SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 FOR THE TRANSITION PERIOD FROM TO
Commission File Number
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. YES ☐
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. YES ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to § 240.10D-1(b). ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). YES
At June 30, 2022, the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant was approximately $
common stock held by executive officers, directors and certain stockholders of the Registrant as of such date have been excluded because such holders may be deemed to be affiliates.
The number of shares of Registrant’s Common Stock outstanding as of February 24, 2023 was
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the Registrant’s definitive proxy statement relating to its 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, are incorporated herein by reference in Part III.
Table of Contents
Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure
Disclosures Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections
Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters
Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, or Annual Report, contains forward-looking statements. We intend such forward-looking statements to be covered by the safe harbor provisions for forward-looking statements contained in Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report, including statements regarding our future results of operations and financial position, the sufficiency of our cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements, business strategy, product candidate development, prospective products, product candidate approvals, research and development activities and costs, future revenue, timing and likelihood of success of our business plans, plans and objectives of management, future results and timing of clinical trials, treatment potential of our product candidates, and the market potential of our product candidates are forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements.
In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “expect,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “could,” “intend,” “target,” “project,” “contemplate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential,” “would” or “continue” or the negative of these terms or other similar expressions, although not all forward-looking statements contain these words. The forward-looking statements in this Annual Report are only predictions and are based largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Annual Report and are subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including those described under Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report. Because forward-looking statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties, some of which cannot be predicted or quantified and some of which are beyond our control, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The events and circumstances reflected in our forward-looking statements may not be achieved or occur and actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties. Except as required by applicable law, we do not plan to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements contained herein, whether as a result of any new information, future events, changed circumstances or otherwise.
As used in this Annual Report, unless otherwise stated or the context requires otherwise, references to “Omega,” “Omega Therapeutics,” the “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our,” refer to Omega Therapeutics, Inc. and its subsidiary on a consolidated basis.
SUMMARY RISK FACTORS
Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including those described in Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. You should carefully consider these risks and uncertainties when investing in our common stock. The principal risks and uncertainties affecting our business include the following:
Item 1. Business.
Omega Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotechnology company pioneering the development of a new class of programmable epigenetic mRNA medicines. Our OMEGA platform harnesses the power of epigenetics and our deep understanding of genomic architecture to precisely target and controllably modulate gene expression at the pre-transcriptional level to treat or cure diseases. We have deciphered the three-dimensional architecture of the human genome. Genes and their accompanying regulators are organized into distinct and evolutionarily conserved structures called Insulated Genomic Domains, or IGDs. IGDs are the fundamental structural and functional units of gene control and cell differentiation and collectively act as nature’s innate control system. Most diseases are caused by aberrant gene expression rooted in alterations in IGDs. The OMEGA platform has enabled us to systematically identify and validate thousands of novel and unique DNA-sequence-based epigenomic “zip codes” associated with individual regulatory elements within IGDs. We call these epigenomic targets EpiZips. We rationally design and engineer our mRNA therapeutics, which are programmable and modular epigenetic medicines, called Omega Epigenomic Controllers, or OECs, to target EpiZips for Precision Epigenomic Control. This enables us to precisely tune genes to a desired level of expression and to control the duration of expression. Through this approach, we believe that the OMEGA platform has broad potential applicability across a range of diseases, processes and conditions. Our pipeline currently consists of early-stage programs that span oncology, multigenic diseases including immunology, regenerative medicine, and select monogenic diseases.
We believe that the Precision Epigenomic Control delivered by the OMEGA platform has broad therapeutic applicability and transformational potential, initially spanning across:
Our current pipeline consists of the following programs:
Intellectual Property and Manufacturing Capabilities
We have consolidated a significant intellectual property estate covering the OMEGA platform and our OECs through our own development activities and through licenses from the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or the Whitehead Institute. We are also developing internal and external manufacturing capabilities, including evaluating plans to build our own facility, to provide appropriate scale and quality to support development and commercialization of our OECs.
Our objective is to become the leading programmable epigenetic medicines company by engineering, developing, manufacturing, and commercializing OECs, utilizing the OMEGA platform. Our vision is to treat and cure serious diseases by selectively and safely directing the human genome to control gene expression pre-transcriptionally without altering native DNA sequences.
Our strategy includes:
Background on Insulated Genomic Domains (IGDs)
Epigenetics is the mechanism that systematically controls every aspect of an organism’s life from cell growth and differentiation to cell death. Our team has developed an understanding of the universal operating system of epigenetics and has built the OMEGA platform to replicate nature’s method of gene control for therapeutic benefit. IGDs are key to understanding the organization of this operating system and act as the fundamental structural and functional units of gene control and cell differentiation. There are approximately 15,000 IGDs that encompass the roughly 20,000 genes that are distributed across our 23 chromosomes. They are ubiquitous in every cell and evolutionarily conserved within and largely across species.
Gene expression in cells is generally controlled by a highly diverse class of regulatory elements, such as enhancers, repressors and promoters. These regulatory elements are relatively short segments of DNA that act as binding sites for protein transcription factors that in turn recruit other proteins to activate transcription of targeted genes. Current research indicates that genes and their associated regulatory elements reside in a modular fashion within IGDs. The chromosomal-looping structure of IGDs ensures that interactions between genes and their regulatory elements are insulated from neighboring IGDs and extraneous regulatory factors, which is critical for ensuring normal cell-specific gene regulation. The CCCTC-binding factor, CTCF, and the cohesin complex are critical players in the formation and maintenance of the IGD structure. Cohesin is the motor
that extrudes and enlarges the IGD loop, while CTCF blocks cohesin from further extrusion and acts as an anchor, thereby enforcing boundaries between IGDs.
Graphical Representation of an IGD
IGDs encompass protein-coding genes and their regulatory elements. A single IGD typically contains between one and ten genes, with a median of three genes. Epigenomic controllers are designed to affect the expression of genes within specific IGDs through precise modulation of one or more IGD components (EpiZips) to control gene expression. Controllers can also be multiplexed to target multiple IGDs.
Any perturbation of an IGD or its boundary has the potential to cause the dysregulation of one or all genes inside it, giving rise to a range of disease states. Alterations of IGDs, which can be either structural or functional in nature, include mutations or disruptions in anchor-CTCF binding sequences, gene promoters, and enhancer regions (including super-enhancers). For example, mutations in the coding sequences for CTCF and cohesin have been observed in various solid-tumor cancers, including breast, prostate, and kidney cancer, as well as in leukemia. IGD boundary alterations may consist of the aberrant inclusion or exclusion of regulatory elements or genes. For example, in some cancers, disruption of the IGD boundary can rewire loop interactions to include strong activating regulatory elements called super-enhancers to upregulate an oncogene. Similar activation can be found in cases of genetic inversion and translocation. Epigenomic changes at the IGD boundary, for example aberrant DNA methylation, can alter CTCF binding and lead to gene exclusion or expose genes within the IGD to external regulatory elements. Pathological evidence of this disruption has been identified in cancers, such as gliomas, and in inherited human diseases, such as Fragile X syndrome.
We believe that the OMEGA platform represents an unprecedented approach to developing therapeutics to treat the epigenetic basis of disease by precisely controlling gene expression without altering native DNA sequences. We believe that our OECs’ ability to precisely target and provide controlled tunable and durable effects has the potential to treat a wide range of diseases.
The OMEGA platform consists of four pillars.
1. Proprietary Database of IGDs and EpiZips
We utilize a biology-first approach to target identification starting with validated gene targets linked to a disease indication of interest. We use proprietary algorithms and machine-learning tools to mine our own and
public databases to develop a comprehensive profile of the target IGD to understand how it is dysregulated in diseased states. We synthesize this information to determine the key therapeutic intervention points, the EpiZips, to be targeted with OECs to achieve the desired effect on gene expression. Through this process, we have built an expansive library of thousands of EpiZips and IGDs as potential therapeutic targets.
2. Programmable and Modular Epigenetic mRNA Medicines (OECs) Tailored to Disease
We have created a modular basis for efficient and intelligent design of programmable epigenetic medicines, the OECs. These prospectively engineered investigational medicines allow us to regulate multiple genes with exquisite specificity, controllable tuning, and duration of effect. Our OECs are programmable mRNA therapeutics that express fusion proteins comprised of two components—a DNA-binding domain and an epigenomic effector protein, as shown in the figure below. The DNA-binding domain is designed to target a particular EpiZip with exquisite specificity. The epigenomic effector protein is designed to interact with DNA or DNA-associated proteins within the cell nucleus, such as histones and transcription factors, to up- or down-regulate gene expression and control the duration of effect. We use proprietary algorithms to design our OECs, including programming DNA-binding domains and selecting optimal epigenomic effector proteins. These computational tools allow us to efficiently generate numerous potential OECs and increases our ability to engineer OECs to treat a particular target.
Omega Epigenomic Controller (OEC)*
*mRNA medicines expressed as proteins in cell nucleus
We are currently developing proprietary zinc-finger-like proteins and other DNA-binding domains. For epigenomic effectors, we have generated and continue to build a library consisting of more than 100 single- and multi-functional epigenomic effector domains, including both naturally occurring and proprietary engineered variants of DNA-modifying factors, histone-modifying factors, and other chromatin-remodeling factors.
The initial identification of IGDs, EpiZips, and the mechanism of action for OECs directed to particular target genes are rapidly validated utilizing epigenomic controller screens. Our modular design approach allows us to accelerate our discovery process and to identify gene targets and generate initial lead OECs to modulate them in potentially as little as a few weeks.
3. Engineered, Customized Drug Delivery to Target Tissues and Cells
Delivery to the appropriate cells and tissues is critical to the successful application of our technology. We are exploring and innovating a multitude of delivery methods.
We have chosen lipid-nanoparticle-, or LNP-, delivery technology validated in third-party clinical trials for our initial programs. LNPs are currently used in products, both approved and in development. We have deep expertise in delivery formulations and leverage technological improvements and established regulatory precedents to develop our own LNPs. We are delivering our OECs as mRNA, which encodes the DNA binding domain and epigenetic effector proteins, encapsulated within a LNP. Our LNPs are typically 3- or 4-component molecules that encapsulate nucleic acids like mRNA, protect and transport them to organs and tissues within the body, and facilitate their uptake into cells. We believe our LNPs are capable of providing re-dosable, non-viral, in vivo delivery to the liver, lung, central nervous system, immune cells, joints, and other cells and tissues. Once taken up into cells, the LNP enables release of the mRNA cargo into the cytoplasm where it is translated into the OEC, which, in turn, is transported to the nucleus and binds to the targeted EpiZip within the specified IGD. We are currently exploring a range of cationic and ionizable LNPs from various internal and external sources and have developed proprietary LNP formulations that have shown specific and efficient in vivo functional delivery in preclinical studies.
4. Industry-Leading Computational, Biological, and Genomic Expertise
We leverage codified learnings and insights gleaned from our lead programs to continue optimizing our platform and inform the discovery and development of subsequent product candidates. We have also established and continue to add to our knowledge bank of EpiZips and OECs. We take a rational and streamlined approach to the development of programmable epigenetic medicines to potentially provide a faster path to the clinic through robust and efficient target identification, validation, product-candidate design, and optimization. We are also continually expanding our catalog of EpiZips and novel and proprietary DNA-binding domains and epigenomic effector proteins and using computational methods to assess on-target and potential off-target binding and activity to minimize inadvertent changes in the expression of genes.
The OMEGA platform leverages novel biology and epigenetics to therapeutically control gene expression and program cell state through our significant computational capabilities. Decoding the rules of the human genome – one with billions of nucleotides, tens of thousands of genes, and up to a million regulatory sequences, all potentially interacting in 3-dimensional space – requires the creation of advanced proprietary algorithms and statistical data analysis techniques. Our cutting-edge computational tools are built on a diverse library of proprietary algorithms and deep-learning techniques, which enable us to interpret and predict the location, structure and function of IGDs. The critical scientific insights provided by the OMEGA platform enable the identification of EpiZips across therapeutic areas and indications. This deep in silico understanding and predictability also directly informs the design and rapid engineering of OECs that allow us to regulate single or multiple genes with exquisite specificity, controllable tuning, and duration of effect.
We apply our computational technology throughout the drug development continuum by broadly applying a computation- and data-first approach. We deploy a wide range of systems biology and functional genomics methods to identify relevant biomarkers. We utilize key translational models to validate mechanism of action in order to accelerate development and potentially de-risk clinical translation. Combinatorial optimization techniques and novel discovery efforts enable acceleration of delivery and formulation design. This allows us to rapidly scale programs and manufacturing while improving quality and cost. Systematic data capture and automation have enabled real-time, data-driven decision-making which has further driven our ability to accelerate numerous programs in parallel.
We have a highly skilled computational team with deep expertise and broad experience, supporting the OMEGA platform. This team develops the tools, capabilities, and specialized methods needed to address the complexity of IGD biology, design, and delivery of our OECs, and integration of a computation- and data-first philosophy company wide. We are continually growing and evolving our computational team and capabilities to drive innovation in the discovery and development of programmable epigenetic medicines, manufacturing, and our digital foundation.
Our Development Programs
Our current pipeline consists of development programs in oncology, multigenic diseases including immunology, regenerative medicine, and select monogenic diseases.
OTX-2002 for Hepatocellular Carcinoma
We are developing OTX-2002 to downregulate c-Myc, an oncogene that is dysregulated in more than 50% of human cancers and is frequently associated with poor prognosis, as a potential treatment for patients with advanced HCC. c-Myc has been shown to play a key role in liver cell proliferation and is known to be upregulated in the majority of HCC cases. Drug development aimed at directly targeting c-Myc has proved challenging because its expression is tightly regulated and because it is a protein that lacks a specific active site for small molecule binding. This means that targeting c-Myc mRNA or protein is unlikely to be effective as neither approach addresses the underlying dysregulation at the transcriptional level. Unlike other more binary approaches to downregulation of gene expression, OECs can precisely modulate c-Myc expression enough to kill highly MYC-amplified cancer cells and drive tumor regression, but spare healthy surrounding cells which need only a low level of MYC for normal function.
HCC is a primary liver malignant tumor that develops in a chronic-liver-disease setting. It is typically diagnosed late in its course and the median survival period following diagnosis is approximately six to 20 months. In 2017, there were an estimated 89,950 people living with liver and liver-related cancer in the United States. Depending on the stage of disease at diagnosis, current treatment options include therapies such as surgical resection, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), such as sorafenib, orthotopic liver transplantation or radiofrequency ablation, and for more advanced patients, immune checkpoint plus anti-vascular-endothelial-growth-factor combination therapy, or palliative treatments, such as trans-catheter arterial chemo- or radio-embolization, stereotactic radiation therapy or systemic chemotherapy.
When tested in a panel of HCC cell lines, OTX-2002 made epigenetic modifications in precisely targeted regions in the chromosome, leading to a reduction in MYC mRNA levels and driving antiproliferative effects. In preclinical studies utilizing both subcutaneous and orthotopic mouse xenograft models of HCC, OTX-2002 led to significant tumor growth inhibition with no significant impact on body weight change in mice. The antitumor activity was consistent with reduction in MYC protein levels in the tumors. Further, in both in vitro and in vivo studies, OTX-2002 in combination with lenvatinib or sorafenib, the current standard of care agents in HCC, was associated with enhanced inhibition of tumor growth in HCC tumor models.
In a preclinical study of OTX-2002 in various HCC cell lines, OTX-2002 down-regulated c-Myc and we observed loss of cellular viability across targeted HCC subtypes with effects observed for 15 days. As shown in the graph below, the EC50, which measures the concentration of a drug that provides a 50% response between baseline and the maximum response, was measured in five HCC cell lines. Treatment with OTX-2002 resulted in a c-Myc mRNA expression EC50 at a mean value 0.013 ug/mL and a 50% decrease in cell viability at 0.147 ug/mL.
OTX-2002 was associated with a dose-response on expression and viability (in vitro)
In a separate preclinical study of OTX-2002 in an HCC cell line (Hep3B), we demonstrated a selective effect on the viability of cancer cells. As shown in the graph below, treatment of cancer cells with OTX-2002 at concentrations ranging from 0.001 to 500 ng/mL resulted in a significant reduction in the viability of these cells at
all doses, where, by contrast, when we treated normal cells (healthy primary human liver hepatocytes) with OTX-2002 we saw no significant impact on cell viability.
OTX-2002 reduced viability of HCC cancer cells but not healthy human liver cells (in vitro)
OTX-2002 delivered via formulated LNPs in vivo decreased tumor burden in mice containing human HCC xenografts. In this preclinical study, we administered 3 mg/kg OTX-2002 every five days in a mouse subcutaneous tumor model or a small molecule control. As shown in the graph below, treatment with OTX-2002 was associated with a statistically significant inhibition of tumor growth, resulting in a 78% inhibition of tumor growth by Day 13 compared to the negative control. Treatment with OTX-2002 was equivalent to treatment with the small molecule comparator. Mice treated with OTX-2002 did not experience a significant decrease in body weight. OTX-2002 was well tolerated in this study with no adverse events observed.
OTX-2002 anti-tumor activity and dose-dependent response observed in HCC subcutaneous xenograft model, with no significant impact on body weight (in vivo)
*Statistically significant vs negative control, t-test p<0.05 starting on Day 6. OTX-2002 dosed IV every 5 days.
In addition, we observed an equivalent effect on tumor growth from OTX-2002 in mice containing human HCC xenografts compared to sorafenib. Mice were administered 3 mg/kg of OTX-2002 every five days or 50
mg/kg of sorafenib once daily. Tumor growth was measured using bioluminescent imaging. As shown in the graph below, treatment with OTX-2002 resulted in a comparable reduction in luminescence as treatment with sorafenib. Mice treated with OTX-2002 did not experience a significant decrease in body weight. Mice treated with sorafenib experienced a sustained loss in body weight. OTX-2002 was well-tolerated in this study with no adverse events observed.
OTX-2002 anti-tumor activity and change in body weight observed in HCC orthotopic xenograft model (in vivo)
We have also observed statistically significant combination efficacy benefit with checkpoint inhibitors, including both anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 agents. In evaluation of a mouse surrogate OEC for OTX-2002 in a subcutaneous HCC tumor model (Hepa1-6), groups of immune competent mice were administered 1 mg/kg of the OEC every five days, 10 mg/kg of either anti-PD1 or anti-PD-L1 weekly, combinations of the OEC and anti-PD1 or anti-PD-L1, or a negative control. As shown in the graph below, combination treatment resulted in statistically significant inhibition of tumor growth compared to the negative control, and further, statistically significant inhibition of tumor growth compared to all of the monotherapy treatment arms. Both combination arms were well tolerated with no significant impact on body weight observed during the study.
Treatment with OEC in combination with anti-PD1 or anti-PDL1 anti-tumor activity and body weight observed in HCC xenograft model(in vivo)
In vivo treatment of OTX-2002 delivered via formulated LNPs in a mouse subcutaneous human HCC tumor model at a doses of 3 mg/kg every five days resulted in decreased tumor burden and also showed correlated changes in c-Myc expression and associated clinical biomarkers in tumors at the cellular level. As shown in the graph below, immunohistochemistry analysis of histology sections from OEC candidate-treated and negative control tumors harvested from the animals in the in vivo studies described above showed significant downregulation of c-Myc protein in the tumors (indicated by loss of brown staining) as well as the expected downregulation of Ki67 (a biomarker of tumor cell proliferation) and upregulation of Caspase 3 (a biomarker of apoptosis, a type of programmed cell death).
Change in clinical biomarkers observed in HCC xenograft model
In July 2022, we announced clearance of our investigational new drug (“IND”) application from the United States Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") to initiate a Phase 1/2, first-in-human, clinical trial of OTX-2002 for the treatment of HCC.
In October 2022, we announced initiation of the Phase 1/2 MYCHELANGELOTM I clinical trial. The study will evaluate the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and preliminary antitumor activity of OTX-2002 as a monotherapy (Part 1) and in combination with standard of care therapies (Part 2) in patients with relapsed or refractory HCC and other solid tumor types known for association with the MYC oncogene. The study is expected to enroll up to 190 patients at clinical trial sites in the United States, Asia, and Europe.
In November 2022, we announced that OTX-2002 was granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA for the treatment of HCC.
OTX-2101 for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
In October 2022, we announced the selection of OTX-2101 as a development candidate to advance into IND-enabling studies for the treatment of NSCLC. Approximately 50% of NSCLC tumors overexpress c-Myc. We are developing OTX-2101 to downregulate c-Myc and reduce this overexpression. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for 84% of all lung cancer diagnoses, which was approximately 192,200 new cases in the United States in 2020. The five-year survival rate for NSCLC is 24%. Depending on the stage of disease at diagnosis, current treatment options include therapies such as surgical resection, photodynamic therapy (PDT), laser therapy, or brachytherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies (e.g., TKIs) and immunotherapy in combination with other therapies.
We have identified OEC candidates that have shown activity against a range of NSCLC cell lines in vitro in preclinical studies, showing down-regulation of c-Myc with concomitant loss of cellular viability. Importantly, in in vitro preclinical studies, minimal antiproliferative effects in normal primary lung epithelial cells, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells were observed with these OEC candidates. In addition, the OEC candidates showed synergistic effects on cell proliferation in a preclinical study when treated in combination with clinically relevant TKIs (data not shown). We also conducted preclinical studies in two subcutaneous xenograft models of NSCLC. In these studies, we treated mice with 3 mg/kg of one of our OEC candidates every five days. Treatment with our OEC candidate showed a statistically significant reduction in tumor size during the dosing phase of the study, with no reduction in body weight of treated mice observed. In these two studies, treatment with our OEC candidate was associated with an equivalent effect on tumor volume to treatment with the standards of care, chemotherapy medication used to treat several cancers, as shown in the graphs below.
OEC candidate anti-tumor activity in H460 and H2009 NSCLC subcutaneous xenograft models (in vivo)
Anti-tumor activity observed in NSCLC subcutaneous xenograft model (in vivo)
* p<0.05 compared to negative control
Change in body weight observed in NSCLC subcutaneous xenograft model (in vivo)
In a panel of NSCLC cell lines, OTX-2101 reduced viability and induced apoptosis, consistent with reduction in MYC mRNA levels. Further analysis of the OTX-2101-treated cells showed specific binding of the mRNA drug substance to its predicted genomic target region and an increase in the expected epigenetic mark(s) at the target site. In preclinical studies in subcutaneous xenograft models of NSCLC, we observed significant inhibition of tumor growth at well tolerated doses of OTX-2101. OTX-2101 showed combination benefit in NSCLC cells in vitro, when treated either with MEK inhibitor (trametinib), or EGFR inhibitor (Osimertinib), which we believe demonstrates OTX-2101’s potential to offer a potential differentiated treatment modality in advanced NSCLC.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
We are also targeting SCLC through epigenetic control points that down-regulate a gene known to be overexpressed in more than 90% of SCLC due to a common mutation, and also overexpressed in other cancers including breast, lung, acute myeloid leukemia, and gastric cancers. This gene is located in an identified and well-characterized single-gene IGD. SCLC accounts for 15% of all lung cancers and has a five-year survival rate of
6%. Depending on the stage of disease at diagnosis, current treatment options include surgical resection followed by chemotherapy, chemotherapy with radiation, and immunotherapy.
We conducted proprietary algorithmic analysis of the IGD, using a wide range of multi-omic datasets, to identify numerous EpiZip targets and epigenomic effector options. We are generating computationally designed OEC candidates using our OMEGA platform for the potential treatment of SCLC and conducting in vitro testing to determine the final OEC candidate for in vivo testing.
Multigenic Diseases Including Immunology
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
We are evaluating OEC candidates to reduce expression of the CXCL1, 2, and 3 and IL-8 gene cluster in various potential indications, including inflammatory lung diseases such as neutrophilic asthma and ARDS, dermatological and rheumatological indications, and oncology. Overexpression of the CXCL gene cluster produces chemokines that attract neutrophils and promotes local inflammation. In the case of ARDS, chemokines that recruit inflammatory cells to the lung are of pivotal importance in disease pathogenesis and expression of the CXCL1, 2, 3, and IL-8 gene cluster is elevated in the lung cells of patients with ARDS. ARDS is a devastating syndrome, with an incidence of approximately 200,000 in the United States and a mortality rate approaching 40%.
In a preclinical study of an OEC candidate (Controller A in the graph below) in human monocytes, at 24 hours post-dosing we observed a 65% decrease in gene expression of CXCL1, a 55% decrease in gene expression of CXCL2, an 88% decrease in gene expression of CXCL3, and a 52% decrease in gene expression in IL-8, in each case relative to control.
Multigenic IGD targeting of chemokine genes observed (in vitro)
In a preclinical study in an animal model of ARDS, we observed a significant decrease in neutrophil infiltration in lungs treated with an OEC candidate. Animals were administered 3 mg/kg of the OEC candidate two hours prior and eight hours after lipopolysaccharide insult to induce inflammation or 10 mg/kg dexamethasone daily as a positive control. As shown in the graph below, we observed a 56% decrease in neutrophils infiltration in broncho-alveolar lavage fluid (labeled BALF in the graph below) in mice 72 hours after treatment with the OEC candidate relative to disease control, a measure of the severity of the inflammatory response.
Decreased neutrophil infiltration in ARDS model (in vivo)
* p<0.05 compared to disease control
We also plan to conduct in vivo testing in other models of severe inflammatory disease where the CXCL1, 2 and 3 and IL-8 gene cluster plays a key role, such as neutrophilic dermatosis, paw edema, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
We are evaluating OEC candidates to down-regulate expression of a gene cluster known to be up-regulated in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, and promote pulmonary fibrosis in animal models. IPF is a rapidly progressive and fatal disease in which the lung loses its functional capacity over time. The global prevalence for IPF is roughly 13 to 20 per 100,000 persons, and there is no known cure. The average patient survival is approximately six years with treatment and three years without treatment. Current treatment options are limited to symptomatic or palliative care, including anti-fibrotics, anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, oxygen therapy, and for advanced disease, lung transplant. If we are able to successfully down-regulate expression of this gene cluster in human lung cells, we believe this OEC candidate could also be developed for severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, as the same gene cluster is implicated in these indications as well as in IPF.
We have conducted algorithmic analysis, using a wide range of multi-omic datasets, to identify an IGD with an internal structure consisting of seven genes related to IPF controlled through various intra-IGD interactions and regulatory elements. We are generating computationally designed OEC candidates using our OMEGA platform for the potential treatment of IPF and conducting in vitro testing to determine the final OEC candidate for in vivo testing.
We are developing OEC candidates designed to increase expression of HNF4, a transcriptional master regulator, as a potential way to restore liver-cell function in patients with severe liver dysfunction. HNF4 controls development, differentiation, and homeostasis of hepatocytes and other cell types in the liver by controlling the expression of proteins, such as bilirubin, albumin, and metabolic enzymes, which are essential for normal liver
function. In chronic liver disease, HNF4 is down-regulated, which contributes to the pathology of liver failure. Studies have shown that increased expression of HNF4 in even a modest fraction of hepatocytes can restore healthy liver function.
In 2020, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis were a leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for over 50,000 deaths. Depending on the etiology of disease, treatment options may include corticosteroids, antivirals or other drugs, with the final option being liver transplantation. In 2018, in the United States, there were more than 14,000 people on the liver transplant waiting list and approximately 25% died before receiving a transplant.
In preclinical studies in primary healthy human hepatocytes, treatment with our OEC candidate induced a durable increase in HNF4 for up to ten days, which we believe may be sufficient to return hepatocytes to a functional state and restore liver function in CLD and ESLD patients. We also observed decreases in collagen 1A1, or Col1A1, and alpha smooth muscle actin, or SMA, both biomarkers of liver injury and fibrosis, as shown in the graph below. At 72 hours, we observed reductions of approximately 50% in both Col1A1 and SMA relative to untreated cells. These data showed a reduction in expression of these downstream biomarkers of liver damage in response to the up-regulation of HNF4 and support the proposed therapeutic mechanism of action of our OEC candidate.
OEC candidate reduced biomarkers of liver damage (in vitro)
As shown in the images below, in an in vivo preclinical mouse liver fibrosis model, carbon tetrachloride treatment was used to induce hepatocellular degeneration (labeled CCL4 in the images below). Treatment with a mouse surrogate construct of our OEC candidate showed a significant decrease in hepatocellular degeneration on Days 31 and 38 with either one or two weekly administrations.
Mouse surrogate construct of OEC candidate improved liver histology (in vivo)
We are currently conducting additional in vitro and in vivo pharmacology, formulation optimization, efficacy, and preliminary safety studies of our OEC candidate.
We are also evaluating OEC candidates to control the expression of multiple potential target genes in patients with diabetes and other conditions to treat corneal epithelial injury. The proteins expressed by these genes have been strongly linked to cell-growth inhibition and shown to be key factors in preventing ocular wound-healing in animal models. Approximately 70% of patients with diabetes suffer from corneal complications, including epithelial fragility, recurrent erosions, ulcers, and delayed or incomplete wound repair. Diabetic retinopathy is currently the leading cause of legal blindness in working age adults worldwide. The condition is mainly treated by attempting to maintain tight blood glucose control. We believe that by tuning these genes, we may be able to facilitate corneal regeneration to treat these corneal complications from diabetes or other conditions.
We have identified an IGD containing a master regulatory gene that has been strongly linked to cell-growth inhibition in patients with diabetes and other conditions. We conducted algorithmic analysis of the IGD, using a wide range of multi-omic datasets, to identify numerous EpiZip targets and epigenomic effector options. Using our OMEGA platform, we are generating computationally designed OEC candidates for the potential treatment of corneal generation and conducting in vitro testing to determine the final OEC candidate for in vivo testing.
Select Monogenic Diseases
We are developing OEC candidates for the treatment of alopecia, a disorder characterized by patches of non-scarring hair loss affecting the scalp and body. We are targeting SFRP1, a protein that inhibits hair growth in alopecia patients, and are developing OEC candidates designed to down-regulate the production of SFRP1. Alopecia areata affects approximately 6.5 million people in the United States and approximately 2% of people worldwide. Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness, is a genetically predetermined disorder caused by excessive response to androgens, which affects up to 50% of males and females. There is currently no cure for either type of alopecia. We are evaluating delivery of our OEC candidates to the hair bulb and assessing our OEC candidates’ effects in ex vivo models of hair growth.
In a preclinical study, we treated patient human papilla cells with an OEC candidate and measured SFRP1 mRNA expression. As shown in the figure below, we observed a 79% to 88% reduction in SFRP1 mRNA expression in cells treated with the OEC candidate compared to control. These effects were observed through Day 7.
Decrease in SFRP1 mRNA expression in human papilla cells (in vitro)
A critical element for the clinical translation of our OEC candidates is our ability to design OEC candidates that can target IGDs and tune gene expression across species. In preclinical studies, we evaluated changes in HNF4 expression in non-human primates and in human liver tissue engrafted and grown in a mouse (labeled FRG Mouse in the graph below) treated with our OEC candidate and in healthy mice treated with an OEC candidate designed to target the homologous murine target sequence. As shown in the graph below, we observed therapeutically relevant up-regulation of HNF4 compared to control, with results showing a 246% increase in mice, 68% increase in non-human primates, and 31% increase in the FRG mouse. We believe that this translational fidelity of our mechanism of action supports our continued development of our OEC candidates and programs.
Omega Epigenomic Controllers increased HNF4A expression in preclinical studies (in vivo)
* p<0.05 compared to negative control
We have extensive internal formulation, delivery and development expertise in mRNA and LNPs, and are engaged in continuous internal LNP research and development. We are currently exploring a range of LNPs from various internal and external sources and have developed proprietary formulations that have shown specific and efficient in vivo functional delivery of our OEC candidates to a number of therapeutically relevant cell and tissue-types in preclinical studies, as shown in the figure below. The tissue and cell types we can access with our current library of LNP compositions include liver (e.g. hepatocytes, stellate cells, Kupffer cells), lung (e.g. endothelial, alveolar, epithelial), local joints (e.g. synovial layer, chondrocytes, immune cells), and the central nervous system (e.g. spinal cord, brain), as well as tumors (e.g. subcutaneous, orthotopic). Collectively, our current delivery capabilities enable us to develop and expand our pipeline.
Delivery of Omega Epigenomic Controllers
We view the development of manufacturing capability, capacity, and control as critical to our overall success and specifically to our ability to meet our development timelines, contain operational costs and generate and protect intellectual property for our platform technology and product candidates. Because of this, we have chosen a clinically validated manufacturing and delivery technology with which we have deep internal expertise and which is similar to that being developed for various applications in the fields of vaccine development and gene editing. We are thus able to leverage our own experience, as well as the technological improvements and regulatory precedents established by previous and current products utilizing the same modalities.
Our internal process and analytical development organization has established manufacturing processes at sufficient scale to supply our research and early preclinical development requirements for drug substance and drug product. In addition, we have engaged highly skilled third-party contract development and manufacturing organizations, or CDMOs, with extensive experience in manufacturing mRNA, our drug substance, and drug product to implement our manufacturing processes at large scale under current good manufacturing practices, or cGMP. We have established manufacturing services agreement with third-party CDMOs for the supply of drug substance and drug product to meet our needs for preclinical studies, IND-enabling toxicology studies and clinical trials. We expect to continue to rely on third-party CDMOs for the supply of drug substance, drug product and finished product for the next several years.
For each of our therapeutic programs, we evaluate the optimal LNP delivery options from both external collaborations and our internal LNP research and development platform. For example, for our lead program, OTX-2002, we have licensed LNP technology from Acuitas Therapeutics, Inc., or Acuitas, a company with extensive LNP intellectual property and a track record of collaborating and developing LNPs for clinical use. We believe our collaborations with external partners will provide significant formulation and manufacturing expertise that will facilitate the transfer of processes for LNP formulation of mRNA under cGMP standards to CDMOs. We are also in the process of engaging additional highly experienced CDMOs to manufacture our product candidates.
We believe that we have sufficient manufacturing capacity through our third-party CDMOs and current internal facilities to meet our current research, preclinical, and clinical material needs. We believe that the current manufacturing capacity established externally, together with the internal capacity will be sufficient to meet our anticipated needs for the next several years. We monitor the capacity availability for the manufacture of drug substance and drug product and believe that our supply agreements with our CDMOs and the lead times for new material supply would allow us to access additional capacity to meet our anticipated needs. We also believe that our product can be manufactured at a scale and with production and procurement efficiencies that will result in commercially competitive costs.
As an early-stage biotechnology company, we face competition from a wide array of companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. This competition includes both small companies and large companies with greater financial and technical resources and longer operating histories than our own. We also compete with the intellectual property, technology, and product development efforts of academic, governmental, and private research institutions.
Our competitors may have significantly greater financial resources, established presence in the market, expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical and clinical testing, obtaining regulatory approvals and reimbursement, and marketing approved products than we do. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific, sales, marketing and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly if they establish collaborative arrangements with large companies.
The key competitive factors affecting the success of any products that we develop, if approved, are likely to be their efficacy, safety, convenience, price, and the availability of reimbursement from government and other third-party payors. Our commercial opportunity for any of our product candidates could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient, or are less expensive than any products that we may develop. Our competitors may also obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours and may commercialize products more quickly than we do.
We expect to compete with companies developing technologies that focus on gene-expression control using various technologies, such as CRISPR gene editing, gene therapies, non-coding RNA therapeutics, and small molecule epigenetics. These companies include: Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Beam Therapeutics Inc., Biogen Inc., CRISPR Therapeutics AG, Editas Medicine Inc., Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Intellia Therapeutics, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Pfizer Inc., and Sangamo Therapeutics Inc.
Further, while we are not aware of other companies developing epigenomic controllers and modulating gene-expression pre-transcriptionally for the treatment of either HCC or NSCLC, several companies are developing therapeutics that use gene-expression control for the treatment of HCC or NSCLC, including Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., AstraZeneca plc, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. / Ascletis Pharma Inc. and Bio-Path Holdings, Inc., which are developing anti-sense inhibitors, Nitto Denko Corporation and Simaomics, Inc., which are developing siRNA inhibitors, InteRNA Technologies B.V. which is developing micro-RNA mimic therapies, Momotaro-Gene Inc. and Genprex, Inc., which are developing gene therapy approaches, and MiNA Therapeutics Limited, which is developing a small activating RNA therapy.
These technologies, along with other modalities, such as small molecules and biologics, may be used to develop therapeutic candidates that would compete against our current, and potentially future, product
candidates. In addition, we expect any OECs we develop to compete with established therapeutic treatments, if any, in their target indication.
We believe our intellectual property estate is a strategic asset that has the potential to provide us with a competitive advantage. We strive to protect our proprietary technology, inventions and improvements that are commercially important to our business, including pursuing, maintaining, defending, and asserting patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from third parties. Our policy and practice is to protect our proprietary position by various methods, including filing patent applications in the United States and in jurisdictions outside of the United States related to our proprietary technology (e.g., OMEGA platform, OECs, delivery and manufacturing technology), inventions, improvements and product candidates that are important to the development and implementation of our business. We also rely on trade secrets and know-how relating to our proprietary technology and product candidates. We continue to innovate and pursue in-licensing opportunities to develop, strengthen and maintain our proprietary position in the field of epigenetic medicine. We additionally rely on data exclusivity, market exclusivity and patent term extensions when available and plan to seek and rely on regulatory protection afforded through orphan drug designations for our therapeutic products. Our commercial success may depend in part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for our technology, inventions and improvements; to preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets; to maintain our licenses to use intellectual property owned by third parties; to defend and enforce our proprietary rights, including our patents; and to operate without infringing on the valid and enforceable patents and other proprietary rights of third parties.
Our wholly owned and in-licensed patent portfolio cover various aspects of the OMEGA platform, including, manufacturing, delivery, OECs and our therapeutic programs. Our patent portfolio also covers our product candidates that are in development. As of December 31, 2022, our patent portfolio consists of 28 patent families, including 40 pending U.S. patent applications (including provisional applications), 90 pending foreign patent applications in Europe, Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Japan, and nine owned or in-licensed Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications that have not entered national phase. Any US or foreign patents issuing from or claiming priority to the patent applications in our patent portfolio will expire between 2036 and 2042, without taking into account any possible patent term adjustments or extensions and assuming payment of all appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity and other governmental fees. Our objective is to continue to expand our patent portfolio to protect our proprietary technology (including the OMEGA platform, OECs, delivery and manufacturing technology), inventions, improvements and current and future product candidates. Our patent portfolio currently does not include any granted patent covering any of our product candidates.
Further details of the products and technology areas covered by our intellectual property portfolio are described below.
OMEGA platform-related intellectual property
Our intellectual property portfolio includes know-how and patent rights directed to the OMEGA platform and delivery technology developed internally and in-licensed exclusively or co-exclusively from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, or WIBR, and Flagship Pioneering Innovations V., Inc., or Flagship.
The intellectual property portfolio for our OMEGA platform technology includes patent rights directed to compositions and methods of using OECs; methods and compositions for upregulating or downregulating gene expression by targeting IGDs; compositions for modulating gene expression by targeting IGDs with epigenetic effectors, physical disruptors and genetic modifiers; and methods for identifying and interrogating IGDs. The portfolio relates broadly to our existing product candidates and those we may develop in the future and the indications we target or may target in the future. Intellectual property related to our OMEGA platform includes a patent application owned by us. As of December 31, 2022, we owned one provisional U.S. patent application related to the OMEGA platform. We also in-license the patents and patent applications related to our OMEGA platform from WIBR and from Flagship. As of December 31, 2022, we in-licensed three issued U.S. patents, 14 non-provisional U.S. patent applications and one provisional U.S. patent application; two PCT patent applications; and 28 foreign patent applications in Europe, Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan related to the OMEGA platform. We expect patents issuing from or claiming priority to these pending applications, if any, to expire between 2036 and 2043, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions. The foregoing
account of our patent rights does not include rights to patents and patent applications owned by Acuitas and in-licensed to Omega pursuant to a non-exclusive license agreement or those owned by Nitto Denko Corporation, or Nitto, and in-licensed to us pursuant to an exclusive license agreement limited to a jointly developed drug candidate.
The patent portfolio for our delivery technology includes patent applications directed to LNP formulations, lipid molecules, and cell penetrating polypeptide compositions and their uses. We own certain of the patent applications related to our delivery technology and in-license certain of the patent applications from Flagship. As of December 31, 2022, we owned ten provisional U.S. patent applications and two PCT patent applications related to delivery technology. As of December 31, 2022, we also in-licensed from Flagship one issued U.S. patent and one non-provisional U.S. patent application related to delivery technology. We expect patents issuing from or claiming priority to these pending applications, if any, to expire between 2037 and 2043, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions.
Disease-related intellectual property
The disease-related patent rights in our intellectual property portfolio provide coverage for OECs that specifically address certain conditions and the associated disease states. The disease-related patent applications for our lead programs include those described below. Each of the disease-related patent applications described below is either wholly owned by us or is exclusively or co-exclusively licensed from WIBR or Flagship.
Our OTX-2002 program targets the c-Myc family oncogene. We have developed OECs that downregulate c-Myc for the treatment of HCC. We also have a program designed to reduce the expression of c-Myc to treat NSCLC. As of December 31, 2022, we owned two provisional U.S. patent applications related to OEC compositions of matter, methods of treating c-Myc related cancers and methods of modulating c-Myc expression. As of December 31, 2022, we also in-licensed from Flagship five provisional U.S. patent applications, one foreign patent application in Taiwan and one PCT application related to OEC compositions of matter, methods of treating c-Myc related cancers and methods of modulating c-Myc expression. We expect patents issuing from or claiming priority to these pending patent applications, if any, to expire between 2037 and 2043, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions.
CXCL1, 2, 3, and IL-8
We are developing OEC candidates to reduce expression of the CXCL1, 2, 3, and IL-8 gene cluster. The program is designed to reduce expression of chemokines that are over-expressed in a broad range of inflammatory disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, neutrophilic asthma, and ARDS. As of December 31, 2022, we in-licensed from Flagship two provisional U.S. patent applications relating to OEC compositions that target the CXCL 1-3/IL-8 IGD, and methods of treating inflammatory disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis. We expect patents claiming priority to these pending patent applications, if any, to expire in 2043, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions.
Our liver regeneration program targets the master transcriptional regulator HNF4a. We have developed OEC candidates that increase expression of HNF4a to restore liver-cell function in patients with severe liver dysfunction. As of December 31, 2022, we owned one U.S. non-provisional patent application and five foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, and Japan related to OEC compositions of matter and methods of treating liver disease. We expect patents issuing from these pending patent applications, if any, to expire in 2040, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions.
Other Disease Areas
In addition to our disease programs listed above, we also have patent applications relating to novel OEC compositions and their use for treating additional disorders that would benefit from upregulation or downregulation of gene expression. As of December 31, 2022, we owned one PCT patent application directed to compositions
and methods of treatments for neurological disorders. We expect patents issuing from or claiming priority to these pending applications, if any, to expire between 2040 and 2042, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions. As of December 31, 2022, we owned one non-provisional U.S. patent application and five foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, and Japan directed to compositions and methods of treatment for metabolic disorder. We expect patents claiming priority to this pending application, if at all, to expire in 2040, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions. As of December 31, 2022, we in-licensed from WIBR and Flagship two U.S. non-provisional patent applications and one PCT patent application directed to compositions and methods of treatment for cancer. We expect any patents issuing from these pending applications, if any, to expire between 2036 and 2039, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions. As of December 31, 2022, we owned one non-provisional U.S. patent application and five foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, and Japan directed to compositions and methods of treatment for inflammatory disorders. We expect patents claiming priority to these pending applications, if at all, to expire in 2041, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions. As of December 31, 2022, we owned one PCT patent application directed to compositions and methods of treatments for alopecia. We expect patents issuing from or claiming priority to this pending application, if any, to expire in 2042, excluding any patent term adjustments or extensions.
We intend to continually assess and refine our intellectual property strategy and file additional patent applications as we develop new platform technologies and product candidates.
We are a party to license agreements under which we license patents, patent applications, and other intellectual property from third parties. The licensed intellectual property covers, at least in part, methods and compositions for regulating gene expression by targeting IGDs. These licenses impose various diligence and financial payment obligations on us. We expect to continue to enter into these types of license agreements in the future. We consider the following license agreements to be material to our business.
License Agreement with Flagship
In March 2019, we entered into an agreement, or the Flagship Agreement, with Flagship, pursuant to which we (i) irrevocably and unconditionally assigned to Flagship all of our right, title and interest in and to certain foundational intellectual property conceived prior to the "Launch of the Company", which is defined as the earlier of our closing of the Series B financing or the first day of employment by our CEO (such foundational intellectual property, the Foundational IP) and (ii) obtained an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing, sublicensable, transferable license from Flagship under such Foundational IP to develop, manufacture and commercialize any product or process or component thereof, the development, manufacturing and commercialization of which would infringe at least one valid claim of Foundational IP absent the license granted under the Flagship Agreement in the field of therapeutics during the term of the Flagship Agreement. In addition, Flagship irrevocably and unconditionally assigned to us all of its right, title and interest in and to any and all patents claiming any inventions conceived (i) solely by Flagship Pioneering, Inc., or Flagship Management, or jointly by Flagship Management and us, (ii) after the "Launch of the Company", and (iii) as a result of activities conducted pursuant to that certain managerial agreement with Flagship Management, or the Managerial Agreement, or other participation of Flagship Management in our affairs, but excluding Foundational IP. Foundational IP is directed, among other things, to the OMEGA platform, including to general methods and compositions (OECs) to modulate gene expression by targeting IGDs and specific compositions and methods directed to specific targets for the treatment of various disorders, such as MYC and CXCL1, 2, 3 & IL-8 related disorders. We utilize the rights granted by Flagship under the Flagship Agreement in our OMEGA platform and our therapeutic product candidates, including our therapeutic programs directed to MYC and CXCL1, 2, 3 & IL-8 programs. As of December 31, 2022, the Foundational IP was expected to expire between 2037 and 2042. The license granted to Foundational IP is contingent upon our compliance with our obligations under the Flagship Agreement. Our obligations under the Flagship Agreement include the use of commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize licensed products and payments required under the Flagship Agreement, including royalties on net sales of the licensed products. Pursuant to the Flagship Agreement, we are obligated to pay Flagship, on a licensed product-by-licensed product and jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, royalties in the low single-digit percentage on net sales of licensed products. We are solely responsible for the clinical development of any product candidates we develop based on the Foundational IP. Under the Flagship Agreement, Flagship retains the right to practice Foundational
IP within the field of therapeutics solely for non-commercial research and development purposes and to perform its duties under the Managerial Agreement.
The Flagship Agreement will terminate on the last to expire royalty term, which will expire, on a licensed product-by-licensed product and jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, upon the expiration of the last valid claim of any Foundational IP covering such licensed product. Upon expiration of the royalty term with respect to a licensed product in any jurisdiction and payment in full of all amounts owed under the Flagship Agreement for such licensed product, the license granted to us will automatically convert into a non-exclusive, fully paid up license for such licensed product in such jurisdiction. We have the right to terminate the Flagship Agreement in its entirety for convenience upon 60 days of written notice. Either party may terminate the Flagship Agreement upon a material breach by the other party that is not cured within 30 days after receiving written notice. Also, Flagship may terminate (i) upon 30 days’ written notice if we cease to carry on our business with respect to the rights granted in the Flagship Agreement, (ii) upon written notice if we experience an event of bankruptcy, or (iii) immediately upon written notice if we challenge the validity, patentability, or enforceability of any Foundational IP or participate in any such challenge. If Flagship determines that we have not used commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize a licensed product in a specific sub-field within the licensed field, Flagship has the right to terminate the license, on prior written notice, with respect to such licensed product in such sub-field. However, in such event, we may retain our license with respect to such licensed product and sub-field if Flagship approves a written plan for development and commercialization.
Exclusive and Co-Exclusive License Agreements with WIBR
In May 2019, we and WIBR entered into an exclusive license agreement, or the WIBR Exclusive Agreement. Under the WIBR Exclusive Agreement, we received an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing, sublicensable license under certain patent rights owned or controlled by WIBR to research, make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, lease and import products and to perform and have performed licensed processes in the field of human and animal therapeutics and diagnostics. The licensed patents under the WIBR Exclusive Agreement are directed to, among other things, methods and compositions for modulating gene expression in IGDs.
In May 2019, we also entered into a co-exclusive license agreement with WIBR, or the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement. Under the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement, we received a co-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing, sublicensable license under certain patent rights owned or controlled by WIBR to research, make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, lease and import products and to perform and have performed licensed processes in the field of human and animal therapeutics and diagnostics. Our co-exclusive rights under the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement will become exclusive if the co-exclusive license agreement between WIBR and the co-exclusive licensee is terminated at any time for any reason. The licensed patents under the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement are directed to, among other things, methods and compositions for modulating gene expression through targeting IGDs. The WIBR Exclusive Agreement and the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement are collectively referred to as the WIBR Agreements.
Under the WIBR Agreements, WIBR retains the right to practice the licensed patents for research, teaching, and other educational purposes, including use in third-party sponsored research, and to grant non-exclusive licenses to other academic and not-for-profit research institutes solely for non-commercial research, teaching, and other educational purposes.
The licenses granted to us under the WIBR Agreements are subject to certain preexisting rights held by the U.S. government. The U.S. government retains certain rights under applicable law with respect to licensed patents that arose from federal research funding. The license granted to us under the WIBR Agreements is further subject to certain preexisting rights held by a certain third party who is a party to a certain sponsored research agreement, or SRA, with WIBR. Under the SRA, WIBR covenanted not to sue said third party if certain inventions arising under the SRA, or SRA inventions, are dominated by the licensed patents and we are thereby excluded from asserting any patent rights licensed from WIBR that cover the SRA inventions against said third party. Furthermore, beginning five years after the effective date of the WIBR Exclusive Agreement, if WIBR or we receive a request from a third party for a sublicense under the licensed patent rights to make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, or import a product or process that is not directly competitive with a licensed product or licensed process then offered for sale or in bona fide research or development by or on behalf of us, we must either (i) enter into a good faith negotiation toward granting a non-exclusive sublicense limited to the third party’s proposed
field and proposed product, or (ii) at our election, submit a plan for WIBR’s approval for development of the proposed product, which approval must not be unreasonably withheld.
Under the WIBR Exclusive Agreement, we are required to pay WIBR an annual license maintenance fee in the mid five figures. WIBR is also entitled to receive potential clinical and regulatory milestones up to $1.7 million in the aggregate for each of the first three licensed products (excluding backup products). During the year ended December 31, 2022, we incurred approximately $0.1 million of expenses, consisting of license maintenance fees, reimbursable patent costs and milestone payment, under the WIBR Exclusive Agreement. With respect to the sale of licensed products by us, our affiliates or our sublicensees, WIBR is entitled to receive a low single-digit percentage royalties on net sales of licensed products until, on a country-by-country basis, the expiration or abandonment of the patent rights. We are entitled to certain customary reductions and offsets on these royalties with respect to a licensed product in a given country. If we sublicense our rights to develop or commercialize a licensed product under the WIBR Exclusive Agreement, WIBR is entitled to a percentage of non-royalty payments that we receive from our sublicenses, ranging from zero to the low double-digits, depending on the stage of development our licensed products at the time such sublicense is executed.
Unless earlier terminated, the WIBR Exclusive Agreement will remain in effect until the expiration or abandonment of all licensed patent rights. We may terminate the WIBR Exclusive Agreement at our convenience following written notice to WIBR. Either party may terminate the WIBR Exclusive Agreement for an uncured material breach of the other party. WIBR may also terminate the WIBR Exclusive Agreement in the event that Omega ceases to carry on its business. The last to expire patent under the WIBR Exclusive Agreement, if issued, is expected to expire in 2038.
Under the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement, we are required to pay WIBR an annual license maintenance fee in the low to mid five figures. WIBR is also entitled to receive potential clinical, regulatory, and sublicensing milestones up to $1.9 million in the aggregate for each of the first three licensed products (excluding backup products). During the year ended December 31, 2022, we incurred less than $0.1 million of expenses, consisting of license maintenance fees and reimbursable patent costs, under the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement. With respect to the sale of licensed products by us, our affiliates or our sublicensees, WIBR is entitled to receive sub single digit percentage royalties on net sales of licensed products and low single digit percentage royalties on licensed services income until, on a country-by-country basis, the expiration or abandonment of the patent rights. We are entitled to certain customary reductions and offsets on these royalties with respect to a licensed product in a given country. If we sublicense our rights to develop or commercialize a licensed product under the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement, WIBR is entitled to a mid-five figure yearly payment for each such sublicense agreement that grants a sublicensee the right under the licensed patents.
Unless earlier terminated, the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement will remain in effect until the expiration or abandonment of all licensed patent rights. We may terminate the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement at our convenience following written notice to WIBR. Either party may terminate the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement for an uncured material breach of the other party. WIBR may also terminate the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement in the event that we cease to carry on our business. The last to expire patent under the WIBR Co-Exclusive Agreement, if issued, is expected to expire in 2037.
Agreements with Acuitas
Development and Option Agreement
In October 2020, we and Acuitas entered into a development and option agreement, or the Acuitas Option Agreement. Under the Acuitas Option Agreement, the parties agreed to jointly develop certain products combining our gene modulating therapeutics with Acuitas’s LNPs. Each party granted the other party a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license under its proprietary technology to conduct the joint research. We will pay Acuitas’s personnel costs and external expenses incurred in performing research in accordance with a work plan under the Acuitas Option Agreement. Under the Acuitas Option Agreement, Acuitas granted us options to obtain non-exclusive, worldwide, sublicensable licenses under Acuitas’s patent rights and know-how related to LNP technology, or Acuitas LNP Technology, with respect to two specified targets (e.g., OEC constructs), or Reserved Targets, to develop and commercialize one or more therapeutic products including mRNAs that encode the Reserved Targets. For each option and Reserved Target, we are obligated to pay an annual technology access fee and target reservation and maintenance fees collectively in the low-mid six figures until such Reserved
Targets is removed from the Reserved Target list or until we exercise an option with respect to such Reserved Target. On exercise of the first option, we are required to pay a $1.5 million option exercise fee after execution of the first non-exclusive license. On exercise of the second option, we are required to pay a $1.75 million option exercise fee after execution of the second non-exclusive license. During the year ended December 31, 2022, we incurred total expenses of $1.9 million under the Acuitas Option Agreement, consisting of technology access fees, target reservation and maintenance fees, the costs of services performed by Acuitas, the material costs and the reimbursable costs.
Unless earlier terminated, the Acuitas Option Agreement will remain in effect until the first to occur of (1) both options being exercised, and (2) three years from the effective date, except that we can choose to extend the three year term for an additional two years. Either party may terminate the Acuitas Option Agreement for an uncured material breach of the other party or upon the other party’s bankruptcy or a similar event. We may terminate the Acuitas Option Agreement at our convenience following written notice to Acuitas. The last to expire patent under the Acuitas Option Agreement, if issued, is expected to expire in 2041.
In March 2021, we exercised the first option under the Acuitas Option Agreement and entered into a non-exclusive license agreement with Acuitas, or the Acuitas License Agreement. In connection with the execution of the Acuitas License Agreement, we incurred an expense of $1.5 million for the option exercise fee. Acuitas granted us a non-exclusive, worldwide, sublicensable license under the Acuitas LNP Technology to research, develop, manufacture, and commercially exploit products consisting of our OTX-2002 gene modulating therapeutics and Acuitas’s LNPs. The last to expire patent under the Acuitas License Agreement, if issued, is expected to expire in 2041. Under the Acuitas License Agreement, we are required to pay Acuitas an annual license maintenance fee in the high six figures until we achieve a particular development milestone. Acuitas is entitled to receive potential clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments of up to $18.0 million in the aggregate. With respect to the sale of each licensed product by us, our affiliates or our sublicensees, Acuitas is entitled to receive low single digit percentage royalties on net sales of the licensed product in a given country until the last to occur, in such country, of (i) the expiration or abandonment of all licensed patent rights covering the licensed product, (ii) expiration of any regulatory exclusivity for the licensed product, or (iii) ten years from the first commercial sale of the licensed product, or Royalty Term. We are entitled to certain royalty reductions and offsets with respect to each licensed product in a given country if no licensed patents cover the licensed product or if we are required to obtain rights to third party patents that relate to LNP technology.
Unless earlier terminated, the Acuitas License Agreement will remain in effect until the expiration of the last-to-expire Royalty Term. Either party may terminate the Acuitas License Agreement for an uncured material breach of the other party upon the other party’s bankruptcy or a similar event. We may terminate the Acuitas License Agreement at our convenience following written notice to Acuitas.
Collaboration and License Agreement with Nitto
In October 2022, we entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement (the “Nitto Agreement”) with Nitto, pursuant to which, among other things, Nitto granted us an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing, fully transferable and fully sublicensable license under all intellectual property (the “Nitto Licensed IP”) owned or controlled by Nitto relating to its LNP delivery technology.
Under the terms of the Nitto Agreement, we paid Nitto an upfront cash payment of $1.0 million. We are also required to make up to $84.0 million in future payments to Nitto based upon the achievement of specified development, regulatory and sales milestones. We are also obligated to pay to Nitto tiered, single-digit percentage royalties on a country-by-country basis based on net sales of the Licensed Product, subject to reduction in specified circumstances.
Unless earlier terminated, the Nitto Agreement will expire on a country-by-country basis when there are no further royalty payments owed by us to Nitto in such country with respect to the licensed product. Upon expiration of the applicable royalty term with respect to the licensed product in a country, the license will become fully paid-up, royalty-free, perpetual and irrevocable with respect to the licensed product in such country. The Nitto Agreement may be terminated by either party upon the other party’s uncured material breach of the Nitto Agreement, by either party in the event of the other party’s bankruptcy, insolvency or certain similar occurrences,
by us at any time after June 13, 2023 for any or no reason, and by us on a country-by country basis or in its entirety until June 13, 2023 for certain specified good faith reasons.
We are subject to extensive regulation. We expect our product candidates to be regulated as biologics. Biological products are subject to regulation under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FD&C Act, and the Public Health Service Act, or PHS Act, and other federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations. Both the FD&C Act and the PHS Act and their corresponding regulations govern, among other things, the testing, manufacturing, safety, efficacy, labeling, packaging, storage, record keeping, distribution, reporting, advertising and other promotional practices involving biological products.
U.S. biological products development process
The process required by the FDA before a biologic may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:
Before testing any biological product candidate in humans, the product candidate enters the preclinical testing stage. Preclinical tests, also referred to as nonclinical studies, include laboratory evaluations of product chemistry, toxicity and formulation, as well as animal studies to assess the potential safety and activity of the product candidate. The conduct of the preclinical tests must comply with federal regulations and requirements including GLPs.
The clinical study sponsor must submit the results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, any available clinical data or literature and a proposed clinical protocol, to the FDA as part of the IND. Some preclinical testing may continue even after the IND is submitted. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA places the clinical study on a clinical hold within that 30-day time period. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical study can begin. The FDA may also impose clinical holds on a biological product candidate at any time before or during clinical trials due to safety concerns or non-compliance. If the FDA imposes a clinical hold, trials may not recommence without FDA authorization and then only under terms authorized by the FDA.
In addition to the IND submission process, sponsors of certain human clinical trials of cells containing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules, including human gene transfer studies, are subject to evaluation and assessment by an institutional biosafety committee, or IBC, a local institutional committee that reviews and
oversees research utilizing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules at that institution, pursuant to the National Institutes of Health’s Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules, or NIH Guidelines. The IBC assesses the safety of the research and identifies any potential risk to the public health or the environment, and such review may result in some delay before initiation of a clinical trial. While the NIH Guidelines are not mandatory unless the research in question is being conducted at or sponsored by institutions receiving NIH funding of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecule research, many companies and other institutions not otherwise subject to the NIH Guidelines voluntarily follow them.
Clinical trials involve the administration of the biological product candidate to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by or under the study sponsor’s control. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical study, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria, and the parameters to be used to monitor subject safety, including stopping rules that assure a clinical study will be stopped if certain adverse events should occur. Each protocol and any amendments to the protocol must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Clinical trials must be conducted and monitored in accordance with the FDA’s regulations comprising the GCP requirements, including the requirement that all research subjects provide informed consent. Further, each clinical study must be reviewed and approved by an independent institutional review board, or IRB, at or servicing each institution at which the clinical study will be conducted. An IRB is charged with protecting the welfare and rights of study participants and considers such items as whether the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trials are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the form and content of the informed consent that must be signed by each clinical study subject or his or her legal representative and must monitor the clinical study until completed.
Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:
Post-approval clinical trials, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials, may be conducted after initial marketing approval. These clinical trials are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication, particularly for long-term safety follow-up.
During all phases of clinical development, regulatory agencies require extensive monitoring and auditing of all clinical activities, clinical data, and clinical study investigators. Annual progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted to the FDA. Written IND safety reports must be promptly submitted to the FDA, the NIH and the investigators for serious and unexpected adverse events, any findings from other trials, tests in laboratory animals or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human subjects, or any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. The sponsor must submit an IND safety report within 15 calendar days after the sponsor determines that the information qualifies for reporting. The sponsor also must notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction within seven calendar days after the sponsor’s initial receipt of the information. The FDA or the sponsor or its data safety monitoring board may suspend a clinical study at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical study at its institution if the clinical study is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the biological product candidate has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients.
There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed clinical trial results to public registries. Sponsors of clinical trials of FDA-regulated products, including biologics, are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information, which is publicly available at www.clinicaltrials.gov. Information related to the product, patient population, phase of investigation, study sites and investigators, and other aspects of the clinical trial is then made public as part of the registration. Sponsors are also obligated to discuss the results of their clinical trials after completion. Disclosure of the results of these trials can be delayed until the new product or new indication being studied has been approved.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal trials and must also develop additional information about the physical characteristics of the biological product candidate as well as finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with GMP requirements. To help reduce the risk of the introduction of adventitious agents with use of biological products, the PHS Act emphasizes the importance of manufacturing control for products whose attributes cannot be precisely defined. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product candidate and, among other things, the sponsor must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, potency and purity of the final biological product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the biological product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.
U.S. review and approval process
After the completion of clinical trials of a biological product candidate, FDA approval of a BLA must be obtained before commercial marketing of the biological product. The BLA must include results of product development, laboratory and animal trials, human trials, information on the manufacture and composition of the product, proposed labeling and other relevant information. In addition, under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, or PREA, a BLA or supplement to a BLA must contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the biological product candidate for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, or FDASIA, requires that a sponsor who is planning to submit a marketing application for a drug or biological product that includes a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen or new route of administration submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan, or PSP, within sixty days after an end-of-Phase 2 meeting or as may be agreed between the sponsor and FDA.
Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, as amended, each BLA must be accompanied by a user fee. The FDA adjusts the PDUFA user fees on an annual basis. Fee waivers or reductions are available in certain circumstances, including a waiver of the application fee for the first application filed by a small business. Additionally, no user fees are assessed on BLAs for products designated as orphan drugs, unless the product also includes a non-orphan indication.
Within 60 days following submission of the application, the FDA reviews a BLA submitted to determine if it is substantially complete before the agency accepts it for filing. The FDA may refuse to file any BLA that it deems incomplete or not properly reviewable at the time of submission and may request additional information. In this event, the BLA must be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application also is subject to review before the FDA accepts it for filing. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth substantive review of the BLA. The FDA reviews the BLA to determine, among other things, whether the proposed product is safe and potent, or effective, for its intended use, and has an acceptable purity profile, and whether the product is being manufactured in accordance with cGMP requirements to assure and preserve the product’s identity, safety, strength, quality, potency and purity. The FDA may refer applications for novel biological products or biological products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee, typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions. During the biological product approval process, the FDA also will determine whether a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, is necessary to assure the safe use of the biological product candidate. If the FDA concludes a REMS is needed, the sponsor of the BLA must submit a proposed REMS; the FDA will not approve the BLA without a REMS, if required.
Before approving a BLA, the FDA will inspect the facilities at which the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve the product unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with GMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure that the clinical trials were conducted in compliance with IND study requirements and GCP requirements.
Notwithstanding the submission of relevant data and information, the FDA may ultimately decide that the BLA does not satisfy its regulatory criteria for approval and deny approval. Data obtained from clinical trials are not always conclusive and the FDA may interpret data differently than the applicant interprets the same data. If the FDA decides not to approve the BLA in its present form, the FDA will issue a complete response letter that usually describes all of the specific deficiencies in the BLA identified by the FDA. The deficiencies identified may be minor, for example, requiring labeling changes, or major, for example, requiring additional clinical trials. Additionally, the complete response letter may include recommended actions that the applicant might take to place the application in a condition for approval. If a complete response letter is issued, the applicant may either resubmit the BLA, addressing all of the deficiencies identified in the letter, or withdraw the application.
If a product receives regulatory approval, the approval may be significantly limited to specific diseases and dosages or the indications for use may otherwise be limited, which could restrict the commercial value of the product. Further, the FDA may require that certain contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling. The FDA may impose restrictions and conditions on product distribution, prescribing, or dispensing in the form of a REMS, or otherwise limit the scope of any approval. In addition, the FDA may require post marketing clinical trials, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials, designed to further assess a biological product’s safety and effectiveness, and testing and surveillance programs to monitor the safety of approved products that have been commercialized.
One of the performance goals agreed to by the FDA under the PDUFA is to review 90% of standard BLAs in 10 months from the filing date and 90% of priority BLAs in six months from the filing date, whereupon a review decision is to be made. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs and its review goals are subject to change from time to time. The review process and the PDUFA goal date may be extended by three months if the FDA requests or the BLA sponsor otherwise provides additional information or clarification regarding information already provided in the submission within the last three months before the PDUFA goal date.
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 more than 200,000 individuals in the United States for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available in the United States a drug or biologic for this type of disease or condition will be recovered from sales in the United States for that drug or biologic. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an NDA or BLA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the generic identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. The orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review or approval process.
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 exclusive approval (or exclusivity), which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications, including a full NDA or BLA, 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 if the FDA finds that the holder of the orphan drug exclusivity has not shown that it can assure the availability of sufficient quantities of the orphan drug to meet the needs of patients with the disease or condition for which the drug or biologic was designated. Orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent the FDA from approving a different drug or biologic for the same disease or condition, or the same drug or biologic for a different disease or condition. Among the other benefits of orphan drug designation are tax credits for certain research and a waiver of the NDA or BLA application user fee.
A designated orphan drug may not receive orphan drug exclusivity if it is approved for a use that is broader than the indication for which it received orphan designation. In addition, exclusive marketing rights in the United
States may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.
Expedited development and review programs
The FDA offers a number of expedited development and review programs for qualifying product candidates. For example, the Fast Track program is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing new products that meet certain criteria. Specifically, product candidates are eligible for Fast Track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the disease or condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product candidate and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a Fast Track product candidate has opportunities for more frequent interactions with the review team during product development and, once an NDA or BLA is submitted, the product may be eligible for priority review. A Fast Track product candidate may also be eligible for rolling review, where the FDA may consider for review sections of the NDA or BLA on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the NDA or BLA, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the NDA or BLA and determines that the schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the NDA or BLA.
A product candidate intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition may also be eligible for breakthrough therapy designation to expedite its development and review. A product can receive breakthrough therapy designation if preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs or biologics, may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. The designation includes all of the Fast Track program features, as well as more intensive FDA interaction and guidance beginning as early as Phase 1 and an organizational commitment to expedite the development and review of the product candidate, including involvement of senior managers.
Any marketing application for a drug or biologic submitted to the FDA for approval, including a product candidate with a Fast Track designation and/or breakthrough therapy designation, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite the FDA review and approval process, such as priority review and accelerated approval. A product candidate is eligible for priority review if it has the potential to provide a significant improvement in the treatment, diagnosis or prevention of a serious disease or condition. For new-molecular-entity NDAs and original BLAs, priority review designation means the FDA’s goal is to take action on the marketing application within six months of the 60-day filing date (as compared to ten months under standard review).
Additionally, product candidates studied for their safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions may receive accelerated approval upon a determination that the product candidate has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, that 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. As a condition of accelerated approval, the FDA will generally require the sponsor to perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical studies to verify and describe the anticipated effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit. Products receiving accelerated approval may be subject to expedited withdrawal procedures if the sponsor fails to conduct the required post-marketing studies or if such studies fail to verify the predicted clinical benefit. In addition, the FDA currently requires as a condition for accelerated approval pre-approval of promotional materials, which could adversely impact the timing of the commercial launch of the product.
In 2017, the FDA established a new regenerative medicine advanced therapy, or RMAT, designation as part of its implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act. The RMAT designation program is intended to fulfill the 21st Century Cures Act requirement that the FDA facilitate an efficient development program for, and expedite review of, any drug or biologic that meets the following criteria: (i) the drug or biologic qualifies as a RMAT, which is defined as a cell therapy, therapeutic tissue engineering product, human cell and tissue product, or any combination product using such therapies or products, with limited exceptions; (ii) the drug or biologic is intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition; and (iii) preliminary clinical
evidence indicates that the drug or biologic has the potential to address unmet medical needs for such a disease or condition. RMAT designation provides all the benefits of breakthrough therapy designation, including more frequent meetings with the FDA to discuss the development plan for the product candidate and eligibility for rolling review and priority review. Product candidates granted RMAT designation may also be eligible for accelerated approval on the basis of a surrogate or intermediate endpoint reasonably likely to predict long-term clinical benefit, or reliance upon data obtained from a meaningful number of clinical trial sites, including through expansion of trials to additional sites.
Fast Track designation, breakthrough therapy designation, priority review, accelerated approval, and RMAT designation do not change the standards for approval but may expedite the development or approval process. 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 decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened. We may explore some of these opportunities for our product candidates as appropriate.
Biologics are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to record-keeping, reporting of adverse experiences, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, and advertising and promotion of the product. After approval, most changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications or other labeling claims, are subject to prior FDA review and approval. There also are continuing, annual program fees for any marketed products. Biologic manufacturers and their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with cGMP, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements up. Changes to the manufacturing process are strictly regulated, and, depending on the significance of the change, may require prior FDA approval before being implemented. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from cGMP and impose reporting requirements. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP and other aspects of regulatory compliance.
The FDA may withdraw approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. 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; imposition of post-market studies or clinical studies to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution restrictions or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential consequences include, among other things:
The FDA closely regulates the marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of biologics. A company can make only those claims relating to safety and efficacy, purity and potency that are approved by the FDA and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in,
among other things, adverse publicity, warning letters, corrective advertising and potential civil and criminal penalties. Physicians may prescribe legally available products for uses that are not described in the product’s labeling and that differ from those tested by us and approved by the FDA. Such off-label uses are common across medical specialties. Physicians may believe that such off-label uses are the best treatment for many patients in varied circumstances. The FDA does not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments. The FDA does, however, restrict manufacturer’s communications on the subject of off-label use of their products.
Biosimilars and exclusivity
The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA, created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are highly similar, or “biosimilar,” to or interchangeable with an FDA-approved reference biological product. The FDA has issued several guidance documents outlining an approach to review and approval of biosimilars. Biosimilarity, which requires that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the biological product and the reference product in terms of safety, purity, and potency, is generally shown through analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical study or studies. Interchangeability requires that a product is biosimilar to the reference product and the product must demonstrate that it can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in any given patient and, for products that are administered multiple times to an individual, the biologic and the reference biologic may be alternated or switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic. A product shown to be biosimilar or interchangeable with an FDA-approved reference biological product may rely in part on the FDA’s previous determination of safety and effectiveness for the reference product for approval, which can potentially reduce the cost and time required to obtain approval to market the product.
Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date that the reference product was first licensed by the FDA. In addition, the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was first licensed. During this 12-year period of exclusivity, another company may still market a competing version of the reference product if the FDA approves a full BLA for the competing product containing that applicant’s own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity and potency of its product. The BPCIA also created certain exclusivity periods for biosimilars approved as interchangeable products. At this juncture, it is unclear whether products deemed “interchangeable” by the FDA will, in fact, be readily substituted by pharmacies, which are governed by state pharmacy law.
A biological product can also obtain pediatric market exclusivity in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity, if granted, adds six months to existing exclusivity periods and patent terms. This six-month exclusivity, which runs from the end of other exclusivity protection or patent term, may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric study in accordance with an FDA-issued “Written Request” for such a study.
Government regulation outside of the United States
Our product candidates will be subject to similar laws and regulations imposed by jurisdictions outside of the United States, and, in particular, the European Union, or EU, which may include, for instance, clinical trials, marketing authorization, post-marketing requirements, including safety surveillance, anti-fraud and abuse laws and implementation of corporate compliance programs and reporting of payments or other transfers of value to healthcare professionals. Because biologically sourced raw materials are subject to unique contamination risks, their use may be restricted in some countries. In addition, ethical, social and legal concerns about gene-editing technology, gene therapy, genetic testing and genetic research could result in additional regulations restricting or prohibiting the processes we may use.
Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product candidate, we must obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product candidates in those countries. The requirements and process governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. Failure to comply with applicable foreign regulatory requirements, may be subject to, among other things, fines, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals, product recalls, seizure of products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecution.
Non-clinical studies and clinical trials
Similarly to the United States, the various phases of non-clinical and clinical research in the EU are subject to significant regulatory controls.
Non-clinical studies are performed to demonstrate the health or environmental safety of new chemical or biological substances. Non-clinical studies must be conducted in compliance with the principles of good laboratory practice, or GLP, as set forth in EU Directive 2004/10/EC. In particular, non-clinical studies, both in vitro and in vivo, must be planned, performed, monitored, recorded, reported and archived in accordance with the GLP principles, which define a set of rules and criteria for a quality system for the organizational process and the conditions for non-clinical studies. These GLP standards reflect the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development requirements.
Clinical trials of medicinal products in the EU must be conducted in accordance with EU and national regulations and the International Conference on Harmonization, or ICH, guidelines on Good Clinical Practices, or GCP, as well as the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki. Additional GCP guidelines from the European Commission, focusing in particular on traceability, apply to clinical trials of advanced therapy medicinal products, or ATMPs. If the sponsor of the clinical trial is not established within the EU, it must appoint an EU entity to act as its legal representative. The sponsor must take out a clinical trial insurance policy, and in most EU countries, the sponsor is liable to provide ‘no fault’ compensation to any study subject injured in the clinical trial.
The regulatory landscape related to clinical trials in the EU has been subject to recent changes. The EU Clinical Trials Regulation, or CTR, which was adopted in April 2014 and repeals the EU Clinical Trials Directive, became applicable on January 31, 2022. Unlike directives, the CTR is directly applicable in all EU member states without the need for member states to further implement it into national law. The CTR notably harmonizes the assessment and supervision processes for clinical trials throughout the EU via a Clinical Trials Information System, which contains a centralized EU portal and database.
While the Clinical Trials Directive required a separate clinical trial application, or CTA, to be submitted in each member state, to both the competent national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and IRB respectively, the CTR introduces a centralized process and only requires the submission of a single application to all member states concerned. The CTR allows sponsors to make a single submission to both the competent authority and an ethics committee in each member state, leading to a single decision per member state. The CTA must include, among other things, a copy of the trial protocol and an investigational medicinal product dossier containing information about the manufacture and quality of the medicinal product under investigation. The assessment procedure of the CTA has been harmonized as well, including a joint assessment by all member states concerned, and a separate assessment by each member state with respect to specific requirements related to its own territory, including ethics rules. Each member state’s decision is communicated to the sponsor via the centralized EU portal. Once the CTA is approved, clinical study development may proceed.
The CTR foresees a three-year transition period. The extent to which ongoing and new clinical trials will be governed by the CTR varies. Clinical trials for which an application was submitted (i) prior to January 31, 2022 under the Clinical Trials Directive, or (ii) between January 31, 2022 and January 31, 2023 and for which the sponsor has opted for the application of the Clinical Trials Directive remain governed by said Directive until January 31, 2025. After this date, all clinical trials (including those which are ongoing) will become subject to the provisions of the CTR.
Medicines used in clinical trials must be manufactured in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice, or GMP. Other national and EU-wide regulatory requirements may also apply.
In order to market our future product candidates in the EU, and many other foreign jurisdictions, we must obtain separate regulatory approvals. More concretely, in the EU, medicinal product candidates can only be commercialized after obtaining a marketing authorization, or MA. To obtain regulatory approval of an
investigational chemical or biological product under EU regulatory systems, we must submit a marketing authorization application, or MAA. The process for doing this depends, among other things, on the nature of the medicinal product. There are two types of MAs:
Under the above described procedures, the EMA or the competent authorities of the EU member states make an assessment of the risk-benefit balance of the product on the basis of scientific criteria concerning its quality, safety and efficacy.
Under the centralized procedure, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of a MAA by the EMA is 210 days, excluding clockstops. In exceptional cases, the CHMP might perform an accelerated review of a MAA in no more than 150 days (not including clock stops). Innovative products that target an unmet medical need and are expected to be of major public health interest may be eligible for a number of expedited development and review programs, such as the PRIME scheme, which provides incentives similar to the breakthrough therapy designation in the U.S. In March 2016, the EMA launched an initiative, the Priority Medicines, or PRIME, scheme, a voluntary scheme aimed at enhancing the EMA’s support for the development of medicines that target unmet medical needs. It is based on increased interaction and early dialogue with companies developing promising medicines, to optimize their product development plans and speed up their evaluation to help them reach patients earlier. Product developers that benefit from PRIME designation can expect to be eligible for accelerated assessment but this is not guaranteed. Many benefits accrue to sponsors of product candidates with PRIME designation, including but not limited to, early and proactive regulatory dialogue with the EMA, frequent discussions on clinical trial designs and other development program elements, and accelerated MAA assessment once a dossier has been submitted. Importantly, a dedicated contact and rapporteur from the CHMP is appointed early in the PRIME scheme facilitating increased understanding of the product at EMA’s committee level. An initial meeting initiates
these relationships and includes a team of multidisciplinary experts at the EMA to provide guidance on the overall development and regulatory strategies.
Moreover, in the EU, a “conditional” MA may be granted in cases where all the required safety and efficacy data are not yet available. The conditional MA is subject to conditions to be fulfilled for generating the missing data or ensuring increased safety measures. It is valid for one year and has to be renewed annually until fulfillment of all the conditions. Once the pending studies are provided, it can become a “standard” MA. However, if the conditions are not fulfilled within the timeframe set by the EMA, the MA ceases to be renewed. Furthermore, MA may also be granted “under exceptional circumstances” when the applicant can show that it is unable to provide comprehensive data on the efficacy and safety under normal conditions of use even after the product has been authorized and subject to specific procedures being introduced. This may arise in particular when the intended indications are very rare and, in the present state of scientific knowledge, it is not possible to provide comprehensive information, or when generating data may be contrary to generally accepted ethical principles. This MA is close to the conditional MA as it is reserved to medicinal products to be approved for severe diseases or unmet medical needs and the applicant does not hold the complete data set legally required for the grant of a MA. However, unlike the conditional MA, the applicant does not have to provide the missing data and will never have to. Although the MA “under exceptional circumstances” is granted definitively, the risk-benefit balance of the medicinal product is reviewed annually and the MA is withdrawn in case the risk-benefit ratio is no longer favorable.
Under the above described procedures, in order to grant the MA, the EMA or the competent authorities of the EU member states make an assessment of the risk benefit balance of the product on the basis of scientific criteria concerning its quality, safety and efficacy. MAs have an initial duration of five years. After these five years, the authorization may be renewed for an unlimited period on the basis of a reevaluation of the risk-benefit balance.
Data and marketing exclusivity.
In the EU, new product candidates authorized for marketing, or reference product candidates, generally receive eight years of data exclusivity and an additional two years of market exclusivity upon MA. If granted, the data exclusivity period prevents generic or biosimilar applicants from relying on the preclinical and clinical trial data contained in the dossier of the reference product when applying for a generic or biosimilar MA in the EU during a period of eight years from the date on which the reference product was first authorized in the EU. The market exclusivity period prevents a successful generic or biosimilar applicant from commercializing its product in the EU until 10 years have elapsed from the initial authorization of the reference product in the EU. The overall 10-year market exclusivity period may be extended to a maximum of eleven years if, during the first eight years of those 10 years, the MA holder obtains an authorization for one or more new therapeutic indications which, during the scientific evaluation prior to their authorization, are held to bring a significant clinical benefit in comparison with existing therapies. However, there is no guarantee that a product will be considered by the EU’s regulatory authorities to be a new chemical/biological entity, and products may not qualify for data exclusivity.
There is a special regime for biosimilars, or biological medicinal products that are similar to a reference medicinal product but that do not meet the definition of a generic medicinal product, for example, because of differences in raw materials or manufacturing processes. For such products, the results of appropriate preclinical or clinical trials must be provided, and guidelines from the EMA detail the type of quantity of supplementary data to be provided for different types of biological product. There are no such guidelines for complex biological products, such as gene or cell therapy medicinal products, and so it is unlikely that biosimilars of those products will currently be approved in the EU. However, guidance from the EMA states that they will be considered in the future in light of the scientific knowledge and regulatory experience gained at the time.
In the EU, MAAs for new medicinal product candidates not authorized have to include the results of studies conducted in the pediatric population, in compliance with a pediatric investigation plan, or PIP, agreed with the EMA’s Pediatric Committee, or PDCO. The PIP sets out the timing and measures proposed to generate data to support a pediatric indication of the drug for which marketing authorization is being sought. The PDCO can grant a deferral of the obligation to implement some or all of the measures of the PIP until there are sufficient data to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the product in adults. Further, the obligation to provide pediatric clinical trial
data can be waived by the PDCO when these data are not needed or appropriate because the product is likely to be ineffective or unsafe in children, the disease or condition for which the product is intended occurs only in adult populations, or when the product does not represent a significant therapeutic benefit over existing treatments for pediatric patients. Once the MA is obtained in all EU member states and study results are included in the product information, even when negative, the product is eligible for a six-month supplementary protection certificate extension or, in the case of orphan medicinal products, a two-year extension of orphan market exclusivity is granted.
Orphan Medicinal Products
The criteria for designating an “orphan medicinal product” in the EU are similar in principle to those in the United States. In the EU, a medicinal product can be designated as an orphan if its sponsor can establish that: (1) the product is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically-debilitating condition; (2) either (a) such condition affects not more than five in 10,000 persons in the EU when the application is made, or (b) the product, without the benefits derived from orphan status, would not generate sufficient return in the EU to justify investment; and (3) there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of such condition authorized in the EU or, if such method exists, the product will be of significant benefit to those affected by that condition.
In the EU, an application for designation as an orphan product must be submitted before the MAA. Orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers and access to the centralized procedure. Upon grant of a MA, orphan medicinal products are entitled to a ten-year period of market exclusivity for the approved therapeutic indication, which means during this period, the regulatory authorities cannot accept another MAA, or grant a MA or accept an application to extend a MA, for a similar medicinal product for the same indication. The period of market exclusivity is extended by two years for orphan medicinal products that have also complied with an agreed PIP. No extension to any supplementary protection certificate can be granted on the basis of pediatric studies for orphan indications. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
The ten-year market exclusivity may, however, be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the product no longer meets the criteria for which it received orphan drug destination, including where the prevalence of the condition has increased above the threshold or it is judged that the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity. Granting of an authorization for another similar orphan medicinal product can happen at any time if: (i) the second applicant can establish that its product, although similar to the authorized product, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior, (ii) the applicant cannot supply sufficient quantities of the orphan medicinal product or (iii) where the applicant consents to a second orphan medicinal product application. A company may voluntarily remove a product from the orphan register.
The aforementioned EU rules are generally applicable in the European Economic Area, or EEA, which consists of the 27 EU member states plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
Failure by us or by any of our third-party partners, including suppliers, manufacturers and distributors to comply with EU and member state laws that apply to the conduct of clinical trials, manufacturing approval, MA of medicinal products and marketing of such products, both before and after grant of the MA, manufacturing of medicinal products, statutory health insurance, bribery and anti-corruption or with other applicable regulatory requirements may result in administrative, civil or criminal penalties. These penalties could include delays or refusal to authorize the conduct of clinical trials or to grant MA, product withdrawals and recalls, product seizures, suspension, withdrawal or variation of the marketing authorization, total or partial suspension of production, distribution, manufacturing or clinical trials, operating restrictions, injunctions, suspension of licenses, fines and criminal penalties.
Brexit and the Regulatory Framework in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom, or UK, left the EU on January 31, 2020, following which existing EU medicinal product legislation continued to apply in the UK during the transition period under the terms of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. The transition period, which ended on December 31, 2020, maintained access to the EU single market and to the global trade deals negotiated by the EU on behalf of its members. The transition period
provided time for the UK and EU to negotiate a framework for partnership for the future, which was then crystallized in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, or TCA, and became effective on the January 1, 2021. The TCA includes specific provisions concerning pharmaceuticals, which include the mutual recognition of GMP inspections of manufacturing facilities for medicinal products and GMP documents issued, but does not foresee wholesale mutual recognition of UK and EU pharmaceutical regulations.
EU laws which have been transposed into UK law through secondary legislation continue to be applicable as “retained EU law”. However, new legislation such as the EU CTR will not be applicable. The UK government has passed a new Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021, which introduces delegated powers in favor of the Secretary of State or an ‘appropriate authority’ to amend or supplement existing regulations in the area of medicinal products and medical devices. This allows new rules to be introduced in the future by way of secondary legislation, which aims to allow flexibility in addressing regulatory gaps and future changes in the fields of human medicines, clinical trials and medical devices.
As of January 1, 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, is the UK’s standalone medicines and medical devices regulator. As a result of the Northern Ireland protocol, different rules will apply in Northern Ireland than in England, Wales, and Scotland, together, Great Britain, or GB; broadly, Northern Ireland will continue to follow the EU regulatory regime, but its national competent authority will remain the MHRA. The MHRA has published a guidance on how various aspects of the UK regulatory regime for medicines will operate in GB and in Northern Ireland following the expiry of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020. The guidance includes clinical trials, importing, exporting, and pharmacovigilance and is relevant to any business involved in the research, development, or commercialization of medicines in the UK. The new guidance was given effect via the Human Medicines Regulations (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, or the Exit Regulations.
The MHRA has introduced changes to national licensing procedures, including procedures to prioritize access to new medicines that will benefit patients, including a 150-day assessment and a rolling review procedure. All existing EU MAs for centrally authorized products were automatically converted or grandfathered into UK MAs, effective in GB (only), free of charge on January 1, 2021, unless the MA holder chooses to opt-out. In order to use the centralized procedure to obtain a MA that will be valid throughout the EEA, companies must be established in the EEA. Therefore after Brexit, companies established in the UK can no longer use the EU centralized procedure and instead an EEA entity must hold any centralized MAs. In order to use the centralized procedure to obtain a MA that will be valid throughout the EEA, companies must be established in the EEA. Therefore after Brexit, companies established in the UK can no longer use the EU centralized procedure and instead an EEA entity must hold any centralized MAs. In order to obtain a UK MA to commercialize products in the UK, an applicant must be established in the UK and must follow one of the UK national authorization procedures or one of the remaining post-Brexit international cooperation procedures to obtain a MA to commercialize products in the UK. The MHRA may rely on a decision taken by the European Commission on the approval of a new (centralized procedure) MA when determining an application for a GB authorization; or use the MHRA’s decentralized or mutual recognition procedures which enable MAs approved in EU member states (or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) to be granted in GB.
There is no pre-MA orphan designation. Instead, the MHRA reviews applications for orphan designation in parallel to the corresponding MA application. The criteria are essentially the same, but have been tailored for the market, i.e., the prevalence of the condition in GB, rather than the EU, must not be more than five in 10,000. Should an orphan designation be granted, the period or market exclusivity will be set from the date of first approval of the product in GB.
Other Healthcare Laws
Pharmaceutical companies are subject to additional healthcare regulation and enforcement by the federal government and by authorities in the states and foreign jurisdictions in which they conduct their business and may constrain the financial arrangements and relationships through which we research, as well as, sell, market and distribute any products for which we obtain marketing approval. Such laws include, without limitation, federal and state anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, false claims and transparency laws and regulations with respect to drug pricing and payments and other transfers of value made to physicians and other health care providers. Violations of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that apply may result in significant penalties, including, without limitation, administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, the curtailment or
restructuring of operations, integrity oversight and reporting obligations to resolve allegations of noncompliance, exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs and imprisonment.
Coverage and Reimbursement
Sales of any product depend, in part, on the extent to which such product will be covered by third-party payors, such as federal, state, and foreign government healthcare programs, commercial insurance and managed healthcare organizations, and the level of reimbursement for such product by third-party payors. Decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided are made on a plan-by-plan basis. These third-party payors are increasingly reducing coverage and reimbursement for medical products, drugs and services. For products administered under the supervision of a physician, obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices often associated with such drugs. Additionally, separate reimbursement for the product itself or the treatment or procedure in which the product is used may not be available, which may impact physician utilization.
The U.S. government, state legislatures and foreign governments have also continued implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls, restrictions on coverage and reimbursement and requirements for substitution of generic products. Adoption of price controls and cost-containment measures, and adoption of more restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could further limit sales of any product. Decreases in third-party reimbursement for any product or a decision by a third-party payor not to cover a product could reduce physician usage and patient demand for the product and also have a material adverse effect on sales.
In the United States, in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, each as amended, collectively known as the ACA, was enacted, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly affected the pharmaceutical industry. The ACA contained a number of provisions, including those governing enrollment in federal healthcare programs, reimbursement adjustments and changes to fraud and abuse laws. For example, the ACA:
Since its enactment, there have been judicial, executive and Congressional 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 health care, 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.
Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted, including aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which was temporarily suspended from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, there has recently been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries, proposed and enacted legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. It is also possible that additional governmental action is taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing.
We expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could impact the amounts that federal and state governments and other third-party payors will pay for healthcare products and services.
Data Privacy & Security
Numerous state, federal and foreign laws govern the collection, dissemination, use, access to, confidentiality and security of personal information, including health-related information. As our operations and business grow, we may become subject to or affected by U.S. federal and state laws and regulations that govern the collection, use, disclosure, and protection of health-related and other personal information. In addition, certain non-U.S. laws govern the privacy and security of personal data, including health-related data, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts. Failure to comply with these laws, where applicable, can result in the imposition of significant civil and/or criminal penalties and private litigation. Privacy and security laws, regulations, and other obligations are constantly evolving, may conflict with each other to complicate compliance efforts, and can result in investigations, proceedings, or actions that lead to significant civil and/or criminal penalties and restrictions on data processing.
In the normal course of business, we may collect and store personal information and other sensitive information, including proprietary and confidential business information, trade secrets, intellectual property, information regarding trial participants in connection with clinical trials, sensitive third-party information and employee information. To protect this information, our existing cybersecurity policies require continuous monitoring and detection programs, network security precautions, encryption of critical data, and in-depth security assessment of vendors. We maintain various protections designed to safeguard against cyberattacks, including firewalls and virus detection software. We have established and regularly test our disaster recovery plan and we protect against business interruption by backing up our major systems. In addition, we periodically scan our environment for any vulnerabilities, plan to perform penetration testing and engage third parties to assess effectiveness of our data security practices. In addition, we maintain insurance that includes cybersecurity coverage.
Our cybersecurity program is led by a team composed of a highly-skilled third-party security consulting firm and company employees. The program incorporates industry-standard frameworks (such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework), policies and practices designed to protect the privacy and security of our sensitive information. Our IT team reports to the Audit Committee annually on information security and cybersecurity matters, or as needed.
Despite the implementation of our cybersecurity program, our security measures cannot guarantee that a significant cyberattack will not occur. A successful attack on our information technology systems could have significant consequences to the business. While we devote resources to our security measures to protect our systems and information, these measures cannot provide absolute security. See “Risk Factors – General Risk Factors” for additional information about the risks to our business associated with a breach or compromise to our information technology systems.
As of December 31, 2022, we had 116 full-time employees and 1 part-time employee.
We were incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware in July 2016 under the name VL42, Inc.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
You should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below together with all of the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our consolidated financial statements and related notes appearing at the end of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, in evaluating our company. If any of the events or developments described below were to occur, our business, prospects, operating results and financial condition could suffer materially, and the trading price of our common stock could decline. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial may also adversely affect our business.
Risks Related to Our Financial Condition and Capital Requirements
We have a limited operating history and no history of successfully developing or commercializing any approved product candidates, which may make it difficult to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess the prospects for our future viability.
We are a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. Our operations to date have been limited to financing and staffing our company, developing our technology and identifying and developing our product candidates. Our prospects must be considered in light of the uncertainties, risks, expenses, and difficulties frequently encountered by biopharmaceutical companies in their early stages of operations. We have not yet demonstrated an ability to conduct or complete any clinical trials, obtain marketing approval, manufacture a commercial-scale product, or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Consequently, predictions about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing, obtaining marketing approval for, and commercializing product candidates. In addition, we may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays, and other obstacles.
As we continue to build our business, we expect our financial condition and operating results to fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Accordingly, you should not rely upon the results of any particular quarterly or annual period as indications of future operating performance.
We have incurred significant losses since inception and expect to incur significant additional losses for the foreseeable future.
We have incurred significant net losses since our inception, including net losses of $102.7 million and $68.3 million for the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021, respectively. As of December 31, 2022, we had an accumulated deficit of $237.2 million. In addition, we have not commercialized any products and have never generated any revenue from product sales. We have devoted almost all of our financial resources to research and development, including our preclinical development activities and preparing for and initiating clinical trials of our product candidates.
We expect to continue to incur significant additional net losses for the foreseeable future as we seek to advance product candidates through clinical development, continue preclinical development, expand our research and development activities, develop new product candidates, complete preclinical studies and clinical trials, seek regulatory approval and, if we receive regulatory approval, commercialize our products. In order to obtain FDA approval to market any product candidate in the United States, we must submit to the FDA a Biologics License Application, or BLA, demonstrating to the FDA’s satisfaction that the product candidate is safe and effective for its intended use(s). Foreign regulatory authorities impose similar requirements. This demonstration requires significant research and extensive data from animal tests, which are referred to as nonclinical or preclinical studies, as well as human tests, which are referred to as clinical trials. Furthermore, the costs of advancing
product candidates into each succeeding clinical phase tend to increase substantially over time. The total costs to advance any of our product candidates to marketing approval in even a single jurisdiction would be substantial and difficult to accurately predict. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with the development of drug products, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of increased expenses or when, or if, we will be able to begin generating revenue from the commercialization of products or achieve or maintain profitability. Our expenses will also increase substantially if or as we:
The amount of future losses and when, if ever, we will achieve profitability are uncertain. We have no commercial-stage products, will not generate revenues from the commercial sale of products until we have successfully developed one or more product candidates, and might never generate revenues from the sale of products. We expect to continue to incur operating losses and negative cash flows for the foreseeable future. These operating losses and negative cash flows have had, and will continue to have, an adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity and working capital.
We require substantial additional financing, which may not be available on acceptable terms, or at all. A failure to obtain this necessary capital when needed could force us to delay, limit, reduce, or terminate our product development.
Our operations have incurred substantial expenses since inception. We expect to continue to incur substantial expenses to continue the preclinical development and to initiate and conduct the clinical development of our product candidates, and to continue to identify new product candidates.
We continue to need additional capital beyond the proceeds of our IPO to fund our planned preclinical development and clinical trials, and to develop new product candidates, which we may raise through equity offerings, debt financings, marketing and distribution arrangements and other collaborations, strategic alliances and licensing arrangements, or other sources. Additional sources of financing might not be available on favorable terms, if at all. If we do not succeed in raising additional funds on acceptable terms, we might be unable to initiate or complete clinical trials, or seek regulatory approvals, of any of our product candidates from the FDA, or any foreign regulatory authorities, and could be forced to discontinue product development. In addition, attempting to secure additional financing may divert the time and attention of our management from day-to-day activities and harm our development efforts.
Our existing cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities as of December 31, 2022 will not be sufficient to fund all of our efforts that we plan to undertake. Based on our current operating plan, we believe that our cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities as of December 31, 2022, together with the net proceeds from the registered direct offering completed on February 27, 2023, will be sufficient to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements into the second half of 2024. This estimate is based on assumptions that may prove to be incorrect, and we could use our available capital resources sooner than we currently expect. We will require significant additional funds in order to launch and commercialize our current and any future product candidates. In addition, other unanticipated costs may arise in the course of our development efforts. Because most of our product candidates are in preclinical development and we have not conducted any clinical trials, we cannot reasonably estimate the actual amounts necessary to successfully complete the development and commercialization of our product candidates.
Our future capital requirements depend on many factors, including:
We cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts, on terms acceptable to us, or on a timely basis, we may have to significantly delay, scale back, or discontinue the development or commercialization of our product candidates or other research and development initiatives.
If we are unable to obtain funding on a timely basis, we may be required to significantly curtail, delay or discontinue one or more of our research or development programs or the commercialization of any product candidate, or be unable to expand our operations or otherwise capitalize on our business opportunities, as desired, which could materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. 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.
Raising additional capital may cause additional dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations, require us to relinquish rights to our technologies or product candidates, and could cause our share price to fall.
Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial revenue from product sales, we may finance our cash needs through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings, marketing and distribution arrangements and other collaborations, strategic alliances and licensing arrangements, or other sources. In addition, we may seek additional capital due to favorable market conditions or strategic considerations, even if we believe that we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans.
To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, your ownership interest will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a common stockholder. Debt financing and preferred equity financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our operations, our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures, declaring dividends, redeeming our stock, making certain investments, and engaging in certain merger, consolidation, or asset sale transactions, among other restrictions. If we raise additional funds through collaborations, strategic alliances, or marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may be required to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams, or product candidates or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. If we are unable to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce, or terminate our product development or future commercialization efforts or grant rights to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves.
Our existing and any future indebtedness could adversely affect our ability to operate our business.
As of December 31, 2022, we had $20.0 million of outstanding borrowings under an amended loan and security agreement, the Loan Agreement, with Pacific Western Bank, or PWB. The maturity date of the Loan Agreement is September 30, 2025, and we will be required to begin repayment of the loan in 24 equal monthly payments beginning on September 30, 2023. The outstanding balance under the Loan Agreement bears interest at a floating annual rate equal to the greater of (i) 0.50% above the prime rate then in effect and (ii) 5.50%, due monthly starting the first month after December 20, 2021. Pursuant to the terms of the Loan Agreement, interest payment on the outstanding term loan is less than $0.1 million per month, and we are required to pay a success fee of up to $0.2 million upon the occurrence of a specified liquidity event. Our outstanding indebtedness, including any additional indebtedness beyond our borrowings from PWB, combined with our other financial obligations and contractual commitments could have significant adverse consequences, including:
We intend to satisfy our current and future debt service obligations with our then existing cash and cash equivalents. However, we may not have sufficient funds, and may be unable to arrange for additional financing, to pay the amounts due under the Loan Agreement or any other debt instruments. Failure to make payments or comply with other covenants under the Loan Agreement or such other debt instruments could result in an event of default and acceleration of amounts due. For example, the affirmative covenants under our Loan Agreement include, among others, covenants requiring us (and us to cause our subsidiaries) to maintain our legal existence and governmental approvals, deliver certain financial reports and notifications, maintain proper books of record
and account, timely file and pay tax returns, maintain inventory and insurance coverage, and maintain cash with PWB (subject to exceptions) and in accounts subject to control agreements (subject to exceptions). Under the Loan Agreement, the occurrence of an event that would reasonably be expected to have a material adverse effect on our business, operations, assets or condition is an event of default. If an event of default occurs and PWB accelerates the amounts due, we may not be able to make accelerated payments and the lender could seek to enforce security interests in the collateral securing such indebtedness. In addition, the covenants under the Loan Agreement, the pledge of our assets as collateral and the negative pledge with respect to our intellectual property could limit our ability to obtain additional debt financing.
We have not generated any product revenue and may never be profitable.
Our ability to become profitable depends upon our ability to generate product revenue. To date, we have not generated any product revenue and do not expect to generate significant product revenue unless or until we successfully complete clinical development and obtain regulatory approval of, and then successfully commercialize, our product candidates. Most of our product candidates are in the preclinical stages of development and will require additional preclinical studies and clinical development, regulatory review and approval, a secure manufacturing supply, established sales capabilities for commercialization, substantial investment and sufficient funds, and significant marketing efforts before we can generate any revenue from product sales. Our ability to generate product revenue depends on a number of factors, including:
Many of the factors listed above are beyond our control, and could cause us to experience significant delays or prevent us from obtaining regulatory approvals or commercialize our product candidates. Even if we are able to commercialize our product candidates, we may not achieve profitability soon after generating product sales, if ever. If we are unable to generate sufficient revenue through the sale of our product candidates, we may be unable to continue operations without continued funding.
Risks Related to the Discovery, Development, Preclinical and Clinical Testing, and Regulatory Approval of Our Product Candidates
Our product candidates are based on a novel technology, which makes it difficult to predict the time and cost of preclinical and clinical development and of subsequently obtaining regulatory approval, if at all.
Our success depends on the OMEGA platform technology which is a novel technology. As such, it is difficult to accurately predict the preclinical and clinical developmental challenges we may incur for our programs and product candidates as they proceed through product discovery or identification, preclinical studies, and clinical trials. In addition, because we have only recently commenced clinical trials of our pipeline product candidates, we have not yet been able to assess the safety or efficacy of our technology in humans and there may be short-term or long-term effects from treatment with any product candidates that we develop that we cannot predict at this time. Also, animal models may not exist for some of the diseases we choose to pursue in our programs. Given the novelty of our technology platform, there can be no assurance as to the length of preclinical work, clinical development, the number of patients that FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority may require to be enrolled in clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy, purity and potency of our product candidates, or that the data generated in these clinical trials will be acceptable to the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities to support marketing approvals. The FDA and comparable regulatory authorities may take longer than usual to come to a decision on any biologics license application, or BLA, or foreign marketing application, that we submit and may ultimately determine that there is not adequate data, information, or experience with our product candidate to support approval. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may also require that we conduct additional post-marketing studies or implement risk management programs, such as a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, or REMS, or similar risk management measures, until more experience with our product candidates are obtained. Each of these factors could increase our expected development costs, and delay, prevent, or limit the scope of any commercialization of our product candidates. The validation process takes time and resources, may require independent third-party analyses, and may not be accepted or approved by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities. We cannot be certain that our approach will lead to the development of approvable or marketable products, alone, or in combination with other therapies.
Moreover, even if we obtain data from our planned clinical trials, because the OMEGA platform technology applied in our programs is novel and has not been externally verified, our data may be difficult to replicate and/or subject to misinterpretation by us or others. Epigenomic controllers present a new class of medicines and have not been evaluated in clinical trials or received regulatory approval. As a result, we may need to develop new evaluation methods or metrics for clinical data, which may make it more difficult to analyze data, or it may take more time or be more costly for us to develop our OECs than other therapeutics for the same indications. As a result of these factors, it is difficult for us to predict the time and cost of product candidate development, and we cannot predict whether the application of the OMEGA platform technology, or any similar or competitive epigenetic technologies, will result in the identification, development, and regulatory approval of any products. There can be no assurance that any development challenges we experience in the future related to the OMEGA platform technology or any of our research programs will not cause significant delays or unanticipated costs, or that such development problems can be solved. Any of these factors may prevent us from completing our preclinical studies or any clinical trials that we may initiate or commercializing any product candidates we may develop on a timely or profitable basis, if at all.
In addition, the clinical trial requirements of the FDA and other regulatory authorities and the criteria these regulators use to determine the safety and efficacy of a product candidate vary substantially according to the type, complexity, novelty, and intended use as well as market of the potential products. The regulatory approval process for novel product candidates such as ours can be more expensive and take longer than for other, better known or extensively studied therapeutic modalities and approaches. Further, as we are developing novel treatments, there is heightened risk that the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory bodies may not consider the clinical trial endpoints to provide clinically meaningful results, and the resulting clinical data and results may be more difficult to analyze. To date, few gene therapy products have been approved by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities, which makes it difficult to determine how long it will take or how much it will cost to obtain regulatory approvals for our product candidates in the United States, the European Union, or EU, or other jurisdictions. Further, approvals by one regulatory authority may not be indicative of what other regulatory authorities may require for approval.
Regulatory requirements governing programmable epigenetic medicines have evolved and may continue to change in the future. For example, the FDA established the Office of Tissues and Advanced Therapies within
its Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, or CBER, to consolidate the review of gene therapy and related products, and the Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee to advise CBER on its review. In addition to FDA oversight and oversight by IRBs, under guidelines promulgated by the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, gene therapy clinical trials are also subject to review and oversight by an institutional biosafety committee, or IBC, a local institutional committee that reviews and oversees research utilizing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules at that institution. Before a clinical study can begin at any institution, that institution’s IRB, and its IBC assesses the safety of the research and identifies any potential risk to public health or the environment. While the NIH guidelines are not mandatory unless the research in question is being conducted at or sponsored by institutions receiving NIH funding of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecule research, many companies and other institutions not otherwise subject to the NIH Guidelines voluntarily follow them. Moreover, serious adverse events or developments in clinical trials of gene therapy product candidates conducted by others may cause the FDA or other regulatory bodies to initiate a clinical hold on our clinical trials or otherwise change the requirements for approval of any of our product candidates. Although the FDA decides whether individual gene therapy protocols may proceed, the review process and determinations of other reviewing bodies can impede or delay the initiation of a clinical trial, even if the FDA has reviewed the trial and approved its initiation. These and other regulatory review agencies, committees, and advisory groups and the requirements and guidelines they promulgate may lengthen the regulatory review process, require us to perform additional preclinical studies or clinical trials, increase our development costs, lead to changes in regulatory positions and interpretations, delay or prevent approval and commercialization of these treatment candidates, or lead to significant post-approval limitations or restrictions. Similar requirements apply in the EU. The European Medicines Agency, or the EMA, has a Committee for Advanced Therapies, or CAT, which is responsible for assessing the quality, safety and efficacy of advanced therapy medicinal products, or ATMP(s). ATMPs include gene therapy medicines, somatic-cell therapy medicines and tissue-engineered medicines. The role of the CAT is to prepare a draft opinion on an application for marketing authorization for ATMP candidate that is submitted to the EMA. In the EU, the development and evaluation of an ATMP must be considered in the context of the relevant EU guidelines. The EMA may issue new guidelines concerning the development and marketing authorization for gene therapy medicinal products and require that we comply with these new guidelines. Similarly complex regulatory environments exist in other jurisdictions in which we might consider seeking regulatory approvals for our product candidates, further complicating the regulatory landscape.
Changes in applicable regulatory guidelines 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 regulatory authorities and comply with applicable 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.
No epigenomic controller medicines have been approved in this potentially new class of medicines, and may never be approved as a result of efforts by others or us. mRNA drug development has substantial development and regulatory risks due to the novel and unprecedented nature of this new category of medicines.
As a potential new category of medicines, no epigenomic controller medicines have been approved to date by the FDA or other regulatory authority. Successful discovery and development of epigenomic controller medicines by either us or our strategic collaborators is highly uncertain and depends on numerous factors, many of which are beyond our or their control. We have made and will continue to make a series of business decisions and take calculated risks to advance our development efforts and pipeline, including those related to mRNA technology, delivery technology, and manufacturing processes which may be shown to be incorrect based on further work by us, our strategic collaborators, or others.
Our medicines that appear promising in the early phases of development may fail to advance, experience delays in preclinical stages or the clinic, experience clinical holds, or fail to reach the market for many reasons, including:
Our investigational medicines are currently formulated and administered in an LNP. These LNPs may cause systemic side effects related to the components of the LNP and some may have not yet been tested in humans. A recognized limitation of LNPs is the potential for inflammatory reactions upon single and repeat administration that can impact tolerability and therapeutic index. Our licensed and internally developed, proprietary LNP systems are therefore designed to be highly tolerated and minimize LNP vehicle-related toxicities with repeat administration in vivo. While we continue to optimize our LNPs, there can be no assurance that our LNPs will not have undesired effects. Certain aspects of our investigational medicines may induce immune reactions from either the mRNA or the lipid as well as adverse reactions within biological pathways or due to degradation of the mRNA or the LNP, any of which could lead to significant adverse events in one or more of our preclinical or clinical studies. Our LNPs could contribute, in whole or in part, to one or more of the following: immune reactions, infusion reactions, complement reactions, opsonation reactions, antibody reactions including IgA, IgM, IgE or IgG or some combination thereof, or reactions to the polyethylene glycol, or PEG, from some lipids or PEG otherwise associated with the LNP. Many of these types of side effects have broadly been observed for LNPs. There may be resulting uncertainty as to the underlying cause of any such adverse event, which would make it difficult to accurately predict side effects in future clinical trials and would result in significant delays in our programs.
Preclinical development is uncertain, especially for a new class of medicines such as epigenomic controllers, and therefore our preclinical programs or development candidates may be delayed, terminated, or may never advance into the clinic, any of which may a have a material adverse impact on our platform or our business.
Most of our programs are in preclinical development. Before we can initiate clinical trials for a development candidate, we must complete extensive preclinical studies, including IND-enabling good laboratory practices, or GLP, and equivalent requirements outside the United States, toxicology testing. Preclinical development is uncertain, including due to variability in the disease models used. We may not identify development candidates with the treatment activity or safety characteristics required to advance them into further preclinical studies or results from preclinical studies of initially promising development candidates may not support further testing. We must also complete extensive work on Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls, or CMC, activities (including yield, purity and stability data) to be included in any IND or similar foreign filing. CMC activities for a new class of medicines such as epigenomic controllers require extensive manufacturing processes and analytical development, which is uncertain and lengthy. 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 the results of our preclinical testing or our proposed clinical programs or if the outcome of our preclinical testing, studies, and CMC activities will ultimately support the further development of our programs. As a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to submit INDs or similar applications for our preclinical programs on the timelines we expect, if at all, and we cannot be sure that submission of INDs or similar applications will result in the FDA or other regulatory authorities allowing clinical trials to begin.
Clinical development of OTX-2002 may be delayed or terminated, and we may never obtain regulatory approval of OTX-2002, which may have a material adverse impact on our platform or our business. Furthermore, clinical development requires substantial capital investment, which we may not be able to support. We may incur unforeseen costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of OTX-2002 and our other product candidates.
Before obtaining marketing approval from the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities for the sale of our product candidates, we must complete preclinical development and extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our product candidates. Clinical testing is expensive, time-consuming, and subject to uncertainty. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of the process, and the outcome of preclinical studies and early-stage clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of 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 drugs.
In July 2022, we announced clearance of our IND application from the FDA to initiate a Phase 1/2, first-in-human, clinical trial of OTX-2002 for the treatment of HCC, which has launched under the MYCHELANGELO clinical program. We have not initiated or completed any other clinical trials for any of our product candidates. We cannot guarantee that any of our clinical trials will be initiated or conducted as planned or completed on schedule, if at all. We also cannot be sure that submission of any future IND or similar application will result in the FDA or other regulatory authority, as applicable, allowing future clinical trials to begin in a timely manner, if at all. Moreover, even if these trials begin, issues may arise that could cause regulatory authorities to suspend or terminate such clinical trials. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing, and our clinical trials may not be successful. Events that may prevent successful or timely initiation or completion of clinical trials include:
In addition, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may increase the likelihood that we encounter difficulties or delays in initiating, enrolling, conducting, or completing our planned and ongoing clinical trials. Any inability to successfully initiate or complete clinical trials could result in additional costs to us or impair our ability to generate revenue from product sales. Clinical trial delays could also shorten any periods during which any approved products have patent protection and may allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, which could impair our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates and may seriously harm our business.
Clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with the legal requirements, regulations, or guidelines of the FDA and other applicable regulatory authorities and are subject to oversight by these governmental agencies and ethics committees or IRBs at the medical institutions where the clinical trials are conducted. We could also encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, by the data safety monitoring board, or DSMB, for such trial or by the FDA or any other regulatory authority, or if the IRBs of the institutions in which such trials are being conducted suspend or terminate the participation of their clinical investigators and sites subject to their review. Such authorities may suspend or terminate a clinical trial 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 candidate, changes in governmental regulations or administrative actions, or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial.
Moreover, principal investigators for our clinical trials may serve as scientific advisors or consultants to us from time to time and receive compensation in connection with such services. Under certain circumstances, we may be required to report some of these relationships to the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority may conclude that a financial relationship between us and a principal investigator has created a conflict of interest or otherwise affected interpretation of the study. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority may therefore question the integrity of the data generated at the applicable clinical trial site and the utility of the clinical trial itself may be jeopardized. This could result in a delay in approval, or rejection, of our marketing applications by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority, as the case may be, and may ultimately lead to the denial of marketing approval of one or more of our product candidates.
Delays in the completion of any clinical trial of our product candidates will increase our costs, slow down our product candidate development and approval process and delay or potentially jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate product revenue. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates. Any delays to our clinical trials that occur as a result could shorten any period during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates and our competitors may be able to bring products to market before we do, which could significantly reduce the commercial viability of our
product candidates. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects significantly.
In addition, the FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies with respect to clinical trials may change and additional government regulations may be enacted. For instance, the regulatory landscape related to clinical trials in the EU recently evolved. The EU Clinical Trials Regulation, or CTR, which was adopted in April 2014 and repeals the EU Clinical Trials Directive, became applicable on January 31, 2022. While the Clinical Trials Directive required a separate clinical trial application, or CTA, to be submitted in each member state, to both the competent national health authority and an independent ethics committee, the CTR introduces a centralized process and only requires the submission of a single application to all member states concerned. The CTR allows sponsors to make a single submission to both the competent authority and an ethics committee in each member state, leading to a single decision per member state. The assessment procedure of the CTA has been harmonized as well, including a joint assessment by all member states concerned, and a separate assessment by each member state with respect to specific requirements related to its own territory, including ethics rules. Each member state’s decision is communicated to the sponsor via the centralized EU portal. Once the CTA is approved, clinical trial development may proceed. The CTR foresees a three-year transition period. The extent to which ongoing and new clinical trials will be governed by the CTR varies. Clinical trials for which an application was submitted (i) prior to January 31, 2022 under the Clinical Trials Directive, or (ii) between January 31, 2022 and January 31, 2023 and for which the sponsor has opted for the application of the Clinical Trials Directive remain governed by said Directive until January 31, 2025. After this date, all clinical trials (including those which are ongoing) will become subject to the provisions of the CTR. Compliance with the CTR requirements by us and our third-party service providers, such as CROs, may impact our developments plans.
It is currently unclear to what extent the United Kingdom, or UK, will seek to align its regulations with the EU. The UK regulatory framework in relation to clinical trials is derived from existing EU legislation (as implemented into UK law, through secondary legislation). On January 17, 2022, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA launched an eight-week consultation on reframing the UK legislation for clinical trials. The consultation closed on March 14, 2022 and aims to streamline clinical trials approvals, enable innovation, enhance clinical trials transparency, enable greater risk proportionality, and promote patient and public involvement in clinical trials. The outcome of the consultation is being closely watched and will determine whether the UK chooses to align with the regulation or diverge from it to maintain regulatory flexibility. A decision by the UK not to closely align its regulations with the new approach that will be adopted in the EU may have an effect on the cost of conducting clinical trials in the UK as opposed to other countries and/or make it harder to seek a marketing authorization in the EU for our product candidates on the basis of clinical trials conducted in the UK.
If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies governing clinical trials, our development plans may also be impacted.
The regulatory approval processes of the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities are lengthy, expensive, time-consuming, and inherently unpredictable. If we are ultimately unable to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates, we will be unable to generate product revenue and our business will be seriously harmed.
We are not permitted to commercialize, market, promote, or sell any product candidate in the United States without obtaining marketing approval from the FDA. Foreign regulatory authorities impose similar requirements. The time required to obtain approval by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities is unpredictable but typically takes many years following the commencement of clinical trials and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of the regulatory authorities. In addition, approval policies, regulations, or the type and amount of clinical data necessary to gain approval may change during the course of a product candidate’s clinical development and may vary among jurisdictions. We have not obtained regulatory approval for any product candidate in the United States or any other jurisdiction, and it is possible that any product candidates we may seek to develop in the future will never obtain regulatory approval.
Prior to obtaining approval to commercialize a product candidate in the United States or elsewhere, we must demonstrate with substantial evidence from well-controlled trials, and to the satisfaction of the FDA, or other regulatory authorities, that such product candidates are safe and effective, pure, and potent for their intended uses. Even if we believe the nonclinical or clinical data for our product candidates are promising, such data may not be sufficient to support approval by the FDA or other regulatory authorities. The FDA or other regulatory authorities may also require us to conduct additional preclinical studies or clinical trials for our product candidates either prior to or post-approval, or it may object to elements of our clinical development program.
The FDA or any foreign regulatory authorities can delay, limit, or deny approval of our product candidates, or require us to conduct additional nonclinical or clinical testing or abandon a program for many reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:
This lengthy approval process, as well as the unpredictability of the results of clinical trials, may result in our failing to obtain regulatory approval to market any of our product candidates, which would seriously harm our business.
Even if we eventually complete clinical trials and obtain approval of a BLA or foreign marketing application for our product candidates, the FDA, or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly additional trials, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and/or the implementation of a REMS or similar risk management measures, which may be required to ensure the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks after approval. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may also approve a product candidate for a more limited indication or patient population than we originally requested. Any delay in obtaining, or inability to obtain, applicable regulatory approval would delay or prevent commercialization of that product candidate, and would materially adversely impact our business and prospects.
Our product candidates may be associated with serious adverse events, undesirable side effects or have other properties that could halt their clinical development, prevent their regulatory approval, limit their commercial potential, or result in significant negative consequences.
Adverse events or other undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates could cause us, any DSMB for a trial, or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay, or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Results of our trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects. In such an event, our trials could be suspended or terminated and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval of our product candidates for any or all targeted indications. The drug-related side effects could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled
patients to complete the trial or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects significantly.
During the conduct of clinical trials, patients report changes in their health, including illnesses, injuries, and discomforts, to their study doctor. Often, it is not possible to determine whether or not the product candidate being studied caused these conditions. It is possible that as we test our product candidates in larger, longer, and more extensive clinical trials, or as use of these product candidates becomes more widespread if they receive regulatory approval, illnesses, injuries, discomforts, and other adverse events that were observed in previous trials, as well as conditions that did not occur or went undetected in previous trials, will be reported by patients. Many times, side effects are only detectable after investigational products are tested in large-scale clinical trials or, in some cases, after they are made available to patients on a commercial scale following approval.
If any serious adverse events occur during clinical development, clinical trials of any product candidates or products we develop could be suspended or terminated, and our business could be seriously harmed. Treatment-related side effects could also affect patient recruitment and the ability of enrolled patients to complete the trial or result in potential liability claims. Regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of, or deny approval of any product candidates for any or all targeted indications. If we are required to delay, suspend, or terminate any clinical trial, the commercial prospects of such product candidates may be harmed, and our ability to generate product revenues from them or other product candidates that we develop may be delayed or eliminated.
Additionally, if one or more of our product candidates receives marketing approval and we or others later identify undesirable side effects or adverse events caused by such products, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including but not limited to:
Any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the particular product candidate, if approved, and could seriously harm our business.
Our company has never commercialized a product candidate and may experience delays or unexpected difficulties in obtaining regulatory approval for our current and future product candidates.
We have never obtained regulatory approval for, or commercialized any product candidate. It is possible that the FDA may refuse to accept any or all of our planned BLAs for substantive review or may conclude after review of our data that our application is insufficient to obtain regulatory approval for any product candidates. If the FDA does not approve any of our planned BLAs, it may require that we conduct additional costly clinical trials, preclinical studies or CMC studies before it will reconsider our applications. Depending on the extent of these or any other FDA required studies, approval of any BLA or other application that we submit may be significantly delayed, possibly for several years, or may require us to expend more resources than we have available. Any failure or delay in obtaining regulatory approvals would prevent us from commercializing our product candidates, generating revenues and achieving and sustaining profitability. It is also possible that additional studies, if performed and completed, may not be considered sufficient by the FDA to approve any BLA or other application that we submit. Similar risks may exist in foreign jurisdictions. If any of these outcomes occur, we may be forced to abandon the development of our product candidates, which would materially adversely affect our business and could potentially cause us to cease operations. We face similar risks for our applications in foreign jurisdictions.
If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in any clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
We may experience difficulties in patient enrollment in our clinical trials for a variety of reasons. The timely completion of clinical trials in accordance with their protocols depends, among other things, on our ability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who remain in the trial until its conclusion. The enrollment of patients depends on many factors, including:
In addition, our planned clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials for product candidates that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates or similar areas, and this competition will reduce the number and types of patients available to us because some patients who might have opted to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by one of our competitors. Since the number of qualified clinical investigators is limited, we expect to conduct some of our clinical trials at the same clinical trial sites that some of our competitors use, which will reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials at such clinical trial sites.
Delays in patient enrollment may result in increased costs or may affect the timing or outcome of our ongoing and planned clinical trials, which could prevent completion or commencement of these trials and adversely affect our ability to advance the development of our product candidates.
Interim, “top-line” and preliminary data from our clinical trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more patient data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.
From time to time, we may publicly disclose preliminary or top-line data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials, which is based on a preliminary analysis of then-available data, and the results and related findings and conclusions are subject to change following a more comprehensive review of the data related to the particular study or trial. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations, and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully and carefully evaluate all data. As a result, the top-line or preliminary results that we report may differ from future results of the same studies, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results, once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Top-line and preliminary data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the top-line or preliminary data we previously published. As a result, top-line and preliminary data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available.
From time to time, we may also disclose interim data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials. Interim data from clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available or as patients from our clinical trials continue other treatments for their disease. Adverse differences between preliminary or interim data
and final data could significantly harm our business prospects. Further, disclosure of interim data by us or by our competitors could result in volatility in the price of our common stock.
Further, others, including regulatory agencies, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions, or analyses or may interpret or weigh the importance of data differently, which could impact the value of the particular program, the approvability or commercialization of the particular product candidate or product and our company in general. In addition, the information we choose to publicly disclose regarding a particular study or clinical trial is based on what is typically extensive information, and you or others may not agree with what we determine is material or otherwise appropriate information to include in our disclosure. If the interim, top-line, or preliminary data that we report differ from actual results, or if others, including regulatory authorities, disagree with the conclusions reached, our ability to obtain approval for, and commercialize, our product candidates may be harmed, which could harm our business, operating results, prospects, or financial condition.
We may not be successful in our efforts to identify and successfully develop additional product candidates.
Part of our strategy involves identifying novel product candidates. The OMEGA platform may fail to yield product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons, including those discussed in these risk factors and also:
If we are unable to identify and successfully commercialize additional suitable product candidates, this would adversely impact our business strategy and our financial position.
We have received orphan drug designation from the FDA for OTX-2002 for the treatment of HCC, and we may seek orphan drug designation for additional product candidates in the future, but we may be unable to obtain such designations or maintain the benefits associated with orphan drug designation, including market exclusivity, which may cause our product revenue, if any, to be reduced.
Regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the United States, may designate drugs or biologics intended to treat relatively small patient populations as orphan drug products. Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a drug or biologic as an orphan drug if it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally defined as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or a patient population of 200,000 or more in the United States where there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing the drug will be recovered from sales in the United States.
In the United States, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as tax advantages and user fee waivers. Opportunities for grant funding toward clinical trial costs may also be available
for clinical trials of drugs or biologics for rare diseases, regardless of whether the drugs or biologics are designated for the orphan use. In addition, if a drug or biologic with an orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first marketing approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a seven year period of marketing exclusivity, which precludes the FDA from approving another marketing application for the same drug for the same disease or condition for that time period, except in limited circumstances. If our competitors are able to obtain orphan drug exclusivity prior to us, for products that constitute the “same drug” and treat the same diseases or conditions as our product candidates, we may not be able to have competing products approved by the applicable regulatory authority for a significant period of time.
We have obtained orphan drug designation from the FDA for OTX-2002 for the treatment of HCC. We may seek orphan designation for certain of our future product candidates. However, we may be unsuccessful in obtaining orphan drug designation for these and may be unable to maintain the benefits associated with orphan drug designation. Even if we obtain orphan drug exclusivity for any of our product candidates, that exclusivity may not effectively protect those product candidates from competition because different drugs can be approved for the same condition, and orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent the FDA from approving the same or a different drug for another disease or condition. Even after an orphan drug is granted orphan exclusivity and approved, the FDA can subsequently approve a later application for the same drug for the same condition before the expiration of the seven-year exclusivity period if the FDA concludes that the later drug is clinically superior in that it is shown to be safer in a substantial portion of the target populations, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. In addition, a designated orphan drug may not receive orphan drug exclusivity if it is approved for a use that is broader than the indication for which it received orphan designation. Moreover, orphan-drug-exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if we are unable to manufacture sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition. 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.
We have invested, and expect to continue to invest, in research and development efforts that further enhance the OMEGA platform. Such investments may affect our operating results, and, if the return on these investments is lower or develops more slowly than we expect, our revenue and operating results may suffer.
We use our technological capabilities for the discovery of new product candidates and, since our inception, we have invested, and expect to continue to invest, in research and development efforts that further enhance the OMEGA platform. These investments may involve significant time, risks, and uncertainties, including the risk that the expenses associated with these investments may affect our margins and operating results and that such investments may not generate sufficient technological advantages relative to alternatives in the market, which would in turn, impact revenues to offset liabilities assumed and expenses associated with these new investments. The biotechnology industry changes rapidly as a result of technological and product developments, which may render our platform’s ability to identify and develop product candidates less efficient than other technologies and platforms. We believe that we must continue to invest a significant amount of time and resources in the OMEGA platform to maintain and improve our competitive position. If we do not achieve the benefits anticipated from these investments, if the achievement of these benefits is delayed, or if our technology is not able to accelerate the process of drug discovery as quickly as we anticipate, our revenue and operating results may be adversely affected.
We must adapt to rapid and significant technological change and respond to introductions of new products and technologies by competitors to remain competitive.
In addition to using our platform for the discovery and development of our own product candidates, we collaborate with other biopharmaceutical and pharmaceutical companies in the discovery and development of our OEC. The technological landscape around artificial intelligence and precision drug design is characterized by significant enhancements and evolving industry standards. As a result, our and our collaborators’ needs are rapidly evolving. If we do not appropriately innovate and invest in new technologies, our platform may become less competitive, and our collaborators could move to new technologies offered by our competitors, or engage in drug discovery themselves. We believe that because of the initial time investment required by many of our collaborators to reach a decision about whether to collaborate with us, it may be difficult to regain a commercial relationship with such collaborator should they enter into a partnership or collaboration agreement with a competitor. Without the timely introduction of new solutions and technological enhancements, our offerings will
likely become less competitive over time, in which case our competitive position and operating results could suffer. Accordingly, we focus significant efforts and resources on the development and identification of new technologies and markets to further broaden and deepen our capabilities and expertise in drug discovery and development. For example, to the extent we fail to timely introduce new and innovative technologies or solutions, adequately predict our collaborators’ needs or fail to obtain desired levels of market acceptance, our business may suffer and our operating results could be adversely affected.
The potential market opportunities for our product candidates may be smaller than we anticipated or may be limited to those patients who are ineligible for or have failed prior treatments, and our estimates of the prevalence of our target patient populations may be inaccurate.
Our current and future target patient populations are based on our beliefs and estimates regarding the incidence or prevalence of certain types of cancers that may be addressable by our product candidates, which is derived from a variety of sources, including scientific literature and surveys of clinics. Our projections may prove to be incorrect and the number of potential patients may turn out to be lower than expected. Even if we obtain significant market share for our product candidates, because the potential target populations could be small, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining regulatory approval for additional indications, including use of our product candidates for front-line and second-line therapy.
Cancer therapies are sometimes characterized by line of therapy (first-line, second-line, third-line, etc.), and the FDA often approves new therapies initially only for a particular line or lines of use. When cancer is detected early enough, first line therapy is sometimes adequate to cure the cancer or prolong life without a cure. Whenever first-line therapy, usually chemotherapy, antibody drugs, tumor-targeted small molecules, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or a combination of these, proves unsuccessful, second line therapy may be administered. Second-line therapies often consist of more chemotherapy, radiation, antibody drugs, tumor-targeted small molecules, or a combination of these. Third-line therapies can include chemotherapy, antibody drugs and small molecule tumor-targeted therapies, more invasive forms of surgery and new technologies. We expect to initially seek approval of some of our product candidates as second- or third-line therapies for patients who have failed other approved treatments. Subsequently, for those product candidates that prove to be sufficiently beneficial, if any, we would expect to seek approval as a second-line therapy and potentially as a first-line therapy, but there is no guarantee that our drug candidates, even if approved for third-line therapy, would be approved for second-line or first-line therapy. In addition, we may have to conduct additional clinical trials prior to gaining approval for second-line or first-line therapy.
We may focus on potential product candidates that may prove to be unsuccessful and we may have to forego opportunities to develop other product candidates that may prove to be more successful.
We may choose to focus our efforts and resources on a potential product candidate that ultimately proves to be unsuccessful, or to license or purchase a marketed product that does not meet our financial expectations. As a result, we may fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities, be required to forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or other diseases that may later prove to have greater commercial potential, or relinquish valuable rights to such product candidates through collaboration, licensing, or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights. If we are unable to identify and successfully commercialize additional suitable product candidates, this would adversely impact our business strategy and our financial position.
Furthermore, we have limited financial and personnel resources and are placing significant focus on the development of our lead product candidates, and as such, we may forgo or delay pursuit of opportunities with other future product candidates that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and other future product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable future product candidates. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular future product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to those future product candidates through collaboration, licensing, or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to such future product candidates.
We may pursue Fast Track, breakthrough, and regenerative medicine advanced therapy designation by FDA. These designations may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process, and they do not assure FDA approval of any product candidates we may develop.
FDA’s Fast Track, breakthrough, and regenerative medicine advanced therapy, or RMAT, programs are intended to expedite the development of certain qualifying products intended for the treatment of serious diseases and conditions. If a product candidate is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and preclinical or clinical data demonstrate the product’s potential to address an unmet medical need for this condition, the sponsor may be eligible for FDA Fast Track designation. A product candidate may be designated as a breakthrough therapy if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product candidate may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. A product candidate may receive RMAT designation if it is a regenerative medicine therapy that is intended to treat, modify, reverse or cure a serious or life-threatening condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product candidate has the potential to address an unmet medical need for such condition. While we may seek Fast Track, breakthrough, and/or RMAT designation, there is no guarantee that we will be successful in obtaining any such designation. Even if we do obtain such designation, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. A Fast Track, breakthrough, or RMAT designation does not ensure that the product candidate will receive marketing approval or that approval will be granted within any particular timeframe. In addition, the FDA may withdraw Fast Track, breakthrough, or RMAT designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program. Fast Track, breakthrough, and/or RMAT designation alone do not guarantee qualification for the FDA’s priority review procedures.
Even if we obtain FDA approval of any of our product candidates, we may never obtain approval or commercialize such products outside of the United States, which would limit our ability to realize their full market potential.
In order to market any products outside of the United States, we must establish and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries regarding safety and efficacy. Clinical trials conducted in one country may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other countries, and regulatory approval in one country does not mean that regulatory approval will be obtained in any other country. Approval procedures vary among countries and can involve additional product testing and validation and additional administrative review periods. Seeking foreign regulatory approvals could result in significant delays, difficulties, and costs for us and may require additional preclinical studies or clinical trials which would be costly and time-consuming. Regulatory requirements can vary widely from country to country and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in those countries. Satisfying these and other regulatory requirements is costly, time-consuming, uncertain, and subject to unanticipated delays. In addition, our failure to obtain regulatory approval in any country may delay or have negative effects on the process for regulatory approval in other countries. We do not have any product candidates approved for sale in any jurisdiction, including international markets, and we do not have experience in obtaining regulatory approval in international markets. If we fail to comply with regulatory requirements in international markets or to obtain and maintain required approvals, our ability to realize the full market potential of our products will be harmed.
Even if a current or future product candidate receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.
If any current or future product candidate we develop receives marketing approval, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, 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:
Disruptions at the FDA and other government agencies caused by funding shortages or global health concerns could hinder their ability to hire, retain, or deploy key leadership and other personnel, or otherwise prevent new or modified products from being developed, approved, or commercialized in a timely manner or at all, which could negatively impact our business.
The ability of the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities to review or approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, statutory, regulatory, and policy changes, the FDA’s or foreign regulatory authorities’ ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and other events that may otherwise affect the FDA’s or foreign regulatory authorities’ ability to perform routine functions. Average review times at the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of other government agencies 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, such as the EMA, following its relocation to Amsterdam and related reorganization (including staff changes), 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, have had to furlough critical FDA employees and stop critical activities.
Separately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA postponed most inspections of domestic and foreign manufacturing facilities at various points. Even though the FDA has since resumed standard inspection operations of domestic facilities where feasible, the FDA has continued to monitor and implement changes to its inspectional activities to ensure the safety of its employees and those of the firms it regulates as it adapts to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, and any resurgence of the virus or emergence of new variants may lead to further inspectional delays. Regulatory authorities outside the U.S. have adopted similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and may experience delays in their regulatory activities, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns continue to hinder or prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews, or other regulatory activities, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA or other regulatory authorities to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our insurance policies are expensive and protect us only from some business risks, which leaves us exposed to significant uninsured liabilities.
We do not carry insurance for all categories of risk that our business may encounter. Some of the policies we currently maintain include general liability, property, auto, employment practices, workers’ compensation, environmental liability, and directors’ and officers’ insurance.
Any additional product liability insurance coverage we acquire in the future may not be sufficient to reimburse us for any expenses or losses we may suffer. Moreover, insurance coverage is becoming increasingly expensive and in the future we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses due to liability. If we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, we intend to acquire insurance coverage to include the sale of commercial products; however, we may be unable to obtain product liability insurance on commercially reasonable terms or in adequate amounts. A successful product liability claim or series of claims brought against us could cause our stock price to decline and, if judgments exceed our insurance coverage, could adversely affect our results of operations and business, including preventing or limiting the development and commercialization of any product candidates we develop. Although our environment liability insurance provides certain coverage for claims attributable to the release of biological or hazardous materials, our property, casualty, and general liability insurance policies
specifically exclude coverage for damages and fines arising from biological or hazardous waste exposure or contamination. Accordingly, in the event of contamination or injury, we could be held liable for damages or be penalized with fines in an amount exceeding our resources, and our clinical trials or regulatory approvals could be suspended.
Operating as a public company has and will make it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance, and we may be required to accept reduced policy limits and coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain the same or similar coverage. As a result, it may be more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified people to serve on our board of directors, our board committees or as executive officers. We do not know, however, if we will be able to maintain existing insurance with adequate levels of coverage. Any significant uninsured liability may require us to pay substantial amounts, which would adversely affect our cash and cash equivalents position and results of operations.
Risks Related to Healthcare Laws and Other Legal Compliance Matters
We will be subject to extensive and costly government regulation.
Our product candidates will be subject to extensive and rigorous domestic government regulation, including regulation by the FDA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, other divisions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Justice, state and local governments, and their respective equivalents outside of the United States. The FDA regulates the research, development, preclinical and clinical testing, manufacture, safety, effectiveness, record-keeping, reporting, labeling, packaging, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale, distribution, import, and export of pharmaceutical products. If our products are marketed abroad, they will also be subject to extensive regulation by foreign governments, whether or not they have obtained FDA approval for a given product and its uses. Such foreign regulation may be equally or more demanding than corresponding United States regulation.
Government regulation substantially increases the cost and risk of researching, developing, manufacturing, and selling our products. The regulatory review and approval process, which includes preclinical testing and clinical trials of each product candidate, is lengthy, expensive, and uncertain. We must obtain and maintain regulatory authorization to conduct preclinical studies and clinical trials. We must obtain regulatory approval for each product we intend to market, and the manufacturing facilities used for the products must be inspected and meet legal requirements. Securing regulatory approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and other supporting information for each proposed therapeutic indication in order to establish the product’s safety and efficacy, potency, and purity, for each intended use. The development and approval process takes many years, requires substantial resources, and may never lead to the approval of a product.
Even if we are able to obtain regulatory approval for a particular product, the approval may limit the indicated medical uses for the product, may otherwise limit our ability to promote, sell, and distribute the product, may require that we conduct costly post-marketing surveillance, and/or may require that we conduct ongoing post-marketing studies. Material changes to an approved product, such as, for example, manufacturing changes or revised labeling, may require further regulatory review and approval. Once obtained, any approvals may be withdrawn, including, for example, if there is a later discovery of previously unknown problems with the product, such as a previously unknown safety issue.
If we, our consultants, CDMOs, CROs, or other vendors, fail to comply with applicable regulatory requirements at any stage during the regulatory process, such noncompliance could result in, among other things, delays in the approval of applications or supplements to approved applications; refusal of a regulatory authority, including the FDA or other regulatory authorities, to review pending market approval applications or supplements to approved applications; warning letters; fines; import and/or export restrictions; product recalls or seizures; injunctions; total or partial suspension of production; civil penalties; withdrawals of previously approved marketing applications or licenses; recommendations by the FDA or other regulatory authorities against governmental contracts; and/or criminal prosecutions.
Enacted and future healthcare legislation and policies may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize our product candidates and could adversely affect our business.
In the United States, the EU and other jurisdictions, there have been, and we expect there will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes to the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of our products in development, restrict or regulate post-approval activities involving any product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval, impact pricing and reimbursement and impact our ability to sell any such products profitably. In particular, there have been and continue to be a number of initiatives at the U.S. federal and state levels that seek to reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of healthcare. In addition, new regulations and interpretations of existing healthcare statutes and regulations are frequently adopted.
In March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA, was enacted, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers. Among the provisions of the ACA, those of greatest importance to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries include the following:
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 will impact our business.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. In August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 resulted in aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers, which went into effect in April 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, will remain in effect as of the date of this report through 2031, unless additional Congressional action is taken. In addition, in January 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several types of providers, including hospitals, imaging centers, and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. Additionally, the orphan drug tax credit was reduced
as part of a broader tax reform. These new laws or any other similar laws introduced in the future may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding, which could negatively affect our customers and accordingly, our financial operations.
Moreover, payment methodologies may be subject to changes in healthcare legislation and regulatory initiatives. For example, CMS may develop new payment and delivery models, such as outcomes-based reimbursement. In addition, recently 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 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. Most recently, on August 16, 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, or IRA, was signed into law. Among other things, the IRA requires manufacturers of certain drugs to engage in price negotiations with Medicare (beginning in 2026), with prices that can be negotiated subject to a cap; imposes rebates under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation (first due in 2023); and replaces the Part D coverage gap discount program with a new discounting program (beginning in 2025). The IRA permits the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement many of these provisions through guidance, as opposed to regulation, for the initial years. For that and other reasons, it is currently unclear how the IRA will be effectuated. We expect that additional U.S. federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that the U.S. federal government will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our product candidates or additional pricing pressures.
Individual states in the United States have also increasingly passed legislation and implemented regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access, and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. Legally mandated price controls on payment amounts by third-party payors or other restrictions could harm our business, results of operations, financial condition 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 product candidates or put pressure on our product pricing.
In the EU, similar political, economic, and regulatory developments may affect our ability to profitably commercialize our product candidates, if approved. In addition to continuing pressure on prices and cost containment measures, legislative developments at the EU or member state level may result in significant additional requirements or obstacles that may increase our operating costs. The delivery of healthcare in the EU, including the establishment and operation of health services and the pricing and reimbursement of medicines, is almost exclusively a matter for national, rather than EU, law and policy. National governments and health service providers have different priorities and approaches to the delivery of healthcare and the pricing and reimbursement of products in that context. EU member states are free to restrict the range of pharmaceutical products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement, and to control the prices and reimbursement levels of pharmaceutical products for human use. Some jurisdictions operate positive and negative list systems under which products may only be marketed once a reimbursement price has been agreed to by the government. EU member states may approve a specific price or level of reimbursement for the pharmaceutical product, or alternatively adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company responsible for placing the pharmaceutical product on the market, including volume-based arrangements, caps and reference pricing mechanisms. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some EU member states, we may be required to conduct studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of our product candidates to other therapies that are considered the local standard of care. Other EU member states allow companies to fix their own prices for medicines, but monitor and control company profits. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription medicines, has become very intense. Generally, the healthcare budgetary constraints in most EU member states have resulted in restrictions on the pricing and reimbursement of medicines by relevant health service providers. Coupled with ever-increasing EU and national regulatory burdens on those wishing to develop and market products, this could prevent or delay marketing approval of our product candidates, restrict, or regulate post-approval activities, and affect our ability to commercialize our product candidates, if approved.
In markets outside of the United States and the EU, reimbursement and healthcare payment systems vary significantly by country, and many countries have instituted price ceilings on specific products and therapies.
In addition, in the United States, legislative and regulatory proposals have been made to expand post-approval requirements and restrict sales and promotional activities for pharmaceutical products. We cannot be
sure whether additional legislative changes will be enacted, or whether the FDA’s 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.
We cannot predict the likelihood, nature, or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action in the United States, the EU, or any other jurisdiction. If we or any third parties we may engage are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we or such third parties are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, our product candidates may lose any regulatory approval that may have been obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
If our product candidates obtain regulatory approval, we and they will be subject to ongoing regulatory review and significant post-market regulatory requirements and oversight.
If the FDA or other regulatory authorities approve any of our product candidates, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, advertising, promotion, import, export, and record-keeping of our product candidates will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. These requirements include submission of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration, as well as ongoing compliance with cGMPs and similar foreign requirements and GCPs for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval. In addition, manufacturers of biological products and their facilities are subject to continual review and periodic, unannounced inspections by the FDA and other regulatory authorities to ensure compliance with cGMP regulations and similar foreign requirements. If we or a regulatory authority discover previously unknown problems with a product, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facilities where the product is manufactured, a regulatory authority may impose restrictions on that product, the manufacturing facility or us, including requiring recall or withdrawal of the product from the market or suspension of manufacturing. In addition, any regulatory approvals that we may receive for our product candidates may contain significant limitations related to use restrictions for specified age groups, warnings, precautions, or contraindications, and may include burdensome post-approval study or risk management requirements. For example, the FDA may require a REMS in order to approve our product candidates, which could entail requirements for a medication guide, physician training, and communication plans or additional elements to ensure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries, and other risk minimization tools.
Failure to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, may subject us to administrative or judicially imposed sanctions, including:
The occurrence of any such event may inhibit our ability to commercialize our product candidates and generate revenue and could require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate negative publicity.
Moreover, the policies of the FDA and of other regulatory authorities may change, and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit, or delay regulatory approval of our product
candidates. We 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.
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 and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
The Hatch-Waxman Act in the United States provides for the opportunity to seek a patent term extension on one selected patent for each of our products, and the length of that patent term extension, if at all, is subject to review and approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO, and the FDA.
In the United States, the Hatch-Waxman Act permits one patent term extension of up to five years beyond the normal expiration of one patent per product, which if a method of treatment patent, is limited to the approved indication (or any additional indications approved during the period of extension). The length of the patent term extension is typically calculated as one half of the clinical trial period plus the entire period of time during the review of the BLA by the FDA, minus any time of delay by us during these periods. There is also a limit on the patent term extension to a term that is no greater than fourteen years from drug approval. Therefore, if we select and are granted a patent term extension on a recently filed and issued patent, we may not receive the full benefit of a possible patent term extension, if at all. We might also not be granted a patent term extension at all, because of, for example, failure to apply within the applicable period, failure to apply prior to the expiration of relevant patents or otherwise failure to satisfy any of the numerous applicable requirements. Moreover, the applicable authorities, including the FDA and the USPTO in the United States, and any equivalent regulatory authorities in other countries, may not agree with our assessment of whether such extensions are available, may refuse to grant extensions to our patents, or may grant more limited extensions than we request. If this occurs, our competitors may be able to obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration by referencing our clinical and preclinical data and launch their product earlier than might otherwise be the case. If this were to occur, it could have a material adverse effect on our ability to generate product revenue.
In 1997, as part of the Food & Drug Administration Modernization Act, or FDAMA, Congress enacted a law that provides incentives to drug manufacturers who conduct studies of drugs in children. The law, which provides six months of exclusivity in return for conducting pediatric studies, is referred to as the pediatric exclusivity provision. If clinical studies are carried out by us that comply with the FDAMA, we may receive an additional six-month term added to any regulatory data exclusivity period and our patent term extension period, if received, on our product. However, if we choose not to carry out pediatric studies that comply with the FDAMA, or are not accepted by the FDA for this purpose, we would not receive this additional six-month exclusivity extension to our data exclusivity or our patent term extension.
In the EU, supplementary protection certificates, or SPCs, are available to extend a patent term up to five years to compensate for patent term lost during regulatory review, and can be extended (if any is in effect at the time of approval) for an additional six months if data from clinical trials is obtained in accordance with an agreed-upon pediatric investigation plan. Although all EU member states must provide SPCs, SPCs must be applied for and granted on a country-by-country basis. This can lead to a substantial cost to apply for and receive these certificates, which may vary among countries or not be granted at all.
Our business operations and current and future relationships with investigators, healthcare professionals, consultants, third-party payors, patient organizations, and customers will be subject to applicable healthcare regulatory laws, which could expose us to penalties.
Our business operations and current and future arrangements with investigators, healthcare professionals, consultants, third-party payors, patient organizations and customers, may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations. These laws may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we conduct our operations, including how we research, market, sell, and distribute our product candidates, if approved. Such laws include:
Ensuring that our internal operations and future business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices, including our relationships with physicians and other healthcare providers, some of whom are compensated in the form of stock or stock options for services provided to us and may be in the position to influence the ordering of or use of our product candidates, if approved, may not comply with current or future statutes, regulations, agency guidance, or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the laws described above or any other governmental laws and regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant penalties, including civil, criminal, and administrative penalties, damages, fines, exclusion from government-funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid or similar programs in other countries or jurisdictions, integrity oversight, and reporting obligations to resolve allegations of non-compliance, disgorgement, imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. If any of the physicians or other providers or entities with whom we expect to do business are found to not be in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to criminal, civil, or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs and imprisonment, which could affect our ability to operate our business. Further, defending against any such actions can be costly, time-consuming and may require significant personnel resources. Therefore, even if we are successful in defending against any such actions that may be brought against us, our business may be impaired.
We are subject to governmental regulation and other legal obligations, particularly related to privacy, data protection and information security. Actual or perceived failures to comply with applicable data protection, privacy and security laws, regulations, standards and other requirements could adversely affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
As our operations and business grow, we may become subject to or affected by new or additional data protection laws and regulations and face increased scrutiny or attention from regulatory authorities. In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, and regulations promulgated thereunder, or collectively, HIPAA, imposes, among other things, certain standards relating to the privacy, security, transmission and breach reporting of individually identifiable health information. Most healthcare providers, including research institutions from which we obtain patient health information, are subject to privacy and security regulations promulgated under HIPAA. We do not believe that we are currently classified as a covered entity or business associate under HIPAA and thus are not directly subject to its requirements or penalties. However, depending on the facts and circumstances, we could face substantial criminal penalties if we knowingly receive individually identifiable health information from a HIPAA-covered healthcare provider or research institution that has not satisfied HIPAA’s requirements for disclosure of individually identifiable health information.
Certain states have also adopted comparable privacy and security laws and regulations, which govern the privacy, processing and protection of health-related and other personal information. For example, on June 28, 2018, California enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which took effect on January 1, 2020. The CCPA creates individual privacy rights for California consumers, increases the privacy and security obligations of entities handling certain personal information, requires certain disclosures to California individuals, affords such individuals new abilities to opt out of certain sales of personal information, and provides for civil penalties for violations as well as a private right of action for data breaches that is expected to increase data breach litigation. Further, the California Privacy Rights Act, or CPRA, recently passed in California. The CPRA significantly amends the CCPA and will impose additional data protection obligations on covered businesses, including additional consumer rights processes, limitations on data uses, new audit requirements for higher risk data, and opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data. It will also create a new California data protection agency authorized to issue substantive regulations and could result in increased privacy and information security enforcement. The majority of the provisions will go into effect on January 1, 2023, and additional compliance
investment and potential business process changes may be required. Complying with these numerous, complex, and often changing regulations is expensive and difficult, and failure to comply with any privacy laws or data security laws or any security incident or breach involving the misappropriation, loss or other unauthorized processing, use or disclosure of sensitive or confidential patient, consumer or other personal information, whether by us, one of our CROs or another third party, could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations, including but not limited to: investigation costs; material fines and penalties; compensatory, special, punitive, and statutory damages; litigation; consent orders regarding our privacy and security practices; requirements that we provide notices, credit monitoring services, and/or credit restoration services or other relevant services to impacted individuals; adverse actions against our licenses to do business; reputational damage; and injunctive relief. Similar laws have passed in Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut and Utah, and have been proposed in other states and at the federal level, reflecting a trend toward more stringent privacy legislation in the United States. The enactment of such laws could have potentially conflicting requirements that would make compliance challenging. In the event that we are subject to or affected by HIPAA, the CCPA, the CPRA or other domestic privacy and data protection laws, any liability from failure to comply with the requirements of these laws could adversely affect our financial condition.
Our activities outside the United States may be subject to additional compliance requirements and generate additional risks of enforcement for noncompliance. For example, on May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, went into effect and imposes strict requirements for processing the personal data of individuals within the EEA. For example, the GDPR applies extraterritorially, and requires us to make detailed disclosures to data subjects, disclose the legal basis on which we can process personal data, to obtain valid consent for collecting and processing personal data (including data from clinical trials), appoint data protection officers when sensitive personal data, such as health data, is processed on a large scale, provides robust rights for data subjects, and adopt appropriate privacy governance, including policies, procedures, training, and data audit. It also imposes mandatory data breach notification and certain obligations on us when contracting with service providers. The GDPR provides that EEA countries may establish their own laws and regulations limiting the processing of personal data, including genetic, biometric, or health data, which could limit our ability to use and share personal data or could cause our costs to increase. Among other requirements, the GDPR regulates transfers of personal data subject to the GDPR to third countries that have not been found to provide adequate protection to such personal data, including the United States. For example, in 2016, the EU and United States agreed to a transfer framework for data transferred from the EU to the United States, called the Privacy Shield, but the Privacy Shield was invalidated in July 2020 by the Court of Justice of the European Union, or CJEU. In March 2022, the United States and EU announced a new regulatory regime intended to replace the invalidated regulations; however, this new EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework has not been implemented beyond an executive order signed by President Biden on October 7, 2022 on Enhancing Safeguards for United States Signals Intelligence Activities. Further, while the CJEU upheld the adequacy of the standard contractual clauses, or SCCs, it made clear that reliance on them alone may not necessarily be sufficient in all circumstances. Use of the SCCs must now be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the legal regime applicable in the destination country, in particular applicable surveillance laws and rights of individuals and additional measures and/or contractual provisions may need to be put in place, however, the nature of these additional measures is currently uncertain. The CJEU went on to state that if a competent supervisory authority believes that the SCCs cannot be complied with in the destination country and the required level of protection cannot be secured by other means, such supervisory authority is under an obligation to suspend or prohibit that transfer. The European Commission issued revised SCCs on June 4, 2021 to account for the decision of the CJEU and recommendations made by the European Data Protection Board. The revised SCCs must be used for relevant new data transfers from September 27, 2021; existing standard contractual clauses arrangements must be migrated to the revised clauses by December 27, 2022. There is some uncertainty around whether the revised clauses can be used for all types of data transfers, particularly whether they can be relied on for data transfers to non-EEA entities subject to the GDPR. The revised SCCs apply only to the transfer of personal data outside of the EEA and not the United Kingdom; the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office launched a public consultation on its draft revised data transfers mechanisms in August 2021.
Additionally, from January 2021, we have to comply with the GDPR and the United Kingdom GDPR, each regime having the ability to fine up to the greater of €20 million (£17.5 million) or 4% of global turnover for violations. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU in relation to certain aspects of data protection law remains unclear, and it is unclear how United Kingdom data protection laws and regulations will develop in the medium to longer term. The European Commission has adopted an adequacy decision in favor of the United Kingdom, enabling data transfers from EU member states to the United Kingdom without additional safeguards. However, the United Kingdom adequacy decision will automatically expire in June 2025 unless the
European Commission re-assesses and renews/extends that decision, and remains under review by the Commission during this period. In September 2021, the United Kingdom government launched a consultation on its proposals for wide-ranging reform of United Kingdom data protection laws following Brexit. These changes may lead to additional costs and increase our overall risk exposure. In addition, we may be the subject of litigation and/or adverse publicity, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
We cannot assure you that our CDMOs, CROs or other third-party service providers with access to our or our customers’, suppliers’, trial patients’ and employees’ personally identifiable and other sensitive or confidential information in relation to which we are responsible will not breach contractual obligations imposed by us, or that they will not experience data security breaches or attempts thereof, which could have a corresponding effect on our business, including putting us in breach of our obligations under privacy laws and regulations and/or which could in turn adversely affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition. We cannot assure you that our contractual measures and our own privacy and security-related safeguards will protect us from the risks associated with the third-party processing, use, storage, and transmission of such information. Moreover, patients about whom we or our collaborators obtain health information, as well as the providers who share this information with us, may have statutory or contractual rights that limit our ability to use and disclose the information. We may be required to expend significant capital and other resources to ensure ongoing compliance with applicable privacy and data security laws. Claims that we have violated individuals’ privacy rights 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. If we or third-party CDMOs, CROs, or other contractors or consultants fail to comply with applicable federal, state, or local regulatory privacy requirements, we could be subject to a range of regulatory actions that could affect our or our contractors’ ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates and could harm or prevent sales of any affected products that we are able to commercialize, or could substantially increase the costs and expenses of developing, commercializing, and marketing our products. Any threatened or actual government enforcement action could also generate adverse publicity and require that we devote substantial resources that could otherwise be used in other aspects of our business. Increasing use of social media could give rise to liability, breaches of data security, or reputational damage. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
We are subject to environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, and we may become exposed to liability and substantial expenses in connection with environmental compliance or remediation activities.
Our operations, including our development, testing and manufacturing activities, are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws, and regulations. These laws and regulations govern, among other things, the controlled use, handling, release, and disposal of and the maintenance of a registry for, hazardous materials and biological materials, such as chemical solvents, human cells, carcinogenic compounds, mutagenic compounds, and compounds that have a toxic effect on reproduction, laboratory procedures, and exposure to blood-borne pathogens. If we fail to comply with such laws and regulations, we could be subject to fines or other sanctions.
As with other companies engaged in activities similar to ours, we face a risk of environmental liability inherent in our current and historical activities, including liability relating to releases of or exposure to hazardous or biological materials. Environmental, health and safety laws and regulations are becoming more stringent. We may be required to incur substantial expenses in connection with future environmental compliance or remediation activities, in which case, the production efforts of our third-party manufacturers or our development efforts may be interrupted or delayed.
We and our employees are increasingly utilizing social media tools as a means of communication both internally and externally.
Despite our efforts to monitor evolving social media communication guidelines and comply with applicable rules, there is risk that the use of social media by us or our employees to communicate about our product candidates or business may cause us to be found in violation of applicable requirements. In addition, our employees may knowingly or inadvertently make use of social media in ways that may not comply with applicable laws and regulations, our policies, and other legal or contractual requirements, which may give rise to regulatory enforcement action, liability, lead to the loss of trade secrets or other intellectual property or result in public exposure of personal information of our employees, clinical trial patients, customers, and others. Furthermore,
negative posts or comments about us or our product candidates in social media could seriously damage our reputation, brand image, and goodwill. Any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, financial condition, and results of operations, and could adversely affect the price of our common stock.
Risks Related to Commercialization
We are very early in our development efforts. Most of our product candidates are in preclinical development or discovery and we recently received FDA clearance for our IND application for OTX-2002 and have initiated the associated clinical trial. It will be many years before we commercialize a product candidate, if ever. 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 have focused our research and development efforts to date on developing the OMEGA platform, identifying our initial targeted disease indications and engineering our initial OECs. We have only conducted in vivo preclinical studies for some of our programs and there is no guarantee that we will conduct preclinical in vivo studies for other programs. Our ability to generate product revenue, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend heavily on the successful clinical development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates, which may never occur.
Commencing clinical trials in the United States is subject to acceptance by the FDA of an IND or by foreign regulatory authorities of a similar application and finalizing the trial design based on discussions with the FDA and other regulatory authorities. In the event that the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities require us to complete additional preclinical studies or we are required to satisfy other FDA or foreign regulatory authorities requests, the start of our clinical trials may be delayed. Even after we receive and incorporate guidance from these regulatory authorities, the FDA or other regulatory authorities could disagree that we have satisfied their requirements to commence our clinical trials or change their position on the acceptability of our trial designs or the clinical endpoints selected, which may require us to complete additional preclinical studies or clinical trials or impose stricter approval conditions than we currently expect.
Commercialization of our product candidates will require additional preclinical and clinical development and regulatory and marketing approval. Our ability to conduct development or attain marketing approval will depend on the sufficiency of our financial and other resources to complete the necessary preclinical studies, IND-enabling studies or similar studies, and clinical trials and the successful enrollment in, and completion of, clinical trials.
If we do not successfully achieve one or more of these activities in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully commercialize any product candidates we may develop, which would materially harm our business. If we do not receive regulatory approvals for our product candidates, we may not be able to continue our operations.
Developments by competitors may render our products or technologies obsolete or non-competitive or may reduce the size of our markets.
Our industry has been characterized by extensive research and development efforts, rapid developments in technologies, intense competition, and a strong emphasis on proprietary products. We expect our product candidates to face intense and increasing competition as new products enter the relevant markets and advanced technologies become available. We face potential competition from many different sources, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and specialty pharmaceutical companies. Academic research institutions, governmental agencies, and public and private institutions are also potential sources of competitive products and technologies. Our competitors may have or may develop superior technologies or approaches, which may provide them with competitive advantages. Many of these competitors may also have compounds already approved or in development in the therapeutic categories that we are targeting with our product candidates. In addition, many of these competitors, either alone or together with their collaborators, may operate larger research and development programs or have substantially greater financial resources than we do, as well as greater experience in:
If these competitors access the marketplace before we do with safer, more effective, or less expensive therapeutics, our product candidates, if approved for commercialization, may not be profitable to sell or worthwhile to continue to develop. Technology in the pharmaceutical industry has undergone rapid and significant change, and we expect that it will continue to do so. Any compounds, products, or processes that we develop may become obsolete or uneconomical before we recover any expenses incurred in connection with their development. The success of our product candidates will depend upon factors such as product efficacy, safety, reliability, availability, timing, scope of regulatory approval, acceptance and price, among other things. Other important factors to our success include speed in developing product candidates, completing clinical development and laboratory testing, obtaining regulatory approvals and manufacturing, and selling commercial quantities of potential products.
We may face competition from new entrants to the epigenetic medicine space. We also compete with many companies that are using other technologies targeting the same indications we are currently pursuing. We expect our product candidates to compete with companies developing technologies that focus on gene-expression control using various technologies, such as CRISPR gene editing, gene therapies, non-coding RNA therapeutics, and small-molecule epigenetics, including Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc., Beam Therapeutics, Inc., Biogen Inc., CRISPR Therapeutics AG, Editas Medicine, Inc., Intellia Therapeutics, Inc., Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Pfizer Inc., and Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc. Even if approved and commercialized, our product candidates may fail to achieve market acceptance with hospitals, physicians, or patients. Hospitals, physicians, or patients may conclude that our products are less safe or effective or otherwise less attractive than existing drugs. If our product candidates do not receive market acceptance for any reason, our revenue potential would be diminished, which would materially adversely affect our ability to become profitable.
Many of our competitors have substantially greater capital resources, robust product candidate pipelines, established presence in the market, and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical and clinical testing, obtaining regulatory approvals and reimbursement, and marketing approved products than we do. As a result, our competitors may achieve product commercialization or patent or other intellectual property protection earlier than we can. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified clinical, regulatory, scientific, sales, marketing, and management personnel, and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient, or are less expensive than any products that we may develop or that would render any products that we may develop obsolete or noncompetitive.
Our product candidates may face competition sooner than anticipated.
The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA, created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-licensed reference biological product. Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date that the reference product was first licensed by the FDA. In addition, the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until twelve years from the date on which the reference product was first licensed. During this twelve-year period of exclusivity, another company may still market a competing version of the reference product if the FDA approves a full BLA for the competing product containing the sponsor’s own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity, and potency of its product.
We believe that any of our future product candidates approved as a biological product under a BLA should qualify for the twelve-year period of exclusivity. However, there is a risk that this exclusivity could be shortened due to Congressional action or otherwise, or that the FDA will not consider our product candidates to be reference products for competing products, potentially creating the opportunity for competition sooner than anticipated. Other aspects of the BPCIA, some of which may impact the BPCIA exclusivity provisions, have also been the subject of litigation. Jurisdictions in addition to the United States have established abbreviated pathways for
regulatory approval of biological products that are biosimilar to earlier approved reference products. For example, the EU has had an established regulatory pathway for biosimilars since 2006. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once approved, could be substituted for any one of our reference products in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for non-biological products will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing.
The successful commercialization of our product candidates will depend in part on the extent to which governmental authorities and health insurers establish coverage, adequate reimbursement levels, and pricing policies. Failure to obtain or maintain coverage and adequate reimbursement for our product candidates, if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate product revenue.
There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. In the United States, third-party payors, including private and governmental payors, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs, play an important role in determining the extent to which new drugs and biologics will be covered. Our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from government health administration authorities, private health insurers, and other organizations. Government authorities and other third-party payors, such as private health insurers and health maintenance organizations, decide which medications they will pay for and establish reimbursement levels. The availability of coverage and extent of reimbursement by governmental and private payors is essential for most patients to be able to afford treatments.
Third-party payors increasingly are challenging prices charged for pharmaceutical products and services, and many third-party payors may refuse to provide coverage and reimbursement for particular drugs and biologics when an equivalent generic drug, biosimilar, or a less expensive therapy is available. It is possible that a third-party payor may consider our product candidates as substitutable and only offer to reimburse patients for the less expensive product. For products administered under the supervision of a physician, obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices often associated with such drugs. Even if we show improved efficacy or improved convenience of administration with our product candidates, pricing of existing third-party therapeutics may limit the amount we will be able to charge for our product candidates. These payors may deny or revoke the reimbursement status of a given product or establish prices for new or existing marketed products at levels that are too low to enable us to realize an appropriate return on our investment in our product candidates. If reimbursement is not available or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our product candidates and may not be able to obtain a satisfactory financial return on our product candidates.
In the United States, third-party payors, including private and governmental payors, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs, play an important role in determining the extent to which new drugs and biologics will be covered and reimbursed. The Medicare program is increasingly used as a model for how private and other governmental payors develop their coverage and reimbursement policies for new drugs. However, no uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors in the United States. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for products can differ significantly from payor to payor. As a result, the coverage determination process is often a time-consuming and costly process that will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our product candidates to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. Some third-party payors may require pre-approval of coverage for new or innovative drug therapies before they will reimburse healthcare providers who use such therapies. Furthermore, rules and regulations regarding reimbursement change frequently, in some cases on short notice, and we believe that changes in these rules and regulations are likely. We cannot predict at this time what third-party payors will decide with respect to the coverage and reimbursement for our product candidates.
Outside the United States, international operations are generally subject to extensive governmental price controls and other market regulations, and we believe the increasing emphasis on cost-containment initiatives in the EU and other jurisdictions have and will continue to put pressure on the pricing and usage of our product candidates. In many countries, the prices of medical products are subject to varying price control mechanisms as part of national health systems. Other countries allow companies to fix their own prices for medical products, but monitor and control company profits. Additional foreign price controls or other changes in pricing regulation could restrict the amount that we are able to charge for our product candidates. Accordingly, in markets outside the
United States, the reimbursement for our product candidates may be reduced compared with the United States and may be insufficient to generate commercially reasonable revenue and profits.
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. We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of our product candidates due to the trend toward managed healthcare, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations and additional legislative changes. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs and biologics and surgical procedures and other treatments, has become intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products.
If we are unable to establish sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we may not be successful in commercializing any of our product candidates, if approved, and we may not be able to generate any product revenue.
We have limited personnel or infrastructure for the sales, marketing, or distribution of products, and no experience as a company in commercializing a product candidate. The cost of building and maintaining such an organization may exceed the cost-effectiveness of doing so.
We may build our own focused sales, distribution and marketing infrastructure to market our product candidates, if approved, in the United States and other markets around the world. There are significant expenses and risks involved with building our own sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities, including our ability to hire, retain, and appropriately incentivize qualified individuals, generate sufficient sales leads, provide adequate training to sales and marketing personnel, and effectively manage a geographically dispersed sales and marketing team. Any failure or delay in the development of our internal sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities could delay any product launch, which would adversely impact the commercialization of our product candidate, if approved. Additionally, if the commercial launch of our product candidate for which we recruit a sales force and establish marketing capabilities is delayed or does not occur for any reason, we would have prematurely or unnecessarily incurred these commercialization expenses. This may be costly, and our investment would be lost if we cannot retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel.
Factors that may inhibit our efforts to commercialize our product candidates on our own include:
If we are unable or decide not to establish internal sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities, or decide not to do so for a particular country, we may pursue collaborative arrangements. If we pursue a collaborative arrangement, our sales will largely depend on the collaborator’s strategic interest in the product and such collaborator’s ability to successfully market and sell the product.
If we are unable to build our own sales force or access a collaborative relationship for the commercialization of any of our product candidates, we may be forced to delay the potential commercialization of our product candidates or reduce the scope of our sales or marketing activities for such product candidates. If we elect to increase our expenditures to fund commercialization activities ourselves, we will need to obtain additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. We could enter into arrangements with collaborators at an earlier stage than otherwise would be ideal and we may be required to relinquish rights to any
of our product candidates or otherwise agree to terms unfavorable to us, any of which may have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and prospects.
If we are unable to establish adequate sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we will not be successful in commercializing our other product candidates and may not become profitable and may incur significant additional losses. We will be competing with many companies that currently have extensive and well-funded marketing and sales operations. Without an internal team or the support of a third party to perform marketing and sales functions, we may be unable to compete successfully against these more established companies.
In addition, even if we do establish adequate sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities, the progress of general industry trends with respect to pricing models, supply chains, and delivery mechanisms, among other things, could deviate from our expectations. If these or other industry trends change in a manner which we do not anticipate or for which we are not prepared, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates or become profitable.
Our future growth may depend, in part, on our ability to penetrate foreign markets, where we would be subject to additional regulatory burdens and other risks and uncertainties.
Our future profitability may depend, in part, on our ability to commercialize our product candidates, if approved, in foreign markets, including the EU, for which we may rely on collaboration with third parties. We are not permitted to market or promote any of our product candidates before we receive regulatory approval from the applicable regulatory authority in that foreign market, and