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 December 31, 2020.
◻ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 001-38916
BICYCLE THERAPEUTICS PLC
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
England and Wales
(State or Other Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
B900, Babraham Research Campus
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code +44 1223 261503
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
Ordinary shares, nominal value £0.01 per share*
American Depositary Shares, each representing one ordinary share, nominal value £0.01 per share
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
* Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing of the American Depositary Shares on the NASDAQ Global Select Market.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ◻ No ⌧
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ◻ No ⌧
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ⌧ No ◻
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ⌧ No ◻
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer”, “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer ◻
Accelerated filer ◻
Non-accelerated filer ⌧
Smaller reporting company ⌧
Emerging growth company ⌧
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ⌧
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant 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. ◻
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ◻ No ⌧
The aggregate market value (approximate) of the registrant’s voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates based on the closing price per American Depositary Share, or ADS, of the registrant’s ADSs on The Nasdaq Global Select Market on June 30, 2020 (the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter) was $189,962,881.
As of March 5, 2021, the registrant had 23,090,382 ordinary shares, nominal value £0.01 per share, outstanding.
Documents Incorporated by Reference:
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement, or Proxy Statement, for its 2021 Annual General Meeting, which the registrant intends to file pursuant to Regulation 14A with the Securities and Exchange Commission not later than 120 days after the registrant’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act. These statements may be identified by such forward-looking terminology as “may,” “should,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “predicts,” “potential,” “continue” or variations of these words or similar expressions that are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these words. Any forward-looking statement involves known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to differ materially from any future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statements include statements, other than statements of historical fact, about, among other things:
|●||statements regarding the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on our operations, research and development and clinical trials and potential disruption in the operations and business of third-party manufacturers, contract research organizations, or CROs, other service providers, and collaborators with whom we conduct business;|
|●||the initiation, timing, progress and results of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, and our research and development programs;|
|●||our ability to advance our product candidates into, and successfully complete, clinical trials;|
|●||our reliance on the success of our product candidates in our Bicycle Toxin Conjugates®, or BTCs, tumor-targeted immune cell agonist programs, and our other pipeline programs;|
|●||our ability to utilize our screening platform to identify and advance additional product candidates into clinical development;|
|●||the timing or likelihood of regulatory filings and approvals;|
|●||the commercialization of our product candidates, if approved;|
|●||our ability to develop sales and marketing capabilities;|
|●||the pricing, coverage and reimbursement of our product candidates, if approved;|
|●||the implementation of our business model, strategic plans for our business, product candidates and technology;|
|●||the scope of protection we are able to establish and maintain for intellectual property rights covering our product candidates and technology;|
|●||our ability to operate our business without infringing the intellectual property rights and proprietary technology of third parties;|
|●||costs associated with defending intellectual property infringement, product liability and other claims;|
|●||regulatory development in the United States, under the laws and regulations of England and Wales, and other jurisdictions;|
|●||estimates of our expenses, future revenues, capital requirements and our needs for additional financing;|
|●||the amount of and our ability to satisfy interest and principal payments under our debt facility with Hercules Capital, Inc., or Hercules;|
|●||the potential benefits of strategic collaboration agreements and our ability to enter into strategic arrangements;|
|●||our ability to maintain and establish collaborations or obtain additional grant funding;|
|●||the rate and degree of market acceptance of any approved products;|
|●||developments relating to our competitors and our industry, including competing therapies;|
|●||our ability to effectively manage our anticipated growth;|
|●||our ability to attract and retain qualified employees and key personnel;|
|●||our expectations regarding the period during which we qualify as an emerging growth company under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or the JOBS Act;|
|●||statements regarding future revenue, hiring plans, expenses, capital expenditures, capital requirements and share performance; and|
|●||other risks and uncertainties, including those listed under the caption “Risk Factors.”|
Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, these statements are based on our estimates or projections of the future that are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties and other important factors that may cause our actual results, level of activity, performance, experience or achievements to differ materially from those expressed or implied by any forward-looking statement. These risks, uncertainties and other factors are described in greater detail under the caption “Risk Factors” in Part I. Item 1A and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. As a result of the risks and uncertainties, the results or events indicated by the forward-looking statements may not occur. Undue reliance should not be placed on any forward-looking statement.
In addition, any forward-looking statement in this Annual Report represents our views only as of the date of this annual report and should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any subsequent date. We anticipate that subsequent events and developments may cause our views to change. Although we may elect to update these forward-looking statements publicly at some point in the future, we specifically disclaim any obligation to do so, except as required by applicable law. Our forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any future acquisitions, mergers, dispositions, joint ventures or investments we may make.
The below summary risk factors provide an overview of certain of the risks we are exposed to in the normal course of our business activities. The below summary risk factors do not contain all of the information that may be important to investors, and investors should read the summary risk factors together with the more detailed discussion of risks set forth in Part I, Item 1A, “Risk Factors,” of this Annual Report.
|●||We have a history of significant operating losses and expect to incur significant and increasing losses for the foreseeable future, and we may never achieve or maintain profitability.|
|●||We may need substantial additional funding, and if we are unable to raise capital when needed, we could be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our product discovery and development programs or commercialization efforts.|
|●||Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our existing shareholders or holders of our American Depositary Shares, or ADSs, restrict our operations or cause us to relinquish valuable rights.|
|●||Our failure to comply with the covenants or payment obligations under our existing term loan facility with Hercules Capital, Inc., or Hercules, could result in an event of default, which may result in increased interest charges, acceleration of our repayment obligations or other actions by Hercules, any of which could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.|
|●||We are at a very early stage in our development efforts, our product candidates and those of our collaborators represent a new category of medicines and may be subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny until they are established as a therapeutic modality.|
|●||We are substantially dependent on the success of our internal development programs and of our product candidates from our Bicycle Toxin Conjugates, or BTCs, Bicycle tumor-targeted immune cell agonist™, or TICA™, programs, which may not successfully complete clinical trials, receive regulatory approval or be successfully commercialized.|
|●||We may find it difficult to enroll patients in our clinical trials, which could delay or prevent us from proceeding with clinical trials of our product candidates.|
|●||Results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of results of future clinical trials.|
|●||Our current or future product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties when used alone or in combination with other approved products or investigational new drugs, or IND, that could halt their clinical development, prevent their marketing approval, limit their commercial potential or result in significant negative consequences.|
|●||We may be delayed or not be successful in our efforts to identify or discover additional product candidates.|
|●||We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.|
|●||We may seek designations for our product candidates with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and other comparable regulatory authorities that are intended to confer benefits such as a faster development process or an accelerated regulatory pathway, but there can be no assurance that we will successfully obtain such designations. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates are granted such designations, we may not be able to realize the intended benefits of such designations.|
|●||Even if we complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials, the marketing approval process is expensive, time consuming and uncertain and may prevent us or any collaborators from obtaining approvals for the commercialization of some or all of our product candidates. As a result, we cannot predict when or if, and in which territories, we, or any collaborators, will obtain marketing approval to commercialize a product candidate.|
|●||The market opportunities for any current or future product candidate we develop, if and when approved may be limited to those patients who are ineligible for established therapies or for whom prior therapies have failed, and may be small.|
|●||We face significant competition and if our competitors develop and market products that are more effective, safer or less expensive than the product candidates we develop, our commercial opportunities will be negatively impacted.|
|●||Even if we receive marketing approval of a product candidate, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our products, if approved.|
|●||The commercial success of any current or future product candidate will depend upon the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, payors and others in the medical community.|
|●||The insurance coverage and reimbursement status of newly-approved products is uncertain. Failure to obtain or maintain adequate coverage and reimbursement for any of our product candidates, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.|
|●||Healthcare legislative reform measures may have a negative impact on our business and results of operations.|
|●||We rely on third parties, including independent clinical investigators and clinical research organizations, or CROs, to conduct and sponsor some of the clinical trials of our product candidates. Any failure by a third party to meet its obligations with respect to the clinical development of our product candidates may delay or impair our ability to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates.|
|●||We intend to rely on third parties to manufacture product candidates, which increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of such product candidates or products or such quantities at an acceptable cost, which could delay, prevent or impair our development or commercialization efforts.|
|●||If we are unable to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection for our products and product candidates, or if the scope of the patent and other intellectual property protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize our products and product candidates may be adversely affected.|
|●||If we are sued for infringing intellectual property rights of third parties, such litigation could be costly and time consuming and could prevent or delay us from developing or commercializing our product candidates|
|●||As a company based outside of the United States, we are subject to economic, political, regulatory and other risks associated with international operations.|
|●||COVID-19 could impact our business.|
|●||The market price of our ADSs is highly volatile, and holders of our ADSs may not be able to resell their ADSs at or above the price at which they purchased their ADSs.|
We are a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing a novel class of medicines, which we refer to as Bicycles, for diseases that are underserved by existing therapeutics. Bicycles are fully synthetic short peptides constrained to form two loops which stabilize their structural geometry. This constraint facilitates target binding with high affinity and selectivity, making Bicycles attractive candidates for drug development. Bicycles are a unique therapeutic modality combining the pharmacology usually associated with a biologic with the manufacturing and pharmacokinetic, or PK, properties of a small molecule. The relatively large surface area presented by Bicycles allow targets to be drugged that have historically been intractable to non-biological approaches. Bicycles are excreted by the kidney rather than the liver and have shown no signs of immunogenicity to date, which we believe together support a favorable toxicological profile.
We have a novel and proprietary phage display screening platform which we use to identify Bicycles in an efficient manner. The platform initially displays linear peptides on the surface of engineered bacteriophages, or phages, before “on-phage” cyclization with a range of small molecule scaffolds which can confer differentiated physicochemical and structural properties. Our platform encodes quadrillions of potential Bicycles which can be screened to identify molecules for optimization to potential product candidates. We have used this powerful screening technology to identify our current portfolio of candidates in oncology and intend to use it in conjunction with our collaborators to seek to develop additional future candidates across a range of other disease areas.
Our initial internal programs are focused on oncology indications with high unmet medical need. Our lead product candidates, BT1718, BT5528 and BT8009, are Bicycle Toxin Conjugates®, or BTCs. These Bicycles are chemically attached to a toxin that when administered is cleaved from the Bicycle® and kills the tumor cells. BT1718 targets tumors that express Membrane Type 1 matrix metalloproteinase, or MT1-MMP, and is currently in an ongoing Phase I/IIa clinical trial in collaboration with, and fully funded by, the Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development, or Cancer Research UK, to evaluate its safety, tolerability and efficacy. We are also evaluating BT5528, a second-generation BTC targeting Ephrin type A receptor 2, or EphA2, in a company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial as a monotherapy and in combination with nivolumab, and BT8009, a second-generation BTC targeting Nectin-4, in a company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial. Our discovery pipeline in oncology includes Bicycle-based systemic immune cell agonists and Bicycle tumor-targeted immune cell agonists, or TICAs.
Beyond our wholly-owned oncology portfolio, we are collaborating with biopharmaceutical companies and organizations in therapeutic areas in which we believe our proprietary Bicycle screening platform can identify therapies to treat diseases with significant unmet medical need. Our partnered programs outside of oncology include
collaborations in immuno-oncology, or I-O, anti-infective, cardiovascular, ophthalmology, dementia and respiratory indications.
The following table summarizes key information about our programs:
We were founded in 2009 based on innovative science conducted by Sir Greg Winter and Professor Christian Heinis. Sir Greg Winter is a pioneer in monoclonal antibodies and, in 2018, was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry for the invention of the technology underpinning our proprietary phage display screening platform that we use to identify Bicycles. From our founding through December 31, 2020, we have generated substantial intellectual property, including four patent families directed to novel scaffolds, 16 patent families directed to our platform technology, 79 patent families directed to bicyclic peptides and related conjugates, and nine patent families directed to clinical indications and other properties of development assets. The work we have conducted in developing Bicycles and our proprietary screening platform have created substantial know-how that we believe provides us with a competitive advantage.
Our management team includes veterans in drug development with executive experience at leading biopharmaceutical companies including Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Pfizer. Our board of directors and scientific advisory board include industry experts and seasoned investors, with extensive experience in I-O.
Our mission is to become a leading biopharmaceutical company by pioneering Bicycles as a novel therapeutic modality to treat diseases that are inadequately addressed with existing treatment modalities. Specifically, we seek to execute on the following strategy to maximize the value of our novel technology and pipeline:
|●||Progress our most advanced candidates, BT1718, BT5528 and BT8009, through clinical development. BT1718 is being investigated in an ongoing Phase I/IIa clinical trial sponsored by Cancer Research UK. Cancer Research UK initiated expansion cohorts in the Phase IIa portion of the Phase I/IIa study in 2020. We are also evaluating BT5528, a second-generation BTC targeting EphA2, in a company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial as a monotherapy and in combination with nivolumab, and BT8009, a second-generation BTC targeting Nectin-4, in a company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial. We intend to advance development of these candidates across oncology indications based on target expression.|
|●||Continue IND-enabling activities for our lead TICA program, BT7480. BT7480 is a fully synthetic TICA that contains a Bicycle targeting Nectin-4 and a Bicycle targeting the costimulatory receptor CD137. BT7480 has been shown in preclinical models to rapidly penetrate tumors, have anti-tumor activity, and induce immune memory specific to the implanted tumor. IND-enabling activities for BT7480 are ongoing, and we are on track to commence the Phase I clinical trial in the second half of 2021.|
|●||Pursue clinical development of our discovery programs. We intend to continue our ongoing discovery activities to screen and select promising candidates for oncology indications. For example, early I-O|
|discovery efforts have resulted in the identification of TICA candidates targeting natural killer, or NK, cells. We are currently advancing these programs into lead optimization.|
|●||Leverage our powerful proprietary screening platform and novel Bicycle modality to grow our pipeline. Our novel and proprietary phage display screening platform allows us to rapidly and efficiently identify potential candidates for development. We can incorporate a wide range of small molecule scaffolds into Bicycles to increase diversity and confer differentiated physicochemical and structural properties. We have used our powerful Bicycle screening platform to identify our current pipeline of promising BTCs and TICAs, and we intend to use it to develop a broader pipeline of diverse product candidates.|
|●||Collaborate strategically with leading organizations to access enabling technology and expertise in order to expand the application of our novel Bicycle modality to indications beyond oncology. We are collaborating with leading biopharmaceutical companies and organizations to apply our novel Bicycle modality to other disease areas, including, anti-infective, cardiovascular, ophthalmology, dementia and respiratory indications. We may opportunistically enter into additional collaborations in the future to apply our technology to areas of unmet medical need.|
|●||If approved, maximize the commercial potential of our product candidates by either establishing our own sales and marketing infrastructure or doing so through collaborations with others. Subject to receiving marketing approval, we intend to pursue the commercialization of our product candidates either by building internal sales and marketing capabilities or doing so through opportunistic collaborations with others.|
The Bicycle Opportunity
Introduction to Bicycles
Bicycles are fully synthetic, short peptides consisting of nine to 20 amino acids constrained to form two loops which stabilize the structural geometry of the peptide and facilitate target binding with high affinity and selectivity. Bicycles represent a unique therapeutic class, combining the pharmacological properties normally associated with a biologic with the manufacturing and PK advantages of a small molecule, with no signs of immunogenicity observed to date.
Drugs must bind to target proteins with high affinity and selectivity to achieve a therapeutic effect, while minimizing undesired effects on other proteins and physiological functions. Peptides exist in a number of folded states, only a few of which are able to bind to target proteins, and a key challenge for peptide therapeutics is designing structures that achieve these goals. We have designed our molecules to be highly constrained by linking a chemical connector compound, also known as a scaffold, to particular amino acids in the peptide chain. The resulting cyclized molecule, which we refer to as a Bicycle, is locked in the preferred state to bind to the target proteins.
Schematic of the Creation of a Cyclized Molecule Resulting in a Bicycle
We have expanded the diversity of the chemical space we can cover from approximately 1013 potential molecules in 2009 to 1020 today. We have applied our novel Bicycle modality to a growing range of targets, from a single target in 2009 to more than 125 today. We can create a wide range of Bicycles by varying four parameters:
|●||the number of amino acids in the two loops;|
|●||the amino acid composition at each position;|
|●||the symmetry of the two loops; and|
|●||the small molecule scaffold used to cyclize the Bicycle.|
Properties of Bicycles as Therapeutic Agents
Bicycles have a large surface area available for target binding, which is designed to allow for high affinity and selectivity to the designated target. As short sequences of amino acids, or peptides, they have a low molecular weight, typically ranging from 1.5 kDa to 2.0 kDa. Bicycles have a readily adjustable PK profile with good plasma stability and rapid distribution from the vasculature into the extracellular space. This PK profile enables rapid tissue penetration and a renal route of elimination that minimizes liver exposure. Toxicity issues are observed with small molecules that are metabolized and eliminated by the liver. Bicycle peptides, by contrast, are not subject to metabolism or elimination by the liver but are metabolized in the peripheral circulation or kidney with subsequent rapid excretion in the urine. Consequently, by increasing excretion in urine, the liver exposure is minimized and the risk of liver toxicity is reduced. The modular nature of Bicycles allows us to optimize therapeutic molecules for specific targets. To date, we have observed no signs of immunogenicity.
Compared to biologics, Bicycles have a lower cost of production and a simpler manufacturing process, and are recognized by regulatory authorities as small molecule new chemical entities. We can readily identify Bicycles that may drug a wide spectrum of targets and target classes, including many that have so far been undruggable with small molecules, such as protein-protein interactions. Our novel and proprietary screening platform allows us to screen Bicycles against molecular targets rapidly and efficiently, affording potentially reduced timelines and costs compared to other high-throughput screening approaches. Leveraging our platform, we can rapidly and efficiently identify a compound for development in as few as six months with the historical average time being 12 months after a target has been selected.
Properties of Bicycles May Translate into Potential Therapeutic and Other Advantages
Comparison of Bicycles to Other Common Classes of Therapeutics
Our Proprietary Bicycle Screening Platform
We utilize our novel and proprietary phage display screening platform to identify Bicycles that are potentially useful in medicine. We have used this technology to identify our current pipeline and intend to leverage it to develop a broader portfolio of product candidates to address unmet medical needs across a wide range of diseases.
Phages are bacteria-infecting viruses consisting of genetic material wrapped in a protein coat. Phages can be harnessed to identify Bicycles by splicing DNA into the genome of a phage so that the linear peptides that encode Bicycles are presented on the surface of the phage. Our founder Sir Greg Winter, a pioneer in phage display, applied this
technology and added a cyclization step that forms Bicycles from these linear peptides. This technology underpins our novel and proprietary screening platform.
Our screening process self-selects for Bicycles that are amenable to attachment, commonly referred to as conjugation, to other molecular payloads such as cytotoxins, innate immune agonists or other Bicycles. Bicycles can be linked together with synthetic ease to create complex molecules with combinatorial pharmacology. Alternatively, Bicycles in the form of multimers can also be used as standalone therapeutics, such as those that we are exploring in our systemic and tumor-targeted immune cell agonist programs. We believe that the flexibility of our Bicycles and our powerful screening platform allow new therapeutics to be rapidly conceived and reduced to practice to potentially serve diverse therapeutic applications across a wide range of indications. We can readily identify Bicycles that may drug a wide spectrum of targets and target classes, including many that have so far been undruggable with small molecules, such as protein-protein interactions.
Schematic of our Proprietary Bicycle Screening Process
We have optimized our proprietary Bicycle screening platform, enabling the technique to be applied to a diverse range of over 125 challenging targets to date, successfully identifying Bicycles for over 80% of these targets, some of which are intractable to small molecules. During these screens, Bicycles with diverse pharmacologies were identified, including enzyme inhibitors, receptor antagonists, agonists (partial, full and supra) and neutral site binders. Neutral site binders often bind to entirely novel sites on target proteins, previously undescribed in the scientific literature. These binders can be useful when conjugated with therapeutic payloads since they allow antigen-targeted payload delivery without impacting target function.
Our Product Candidates
Our portfolio of internal product candidates is directed to oncology applications where we believe they have the potential to treat a broad spectrum of cancers. We are collaborating with biopharmaceutical companies and organizations in other therapeutic areas, where we believe our proprietary Bicycle screening platform can identify therapies to treat diseases with significant unmet medical need.
The following table summarizes key information about our pipeline programs.
Our Oncology Programs
We believe Bicycles are an ideal vehicle to deliver small molecule payloads to tumors, both as potent cytotoxins in the case of BTCs, as well as small molecule agonists of the immune system in the case of our Bicycle-targeted immune cell agonists. We believe that Bicycle conjugates can offer improved performance as compared to antibody-mediated delivery.
In addition to their use as drug conjugates, Bicycles can also be configured for use as standalone therapeutics. We have identified Bicycles that have been observed to directly interact with CD137, a key immune cell co-stimulatory molecule. We believe our CD137-targeting Bicycles may overcome limitations inherent in antibody-mediated approaches and have the potential to be converted into simple tumor-targeted immune cell-engaging Bicycle molecules.
Bicycle Toxin Conjugates
Within our BTC programs, we are developing BT1718 (carrying a DM1 (mertansine) cytotoxin payload), which is designed to target MT1-MMP expressing tumors. BT1718 is currently being investigated for safety, tolerability and efficacy in an ongoing Phase I/IIa clinical trial that is being conducted in collaboration with Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development. Patient enrollment in the Phase IIa portion of the Phase I/IIa trial remains ongoing.
We are evaluating BT5528, our first second-generation BTC that targets EphA2 and carries a monomethyl auristatin E, or MMAE, cytotoxin payload, in an ongoing, company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial to assess safety, pharmacokinetics, and preliminary clinical activity in patients with solid tumors. We are currently enrolling patients in the Phase I portion of the Phase I/II trial of BT5528.
We are also evaluating BT8009, a second-generation BTC that targets Nectin-4 and carries an MMAE cytotoxin payload, in an ongoing company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial to assess to assess the safety,
pharmacokinetics, and preliminary clinical activity in patients with Nectin-4 expressing advanced malignancies. Studies have demonstrated that MT1-MMP, EphA2 and Nectin-4 are overexpressed in many cancer types with high unmet medical needs, including lung cancer, breast, gastric, endometrial, sarcoma, pancreatic, bladder, ovarian, esophageal and other cancers. Studies have also shown that tumor overexpression in each of these targets has been associated with poor prognosis in specific cancers. We therefore believe our BTC candidates may address a wide range of cancer types with significant unmet medical need.
The discovery of monoclonal antibodies enabled the development of antibody drug conjugates, or ADCs. ADCs link antibodies that target tumor-associated antigens to potent cytotoxins through a process known as conjugation. ADCs are designed to selectively and potently destroy cancer cells by combining the targeting capability of antibodies with the cancer-killing ability of cytotoxins. Despite the growing use of ADCs in treating cancer and high interest in ADC development programs, we believe there are significant challenges to ADCs. The large molecular size of the antibody impairs the penetration of ADCs into tumors. ADCs are generally required to internalize into tumor cells after binding to internalizing tumor antigens to the surface. Finally, the relatively long systemic exposure and subsequent liver clearance generally associated with ADCs result in dose-limiting toxicities such as hematological, liver and gastrointestinal toxicities, and neuropathies.
Properties of Bicycle Toxin Conjugates
We believe the properties of our BTCs may address the challenges associated with ADCs and therefore that our approach has the potential to offer substantial benefits, including:
|●||Extensive and rapid tumor penetration. Bicycles have been observed in our preclinical studies to penetrate tumors more rapidly and exhibited increased penetration to poorly perfused regions of the tumor when compared to a comparator antibody. Early clinical data from an ongoing clinical trial has shown ten times higher tumor cytotoxin levels than corresponding plasma levels based on clinical tumor biopsies taken 24 hours post-infusion.|
|●||Retention in tumors. In preclinical studies a tumor antigen targeting Bicycle was observed to be retained in the tumor for at least 120 hours after dosing. Preliminary clinical data observed to date from our ongoing clinical trials are consistent with preclinical observations of post-dose tumor retention.|
|●||Short systemic half-life and renal elimination. Bicycles have been observed in clinical and preclinical studies to have a short systemic half-life of approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Due to their small size, Bicycles are able to exit the tissue rapidly and are excreted through the kidneys rather than the liver, which we expect will support a favorable toxicity profile.|
|●||No requirement for internalization. Unlike ADCs, which require cellular internalization for activity, BTCs do not require internalization into the cell, and therefore potentially can target a wider range of tumor antigens.|
|●||Access to non-expressing tumor cells. The toxin in our BTCs is liberated in the extracellular space, enabling cell-killing adjacent cells that do not express the specific target through a toxin bystander effect. In our preclinical studies, we observed activity for BTCs even in tumors that were heterogeneous for target expression.|
|●||Larger toxin payload. Despite the small size of Bicycles, they are able to carry a larger dose of toxin per unit mass than a comparator ADC. Therefore, we believe that Bicycles can deliver a higher concentration of the linked toxin to increase the probability of tumor killing.|
|●||Manufacturing. The fully synthetic process by which Bicycles are manufactured facilitates ease and consistency of manufacturing and improved formulation compared to ADCs.|
In order to compare the ability of a Bicycle conjugate and an antibody conjugate to penetrate a tumor, using positron emission tomography, or PET, imaging, we compared a radiolabeled Bicycle to an antibody directed at the same target in a preclinical rodent study. As shown in the figure below, we observed that 15% to 20% of the injected dose per gram was detected after administration of the Bicycle in the tumor at 40 to 60 minutes, with no antibody detectable in the tumor during this time. We also observed accumulation of the balance of the Bicycles in the bladder and kidneys, indicating rapid renal excretion. In contrast, the antibody was detected in the vasculature.
PET Imaging Revealing Payload Delivery in a Mouse Model
In addition, in a preclinical rodent study using photoacoustic imaging, we observed that Bicycles were retained in the tumor for 24 hours and at levels substantially in excess of those observed with a comparator antibody.
The figure below summarizes the results of a preclinical rodent xenograft model that investigated payload concentrations over time in different organ systems after administration of a BTC. In this model, we observed the toxin payload was retained in the target-expressing tumor over time but was rapidly eliminated from other tissues.
Payload Concentrations Over Time in Different Organ Systems After Administration of a BTC
We believe these data demonstrate the potential of BTCs to have long-term sustained activity and to limit the toxicity that is associated with ADCs.
BT1718, is a BTC that we are developing for oncology indications. The molecule is comprised of our MT1-MMP targeting Bicycle, a hindered disulphide cleavable linker and a DM1 cytotoxin payload. We are not aware of any other cytotoxin conjugates in development that target MT1-MMP.
Schematic of BT1718
MT1-MMP is a matrix metalloprotease involved in tissue remodeling and is generally expressed at relatively low levels in normal adult tissues. MT1-MMP has an established role in cell invasion and metastasis, and we believe that MT1-MMP is an attractive target for cytotoxin delivery due to its high level of expression on stromal and tumor cell subsets in various cancers.
In our preclinical studies, we observed that BT1718 was associated with the greatest anti-tumor effect when membrane expression of MT1-MMP was high (as quantified by fluorescence activated cell sorting, or FACS). Tumors with lower levels of expression of MT1-MMP were observed to have reduced levels of response to BT1718. We are
collaborating with leading cancer researchers to determine MT1-MMP expression levels across a panel of tumor types, which will help inform patient selection for further clinical development. One of the goals of our clinical trials is to better understand the relationship between the level of target expression and activity of BT1718.
Ongoing Phase I/IIa First in Human Clinical Trial
BT1718 is being investigated in an ongoing Phase I/IIa open label dose escalation and expansion clinical trial sponsored by Cancer Research UK. The Phase I part of this trial evaluated up to 40 patients with advanced solid tumors in two dosing regimens at three sites in the United Kingdom. In the Phase I portion of the Phase I/IIa trial, BT1718 was generally well-tolerated. Based on the Phase I trial results, 20 mg/m2 of BT1718 administered once weekly was selected as the Phase IIa dose. This dose is within the efficacious dose range predicted by preclinical models, in which an equivalent dose level was associated with complete responses, or CRs. With once-weekly dosing, BT1718 appeared tolerable, with manageable adverse events. Though the primary objective of the Phase I portion of the BT1718 trial was evaluating safety and tolerability in an unselected group of patients with advanced solid tumors, some signs of anti-tumor activity were observed: at doses of between 9.6 mg/m2 and 32.0 mg/m2 administered once-weekly, 13 out of 24 response evaluable patients at the eight week timepoint exhibited best response of at least stable disease. Ten of these 13 patients had a greater than 10% reduction in at least one target lesion, including a tumor reduction of 68% observed in one patient, a reduction that meets the RECIST Version 1.1 criteria of a partial response.
The Phase IIa part of the trial, which commenced in 2020, is evaluating BT1718 in patients with tumors that express MT1-MMP at the recommended Phase II dose of 20 mg/m2, based on the findings from the Phase I part of the trial. To determine tumor types of interest, a clinically validated MT1-MMP immunohistochemistry, or IHC, assay, developed in collaboration with Cancer Research UK, was used to screen tumor tissue microarrays, or TMA, from multiple tumor types selected based on literature reports of high expression of MT1-MMP, including breast, lung, sarcoma, gastric, ovarian, endometrial, bladder, and esophageal cancers. To date, the percentage of patients determined to be MT1-MMP-positive at the pre-specified cutoff is consistent with previous translational research findings. Enrollment is ongoing at four clinical sites, with additional sites expected to begin enrolling patients during the first half of 2021. Patients are currently being enrolled into two solid tumor cohorts, one in squamous non-small cell lung cancer, or NSCLC, and the other in an all-comers “basket” cohort. Depending on results from these first two cohorts, Cancer Research UK may initiate up to two additional cohorts. Each cohort will evaluate 16 patients with a specified tumor type determined using the results of the MT1-MMP IHC TMA analysis.
The endpoints for the Phase IIa part of this clinical trial are safety and preliminary efficacy in patients with tumors expressing MT1-MMP. Archived or fresh tumor samples from all patients are collected and tested for MT1-MMP expression using the clinically validated IHC and associations with tumor and stromal expression and clinical response will be explored. Biopsies of tumors will be mandatory in a subset of patients in this part of the trial in order to evaluate tumor PK and pharmacodynamic biomarkers of response to BT1718.
DM1 delivery has been demonstrated in tumor biopsies at early timepoints (2 out of 3 patients). Concentrations of DM1 in the clinical tumor biopsy samples are consistent with preclinical data obtained at doses that gave partial (4.2 mg/m2) and full (14.4 mg/m2) tumor regression in mouse xenograft models. In the phase IIa part of the study, additional tumor biopsies will be taken at later timepoints to further evaluate DM1 retention.
DM1 Levels in Clinical and Preclinical Tumor Samples
BT5528 is a BTC designed to target EphA2. The molecule is comprised of our EphA2 targeting Bicycle, a valine-citrulline, or val-cit, cleavable linker and a cytotoxin MMAE payload.
Schematic of BT5528
EphA2 is a member of the Ephrin superfamily of receptor tyrosine kinases regulating cell migration, adhesion, proliferation and differentiation. EphA2 is expressed at relatively low levels in normal adult tissues, but is overexpressed in numerous difficult to treat tumors including lung, breast, bladder, gastric, ovarian, endometrial, cervical, melanoma, esophageal, pancreatic, and glioma. In both cell-derived and patient-derived preclinical models, we observed anti-tumor activity signals following administration of our EphA2 toxin conjugates, which correlated with EphA2 expression, as determined by FACS studies.
Effect of EphA2 Expression on BT5528 Activity Across Preclinical Xenograft Models
EphA2 has previously been pursued by other companies utilizing antibody drug conjugates, or ADCs. However, significant safety concerns, including bleeding events and liver toxicity, were observed in preclinical studies and early clinical development, which resulted in the discontinuation of development. For example, in a Phase I clinical trial of MEDI-547, an EphA2-targeting ADC, an increase in the liver enzyme ALT and AST was observed in half of the dosed patients and bleeding events were observed in five out of six patients, in each case within two to eight days following a single dose. The bleeding events observed in humans from the clinical trial were consistent with findings from the preclinical studies in other species, including primates.
We believe EphA2 is an attractive target for our BTCs due to the potential of Bicycles to overcome the safety concerns observed with ADCs. In our preclinical PK and toxicokinetic studies, we observed a short half-life and volume of distribution similar to BT1718. We observed that the accumulation of MMAE in the tumor tissue led to mitotic arrest of tumor cells and tumor regression was evident within days of administration. Due to the shorter half-life, improved penetration into solid tumors and kidney elimination, we believe that BT5528 could address the challenges of ADCs. Similar to the strategy for selecting indications for BT1718, we are screening tumor TMAs using a clinically validated EphA2 IHC, in a CAP accredited and CLIA certified laboratory, to prioritize those indications with high EphA2 protein expression for clinical investigation.
BT5528 was evaluated in preclinical studies in multiple species, including rodents and non-human primates. In our preclinical studies, BT5528 was not observed to have a significant effect on clotting parameters and did not exhibit abnormal liver function at tolerated doses. We also observed no bleeding events in primates at toxin equivalent doses over 150-fold higher than the clinical dose of an ADC with the same amino acid sequence and with the same linker-toxin combination and average drug/antibody ratio as MEDI-547 used in patients.
BT5528 is currently being evaluated in the dose escalation, Phase I portion of a company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial of patients with advanced solid tumors associated with EphA2 expression. BT5528 has been dosed up to 8.5 mg/m2 weekly, which we believe, based on pre-clinical studies, is toward the top of the therapeutic range, with transient neutropenia observed at that dose. Dose finding for the Phase II portion of the trial remains ongoing, and additional weekly and every other week doses are currently being explored. Currently administered doses are in the predicted therapeutic range, delivering over 15 times more toxin than MedImmune’s EphA2 ADC MEDI-547. In addition, and in contrast to the adverse events observed with MEDI-547, we have observed no signs of coagulopathy to date.
The clinical pharma profile of BT5528 is consistent with preclinical predictions. Early data received from tumor biopsies reveal that 24 hours after infusion of BT5528, tumor levels of the MMAE cytotoxin payload are approximately ten times higher than the corresponding plasma levels. Emerging, qualitative metabolite identification data from the clinical trial supports the hypothesis that BTCs undergo reduced hepatic metabolism and are eliminated renally.
Although dosing continues to be refined, we have observed preliminary findings consistent with anti-tumor activity. An EphA2 IHC assay was deployed during 2020, enabling pre-selection of patients in the Phase I portion of the trial. Since implementation of the IHC assay, patients are prospectively screened and are eligible for enrollment based on a prespecified H-score.
As of January 14, 2021, two EphA2-selected patients have enrolled in the trial, one of whom was response evaluable. In the response evaluable, prospectively screened, EphA2-positive patient, a urothelial patient currently receiving 6.5 mg/m2 of BT5528 every other week, whose prior lines of therapies included both a PD-1 inhibitor and enfortumab vedotin, we observed a 43% reduction in target lesions at the first radiologic response assessment, constituting a partial response under RECIST version 1.1 criteria. We also observed reductions in non-target lesions, and the patient remains enrolled in the trial.
In addition, an ovarian cancer patient, enrolled prior to implementation of the EphA2 assay, currently receiving 4.4mg/m2 of BT5528 every week, who had been previously treated with chemotherapy, a vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF inhibitor, and a poly (ADP ribose) polymerase, or PARP, inhibitor, has achieved an ongoing 25% reduction in target lesions, which constitute stable disease. The patient, first dosed in May 2020, has completed eight cycles of BT5528 and remains enrolled in the trial. We retrospectively analyzed the patient for EphA2 status and determined the patient to be positive but below the current enrollment H-score cutoff.
We are currently enrolling patients in this trial at five active clinical sites, including four in the United States and one in the United Kingdom. We expect that up to five additional sites will open in the first half of this year, primarily in the United Kingdom and Europe. We expect a planned total of up to 17 worldwide sites to be active in 2021, with sites prioritizing the enrollment of eligible EphA2-positive patients in the monotherapy cohorts.
BT8009 is a BTC designed to target Nectin-4, a well-validated tumor antigen. The molecule is comprised of our Nectin-4 targeting Bicycle, a val-cit cleavable linker, and a cytotoxin MMAE payload.
Schematic of BT8009
Nectin-4 (also known as PVRL4) is a cell adhesion molecule from the Nectin and Nectin-like family, members of which are integral to the formation of the homotypic and heterotypic cell junctions. Nectin-4 has been shown to be overexpressed in tumor cells and is believed to play a role in tumor cell growth and proliferation. High in normal embryonic and fetal tissue, Nectin-4 declines in adulthood, showing a limited distribution in healthy tissues. However, Nectin-4 is expressed on tumor cells in numerous cancer types including bladder, breast, gastric, lung and ovarian. In addition, we believe the favorable characteristics of BTC-targeted therapies may address some of the challenges in treating pancreatic cancer.
We are aware of one Nectin-4 ADC program in development, enfortumab vedotin, which is being jointly conducted by Seattle Genetics and Astellas and, in December 2019, received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, as a treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer following treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy and a PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitor. Similar to our strategy for selecting indications for BT1718 and BT5528, we will screen tumor TMAs using a clinically validated Nectin-4 IHC to prioritize indications with high Nectin-4 protein expression for clinical investigation.
BT8009 is advancing in the Phase I portion of the company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial. Early clinical data supports a PK profile that is consistent with both preclinical predictions and data to date from our ongoing Phase I trial of BT5528, which utilizes the same linker and toxin payload.
Enrollment in the Phase I/II trial of BT8009 is ongoing at 2 sites in the United States and our first clinical site outside of the United States opened in the first quarter of 2021. We expect up to nine additional sites to open, primarily in Europe and the United Kingdom in the first half of 2021, with further geographic expansion later in 2021. In total, we expect up to 21 clinical sites to be open, with prioritization given to enrolling appropriate Nectin-4-positive patients in the monotherapy cohorts.
Bicycle Immune Cell Agonist
Approaches that activate cytotoxic T-cells and other types of cells used in a body’s immune response have been observed to improve outcomes in cancer. However, prolonged immune activation can be toxic and lead to T-cell exhaustion, which is a challenge amplified by the long half-life of antibodies and biologics that are often used in these treatment approaches. We believe the differentiated properties of Bicycles may allow us to develop molecules with a pharmacodynamically distinct and improved profile over existing therapies.
We are aware of anti-CD137 antibodies undergoing clinical testing, including urelumab being developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which produced single agent responses but also severe liver toxicity, and utomilumab being developed by Pfizer, which exhibited minimal clinical activity with less toxicity. We are developing immune cell agonists, designed to trigger an immune response to tumors. We have identified potent Bicycle agonists of CD137, a tumor necrosis factor receptor, or TNFR, family member. We believe that Bicycles represent a differentiated approach to target CD137 that may confer several advantages over existing modalities due to the small size and PK characteristics of Bicycles. Our Bicycle immune cell agonists are designed to circumvent the limitations of antibody and biologic therapies, such as liver toxicity and limited efficacy, and to better enable combination therapy. Bicycle immune cell agonists can be formed by conjugating multiple copies of a CD137 Bicycle to form multimers or by utilizing a bi-specific format in which CD137 Bicycles are linked to Bicycles that bind to tumor antigens, inhibit checkpoint proteins or otherwise activate the immune system. We believe we are currently the only company that has fully chemically synthetic multivalent or tumor-targeted CD137 agonists.
Properties of Bicycle Immune Cell Agonists
In order to agonize the CD137 receptor, cross-linking of a trimeric receptor is required. As a result, we are developing multivalent systemic and tumor-targeted molecules that cross-link the receptor into an active form in a tumor cell independent or dependent manner as shown in the image below.
Schematic of Proposed CD137 Bicycle Agonists
These Bicycle CD137 agonists feature the following favorable pharmacological characteristics for immuno-oncology therapeutics. We believe these characteristics have the potential to overcome the limitations of antibodies and fusion proteins.
|●||Simplicity and small size. Our systemic and tumor-targeted immune cell agonizing Bicycles are chemically synthesized and are very small in comparison to other molecules targeting the CD137 receptor. For example, the approximate molecular weight of urelumab is 146 kDa. In contrast, the molecular weight of our multivalent and tumor-targeted Bicycles are in the range of approximately 4 kDa to 15 kDa, which is designed to facilitate the rapid penetration of the therapeutic into tumor tissue.|
|●||Tunable PK. Bicycles are amenable to chemical modifications that allow the PK to be fine-tuned. We believe this enables the development of molecules with the optimal balance of prolonged CD137 agonism, but with rapid enough elimination from systemic circulation to avoid the undesired toxicities of CD137, as has been observed with urelumab. In addition, this tunable half-life is expected to enable different|
|sequences of therapeutics to be evaluated in the clinic potentially reducing the risk of overlapping toxicities.|
|●||Renal elimination. Rapid renal elimination may avoid liver toxicity observed with other CD137 agonists in development.|
|●||Modular. The modular nature of Bicycles permits the presentation of CD137 binders in various orientations and in combination with other Bicycles allowing us to design molecules with a range of activities. We believe that we can select the optimal activity profile to avoid the weak efficacy seen with the utomilumab molecule or the overstimulation of CD137 by urelumab that resulted in systemic toxicity.|
|●||Tumor targeting. Combining CD137-binding Bicycles with Bicycles that bind to tumor targets potentially affords an additional level of safety as compared to systemically active agonists such as urelumab. The clustering and activation of CD137 occurs only when the tumor-targeting Bicycle binds to both the tumor antigen target and CD137. Therefore, we expect the tumor targeted agonists will achieve a higher degree of activation locally in the tumor but will have significantly reduced or no activity in healthy tissues that do not express the tumor antigen.|
Comparison of the Features of our Bicycle Immune Cell Agonists to Biological Immune Cell Modulators
Multivalent CD137 Immune Cell Agonists
We observed that simple multivalent Bicycle CD137 agonists displayed potent activity in preclinical cell-based assays. Several Bicycle CD137 agonists displayed comparable or higher fold induction compared to the natural ligand (CD137L) in an engineered reporter cell assay whereby CD137 activation leads to production of a luminescence signal. We also observed Bicycles stimulated the release of the cytokine IL-2, a marker of immune response, from primary human T-cells. In additional in vivo studies, we observed that CD137-binding Bicycles increased the cytotoxic T-cell infiltration in tumor tissue. The Bicycles did not significantly change the expression of CD137 on tumoral T-cells while urelumab led to a decrease in the target cell population. We believe this increased cytotoxic T-cell infiltration correlates with the anti-tumor activity of the Bicycle CD137 agonists.
Bicycle Tumor-Targeted Immune Cell Agonists (TICAs)
We have linked immune cell receptor binding Bicycles to tumor antigen binding Bicycles to form TICAs. We have found this approach to be generalizable across tumor antigen and immune cell receptors. We constructed CD137-
targeting TICA molecules and observed that these bi-specific Bicycles agonize the CD137 receptor only in the presence of cells that express the appropriate tumor antigen. Additionally, we have constructed TICA molecules with Bicycles that bind to another member of the TNF family of T-cell costimulatory receptors TNFRSF4, also known as OX40. As shown in the figure below, TICA molecules combining our Nectin-4 or EphA2 tumor antigen binding Bicycles and CD137 or OX40 binding Bicycles stimulated the release of the cytokine IL-2 or IFNꝩ from human PBMCs when in co-culture with tumor cells that express appropriate receptor (Nectin-4 or EphA2). In co-culture with cells lacking Nectin-4 expression, or when non-binding Bicycles are incorporated (such as BCY12759) there was no activity observed. This is an example of how both the immune cell binding and tumor cell binding Bicycles can be readily interchanged in the context of our synthetic TICA molecules to generate novel and targeted immune agonists for further study.
Modularity of TICAs
In our preclinical development of TICA molecules, we have observed an ability to tune molecules based on simple chemical changes, which we believe is an inherent advantage of our Bicycle platform-based approach to bi-specifics compared to other modalities. As an example of this, activity of two different Nectin-4/CD137 TICA molecules is shown below. BCY10000 was observed to have a higher affinity CD137 binding Bicycle than BCY8854, yielding increased activity and potency in a CD137 assay.
Tunable Activity of CD137 TICAs
We also observed that the pharmacokinetic properties of TICA molecules can be tuned through chemical changes. The figure below shows the plasma concentrations over time of three Nectin-4/CD137 TICA molecules after intravenous infusion into rats at a dose of 3 mg/kg. BCY11863 demonstrates a longer circulation time than BCY10000 and BCY10572. This data shows that the properties of the TICAs can be modulated to extend the duration of exposure in vivo.
Tunable Pharmacokinetics of CD137 TICAs
In further studies, we have observed that intermittent dosing of BCY12491, an EphA2/CD137 TICA, leads to a robust anti-tumor activity in syngeneic MC38 mouse model using humanized CD137 (huCD137) C57BL/6 mice. Administration of BCY12491 in six intravenous biweekly doses over a period of 17 days at 5 mg/kg led to substantial tumor regressions, including two out of six CRs. In addition, administration of BCY13626, a non-binding analog of BCY12491 had no impact on tumor growth rates.
Activity of EphA2 TICA in vivo
We have also observed that intermittent dosing of TICA BCY12491 leads to an increase in immune cell infiltration and an increase in the expression of checkpoint inhibitor genes in tumors of a syngeneic MC38 mouse model using humanized CD137, or huCD137, C57BL/6 mice. In other studies, we have observed that when BCY12491 is dosed in combination with pembrolizumab, a PD1 checkpoint inhibitor, there is an increased antitumor effect as shown in the figure below. Administration of BCY12491 in eight intravenous doses at 5 mg/kg (dosed on days 0, 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22) in combination with 4 intraperitoneal doses of pembrolizumab at 3 mg/kg (dosed on days 0, 7, 14 and 21) lead to substantial tumor regressions, including ten out of ten CRs. We observed that dosing BCY12491 or pembrolizumab alone using the same dose and schedule led to only two and three out of ten complete regressions respectively.
Activity of NK TICAs and PD1 Inhibitor in vivo
We believe that our ability to rapidly generate and test TICA molecules and their simple molecular format may form the basis of additional programs in the future. In addition to the immune cell and tumor targets that we have already investigated, we are screening for Bicycles that target NK cell receptors as well as additional immune cell and tumor specific antigens. We have identified TICA candidates that target and activate NK cells as shown in the figure below. We have observed that treatment of primary human NK cells in co-culture with target-positive tumor cells with NK TICA1 or NK TICA2 results in increased surface levels of CD107a, a marker of NK cell functional activity.
BT7480 is a TICA that targets CD137 and Nectin-4. BT7480 exhibits potent CD137 agonism in an engineered CD137 reporter assay system that correlates with Nectin-4 surface expression on the co-cultured tumor cells. In addition, BT7480 induces robust production of interleukin-2, or IL-2, and interferon gamma, or IFNꝩ, in primary PBMC/tumor cell co-culture assays. This activity is strictly dependent on the tumor cells expressing Nectin-4 and on the ability of the TICA to bind to both of its targets, Nectin-4 and CD137. In the figure below, BT7480 induces IL-2 and IFNꝩ at sub nanomolar concentrations when incubated with human PBMCs and the Nectin-4 expressing human tumor cell line HT1376.
BT7480 produces IL-2 and IFNꝩ in coculture with PBMC and HT1376
Additionally, we have observed that intermittent dosing of BT7480 leads to a robust anti-tumor activity in syngeneic MC38 mouse model, engineered to overexpress Nectin-4, using huCD137 C57BL/6 mice. Administration of BT7480 in six intravenous biweekly doses over a period of 17 days at 1.5 or 5 mg/kg led to substantial tumor regressions, including five out of six complete responses at 1.5 mg/kg and six out of six CRs at 5 mg/kg. In addition, animals that were complete responders in the experiment were subsequently re-challenged with the same tumor cell implantation and no tumor growth was observed, implying development of immunogenic memory.
Effect of BT7480 on Tumor Volume in a Preclinical Syngeneic Model with Nectin-4 Expressing MC38 Tumors in C57BL/6 Mice
Our IND-enabling activities for BT7480 are ongoing, and we expect to initiate a Phase I clinical trial in the second half of 2021.
BT7455 is a TICA targeting EphA2 and CD137. In preclinical studies, BT7455 was observed to potentiate cytokine production by pre-activated PBMCs in co-culture with EphA2-expressing cancer cell lines and was associated with tumor growth inhibition and formation of immunologic memory in mice bearing subcutaneous MC38 tumors. IND-enabling studies for BT7455 are currently ongoing.
In February 2020, we entered into a strategic early discovery collaboration agreement with Genentech, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, or Genentech, to discover, develop and commercialize novel Bicycle-based immuno-oncology therapies. Under the collaboration, we will explore the application of our technology to a wider range of immuno-oncology targets, combining the expertise of both companies.
We have entered into several collaborations outside of our internal focus in oncology to leverage the broad applicability of Bicycles. Our strategic collaborations are based on the ability of Bicycles to address a wide variety of targets and we are working with collaborators with deep therapeutic expertise outside of oncology to enable us to more efficiently develop novel medicines for patients.
AstraZeneca. In November 2016, we entered into a multi-targeted research collaboration agreement with AstraZeneca AB, or AstraZeneca, with a focus on targets within respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
Oxurion. In August 2013, we entered into a research collaboration and license agreement with Oxurion NV (formerly ThromboGenics NV), or Oxurion, focused on ophthalmology. The lead molecule of the partnership is THR-149, a novel plasma kallikrein inhibitor, for the treatment of diabetic macular edema. A Phase I clinical trial of THR-149 was completed in July 2019. The Phase I clinical trial, conducted by Oxurion, was an open-label, multi-center, non-randomized study to evaluate the safety of a single intravitreal injection of THR-149 at three ascending dose levels in 12 subjects with visual impairment due to center-involved DME. The study also investigated changes to patients’ best corrected visual acuity (BCVA). A rapid onset of action was observed from Day 1, with an increasing average improvement in BCVA of up to 7.5 letters at Day 14. This activity was maintained with an average improvement in BCVA of 6.5 letters at Day 90 following a single injection of THR-149. In September 2020, we announced that the first patient had been dosed in Oxurion’s Phase II study of THR-149. The Phase II trial is expected to include approximately 122 patients with central involved DME who do not respond adequately to anti-VEGF therapy.
Cancer Research UK
In December 2016, we entered into a clinical trial and license agreement with Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Technology Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK that Cancer Research UK’s commercial activities operate through, or the Cancer Research UK Agreement. Pursuant to the agreement, as amended in March 2017 and June 2018, Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development will sponsor and fund a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of our lead product candidate, BT1718, in patients with advanced solid tumors.
Cancer Research UK is responsible for designing, preparing, carrying out and sponsoring the clinical trial at its cost. We are responsible for supplying agreed quantities of GMP materials for the study, the supply of which has been completed. In the event that additional quantities are needed, we will provide Cancer Research UK with all reasonable assistance to complete the arrangements necessary for the generation and supply of such additional GMP materials but Cancer Research UK will be responsible for supplying and paying for such additional quantities of GMP materials.
We granted to Cancer Research UK a license to our intellectual property in order to design, prepare for, sponsor, and carry out the clinical trial. We retain the right to continue the development of BT1718 during the clinical trial. Upon the completion of the Phase I/IIa clinical study, we have the right to obtain a license to the results of the clinical trial upon the payment of a milestone, in cash and ordinary shares, with a combined value in the mid-six digit dollar amount. If such license is not acquired, or if it is acquired and the license is terminated and we decide to abandon development of all products that deliver cytotoxic payloads to the MT1 target antigen, Cancer Research Technology Limited may elect to receive an assignment and exclusive license to develop and commercialize the product on a revenue sharing basis (in which case we will receive tiered royalties of 70% to 90% of the net revenue depending on the stage of development when the license is granted) less certain costs, as defined by the agreement. The Cancer Research UK Agreement contains additional future milestone payments upon the achievement of development, regulatory and commercial milestones, payable in cash and shares, with an aggregate total value of $50.9 million, as well as royalty payments based on a single digit percentage on net sales of products developed.
The Cancer Research UK Agreement can be terminated by either party upon an insolvency event, material breach of the terms of the contract, or upon a change in control (and the new controlling entity generates its revenue from the sale of tobacco products). Cancer Research UK may terminate the arrangement for safety reasons or if it determines that the objectives of the clinical trial will not be met, in which case, if the study is terminated by Cancer Research UK prior to the completion of the Phase I dose escalation part of the study for such reasons, or if Cancer Research UK refuses release of any additional quantities of GMP materials, or if the parties cannot agree upon a plan to supply the additional quantities of GMP materials, we will be obligated to refund 50% of the costs and expenses incurred or committed by Cancer Research UK to perform the clinical trial. If the study is terminated by Cancer Research UK for an insolvency event, a material breach by us, or if we are acquired by an entity that generates its revenue from the sale of tobacco products, we will reimburse Cancer Research UK in full for all costs paid or committed in connection with the clinical trial and no further license payments, where applicable, shall be due. In such case where we are acquired by an entity that generates its revenue from the sale of tobacco products, Cancer Research UK will not be obliged to grant a license to us in respect of the results of the clinical trial and we will assign or grant to Cancer Research Technology Limited an exclusive license to develop and commercialize the product without Cancer Research Technology Limited being required to make any payment to us.
In December 2019, we entered into a clinical trial and license agreement with Cancer Research Technology Limited and Cancer Research UK. Pursuant to the agreement, Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development will fund and sponsor development of BT7401 from current preclinical studies through the completion of a Phase IIa trial in patients with advanced solid tumors.
We granted to Cancer Research UK a license to our intellectual property in order for Cancer Research UK to design, prepare for, sponsor, and carry out the clinical trial and all necessary preclinical activities to support the trial. We retain the right to continue the development of BT7401 during the clinical trial. Upon the completion of the Phase I/IIa clinical study, we have the right to obtain a license to the results of the clinical trial upon the payment of a milestone, in cash and ordinary shares, with a combined value in the mid six-digit dollar amount. If such license is not acquired, or if it is acquired and the license is terminated and we decide to abandon development of all products that contain BT7401 or all the pharmaceutically active parts of BT7401, we will assign or grant to Cancer Research Technology Limited an exclusive license to develop and commercialize the product on a revenue sharing basis (in which case we will receive tiered royalties of 55% to 80% of the net revenue depending on the stage of development when the license is granted) less certain costs, as defined in the agreement. The BT7401 Cancer Research UK agreement contains additional future milestone payments upon the achievement of development, regulatory and commercial milestones, payable in cash, with an aggregate total value of up to $60.3 million for each licensed product, as well as royalty payments based on a single digit percentage on net sales of products developed, and sublicense royalties to the Cancer Research UK in the low double digit percentage of sublicense income depending on the stage of development when the license is granted.
The BT7401Cancer Research UK agreement can be terminated by either party upon an insolvency event, material breach of the terms of the contract, or upon a change in control (and the new controlling entity generates its revenue from the sale of tobacco products), or upon written notice by either party prior to the last cycle of treatment has been completed under the clinical trial. If the study is terminated by us prior to the filing of a clinical trial authorization, or by the Cancer Research UK for an insolvency event or a material breach by us prior to the start of a clinical trial, we will reimburse Cancer Research UK for certain costs paid or committed prior to the start of the clinical trial. In such case where we are acquired by an entity that generates its revenue from the sale of tobacco products, Cancer Research UK will not be obliged to grant a license to us in respect of the results of the clinical trial and we will assign or grant to Cancer Research Technology Limited an exclusive license to develop and commercialize the product without Cancer Research Technology Limited being required to make any payment to us.
On February 21, 2020, we entered into a Discovery Collaboration and License Agreement with Genentech. The collaboration is focused on the discovery and development of Bicycle peptides directed to biological targets selected by Genentech and aimed at developing up to four potential development candidates against multiple I-O targets suitable for Genentech to advance into further development and commercialization.
Under the terms of the Genentech Collaboration Agreement, we received a $30.0 million upfront, non-refundable payment. The initial discovery and optimization activities will focus on utilizing our phage screening technology to identify product candidates aimed at two I-O targets, or Genentech Collaboration Programs, which may also include additional discovery and optimization of Bicycles as a targeting element for each Genentech Collaboration Program, or each a Targeting Arm. Genentech has the option to nominate up to two additional I-O targets, or each an Expansion Option, which may also include an additional Targeting Arm for each Expansion Option, as additional Genentech Collaboration Programs during a specified period following completion of certain activities under an agreed research plan. If Genentech exercises one or more Expansion Options, Genentech will pay us an expansion fee of $10.0 million per Expansion Option. Genentech also has rights, under certain limited circumstances, to select an alternative target to be the subject of a Genentech Collaboration Program, in some cases subject to payment of an additional target selection fee.
If Genentech elects for us to perform discovery and optimization services for certain Targeting Arms, we will be entitled to receive an additional advance payment for the additional research services. Genentech exercised its right to select a Targeting Arm for one of the initial Genentech Collaboration Programs at the inception of the arrangement, which entitled us to an additional $1.0 million payment. If a Targeting Arm achieves specified criteria in accordance with the research plan, Genentech will be required to pay a further specified amount in the low single digit millions for each such Targeting Arm as consideration for the additional services to be provided.
We granted to Genentech a non-exclusive research license under our intellectual property solely to enable Genentech to perform any activities under the agreement. The activities under the Genentech Collaboration Agreement
are governed by a joint research committee, or JRC, with representatives from each of Bicycle and Genentech. The JRC will oversee, review and recommend direction of each Genentech Collaboration Program, achievement of development criteria, and variations of or modifications to the research plans.
After we perform the initial discovery and optimization activities in accordance with an agreed research plan and achieves specified criteria, Genentech will have the option to have us perform initial pre-clinical development and optimization activities in exchange for an additional specified milestone payment in the mid-single digit millions for each Genentech Collaboration Program, or the LSR Go Option. Upon completion of such initial pre-clinical development and optimization activities for each Genentech Collaboration Program, Genentech will have the option to obtain an exclusive license to exploit any compound developed under such Genentech Collaboration Program in exchange for an additional specified payment in the mid to high single digit millions for each of the initial two Genentech Collaboration Programs and each of the two Expansion Option Genentech Collaboration Programs, or the Dev Go Option.
On a Genentech Collaboration Program by Genentech Collaboration Program basis, if Genentech elects to obtain exclusive development and commercialization rights and pays the applicable LSR Go Option and Dev Go Option fees, Genentech will be required to make milestone payments to us upon the achievement of specified development, regulatory, and initial commercialization milestones for products arising from each collaboration program, totaling up to $200.0 million. Specifically, we are eligible for additional development milestones totaling up to $65.0 million, as well as regulatory milestones of up to $135.0 million for each collaboration program. In addition, we are eligible to receive up to $200.0 million in sales milestone payments on a Genentech Collaboration Program-by-Genentech Collaboration Program basis. In addition, to the extent any of the product candidates covered by the licenses conveyed to Genentech are commercialized, we would be entitled to receive tiered royalty payments on net sales at percentages ranging from the mid-single to low double-digits, subject to certain standard reductions and offsets. Royalties will be payable, on a product by product and country by country basis, until the later of the expiration of specified licensed patents covering such product in such country, or ten years from first commercial sale of such product in such country.
Dementia Discovery Fund
In May 2019, we entered into a collaboration with the Dementia Discovery Fund, or DDF, to use Bicycle technology for the discovery and development of novel therapeutics for dementia. DDF is a specialized venture capital fund focused on discovering and developing novel therapies for dementia. In October 2019, the collaboration with DDF was expanded to include Oxford University’s Oxford Drug Discovery Institute (ODDI). Under the terms of the agreement, Bicycle and DDF will collaborate to identify Bicycles that bind to clinically validated dementia targets. ODDI will then profile these Bicycles in a range of target-specific and disease-focused assays to assess their therapeutic potential. If promising lead compounds are identified, DDF, ODDI and Bicycle will establish a jointly-owned new company to advance the compounds through further development towards commercialization. The jointly-owned company will receive a royalty and milestone-bearing assignment and license of intellectual property from Bicycle for this purpose.
In November 2016, we entered into a research collaboration agreement with AstraZeneca AB. The collaboration is focused on the research and development of Bicycle peptides that bind to an undisclosed number of biological targets for the treatment of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. After discovery and initial optimization of such Bicycle peptides, AstraZeneca will be responsible for all research and development, including lead optimization and drug candidate selection. AstraZeneca receives development, commercialization and manufacturing license rights with regard to any selected drug candidate(s).
Under the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement, Bicycle is obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to perform research activities, under mutually agreed upon research plans. The research plans includes two discrete parts, on a research program by research program basis: (i) the Bicycle Research Term, which is focused on the generation of Bicycle peptide libraries using our peptide drug discovery platform, to be screened against selected biological targets, with the goal of identifying compounds that meet agreed criteria set by the parties, and (ii) the AZ Research Term,
during which AstraZeneca may continue research activities with the goal of identifying compounds that satisfy the relevant pharmacological and pharmaceutical criteria for clinical testing. AstraZeneca may, at its sole discretion, approve any compound to be progressed into drug development and, upon the selection of each drug candidate, AstraZeneca is to pay a milestone of $8.0 million.
Each research program is to continue for an initial period of three years, referred to as the research term, including one year for the Bicycle Research Term and two for the AZ Research Term. AstraZeneca may extend the research term for each research program by twelve months (or fifteen months, if needed to complete certain toxicology studies). The research term for a specific program can be shorter if it is ceased due to a screening failure, a futility determination, or abandonment by AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca has certain substitution rights should a screening failure or futility determination be reached. but is obligated to fund these additional efforts related to substitution.
Under the terms of the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement, we granted to AstraZeneca the right and license (with the right to sublicense) to certain background, foreground and platform intellectual property, for the duration of the agreement, to the extent reasonably necessary or useful for AstraZeneca to conduct the activities that are assigned to it in the applicable research plan or that are reasonably necessary or useful or the purpose of researching, developing or exploiting resulting compounds and products. We have agreed not to, directly or indirectly, by ourselves or in collaboration with others, screen the Bicycle platform for compounds that bind to a target that is the subject of the AstraZeneca collaboration or otherwise perform any work related to or disclose such a target until the earlier of the tenth anniversary of the date on which such target was selected or the dosing of the first patient in the first Phase III clinical trial for a product that modulates such collaboration target.
The activities under the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement are governed by a joint steering committee and joint project team each formed by an equal number of representatives from our company and AstraZeneca. The joint steering committee oversees and reviews each research program and the activities of the joint program team. Among other responsibilities, the joint steering committee monitors the research progress and ensures open and frequent exchange between the parties regarding research program activities.
AstraZeneca receives development and commercialization licenses associated with each designated drug candidate, and owes a milestone fee of $8.0 million for the first drug candidate selected from each research program. In addition, AstraZeneca is required to make certain other milestone payments to us upon the achievement of specified development, regulatory and commercial milestones. For each research program, we are eligible to receive, in addition to the milestone fee described above, up to $162.0 million in development, regulatory and commercial milestones on a research program by research program basis, for a total of up to $170.0 million in milestone payments per research program. We are eligible to receive these milestone payments for up to six research programs under the arrangement. In addition, to the extent any of the drug candidates covered by the licenses conveyed to AstraZeneca are commercialized, we would be entitled to receive tiered royalty payments of mid-single digits based on a percentage of net sales. Royalty payments are subject to certain reductions, including in certain countries where AstraZeneca faces generic competition.
Either party may terminate the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement if the other party has materially breached or defaulted in the performance of any of its material obligations and such breach or default continues after the specified cure period. In the event of a breach, the collaboration agreement may be terminated in its entirety, or, if the breach is limited to a country or countries, with respect to the country or countries to which the breach applies. Either party may terminate the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement in the event of the commencement of any proceeding in or for bankruptcy, insolvency, dissolution or winding up by or against the other party that is not dismissed or otherwise disposed of within a specified time period. AstraZeneca may terminate the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement, entirely or on a licensed product by licensed product or country by country basis, for convenience.
Under the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement, AstraZeneca was granted an option to nominate additional targets on the same contractual terms as the initial targets. In May 2018, AstraZeneca made an irrevocable election to exercise the additional target option, giving AstraZeneca the option to designate additional targets, for $5.0 million that was paid by AstraZeneca to us in January 2019. In October 2020, AstraZeneca terminated two research programs. As of December 31, 2020, three research programs were in the AZ Research Term, and one program was in the Bicycle Research Term. A third program was terminated in March 2021.
Oxurion (formerly ThromboGenics)
In August 2013, we entered into a research collaboration and license agreement with Oxurion NV (formerly ThromboGenics NV), or Oxurion. Under the Oxurion collaboration agreement, we are responsible for identifying Bicycle peptides related to the collaboration target, human plasma kallikrein, for use in various ophthalmic indications. Oxurion is responsible for further development and product commercialization after the defined research screening is performed by us.
The collaboration includes two stages. During Stage I, which has been completed, we were obligated to perform specific research activities in accordance with the research plan focused on screening the target using our Bicycle platform to identify compounds that meet the criteria set by the parties. During Stage II, which is ongoing, Oxurion has continued research activities on selected Bicycle peptides with the goal of identifying compounds for further development and commercialization. We are not obligated or expected to perform any research services during Stage II of the research plan. THR-149 has been selected as a development compound under the Oxurion collaboration agreement.
We granted certain worldwide intellectual property rights to Oxurion for the development, manufacture and commercialization of licensed compounds associated with plasma kallikrein.
The Oxurion collaboration agreement provides for certain milestone payments to us upon the achievement of specified research, development, regulatory and commercial milestones. More specifically, for each collaboration compound, we are eligible to receive up to €8.3 million in research and development milestone payments, from which we have received €1.8 million as of December 31, 2020, in connection with the development of THR-149, and up to €16.5 million in regulatory milestone payments (e.g., €5 million for granting of first regulatory approval in either the United States or the European Union for the first indication). In addition, to the extent any of the collaboration products covered by the licenses granted to Oxurion are commercialized, we would be entitled to receive tiered royalty payments of mid-single digits based on a percentage of net sales. Royalty payments are subject to certain reductions. Also, if Oxurion grants a sublicense to a third party for rights to the program for non-ophthalmic use prior to the filing of an IND, we would be entitled to receive payments in the double digits (no higher than first quartile) based on a percentage of non-royalty sublicensing income. If Oxurion grants a sublicense to a third party for rights to the program for non-opthalmic use after the filing of an IND, we would be entitled to receive payments of mid-single digits to low teen-digits.
Either party may terminate the Oxurion collaboration agreement if the other party has breached any of its material obligations and such breach continues after the specified cure period. Either party may terminate the Oxurion collaboration agreement in the event of the commencement of any proceeding in or for bankruptcy, insolvency, dissolution or winding up by or against the other party. Oxurion may terminate the Oxurion collaboration agreement for convenience. We may terminate the Oxurion collaboration agreement if Oxurion challenges the validity of any licensed patents or opposes the grant of a licensed patent.
Founder Royalty Arrangements
We have entered into two royalty agreements with our founders, Christian Heinis, John Tite, and Sir Greg Winter, and our initial investors, Atlas Venture Fund VIII LP, Novartis Bioventures LTD. Pursuant to the first royalty agreement, we are obligated to pay an aggregate royalty percentage in the low single digits on net sales arising from products licensed under the Oxurion collaboration agreement. Pursuant to the second royalty agreement, we are obligated to pay an aggregate royalty percentage in the low single digits on net sales arising from products licensed under the AstraZeneca collaboration agreement.
We strive to protect and enhance the proprietary technology, inventions, and improvements that are commercially important to the development of our business, including our Bicycle platform. This includes seeking, maintaining, and defending patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from third parties, which are directed to the use of our Bicycle platform and composition of matter involved in the platform, composition of matter and use of product candidates, and other inventions that are important to our business. As of December 31, 2020, we had four patent families directed to novel scaffolds, and 15 patent families directed to our platform technology, including the composition of matter of Bicycle binders and method of treatment of related indications, including cancer. For example, a patent family directed to the composition of matter of Bicycle binders and method of treatment of related indications, including cancer, was issued in the United States and Europe, and is pending in several other jurisdictions. The issued patents from this family, and the pending patent applications if issued, are expected to expire in 2034, before patent term extensions, if any. As of December 31, 2020, we had 74 patent families directed to bicyclic peptides and related conjugates, and ten patent families directed to methods of using certain bicyclic peptide conjugates for treating various indications. For example, we have (i) at least two patent families directed to the composition of matter of one of our product candidates, BT1718, and methods of use for treating cancer, which are pending in certain jurisdictions, and if issued, would expire in 2035 and 2037, respectively; (ii) at least two patent families directed to the composition of matter our product candidate, BT5528, and methods of use for treating cancer, which are pending in certain jurisdictions, and if issued, would expire in 2038 and 2040, respectively; and (iii) at least two patent families directed to the composition of matter our product candidate, BT8009, and methods of use for treating cancer, which are pending in certain jurisdictions, and if issued, would expire in 2039 and 2041, respectively. We also rely on trade secrets and know-how that may be important for the development of our business. This includes aspects of our proprietary technology platform and our continuing technological innovation to develop, maintain, and strengthen our position in the field of peptide, peptidomimetic, and small molecule-based therapeutics. We additionally may rely on regulatory protection afforded through data exclusivity, market exclusivity and patent term extensions where available.
Our commercial success may depend in part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for our product candidates, technology and know-how, defend and enforce our patents; prevent others from infringing our proprietary rights, preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets, and to operate without infringing the proprietary rights of others.
Our ability to stop third parties from making, having made, using, selling, offering to sell or importing our products may depend on the extent to which we have rights under valid and enforceable licenses, patents or trade secrets that cover these activities. In some cases, these rights may need to be enforced by third party licensors. With respect to both licensed and company-owned intellectual property, we cannot be sure that patents will be granted with respect to any of our pending patent applications or with respect to any patent applications filed by us in the future, nor can we be sure that any of our existing patents or any patents that may be granted to us in the future will be commercially useful in protecting our commercial products and methods of manufacturing the same. For more information, please see “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
We seek to protect our proprietary position in a variety of ways, including by pursuing patent protection in certain jurisdictions where it is available. For example, we file U.S. and certain foreign patent applications related to our proprietary technology, inventions and improvements that are important to the development of our business. We also intend to seek patent protection or rely upon trade secret rights to protect other technologies that may be used to discover and validate targets and that may be used to identify and develop novel products. We seek protection, in part, through confidentiality and proprietary information agreements. We are a party to various other license agreements that give us rights to use specific technologies in our research and development.
The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term of the patents in the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries in which we file, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing a non-provisional patent application related to the patent. A U.S. patent also may be accorded a patent term adjustment, or PTA, under certain circumstances to compensate for delays in obtaining the patent caused by the United States Patent and Trademark
Office, or USPTO. In some instances, such a PTA may result in a U.S. patent term extending beyond 20 years from the earliest date of filing a non-provisional patent application related to the U.S. patent. In addition, in the United States, the term of a U.S. patent that covers an FDA-approved drug may also be eligible for patent term extension, which permits patent term restoration as compensation for the patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. The Hatch-Waxman Act permits a patent term extension of up to five years beyond the expiration of the patent. The length of the patent term extension is related to the length of time the drug is under regulatory review. Patent term extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval and only one patent applicable to an approved drug may be extended. Similar provisions are available in Europe and other foreign jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved drug. In the future, if and when our products receive FDA approval, we expect to apply for patent term extensions on patents covering those products. We plan to seek patent term extensions to any of our issued patents in any jurisdiction where these are available, however there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities, including the FDA in the United States, will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and if granted, the length of such extensions.
We own various trademark registrations and applications, and unregistered trademarks, including our name and our corporate logo. All other trade names, trademarks and service marks of other companies appearing in this report are the property of their respective holders. Solely for convenience, the trademarks and trade names in this report may be referred to without the ®,™ or © symbols, but such references should not be construed as any indicator that their respective owners will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, their rights thereto. We do not intend to use or display other companies' trademarks and trade names to imply a relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship of us by, any other companies.
Company-Owned Intellectual Property
As of December 31, 2020, our patent portfolio included four patent families directed to novel scaffolds, 15 patent families directed to our platform technology, 74 patent families directed to bicyclic peptides and related conjugates, and ten patent families directed to methods of using certain bicyclic peptide conjugates for treating various indications. In total, as of December 31, 2020, we owned about 75 patents in the United States and in foreign jurisdictions, such as Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore, with terms expiring at various dates in February 2029 to February 2039 exclusive of potential patent term adjustment and/or patent term extension.
In addition, as of December 31, 2020, we had about 280 patent applications pending in the United States and in foreign jurisdictions, such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Venezuela, as well as pending international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT, and any patents that may be issued from these patent applications are generally expected to have terms that will expire at various dates in February 2029 to December 2041, subject to possible patent term extensions and/or patent term adjustments.
Trade Secret Protection
Finally, we may rely, in some circumstances, on trade secrets to protect our technology. We anticipate relying on trade secrets to protect the know-how behind our Bicycle platform. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect. We seek to protect our technology and processes, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors and contractors. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. To the extent that our consultants, contractors or collaborators use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights in related or resulting know-how and inventions. For further information, please see “Risk Factors — Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property.”
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by rapidly advancing technologies, intense competition and a strong emphasis on proprietary products. While we believe that our technologies, knowledge, experience and scientific resources provide us with competitive advantages, we face potential competition from many different sources, including major pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic institutions and governmental agencies and public and private research institutions. Any product candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future.
There are a number of currently marketed products and product candidates in preclinical research and clinical development by third parties for the various oncology applications that we are targeting. For example, a number of multinational companies as well as large biotechnology companies, including Astellas Pharma, Inc., Seattle Genetics, Inc., AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline plc, and Stemline Therapeutics Inc. are developing programs for the targets that we are exploring for our BTC programs. Furthermore, Agenus Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Pfizer Inc., and Roche Holding AG, or Roche, have or are developing programs for CD137, and Amgen Inc., Pieris Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Roche are developing bi-specific antibodies. In addition, we are aware that technologies for drug discovery, including peptide-based medicines, continue to advance rapidly, which may compete with our own screening technology or render it obsolete.
Many of our competitors, either alone or with their strategic partners, have substantially greater financial, technical and human resources than we do and significantly greater experience in the discovery and development of product candidates, obtaining FDA and other regulatory approvals of products and the commercialization of those products. Accordingly, our competitors may be more successful than we may be in discovering product candidates, obtaining approval for drugs and achieving widespread market acceptance. Our competitors’ drugs may be more effective, or more effectively marketed and sold, than any drug we may commercialize and may render our product candidates obsolete or non-competitive before we can recover the expenses of developing and commercializing any of our product candidates. We anticipate that we will face intense and increasing competition as new drugs enter the market and advanced technologies become available.
Sales and Marketing
Subject to receiving marketing approval, we intend to pursue the commercialization of our product candidates either by building internal sales and marketing capabilities or through opportunistic collaborations with others.
We plan to build a marketing and sales management organization to create and implement marketing strategies for any products that we market through our own sales organization and to oversee and support our sales force. The responsibilities of the marketing organization would include developing educational initiatives with respect to approved products and establishing relationships with researchers and practitioners in relevant fields of medicine.
Each of our Bicycles is entirely synthetic. We believe the synthetic nature of our product candidates allow for a more cost effective and scalable manufacturing process compared to biologics. In addition, this property of Bicycles allows for the manufacturing of product candidates of consistent pharmaceutical quality with favorable stability characteristics. Based on our experience, we believe that the manufacturing of Bicycles can be made to be well controlled, reproducible and scalable.
We operate an outsourced model for the manufacture of our product candidates, and contract with good manufacturing practice, or GMP, licensed pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organizations, both for the synthesis of each drug substance component, and the formulation and packaging of the finished drug product. We selected these organizations based on their experience, capability, capacity and regulatory status. We do not own or operate GMP manufacturing facilities, nor do we currently plan to build our own GMP manufacturing capabilities for the production of candidates for clinical or commercial use.
We currently engage five third-party manufacturers to provide clinical supplies of our product candidates, three third-party manufacturers to provide non-clinical supplies of our product candidates and three third-party manufacturers to provide fill-finish services. Projects are managed by a specialist team of our internal staff, which is designed to promote compliance with the technical aspects and regulatory requirements of the manufacturing process.
Government authorities in the United States, at the federal, state and local level, and in other countries and jurisdictions, including the European Union, extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, approval, packaging, storage, recordkeeping, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, marketing, post-approval monitoring and reporting, and import and export of pharmaceutical products. The processes for obtaining regulatory approvals in the United States and in foreign countries and jurisdictions, along with subsequent compliance with applicable statutes and regulations and other regulatory authorities, require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.
Review and Approval of Drugs in the United States
In the United States, the FDA regulates drugs and devices under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, and implementing regulations. The failure to comply with applicable U.S. requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process or after approval may subject an applicant and/or sponsor to a variety of administrative or judicial sanctions, including refusal by the FDA to approve pending applications, withdrawal of an approval, imposition of a clinical hold, issuance of warning letters and other types of letters, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement of profits, or civil or criminal investigations and penalties brought by the FDA and the Department of Justice or other governmental entities. In addition, an applicant may need to recall a product.
An applicant seeking approval to market and distribute a new drug product in the United States must typically undertake the following:
|●||completion of nonclinical, or preclinical, laboratory tests, animal studies and formulation studies in compliance with the FDA’s good laboratory practice, or GLP, regulations;|
|●||submission to the FDA of an IND, which must take effect before human clinical trials may begin;|
|●||approval by an independent IRB representing each clinical site before each clinical trial may be initiated;|
|●||performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials in accordance with good clinical practices, or GCP, to establish the safety and efficacy of the proposed drug product for each indication;|
|●||preparation and submission to the FDA of a new drug application, or NDA;|
|●||review of the product by an FDA advisory committee, where appropriate or if applicable;|
|●||satisfactory completion of one or more FDA inspections of the manufacturing facility or facilities at which the product, or components thereof, are produced to assess compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMP, requirements and to assure that the facilities, methods and controls are adequate to preserve the product’s identity, strength, quality and purity;|
|●||satisfactory completion of FDA audits of clinical trial sites to assure compliance with GCPs and the integrity of the clinical data;|
|●||payment of user fees and securing FDA approval of the NDA; and|
|●||compliance with any post-approval requirements, including Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, or REMS, and post-approval studies required by the FDA.|
Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluation of the purity and stability of the manufactured drug substance or active pharmaceutical ingredient and the formulated drug or drug product, as well as in vitro and animal studies to assess the safety and activity of the drug for initial testing in humans and to establish a rationale for therapeutic use. The conduct of preclinical studies is subject to federal regulations and requirements, including GLP regulations. The results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, any available clinical data or literature and plans for clinical trials, among other things, are submitted to the FDA as part of an IND. Some long-term preclinical testing, such as animal tests of reproductive adverse events and carcinogenicity, may continue after the IND is submitted.
Human Clinical Trials in Support of an NDA
Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational product to human subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators in accordance with GCP requirements, which include, among other things, the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent in writing before their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under written study protocols detailing, among other things, the inclusion and exclusion criteria, the objectives of the study, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. A protocol for each clinical trial and any subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. An IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless before that time the FDA raises concerns or questions related to a proposed clinical trial and places the trial on clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. The FDA can place an IND on full or partial clinical hold at any point in development, and depending upon the scope of the hold, clinical trial(s) may not restart until resolution of the outstanding concerns to the FDA’s satisfaction.
In addition, an IRB representing each institution participating in the clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial before it commences at that institution, and the IRB must conduct a continuing review and reapprove the study at least annually. The IRB must review and approve, among other things, the study protocol and informed consent information to be provided to study subjects. An IRB must operate in compliance with FDA regulations. Information about certain clinical trials must be submitted within specific timeframes to the National Institutes of Health for public dissemination on their ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases, which may overlap or be combined:
|●||Phase I. The drug is initially introduced into healthy human subjects or, in certain indications such as cancer, patients with the target disease or condition and tested for safety, dosage tolerance, absorption, metabolism, distribution, excretion and, if possible, to gain an early indication of its effectiveness and to determine optimal dosage.|
|●||Phase II. The drug is administered to a limited patient population to identify possible adverse effects and safety risks, to preliminarily evaluate the efficacy of the product for specific targeted diseases and to determine dosage tolerance and optimal dosage.|
|●||Phase III. The drug is administered to an expanded patient population, generally at geographically dispersed clinical trial sites, in well-controlled clinical trials to generate enough data to evaluate the efficacy and safety of the product for approval, to establish the overall risk-benefit profile of the product and to provide adequate information for the labeling of the product.|
|●||Phase IV. Post-approval studies may be conducted after initial marketing approval. These studies are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication.|
Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted at least annually to the FDA and more frequently if serious adverse events occur. In addition, IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA for any of the following: serious and unexpected suspected adverse reactions; findings from other studies or animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk in humans exposed to the drug; and any clinically important increase in the case of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, or at all. Furthermore, the FDA or the sponsor may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution, or an institution it represents, if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the drug has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients. The FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP and the integrity of the clinical data submitted.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies often complete additional animal studies and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the drug as well as finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the drug candidate and, among other things, the applicant must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, purity, and potency of the final drug. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the drug candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.
Review of an NDA by the FDA
Assuming successful completion of required clinical testing and other requirements, the results of the preclinical studies and clinical trials, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacture, controls and proposed labeling, among other things, are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the drug product for one or more indications. Under federal law, the submission of most NDAs is additionally subject to substantial user fees, and the sponsor of an approved NDA is also subject to annual program user fees. These fees are typically increased annually.
The FDA conducts a preliminary review of an NDA within 60 days of its receipt and informs the sponsor whether the application is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. The FDA may request additional information rather than accept an NDA for filing. In this event, the application must be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application is also 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. The FDA has agreed to specified performance goals in the review process of NDAs. Most such applications are meant to be reviewed within ten months from the date of filing, and most applications for “priority review” products are meant to be reviewed within six months of filing. The review process may be extended by the FDA for three additional months to consider new information or clarification provided by the applicant to address an outstanding deficiency identified by the FDA following the original submission.
Before approving an NDA, the FDA typically will inspect the facility or facilities where the product is or will be manufactured. These pre-approval inspections may cover all facilities associated with an NDA submission, including drug component manufacturing (such as active pharmaceutical ingredients), finished drug product manufacturing, and control testing laboratories. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving an NDA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP.
In addition, as a condition of approval, the FDA may require an applicant to develop a REMS. REMS use risk minimization strategies beyond the professional labeling to ensure that the benefits of the product outweigh the potential risks. To determine whether a REMS is needed, the FDA will consider the size of the population likely to use the product, seriousness of the disease, expected benefit of the product, expected duration of treatment, seriousness of known or potential adverse events, and whether the product is a new molecular entity. REMS can include medication
guides, physician communication plans for healthcare professionals, and elements to assure safe use, or ETASU. ETASU may include, but are not limited to, special training or certification for prescribing or dispensing, dispensing only under certain circumstances, special monitoring, and the use of patient registries. The FDA may require a REMS before approval or post-approval if it becomes aware of a serious risk associated with use of the product. The requirement for a REMS can materially affect the potential market and profitability of a product.
The FDA is required to refer an application for a novel drug to an advisory committee or explain why such referral was not made. Typically, an advisory committee is a panel of independent experts, including clinicians and other scientific experts, that reviews, evaluates and provides 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.
Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy and Priority Review Designations
The FDA is authorized to designate certain products for expedited review if they are intended to address an unmet medical need in the treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. These programs are Fast Track designation, Breakthrough Therapy designation and priority review designation.
Specifically, the FDA may designate a product for Fast Track review if it is intended, whether alone or in combination with one or more other products, for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and it demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for such a disease or condition. For Fast Track products, sponsors may have greater interactions with the FDA and the FDA may initiate review of sections of a Fast Track product’s application before the application is complete. This rolling review may be available if the FDA determines, after preliminary evaluation of clinical data submitted by the sponsor, that a Fast Track product may be effective. The sponsor must also provide, and the FDA must approve, a schedule for the submission of the remaining information and the sponsor must pay applicable user fees. However, the FDA’s time period goal for reviewing a Fast Track application does not begin until the last section of the application is submitted. In addition, the Fast Track designation may be withdrawn by the FDA if the FDA believes that the designation is no longer supported by data emerging in the clinical trial process.
Second, a product may be designated as a Breakthrough Therapy if it is intended, either alone or in combination with one or more other products, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product 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 FDA may take certain actions with respect to Breakthrough Therapies, including holding meetings with the sponsor throughout the development process; providing timely advice to the sponsor regarding development and approval; involving more senior staff in the review process; assigning a cross-disciplinary project lead for the review team; and taking other steps to design the clinical trials in an efficient manner.
Third, the FDA may designate a product for priority review if it is a product that treats a serious condition and, if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness. The FDA determines, on a case-by-case basis, whether the proposed product represents a significant improvement when compared with other available therapies. Significant improvement may be illustrated by evidence of increased effectiveness in the treatment of a condition, elimination or substantial reduction of a treatment-limiting adverse reaction, documented enhancement of patient compliance that is expected to lead to improvement in serious outcomes, and evidence of safety and effectiveness in a new subpopulation. A priority designation is intended to direct overall attention and resources to the evaluation of such applications, and to shorten the FDA’s goal for taking action on a marketing application from ten months to six months.
Accelerated Approval Pathway
The FDA may grant accelerated approval to a product for a serious or life-threatening condition that provides meaningful therapeutic advantage to patients over existing treatments based upon a determination that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit. The FDA may also grant accelerated approval for such a condition when the product has an effect on an intermediate clinical endpoint that can be measured
earlier than an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality, or IMM, and 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. Products granted accelerated approval must meet the same statutory standards for safety and effectiveness as those granted traditional approval.
For the purposes of accelerated approval, a surrogate endpoint is a marker, such as a laboratory measurement, radiographic image, physical sign, or other measure that is thought to predict clinical benefit, but is not itself a measure of clinical benefit. Surrogate endpoints can often be measured more easily or more rapidly than clinical endpoints. An intermediate clinical endpoint is a measurement of a therapeutic effect that is considered reasonably likely to predict the clinical benefit of a product, such as an effect on IMM. The FDA has limited experience with accelerated approvals based on intermediate clinical endpoints, but has indicated that such endpoints generally may support accelerated approval where the therapeutic effect measured by the endpoint is not itself a clinical benefit and basis for traditional approval, if there is a basis for concluding that the therapeutic effect is reasonably likely to predict the ultimate clinical benefit of a product.
The accelerated approval pathway is most often used in settings in which the course of a disease is long and an extended period of time is required to measure the intended clinical benefit of a product, even if the effect on the surrogate or intermediate clinical endpoint occurs rapidly. Thus, accelerated approval has been used extensively in the development and approval of products for treatment of a variety of cancers in which the goal of therapy is generally to improve survival or decrease morbidity and the duration of the typical disease course requires lengthy and sometimes large trials to demonstrate a clinical or survival benefit.
The accelerated approval pathway is usually contingent on a sponsor’s agreement to conduct, in a diligent manner, additional post-approval confirmatory studies to verify and describe the product’s clinical benefit. As a result, a product candidate approved on this basis is subject to rigorous post-marketing compliance requirements, including the completion of Phase IV or post-approval clinical trials to confirm the effect on the clinical endpoint. Failure to conduct required post-approval studies, or confirm a clinical benefit during post-marketing studies, would allow the FDA to withdraw the product from the market on an expedited basis. All promotional materials for product candidates approved under accelerated regulations are subject to prior review by the FDA.
The FDA’s Decision on an NDA
On the basis of the FDA’s evaluation of the NDA and accompanying information, including the results of the inspection of the manufacturing facilities, the FDA may issue an approval letter or a complete response letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the product with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A complete response letter generally outlines the deficiencies in the submission and may require substantial additional testing or information in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. If and when those deficiencies have been addressed to the FDA’s satisfaction in a resubmission of the NDA, the FDA will issue an approval letter. The FDA has committed to reviewing such resubmissions in two or six months depending on the type of information included. Even with submission of this additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval.
If the FDA approves a product, it may limit the approved indications for use for the product, require that contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling, require that post-approval studies, including Phase IV clinical trials, be conducted to further assess the drug’s safety after approval, require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution restrictions or other risk management mechanisms, including REMS, which can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the product. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-market studies or surveillance programs. After approval, many types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval.
Drugs manufactured or distributed pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to recordkeeping, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, advertising and promotion and reporting of adverse experiences with the product. 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 user fee requirements for any marketed products, as well as new application fees for supplemental applications with clinical data.
In addition, drug manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved drugs are required to register their establishments with the FDA and state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and these state agencies for compliance with cGMP requirements. Changes to the manufacturing process are strictly regulated and often require prior FDA approval before being implemented. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from cGMP and impose reporting and documentation requirements upon the NDA holder and any third-party manufacturers that the NDA holder may decide to use. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money, and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain cGMP compliance.
Once an approval is granted, the FDA may withdraw the 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 trials to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential consequences include, among other things:
|●||restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the product, complete withdrawal of the product from the market or voluntary product recalls;|
|●||fines, warning letters or holds on post-approval clinical trials;|
|●||refusal of the FDA to approve pending NDAs or supplements to approved NDAs, or suspension or revocation of product approvals;|
|●||product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products; or|
|●||injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.|
The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of products that are placed on the market. Drugs generally may be promoted only for the approved indications 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, and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label uses may be subject to significant liability.
In addition, the distribution of prescription pharmaceutical products is subject to the Prescription Drug Marketing Act, or PDMA, which regulates the distribution of drugs and drug samples at the federal level, and sets minimum standards for the registration and regulation of drug distributors by the states. Both the PDMA and state laws limit the distribution of prescription pharmaceutical product samples and impose requirements to ensure accountability in distribution.
We may employ companion diagnostics to help us to more accurately identify patients within a particular subset, both during our clinical trials and in connection with the commercialization of our product candidates that we are developing or may in the future develop. Companion diagnostics can identify patients who are most likely to benefit from a particular therapeutic product; identify patients likely to be at increased risk for serious side effects as a result of treatment with a particular therapeutic product; or monitor response to treatment with a particular therapeutic product for the purpose of adjusting treatment to achieve improved safety or effectiveness. Companion diagnostics are regulated as medical devices by the FDA and, as such, require either clearance or approval prior to commercialization. The level of risk combined with available controls to mitigate risk determines whether a companion diagnostic device requires Premarket Approval Application, or PMA, approval or is cleared through the 510(k) premarket notification process. For a novel therapeutic product for which a companion diagnostic device is essential for the safe and effective use of the product, the companion diagnostic device should be developed and approved or 510(k)-cleared contemporaneously with the therapeutic. The use of the companion diagnostic device will be stipulated in the labeling of the therapeutic product.
Abbreviated New Drug Applications for Generic Drugs
In 1984, with passage of the Hatch-Waxman Amendments to the FDCA, Congress authorized the FDA to approve generic drugs that are the same as drugs previously approved by the FDA under the NDA provisions of the statute. To obtain approval of a generic drug, an applicant must submit an abbreviated new drug application, or ANDA, to the agency. In support of such applications, a generic manufacturer may rely on the preclinical and clinical testing previously conducted for a drug product previously approved under an NDA, known as the reference-listed drug, or RLD.
Specifically, in order for an ANDA to be approved, the FDA must find that the generic version is identical to the RLD with respect to the active ingredients, the route of administration, the dosage form, and the strength of the drug. At the same time, the FDA must also determine that the generic drug is “bioequivalent” to the innovator drug. Under the statute, a generic drug is bioequivalent to a RLD if “the rate and extent of absorption of the drug do not show a significant difference from the rate and extent of absorption of the listed drug.”
Upon approval of an ANDA, the FDA indicates whether the generic product is “therapeutically equivalent” to the RLD in its publication “Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations,” also referred to as the “Orange Book.” Physicians and pharmacists consider a therapeutic equivalent generic drug to be fully substitutable for the RLD. In addition, by operation of certain state laws and numerous health insurance programs, the FDA’s designation of therapeutic equivalence often results in substitution of the generic drug without the knowledge or consent of either the prescribing physician or patient.
Under the Hatch-Waxman Amendments, the FDA may not approve an ANDA until any applicable period of non-patent exclusivity for the RLD has expired. The FDCA provides a period of five years of non-patent data exclusivity for a new drug containing a new chemical entity. For the purposes of this provision, a new chemical entity, or NCE, is a drug that contains no active moiety that has previously been approved by the FDA in any other NDA. An active moiety is the molecule or ion responsible for the physiological or pharmacological action of the drug substance. In cases where such NCE exclusivity has been granted, an ANDA may not be filed with the FDA until the expiration of five years unless the submission is accompanied by a Paragraph IV certification, which states the proposed generic drug will not infringe the already approved product’s listed patents or that such patents are invalid or unenforceable, in which case the applicant may submit its application four years following the original product approval.
The FDCA also provides for a period of three years of exclusivity if the NDA includes reports of one or more new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability or bioequivalence studies, that were conducted by or for the applicant and are essential to the approval of the application. This three-year exclusivity period often protects changes to a previously approved drug product, such as a new dosage form, route of administration, combination or indication. Three-year exclusivity would be available for a drug product that contains a previously approved active moiety, provided the statutory requirement for a new clinical investigation is satisfied. Unlike five-year NCE exclusivity, an award of three-year exclusivity does not block the FDA from accepting ANDAs seeking approval for generic versions of the drug
as of the date of approval of the original drug product. The FDA typically makes decisions about awards of data exclusivity shortly before a product is approved.
Hatch-Waxman Patent Certification and the 30-Month Stay
Upon approval of an NDA or a supplement thereto, NDA sponsors are required to list with the FDA each patent with claims that cover the applicant’s product or an approved method of using the product. Each of the patents listed by the NDA sponsor is published in the Orange Book. When an ANDA applicant files its application with the FDA, the applicant is required to certify to the FDA concerning any patents listed for the reference product in the Orange Book, except for patents covering methods of use for which the ANDA applicant is not seeking approval. An applicant who submits a section 505(b)(2) NDA, which is for new or improved formulations or new uses of previously approved drug products and where at least one or more of the investigations relied upon by the applicant for approval were not conducted by or for the applicant and for which the applicant has not obtained a right of reference or use from the person by or for whom the investigations were conducted, also must certify to the FDA concerning any patents listed for the approved product in the Orange Book to the same extent that an ANDA applicant would.
Specifically, the applicant must certify with respect to each patent that:
|●||the required patent information has not been filed;|
|●||the listed patent has expired;|
|●||the listed patent has not expired, but will expire on a particular date and approval is sought after patent expiration; or|
|●||the listed patent is invalid, unenforceable or will not be infringed by the new product.|
A certification that the new product will not infringe the already approved product’s listed patents or that such patents are invalid or unenforceable is called a Paragraph IV certification. If the applicant does not challenge the listed patents or indicates that it is not seeking approval of a patented method of use, the ANDA application will not be approved until all the listed patents claiming the referenced product have expired (other than method of use patents involving indications for which the ANDA applicant is not seeking approval).
If the ANDA applicant has provided a Paragraph IV certification to the FDA, the applicant must also send notice of the Paragraph IV certification to the NDA and patent holders once the ANDA has been accepted for filing by the FDA. The NDA and patent holders may then initiate a patent infringement lawsuit in response to the notice of the Paragraph IV certification. The filing of a patent infringement lawsuit within 45 days after the receipt of a Paragraph IV certification automatically prevents the FDA from approving the ANDA until the earlier of 30 months after the receipt of the Paragraph IV notice, expiration of the patent, or a decision in the infringement case that is favorable to the ANDA applicant.
Orphan Drug Designation and Exclusivity
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a drug product as an “orphan drug” if it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition (generally meaning that it affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or more in cases in which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making a drug product available in the United States for treatment of the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product). A company must request orphan product designation before submitting an NDA. If the request is granted, the FDA will disclose the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential use. Orphan product designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process.
If a product with orphan status receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation or for a select indication or use within the rare disease or condition for which it was designated, the product
generally will be receiving orphan product exclusivity. Orphan product exclusivity means that the FDA may not approve any other applications for the same product for the same indication for seven years, except in certain limited circumstances. Competitors may receive approval of different products for the indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity and may obtain approval for the same product but for a different indication. If a drug or drug product designated as an orphan product ultimately receives marketing approval for an indication broader than what was designated in its orphan product application, it may not be entitled to exclusivity.
Pediatric Studies and Exclusivity
Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003, an NDA or supplement thereto must contain data that are adequate to assess the safety and effectiveness of the drug product 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. With enactment of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, or FDASIA, in 2012, sponsors must also submit pediatric study plans prior to the assessment data. Those plans must contain an outline of the proposed pediatric study or studies the applicant plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, any deferral or waiver requests, and other information required by regulation. The applicant, the FDA, and the FDA’s internal review committee must then review the information submitted, consult with each other, and agree upon a final plan. The FDA or the applicant may request an amendment to the plan at any time.
The FDA may, on its own initiative or at the request of the applicant, grant deferrals for submission of some or all pediatric data until after approval of the product for use in adults, or full or partial waivers from the pediatric data requirements. Additional requirements and procedures relating to deferral requests and requests for extension of deferrals are contained in FDASIA. Unless otherwise required by regulation, the pediatric data requirements do not apply to products with orphan designation.
Pediatric exclusivity is another type of non-patent marketing exclusivity in the United States and, if granted, provides for the attachment of an additional six months of marketing protection to the term of any existing regulatory exclusivity, including the non-patent and orphan exclusivity. This six-month exclusivity may be granted if an NDA sponsor submits pediatric data that fairly respond to a written request from the FDA for such data. The data do not need to show the product to be effective in the pediatric population studied; rather, if the clinical trial is deemed to fairly respond to the FDA’s request, the additional protection is granted. If reports of requested pediatric studies are submitted to and accepted by the FDA within the statutory time limits, whatever statutory or regulatory periods of exclusivity or patent protection cover the product are extended by six months. This is not a patent term extension, but it effectively extends the regulatory period during which the FDA cannot approve another application.
Patent Term Restoration and Extension
A patent claiming a new drug product may be eligible for a limited patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Amendments, which permits a patent restoration of up to five years for patent term lost during product development and the FDA regulatory review. The restoration period granted is typically one-half the time between the effective date of an IND and the submission date of an NDA, plus the time between the submission date of an NDA and the ultimate approval date. Patent term restoration cannot be used to extend the remaining term of a patent past a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date. Only one patent applicable to an approved drug product is eligible for the extension, and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent in question. A patent that covers multiple drugs for which approval is sought can only be extended in connection with one of the approvals. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension or restoration in consultation with the FDA.
Europe/Rest of World Regulation
In addition to regulations in the United States, there are a variety of regulations in other jurisdictions governing, among other things, clinical trials, commercial sales and distribution of medicinal products. Even if FDA approval of a particular product is obtained, it must still obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. Certain countries outside of
the United States have a similar process that requires the submission of a clinical trial application much like the IND prior to the commencement of human clinical trials. Currently in the European Union, for example, a clinical trial application must be submitted to each country’s national regulatory authority in which the clinical trial is to take place, together with an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and IRB, respectively. It is expected, however, that the Clinical Trials Regulation 536/2014 shall start to apply during the course of 2021. This new Regulation takes direct effect in each European Union Member State and seeks to simplify and streamline the approval of clinical trials in the European Union, for example, by allowing the clinical trial sponsor to submit a single application for approval of a clinical trial across the European Union via a new E.U. Portal. The new Regulation also aims to streamline and simplify the rules on safety reporting and introduces enhanced transparency requirements, such as mandatory submission of a summary of the clinical trial results to a new E.U. Database.
Medicinal products can only be commercialized in the European Economic Area, or EEA, after a marketing authorization, or MA, has been obtained. There are two types of marketing authorizations:
|●||The centralized MA, which is issued by the European Commission through the Centralized Procedure, based on the opinion of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, and which is valid throughout the entirety of the EEA. The Centralized Procedure is mandatory for certain types of products, such as biotechnology medicinal products, orphan medicinal products, and medicinal products indicated for the treatment of AIDS, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, auto-immune and viral diseases. The Centralized Procedure is optional for products containing an active substance not authorized in the EEA before May 20, 2004, for products that constitute a significant therapeutic, scientific or technical innovation or for which a centralized authorization would be in the interest of patients.|
|●||National MAs, which are issued by the competent authorities of the Member States of the EEA and only cover their respective territory, are available for products not falling within the mandatory scope of the Centralized Procedure. Where a product has already been authorized for marketing in a Member State of the EEA, this National MA can be recognized in another Member State through the Mutual Recognition Procedure. If the product has not received a National MA in any Member State at the time of application, it can be approved simultaneously in various Member States through the Decentralized Procedure.|
Under the above described procedures, before granting the MA, the EMA or the competent authorities of the Member States of the EEA make an assessment of the risk-benefit balance of the product on the basis of scientific criteria concerning its quality, safety and efficacy.
The European Union also provides opportunities for market exclusivity. For example, in the European Union, upon receiving marketing authorization, innovative medicinal products generally receive eight years of data exclusivity and an additional two years of market exclusivity. If granted, data exclusivity prevents regulatory authorities in the European Union from referencing the innovator’s data to assess a generic or biosimilar application. During the additional two-year period of market exclusivity, a generic or biosimilar marketing authorization can be submitted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but no generic or biosimilar product can be marketed until the expiration of the market exclusivity. Products receiving orphan designation, can receive ten years of market exclusivity, during which time no similar medicinal product for the same indication may be placed on the market. An orphan product’s market exclusivity may be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the criteria for orphan drug designation are no longer met, in other words, when it is shown on the basis of available evidence that the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity. Additionally, marketing authorization may be granted to a similar product for the same indication at any time if:
|●||the second applicant can establish that its product, although similar, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior;|
|●||the applicant consents to a second orphan medicinal product application; or|
|●||the applicant cannot supply sufficient quantities of the orphan medicinal product.|
The criteria for designating an “orphan medicinal product” in the European Union are similar in principle to those in the United States. Under Article 3 of Regulation (EC) 141/2000, a medicinal product may be designated as orphan if (1) it is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition; (2) either (a) such condition affects no more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union when the application is made, or (b) the product, without the benefits derived from orphan status, would not generate sufficient return in the European Union to justify investment; and (3) there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of such condition authorized for marketing in the European Union, or if such a method exists, the product will be of significant benefit to those affected by the condition, as defined in Regulation (EC) 847/2000. Orphan medicinal products are eligible for financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers and scientific assistance for study proposals. The application for orphan drug designation must be submitted before the application for marketing authorization. The applicant will receive a fee reduction for the marketing authorization application if the orphan drug designation has been granted, but not if the designation is still pending at the time the marketing authorization is submitted. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
In the European Union, companies developing a new medicinal product must agree to a Paediatric Investigation Plan, or PIP, with the EMA and must conduct pediatric clinical trials in accordance with that PIP, unless a deferral or waiver applies, (e.g., because the relevant disease or condition occurs only in adults). The MA application for the product must include the results of pediatric clinical trials conducted in accordance with the PIP, unless a waiver applies, or a deferral has been granted, in which case the pediatric clinical trials must be completed at a later date. Products that are granted a marketing authorization on the basis of the pediatric clinical trials conducted in accordance with the PIP are eligible for a six month extension of the protection under a supplementary protection certificate (if any is in effect at the time of approval) or, in the case of orphan medicinal products, a two year extension of the orphan market exclusivity. This pediatric reward is subject to specific conditions and is not automatically available when data in compliance with the PIP are developed and submitted. For other countries outside of the European Union, such as certain countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America or Asia, the requirements governing the conduct of clinical trials, product approval, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. In all cases, the clinical trials are to be conducted in accordance with GCP and the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.
Pharmaceutical Coverage, Pricing and Reimbursement
Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of products approved by the FDA and other government authorities. Sales of products will depend, in part, on the extent to which third-party payors, including government health programs in the United States such as Medicare and Medicaid, commercial health insurers and managed care organizations, provide coverage, and establish adequate reimbursement levels for, such products. The process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the price or reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the product once coverage is approved. Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the prices charged, examining the medical necessity, and reviewing the cost-effectiveness of medical products and services and imposing controls to manage costs. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list, or formulary, which might not include all of the approved products for a particular indication.
In order to secure coverage and reimbursement for any product approved for sale, a company may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of the product, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA or other comparable regulatory approvals. Nonetheless, product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost effective. Additionally, a payor’s decision to provide coverage for a drug product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Further, no uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement exists in the United States. Third-party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Therefore, one payor’s determination to provide coverage for a drug product does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage for the drug product. Third-party reimbursement may not be sufficient to maintain price levels high enough to realize an appropriate return on investment in product development.
The containment of healthcare costs also has become a priority of federal, state and foreign governments and the prices of drugs have been a focus in this effort. Governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls, restrictions on 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 our net revenue and results. Coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which a company or its collaborators receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.
Additionally, we may develop companion diagnostic tests for use with our product candidates. Companion diagnostic tests require coverage and reimbursement separate and apart from the coverage and reimbursement for their companion pharmaceutical or biological products. Similar challenges to obtaining coverage and reimbursement, applicable to pharmaceutical products, will apply to companion diagnostics.
Outside the United States, ensuring adequate coverage and payment for our product candidates will face challenges. Pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to governmental control in many countries. Pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can extend well beyond the receipt of regulatory marketing approval for a product and may require us to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost effectiveness of our product candidates or products to other available therapies. The conduct of such a clinical trial could be expensive and result in delays in our commercialization efforts.
In the European Union, pricing and reimbursement schemes vary widely from country to country. Some countries provide that drug products may be marketed only after a reimbursement price has been agreed. Some countries may require the completion of additional studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of a particular drug candidate to currently available therapies. For example, the European Union provides options for its member states to restrict the range of drug products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. European Union member states may approve a specific price for a drug product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the drug product on the market. Other member states allow companies to fix their own prices for drug products, but monitor and control company profits. The downward pressure on health care costs in general, particularly prescription drugs, has become intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products. In addition, in some countries, cross-border imports from low-priced markets exert competitive pressure that may reduce pricing within a country. Any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for drug products may not allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements.
Other Healthcare Laws and Regulations
Healthcare providers and third-party payors play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of drug products that are granted regulatory approval. Arrangements with providers, consultants, third-party payors and customers are subject to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain our business and/or financial arrangements. Such restrictions under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, include, without limitation, state and federal anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, false claims, health information privacy and security, price reporting and physician sunshine laws. Some of our pre-commercial activities are subject to some of these laws.
The federal Health Care Program Anti-Kickback Statute, or Anti-Kickback Statute, prohibits any person or entity, including a prescription drug manufacturer or a party acting on its behalf, from, among other things, knowingly and willfully, directly or indirectly, soliciting, receiving, offering, or providing any remuneration that is intended to induce the referral of business, including the purchase, order or recommendation or arranging of, any good or service for which payment may be made under a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. The term “remuneration” has been broadly interpreted to include anything of value. The Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on one hand and prescribers, purchasers, formulary managers, and beneficiaries on the other. Although there are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting some common activities from prosecution, the exceptions and safe harbors are drawn narrowly.
Practices that involve remuneration that may be alleged to be intended to induce prescribing, purchases or recommendations may be subject to scrutiny if they do not qualify for an exception or safe harbor. Failure to meet all of the requirements of a particular applicable statutory exception or regulatory safe harbor does not make the conduct per se illegal under the Anti-Kickback Statute. Instead, the legality of the arrangement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on a cumulative review of all its facts and circumstances. Several courts have interpreted the statute’s intent requirement to mean that if any one purpose of an arrangement involving remuneration is to induce referrals of federal healthcare covered business, the Anti-Kickback Statute has been violated. In addition, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation. Moreover, a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal civil False Claims Act.
The federal civil False Claims Act prohibits, among other things, any person or entity from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, for payment to, or approval by, federal programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, claims for items or services, including drugs, that are false or fraudulent or not provided as claimed. Persons and entities can be held liable under these laws if they are deemed to “cause” the submission of false or fraudulent claims by, for example, providing inaccurate billing or coding information to customers or promoting a product off-label. In addition, any of our future activities relating to the reporting of wholesaler or estimated retail prices for our products, the reporting of prices used to calculate Medicaid rebate information and other information affecting federal, state and other third-party payor reimbursement for our products, and the sale and marketing of our products, are subject to scrutiny under this law. Penalties for federal civil False Claims Act violations may include up to three times the actual damages sustained by the government, plus significant mandatory civil penalties for each separate false claim, the potential for exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs, and, although the federal False Claims Act is a civil statute, False Claims Act violations may also implicate various federal criminal statutes.
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, created new federal criminal statutes that prohibit among other actions, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, including private third-party payors, knowingly and willfully embezzling or stealing from a healthcare benefit program, willfully obstructing a criminal investigation of a healthcare offense, and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services. Like the Anti-Kickback Statute a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation. Also, many states have similar fraud and abuse statutes or regulations that may be broader in scope and may apply regardless of payor, in addition to items and services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs. Additionally, to the extent that any of our product candidates, if approved, are sold in a foreign country, we may be subject to similar foreign laws.
HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, and their implementing regulations, including the final omnibus rule published on January 25, 2013, mandates, among other things, the adoption of uniform standards for the electronic exchange of information in common healthcare transactions, as well as standards relating to the privacy and security of individually identifiable health information, which require the adoption of administrative, physical and technical safeguards to protect such information. Among other things, HITECH makes HIPAA’s security standards directly applicable to business associates, defined as independent contractors or agents of certain healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses and health plans, known as covered entities, that create, receive or obtain protected health information in connection with providing a service for or on behalf of a covered entity. HITECH also increased the civil and criminal penalties that may be imposed against covered entities and business associates, and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce HIPAA and seek attorney’s fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions. In addition, certain state and foreign laws govern the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, some of which are more stringent than HIPAA and many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts.
The U.S. federal transparency requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or collectively, ACA, including the provision commonly referred to as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act imposed, among other things, new annual reporting requirements for covered
manufacturers for certain payments and other transfers of value provided to physicians, as defined by such law, and teaching hospitals, as well as certain ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Beginning in 2022, covered manufacturers also will be required to report information regarding payments and other transfers of value provided to, during the previous year, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse anesthetists, anesthesiologist assistants and certified nurse-midwives.
In addition, we may be subject to certain analogous state and foreign laws of each of the above federal healthcare laws. In some instances, such laws may be broader in scope than its federal counterpart, such as certain state anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by non-governmental third party payors, including private insurers. In addition, certain states and local jurisdictions also mandate implementation of compliance programs, impose restrictions on drug manufacturer marketing practices or require the tracking and reporting of gifts, compensation or other remuneration to physicians and other healthcare professionals. Additionally, we may be subject to state and foreign laws governing the privacy and security of health information in some circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.
Because we intend to commercialize products that could be reimbursed under a federal healthcare program and other governmental healthcare programs, we intend to develop a comprehensive compliance program that establishes internal control to facilitate adherence to the rules and program requirements to which we will or may become subject. Although the development and implementation of compliance programs designed to establish internal control and facilitate compliance can mitigate the risk of investigation, prosecution, and penalties assessed for violations of these laws, the risks cannot be entirely eliminated.
If our operations are found to be in violation of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including, without limitation, significant administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, and individual imprisonment, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results.
There have been a number of federal and state proposals during the last few years regarding the pricing of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products, government control and other changes to the healthcare system in the United States.
By way of example, the United States and state governments continue to propose and pass legislation designed to reduce the cost of healthcare. In March 2010, the United States Congress passed the ACA, which, among other things, includes changes to the coverage and payment for drug products under government health care programs. Among the provisions of the ACA of importance to our potential drug candidates are:
|●||an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports specified branded prescription drugs and biologic products, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs;|
|●||expansion of eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs by, among other things, allowing states to offer Medicaid coverage to certain individuals with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, thereby potentially increasing a manufacturer’s Medicaid rebate liability;|
|●||expansion of manufacturers’ rebate liability under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program by increasing the minimum rebate for both branded and generic drugs and revising the definition of “average manufacturer price,” or AMP, for calculating and reporting Medicaid drug rebates on outpatient prescription drug prices;|
|●||a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected;|
|●||expansion of the types of entities eligible for the 340B drug discount program;|
|●||establishment of the Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program by requiring manufacturers to now provide a 70% point-of-sale-discount off the negotiated price of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period as a condition for the manufacturers’ outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D;|
|●||a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research; and|
|●||establishment of a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.|
There remain judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. President Trump signed several Executive Orders and other directives designed to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the ACA or otherwise circumvent some of the requirements for health insurance mandated by the ACA. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, it has enacted laws that modify certain provisions of the ACA such as removing or delaying penalties, starting January 1, 2019, for not complying with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to carry health insurance, eliminating the implementation of certain ACA-mandated fees, and increasing the point-of-sale discount that is owed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who participate in Medicare Part D. On December 14, 2018, a Texas U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional in its entirety because the “individual mandate” was repealed by Congress as part of the Tax Act. Additionally, on December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing this case, but it is unknown when a decision will be reached. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the constitutionality of the ACA, on January 28, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through May 15, 2021 for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructs certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA. It is unclear how the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, other such litigation, and the healthcare reform measures of the Biden administration will impact the ACA and our business.
Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. For example, in August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2012 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect in April 2013 and, due to legislative amendments, will remain in effect through 2030 unless additional Congressional action is taken. However, pursuant to certain COVID-19 relief legislation, these Medicare sequester reductions have been suspended from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021. In January 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.
Also, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny recently over the manner in which drug manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted
federal and state 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. At the federal level, the former Trump administration used several means to propose or implement drug pricing reform, including through federal budget proposals, executive orders and policy initiatives. For example, on July 24, 2020 and September 13, 2020, former President Trump signed several Executive Orders aimed at lowering drug pricing that seek to implement several of the administration's proposals. In response, the FDA released a final rule on September 24, 2020, which went into effect on November 30, 2020, providing guidance for states to build and submit importation plans for drugs from Canada. Further, on November 20, 2020 CMS issued an Interim Final Rule implementing the Most Favored Nation, or MFN, Model under which Medicare Part B reimbursement rates will be calculated for certain drugs and biologicals based on the lowest price drug manufacturers receive in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, countries with a similar gross domestic product per capita. The MFN Model regulations mandate participation by identified Part B providers and will apply in all U.S. states and territories for a seven-year period and was scheduled to begin on January 1, 2021 and end on December 31, 2027. On December 28, 2020, the U.S. District Court in Northern California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against implementation of the interim final rule. Additionally, on November 20, 2020, HHS finalized a regulation removing safe harbor protection for price reductions from pharmaceutical manufacturers to plan sponsors under Part D, either directly or through pharmacy benefit managers, unless the price reduction is required by law. The implementation of the rule has been delayed by the Biden administration from January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2023 in response to ongoing litigation. The rule also creates a new safe harbor for price reductions reflected at the point-of-sale, as well as a safe harbor for certain fixed fee arrangements between pharmacy benefit managers and manufacturers the implementation of which have also been delayed pending review by the Biden administration until March 22, 2021. However, it is unclear whether the Biden administration will work to reverse these measures or pursue similar policy initiatives.
There have been, and likely will continue to be, legislative and regulatory proposals at the foreign, federal and state levels directed at broadening the availability of healthcare and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare. Further, it is possible that additional governmental action is taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenues from product candidates that we may successfully develop and for which we may obtain regulatory approval and may affect our overall financial condition and ability to develop product candidates.
Brexit and the Regulatory Framework in the United Kingdom
On June 23, 2016, the electorate in the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, and the United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union on January 31, 2020. Pursuant to the formal withdrawal arrangements agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the United Kingdom was subject to a transition period until December 31, 2020, or the Transition Period, during which European Union rules continued to apply. A trade and cooperation agreement, or the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which outlines the future trading relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, was agreed upon in December 2020.
Great Britain is no longer covered by the European Union’s procedures for the grant of marketing authorizations , though Northern Ireland will be covered by the centralized authorization procedure and can be covered under the decentralized or mutual recognition procedures. A separate marketing authorization will be required to market drugs in Great Britain. However, for two years from January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom’s regulator, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, may adopt decisions taken by the European Commission on the approval of new marketing authorizations through the centralized procedure, and the MHRA will have regard to marketing authorizations approved in a country in the EEA (although in both cases a marketing authorization will only be granted if any Great Britain-specific requirements are met). Various national procedures are now available to place a drug on the market in the United Kingdom, Great Britain or Northern Ireland, with the main national procedure having a maximum timeframe of 150 days (excluding time taken to provide any further information or data required). The data exclusivity periods in the United Kingdom are currently in line with those in the European Union, but the Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides that the periods for both data and market exclusivity are to be determined by domestic law, and so there could be divergence in the future. It is currently unclear whether the MHRA in the United Kingdom is sufficiently prepared to handle the increased volume of marketing authorization applications that it is likely to receive.
Orphan designation in Great Britain following Brexit is essentially identical to the position in the European Union, but it is based on the prevalence of the condition in Great Britain. It is therefore possible that conditions that are currently designated as orphan conditions in Great Britain will no longer be and that conditions that are not currently designated as orphan conditions in the European Union will be designated as such in Great Britain.
The European Union’s regulatory environment for clinical trials is being harmonized as part of the Clinical Trial Regulations, which are due to enter into full effect at the end of 2021, but it is currently unclear as to what extent the United Kingdom will seek to align its regulations with the European Union.
Employees and Human Capital
As of December 31, 2020, we had 87 full-time or part-time employees, including 41 with M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. Of these employees, 68 employees are engaged in research and development activities and 19 employees are engaged in general and administrative activities. Our employees are primarily based at the locations of our office and laboratory facilities: 52 are located in the U.K. and 35 are located in Massachusetts, U.S. None of our employees are represented by labor unions or covered by collective bargaining agreements. We consider the relationship with our employees to be good.
Our human capital resources objectives include, as applicable, identifying, recruiting, retaining, incentivizing and integrating our existing and additional employees to support the continued growth of our company and progress the development of our product candidates. The principal purposes of our equity incentive plans are to attract, retain and motivate selected employees, consultants and directors through the granting of equity-based compensation awards.
In 2009, we were incorporated as a limited liability company under the laws of England and Wales. In 2017, we effected a reorganization to create a new holding company which, in connection with our IPO, was re-registered as a public limited company named Bicycle Therapeutics plc. Bicycle Therapeutics plc is the parent company of three wholly owned subsidiaries, two of which are based in Cambridge, England and one of which has its principal office in Lexington, Massachusetts, that will carry on our business.
The English subsidiaries are BicycleTx Limited and BicycleRD Limited, and the U.S. subsidiary is Bicycle Therapeutics Inc. Our principal executive offices are located at B900, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, CB22 3AT, United Kingdom, and our phone number is +44 1223 261503.
Our website address is http://www.bicycletherapeutics.com. We make available on our website, free of charge, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and our Current Reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC. The SEC maintains a website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding our filings at www.sec.gov. The information found on our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K or any other report we file with or furnish to the SEC.
Our operations and financial results are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those described below. The following information about these risks and uncertainties, together with the other information appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our consolidated financial statements and related notes thereto, should be carefully considered before a decision to invest in our ADSs. The occurrence of any of the following risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and future growth prospects or cause our actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward-looking statements we have made in this report and those we may make from time to time. Additional risks that are currently unknown to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial may also impair our business. In these circumstances, the market price of our ADSs could decline and holders of our ADSs may lose all or part of their investment. We cannot provide assurance that any of the events discussed below will not occur.
Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital
We have a history of significant operating losses and expect to incur significant and increasing losses for the foreseeable future, and we may never achieve or maintain profitability.
We do not expect to generate revenue or profitability that is necessary to finance our operations in the short term. Since inception, we have incurred recurring losses, including losses of $51.0 million, $30.6 million and $21.8 million for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. In addition, our accumulated deficit as of December 31, 2020 was $151.6 million. To date, we have not commercialized any products or generated any revenues from the sale of products, and absent the realization of sufficient revenues from product sales, we may never attain profitability in the future. We have devoted substantially all of our financial resources and efforts to research and development, including preclinical studies and our clinical trials. Our net losses may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year. Net losses and negative cash flows have had, and will continue to have, an adverse effect on our shareholders’ equity (deficit) and working capital.
We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if and as we:
|●||continue to develop and conduct clinical trials with respect to our BTC and TICATM programs and our other pipeline programs;|
|●||initiate and continue research, preclinical and clinical development efforts for any future product candidates;|
|●||seek to discover and develop additional product candidates and further expand our clinical product pipeline;|
|●||seek marketing and regulatory approvals for any product candidates that successfully complete clinical trials;|
|●||require the manufacture of larger quantities of product candidates for clinical development and, potentially, commercialization;|
|●||maintain, expand and protect our intellectual property portfolio;|
|●||expand our research and development infrastructure, including hiring and retaining additional personnel, such as clinical, quality control and scientific personnel;|
|●||establish sales, marketing, distribution and other commercial infrastructure in the future to commercialize products for which we obtain marketing approval, if any;|
|●||add operational, financial and management information systems and personnel, including personnel to support our product development and commercialization and help us comply with our obligations as a public company; and|
|●||add equipment and physical infrastructure to support our research and development.|
Our ability to become and remain profitable depends on our ability to generate revenue. Generating product revenue will depend on our or any of our collaborators’ ability to obtain marketing approval for, and successfully commercialize, one or more of our product candidates. Successful commercialization will require achievement of key milestones, including completing clinical trials of our product candidates, obtaining marketing approval for these product candidates, manufacturing, marketing and selling those products for which we, or any of our collaborators, may obtain marketing approval, satisfying any post-marketing requirements and obtaining reimbursement for our products from private insurance or government payors. Because of the uncertainties and risks associated with these activities, we are unable to accurately predict the timing and amount of revenues, and if or when we might achieve profitability. We and any collaborators may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, or any collaborators do, we may never generate revenues that are large enough for us to achieve profitability. Even if we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis.
Our revenue to date has been primarily generated from our research collaborations with Genentech, AstraZeneca AB, or AstraZeneca, Sanofi (formerly Bioverativ Inc.), Oxurion NV (formerly ThromboGenics NV), or Oxurion, and Dementia Discovery Fund, or DDF. There can be no assurance that we will generate revenue from our collaborations in the future.
Our failure to become and remain profitable would depress the market price of our ADSs and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, diversify our product offerings or continue our operations. If we continue to suffer losses, investors may not receive any return on their investment and may lose their entire investment.
Our limited operating history may make it difficult for holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.
Our business commenced operations in 2009. Our operations to date have been limited to financing and staffing our company, developing our technology, conducting preclinical research and early-stage clinical trials for our product candidates and pursuing strategic collaborations to advance our product candidates. We have not yet demonstrated an ability to successfully conduct late-stage clinical trials, obtain marketing approvals, manufacture a commercial-scale product, or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Accordingly, any current or prospective holder of our ADSs or ordinary shares should consider our prospects in light of the costs, uncertainties, delays and difficulties frequently encountered by companies in the early stages of development, especially clinical-stage biopharmaceutical companies such as ours, all of which delays and difficulties may be exacerbated as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Any predictions made about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they would be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing and commercializing pharmaceutical products.
We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known or unknown factors in achieving our business objectives. We will eventually need to transition from a company with a development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities. We may not be successful in such a transition.
We expect our financial condition and operating results to continue to fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control and reliance should not be made upon the results of any quarterly or annual periods as indications of future operating performance.
We may need substantial additional funding, and if we are unable to raise capital when needed, we could be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our product discovery and development programs or commercialization efforts.
Developing pharmaceutical products, including conducting preclinical studies and clinical trials, is a very time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process that takes years to complete. We expect our expenses to increase in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we initiate new clinical trials of, initiate new research and preclinical development efforts for and seek marketing approval for, our current product candidates or any future product candidates. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, we may incur significant commercialization expenses related to product sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution to the extent that such sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution are not the responsibility of a collaborator. Furthermore, we expect to incur significant additional costs associated with operating as a public company. Accordingly, we will need to obtain substantial additional funding in connection with our continuing operations. If we are unable to raise capital when needed or on attractive terms, we may be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our research and development programs or any future commercialization efforts.
We will be required to expend significant funds in order to advance the development of the product candidates in our pipeline, as well as other product candidates we may seek to develop. In addition, while we may seek one or more collaborators for future development of our product candidates, we may not be able to enter into a collaboration for any of our product candidates for such indications on suitable terms, on a timely basis or at all. In any event, our existing cash will not be sufficient to fund all of the efforts that we plan to undertake or to fund the completion of development of any of our product candidates. Accordingly, we will be required to obtain further funding through public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations and licensing arrangements or other sources. We do not have any committed external source of funds. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. Our failure to raise capital as and when needed would have a negative impact on our financial condition and our ability to pursue our business strategy.
We believe that our existing cash of $136.0 million as of December 31, 2020, will enable us to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements for at least 12 months from the date of filing of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Our estimate may prove to be wrong, and we could use our available capital resources sooner than we currently expect. Further, changing circumstances, some of which may be beyond our control, including the unanticipated impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, could cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, and we may need to seek additional funds sooner than planned. Our future funding requirements, both short-term and long-term, will depend on many factors, including:
|●||the scope, progress, timing, costs and results of clinical trials of, and research and preclinical development efforts for, our current and future product candidates;|
|●||our ability to enter into, and the terms and timing of, any collaborations, licensing or other arrangements;|
|●||our ability to identify one or more future product candidates for our pipeline;|
|●||the number of future product candidates that we pursue and their development requirements;|
|●||the outcome, timing and costs of seeking regulatory approvals;|
|●||the costs of commercialization activities for any of our product candidates that receive marketing approval to the extent such costs are not the responsibility of any collaborators, including the costs and timing of establishing product sales, marketing, distribution and manufacturing capabilities;|
|●||subject to receipt of marketing approval, revenue, if any, received from commercial sales of our current and future product candidates;|
|●||our headcount growth and associated costs as we expand our research and development and establish a commercial infrastructure;|
|●||the costs of preparing, filing and prosecuting patent applications, maintaining and protecting our intellectual property rights including enforcing and defending intellectual property related claims; and|
|●||the costs of operating as a public company.|
The spread of COVID-19, which continues to cause a broad impact globally, may materially affect us economically. While the long-term economic impact of the pandemic is difficult to assess or predict, it has already significantly disrupted global financial markets, reducing our ability to access capital, which could in the future negatively affect our liquidity.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our existing shareholders or holders of our ADSs, restrict our operations or cause us to relinquish valuable rights.
We may seek additional capital through a combination of public and private equity offerings, debt financings, strategic partnerships and alliances, licensing arrangements or monetization transactions. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity, convertible debt securities or other equity-based derivative securities, the ownership interest of existing holders of our ADSs or ordinary shares will be diluted and the terms may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect existing holders’ rights. Any indebtedness we incur would result in increased fixed payment obligations and could involve restrictive covenants, such as limitations on our ability to incur additional debt, limitations on our ability to acquire or license intellectual property rights and other operating restrictions that could adversely impact our ability to conduct our business. Furthermore, the issuance of additional securities, whether equity or debt, by us, or the possibility of such issuance, may cause the market price of our ADSs to decline and existing shareholders may not agree with our financing plans or the terms of such financings. If we raise additional funds through strategic partnerships and alliances, licensing arrangements or monetization transactions with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, or our product candidates, or grant licenses on terms unfavorable to us. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to raise additional funds 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 failure to comply with the covenants or payment obligations under our existing term loan facility with Hercules could result in an event of default, which may result in increased interest charges, acceleration of our repayment obligations or other actions by Hercules, any of which could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are party to a secured term loan facility with Hercules. As of December 31, 2020, our outstanding borrowings under this facility totaled $15.0 million. Subject to satisfaction of customary conditions, we may borrow an additional term loan of up to $15.0 million available through March 15, 2021, and subject to our achievement of certain performance milestones and satisfaction of customary conditions we may borrow an additional term loan of $10.0 million through March 15, 2022. In connection with the Loan Agreement with Hercules, or the Loan Agreement, we granted Hercules a security interest in substantially all of our personal property and other assets, other than our intellectual property. The Loan Agreement contains customary affirmative and restrictive covenants and representations and warranties, including a covenant against the occurrence of a change in control (as defined by the Loan Agreement), financial reporting obligations, and certain limitations on indebtedness, liens (including a negative pledge on intellectual property and other assets), investments, distributions (including dividends), collateral, investments, transfers, mergers or acquisitions, taxes, corporate changes, and deposit accounts. The Loan Agreement also includes customary events of default, including payment defaults, breaches of covenants following any applicable cure period, the occurrence of certain events that could reasonably be expected to have a material adverse effect as set forth in the Loan Agreement, cross acceleration to third-party indebtedness and certain events relating to bankruptcy or insolvency. Upon the occurrence of an event of default, a default interest rate of an additional 5.0% may be applied to the outstanding principal balance, and Hercules may declare all outstanding obligations immediately due and payable and take such other actions as set forth in the Loan Agreement, including proceeding against the collateral securing such indebtedness.
Such increased interest charges, accelerated repayment, proceedings against the collateral or other actions may have a negative impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our existing and any future indebtedness may limit our cash flow available to invest in the ongoing needs of our business.
As of December 31, 2020, we had $15.0 million of borrowings outstanding under the Loan Agreement with Hercules, and we may borrow up to an additional $25.0 million in the aggregate under the Loan Agreement, subject to certain conditions. We could also in the future incur additional indebtedness pursuant to additional loan agreements.
Our debt combined with our other financial obligations and contractual commitments could have significant adverse consequences, including:
|●||requiring us to dedicate cash flow from operations or cash on hand to the payment of interest on, and principal of, our debt, which will reduce the amounts available to fund working capital, capital expenditures, product development efforts and other general corporate purposes;|
|●||increasing our vulnerability to adverse changes in general economic, industry and market conditions;|
|●||subjecting us to restrictive covenants that may reduce our ability to take certain corporate actions or obtain further debt or equity financing;|
|●||limiting our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and our industry; and|
|●||placing us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors that have less debt or better debt servicing options.|
We intend to satisfy our current and future debt service obligations with our existing cash and funds from external sources. Nonetheless, we may not have sufficient funds or may be unable to arrange for additional financing to pay the amounts due under our existing or any future debt facility. Funds from external sources may not be available on acceptable terms, if at all. In addition, a failure to comply with the covenants under the Loan Agreement or any future loan agreements we may enter into could result in an event of default and acceleration of amounts due. If an event of default occurs and the lenders accelerate the amounts due under such loan agreements, we may not be able to make accelerated payments, and such lenders could seek to enforce security interests in the collateral securing such indebtedness.
Risks Related to the Discovery, Development and Regulatory Approval of Our Product Candidates
We are substantially dependent on the success of our internal development programs and of our product candidates from our BTC and tumor-targeted immune cell agonist programs which may not successfully complete clinical trials, receive regulatory approval or be successfully commercialized.
Our future success will depend heavily on the success of our internal development programs and of product candidates from our BTC and tumor-targeted immune cell agonist programs.
Within our BTC program, we are investigating BT1718 for safety, tolerability and efficacy in an ongoing Phase I/IIa clinical trial in collaboration with the Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development, or Cancer Research UK. Upon the completion of the Phase I/IIa clinical trial for BT1718, we have the right to obtain a license to the results of the clinical trial from Cancer Research UK upon the payment of a milestone, in cash and ordinary shares with a combined value in a mid-six digit dollar amount. If we do not exercise our right to obtain a license to the results of the clinical trial or we fail to obtain a license, our ability to continue development of BT1718 would be negatively impacted. BT1718 is designed to target tumors that express MT1-MMP. In addition, we are evaluating BT5528, a second-generation BTC that targets Ephrin type-A receptor 2, or EphA2 and carries a monomethyl auristatin E, or MMAE cytotoxin payload, in an ongoing, company-sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial to assess safety, pharmacokinetics and preliminary clinical activity in patients with advanced malignancies associated with EphA2 expression as a monotherapy and in combination
with nivolumab, and BT8009, a second-generation BTC targeting Nectin-4, in a company sponsored Phase I/II clinical trial. We are also developing BT7480, which is a TICA targeting Nectin-4 and agonizing CD137, for oncology indications. These target proteins have an established role in cell invasion and metastasis and are overexpressed in many solid tumors. There can be no assurance our BTCs or TICAs will ever demonstrate evidence of safety or effectiveness for any use or receive regulatory approval in the United States, the European Union, or any other country in any indication. Even if clinical trials show positive results, there can be no assurance that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, in the United States, European Commission, whose decision is based on a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, in Europe or similar regulatory authorities will approve our BTCs or any of our other product candidates for any given indication for several potential reasons, including the failure to follow Good Clinical Practice, or GCP, a negative assessment of the risks and benefits, insufficient product quality control and standardization, failure to have Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, compliant manufacturing facilities, or the failure to agree with regulatory authorities on clinical endpoints.
Our ability to successfully commercialize our BTCs, tumor-targeted immune cell agonists, and our other product candidates will depend on, among other things, our ability to:
|●||successfully complete preclinical studies and clinical trials, which may be delayed;|
|●||receive regulatory approvals from the FDA, the European Commission based on a recommendation from the EMA and other similar regulatory authorities;|
|●||establish and maintain collaborations with third parties for the development and/or commercialization of our product candidates, or otherwise build and maintain strong development, sales, distribution and marketing capabilities that are sufficient to develop products and launch commercial sales of any approved products;|
|●||obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement from payors such as government health care systems and insurance companies and achieve commercially attractive levels of pricing;|
|●||secure acceptance of our product candidates from physicians, health care payors, patients and the medical community;|
|●||produce, through a validated process, in manufacturing facilities inspected and approved by regulatory authorities, including the FDA, sufficiently large quantities of our product candidates to permit successful commercialization;|
|●||manage our spending as expenses increase due to clinical trials and commercialization; and|
|●||obtain and enforce sufficient intellectual property rights for any approved products and product candidates and maintain freedom to operate for such products with respect to the intellectual property rights of third parties.|
Of the large number of drugs in development in the pharmaceutical industry, only a small percentage result in the submission of a new drug application, or NDA, to the FDA and even fewer are approved for commercialization. Furthermore, even if we do receive regulatory approval to market our product candidates, any such approval may be subject to limitations on the indicated uses or patient populations for which we may market the product. Accordingly, even if we are able to obtain the requisite financing to continue to fund our development programs, we cannot provide assurance that our product candidates will be successfully developed or commercialized. If we are unable to develop, or obtain regulatory approval for, or, if approved, to successfully commercialize our product candidates, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to continue our business.
We are at a very early stage in our development efforts, our product candidates and those of our collaborators represent a new category of medicines and may be subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny until they are established as a therapeutic modality.
Bicycles represent a new therapeutic modality of peptide compounds intended to combine targeting abilities of antibodies with performance of small molecules. Our product candidates may not demonstrate in patients any or all of the pharmacological benefits we believe they may possess. We have not yet succeeded and may never succeed in demonstrating efficacy and safety for these or any other product candidates in clinical trials or in obtaining marketing approval thereafter.
Regulatory authorities have limited experience with Bicycles and may require evidence of safety and efficacy that goes beyond what we and our collaborators have included in our development plans. In such a case, development of Bicycle product candidates may be more costly or time-consuming than expected, and our candidate products and those of our collaboration partners may not prove to be viable.
If we are unsuccessful in our development efforts, we may not be able to advance the development of our product candidates, commercialize products, raise capital, expand our business or continue our operations.
Our product candidates and those of our collaborators will need to undergo preclinical and clinical trials that are time consuming and expensive, the outcomes of which are unpredictable, and for which there is a high risk of failure. If preclinical or clinical trials of our or their product candidates fail to satisfactorily demonstrate safety and efficacy to the FDA, the EMA and any other comparable regulatory authority, additional costs may be incurred or delays experienced in completing, the development of these product candidates, or their development may be abandoned.
The FDA in the United States, the European Commission based on a recommendation from the EMA, or other European regulatory authorities, in the European Union and the European Economic Area, or EEA, and any other comparable regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions must approve new product candidates before they can be marketed, promoted or sold in those territories. We have not previously submitted an NDA to the FDA or similar drug approval filings to comparable foreign regulatory authorities for any of our product candidates. We must provide these regulatory authorities with data from preclinical studies and clinical trials that demonstrate that our product candidates are safe and effective for a specific indication before they can be approved for commercial distribution. We cannot be certain that our clinical trials for our product candidates will be successful or that any of our other product candidates will receive approval from the FDA, the European Commission based on a recommendation from the EMA or any other comparable regulatory authority.
Preclinical studies and clinical trials are long, expensive and unpredictable processes that can be subject to extensive delays. We cannot guarantee that any clinical trials will be conducted as planned or completed on schedule, if at all. It may take several years and require significant expenditures to complete the preclinical studies and clinical trials necessary to commercialize a product candidate, and delays or failure are inherently unpredictable and can occur at any stage. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including many jurisdictions’ shelter-in-place, stay-at-home and similar restrictions, may also impact our and our collaboration partners’ abilities to activate trial sites or enroll patients in clinical trials or to otherwise advance those clinical trials. Although some jurisdictions have relaxed such restrictions and vaccination against COVID-19 has commenced, previously relaxed restrictions may be re-instituted, and vaccination is not yet widespread on a global basis. Ongoing, new or re-imposed COVID-19-related shelter-in-place, stay-at-home and similar restrictions, site closures, travel limitations and supply chain interruptions, or infection of site personnel or trial patients with COVID-19, may also reduce our or our collaboration partners’ abilities to administer the investigational product to enrolled patients, present difficulties for enrolled patients to adhere to protocol-mandated visits and laboratory/diagnostic testing, increase the possibility of patient dropouts, or impact our and our suppliers’ abilities to provide investigational product to trial sites, all of which could negatively impact the data we are able to obtain from our clinical trials and complicate regulatory review.
We may also be required to conduct additional clinical trials or other testing of our product candidates beyond the trials and testing that we contemplate, which may lead to us incurring additional unplanned costs or result in delays in clinical development. In addition, we may be required to redesign or otherwise modify our plans with respect to an
ongoing or planned clinical trial, and changing the design of a clinical trial can be expensive and time consuming. An unfavorable outcome in one or more trials would be a major setback for our product candidates and for us. An unfavorable outcome in one or more trials may require us to delay, reduce the scope of or eliminate one or more product development programs, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position, results of operations and future growth prospects.
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 marketing approval for our product candidates. The FDA, EMA or any other comparable regulatory authority may disagree with our clinical trial design and our interpretation of data from clinical trials, or may change the requirements for approval even after it has reviewed and commented on the design for our clinical trials.
In connection with clinical trials of our product candidates, we face a number of risks, including risks that:
|●||a product candidate is ineffective or inferior to existing approved products for the same indications;|
|●||a product candidate causes or is associated with unacceptable toxicity or has unacceptable side effects;|
|●||patients may die or suffer adverse effects for reasons that may or may not be related to the product candidate being tested;|
|●||the results may not confirm the positive results of earlier trials;|
|●||the results may not meet the level of statistical significance required by the FDA, the EMA or other relevant regulatory agencies to establish the safety and efficacy of our product candidates for continued trial or marketing approval; and|
|●||our collaborators may be unable or unwilling to perform under their contracts.|
Furthermore, we sometimes estimate for planning purposes the timing of the accomplishment of various scientific, clinical, regulatory and other product development objectives. These milestones may include our expectations regarding the commencement or completion of scientific studies, clinical trials, the submission of regulatory filings or commercialization objectives. From time to time, we may publicly announce the expected timing of some of these milestones, such as the completion of an ongoing clinical trial, the initiation of other clinical programs, the receipt of marketing approval or a commercial launch of a product. The achievement of many of these milestones may be outside of our control. All of these milestones are based on a variety of assumptions, which may cause the timing of achievement of the milestones to vary considerably from our estimates. If we fail to achieve milestones in the timeframes we expect, including as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the commercialization of our product candidates may be delayed, we may not be entitled to receive certain contractual payments, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position, results of operations and future growth prospects.
We may find it difficult to enroll patients in our clinical trials, which could delay or prevent us from proceeding with clinical trials of our product candidates.
Identifying and qualifying patients to participate in clinical trials of our product candidates is critical to our success. The timing of our clinical trials depends on our ability to recruit patients to participate as well as the completion of required follow-up periods. Patients may be unwilling to participate in our clinical trials because of negative publicity from adverse events related to novel therapeutic approaches, competitive clinical trials for similar patient populations, the existence of current treatments or for other reasons. Enrollment risks are heightened with respect to certain indications that we may target for one or more of our product candidates that may be rare diseases, which may limit the pool of patients that may be enrolled in our planned clinical trials. The timeline for recruiting patients, conducting trials and obtaining regulatory approval of our product candidates may be delayed, which could result in increased costs, delays in advancing our product candidates, delays in testing the effectiveness of our product candidates or termination of the clinical trials altogether.
In addition, our ability to conduct clinical trials has been and may continue to be affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For example, all clinical sites for the Phase I/IIa trial of BT1718 being conducted by Cancer Research UK in the United Kingdom temporarily paused enrollment of new patients due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic during the first half of 2020. While the pause in enrollment was lifted during the second quarter of 2020 and patient enrollment in the Phase IIa portion of the clinical trial is underway, changes in circumstances related to the ongoing pandemic could result in future pauses in or other impacts on enrollment. Further clinical site initiation and patient enrollment may be delayed due to prioritization of hospital resources toward the COVID-19 pandemic, including with respect to vaccination efforts. Some key clinical trial activities, such as clinical trial site monitoring, may also be impacted due to limitations on travel, quarantines or social distancing protocols imposed or recommended by federal or state governments, employers and others in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some patients may not be able to comply with clinical trial protocols if quarantines impede patient movement or interrupt healthcare services. Similarly, our ability to recruit and retain patients and principal investigators and site staff who, as healthcare providers, may have heightened exposure to COVID-19, may adversely impact our future clinical trial operations.
We may not be able to identify, recruit and enroll a sufficient number of patients, or those with the required or desired characteristics, to complete our clinical trials in a timely manner. For example, due to the nature of the indications that we are initially targeting, patients with advanced disease progression may not be suitable candidates for treatment with our product candidates and may be ineligible for enrollment in our clinical trials. Therefore, early diagnosis in patients with our target diseases is critical to our success. Patient enrollment and trial completion is affected by factors including the:
|●||size of the patient population and process for identifying subjects;|
|●||design of the trial protocol;|
|●||eligibility and exclusion criteria;|
|●||safety profile, to date, of the product candidate under study;|
|●||perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under study;|
|●||perceived risks and benefits of our approach to treatment of diseases;|
|●||availability of competing therapies and clinical trials;|
|●||severity of the disease under investigation;|
|●||degree of progression of the subject’s disease at the time of enrollment;|
|●||proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective subjects;|
|●||ability to obtain and maintain subject consent;|
|●||risk that enrolled subjects will drop out before completion of the trial;|
|●||patient referral practices of physicians; and|
|●||ability to monitor subjects adequately during and after treatment.|
In addition, clinical testing of BT1718, BT5528 and BT8009 is currently taking place outside of the United States. Our ability to successfully initiate, enroll and complete a clinical trial in any foreign country is subject to numerous risks unique to conducting business in foreign countries, including:
|●||difficulty in establishing or managing relationships with academic partners or contract research organizations, or CROs, and physicians;|
|●||different standards for the conduct of clinical trials;|
|●||the absence in some countries of established groups with sufficient regulatory expertise for review of protocols related to our novel approach;|
|●||our inability to locate qualified local consultants, physicians and partners; and|
|●||the potential burden of complying with a variety of foreign laws, medical standards and regulatory requirements, including the regulation of pharmaceutical and biotechnology products and treatment.|
If we have difficulty enrolling a sufficient number of patients to conduct our clinical trials as planned, we may need to delay, limit or terminate ongoing or planned clinical trials, any of which would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of results of future clinical trials.
The outcome of preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of later clinical trials, and interim results of clinical trials do not necessarily predict success in the results of completed clinical trials. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in earlier development, and we could face similar setbacks. For example, the Phase I/IIa trial of BT1718 is being conducted by Cancer Research UK at up to seven sites in the United Kingdom, and our company-sponsored trials of BT5528 and BT8009 are also ongoing, and the interim results in all three of these trials, including specific patient responses we have observed and disclosed, may not be replicated in the completed data sets or in future trials at global clinical trial sites in a later stage clinical trial conducted by us or our collaborators. Additionally, notwithstanding the commencement of vaccination efforts, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may negatively impact our ability to enroll participants in future or later stage trials. The design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. We have limited experience in designing clinical trials and may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial to support marketing approval.
Preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses. Many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval for the product candidates. Even if we, or any collaborators, believe that the results of clinical trials for our product candidates warrant marketing approval, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may disagree and may not grant marketing approval of our product candidates.
In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety or efficacy results between different clinical trials of the same product candidate due to numerous factors, including changes in trial procedures set forth in protocols, differences in the size and type of the patient populations, our ability to enroll trial participants, including as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and notwithstanding the commencement of vaccination efforts, changes in and adherence to the dosing regimen and other clinical trial protocols and the rate of dropout among clinical trial participants. If we fail to receive positive results in clinical trials of our product candidates, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for our most advanced product candidates, and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects would be negatively impacted.
Failure to successfully validate, develop and obtain regulatory approval for companion diagnostics could harm our drug development strategy.
We may employ companion diagnostics to help us more accurately identify patients within a particular subset, both during our clinical trials and in connection with the commercialization of our product candidates that we are
developing or may in the future develop. Companion diagnostics are subject to regulation by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities as medical devices and require separate regulatory approval prior to commercialization. We do not develop companion diagnostics internally and thus we will be dependent on the sustained cooperation and effort of our third-party collaborators in developing and obtaining approval for these companion diagnostics. There can be no guarantees that we will successfully find a suitable collaborator to develop companion diagnostics. We and our collaborators may encounter difficulties in developing and obtaining approval for the companion diagnostics, including issues relating to selectivity/specificity, analytical validation, reproducibility, or clinical validation. Any delay or failure by our collaborators to develop or obtain regulatory approval of the companion diagnostics could delay or prevent approval of our product candidates. In addition, our collaborators may encounter production difficulties that could constrain the supply of the companion diagnostics, and both they and we may have difficulties gaining acceptance of the use of the companion diagnostics in the clinical community. If such companion diagnostics fail to gain market acceptance, our ability to derive revenues from sales of any products, if approved, will be adversely affected. In addition, the diagnostic company with whom we contract may decide to discontinue selling or manufacturing the companion diagnostic that we anticipate using in connection with development and commercialization of our product candidates or our relationship with such diagnostic company may otherwise terminate. We may not be able to enter into arrangements with another diagnostic company to obtain supplies of an alternative diagnostic test for use in connection with the development and commercialization of our product candidates or do so on commercially reasonable terms, which could adversely affect and/or delay the development or commercialization of our product candidates.
Our current or future product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties when used alone or in combination with other approved products or investigational new drugs that could halt their clinical development, prevent their marketing approval, limit their commercial potential or result in significant negative consequences.
Undesirable or clinically unmanageable side effects could occur and cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of marketing approval by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Results of our trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects or unexpected characteristics. As of January 25, 2021, the most recent date for which information has been provided by the Cancer Research UK, the most common treatment-related adverse events (>15%, n=45) in subjects exposed to BT1718 in the ongoing Phase I/IIa clinical trial were anemia, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, alanine aminotransferase increase, aspartate aminotransferase increase, gamma-glutamyltransferase increase, decreased appetite, lethargy, peripheral neuropathy, and weight decrease. BT5528 has been dosed up to 8.5 mg/m2 weekly, which we believe, based on pre-clinical studies, is toward the top of the therapeutic range, with transient neutropenia observed at that dose. In addition, administered doses of BT8009, a second-generation BTC targeting Nectin-4, appear well-tolerated with manageable adverse events in the dose-escalation phase in the ongoing Phase I/II trial.
If unacceptable side effect profiles arise, or side effects beyond those identified to date develop or worsen, as we continue development of our current or future product candidates, we, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, the Institutional Review Boards, or IRBs, or independent ethics committees at the institutions in which our studies are conducted, or the Data Safety Monitoring Board, or DSMB, could suspend or terminate our clinical trials or the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease clinical trials or deny approval of our product candidates for any or all targeted indications. Treatment-related side effects could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled subjects to complete the trial, cause delays in ongoing clinical trials, or result in potential product liability claims. In addition, these side effects may not be appropriately recognized or managed by the treating medical staff. We may be required to train medical personnel using our product candidates to understand the side effect profiles for our clinical trials and upon any commercialization of any of our product candidates. Inadequate training in recognizing or managing the potential side effects of our product candidates could result in patient injury or death. Any of these occurrences may prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product candidate and may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Three of our product candidates are currently undergoing safety testing in the form of Phase I/IIa or Phase I/II clinical trials. None of our products have completed this testing to date. While our current and future product candidates will undergo safety testing to the extent possible and, where applicable, under such conditions discussed with
regulatory authorities, not all adverse effects of drugs can be predicted or anticipated. Unforeseen side effects could arise either during clinical development or, if such side effects are rarer, after our products have been approved by regulatory authorities and the approved product has been marketed, resulting in the exposure of additional patients. So far, we have not demonstrated, and we cannot predict if ongoing or future clinical trials will demonstrate, that BT1718, BT5528, BT8009 or any other of our product candidates are safe in humans.
Moreover, clinical trials of our product candidates are conducted in carefully defined sets of patients who have agreed to enter into clinical trials. Consequently, it is possible that our clinical trials may indicate an apparent positive effect of a product candidate that is greater than the actual positive effect, if any, or alternatively fail to identify undesirable side effects. If, following approval of a product candidate, we, or others, discover that the product is less effective than previously believed or causes undesirable side effects that were not previously identified, any of the following consequences could occur:
|●||regulatory authorities may withdraw their approval of the product or seize the product;|
|●||we, or any collaborators, may need to recall the product, or be required to change the way the product is administered or conduct additional clinical trials;|
|●||additional restrictions may be imposed on the marketing of, or the manufacturing processes for, the particular product;|
|●||we may be subject to fines, injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties;|
|●||regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, such as a boxed warning or a contraindication;|
|●||we, or any collaborators, may be required to create a medication guide outlining the risks of the previously unidentified side effects for distribution to patients;|
|●||we, or any collaborators, could be sued and held liable for harm caused to patients;|
|●||the product may become less competitive; and|
|●||our reputation may suffer.|
If any of our current or future product candidates fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy in clinical trials or do not gain marketing approval, we will not be able to generate revenue and our business will be harmed. Any of these events could harm our business and operations, and could negatively impact the price of our ADSs.
We may be delayed or may not be successful in our efforts to identify or discover additional product candidates.
Although we intend to utilize our Bicycle screening platform to explore other therapeutic opportunities in addition to the product candidates that we are currently developing, we may fail to identify other product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons. For example, our research methodology may not be successful in identifying potential product candidates or those we identify may be shown to have harmful side effects or other characteristics that make them unmarketable or unlikely to receive regulatory approval. A key part of our strategy is to utilize our screening technology to identify product candidates to pursue in clinical development. Such product candidates will require additional, time-consuming development efforts prior to commercial sale, including preclinical studies, clinical trials and approval by the FDA and/or applicable foreign regulatory authorities. All product candidates are prone to the risks of failure that are inherent in pharmaceutical product development. If we fail to identify and develop additional potential product candidates, we may be unable to grow our business and our results of operations could be materially harmed.
We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.
Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we intend to focus on developing product candidates for specific indications that we identify as most likely to succeed, in terms of both their potential for marketing approval and commercialization. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that may prove to have greater commercial potential.
Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable product candidates. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to the product candidate.
We face potential product liability, and, if successful claims are brought against us, we may incur substantial liability and costs. If the use of our product candidates harms patients, or is perceived to harm patients even when such harm is unrelated to our product candidates, our regulatory approvals could be revoked or otherwise negatively impacted and we could be subject to costly and damaging product liability claims.
The use of our product candidates in clinical trials and the sale of any products for which we obtain marketing approval expose us to the risk of product liability claims. Product liability claims might be brought against us by patients, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies or others selling or otherwise coming into contact with our products. There is a risk that our product candidates may induce adverse events. If we cannot successfully defend against product liability claims, we could incur substantial liability and costs. In addition, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, product liability claims may result in:
|●||the impairment of our business reputation;|
|●||the withdrawal of clinical trial participants;|
|●||substantial monetary awards to patients or other claimants;|
|●||costs due to related litigation;|
|●||the distraction of management’s attention from our primary business;|
|●||the inability to commercialize our product candidates; and|
|●||decreased demand for our product candidates, if approved for commercial sale.|
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. We intend to expand our insurance coverage each time we commercialize an additional product; however, we may be unable to obtain product liability insurance on commercially reasonable terms or in adequate amounts. On occasion, large judgments have been awarded in class action lawsuits based on drugs or medical treatments that had unanticipated adverse effects. A successful product liability claim or series of claims brought against us could cause our ADS price to decline and, if judgments exceed our insurance coverage, could adversely affect our results of operations and business.
Patients with the diseases targeted by certain of our product candidates, such as our lead indications in oncology, are often already in severe and advanced stages of disease and have both known and unknown significant pre-existing and potentially life-threatening health risks. During the course of treatment, patients may suffer adverse events, including death, for reasons that may be related to our product candidates. Such events could subject us to costly litigation, require us to pay substantial amounts of money to injured patients, delay, negatively impact or end our
opportunity to receive or maintain regulatory approval to market our products, or require us to suspend or abandon our commercialization efforts. Even in a circumstance in which we do not believe that an adverse event is related to our products, the investigation into the circumstance may be time-consuming or inconclusive. These investigations may interrupt our sales efforts, delay our regulatory approval process, or impact and limit the type of regulatory approvals our product candidates receive or maintain. As a result of these factors, a product liability claim, even if successfully defended, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may seek designations for our product candidates with the FDA and other comparable regulatory authorities that are intended to confer benefits such as a faster development process or an accelerated regulatory pathway, but there can be no assurance that we will successfully obtain such designations. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates are granted such designations, we may not be able to realize the intended benefits of such designations.
The FDA and other comparable regulatory authorities offer certain designations for product candidates that are intended to encourage the research and development of pharmaceutical products addressing conditions with significant unmet medical need. These designations may confer benefits such as additional interaction with regulatory authorities, a potentially accelerated regulatory pathway and priority review. There can be no assurance that we will successfully obtain such designation for any of our other product candidates. In addition, while such designations could expedite the development or approval process, they generally do not change the standards for approval. Even if we obtain such designations for one or more of our product candidates, there can be no assurance that we will realize their intended benefits.
For example, we may seek a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for one or more of our product candidates. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a therapy that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other therapies, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, if preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the therapy may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. For therapies that have been designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor of the trial can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens. Therapies designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA are also eligible for accelerated approval. Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe one of our product candidates meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. In any event, the receipt of a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for a product candidate may not result in a faster development process, review or approval compared to therapies considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates qualify as breakthrough therapies, the FDA may later decide that such product candidates no longer meet the conditions for qualification.
We may also seek Fast Track Designation for some of our product candidates. If a therapy is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and the therapy demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for this condition, the therapy sponsor may apply for Fast Track Designation. The FDA has broad discretion whether or not to grant this designation, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for this designation, there can be no assurance that the FDA would decide to grant it. Even if we do receive Fast Track Designation, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures, and receiving a Fast Track Designation does not provide assurance of ultimate FDA approval. The FDA may withdraw Fast Track Designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program.
We may seek priority review designation for one or more of our product candidates, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not lead to a faster regulatory review or approval process.
If the FDA determines that a product candidate offers a treatment for a serious condition and, if approved, the product would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness, the FDA may designate the product candidate for priority review. A priority review designation means that the goal for the FDA to review an application is
six months, rather than the standard review period of ten months. We may request priority review for our product candidates. The FDA has broad discretion with respect to whether or not to grant priority review status to a product candidate, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for such designation or status, in particular if such product candidate has received a Breakthrough Therapy Designation, the FDA may decide not to grant it. Moreover, a priority review designation does not result in expedited development and does not necessarily result in expedited regulatory review or approval process or necessarily confer any advantage with respect to approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. Receiving priority review from the FDA does not guarantee approval within the six-month review cycle or at all.
Obtaining and maintaining marketing approval of our current and future product candidates in one jurisdiction does not mean that we will be successful in obtaining marketing approval of our current and future product candidates in other jurisdictions.
Obtaining and maintaining marketing approval of our current and future product candidates in one jurisdiction does not guarantee that we will be able to obtain or maintain marketing approval in any other jurisdiction, while a failure or delay in obtaining marketing approval in one jurisdiction may have a negative effect on the marketing approval process in others. For example, even if the FDA grants marketing approval of a product candidate, comparable regulatory authorities in foreign jurisdictions must also approve the manufacturing, marketing and promotion of the product candidate in those countries. Approval procedures vary among jurisdictions and can involve requirements and administrative review periods different from, and greater than, those in the United States, including additional preclinical studies or clinical trials as clinical studies conducted in one jurisdiction may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions outside the United States, a product candidate must be approved for reimbursement before it can be approved for sale in that jurisdiction. In some cases, the price that we intend to charge for our products is also subject to approval. We do not have experience in obtaining reimbursement or pricing approvals in international markets.
Obtaining marketing approvals and compliance with regulatory requirements could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in certain countries outside of the United States. If we fail to comply with the regulatory requirements in international markets and/or receive applicable marketing approvals, our target market will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of our product candidates will be harmed.
The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, commonly referred to as “Brexit,” may adversely impact our ability to obtain regulatory approvals of our product candidates in the European Union, result in restrictions or imposition of taxes and duties for importing our product candidates into the European Union, and may require us to incur additional expenses in order to develop, manufacture and commercialize our product candidates in the European Union.
Following the result of a referendum in 2016, the United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020, commonly referred to as Brexit. Pursuant to the formal withdrawal arrangements agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the United Kingdom was subject to a transition period until December 31, 2020, or the Transition Period, during which European Union rules continued to apply. A trade and cooperation agreement, or the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which outlines the future trading relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, was agreed upon in December 2020.
The potential impact on our results of operations and liquidity resulting from Brexit remains unclear. The actual effects of Brexit will depend upon many factors and significant uncertainty remains with respect to the terms of the ultimate resolution of the Brexit negotiations.
Since a significant proportion of the regulatory framework in the United Kingdom applicable to our business and our product candidates is derived from European Union directives and regulations, Brexit has had, and may continue to have, a material impact on the regulatory regime with respect to the development, manufacture, importation, approval and commercialization of our product candidates in the United Kingdom or the European Union. For example, Great Britain is no longer covered by the centralized procedures for obtaining European Union-wide marketing authorization
from the EMA, and a separate marketing authorization will be required to market our product candidates in Great Britain. It is currently unclear as to whether the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, is sufficiently prepared to handle the increased volume of marketing authorization applications that it is likely to receive. Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any marketing approvals, as a result of Brexit or otherwise, would prevent us from commercializing our product candidates in the United Kingdom and/or the European Union and restrict our ability to generate revenue and achieve and sustain profitability. If any of these outcomes occur, we may be forced to restrict or delay efforts to seek regulatory approval in the United Kingdom and/or European Union for our product candidates, which could significantly and materially harm our business.
While the Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides for the tariff-free trade of medicinal products between the United Kingdom and the European Union, there may be additional non-tariff costs to such trade which did not exist prior to the end of the Transition Period. Further, should the United Kingdom diverge from the European Union from a regulatory perspective in relation to medicinal products, tariffs could be put into place in the future. We could, therefore, both now and in the future, face significant additional expenses (when compared to the position prior to the end of the Transition Period) to operate our business, which could significantly and materially harm or delay our ability to generate revenues or achieve profitability of our business. Any further changes in international trade, tariff and import/export regulations as a result of Brexit or otherwise may impose unexpected duty costs or other non-tariff barriers on us. These developments, or the perception that any of them could occur, may significantly reduce global trade and, in particular, trade between the impacted nations and the United Kingdom. It is also possible that Brexit may negatively affect our ability to attract and retain employees, particularly those from the European Union.
Brexit may influence the attractiveness of the United Kingdom as a place to conduct clinical trials. The European Union’s regulatory environment for clinical trials is being harmonized as part of the Clinical Trial Regulations, which are due to enter into full effect at the end of 2021, but it is currently unclear as to what extent the United Kingdom will seek to align its regulations with the European Union. Failure of the United Kingdom to closely align its regulations with the European Union may have an effect on the cost of conducting clinical trials in the United Kingdom as opposed to other countries and/or make it harder to seek a marketing authorization for our product candidates on the basis of clinical trials conducted in the United Kingdom. In the short term, there will be few changes to clinical trials that only have sites in the United Kingdom. The MHRA has confirmed that the sponsor of a clinical trial can be based in the EEA for an initial period following Brexit. Further investigational medicinal products can be supplied directly from the European Union/EEA to a trial site in Great Britain without further oversight until January 1, 2022, and to Northern Ireland beyond such date. The United Kingdom is now a “third country” for the purpose of clinical trials that have sites in the EEA. For such trials the sponsor/legal representative must be based in the EEA, and the trial must be registered on the E.U. Clinical Trials Register (including data on sites outside of the EEA).
Risks Related to Commercialization of Our Product Candidates and Other Regulatory Compliance Matters
Even if we complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials, the marketing approval process is expensive, time consuming and uncertain and may prevent us or any collaborators from obtaining approvals for the commercialization of some or all of our product candidates. As a result, we cannot predict when or if, and in which territories, we, or any collaborators, will obtain marketing approval to commercialize a product candidate.
The process of obtaining marketing approvals, both in the United States and abroad, is lengthy, expensive and uncertain. It may take many years, if approval is obtained at all, and can vary substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity and novelty of the product candidates involved. Securing marketing approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the product candidate’s safety and efficacy. Securing marketing approval also requires the submission of information about the product manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the regulatory authorities. The FDA or other regulatory authorities may determine that our product candidates are not safe and effective, only moderately effective or have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render the approved product not commercially viable.
In addition, changes in marketing approval policies during the development period, changes in or the enactment or promulgation of additional statutes, regulations or guidance or changes in regulatory review for each submitted product application, may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application. Regulatory authorities have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or may decide that our data are insufficient for approval and require additional preclinical, clinical or other studies. Varying interpretations of the data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing could delay, limit or prevent marketing approval of a product candidate. We cannot commercialize a product until the appropriate regulatory authorities have reviewed and approved the product candidate. Even if our product candidates demonstrate safety and efficacy in clinical trials, the regulatory agencies may not complete their review processes in a timely manner, or we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that we could experience delays in the timing of our interactions with regulatory authorities due to absenteeism by governmental employees, inability to conduct planned physical inspections related to regulatory approval, or the diversion of regulatory authority efforts and attention to approval of other therapeutics or other activities related to COVID-19, which could delay anticipated approval decisions and otherwise delay or limit our ability to make planned regulatory submissions or obtain new product approvals. Additional delays may result if an FDA Advisory Committee or other regulatory authority recommends non-approval or restrictions on approval. In addition, we may experience delays or rejections based upon additional government regulation from future legislation or administrative action, or changes in regulatory agency policy during the period of product development, clinical trials and the review process. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain, if any, may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render the approved product not commercially viable.
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 other regulatory authority. The FDA or other regulatory authority may conclude that a financial relationship between us and a principal investigator has created a conflict of interest or otherwise affected interpretation of the trial. The FDA or other 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 other 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.
In addition, regulatory agencies may not approve the labeling claims that are necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of our product candidates. For example, regulatory agencies may approve a product candidate for fewer or more limited indications than requested or may grant approval subject to the performance of post-marketing studies. Regulators may approve a product candidate for a smaller patient population, a different drug formulation or a different manufacturing process, than we are seeking. If we are unable to obtain necessary regulatory approvals, or more limited regulatory approvals than we expect, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations may suffer.
Any delay in obtaining or failure to obtain required approvals could negatively impact our ability to generate revenue from the particular product candidate, which likely would result in significant harm to our financial position and adversely impact the price of our ADSs.
We currently have no marketing, sales or distribution infrastructure with respect to our product candidates. If we are unable to develop our sales, marketing and distribution capability on our own or through collaborations with marketing partners, we will not be successful in commercializing our product candidates.
We currently have no marketing, sales or distribution capabilities and have limited sales or marketing experience within our organization. If one or more of our product candidates is approved, we intend either to establish a sales and marketing organization with technical expertise and supporting distribution capabilities to commercialize that product candidate, or to outsource this function to a third party. There are risks involved with either establishing our own sales and marketing capabilities and entering into arrangements with third parties to perform these services.
Recruiting and training an internal commercial organization is expensive and time consuming and could delay any product launch. Some or all of these costs may be incurred in advance of any approval of any of our product candidates. If the commercial launch of a 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. In addition, we may not be able to hire a sales force in the United States or other target market that is sufficient in size or has adequate expertise in the medical markets that we intend to target.
Factors that may inhibit our efforts to commercialize our product candidates on our own include:
|●||the inability to recruit, train and retain adequate numbers of effective sales and marketing personnel;|
|●||the inability of sales personnel to obtain access to physicians or persuade adequate numbers of physicians to prescribe any future product that we may develop;|
|●||the lack of complementary treatments to be offered by sales personnel, which may put us at a competitive disadvantage relative to companies with more extensive product lines; and|
|●||unforeseen costs and expenses associated with creating an independent sales and marketing organization.|
If we enter into arrangements with third parties to perform sales, marketing and distribution services, our product revenue or the profitability to us from these revenue streams is likely to be lower than if we were to market and sell any product candidates that we develop ourselves. In addition, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to sell and market our product candidates or may be unable to do so on terms that are favorable to us. We likely will have little control over such third parties and any of them may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our product candidates effectively. If we do not establish sales and marketing capabilities successfully, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates.
The market opportunities for any current or future product candidate we develop, if and when approved, may be limited to those patients who are ineligible for established therapies or for whom prior therapies have failed, and may be small.
Cancer therapies are sometimes characterized as first-line, second-line, third-line or later-line therapies, and the FDA often approves new therapies initially only for third-line use. When cancer is detected early enough, first-line therapy, usually chemotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy or a combination of these, is sometimes adequate to cure the cancer or prolong life without a cure. Second- and third-line therapies are administered to patients when prior therapy is not effective. We may initially seek approval of BT1718, BT5528, BT8009 and any other product candidates we develop as a therapy for patients who have received one or more prior treatments. Subsequently, for those products that prove to be sufficiently beneficial, if any, we would expect to seek approval potentially as a first-line therapy, but there is no guarantee that product candidates we develop, even if approved, would be approved for first-line therapy, and, prior to any such approvals, we may have to conduct additional clinical trials.
The number of patients who have the cancers we are targeting may turn out to be lower than expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our current programs or future product candidates may be limited, if and when approved. Even if we obtain significant market share for any product candidate, if and when approved, if the potential target populations are small, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining marketing approval for additional indications, including use as first- or second-line therapy.
Even if we receive marketing approval of a product candidate, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our products, if approved.
Any marketing approvals that we receive for any current or future product candidate may be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-market testing and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the product candidate. The FDA may also require a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, as a condition of approval of any product candidate, which could include requirements for a medication guide, physician communication plans or additional elements to ensure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority approves a product candidate, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, advertising, promotion, import and export and record keeping for the product candidate will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. These requirements include, among others, submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration, as well as continued compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practice, or cGMP, and Good Clinical Practice, or GCP, for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval, and prohibitions on the promotion of an approved product for uses not included in the product’s approved labeling. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses, and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label may be subject to significant liability. However, physicians may, in their independent medical judgment, prescribe legally available products for off-label uses. The FDA does not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments but the FDA does restrict manufacturer’s communications on the subject of off-label use of their products.
Later discovery of previously unknown problems with any approved candidate, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with our third-party manufacturers or manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in, among other things:
|●||restrictions on the labeling, distribution, marketing or manufacturing of the product, withdrawal of the product from the market, or product recalls;|
|●||untitled and warning letters, or holds on clinical trials;|
|●||refusal by the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications we filed or suspension or revocation of license approvals;|
|●||requirements to conduct post-marketing studies or clinical trials;|
|●||restrictions on coverage by third-party payors;|
|●||fines, restitution or disgorgement of profits or revenues;|
|●||suspension or withdrawal of marketing approvals;|
|●||product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of the product; and|
|●||injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.|
The FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay marketing approval of a product. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
We face significant competition and if our competitors develop and market products that are more effective, safer or less expensive than the product candidates we develop, our commercial opportunities will be negatively impacted.
The life sciences industry is highly competitive. We are currently developing therapeutics that will compete, if approved, with other products and therapies that currently exist, are being developed or will in the future be developed, some of which we may not currently be aware.
We have competitors both in the United States and internationally, including major multinational pharmaceutical companies, established biotechnology companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies, universities and other research institutions. Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial, manufacturing, marketing, product development, technical and human resources than we do. Large pharmaceutical companies, in particular, have extensive experience in clinical testing, obtaining marketing approvals, recruiting patients and manufacturing pharmaceutical products. These companies also have significantly greater research and marketing capabilities than we do and may also have products that have been approved or are in late stages of development, and collaborative arrangements in our target markets with leading companies and research institutions. Established pharmaceutical companies may also invest heavily to accelerate discovery and development of novel compounds or to in-license novel compounds that could make the product candidates that we develop obsolete. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. As a result of all of these factors, our competitors may succeed in obtaining patent protection and/or marketing approval or discovering, developing and commercializing products in our field before we do.
There are a large number of companies developing or marketing treatments for cancer, including many major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. These treatments consist both of small molecule drug products, such as traditional chemotherapy, as well as novel immunotherapies. For example, a number of multinational companies as well as large biotechnology companies, including Astellas Pharma Inc., Seattle Genetics, Inc., AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline plc, and Stemline Therapeutics Inc. are developing programs for the targets that we are exploring for our BTC programs. Furthermore, Agenus Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Pfizer Inc., Roche Holding AG, or Roche, have or are developing programs for CD137, and Amgen Inc., Pieris Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Roche are developing bi-specific antibodies.
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 effects, are more convenient, have a broader label, are marketed more effectively, are reimbursed or are less expensive than any products that we may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA, European or other marketing approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market. Even if the product candidates we develop achieve marketing approval, they may be priced at a significant premium over competitive products if any have been approved by then, resulting in reduced competitiveness.
Smaller and other early stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors. These third parties compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific 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. In addition, the biopharmaceutical industry is characterized by rapid technological change. If we fail to stay at the forefront of technological change, we may be unable to compete effectively. Technological advances or products developed by our competitors may render our product candidates obsolete, less competitive or not economical.
The commercial success of any current or future product candidate will depend upon the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, payors and others in the medical community.
We have never commercialized a product, and even if we obtain any regulatory approval for our product candidates, the commercial success of our product candidates will depend in part on the medical community, patients, and payors accepting products based on our Bicycle peptides in general, and our product candidates in particular, as effective, safe and cost-effective. Any product that we bring to the market may not gain market acceptance by physicians, patients, payors and others in the medical community. Physicians are often reluctant to switch their patients from existing therapies even when new and potentially more effective or convenient treatments enter the market. Further, patients often acclimate to the therapy that they are currently taking and do not want to switch unless their
physicians recommend switching products or they are required to switch therapies due to lack of reimbursement for existing therapies.
The degree of market acceptance of these product candidates, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:
|●||the potential efficacy and potential advantages over alternative treatments;|
|●||the frequency and severity of any side effects, including any limitations or warnings contained in a product’s approved labeling;|
|●||the frequency and severity of any side effects resulting from follow-up requirements for the administration of our product candidates;|
|●||the relative convenience and ease of administration;|
|●||the willingness of the target patient population to try new therapies and of physicians to prescribe these therapies;|
|●||the strength of marketing and distribution support and timing of market introduction of competitive products;|
|●||publicity concerning our products or competing products and treatments; and|
|●||sufficient third-party insurance coverage and adequate reimbursement.|
Even if a product candidate displays a favorable efficacy and safety profile in preclinical studies and clinical trials, market acceptance of the product, if approved for commercial sale, will not be known until after it is launched. Our efforts to educate the medical community and payors on the benefits of our product candidates may require significant resources and may never be successful. Such efforts to educate the marketplace may require more resources than are required by the conventional technologies marketed by our competitors, particularly due to the novelty of our Bicycle approach. If these products do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenue and may not become profitable.
If the market opportunities for our product candidates are smaller than we believe they are, our product revenues may be adversely affected and our business may suffer.
We currently focus our research and product development on treatments for oncology indications and our product candidates are designed to target specific tumor antigens. Our understanding of both the number of people who have these diseases, as well as the subset of people with these diseases who have the potential to benefit from treatment with our product candidates, are based on estimates. These estimates may prove to be incorrect and new studies may reduce the estimated incidence or prevalence of these diseases. Patient identification efforts also influence the ability to address a patient population. If efforts in patient identification are unsuccessful or less impactful than anticipated, we may not address the entirety of the opportunity we are seeking.
In addition, the tumor antigens that our product candidates target may not be expressed as broadly as we anticipate. Further, if companion diagnostics are not developed alongside our product candidates, testing patients for the tumor antigens may not be possible, which would hamper our ability to identify patients who could benefit from treatment with our product candidates.
As a result, the number of patients we are able to identify in the United States, the European Union and elsewhere may turn out to be lower than expected, may not be otherwise amenable to treatment with our products or patients may become increasingly difficult to access, all of which would adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
The insurance coverage and reimbursement status of newly-approved products is uncertain. Failure to obtain or maintain adequate coverage and reimbursement for any of our product candidates, if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.
We expect the cost of our product candidates to be substantial, when and if they achieve market approval. The availability and extent of reimbursement by governmental and private payors is essential for most patients to be able to afford expensive treatments. Sales of our product candidates will depend substantially, both domestically and abroad, on the extent to which the costs of our product candidates will be paid by private payors, such as private health coverage insurers, health maintenance, managed care, pharmacy benefit and similar healthcare management organizations, or reimbursed by government health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. We may not be able to provide data sufficient to gain acceptance with respect to coverage and reimbursement. If reimbursement is not available, or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our product candidates, even if approved. Even if coverage is provided, the approved reimbursement amount may not be high enough to allow us to establish or maintain pricing sufficient to realize a sufficient return on our investment.
There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. In the United States, the principal decisions about coverage and reimbursement for new medicines are typically made by CMS, as the CMS decides whether and to what extent a new medicine will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare. Private payors tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. It is difficult to predict what CMS will decide with respect to coverage and reimbursement for novel products such as ours, as there is no body of established practices and precedents for these new products. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that use of a product is: (1) a covered benefit under its health plan; (2) safe, effective and medically necessary; (3) appropriate for the specific patient; (4) cost-effective; and (5) neither experimental nor investigational. In the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors. 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 products to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. Even if we obtain coverage for a given product, the resulting reimbursement payment rates might not be adequate for us to achieve or sustain profitability or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific drug products on an approved list, also known as a formulary, which might not include all of the approved drugs for a particular indication.
Additionally, third-party payors may not cover, or provide adequate reimbursement for, long-term follow-up evaluations required following the use of product candidates. Patients are unlikely to use our product candidates unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of our product candidates. Because our product candidates may have a higher cost of goods than conventional therapies, and may require long-term follow-up evaluations, the risk that coverage and reimbursement rates may be inadequate for us to achieve profitability may be greater. There is significant uncertainty related to insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. It is difficult to predict at this time what third-party payors will decide with respect to the coverage and reimbursement for our product candidates.
We or our collaborators will be required to obtain coverage and reimbursement for companion diagnostic tests separate and apart from the coverage and reimbursement we seek for our product candidates, once approved. There is significant uncertainty regarding our and our collaborators ability to obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement for any companion diagnostic test for the same reasons applicable to our product candidates.
Outside the United States, certain countries, including a number of member states of the European Union, set prices and reimbursement for pharmaceutical products, or medicinal products, as they are commonly referred to in the European Union. These countries have broad discretion in setting prices and we cannot be sure that such prices and reimbursement will be acceptable to us or our collaborators. If the regulatory authorities in these jurisdictions set prices or reimbursement levels that are not commercially attractive for us or our collaborators, our revenues from sales by us or our collaborators, and the potential profitability of our drug products, in those countries would be negatively affected. An increasing number of countries are taking initiatives to attempt to reduce large budget deficits by focusing cost-
cutting efforts on pharmaceuticals for their state-run health care systems. These international price control efforts have impacted all regions of the world, but have been most drastic in the European Union. Additionally, some countries require approval of the sale price of a product before it can be lawfully marketed. In many countries, the pricing review period begins after marketing or product licensing approval is granted. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we, or any collaborators, may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost-effectiveness of our product to other available therapies. As a result, we might obtain marketing approval for a product in a particular country, but then may experience delays in the reimbursement approval of our product or be subject to price regulations that would delay our commercial launch of the product, possibly for lengthy time periods, which could negatively impact the revenues we are able to generate from the sale of the product in that particular country.
Moreover, efforts by governments and payors, in the United States and abroad, to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and level of reimbursement for new products approved and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate reimbursement for our product candidates. There has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of any 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 other treatments, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products.
If reimbursement of our products is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business could be harmed.
If the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities approve generic versions of any of our product candidates that receive marketing approval, or such authorities do not grant such products appropriate periods of data exclusivity before approving generic versions of such products, the sales of such products could be adversely affected.
Once a NDA is approved, the product covered thereby becomes a “reference-listed drug” in the FDA’s publication, “Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations,” or the Orange Book. Manufacturers may seek approval of generic versions of reference-listed drugs through submission of abbreviated new drug applications, or ANDAs, in the United States. In support of an ANDA, a generic manufacturer generally must show that its product has the same active ingredient(s), dosage form, strength, route of administration and conditions of use or labeling as the reference-listed drug and that the generic version is bioequivalent to the reference-listed drug, meaning, in part, that it is absorbed in the body at the same rate and to the same extent. Generic products may be significantly less costly to bring to market than the reference-listed drug and companies that produce generic products are generally able to offer them at lower prices. Thus, following the introduction of a generic drug, a significant percentage of the sales of any branded product or reference-listed drug may be typically lost to the generic product, and the price of the branded product may be lowered.
The FDA may not accept for review or approve an ANDA for a generic product until any applicable period of non-patent exclusivity for the reference-listed drug has expired. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, provides a period of five years of non-patent exclusivity for a new drug containing a new chemical entity, or NCE. Specifically, in cases where such exclusivity has been granted, an ANDA may not be filed with the FDA until the expiration of five years unless the submission is accompanied by a Paragraph IV certification that a patent covering the reference-listed drug is either invalid or will not be infringed by the generic product, in which case the applicant may submit its application four years following approval of the reference-listed drug. It is unclear whether the FDA will treat the active ingredients in our product candidates as NCEs and, therefore, afford them five years of NCE data exclusivity if they are approved. If any product we develop does not receive five years of NCE exclusivity, the FDA may approve generic versions of such product three years after its date of approval, subject to the requirement that the ANDA applicant certifies to any patents listed for our products in the Orange Book. Three year exclusivity is given to a non-NCE drug if the NDA includes reports of one or more new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability or
bioequivalence studies, that were conducted by or for the applicant and are essential to the approval of the NDA. Manufacturers may seek to launch these generic products following the expiration of the applicable marketing exclusivity period, even if we still have patent protection for our product.
Competition that our products may face from generic versions of our products could negatively impact our future revenue, profitability and cash flows and substantially limit our ability to obtain a return on our investments in those product candidates.
We may be subject, directly or indirectly, to federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws, false claims laws health information privacy and security laws, and other health care laws and regulations. If we are unable to comply, or have not fully complied, with such laws, we could face substantial penalties.
If we obtain FDA approval for any of our product candidates and begin commercializing those products in the United States, our operations will be directly, or indirectly through our prescribers, customers and purchasers, subject to various federal and state fraud and abuse laws and regulations, including, without limitation, the federal Health Care Program Anti-Kickback Statute, or Anti-Kickback Statute, the federal civil and criminal False Claims Act and Physician Payments Sunshine Act and regulations. These laws will impact, among other things, our clinical research, proposed sales, marketing and educational programs and other interactions with healthcare professionals. In addition, we may be subject to patient privacy laws by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. The laws that will affect our operations include, but are not limited to:
|●||the Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons or entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, receiving, offering or paying any remuneration (including any kickback, bribe or rebate), directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce, or in return for, either the referral of an individual, or the purchase, lease, order, arrangement, or recommendation of any good, facility, item or service for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under a federal healthcare program, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs. “Remuneration” has been interpreted broadly to include anything of value. A person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the Anti-Kickback Statute or specific intent to violate it to have committed a violation. In addition, the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal False Claims Act, or FCA, or federal civil money penalties. The Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers, and formulary managers on the other. There are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting some common activities from prosecution;|
|●||the federal civil and criminal false claims laws, including the FCA, and civil monetary penalty laws, which impose criminal and civil penalties against individuals or entities for, among other things: knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the federal government, claims for payment that are false or fraudulent; knowingly making, using or causing to be made or used, a false statement of record material to a false or fraudulent claim or obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the federal government. Manufacturers can be held liable under the FCA even when they do not submit claims directly to government payors if they are deemed to “cause” the submission of false or fraudulent claims. The FCA also permits a private individual acting as a “whistleblower” to bring actions on behalf of the federal government alleging violations of the FCA and to share in any monetary recovery;|
|●||the beneficiary inducement provisions of the CMP Law, which prohibits, among other things, the offering or giving of remuneration, which includes, without limitation, any transfer of items or services for free or for less than fair market value (with limited exceptions), to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary that the person knows or should know is likely to influence the beneficiary’s selection of a particular supplier of items or services reimbursable by a federal or state governmental program;|
|●||the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which created new federal criminal statutes that prohibit a person from knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to|
|execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program or obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody or control of, any healthcare benefit program, regardless of the payor (e.g., public or private) and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up by any trick or device a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services relating to healthcare matters; similar to the Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation;|
|●||HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, and their respective implementing regulations, which impose requirements on certain healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, known as covered entities, as well as their respective business associates, individuals and entities that perform services on their behalf that involve the use or disclosure of individually identifiable health information and their subcontractors that use disclose or otherwise process individually identifiable health information, relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information;|
|●||the U.S. federal transparency requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or collectively, ACA, including the provision commonly referred to as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which requires applicable manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (with certain exceptions) to report annually to CMS information related to payments or other transfers of value made to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by the physicians described above and their immediate family members. Beginning in 2022, applicable manufacturers also will be required to report information regarding payments and transfers of value provided, during the previous year to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse anesthetists, anesthesiologist assistants and certified nurse-midwives;|
|●||federal government price reporting laws, which require us to calculate and report complex pricing metrics in an accurate and timely manner to government programs; and|
|●||federal consumer protection and unfair competition laws, which broadly regulate marketplace activities and activities that potentially harm consumers.|
Additionally, we are subject to state and foreign equivalents of each of the healthcare laws and regulations described above, among others, some of which may be broader in scope and may apply regardless of the payer. Many U.S. states have adopted laws similar to the Anti-Kickback Statute and FCA, and may apply to our business practices, including, but not limited to, research, distribution, sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by non-governmental payors, including private insurers. In addition, some states have passed laws that require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the April 2003 Office of Inspector General Compliance Program Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and/or the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals. Several states also impose other marketing restrictions or require pharmaceutical companies to make marketing or price disclosures to the state. Certain states and local jurisdictions also require the registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives. There are ambiguities as to what is required to comply with these state requirements, and if we fail to comply with an applicable state law requirement we could be subject to significant penalties. Finally, there are state and foreign laws governing the privacy and security of health information, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.
Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors available, it is possible that some of our business activities could be subject to challenge under one or more of such laws. Law enforcement authorities are increasingly focused on enforcing fraud and abuse laws, and it is possible that some of
our practices may be challenged under these laws. Efforts to ensure that our current and future business arrangements with third parties, and our business generally, will comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. If our operations, including our arrangements with physicians and other healthcare providers, some of whom receive share options as compensation for services provided, are found to be in violation of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including, without limitation, significant administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, imprisonment, exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs (such as Medicare and Medicaid), additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, and imprisonment, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results. Any action for violation of these laws, even if successfully defended, could cause a pharmaceutical manufacturer to incur significant legal expenses and divert management’s attention from the operation of the business. Prohibitions or restrictions on sales or withdrawal of future marketed products could materially affect business in an adverse way.
Healthcare legislative reform measures may have a negative impact on our business and results of operations.
In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and continue to be, several legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities, and affect our ability to profitably sell any product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements, (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling, (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products, (iv) restriction on coverage, reimbursement, and pricing for our products, (v) transparency reporting obligations regarding transfers of value to health care professionals or (vi) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Among policy makers in the United States and elsewhere, there is significant interest in promoting changes in healthcare systems with the stated goals of containing healthcare costs, improving quality and/or expanding access. In the United States, the pharmaceutical industry has been a particular focus of these efforts and has been significantly affected by major legislative initiatives. In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, was passed, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both the government and private insurers, and significantly impacts the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, subjected biological products to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars, created a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, established annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs, and created a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 70% point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D.
Since January 2017, former President Trump signed Executive Orders and other directives designed to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the ACA or otherwise circumvent some of the requirements for health insurance mandated by the ACA. One Executive Order directed federal agencies with authorities and responsibilities under the ACA to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision of the ACA that would impose a fiscal or regulatory burden on states, individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. Another Executive Order terminated the cost- sharing subsidies that reimburse insurers under the ACA. Several state Attorneys General filed suit to stop the administration from terminating the subsidies, but their request for a restraining order was denied by a federal judge in California on October 25, 2017. Further, on June 14, 2018, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the federal government was not required to pay more than $12 billion in ACA risk corridor payments to third-party payors who argued were owed to them. On April 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit decision that previously upheld Congress’
denial of $12 billion in “risk corridor.” The full effects of this gap in reimbursement on third-party payors, the viability of the ACA marketplace, providers, and potentially our business, are not yet known.
Concurrently, Congress has considered legislation that would repeal or repeal and replace all or part of the ACA. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, several bills affecting implementation of certain taxes under the ACA have been signed into law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or the Tax Act, includes a provision that repealed, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the Affordable Care Act on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” In addition, the 2020 federal spending package permanently eliminated, effective January 1, 2020, the ACA-mandated “Cadillac” tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage and medical device tax and, effective January 1, 2021, also eliminated the health insurer tax. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or the BBA, among other things, amended the Affordable Care Act, effective January 1, 2019, to close the coverage gap in most Medicare drug plans, commonly referred to as the “donut hole.” On December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Northern District of Texas, or the Texas District Court Judge, ruled that the individual mandate is a critical and inseverable feature of the Affordable Care Act, and therefore, because it was repealed as part of the Tax Act, the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are invalid as well. Additionally, on December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing this case, but it is unknown when a decision will be reached. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has yet ruled on the constitutionality of the ACA, on January 28, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through May 15, 2021 for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructs certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA. It is unclear how the Supreme Court ruling, other such litigation, and the healthcare reform measures of the Biden administration will impact the ACA and our business.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted. These changes include aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which began in 2013, and due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, including the BBA, will remain in effect through 2030 unless additional Congressional action is taken. However, pursuant to certain COVID-19 relief legislation these Medicare sequester reductions have been suspended from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.
There has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. At the federal level, the former Trump administration used several means to propose or implement drug pricing reform, including through federal budget proposals, executive orders and policy initiatives. For example, on July 24, 2020 and September 13, 2020, former President Trump signed several Executive Orders aimed at lowering drug pricing that seek to implement several of the administration's proposals. In response, the FDA released a final rule on September 24, 2020, which went into effect on November 30, 2020, providing guidance for states to build and submit importation plans for drugs from Canada. Further, on November 20, 2020 CMS issued an Interim Final Rule implementing the Most Favored Nation, or MFN, Model under which Medicare Part B reimbursement rates will be calculated for certain drugs and biologicals based on the lowest price drug manufacturers receive in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries with a similar gross domestic product per capita. The MFN Model regulations mandate participation by identified Part B providers and will apply in all U.S. states and territories for a seven-year period and was scheduled to begin on January 1, 2021 and end on December 31, 2027. On December 28, 2020, the United States District Court in Northern California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against implementation of the interim final rule. Additionally, on November
20, 2020, HHS finalized a regulation removing safe harbor protection for price reductions from pharmaceutical manufacturers to plan sponsors under Part D, either directly or through pharmacy benefit managers, unless the price reduction is required by law. The implementation of the rule has been delayed by the Biden administration from January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2023 in response to ongoing litigation. The rule also creates a new safe harbor for price reductions reflected at the point-of-sale, as well as a safe harbor for certain fixed fee arrangements between pharmacy benefit managers and manufacturers the implementation of which have also been delayed pending review by the Biden administration until March 22, 2021. However, it is unclear whether the Biden administration will work to reverse these measures or pursue similar policy initiatives. At the state level, legislatures have 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.
We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation, administrative or executive action. We expect that these and other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved drug, which could have an adverse effect on customers for our product candidates. It is possible that additional governmental action is taken to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors.
There have been, and likely will continue to be, legislative and regulatory proposals at the foreign, federal and state levels directed at broadening the availability of healthcare and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability, or commercialize our products. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenue from product candidates that we may successfully develop and for which we may obtain regulatory approval and may affect our overall financial condition and ability to develop product candidates.
We are subject to the U.K. Bribery Act 2010, or the Bribery Act, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, or the FCPA, and other anti-corruption laws, as well as export control laws, import and customs laws, trade and economic sanctions laws and other laws governing our operations.
Our operations are subject to anti-corruption laws, including the Bribery Act, the FCPA, the U.S. domestic bribery statute contained in 18 U.S.C. §201, the U.S. Travel Act, and other anti-corruption laws that apply in countries where we do business. The Bribery Act, the FCPA and these other laws generally prohibit us, our employees and our intermediaries from authorizing, promising, offering, or providing, directly or indirectly, improper or prohibited payments, or anything else of value, to government officials or other persons to obtain or retain business or gain some other business advantage. Under the Bribery Act, we may also be liable for failing to prevent a person associated with us from committing a bribery offense. We and our commercial partners operate in a number of jurisdictions that pose a high risk of potential Bribery Act or FCPA violations, and we participate in collaborations and relationships with third parties whose corrupt or illegal activities could potentially subject us to liability under the Bribery Act, FCPA or local anti-corruption laws, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have actual knowledge of such activities. In addition, we cannot predict the nature, scope or effect of future regulatory requirements to which our international operations might be subject or the manner in which existing laws might be administered or interpreted.
We are also subject to other laws and regulations governing our international operations, including regulations administered by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States, and authorities in the European Union, including applicable export control regulations, economic sanctions and embargoes on certain countries and persons, anti-money laundering laws, import and customs requirements and currency exchange regulations, collectively referred to as the Trade Control laws.
There is no assurance that we will be completely effective in ensuring our compliance with all applicable anti-corruption laws, including the Bribery Act, the FCPA or other legal requirements, including Trade Control laws. If we are not in compliance with the Bribery Act, the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws, we may be subject to criminal and civil penalties, disgorgement and other sanctions and remedial measures, and legal expenses,
which could have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. Likewise, any investigation of any potential violations of the Bribery Act, the FCPA, other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws by the United Kingdom, United States or other authorities could also have an adverse impact on our reputation, our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our activities in the United States subject us to various laws relating to foreign investment and the export of certain technologies, and our failure to comply with these laws or adequately monitor the compliance of our suppliers and others we do business with could subject us to substantial fines, penalties and even injunctions, the imposition of which on us could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
Because we have a U.S. subsidiary and substantial operations in the United States, we are subject to U.S. laws that regulate foreign investments in U.S. businesses and access by foreign persons to technology developed and produced in the United States. These laws include section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended by the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018, and the regulations at 31 C.F.R. Parts 800 and 801, as amended, administered by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States; and the Export Control Reform Act of 2018, which is being implemented in part through Commerce Department rulemakings to impose new export control restrictions on “emerging and foundational technologies” yet to be fully identified. Application of these laws, including as they are implemented through regulations being developed, may negatively impact our business in various ways, including by restricting our access to capital and markets; limiting the collaborations we may pursue; regulating the export our products, services, and technology from the United States and abroad; increasing our costs and the time necessary to obtain required authorizations and to ensure compliance; and threatening monetary fines and other penalties if we do not.
If we fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
We are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Our operations involve the use of hazardous and flammable materials, including chemicals and biological materials. Our operations also produce hazardous waste products. We generally contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and wastes. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from these materials. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from our use of hazardous materials, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We also could incur significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties. Furthermore, environmental laws and regulations are complex, change frequently and have tended to become more stringent. We cannot predict the impact of such changes and cannot be certain of our future compliance. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.
Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of hazardous materials or other work-related injuries, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions or liabilities, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks Related to Our Business and Our International Operations
COVID-19 could impact our business.
Our business could be adversely affected by the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in regions where we or third parties on which we rely have significant manufacturing facilities, concentrations of clinical trial sites or
other business operations. The COVID-19 pandemic could materially affect our operations as well as causing significant disruption in the operations and business of third-party manufacturers, CROs, other services providers, and collaborators with whom we conduct business.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many state, local and foreign governments, including the UK and U.S. put in place quarantines, executive orders, shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders and similar government orders and restrictions in order to control the spread of the disease. While some restrictions have recently been relaxed, others have been re-imposed following prior relaxation as a result of continually evolving incidence and rates of infection. Such orders or restrictions, or the perception that such orders or restrictions could occur or continue for a protracted period of time, have resulted in business closures, work stoppages, slowdowns and delays, work-from-home policies, travel restrictions and cancellation of events, among other effects that could negatively impact productivity and disrupt our business and those of third-party manufacturers, CROs, other services providers, and collaborators with whom we conduct business. While the rollout of vaccines has begun, the timing of vaccinations, lifting of movement restrictions, and reinstitution of in-person events is unknown.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain of our employees continue to work remotely. We have prepared plans to reopen our offices to allow non-laboratory based employees to return to the office, which will be based on a phased approach. However, in light of continually changing circumstances regarding infection rates and local government recommendations, we may be required to suspend or reverse any planned return to the office in the future. Additionally, we may experience disruptions if our employees become ill, despite the availability of vaccines, and are unable to perform their duties. The effects of any of our work-from-home policies may negatively impact productivity, disrupt our business and delay our clinical programs and timelines, the magnitude of which will depend, in part, on the length and severity of the restrictions and other limitations on our ability to conduct our business in the ordinary course.
In addition, our ability to conduct clinical trials has been and may continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, all clinical sites for the Phase I/IIa trial of BT1718 being conducted by Cancer Research UK in the United Kingdom temporarily paused enrollment of new patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the first half of 2020. While the pause in enrollment has been lifted during the second quarter of 2020 and patient enrollment in the Phase IIa portion of the clinical trial is again underway, further clinical site initiation and patient enrollment may be suspended again or delayed due to prioritization of hospital resources toward the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccination efforts, or new or renewed shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. Some patients may not be able to comply with clinical trial protocols if quarantines impede patient movement or interrupt healthcare services. Similarly, our ability to recruit and retain patients and principal investigators and site staff who, as healthcare providers, may have heightened exposure to COVID-19, may adversely impact our future clinical trial operations.
The pandemic and related government and private sector responsive actions have affected the broader economies and financial markets, triggering an economic downturn, which has at points adversely affected, and could again adversely affect, our ability to access capital, which could negatively affect our liquidity. In addition, a recession or resulting adverse impacts on the capital markets resulting from the ongoing spread of COVID-19 could materially affect our business.
It is impossible to predict all effects and the ultimate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the situation continues to evolve. The full extent of COVID-19’s impact on our clinical development and other operations and financial performance depends on future developments that are uncertain and unpredictable, including the timing of vaccine rollouts and herd immunity, virus mutations and variants, and any new information that may emerge concerning the virus, vaccines, and containment, all of which may vary across regions. Any of these factors could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, operating results, and ability to execute and capitalize on our strategies.
As a company based outside of the United States, we are subject to economic, political, regulatory and other risks associated with international operations.
As a company based in the United Kingdom, our business is subject to risks associated with conducting business outside of the United States. Many of our suppliers and clinical trial relationships are located outside the United States. Accordingly, our future results could be harmed by a variety of factors, including:
|●||economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability in particular non-U.S. economies and markets;|
|●||differing and changing regulatory requirements for product approvals;|
|●||differing jurisdictions could present different issues for securing, maintaining or obtaining freedom to operate in such jurisdictions;|
|●||potentially reduced protection for intellectual property rights;|
|●||difficulties in compliance with different, complex and changing laws, regulations and court systems of multiple jurisdictions and compliance with a wide variety of foreign laws, treaties and regulations;|
|●||changes in non-U.S. regulations and customs, tariffs and trade barriers;|
|●||changes in non-U.S. currency exchange rates of the pound sterling, U.S. dollar, euro and currency controls;|
|●||changes in a specific country’s or region’s political or economic environment, including the implications of the recent decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union;|
|●||trade protection measures, import or export licensing requirements or other restrictive actions by governments;|
|●||differing reimbursement regimes and price controls in certain non-U.S. markets;|
|●||negative consequences from changes in tax laws;|
|●||compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad, including, for example, the variable tax treatment in different jurisdictions of options granted under our share option schemes or equity incentive plans;|
|●||workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States;|
|●||litigation or administrative actions resulting from claims against us by current or former employees or consultants individually or as part of class actions, including claims of wrongful terminations, discrimination, misclassification or other violations of labor law or other alleged conduct;|
|●||difficulties associated with staffing and managing international operations, including differing labor relations;|
|●||production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad; and|
|●||business interruptions resulting from geo-political actions, including war and terrorism, natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, floods and fires, or public health crises, including outbreaks of COVID-19 or H1N1 flu.|
Any or all of these factors could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
European data collection is governed by restrictive regulations governing the use, processing, and cross-border transfer of personal information.
The collection and use of personal data (including health-related personal data) in the EEA, is governed by the provisions of the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679, or GDPR, which became effective and enforceable across all then-current member states of the EEA on May 25, 2018. The GDPR also provides that EEA member states may make their own national laws and regulations to introduce specific requirements related to the processing of “special categories of personal data,” including personal data related to health, biometric data used for unique identification purposes and genetic information, as well as personal data related to criminal offenses or convictions.
The GDPR sets out a number of requirements that must be complied with when handling personal data (i.e.,
data relating to an identified or identifiable living individual) including: the obligation to appoint a data protection officer in certain circumstances; increased accountability and record-keeping obligations; increased transparency obligations for data controllers; onerous obligations on service providers who process personal data simply on behalf of others; the obligation to carry out so-called data protection impact assessments in certain circumstances; obligations to comply with data subjects’ exercise of an increased set of rights in certain circumstances (such as rights for individuals to be “forgotten,” rights to data portability, rights to object, etc., together with express rights to seek legal remedies in the event the individual believes his or her rights have been violated); a heightened and more-codified standard of data subject consent; and the obligation to notify certain significant personal data breaches to the relevant supervisory authority(ies) and affected individuals. In addition, the GDPR materially expanded the definition of what is expressly provided to constitute personal data (including, for example, by expressly clarifying that the GDPR applies to “pseudonymized” (i.e., key-coded) data, which is often processed by sponsors in the context of clinical trials where identification of underlying subjects is not required).
The GDPR has “extra-territorial” reach in that it applies to any controller or process of personal data that processes personal data in the context of an establishment in the EEA, or to a controller or processor with no establishment in the EEA where their processing concerns the offering of goods or services to individuals in the EEA and/or the monitoring of their behavior.
In addition, European data protection laws, such as the GDPR, generally prohibit the transfer of personal data from the EEA, and Switzerland to the United States, and most other countries, unless the parties to the transfer have implemented specific safeguards to protect the transferred personal data. One of the primary safeguards used for transfers of personal data to the United States was the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield framework administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. On July 16, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union, or CJEU, invalidated the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, under which personal data could be transferred from the EEA and the United Kingdom to U.S. entities that had self-certified under the Privacy Shield. To align with the CJEU’s decision in respect of the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield, on September 8, 2020, the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner announced that the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield regime was also inadequate for the purposes of personal data transfers from Switzerland to the U.S. entities who had self-certified under the Swiss Privacy Shield.
The CJEU decision referenced above also cast doubt on the ability to use one of the primary alternatives to the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield, namely, the European Commission’s Standard Contractual Clauses, to lawfully transfer personal data to the United States and most other countries. Use of the Standard Contractual Clauses 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. At present, there are few if any viable alternatives to the Privacy Shield and the Standard Contractual Clauses. As such, our transfers of personal data to the United States may not comply with European data protection law and may increase our exposure to the GDPR’s heightened sanctions for violations of its cross-border data transfer restrictions, including fines of up to 4% of annual global revenue or €20 million, whichever is higher, and injunctions against transfers. As supervisory authorities issue further guidance on personal data export mechanisms, including circumstances where the Standard Contractual Clauses can and cannot be used, and/or start taking enforcement action, we could suffer additional costs, complaints and/or regulatory investigations or fines, and/or if we are otherwise unable to transfer personal data
between and among countries and regions in which we operate and/or engage providers and/or otherwise transfer personal data, it could affect the manner in which we receive and/or provide our services, the geographical location or segregation of our relevant systems and operations, and could adversely affect our financial results and generally increase compliance risk. Additionally, other countries outside of Europe have enacted or are considering enacting similar cross-border data transfer restrictions and laws requiring local data residency, which could increase the cost and complexity of operating our business.
Further, Brexit has created uncertainty regarding data protection regulation in the United Kingdom. Following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union on January 31, 2020, pursuant to the transitional arrangements agreed to between the United Kingdom and European Union, the GDPR continued to have effect in law in the United Kingdom, and continued to do so until December 31, 2020 as if the United Kingdom remained a Member State of the European Union for such purposes. Following December 31, 2020, and the expiry of those transitional arrangements, the data protection obligations of the GDPR continue to apply to United Kingdom-related processing of personal data in substantially unvaried form under the so-called “UK GDPR” (i.e., the GDPR as it continues to form part of law in the United Kingdom by virtue of section 3 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as amended (including by the various Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc) (EU Exit) Regulations)). However, going forward, there will be increasing scope for divergence in application, interpretation and enforcement of the data protection law as between the United Kingdom and EEA. Furthermore, the relationship between the United Kingdom and the EEA in relation to certain aspects of data protection law remains somewhat uncertain. For example, it is unclear whether transfers of personal data from the EEA to the United Kingdom will be permitted to take place on the basis of a future adequacy decision of the European Commission, or whether a “transfer mechanism,” such as the Standard Contractual Clauses, will be required. For the meantime, under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, it has been agreed that transfers of personal data to the United Kingdom from European Union Member States will not be treated as “restricted transfers” to a non-EEA country for a period of up to four months from January 1, 2021, plus a potential further two months extension, or the extended adequacy assessment period. This will also apply to transfers to the United Kingdom from EEA Member States, assuming those Member States accede to the relevant provision of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Although the current maximum duration of the extended adequacy assessment period is six months it may end sooner, for example, in the event that the European Commission adopts an adequacy decision in respect of the United Kingdom, or the United Kingdom amends the U.K. GDPR and/or makes certain changes regarding data transfers under the U.K. GDPR/ Data Protection Act 2018 without the consent of the European Union (unless those amendments or decisions are made simply to keep relevant United Kingdom laws aligned with the European Union’s data protection regime). If the European Commission does not adopt an ‘adequacy decision’ in respect of the United Kingdom prior to the expiry of the extended adequacy assessment period, from that point onwards the United Kingdom will be an “inadequate third country” under the GDPR and transfers of data from the EEA to the United Kingdom will require a “transfer mechanism,” such as the Standard Contractual Clauses.
Additionally, as noted above, the United Kingdom has transposed the GDPR into United Kingdom domestic law by way of the U.K. GDPR with effect from January 2021, which could expose us to two parallel regimes, each of which potentially authorizes similar fines and other potentially divergent enforcement actions for certain violations (each regime separately having the ability to fine up to the higher of €20,000,000/£17,000,000 or 4% of an undertaking’s total global annual turnover). Also, following the expiry of the post-Brexit transitional arrangements, the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office is not able to be our “lead supervisory authority” in respect of any “cross border processing” for the purposes of the GDPR. For so long as we are unable to, and/or do not, designate a lead supervisory authority in an EEA member state, with effect from January 1, 2021, we are not able to benefit from the GDPR’s “one stop shop” mechanism. Amongst other things, this would mean that, in the event of a violation of the GDPR affecting data subjects across the United Kingdom and the EEA, we could be investigated by, and ultimately fined by the United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s Office and the supervisory authority in each and every EEA member state where data subjects have been affected by such violation. Other countries have also passed or are considering passing laws requiring local data residency and/or restricting the international transfer of data.
Exchange rate fluctuations may materially affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Owing to the international scope of our operations, fluctuations in exchange rates, particularly between the pound sterling and the U.S. dollar, may adversely affect us. Although we are based in the United Kingdom, we source
research and development, manufacturing, consulting and other services from the United States and the European Union and Asia that are billed in U.S. dollars. Further, potential future revenue may be derived from abroad, particularly from the United States. As a result, our business and the price of our ADSs may be affected by fluctuations in foreign exchange rates not only between the pound sterling and the U.S. dollar, but also the euro, which may have a significant impact on our results of operations and cash flows from period to period. Currently, we do not have any exchange rate hedging arrangements in place. Any fluctuation in the exchange rate of these foreign currencies may negatively impact our business, financial condition and operating results. Global economic events, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, have and may continue to significantly impact local economies and the foreign exchange markets, which may increase the risks associated with sales denominated in foreign currencies.
Risks Related to Our Dependence on Third Parties
For certain product candidates, we depend, or will depend, on development and commercialization collaborators to develop and conduct clinical trials with, obtain regulatory approvals for, and if approved, market and sell product candidates. If such collaborators fail to perform as expected, the potential for us to generate future revenue from such product candidates would be significantly reduced and our business would be harmed.
For certain products candidates, we depend, or will depend, on our development and commercial collaborators to develop, conduct clinical trials of, and, if approved, commercialize product candidates.
Under our collaborations with Genentech, AstraZeneca, Oxurion, and DDF, we are responsible for identifying and optimizing Bicycle peptides related to collaboration targets and our collaborators are responsible for further development and product commercialization after we complete the defined research screening and compound optimization. As part of our collaboration with Cancer Research Technology Limited and Cancer Research UK, Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development is sponsoring and funding a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of our lead product candidate, BT1718, in patients with advanced solid tumors, and will sponsor and fund development of BT7401 from current preclinical studies through the completion of a Phase IIa trial in patients with advanced solid tumors. We depend on these collaborators to develop and, where applicable, commercialize products based on Bicycle peptides, and the success of their efforts directly impacts the milestones and royalties we will receive. We cannot provide assurance that our collaborators will be successful in or that they will devote sufficient resources to the development or commercialization of their products. If our current or future collaboration and commercialization partners do not perform in the manner we expect or fail to fulfill their responsibilities in a timely manner, or at all, if our agreements with them terminate or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised, the clinical development, regulatory approval and commercialization efforts related to their and our product candidates and products could be delayed or terminated and it could become necessary for us to assume the responsibility at our own expense for the clinical development of such product candidates.
Our current collaborations and any future collaborations that we enter into are subject to numerous risks, including:
|●||collaborators have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to the collaborations;|
|●||collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected or fail to fulfill their responsibilities in a timely manner, or at all;|
|●||collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates that achieve regulatory approval or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on preclinical studies or clinical trial results, changes in the collaborators’ strategic focus or available funding or external factors, such as an acquisition, that divert resources or create competing priorities;|
|●||collaborators may delay preclinical studies or clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for clinical trials, stop a preclinical study or clinical trial or abandon a product candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials or require a new formulation of a product candidate for clinical testing;|
|●||we may not have access to, or may be restricted from disclosing, certain information regarding product candidates being developed or commercialized under a collaboration and, consequently, may have limited ability to inform our shareholders about the status of such product candidates;|
|●||collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidates if the collaborators believe that competitive products are more likely to be successfully developed or can be commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours;|
|●||the collaborations may not result in product candidates to develop and/or preclinical studies or clinical trials conducted as part of the collaborations may not be successful;|
|●||product candidates developed with collaborators may be viewed by our collaborators as competitive with their own product candidates or products, which may cause collaborators to stop commercialization of our product candidates;|
|●||a collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more of our product candidates that achieve regulatory approval may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of any such product candidate;|
|●||that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic|
|●||could materially affect our operations as well as causing significant disruption in the operations and business of our collaborators and the third-party manufacturers, CROs and other service providers that we and/or our collaborators conduct business with; and|
|●||collaborators may not properly maintain or defend our intellectual property rights or may use our proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our intellectual property or proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation.|
In addition, certain collaboration and commercialization agreements provide our collaborators with rights to terminate such agreements, which rights may or may not be subject to conditions, and which rights, if exercised, would adversely affect our product development efforts and could make it difficult for us to attract new collaborators. In that event, we would likely be required to limit the size and scope of efforts for the development and commercialization of such product candidates or products; we would likely be required to seek additional financing to fund further development or identify alternative strategic collaborations; our potential to generate future revenue from royalties and milestone payments from such product candidates or products would be significantly reduced, delayed or eliminated; and it could have an adverse effect on our business and future growth prospects. Our rights to recover tangible and intangible assets and intellectual property rights needed to advance a product candidate or product after termination of a collaboration may be limited by contract, and we may not be able to advance a program post-termination.
If conflicts arise with our development and commercialization collaborators or licensors, they may act in their own self-interest, which may be adverse to the interests of our company.
We may in the future experience disagreements with our development and commercialization collaborators or licensors. Conflicts may arise in our collaboration and license arrangements with third parties due to one or more of the following:
|●||disputes with respect to milestone, royalty and other payments that are believed due under the applicable agreements;|
|●||disagreements with respect to the ownership of intellectual property rights or scope of licenses;|
|●||disagreements with respect to the scope of any reporting obligations;|
|●||unwillingness on the part of a collaborator to keep us informed regarding the progress of its development and commercialization activities, or to permit public disclosure of these activities; and|
|●||disputes with respect to a collaborator’s or our development or commercialization efforts with respect to our products and product candidates.|
For example, we were previously involved in litigation with Pepscan Systems B.V., and its affiliates, or Pepscan, related to a non-exclusive patent license agreement that our subsidiary, BicycleRD Limited, or BicycleRD, entered into with Pepscan in 2009.
On November 20, 2020, we announced that we entered into a settlement and license agreement with Pepscan Systems B.V. regarding Bicycle’s use of Pepscan’s CLIPS peptide technology. The companies have agreed to settle all intellectual property disputes worldwide. Under the terms of the settlement, Bicycle has been granted a license to use CLIPS peptide technology in the development of its product candidates BT1718 and THR-149. We paid €3 million in November 2020, will pay €1 million on the first anniversary of the date of settlement, and will make potential additional payments to Pepscan based on achievement of specified clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones.
Conflicts with our development and commercialization collaborators or licensors could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations and future growth prospects. If we are unable to prevail against these challenges, our intellectual property estate may be materially harmed, which would impair our ability to establish competitive barriers to entry in the form of intellectual property protections.
We rely on third parties, including independent clinical investigators and CROs, to conduct and sponsor some of the clinical trials of our product candidates. Any failure by a third party to meet its obligations with respect to the clinical development of our product candidates may delay or impair our ability to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates.
We have relied upon and plan to continue to rely upon third parties, including independent clinical investigators, academic partners, regulatory affairs consultants and third-party CROs, to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including in some instances sponsoring such clinical trials, and to engage with regulatory authorities and monitor and manage data for our ongoing preclinical and clinical programs. For example, Cancer Research UK currently sponsors and funds the Phase I/IIa clinical trial of our lead product candidate, BT1718, in patients with advanced solid tumors. We also utilize CROs to perform toxicology studies related to our preclinical activities. While we will have agreements governing the activities of such third parties, we will control only certain aspects of their activities and have limited influence over their actual performance. Given the breadth of clinical therapeutic areas for which we believe Bicycles may have utility, we intend to continue to rely on external service providers rather than build internal regulatory expertise.
Any of these third parties may terminate their engagements with us under certain circumstances. We may not be able to enter into alternative arrangements or do so on commercially reasonable terms. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new contract research organization begins work. As a result, delays would likely occur, which could negatively impact our ability to meet our expected clinical development timelines and harm our business, financial condition and prospects.
We remain responsible for ensuring that each of our preclinical studies and clinical trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol and legal, regulatory and scientific standards, and our reliance on these third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and our third-party contractors and CROs are required to comply with GCP requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA, the Competent Authorities of the Member States of the EEA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for all of our products in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCP requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, principal investigators and trial sites. If we fail to exercise adequate oversight over any of our academic partners or CROs or if we or any of our academic partners or CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties
or obligations, fail to meet expected deadlines, or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or regulatory requirements, or for any other reasons, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that upon a regulatory inspection of us, our academic partners or our CROs or other third parties performing services in connection with our clinical trials, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our clinical trials complies with GCP regulations. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with product produced under applicable CGMP regulations. Our failure to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process.
Furthermore, the third parties conducting clinical trials on our behalf are not our employees, and except for remedies available to us under our agreements with such contractors, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time, skill and resources to our ongoing development programs. These contractors may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical trials or other drug development activities, which could impede their ability to devote appropriate time to our clinical programs. If these third parties, including clinical investigators, do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, meet expected deadlines or conduct our clinical trials in accordance with regulatory requirements or our stated protocols, we may not be able to obtain, or may be delayed in obtaining, marketing approvals for our product candidates. If that occurs, we will not be able to, or may be delayed in our efforts to, successfully commercialize our product candidates.
In addition, with respect to investigator-sponsored trials that are being or may be conducted, we do not control the design or conduct of these trials, and it is possible that the FDA or EMA will not view these investigator-sponsored trials as providing adequate support for future clinical trials or market approval, whether controlled by us or third parties, for any one or more reasons, including elements of the design or execution of the trials or safety concerns or other trial results. We expect that such arrangements will provide us certain information rights with respect to the investigator-sponsored trials, including the ability to obtain a license to obtain access to use and reference the data, including for our own regulatory submissions, resulting from the investigator-sponsored trials. However, we do not have control over the timing and reporting of the data from investigator-sponsored trials, nor do we own the data from the investigator-sponsored trials. If we are unable to confirm or replicate the results from the investigator-sponsored trials or if negative results are obtained, we would likely be further delayed or prevented from advancing further clinical development. Further, if investigators or institutions breach their obligations with respect to the clinical development of our product candidates, or if the data proves to be inadequate compared to the firsthand knowledge we might have gained had the investigator-sponsored trials been sponsored and conducted by us, then our ability to design and conduct any future clinical trials ourselves may be adversely affected. Additionally, the FDA or EMA may disagree with the sufficiency of our right of reference to the preclinical, manufacturing or clinical data generated by these investigator-sponsored trials, or our interpretation of preclinical, manufacturing or clinical data from these investigator-sponsored trials. If so, the FDA or EMA may require us to obtain and submit additional preclinical, manufacturing, or clinical data.
We intend to rely on third parties to manufacture product candidates, which increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of such product candidates or products or such quantities at an acceptable cost, which could delay, prevent or impair our development or commercialization efforts.
We do not own or operate manufacturing facilities for the production of clinical or commercial supplies of the product candidates that we are developing or evaluating in our development programs. We have limited personnel with experience in drug manufacturing and lack the resources and the capabilities to manufacture any of our product candidates on a clinical or commercial scale. We rely on third parties for supply of our product candidates, and our strategy is to outsource all manufacturing of our product candidates and products to third parties.
In order to conduct clinical trials of product candidates, we will need to have them manufactured in potentially large quantities. Our third-party manufacturers may be unable to successfully increase the manufacturing capacity for any of our product candidates in a timely or cost-effective manner, or at all. In addition, quality issues may arise during scale-up activities and at any other time. For example, ongoing data on the stability of our product candidates may shorten the expiry of our product candidates and lead to clinical trial material supply shortages, and potentially clinical trial delays. Additionally, our manufacturers may experience delays as a result of shelter-in-place, stay-at-home or
similar orders or other impacts due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If our third-party manufacturers are unable to successfully scale up the manufacture of our product candidates in sufficient quality and quantity, the development, testing and clinical trials of that product candidate may be delayed or infeasible, and regulatory approval or commercial launch of that product candidate may be delayed or not obtained, which could significantly harm our business.
Our use of new third-party manufacturers increases the risk of delays in production or insufficient supplies of our product candidates as we transfer our manufacturing technology to these manufacturers and as they gain experience manufacturing our product candidates. Even after a third-party manufacturer has gained significant experience in manufacturing our product candidates or even if we believe we have succeeded in optimizing the manufacturing process, there can be no assurance that such manufacturer will produce sufficient quantities of our product candidates in a timely manner or continuously over time, or at all.
We may be delayed if we need to change the manufacturing process used by a third party. Further, if we change an approved manufacturing process, then we may be delayed if the FDA or a comparable foreign authority needs to review the new manufacturing process before it may be used.
We operate an outsourced model for the manufacture of our product candidates, and contract with GMP licensed pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organizations. While we have engaged several third-party vendors to provide clinical and non-clinical supplies and fill-finish services, we do not currently have any agreements with third-party manufacturers for long-term commercial supplies. In the future, we may be unable to enter into agreements with third-party manufacturers for commercial supplies of any product candidate that we develop, or may be unable to do so on acceptable terms. Even if we are able to establish and maintain arrangements with third-party manufacturers, reliance on third-party manufacturers entails risks, including:
|●||reliance on third-parties for manufacturing process development, regulatory compliance and quality assurance;|
|●||limitations on supply availability resulting from capacity and scheduling constraints of third-parties;|
|●||the possible breach of manufacturing agreements by third-parties because of factors beyond our control; and|
|●||the possible termination or non-renewal of the manufacturing agreements by the third-party, at a time that is costly or inconvenient to us.|
Third-party manufacturers may not be able to comply with cGMP requirements or similar regulatory requirements outside the United States. Our failure, or the failure of our third-party manufacturers, to comply with applicable requirements could result in sanctions being imposed on us, including fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, license revocation, seizures or recalls of product candidates or products, operating restrictions and/or criminal prosecutions, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our product candidates. In addition, some of the product candidates we intend to develop, including BT1718, BT5528 and BT8009, use toxins or other substances that can be produced only in specialized facilities with specific authorizations and permits, and there can be no guarantee that we or our manufacturers can maintain such authorizations and permits. These specialized requirements may also limit the number of potential manufacturers that we can engage to produce our product candidates, and impair any efforts to transition to replacement manufacturers.
Our future product candidates and any products that we may develop may compete with other product candidates and products for access to manufacturing facilities. There are a limited number of manufacturers that operate under cGMP requirements that might be capable of manufacturing for us.
If the third parties that we engage to supply any materials or manufacture product for our preclinical tests and clinical trials should cease to continue to do so for any reason, including as a result of the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the global workforce and manufacturing operations, we likely would experience delays in advancing these tests and trials while we identify and qualify replacement suppliers or manufacturers and we may be
unable to obtain replacement supplies on terms that are favorable to us. In addition, if we are not able to obtain adequate supplies of our product candidates or the substances used to manufacture them, it will be more difficult for us to develop our product candidates and compete effectively.
Our current and anticipated future dependence upon others for the manufacture of our product candidates may adversely affect our future profit margins and our ability to develop product candidates and commercialize any products that receive marketing approval on a timely and competitive basis.
Our reliance on third parties requires us to share our trade secrets, which increases the possibility that a competitor will discover them or that our trade secrets will be misappropriated or disclosed.
Because we rely on third parties to manufacture our product candidates, and because we collaborate with various organizations and academic institutions on the development of our product candidates, we must, at times, share trade secrets with them. We seek to protect our proprietary technology in part by entering into confidentiality agreements and, if applicable, material transfer agreements, collaborative research agreements, consulting agreements or other similar agreements with our collaborators, advisors, employees and consultants prior to beginning research or disclosing proprietary information. These agreements typically limit the rights of the third parties to use or disclose our confidential information, such as trade secrets.
Despite the contractual provisions employed when working with third parties, the need to share trade secrets and other confidential information increases the risk that such trade secrets become known by our competitors, are inadvertently incorporated into the technology of others, or are disclosed or used in violation of these agreements. Given that our proprietary position is based, in part, on our know-how and trade secrets, a competitor’s discovery of our trade secrets or other unauthorized use or disclosure would impair our competitive position and may have a material adverse effect on our business.
In addition, these agreements typically restrict the ability of our collaborators, advisors, employees and consultants to publish data potentially relating to our trade secrets. Our academic collaborators typically have rights to publish data, provided that we are notified in advance and may delay publication for a specified time in order to secure our intellectual property rights arising from the collaboration. In other cases, publication rights are controlled exclusively by us, although in some cases we may share these rights with other parties. Despite our efforts to protect our trade secrets, our competitors may discover our trade secrets, either through breach of these agreements, independent development or publication of information including our trade secrets in cases where we do not have proprietary or otherwise protected rights at the time of publication. A competitor’s discovery of our trade secrets would impair our competitive position and have an adverse impact on our business.
If we are unable to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection for our products and product candidates, or if the scope of the patent and other intellectual property protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize our products and product candidates may be adversely affected.
Our ability to compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to maintain the proprietary nature of our technology and manufacturing processes. We rely on research, manufacturing and other know-how, patents, trade secrets, license agreements and contractual provisions to establish our intellectual property rights and protect our products and product candidates. These legal means, however, afford only limited protection and may not adequately protect our rights. As of December 31, 2020, our intellectual property portfolio included four patent families directed to novel scaffolds, 15 patent families directed to our platform technology, 74 patent families directed to bicyclic peptides and related conjugates, and ten patent families directed to methods of using certain bicyclic peptide conjugates for treating various indications.
In certain situations and as considered appropriate, we have sought, and we intend to continue to seek to protect our proprietary position by filing patent applications in the United States and, in at least some cases, one or more
countries outside the United States relating to current and future products and product candidates that are important to our business. However, we cannot predict whether the patent applications currently being pursued will issue as patents, or whether the claims of any resulting patents will provide us with a competitive advantage or whether we will be able to successfully pursue patent applications in the future relating to our current or future products and product candidates. Moreover, the patent application and approval process is expensive and time-consuming. We may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. Furthermore, we, or any future partners, collaborators, or licensees, may fail to identify patentable aspects of inventions made in the course of development and commercialization activities before it is too late to obtain patent protection on them. Therefore, we may miss potential opportunities to seek additional patent protection. It is possible that defects of form in the preparation or filing of patent applications may exist, or may arise in the future, for example with respect to proper priority claims, inventorship, claim scope, or requests for patent term adjustments. If we fail to establish, maintain or protect such patents and other intellectual property rights, such rights may be reduced or eliminated. If there are material defects in the form, preparation, prosecution or enforcement of our patents or patent applications, such patents may be invalid and/or unenforceable, and such applications may never result in valid, enforceable patents.
Even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications, if issued, may not provide us with any meaningful protection or prevent competitors from designing around our patent claims by developing similar or alternative technologies or therapeutics in a non-infringing manner. For example, a third party may develop a competitive therapy that provides benefits similar to one or more of our product candidates but that falls outside the scope of our patent protection. If the patent protection provided by the patents and patent applications we hold or pursue with respect to our product candidates is not sufficiently broad to impede such competition, our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates could be negatively affected.
Other parties, many of whom have substantially greater resources and have made significant investments in competing technologies, have developed or may develop technologies that may be related or competitive with our approach, and may have filed or may file patent applications and may have been issued or may be issued patents with claims that overlap or conflict with our patent applications, either by claiming the same compositions, formulations or methods or by claiming subject matter that could dominate our patent position. In addition, the laws of foreign countries may not protect our rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. As a result, any patents we may obtain in the future may not provide us with adequate and continuing patent protection sufficient to exclude others from commercializing products similar to our products and product candidates.
The patent position of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies generally is highly uncertain. No consistent policy regarding the breadth of claims allowed in biotechnology and pharmaceutical patents has emerged to date in the United States or in many foreign jurisdictions. In addition, the determination of patent rights with respect to pharmaceutical compounds commonly involves complex legal and factual questions, which has in recent years been the subject of much litigation. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our patent rights are highly uncertain. Our competitors may also seek approval to market their own products similar to or otherwise competitive with our products. Alternatively, our competitors may seek to market generic versions of any approved products by submitting ANDAs to the FDA in which they claim that our patents are invalid, unenforceable or not infringed. In these circumstances, we may need to defend or assert our patents, or both, including by filing lawsuits alleging patent infringement. In any of these types of proceedings, a court or other agency with jurisdiction may find our patents invalid or unenforceable, or that our competitors are competing in a non-infringing manner. Thus, even if we have valid and enforceable patents, these patents still may not provide protection against competing products or processes sufficient to achieve our business objectives.
In the future, one or more of our products and product candidates may be in-licensed from third parties. Accordingly, in some cases, the availability and scope of potential patent protection is limited based on prior decisions by our licensors or the inventors, such as decisions on when to file patent applications or whether to file patent applications at all. Our failure to obtain, maintain, enforce or defend such intellectual property rights, for any reason, could allow third parties, in particular, other established and better financed competitors having established development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities, to make competing products or impact our ability to develop, manufacture and market our products and product candidates, even if approved, on a commercially viable basis, if at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
In addition to patent protection, we expect to rely heavily on trade secrets, know-how and other unpatented technology, which are difficult to protect. Although we seek such protection in part by entering into confidentiality agreements with our vendors, employees, consultants and others who may have access to proprietary information, we cannot be certain that these agreements will not be breached, adequate remedies for any breach would be available, or our trade secrets, know-how and other unpatented proprietary technology will not otherwise become known to or be independently developed by our competitors. If we are unsuccessful in protecting our intellectual property rights, sales of our products may suffer and our ability to generate revenue could be severely impacted.
Issued patents covering our products and product candidates could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or in administrative proceedings. We may not be able to protect our trade secrets in court.
If we initiate legal proceedings against a third-party to enforce a patent covering one of our products or product candidates, should such a patent issue, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product or product candidate is invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, written description or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld information material to patentability from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Third parties also may raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, post grant review, inter partes review and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. An adverse determination in any of the foregoing proceedings could result in the revocation or cancellation of, or amendment to, our patents in such a way that they no longer cover our products or product candidates. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which the patent examiner and we were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant or third party were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we could lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on one or more of our products and product candidates. Such a loss of patent protection may materially harm our intellectual property estate, which would impair our ability to establish competitive barriers to entry in the form of intellectual property protections.
In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary know-how that is not patentable or that we elect not to patent, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our product candidate discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know-how, information or technology that is not covered by patents. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect and some courts inside and outside the United States are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets. We seek to protect our proprietary technology and processes, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors, and contractors. We cannot guarantee that we have entered into such agreements with each party that may have or have had access to our trade secrets or proprietary technology and processes. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach.
In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. Competitors and other third parties could purchase our products and product candidates and attempt to replicate some or all of the competitive advantages we derive from our development efforts, willfully infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate our intellectual property rights, design around our protected technology or develop their own competitive technologies that fall outside of our intellectual property rights. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor or other third party, we would have no right to prevent them, or those to whom they communicate it, from using that technology or information to compete with us. If our trade secrets are not adequately protected or sufficient to provide an advantage over our competitors, our competitive position could be adversely affected, as could our business. Additionally, if the steps taken to maintain our trade secrets are deemed inadequate, we may have insufficient recourse against third parties for misappropriating our trade secrets.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of the patents and other intellectual property.
We may be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other third parties have an ownership interest in the patents and intellectual property that we own or that we may own or license in the future. While it is our policy to require our employees and contractors who may be involved in the development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who in fact develops intellectual property that we regard as our own or such assignments may not be self-executing or may be breached. We could be subject to ownership disputes arising, for example, from conflicting obligations of employees, consultants or others who are involved in developing our products or product candidates. Litigation may be necessary to defend against any claims challenging inventorship or ownership. If we fail in defending any such claims, we may have to pay monetary damages and may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, intellectual property, which could adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Obtaining and maintaining patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment and other requirements imposed by governmental patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for non-compliance with these requirements.
Periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, annuity fees and various other governmental fees on patents and applications are required to be paid to the USPTO and various governmental patent agencies outside of the United States in several stages over the lifetime of the patents and applications. The USPTO and various non-U.S. governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application process and after a patent has issued. There are situations in which non-compliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. The terms of one or more licenses that we enter into the future may not provide us with the ability to maintain or prosecute patents in the portfolio, and must therefore rely on third parties to do so.
If we do not obtain patent term extension and data exclusivity for our products and product candidates, our business may be materially harmed.
Patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, if all maintenance fees are timely paid, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years from its earliest U.S. non-provisional filing date. Various extensions may be available, but the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Even if patents covering our product candidates are obtained, once the patent life has expired for a product candidate, we may be open to competition from competitive products. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, our patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.
In the future, if we obtain an issued patent covering one of our present or future product candidates, depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of any FDA marketing approval of such product candidates, such patent may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, or Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent extension term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. A patent term extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval, only one patent may be extended and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. A patent may only be extended once and only based on a single approved product. However, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failure to obtain a granted patent before approval of a product candidate, failure to exercise due diligence during the testing phase or regulatory review process, failure to apply within applicable deadlines, failure to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents or otherwise our failure to satisfy applicable requirements. A patent licensed to us by a third party may not be available for patent term extension. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. If we are unable to
obtain patent term extension or the term of any such extension is less than we request, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration, and our revenue could be reduced, possibly materially.
Changes in patent law in the United States and other jurisdictions could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products and product candidates.
Changes in either the patent laws or the interpretation of the patent laws in the United States or other jurisdictions could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of patent applications and the enforcement or defense of issued patents. On September 16, 2011, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the Leahy-Smith Act, was signed into law. When implemented, the Leahy-Smith Act included several significant changes to U.S. patent law that impacted how patent rights could be prosecuted, enforced and defended. In particular, the Leahy-Smith Act also included provisions that switched the United States from a “first-to-invent” system to a “first-to-file” system, allowed third-party submission of prior art to the USPTO during patent prosecution and set forth additional procedures to attack the validity of a patent by the USPTO administered post grant proceedings. Under a first-to-file system, assuming the other requirements for patentability are met, the first inventor to file a patent application generally will be entitled to the patent on an invention regardless of whether another inventor had made the invention earlier. The USPTO developed new regulations and procedures governing the administration of the Leahy-Smith Act, and many of the substantive changes to patent law associated with the Leahy-Smith Act, and in particular, the first to file provisions, only became effective on March 16, 2013. It remains unclear what, if any, impact the Leahy-Smith Act will have on the operation of our business. However, the Leahy-Smith Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
In addition, the patent positions of companies in the development and commercialization of biologics and pharmaceuticals are particularly uncertain. Recent rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court have narrowed the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances and weakened the rights of patent owners in certain situations. This combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the validity and enforceability of patents, once obtained. Depending on future actions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that could have a material adverse effect on our existing patent portfolio and our ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property in the future.
We cannot provide assurance that our efforts to seek patent protection for one or more of our products and product candidates will not be negatively impacted by the decisions described above, rulings in other cases or changes in guidance or procedures issued by the USPTO. We cannot fully predict what impact courts’ decisions in historical and future cases may have on the ability of life science companies to obtain or enforce patents relating to their products in the future. These decisions, the guidance issued by the USPTO and rulings in other cases or changes in USPTO guidance or procedures could have a material adverse effect on our existing patent rights and our ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property in the future.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
Filing, prosecuting, maintaining, defending and enforcing patents on products and product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States could be less extensive than those in the United States. The requirements for patentability may differ in certain countries, particularly in developing countries; thus, even in countries where we do pursue patent protection, there can be no assurance that any patents will issue with claims that cover our products. There can be no assurance that we will obtain or maintain patent rights in or outside the United States under any future license agreements. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, even in jurisdictions where we pursue patent protection, or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not pursued and obtained patent protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but
enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our products and product candidates and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biotechnology and pharmaceutical products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. For example, many foreign countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights, even if obtained, in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. While we intend to protect our intellectual property rights in major markets for our products, we cannot ensure that we will be able to initiate or maintain similar efforts in all jurisdictions in which we may wish to market our products. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop.
If we are sued for infringing intellectual property rights of third parties, such litigation could be costly and time consuming and could prevent or delay us from developing or commercializing our product candidates.
Our commercial success depends, in part, on our ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidates without infringing the intellectual property and other proprietary rights of third parties. Third parties may have U.S. and non-U.S. issued patents and pending patent applications relating to compounds, methods of manufacturing compounds and/or methods of use for the treatment of the disease indications for which we are developing our product candidates. If any third-party patents or patent applications are found to cover our product candidates or their methods of use or manufacture, we and our collaborators or sublicensees may not be free to manufacture or market our product candidates as planned without obtaining a license, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. We may also be required to indemnify our collaborators or sublicensees in such an event.
There is a substantial amount of intellectual property litigation in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, and we were previously party to protracted litigation with Pepscan, which we settled in 2020. We may become party to, or be threatened with, litigation or other adversarial proceedings regarding intellectual property rights with respect to our products candidates, including interference and post-grant proceedings before the USPTO. There may be third-party patents or patent applications with claims to materials, formulations, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment related to the composition, use or manufacture of our product candidates. We cannot guarantee that any of our patent searches or analyses including, but not limited to, the identification of relevant patents, the scope of patent claims or the expiration of relevant patents are complete or thorough, nor can we be certain that we have identified each and every patent and pending application in the United States and abroad that is relevant to or necessary for the commercialization of our product candidates in any jurisdiction. Because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending patent applications which may later result in issued patents that our product candidates may be accused of infringing. In addition, third parties may obtain patents in the future and claim that use of our technologies infringes upon these patents. Accordingly, third parties may assert infringement claims against us based on intellectual property rights that exist now or arise in the future. The outcome of intellectual property litigation is subject to uncertainties that cannot be adequately quantified in advance. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have produced a significant number of patents, and it may not always be clear to industry participants, including us, which patents cover various types of products or methods of use or manufacture. The scope of protection afforded by a patent is subject to interpretation by the courts, and the interpretation is not always uniform. If we were sued for patent infringement, we would need to demonstrate that our product candidates, products or methods either do not infringe the patent claims of the relevant patent or that the patent claims are invalid or unenforceable, and we may not be able to do this. Proving invalidity is difficult. For example, in the United States, proving invalidity requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption of validity enjoyed by issued patents. Even if we are successful in these proceedings, we may incur substantial costs and the time and attention of our
management and scientific personnel could be diverted in pursuing these proceedings, which could significantly harm our business and operating results. In addition, we may not have sufficient resources to bring these actions to a successful conclusion.
If we are found to infringe a third party’s intellectual property rights, we could be forced, including by court order, to cease developing, manufacturing or commercializing the infringing product candidate or product. Alternatively, we may be required to obtain a license from such third party in order to use the infringing technology and continue developing, manufacturing or marketing the infringing product candidate or product. However, we may not be able to obtain any required license on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we were able to obtain a license, it could be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us; alternatively or additionally, it could include terms that impede or destroy our ability to compete successfully in the commercial marketplace. In addition, we could be found liable for monetary damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees if we are found to have willfully infringed a patent. A finding of infringement could prevent us from commercializing our product candidates or force us to cease some of our business operations, which could harm our business. Claims that we have misappropriated the confidential information or trade secrets of third parties could have a similar negative impact on our business.
We may be subject to claims by third parties asserting that our employees or we have misappropriated their intellectual property, or claiming ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.
Many of our current and former employees, including our senior management, were previously employed at universities or at other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including some which may be competitors or potential competitors. Some of these employees may be subject to proprietary rights, non-disclosure and non-competition agreements, or similar agreements, in connection with such previous employment. Although we try to ensure that our employees do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we have been in the past and may be subject in the future to claims that we or these employees have used or disclosed intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such third party. Litigation may be necessary to defend against such claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel or sustain damages. Such intellectual property rights could be awarded to a third party, and we could be required to obtain a license from such third party to commercialize our technology or products. Such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management.
In addition, while we typically require our employees, consultants and contractors who may be involved in the development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who in fact develops intellectual property that we regard as our own, which may result in claims by or against us related to the ownership of such intellectual property. If we fail in prosecuting or defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights. Even if we are successful in prosecuting or defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to our senior management and scientific personnel.
We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents and other intellectual property rights, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe our patents, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time consuming and divert the time and attention of our management and scientific personnel. In addition, our patents may become, involved in inventorship, priority, or validity disputes. To counter or defend against such claims can be expensive and time-consuming, and our adversaries may have the ability to dedicate substantially greater resources to prosecuting these legal actions than we can. Any claims we assert against perceived infringers could provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us alleging that we infringe their patents, in addition to counterclaims asserting that our patents are invalid or unenforceable, or both.
In an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that a patent is invalid or unenforceable, or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology in question. Accordingly, despite our efforts, we may not be able to prevent third parties from infringing upon or misappropriating intellectual property rights we own or control. An adverse result in any litigation proceeding could put one or more of our owned or in-licensed patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly. Further, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation.
Even if resolved in our favor, the court may decide not to grant an injunction against further infringing activity and instead award only monetary damages, which may or may not be an adequate remedy. Litigation or other legal proceedings relating to intellectual property claims may cause us to incur significant expenses and could distract our personnel from their normal responsibilities. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments, and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our ADSs. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing, or distribution activities.
We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to conduct such litigation or proceedings adequately. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources and more mature and developed intellectual property portfolios. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete in the marketplace.
If we fail to comply with our obligations under any future intellectual property licenses with third parties, we could lose license rights that are important to our business.
In connection with our efforts to build our product candidate pipeline, we may enter into license agreements in the future. We expect that such license agreements will impose, various diligence, milestone payment, royalty, insurance and other obligations on us. If we fail to comply with our obligations under these licenses, our licensors may have the right to terminate these license agreements, in which event we might not be able to market any product that is covered by these agreements, or our licensors may convert the license to a non-exclusive license, which could negatively impact the value of the product candidate being developed under the license agreement. Termination of these license agreements or reduction or elimination of our licensed rights may also result in our having to negotiate new or reinstated licenses with less favorable terms.
If our trademarks and trade names are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our marks of interest and our business may be adversely affected.
Our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented or declared invalid, generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We rely on both registration and common law protection for our trademarks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names or may be forced to stop using these names, which we need for name recognition by potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. During trademark registration proceedings, we may receive objections. Although we would be given an opportunity to respond to those objections, we may be unable to overcome such objections. In addition, in the USPTO and in comparable Intellectual Property Offices in many foreign jurisdictions, third parties are given an opportunity to oppose pending trademark applications and to seek to cancel registered trademarks. Opposition or cancellation proceedings have been and may in the future be filed against our trademarks, and our trademarks may not survive such proceedings. If we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected.
Our UK trademark application for TICA has been opposed by a German company called Immatics Biotechnologies GmbH. The opposition is based on Immatics Biotechnologies' earlier registered rights for the trademarks TCER and TiCR which cover similar goods and services. Submissions have been filed by both parties and we are currently awaiting a decision from the UK IPO.
Risks Related to Employee Matters and Managing Growth
We only have a limited number of employees to manage and operate our business.
As of December 31, 2020, we had 87 full-time or part-time employees. Our focus on the development of our product candidates requires us to optimize cash utilization and to manage and operate our business in a highly efficient manner. We cannot provide assurance that we will be able to hire or retain adequate staffing levels to develop our product candidates or run our operations or to accomplish all of the objectives that we otherwise would seek to accomplish.
Cyber-attacks or other failures in telecommunications or information technology systems could result in information theft, data corruption and significant disruption of our business operations.
We utilize information technology, or IT, systems and networks to process, transmit and store electronic information in connection with our business activities. As use of digital technologies has increased, cyber incidents, including deliberate attacks and attempts to gain unauthorized access to computer systems and networks, have increased in frequency and sophistication. These threats pose a risk to the security of our systems and networks, the confidentiality and the availability and integrity of our data. In addition, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have enabled our non-laboratory-based employees to work remotely, which may make us more vulnerable to cyberattacks. We have been the target of cyber-attacks in the past. For example, in 2019 we were targeted in a phishing incident, which included email accounts being accessed by unauthorized third parties. Promptly after discovery, we performed third-party investigations and as there was no evidence of access or acquisition of any personal information as a result of the incident, we believe that no further action was required under U.K, E.U. (GDPR) or U.S. federal or state law. There was no material impact to our business or financial condition. While we believe we responded appropriately, including implementing remedial measures to stop the cyber-attacks and with the goal of preventing similar ones in the future, there can be no assurance that we will be successful in these remedial and preventative measures or successfully mitigating the effects of future cyber-attacks. Similarly, there can be no assurance that our collaborators, CROs, third-party logistics providers, distributors and other contractors and consultants will be successful in protecting our clinical and other data that is stored on their systems. Any cyber-attack or destruction or loss of data could have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects. In addition, we may suffer reputational harm or face litigation or adverse regulatory action as a result of cyber-attacks or other data security breaches and may incur significant additional expense to respond appropriately to such breaches and to implement further data protection measures. We are aware that some public companies have recently received Civil Investigative Demands from the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, requesting information and documents following disclosures of privacy or security incidents in SEC filings. The FTC has taken the position that inadequately disclosing privacy and security incidents in SEC filings may be a deceptive business practice, and the FTC has relied on SEC filings as a launching pad for incident investigations even where the filings were not inadequate. We cannot be certain that the FTC will consider our disclosure adequate or that the FTC will not rely on our disclosure to initiate an incident investigation.
Our future success depends on our ability to retain key employees, consultants and advisors and to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel.
We are highly dependent on principal members of our executive team and key employees, the loss of whose services may adversely impact the achievement of our objectives. While we have entered into employment agreements with each of our executive officers, any of them could leave our employment at any time. We do not maintain “key person” insurance policies on the lives of these individuals or the lives of any of our other employees. The loss of the services of one or more of our current employees might impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives. Furthermore, replacing executive officers or other key employees may be difficult and may take an extended period of time because of the limited number of individuals in our industry with the breadth of skills and experience required to develop, gain marketing approval of and commercialize products successfully.
Recruiting and retaining other qualified employees, consultants and advisors for our business, including scientific and technical personnel, will also be critical to our success. There is currently a shortage of skilled executives
in our industry, which is likely to continue. As a result, competition for skilled personnel is intense and the turnover rate can be high. We may not be able to attract and retain personnel on acceptable terms given the competition among numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for individuals with similar skill sets. In addition, failure to succeed in preclinical or clinical trials may make it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified personnel.
In addition, we rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our research and development and commercialization strategy. Our consultants and advisors may be employed by other entities and may have commitments under consulting or advisory contracts with those entities that may limit their availability to us. If we are unable to continue to attract and retain highly qualified personnel, our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates will be limited.
The inability to recruit or the loss of the services of any executive, key employee, consultant or advisor may impede the progress of our research, development and commercialization objectives.
Our employees, independent contractors, consultants, collaborators and CROs may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards and requirements, which could cause significant liability for us and harm our reputation.
We are exposed to the risk that our employees, independent contractors, consultants, collaborators and contract research organizations may engage in fraudulent conduct or other illegal activity. Misconduct by those parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct or disclosure of unauthorized activities to us that violates: (1) FDA regulations or similar regulations of comparable non-U.S. regulatory authorities, including those laws requiring the reporting of true, complete and accurate information to such authorities, (2) manufacturing standards, (3) federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations and similar laws and regulations established and enforced by comparable non-U.S. regulatory authorities, and (4) laws that require the reporting of financial information or data accurately. In particular, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self-dealing, bribery and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Employee or collaborator misconduct could also involve the improper use of, including trading on, information obtained in the course of clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious harm to our reputation. Further, because of the work-from-home policies we implemented due to COVID-19, information that is normally protected, including company confidential information, may be less secure. In May 2019, we adopted a code of conduct and business ethics, but it is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to be in compliance with such laws, standards or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business and results of operations, including the imposition of significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs, additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and curtailment of our operations, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.
We expect to expand our organization, and as a result, we may encounter difficulties in managing our growth, which could disrupt our operations.
We expect to experience significant growth in the number of our employees and the scope of our operations, particularly in the areas of drug manufacturing, regulatory affairs and sales, marketing and distribution, as well as to support our public company operations. To manage these growth activities, we must continue to implement and improve our managerial, operational and financial systems, expand our facilities and continue to recruit and train additional qualified personnel. Our management may need to devote a significant amount of its attention to managing these growth activities. Moreover, our expected growth could require us to relocate to geographic areas beyond those where we have
been historically located. For example, we maintain office and laboratory space in Cambridge, U.K. and in Lexington, Massachusetts, at which many of our finance, management and administrative personnel work. Due to our limited financial resources and the limited experience of our management team in managing a company with such anticipated growth, we may not be able to effectively manage the expansion or relocation of our operations, retain key employees, or identify, recruit and train additional qualified personnel. Our inability to manage the expansion or relocation of our operations effectively may result in weaknesses in our infrastructure, give rise to operational mistakes, loss of business opportunities, loss of employees and reduced productivity among remaining employees. Our expected growth could also require significant capital expenditures and may divert financial resources from other projects, such as the development of additional product candidates. If we are unable to effectively manage our expected growth, our expenses may increase more than expected, our ability to generate revenues could be reduced and we may not be able to implement our business strategy, including the successful commercialization of our product candidates.
Risks Related to Ownership of Our Securities
The market price of our ADSs is highly volatile, and holders of our ADSs may not be able to resell their ADSs at or above the price at which they purchased their ADSs.
The market price of our ADSs is highly volatile. Since our initial public offering, or IPO, in May 2019, through March 5, 2021, the trading price of our ADSs has ranged from $33.00 to $6.24. The stock market in general, and the market for biopharmaceutical companies in particular, has experienced extreme volatility that has often been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. As a result of this volatility, holders of our ADSs may not be able to sell their ADSs at or above price at which they purchased their ADSs. The market price for our ADSs may be influenced by many factors, including:
|●||adverse results or delays in preclinical studies or clinical trials;|
|●||reports of adverse events in products similar or perceived to be similar to those we are developing or clinical trials of such products;|
|●||an inability to obtain additional funding;|
|●||failure by us to successfully develop and commercialize our product candidates;|
|●||failure by us to maintain our existing strategic collaborations or enter into new collaborations;|
|●||failure by us to identify additional product candidates for our pipeline;|
|●||failure by us or our licensors and strategic partners to prosecute, maintain or enforce our intellectual property rights;|
|●||changes in laws or regulations applicable to future products;|
|●||changes in the structure of healthcare payment systems;|
|●||an inability to obtain adequate product supply for our product candidates or the inability to do so at acceptable prices;|
|●||adverse regulatory decisions;|
|●||the introduction of new products, services or technologies by our competitors;|
|●||failure by us to meet or exceed financial projections we may provide to the public;|
|●||failure by us to meet or exceed the financial projections of the investment community;|
|●||the perception of the pharmaceutical industry by the public, legislatures, regulators and the investment community;|
|●||announcements of significant acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments by us, our strategic partners or our competitors;|
|●||disputes or other developments relating to proprietary rights, including patents, litigation matters and our ability to obtain patent protection for our technologies;|
|●||additions or departures of key scientific or management personnel;|
|●||significant lawsuits, including patent or shareholder litigation;|
|●||changes in the market valuations of similar companies;|
|●||sales of our ADSs or ordinary shares by us or our shareholders in the future; and|
|●||the trading volume of our ADSs.|
In addition, companies trading in the stock market in general, and Nasdaq in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of these companies, including very recently in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in decreased stock prices for many companies notwithstanding the lack of a fundamental change in their underlying business models or prospects. Broad market and industry factors, including potentially worsening economic conditions and other adverse effects or developments relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, may negatively affect the market price of our ADSs, regardless of our actual operating performance.
Concentration of ownership of our ordinary shares (including ordinary shares in the form of ADSs) among our existing executive officers, directors and principal shareholders may prevent new investors from influencing significant corporate decisions.
As of December 31, 2020, our executive officers, directors, greater than 5% shareholders and their affiliates beneficially own approximately 77.4% of our ordinary shares and ordinary shares in the form of ADSs. Depending on the level of attendance at our general meetings of shareholders, these shareholders either alone or voting together as a group could be in a position to determine the outcome of decisions taken at any such general meeting. Any shareholder or group of shareholders controlling more than 50% of the share capital present and voting at our general meetings of shareholders may control any shareholder resolution requiring a simple majority, including the appointment of board members, certain decisions relating to our capital structure, and the approval of certain significant corporate transactions. Among other consequences, this concentration of ownership may prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals that holders of our ADSs may believe are in their best interest as holders of our ordinary shares or ADSs. Some of these persons or entities may have interests different than current holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs. For example, because many of these shareholders purchased their ordinary shares at prices substantially below the current trading price of our ADSs and have held their ordinary shares for a longer period, they may be more interested in selling our company to an acquirer than other investors or they may want us to pursue strategies that deviate from the interests of other shareholders.
Future sales, or the possibility of future sales, of a substantial number of our securities could adversely affect the price of our ADSs and dilute shareholders.
Sales of a substantial number of our ADSs in the public market could occur at any time, subject to certain restrictions described below. If our existing shareholders sell, or indicate an intent to sell, substantial amounts of our securities in the public market, the trading price of the ADSs could decline significantly and could decline below the
current trading prices of the ADSs. In addition, ordinary shares subject to outstanding options under our equity incentive plans and the ordinary shares reserved for future issuance under our equity incentive plans will become eligible for sale in the public market in the future, subject to certain legal and contractual limitations.
Moreover, holders of an aggregate of approximately 1,497,905 ordinary shares have rights, subject to conditions, to require us to file registration statements covering their shares or to include their shares in registration statements that we may file for ourselves or other shareholders, as well as to cooperate in certain public offerings of such ordinary shares. We have also registered our ordinary shares that we may issue under our equity compensation plans. These ordinary shares may be freely sold in the public market upon issuance, subject to volume limitations applicable to affiliates.
We have broad discretion in the use of our cash reserves and may not use them effectively.
Our management has broad discretion to use our cash reserves and could use our cash reserves in ways that do not improve our results of operations or enhance the value of our ordinary shares or ADSs. The failure by our management to apply these funds effectively could result in financial losses that could have a material adverse effect on our business, cause the price of our ADSs to decline, and delay the development of our product candidates. Pending their use, we may invest our cash reserves in a manner that does not produce income or that loses value.
Because we do not anticipate paying any cash dividends on our ADSs in the foreseeable future, capital appreciation, if any, will be the sole source of gains for holders of our ADSs, and they may never receive a return on their investment.
Under current English law, a company’s accumulated realized profits must exceed its accumulated realized losses (on a non-consolidated basis) before dividends can be declared and paid. Therefore, we must have distributable profits before declaring and paying a dividend. In addition, the terms of our indebtedness with Hercules prohibit us from paying dividends. We have not paid dividends in the past on our ordinary shares. We intend to retain earnings, if any, for use in our business and do not anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. As a result, capital appreciation, if any, on our ADSs will be a holder’s sole source of gains for the foreseeable future, and holders will suffer a loss on their investment if they are unable to sell their ADSs at or above the original purchase price.
We are an “emerging growth company” and a “smaller reporting company,” and the reduced disclosure requirements applicable to emerging growth companies and smaller reporting companies may make our ADSs less attractive to investors.
We are an emerging growth company and we will remain an emerging growth company until the earlier to occur of (1) the last day of 2024, (2) the last day of the fiscal year in which we have total annual gross revenues of at least $1.07 billion, (3) the last day of the fiscal year in which we are deemed to be a “large accelerated filer,” under the rules of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, which means the market value of our equity securities that is held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the prior June 30th, and (4) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the prior three-year period. For so long as we remain an EGC, we are permitted and intend to rely on exemptions from certain disclosure requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies. These exemptions include:
|●||not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or Section 404;|
|●||not being required to comply with any requirement that has or may be adopted by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board regarding mandatory audit firm rotation or a supplement to the auditor’s report providing additional information about the audit and the financial statements;|
|●||reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation; and|
|●||an exemption from the requirement to seek nonbinding advisory votes on executive compensation or golden parachute arrangements.|
We may choose to take advantage of some, but not all, of the available exemptions. We cannot predict whether investors will find our ADSs less attractive if we rely on certain or all of these exemptions. If some investors find our ADSs less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our ADSs and our ADS price may be more volatile.
In addition, the JOBS Act provides that an EGC may take advantage of an extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standards. This allows an EGC to delay the adoption of certain accounting standards until those standards would otherwise apply to private companies. We have irrevocably elected not to avail ourselves of this extended transition period and, as a result, we will adopt new or revised accounting standards on the relevant dates on which adoption of such standards is required for other public companies.
We are also a smaller reporting company as defined in the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act. We may continue to be a smaller reporting company even after we are no longer an emerging growth company. We will be a smaller reporting company and may take advantage of the scaled disclosures available to smaller reporting companies for so long as (i) the market value of our voting and non-voting ordinary shares held by non-affiliates is less than $250.0 million measured on the last business day of our second fiscal quarter or (ii) (a) our annual revenue is less than $100.0 million during the most recently completed fiscal year and (b) the market value of our voting and non-voting ordinary shares held by non-affiliates is less than $700.0 million measured on the last business day of our second fiscal quarter.
Risks Related to Our Incorporation Under the Laws of England and Wales
Claims of U.S. civil liabilities may not be enforceable against us.
We are incorporated under English law. Certain members of our board of directors and senior management are non-residents of the United States, and all or a substantial portion of our assets and the assets of such persons are located outside the United States. As a result, it may not be possible to serve process on such persons or us in the United States or to enforce judgments obtained in U.S. courts against them or us based on civil liability provisions of the securities laws of the United States.
The United States and the United Kingdom do not currently have a treaty providing for recognition and enforcement of judgments (other than arbitration awards) in civil and commercial matters. Consequently, a final judgment for payment given by a court in the United States, whether or not predicated solely upon U.S. securities laws, would not automatically be recognized or enforceable in the United Kingdom. In addition, uncertainty exists as to whether U.K. courts would entertain original actions brought in the United Kingdom against us or our directors or senior management predicated upon the securities laws of the United States or any state in the United States. Any final and conclusive monetary judgment for a definite sum obtained against us in U.S. courts would be treated by the courts of the United Kingdom as a cause of action in itself and sued upon as a debt at common law so that no retrial of the issues would be necessary, provided that certain requirements are met. Whether these requirements are met in respect of a judgment based upon the civil liability provisions of the U.S. securities laws, including whether the award of monetary damages under such laws would constitute a penalty, is an issue for the court making such decision. If an English court gives judgment for the sum payable under a U.S. judgment, the English judgment will be enforceable by methods generally available for this purpose. These methods generally permit the English court discretion to prescribe the manner of enforcement.
As a result, U.S. investors may not be able to enforce against us or our senior management, board of directors or certain experts named herein who are residents of the United Kingdom or countries other than the United States any judgments obtained in U.S. courts in civil and commercial matters, including judgments under the U.S. federal securities laws.
If we are a controlled foreign corporation, there could be adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to certain U.S. holders.
Each “Ten Percent Shareholder” (as defined below) in a non-U.S. corporation that is classified as a “controlled foreign corporation,” or a CFC, for U.S. federal income tax purposes generally is required to include in income for U.S. federal tax purposes such Ten Percent Shareholder’s pro rata share of the CFC’s “Subpart F income” and investment of earnings in U.S. property, even if the CFC has made no distributions to its shareholders. Subpart F income generally includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties, “global intangible low-taxed income,” gains from the sale of securities and income from certain transactions with related parties. In addition, a Ten Percent Shareholder that realizes gain from the sale or exchange of shares in a CFC may be required to classify a portion of such gain as dividend income rather than capital gain. A non-U.S. corporation generally will be classified as a CFC for U.S. federal income tax purposes if Ten Percent Shareholders own (directly, indirectly or constructively through the application of attribution rules) more than 50% of either the total combined voting power of all classes of stock of such corporation entitled to vote or of the total value of the stock of such corporation. A “Ten Percent Shareholder” is a United States person (as defined by the Code) who owns or is considered to own 10% or more of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock entitled to vote or 10% or more of the total value of all classes of stock of such corporation.
We believe that we were not a CFC in the 2020 taxable year and we do not expect to be a CFC in the 2021 taxable year. However, the determination of CFC status is complex and includes attribution rules, the application of which is not entirely certain. U.S. Holders (as defined below) should consult their own tax advisors with respect to the potential adverse U.S. tax consequences of becoming a Ten Percent Shareholder in a CFC. A “U.S. Holder” is a holder who, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, is a beneficial owner of ordinary shares or ADSs and is:
|●||an individual who is a citizen or individual resident of the United States;|
|●||a corporation, or other entity taxable as a corporation, created or organized in or under the laws of the United States, any state therein or the District of Columbia;|
|●||an estate the income of which is subject to U.S. federal income taxation regardless of its source; or|
|●||a trust if (1) a U.S. court is able to exercise primary supervision over the administration of the trust and one or more U.S. persons have authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust or (2) the trust has a valid election in effect to be treated as a U.S. person under applicable U.S. Treasury Regulations.|
If we are a passive foreign investment company, there could be adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. holders.
Under the Code, we will be a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for any taxable year in which (1) 75% or more of our gross income consists of passive income or (2) 50% or more of the average quarterly value of our assets consists of assets that produce, or are held for the production of, passive income. For purposes of these tests, passive income includes dividends, interest, gains from the sale or exchange of investment property and certain rents and royalties. In addition, for purposes of the above calculations, a non-U.S. corporation that directly or indirectly owns at least 25% by value of the shares of another corporation is treated as holding and receiving directly its proportionate share of assets and income of such corporation. If we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. Holder holds our shares, the U.S. Holder may be subject to adverse tax consequences regardless of whether we continue to qualify as a PFIC, including ineligibility for any preferred tax rates on capital gains or on actual or deemed dividends, interest charges on certain taxes treated as deferred and additional reporting requirements.
Based on our analysis of our income, assets, activities and market capitalization, we believe that we were not a PFIC in the 2020 taxable year. The determination of whether we are a PFIC is a fact-intensive determination made on an annual basis applying principles and methodologies that in some circumstances are unclear and subject to varying interpretation. As a result, there can be no assurance regarding if we will be PFIC or will not be a PFIC in the future. In addition, the total value of our assets for PFIC testing purposes may be determined in part by reference to the market
price of our ordinary shares or ADSs from time to time, which may fluctuate considerably. Under the income test, our status as a PFIC depends on the composition of our income which will depend on the transactions we enter into and our corporate structure.
We may be unable to use net operating loss and tax credit carryforwards and certain built-in losses to reduce future tax payments or benefit from favorable U.K. tax legislation.
As an entity incorporated and tax resident in the United Kingdom, we are subject to U.K. corporate taxation on tax-adjusted trading profits. Due to the nature of our business, we have generated losses since inception and therefore have not paid any U.K. corporation tax. Subject to numerous utilization criteria and restrictions (including the Corporate Income Loss Restriction and the Corporate Capital Loss Restriction that, broadly, restrict the amount of carried forward losses that can be utilized to 50% of group profits or gains arising above £5.0 million per tax year, we expect losses to be eligible for carry forward and utilization against future operating profits. In addition, if we were to have a major change in the nature of the conduct or the conduct of our trade, loss carryforwards may be restricted or extinguished.
As a group that carries out extensive research and development activities, we seek to benefit from one of two U.K. research and development tax relief programs, the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises R&D Tax Credit Program, or SME Program, and the Research and Development Expenditure Credit program, or RDEC Program. Where available, under the SME Program, we may be able to surrender the trading losses that arise from our qualifying research and development activities for cash or carry them forward for potential offset against future profits (subject to relevant restrictions). The majority of our pipeline research, clinical trials management and manufacturing development activities are eligible for inclusion within these SME Program tax credit cash rebate claims. The U.K. government has published draft legislation through which it intends to introduce a cap on payable credit claims in excess of £20,000 with effect from April 2021 by reference to, broadly, three times the total PAYE and NICs liability of the company, subject to an exception. If such cap comes into force, and such exception does not apply, this could restrict the amount of payable credit that we claim.
We may benefit in the future from the United Kingdom’s “patent box” regime, which allows certain profits attributable to revenues from patented products (and other qualifying income) to be taxed at an effective rate of 10%. We are the exclusive licensee or owner of several patent applications which, if issued, would cover our product candidates, and accordingly, future upfront fees, milestone fees, product revenues and royalties could be taxed at this tax rate. When taken in combination with the enhanced relief available on our research and development expenditures, we expect a long-term lower rate of corporation tax to apply to us. If, however, there are unexpected adverse changes to the U.K. research and development tax credit regime or the “patent box” regime, or for any reason we are unable to qualify for such advantageous tax legislation, or we are unable to use net operating loss and tax credit carryforwards and certain built-in losses to reduce future tax payments then our business, results of operations and financial condition may be adversely affected.
Future changes to tax laws could materially adversely affect our company and reduce net returns to our shareholders.
The tax treatment of the company is, and our ADSs and ordinary shares are, subject to changes in tax laws, regulations and treaties, or the interpretation thereof, tax policy initiatives and reforms under consideration and the practices of tax authorities in jurisdictions in which we operate, as well as tax policy initiatives and reforms related to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s, or OECD, Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, or BEPS, Project, the European Commission’s state aid investigations and other initiatives. Such changes may include (but are not limited to) the taxation of operating income, investment income, dividends received or (in the specific context of withholding tax) dividends paid, or the stamp duty or stamp duty reserve tax treatment of our ADSs or ordinary shares. We are unable to predict what tax reform may be proposed or enacted in the future or what effect such changes would have on our business, but such changes, to the extent they are brought into tax legislation, regulations, policies or practices, could affect our financial position and overall or effective tax rates in the future in countries where we have operations, reduce post-tax returns to our shareholders, and increase the complexity, burden and cost of tax compliance.
Tax authorities may disagree with our positions and conclusions regarding certain tax positions, resulting in unanticipated costs, taxes or non-realization of expected benefits.
A tax authority may disagree with tax positions that we have taken, which could result in increased tax liabilities. For example, while we believe that we operate in compliance with applicable transfer pricing laws and intend to continue to do so, our transfer pricing procedures are not binding on applicable tax authorities. HM Revenue & Customs, or HMRC, the Internal Revenue Service or another tax authority could challenge our allocation of income by tax jurisdiction and the amounts paid between our affiliated companies pursuant to our intercompany arrangements and transfer pricing policies, including amounts paid with respect to our intellectual property development. Similarly, a tax authority could assert that we are subject to tax in a jurisdiction where we believe we have not established a taxable connection, often referred to as a “permanent establishment” under international tax treaties, and such an assertion, if successful, could increase our expected tax liability in one or more jurisdictions. A tax authority may take the position that material income tax liabilities, interest and penalties are payable by us, in which case, we expect that we might contest such assessment. Contesting such an assessment may be lengthy and costly and if we were unsuccessful in disputing the assessment, the implications could increase our anticipated effective tax rate, where applicable.
Provisions in the U.K. City Code on Takeovers and Mergers that may have anti-takeover effects do not apply to us.
The U.K. City Code on Takeovers and Mergers, or the Takeover Code, applies to an offer for, among other things, a public company whose registered office is in the United Kingdom if the company is considered by the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers, or the Takeover Panel, to have its place of central management and control in the United Kingdom (or the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man). This is known as the “residency test.” The test for central management and control under the Takeover Code is different from that used by the U.K. tax authorities. Under the Takeover Code, the Takeover Panel will determine whether we have our place of central management and control in the United Kingdom by looking at various factors, primarily where the directors are resident.
In September 2019, the Takeover Panel Executive confirmed that, based on our current circumstances, we are not subject to the Takeover Code. As a result, our shareholders are not entitled to the benefit of certain takeover offer protections provided under the Takeover Code. We believe that this position is unlikely to change at any time in the near future but, in accordance with good practice, we will review the situation on a regular basis and consult with the Takeover Panel if there is any change in our circumstances which may have a bearing on whether the Takeover Panel would determine our place of central management and control to be in the United Kingdom.
The rights of our shareholders may differ from the rights typically offered to shareholders of a U.S. corporation.
We are incorporated under English law. The rights of holders of ordinary shares and, therefore, certain of the rights of holders of ADSs, are governed by English law, including the provisions of the U.K. Companies Act 2006, or the Companies Act, and by our Articles of Association. These rights differ in certain respects from the rights of shareholders in typical U.S. corporations. The principal differences include the following:
|●||under English law and our articles of association, each shareholder present at a meeting has only one vote unless demand is made for a vote on a poll, in which case each holder gets one vote per share owned. Under U.S. law, each shareholder typically is entitled to one vote per share at all meetings;|
|●||under English law, the number of shares determines the number of votes a holder may cast only on a poll. However, that the voting rights of ADSs are also governed by the provisions of a deposit agreement with our depositary bank;|
|●||under English law, subject to certain exceptions and disapplications, each shareholder generally has preemptive rights to subscribe on a proportionate basis to any issuance of ordinary shares or rights to subscribe for, or to convert securities into, ordinary shares for cash. Under U.S. law, shareholders generally do not have preemptive rights unless specifically granted in the certificate of incorporation or otherwise;|
|●||under English law and our articles of association, certain matters require the approval of 75% of the shareholders who vote (in person or by proxy) on the relevant resolution (or on a poll of shareholders representing 75% of the ordinary shares voting (in person or by proxy)), including amendments to the articles of association. This may make it more difficult for us to complete corporate transactions deemed|
|advisable by our board of directors. Under U.S. law, generally only majority shareholder approval is required to amend the certificate of incorporation or to approve other significant transactions;|
|●||in the United Kingdom, takeovers may be structured as takeover offers or as schemes of arrangement. Under English law, if we were to be subject to the Takeover Code, a bidder seeking to acquire us by means of a takeover offer would need to make an offer for all of our outstanding ordinary shares/ADSs. If acceptances are not received for 90% or more of the ordinary shares/ADSs under the offer, under English law, the bidder cannot complete a “squeeze out” to obtain 100% control of us. Accordingly, acceptances of 90% of our outstanding ordinary shares/ADSs will likely be a condition in any takeover offer to acquire us, not 50% as is more common in tender offers for corporations organized under Delaware law. By contrast, a scheme of arrangement, the successful completion of which would result in a bidder obtaining 100% control of us, requires the approval of a majority of shareholders voting at the meeting and representing 75% of the ordinary shares voting, as well as the sanction of the U.K. court;|
|●||under English law and our articles of association, shareholders and other persons whom we know or have reasonable cause to believe are, or have been, interested in our shares may be required to disclose information regarding their interests in our shares upon our request, and the failure to provide the required information could result in the loss or restriction of rights attaching to the shares, including prohibitions on certain transfers of the shares, withholding of dividends and loss of voting rights. Comparable provisions generally do not exist under U.S. law; and|
|●||the quorum requirement for a shareholders’ meeting is a minimum of two shareholders entitled to vote at the meeting and present in person or by proxy or, in the case of a shareholder that is a corporation, represented by a duly authorized officer. Under U.S. law, a majority of the shares eligible to vote must generally be present (in person or by proxy) at a shareholders’ meeting in order to constitute a quorum. The minimum number of shares required for a quorum can be reduced pursuant to a provision in a company’s certificate of incorporation or bylaws, but typically not below one-third of the shares entitled to vote at the meeting.|
Requirements associated with being a public company have increased our costs significantly and have diverted significant company resources and management attention.
As a U.S. public company, we are incurring and will continue to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and Nasdaq have imposed various requirements on public companies, including establishment and maintenance of effective disclosure and financial controls and corporate governance practices. Our management and other personnel currently devote and will continue to devote a substantial amount of time to these compliance initiatives. In addition, after we are no longer an EGC, we will incur additional legal accounting and other expenses. If these requirements divert the attention of our management and personnel from other business concerns, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, stock price and prospects. The increased costs will decrease our net income or increase our net loss and may require us to reduce costs in other areas of our business. For example, these rules and regulations have made it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance and we may be required to incur substantial costs to maintain the same or similar coverage. The impact of these requirements could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve on our board of directors, our board committees or as executive officers.
Pursuant to Section 404, we are required to furnish a report by our management on our internal control over financial reporting, including an attestation report on internal control over financial reporting issued by our independent registered public accounting firm. However, while we remain an EGC, and under certain circumstances even after we are no longer an EGC, we will not be required to include an attestation report on internal control over financial reporting issued by our independent registered public accounting firm. To achieve compliance with Section 404, we engaged in a process to document and evaluate our internal control over financial reporting. We will need to continue to dedicate internal resources, and potentially engage outside consultants to continue to assess and document the adequacy of
internal control over financial reporting, continue steps to improve control processes as appropriate, validate through testing that controls are functioning as documented and implement a continuous reporting and improvement process for internal control over financial reporting. Despite our efforts, there is a risk we will not be able to conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is effective as required by Section 404. This could result in an adverse reaction in the financial markets due to a loss of confidence in the reliability of our financial statements.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud. As a result, shareholders could lose confidence in our financial and other public reporting, which would harm our business and the trading price of our ADSs.
Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and, together with adequate disclosure controls and procedures, are designed to prevent fraud. Any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation could cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. In addition, any testing by us conducted in connection with Section 404, or any subsequent testing by our independent registered public accounting firm, may reveal deficiencies in our internal controls over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses or that may require prospective or retroactive changes to our financial statements or identify other areas for further attention or improvement. Inferior internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a negative effect on the trading price of our ADSs.
Our management will be required to assess the effectiveness of these controls annually. However, for as long as we are an EGC, our independent registered public accounting firm will not be required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404. We could be an EGC for up to five years. An independent assessment of the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting could detect problems that our management’s assessment might not. Undetected material weaknesses in our internal controls over financial reporting could lead to financial statement restatements and require us to incur the expense of remediation.
Our disclosure controls and procedures may not prevent or detect all errors or acts of fraud.
We are subject to certain reporting requirements of the Exchange Act. Our disclosure controls and procedures are designed to reasonably assure that information required to be disclosed by us in reports we file or submit under the Exchange Act is accumulated and communicated to management, recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the rules and forms of the SEC. We believe that any disclosure controls and procedures or internal controls and procedures, no matter how well conceived and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met. These inherent limitations include the realities that judgments in decision-making can be faulty, and that breakdowns can occur because of simple error or mistake. Additionally, controls can be circumvented by the individual acts of some persons, by collusion of two or more people or by an unauthorized override of the controls. Accordingly, because of the inherent limitations in our control system, misstatements or insufficient disclosures due to error or fraud may occur and not be detected.
We could be subject to securities class action litigation.
In the past, securities class action litigation has often been brought against a company following a decline in the market price of its securities. This risk is especially relevant for us because pharmaceutical companies have experienced significant stock price volatility in recent years. If we face such litigation, it could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources, which could harm our business.
An active trading market for our ADSs may not be sustained.
Prior to our IPO in May 2019, there had been no public market for our ADSs. Although our ADSs are listed on The Nasdaq Global Select Market, an active trading market for our shares may not be sustained. If an active market for our ADSs is not sustained, it may be difficult for holders of our ADSs to sell ADSs without depressing the market price for the shares, or at all.
An inactive trading market may also impair our ability to raise capital to continue to fund operations by selling additional shares and may impair our ability to acquire other companies or technologies by using our shares as consideration.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our ADS price and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our ADSs depends in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. We do not have any control over these analysts. Although we have obtained research coverage from certain analysts, there can be no assurance that analysts will continue to cover us or provide favorable coverage. If one or more analysts downgrade our ADSs or change their opinion of our ADSs, our ADS price would likely decline. In addition, if one or more analysts cease coverage of our company or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which could cause our ADS price or trading volume to decline.
We occupy approximately 13,500 rentable square feet of office and laboratory space in Cambridge, United Kingdom under a lease that expires in December 2021, with a five-year extension option, and an additional 11,000 rental square feet of office and laboratory space in Lexington, Massachusetts under a lease that expires in December 2022, with a five-year extension option. We believe that our office and laboratory spaces are sufficient to meet our current needs and that suitable additional space will be available as and when needed.
From time to time, we may become subject to various legal proceedings and claims that arise in the ordinary course of our business activities. Other than as described below, we are not currently subject to any material legal proceedings.
In 2009, our subsidiary, BicycleRD Limited, or BicycleRD, entered into a non-exclusive patent license agreement with Pepscan Systems B.V. and its affiliates, or Pepscan, pursuant to which its licensed rights related to the scaffold used for Bicycles contained in our lead product candidate, BT1718, which is currently in clinical trial sponsored by Cancer Research UK, and in THR-149, which has been licensed to Oxurion. The agreement required BicycleRD to enter into a framework services agreement with Pepscan under which Pepscan would provide certain Bicycles not produced by BicycleRD. In 2010, BicycleRD entered into such a framework services agreement. In 2015, BicycleRD terminated the framework services agreement in accordance with its terms. In 2016, Pepscan terminated the patent license agreement.
BicycleRD instituted proceedings in the District Court of The Hague, or the District Court, to contest the right of Pepscan to terminate the patent license agreement. BicycleRD included a conditional claim for a ruling that the licensed patent relevant to BicycleRD’s activities is invalid. In response, Pepscan claimed, among other things, that the termination of the framework services agreement and alleged breaches by BicycleRD of confidentiality obligations constituted grounds for the termination of the patent license agreement.
Following several years of ongoing litigation and appeals, on February 18, 2020, the Court of Appeal of The Hague, or the Court of Appeal, ruled that Pepscan was entitled to terminate the license agreement and granted a worldwide injunction against BicycleRD exploiting the licensed Pepscan patents and any related know-how, subject to a civil daily fine of EUR 25,000 in the event of non-compliance. BicycleRD subsequently appealed the decision of the Court of Appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court.
In September, 2020, BicycleRD filed two petitions requesting inter partes review (IPR) with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of two of Pepscan’s U.S. patents forming part of the WO 2004 077062 patent family, and a revocation action against the German patent forming part of Pepscan’s WO 2004 077062 patent family in the German Federal Patent Court.
On November 20, 2020, we announced that we entered into a settlement and license agreement with Pepscan regarding our use of Pepscan’s CLIPS peptide technology. We and Pepscan have agreed to settle all intellectual property disputes worldwide, including those described in the preceding paragraphs. Under the terms of the settlement, Pepscan granted us a license to use CLIPS peptide technology in the development of our product candidates BT1718 and THR-149. We paid €3 million in November 2020, will pay €1 million on the first anniversary of the date of settlement, and will make potential additional payments to Pepscan based on achievement of specified clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones. We also entered into a separate settlement agreement with Pepscan concerning European patent opposition proceedings, which is described below.