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DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the Proxy Statement for the registrant’s 2022 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
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Table of Contents
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, or Annual Report, contains forward-looking statements. We intend such forward-looking statements to be covered by the safe harbor provisions for forward-looking statements contained in Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report, including statements regarding our future results of operations and financial position, business strategy, product candidates, clinical development plans and expectations, prospective products, product approvals, research and development costs, timing and likelihood of success, and plans and objectives of management for future operations and results, are forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements.
In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “expect,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “could,” “intend,” “target,” “project,” “contemplate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential” or “continue” or the negative of these terms or other similar expressions. The forward-looking statements in this Annual Report are only predictions. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Annual Report and are subject to a number of important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements, including the risks, uncertainties and assumptions described under the sections in this Annual Report titled “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.” These forward-looking statements are subject to numerous risks, including, without limitation, the following:
Because forward-looking statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties, some of which cannot be predicted or quantified and some of which are beyond our control, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The events and circumstances reflected in our forward-looking statements may not be achieved or occur, and actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties. As a result of these factors, we cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this Annual Report will prove to be accurate. Except as required by applicable law, we do not plan to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements contained herein, whether as a result of any new information, future events, changed circumstances, or otherwise.
You should read this Annual Report and the documents that we reference in this Annual Report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. We qualify that all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.
RISK FACTORS SUMMARY
Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including those described in Part I Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. You should carefully consider these risks and uncertainties when investing in our common stock. The principal risks and uncertainties affecting our business include the following:
Item 1. Business.
We are a clinical-stage regenerative medicine company focused on developing therapeutics to activate a person’s innate regenerative potential to restore function. Our focus is on advancing our lead product candidate, FX-322, through clinical studies with the goal of developing and commercializing a medicine to help millions of people with the most common form of hearing loss while continuing to broaden the potential of our regenerative approach in other applications. We believe we are a leading company using mitotic regeneration for cochlear sensory hair cell regeneration and that FX-322 has the potential to meaningfully improve overall hearing function and enhance quality of life for people with this condition.
Our proprietary approach, called Progenitor Cell Activation, or PCA, uses small molecules to activate progenitor cells within the body to create functional tissue. These progenitor cells, which are closely related to stem cells, are already resident in the targeted location in the body and programmed to develop and differentiate into specific cell types within an organ. We believe this approach provides us the opportunity to pursue multiple proposed indications and develop potential treatments for an array of degenerative diseases throughout the body.
Our hearing program is for a condition called sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, which is the most prevalent type of hearing loss, typically caused by permanent loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea within the ear. Cochlear sensory hair cells can be lost by noise exposure, as a result of aging, certain viral infections or exposure to ototoxic drugs. FX-322 aims to treat the underlying cause of SNHL by regenerating hair cells through the activation of progenitor cells already present in the cochlea. Since 2019, we have completed five studies, all with the aim of understanding the safety of FX-322 as well as severities and etiologies that FX-322 might treat and the appropriate dose regime. In October 2021, we commenced dosing of a Phase 2b clinical trial of FX-322 (FX-322-208). We continue to advance work related to SNHL. In November 2021, we introduced our new SNHL investigational therapeutic program, FX-345, designed to achieve broader exposure through the cochlea. Refer to Our hearing program below for detailed information on completed and ongoing studies as well as our hearing pipeline.
In July 2019, we entered into a license and collaboration agreement, or the Astellas Agreement, with Astellas Pharma Inc., or Astellas, under which we granted them rights to develop and commercialize FX-322 outside of the United States. As consideration for the licensed rights under the Astellas Agreement, Astellas paid us an upfront payment of $80.0 million in July 2019 and has agreed to pay potential development milestone payments of up to $230.0 million. If the Astellas licensed products are successfully commercialized, we would be eligible for up to $315.0 million in potential commercial milestone payments plus tiered royalties on any future product sales ranging from low- to mid-teen percentages. Refer to License and collaboration agreements below for detailed information on this agreement.
We believe our PCA approach can impact a wide range of degenerative diseases. To that end, in addition to our lead program in hearing, we are working to rapidly advance discovery efforts using our PCA approach to potentially remyelinate nerves in patients with multiple sclerosis, or MS. MS induces demyelination, stripping axons of the myelin sheaths that support nerve signal conduction and axonal survival. Prior to initiating our internal discovery program against a novel target, we licensed intellectual property from Scripps and Cambridge Enterprise on approaches to promote remyelination of nerve fibers. We continue to engage in sponsoring clinical research to validate this initial approach at Cambridge University. In November 2021, we introduced FREQ-162, an internally discovered preclinical stage compound that has been shown to induce substantially more remyelination than published comparator approaches based on in vivo models. Our efforts are focused on advancing Frequency compounds in preclinical safety studies to enable the initiation of clinical trials in 2023. Refer to Our multiple sclerosis (MS) program below for detailed information on our internal program and ongoing sponsored research.
Impact of COVID-19
Our offices are located in states that have lifted many COVID-19 restrictions. As of the date of the filing of this Annual Report, the majority of our non-laboratory based employees continue to work from home two to three days per week, while our laboratory personnel have largely resumed a full in-person schedule in our Lexington, MA facility. We have also taken steps consistent with the updated industry guidance for conducting clinical trials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and actions taken to mitigate it, have had and are expected to continue to have an impact on the economies and financial markets of many countries, including the geographical area in which we operate, which could adversely impact our ability to raise additional capital when needed or on acceptable terms, if at all. In addition, COVID-19 may cause disruptions in our business or operations, as well as the business and operations of our clinical manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, clinical research organizations, or CROs, and other third parties with whom we conduct business. The COVID-19 pandemic may also adversely impact our clinical trials, which could impede, delay, limit or prevent the clinical development of our product candidates and ultimately lead to the delay or denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates, which would materially adversely affect our business and operations, including our ability to generate revenue.
Our product pipeline
The table at Exhibit 1 summarizes our PCA therapeutic candidate pipeline and discovery research programs:
Our team and history
Our company was founded in 2014 with the goal of creating medicines based on breakthrough research focused on activating the body’s regenerative potential. In their groundbreaking research, Professors Robert S. Langer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jeffrey Karp at Harvard Medical School, decoded the natural signals between cells that make the intestine one of the most regenerative organs in the body through the continuous activation of progenitor cells. Recognizing that similar progenitor cells were present but inactive in other organs, they discovered how to adapt these natural signals using small molecules to temporarily activate progenitor cells in other organs, including the cochlea, and create a localized healing response.
Our leadership team includes experienced biotech executives David L. Lucchino, our Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, Christopher R. Loose, our Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder, Peter P. Pfreundschuh, our Chief Financial Officer, Carl P. LeBel, our Chief Development Officer, Quentin McCubbin, our Chief Manufacturing Officer, Susan Stewart, our Chief Regulatory Officer, and Wendy S. Arnold, our Chief People Officer. We have also assembled a world-class team of leaders in regenerative biology, otology, drug development, and drug delivery. Our Clinical Advisory Board is comprised of leaders in hearing science and technology who shape how the community thinks about hearing function and restoration. Our Regenerative Medicine Advisory Board members are at the forefront of scientific discovery on the activation of progenitor cells and their potential application to therapeutic interventions in diseases of multiple tissues and organs.
We intend to create and commercialize therapeutics to potentially transform the lives of individuals by repairing or reversing damage done to cells, tissue, and organs. To do so, we are implementing the following strategies:
Our approach: Progenitor cell activation within the body
We are pioneering a new class of small molecule therapeutics designed to activate progenitor cells already present within the body to create healthy functional tissues and organs. We developed our PCA platform to identify combinations of small molecules that selectively activate progenitor cells to regenerate tissues. Our current therapeutic focus is SNHL and MS. We believe that our preclinical and clinical studies in SNHL and our preclinical studies in MS have validated the potential of our PCA platform to provide a new approach to regenerative medicine.
Exhibit 2 below illustrates the application of our PCA platform to activate progenitor cells and create healthy functioning target cells. Our small molecules are designed to activate key genes in a progenitor cell, which enable the cell to go through asymmetric division, leaving behind a copy of the progenitor cell as well as creating a functional cell, such as a hair cell. This asymmetric division process is a common mechanism used during the natural development and repair of tissues.
Relationship between stem cells and progenitor cells
All cells in the human body arise from a single unspecialized, or undifferentiated, cell type called a pluripotent stem cell. Two of the key characteristics of pluripotent stem cells are their ability to renew themselves through cell division and the ability to differentiate into any cell type. Progenitor cells have similar self-renewal properties as pluripotent stem cells. However, progenitor cells are programmed to develop and differentiate into specific cell types within an organ. This process can be visualized using Waddington’s epigenetic landscape, which depicts a pluripotent stem cell as a ball rolling down a hill as development progresses as seen in Exhibit 3 below. As the ball commits to specific valleys, the cell becomes more specialized and increasingly commits to a tissue-specific fate, such as a progenitor cell. The progenitor cells are programmed to create specific cell types, and, in some cases, allow mature tissue and organs to repair and renew. However, researchers have discovered that many organs throughout the human body that do not spontaneously regenerate do contain inactive progenitor cells that, if stimulated, are potentially available to drive regeneration.
Over the course of several decades, multiple attempts have been made to harness the regenerative potential of stem cells. More recently, the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Dr. Shinya Yamanaka for discovering how to create induced pluripotent stem cells by adding four genetic factors to a fully differentiated cell, as illustrated by the solid black arrow in Exhibit 3 below. However, the Yamanaka factors cannot be applied in vivo, and it has proven challenging to manufacture pluripotent or other human stem cells outside of the body and to control their differentiation to produce a particular cell type. Further, delivering and properly integrating these cells back into the body adds substantial complexity. Using another approach, some investigators have tried to force progenitor cells within the body to directly convert into other cell types through a process called trans-differentiation, as illustrated by the dotted black arrow in the graphic below. However, trans-differentiation may deplete progenitor cells, which reduces the target cell population for future treatments.
We believe that our PCA approach, illustrated in Exhibit 3 below, bypasses the challenges presented by stem cell therapies by utilizing small molecule therapeutics to temporarily reactivate progenitor cells that are already located at the tissue target site within the body and are pre-programmed to make specific cell types. Our combinations of small molecules are designed to induce a progenitor cell to temporarily enter an active state, where it then divides asymmetrically, replacing itself (blue arrows) and regenerating a desired cell type (orange arrow). Asymmetric division occurs when organs naturally regenerate, so progenitor cells are thought to be maintained for future use.
Key attributes of our PCA platform
Our discoveries in regenerative medicine allow us to activate the innate and under-utilized capabilities of progenitor cells. We believe our PCA platform represents a transformative step in the evolution of regenerative medicine by providing the following key advantages compared to other regenerative approaches:
Our therapeutic discovery process
We utilize a proprietary process to identify small molecule combinations for activating progenitor cells.
By assessing our small molecule combinations in a highly relevant context, we and our collaborators have applied this discovery process to identify compounds that activate progenitor cells in numerous tissues.
Our hearing program
Impact and prevalence of hearing loss
According to the WHO, over 1.5 billion people suffer from some degree of hearing loss worldwide, and, according to the NIH, approximately 90% of people with hearing loss have SNHL. Based on our estimates, we believe that approximately 41 million adults in the United States are aware of their SNHL. The WHO also estimates that 1.1 billion children and adults ages 12 to 35 years old are at risk for hearing loss from recreational noise exposure. In middle- and high-income countries, the WHO estimates that nearly 50% of people aged 12 to 35 listen to personal audio devices at unsafe sound levels. Moreover, damage from noise exposure in early childhood can render the ears more susceptible to the effects of aging. Noise exposure is difficult to avoid in modern society. Noise at restaurants, for example, routinely climbs into the high 70-decibel, or dB, range, equivalent to a canister vacuum cleaner, and sometimes to the mid-80 dB, as loud as a nearby diesel truck.
After a person first complains of hearing loss, which is most often to their primary care physician, individuals with SNHL are managed by audiologists and otolaryngologists, who are trained as ear, nose, and throat specialists, or ENTs. In the United States, there are about 13,000 audiologists and about 12,500 ENTs. Developing a therapeutic to potentially modify an underlying cause of SNHL may provide a critically important treatment option for this group of health-care providers and their patients.
There are also further direct and indirect impacts on individuals suffering from SNHL. Hearing loss profoundly affects an individual’s ability to participate in the social interactions of daily life, which can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration. Untreated hearing loss is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia and a 40% increased risk of depression. Adults with hearing loss also have higher unemployment rates than non-hearing-impaired adults, and a relationship between hearing loss and diminished employment and advancement opportunities has been reported. According to a 2020 study in the medical journal The Lancet, hearing loss is the largest potentially modifiable risk factor for developing dementia.
Biology and measurement of hearing
We hear sounds when sound waves enter the inner ear and generate movement of the fluid in the cochlea, a portion of the inner ear that looks like a snail shell. This fluid movement causes hair cells within the cochlea to bend and in turn generate electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve. The cochlea is arranged so that hair cells at the base detect high frequencies and hair cells at the apex detect low frequencies.
Humans are born with about 15,000 hair cells in the cochlea of each ear. Hair cells are commonly lost due to noise exposure in work settings, travel or leisure activities, as a result of aging or certain viral infections or exposure to ototoxic drugs. Lost hair cells do not spontaneously regenerate. Over time, hearing loss can accumulate with greater prevalence at high frequencies. The left panel of Exhibit 4 below shows a picture of the inside of a healthy cochlea, with one row of inner hair cells, or IHCs, and three rows of outer hair cells, or OHCs. OHCs amplify or dampen sound volume and tune the cochlea to detect specific frequencies. IHCs convert sound waves into nerve impulses that are sent to the auditory nerve. Functional hair cells allow the auditory system to focus on a sound and filter it appropriately throughout the cochlea. The right panel in Exhibit 4, adapted from Ryan AF PNAS 2000, shows a cochlea after noise damage, with both IHCs and OHCs missing.
Healthy and Noise-Damaged Cochlea
The two primary components for hearing testing are intelligibility, or the ability to understand spoken words which is referred to as speech perception, and the audibility or loudness of sound. While amplifying devices such as hearing aids can make sounds louder, they have limited ability to improve speech clarity, particularly in noisy environments. Intelligibility is particularly important to understand speech in social settings such as in meetings or at restaurants, where filtering sound is critical for communication.
Speech perception is typically measured by playing a list of words that are repeated back by the person being tested and scoring based on the number of words that the person gets correct. The two validated testing methods of speech perception that are most widely used by audiologists are: word recognition, or WR, where subjects are asked to identify monosyllabic words delivered at a loud, but conversational volume level, and words-in-noise, or WIN, where subjects are asked to identify monosyllabic words in the presence of background, multi-talker noise.
Audibility is determined by measuring hearing function at different levels of loudness and pitch or frequency. Subjects are most often tested using pure tone audiometry, in which a tone is played at a particular frequency and subjects are asked to indicate whether they can hear the tone at varying levels of loudness. Loudness is recorded in dB HL. Frequency is recorded in Hertz, or Hz, and is generally measured in the range of 250 to 8000 Hz. According to the WHO, normal hearing is defined as the ability to hear sounds at a loudness value of less than 26 dB HL, which is the average of loudness values measured at a range of low, middle, and high frequencies, such as 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz. The larger the loudness value needed for a subject to hear sounds the greater the decline in hearing function, or more severe hearing loss. Exhibit 5 below depicts the severity of hearing loss across a range of frequencies based on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association scale.
Limitations of current treatment options
Current treatment options for hearing loss have significant limitations and none are disease modifying. The only available treatments for hearing loss are hearing aids, or in extreme cases, cochlear implants. No drug therapies have been approved by the FDA or, to our knowledge, by other regulatory bodies, for the treatment of SNHL.
Hearing aids help many people cope with mild-to-moderate hearing loss and are used or have been tried by more than 10 million people in the United States. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, only one in four adults who could benefit from hearing aids has ever used them. Limitations of hearing aids include:
People with severe or profound hearing loss who have not been helped by hearing aids may be candidates for a cochlear implant. Of the roughly one million people in the United States who qualify, only about 100,000 people have cochlear implants. Cochlear implants comprise an external microphone, sound processor and transmitter system, which receive sounds from the environment, and an implanted receiver and electrode system that directly stimulates the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants do not mimic natural hearing, and people with cochlear implants need to learn to interpret the low-resolution electric signal produced by the device as sound. Cochlear implants also require an invasive, costly surgical procedure.
Our lead product candidate: FX-322
Using our PCA platform, we are developing our lead product candidate, FX-322, for the treatment of SNHL. FX-322 is designed to treat the underlying cause of SNHL by regenerating hair cells through activation of progenitor cells already present in the cochlea. We believe that FX-322 has the potential to meaningfully improve overall hearing function and significantly enhance quality of life for people with hearing loss.
Mechanism of Action
By studying the most regenerative organ in the body, the intestine, we discovered that signaling for proliferation and differentiation among stem cells could be replicated with small molecules. Specifically, activating the Wnt pathway, which is fundamental for cell growth, using a glycogen synthase kinase 3, or GSK3, inhibitor and inhibiting histone deacetylase, or HDAC, caused intestinal stem cells expressing the protein Lgr5 to proliferate. The inner ear contains progenitor cells with the Lgr5 protein that do not regenerate on their own. On the hypothesis, depicted in Exhibit 6 below, that these progenitor cells lacked the signals required for regeneration, we applied a GSK3 inhibitor and HDAC inhibitor to these cells and found that they proliferated and regenerated lost hair cells. Based on this discovery, we created FX-322, which is a proprietary combination of an FDA-approved HDAC inhibitor, sodium valproate, and a new chemical entity that inhibits GSK3.
FX-322 is our proprietary thermoreversible polymer formulation that is administered through the eardrum, or intratympanically, into the middle ear in a procedure that takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes. The intratympanic
administration procedure is generally well-tolerated and is routinely performed by ENTs as an office-based procedure. FX-322, which is liquid at room temperature, gels at body temperature inside the middle ear, allowing the active ingredients to diffuse into the inner ear and reach the cochlea. Similar thermoreversible polymer formulations have been used in FDA-approved products for other indications in the ear. Exhibit 7 below shows delivery of FX-322 via intratympanic injection.
FX-322 preclinical studies
Prior to commencing clinical trials, we tested FX-322 in multiple preclinical studies, including in human cells ex vivo and functional hearing tests in mice in vivo. In in vitro testing of isolated human inner ear progenitor cells with the compounds comprising FX-322, we observed the formation of new progenitor cells and their subsequent conversion into hair cells. We also observed translation across species in our in vitro studies of the inner ear progenitor cells from rhesus macaques in which a similar expansion of cell numbers were observed as in the in vitro studies of human cells. Exhibit 8 below summarizes these outcomes.
We also conducted ex vivo testing in intact cochlea isolated from mice. To cause hair cell loss, we exposed the cochlea for 16 hours to an aminoglycoside antibiotic that is toxic to hair cells. We then treated the cochlea for 72 hours with the compounds comprising the active agents in FX-322. Aminoglycoside treatment (left panel of Exhibit 9 below) killed more than 80% of the hair cells in the cochlea (shown in green). By contrast, cochlea treated with the compounds in FX-322 (right panel of Exhibit 9) regenerated hair cells to a near native level, as shown graphically in the right panel.
We also tested FX-322 in a mouse model of severe noise-induced hearing loss. Following noise exposure, 47 mice were treated with FX-322 and 37 were treated with placebo. Hearing function was measured using auditory brainstem response, or ABR, in which the signal generated by the auditory nerve upon sensing sound is detected by electrodes on the scalp. We performed ABR testing after 24 hours, and measured hearing recovery after 30 days. Exhibit 10 below shows the percentage of mice treated with FX-322 (shown in orange) or with placebo (shown in blue) that achieved a hearing recovery of at least 10 dB at 20000 Hz, a mid-range frequency for mice. The improvement observed in the placebo-treated mice was due to recovery of temporary effects not related to hair cell death, which is typical following acute hearing loss.
Hearing Recovery in Mice Treated with FX-322
We have also conducted pharmacokinetic tests in multiple species in which we observed that FX-322 administration achieved therapeutic levels of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in the cochlea.
Exhibit 11 below illustrates the cellular regeneration identified in the in vivo hearing loss model.
FX-322 completed clinical trials
Phase 1/2 clinical trial
We conducted a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of FX-322 (FX-322-201) in which we enrolled 23 adult subjects aged 33 to 64 with an established diagnosis of mild to moderately severe stable SNHL, defined as the average pure tone value of 26 to 70
dB at the 500, 1000, 2000 and 4000 Hz frequencies, who had no change of 10 dB or more at any frequency for more than six months prior to the study. Fourteen subjects had mild SNHL and nine subjects had moderate to moderately severe SNHL. Of the nine moderate to moderately severe subjects, six were randomized to FX-322 and three to placebo. In this trial, 15 subjects were treated with a single injection of FX-322 and eight subjects received placebo. Each subject had a documented medical history consistent with either noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, typically from noise exposure at work, or sudden SNHL, or SSNHL, which is characterized as a loss of 30 dB at three adjacent frequencies occurring over a 72-hour period. Hearing function, specifically speech perception, was assessed using WR and WIN. Hearing loudness was also measured using pure tone audiometry. Subjects were randomized to a single injection of FX-322 or placebo administered at one of two different dose volumes (0.05 mL and 0.2 mL) to assess the safety of FX-322 administration and systemic exposure to FX-322. Follow-up visits occurred at 15, 30, 60, and 90 days after injection. The objectives of the trial were to assess the systemic safety of FX-322, the plasma pharmacokinetic profile to determine the systemic exposure to FX-322, and the effect of FX-322 on measures of ear health and hearing function.
FX-322 was observed to be well-tolerated in this trial. No serious adverse events were observed, and all treatment-related adverse events were mild, procedure-related, and generally resolved within minutes after dosing. We also observed limited concentrations of the FX-322 components in systemic circulation.
In addition to the prospective analysis, we conducted a prospective statistical analysis where we tested whether the Day 90 WR value for each subject fell outside of the 95% confidence interval compared to their baseline WR value. A confidence interval, or CI, is a range of values in which, statistically, there is a specified level of confidence where the result lies. In this subject-by-subject analysis, we observed statistically significant and clinically meaningful increases in WR in four of fifteen subject treated with FX-322 at Day 90. All four of these subject were among the six FX-322 subjects that had moderate to moderately severe SNHL (as shown in Exhibit 12 below).We also observed improvements for the two remaining FX-322 subjects in the study that had moderate to moderately severe SNHL in the range of 30-50% from their baseline score, but these improvements were not statistically significant.
In June 2020, we shared preliminary findings from a follow-up study we conducted that assessed durability of the WR improvements beyond 90 days at a single follow-up visit from 407 to 639 days postFX-322 administration in five of the subjects that showed a response in the Phase 1/2 trial (FX-322-201) (the 6th subject was unable to participate in the follow-up study). The mean percentage of words correct in the treated ear was 38.4% at baseline, 69.6% at day 90, and 54.8% at follow-up. Three of five subjects showed statistically significant improvements in WR at the follow-up visit compared to baseline, as illustrated in Exhibit 12 below. We believe that the results suggest that a single dose of FX-322 can result in durable improvements in speech perception and support further investigation of the efficacy of FX-322.
There was no apparent association between WR improvements and whether the subjects had stable NIHL, or stable SSNHL, and similar results were obtained with both dose volumes. This is consistent with published work showing drug delivery to the cochlea depends more on the concentration of the drug than the volume of injection. There were no clinically meaningful WR improvements observed in the placebo group.
We also performed a post hoc analysis on WR and WIN data for the Phase 1/2 study (FX-322-201). The analysis showed a statistically significant improvement in WR by all FX-322-treated subjects versus all placebo subjects (p=0.010). A p value is the probability that the difference between two data sets was due to chance. The smaller the p value, the more likely the differences are not due to chance alone. In general, if the p value is less than or equal to 0.05, the outcome is statistically significant. The data in the figures below are presented as adjusted mean relative percent change from baseline. FX-322 treated subjects saw improvements in WR as early as 15 days after treatment that were sustained over 90 days.
As shown in Exhibit 13 below for WIN, the adjusted mean relative percent change from baseline was assessed at 15, 30, 60, and 90 days after injection, and a trend in improvement was seen in FX-322-treated subjects versus placebo. Also,
there were non-statistically significant trends in improved WIN scores at Day 90 in the four FX-322, treated subjects that had statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements in WR in the prospective statistical analysis.
The same WR data was published in Otology and Neurotology in February 2021, as shown in Exhibit 14 below. In compliance with the publication’s policy, the data was presented with standard error, resulting in a slightly different adjusted mean and p value. Despite the change, the results shown in Exhibit 14 were consistent with those in Exhibit 13 above.
As shown in Exhibit 15 below, published in Otology and Neurotology in February 2021, speech recognition in a noisy background also improved over time for FX-322-treated subjects versus placebo subjects. Performance was quantified as the signal-to-noise ratio, or SNR, consistent with 50% correct WR, with lower SNR values indicating better speech perception in background noise. Analyses showed a significant improvement in average SNR from baseline to Day 90 in FX-322-treated subjects versus placebo subjects.
We also assessed audiometric changes from 250 Hz to 8000 Hz for all subjects. Since drug enters closest to the high frequency region, the greatest drug exposure is expected to occur in the high frequency region. While no statistical differences were observed at any frequency when comparing pooled treatment groups, four of the moderate to moderately severe FX-322 subjects showed a 10 dB threshold improvement at 8000 Hz at Day 90.
Phase 2a clinical trial
Based on our analysis of the data from our Phase 1/2 clinical trial, we initiated a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, single- and repeat-dose Phase 2a clinical trial of FX-322 (FX-322-202) in the fourth quarter of 2019. In September 2020, we completed enrollment of 95 subjects aged 18-65 across sixteen sites in the Phase 2a clinical trial. As in the Phase 1/2 clinical trial, subjects were required to have a documented medical history consistent with either stable NIHL or stable SSNHL, meaning that a subject's hearing deficit has remained consistent over a defined period of time based on a subject's audiograms. All subjects in the clinical trial had meaningful WR deficits including subjects who were considered to have “mild” hearing loss.
To explore how a single dose compares to multiple doses of FX-322, we randomized subjects to one of four groups, each of which received four injections, once per week at weekly intervals starting at the initial visit. Group 1 received one injection of FX-322 and three injections of placebo. Group two received two injections of FX-322 and two injections of placebo. Group three received four injections of FX-322. Group four received four injections of placebo. subjects had follow-up visits two weeks after dosing and then monthly for seven months. The efficacy endpoints of this trial were WR, WIN, and pure tone audiometry in the range of 250 to 8000 Hz. The exploratory efficacy endpoints were the TFI, the HHIA, and pure tone audiometry in the range of 9000 to 16000 Hz.
In June 2021, we announced final results from the Phase 2a clinical trial (FX-322-202). Consistent with the topline, day-90 interim data, the end-of-study results (as of day 210) showed that four weekly injections of FX-322 did not demonstrate improvements in any hearing measures versus placebo, a finding we believe is due to an uncontrolled bias and the limitation to a single baseline measure. We also observed an unexpected increase in WR scores in the placebo group that did not occur in previous FX-322 trials and exceeded well-established published standards, potentially suggesting bias due to trial design. Given this lack of reliability of baseline WR scores of the placebo group, we were unable to evaluate hearing improvements in WR scores for FX-322 dosing regimens versus placebo. The study results showed a favorable safety and tolerability profile for FX-322 in the Phase 2a clinical trial. No treatment-related serious adverse events were observed in the study.
Phase 1b clinical trials
In March 2021, we announced data from a Phase 1b clinical trial of FX-322 designed to evaluate the impact of injection conditions on tolerability (FX-322-111). The data showed hearing improvement from a single injection of FX-322. In the multi-center, randomized study, subjects with mild to severe SNHL (n=33) were injected in one ear with FX-322 with the untreated ear as the control. Hearing function was tested over the course of 90 days following dosing. Thirty-two subjects completed the 90-day clinical assessment period and, at day 90 following dosing, 34% of these subjects achieved a 10% or greater absolute improvement in WR scores in the treated ear, which was clinically meaningful and statistically significant compared to the untreated ear (p <0.05). This included a subset of subjects that more than doubled their WR scores. Twenty-five subjects were subsequently evaluated during the 8 to 12 months following FX-322 dosing and nine subjects, including the five initial responders at day 90, had shown statistically significant hearing improvements when evaluated during this time period. Of the five subjects that showed a statistically significant response and doubled their WR scores at day 90, four of these returned for evaluation and had scores that remained above their baseline WR measures, though were below the threshold for statistical significance. In this trial, FX-322 showed a favorable safety profile and was well tolerated.
In May 2021, we announced data from a Phase 1b clinical trial of FX-322 in presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) (FX-322-112). The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, multicenter safety study enrolled 30 individuals aged 66-85 with age-related hearing loss. Study participants were randomized 4:1 to receive either FX-322 or placebo in one ear. Validated hearing measures, as well as safety, otologic and audiologic assessments were also evaluated in the study. By design, the study recruited subjects with no medical history of noise-induced or SSNHL, etiologies where FX-322 associated hearing benefits were observed in prior studies, as we continue to separately evaluate subjects with specific forms of hearing loss to better refine cohorts for future studies. While the treatment effect was not significant compared to placebo, results from the study showed a favorable safety and tolerability profile with no reported treatment-related serious adverse events.
In December 2021 we announced data from a Phase 1b clinical trial of FX-322 in subjects aged 18-65 with severe SNHL (FX-322-113). The trial enrolled 31 subjects with Severe SNHL, defined as a pure tone average deficit between 71-90 dB. Many subjects with this clinical profile typically would be candidates for cochlear implants. The primary objectives of the study were to assess the local and systemic safety of a single dose of FX-322 and evaluate hearing responses in a more severe adult cohort. Study participants were randomized 4:1 to receive either FX-322 or placebo in one ear. Validated measures of hearing including WR, sentences in noise, and pure tone audiometry were utilized in the study. Safety, otologic and audiologic assessments were conducted at days 30 and 90 following administration of FX-322 or placebo. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the potential impact of FX-322 in this population, we evaluated hearing using multiple tests of speech perception in both quiet and noisy backgrounds, including the Bamford-Kowal-Bench Sentence-in-Noise exam, or BKB-SIN. In this study, BKB-SIN test improvements were observed in four subjects, all of whom exceeded the 95 percent critical difference of 3.1dB SNR, with two subjects showing a 6dB response. A single placebo subject had a 3.6dB change. In the study, subjects did not show substantial changes in speech perception measures in quiet, the safety profile in the study was favorable and there were no treatment-related serious adverse events reported.
Human PK exposure
In May 2020, we announced top-line data from an exploratory clinical study in Germany that we believe demonstrated that FX-322 effectively reached the cochlea at levels predicted, based on computer models, to be therapeutically active. Top-line results from the exploratory study showed measurable concentrations of FX-322 in every sample analyzed and that anatomical factors did not prevent FX-322 from reaching the cochlea. The study results were based on analyzing samples of cochlear fluid, known as perilymph, taken intraoperatively from patients undergoing cochlear implant surgery. A total of seven patients received a single intratympanic injection of FX-322, enabling researchers to directly measure the level of FX-322 in perilymph, which is not otherwise feasible in inner-ear studies because accessing the cochlea involves an invasive surgical procedure. Study patients were followed for approximately 30 days after the procedure and no serious treatment related adverse events were observed. The study results were included in the article accepted for publication in the journal Otology and Neurotology and were published in February 2021.
FX-322 clinical results
Since 2019, we have completed five studies, as depicted in Exhibit 16 below and described in detail in the FX-322 completed clinical trials section above, all with the aim of understanding the safety of FX-322 as well as severities and etiologies that FX-322 might treat and the appropriate dose regime.
Based on the data from these studies, we have demonstrated a pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic relationship for FX-322, where we have observed that therapeutic concentrations of FX-322 in the cochlea were associated with statistically significant improvements in hearing function as measured by improved speech perception in subjects with SNHL. Further, we observed that these improvements in speech perception were sustained in some subjects for almost two years, which we believe suggests a potential disease-modifying benefit. Furthermore, we have uncovered that some subjects may respond at different times -- important learnings to the overall program.
Exhibit 17 below, shows data from our Phase 1/2 clinical trial (FX-322-201) and one of our Phase 1b clinical trials (FX-322-111), two independent, single-dose studies in subjects with mild to severe SNHL that showed a hearing signal with FX-322 and statistically significant improvements in speech perception.
The scale of the overall FX-322 clinical program has enabled us to pool the data from these two trials and a third single-dose trial, our Phase 1b clinical trial (FX-322-112), and conduct a post-hoc analysis to look for patterns in the data and give us important insight into the characteristics of responders. Exhibit 18 below shows our pooled data analysis where we evaluated how many subjects showed at least a 10% absolute change from baseline in speech perception. In this graph, the y-axis is the change in the numbers of words correct from a 50-word test. We observed that the changes in FX-322-treated subjects exceeded the threshold for meaningful improvements, while a fraction of placebo-treated subjects or untreated ears, land above the threshold. Several FX-322 responders showed at least 10-word improvements or 20% absolute word increase, while some had a 40% absolute word increase.
Another way that we looked at the pooled data was by using the responder definition of the number of subjects that exceed the 95% confidence intervals from well-established historical standards. Looking at the data in this way, as illustrated in Exhibit 18, we observed that 14% of FX-322- treated subjects exceeded the threshold for improved speech perception and that placebo-treated subjects and untreated ears are consistent with the historical literature standards, Thornton & Raffin (1978) and modified by Carney & Schlauch (2007), as referenced in Exhibit 18 below.
Using the same responder definition, we also evaluated the multi-injection Phase 2a clinical trial (FX-322-202) study and compared it to the three single-dose trials. Exhibit 19 below shows results from comparing the proportion of placebo-treated patients and untreated ears in the Phase 2a clinical trial (FX-322-202) against the three single-dose Phase 1b clinical trials. Based on our analysis, we observed that 15% of placebo-treated or untreated ears exceeded the 95% confidence intervals in the Phase 2a clinical trial compared to 2.1% in the three Phase 1b clinical trials. In the Phase 2a clinical trial, we collected a single baseline measurement compared to the three Phase 1b clinical trials where we collected baseline measurements. We believe that as a result, baseline speech perception scores in the Phase 2a clinical trial were not consistent with previous scores from many of the subjects in this trial.
Ongoing clinical trials
Our large clinical database has enabled us to pool data and better understand responder profiles and we have captured important learnings from all of our trials that have been incorporated into our Phase 2b study (FX-322-208), which commenced dosing in October 2021 in subjects with SNHL. In Exhibit 20 below, the orange circle indicates the focus that we have for this trial with respect to the subject populations. Our pooled data strategy has led us to focus on SSNHL and noise-induced hearing loss subjects in the high mild to low severe range.
The Phase 2b study (FX-322-208) is a randomized, placebo-controlled, multi-center study designed to evaluate the impact of a single administration of FX-322 on speech perception in approximately 124 subjects with either noise-induced or sudden SNHL (study design shown in Exhibit 21 below). The study’s primary endpoint is speech perception, a measure of sound clarity and understanding speech. In a Type-C meeting with the FDA, the FDA agreed that speech perception is an acceptable primary efficacy endpoint. The Phase 2b study’s inclusion criteria are designed to enroll subjects with the same hearing loss severities and etiologies as those subjects in which statistically significant improvements in speech perception were observed in prior FX-322 clinical studies. For the study, we have assumed 5% of placebo subjects would show an improvement. Therefore, our treatment effect is targeted to be 20%. Thusly, we need a sample size of 112 subjects at 80% power to detect this 20% difference at a significance level of 0.05. and is the reason what we will be recruiting 124 subjects into the study as we account for potential subject attrition.
We have also employed several new design elements which are designed to mitigate bias, such as a lead-in phase with multiple visits to establish a sound baseline measure based on consistent test results. We believe other design elements, such as masking of both subjects and sites will further mitigate potential bias and a level of audiology surveillance is built into the study, such that all test sessions are recorded. Finally, the lead-in phase is used to disqualify subjects with poor test consistency. We believe that the Phase 2b trial is optimally designed to evaluate the effect of FX-322 in speech perception.
Additionally, we are continuing to gather data via extension trials of our Phase 1b clinical trials, FX-322-111 and FX-322-112.
Our hearing pipeline: FX-345
In November 2021, we introduced our new SNHL investigational therapeutic program, FX-345. As illustrated in Exhibit 22 below, we believe this program may offer some advantages over FX-322 as we look to expand the opportunity to treat different types of SNHL. Specifically, FX-345 was designed to achieve broader exposure through a large portion of the cochlea, which could have a greater treatment impact or be used to treat a broader patient population than FX-322. Further, FX-345 may provide greater flexibility in dose selection and formulation, which could enable us to evaluate a range of different dose levels.
We have used cochlear pharmacokinetic measures and human modeling data in a preclinical setting to assess FX-345. In Exhibit 23 below, we see human modeling data for FX-322 and FX-345 showing drug distribution levels across time and the location of the cochlea. Specifically, one axis is the position within the cochlea from the base to the apex. The second axis is the time from injection from left to right. The height of the surface is the concentration relative to the target level for the GSK-3 inhibitor (GSK3i). Based on this modeling, FX-345 achieved greater exposure through a larger portion of the cochlea for longer time.
We anticipate filing an investigational new drug application with the FDA for FX-345 in the second half of 2022. This will be our first step in exploring the impact of broad and sustained cochlear coverage on a range of hearing loss populations.
Our multiple sclerosis (MS) program
We believe our PCA approach can impact a wide range of degenerative diseases, including MS. MS induces demyelination, stripping axons of the myelin sheaths that support nerve signal conduction and axonal survival. Our program focuses on inducing remyelination by activating oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or OPCs, in the central nervous system to
generate new oligodendrocytes and regenerate myelin, potentially repairing the damage caused by MS. In November 2021, we introduced FREQ-162, a preclinical stage compound that induced substantially more remyelination than published comparator approaches based on in vivo models. Our efforts are focused on advancing Frequency compounds in preclinical safety studies to enable the initiation of clinical trials in 2023.
The potential for pharmacologic therapy to induce remyelination in MS has been supported by multiple clinical trials. Clinical trials testing clemastine, histamine receptor 3 inverse agonists, anti-LINGO antibodies, and bexarotene have shown modest improvements in biomarkers, electrophysiological or MRI measures. Prior to initiating our internal discovery program against a novel target, we licensed intellectual property from Scripps and Cambridge Enterprise on approaches to promote remyelination of nerve fibers. We continue to engage in sponsoring clinical research to validate this initial approach at Cambridge University.
However, in order to maximize the benefit to individuals with MS, we believe it is likely that significantly more effective remyelinating agents will be necessary. To create such a therapeutic, we established an independent internal research program to explore the biology underlying remyelination and develop novel chemical entities, or NCEs. We have identified a novel target that drives remyelination and, to the best our knowledge, is only being pursued by us. Our internal discovery efforts have yielded a number of NCEs that have shown encouraging activity to induce remyelination, including FREQ-162. We compared FREQ-162 to three known compounds, thyroid hormone, anti-LINGO antibody, and clemastine, in standard in vivo models. Based on these models, FREQ-162 induced significantly more oligodendrocyte differentiation and remyelination in vivo than the published comparator compounds as illustrated in Exhibit 24 below. FREQ-162 was shown to be effective even in aged animals and drove remyelination in both white and gray matter, which are critical in motor, sensory and cognitive aspects of MS. Our research efforts are focused on optimizing this compound and advancing a candidate into clinical trials in 2023.
Overview of multiple sclerosis
The symptoms of MS include numbness or tingling, weakness, dizziness and vertigo, spasticity, vision problems, sexual problems, bladder or bowel problems, pain, cognitive changes, emotional changes, and depression. Initially, most individuals experience a relapsing-remitting experience course of disease, with periods of new or relapsing symptoms followed by recovery and periods of remission. Early in the disease course, the individuals are partially able to remyelinate the demyelinated nerves. As the disease progresses the ability of the body to remyelinate axons significantly decreases leading to progressive and irreversible neurological deficits. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nearly one million people in the United States are living with MS.
The FDA has approved a number of disease-modifying therapies for MS that reduce the immune system attack on myelin, which may reduce the number of relapses, delay progression of disability, and limit new disease activity. However, none of these products directly drive the remyelination of the nerve fibers. There are no FDA approved remyelinating therapies for MS and we believe this remains the largest unmet medical need in individuals with MS. Our program aims to induce OPCs to differentiate into oligodendrocytes and replace the myelin lost to multiple sclerosis.
Leveraging our PCA platform for future applications
In addition to our hearing and MS programs, we believe our PCA platform has the potential to address a wide range of clinical applications. In directing our internal research, research collaborations, and in-licensing efforts, we intend to target areas of high unmet medical need for which the underlying disease process involves loss or degeneration of key cells that could be reversed using PCA. We believe the PCA platform could further be applied to diseases of the muscle, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and bone. We intend to continue to identify areas with high unmet need where our PCA platform and novel approach to regenerative medicine could lead to potentially disease-modifying therapeutics that create healthy functional tissues and improve peoples’ lives.
Our product candidates consist of small chemical compounds to stimulate cell and tissue regeneration in vivo. As a result, we can rely on the well-established and available manufacturing and drug-delivery technologies developed over decades by the pharmaceutical industry. We source our active pharmaceutical ingredients from contract manufacturers with a track record of FDA-compliant GMP manufacturing. After rigorous internal and external quality control testing, we release these materials to additional contract manufacturers for formulation and packaging into final drug product for use in clinical testing. We expect to use a similar hybrid of internal and contract resources for commercialization of our products, at least until our operations reach a scale sufficient to justify investment in internal manufacturing capacity.
We intend to directly market and commercialize our lead product candidate, FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL, if approved in the United States, by developing our own sales and marketing force, targeting ENTs and audiologists. Under the Astellas Agreement, Astellas has the right to market and commercialize FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL, and any other products containing both a GSK-3 inhibitor and an HDAC inhibitor if approved, outside of the United States. For any other product candidates that are not part of the Astellas Agreement, we intend to establish marketing and commercialization strategies for each on a case by case basis.
We strive to protect and enhance the proprietary technology, inventions, and improvements that are commercially important to the development of our business, including by seeking, maintaining, and defending patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from third parties. We also rely on trade secrets, confidential information and know-how, continuing technological innovation, and in-licensing opportunities to develop, strengthen, and maintain our proprietary position in our field.
Our future commercial success depends, in part, on our ability to: obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for commercially important technology, inventions, and know-how related to our business; defend and enforce our intellectual property rights, in particular our patent rights; preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets; and operate without infringing, misappropriating, or violating the valid and enforceable patents and proprietary rights of third parties. Our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing products identical or similar to ours may depend on the extent to which we have rights under valid and enforceable patents or trade secrets that cover these activities.
The patent positions of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies like ours are generally uncertain and can involve complex legal, scientific, and factual issues. We cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient proprietary protection from competitors. We also cannot ensure that patents will issue with respect to any patent applications that we or our licensors may file in the future, nor can we ensure that any of our owned or licensed patents or future patents will be commercially useful in protecting our product candidates and methods of manufacturing the same. In addition, the coverage claimed in a patent application may be significantly reduced before a patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted and even challenged after issuance. As a result, we cannot guarantee that any of our products will be protected or remain protectable by enforceable patents. Moreover, any patents that we hold may be challenged, circumvented, or invalidated by third parties. See “Risk factors—Risks related to our intellectual property” for a more comprehensive description of risks related to our intellectual property.
In an effort to secure our intellectual property positions we generally file patent applications directed to our programs. As of March 1, 2022, we owned, licensed, or have an option to license 37 patent families. These patent families include 29 U.S. patents, 101 ex-U.S. patents, 26 pending U.S. utility patent applications, 109 pending ex-U.S. utility applications, and 1 U.S. provisional patent application.
The intellectual property portfolio for our lead programs as of March 1, 2022, are summarized below. Prosecution is a lengthy process, during which the scope of the claims initially submitted for examination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office may be significantly narrowed before issuance, if issued at all. We expect this may be the case with respect to some of our pending patent applications referred to below.
The patent portfolio for our Hearing Loss program is based upon our owned and in-licensed patent families that include patents and patent applications directed generally to compositions of matter, pharmaceutical compositions, and methods of using the same to treat hearing loss; and specifically directed to compositions of matter of our lead product FX-322, pharmaceutical compositions of FX-322 and methods of using the same to treat hearing loss. The in-licensed patents and patent applications are subject to license agreements with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary described herein. As of March 1, 2022, we have rights to, through ownership and in-licensing, 32 patent families, including 26 U.S. patents, 86 ex-U.S. patents, 22 pending U.S. utility patent applications, and 107 pending ex-U.S. patent applications related to treating hearing loss, generally and related to FX-322. While we believe that the specific and generic claims contained in our issued U.S. patents provide protection for the composition of matter and the method of using FX-322 to treat hearing loss and/or diseases associated with the absence or lack of certain tissue cells, third parties may nevertheless challenge such claims in our patents. If any such claims are invalidated or rendered unenforceable for any reason, we will lose valuable intellectual property rights, and our ability to prevent others from competing with us would be impaired. Any U.S. or ex-U.S. patents that may issue from pending applications that we control, if any, for our hearing program, including our lead product FX-322, are projected to have a statutory expiration date in between 2035 and 2040, excluding any additional term for patent term adjustments or patent term extensions, if applicable.
Multiple sclerosis program
We plan to use a similar intellectual property strategy when building protection with respect to other programs. Within our MS program, we own intellectual property directed to the treatment of MS and we advise on an exclusively in-licensed portfolio of intellectual property directed to the treatment of MS from The Scripps Research Institute and Cambridge Enterprise. As of March 1, 2022, no development candidate has been designated, but the intellectual property portfolio for our MS research program currently includes 4 patent families including 3 U.S. patents, 15 ex-U.S. patents, 3 pending U.S. utility patent applications, 9 ex-U.S. patent applications, and 1 U.S. provisional patent application. While we believe that the specific and generic claims, contained in our U.S. and ex-U.S. patents provide protection for the claimed pharmaceutical compositions and methods of use third parties may nevertheless challenge such claims. If any such claims are invalidated or rendered unenforceable for any reason, we will lose valuable intellectual property rights, and our ability to prevent others from competing with us would be impaired. Any U.S. or ex-U.S. patents that may issue from pending applications that we own or exclusively in-licensed, if any, for our MS program are projected to have a statutory expiration date between 2032 and 2042, excluding any additional term for patent term adjustments or patent term extensions. The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term of the patents in the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries in which we file, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing a non-provisional patent application.
In the United States, the term of a patent covering an FDA-approved drug may, in certain cases, be eligible for a patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Act as compensation for the loss of patent term during the FDA regulatory review process. The period of extension may be up to five years, but the remaining term of a patent cannot be extended beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval. Only one patent among those eligible for an extension and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it, or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. Similar provisions are available in Europe and in certain other jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved drug. It is possible that issued U.S. patents covering the use of products from our intellectual property may be entitled to patent term extensions. If our use of drug candidates or the drug candidate itself receive FDA approval, we intend to apply for patent term extensions, if available, to extend the term of patents that cover the approved use or drug candidate. We also intend to seek patent term extensions in any jurisdictions where available, however, there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities, including the FDA, will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and, even if granted, the length of such extensions.
In addition to patent protection, we rely upon trade secrets, confidential information and know-how, and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. However, trade secrets and confidential information and know-how are difficult to protect. We seek to protect our proprietary information, in part, using confidentiality agreements with any collaborators, scientific advisors, employees, and consultants; and invention assignment agreements with our employees. We also have agreements requiring assignment of inventions with selected consultants, scientific advisors, and collaborators. These agreements may not provide meaningful protection. These agreements may also be breached, and we may not have an adequate remedy for any such breach. In addition, our trade secrets and/or confidential information and know-how may become known or be independently developed by a third party, or misused by any collaborator to whom we disclose such information. Despite any measures taken to protect our intellectual property, unauthorized parties may attempt to copy aspects of our products or obtain or use information that we regard as proprietary. Although we take steps to protect our proprietary information, third parties may independently develop the same or similar proprietary information or may otherwise gain access to our proprietary information. As a result, we may be unable to meaningfully protect our trade secrets and proprietary information.
Our commercial success will also depend in part on not infringing upon the proprietary rights of third parties. It is uncertain whether the issuance of any third-party patent would require us to alter our development or commercial strategies, or our drugs or processes, obtain licenses, or cease certain activities. Our breach of any license agreements or failure to obtain a license to proprietary rights that we may require to develop or commercialize our future drugs may have an adverse impact on us. If third parties have prepared and filed patent applications prior to March 16, 2013, in the United States that also claim technology to which we have rights, we may have to participate in interference proceedings in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, to determine priority of inventions. See “Risk factors—Risks related to our intellectual property” for a more comprehensive description of risks related to our intellectual property.
License and collaboration agreements
Astellas Pharma Inc.
In July 2019, we entered into the Astellas Agreement with Astellas, under which we granted Astellas an exclusive, royalty-bearing, sub-licensable, nontransferable license to certain patent rights to research, develop, manufacture, have manufactured, use, seek and secure regulatory approval for, commercialize, offer for sale, sell, have sold and import, and otherwise exploit licensed products containing both a GSK-3 inhibitor and an HDAC inhibitor, or the Astellas licensed products, including our product candidate FX-322, outside of the United States. We also granted Astellas a right of first negotiation and a right of last refusal if we enter into any negotiation or agreement of any kind (other than an acquisition of all of our stock or assets) with any third party under which such third party would obtain the right to develop, manufacture, or commercialize Astellas licensed products in the United States.
We and Astellas have agreed to jointly develop the Astellas licensed products, including potentially carrying out joint studies. Each party has agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to carry out development activities assigned to it under an agreed-upon development plan. Astellas has agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to obtain regulatory approval for at least one Astellas licensed product in SNHL and in age-related hearing loss, in each case, in one major Asian country and one major European country. We have agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to obtain regulatory approval for at least one Astellas licensed product in the United States. Astellas has the sole right to commercialize the Astellas licensed products outside of the United States, and we have the sole right to commercialize the Astellas licensed products in the United States. Astellas has agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to commercialize Astellas licensed products in a major Asian country and a major European country following receipt of regulatory approval in such countries.
As consideration for the licensed rights under the Astellas agreement, Astellas paid us an upfront payment of $80.0 million in July 2019 and has agreed to pay potential development milestone payments up to $230.0 million. Specifically, we would receive development milestone payments of $65.0 million and $25.0 million upon the first dosing of a subject in a Phase 2b clinical trial for SNHL in Europe and Asia, respectively, and $100.0 million and $40.0 million upon the first dosing of a subject in a Phase 3 clinical trial for SNHL in Europe and Asia, respectively. If the Astellas licensed products are successfully commercialized, we would be eligible for up to $315.0 million in potential commercial milestone payments and also tiered royalties at rates ranging from low- to mid-teen percentages.
The Astellas Agreement remains in effect until the expiration of all royalty obligations. Royalties are paid on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis until the latest of (i) the expiration of the last valid claim in the licensed patent rights with respect to such Astellas licensed product in such country or (ii) a set number of years from the first commercial sale of such Astellas licensed product in such country. Astellas may terminate the Astellas Agreement at will upon 60 days’ written notice. Each party has the right to terminate the Astellas Agreement due to the other party’s material breach if such breach remains uncured for 90 days (or 45 days in the case of nonpayment) or if the other party becomes bankrupt.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In December 2016, we entered into an Exclusive Patent License Agreement, or the MIT License, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, under which we received an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license to certain patent rights to develop, make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, lease, and import products, or the MIT licensed products, and to develop and perform processes, or the MIT licensed processes, which incorporate the licensed technology for the treatment of disease, including, but not limited to, the prevention and remediation of hearing loss. We also have the right to grant sublicenses under the MIT License. MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital retain the right on behalf of themselves and all other nonprofit research institutions to practice the licensed patent rights for nonclinical research, teaching, and educational purposes.
We are required to use diligent efforts to develop and commercialize the MIT licensed products or processes and to make such products or processes reasonably available to the public. We are also subject to certain development obligations with regards to a first MIT licensed product. We have satisfied certain obligations related to preclinical and clinical studies and the filing of an IND for a first MIT licensed product with our development activities related to FX-322. Our future development obligations are: (i) to commence a Phase III clinical trial for such Product within five years of the IND filing for such product, (ii) to file a New Drug Application or equivalent with the FDA or comparable European regulatory agency for such Product within nine years of the IND filing for such Product, and (iii) to make a first commercial sale of such Product within 11 years of the IND filing for such Product. We also have certain development obligations with regards to a second MIT licensed product. If we fail to meet our development obligations, other than those relating to a second MIT licensed product, MIT may terminate the MIT License. In the event that we have failed to fulfill our development timeline obligation with respect to a second MIT licensed product and fail to cure such breach within 90 days of written notice by MIT, MIT may restrict the licensed field to the prevention and remediation of hearing loss in humans and animals. We do not have the right to control prosecution of the in-licensed patent applications, and our rights to enforce the in-licensed patents are subject to certain limitations.
Upon entering the MIT License, we paid a $50 thousand license fee payment and issued to MIT shares of our common stock equal to 5% of our then-outstanding capital stock. We are required to pay certain annual license maintenance fees ranging from $30 thousand to $0.1 million per year prior to first commercial sale of a MIT licensed product and an annual license maintenance fee of $0.2 million every year afterwards, which may be credited to running royalties during the same calendar year, if any. We are also required to make potential milestone payments in an aggregate amount of up to $2.9 million on each MIT licensed product or process. In addition, we agreed to pay a low single-digit royalty on the MIT licensed products and processes and a 20% royalty on sub-license revenues.
The MIT License will remain in effect until the expiration or abandonment of all licensed issued patents and filed patent applications, unless terminated earlier. We have the right to terminate for any reason upon three months’ prior written notice. MIT has the right to terminate immediately if we cease to carry on any business related to the MIT License. MIT may also terminate the MIT License for our material breach if such breach remains uncured for 90 days (or 30 days in the case of nonpayment). MIT may also terminate the MIT License if we or our affiliates commence any action against MIT to declare or render any claim of the licensed patent rights invalid, unpatentable, unenforceable, or not infringed, or if our sub-licensee commences such actions and we do not terminate such sub-license within 30 days after MIT’s demand. MIT has the right to increase all payments due by us, instead of terminating the MIT License in the case of a patent challenge.
In May 2019, we entered into an amendment with MIT, updating the diligence milestones for a second Licensed Product.
In March 2022, we entered into an amendment with MIT, removing a patent and certain patent applications from the MIT License Agreement which were unrelated to our hearing and MS programs and which we were not utilizing.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear (Formerly Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary)
In February 2019, we entered into an Non-Exclusive Patent License Agreement, or the MEE License, with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, or MEE, under which we received a non-exclusive, non-sub-licensable, worldwide, royalty-bearing license to certain patent rights to develop, make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, lease and import products and to develop and perform processes that incorporate the licensed technology for the treatment or prevention of hearing loss, or the MEE licensed products. We are obligated to use diligent efforts to develop and commercialize the MEE licensed products. We met one of our milestone timeline obligations by dosing a first subject in a Phase II trial by December 31, 2020. We are still subject to a milestone timeline obligation to dose a first subject in a Phase III trial by December 31, 2024. We do not control the filing, prosecution, enforcement, and defense of any licensed patent rights.
Upon entering the MEE License, we made a $20 thousand license fee payment. We are obligated to pay certain annual license maintenance fees between $5 thousand and $7.5 thousand per each MEE patent family case number included in the licensed MEE patent rights prior to first commercial sale of an MEE licensed product. We are also obligated to pay a minimum annual royalty payment of $15 thousand per each MEE patent family case number included in the licensed MEE patent rights after first commercial sale of an MEE licensed product. We are also obligated to make milestone payments up to $350 thousand on each product or process that incorporates the licensed patent rights. In addition, we have agreed to pay a low single-digit royalty on products and processes that incorporate the licensed patent rights.
The MEE License remains in effect until all issued patents and filed patent applications within the licensed patent rights have expired or been abandoned, unless terminated earlier. We have the right to terminate the MEE License at will by 30 business days’ advance written notice to MEE. MEE has the right to terminate the MEE License (i) if we fail to make any payment due within 30 business days after MEE notifies us of such failure, (ii) if we fail to maintain required insurance, (iii) upon 45 business days’ written notice if we become insolvent, or (iv) for any other default by us that is not cured within 60 business days of receipt of written notice. MEE also has the right to terminate if we or our affiliates challenge the validity of the licensed patent rights.
The Scripps Research Institute (California Institute for Biomedical Research)
In September 2018, we entered into a license agreement, or the CALIBR License, with the California Institute for Biomedical Research, or CALIBR, a division of Scripps, under which we received an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license to certain patent rights to make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, and import products, or the CALIBR licensed products, which incorporate licensed technology for the treatment of MS. We also have the right to grant sublicenses under the CALIBR License. CALIBR reserves the right to use for itself and the right to grant nonexclusive licenses to other nonprofit or academic institutions for any internal research and educational purposes.
We have agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop, manufacture, and sell at least one CALIBR licensed product. We are also subject to certain milestone timeline obligations, which may be extended in certain circumstances as set forth in the CALIBR License. In October 2021, we entered into an amendment with CALIBR which updated the milestone obligations to: (i) initiate a Phase II clinical trial (or equivalent) for a CALIBR licensed product by December 31, 2023 and (ii) initiate a Phase III clinical trial (or equivalent) for a CALIBR licensed product by December 31, 2025. We do not have the right to control prosecution of the in-licensed patent applications, and our rights to enforce the in-licensed patents are subject to certain limitations.
Upon entering the CALIBR license, we made a $1.0 million license fee payment, and are required to make milestone payments in an aggregate amount of up to $26.0 million for each category of CALIBR licensed products. Category 1 is any CALIBR licensed products containing a compound that modulates any muscarinic receptor, and Category 2 is any CALIBR licensed products not included in Category 1 that could differentiate oligodendrocyte precursor cells from in vitro studies and/or are active in animal models relevant to MS. We are also required to pay a mid-single-digit royalty on CALIBR licensed products and a royalty on sub-license revenues ranging from a low-teen percentage to 50%.
The CALIBR License continues in effect until expiration of all our obligations to pay royalties. Royalties are payable by us on a country-by-country and licensed-product-by-licensed product basis upon the later of (i) the expiration or abandonment of all valid claims of the licensed patent rights in such country and (ii) 10 years from the first commercial sale of each CALIBR licensed product in such country. We may terminate the CALIBR License at will upon 30 days’ prior written notice. We may also elect to terminate our license to one or more licensed patents in any or all jurisdictions by giving 90 days’ prior written notice to CALIBR. CALIBR may terminate the CALIBR License for our material breach if such breach remains uncured for 30 days. CALIBR has the right to terminate or reduce the license to a non-exclusive license if we fail to use diligent efforts to develop and commercially exploit CALIBR licensed products.
The Scripps Research Institute
In September 2018, we entered into a Research Funding and Option Agreement, or the Scripps option agreement, with Scripps (CALIBR is a division of Scripps), under which we provided funding to Scripps to pursue certain MS research activities on selected targets. In the same agreement, we were granted an exclusive option to acquire an exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license under certain intellectual property arising from the MS research activities on the selected targets. The Scripps option agreement, including the MS research activities and the exclusive option, terminated on December 31, 2021. The CALIBR License remains active.
Cambridge Enterprise Limited
In December 2019, we entered into an Exclusive Patent License Agreement, or the Cambridge License, with Cambridge, under which we received an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license to certain patent rights to make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, and import products, or the Cambridge licensed products, which incorporate licensed technology for the treatment of demyelinating diseases. We also have the right to grant sublicenses under the Cambridge License. Cambridge reserves the right to use for itself (as well as for the inventors and the funder) to grant nonexclusive licenses to other academic institutions for any academic publication, research and teaching and clinical patient care.
We have agreed to use diligent and good faith efforts to develop and commercially exploit at least one Cambridge licensed product. Upon entering into the Cambridge License, we made a $50.0 thousand license fee payment. We are obligated to pay an annual license fee of $50.0 thousand. We are also obligated to make milestone payments up to $10.5 million on each Cambridge licensed product. In addition, we have agreed to pay a low single-digit royalty on products that incorporate the licensed patent rights, subject to offset in certain circumstances.
The Cambridge License continues in effect on a country-by-country basis until the expiration or revocation, without right of further appeal, of all licensed issued patents and filed patent applications, unless terminated earlier. We have the right to terminate for any reason upon 90 days’ prior written notice. Each party has the right to terminate immediately if the other party ceases to carry on its business. Either party may also terminate the Cambridge License for material breach if such breach remains uncured for 30 days. Cambridge may also terminate the Cambridge License if we fail to diligently develop and commercially exploit at least one Cambridge licensed product or we or our affiliates or sub-licensees commence any action against Cambridge to declare or render any claim of the licensed patent rights invalid, unpatentable, unenforceable, or not infringed.
As a clinical-stage biotechnology company, we face competition from a wide array of companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. These include both small companies and large companies with much greater financial and technical resources and far longer operating histories than our own. We also compete with the intellectual property, technology, and product development efforts of academic, governmental, and private research institutions.
Our competitors may have significantly greater financial resources, established presence in the market, expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical and clinical testing, obtaining regulatory approvals and reimbursement, and marketing approved products than we do. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific, sales, marketing, and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and subject registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies.
The key competitive factors affecting the success of any product candidates that we develop, if approved, are likely to be their efficacy, safety, convenience, price, and the availability of reimbursement from government and other third-party payors. Our commercial opportunity for any of our product candidates could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient, or are less expensive than any products that we may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours and may commercialize products more quickly than we are able to.
We are aware of the following treatment options in the areas that we are initially targeting:
There are dozens of hearing aid brands, although most of these devices are manufactured by only a few leading companies. We anticipate the hearing aid landscape in the United States will change as the FDA implements regulations for over-the-counter hearing aids, which will be sold directly to consumers with mild to moderate perceived hearing loss. There are three manufacturers of cochlear implants that market in the United States. We are also aware of multiple companies developing therapeutics to treat various forms of SNHL currently in clinical trials, such as Audion Therapeutics, which will initiate a Phase 2 study of its notch inhibitor, LY3056480, in 2022. Pipeline Therapeutics completed a Phase 1/2 study of its
gamma secretase inhibitor, PIPE-505, in 2021; the data from this study has not been shared to date. In 2020 Otonomy, Inc. disclosed top level data from a Phase 1/2 study of OTO-413, a sustained-exposure formulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, in subjects with a condition described as speech-in-noise impairment. In 2021 Otonomy initiated an extension of this Phase 1/2 study, which is estimated to complete in 2022. In addition, Sensorion, a clinical stage company, is conducting a Phase 2 study of SENS-401 to treat sudden SNHL. There are also multiple programs in early-stage or preclinical development by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. There are also several companies targeting genetic forms of hearing loss with gene therapy treatments, as well as otoprotective therapies.
There are multiple therapeutic options for treating the symptoms of MS, as well as the underlying disease. However, all approved therapies are directed at blocking demyelination, and, to our knowledge, there are no approved therapies which promote remyelination. We are aware of numerous efforts to identify drugs or biologics that can stimulate oligodendrocyte regeneration and myelin repair in the central nervous system. These include companies such as Clene Pharma, which has an ongoing Phase 2 trial of CNM-Au8, a gold nanocrystal suspension, and Pipeline Therapeutics, which completed a Phase 1 trial for PIPE-307, a selective M1 receptor antagonist to treat multiple sclerosis and other demyelinating disorders. Pipeline Therapeutics has not announced results from this trial to date. Convelo Therapeutics is in preclinical development for potential remyelinating compounds that inhibit enzymes in the brain involved in the production of cholesterol. Idorsia Pharma completed two Phase 1 studies in 2019 and 2020 for ACT-1004-1239, a small molecule CXCR7 inhibitor involved in OPC differentiation. This is an active research area with a number of entities researching compounds, antibodies, and proteins which may enhance remyelination.
The FDA and comparable regulatory authorities in state and local jurisdictions and in other countries impose substantial and burdensome requirements upon companies involved in the clinical development, manufacture, marketing, and distribution of drugs, such as those we are developing. These agencies and other federal, state, and local entities regulate, among other things, the research and development, testing, manufacture, quality control, safety, effectiveness, labeling, storage, record keeping, approval, advertising and promotion, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, sampling, and export and import of our product candidates.
U.S. drug development process
In the United States, the FDA regulates drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, and its implementing regulations. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local, and foreign statutes and regulations requires the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. Failure to comply with the applicable U.S. requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process, or after approval, may subject an applicant to a variety of administrative or judicial sanctions, such as the FDA’s refusal to approve pending NDAs, withdrawal of an approval, imposition of a clinical hold, issuance of warning letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement, or civil or criminal penalties.
The process required by the FDA before a drug may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:
Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluation of product chemistry, toxicity, and formulation, as well as animal studies to assess potential safety and efficacy. An IND sponsor must submit the results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, and any available clinical data or literature, among other things, to the FDA as part of an IND. Some preclinical testing may continue even after the IND is submitted. An IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless before that time the FDA raises concerns or questions related to the submission including to one or more proposed clinical trials and places the clinical trial on a partial or full clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. Clinical holds also may be imposed by the FDA at any time before or during clinical trials due to safety concerns about on-going or proposed clinical trials or noncompliance with specific FDA requirements, and the trials may not begin or continue until the FDA notifies the sponsor that the hold has been lifted. As a result, submission of an IND may not result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to commence.
Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational new drug to human subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators in accordance with GCP requirements, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the trial, 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. In addition, an IRB at each institution participating in the clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial before it commences at that institution. Information about certain clinical trials must be submitted within specific time frames to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, for public dissemination on their www.clinicaltrials.gov website.
Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases, which may overlap or be combined:
The FDA or the sponsor may suspend a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being exposed to an unreasonable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the drug has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients. In addition, some clinical trials are overseen by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board or committee. Depending on its charter, this group may determine whether a trial may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the trial.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal studies, and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the drug and finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product candidate, and, among other things, the manufacturer must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, and purity of the final drug. In addition, appropriate packaging must be selected and
tested, and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.
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. Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 clinical trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, or at all. There are also requirements governing the registration of, reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed trial results to public registries.
Assuming successful completion of the required clinical testing, the results of the preclinical and clinical studies, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacture, controls, and proposed labeling, among other things, are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the product for one or more indications. In most cases, the submission of an NDA is subject to a substantial application user fee. Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, guidelines that are currently in effect, the FDA has a goal of ten months from the date of “filing” of a standard NDA for a new molecular entity to review and act on the submission. This review typically takes 12 months from the date the NDA is submitted to the FDA because the FDA has approximately two months to make a “filing” decision. Specifically, the FDA conducts a preliminary review of all NDAs within the first 60 days after submission, before accepting them for filing, to determine whether they are 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 reviews an NDA to determine, among other things, whether the submitted information supports that the drug is safe and effective and whether the facility in which it is manufactured, processed, packaged, or held meets standards designed to assure the product’s continued safety, quality, and purity.
The FDA also may require submission of a REMS plan to ensure that for certain medications with serious safety concerns the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks. The REMS plan could include medication guides, physician communication plans, assessment plans, and/or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries, or other risk minimization tools.
The FDA may refer an application for a novel drug to an advisory committee. 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.
Before approving an NDA, the FDA typically will inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving an NDA, the FDA may inspect one or more clinical trial sites to assure compliance with GCP requirements.
After evaluating the NDA and all related information, including the advisory committee recommendation, if any, and inspection reports regarding the manufacturing facilities and clinical trial sites, the FDA may issue an approval letter, or, in some cases, a Complete Response Letter, or CRL. A CRL generally contains a statement of specific conditions that must be met in order to secure final approval of the NDA and may require additional clinical or preclinical testing in order for the FDA to reconsider the application for approval. Even with submission of this additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval. If and when those conditions have been met to the FDA’s satisfaction, the FDA will typically issue an approval letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the drug with specific prescribing information for specific indications.
Even if the FDA approves a product, it may limit the approved indications for use of the product, require that contraindications, warnings, or precautions be included in the product labeling, require that post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, be conducted to further assess a drug’s safety after approval, require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution and use restrictions or other risk management mechanisms under a REMS, which can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the product. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs. After approval, some types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes, and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval.
The Pediatric Research Equity Act, or PREA, requires a sponsor to conduct pediatric clinical trials for most drugs, for a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen, or new route of administration. Under PREA, original NDAs and supplements must contain a pediatric assessment unless the sponsor has received a deferral or waiver, or
the indication sought is for an orphan condition. The required assessment must evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The sponsor or the FDA may request a deferral of pediatric clinical trials for some or all of the pediatric subpopulations. A deferral may be granted for several reasons, including a finding that the drug is ready for approval for use in adults before pediatric clinical trials are complete or that additional safety or effectiveness data needs to be collected before the pediatric clinical trials begin. The FDA must send a noncompliance letter to any sponsor that fails to submit the required assessment, keep a deferral current, or fails to submit a request for approval of a pediatric formulation. In some situations, the requirement for studies in pediatric populations can be waived if there is no relevant use.
FDA-expedited development and review programs
The FDA has various programs, including orphan drug designation, rare pediatric disease designation, fast track designation, accelerated approval priority review, and breakthrough therapy designation, which are intended to expedite or simplify the process for the development and the FDA review of drugs that are intended for the treatment of serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs. The purpose of these programs is to provide important new drugs to patients earlier than under standard FDA review procedures.
To be eligible for a fast track designation, the FDA must determine, based on the request of a sponsor, that a product is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, demonstrates the potential to address an unmet medical need, and is actively developing the drug for the disease. The FDA will determine that a product will fill an unmet medical need if it will provide a therapy where none exists or provide a therapy that may be potentially superior to existing therapy based on efficacy or safety factors. The FDA may review sections of the NDA for a fast track product on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the NDA, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the NDA and determines that the schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the NDA.
The FDA may give a priority review designation to drugs that offer major advances in treatment or provide a treatment where no adequate therapy exists. A priority review means that the goal for the FDA to review an application is six months, rather than the standard review of 10 months under current PDUFA guidelines. Under the new PDUFA agreement, these six- and 10-month review periods are measured from the “filing” date rather than the receipt date for NDAs for new molecular entities, which typically adds approximately two months to the timeline for review and decision from the date of submission. Most products that are eligible for fast track designation are also likely to be considered appropriate to receive a priority review, and, if relevant, accelerated approval.
In addition, products studied for their safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening illnesses and that provide meaningful therapeutic benefit over existing treatments may be eligible for accelerated approval and may be approved on the basis of adequate and well-controlled clinical trials establishing that the drug product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments. As a condition of approval, the FDA may require a sponsor of a drug receiving accelerated approval to perform post-marketing studies to verify and describe the predicted effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical endpoint, and the drug may be subject to accelerated withdrawal procedures.
Moreover, under the provisions of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, or FDASIA, passed in July 2012, a sponsor can request designation of a product candidate as a “breakthrough therapy.” A breakthrough therapy is defined as a drug that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. Drugs designated as breakthrough therapies are also eligible for priority review and accelerated approval. The FDA must take certain actions, such as holding timely meetings and providing advice, intended to expedite the development and review of an application for approval of a breakthrough therapy. The designation includes all the benefits of a fast track designation. The breakthrough therapy designation is a distinct status from both accelerated approval and priority review, which can also be granted to the same drug if relevant criteria are met.
Even if a product qualifies for one or more of these programs, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened. Furthermore, fast track designation, priority review, and breakthrough therapy designation do not change the standards for
approval but may expedite the development or approval process. We may explore some of these opportunities for our product candidates as appropriate.
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 user fee requirements for any marketed products and the establishments at which such products are manufactured, as well as new application fees for supplemental applications with clinical data.
The FDA may impose a number of post-approval requirements as a condition of approval of an NDA. For example, the FDA may require post-marketing testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness after commercialization.
In addition, drug manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved drugs are required to register their establishments with the FDA and state and local agencies and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by government agencies for compliance with cGMP and other 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 requirements and impose reporting and documentation requirements upon the sponsor and any third-party manufacturers that the sponsor 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 mandatory 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:
The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising, and promotion of products that are placed on the market. Drugs 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.
Market exclusivity provisions under the FDCA can delay the submission or the approval of certain marketing applications. The FDCA provides a five-year period of non-patent marketing exclusivity within the United States to the first applicant to obtain approval of an NDA for a new chemical entity. A drug is a new chemical entity if the FDA has not
previously approved any other new drug containing the same active moiety, which is the molecule or ion responsible for the action of the drug substance. During the exclusivity period, the FDA may not approve or even accept for review an abbreviated new drug application, or ANDA, or an NDA submitted under Section 505(b)(2), or 505(b)(2) NDA, submitted by another company for another drug based on the same active moiety, regardless of whether the drug is intended for the same indication as the original innovative drug or for another indication, where the applicant does not own or have a legal right of reference to all the data required for approval. However, an application may be submitted after four years if it contains a certification of patent invalidity or non-infringement to one of the patents listed with the FDA by the innovator NDA holder.
The FDCA alternatively provides three to five years of marketing exclusivity for an NDA, or supplement to an existing NDA, if new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability studies, that were conducted or sponsored by the applicant are deemed by the FDA to be essential to the approval of the application. This three-year exclusivity covers only the modification for which the drug received approval based on the new clinical investigations and does not prohibit the FDA from approving ANDAs or 505(b)(2) NDAs for drugs containing the active agent for the original indication or condition of use. Five-year and three-year exclusivity will not delay the submission or approval of a full NDA. However, an applicant submitting a full NDA would be required to conduct or obtain a right of reference to all of the preclinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials necessary to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.
Pediatric exclusivity is another type of marketing exclusivity available in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity provides for an additional six months of marketing exclusivity attached to another period of exclusivity and extends patent life of a related patent if a sponsor conducts clinical trials in children in response to a written request from the FDA. The issuance of a written request does not require the sponsor to undertake the described clinical trials.
Other healthcare laws and compliance requirements
Pharmaceutical companies are subject to additional healthcare regulation and enforcement by the federal government and by authorities in the state, local, and foreign jurisdictions in which they conduct their business. Such laws include, without limitation, U.S. federal and state anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, false claims, consumer fraud, pricing reporting, and transparency laws and regulations, as well as similar foreign laws in the jurisdictions outside the U.S. State laws may require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government, as well as require the registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives and the reporting of pricing information and marketing expenditures. Violations of such laws, or any other governmental regulations that apply, may result in penalties, including, without limitation, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, additional reporting and oversight obligations, the curtailment or restructuring of operations, exclusion from participation in governmental healthcare programs, and individual imprisonment.
Coverage and reimbursement
Sales of any pharmaceutical product depend, in part, on the extent to which such product will be covered by third-party payors, such as federal, state, and foreign government healthcare programs, commercial insurance and managed healthcare organizations, and the level of reimbursement for such product by third-party payors. Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any newly approved product. Decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided are made on a plan-by-plan basis. One third-party payor’s decision to cover a product does not ensure that other payors will also provide coverage for the product. As a result, the coverage determination process can require manufactures to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of a product to each payor separately, and can be a time-consuming process, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. For products administered under the supervision of a physician, obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices often associated with such drugs. Additionally, separate reimbursement for the product itself or the treatment or procedure in which the product is used may not be available, which may impact physician utilization.
In addition, third-party payors are increasingly reducing reimbursements for pharmaceutical products and services. The U.S. government and state legislatures have continued implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls, restrictions on coverage and reimbursement, and requirements for substitution of generic products. Third-party payors are more and more challenging the prices charged, examining the medical necessity, and reviewing the cost effectiveness of pharmaceutical products, in addition to questioning their safety and efficacy. Adoption of price controls and cost-containment measures, and adoption of more restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could further limit sales of any product. Decreases in third-party reimbursement for any product or a decision by a third-party payor not to cover a product could reduce physician usage and patient demand for the product.
In international markets, reimbursement and healthcare payment systems vary significantly by country, and many countries have instituted price ceilings on specific products and therapies. For example, the European Union provides options for its member states to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. A member state may approve a specific price for the medicinal product, or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. Pharmaceutical products may face competition from lower-priced products in foreign countries that have placed price controls on pharmaceutical products and may also compete with imported foreign products. Furthermore, there is no assurance that a product will be considered medically reasonable and necessary for a specific indication, will be considered cost-effective by third-party payors, that an adequate level of reimbursement will be established even if coverage is available, or that the third-party payors’ reimbursement policies will not adversely affect the ability of manufacturers to sell products profitably.
In the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and we expect there will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes to the healthcare system that could affect the pharmaceutical industry. In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers in the United States. The ACA contains a number of provisions of particular import to the pharmaceutical industry, including those governing enrollment in federal healthcare programs, reimbursement adjustments, and fraud and abuse changes. Additionally, the ACA increases the minimum level of Medicaid rebates payable by manufacturers of brand name drugs from 15.1% to 23.1%; requires collection of rebates for drugs paid by Medicaid managed care organizations; imposes a nondeductible annual fee on pharmaceutical manufacturers or importers who sell “branded prescription drugs” to specified federal government programs; implements 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; expands of eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs; creates a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee; identify priorities in, and conducts comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research; and establishes a Center for Medicare Innovation at CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.
Since its enactment, there have been judicial, executive and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA brought by several states without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, President Biden issued an executive order initiating a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through August 15, 2021 for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructed certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare.
Legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted, including aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which was temporarily suspended from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022, and reduced payments to several types of Medicare providers. Moreover, there has recently been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries, and proposed and enacted legislation designed, among other things, to bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access, and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, mechanisms to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. Furthermore, there has been increased interest by third-party payors and governmental authorities in reference-pricing systems and publication of discounts and list prices.
In addition to regulations in the United States, we will be subject to a variety of foreign regulations governing clinical trials and commercial sales and distribution of our products. Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product, we must obtain approval by the comparable regulatory authorities of foreign countries before we can commence clinical trials in those countries, if relevant, and market application approval by foreign countries or economic areas, such as the European Union, or EU, before we may market products in those countries or areas. The approval process and requirements governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing, and reimbursement vary greatly from place to place, and the time may be longer or shorter than that required for FDA approval.
In the European Economic Area, or EEA, which is comprised of the Member States of the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, medicinal products can only be commercialized after obtaining a Marketing Authorization, or MA. There are two types of MAs:
Under the above described procedures, before granting the MA, the EMA or the competent authorities of the Member States of the EEA assess the risk-benefit balance of the product on the basis of scientific criteria concerning its quality, safety, and efficacy.
As in the United States, it may be possible in foreign countries to obtain a period of market and/or data exclusivity that would have the effect of postponing the entry into the marketplace of a competitor’s generic product. For example, if any of our products receive marketing approval in the EEA, we expect they will benefit from eight years of data exclusivity and 10 years of marketing exclusivity. An additional noncumulative one-year period of marketing exclusivity is possible if during the data exclusivity period (the first eight years of the 10-year marketing exclusivity period) we obtain an authorization for one or more new therapeutic indications that are deemed to bring a significant clinical benefit compared to existing therapies. The data exclusivity period begins on the date of the product’s first marketing authorization in the EEA and prevents generics from relying on the marketing authorization holder’s pharmacological, toxicological, and clinical data for a period of eight years. After eight years, a generic product application may be submitted, and generic companies may rely on the marketing authorization holder’s data. However, a generic cannot launch until two years later (or a total of 10 years after the first marketing authorization in the EU of the innovator product), or three years later (or a total of 11 years after the first marketing authorization in the EU of the innovator product) if the marketing authorization holder obtains marketing authorization for a new indication with significant clinical benefit within the eight-year data exclusivity period. In Japan, our products may be eligible for eight years of data exclusivity. There can be no assurance that we will qualify for such regulatory exclusivity, or that such exclusivity will prevent competitors from seeking approval solely on the basis of their own studies.
When conducting clinical trials in the EU, we must adhere to the provisions of the European Union Clinical Trials Directive (Directive 2001/20/EC) and the laws and regulations of the EU Member States implementing them. These provisions require, among other things, that the prior authorization of an Ethics Committee and the competent Member State authority is obtained before commencing the clinical trial. In April 2014, the EU passed the Clinical Trials Regulation (Regulation 536/2014), which will replace the current Clinical Trials Directive. To ensure that the rules for clinical trials are identical throughout the European Union, the EU Clinical Trials Regulation was passed as a regulation that is directly applicable in all EU member states. All clinical trials performed in the European Union are required to be conducted in accordance with the Clinical Trials Directive until the Clinical Trials Regulation becomes applicable. According to the current plans of the EMA, the Clinical Trials Regulation is expected to become applicable sometime in 2020.
Data privacy and security laws
Numerous state, federal and foreign laws, including consumer protection laws and regulations, govern the collection, dissemination, use, access to, confidentiality and security of personal information, including health-related information. In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including data breach notification laws, health information privacy and security laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended, or HIPAA, and federal and state consumer protection laws and regulations (e.g., Section 5 of the FTC Act), that govern the collection, use, disclosure, and protection of health-related and other personal information could apply to our operations or the operations of our partners. In addition, certain state and non-U.S. laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, or the CCPA, the California Privacy Rights Act, or the CPRA, and the European Union General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, govern the privacy and security of personal information, including health-related 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. Failure to comply with these laws, where applicable, can result in the imposition of significant civil and/or criminal penalties and private litigation. Privacy and security laws, regulations, and other obligations are constantly evolving, may conflict with each other to complicate compliance efforts, and can result in investigations, proceedings, or actions that lead to significant civil and/or criminal penalties and restrictions on data processing.
Environmental, Social, and Governance Initiatives
Corporate sustainability and environmental responsibility
We understand the importance of reducing our environmental impact. We are proud to be headquartered in a LEED certified building, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. We continue to promote sustainability within our office by limiting single-use plastic and implementing compost and recycling programs. Our current hybrid work model allows employees to work remotely for a portion of the week, decreasing the emissions associated with employees commuting to the office.
Diversity & Inclusion
We are committed to creating and maintaining a workplace free from discrimination or harassment on the basis of color, race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or expression, or any other status protected by applicable law. Our management team and employees are expected to exhibit and promote honest, ethical and respectful conduct in the workplace. All of our employees must adhere to a code of conduct that sets standards for appropriate behavior and are required to attend training upon hire and at our request to help prevent, identify, report and stop any type of discrimination and harassment. Ongoing acknowledgement of our anti-harassment policy is required on an annual basis. Our recruitment, hiring, development, training, compensation and advancement at our company is based on qualifications, performance, skills and experience without regard to gender, race and ethnicity. Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee is an employee-led group that works to raise awareness for DEI initiatives and identify ways we can continue to promote inclusion within our corporate culture. Although we are a smaller reporting company, our Board of Directors meets the requirements under NASDAQ's Board Diversity Rule for accelerated and large-accelerated filers with two diverse directors.
Employees and Human Capital Resources
As of March 8, 2022, we had 74 employees, including 72 full-time employees. Women represent approximately 50% of our employees, with approximately 29% holding senior management level/leadership roles. Thirty-eight percent of our employees have an M.D. or a Ph.D. From time to time, we also retain independent contractors to support our organization.
None of our employees are represented by a labor union or covered by collective bargaining agreements, and we believe our relationship with our employees is good.
We strive to provide pay, comprehensive benefits and services that help meet the varying needs of our employees. Our total rewards package includes competitive pay; comprehensive healthcare benefits package for employees, with family member healthcare benefits covered at 90%; a health savings account with company contribution; unlimited paid time off and paid holidays; family medical leave; and flexible work schedules. In addition, we offer every full-time employee, both exempt and non-exempt, the benefit of equity ownership in the company through stock option grants, restricted stock units, and our employee stock purchase plan. We also sponsor a 401(k) plan with a 5% match.
We focus on attracting, retaining, and cultivating talented individuals. We emphasize employee development and training by providing access to a wide range of online and instructor led development and continual learning programs. Employees are encouraged to attend scientific, clinical and technological meetings and conferences and have access to broad resources they need to be successful.
The safety, health and wellness of our employees is a top priority. In response to COVID-19, we have implemented a safety protocols including a flexible work schedule, requirements for the wearing of masks, increased cleaning procedures and readily available hand sanitizer. These protocols are designed to comply with health and safety standards as required by federal, state and local government agencies, taking into consideration guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health authorities. In addition, we have provided work-at-home arrangements for employees who are able to do so.
Our Corporate Information
We were incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware in November 2014. Our principal executive offices are located at 75 Hayden Avenue, Suite 300, Lexington, Massachusetts 02421 and our telephone number is (781) 315-4600. Our corporate website address is www.frequencytx.com. The information contained in, or accessible through, our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report and you should not consider information on our website to be a part of this Annual Report. We have included our website address in this Annual Report solely as an inactive textual reference.
Where you can find more information
We are subject to the information requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. The SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically, such as ourselves, with the SEC at http://www.sec.gov.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
Our future operating results could differ materially from the results described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K due to the risks and uncertainties described below. You should consider carefully the following information about risks below in evaluating our business. If any of the following risks actually occur, our business, financial conditions, results of operations and future growth prospects would likely be materially and adversely affected. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial also may impair our business operations. In these circumstances, the market price of our common stock would likely decline. In addition, we cannot assure investors that our assumptions and expectations will prove to be correct. Important factors could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated or implied by forward-looking statements. See “Forward Looking Statements” for a discussion of some of the forward-looking statements that are qualified by these risk factors. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include those factors discussed below.
Risks related to our financial position and need for additional capital
We have incurred significant losses since inception and anticipate that we will continue to incur losses for the foreseeable future. We are not currently profitable, and we may never achieve or sustain profitability. If we are unable to achieve or sustain profitability, the market value of our common stock will likely decline.
We are a clinical-stage biotechnology company with a limited operating history. As a result, we are not profitable and have incurred significant losses since our formation. We had net losses of $84.7 million and $26.5 million for the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, respectively. As of December 31, 2021, we had an accumulated deficit of $180.1 million. Investment in biopharmaceutical product development is highly speculative because it entails substantial upfront capital expenditures and significant risk that any potential product candidate will fail to gain regulatory approval and become commercially viable. We have not commercialized any products and have never generated revenue from the commercialization of any product. To date, we have devoted most of our financial resources to licensing technologies and research and development, including our preclinical platform development activities and clinical trials.
We expect to incur significant additional operating losses for the next several years, at least, as we advance FX-322 and our other product candidates through clinical development, complete clinical trials, seek regulatory approval and commercialize FX-322 or our other product candidates, if approved. The costs of advancing product candidates into each clinical phase tend to increase substantially over the duration of the clinical development process. Therefore, the total costs to advance any product candidate to marketing approval in even a single jurisdiction are substantial. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with pharmaceutical product development, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of increased expenses or when, or if, we will be able to begin generating revenue from the commercialization of any product candidates or achieve or maintain profitability. Our expenses will also increase substantially if and as we:
Furthermore, our ability to successfully develop, commercialize and license any product candidates and generate product revenue is subject to substantial additional risks and uncertainties, as described under “—Risks related to development, clinical testing, manufacturing, and regulatory approval” and “—Risks related to commercialization.” As a result, we expect to continue to incur net losses and negative cash flows for the foreseeable future. These net losses and negative cash flows have had, and will continue to have, an adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity and working capital. The amount of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of future growth of our expenses and our ability to generate revenues. If we are unable to develop and commercialize one or more product candidates, either alone or through collaborations, or if revenues from any product that receives marketing approval are insufficient, we will not achieve profitability. Even if we successfully commercialize FX-322 or our other product candidates, we may continue to incur substantial research and development and other expenses to identify and develop other product candidates. Even if we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain profitability or meet outside expectations for our profitability. If we are unable to achieve or sustain profitability or to meet outside expectations for our profitability, the value of our common stock will be materially adversely affected.
We will require additional capital to fund our operations, and if we fail to obtain necessary financing, we may not be able to complete the development and commercialization of FX-322 or our additional product candidates.
We expect to spend substantial amounts to complete the development of, seek regulatory approvals for and, if approved, commercialize FX-322 and our other product candidates. These expenditures include and will include, as the case may be, costs related to the Phase 2b trial of FX-322 (FX-322-208), extension trials of FX-322-111 and FX-322-112, and any additional trials we conduct to support the development of FX-322 and our other product candidates. In addition, we are obligated to make milestone and royalty payments in connection with the sale of resulting products and licensing revenues under our license agreements with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, or MEE, the Scripps Research Institute, or Scripps, and Cambridge Enterprise Limited (the technology transfer arm of the University of Cambridge), or Cambridge. We also expect to spend substantial amounts to identify and develop new product candidates based on our PCA platform.
We will require additional capital to enable us to develop additional product candidates based on our PCA platform, which we may acquire through equity offerings, debt financings, marketing and distribution arrangements and other collaborations, strategic alliances and licensing arrangements or other sources. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. Our failure to raise capital as and when needed would have a negative effect on our financial condition and our ability to pursue our business strategy. In addition, attempting to secure additional financing may divert the time and attention of our management from day-to-day activities and harm our development efforts.
Based upon our current operating plan, we believe that our existing cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities of $142.4 million will enable us to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements through the end of 2023. This estimate and our expectation regarding the sufficiency of our current financial resources to advance the clinical development of FX-322 and our other product candidates are based on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could use our available capital resources sooner than we currently expect, or our clinical trials, including our Phase 2b trial of FX-322 (FX-322-208), or extension trials of FX-322-111 and FX-322-112, and other clinical trials of FX-322 or our other product candidates, may be more expensive, time consuming or difficult to design or implement than we currently anticipate. Changing circumstances, including any unanticipated expenses, could cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, and we may need to spend more than currently expected because of circumstances beyond our control. Because the length of time and scope of activities associated with successful development of FX-322 or any product candidate we may develop is highly uncertain, we are unable to estimate the actual funds we will require for development and any marketing and commercialization activities. Our future funding requirements, both near and long-term, will depend on many factors, including, but not limited to:
Depending on our business performance, the economic climate and market conditions, we may be unable to raise additional funds through any sources. Market volatility resulting from the COVID-19 global pandemic could also adversely impact our ability to access capital as and when needed. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue the development or commercialization of FX-322 or our other product candidates, or potentially discontinue operations.
We have a limited operating history and no history of commercializing pharmaceutical products, which may make it difficult to evaluate the prospects for our future viability.
We were established and began operations in 2014. Our operations to date have been limited to financing and staffing our company, licensing technologies, developing our PCA platform, developing and conducting preclinical and clinical studies of FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL, and developing a pipeline of preclinical and research programs, including FX-345 and our remyelination program. We have not yet demonstrated the ability to successfully complete a large-scale, pivotal clinical trial, obtain marketing approval, 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. Consequently, predictions about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing and commercializing pharmaceutical products.
In addition, as a business with a limited operating history, we may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown challenges. Our Phase 2a results (FX-322-202), for example, showed that four weekly injections in subjects with mild to moderately severe SNHL did not demonstrate improvements in hearing measures versus placebo, a finding we believe is due to an uncontrolled bias and the limitation to a single baseline measure. We will eventually need to transition from a company with a research focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities. We may not be successful in such a transition and, as a result, our business may be adversely affected.
As we continue to build our business, we expect our financial condition and operating results may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Accordingly, the results of any quarterly or annual period are not necessarily indicative of future operating performance.
Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards to offset future taxable income, or tax credit carryforward to offset future income tax liabilities, may be subject to certain limitations.
As of December 31, 2021, we had net operating loss carryforwards, or NOLs, of $149.1 million for federal income tax purposes and $83.5 million for state income tax purposes, which may be available to offset our future taxable income, if any. Our NOLs expire in various amounts through 2037, provided that federal NOLs generated in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 will not be subject to expiration. As of December 31, 2021, we also had federal and state research and development and other tax credit carryforwards of approximately $5.2 million and $2.1 million, respectively, available to reduce future tax liabilities. Our tax credit carryforwards expire at various dates through 2041. These NOLs and tax credit carryforwards could expire unused, to the extent subject to expiration, and be unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities. In addition, in general, under Sections 382 and 383 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, a corporation that undergoes an “ownership change” is subject to limitations on its ability to use its pre-change NOLs and tax credit carryforwards to offset future taxable income. For these purposes, an ownership change generally occurs where the aggregate stock ownership of one or more stockholders or groups of stockholders who owns at least 5% of a corporation’s stock increases its ownership by more than 50 percentage points over its lowest ownership percentage within a specified testing period. We believe we have experienced an ownership change in 2017 and 2019 and may experience ownership changes in the future as a result of future transactions in our stock, some of which may be outside our control. If we undergo additional ownership changes, our ability to use our NOLs and tax credit carryforwards could be further limited. As a result of the changes in ownership in 2017 and 2019, $0.01 million and $0.04 million of NOL carryforwards are limited under Section 382. For these reasons, we may not be able to use a material portion of our NOLs or tax credit carryforwards, even if we attain profitability. We have recorded a full valuation allowance related to our NOLs and other deferred tax assets due to the uncertainty of the ultimate realization of the future tax benefits of such assets. Furthermore, NOLs generated in periods beginning after December 31, 2017 may be carried forward indefinitely but may only be used to offset 80% of our taxable income in years beginning after December 31, 2021, which may require us to pay federal income taxes in future years despite generating federal NOLs in prior years.
Risks related to development, clinical testing, manufacturing, and regulatory approval
We are heavily dependent on the success of FX-322, our lead product candidate, which is still under clinical development, and if FX-322 does not receive regulatory approval or is not successfully commercialized, our business will be materially adversely harmed.
To date, we have invested a significant portion of our efforts and financial resources in the development of FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL. Our future success is substantially dependent on our ability to successfully complete clinical development for, obtain regulatory approval for, and successfully commercialize FX-322, which may never occur. We a currently have no products that are approved for commercial sale and may never be able to develop a marketable product. We expect that a substantial portion of our efforts and expenditures over the next few years will continue to be devoted to FX-322, which will require additional clinical development, management of clinical and manufacturing activities, regulatory approval, establishing commercial scale manufacturing, and significant sales, marketing, and distribution efforts before we can generate any revenues from any commercial sales. We cannot be certain that we will be able to successfully complete any of these activities or that, even if it receives regulatory approval, FX-322 will be as effective as anticipated at treating SNHL. Our Phase 2a results (FX-322-202), for example, showed that four weekly injections in subjects with mild to moderately severe SNHL did not demonstrate improvements in hearing measures versus placebo, a finding we believe is due to an uncontrolled bias and the limitation to a single baseline measure, and our Phase 1b study of FX-322 in presbycusis (FX-322-112) did not show any significant treatment effects compared to placebo.
The research, testing, manufacturing, labeling, approval, sale, packaging, marketing, and distribution of drug products are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA and comparable regulatory authorities in other countries. We are not permitted to market FX-322 in the United States until we receive approval of a New Drug Application, or NDA, from the FDA, or in any foreign countries until our collaborator, Astellas, receives the requisite approval from such countries. We have not submitted an NDA to the FDA and Astellas has not submitted comparable applications to other regulatory authorities for FX-322. We or Astellas may not be in a position to do so for several years, if ever. If we or Astellas are unable to obtain the necessary regulatory approval for FX-322 in a country, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we or Astellas will not be able to commercialize FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL in that country. As a result, our financial position will be materially adversely affected, and we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to continue our business.
We utilize our PCA platform to develop product candidates that are designed to activate progenitor cells, which is a new approach to therapeutic intervention and, as a result, successful development, approval, and commercialization of our product candidates, including FX-322 and FX-345 is uncertain.
We utilize our PCA platform to develop product candidates, including FX-322 and FX-345, for the treatment of SNHL. Our PCA platform is designed to identify pathways to activate progenitor cells already present in the body to treat conditions or diseases through cellular regeneration. We have not, nor to our knowledge has any other company, received regulatory approval utilizing this mechanism of cellular regeneration. Given the novelty of our approach, we could encounter a longer than expected regulatory review process, increased development costs, or unexpected delays in, or even prevention of, the regulatory approval and commercialization of our product candidates, and we cannot be certain that our approach will lead to the development of any approvable or marketable products. For example, the FDA-approved treatment options available for people with SNHL are hearing aids and cochlear implants. Unlike FX-322, which is a therapeutic that targets the underlying biology of SNHL, these treatment options are medical devices that are designed to target the symptoms of SNHL. As a result, these treatment options are not directly comparable to FX-322, and FDA requirements for marketing authorization of these treatment options may not be relevant for FX-322. While we are developing what we believe are appropriate measurements of efficacy for FX-322, we cannot be certain that the FDA will agree with our measurements or that they will be sufficient for approval. If we were to encounter any of the foregoing, our business and financial prospects could be materially harmed.
Clinical trials are expensive, time consuming, and difficult to design and implement, and involve an uncertain outcome. The results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials are not always predictive of future results. Any product candidate that we advance into clinical trials may not achieve favorable results in later clinical trials, if any, or receive marketing approval.
Clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the clinical trial process. The results of preclinical studies and completed clinical trials are not necessarily predictive of future results, and any product candidates we develop may not be further developed or may have additional unfavorable results in later studies or trials. Clinical trial failure may result from a multitude of factors, including, but not limited to, flaws in study design, dose selection, placebo effect, subject enrollment criteria, selection of subjects based on subject misrepresentations, and failure to demonstrate favorable safety or efficacy traits. As such, failure in clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing. Several companies in the pharmaceutical industry have suffered setbacks in the advancement of their drug candidates into later-stage clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or adverse safety profiles, notwithstanding favorable results in earlier preclinical studies or clinical trials. Our Phase 2a results (FX-322-202), for example, showed that four weekly injections in subjects with mild to moderately severe SNHL did not demonstrate improvements in hearing measures versus placebo, a finding we believe is due to an uncontrolled bias and the limitation to a single baseline measure. Based upon negative or inconclusive results or a need for additional information, we may decide, or regulatory authorities may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or preclinical studies.
We may experience delays in initiating and completing any clinical trials that we intend to conduct, and we do not know whether our clinical trials will begin on time, need to be redesigned, enroll subjects on time, or be completed on schedule, or at all. For example, a number of clinical trial sites for our completed Phase 2a clinical trial of FX-322 (FX-322-202) temporarily halted subject enrollment during the first and second quarter of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Enrollment in other ongoing or planned clinical trials could be adversely affected by the pandemic. Clinical trials can be delayed for a variety of reasons, including delays related to:
We could also encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, the IRBs or IECs of the institutions in which such trials are being conducted, the FDA or other regulatory authorities, or recommended for termination by a Data and Safety Monitoring Board, or DSMB, for such trial. Such authorities may impose a suspension or termination or recommend an alteration due to a number of factors, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols, inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial site by the FDA or other regulatory authorities resulting in the imposition of a clinical hold, unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects, failure to demonstrate a benefit from using a drug, changes in governmental regulations or administrative actions, or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial.
Furthermore, we rely on CROs and clinical trial sites to ensure the proper and timely conduct of our clinical trials and, while we have agreements governing their committed activities, we have limited influence over their actual performance, as described in the section titled “—Risks related to our dependence on third parties.”
Our lead product candidate, FX-322, is still in development and will require the successful completion of FX-322-208 and at least one, and possibly more, Phase 3 trials before we are prepared to submit an NDA for regulatory approval by the FDA. In addition, we have been advised by the FDA that, while the nonclinical studies conducted by us to date suggest a pharmacodynamic interaction between the two active components of FX-322, the FDA has indicated that the results of such nonclinical studies do not preclude the need for a human study and that inclusion of a factorial study in humans in future trials of FX-322 to thoroughly assess the effects attributable to each component drug of FX-322 in the combination so as to satisfy the FDA’s "combination rule". The design and conduct of a factorial study in humans, including the development of each active component to administer in such study, may cause additional delays in the development of FX-322. We cannot predict with any certainty if or when we might complete the development of FX-322 and submit an NDA for regulatory approval by the FDA of FX-322 or whether any such NDA will be approved by the FDA.
If we experience delays in the commencement or completion of any clinical trials, or if we terminate a clinical trial prior to completion, the commercial prospects of any product candidate we develop could be harmed, and our ability to generate revenues may be delayed. In addition, any delays in our clinical trials could increase our costs, slow the development and approval process and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues. Any of these occurrences may materially harm our business, financial condition, and results of operations. In addition, many of the factors that may cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates.
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. The FDA may conclude that a financial relationship between us and a principal investigator has created a conflict of interest or otherwise affected interpretation of a clinical trial. The FDA 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 and may ultimately lead to the denial of marketing approval of a product candidate.
The regulatory approval processes of the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities are lengthy, time- consuming, and inherently unpredictable, and if we are ultimately unable to obtain regulatory approval for FX-322, FX-345, or any of our other product candidates, our business will be substantially harmed.
The time required to obtain approval by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities is unpredictable but typically takes many years following the commencement of clinical trials and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of the regulatory authorities. In addition, approval policies, regulations, or the type and amount of clinical data necessary to gain approval may change during a product candidate’s clinical development and may vary among jurisdictions. The approval process may also be delayed by changes in government regulation, the impact of the COVID-19
pandemic, future legislation or administrative action. We have not obtained regulatory approval for any product candidate and it is possible that we will never obtain regulatory approval for any product candidate. We are not permitted to market any of our product candidates in the United States until we receive approval of an NDA from the FDA.
Prior to obtaining approval to commercialize a product candidate in the United States or abroad, we must demonstrate with substantial evidence from well-controlled clinical trials, and to the satisfaction of the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority, that such product candidates are safe and effective for their intended uses. In addition, data obtained from preclinical trials and clinical trials are susceptible to varying interpretations, and regulatory authorities may not interpret our data as favorably as we do, which may further delay, limit, or prevent development efforts, clinical trials, or marketing approval. Furthermore, as more competing drug candidates within a class of drugs proceed through clinical development to regulatory review and approval, the amount and type of clinical data that may be required by regulatory authorities may increase or change. Even if we believe the preclinical or clinical data for our product candidates are promising, such data may not be sufficient to support approval by the FDA and other comparable regulatory authorities.
The FDA or any foreign regulatory authority can delay, limit, or deny approval of FX-322, FX-345, or any of our other product candidates that we develop or require us to conduct additional preclinical or clinical testing or abandon a program for many reasons, including:
Of the large number of drugs in development, only a small percentage successfully complete the regulatory approval processes and are commercialized. This lengthy approval process, as well as the unpredictability of future clinical trial results, may result in our failing to obtain regulatory approval to market our product candidates, which would significantly harm our business, results of operations, and prospects.
In addition, the FDA or the applicable foreign regulatory authority also may approve a product candidate for a more limited indication or patient population than we originally requested, and the FDA or applicable foreign regulatory authority may approve a product candidate with a label that does not include the labeling claims necessary or desirable for the
successful commercialization of that product candidate. Any of the foregoing circumstances could materially harm the commercial prospects for our product candidates and our business.
Enrollment and retention of individuals in clinical trials is an expensive and time-consuming process and could be made more difficult or rendered impossible by multiple factors outside our control.
The timely completion of clinical trials in accordance with their protocols depends, among other things, on our ability to enroll a sufficient number of subjects who remain in the study until its conclusion. We may encounter delays in enrolling, or be unable to enroll, a sufficient number of subjects to complete any of our clinical trials, and even once enrolled, we may be unable to retain a sufficient number of subjects to complete any of our trials.
Subject enrollment and retention in clinical trials depends on many factors, including:
In addition, our clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials for product candidates and medical devices that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates, and this competition will reduce the number and types of subjects available to us, because some people who might have opted to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by one of our competitors. Furthermore, any negative results we may report in clinical trials of any product candidate may make it difficult or impossible to recruit and retain people in other clinical trials of that same product candidate. Delays or failures in planned subject enrollment or retention may result in increased costs or program delays, which could have a harmful effect on our ability to develop a product candidate or could render further development impossible.
Results of preclinical studies, clinical trials, or analyses may not be indicative of results that may be obtained in later trials.
The results of preclinical studies, clinical trials, or analyses of the results from such trials, including our prospective and post hoc analyses of the data from the Phase 1/2 trial of FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL (FX-322-201), may not be predictive of the results of later clinical trials. Product candidates in later clinical trials may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy traits despite having progressed through preclinical studies and prior clinical trials or having shown promising results based on analyses of data from earlier trials. A number of companies in the pharmaceutical industry have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or adverse safety profiles, notwithstanding earlier promising results. Our Phase 2a results (FX-322-202), for example, showed that four weekly injections in subjects with mild to moderately severe SNHL did not demonstrate improvements in hearing measures versus placebo, a finding we believe is due to an uncontrolled bias and the limitation to a single baseline measure. In addition, conclusions based on promising data from analyses of clinical results, such as the prospective and post hoc analysis of data from our Phase 1/2 clinical trial of FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL (FX-322-201), may be shown to be incorrect in subsequent clinical trials that have pre-specified end points or may not be considered adequate by regulatory authorities. Even if we complete later clinical trials as
planned, we cannot be certain that their results will support the safety and efficacy requirements sufficient to obtain regulatory approval, and, as a result, our clinical development plans may be materially harmed.
Interim and preliminary “top-line” data from our clinical trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more subject data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.
From time to time, we may publicly disclose interim, top-line or preliminary data from our clinical trials, which is based on a preliminary analysis of then-available data, and the results and related findings and conclusions are subject to change following a more comprehensive review of the data related to the particular study or trial. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully and carefully evaluate all data. As a result, the top-line or preliminary results that we report may differ from future results of the same studies, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results, once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Top-line or preliminary data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the top-line or preliminary data we previously published. As a result, top-line and preliminary data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available.
From time to time, we may also disclose interim data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials. Interim data from clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as subject enrollment continues and more subject data become available. Adverse differences between interim data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects. Further, disclosure of interim data by us or by our competitors could result in volatility in the price of our common stock.
Further, others, including regulatory agencies, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions or analyses or may interpret or weigh the importance of data differently, which could impact the value of the particular program, the approvability or commercialization of the particular product candidate or product and our company in general. In addition, the information we choose to publicly disclose regarding a particular study or clinical trial is based on what is typically extensive information, and you or others may not agree with what we determine is material or otherwise appropriate information to include in our disclosure.
If the interim, top-line or preliminary data that we report differ from actual results, or if others, including regulatory authorities, disagree with the conclusions reached, our ability to obtain approval for, and commercialize, our product candidates may be harmed, which could harm our business, operating results, prospects or financial condition.
Any of our product candidates or component of a product candidate that we develop or the administration thereof, may cause serious adverse events or undesirable side effects, which may halt their clinical development, delay or prevent marketing approval, or, if approved, require them to be taken off the market, include safety warnings, or otherwise limit their sales.
Serious adverse events or undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates or component of a product candidate we develop could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay, or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Results of any clinical trial we conduct could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects. In our clinical studies to date, subjects treated with FX-322 have experienced adverse events that include ear discomfort and ear pain that are considered to be associated with the intratympanic injection procedure.
If unacceptable side effects arise in the development of any product candidate, we, the FDA, or the IRBs or IECs at the institutions in which our studies are conducted, or the DSMB, if constituted for our clinical trials, could recommend a suspension or termination of our clinical trials, or the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval of a product candidate for any or all targeted indications. In addition, drug-related side effects could affect subject recruitment or the ability of enrolled subjects to complete a trial or result in potential product liability claims. These side effects also may not be appropriately recognized or managed by the treating medical staff. We may have to train medical personnel regarding the proper administration protocol for our product candidates and 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 subject injury or death. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition, and prospects significantly.
Additionally, if FX-322, FX-345, or any of our other product candidates we develop receives marketing approval, and we or others later identify undesirable side effects caused by such products, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:
Any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of a product candidate, if approved, and could significantly harm our business, results of operations, and prospects.
Disruptions at the FDA and other government agencies caused by funding shortages, changes in the federal administration or global health concerns could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, or otherwise prevent new products and services from being developed or commercialized in a timely manner, which could negatively impact our business.
The ability of the FDA to review and approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and statutory, regulatory, and policy changes. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of other government agencies that fund research and development activities is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable.
Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new drugs to be reviewed or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, including for 35 days beginning on December 22, 2018, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, have had to furlough critical employees and stop critical activities. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Separately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 10, 2020 the FDA announced its intention to postpone most inspections of foreign manufacturing facilities and on March 18, 2020, the FDA temporarily postponed routine surveillance inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities. Subsequently, in July 2020 the FDA resumed certain on-site inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities subject to a risk-based prioritization system. The FDA utilized this risk-based assessment system to identify when and where it was safest to conduct prioritized domestic inspections. Additionally, on April 15, 2021, the FDA issued a guidance document in which the FDA described its plans to conduct voluntary remote interactive evaluations of certain drug manufacturing facilities and clinical research sites, among other facilities. According to the guidance, the FDA may request such remote interactive evaluations where the FDA determines that remote evaluation would be appropriate based on mission needs and travel limitations. In May 2021, the FDA outlined a detailed plan to move toward a more consistent state of inspectional operations, and in July 2021, the FDA resumed standard inspectional operations of domestic facilities and was continuing to maintain this level of operation as of September 2021. More recently, the FDA has continued to monitor and implement changes to its inspectional activities to ensure the safety of its employees and those of the firms it regulates as it adapts to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Regulatory authorities outside the United States may adopt similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or issue guidance materially affecting the conduct of clinical trials. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns
continue to prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews, or other regulatory activities, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Further, in our operations as a public company, future government shutdowns or delays could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.
We may not be successful in our efforts to identify additional product candidates. Due to our limited resources and access to capital, we must prioritize development of certain product candidates, the choice of which may prove to be wrong and adversely affect our business.
Although we intend to explore additional product candidates based on our PCA platform, we may fail to identify viable new product candidates for clinical development for several reasons. If we fail to identify additional potential product candidates, our business could be materially harmed.
Research programs to develop additional product candidates based on our PCA platform require substantial technical, financial, and human resources whether or not they are ultimately successful. Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential indications or product candidates, yet fail to yield results for clinical development for several reasons, including:
Because we have limited financial and human resources, we intend to initially focus on research programs and product candidates for a limited set of indications. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that could have greater commercial potential or a greater likelihood of success. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities.
Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will ever be able to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our product candidates or to develop suitable potential product candidates through internal research programs, which could materially adversely affect our future growth and prospects. For example, we may encounter delays in the process of selecting a product candidate for the treatment of MS and we may not achieve the timeline we currently anticipate for submitting an IND or comparable foreign equivalent. We may focus our efforts and resources on potential product candidates or other potential programs that ultimately prove to be unsuccessful.
The market opportunities for FX-322, if approved, may be smaller than we anticipate and, as a result, our commercial opportunity may be limited.
We expect to initially seek approval of FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL. Our projections of the number of eligible patients are based on our beliefs and estimates. These estimates have been derived from a variety of sources, including scientific literature, patient foundations, and market research, and may prove to be incorrect. Further, new sources may reveal a change in the estimated number of eligible patients, and the number of patients 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. Our Phase 1b study of FX-322 in presbycusis (FX-322-212), for example, did not show any significant treatment effects. Even if we obtain FDA approval for FX-322, it may be approved for a target population that is more limited than what we currently anticipate. Even if we obtain significant market share for any product candidate, if approved, if the potential target populations are smaller, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining marketing approval for additional indications.
We have never obtained marketing approval for a product candidate and we may be unable to obtain, or may be delayed in obtaining, marketing approval for any product candidate.
We have never obtained marketing approval for a product candidate. It is possible that the FDA may refuse to accept for substantive review any NDAs that we submit for our product candidates or may conclude after review of our data that our
applications are insufficient to obtain marketing approval of our product candidates. We believe our approach of activating progenitor cells to treat conditions or diseases through cellular regeneration is novel and, as a result, the process for, and the outcome of, FDA approval is especially uncertain. If the FDA does not accept or approve our NDAs for our product candidates, it may require that we conduct additional clinical, preclinical, or manufacturing validation studies and submit that data before it will reconsider our applications. Depending on the extent of these or any other FDA-required studies, approval of any NDA that we submit may be delayed or may require us to expend more resources than we have available. It is also possible that additional studies, if performed and completed, may not be considered sufficient by the FDA to approve our NDAs.
Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, marketing approvals would prevent us from commercializing our product candidates, generating revenues, and achieving and sustaining profitability. If any of these outcomes occur, we may be forced to abandon our development efforts for our product candidates, which could significantly harm our business.
Even if we obtain FDA approval for a product candidate in the United States, we or our collaborators may never obtain approval for or commercialize the product candidate in any other jurisdiction, which would limit our ability to realize its full market potential.
In order to market any product in a particular jurisdiction, we or our collaborators must establish and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements regarding safety and efficacy on a country-by-country basis. Approval by the FDA in the United States does not ensure approval by comparable regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions. However, the failure to obtain approval in one jurisdiction may negatively impact our or our collaborators’ ability to obtain approval elsewhere. In addition, clinical trials conducted in one country may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other countries, and regulatory approval in one country does not guarantee regulatory approval in any other country.
Approval processes vary among countries and can involve additional product testing and validation and additional administrative review periods. Seeking foreign regulatory approval could result in difficulties and increased costs for us and require additional preclinical studies or clinical trials which could be costly and time- consuming. Regulatory requirements can vary widely from country to country and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in those countries. We do not have any product candidates approved for sale in any jurisdiction, including in international markets, and we do not have experience in obtaining regulatory approval in international markets. If we or our collaborators fail to comply with regulatory requirements in international markets or to obtain and maintain required approvals, or if regulatory approvals in international markets are delayed, our target market will be reduced and we will be unable to realize the full market potential of any product we develop.
Even if we obtain regulatory approval for any product candidate, we will still face extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements and obligations, which may result in significant additional expense, and any product candidates, if approved, may face future development and regulatory difficulties.
Any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval, along with the manufacturing processes, post-approval clinical data, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, recordkeeping, export, import, and advertising and promotional activities for such product, among other things, will be subject to extensive and ongoing requirements of and review by the FDA and other regulatory authorities. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, establishment registration and drug listing requirements, continued compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practice, or cGMP, requirements relating to manufacturing, quality control, quality assurance, and corresponding maintenance of records and documents, requirements regarding the distribution of samples to physicians and recordkeeping and Good Clinical Practice, or GCP, and requirements for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval.
Even if marketing approval of a product candidate is granted, the approval may be subject to limitations on the indicated uses for which the product candidate may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, including a requirement to implement a REMS. If a product candidate receives marketing approval, the accompanying label may limit the approved indicated use of the product, which could limit sales of the product. The FDA may also require costly post-marketing studies or clinical trials and surveillance to monitor the safety or efficacy of a product. The FDA closely regulates the post-approval marketing and promotion of drugs to ensure drugs are marketed only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved labeling. The FDA imposes stringent restrictions on manufacturers’ communications regarding off-label use, and if we market our products for uses beyond their approved indications, we may be subject to enforcement action for off-label marketing. Violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, relating to the promotion
of prescription drugs, may lead to FDA enforcement actions and investigations alleging violations of federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws, as well as state consumer protection laws.
In addition, later discovery of previously unknown adverse events or other problems with our products, manufacturers, or manufacturing processes or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may yield various results, including:
Further, the FDA’s policies may change, and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit, or delay regulatory approval of a product candidate. 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, which would adversely affect our business, prospects, and ability to achieve or sustain profitability.
We also cannot predict the likelihood, nature, or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative or executive action, either in the United States or abroad. The policies of the FDA and of other comparable regulatory authorities may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit, or delay regulatory approval of a product candidate. 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 be subject to enforcement action, and we may not achieve or sustain profitability, which would adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition, and results of operations. Furthermore, noncompliance by us or any collaborator with regulatory requirements, including safety monitoring or pharmacovigilance, may also result in significant financial penalties, which would adversely affect our business.
We received Fast Track designation by the FDA for FX-322 and may seek Fast Track designation by the FDA for any future product candidates, but we might not receive such a designation. However, such designation may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.
In October 2019, FX-322 received Fast Track designation by the FDA. If a drug is intended for the treatment of a serious condition and nonclinical or clinical data demonstrate the potential to address an unmet medical need for this condition, a drug sponsor may qualify for FDA Fast Track designation. Fast Track designation provides increased opportunities for sponsor meetings with the FDA during preclinical and clinical development, in addition to the potential for rolling review and priority review once a marketing application is filed. The FDA has broad discretion whether to grant Fast Track designation, and we may not receive such a designation for all of the product candidates for which we may request it. Moreover, even if we receive Fast Track designation, Fast Track designation does not ensure that we will receive marketing approval or that approval will be granted within any particular time frame. We may not experience a faster development or regulatory review or approval process with Fast Track designation compared to conventional FDA procedures. In addition, the FDA may withdraw Fast Track designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program. Fast Track designation alone does not guarantee qualification for the FDA’s priority review procedures.
We may seek a Breakthrough Therapy designation for FX-322 and our other product candidates, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.
We may seek a Breakthrough Therapy designation for FX-322 if results from our ongoing clinical trial support such designation and we may seek a Breakthrough Therapy designation for other product candidates we may develop. A Breakthrough Therapy is defined as a drug that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. For drugs 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. Drugs designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA may also be eligible for priority review if supported by clinical data at the time the NDA is submitted to the FDA.
Designation as a Breakthrough Therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe that a product candidate meets the criteria for designation as a Breakthrough Therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such a designation. Even if we receive Breakthrough Therapy designation, the receipt of such designation may not result in a faster development or regulatory review or approval process compared to drugs considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if a product candidate qualifies as a Breakthrough Therapy, the FDA may later decide that it no longer meets the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.
Potential product liability lawsuits against us could cause us to incur substantial liabilities and limit commercialization of any products that we may develop.
The use of any product candidate we may develop in clinical trials and the sale of any products for which we obtain marketing approval exposes 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. On occasion, large judgments have been awarded in class action lawsuits based on drugs that had unanticipated adverse effects. 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 product liability insurance we currently carry, and any additional product liability insurance coverage we acquire in the future, may not be sufficient to reimburse us for any expenses or losses we may suffer. Moreover, insurance coverage is becoming increasingly expensive and, in the future, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses due to liability. If we obtain marketing approval for any product candidate, we intend to acquire insurance coverage to include the sale of commercial products; however, we may be unable to obtain product liability insurance on commercially reasonable terms or in adequate amounts. A successful product liability claim, or series of claims, brought against us could cause our share price to decline and, if judgments exceed our insurance coverage, could adversely affect our results of operation and business, including preventing or limiting the commercialization of any product candidates we develop.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused and could continue to cause disruptions to our business, including our preclinical studies, clinical trials and operations and could adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations.
In March 2020, the World Health organization designated the outbreak of the novel strain of coronavirus, known as COVID-19, as a global pandemic. This virus and its variants have and continue to spread globally and governments and businesses around the world have taken unprecedented actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including, but not limited to, shelter-in-place orders, business closures, quarantines, border closures, significant restrictions on travel, social distancing practices as well as restrictions that prohibit many employees from going to work. Massachusetts, the primary business location of our company, closed all non-essential business for a period of time in response to the pandemic, but has since May 2021, lifted all restrictions related to the pandemic. The pandemic, and government measures taken in response, have had a significant impact, both direct and indirect, on business and commerce, as worker shortages have occurred; supply chains have been disrupted; facilities and production have been suspended; and demand for certain goods and services, such as medical services and supplies, has spiked, while demand for other goods and services, such as travel, has fallen.
In light of recent developments relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of healthcare providers and hospitals has been on fighting the virus and vaccinating the public and we have been required to take steps consistent with the FDA’s updated industry guidance for conducting clinical trials issued on March 18, 2020. The majority of our employees have continued to work from home two to three days per week, while our laboratory employees have largely resumed a full in-person schedule in our Lexington, MA facility. We have also taken steps consistent with the FDA’s updated industry guidance for conducting clinical trials.
If COVID-19 or its variants again spread in the United States and worldwide, and measures to mitigate the ongoing effects of the pandemic, such as stay home orders and/or advisories persist or are reintroduced, we may continue to experience disruptions and other effects on our business that could severely impact our business, operations, preclinical studies and clinical trials, including:
The global outbreak of COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve and continues to have indeterminable adverse effects on general commercial activity and the world economy. We previously experienced an impact from COVID-19 in our completed Phase 2a clinical trial (FX-322-202), as a number of clinical trial sites temporarily halted enrollment. Due to the uncertain nature of the effects of the outbreak, particularly in the United States, enrollment, participation and retention in our ongoing and planned trials may be reduced, and for a number of the clinical sites, halted for an unknown period of time. Any reduction in enrollment, participation and retention and any halts may delay our ongoing and planned clinical trials and our development plans for FX-322 and our other product candidates, which could have an adverse impact on our business and results of operations.
The extent to which COVID-19 may continue to impact our business, preclinical studies, clinical trials (including the completion and timing of our extension trials of FX-322-111 and FX-322-112 and our Phase 2b clinical trial of FX-322 (FX-322-208)) and operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the ongoing and ultimate geographic spread of the disease, duration of the outbreak, including future waves of infection, new variant strains of the underlying virus, travel restrictions and social distancing in the United States and other countries, business closures or business disruptions, adoption and effectiveness of vaccines and other actions taken in the United States and other countries to contain, treat and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In addition, if we or any of the third parties with whom we engage were to experience shutdowns or additional business disruptions, our ability to conduct our business in the manner and on the timelines presently planned could be materially and negatively impacted, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and our financial results. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a widespread health crisis that has adversely affected the economies and financial markets worldwide, resulting in an economic downturn that could continue to significantly impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. To the extent the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affects our business, financial condition and results of operations, it may also have the effect of heightening many of the other risks described in this “Risk Factors” section.
Risks related to commercialization
We face significant competition from biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies, and our operating results will suffer if we fail to compete effectively.
The biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries are highly competitive and subject to significant and rapid technological change. Our success is highly dependent on our ability to acquire, develop, and obtain marketing approval for new products on a cost-effective basis and to market them successfully. If a product candidate we develop is approved, we will face intense competition from a variety of businesses, including large, fully integrated pharmaceutical companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies, and early-stage companies, particularly if the early-stage company has a collaborative arrangement with a large and established company. We are aware of several companies developing products to treat SNHL through the regeneration of hair cells or through other mechanisms, and we also anticipate that new companies will enter the SNHL market in the future. If we successfully develop and, if approved, commercialize FX-322 or FX-345 for the treatment of SNHL, it may compete, or potentially be used in conjunction, with currently marketed devices, including the hearing aids and cochlear implants currently available and the next generation of improved hearing aids and cochlear implants, and any new therapies that may become available in the future. Furthermore, changes in the regulatory landscape may increase competition from hearing aids. The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 directed the FDA to, by regulation, categorize certain hearing aids as over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids, which would permit such OTC hearing aids to be available to consumers without first requiring a visit to a medical professional. The FDA has proposed regulations to create this new category of OTC devices. When the FDA finalizes these proposed regulations, obtaining hearing aids may become less expensive and more convenient. We are also aware of several companies developing programs with research and development efforts to treat MS through the regeneration of myelin. If we successfully develop and, if approved, commercialize our remyelination program for the treatment of MS, it may compete, or potentially be used in conjunction with, currently marketed therapeutics and any new therapeutics that may become available in the future.
Competition could render any product candidate we develop obsolete, less competitive, or uneconomical. Our competitors may, among other things:
If we are not able to effectively compete for any of the foregoing reasons, our business will be materially harmed.
The successful commercialization of any product candidate we develop will depend in part on the extent to which governmental authorities and health insurers establish adequate coverage, reimbursement levels, and pricing policies. Failure to obtain or maintain coverage and adequate reimbursement for our product candidates, if approved, could limit our or our collaborators’ ability to market those products and decrease our or our collaborators’ ability to generate revenue.
The availability and adequacy of coverage and reimbursement by governmental healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, private health insurers, and other third-party payors are essential for most patients to be able to afford prescription medications. Our ability to achieve acceptable levels of coverage and reimbursement for products or procedures using our products by governmental authorities, private health insurers and other organizations will influence our ability to successfully commercialize any product candidates we develop. Obtaining adequate coverage and reimbursement for any product candidate we develop that is administered under the supervision of a physician, which is what we anticipate for FX-322, may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices associated with such products. In addition, we believe that FX-322 and FX-345 are novel approaches to treating hearing loss and, as a result, availability of coverage and reimbursement by payors is highly uncertain, particularly because the cost of existing treatments for SNHL, such as hearing aids, are generally not reimbursed by payors. A decision by a third-party payor not to cover or separately reimburse for our products or procedures using our products could reduce physician utilization of our products once approved. Assuming we obtain coverage for our product candidates or procedures using our products by a third-party payor, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement in the United States or elsewhere will be available for any product we commercialize, and any reimbursement that may become available may be decreased or eliminated in the future.
Third-party payors increasingly are challenging prices charged for pharmaceutical products and services, and the current presidential administration and Congress have introduced several proposals related to drug pricing. Many third-party payors may refuse to provide coverage and reimbursement for particular drugs or biologics when an equivalent generic drug, biosimilar, or a less expensive therapy is available. Although there are currently no FDA approved drugs for the treatment of SNHL, it is possible that a third-party payor may consider FX-322 or FX-345 as substitutable and only offer to reimburse patients for the less expensive product. Even if we show improved efficacy, pricing of existing drugs and medical devices, such as hearing aids, may limit the amount we will be able to charge for any product we commercialize. Payors may deny or revoke the reimbursement status of a given product or establish prices for new or existing marketed products at levels that are too low to enable us to realize a satisfactory return on our investment in our product candidates. If reimbursement is not available or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our product candidates and may not be able to obtain a satisfactory financial return on our product candidates. Additionally, our ability to obtain a satisfactory financial return depends on what, if any, proposals related to drug pricing may be implemented and, if implemented, when they might take effect.
There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. In the United States, third-party payors, including private and governmental payors, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs, play an important role in determining the extent to which new drugs and biologics will be covered. The Medicare and Medicaid programs increasingly are used as models in the United States for how private payors and other governmental payors develop their coverage and reimbursement policies for drugs and biologics. Some third-party payors may require pre-approval of coverage for new or innovative devices or drug therapies before they will reimburse healthcare providers who use such therapies. 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.
No uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors in the United States. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for products can differ significantly from payor to payor, and one third-party payor’s decision to cover a product does not ensure that other payors will also provide similar coverage. Additionally, the process for determining whether a third-party payor will provide coverage for a product is typically separate from the process for setting the price of such product or establishing the reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the product once coverage is approved. As a result, the determination of coverage and reimbursement is often a time-consuming and costly process that will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our product candidates to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. Furthermore, rules and regulations regarding reimbursement change frequently, in some cases at short notice, and we believe that changes in these rules and regulations are likely.
Moreover, increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payors in the United States to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and the level of reimbursement for newly approved products and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment for any product we commercialize. We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of our product candidates due to the trend toward managed health care, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations, and additional legislative, administrative, or regulatory changes. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs and biologics and surgical procedures and other treatments, has become intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products.
We or our collaborators may also be subject to extensive governmental price controls and other market regulations outside of the United States, and we believe the increasing emphasis on cost-containment initiatives in other countries have and will continue to put pressure on the pricing and usage of medical products. In many countries, the prices of medical products are subject to varying price control mechanisms as part of national health systems. Other countries allow companies to fix their own prices for medical products but monitor and control company profits. Additional foreign price controls or other changes in pricing regulation could restrict the amount that we or our collaborators are able to charge for products we or our collaborators commercialize. Accordingly, in markets outside the United States, the reimbursement for products we or our collaborators commercialize may be reduced compared with the United States and may be insufficient to generate commercially reasonable revenue and profits.
Even if a product candidate we develop receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, or others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.
If a product candidate we develop receives marketing approval, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, and others in the medical community. If it does not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenues or become profitable. The degree of market acceptance of our product candidates, if approved, will depend on several factors, including, but not limited to:
Because we expect sales of our product candidates, if approved, to generate substantially all our revenues for the foreseeable future, the failure of our product candidates to find market acceptance would harm our business and could require us to seek additional financing.
If we are unable to establish sales and marketing capabilities either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we may not be successful in commercializing any product candidate we develop, if approved.
In order to market and successfully commercialize any product candidate we develop, if approved, we must build our sales and marketing capabilities or enter into collaborations with third parties for these services. We currently have no sales, marketing or distribution capabilities and as a company have no experience in marketing products. We intend to directly market and commercialize FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL, if approved, in the United States by developing our own sales and marketing force, targeting ear, nose, and throat doctors and audiologists. There are significant expenses and risks involved with establishing our own sales and marketing capabilities, including our ability to hire, train, retain, and appropriately incentivize a sufficient number of qualified individuals, generate sufficient sales leads and provide our sales and marketing team with adequate access to physicians who may prescribe our product, effectively manage a geographically dispersed sales and marketing team, and other unforeseen costs and expenses. Any failure or delay in the development of a product candidate that affects the expected timing of commercialization of the product candidate or results in the failure of the product candidate to be commercialized could result in us having prematurely or unnecessarily incurred costly commercialization expenses. Our investment would be lost if we are unable to retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel.
We may also enter into collaborations for the sales and marketing of our product candidates, if approved. To the extent that we depend on collaborators for sales and marketing activities, any revenues we receive will depend upon the success of those collaborators’ sales and marketing teams and the collaborators’ prioritization of our product and compliance with applicable regulatory requirements, and there can be no assurance that the collaborators’ efforts will be successful. For example, under the License and Collaboration Agreement with Astellas, or the Astellas Agreement, we will depend on Astellas to sell and market FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL, if approved, outside of the United States, and we can have no assurance that it will be successful in its efforts or devote sufficient resources to the sale and marketing of FX-322.
If we are unable to build our own sales and marketing team or enter into a collaboration for the commercialization of product candidates we develop, if approved, we may be forced to delay the commercialization of our product candidates or reduce the scope of our sales or marketing activities, which would have an adverse effect on our business, operating results and prospects.
A variety of risks associated with operating internationally could materially adversely affect our business.
Our business strategy includes potentially expanding internationally if any of our product candidates receive regulatory approval. Doing business internationally involves several risks, including, but not limited to:
Any of these factors could significantly harm any future international expansion and operations and, consequently, our results of operations.
Risks related to our dependence on third parties
The Astellas Agreement is important to our business. If we or Astellas fail to adequately perform under the Astellas Agreement, or if we or Astellas terminate the Astellas Agreement, the development and commercialization of FX-322 for SNHL outside the United States would be materially delayed and our business would be adversely affected.
Under the Astellas Agreement, Astellas is responsible for the development and commercialization of FX-322 outside of the United States and we are responsible for development and commercialization in the United States. We and Astellas are jointly responsible for conducting global clinical studies and coordinating commercial launch activities.
We have received an upfront payment from Astellas of $80.0 million, and we may also receive development milestone payments up to $230.0 million. If the Astellas licensed products are successfully commercialized, we would be eligible for up to $315.0 million in potential commercial milestone payments plus tiered royalties at rates ranging from low- to mid-teen percentages.
Termination of the Astellas Agreement could cause significant delays in our development and commercialization efforts for FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL outside of the United States. If the Astellas Agreement is terminated, we would need to expand our internal capabilities or enter into another agreement to compensate for the loss in funding and clinical development support from Astellas. Any suitable alternative agreement would take considerable time to negotiate and could also be on less favorable terms to us. Whether or not we identify another suitable collaborator, we may need to seek additional financing to continue the development of FX-322, or we may be forced to discontinue development of FX-322, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
We intend to continue to collaborate with third parties for the development and commercialization of our product candidates. We may not succeed in establishing and maintaining collaborations, which may significantly limit our ability to successfully develop and commercialize our other product candidates, if at all.
We have entered into the Astellas Agreement for the development and commercialization of FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL outside the United States and may seek collaborations for the development and commercialization of other product candidates. The process of establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships is difficult, time-consuming, and involves significant uncertainty, such as:
If any collaborator fails to fulfill its responsibilities in a timely manner, or at all, our research, clinical development, manufacturing, or commercialization efforts related to that collaboration could be delayed or terminated, or it may be necessary for us to assume responsibility for expenses or activities that would otherwise have been the responsibility of our collaborator. If we are unable to establish and maintain collaborations on acceptable terms or to successfully transition away from terminated collaborations, we may have to delay or discontinue further development of one or more of our product candidates, undertake development and commercialization activities at our own expense, or find alternative sources of capital, which would have a material adverse impact on our clinical development plans and business.
Our employees and independent contractors, including principal investigators, CROs, consultants, vendors, and any third parties we may engage in connection with development and commercialization may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our employees and independent contractors, including principal investigators, CROs, consultants, vendors, and any third parties we may engage in connection with development and commercialization of our product candidates, could engage in misconduct, including intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct or unauthorized activities that violate applicable laws, rules, and regulations including: the laws and regulations of the FDA or other similar regulatory requirements of other authorities, including those laws that require the reporting of true, complete, and accurate information to such authorities; manufacturing standards; data privacy, security, fraud and abuse, and other healthcare laws and regulations; or laws that require the reporting of true, complete, and accurate financial information and data. Specifically, sales, marketing, and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self-dealing, and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs, and other business arrangements. Activities subject to these or other laws could also involve the improper use or misrepresentation of information obtained in the course of clinical trials, creation of fraudulent data in preclinical studies or clinical trials, or illegal misappropriation of drug product, which could result in regulatory sanctions and cause serious harm to our reputation. It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct by employees and other third parties, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with such laws or regulations. Additionally, we are subject to the risk that a person or government agency could allege such fraud or other misconduct, even if none occurred. If any such actions are instituted against us or them 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, other U.S. federal healthcare programs or healthcare programs in other jurisdictions, individual imprisonment, other sanctions, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and curtailment of our operations.
We currently rely on third-party contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, for the production of clinical supply of FX-322 and intend to rely on CMOs for the production of commercial supply of FX-322, if approved, and for clinical and commercial supply of our future product candidates, as well as to supply raw materials necessary to produce our product
candidates. Our dependence on CMOs may impair the development of our product candidates and may impair their commercialization, which would adversely impact our business and financial position.
We do not own facilities for manufacturing FX-322 or any product candidate. Instead, we rely on and expect to continue to rely on CMOs for the supply of cGMP grade clinical trial materials of FX-322 and any product candidates we develop and, in future, for commercial quantities. Reliance on CMOs may expose us to more risk than if we were to manufacture our product candidates ourselves. If any CMO we engage is unable to provide sufficient supply of any product candidate we develop, we may be unable to arrange for an alternative supply or to do so on commercially reasonable terms or in a timely manner, which could delay any clinical trials, the commercial launch of our product candidates, if approved, or, regarding any commercial supply, result in a shortage in supply that could negatively impact our revenues. For example, we are substantially dependent on the CMO that supplies us with the proprietary glycogen synthase kinase 3, or GSK3, inhibitor that is a key component of FX-322 and the CMO that lyophilizes FX-322 into a powder. While there are other CMOs who are able to supply the GSK3 inhibitor or lyophilize FX-322, manufacture of the GSK3 inhibitor and the lyophilization process require proprietary knowledge or specialized capabilities that only a limited number of CMOs have. As a result, transitioning to a new CMO for either the supply of the GSK3 inhibitor or to conduct the lyophilization process would be particularly time consuming and costly. We have just begun to engage other CMOs as back-up for the manufacture and supply of FX-322. As a result, if any of the CMOs involved in the manufacture and supply of FX-322 experience a delay or disruption, or if we fail to obtain the appropriate approvals to manufacture and supply FX-322 outside the US (e.g., as a result of a failure to obtain a waiver under the Bayh-Dole Act), we may not have sufficient quantities of FX-322 for our planned activities and may not be able to transition to a new CMO in a timely or cost-effective manner, or at all, which would negatively impact our ability to develop and potentially commercialize FX-322.
The facilities used to manufacture our product candidates must be inspected by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities. While we provide oversight of manufacturing activities, we do not and will not control the execution of manufacturing activities by, and are or will be dependent on, our CMOs for compliance with cGMP requirements for the manufacture of our product candidates. As a result, we are subject to the risk that our product candidates may have manufacturing defects that we have limited ability to prevent. If a CMO cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the regulatory requirements, we will not be able to secure or maintain regulatory approval for the use of our product candidates in clinical trials, or for commercial distribution of our product candidates, if approved. While we have engaged independent auditors to assess the compliance with the protocol that we co-developed with our CMOs regarding the manufacturing process for FX-322, in general, we have limited control over the ability of our CMOs to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance, and qualified personnel, and we were not involved in developing our CMOs’ policies and procedures.
If the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority finds deficiencies with or does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates or if it withdraws any such approval or finds deficiencies in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would delay our development program and significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for, or commercialize our product candidates, if approved. In addition, any failure to achieve and maintain compliance with laws, regulations, and standards related to manufacturing could subject us to risks, including the risk that we may have to suspend the manufacture of our product candidates, that obtained approvals could be revoked, and that the FDA or another governmental regulatory authority may take enforcement actions, including untitled letters, warning letters, seizures, injunctions, or product recalls. Furthermore, CMOs may breach existing agreements they have with us because of factors beyond our control. They may also terminate or refuse to renew their agreement at a time that is costly or otherwise inconvenient for us. If we were unable to find an adequate CMO or another acceptable solution in time, our clinical trials could be delayed, or our commercial activities could be harmed.
We contract for the supply of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API, and other raw material necessary to produce FX-322 and we may contract in the future for the supply of API and other raw material for any of our other product candidates we develop. Supplies of API or other raw material could be interrupted from time to time and we cannot be certain that alternative supplies could be obtained within a reasonable time frame, at an acceptable cost, or at all. The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our ability to procure sufficient supplies for the development of our products and product candidates will depend on the severity and duration of the spread of the virus, and the actions undertaken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 or treat its effects and may cause delays. In addition, a disruption in the supply of API or other raw material could delay the commercial launch of our product candidates, if approved, or result in a shortage in supply, which would impair our ability to generate revenues. Growth in the costs and expenses of API or other raw material may also impair our ability to cost-effectively manufacture our product candidates. In addition, there may be a limited number of suppliers for API or other raw material that we may use to manufacture our product candidates, and we cannot be certain that we will be able to engage such suppliers in a timely manner or at all. If we are unable to do so, clinical development of our product candidates, commercialization for any approved product, or our business could be adversely affected.
Finding new CMOs or third-party suppliers involves additional cost and requires our management’s time and focus. In addition, there is typically a transition period when a new CMO commences work. Although we have not, and do not intend to, begin a clinical trial unless we believe we have on hand, or will be able to obtain, a sufficient supply of our product candidates to complete the clinical trial, any significant delay in the supply of our product candidates or the raw materials needed to produce our product candidates, could considerably delay conducting our clinical trials and potential regulatory approval of our product candidates.
As part of their manufacture of our product candidates, our CMOs and third-party suppliers are expected to comply with and respect the proprietary rights of others. If a CMO or third-party supplier fails to acquire the proper licenses or otherwise infringes the proprietary rights of others in the course of providing services to us, we may have to find alternative CMOs or third-party suppliers or defend against claims of infringement, either of which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for, or commercialize our product candidates, if approved.
We intend to rely on third parties to conduct, supervise, and monitor our clinical trials. If those third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, or if they perform in an unsatisfactory manner, it may harm our business.
We rely, and will continue to rely, on CROs, CRO-contracted vendors, and clinical trial sites to ensure the proper and timely conduct of our clinical trials, including our Phase 2b trial of FX-322 (FX-322-208), extension trials of FX-322-111 and FX-322-112, any future clinical trials of FX-322 for the treatment of SNHL, and any future clinical trials of our other product candidates. Our reliance on CROs for clinical development activities limits our control over these activities and we were not involved in developing our CRO’s policies and procedures, but we remain responsible for ensuring that each of our trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol and legal, regulatory, and scientific standards.
We and our CROs will be required to comply with the Good Laboratory Practice requirements for our preclinical studies and GCP requirements for our clinical trials, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA and are also required by comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Regulatory authorities enforce GCP requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, principal investigators, and clinical trial sites. If we or our CROs fail to comply with GCP requirements, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that upon inspection by a given regulatory authority, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our clinical trials comply with GCP requirements. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with product produced under cGMP requirements. Accordingly, if our CROs fail to comply with these requirements, we may be required to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process.
Our CROs are not our employees, and we do not control whether they devote sufficient time and resources to our clinical trials. Our CROs 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 harm our competitive position. We face the risk of potential unauthorized disclosure or misappropriation of our intellectual property by CROs, which may reduce our trade secret protection and allow our potential competitors to access and exploit our proprietary technology. If our CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations, or 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 reason, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval for, or successfully commercialize, any product candidate that we develop. As a result, our financial results and the commercial prospects for any product candidate that we develop would be harmed, our costs could increase, and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.
If our relationship with any CROs terminates, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs or do so on commercially reasonable terms. Switching or adding additional CROs involves substantial cost and requires management’s time and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new CRO commences work. As a result, delays occur, which can materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines. While the COVID-19 pandemic and government measures taken in response have had a significant impact on our CROs and their ability to conduct clinical trials, there is potential they will face disruption in the future, which may affect our ability to initiate and complete our clinical trials. Though we intend to carefully manage our relationships with our CROs, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter challenges or delays in the future or that these delays or challenges will not have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, and prospects.
Risks related to healthcare laws and other legal compliance matters
Enacted and future healthcare legislation may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize our product candidates, if approved, and may affect the prices we may set.
In the United States and other jurisdictions, there have been, and we expect there will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes, and additional proposed changes, to the healthcare system that could affect our future results of operations. In particular, there have been and continue to be a number of initiatives at the U.S. federal and state levels that seek to reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of health care. For example, in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or collectively the ACA, was enacted, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers. Among the provisions of the ACA, those of greatest importance to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries include the following:
Since its enactment, there have been judicial challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA brought by several states without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, President Biden issued an executive order initiating a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through August 15, 2021 for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructed certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare. It is unclear how healthcare reform measures enacted by Congress or implemented by the Biden administration, if any, will impact our business.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted. In August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, included aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect on April 1, 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments, will remain in effect through 2030, with the exception of a temporary suspension from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022, unless additional Congressional action is taken. On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which, among other things, reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, and an increase in the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. Further, in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law, which, among other things, eliminated the statutory cap on drug manufacturers’ Medicaid Drug Rebate Program rebate liability, effective January 1, 2024. Under current law enacted as part of the ACA, drug manufacturers’ Medicaid Drug Rebate Program rebate liability is capped at 100% of the average manufacturer price for a covered outpatient drug. These new laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding and otherwise affect the prices we may obtain.
Additionally, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been administration efforts, Congressional inquiries and proposed federal and state legislation designed to bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient assistance programs and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. Moreover, payment methodologies may be subject to changes in healthcare legislation and regulatory initiatives. We expect that additional U.S. federal healthcare reform measures will be implemented in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that the U.S. federal government will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our product candidates or additional pricing pressures.
Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, measures designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. Legally mandated price controls on payment amounts by third-party payors or other restrictions could harm our business, results of operations, financial condition, and prospects. In addition, regional healthcare authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other healthcare programs. Furthermore, there has been increased interest by third-party payors and governmental authorities in reference pricing systems and publication of discounts and list prices. These reforms could reduce the ultimate demand for our product candidates or put pressure on our product pricing.
In markets outside of the United States, reimbursement and healthcare payment systems vary significantly by country, and many countries have instituted price ceilings on specific products and therapies. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature, or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action in the United States or any other jurisdiction. If we or any third parties we may engage are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we or such third parties are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, our product candidates may lose any regulatory approval that may have been obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
Our business operations and current and future relationships with contractors, investigators, healthcare professionals, consultants, third-party payors, patient organizations, customers, and others will be subject to applicable healthcare regulatory laws, which could expose us to penalties.
Our business operations and current and future arrangements with contractors, investigators, healthcare professionals, consultants, third-party payors, patient organizations, and customers may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations. These laws may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we conduct our operations, including how we research, market, sell, and distribute our product candidates, if approved. Such laws include:
Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors available under such laws, it is possible that some of our business activities, including our consulting agreements and other relationships with healthcare providers, some of whom receive stock or stock options as compensation for their services, could be subject to challenge under one or more of such laws. Ensuring that our current and future internal operations and business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations, agency guidance, or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations.
If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the laws described above or any other governmental laws and regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to actions including the imposition of civil, criminal, and administrative penalties, damages, disgorgement, monetary fines, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs, individual imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, additional reporting requirements, or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of noncompliance with these laws, and curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations. If any of the physicians or other providers or entities with whom we expect to do business are found to not be in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government-funded healthcare programs and imprisonment, which could affect our ability to operate our business. Further, defending against any such actions can be costly, time consuming, and may require significant personnel resources. Therefore, even if we are successful in defending against any such actions that may be brought against us, our business may be impaired.
Actual or perceived failures to comply with applicable data protection, privacy and security laws, regulations, standards and other requirements could adversely affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
The global data protection landscape is rapidly evolving, and we are or may become subject to numerous state, federal and foreign laws, requirements and regulations governing the collection, use, disclosure, retention, and security of personal data, such as information that we may collect in connection with clinical trials in the U.S. and abroad. Implementation standards and enforcement practices are likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, and we cannot yet determine the impact future laws, regulations, standards, or perception of their requirements may have on our business. This evolution may create uncertainty in our business, affect our ability to operate in certain jurisdictions or to collect, store, transfer use and share personal information, necessitate the acceptance of more onerous obligations in our contracts, result in liability or impose additional costs on us. The cost of compliance with these laws, regulations and standards is high and is likely to increase in the future. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with federal, state or foreign laws or regulation, our internal policies and procedures or our contracts governing our processing of personal information could result in negative publicity, government investigations and enforcement actions, claims by third parties and damage to our reputation, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our operations, financial performance and business.
As our operations and business grow, we may become subject to or affected by new or additional data protection laws and regulations and face increased scrutiny or attention from regulatory authorities. In the U.S., HIPAA imposes, among other things, certain standards relating to the privacy, security, transmission and breach reporting of individually identifiable health information. We may obtain health information from third parties (including research institutions from which we obtain clinical trial data) that are subject to privacy and security requirements under HIPAA. Depending on the facts and circumstances, we could be subject to significant penalties if we violate HIPAA. Certain states have also adopted comparable privacy and security laws and regulations, some of which may be more stringent than HIPAA. Such laws and regulations will be subject to interpretation by various courts and other governmental authorities, thus creating potentially complex compliance issues for us and our future customers and strategic partners.
Further, we may also be or become subject to other state laws governing the privacy, processing and protection of personal information For example, the CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020. The CCPA creates individual privacy rights for California consumers and increases the privacy and security obligations of entities handling certain personal information. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for data breaches that is expected to increase data breach litigation. The CCPA may increase our compliance costs and potential liability, and many similar laws have been proposed at the federal level and in other states. Further, the CPRA recently passed in California. The CPRA significantly amends the CCPA and will impose additional data protection obligations on covered businesses, including additional consumer rights processes, limitations on data uses, new audit requirements for higher risk data, and opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data. It will also create a new California data protection agency authorized to issue substantive regulations and could result in increased privacy and information security enforcement. The majority of the provisions will go into effect on January 1, 2023, and additional compliance investment and potential business process changes may be required. Similar laws have passed in Virginia and Colorado, and have been proposed in other states and at the federal level, reflecting a trend toward more stringent privacy legislation in the United States. The enactment of such laws could have potentially conflicting requirements that would make compliance challenging. In the event that we are subject to or affected by HIPAA, the CCPA, the CPRA or other domestic privacy and data protection laws, any liability from failure to comply with the requirements of these laws could adversely affect our financial condition.
Further, the General Data Protection Regulation applies to companies established in the EEA, as well as to companies that are not established in the EEA and which collect and use personal data in relation to (i) offering goods or services to, or (ii) monitoring the behavior of, individuals located in the EEA. If we conduct clinical trial programs in the EEA (whether the trials are conducted directly by us or through a clinical vendor or collaborator), or enter into research collaborations involving the monitoring of individuals in the EEA, or market our products to individuals in the EEA, we will be subject to the GDPR. The GDPR puts in place stringent operational requirements for processors and controllers of personal data, including, for example, high standards for obtaining consent from individuals to process their personal data (or reliance on another appropriate legal basis), the provision of robust and detailed disclosures to individuals about how personal data is collected and processed (in a concise, intelligible and easily accessible form), a comprehensive individual data rights regime (including access, erasure, objection, restriction, rectification and portability), maintaining a record of data processing, data export restrictions governing transfers of data from the EEA, short timelines for data breach notifications to be given to data protection regulators or supervisory authorities (and in certain cases, affected individuals) of significant data breaches, and limitations on retention of information. The GDPR also imposes stringent requirements pertaining to health data and other special categories of personal data, as well as a definition of pseudonymized (i.e., key-coded) data. Further, the GDPR
provides that EEA member states may establish their own laws and regulations limiting the processing of genetic, biometric, or health data, which could limit our ability to collect, use, and share such data and/or could cause our costs to increase. In addition, there are certain obligations if we contract third-party processors in connection with the processing of personal data. If our or our collaborators’ or service providers’ privacy or data security measures fail to comply with the GDPR requirements, we may be subject to litigation, regulatory investigations, enforcement notices requiring us to change the way we use personal data, or fines of up to 20 million Euros or up to 4% of our total worldwide annual revenue of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher, as well as compensation claims by affected individuals, including class-action type litigation, negative publicity, reputational harm and a potential loss of business and goodwill. Among other requirements, the GDPR regulates transfers of personal data subject to the GDPR to third countries that have not been found to provide adequate protection to such personal data, including the United States, in July 2020, the Court of Justice of the EU, or the CJEU, limited how organizations could lawfully transfer personal data from the EU/EEA to the United States by invalidating the Privacy Shield for purposes of international transfers and imposing further restrictions on the use of standard contractual clauses (SCCs). The European Commission issued revised SCCs on June 4, 2021 to account for the decision of the CJEU and recommendations made by the European Data Protection Board. The revised SCCs must be used for relevant new data transfers from September 27, 2021; existing standard contractual clauses arrangements must be migrated to the revised clauses by December 27, 2022. The new SCCs apply only to the transfer of personal data outside of the EEA and not the UK; the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office launched a public consultation on its draft revised data transfers mechanisms in August 2021. There is some uncertainty around whether the revised clauses can be used for all types of data transfers, particularly whether they can be relied on for data transfers to non-EEA entities subject to the GDPR. As supervisory authorities issue further guidance on personal data export mechanisms, including circumstances where the SCCs 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, it could affect the manner in which we provide our services, the geographical location or segregation of our relevant systems and operations, and could adversely affect our financial results.
Further, from January 1, 2021, companies have to comply with the GDPR and also the United Kingdom GDPR, or the UK GDPR, which, together with the amended UK Data Protection Act 2018, retains the GDPR in UK national law. The UK GDPR mirrors the fines under the GDPR, i.e., fines up to the greater of €20 million (£17.5 million) or 4% of global turnover. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union in relation to certain aspects of data protection law remains unclear, and it is unclear how United Kingdom data protection laws and regulations will develop in the medium to longer term, and how data transfers to and from the United Kingdom will be regulated in the long term. The European Commission has adopted an adequacy decision in favor of the United Kingdom, enabling data transfers from EU member states to the United Kingdom without additional safeguards.
Although we work to comply with applicable laws, regulations and standards, our contractual obligations and other legal obligations, these requirements are evolving and may be modified, interpreted and applied in an inconsistent manner from one jurisdiction to another, and may conflict with one another or other legal obligations with which we must comply. Any failure or perceived failure by us or our employees, representatives, contractors, consultants, collaborators, or other third parties to comply with such requirements or adequately address privacy and security concerns, even if unfounded, could result in additional cost and liability to us, damage our reputation, and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We are subject to environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, and we may become exposed to liability and substantial expenses in connection with environmental compliance or remediation activities.
Our operations, including our development, testing and manufacturing activities, are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These laws and regulations govern, among other things, the controlled use, handling, release, and disposal of and the maintenance of a registry for, hazardous materials and biological materials, such as chemical solvents, human cells, carcinogenic compounds, mutagenic compounds, and compounds that have a toxic effect on reproduction, laboratory procedures and exposure to blood-borne pathogens. If we fail to comply with such laws and regulations, we could be subject to fines or other sanctions.
As with other companies engaged in activities similar to ours, we face a risk of environmental liability inherent in our current and historical activities, including liability relating to releases of or exposure to hazardous or biological materials. Environmental, health and safety laws and regulations are becoming more stringent. We may be required to incur substantial expenses in connection with future environmental compliance or remediation activities, in which case, the production efforts of our third-party manufacturers or our development efforts may be interrupted or delayed.
Risks related to our intellectual property
If we are unable to obtain, maintain, enforce and protect patent protection for our technology and product candidates or if the scope of the patent protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize technology and products similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully develop and commercialize our technology and product candidates may be adversely affected.
Our success depends in large part on our ability to obtain and maintain protection of the intellectual property we may own solely and jointly with others, or may license from others, particularly patents, in the United States and other countries with respect to any proprietary technology and product candidates we develop. We seek to protect our proprietary position by filing patent applications in the United States and abroad related to our technologies and product candidates that are important to our business and by in-licensing intellectual property related to such technologies and product candidates. If we are unable to obtain or maintain patent protection with respect to any proprietary technology or product candidate, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially harmed.
The patent prosecution process is expensive, time-consuming, and complex, and we may not be able to file, prosecute, maintain, defend, or license all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output before it is too late to obtain patent protection. Moreover, in some circumstances, we do not have the right to control the preparation, filing, and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain, enforce, and defend the patents, covering technology that we license from third parties. Therefore, these in-licensed patents, and applications may not be prepared, filed, prosecuted, maintained, defended, and enforced in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business.
The patent position of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies generally is highly uncertain, involves complex legal and factual questions and has in recent years been the subject of much litigation. In addition, the scope of patent protection outside of the United States is uncertain and laws of foreign countries may not protect our rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States or vice versa. For example, European patent law restricts the patentability of methods of treatment of the human body more than U.S. law does. With respect to both owned and in-licensed patent rights, we cannot predict whether the patent applications we and our licensors are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient protection from competitors. Further, we may not be aware of all third-party intellectual property rights potentially relating to our product candidates. In addition, publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, or in some cases not published at all. Therefore, neither we nor our licensors can know with certainty whether either we or our licensors were the first to make the inventions claimed in the patents and patent applications we own or in-license now or in the future, or that either we or our licensors were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability, and commercial value of our owned and in-licensed patent rights are uncertain. Moreover, our owned and in-licensed pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued that protect our technology and product candidates, in whole or in part, or that effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and products. Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of our patents and our ability to obtain, protect, maintain, defend, and enforce our patent rights, narrow the scope of our patent protection and, more generally, could affect the value or narrow the scope of our patent rights.
Moreover, we or our licensors may be subject to a third-party pre-issuance submission of prior art to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, or become involved in opposition, derivation, revocation, reexamination, inter partes review, post-grant review, or interference proceedings challenging our patent rights or the patent rights of others. An adverse determination in any such submission, proceeding or litigation could reduce the scope of, or invalidate, our patent rights, allow third parties to commercialize our technology or product candidates and compete directly with us, without payment to us, or result in our inability to manufacture or commercialize drugs without infringing third-party patent rights. If the breadth or strength of protection provided by our patents and patent applications is threatened, regardless of the outcome, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to license, develop or commercialize current or future product candidates.
Additionally, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted after issuance. Even if our owned and in-licensed patent applications issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent competitors from competing with us, or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity, or enforceability, and our owned and in-licensed patents may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. Such challenges may result in loss of exclusivity or freedom to operate or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, in whole or in part, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or
commercializing similar or identical technology and products, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our technology and product candidates. Such proceedings also may result in substantial cost and require significant time from our management and employees, even if the eventual outcome is favorable to us. 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. Furthermore, our competitors may be able to circumvent our owned or in-licensed patents by developing similar or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner. As a result, our owned and in-licensed patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing technology and products similar or identical to any of our technology and product candidates.
Patent terms may be inadequate to protect our competitive position on our product candidates for an adequate amount of time.
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 United States 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, we may be open to competition from competitive products, including generics or biosimilars. 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 owned and licensed patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.
If we are unable to obtain licenses from third parties on commercially reasonable terms or fail to comply with our obligations under such agreements, our business could be harmed.
It may be necessary for us to use the patented or proprietary technology of third parties to commercialize our products, in which case we would be required to obtain a license from these third parties. If we are unable to license such technology, or if we are forced to license such technology on unfavorable terms, our business could be materially harmed. If we are unable to obtain a necessary license, we may be unable to develop or commercialize the affected product candidates, which could materially harm our business and the third parties owning such intellectual property rights could seek either an injunction prohibiting our sales or an obligation on our part to pay royalties and/or other forms of compensation. Even if we are able to obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us.
If we are unable to obtain rights to required third-party intellectual property rights or maintain the existing intellectual property rights we have, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to redesign our technology, product candidates, or the methods for manufacturing them or to develop or license replacement technology, all of which may not be feasible on a technical or commercial basis. If we are unable to do so, we may be unable to develop or commercialize the affected technology and product candidates, which could significantly harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Additionally, if we fail to comply with our obligations under license agreements, our counterparties may have the right to terminate these agreements, in which event we might not be able to develop, manufacture or market, or may be forced to cease developing, manufacturing or marketing, any product that is covered by these agreements or may face other penalties under such agreements. Such an occurrence could materially adversely affect the value of the product candidate being developed under any such agreement. Termination of these agreements or reduction or elimination of our rights under these agreements, or restrictions on our ability to freely assign or sublicense our rights under such agreements when it is in the interest of our business to do so, may result in our having to negotiate new or reinstated agreements with less favorable terms, cause us to lose our rights under these agreements, including our rights to important intellectual property or technology, or impede, or delay or prohibit the further development or commercialization of, one or more product candidates that rely on such agreements.
If we do not obtain patent term extension in the United States under the Hatch-Waxman Act and in foreign countries under similar legislation, thereby potentially extending the term of our marketing exclusivity for any product candidates we may develop, our business may be materially harmed.
In the United States, the patent term of a patent that covers an FDA-approved drug may be eligible for limited patent term extension, which permits patent term restoration as compensation for the patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, also known as 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 extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval. In addition, only one patent applicable to an approved drug may be extended, and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it, or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. Similar provisions may be available in Europe and certain other non-United States jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved drug. While, in the future, if and when our product candidates receive FDA approval, we expect to apply for patent term extensions on patents covering those product candidates, there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and even if granted, the length of such extensions. We may not be granted patent term extension either in the United States or in any foreign country because of, for example, failing to exercise due diligence during the testing phase or regulatory review process, failing to apply within applicable deadlines, failing to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents, or otherwise failing to satisfy applicable requirements. Moreover, the term of extension, as well as the scope of patent protection during any such extension, afforded by the governmental authority could be less than we request. If we are unable to obtain any patent term extension or the term of any such extension is less than we request, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following the expiration of our patent rights, and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects could be materially harmed.
It is possible that we will not obtain patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Act for a United States patent covering any of our product candidates that we may identify even where that patent is eligible for patent term extension, or if we obtain such an extension, it may be for a shorter period than we had sought. Further, for our licensed patents, we may not have the right to control prosecution, including filing with the USPTO, of a petition for patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Act. Thus, if one of our licensed patents is eligible for patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Act, we may not be able to control whether a petition to obtain a patent term extension is filed, or obtained, from the USPTO.
Also, there are detailed rules and requirements regarding the patents that may be submitted to the FDA for listing in the Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations, or the Orange Book. We may be unable to obtain patents covering our product candidates that contain one or more claims that satisfy the requirements for listing in the Orange Book. Even if we submit a patent for listing in the Orange Book, the FDA may decline to list the patent, or a manufacturer of generic drugs may challenge the listing. If one of our product candidates is approved and a patent covering that product candidate is not listed in the Orange Book, a manufacturer of generic drugs would not have to provide advance notice to us of any abbreviated new drug application filed with the FDA to obtain permission to sell a generic version of such product candidate.
Although we or our licensors are not currently involved in any litigation, we may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patent or other intellectual property rights, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.
Competitors and other third parties may infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate our or our licensors’ issued patents or other intellectual property. As a result, we or our licensors may need to file infringement, misappropriation or other intellectual property related claims, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Any claims we assert against perceived infringers could provoke such parties to assert counterclaims against us alleging that we infringe, misappropriate, or otherwise violate their intellectual property. In addition, in a patent infringement proceeding, such parties could counterclaim that the patents we or our licensors have asserted are invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO or made a misleading statement during prosecution. Third parties may institute such 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, interference proceedings, derivation proceedings, and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions (e.g., opposition proceedings). The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable.
An adverse result in any such proceeding could put one or more of our owned or in-licensed patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and could put any of our owned or in-licensed patent applications at risk of not yielding an issued patent. A court may also refuse to stop the third party from using the technology at issue in a proceeding on the grounds that our owned or in-licensed patents do not cover such technology. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information or trade secrets could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation. Any of the foregoing could
allow such third parties to develop and commercialize competing technologies and products and have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Interference or derivation proceedings provoked by third parties or brought by us or declared by the USPTO may be necessary to determine the priority of inventions with respect to our patents or patent applications. An unfavorable outcome could require us to cease using the related technology or to attempt to license rights to it from the prevailing party. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us a license on commercially reasonable terms or at all, or if a non-exclusive license is offered and our competitors gain access to the same technology. Our defense of litigation or interference or derivation proceedings may fail and, even if successful, may result in substantial costs, and distract our management and other employees. In addition, the uncertainties associated with litigation could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise the funds necessary to continue our clinical trials, continue our research programs, license necessary technology from third parties, or enter into development partnerships that would help us bring our product candidates to market.
Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our common stock.
Third parties may initiate legal proceedings alleging that we are infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating their intellectual property rights, the outcome of which would be uncertain and could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
Our commercial success depends upon our ability and the ability of our collaborators to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidates and use our proprietary technologies without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property and proprietary rights of third parties. There is considerable patent and other intellectual property litigation in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. We may become party to, or threatened with, adversarial proceedings or litigation regarding intellectual property rights with respect to our technology and product candidates, including interference proceedings, post grant review, inter partes review, and derivation proceedings before the USPTO and similar proceedings in foreign jurisdictions such as oppositions before the European Patent Office. Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications, which are owned by third parties, exist in the fields in which we are pursuing development candidates. As the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our technologies or product candidates that we may identify may be subject to claims of infringement of the patent rights of third parties.