also includes a number of significant changes that affect the way patent applications will be prosecuted and also may affect patent litigation. These include allowing third party submission of prior art to the USPTO during patent prosecution and additional procedures to attack the validity of a patent by USPTO administered post-grant proceedings, including post-grant review, inter partes review, and derivation proceedings. Because of a lower evidentiary standard in USPTO proceedings compared to the evidentiary standard in United States federal courts necessary to invalidate a patent claim, a third party could potentially provide evidence in a USPTO proceeding sufficient for the USPTO to hold a claim invalid even though the same evidence would be insufficient to invalidate the claim if first presented in a district court action. Accordingly, a third party may attempt to use the USPTO procedures to invalidate our patent claims that would not have been invalidated if first challenged by the third party as a defendant in a district court action. Therefore, the America Invents Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our owned patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our owned issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
In addition, the patent positions of companies in the development and commercialization of biologics and pharmaceuticals are particularly uncertain. 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. This combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the validity and enforceability of patents, once obtained. Depending on future actions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that could have a material adverse effect on our existing patent portfolio and our ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property in the future.
Issued patents covering our product candidates, and any patents that may issue covering our proprietary product platform technologies and other technologies, could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad.
If we or any of our third-party licensees, such as Midori Animal Health, which holds an exclusive license to certain of our patents in the field of non-human animal health, initiated legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering our product candidates, proprietary product platform technologies or other technologies, the defendant could counterclaim that such patent is invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Third parties may raise claims challenging the validity or enforceability of our owned patents before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, post-grant review, inter partes review, interference proceedings, derivation proceedings, and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions (e.g., opposition proceedings). Such proceedings could result in the revocation of, cancellation of, or amendment to our patents in such a way that they no longer cover our product candidates, proprietary product platform technologies, or other technologies. 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 and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a third party were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies. Such a loss of patent protection would have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
If we do not obtain patent term extension and/or data exclusivity for any product candidates we may develop, our business may be materially harmed.
Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of any FDA marketing approval of any product candidates we may develop, one or more of our owned U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Act. The Hatch-Waxman Act permits a patent term extension 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. Similar extensions as compensation for patent term lost during regulatory review processes are also available in certain foreign countries and territories, such as in Europe under a Supplementary Patent Certificate. However, we may not be granted an extension in the United States and/or foreign countries and territories 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 the term of any such extension is shorter than what 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.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship of our patents and other intellectual property.
We may be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other third parties have an interest in our owned patent rights, trade secrets, or other intellectual property as an inventor or co-inventor. For example, we may have inventorship disputes arise from conflicting obligations of employees, consultants or others who are involved in developing our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these and other claims challenging inventorship or our ownership of our owned patent rights, trade secrets or other intellectual property. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, intellectual property that is important to our product candidates, proprietary product platform and other technologies. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees. Any of the foregoing 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 seeking patents for our product candidates, proprietary product platform and other technologies, we also rely on trade secrets and confidentiality agreements to protect our unpatented know-how, technology, and other proprietary information and to maintain our competitive position. Trade secrets and know-how can be difficult to protect. We expect our trade secrets and know-how to over time be disseminated within the industry through independent development, the publication of journal articles describing the methodology, and the movement of personnel from academic to industry scientific positions.
We currently, and may continue in the future, rely on third parties to assist us in developing and manufacturing our product candidates. Accordingly, we must, at times, share know-how and trade secrets, including those related to our proprietary product platform, with them. We may in the future also enter into research and development collaborations with third parties that may require us to share know-how and trade secrets under the terms of our research and development partnerships or similar agreements. We seek to protect our know-how, trade secrets and other proprietary technology, in part, by entering into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, and including in our vendor and service agreements terms protecting our confidential information, know-how and trade secrets, with parties who have access to such information, such as our employees, scientific collaborators, CROs, contract manufacturers, consultants, advisors and other third parties. We also enter into confidentiality and invention or patent assignment agreements with our employees and consultants as well as train our employees not to bring or use proprietary information or technology from former employers to us or in their work, and we remind former employees when they leave their employment of their confidentiality obligations. However, we cannot guarantee that we have entered into such agreements with each party that may have or have had access to our trade secrets or proprietary technology and processes. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and other confidential information by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems.
Despite our efforts, any of the aforementioned parties may breach the agreements and disclose our proprietary information, including our trade secrets, or there may be a lapses or failures in our physical and electronic security systems which lead to our proprietary information being disclosed, and we may not be able to obtain adequate remedies in the event of any such breaches. Monitoring unauthorized uses and disclosures is difficult, and we do not know whether the steps we have taken to protect our proprietary technologies will be effective. If any of our scientific advisors, employees, contractors and consultants who are parties to these agreements breaches or violates the terms of any of these agreements, we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach or violation, and we could lose our trade secrets as a result. Moreover, if confidential information that is licensed or disclosed to us by our partners, collaborators, or others is inadvertently disclosed or subject to a breach or violation, we may be exposed to liability to the owner of that confidential information. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. In addition, some courts inside and outside the United States are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor or other third party, we would have no right to prevent them from using that technology or information to compete with us. If any of our trade secrets were to be disclosed to or independently developed by a competitor or other third party, our competitive position would be materially and adversely harmed.
We rely on our proprietary product platform to identify microbiome therapies. Our competitive position could be materially harmed if our competitors develop a similar platform and develop rival product candidates.
We rely on know-how, inventions and other proprietary information, to strengthen our competitive position. We consider know-how to be our primary intellectual property with respect to our proprietary product platform. Our clinical trials allow us to collect clinical data, which we use as a feedback loop to make improvements to our proprietary product platform. In particular, we anticipate that, with respect to the proprietary product platform, these data may over time be disseminated within the industry through independent development, the publication of journal articles describing the method, and the movement of skilled personnel.
We cannot rule out that our competitors may have or obtain the knowledge necessary to analyze and characterize similar data to our own data for the purpose of identifying and developing products that could compete with any of our product candidates. Our competitors may also have significantly greater financial, product development, technical, and human resources and access to date. Further, our competitors may have significantly greater experience in using translational science methods to identify and develop product candidates.
We may not be able to prohibit our competitors from using technology or methods that are the same as or similar to our proprietary product platform to develop their own product candidates. If our competitors develop associated therapies, our ability to develop and market a promising product or product candidate may diminish substantially, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, prospects and results of operations.
We may not be successful in obtaining, through acquisitions, in-licenses or otherwise, necessary rights to our product candidates, proprietary product platform technologies or other technologies.
We currently have rights to certain intellectual property, through licenses from third parties, to develop our product candidates and proprietary product platform technologies. Some healthcare companies and academic institutions are competing with us in the field of microbiome therapies and may have patents and have filed and are likely filing patent applications potentially relevant to our business. In order to avoid infringing these third-party patents, we may find it necessary or prudent to obtain licenses to such patents from such third-party intellectual property holders. We may also require licenses from third parties for certain technologies that we may evaluate for use with our current or future product candidates. However, we may be unable to secure such licenses or otherwise acquire or in-license any compositions, methods of use, processes, or other intellectual property rights from third parties that we identify as necessary for our current or future product candidates and our proprietary product platform at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, if at all. The licensing or acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and several more established companies may pursue strategies to license or acquire third party intellectual property rights that we may consider attractive or necessary. These established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, capital 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. We also may be unable to license or acquire third party intellectual property rights on terms that would allow us to make an appropriate return on our investment or at all.
In the event that we try to obtain rights to required third party intellectual property rights, and are ultimately unsuccessful, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to redesign our technology, product candidates, or the methods for manufacturing them 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 the affected product candidates or continue to utilize our existing proprietary product platform technology, which could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects significantly.
We may be subject to claims that our employees, consultants, or advisors have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade secrets of their current or former employers or claims asserting ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.
Many of our employees, consultants, and advisors are currently or were previously employed at universities or other healthcare companies, including our competitors and potential competitors. Although we try to ensure that our employees, consultants, and advisors do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or these individuals have used or disclosed intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such individual’s current or former employer. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management.
In addition, while it is our policy to require our employees and contractors who may be involved in the conception or development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who, in fact, conceives or develops intellectual property that we regard as our own. The assignment of intellectual property rights may not be self-executing, or the assignment agreements may be breached, and we may be forced to bring claims against third parties, or defend claims that they may bring against us, to determine the ownership of what we regard as our intellectual property. Such claims could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement, misappropriation or other violation against us or our collaborators may prevent or delay the development and commercialization of our product candidates, proprietary product platform and other technologies.
The field of developing therapeutics that target the microbiome is competitive and dynamic. Due to the focused research and development that is taking place by several companies, including us and our competitors, in this field, the intellectual property landscape is in flux, and it may remain uncertain in the future. As such, there may be significant intellectual property related litigation and proceedings relating to our owned, and other third party, intellectual property and proprietary rights in the future.
Our commercial success depends in part on our and our collaborators’ ability to avoid infringing, misappropriating and otherwise violating the patents and other intellectual property rights of third parties. There is a substantial amount of complex litigation involving patents and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as administrative proceedings for challenging patents, including interference, derivation and reexamination proceedings before the USPTO or oppositions and other comparable proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. As discussed above, due to changes in U.S. law referred to as patent reform, additional procedures including inter partes review and post-grant review have been implemented. As stated above, this reform adds uncertainty to the possibility of challenge to our patents in the future.
Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications owned by third parties exist relating to glycan technologies and 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, proprietary product platform technologies and other technologies may give rise to claims of infringement of the patent rights of others. We cannot be assured that our product candidates, proprietary product platform technologies and other technologies that we have developed, are developing or may develop in the future will not infringe existing or future patents owned by third parties. We may not be aware of patents that have already been issued and that a third party, for example, a competitor in the fields in which we are developing our product candidates, proprietary product platform and other technologies might assert are infringed by our current or future product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies, including claims to compositions, formulations,
methods of manufacture or methods of use or treatment that cover our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies. It is also possible that patents owned by third parties of which we are aware, but which we do not believe are relevant to our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies, could be found to be infringed by our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies. In addition, because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending patent applications that may later result in issued patents that our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies may infringe. We cannot provide any assurances that third-party patents do not exist which might be enforced against our current technology, including our proprietary product platform technologies, manufacturing methods, product candidates, or future methods or products resulting in either an injunction prohibiting our manufacture or future sales, or, with respect to our future sales, an obligation on our part to pay royalties and/or other forms of compensation to third parties, which could be significant.
Third parties may have patents or obtain patents in the future and claim that the manufacture, use or sale of our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies infringes upon these patents. In the event that any third-party claims that we infringe their patents or that we are otherwise employing their proprietary technology without authorization and initiates litigation against us, even if we believe such claims are without merit, a court of competent jurisdiction could hold that such patents are valid, enforceable and infringed by our product candidates, proprietary product platform or other technologies. In this case, the holders of such patents may be able to block our ability to commercialize the applicable product candidate or technology unless we obtain a license under the applicable patents, or until such patents expire or are finally determined to be held invalid or unenforceable. Such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we are able to obtain a license, the license would likely obligate us to pay license fees or royalties or both, and the rights granted to us might be non-exclusive, which could result in our competitors gaining access to the same intellectual property. If we are unable to obtain a necessary license to a third-party patent on commercially reasonable terms, we may be unable to commercialize our product candidates, proprietary product platform, or other technologies, or such commercialization efforts may be significantly delayed, which could in turn significantly harm our business.
Defense of infringement claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of management and other employee resources from our business, and may impact our reputation. In the event of a successful claim of infringement against us, we may be enjoined from further developing or commercializing our infringing product candidates, proprietary product platform, or other technologies. In addition, 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 and/or redesign our infringing product candidates or technologies, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure. In that event, we would be unable to further develop and commercialize our product candidates, proprietary product platform, or other technologies, which could harm our business significantly.
Engaging in litigation to defend against third parties alleging that we have infringed, misappropriated or otherwise violated their patents or other intellectual property rights is very expensive, particularly for a company of our size, and time-consuming. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of litigation or administrative proceedings more effectively than we can because of greater financial resources. Patent litigation and other proceedings may also absorb significant management time. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings against us could impair our ability to compete in the marketplace. The occurrence of any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents and other intellectual property rights, which could be expensive, time-consuming, and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe our patents, or we may be required to defend against claims of infringement. In addition, our patents also may become involved in inventorship, priority or validity disputes. To counter or defend against such claims can be expensive and time-consuming. In an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that a patent owned by us is invalid or unenforceable, the other party’s use of our patented technology falls under the safe harbor to patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. §271(e), or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our owned patents do not cover the technology in question. An adverse result in any litigation proceeding could put one or more of our owned patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly.
Even if we establish infringement, the court may decide not to grant an injunction against further infringing activity and instead award only monetary damages, which may or may not be an adequate remedy. 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.
Even if resolved in our favor, litigation or other legal proceedings relating to intellectual property claims may cause us to incur significant expenses and could distract our personnel from their normal responsibilities. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments, and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing, or distribution activities. We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to conduct such litigation or proceedings adequately. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources and more mature and developed intellectual property portfolios. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete in the marketplace.
If our trademarks and trade names are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our markets of interest and our business may be adversely affected.
Our registered or unregistered trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented or declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names, which we need to build name recognition among potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. At times, competitors or other third parties may adopt trade names or trademarks similar to ours, thereby impeding our ability to build brand identity and possibly leading to market confusion. If we assert trademark infringement claims, a court may determine that the marks we have asserted are invalid or unenforceable, or that the party against whom we have asserted trademark infringement has superior rights to the marks in question. In this case, we could ultimately be forced to cease use of such trademarks. In addition, there could be potential trade name or trademark infringement claims brought by owners of other registered trademarks or trademarks that incorporate variations of our registered or unregistered trademarks or trade names. Over the long term, if we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, then we may not be able to compete effectively, and our business may be adversely affected. Our efforts to enforce or protect our proprietary rights related to trademarks, trade secrets, domain names, copyrights or other intellectual property may be ineffective and could result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Intellectual property rights do not necessarily address all potential threats.
The degree of future protection afforded by our intellectual property rights is uncertain because intellectual property rights have limitations and may not adequately protect our business or permit us to maintain our competitive advantage. For example:
Should any of these events occur, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks related to our reliance on third parties
We will rely on third parties to conduct our 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 potential product candidates.
We will depend upon third parties, including independent investigators, to conduct our clinical trials under agreements with universities, medicinal institutions, CROs, strategic partners and others. We expect to have to negotiate budgets and contracts with CROs and trial sites, which may result in delays to our development timelines and increased costs.
We will rely heavily on third parties over the course of our clinical trials, and, as a result, will have limited control over the clinical investigators and limited visibility into their day-to-day activities, including with respect to their compliance with the approved clinical protocol. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our clinical 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 GCP requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for product candidates in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCP 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 GCP 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 GCP requirements. In addition, our clinical trials for therapeutic indications must be conducted with drug product produced under cGMP requirements and may require a large number of patients.
Our failure or any failure by these third parties to comply with these regulations or to recruit a sufficient number of patients may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval or commercialization 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 future 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 ongoing preclinical and clinical programs. 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 can materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines. Though we carefully manage our relationships with our CROs, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter similar 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.
We expect to rely on third parties to manufacture our clinical supply of product candidates, and we intend to rely on third parties to produce and process our products, if approved.
We currently rely on outside vendors to supply raw materials and other important components, such as the heterogeneous catalyst and chromatographic resins used to purify crude MMT candidates. We have not yet caused any product candidates to be manufactured or processed on a commercial scale and may not be able to do so for any of our product candidates. We will make changes as we work to optimize the manufacturing process for our product candidates, and we cannot be sure that even minor changes in the process will result in therapies that are safe and effective.
The facilities used to manufacture our product candidates that we develop as therapeutic product candidates must be approved by the FDA or other foreign regulatory agencies pursuant to inspections that will be conducted after we submit a marketing application to the FDA or other foreign regulatory agencies. Since March 2020 when foreign and domestic inspections of facilities were largely placed on hold, the FDA has been working to resume routine surveillance, bioresearch monitoring and pre-approval inspections on a prioritized basis. Since April 2021, the FDA has conducted limited inspections and employed remote interactive evaluations, using risk management methods, to meet user fee commitments and goal dates. Ongoing travel restrictions and other uncertainties continue to impact oversight operations both domestic and abroad and it is unclear when standard operational levels will resume. The FDA is continuing to complete mission-critical work, prioritize other higher-tiered inspectional needs (e.g., for-cause inspections), and carry out surveillance inspections using risk-based approaches for evaluating public health. Should FDA determine that an inspection is necessary for approval and an inspection cannot be completed during the review cycle due to restrictions on travel, and the FDA does not determine a remote interactive evaluation to be adequate, the agency has stated that it generally intends to issue, depending on the circumstances, a complete response letter or defer action on the application until an inspection can be completed. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, a number of companies announced receipt of complete response letters due to the FDA’s inability to complete required inspections for their applications. Regulatory authorities outside the U.S. may adopt similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and may experience delays in their regulatory activities.
Additionally, any facilities used for the manufacture of product candidates commercialized for non-therapeutic uses will be subject to registration with and inspection by the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities. We do not currently control all aspects of the manufacturing process of, and are currently largely dependent on, our contract manufacturing partners for compliance with regulatory requirements, known as cGMP requirements, for manufacture of our product candidates. If and when our manufacturing facility becomes operational, we will be responsible for compliance with cGMP requirements. If we or our contract manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture in conformance with our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or other regulatory authorities, we and they will not be able to secure and/or maintain regulatory approval for their manufacturing facilities with respect to the manufacture of our product candidates. In addition, we have limited control over the ability of our contract manufacturers to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates or if it withdraws any such approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our product candidates, if approved.
For more information, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Manufacturing and Supply” below.
If our sole contract manufacturing organization for materials to be used in our clinical trials fails to supply us with the necessary materials, we may be unable to complete our clinical trials on a timely basis, if at all.
In 2018, we entered into a services agreement with a subsidiary of Thermo Fisher Scientific, or Thermo Fisher, to handle the manufacturing supply chain from drug substance synthesis through labeling and packaging for our planned clinical trials. If Thermo Fisher is unable or unwilling to provide us with sufficient quantities of applicable MMT candidates to meet our demands or fails to meet our standards of quality or other specification or to achieve drug cGMP compliance, we may not be able to locate any alternative suppliers or enter into commercially reasonable agreements with substitute suppliers in a timely manner or at all.
Third-party relationships are important to our business. If we are unable to maintain our collaborations, enter into new relationships or if these relationships are not successful, our business could be adversely affected.
We have limited capabilities for product development and do not yet have any capability for sales, marketing or distribution. Accordingly, we enter into relationships with other companies to provide us with important technologies, and we may receive additional technologies and funding under these and other collaborations in the future. Relationships we enter into, may pose a number of risks, including the following:
If our relationships do not result in the successful discovery, development and commercialization of products or if one of our third parties terminates its agreement with us, we may not receive any future research funding or milestone or royalty payments under the collaboration. If we do not receive the funding we expect under these agreements, our development of our technology and product candidates could be delayed and we may need additional resources to develop product candidates and our technology. All of the risks relating to product development, regulatory approval and commercialization described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K also apply to the activities of our therapeutic collaborators.
Additionally, if any of our current or future third parties terminate its agreement with us, we may find it more difficult to attract new collaborators and our perception in the business and financial communities could be adversely affected.
Relationships are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. In addition, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future collaborators. We face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Our ability to reach a definitive agreement for a collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration and the proposed collaborator’s evaluation of a number of factors. If we are unable to reach agreements with suitable third parties on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all, we may have to curtail the development of a product candidate, reduce or delay its development program or one or more of our other development programs, delay its potential commercialization or reduce the scope of any sales or marketing activities, or increase our expenditures and undertake development or commercialization activities at our own expense. If we elect to increase our expenditures to fund development or commercialization activities on our own, we may need to obtain additional expertise and additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. If we fail to enter into relationships or do not have sufficient funds or expertise to undertake the necessary development and commercialization activities, we may not be able to further develop our product candidates, bring them to market and generate revenue from sales of drugs or continue to develop our technology, and our business may be materially and adversely affected.
Risks related to manufacturing and supply
Our MMT product candidates rely on the availability of specialty raw materials, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all.
Our product candidates require certain specialty raw materials, some of which we obtain from small companies with limited resources and experience to support a commercial product. The suppliers may be ill-equipped to support our needs, especially in non-routine circumstances like an FDA inspection or medical crisis, such as widespread contamination. We do not currently have contracts in place with all of the suppliers that we may need at any point in time, and if needed, may not be able to contract with them on acceptable terms or at all. Accordingly, we may experience delays in receiving key raw materials to support clinical or commercial manufacturing.
Our product candidates require specialized manufacturing capabilities. If we or any of our third-party manufacturers encounter difficulties in manufacturing our product candidates, our ability to provide supply of our product candidates for clinical trials or our products for patients, if approved, could be delayed or stopped, or we may be unable to maintain a commercially viable cost structure.
The manufacturing process used to produce our product candidates has not yet been validated for commercial production. Our cGMP manufacturing process development and scale-up is at an early stage. The actual cost to manufacture and process our product candidates could be greater than we expect and could materially and adversely affect the commercial viability of our product candidates.
Our manufacturing process may be susceptible to manufacturing issues associated with interruptions in the manufacturing process, contamination, equipment or reagent failure, improper installation or operation of equipment, vendor or operator error, and variability in product characteristics. Even minor deviations from normal manufacturing processes could result in reduced production yields, lot failures, product defects, product recalls, product liability claims and other supply disruptions. If microbial, viral or other contaminations are discovered in our product candidates or in the manufacturing facilities in which our product candidates are made, production at such manufacturing facilities may be interrupted for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination. Further, as product candidates are developed through preclinical to late-stage clinical trials toward approval and commercialization, it is common that various aspects of the development program, such as manufacturing methods, are altered along the way in an effort to optimize processes and results. Such changes carry the risk that they will not achieve these intended objectives, and any of these changes could cause our product candidates to perform differently and affect the results of planned clinical trials or other future clinical trials.
Although we continue to refine our manufacturing process for our MMT product candidates, doing so is a difficult and uncertain task, and there are risks associated with scaling to the level required for advanced clinical trials or commercialization, including, among others, cost overruns, potential problems with process scale-up, process reproducibility, stability issues, lot consistency, and timely availability of reagents and/or raw materials. We ultimately may not be successful in transferring our production system from our contract manufacturer to any manufacturing facilities we establish ourselves, or our contract manufacturer may not have the necessary capabilities to complete the implementation and development process. If we are unable to adequately validate or scale-up the manufacturing process for our product candidates with our current manufacturer, we will need to transfer to another manufacturer and complete the manufacturing validation process, which can be lengthy. If we are able to adequately validate and scale-up the manufacturing process for our product candidates with a contract manufacturer, we will still need to negotiate with such contract manufacturer an agreement for commercial supply, and it is not certain we will be able to come to agreement on terms acceptable to us. As a result, we may ultimately be unable to reduce the cost of goods for our product candidates to levels that will allow for an attractive return on investment if and when those product candidates are commercialized.
The manufacturing process for any products that we may develop for therapeutic indications is subject to the FDA and foreign regulatory authority approval process, and we will need to contract with manufacturers who can meet all applicable FDA and foreign regulatory authority requirements on an ongoing basis. If we or our CMOs are unable to reliably produce products to specifications acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory authorities, we may not obtain or maintain the approvals we need, where applicable, or be able to commercialize such products. Even if we obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates for therapeutic indications, there is no assurance that either we or our CMOs will be able to manufacture the approved product to specifications acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory authorities, to produce it in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements for the potential launch of the product, or to meet potential future demand. Any of these challenges could delay completion of clinical trials, require bridging clinical trials or the repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical trial costs, delay approval of our product candidates, impair commercialization efforts, increase our cost of goods, and have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects. Our future success depends on our ability to manufacture our products on a timely basis with acceptable manufacturing costs, while at the same time maintaining good quality control and complying with applicable regulatory requirements, and an inability to do so could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. In addition, we could incur higher manufacturing costs if manufacturing processes or standards change, and we could need to replace, modify, design, or build and install equipment, all of which would require additional capital expenditures. Specifically, because our product candidates may have a higher cost of goods than conventional therapies, the risk that coverage and reimbursement rates may be inadequate for us to achieve profitability may be greater.
We may depend on third parties for clinical and commercial supplies, including, in some instances, a single supplier.
We may depend on third-party suppliers for clinical and commercial supplies, including the active ingredients which are used in our product candidates. These supplies may not always be available to us at the standards we require or on terms acceptable to us, or at all, and we may not be able to locate alternative suppliers in a timely manner, or at all. If we are unable to obtain necessary clinical or commercial supplies, our manufacturing operations and clinical trials and the clinical trials of our collaborators may be delayed or disrupted, and our business and prospects may be materially and adversely affected as a result.
We may rely on a sole supplier for certain of our supplies. If this sole supplier is unable to supply to us in the quantities we require, or at all, or otherwise defaults on its supply obligations to us, we may not be able to obtain alternative supplies from other suppliers on acceptable terms, in a timely manner, or at all.
We have limited experience manufacturing our drug product candidates for purposes of clinical trials for therapeutic indications or for non-therapeutic clinical studies or trials or the marketing of our products as non-drug products and at commercial scale, and if we decide to establish our own manufacturing facility for our drug product candidates, we cannot assure you that we can manufacture our drug product candidates in compliance with regulations at a cost or in quantities necessary to make them commercially viable.
We may establish a manufacturing facility for our product candidates for production as investigational new drugs for purposes of clinical trials for therapeutic indications or for the production of non-drug product candidates at a commercial scale. We have limited experience in cGMP compliant manufacturing of our drug product candidates for purposes of clinical trials in therapeutic indications or at a commercial scale. We similarly have limited experience in complying with the manufacturing requirements for non-drug applications for our products at a commercial scale. In the future, we may develop our manufacturing capacity in part by expanding our current facility or building additional facilities. This activity will require substantial additional funds and we would need to hire and train a significant number of qualified employees to staff these facilities. We may not be able to develop cGMP-compliant manufacturing facilities that are adequate to produce materials for additional later-stage clinical trials or commercial use.
The equipment and facilities employed in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and foods (including medical foods) are subject to stringent qualification requirements by regulatory agencies, including validation of facility, equipment, systems, processes and analytics. We may be subject to lengthy delays and expense in conducting validation studies, if we can meet the requirements at all.
MMTs are complex and difficult to manufacture. We could experience production problems that may impact our ability to manufacture certain MMT product candidates, if at all, and result in delays in our development or otherwise adversely affect our business.
The manufacturing process we anticipate using to produce our MMT product candidates is highly complex and may be subject to variation or production difficulties. Issues with any of our manufacturing processes could result in insufficient yield, product deficiencies or manufacturing failures that result in adverse patient reactions, lot failures and insufficient inventory.
Many factors could also cause production interruptions, including raw materials shortages, raw material failures, growth media failures, equipment malfunctions, facility contamination, labor problems, natural disasters, disruption in utility services, terrorist activities or acts of god beyond our control. We also may encounter problems in hiring and retaining the experienced specialized personnel needed to operate our manufacturing process, which could result in delays in our production or difficulties in maintaining compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.
Any problems in our manufacturing processes could make us a less attractive collaborator for academic research institutions and other parties, which could limit our access to additional attractive development programs, result in delays in our clinical development and materially harm our business.
Risks related to our common stock
There can be no assurance that we will be able to comply with the continued listing standards of Nasdaq.
If Nasdaq delists our shares of common stock from trading on its exchange for failure to meet Nasdaq’s listing standards, we and our stockholders could face significant material adverse consequences including:
An active trading market for our common stock may not be sustained
Our shares of common stock began trading on The NASDAQ Global Select Market on February 28, 2019. Given the limited trading history of our common stock, there is a risk that an active trading market for our shares will not be sustained, which could put downward pressure on the market price of our common stock and thereby affect the ability of our stockholders to sell their shares.
The price of our stock may be volatile, and you could lose all or part of your investment.
The trading price of our common stock is likely to be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control, including limited trading volume. Since our common stock began trading on The Nasdaq Global Select Market on February 28, 2019, our stock price has traded at prices as low as $1.30 per share and as high as $20.50 per share through March 25, 2022. In addition to the factors discussed in this “Risk Factors” section and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, these factors include:
In addition, the stock market in general, and the market for healthcare companies in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of these companies. Broad market and industry factors may negatively affect the market price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance. You may not realize any return on your investment in us and may lose some or all of your investment. In the past, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against companies following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities. This type of litigation, if instituted, could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources, which would harm our business, operating results or financial condition.
We do not intend to pay dividends on our common stock so any returns will be limited to the value of our stock.
We currently anticipate that we will retain future earnings for the development, operation and expansion of our business and do not anticipate declaring or paying any cash dividends for the foreseeable future. In addition, our ability to pay cash dividends is currently restricted by the terms of our credit facility with Hercules Capital, Inc., and future debt or other financing arrangements may contain terms prohibiting or limiting the amount of dividends that may be declared or paid on our common stock. Any return to stockholders will therefore be limited in the foreseeable future to the appreciation of their stock.
Our principal stockholders and management own a significant percentage of our stock and may be able to exert significant control over matters subject to stockholder approval.
Our executive officers, directors and their affiliates beneficially hold, in the aggregate, over 50% of our outstanding voting stock. These stockholders will have the ability to influence us through this ownership position. These stockholders may be able to determine all matters requiring stockholder approval. For example, these stockholders may be able to control elections of directors, amendments of our organizational documents, or approval of any merger, sale of assets, or other major corporate transaction. This may prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals or offers for our common stock that you may feel are in your best interest as one of our stockholders.
We are an emerging growth company and a smaller reporting company, and we cannot be certain if the reduced reporting requirements applicable to emerging growth companies and smaller reporting companies will make our common stock less attractive to investors.
We are an emerging growth company, as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or the JOBS Act, enacted in April 2012 as well as a smaller reporting company, as defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). For as long as we continue to be an emerging growth company or a smaller reporting company, we may take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies or smaller reporting companies. With respect to being an emerging growth company, these exemptions include, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as amended, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and our periodic reports and proxy statements and exemptions from the requirements of holding nonbinding advisory votes on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. We could be an emerging growth company for up to five years following 2019, the year in which we completed our IPO, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier. We will remain an emerging growth company until the earlier of (1) the last day of the fiscal year (a) following the fifth anniversary of the completion of our IPO; (b) in which we have total annual gross revenue of at least $1.07 billion; or (c) in which we are deemed to be a large accelerated filer, which requires the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates to exceed $700 million as of the prior June 30th; and (2) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the prior three-year period. We cannot predict if investors will find our common stock less attractive because we may rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and our stock price may be more volatile.
Under the JOBS Act, emerging growth companies can also delay adopting new or revised accounting standards until such time as those standards apply to private companies. We have elected to avail ourselves of such extended transition period, which means that when a standard is issued or revised and it has different application dates for public or private companies, we may adopt the new or revised standard at the time private companies adopt the new or revised standard and may do so until such time that we either (i) irrevocably elect to “opt out” of such extended transition period or (ii) no longer qualify as an emerging growth company. This may make comparison of our financial statements with the financial statements of another public company that is not an emerging growth company, or an emerging growth company that has opted out of using the extended transition period, difficult or impossible because of the potential differences in accounting standards used.
We will incur significant increased costs as a result of operating as a public company, and our management will be required to devote substantial time to new compliance initiatives.
As a public company, we will continue to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, which require, among other things, that we file with the SEC, annual, quarterly and current reports with respect to our business and financial condition. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules subsequently adopted by the SEC and The NASDAQ Global Select Market to implement provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, impose significant requirements on public companies, including requiring establishment and maintenance of effective disclosure and financial controls and changes in corporate governance practices. Further, in July 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or the Dodd-Frank Act, was enacted. There are significant corporate governance and executive compensation related provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act that require
the SEC to adopt additional rules and regulations in these areas, such as “say on pay” and proxy access. Recent legislation permits emerging growth companies to implement many of these requirements over a longer period and up to five years from the pricing of our IPO. We intend to take advantage of this new legislation but cannot guarantee that we will not be required to implement these requirements sooner than budgeted or planned and thereby incur unexpected expenses. Stockholder activism, the current political environment and the current high level of government intervention and regulatory reform may lead to substantial new regulations and disclosure obligations, which may lead to additional compliance costs and impact the manner in which we operate our business in ways we cannot currently anticipate.
If these requirements divert the attention of our management and personnel from other business concerns, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The increased costs will decrease our net income or increase our net loss and may require us to reduce costs in other areas of our business or increase the prices of our products or services. For example, we expect these rules and regulations to make it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance and we may be required to incur substantial costs to maintain the same or similar coverage. The impact of these requirements could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve on our board of directors, our board committees or as executive officers.
Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock by our existing stockholders in the public market could cause our stock price to fall.
If our existing stockholders sell, or indicate an intention to sell, substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline.
In addition, shares of common stock that are either subject to outstanding options or reserved for future issuance under our existing equity compensation plans will become eligible for sale in the public market to the extent permitted by the provisions of various vesting schedules. If these additional shares of common stock are sold, or if it is perceived that they will be sold, in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline. Additionally, the number of shares of our common stock reserved for issuance under our 2019 Stock Option and Incentive Plan increased on January 1, 2020 and will increase each January 1 thereafter by 4% of the number of shares of common stock outstanding on the immediately preceding December 31 or such lesser number of shares determined by our compensation committee. Unless our board of directors elects not to increase the number of shares available for future grant each year, our stockholders may experience additional dilution.
Our operating results may fluctuate significantly, which makes our future operating results difficult to predict and could cause our operating results to fall below expectations or our guidance.
Our quarterly and annual operating results may fluctuate significantly in the future, which makes it difficult for us to predict our future operating results. From time to time, we may enter into license or collaboration agreements with other companies that include development funding and significant upfront and milestone payments and/or royalties, which may become an important source of our revenue. Accordingly, our revenue may depend on development funding and the achievement of development and clinical milestones under current and any potential future license and collaboration agreements and sales of our products, if approved. These upfront and milestone payments may vary significantly from period to period and any such variance could cause a significant fluctuation in our operating results from one period to the next.
In addition, we measure compensation cost for stock-based awards made to employees, directors and non-employee consultants based on the fair value of the award on either the grant date or service completion date, and we recognize the cost as an expense over the recipient’s service period. Because the variables that we use as a basis for valuing stock-based awards change over time, including our underlying stock price and stock price volatility, the magnitude of the expense that we must recognize may vary significantly.
Furthermore, our operating results may fluctuate due to a variety of other factors, many of which are outside of our control and may be difficult to predict, including the following:
The cumulative effect of these factors could result in large fluctuations and unpredictability in our quarterly and annual operating results. As a result, comparing our operating results on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful. Investors should not rely on our past results as an indication of our future performance. This variability and unpredictability could also result in our failing to meet the expectations of industry or financial analysts or investors for any period. If our revenue or operating results fall below the expectations of analysts or investors or below any forecasts we may provide to the market, or if the forecasts we provide to the market are below the expectations of analysts or investors, the price of our common stock could decline substantially. Such a stock price decline could occur even when we have met any previously publicly stated revenue and/or earnings guidance we may provide.
Anti-takeover provisions under our charter documents and Delaware law could delay or prevent a change of control which could limit the market price of our common stock and may prevent or frustrate attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated by-laws contain provisions that could delay or prevent a change of control of our company or changes in our board of directors that our stockholders might consider favorable. Some of these provisions include:
In addition, because we are incorporated in Delaware, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which may prohibit certain business combinations with stockholders owning 15% or more of our outstanding voting stock. These anti-takeover provisions and other provisions in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated by-laws could make it more difficult for stockholders or potential acquirers to obtain control of our board of directors or initiate actions that are opposed by the then-current board of directors and could also delay or impede a merger, tender offer or proxy contest involving our company. These provisions could also discourage proxy contests and make it more difficult for you and other stockholders to elect directors of your choosing or cause us to take other corporate actions you desire. Any delay or prevention of a change of control transaction or changes in our board of directors could cause the market price of our common stock to decline.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our common stock will depend in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. If one or more of the analysts who covers us downgrades our stock or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price may decline. If one or more of these analysts ceases coverage of our company or fails to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our stock could decrease, which might cause our stock price and trading volume to decline.
If we fail to maintain proper and effective internal control over financial reporting, our ability to produce accurate and timely financial statements could be impaired, investors may lose confidence in our financial reporting and the trading price of our common stock may decline.
Pursuant to Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley, our management will be required to report upon the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting beginning with the annual report for our fiscal year ending December 31, 2020. When we lose our status as an “emerging growth company,” our independent registered public accounting firm will be required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting unless another exemption applies. The rules governing the standards that must be met for management to assess our internal control over financial reporting are complex and require significant documentation, testing and possible remediation. To comply with the requirements of being a reporting company under the Exchange Act, we may need to implement additional financial and management controls, reporting systems and procedures and may need to hire additional accounting and finance staff.
We cannot assure you that there will not be material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting in the future. Any failure to maintain internal control over financial reporting could severely inhibit our ability to accurately report our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. If we are unable to conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, or if our independent registered public accounting firm determines we have a material weakness or significant deficiency in our internal control over financial reporting, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports, the market price of our common stock could decline, and we could be subject to sanctions or investigations by Nasdaq, the SEC or other regulatory authorities. Failure to remedy any material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting, or to implement or maintain other effective control systems required of public companies, could also restrict our future access to the capital markets.
If we engage in future acquisitions or strategic partnerships, this may increase our capital requirements, dilute our stockholders, cause us to incur debt or assume contingent liabilities, and subject us to other risks.
We may evaluate various acquisition opportunities and strategic partnerships, including licensing or acquiring complementary products, intellectual property rights, technologies or businesses. Any potential acquisition or strategic partnership may entail numerous risks, including:
In addition, if we undertake acquisitions, we may issue dilutive securities, assume or incur debt obligations, incur large one-time expenses and acquire intangible assets that could result in significant future amortization expense. Moreover, we may not be able to locate suitable acquisition opportunities, and this inability could impair our ability to grow or obtain access to technology or products that may be important to the development of our business.