SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
☒ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
☐ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 001-36483
VIRIDIAN THERAPEUTICS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
6200 Lookout Road, Boulder, CO 80301
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (720) 643-5200
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Common Stock, $0.01 par value per share||VRDN||The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC|
Securities registered pursuant to section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐ No x
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes x No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
|Emerging growth company||☐|
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the
effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐ No x
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting Common Stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant, based upon the closing sale price of the registrant’s Common Stock on June 30, 2020, as reported on The Nasdaq Capital Market, was $58.5 million. Shares of Common Stock held by each executive officer and director and by each person who owns 10% or more of the outstanding Common Stock have been excluded in that such persons may be deemed to be affiliates. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.
As of March 18, 2021, there were 7,230,651 shares of the registrant’s Common Stock outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement for the 2021 annual meeting of shareholders (the “2021 Proxy Statement”) are incorporated herein by reference in Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K where indicated. The 2021 Proxy Statement will be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of the registrant’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
VIRIDIAN THERAPEUTICS, INC.
CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K (“Annual Report”) contains forward-looking statements that involve substantial risks and uncertainties for purposes of the safe harbor provided by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The words “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “plan,” “expect,” “predict,” “potential,” “opportunity,” “goals,” or “should,” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. All statements contained in this Annual Report, other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements. You should not unduly rely on forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. These risks, uncertainties and other factors may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from the anticipated future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements.
Actual results and performance could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements as a result of many factors, including, without limitation, statements relating to:
•our integration efforts following the acquisition of Private Viridian (as defined herein);
•our future research and development activities, including clinical testing and the costs and timing thereof;
•our strategy, including clinical development of VRDN-001 and other product candidates, and the clinical and commercial potential of our product candidates, if approved;
•the sufficiency of our cash resources;
•our ability to raise additional funding when needed;
•any statements concerning anticipated regulatory activities or licensing or collaborative arrangements;
•business interruptions resulting from the coronavirus disease (“COVID-19”) outbreak or similar public health crises, which could cause a disruption in the development of our product candidates and adversely impact our business;
•our research and development and other expenses;
•our operations and legal risks;
•our ability to maintain our listing on a national securities exchange; and
•any statement of assumptions underlying any of the foregoing.
We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy, short-term and long-term business operations and objectives, and financial needs. Actual results and performance could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements as a result of many factors. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties, and assumptions, as described in greater detail in Part I, Item 1A, “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report, and under a similar heading in any other periodic or current report we may file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) in the future. You are advised to consult any further disclosures we make on related subjects in our Annual Reports, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and our website. Moreover, we operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risks emerge from time to time. It is not possible for our management to predict all risks, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements we may make. In light of these risks, uncertainties, and assumptions, the future events and trends discussed in this Annual Report, may not occur and actual results could differ materially and adversely from those anticipated or implied in the forward-looking statements.
We undertake no obligation to revise or publicly release the results of any revision to these forward-looking statements, except as required by law. Given these risks and uncertainties, readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement.
Unless otherwise mentioned or unless the context requires otherwise, all references in this Annual Report, to “Viridian,” “Viridian Therapeutics,” the “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” or similar references refer to Viridian Therapeutics, Inc., and our consolidated subsidiaries.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
We are a biotechnology company advancing new treatments for patients with diseases that are underserved by today’s therapies. Marketed therapies often leave room for improvements in efficacy, safety, or dosing convenience and also for competitively priced alternatives. We believe that first-generation drugs rarely represent optimal solutions and that the potential exists to develop alternatives that improve patient outcomes, moderate side effects, enhance quality of life, ease access, and augment market competition. Our business model is to identify product opportunities in indications for which clinical trial data demonstrating compelling proof of concept for a targeted mechanism of action already exists, but the competitive evolution of product profiles and number of entrants appears incomplete. We intend to prioritize indications in which marketed therapies have not had substantial time to become entrenched and for which fast-follower and biosuperior competition could create significant medical and economic benefit for patients and payors.
We intend to identify and evaluate product concepts that target clinically validated molecular targets using established therapeutic modalities and incorporating proven technologies. We will prioritize product concepts that combine these approaches to generate clinical and commercial hypotheses that provide an attractive balance of risk and opportunity, thereby representing a compelling allocation of our resources. To date, this approach has led us to initiate research and development programs for therapeutic monoclonal antibodies for rare diseases. We have built relevant expertise in monoclonal antibody discovery and engineering, biologics manufacturing, and nonclinical and clinical development for our target indications.
We believe our approach enables rapid discovery and development because we can learn from predecessor programs that have established the clinical proof of concept for the targets and indications we are pursuing. This pre-existing data informs how we design, select, and develop our product candidates, including in such critical areas as pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, trial endpoints, and the selection and enrollment of patients. We believe this approach reduces the many risks associated with discovering and developing novel therapeutics.
We have prioritized the development of therapies for thyroid eye disease (“TED”), a debilitating condition caused by an autoimmune reaction whereby the immune system attacks tissues in the orbital socket. The resulting inflammation causes fluid accumulation and excessive proliferation of fibroblasts leading to proptosis, or displacement of the eye from the socket, and diplopia, or double vision. Until recently, there were no approved targeted therapies for the treatment of TED. Patients were instead treated with steroids to reduce inflammation or were treated with surgery or radiation, often with unsatisfactory outcomes. In early 2020, teprotumumab, a monoclonal antibody that targets IGF-1R, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) for the treatment of TED and is marketed in the United States as Tepezza® by Horizon Therapeutics. In patients receiving teprotumumab, proptosis was decreased by greater than 2 mm with 24 weeks of treatment in over 70% of patients compared to similar reductions observed in less than 20% of placebo-treated patients.
The reported results obtained with teprotumumab provide strong clinical validation linking the targeting of IGF-1R to clinical benefit in TED. We believe that there are multiple opportunities to develop fast-follower therapeutics that improve on teprotumumab features including dosing schedule, route of administration, and cost. We are pursuing multiple programs in parallel to quickly bring these product candidates into clinical trials.
Our first product candidate, VRDN-001, is a humanized monoclonal anti-IGF-1R antibody that we have licensed from ImmunoGen, Inc. (“ImmunoGen”). VRDN-001 is the same antibody sequence as AVE-1642, which was previously in development in oncology, where it was administered to over 100 patients with solid tumors. Despite clear evidence of target engagement, development in oncology of this and other IGF-1R antibodies, including teprotumumab, was largely suspended due to lack of efficacy in late-stage clinical trials. The successful repurposing of teprotumumab for treatment of TED suggests that VRDN-001 has the potential to demonstrate efficacy in this indication. We expect to have clinical drug product on hand in the third quarter of 2021 and to file an investigational new drug (“IND”) application or equivalent in the fourth quarter of 2021, with initial proof of concept data in patients expected in the second quarter of 2022.
We are also developing VRDN-002, a next-generation IGF-1R monoclonal antibody, for TED. VRDN-002 is designed to have a prolonged half-life in circulation, which we believe may reduce the total quantity of antibody that needs to be administered to achieve a therapeutic effect and may mitigate systemic side effects. We anticipate that this reduction, in turn, may enable administration of VRDN-002 as a subcutaneous injection instead of as an intravenous injection, the route of administration used for both teprotumumab and VRDN-001. Manufacturing of VRDN-002 is underway, and we expect to file an IND before the end of 2021. We expect to initiate clinical development with a Phase 1 single ascending dose trial to explore safety, tolerability,
pharmacokinetics, and target engagement of VRDN-002 in healthy volunteers. Data from this trial is expected in mid-year 2022, and we expect to initiate the dosing of patients later in 2022.
In addition to developing therapies for TED, we have applied criteria similar to those used to select our TED research and development programs to identify other opportunities to develop fast-follower therapies in other rare disease indications. We intend to identify and initiate additional programs over time and plan to disclose these when we are closer to initiating clinical trials in these programs.
Our goal is to develop a portfolio of biologic product candidates that improve upon both standard-of-care therapies and offer potential advantages over candidates in development. Our initial focus for our biologic pipeline is to develop fast followers in indications in which the initially approved products, while efficacious, are incumbent in markets we believe can benefit from new entrants. We intend to proceed under the assumption that first-in-class products are not necessarily best-in-class products, and that by developing product candidates in areas of well-characterized biology and for which the targets have been clinically de-risked by others, we can develop a pipeline of product candidates with an attractive balance of risk and reward. Our strategy to achieve this goal is as follows:
•Rapidly advance VRDN-001 in clinical development. VRDN-001 is based upon AVE-1642, which was administered to over 100 cancer patients. It was well-tolerated even when co-administered with chemotherapy drugs. Our goals are to establish proof of concept in patients and explore dose-dependency of VRDN-001 on the clinical manifestations of TED and, if positive, advance to registrational trials.
•Validate the improved half-life of VRDN-002 in the clinic. VRDN-002 incorporates changes in the antibody Fc region that have been shown to increase the half-lives of other antibodies. We anticipate initiating a Phase 1 trial of VRDN-002 in healthy volunteers to explore safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and target engagement. Pending positive results, we then plan to evaluate the potential benefits of VRDN-002 in TED patients. We believe that an IGF-1R antibody with an improved half-life may lower the dose required for clinical efficacy into the range where low volume subcutaneous dosing may be feasible and expect such administration has the potential to mitigate systemic side effects reported with teprotumumab.
•Invest in the future of IGF-1R product candidates with VRDN-003. Current IGF-1R antibodies were all generated with the intent of developing them for use in oncology. We are pursuing multiple hypotheses to expand the treatment paradigm for TED leveraging validated mechanisms, technologies, and modalities.
•Expand our portfolio of targets by broadly searching for new opportunities aligned with our strategy. We have dedicated resources to seek additional opportunities to develop fast-follower therapeutics for newly validated targets. Our multidisciplinary search process evaluates scientific and clinical validation, market potential, and feasibility of quickly developing a competitive product. We aim to build a portfolio of novel product candidates that can match or improve upon the product profile of precedent molecules and can rely on validated targets, proven technologies, and broadly accepted modalities to reduce research and development risk.
Thyroid Eye Disease (TED)
TED, commonly associated with Graves’ Disease, is a sight-threatening autoimmune disorder affecting the eye and tissue adjacent to the eye. Initial symptoms include a dry and gritty ocular sensation, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, double vision, and a sensation of pressure behind the eyes, commonly associated with ocular pain. By the time TED is clinically diagnosed, most patients have retraction of their upper eyelids causing exposure of the cornea and ensuing dryness resulting in further inflammatory changes and increased symptomatology. In addition, TED causes soft tissue swelling, redness surrounding the eyes and protrusion of the eyes from their normal position within the orbit – proptosis. As these inflammatory changes progress, they lead to increased erythema, redness, edema, and hemorrhagic appearance of the tissues external to the globe, adding to the symptoms of TED and exacerbating signs. As the fibrocytes within the orbit become further involved, changes unfold within the extraocular muscles themselves - those muscles within the orbit that move the eye and hold the globe in positions of gaze. The size of the muscles increases further exacerbating the proptosis and causing a cascade of increasing inflammation and worsening of symptoms. As the swelling and stiffness of the muscles increase, they exert a tethering effect upon the globe, and ocular motility is disturbed. Commonly, gaze becomes limited as the eyes become tethered by fibrotic and thickened muscles. As the process is not perfectly symmetric, one orbit to the other, the eyes will be limited in motility and no longer line up perfectly with each other, causing a misalignment of position that is perceived by the patient as double vision, or diplopia. Diplopia in and of itself is a disabling condition that dramatically interferes with most activities of daily living. Patients cannot easily read, drive, navigate ambulation, or often continue in their current work. As the volume of tissue within the fixed bony orbit increases, the inflammatory mass squeezes upon and compresses the optic nerve, which must pass through this space from globe to optic canal and central nervous system. This compression causes loss of central vision, color vision, and visual field and can progress to loss of acuity and eventual blindness.
TED is a disease characterized by an increase in the volume of orbital fat and the extraocular muscles, the muscles around the eye. Factors that drive the increase include inflammation, the abnormal proliferation of fibroblasts, and the accumulation of fluid which is driven, in turn, by the secretion by fibroblasts of extracellular complex carbohydrates. From the patients’ perspective, TED causes significant functional changes in the visual system, cosmetic distortion of the facial anatomy and tissue surrounding the eye, inflammatory changes that scar ocular tissue, disabling diplopia that interferes with most activities of daily living, and potential blindness from compression of the optic nerve.
Pathologies Leading to the Development of TED
TED develops in parallel with Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disease in which antibodies form against the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (“TSHR”), which is present in the thyroid and other cells such as adipocytes and fibroblasts. A close temporal relationship exists between the onset of Graves’ Disease and the onset of TED. Regardless of which condition occurs first, the other condition develops within 18 months in 80% of patients. In addition to antibodies against TSHR, patients with TED also develop antibodies against IGF-1R.
Insulin-like growth factor 1 (“IGF-1”) is a hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin with higher growth-promoting activity. IGF-1R, the receptor for IGF-1, is highly expressed in fibrocytes, cells that are derived from the bone marrow and that have the potential to differentiate into either myofibroblasts or fat cells. IGF-1R and TSHR function in concert to regulate the proliferation and differentiation of these cells in the orbital socket.
One potential cause of TED is autoimmune antibodies against IGF-1R that lead to the activation of IGF-1R, resulting in increased proliferation, secretion of extracellular complex carbohydrates, and differentiation into fat cells. These antibodies, and autoimmune antibodies to TSHR, can elicit an immune attack against the fibrocytes that surround the eye triggering the development of TED. Inflammation associated with this attack combined with activation of IGF-1R leads to the wide spectrum of pathologies seen with this disease.
Exposure to other inflammatory agents, such as cigarette smoke, leads to exacerbation of the disease resulting in more severe symptoms.
Current Treatments for TED
Prior to 2020, moderate to severe cases of TED were treated off-label with steroids - as daily doses of oral prednisone, or in more severe cases, weekly doses of intravenous methylprednisolone. Treatment with steroids is associated with a wide range of serious complications including high blood pressure, diabetes, psychological effects, personality change, insomnia, skin thinning, immunosuppression, hyperglycemia, and increased risks of infections. Systemic steroids showed limited efficacy for most of the signs and symptoms of TED and are not a sustainable long-range intervention given the side effects. If steroid treatment proved to be inadequate, or could not be tolerated, the only remaining options for patients were orbital radiation or
surgery to reduce swelling, decompress orbital contents, and protect the vision. Again, each of these therapies was incomplete and inadequate from the perspective of both patient and treating physician.
In January 2020, teprotumumab, an antibody that blocks the activation of IGF-1R, was approved by the FDA for the treatment of TED. In two randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trials, infusions of teprotumumab every three weeks, for a total of eight doses, led to a greater than 2 mm decrease in proptosis in 71% and 83% of patients, respectively, compared to 20% and 10% with placebo. Treatment with teprotumumab also led to a 53% decrease in diplopia compared to a 25% decrease when patients were treated with placebo control. Thus the defined target and its successful blockade has been de-risked and shown to provide a clinically meaningful improvement in the quality of life for these patients, allowing them to return to the workforce and to avoid radiation therapy or orbital decompressive surgeries.
TED has an annual incidence of approximately 19 in 100,000 people, which corresponds to over 60,000 patients in the United States. Of these, it is estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 patients in the United States have acute disease that requires intravenous treatment, either with teprotumumab or steroids. At launch, Horizon Therapeutics announced a price of $14,900 per vial of Tepezza® which translates to a list price of approximately $343,000 for a six-month course of therapy. Horizon Therapeutics recently reported full-year 2020 net sales for Tepezza® of $820 million. We believe this demonstrates that TED is a large market that will accommodate multiple entrants, with multiple dimensions of potential competition including efficacy and outcomes, safety and tolerability, patient access, and price.
Our Product Candidates
The clinical results from teprotumumab serve to validate the role of anti-IGF-1R antibodies in the treatment of TED. The results reported for clinical trials of teprotumumab in TED highlight the opportunity for us to rapidly develop product candidates that work through a similar mechanism. First, the majority of TED patients in a clinical trial of teprotumumab responded to treatment, which implies that, in clinically testing of a different IGF-1R antibody, it should be possible to detect clinical signs of improvement in a relatively small cohort of patients. Second, significant improvements in proptosis were observed within six weeks of dosing, providing the potential to quickly determine if a product candidate is likely to be effective. In addition, clinical trials for teprotumumab in TED did not explore the dose-dependency of the clinical response with the single teprotumumab dosing regimen selected based on data generated in oncology clinical trials, providing an opportunity to alter the dosing schedule, dosing duration, or route of administration while maintaining or improving efficacy, safety, and/or tolerability.
Figure 1. Teprotumumab led to significant reductions in proptosis in as early as six weeks of dosing. Improvements continued beyond the completion of dosing at 24 weeks.
We exclusively license the worldwide rights to develop and commercialize VRDN-001 for all non-oncology indications that do not use radiopharmaceuticals, including the treatment of TED, from ImmunoGen. This antibody had previously been developed
in oncology as AVE-1642 and studied in over 100 patients. However, development in oncology was stopped in 2009 due to its failure to meet the primary efficacy endpoints in multiple myeloma. We are developing this antibody sequence as VRDN-001 in TED and anticipate filing an IND with the FDA in the fourth quarter of 2021.
A clinical trial conducted by Aventis investigated the safety and efficacy of AVE-1642 in 27 patients with solid tumors when dosed in combination with docetaxel. In the first treatment cycle, AVE-1642 was administered as monotherapy, allowing assessment of its pharmacokinetics and tolerability. In this trial, no Grade 3 or above drug-related adverse events were reported with AVE-1642 as monotherapy. Importantly, there was only a single report of Grade 1/2 hyperglycemia among this group of patients. However, at least 50% of patients experienced hyperglycemia in subsequent cycles when patients received corticosteroids as premedication for docetaxel. Adverse events due to hyperglycemia have been reported for other IGF-1R antibodies, including in 10% of patients treated with teprotumumab. We intend to more fully assess the association of VRDN-001 monotherapy and hyperglycemia in upcoming clinical trials.
Evidence of target engagement was obtained by assessing the serum levels of biomarkers previously shown to be induced by IGF-1R inhibition. A common effect of IGF-1R inhibition is the elevation of IGF-1 serum levels. In this Aventis oncology trial, IGF-1 serum concentrations increased subsequent to administration of AVE-1642, and these serum concentrations remained elevated through repeat doses. No obvious dose-concentration relationship was observed, suggesting that IGF-1 levels reached their plateau at the lowest dose of AVE-1642 administered.
Figure 2. Serum levels of IGF-1 increased by over 300% after AVE-1642 administration.
Clinical Trial Design for VRDN-001
Clinical trials of teprotumumab in TED reported to date used a single dosing regimen, providing little guidance as to the optimal dosing required for clinical activity in TED. Our goal is to explore dose-dependency of VRDN-001 on proptosis in TED. Dose selection will be informed by VRDN-001 pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics reported in previous oncology studies. We are focused on rapidly determining a minimum effective dose. If this trial is successful, we plan to quickly move to pivotal studies.
VRDN-002, a Potential Biosuperior IGF-1R Antibody
VRDN-002 is an anti-IGF-1R monoclonal antibody engineered to improve half-life, the duration of exposure in circulation, compared to standard therapeutic antibodies. Extending antibody half-life may deliver several benefits including subcutaneous administration, less frequent intravenous administration, lower doses, or increased efficacy due to the ability to provide sustained higher drug levels in the body.
VRDN-003, an IGF-1R Antibody Product Specifically Designed for TED
Current IGF-1R antibodies were all generated with the intent of developing them for use in oncology. We are developing a proprietary antibody product candidate specifically designed for use in treating TED. Multiple hypotheses are currently being investigated.
As of December 31, 2020, with regard to our VRDN-001 and VRDN-002 product candidates, we have one U.S. provisional patent application directed to methods of using VRDN-001 and/or VRDN-002 for the treatment of TED. A patent, if one were to issue, that claims priority to such provisional would be expected to expire no earlier than 2041, without taking potential patent term extensions or disclaimers into account.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by intense and rapidly changing competition to develop new technologies and proprietary products. Our product candidates may address multiple markets. Ultimately, the diseases our product candidates target for which we may receive marketing authorization will determine our competition. We believe that for most or all of our product development programs, there will be one or more competing programs under development by other companies. Any products that we may commercialize will have to compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future. We face potential competition from many different sources, including larger and better-funded biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. In many cases, the companies with competing programs will have access to greater resources and expertise than we do and may be more advanced in those programs.
In TED, Horizon Therapeutics’ Tepezza® is the only FDA-approved medication. In addition to Tepezza®, other therapies, such as corticosteroids, have been used on an off-label basis to alleviate some of the symptoms of TED. Immunovant, Inc. is also conducting clinical trials of a therapeutic candidate for the treatment of TED. We expect further entrants to increase competition in this field over time.
We believe that the key competitive factors that will affect the success of any of our product candidates, if commercialized, are likely to be their efficacy, safety, convenience, price, and the availability of reimbursement from government and other third-party payors relative to such competing products. Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors have products that are superior in one or more of these categories.
License Agreement with Zenas BioPharma
In October 2020, Viridian Therapeutics, Inc. (“Private Viridian”) entered a license agreement with Zenas BioPharma (Cayman) Limited (“Zenas BioPharma”) to license technology comprising certain materials, patent rights, and know-how to Zenas BioPharma. On October 27, 2020, in connection with the closing of the Private Viridian acquisition, we became party to the license agreement with Zenas BioPharma. In February 2021, we entered into a letter agreement with Zenas BioPharma in which we agreed to provide assistance to Zenas BioPharma with certain manufacturing activities. The license agreement and letter agreement (collectively, the “Zenas Agreements”) were negotiated with a single commercial objective. Under the terms of the Zenas Agreements, we granted Zenas BioPharma an exclusive license to develop, manufacture, and commercialize certain IGF-1R directed antibody products for non-oncology indications in the greater area of China.
As consideration for the Zenas Agreements, we received upfront non-cash consideration and we may receive in the future payment reimbursements for goods and services provided and milestone payments due upon the achievement of specified events. Under the Zenas Agreements, we can receive non-refundable milestone payments upon achieving specific milestone events during the contract term. Additionally, we may receive royalty payments based on a percentage of the annual net sales of any licensed products sold on a country-by-country basis in the greater area of China. The royalty percentage may vary based on different tiers of annual net sales of the licensed products made. Zenas BioPharma is obligated to make royalty payments to us for the royalty term in the Zenas Agreements.
The Zenas Agreements may be considered related party transactions because Tellus BioVentures, a 5% or greater stockholder of our Company (on an as-converted basis, assuming that only the shares of convertible preferred stock held by Tellus BioVentures are converted into shares of our common stock), is also a 5% or greater stockholder of Zenas BioPharma and has a seat on Zenas BioPharma’s board of directors.
License Agreement with ImmunoGen, Inc.
On October 12, 2020, Private Viridian entered into a license agreement with ImmunoGen (the “ImmunoGen License Agreement”), under which we obtained rights to an exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to certain patents and other intellectual property rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialize certain products for non-oncology and non-
radiopharmaceutical indications. In consideration for rights granted by ImmunoGen, we are obligated to make certain development milestone payments of up to $48.0 million. Additionally, if we successfully commercialize any product candidate subject to the ImmunoGen License Agreement, we are responsible for royalty payments equal to a percentage in the mid-single digits of net sales and commercial milestone payments of up to $95.0 million. We assumed the ImmunoGen License Agreement in the Merger.
License Agreement with Xencor, Inc.
On December 16, 2020, we entered into a license agreement with Xencor, Inc. (“Xencor”) (the “Xencor License Agreement”), under which Xencor granted us rights to an exclusive, worldwide, sublicensable, non-transferable, royalty-bearing license to use specified Xencor technology for the research, development, manufacturing, and commercialization of therapeutic antibodies targeting IGF-1R. In consideration for rights granted by Xencor, we issued 322,407 shares of our Common Stock in December 2020. The shares were valued at $6.0 million and recorded as research and development expense in 2020. Under the terms of the Xencor License Agreement, we are obligated to make future development milestone payments of up to $30.0 million. Additionally, if we successfully commercialize any product candidate subject to the Xencor License Agreement, we are responsible for royalty payments equal to a percentage in the mid-single digits of net sales and commercial milestone payments of up to $25.0 million.
Government Regulation and Product Approvals
FDA Drug Approval Process
In the United States, pharmaceutical products are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and other federal and state statutes and regulations, govern, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, storage, recordkeeping, approval, labeling, promotion and marketing, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, sampling, and import and export of pharmaceutical products. Failure to comply with applicable U.S. requirements at any time during the product development process may subject a company to a variety of administrative or judicial sanctions, such as imposition of clinical hold, FDA refusal to approve pending new drug applications (“NDA”) warning or untitled letters, withdrawal of approval, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, civil penalties, and criminal prosecution.
We cannot market a drug product candidate in the United States until the drug has received FDA approval. The steps required before a drug may be marketed in the United States generally include the following:
•completion of extensive preclinical laboratory tests, animal studies, and formulation studies in accordance with the FDA’s good laboratory practices (“GLP”) regulations;
•approval by an independent institutional review board (“IRB”) at each clinical site before each trial may be initiated at that site;
•submission to the FDA of an IND for human clinical testing, which must become effective before human clinical trials may begin;
•performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials in accordance with good clinical practice (“GCP”) requirements to establish the safety and efficacy of the drug for each proposed indication;
•submission to the FDA of an NDA after completion of all pivotal clinical trials;
•satisfactory completion of an FDA advisory committee review, if applicable;
•satisfactory completion of an FDA pre-approval inspection of the manufacturing facility or facilities at which the active pharmaceutical ingredient (“API”) and finished drug product are produced and tested to assess compliance with current good manufacturing practices (“cGMPs”); and
•FDA review and approval of the NDA prior to any commercial marketing or sale of the drug in the United States.
Satisfaction of FDA pre-market approval requirements typically takes many years, and the actual time required may vary substantially based upon the type, complexity, and novelty of the product or disease.
Preclinical tests include laboratory evaluation of product chemistry, formulation, and toxicity, as well as animal trials to assess the characteristics and potential safety and efficacy of the product. The conduct of the preclinical tests must comply with federal regulations and requirements, including GLP. An IND sponsor must submit the results of preclinical testing to the FDA as part of an IND along with other information, including information about product chemistry, manufacturing and controls, and a proposed clinical trial protocol. Long-term preclinical tests, such as animal tests of reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity, may continue after the IND is submitted.
A 30-day waiting period after the submission of each IND is required prior to the commencement of clinical testing in humans. If the FDA has neither commented on nor questioned the IND within this 30-day period, the clinical trial proposed in the IND may begin if all other requirements, including IRB review and approval, have been met. If the FDA raises concerns or questions about the conduct of the trial, such as whether human research subjects will be exposed to an unreasonable health risk, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding FDA concerns or questions before clinical trials can proceed.
Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational new drug to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of a qualified investigator. Clinical trials must be conducted in compliance with federal regulations, including GCP requirements, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent in writing for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing the objectives of the trial, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety, and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. Each protocol and any subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND.
The FDA may order the temporary or permanent discontinuation of a clinical trial at any time, or impose other sanctions, if it believes that the clinical trial either is not being conducted in accordance with FDA requirements or presents an unacceptable risk to the clinical trial participants. The study protocol and informed consent information for participants in clinical trials must also be submitted to an IRB for approval at each site at which the clinical trial will be conducted. An IRB may also require the clinical trial at the site to be halted, either temporarily or permanently, for failure to comply with the IRB’s requirements or may impose other conditions. Information about certain clinical trials must be submitted within specific timeframes to the National Institutes of Health for public dissemination on their www.clinicaltrials.gov website.
Clinical trials to support NDAs for marketing approval are typically conducted in three sequential phases, but the phases may overlap. In Phase 1, the initial introduction of the drug into healthy human subjects or patients, the drug is tested to assess pharmacological actions, side effects associated with increasing doses and, if possible, early evidence of effectiveness. Phase 2 usually involves trials in a limited patient population to study metabolism of the drug, pharmacokinetics, the effectiveness of the drug for a particular indication, dosage tolerance, and optimum dosage, and to identify common adverse effects and safety risks. If a compound demonstrates evidence of effectiveness and an acceptable safety profile in Phase 2 evaluations, Phase 3 clinical trials, also called pivotal trials, are undertaken to obtain the additional information about clinical efficacy and safety in a larger number of patients, typically at geographically dispersed clinical trial sites, to permit the FDA to evaluate the overall benefit-risk relationship of the drug and to provide adequate information for the labeling of the drug. In most cases, the FDA requires two adequate and well controlled Phase 3 clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of the drug. A single clinical trial with other confirmatory evidence may be sufficient in rare instances where the study is a large multicenter trial demonstrating internal consistency and a statistically very persuasive finding of a clinically meaningful effect on mortality, irreversible morbidity, or prevention of a disease with a potentially serious outcome, and confirmation of the result in a second trial would be practically or ethically impossible.
After completion of the required clinical testing, an NDA is prepared and submitted to the FDA. FDA approval of the NDA is required before marketing of the product may begin in the United States. The NDA must include the results of all preclinical, clinical, and other testing, and a compilation of data relating to the product’s pharmacology, chemistry, manufacture, and controls. The cost of preparing and submitting an NDA is substantial. The submission of most NDAs is additionally subject to a substantial application user fee, and the sponsor of an approved NDA is also subject to annual program fees. These fees are typically increased annually. Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (“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 twelve months from the date the NDA is submitted to the FDA because the FDA has 60 days from its receipt of an NDA to determine whether the application will be accepted for filing based on the agency’s threshold determination that it is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth 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. The FDA reviews an NDA to determine, among other things, whether 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 may also refer applications for novel drug products, or drug products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy, to an advisory committee, which is typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation, and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved. The FDA is not bound by the recommendation of an advisory committee, but it generally follows such recommendations. Before approving an NDA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCPs. Additionally, the FDA will inspect the facility or the facilities at which the drug is manufactured. The FDA will not approve the product unless compliance with cGMPs is satisfactory and the NDA contains data that provide substantial evidence that the drug is safe and effective in the indication studied.
After the FDA evaluates the NDA and the manufacturing facilities, it issues either an approval letter or a complete response letter. A complete response letter generally outlines the deficiencies in the submission and may require substantial additional testing, or information, in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. If, or when, those deficiencies have been addressed to the FDA’s satisfaction in a resubmission of the NDA, the FDA will issue an approval letter. The FDA has committed to reviewing such resubmissions in two or six months depending on the type of information included. Even with submission of this additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval.
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 Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (“REMS”) to ensure that the benefits of the drug outweigh the potential risks.
A REMS can include a medication guide, a communication plan for healthcare professionals and elements to assure safe use, such as special training and certification requirements for individuals who prescribe or dispense the drug, requirements that patients enroll in a registry, and other measures that the FDA deems necessary to assure the safe use of the drug. The requirement for a REMS can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the drug. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs. Once granted, product approvals may be withdrawn if compliance with regulatory standards is not maintained or problems are identified following initial marketing.
Changes to some of the conditions established in an approved application, including changes in indications, labeling, or manufacturing processes or facilities, require submission and FDA approval of a new NDA or NDA supplement before the change can be implemented. An NDA supplement for a new indication typically requires clinical data similar to that in the original application, and the FDA uses the same procedures and actions in reviewing NDA supplements as it does in reviewing NDAs. Such supplements are typically reviewed within 10 months of receipt by the FDA.
Orphan Drug Designation
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug or biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or more than 200,000 individuals in the United States for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available in the United States a drug or biologic for this type of disease or condition will be recovered from sales in the United States for that drug or biologic. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an NDA or a biological license application (“BLA”). After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the generic identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. The orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review or approval process.
If a product that has orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusive approval (or exclusivity), which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications, including a full NDA or BLA, to market the same product for the same indication for seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan drug exclusivity. Orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent FDA from approving a different drug or biologic for the same disease or condition, or the same drug or biologic for a different disease or condition. Among the other benefits of orphan drug designation are tax credits for certain research and a waiver of the marketing application fee.
A designated orphan drug may not receive orphan drug exclusivity if it is approved for a use that is broader than the indication for which it received orphan designation. In addition, exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be lost if the FDA
later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.
Expedited Development and Review Programs
The FDA has a Fast Track program that is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for development and review of new drug products that meet certain criteria. Specifically, new drug products are eligible for Fast Track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the disease or condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a new drug may request that the FDA designate the drug as a Fast Track product at any time during the clinical development of the product. For a Fast Track-designated product, the sponsor may provide a schedule for the submission of the sections of the application, and the FDA may consider for review sections of the marketing application on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted. The sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the application. The FDA may choose not to perform an earlier review even if it agrees to accept sections of the application in advance. The PDUFA date for regular or priority review, including two months for the filing determination, is set based on the date when the FDA receives the complete application.
Any product submitted to the FDA for marketing, including under a Fast Track program, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite development and review, such as priority review and accelerated approval. Any product is eligible for priority review if it has the potential to provide safe and effective therapy where no satisfactory alternative therapy exists or a significant improvement in the treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of a disease compared to marketed products. The FDA will attempt to direct additional resources to the evaluation of an application for a new drug product designated for priority review in an effort to facilitate the review. Additionally, a product may be eligible for accelerated approval. Drug 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, which means that they may be approved on the basis of adequate and well-controlled clinical trials establishing that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit, or on the basis of an effect on a clinical endpoint other than survival or 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 that a sponsor of a drug product subject to accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical trials. In addition, the FDA currently requires, as a condition for accelerated approval, pre-approval of promotional materials, which could adversely impact the timing of the commercial launch of the product.
In addition, the Breakthrough Therapy Designation is intended to expedite the development and review of products that treat serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions. 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, where 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. The designation includes all of the features of Fast Track designation, as well as more intensive FDA interaction and guidance. The Breakthrough Therapy Designation is distinct from both accelerated approval and priority review, but these can also be granted to the same product candidate if the relevant criteria are met. 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. Requests for breakthrough therapy designation will be reviewed within 60 days of receipt, and the FDA will either grant or deny the request.
Fast Track designation, breakthrough therapy designation, and priority review do not change the standards for approval but may expedite the development or approval process by allowing more frequent and timely interactions with the FDA review team and/or the potential for a more efficient or more rapid application review. Similarly, products granted accelerated approval must meet statutory standards for safety and effectiveness although they may be approved based on a surrogate endpoint likely to predict clinical benefit of the underlying drug, rather than through a direct measure of clinical benefit. Even if our product candidates are deemed eligible for one or more of these programs for expedited product development and approval, the FDA may later decide that our product candidates no longer meet the conditions for qualification. In addition, these programs may not provide us with a material commercial advantage.
Once an NDA is approved, a product may be subject to certain post-approval requirements. For instance, the FDA closely regulates the post-approval marketing and promotion of drugs, including standards and regulations for direct-to-consumer advertising, off-label promotion, industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities, and promotional activities involving
the internet and social media. Drugs may be marketed only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved labeling.
Adverse event reporting and submission of periodic reports are required following FDA approval of an NDA. The FDA also may require post-approval testing, known as Phase 4 testing, REMS, surveillance to monitor the effects of an approved product, or restrictions on the distribution or use of the product. In addition, quality control, drug manufacture, packaging, and labeling procedures must continue to conform to cGMPs after approval. Drug manufacturers and certain of their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies. Registration with the FDA subjects entities to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA, during which the agency inspects manufacturing facilities to assess compliance with cGMPs. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money, and effort in the areas of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMPs. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, 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:
•restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the product, complete withdrawal of the product from the market, or product recalls;
•fines, warning letters, or holds on post-approval clinical trials;
•refusal of the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications or suspension or revocation of product approvals;
•product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products, or injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.
The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising, and promotion of products that are placed on the market. Drugs 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 order to market any product outside of the United States, we would need to comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries and jurisdictions regarding quality, safety, and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials, marketing authorization, commercial sales, and distribution of our products. Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product, we would need to obtain the necessary approvals by the comparable foreign regulatory authorities before we can commence clinical trials or marketing of the product in foreign countries and jurisdictions.
Some countries outside of the United States have a similar process that requires the submission of a clinical trial application (“CTA”) much like the IND prior to the commencement of human clinical trials. In Europe, for example, a CTA must be submitted to each country’s national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and IRB, respectively. Once the CTA is approved in accordance with a country’s requirements, a clinical trial may proceed in that country. To obtain regulatory approval to commercialize a new drug under European Union (“EU”) regulatory systems, we must submit a marketing authorization application (“MAA”). The MAA is similar to the NDA, with the exception of, among other things, country-specific document requirements.
Although we currently do not have any products on the market, our current and future business operations may be subject to additional healthcare regulation and enforcement by the federal government and by authorities in the states and foreign jurisdictions in which we conduct our business. Such laws or regulations include, without limitation, state, federal, and foreign anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, false claims, privacy and security, price reporting, and physician sunshine laws or regulations. Some of our pre-commercial activities are subject to some of these laws.
The federal Anti-Kickback Statute makes it illegal for any person or entity, including a prescription drug manufacturer or a party acting on its behalf, to knowingly and willfully, directly or indirectly, solicit, receive, offer, or pay any remuneration that is intended to induce the referral of business, including the purchase, order, lease of any good, facility, item or service for which
payment may be made under a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. The term “remuneration” has been broadly interpreted to include anything of value. The Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on one hand and prescribers, purchasers, formulary managers, and beneficiaries on the other. Although there are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting some common activities from prosecution, the exceptions and safe harbors are drawn narrowly. Practices that involve remuneration that may be alleged to be intended to induce prescribing, purchases, or recommendations may be subject to scrutiny if they do not qualify for an exception or safe harbor. Failure to meet all of the requirements of a particular applicable statutory exception or regulatory safe harbor does not make the conduct per se illegal under the Anti-Kickback Statute. Instead, the legality of the arrangement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on a cumulative review of all its facts and circumstances. The government often takes the position that to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, only one purpose of the remuneration need be to induce referrals, even if there are other legitimate purposes for the remuneration. Several courts have interpreted the statute’s intent requirement to mean that if any one purpose of an arrangement involving remuneration is to induce referrals of federal healthcare covered business, the Anti-Kickback Statute has been violated. In addition, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation. Violations of this law are punishable by up to five years in prison, and can also result in criminal fines, civil money penalties, and exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs. Moreover, a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal civil False Claims Act.
The federal civil False Claims Act prohibits, among other things, any person or entity from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, for payment to, or approval by, federal programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, claims for items or services, including drugs, that are false or fraudulent or not provided as claimed. Persons and entities can be held liable under these laws if they are deemed to “cause” the submission of false or fraudulent claims by, for example, providing inaccurate billing or coding information to customers or promoting a product off-label. Pharmaceutical companies have been prosecuted under the False Claims Act for engaging in a variety of different types of conduct that caused the submission of false claims to federal healthcare programs. Under the Anti-Kickback Statute, for example, a claim resulting from a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute is deemed to be a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act imposes mandatory treble damages and per-violation civil penalties up to approximately $23,000. In addition, our future activities relating to the reporting of wholesaler or estimated retail prices for our products, the reporting of prices used to calculate Medicaid rebate information and other information affecting federal, state, and third-party reimbursement for our products, and the sale and marketing of our products are subject to scrutiny under this law. Penalties for federal civil False Claims Act violations may include up to three times the actual damages sustained by the government, plus mandatory civil penalties for each separate false claim, the potential for exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs, and, although the federal False Claims Act is a civil statute, False Claims Act violations may also implicate various federal criminal statutes.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) created additional federal criminal statutes that prohibit, among other actions, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, including private third-party payors, knowingly and willfully embezzling or stealing from a healthcare benefit program, willfully obstructing a criminal investigation of a healthcare offense, and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing, or covering up a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items, or services. Like the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation.
The civil monetary penalties statute imposes penalties against any person or entity that, among other things, is determined to have presented or caused to be presented a claim to a federal health program that the person knows or should know is for an item or service that was not provided as claimed or is false or fraudulent.
Also, many states have similar fraud and abuse statutes or regulations that may be broader in scope and may apply regardless of payor, in addition to items and services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs. Additionally, to the extent that any of our products are sold in a foreign country, we may be subject to similar foreign laws.
HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HITECH”), and their implementing regulations, mandates, among other things, the adoption of uniform standards for the electronic exchange of information in common healthcare transactions, as well as standards relating to the privacy and security of individually identifiable health information, which require the adoption of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect such information. Among other things, HITECH makes HIPAA’s security standards directly applicable to business associates, defined as independent contractors or agents of covered entities that create, receive, or obtain protected health information in connection with providing a service for or on behalf of a covered entity. HITECH also increased the civil and criminal penalties that may be imposed against covered entities and business associates and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce the federal HIPAA laws and seek attorney’s fees and costs
associated with pursuing federal civil actions. In addition, certain state laws govern the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, some of which are more stringent than HIPAA, and many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts. Failure to comply with these laws, where applicable, can result in the imposition of significant civil and/or criminal penalties.
The Physician Payments Sunshine Act imposes, among other things, annual reporting requirements for covered manufacturers for certain payments and other transfers of value provided to physicians, as defined under such law, and teaching hospitals, as well as certain ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Failure to submit timely, accurately, and completely the required information for all payments and transfers of value and ownership or investment interests may result in civil monetary penalties. Certain states also mandate implementation of compliance programs, impose restrictions on drug manufacturer marketing practices, and/or require the tracking and reporting of gifts, compensation, and other remuneration to physicians or drug pricing, and certain states and localities require the registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives.
If we intend to commercialize products that could be reimbursed under a federal healthcare program and other government healthcare programs, we would develop a comprehensive compliance program that establishes internal control to facilitate adherence to the rules and program requirements to which we will or may become subject. Although the development and implementation of compliance programs designed to establish internal control and facilitate compliance can mitigate the risk of investigation, prosecution, and penalties assessed for violations of these laws, the risks cannot be entirely eliminated.
Foreign data protection laws, including, without limitation, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and EU member state data protection legislation, also apply to health-related and other personal data that we process, including, without limitation, personal data relating to clinical trial participants in the EU. The United Kingdom and Switzerland have also adopted data protection laws and regulations. The GDPR and implementing EU member state laws impose significant obligations on controllers and processors of personal data, including, among other things, standards relating to the privacy and security of personal data, which require the adoption of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect such information. These laws also include, without limitation, requirements for establishing an appropriate legal basis for processing personal data, transparency requirements related to communications with data subjects regarding the processing of their personal data, notification requirements to individuals about the processing of their personal data, an individual data rights regime, mandatory data breach notifications, limitations on the retention of personal data, increased requirements pertaining to health data, and strict rules and restrictions on the transfer of personal data outside of the EU, including to the United States. These laws also impose obligations and required contractual provisions to be included in contracts between companies subject to the GDPR and their third-party processors that relate to the processing of personal data. The GDPR allows EU member states to make additional laws and regulations further limiting the processing of genetic, biometric, or health data. Failure to comply with these laws, where applicable, can result in the imposition of significant regulatory fines and penalties. Additionally, other countries have passed or are considering passing laws requiring local data residency and imposing cross-border data transfer restrictions. Further, since the United Kingdom’s vote in favor of exiting the EU (often referred to as “Brexit”), there has been uncertainty with regard to data protection regulation in the United Kingdom. In particular, it is unclear whether the United Kingdom will enact data protection legislation equivalent to the GDPR and how data transfers to and from the United Kingdom will be regulated.
If our operations are found to be in violation of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including, without limitation, significant administrative, regulatory, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, imprisonment, additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, and exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results. These laws or governmental regulations could require us or our collaborators to incur additional costs to achieve compliance, limit our competitiveness, necessitate the acceptance of more onerous obligations in our contracts, restrict our ability to use, store, transfer, and process data, impact our or our collaborators’ ability to process or use data in order to support the provision of our products or services, affect our or our collaborators’ ability to offer our products and services in certain locations, or cause regulators to reject, limit, or disrupt our clinical trial activities.
In the United States and foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes to healthcare systems that could affect our future results of operations. 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.
In particular, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (the “Affordable Care Act”), has had a significant impact on the healthcare industry. The Affordable Care Act was designed to expand coverage for the uninsured while at the same time containing overall healthcare costs. With regard to pharmaceutical products, among other things, the Affordable Care Act revised the definition of “average manufacturer price” for calculating and reporting Medicaid drug rebates on outpatient prescription drug prices and imposed a significant annual fee on companies that manufacture or import certain branded prescription drug products.
There remain judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act. In January 2017, Congress voted to adopt a budget resolution for fiscal year 2017 (the “Budget Resolution”) that authorizes the implementation of legislation that would repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act. Further, on January 20, 2017, an Executive Order was signed, directing federal agencies with authorities and responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision of the Affordable Care Act that would impose a fiscal or regulatory burden on states, individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. Congress also has considered subsequent legislation to repeal or replace elements of the Affordable Care Act. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, several bills affecting the implementation of certain taxes under the Affordable Care Act have been signed into law. The legislation informally titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “Tax Act”) included a provision which repealed, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the Affordable Care Act on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” Additionally, the 2020 federal spending package permanently eliminated, effective January 1, 2020, the Affordable Care Act-mandated “Cadillac” tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage and medical device tax and, effective January 1, 2021, also eliminates the health insurer tax. On December 14, 2018, a Texas U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional in its entirety because the “individual mandate” was repealed by Congress as part of the Tax Act. Additionally, on December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are invalid as well. On November 10, 2020, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case and a decision is expected by the spring 2021. It is unclear how such litigation and other efforts to repeal, replace or otherwise modify the Affordable Care Act will impact reimbursement of pharmaceutical products. It is unclear how this decision, future decisions, subsequent appeals, and other efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will impact the Affordable Care Act. In the coming years, additional legislative and regulatory changes could be made to governmental health programs that could significantly impact pharmaceutical companies and the success of their product candidates.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. In August 2011, the President signed into law the Budget Control Act of 2011, which, among other things, created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to recommend to Congress proposals in spending reductions. The Joint Select Committee did not achieve a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. These included reductions to Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect on April 1, 2013, and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, will stay in effect through 2029 unless additional Congressional action is taken. Additionally, in January 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.
Moreover, the Drug Supply Chain Security Act imposes obligations on manufacturers of pharmaceutical products, among others, related to product tracking and tracing. Among its requirements, manufacturers need to provide certain information regarding the drug product to individuals and entities to which product ownership is transferred, label drug product with a product identifier, and keep certain records regarding the drug product. The transfer of information to subsequent product owners by manufacturers will eventually be required to be done electronically. Manufacturers will also be required to verify that purchasers of the manufacturers’ products are appropriately licensed. Further, manufacturers will have drug product investigation, quarantine, disposition, and notification responsibilities related to counterfeit, diverted, stolen, and intentionally adulterated products, as well as products that are the subject of fraudulent transactions or which are otherwise unfit for distribution such that they would be reasonably likely to result in serious health consequences or death.
Further, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed bills designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs.
In October 2020, the FDA issued guidance describing procedures for manufacturers to facilitate the importation of FDA-approved biologics manufactured abroad and originally intended for sale in a foreign country into the United States. Previously, the Trump administration released a “Blueprint,” or plan, to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contained proposals to increase drug manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products, and reduce the out-of-pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers.
Additionally, on November 20, 2020, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued an interim final rule implementing a Most Favored Nation (“MFN”) model that would cap the price Medicare can pay for a drug to the lowest price paid in an economically comparable country within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The rule was slated to take effect on January 1, 2021, but federal courts have temporarily enjoined implementation of this rule, and the CMS has indicated that the MFN model will not be implemented without further rulemaking proceeding. It is unclear whether or how the Biden administration will move forward with the rule. But if the new administration implements the rule in its current form and the rule survives judicial scrutiny, the MFN model will subject certain physician-administered drugs or biologicals identified by CMS as having the highest annual Medicare Part B spending to an alternative payment methodology based on international reference prices, with the list of products to be updated annually to add more products and products not to be removed absent limited circumstances.
The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has solicited feedback on some of these measures and has implemented others under its existing authority. For example, in May 2019, CMS issued a final rule to allow Medicare Advantage plans the option to use step therapy for Part B drugs beginning January 1, 2020. This final rule codified CMS’s policy change that was effective January 1, 2019. Further, in December 2019, the FDA issued draft guidance describing procedures for drug manufacturers to facilitate the importation of FDA-approved drugs and biologics manufactured abroad and originally intended for sale in a foreign country into the United States. President Trump’s administration has also proposed to establish an international pricing index that would tie domestic prices for certain drugs and biologics to the prices in other countries. Although the Biden administration has stayed the effective dates of some last-minute drug price regulations issued by the Trump administration. Congress and the Biden administration have each indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs.
Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. For example, after some pharmacy benefit managers and insurers adopted policies stating that the amount of a copay coupon would not be applied to the enrollee’s deductible or out-of-pocket maximum (referred to as “accumulator adjustment programs”), some states passed legislation banning these policies. On January 31, 2020, CMS released its proposed 2021 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters rule, which provides that insurers would no longer be required to count any coupons from drug manufacturers towards a consumer’s out-of-pocket limit. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability, or commercialize our product candidates, if approved.
In addition, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 included a $135 billion allowance to support legislative proposals seeking to reduce drug prices, increase competition, lower out-of-pocket drug costs for patients, and increase patient access to lower-cost generic and biosimilar drugs. Although the Biden administration has stayed the effective dates of some last-minute drug price regulations issued by the Trump administration, Congress and the Biden administration have each indicated that they will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs.
Coverage and Reimbursement
Sales of our product candidates, once approved, will depend, in part, on the extent to which the costs of our products will be covered by third-party payors, such as government health programs, private health insurers, and managed care organizations. Third-party payors generally decide which drugs they will cover and establish certain reimbursement levels for such drugs. In particular, in the United States, private health insurers and other third-party payors often provide reimbursement for products and services based on the level at which the government (through the Medicare or Medicaid programs) provides reimbursement for such treatments. Patients who are prescribed treatments for their conditions and providers performing the prescribed
services generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the associated healthcare costs. Patients are unlikely to use products unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of such products. Sales of our product candidates, and any future product candidates, will therefore depend substantially on the extent to which the costs of our product candidates, and any future product candidates, will be paid by third-party payors. Additionally, the market for our product candidates, and any future product candidates, will depend significantly on access to third-party payors’ formularies without prior authorization, step therapy, or other limitations such as approved lists of treatments for which third-party payors provide coverage and reimbursement. Additionally, coverage and reimbursement for therapeutic products can differ significantly from payor to payor. One third-party payor’s decision to cover a particular medical product or service does not ensure that other payors will also provide coverage for the medical product or service or will provide coverage at an adequate reimbursement rate. As a result, the coverage determination process will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our products to each payor separately and will be a costly and time-consuming process.
Third-party payors are developing increasingly sophisticated methods of controlling healthcare costs and increasingly challenging the prices charged for medical products and services. Additionally, the containment of healthcare costs has become a priority of federal and state governments and the prices of drugs have been a focus in this effort. The U.S. government, state legislatures, and foreign governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls and transparency requirements, restrictions on reimbursement, and requirements for substitution of generic products. Adoption of price controls and cost-containment measures, and adoption of more restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could limit our net revenue and results. If these third-party payors do not consider our products to be cost-effective compared to other therapies, they may not cover our products once approved as a benefit under their plans or, if they do, the level of reimbursement may not be sufficient to allow us to sell our products on a profitable basis. Decreases in third-party reimbursement for our products once approved or a decision by a third-party payor to not cover our products could reduce or eliminate utilization of our products and have an adverse effect on our sales, results of operations, and financial condition. In addition, state and federal healthcare reform measures have been and will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our products once approved or additional pricing pressures.
We do not own or operate clinical or commercial manufacturing facilities for the production of our product candidates that we develop, nor do we have plans to develop our own manufacturing operations in the foreseeable future. We currently depend on third-party contract manufacturers for all of our required raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients, and finished product candidates for our clinical trials. We do not have any current contractual arrangements for the manufacture of commercial supplies of our product candidates that we develop. We currently employ internal resources and third-party consultants to manage our manufacturing contractors.
Historically, we have relied on third-party contract development and manufacturing organizations (“CDMOs”), to manufacture and supply our preclinical and clinical materials used during the development of our product candidates. Over the last twelve months, demand for biological therapeutic manufacturing has increased and supply has been constrained, in part due to the displacement caused by efforts to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. We initially pursued three separate manufacturing paths to supply investigational product for our planned clinical trials in order to mitigate delays and uncertainties. We currently rely on a single-source CDMO for such manufacturing, although other avenues remain if our current manufacturer were to be negatively impacted. We maintain a long-term master services agreement with our CDMO pursuant to which the CDMO provides biologics development and manufacturing services on a per project basis and a related cell line license. We may terminate the master services agreement at any time for convenience in accordance with the terms of the agreement. We may also terminate the master services agreement in the event that the CDMO does not obtain or maintain any material governmental license or approval in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The agreement includes confidentiality and intellectual property provisions to protect our proprietary rights related to our product candidates. We do not currently have arrangements in place for redundant supply. While any reduction or halt in supply from the CDMO could limit our ability to develop our product candidates until a replacement CDMO is found and qualified, we believe that we have sufficient supply to support our current clinical trial programs. Any reduction or halt in supply from the CDMO could limit our ability to develop our product candidates until a replacement CDMO is found and qualified, although we believe that we have supply on hand that can partially support our current clinical trial programs until a replacement CDMO is secured.
Sales and Marketing
We have not yet defined our sales, marketing, or product distribution strategy for our product candidates because our product candidates are still in preclinical or early-stage clinical development. Our commercial strategy may include the use of strategic
partners, distributors, a contract sale force, or the establishment of our own commercial and specialty sales force. We plan to further evaluate these alternatives as we approach approval for one of our product candidates.
As of December 31, 2020, we employed 27 employees, 26 of which were full-time employees. We have never had a work stoppage, and none of our employees is represented by a labor organization or under any collective bargaining arrangements. We consider our employee relations to be good.
Our Corporate Information
We were initially founded as a Delaware limited liability company in January 2010 and subsequently incorporated as a Delaware corporation in June 2014. On January 20, 2021, pursuant to the Merger Agreement (as defined below) under which miRagen Therapeutics, Inc. acquired Viridian Therapeutics, Inc., we changed our name to from Miragen Therapeutics, Inc. to Viridian Therapeutics, Inc. Our common stock currently trades on The Nasdaq Capital Market under the ticker symbol “VRDN.” Our principal executive office is located at 6200 Lookout Road, Boulder, CO 80301, and our telephone number is (720) 643-5200. Our website address is www.viridiantherapeutics.com. The information contained on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not part of this Annual Report. We have included our website in this Annual Report solely as an inactive textual reference.
This Annual Report contains references to our trademarks and trademarks belonging to other entities. Solely for convenience, trademarks and trade names referred to in this Annual Report, including logos, artwork, and other visual displays, may appear without the ® or TM symbols, but such references are not intended to indicate, in any way, that we will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights or the rights of the applicable licensor to these trademarks and trade names. We do not intend our use or display of other companies’ trade names or trademarks to imply a relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship of us by, any other company.
Our Annual Reports, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to reports filed pursuant to Sections 13(a) and 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”) are available free of charge on our website located at www.viridiantherapeutics.com as soon as reasonably practicable after they are filed with the SEC. The reports are also available at the SEC’s internet website at www.sec.gov. A copy of our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, and the charters of the Audit Committee, Compensation Committee, and Nominative and Corporate Governance Committee are posted on our website, www.viridiantherapeutics.com, under “Corporate Governance.”
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Our business, financial condition, and operating results may be affected by a number of factors, whether currently known or unknown, including but not limited to those described below. Any one or more of such factors could directly or indirectly cause our actual results of operations and financial condition to vary materially from past or anticipated future results of operations and financial condition. Any of these factors, in whole or in part, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and stock price. The following information should be read in conjunction with Part II, Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the consolidated financial statements and related notes in Part II, Item 8, “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data” of this Annual Report.
Risk Factor Summary
Investing in our Common Stock involves a high degree of risk because our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, as fully described below. The principal factors and uncertainties that make investing in our Common Stock risky include, among others:
•We will need to raise additional capital, and if we are unable to do so when needed, we will not be able to continue as a going concern.
•We have historically incurred losses, have a limited operating history on which to assess our business, and anticipate that we will continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future.
•We have never generated any revenue from product sales and may never be profitable.
•Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations, or require us to relinquish rights.
•Clinical trials are costly, time consuming, and inherently risky, and we may fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of applicable regulatory authorities.
•Our product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial viability of an approved label, or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.
•We are heavily dependent on the success of our product candidates, which are in the early stages of clinical development. Some of our product candidates have produced results only in non-clinical settings, or for other indications than those for which we contemplate conducting development and seeking FDA approval, and we cannot give any assurance that we will generate data for any of our product candidates sufficiently supportive to receive regulatory approval in our planned indications, which will be required before they can be commercialized.
•Product development involves a lengthy and expensive process with an uncertain outcome, and results of earlier preclinical studies and clinical trials may not be predictive of future clinical trial results.
Risks Related to Our Financial Condition and Capital Requirements
There is no guarantee that our acquisition of Private Viridian will increase stockholder value.
In October 2020, we acquired Private Viridian. We cannot guarantee that implementing the acquisition and related transactions will not impair stockholder value or otherwise adversely affect our business. The acquisition poses significant integration challenges between our businesses and management teams which could result in management and business disruptions, any of which could harm our results of operation, business prospects, and impair the value of such acquisition to our stockholders.
We will need to raise additional capital, and if we are unable to do so when needed, we will not be able to continue as a going concern.
As of December 31, 2020, we had $127.6 million of cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments. We expect that our current resources will enable us to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements into the second half of 2023. We will need to raise additional capital to continue to fund our operations and service our obligations in the future. If we are unable to raise additional capital when needed, we will not be able to continue as a going concern.
Developing our product candidates requires a substantial amount of capital. We expect our research and development expenses to increase in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we advance our product candidates through clinical trials. We will need to raise additional capital to fund our operations and such funding may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all.
We do not currently have any products approved for sale and do not generate any revenue from product sales. Accordingly, we expect to rely primarily on equity and/or debt financings to fund our continued operations. Our ability to raise additional funds will depend, in part, on the success of our preclinical studies and clinical trials and other product development activities, regulatory events, our ability to identify and enter into licensing or other strategic arrangements, and other events or conditions that may affect our value or prospects, as well as factors related to financial, economic and market conditions, many of which are beyond our control. There can be no assurances that sufficient funds will be available to us when required or on acceptable terms, if at all.
If we are unable to raise additional capital when required or on acceptable terms, we may be required to:
•significantly delay, scale back, or discontinue the development or commercialization of our product candidates;
•seek strategic alliances, or amend existing alliances, for research and development programs at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable or that we otherwise would have sought to develop independently, or on terms that are less favorable than might otherwise be available in the future;
•dispose of technology assets, or relinquish or license on unfavorable terms, our rights to technologies or any of our product candidates that we otherwise would seek to develop or commercialize ourselves;
•pursue the sale of our company to a third party at a price that may result in a loss on investment for our stockholders; or
•file for bankruptcy or cease operations altogether.
Any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results, and prospects.
Additionally, any capital raising efforts are subject to significant risks and contingencies, as described in more detail under the risk factor titled “Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations, or require us to relinquish rights.”
We have historically incurred losses, have a limited operating history on which to assess our business, and anticipate that we will continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future.
We are a biotechnology company with a limited operating history. We have historically incurred net losses. During the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, net loss was $110.7 million and $41.9 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2020, we had an accumulated deficit of $278.9 million and cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments of $127.6 million.
We expect that our current resources will enable us to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements into the second half of 2023. We will need to raise substantial additional capital to continue to fund our operations in the future. The amount and timing of our future funding requirements will depend on many factors, including the pace and results of our clinical development efforts and the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic. This outbreak is causing major disruptions to businesses and markets worldwide as the virus spreads. The economic uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may dramatically reduce our ability to secure debt or equity financing necessary to support our operations. We are unable to currently estimate the financial effect of the pandemic. If the pandemic continues to be a severe worldwide crisis, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition, and cash flows.
Failure to raise capital as and when needed, on favorable terms or at all, would have a negative impact on our financial condition and our ability to develop our product candidates. Changing circumstances may cause us to consume capital significantly faster or slower than we currently anticipate. If we are unable to acquire additional capital or resources, we will be required to modify our operational plans to complete future milestones. We have based these estimates on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could exhaust our available financial resources sooner than we currently anticipate. We may be forced to reduce our operating expenses and raise additional funds to meet our working capital needs, principally through the additional sales of our securities or debt financings or entering into strategic collaborations.
We have devoted substantially all of our financial resources to identify, acquire, and develop our product candidates, including conducting clinical trials and providing general and administrative support for our operations. To date, we have financed our operations primarily through the sale of equity securities and convertible promissory notes. The amount of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of our future expenditures and our ability to obtain funding through equity or debt financings, strategic collaborations, or grants. Biopharmaceutical product development is a highly speculative undertaking and involves a substantial degree of risk. We expect our losses to increase as our product candidates enter more advanced clinical trials. It may be several years, if ever, before we complete pivotal clinical trials or have a product candidate approved for commercialization. We expect to invest significant funds into the research and development of our current product candidates to determine the potential to advance these product candidates to regulatory approval.
If we obtain regulatory approval to market a product candidate, our future revenue will depend upon the size of any markets in which our product candidates may receive approval, and our ability to achieve sufficient market acceptance, pricing, coverage, and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors, and adequate market share for our product candidates in those markets. Even if we obtain adequate market share for our product candidates, because the potential markets in which our product candidates may ultimately receive regulatory approval could be very small, we may never become profitable despite obtaining such market share and acceptance of our products.
We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and increasing operating losses for the foreseeable future and our expenses will increase substantially if and as we:
•continue the development of our product candidates;
•continue efforts to discover and develop new product candidates;
•continue the manufacturing of our product candidates or increase volumes manufactured by third parties;
•advance our programs into large expensive clinical trials;
•initiate additional preclinical studies or clinical trials for our product candidates;
•seek regulatory and marketing approvals and reimbursement for our product candidates;
•establish a sales, marketing, and distribution infrastructure to commercialize any products for which we may obtain marketing approval and market for ourselves;
•seek to identify, assess, acquire, and/or develop other product candidates;
•make milestone, royalty, or other payments under third-party license agreements;
•seek to maintain, protect, and expand our intellectual property portfolio;
•seek to attract and retain skilled personnel; and
•experience any delays or encounter issues with the development and potential for regulatory approval of our clinical and product candidates such as safety issues, manufacturing delays, clinical trial accrual delays, longer follow-up for planned studies or trials, additional major studies or trials, or supportive trials necessary to support marketing approval.
Further, the net losses we incur may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year, such that a period-to-period comparison of our results of operations may not be a good indication of our future performance.
We have never generated any revenue from product sales and may never be profitable.
We have no products approved for commercialization and have never generated any revenue from product sales. Our ability to generate revenue and achieve profitability depends on our ability, alone or with strategic collaborators, to successfully complete the development of, and obtain the regulatory and marketing approvals necessary to commercialize one or more of our product candidates. We do not anticipate generating revenue from product sales for the foreseeable future. Our ability to generate future revenue from product sales depends heavily on our success in many areas, including but not limited to:
•completing research and development of our product candidates;
•obtaining regulatory and marketing approvals for our product candidates;
•manufacturing product candidates and establishing and maintaining supply and manufacturing relationships with third parties that are commercially feasible, meet regulatory requirements and our supply needs in sufficient quantities to meet market demand for our product candidates, if approved;
•marketing, launching, and commercializing product candidates for which we obtain regulatory and marketing approval, either directly or with a collaborator or distributor;
•gaining market acceptance of our product candidates as treatment options;
•addressing any competing products;
•protecting and enforcing our intellectual property rights, including patents, trade secrets, and know-how;
•negotiating favorable terms in any collaboration, licensing, or other arrangements into which we may enter;
•obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors and maintaining pricing for our product candidates that supports profitability; and
•attracting, hiring, and retaining qualified personnel.
Even if one or more of the product candidates that we develop is approved for commercial sale, we anticipate incurring significant costs associated with commercializing any approved product candidate. Portions of our current pipeline of product candidates have been in-licensed from third parties, which make the commercial sale of such in-licensed products potentially subject to additional royalty and milestone payments to such third parties. We will also have to develop or acquire manufacturing capabilities or continue to contract with contract manufacturers in order to continue development and potential commercialization of our product candidates. For instance, if the costs of manufacturing our drug product are not commercially feasible, we will need to develop or procure our drug product in a commercially feasible manner in order to successfully commercialize a future approved product, if any. Additionally, if we are not able to generate revenue from the sale of any approved products, we may never become profitable.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations, or require us to relinquish rights.
Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial revenue from the sale of our product candidates, we expect to finance our cash needs through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings, and license and development agreements. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity securities or convertible debt securities, the ownership interest of our stockholders will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a common stockholder. Debt financing and preferred equity financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures, or declaring dividends.
If we raise additional funds through collaborations, strategic alliances or marketing, distribution, or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may be required to relinquish valuable rights to our research programs or product candidates or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. If we are unable to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings or other arrangements with third parties when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development or future commercialization efforts or grant rights to third parties to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves.
To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity, including pursuant to any sales under the Common Stock Sales Agreement entered into in March 2017 (“ATM Agreement”) with Cowen and Company, LLC (“Cowen”) or the Common Stock Purchase Agreement entered into in December 2019 (“Common Stock Purchase Agreement”) with Aspire Capital Fund LLC (“Aspire Capital”), convertible debt, or other securities convertible into equity, the ownership interest of our stockholders will be diluted, and the terms of these new securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect the rights of our stockholders. Any additional sales of our Common Stock under the ATM Agreement and the Aspire Agreement will dilute the ownership interest of our stockholders and may cause the price per share of our Common Stock to decrease.
In February 2020, we entered into an Underwriting Agreement (“2020 Underwriting Agreement”) with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. (“Underwriter”). Pursuant to the 2020 Underwriting Agreement, the Underwriter purchased 1,000,000 shares of our Common Stock and warrants to purchase 500,000 shares of our Common Stock (“2020 Public Offering”). In accordance with the terms of the 2020 Underwriting Agreement, we issued warrants to purchase up to 500,000 shares of our Common Stock. Warrants that remain outstanding, if exercised, will dilute the ownership interest of our stockholders and may cause the price per share of our Common Stock to decrease.
Debt financing, if available, would likely involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures, making additional product acquisitions, or declaring dividends. If we raise additional funds through strategic collaborations or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our product candidates or future revenue streams or grant licenses on terms that are not favorable to us. We cannot be assured that we will be able to obtain additional funding if and when necessary to fund our entire portfolio of product candidates to meet our projected plans. If we are unable to obtain funding on a timely basis, we may be required to delay or discontinue one or more of our development programs or the commercialization of any product candidates or be unable to expand our operations or otherwise capitalize on potential business opportunities, which could materially harm our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Business disruptions could seriously harm our future revenue and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses.
Our operations, and those of our third-party research institution collaborators, contract research organizations (“CROs”), contract manufacturing operations (“CMOs”), and other contractors and consultants, could be subject to earthquakes, power
shortages, telecommunications failures, water shortages, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, fires, extreme weather conditions, medical epidemics such as the novel coronavirus, and other natural or man-made disasters or business interruptions, for which we are partly uninsured. In addition, we rely on our third-party research institution collaborators for conducting research and development of our product candidates, and they may be affected by government shutdowns or withdrawn funding. The occurrence of any of these business disruptions could seriously harm our operations and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses.
Risks Related to the Discovery and Development of Our Product Candidates
Clinical trials are costly, time consuming, and inherently risky, and we may fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of applicable regulatory authorities.
Clinical development is expensive, time consuming, and involves significant risk. We cannot guarantee that any clinical trials will be conducted as planned or completed on schedule, if at all. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of development. Events that may prevent successful or timely completion of clinical development include but are not limited to:
•inability to generate satisfactory preclinical, toxicology, or other in vivo or in vitro data or diagnostics to support the initiation or continuation of clinical trials;
•delays in reaching agreement on acceptable terms with CROs and clinical trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs, clinical trial sites, and in countries or regions where our trials are conducted;
•delays in obtaining required approvals from institutional review boards or independent ethics committees at each clinical trial site;
•failure to permit the conduct of a clinical trial by regulatory authorities;
•delays in recruiting eligible patients and/or subjects in our clinical trials;
•failure by clinical sites, CROs, or other third parties to adhere to clinical trial requirements;
•failure by our clinical sites, CROs, or other third parties to perform in accordance with the good clinical practices requirements of the FDA or applicable foreign regulatory guidelines;
•patients and/or subjects dropping out of our clinical trials;
•adverse events or tolerability or animal toxicology issues significant enough for the FDA or other regulatory agencies to put any or all clinical trials on hold;
•occurrence of adverse events associated with our product candidates;
•changes in regulatory requirements and guidance that require amending or submitting new clinical protocols;
•significant costs of clinical trials of our product candidates, including manufacturing activities;
•negative or inconclusive results from our clinical trials, which may result in our deciding, or regulators requiring us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon development programs in other ongoing or planned indications for a product candidate; and
•delays in reaching agreement on acceptable terms with third-party manufacturers and the time to manufacture sufficient quantities of our product candidates acceptable for use in clinical trials.
The FDA may withdraw approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information; imposition of post-market studies
or clinical studies to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution restrictions or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential consequences include, among other things:
•restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of a product, complete withdrawal of the product from the market, or product recalls;
•fines, warning letters, or holds on post-approval clinical studies;
•refusal of the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications, or suspension or revocation of existing product approvals;
•product seizure or detention, or refusal of the FDA to permit the import or export of products; or
•injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may materially affect our ability to complete our clinical trials in a timely fashion or at all.
Any inability to successfully complete clinical development and obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates could result in additional costs to us or impair our ability to generate revenue. In addition, if we make manufacturing or formulation changes to our product candidates, we may need to conduct additional nonclinical studies and the results obtained from studying such new formulation may not be consistent with previous results obtained. Clinical trial delays could also shorten any periods during which our products have patent protection and may allow competitors to develop and bring products to market before we do, which could impair our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates and may harm our business and results of operations.
Our product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial viability of an approved label, or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.
Undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay, or terminate clinical trials. They additionally may result in a delay of regulatory approval by the FDA or comparable foreign authorities, or, even in the instance that an affected product candidate is approved, may result in a restrictive drug label.
Even if one or more of our product candidates receives marketing approval, and we or others later identify undesirable side effects caused by such products, potentially significant negative consequences could result, including but not limited to:
•regulatory authorities may withdraw approvals of such products;
•regulatory authorities may require additional warnings on the drug label;
•we may be required to create a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, which could include a medication guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients, a communication plan for healthcare providers, and/or other elements to assure safe use;
•we could be sued and held liable for harm caused to patients or subjects; and
•our reputation may suffer.
Any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of a product candidate, even if approved, and could significantly harm our business, results of operations, and prospects.
Our product development program may not uncover all possible adverse events that patients or subjects who take our product candidates may experience. The number of patients or subjects exposed to our product candidates and the average exposure time in the clinical development program may be inadequate to detect rare adverse events that may only be detected once the product is administered to more patients or subjects and for greater periods of time.
Clinical trials by their nature utilize a sample of the potential patient population. However, with a limited number of subjects and limited duration of exposure, we cannot be fully assured that rare and severe side effects of our product candidates will be uncovered. Such rare and severe side effects may only be uncovered with a significantly larger number of patients or subjects
exposed to the drug. If such safety problems occur or are identified after our product candidates reach the market, the FDA may require that we amend the labeling of the product or recall the product or may even withdraw approval for the product.
We are heavily dependent on the success of our product candidates, which are in the early stages of development, and we cannot give any assurance that we will generate data for any of our product candidates sufficiently supportive to receive regulatory approval in our planned indications, which will be required before they can be commercialized.
We have invested substantially all of our effort and financial resources to identify, acquire, and develop our portfolio of product candidates. Our future success is dependent on our ability to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for, and commercialize one or more product candidates. We currently generate no revenue from sales of any products, and we may never be able to develop or commercialize a product candidate.
We currently have a limited number of product candidates. There can be no assurance that the data that we may or may not develop for our product candidates in our planned indications will be sufficiently supportive to obtain regulatory approval.
None of our product candidates have advanced through a pivotal clinical trial for our proposed indications, and it may be years before any such clinical trial is initiated and completed, if at all. We are not permitted to market or promote any of our product candidates before they receive regulatory approval from the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, and we may never receive such regulatory approval for any of our product candidates. We cannot be certain that any of our product candidates will be successful in clinical trials or receive regulatory approval. Further, our product candidates may not receive regulatory approval even if they are successful in clinical trials. If we do not receive regulatory approvals for our product candidates, we may not be able to continue our operations.
Product development involves a lengthy and expensive process with an uncertain outcome, and results of earlier preclinical studies and clinical trials may not be predictive of future clinical trial results.
Clinical testing is expensive and generally takes many years to complete, and the outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the clinical trial process. The results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials of our product candidates may not be predictive of the results of larger, later-stage controlled clinical trials. Product candidates that have shown promising results in early-stage clinical trials may still suffer significant setbacks in subsequent clinical trials. We will have to conduct well-controlled trials in our proposed indications to support any regulatory submissions for further clinical development. A number of companies in the biopharmaceutical industry have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or adverse safety profiles despite promising results in earlier, smaller clinical trials. Moreover, clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses. We do not know whether any clinical trials we may conduct will demonstrate consistent or adequate efficacy and safety of our product candidates, with respect to the proposed indication for use, sufficient to receive regulatory approval to market our drug candidates.
We may use our financial and human resources to pursue a particular research program or product candidate and fail to capitalize on programs or product candidates that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.
Because we have limited financial and human resources, we may forgo or delay pursuit of opportunities with some programs or product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or more profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and future product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable products. We may also enter into additional strategic collaboration agreements to develop and commercialize some of our programs and potential product candidates in indications with potentially large commercial markets. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through strategic collaborations, licensing, or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to such product candidate, or we may allocate internal resources to a product candidate in a therapeutic area in which it would have been more advantageous to enter into a collaboration arrangement.
We may find it difficult to enroll and maintain patients or subjects in our clinical trials, in part due to the limited number of patients or subjects who have the diseases for which our product candidates are being studied. We cannot predict if we will have difficulty enrolling and maintaining patients or subjects in our future clinical trials. Difficulty in enrolling and maintaining patients or subjects could delay or prevent clinical trials of our product candidates.
Identifying and qualifying patients or subjects to participate in clinical trials of our product candidates is essential to our success. The timing of our clinical trials depends in part on the rate at which we can recruit patients or subjects to participate in clinical trials of our product candidates, and we may experience delays in our clinical trials if we encounter difficulties in enrollment.
The eligibility criteria of our clinical trials may further limit the available eligible trial participants as we expect to require that patients or subjects have specific characteristics that we can measure or meet the criteria to assure their conditions are appropriate for inclusion in our clinical trials. Accordingly, we may not be able to identify, recruit, enroll, and maintain a sufficient number of patients or subjects to complete our future clinical trials in a timely manner because of the perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under study, the availability and efficacy of competing therapies and clinical trials, the option for patients to choose alternate existing approved therapies, and the willingness of physicians to participate in our planned clinical trials. Our ability to enroll patients in our planned clinical trials may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, or any future disease pandemic. Health concerns may cause patients to be unwilling to participate in clinical trials if they view themselves at particular risk from the virus, or future clinical trial sites in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or any other future disease pandemic may close entirely. We cannot guarantee that the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other future disease pandemics, will not impact enrollment in any future clinical trials. If patients or subjects are unwilling or unable to participate in our clinical trials for any reason, the timeline for conducting trials and obtaining regulatory approval of our product candidates may be delayed.
If we experience delays in the completion of, or termination of, any clinical trials of our product candidates, the commercial prospects of our product candidates could be harmed, and our ability to generate product revenue from any of these product candidates could be delayed or prevented. In addition, any delays in completing our clinical trials would likely increase our overall costs, impair product candidate development, and jeopardize our ability to obtain regulatory approval relative to our current plans. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition, and prospects significantly.
We may face potential product liability, and, if successful claims are brought against us, we may incur substantial liability and costs. If the use or misuse of our approved products, if any, or product candidates harm patients or subjects, or is perceived to harm patients or subjects even when such harm is unrelated to our approved products, if any, or product candidates, our regulatory approvals, if any, could be revoked or otherwise negatively impacted, and we could be subject to costly and damaging product liability claims. If we are unable to obtain adequate insurance or are required to pay for liabilities resulting from a claim excluded from, or beyond the limits of, our insurance coverage, a material liability claim could adversely affect our financial condition.
The use or misuse of our product candidates in clinical trials and the sale of any products for which we may obtain marketing approval exposes us to the risk of potential product liability claims. There is a risk that our product candidates may induce adverse events. If we cannot successfully defend against product liability claims, we could incur substantial liability and costs. Patients with the diseases targeted by our product candidates may already be in severe and advanced stages of disease and have both known and unknown significant preexisting and potentially life-threatening health risks. During the course of treatment, patients may suffer adverse events, including death, for reasons that may or may not be related to our product candidates. Such events could subject us to costly litigation, require us to pay substantial amounts of money to injured patients, delay, negatively impact, or end our opportunity to receive or maintain regulatory approval to market our products, or require us to suspend or abandon our commercialization efforts. Even in a circumstance in which an adverse event is unrelated to our product candidates, the investigation into the circumstance may be time-consuming or inconclusive. These investigations may delay our regulatory approval process or impact and limit the type of regulatory approvals our product candidates receive or maintain.
As a result of these factors, a product liability claim, even if successfully defended, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Although we have product liability insurance, which covers our historical clinical trials in the United States, for up to $5.0 million per occurrence, up to an aggregate limit of $5.0 million, our insurance may be insufficient to reimburse us for any expenses or losses we may suffer. We will also likely be required to increase our product liability insurance coverage for any future clinical trials that we may initiate. If we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, we will need to expand our insurance coverage to include the sale of commercial products. There is no way to know if we will be able to continue to obtain product liability coverage and obtain expanded coverage, if we require it, in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses due to liability, on acceptable terms, or at all. We may not have sufficient resources to pay for any liabilities resulting from a claim excluded from, or beyond the limits of, our insurance coverage. Where we have provided indemnities in favor of third parties under our agreements with them, there is also a risk that these third parties could incur liability and bring a claim under such indemnities. An individual may bring a product liability claim against us alleging that one of our product candidates causes, or is claimed to have caused, an injury or is found to be unsuitable for consumer use. Any such product
liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, negligence, strict liability, and a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. Any product liability claim brought against us, with or without merit, could result in:
•withdrawal of clinical trial volunteers, investigators, patients or subjects, or trial sites, or limitations on approved indications;
•the inability to commercialize, or if commercialized, decreased demand for, our product candidates;
•if commercialized, product recalls, labeling, marketing or promotional restrictions, or the need for product modification;
•initiation of investigations by regulators;
•loss of revenue;
•substantial costs of litigation, including monetary awards to patients or other claimants;
•liabilities that substantially exceed our product liability insurance, which we would then be required to pay ourselves;
•an increase in our product liability insurance rates or the inability to maintain insurance coverage in the future on acceptable terms, if at all;
•the diversion of management’s attention from our business; and
•damage to our reputation and the reputation of our products and our technology.
Product liability claims may subject us to the foregoing and other risks, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Risks Related to Regulatory Approval of Our Product Candidates and Other Legal Compliance Matters
We expect the product candidates we develop will be regulated as biologics, and therefore they may be subject to competition sooner than anticipated.
The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (“BPCIA”) was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act to establish an abbreviated pathway for the approval of biosimilar and interchangeable biological products. The regulatory pathway establishes legal authority for the FDA to review and approve biosimilar biologics, including the possible designation of a biosimilar as “interchangeable” based on its similarity to an approved biologic. Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product cannot be approved by the FDA until 12 years after the reference product was approved under a Biologics License Application (“BLA”). The law is complex and is still being interpreted and implemented by the FDA. As a result, its ultimate impact, implementation, and meaning are subject to uncertainty. While it is uncertain when processes intended to implement BPCIA may be fully adopted by the FDA, any of these processes could have a material adverse effect on the future commercial prospects for our biological products.
We believe that any of the product candidates we develop that is approved in the United States as a biological product under a BLA should qualify for the 12-year period of exclusivity. However, there is a risk that this exclusivity could be shortened due to congressional action or otherwise, or that the FDA will not consider the subject product candidates to be reference products for competing products, potentially creating the opportunity for generic competition sooner than anticipated. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once approved, will be substituted for any one of the reference products in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for non-biological products is not yet clear, and will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing.
In addition, the approval of a biologic product biosimilar to one of our product candidates could have a material adverse impact on our business as it may be significantly less costly to bring to market and may be priced significantly lower than our product candidates.
We may seek Breakthrough Therapy designation for one or more of our product candidates from the FDA, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.
We may seek a breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA for some of our product candidates. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a drug or biological product that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and for which preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug or biological product may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. For drugs or biological products 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 could also be eligible for priority review.
Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe that one of our product candidates meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. In any event, the receipt of a breakthrough therapy designation for a product candidate may not result in a faster development process, review, or approval compared to drugs considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if one of our product candidates is designated as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may later decide that the product candidate no longer meets the conditions for designation and the designation may be rescinded.
We may seek Fast Track designation for one or more of our product candidates, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.
If a product candidate is intended for the treatment of a serious condition and nonclinical or clinical data demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical need for this condition, a product sponsor may apply for FDA Fast Track designation. If we seek Fast Track designation for a product candidate, we may not receive it from the FDA. However, even if we receive Fast Track designation, Fast Track designation does not ensure that we will receive marketing approval in any particular timeframe or at all. 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 attempt to obtain accelerated approval of our product candidates. If we are unable to obtain accelerated approval, we may be required to conduct clinical trials beyond those that we contemplate, or the size and duration of our pivotal clinical trials could be greater than currently planned, which could increase the expense of obtaining, reduce the likelihood of obtaining, and/or delay the timing of obtaining necessary marketing approvals. Even if we receive accelerated approval from the FDA, the FDA may require that we conduct confirmatory trials to verify clinical benefit. If our confirmatory trials do not verify clinical benefit, or if we do not comply with rigorous post-approval requirements, the FDA may seek to withdraw accelerated approval.
We may seek accelerated approval for our product candidates. The FDA may grant accelerated approval to a product designed to treat a serious or life-threatening condition that provides meaningful therapeutic advantage over available therapies and demonstrates an effect on a surrogate endpoint or intermediate clinical endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit. The FDA considers a clinical benefit to be a positive therapeutic effect that is clinically meaningful in the context of a given disease. If granted, accelerated approval may be contingent on the sponsor’s agreement to conduct, in a diligent manner, additional post-approval confirmatory studies to verify and describe the drug’s predicted effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit. The FDA may require that any such confirmatory study be initiated or substantially underway prior to the submission of an application for accelerated approval. If such post-approval studies fail to confirm the drug’s clinical benefits relative to its risks, the FDA may withdraw its approval of the drug. If we choose to pursue accelerated approval, there can be no assurance that the FDA will agree that our proposed primary endpoint is an appropriate surrogate endpoint. Similarly, there can be no assurance that after subsequent FDA feedback that we will continue to pursue accelerated approval or any other form of expedited development, review, or approval, even if we initially decide to do so. Furthermore, if we submit an application for accelerated approval, there can be no assurance that such application will be accepted or that approval will be granted on a timely basis, or at all. The FDA also could require us to conduct further studies or trials prior to considering our application or granting approval of any type. We might not be able to fulfill the FDA’s requirements in a timely manner, which would cause delays, or approval might not be granted because our submission is deemed incomplete by the FDA.
Even if we receive accelerated approval from the FDA, we will be subject to rigorous post-approval requirements, including submission to the FDA of all promotional materials prior to their dissemination. The FDA may require us to conduct a confirmatory study to verify the predicted clinical benefit. The FDA could withdraw accelerated approval for multiple reasons, including our failure to conduct any required post-approval study with due diligence, or the inability of such study to confirm the predicted clinical benefit.
A failure to obtain accelerated approval or any other form of expedited review or approval for a product candidate could result in a longer time period prior to commercializing such product candidate, increase the cost of development of such product candidate, and harm our competitive position in the marketplace.
Even if we obtain regulatory approval for a product candidate, we will remain subject to ongoing regulatory requirements.
If any of our product candidates are approved, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory requirements with respect to manufacturing, labeling, packaging, storage, advertising, promotion, sampling, record-keeping, conduct of post-marketing clinical trials, and submission of safety, efficacy, and other post-approval information, including both federal and state requirements in the United States, and requirements of comparable foreign regulatory authorities.
Manufacturers and manufacturers’ facilities are required to continuously comply with FDA and comparable foreign requirements, including ensuring that quality control and manufacturing procedures conform to cGMPs, regulations, and corresponding foreign regulatory manufacturing requirements. As such, we and our contract manufacturers will be subject to continual review and inspections to assess compliance with cGMPs and adherence to commitments made in any new drug application or marketing authorization application.
Any regulatory approvals that we receive for our product candidates may be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-marketing testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the marketed product. We will be required to report adverse reactions and production problems, if any, to the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Any new legislation could result in delays in product development or commercialization, or increased costs to assure compliance. If our original marketing approval for a product candidate was granted accelerated approval by the FDA, we could be required to conduct a successful post-marketing clinical trial in order to confirm the clinical benefit of our products. An unsuccessful post-marketing clinical trial or failure to complete such a trial could result in the withdrawal of marketing approval.
If a regulatory agency discovers previously unknown problems with a product, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facility where the product is manufactured, or disagrees with the promotion, marketing, or labeling of a product, the regulatory agency may impose restrictions on that product or us, including requiring withdrawal of the product from the market. If we fail to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, a regulatory agency or enforcement authority may, among other things:
•issue warning letters;
•impose civil or criminal penalties;
•suspend or withdraw regulatory approval;
•suspend any of our ongoing clinical trials;
•refuse to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications submitted by us;
•impose restrictions on our operations, including closing our contract manufacturers’ facilities; or
•require a product recall.
Any government investigation of alleged violations of law would be expected to require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate adverse publicity. Any failure to comply with ongoing regulatory requirements may significantly and adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our products, and the value of the company and our operating results would be adversely affected.
Moreover, the FDA strictly regulates the promotional claims that may be made about drug products. In particular, a product may not be promoted for uses that are not approved by the FDA as reflected in the product’s approved labeling. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses, and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label uses may be subject to significant civil, criminal, and administrative penalties.
In addition, if we were able to obtain accelerated approval of any of our drug candidates, the FDA may require us to conduct a confirmatory study to verify the predicted clinical benefit. Other regulatory authorities outside of the United States may have similar requirements. The results from the confirmatory study may not support the clinical benefit, which could result in the approval being withdrawn. While operating under accelerated approval, we will be subject to certain restrictions that we would not be subject to upon receiving regular approval.
Healthcare legislative reform measures may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
In the United States, there have been and continues to be a number of legislative initiatives to contain healthcare costs. For example, in March 2010, the Affordable Care Act was passed, which was intended to substantially change the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impact the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The Affordable Care Act, among other things, addresses 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, increases the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extends the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, establishes annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of specified branded prescription drugs, and promotes a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program.
There remain Congressional, executive branch, judicial, and regulatory challenges to the Affordable Care Act, and both Congress and former President Trump have delayed implementation or effectively repealed some of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements through legislation, Executive Orders, failures to fund, and other actions. For example, the Tax Act included a provision which repealed, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the Affordable Care Act on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” Additionally, the 2020 federal spending package permanently eliminated, effective January 1, 2020, the Affordable Care Act-mandated “Cadillac” tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage and medical device tax and, effective January 1, 2021, also eliminates the health insurer tax.
On December 14, 2018, a Texas U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional in its entirety because the “individual mandate” was repealed by Congress as part of the Tax Act. On December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are invalid as well. On November 10, 2020 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case and a decision is expected by the spring 2021. It is unclear how such litigation and other efforts to repeal, replace or otherwise modify the Affordable Care Act will impact reimbursement of pharmaceutical products.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, and we expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand or lower pricing for our product candidates or additional pricing pressures. In addition, it is possible that additional governmental action is taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act, which was signed into law in March 2020 and is designed to provide financial support and resources to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, suspended the 2% Medicare rate reduction sequester from May 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, and extended the sequester by one year, through 2030. In addition, it is possible that additional governmental action is taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, on August 6, 2020, the Trump administration issued another executive order that instructs the federal government to develop a list of “essential” medicines and then buy them and other medical supplies from U.S. manufacturers instead of from companies around the world, including China. The order is meant to reduce regulatory barriers to domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing and catalyze manufacturing technologies needed to keep drug prices low and the production of drug products in the United States.
We may be subject, directly or indirectly, to foreign, federal, and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws, false claims laws, and health information privacy and security laws. If we are unable to comply, or have not fully complied, with such laws, we could face substantial penalties, sanctions, or other liability.
Our operations may be subject to various foreign, federal, and state fraud and abuse laws, including, without limitation, the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the federal False Claims Act, and Physician Payments Sunshine Act, the EU’s GDPR, and other regulations. These laws may impact, among other things, our relationships with healthcare professionals and our proposed sales, marketing, and education programs. In addition, we may be subject to patient privacy regulation by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. The laws that may affect our ability to operate include:
•the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons from knowingly and willfully soliciting, receiving, offering, or paying remuneration, directly or indirectly, to induce, or in return for, the purchase or recommendation of an item or service reimbursable under a federal healthcare program, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs;
•federal civil and criminal false claims laws, including the federal False Claims Act which can be enforced by individuals through civil whistleblower or qui tams actions, and civil monetary penalties laws, which prohibit, among other things, individuals or entities from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, claims for payment from Medicare, Medicaid, or other third-party payors that are false or fraudulent;
•HIPAA, which created additional federal criminal statutes that prohibit, among other things, executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program and making false statements relating to healthcare matters;
•HIPAA, as amended by HITECH, and their implementing regulations, which imposes specified obligations, including mandatory contractual terms, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security, and transmission of individually identifiable health information without the appropriate authorization, on entities subject to the law, such as certain healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, known as covered entities, and their respective business associates, individuals, and entities that perform services for them that involve the creation, use, maintenance, or disclosure of individually identifiable health information;
•the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act under the Affordable Care Act which requires manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics, and medical supplies, with certain exceptions, to report annually to the CMS information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians, as defined by such law, and teaching hospitals, and ownership and investment interests held by physicians, as well as their immediate family members and applicable group purchasing organizations. Beginning in 2022, applicable manufacturers also will be required to report such information regarding its relationships with physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse midwives during the previous year;
•the GDPR and other EU member state data protection laws as well as those of Switzerland and the United Kingdom, which require, in part, data controllers and processors, to adopt administrative, physical, and technical safeguards designed to protect personal data, including health-related data, including mandatory contractual terms with third-party providers, requirements for establishing an appropriate legal basis for processing personal data, transparency requirements related to communications with data subjects regarding the processing of their personal data, standards for obtaining consent from individuals to process their personal data, notification requirements to individuals about the processing of their personal data, an individual data rights regime, mandatory data breach notifications, limitations on the retention of personal data, increased requirements pertaining to health data, and strict rules and restrictions on the transfer of personal data outside of the European Economic Area (the “EEA”), Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, including to the United States; and
•state law equivalents of each of the above federal laws, such as anti-kickback and false claims laws that may apply to items or services reimbursed by any third-party payor, including governmental and private payors, to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government, or otherwise restrict payments that may be made to healthcare providers and other potential referral sources; state laws that require drug manufacturers to report information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians and other healthcare providers, marketing expenditures or drug pricing; state and local laws that require the registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives; and state laws governing the privacy and security of health information in specified circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts.
Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors available, it is possible that some of our business activities could be subject to challenge under one or more of such laws. In addition, recent healthcare reform legislation has strengthened these laws. For example, the Affordable Care Act, among other things, amends the intent requirement of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and criminal healthcare fraud statutes, such that a person or entity
no longer needs to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate the law in order to have committed a violation. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act provides that the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal False Claims Act.
If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the laws described above or any other governmental regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including significant civil, criminal, and administrative penalties, disgorgement, damages, fines, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, exclusion from participation in government healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, imprisonment, additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of noncompliance with these laws, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.
If we fail to comply with environmental, health, and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Our research and development activities and our third-party manufacturers’ and suppliers’ activities involve the controlled storage, use, and disposal of hazardous materials, including the components of our product candidates and other hazardous compounds. We and our manufacturers and suppliers are subject to laws and regulations governing the use, manufacture, storage, handling, and disposal of these hazardous materials. In some cases, these hazardous materials and various wastes resulting from their use are stored at our and our manufacturers’ facilities pending their use and disposal. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination, which could cause an interruption of our commercialization efforts, research and development efforts, and business operations, and cause environmental damage resulting in costly clean-up and liabilities under applicable laws and regulations governing the use, storage, handling, and disposal of these materials and specified waste products. Although we believe that the safety procedures utilized by us and our third-party manufacturers for handling and disposing of these materials generally comply with the standards prescribed by these laws and regulations, we cannot guarantee that this is the case or eliminate the risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials. In such an event, we may be held liable for any resulting damages and such liability could exceed our resources, and state or federal or other applicable authorities may curtail our use of specified materials and/or interrupt our business operations. Furthermore, environmental laws and regulations are complex, change frequently, and have tended to become more stringent. We cannot predict the impact of such changes and cannot be certain of our future compliance. We do not currently carry biological or hazardous waste insurance coverage.
Failure to comply with existing or future laws and regulations related to privacy or data security could lead to government enforcement actions (which could include civil or criminal fines or penalties), private litigation, other liabilities, and/or adverse publicity. Compliance or the failure to comply with such laws could increase the costs of our products and services, could limit their use or adoption, and could otherwise negatively affect our operating results and business.
Regulation of personal data or personal information processing is evolving, as federal, state, and foreign governments continue to adopt new, or modify existing, laws and regulations addressing data privacy and security, and the collection, processing, storage, transfer, and use of such data. We, our collaborators, and our service providers may be subject to current, new, or modified federal, state, and foreign data protection laws and regulations (e.g., laws and regulations that address data privacy and data security, including, without limitation, health data). These new or proposed laws and regulations are subject to differing interpretations and may be inconsistent among jurisdictions, and guidance on implementation and compliance practices are often updated or otherwise revised, which adds to the complexity of processing personal data. These and other requirements could require us or our collaborators to incur additional costs to achieve compliance, limit our competitiveness, necessitate the acceptance of more onerous obligations in our contracts, restrict our ability to use, store, transfer, and process data, impact our or our collaborators’ ability to process or use data in order to support the provision of our products or services, affect our or our collaborators’ ability to offer our products and services or operate in certain locations, cause regulators to reject, limit, or disrupt our clinical trial activities, result in increased expenses, reduce overall demand for our products and services and make it more difficult to meet expectations of or commitments to customers or collaborators.
In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including state data breach notification laws, state information privacy laws (e.g., the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, the “CCPA”), state health information privacy laws, and federal and state consumer protection laws and regulations (e.g., Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act), that govern the collection, use, disclosure, and protection of health-related and other personal information could apply to our operations or the operations of our collaborators. In addition, we may obtain health information from third parties (including research institutions from which we may 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 civil and criminal penalties, including if we
knowingly obtain, use, or disclose individually identifiable health information maintained by a HIPAA-covered entity in a manner that is not authorized or permitted by HIPAA.
The CCPA became effective on January 1, 2020. The CCPA gives California residents expanded rights to access and delete their personal information, opt out of certain personal information sharing and receive detailed information about how their personal information is used by requiring covered companies to provide new disclosures to California residents and provide such residents new data privacy rights. The CCPA imposes new operational requirements for covered businesses and provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action and statutory damages for data breaches that are expected to increase class action data breach litigation. Although there are limited exemptions for clinical trial data, the CCPA’s implementation standards and enforcement practices are likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, and the CCPA may increase our compliance costs and potential liability. Many similar privacy laws have been proposed at the federal level and in other states. The CCPA exemplifies the vulnerability of our business to the evolving regulatory environment related to personal information.
Foreign data protection laws, including, without limitation, the EU’s GDPR that took effect in May 2018, and member state data protection laws, may also apply to health-related and other personal information that we process, including, without limitation, personal data relating to clinical trial participants in the EU, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. These laws impose strict obligations on the ability to process health-related and other personal information of data subjects in the EU, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, including, among other things, standards relating to the privacy and security of personal data, which require the adoption of administrative, physical and technical safeguards designed to protect such information. These laws may affect our use, collection, analysis, and transfer (including cross-border transfer) of such personal information. These laws include several requirements relating to transparency requirements related to communications with data subjects regarding the processing of their personal data, obtaining the consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, limitations on data processing, establishing a legal basis for processing, notification of data processing obligations or security incidents to appropriate data protection authorities or data subjects, the security and confidentiality of the personal data and various rights that data subjects may exercise. The GDPR increases our obligations with respect to clinical trials conducted in the EU by expanding the definition of personal data to include coded data and requiring changes to informed consent practices and more detailed notices for clinical trial participants and investigators.
European data protection laws, including the GDPR, prohibit the transfer, without an appropriate legal basis, of personal data to countries outside of the EEA, such as the United States, which are not considered by the European Commission to provide an adequate level of data protection and as a result, increases the scrutiny for transfers of personal data from clinical trial sites located in the EU to the United States. Switzerland and the United Kingdom have adopted similar restrictions. Although there are legal mechanisms to allow for the transfer of personal data from the EEA, Switzerland, and United Kingdom to the United States, uncertainty about compliance with EU data protection laws remains and such mechanisms may not be available or applicable with respect to the personal data processing activities necessary to research, develop, and market our products and services. For example, legal challenges in the EU to the mechanisms that allow companies to transfer personal data from the EU to the United States could result in further limitations on the ability to transfer personal data across borders, particularly if governments are unable or unwilling to reach new or maintain existing agreements that support cross-border data transfers, such as the EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework. Specifically, on July 16, 2020, the Court of Justice of the EU invalidated Decision 2016/1250 on the adequacy of the protection provided by the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and raised questions about whether one of the primary alternatives to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, namely, the European Commission’s Standard Contractual Clauses, can lawfully be used for personal data transfers from the EU to the United States or most other countries. At present, there are few, if any, viable alternatives to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and the Standard Contractual Clauses. Similarly, the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner announced the use of the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield is inadequate for personal data transfers from Switzerland to the U.S. Authorities in the UK may similarly invalidate use of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield for transfers of personal data from the United Kingdom to the U.S. Inability to transfer personal data from the EU, Switzerland, or United Kingdom to the United States may restrict our clinical trial activities in the EU and limit our ability to collaborate with service providers and other companies subject to European data protection laws. Further, the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, often referred to as Brexit, has created uncertainty with regard to data protection regulation in the United Kingdom. In particular, while the Data Protection Act of 2018, which “implements” and complements the GDPR achieved Royal Assent on May 23, 2018 and is now effective in the United Kingdom, it is still unclear whether the transfer of data from the EU to the United Kingdom will in future remain lawful under GDPR.
On December 24, 2020 the EU and the United Kingdom reached agreement on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement that with respect to data protection provides for a further transition period of up to six months as of January 1, 2021 to enable the European Commission to complete its adequacy assessment of the United Kingdom’s data protection laws. Accordingly personal data may continue to be transferred freely between the EU and UK during that specified period. If no adequacy decision has been adopted by the EU Commission during such period, or if the United Kingdom makes changes to its data
protection legal framework that is in place as of January 1, 2021 without the EU’s consent, the transfer of personal data from the EU to the United Kingdom will only be permissible if EU data exporters take further steps to ensure adequacy for the protection of personal data, which may expose us to further compliance risk. Additionally, following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and the EEA, companies have to comply also with the United Kingdom’s data protection laws (including the GDPR as incorporated into United Kingdom national law), the latter regime having the ability to separately fine up to the greater of £17.5 million or 4% of global turnover.
Under the GDPR, regulators may impose substantial fines and penalties for non-compliance. Companies that violate the GDPR can face fines of up to the greater of 20 million Euros or 4% of their worldwide annual turnover (revenue). The GDPR also permits data protection authorities to require destruction of improperly gathered or used personal data. The GDPR and other changes in laws and regulations associated with the enhanced protection of certain types of personal data, such as health data (including personal data from our clinical trials) have increased our responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process, requiring us to put in place additional mechanisms to ensure compliance with such data protection laws, regulations, and rules. Additionally, other countries have passed or are considering passing laws requiring local data residency and/or restricting the international transfer of data. These laws, regulations, and rules could require us to change our business practices and put in place additional compliance mechanisms; may interrupt or delay our development, regulatory, and commercialization activities; and increase our cost of doing business.
Failure to comply with U.S. and foreign data protection laws and regulations could result in government investigations and enforcement actions (which could include civil or criminal penalties, fines, or sanctions), private litigation, and/or adverse publicity and could negatively affect our operating results and business. Moreover, patients or subjects about whom we or our collaborators obtain information, as well as the providers who share this information with us, may contractually limit our ability to use and disclose the information. Claims that we have violated individuals’ privacy rights or failed to comply with data protection laws or applicable privacy notices even if we are not found liable, could be expensive and time-consuming to defend and could result in adverse publicity that could harm our business.
Any failure by our third-party collaborators, service providers, contractors, or consultants to comply with applicable law, regulations, or contractual obligations related to data privacy or security could result in proceedings against us by governmental entities or others.
We may publish privacy policies and other documentation regarding our collection, processing, use, and disclosure of personal information and/or other confidential information. Although we endeavor to comply with our published policies and other documentation, we may at times fail to do so or may be perceived to have failed to do so. Moreover, despite our efforts, we may not be successful in achieving compliance if our employees or vendors fail to comply with our published policies and documentation. Such failures can subject us to potential foreign, local, state, and federal action if they are found to be deceptive, unfair, or misrepresentative of our actual practices. Moreover, subjects about whom we or our partners obtain information, as well as the providers who share this information with us, may contractually limit our ability to use and disclose the information. Claims that we have violated individuals’ privacy rights or failed to comply with data protection laws or applicable privacy notices even if we are not found liable, could be expensive and time-consuming to defend and could result in adverse publicity that could harm our business.
Any of these matters could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, or operational results.
Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties
Our business may be adversely affected by the effects of health epidemics, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in regions where we or third parties on which we rely have business operations. We may have future clinical trial sites in countries or regions that have been directly affected by COVID-19 and depend on third-party manufacturing operations for various stages of our supply chain that may be affected by COVID-19 in the future. In addition, if COVID-19 continues to be a worldwide pandemic, it could materially affect our operations globally.
Our business may be adversely affected by health epidemics, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in regions where we have significant manufacturing facilities, concentrations of clinical trial sites, or other business operations.
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have implemented limitations on our operations, including a work-from-home policy, and could face further limitations in our operations in the future. There is a risk that countries or regions may be less effective at containing COVID-19 than others, or it may be more difficult to contain if the outbreak reaches a larger population or broader geography, in which case the risks described herein could be elevated significantly.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may materially affect our ability to commence clinical trials in a timely fashion or at all. We cannot predict if the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other future health epidemic, may cause delays to future planned clinical trials.
In addition, although we have not experienced any significant disruption in our supply chain, if COVID-19 continues to spread, third-party manufacturing of our drug product candidates and suppliers of the materials used in the production of our drug product candidates may be impacted by restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, which may disrupt our supply chain or limit our ability to manufacture drug product candidates for our clinical trials.
The ultimate impact of the COVID-19 outbreak or a similar health epidemic is highly uncertain and subject to change. We do not yet know the full extent of potential delays or impacts on our business, our planned clinical trials, healthcare systems, or the global economy as a whole. However, these effects could have a material impact on our operations, and we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely.
We rely on third parties to conduct our clinical trials, manufacture our product candidates, and perform other services. If these third parties do not successfully perform and comply with regulatory requirements, we may not be able to successfully complete clinical development, obtain regulatory approval, or commercialize our product candidates and our business could be substantially harmed.
We have relied upon and plan to continue to rely upon third-party CROs to conduct, monitor, and manage clinical programs. We rely on these parties for execution of clinical trials, and we manage and control only some aspects of their activities. We remain responsible for ensuring that each of our trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal, regulatory, and scientific standards, and our reliance on the CROs does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and our CROs and other vendors are required to comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and guidelines, including those required by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for all of our product candidates in clinical development. If we or any of our CROs or vendors fail to comply with applicable laws, regulations, and guidelines, the results 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 be assured that our CROs and other vendors will meet these requirements, or that upon inspection by any regulatory authority, such regulatory authority will determine that efforts, including any of our clinical trials, comply with applicable requirements. Our failure to comply with these laws, regulations, and guidelines may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would be costly and delay the regulatory approval process.
If any of our relationships with these third-party CROs terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs in a timely manner or do so on commercially reasonable terms. In addition, our CROs may not prioritize our clinical trials relative to those of other customers, and any turnover in personnel or delays in the allocation of CRO employees by the CRO may negatively affect our clinical trials. If CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, our clinical trials may be delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to meet our current plans with respect to our product candidates. Additionally, regional disruptions, including natural disasters or health emergencies (such as novel viruses or pandemics), could significantly disrupt the timing of clinical trials. CROs may also involve higher costs than anticipated, which could negatively affect our financial condition and operations.
In addition, we do not currently have, nor do we currently plan to establish, the capability to manufacture product candidates for use in the conduct of our clinical trials, and we lack the resources and the capability to manufacture any of our product candidates on a clinical or commercial scale without the use of third-party manufacturers. We plan to rely on third-party manufacturers and their responsibilities will include purchasing from third-party suppliers the materials necessary to produce our product candidates for our clinical trials and regulatory approval. There are expected to be a limited number of suppliers for the active ingredients and other materials that we expect to use to manufacture our product candidates, and we may not be able to identify alternative suppliers to prevent a possible disruption of the manufacture of our product candidates for our clinical trials, and, if approved, ultimately for commercial sale. Although we generally do not expect to begin a clinical trial unless we believe we have a sufficient supply of a product candidate to complete the trial, any significant delay or discontinuity in the supply of a product candidate, or the active ingredient or other material components in the manufacture of the product candidate, could delay completion of our clinical trials and potential timing for regulatory approval of our product candidates, which would harm our business and results of operations.
Our manufacturing process is complex and we may encounter difficulties in production, which would delay or prevent our ability to provide a sufficient supply of our product candidates for future clinical trials or commercialization, if approved.
The process of manufacturing our biologic product candidates is complex, highly regulated, variable, and subject to numerous risks.
Our manufacturing process will be susceptible to product loss or failure, or product variation that may negatively impact patient outcomes, due to logistical issues associated with preparing the product for administration, infusing the patient with the product, manufacturing issues, or different product characteristics resulting from the inherent differences in starting materials, variations between reagent lots, interruptions in the manufacturing process, contamination, equipment or reagent failure, improper installation or operation of equipment and/or programs, vendor or operator error and variability in product characteristics.
Even minor variations in starting reagents and materials, or deviations from normal manufacturing processes could result in reduced production yields, product defects, manufacturing failure, and other supply disruptions. If microbial, viral, or other contaminations are discovered in our product candidates or in any of the manufacturing facilities in which products or other materials are made, such manufacturing facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination. Any failure in the foregoing processes could render a batch of product unusable, could affect the regulatory approval of such product candidate, could cause us to incur fines or penalties, or could harm our reputation and that of our product candidates.
We may make changes to our manufacturing process for various reasons, such as to control costs, increase yield or dose, achieve scale, decrease processing time, increase manufacturing success rate, or for other reasons. Changes to our process made during the course of clinical development could require us to show the comparability of the product used in earlier clinical phases or at earlier portions of a trial to the product used in later clinical phases or later portions of the trial. Other changes to our manufacturing process made before or after commercialization could require us to show the comparability of the resulting product to the product candidate used in the clinical trials using earlier processes. Such showings could require us to collect additional nonclinical or clinical data from any modified process prior to obtaining marketing approval for the product candidate produced with such modified process. If such data are not ultimately comparable to that seen in the earlier trials or earlier in the same trial in terms of safety or efficacy, we may be required to make further changes to our process and/or undertake additional clinical testing, either of which could significantly delay the clinical development or commercialization of the associated product candidate, which would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
We rely and expect to continue to rely on third parties to manufacture our clinical product supplies, and we intend to rely on third parties to produce and process our product candidates, if approved, and our commercialization of any of our product candidates could be stopped, delayed, or made less profitable if those third parties fail to obtain approval of government regulators, fail to provide us with sufficient quantities of drug product, or fail to do so at acceptable quality levels or prices.
We do not currently have, nor do we currently plan to develop, the infrastructure or capability internally to manufacture our clinical supplies for use in the conduct of our clinical trials, and we lack the resources and the capability to manufacture any of our product candidates on a clinical or commercial scale. We currently rely on outside vendors to manufacture our clinical supplies of our product candidates and plan to continue relying on third parties to manufacture our product candidates on a commercial scale, if approved.
We do not yet have sufficient information to reliably estimate the cost of the commercial manufacturing of our product candidates and our current cost to manufacture our drug products may not be commercially feasible. Additionally, the actual cost to manufacture our product candidates could materially and adversely affect the commercial viability of our product candidates. As a result, we may never be able to develop a commercially viable product.
In addition, our reliance on third-party manufacturers exposes us to the following additional risks:
•We may be unable to identify manufacturers of our product candidates on acceptable terms or at all.
•Our third-party manufacturers might be unable to timely formulate and manufacture our product or produce the quantity and quality required to meet our clinical and commercial needs, if any.
•Contract manufacturers may not be able to execute our manufacturing procedures appropriately.
•Our future third-party manufacturers may not perform as agreed or may not remain in the contract manufacturing business for the time required to supply our clinical trials or to successfully produce, store, and distribute our products.
•Manufacturers are subject to ongoing periodic unannounced inspection by the FDA and some state agencies to ensure strict compliance with cGMPs and other government regulations and corresponding foreign standards. We do not have control over third-party manufacturers’ compliance with these regulations and standards.
•We may not own, or may have to share, the intellectual property rights to any improvements made by our third-party manufacturers in the manufacturing process for our product candidates.
•Our third-party manufacturers could breach or terminate their agreement with us.
•We may experience labor disputes or shortages, including from the effects of health emergencies (such as novel viruses or pandemics) and natural disasters.
Each of these risks could delay our clinical trials, as well as the approval, if any, of our product candidates by the FDA, or the commercialization of our product candidates, or could result in higher costs, or could deprive us of potential product revenue. In addition, we rely on third parties to perform release testing on our product candidates prior to delivery to patients. If these tests are not appropriately conducted and test data are not reliable, patients could be put at risk of serious harm, and this could result in product liability suits.
The manufacture of medical products is complex and requires significant expertise and capital investment, including the development of advanced manufacturing techniques and process controls. Manufacturers of medical products often encounter difficulties in production, particularly in scaling up and validating initial production and absence of contamination. These problems include difficulties with production costs and yields, quality control, stability of the product, quality assurance testing, operator error, shortages of qualified personnel, as well as compliance with strictly enforced federal, state, and foreign regulations. Furthermore, if contaminants are discovered in our supply of our product candidates or in the manufacturing facilities, such manufacturing facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination. We cannot be assured that any stability issue or other issues relating to the manufacture of our product candidates will not occur in the future. Additionally, our manufacturers may experience manufacturing difficulties due to resource constraints or as a result of labor disputes, shortages, including from the effects of heath emergencies (such as novel viruses or pandemics) and natural disasters, or unstable political environments. If our manufacturers were to encounter any of these difficulties, or otherwise fail to comply with their contractual obligations, our ability to provide our product candidates to patients or subjects in clinical trials would be jeopardized. Any delay or interruption in the supply of clinical trial supplies could delay the completion of clinical trials, increase the costs associated with maintaining clinical trial programs and, depending upon the period of delay, require us to commence new clinical trials at additional expense or terminate clinical trials completely.
We may be unable to realize the potential benefits of any collaboration.
Even if we are successful in entering into additional future collaborations with respect to the development and/or commercialization of one or more product candidates, there is no guarantee that the collaboration will be successful. Collaborations may pose a number of risks, including:
•collaborators often have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to the collaboration and may not commit sufficient resources to the development, marketing, or commercialization of the product or products that are subject to the collaboration;
•collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected;
•any such collaboration may significantly limit our share of potential future profits from the associated program and may require us to relinquish potentially valuable rights to our current product candidates, potential products, proprietary technologies, or grant licenses on terms that are not favorable to us;
•collaborators may cease to devote resources to the development or commercialization of our product candidates if the collaborators view our product candidates as competitive with their own products or product candidates;
•disagreements with collaborators, including disagreements over proprietary rights, contract interpretation, or the course of development, might cause delays or termination of the development or commercialization of product candidates, and might result in legal proceedings, which would be time consuming, distracting, and expensive;
•collaborators may be impacted by changes in their strategic focus or available funding, or business combinations involving them, which could cause them to divert resources away from the collaboration;
•collaborators may infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;
•the collaborations may not result in us achieving revenue to justify such transactions; and
•collaborations may be terminated and, if terminated, may result in a need for us to raise additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidate.
As a result, a collaboration may not result in the successful development or commercialization of our product candidates.
We enter into various contracts in the normal course of our business in which we indemnify the other party to the contract. In the event we have to perform under these indemnification provisions, we could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
In the normal course of business, we periodically enter into commercial, service, licensing, consulting, and other agreements that contain indemnification provisions. With respect to our research agreements, we typically indemnify the party and related parties from losses arising from claims relating to the products, processes, or services made, used, sold, or performed pursuant to the agreements for which we have secured licenses, and from claims arising from our or our sublicensees’ exercise of rights under the agreement. With respect to future collaboration agreements, we may indemnify our collaborators from any third-party product liability claims that could result from the production, use, or consumption of the product, as well as for alleged infringements of any patent or other intellectual property right by a third party. With respect to consultants, we indemnify them from claims arising from the good faith performance of their services.
Should our obligation under an indemnification provision exceed applicable insurance coverage or if we were denied insurance coverage, our business, financial condition, and results of operations could be adversely affected. Similarly, if we are relying on a collaborator to indemnify us and the collaborator is denied insurance coverage or the indemnification obligation exceeds the applicable insurance coverage, and if the collaborator does not have other assets available to indemnify us, our business, financial condition, and results of operations could be adversely affected.
Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property
We intend to rely on patent rights, trade secret protections, and confidentiality agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our product candidates and any future product candidates. If we are unable to obtain or maintain exclusivity from the combination of these approaches, we may not be able to compete effectively in our markets.
We rely or will rely upon a combination of patents, trade secret protection, and confidentiality agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our technologies and product candidates. Our success depends in large part on our and our licensors’ ability to obtain regulatory exclusivity and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection in the United States and in other countries with respect to our proprietary technologies and product candidates.
We have sought to protect our proprietary position by filing and licensing the rights to patent applications in the United States and abroad related to our technologies and product candidates that are important to our business. This process is expensive and time consuming, and we may not be able to file and prosecute 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.
The patent position of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies generally is highly uncertain and involves complex legal and factual questions for which legal principles remain unresolved. The patent applications that we own or in-license may fail to result in issued patents with claims that cover our product candidates in the United States or in other foreign countries. There is no assurance that all potentially relevant prior art relating to our patents and patent applications has been found, which can invalidate a patent or prevent a patent from issuing from a pending patent application. Even if patents do successfully issue, and even if such patents cover our product candidates, third parties may challenge their validity, enforceability, or scope, which may result in such patents being narrowed, found unenforceable, or invalidated. Furthermore, even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications may not adequately protect our intellectual property, provide exclusivity for our product candidates, or prevent others from designing around our claims. Any of these outcomes could impair our ability to prevent competition from third parties, which may have an adverse impact on our business.
We, independently or together with our licensors, have filed patent applications covering various aspects of our product candidates. We cannot offer any assurances about which, if any, patents will issue, the breadth of any such patent, or whether any issued patents will be found invalid and unenforceable or will be threatened by third parties. Any successful opposition to these patents or any other patents owned by or licensed to us after patent issuance could deprive us of rights necessary for the
successful commercialization of any product candidates that we may develop. Further, if we encounter delays in regulatory approvals, the period of time during which we could market a product candidate under patent protection could be reduced.
If we cannot obtain and maintain effective protection of exclusivity from our regulatory efforts and intellectual property rights, including patent protection or data exclusivity, for our product candidates, we may not be able to compete effectively, and our business and results of operations would be harmed.
We may not have sufficient patent term protections for our product candidates to effectively protect our business.
Patents have a limited term. In the United States, the statutory expiration of a patent is generally 20 years after it is filed. Additional patent terms may be available through a patent term adjustment process, resulting from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) delays during prosecution. Although various extensions may be available, the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Even if patents covering our product candidates are obtained, once the patent life has expired for a product candidate, we may be open to competition from generic medications.
Patent term extensions under the Hatch-Waxman Act in the United States and under supplementary protection certificates in Europe may be available to extend the patent or data exclusivity terms of our product candidates. We will likely rely on patent term extensions, and we cannot provide any assurances that any such patent term extensions will be obtained and, if so, for how long. As a result, we may not be able to maintain exclusivity for our product candidates for an extended period after regulatory approval, if any, which would negatively impact our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. If we do not have sufficient patent terms or regulatory exclusivity to protect our product candidates, our business and results of operations will be adversely affected.
Changes in U.S. patent law could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products, and recent patent reform legislation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents.
As is the case with other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, our success is heavily dependent on patents. Obtaining and enforcing patents in the biotechnology industry involve both technological and legal complexity, and is therefore costly, time-consuming, and inherently uncertain. In addition, the United States in 2011 enacted and is still currently implementing wide-ranging patent reform legislation. Recent rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit have narrowed the scope of patent protection available in specified circumstances and weakened the rights of patent owners in specified situations. In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our ability to obtain patents in the future, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value of patents, once obtained. Depending on decisions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that would weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce our existing patents and patents that we might obtain in the future.
The USPTO has issued subject matter eligibility guidance to patent examiners instructing USPTO examiners on the ramifications of the Supreme Court rulings in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. and Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., and applied the Myriad ruling to natural products and principles including all naturally occurring molecules. In addition, the USPTO continues to provide updates to its guidance and this is a developing area. The USPTO guidance may make it impossible for us to pursue similar patent claims in patent applications we may prosecute in the future.
Our patent portfolio contains claims of various types and scope and methods of medical treatment. The presence of varying claims in our patent portfolio significantly reduces, but may not eliminate, our exposure to potential validity challenges.
For our U.S. patent applications containing a claim not entitled to priority before March 16, 2013, there is a greater level of uncertainty in the patent law. On September 16, 2011, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (the “Leahy-Smith Act”) was signed into law. The Leahy-Smith Act includes a number of significant changes to U.S. patent law. These include provisions that affect the way patent applications will be prosecuted and may also affect patent litigation. The USPTO has promulgated regulations and developed procedures to govern administration of the Leahy-Smith Act, and many of the substantive changes to patent law associated with the Leahy-Smith Act, and in particular, the first to file provisions, did not come into effect until March 16, 2013. Accordingly, it is not yet clear what, if any, impact the Leahy-Smith Act will have on the operation of our business. However, the Leahy-Smith Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
An important change introduced by the Leahy-Smith Act is that, as of March 16, 2013, the United States transitioned to a “first-to-file” system for deciding which party should be granted a patent when two or more patent applications are filed by different parties claiming the same invention. This will require us to be cognizant going forward of the time from invention to filing of a patent application. Furthermore, our ability to obtain and maintain valid and enforceable patents depends on whether the differences between our technology and the prior art allow our technology to be patentable over the prior art. Since patent applications in the United States and most other countries are confidential for a period of time after filing, we cannot be certain that we were the first to either: (i) file any patent application related to our product candidates or (ii) invent any of the inventions claimed in our patents or patent applications.
Among some of the other changes introduced by the Leahy-Smith Act are changes that limit where a patentee may file a patent infringement suit and new procedures providing opportunities for third parties to challenge any issued patent in the USPTO. Included in these new procedures is a process known as Inter Partes Review (“IPR”), which has been generally used by many third parties since the enactment of the Leahy-Smith Act to invalidate patents. The IPR process is not limited to patents filed after the Leahy-Smith Act was enacted and would, therefore, be available to a third party seeking to invalidate any of our Licensor’s U.S. patents, even those filed before March 16, 2013. Because of a lower evidentiary standard in USPTO proceedings compared to the evidentiary standard in U.S. federal court necessary to invalidate a patent claim, a third party could potentially provide evidence in a USPTO proceeding sufficient for the USPTO to hold a claim invalid even though the same evidence would be insufficient to invalidate the claim if first presented in a district court action. Accordingly, a third party may attempt to use the USPTO procedures to invalidate our patent claims that would not have been invalidated if first challenged by the third party as a defendant in a district court action. Additionally, the rights of review and appeal for IPR decisions is an area of law that is still developing.
If we are unable to maintain effective proprietary rights for our product candidates or any future product candidates, we may not be able to compete effectively in our proposed markets.
In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary know-how that is not patentable or that we elect not to patent, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our product candidate discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know-how, information, or technology that is not covered by patents. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect. We seek to protect our proprietary technology and processes, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors, and contractors. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations, and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors.
Although we expect all of our employees and consultants to assign their inventions to us, and all of our employees, consultants, advisors, and any third parties who have access to our proprietary know-how, information, or technology to enter into confidentiality agreements, we cannot provide any assurances that all such agreements have been duly executed, or that our trade secrets and other confidential proprietary information will not be disclosed, or that competitors will not otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or independently develop substantially equivalent information and techniques. Misappropriation or unauthorized disclosure of our trade secrets could impair our competitive position and may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. Additionally, if the steps taken to maintain our trade secrets are deemed inadequate, we may have insufficient recourse against third parties for misappropriating the trade secret.
Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may prevent or delay our development and commercialization efforts.
Our commercial success depends in part on our ability to develop, manufacture, market, and sell our product candidates and use our proprietary technology without infringing the patent rights of third parties. Numerous third-party U.S. and non-U.S. issued patents and pending applications exist in the area of our product candidates. From time to time, we may also monitor these patents and patent applications. We may in the future pursue available proceedings in the U.S. and foreign patent offices to challenge the validity of these patents and patent applications. In addition, or alternatively, we may consider whether to seek to negotiate a license of rights to technology covered by one or more of such patents and patent applications. If any patents or patent applications cover our product candidates or technologies, we may not be free to manufacture or market our product candidates as planned, absent such a license, which may not be available to us on commercially reasonable terms, or at all.
It is also possible that we have failed to identify relevant third-party patents or applications. For example, applications filed before November 29, 2000 remain confidential until patents issue, and applications filed after that date that will not be filed outside the United States can elect to remain confidential until patents issue.
Moreover, it is difficult for industry participants, including us, to identify all third-party patent rights that may be relevant to our product candidates and technologies because patent searching is imperfect due to differences in terminology among patents, incomplete databases, and the difficulty in assessing the meaning of patent claims. We may fail to identify relevant patents or patent applications or may identify pending patent applications of potential interest but incorrectly predict the likelihood that such patent applications may issue with claims of relevance to our technology. In addition, we may be unaware of one or more issued patents that would be infringed by the manufacture, sale, or use of a current or future product candidate, or we may incorrectly conclude that a third-party patent is invalid, unenforceable, or not infringed by our activities. Additionally, pending patent applications that have been published can, subject to specified limitations, be later amended in a manner that could cover our technologies, our product candidates, or the use of our product candidates.
There have been many lawsuits and other proceedings involving patent and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, including patent infringement lawsuits in federal courts, and interferences, oppositions, inter partes reviews, post-grant reviews, and reexamination proceedings before the USPTO and corresponding foreign patent offices. Numerous U.S. and foreign-issued patents and pending patent applications, which are owned by third parties, exist in the fields in which we are developing product candidates. As the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our product candidates may be subject to claims of infringement of the patent rights of third parties.
Parties making claims against us may obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could effectively block our ability to further develop and commercialize one or more of our product candidates. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. In the event of a successful claim of infringement against us, we may have to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees for willful infringement, pay royalties, redesign our infringing products, or obtain one or more licenses from third parties, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure.
We may not be successful in meeting our obligations under our existing license agreements necessary to maintain our product candidate licenses in effect. In addition, if required in order to commercialize our product candidates, we may be unsuccessful in obtaining or maintaining necessary rights to our product candidates through acquisitions and in-licenses.
We currently have rights to the intellectual property, through licenses from third parties and under patents that we do not own, to develop and commercialize our product candidates. Because our programs may require the use of proprietary rights held by third parties, the growth of our business will likely depend in part on our ability to maintain in effect these proprietary rights. Any termination of license agreements with third parties with respect to our product candidates would be expected to negatively impact our business prospects.
We may be unable to acquire or in-license any compositions, methods of use, processes, or other third-party intellectual property rights from third parties that we identify as necessary for our product candidates. The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and a number of more established companies are also pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider attractive. These established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, cash resources, and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us. Even if we are able to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that are necessary for our product candidates, there can be no assurance that they will be available on favorable terms.
If we are unable to successfully obtain and maintain rights to required third-party intellectual property, we may have to abandon development of that product candidate or pay additional amounts to the third party, and our business and financial condition could suffer.
The patent protection and patent prosecution for some of our product candidates are dependent on third parties.
While we normally seek and gain the right to fully prosecute the patents relating to our product candidates, there may be times when patents relating to our product candidates are controlled by our licensors. If any of our licensors fail to appropriately follow our instructions with regard to the prosecution and maintenance of patent protection for patents covering any of our product candidates, our ability to develop and commercialize those product candidates may be adversely affected, and we may not be able to prevent competitors from making, using, importing, and selling competing products. In addition, even where we
now have the right to control patent prosecution of patents and patent applications we have licensed from third parties, we may still be adversely affected or prejudiced by actions or inactions of our licensors in effect from actions prior to us assuming control over patent prosecution.
If we fail to comply with obligations in the agreements under which we license intellectual property and other rights from third parties or otherwise experience disruptions to our business relationships with our licensors, we could lose license rights that are important to our business.
We are a party to intellectual property licenses and supply agreements that are important to our business and expect to enter into additional license agreements in the future. Our existing agreements impose, and we expect that future license agreements will impose, various diligence, milestone payments, royalties, purchasing, and other obligations on us. If we fail to comply with our obligations under these agreements, or we are subject to a bankruptcy, our agreements may be subject to termination by the licensor, in which event we would not be able to develop, manufacture, or market products covered by the license or subject to supply commitments.
We may be involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents or the patents of our licensors, which could be expensive, time consuming, and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe our patents or the patents of our licensors. If we, or one of our licensing partners, were to initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering one of our product candidates, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product candidate is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, written description, clarity, or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld material information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable.
Interference 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 or those of our licensors. An unfavorable outcome could require us to cease using the related technology or to attempt to license rights to us from the prevailing party. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us a license on commercially reasonable terms. Our defense of litigation or interference 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.
We may be subject to claims that our employees, consultants, or independent contractors have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information of third parties or that our employees have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade secrets of their former employers.
We employ individuals who were previously employed at universities or other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Although we have written agreements and make every effort to ensure that our employees, consultants, and independent contractors do not use the proprietary information or intellectual property rights of others in their work for us, we may in the future be subject to any claims that our employees, consultants, or independent contractors have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information of third parties. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel, which could adversely impact our business. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
Filing, prosecuting, and defending patents on product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States can be less extensive than those in
the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection to develop our own products and may also export infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States.
These products may compete with our products and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of some countries, particularly some developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets, and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally.
Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions, whether or not successful, could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing, and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate, and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.
Risks Related to Commercialization of Our Product Candidates
If we are unable to establish sales and marketing capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell our product candidates, we may be unable to generate any revenue.
Although some of our employees may have been employed at companies that have launched pharmaceutical products in the past, we have no experience selling and marketing our product candidates and we currently have no marketing or sales organization. To successfully commercialize any products that may result from our development programs, we will need to find one or more collaborators to commercialize our products or invest in and develop these capabilities, either on our own or with others, which would be expensive, difficult, and time consuming. Any failure or delay in entering into agreements with third parties to market or sell our product candidates or in the timely development of our internal commercialization capabilities could adversely impact the potential for the launch and success of our products.
If commercialization collaborators do not commit sufficient resources to commercialize our future products and we are unable to develop the necessary marketing and sales capabilities on our own, we will be unable to generate sufficient product revenue to sustain or grow our business. We may be competing with companies that currently have extensive and well-funded marketing and sales operations, particularly in the markets our product candidates are intended to address. Without appropriate capabilities, whether directly or through third-party collaborators, we may be unable to compete successfully against these more established companies.
We may attempt to form collaborations in the future with respect to our product candidates, but we may not be able to do so, which may cause us to alter our development and commercialization plans.
We may attempt to form strategic collaborations, create joint ventures, or enter into licensing arrangements with third parties with respect to our programs that we believe will complement or augment our existing business. We may face significant competition in seeking appropriate strategic collaborators, and the negotiation process to secure appropriate terms is time consuming and complex. We may not be successful in our efforts to establish such a strategic collaboration for any product candidates and programs on terms that are acceptable to us, or at all. This may be because our product candidates and programs may be deemed to be at too early of a stage of development for collaborative effort, our research and development pipeline may be viewed as insufficient, the competitive or intellectual property landscape may be viewed as too intense or risky, and/or third parties may not view our product candidates and programs as having sufficient potential for commercialization, including the likelihood of an adequate safety and efficacy profile.
Even if we are able to successfully enter into a collaboration regarding the development or commercialization of our product candidates, we cannot guarantee that such a collaboration will be successful.
Any delays in identifying suitable collaborators and entering into agreements to develop and/or commercialize our product candidates could delay the development or commercialization of our product candidates, which may reduce their
competitiveness even if they reach the market. Absent a strategic collaborator, we would need to undertake development and/or commercialization activities at our own expense. If we elect to fund and undertake development and/or commercialization activities on our own, we may need to obtain additional expertise and additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. If we are unable to do so, we may not be able to develop our product candidates or bring them to market and our business may be materially and adversely affected.
We face substantial competition and our competitors may discover, develop, or commercialize products faster or more successfully than us.
The development and commercialization of new drug products is highly competitive. We face competition from major pharmaceutical companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, universities, and other research institutions worldwide with respect to our product candidates that we may seek to develop or commercialize in the future. We are aware that the following companies have therapeutics marketed or in development for TED: Horizon Therapeutics and Immunovant, Inc. If approved, VRDN-001 will also compete against generic medications, such as corticosteroids, that are prescribed for and surgical procedures for the treatment of TED.
Our competitors may succeed in developing, acquiring, or licensing technologies and drug products that are more effective or less costly than our product candidates that we are currently developing or that we may develop, which could render our product candidates obsolete and noncompetitive. Our competitors may also adopt a similar licensing and development strategy as ours with regard to the development of an existing anti-IGF-1R monoclonal antibody for the treatment of TED. If any competitor was able to effect this strategy in a more efficient manner, there may be less demand for our product candidates if any are approved.
Many of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, and other resources, such as larger research and development staff and experienced marketing and manufacturing organizations. Third-party payors, including governmental and private insurers, may also encourage the use of generic products. For example, if VRDN-001 is approved, it may be priced at a significant premium over other competitive products. This may make it difficult for VRDN-001 or any other future products to compete with these products.
If our competitors obtain marketing approval from the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities for their product candidates more rapidly than us, it could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market.
Many of our competitors have materially greater name recognition and financial, manufacturing, marketing, research, and drug development resources than we do. Additional mergers and acquisitions in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries may result in even more resources being concentrated in our competitors. Large pharmaceutical companies in particular have extensive expertise in preclinical and clinical testing and in obtaining regulatory approvals for drugs. In addition, academic institutions, government agencies, and other public and private organizations conducting research may seek patent protection with respect to potentially competitive products or technologies. These organizations may also establish exclusive collaborative or licensing relationships with our competitors. Failure of VRDN-001 or our other product candidates to effectively compete against established treatment options or in the future with new products currently in development would harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
The commercial success of any of our current or future product candidates will depend upon the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, and others in the medical community.
Even with the approvals from the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities, the commercial success of our products will depend in part on the healthcare providers, patients, and third-party payors accepting our product candidates as medically useful, cost-effective, and safe. Any product that we bring to the market may not gain market acceptance by physicians, patients, and third-party payors. The degree of market acceptance of any of our products will depend on a number of factors, including but not limited to:
•the efficacy of the product as demonstrated in clinical trials and potential advantages over competing treatments;
•the prevalence and severity of the disease and any side effects;
•the clinical indications for which approval is granted, including any limitations or warnings contained in a product’s approved labeling;
•the convenience and ease of administration;
•the cost of treatment;
•the willingness of the patients and physicians to accept these therapies;
•the perceived ratio of risk and benefit of these therapies by physicians and the willingness of physicians to recommend these therapies to patients based on such risks and benefits;
•the marketing, sales, and distribution support for the product;
•the publicity concerning our products or competing products and treatments; and
•the pricing and availability of third-party payor coverage and adequate reimbursement.
Even if a product displays a favorable efficacy and safety profile upon approval, market acceptance of the product remains uncertain. Efforts to educate the medical community and third-party payors on the benefits of the products may require significant investment and resources and may never be successful. If our products fail to achieve an adequate level of acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, and other healthcare providers, we will not be able to generate sufficient revenue to become or remain profitable.
We may not be successful in any efforts to identify, license, discover, develop, or commercialize additional product candidates.
Although a substantial amount of our effort will focus on clinical testing, potential approval, and commercialization of our existing product candidates, the success of our business is also expected to depend in part upon our ability to identify, license, discover, develop, or commercialize additional product candidates. Research programs to identify new product candidates require substantial technical, financial, and human resources. We may focus our efforts and resources on potential programs or product candidates that ultimately prove to be unsuccessful. Our research programs or licensing efforts may fail to yield additional product candidates for clinical development and commercialization for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the following:
•our research or business development methodology or search criteria and process may be unsuccessful in identifying potential product candidates;
•we may not be able or willing to assemble sufficient resources to acquire or discover additional product candidates;
•our product candidates may not succeed in preclinical or clinical testing;
•our potential product candidates may be shown to have harmful side effects or may have other characteristics that may make the products unmarketable or unlikely to receive marketing approval;
•competitors may develop alternatives that render our product candidates obsolete or less attractive;
•product candidates we develop may be covered by third parties’ patents or other exclusive rights;
•the market for a product candidate may change during our program so that such a product may become unreasonable to continue to develop;
•a product candidate may not be capable of being produced in commercial quantities at an acceptable cost, or at all; and
•a product candidate may not be accepted as safe and effective by patients, the medical community, or third-party payors.
If any of these events occur, we may be forced to abandon our development efforts for a program or programs, or we may not be able to identify, license, discover, develop, or commercialize additional product candidates, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations and could potentially cause us to cease operations.
Failure to obtain or maintain adequate reimbursement or insurance coverage for our products, if any, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.
The pricing, as well as the coverage, and reimbursement of our approved products, if any, must be sufficient to support our commercial efforts and other development programs, and the availability of coverage and adequacy of reimbursement by third-party payors, including government healthcare programs, health maintenance organizations, private insurers, and other healthcare management organizations, are essential for most patients to be able to afford expensive treatments. Sales of our approved products, if any, will depend substantially, both domestically and abroad, on the extent to which the costs of our approved products, if any, will be paid for or reimbursed by third-party payors. If coverage and reimbursement are not available, or are available only in limited amounts, we may have to subsidize or provide products for free, or we may not be able to successfully commercialize our products.
In addition, there is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement for newly approved products. In the United States, the principal decisions about coverage and reimbursement for new drugs are typically made by CMS, which is an agency within HHS that decides whether and to what extent a new drug will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare. Private third-party payors tend to follow the coverage and reimbursement policies established by CMS to a substantial degree, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. It is difficult to predict what CMS will decide with respect to reimbursement for novel product candidates and what reimbursement codes our product candidates may receive if approved.
Outside the United States, international operations are generally subject to extensive governmental price controls and other price-restrictive regulations, and we believe the increasing emphasis on cost-containment initiatives in Europe, Canada, and other countries has and will continue to put pressure on the pricing and usage of products. In many countries, the prices of products are subject to varying price control mechanisms as part of national health systems. Price controls or other changes in pricing regulation could restrict the amount that we are able to charge for our products, if any. Accordingly, in markets outside the United States, the potential revenue may be insufficient to generate commercially reasonable revenue and profits.
Moreover, increasing efforts by third-party payors in the United States and abroad to limit or reduce healthcare costs may result in restrictions on coverage and the level of reimbursement for new products and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment for our products. Further, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, reduce the cost of drugs under Medicare, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. At the federal level, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 included a $135 billion allowance to support legislative proposals seeking to reduce drug prices, increase competition, lower out-of-pocket drug costs for patients, and increase patient access to lower-cost generic and biosimilar drugs. On March 10, 2020, the Trump administration sent “principles” for drug pricing to Congress, calling for legislation that would, among other things, cap Medicare Part D beneficiary out-of-pocket pharmacy expenses, provide an option to cap Medicare Part D beneficiary monthly out-of-pocket expenses, and place limits on pharmaceutical price increases. In addition, the Trump administration previously released a “Blueprint” to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contained proposals to increase manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products, and reduce the out of pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers. HHS solicited feedback on some of these measures and has implemented others under its existing authority. Additionally, on July 24, 2020, President Trump announced four executive orders related to prescription drug pricing that attempt to implement several of the Trump administration proposals, including (i) a policy that would tie certain Medicare Part B drug prices to international drug prices, or the “most favored nation price,” the details of which were released on September 13, 2020 and also expanded to cover certain Part D drugs; (ii) an order that directs HHS to finalize the Canadian drug importation proposed rule previously issued by HHS and makes other changes allowing for personal importation of drugs from Canada; (iii) an order that directs HHS to finalize the rulemaking process on modifying the Anti-Kickback Statute safe harbors for discounts for plans, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical benefit managers; (iv) a policy that reduces costs of insulin and epipens to patients of federally qualified health centers. Although the Biden administration has stayed the effective dates of some last-minute drug price regulations issued by the Trump administration, Congress and the Biden administration have each indicated that they will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs. At the state level, legislatures have increasingly passed legislation and implemented regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing.
We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with products due to the increasing trend toward managed healthcare, including the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations and additional legislative changes. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs, has increased and is expected to continue to increase in the future. As a result, profitability of our products, if any, may be more difficult to achieve even if they receive regulatory approval.
Risks Related to Our Business Operations
Our future success depends in part on our ability to retain our chief executive officer and to attract, retain, and motivate other qualified personnel.
We are highly dependent on Jonathan Violin, our president and chief executive officer, the loss of whose services may adversely impact the achievement of our objectives. Dr. Violin could leave our employment at any time, as he is classified as an “at-will” employee. Recruiting and retaining other qualified employees, consultants, and advisors for our business, including scientific and technical personnel, will also be critical to our success. There is currently a shortage of highly qualified personnel in our industry, which is likely to continue. As a result, competition for personnel is intense, and the turnover rate can be high. We may not be able to attract and retain personnel on acceptable terms given the competition among numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for individuals with similar skill sets. In addition, failure to succeed in development and commercialization of our product candidates may make it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified personnel. The inability to recruit and retain qualified personnel, or the loss of the services of Dr. Violin, may impede the progress of our research, development, and commercialization objectives and would negatively impact our ability to succeed in our product development strategy.
We will need to expand our organization and we may experience difficulties in managing this growth, which could disrupt our operations.
As our development and commercialization plans and strategies develop, we expect to need additional managerial, operational, sales, marketing, financial, legal, and other resources. Our management may need to divert a disproportionate amount of our attention away from our day-to-day activities and devote a substantial amount of time to managing these growth activities. We may not be able to effectively manage the expansion of our operations, which may result in weaknesses in our infrastructure, operational mistakes, loss of business opportunities, loss of employees, and reduced productivity among remaining employees. Our expected growth could require significant capital expenditures and may divert financial resources from other projects, such as the development of additional product candidates. If our management is unable to effectively manage our growth, our expenses may increase more than expected, our ability to generate and/or grow revenue could be reduced and we may not be able to implement our business strategy. Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize product candidates and compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage any future growth.
Failure in our information technology and storage systems or those of third parties upon whom we rely could significantly disrupt the operation of our business and adversely impact our financial condition.
Our ability to execute our business plan and maintain operations depends on the continued and uninterrupted performance of our information technology (“IT”) systems or those of third parties upon whom we rely. IT systems are vulnerable to risks and damages from a variety of sources, including telecommunications or network failures, malicious human acts, and natural disasters (such as a tornado, an earthquake, or a fire). Moreover, despite network security and back-up measures, some of our and our vendors’ servers are potentially vulnerable to physical or electronic break-ins, including cyber-attacks, computer viruses, and similar disruptive problems. The techniques used by criminal elements to attack computer systems are sophisticated, change frequently, and may originate from less regulated and remote areas of the world. As a result, we may not be able to address these techniques proactively or implement adequate preventative measures. If the IT systems are compromised, we could be subject to fines, damages, litigation, and enforcement actions, and we could lose trade secrets, the occurrence of which could harm our business. Despite precautionary measures designed to prevent unanticipated problems that could affect the IT systems, sustained or repeated system failures that interrupt our ability to generate and maintain data could adversely affect our ability to operate our business. In addition, the failure of our systems, maintenance problems, upgrading or transitioning to new platforms, or a breach in security could result in delays and reduce efficiency in our operations. Remediation of such problems could result in significant, unplanned capital investments.
Furthermore, parties in our supply chain may be operating from single sites, increasing their vulnerability to natural disasters or other sudden, unforeseen, and severe adverse events. If such an event were to affect our supply chain, it could have a material adverse effect on our business.
A network or data security incident may allow unauthorized access to our network or data, which could result in a material disruption of our clinical trials, harm our reputation, harm our business, create additional liability and adversely impact our financial results or operational results.
Increasingly, we are subject to a wide variety of threats on our information networks, and systems and those of our service providers or collaborators. In addition to threats from natural disasters, telecommunications and electrical failures, traditional computer hackers, malicious code (such as malware, viruses, worms, and ransomware), employee error, theft or misuse, password spraying, phishing, and distributed denial-of-service (“DDOS”) attacks, we now also face threats from sophisticated nation-state and nation-state supported actors who engage in attacks (including advanced persistent threat intrusions) that add to the risks to our internal networks, our third-party service providers, our collaborators and the information that they store and process. Despite significant efforts to create security barriers to safeguard against such threats, it is virtually impossible for us to entirely mitigate these risks. The security measures we have integrated into our internal networks and systems, which are designed to detect unauthorized activity and prevent or minimize security incidents or breaches, may not function as expected or may not be sufficient to protect our internal networks and platform against certain threats. In addition, techniques used to obtain unauthorized access to networks in which data is stored or through which data is transmitted change frequently and generally are not recognized until launched against a target. As a result, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or implement adequate preventative measures to prevent an electronic intrusion.
In addition, security incidents or breaches or those of our current or future collaborators or third-party service providers could result in a risk of loss or unauthorized access to or disclosure of the information we process. This, in turn, could require notification under applicable data privacy regulations or contracts, and could lead to litigation, governmental audits, investigations, fines, penalties, and other possible liability, damage our relationships with our collaborators, trigger indemnification and other contractual obligations, cause us to incur investigation, mitigation and remediation expenses, and have a negative impact on our ability to conduct clinical trials. For example, the loss of clinical trial data for our product candidates could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data.
We may not have adequate insurance coverage for security incidents or breaches or information system failures. The successful assertion of one or more large claims against us that exceeds our available insurance coverage or results in changes to our insurance policies (including premium increases or the imposition of large deductible or co-insurance requirements), could have an adverse effect on our business. In addition, we cannot be sure that any existing insurance coverage and coverage for errors and omissions will continue to be available on acceptable terms or that our insurers will not deny coverage as to any future claim.
Any failure or perceived failure by us or any collaborators, service providers, or others to comply with our privacy, confidentiality, data security or similar obligations to third parties, or any data security incidents or other security breaches that result in the unauthorized access, acquisition, or disclosure of sensitive information (including, without limitation personally identifiable information), may result in governmental investigations, enforcement actions, regulatory fines, litigation, or public statements against us, could cause third parties to lose trust in us or result in claims against us. Any of these events could cause harm to our reputation, business, financial condition, or operational results.
Our ability to use net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes to offset future taxable income or taxes may be limited.
Our net operating loss (“NOL”) carryforwards could expire unused and be unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities because of their limited duration or because of restrictions under U.S. tax law. Our NOLs generated in tax years ending on or prior to December 31, 2017 are only permitted to be carried forward for 20 years under applicable U.S. tax law. Under the Tax Act, our federal NOLs generated in tax years ending after December 31, 2017 may be carried forward indefinitely, but the deductibility of federal NOLs generated in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017 is limited. It is uncertain if and to what extent various states will conform to the Tax Act.
In addition, under Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), and corresponding provisions of state law, if a corporation undergoes an “ownership change,” which is generally defined as a greater than 50% change, by value, in its equity ownership over a three-year period, the corporation’s ability to use its pre-change NOL carryforwards and other pre-change tax attributes to offset its post-change income or taxes may be limited. Our most recent analysis of possible ownership changes was completed for certain tax periods ending through December 31 2020. It is possible that we have in the past undergone and may in the future undergo, additional ownership changes that could result in additional limitations on our NOL and tax credit carryforwards. In addition, at the state level, there may be periods during which the use of net operating losses is suspended or otherwise limited, which could accelerate or permanently increase state taxes owed.
Consequently, even if we achieve profitability, we may not be able to utilize a material portion of our NOL carryforwards and certain other tax attributes, which could have a material adverse effect on cash flow and results of operations.
Changes in tax laws or regulations that are applied adversely to us or our customers may have a material adverse effect on our business, cash flow, financial condition, or results of operations.
New income, sales, use, or other tax laws, statutes, rules, regulations, or ordinances could be enacted at any time, which could adversely affect our business operations and financial performance. Further, existing tax laws, statutes, rules, regulations, or ordinances could be interpreted, changed, modified, or applied adversely to us. For example, the Tax Act enacted many significant changes to the U.S. tax laws. Future guidance from the Internal Revenue Service and other tax authorities with respect to the Tax Act may affect us, and certain aspects of the Tax Act could be repealed or modified in future legislation. In addition, it is uncertain if and to what extent various states will conform to the Tax Act or any newly enacted federal tax legislation. Changes in corporate tax rates, the realization of net deferred tax assets relating to our operations, the taxation of foreign earnings, and the deductibility of expenses under the Tax Act or future reform legislation could have a material impact on the value of our deferred tax assets, could result in significant one-time charges, and could increase our future U.S. tax expense.
Our effective tax rate may fluctuate, and we may incur obligations in tax jurisdictions in excess of accrued amounts.
We are subject to taxation in numerous U.S. states and territories and non-U.S. jurisdictions. As a result, our effective tax rate is derived from a combination of applicable tax rates in the various places that we operate. In preparing our financial statements, we estimate the amount of tax that will become payable in each of such places. Nevertheless, our effective tax rate may be different than experienced in the past due to numerous factors including the results of examinations and audits of our tax filings, our inability to secure or sustain acceptable agreements with tax authorities, changes in accounting for income taxes, and changes in tax laws. Any of these factors could cause us to experience an effective tax rate significantly different from previous periods or our current expectations and may result in tax obligations in excess of amounts accrued in our financial statements.
Risks Related to Ownership of our Common Stock
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law and the terms of some of our contracts could make an acquisition of us more difficult and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our management.
Provisions in our Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws may delay or prevent an acquisition or a change in management. These provisions include a prohibition on actions by written consent of our stockholders and the ability of our board of directors to issue Preferred Stock without stockholder approval. In addition, because we are incorporated in Delaware, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporate Law, which prohibits stockholders owning in excess of 15% of our outstanding voting stock from merging or combining with us. Although we believe these provisions collectively will provide for an opportunity to receive higher bids by requiring potential acquirers to negotiate with our board of directors, they would apply even if the offer may be considered beneficial by some stockholders. In addition, these provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove then current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of the board of directors, which is responsible for appointing the members of management.
In addition, the provisions of our warrants issued in connection with the 2020 Public Offering may delay or prevent a change in control of our company. Pursuant to such warrants, under certain circumstances each warrant holder has the right to demand that we redeem the warrant for a cash amount equal to the Black-Scholes value of a portion of the warrant upon the occurrence of specified events, including a merger, an asset sale or certain other change of control transactions. A takeover of us may trigger the requirement that we redeem the warrants, which could make it more costly for a potential acquirer to engage in a business combination transaction with us.
Our Bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or other employees.
Our Bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the sole and exclusive forum for any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, any action asserting a breach of fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers, or other employees to us or our stockholders, any action asserting a claim against us arising pursuant to any provisions of the Delaware General Corporation Law, our certificate of incorporation or our bylaws, or any action asserting a claim against us that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine. While these choice of forum provisions do not apply to suits brought to
enforce a duty or liability created by the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), the Exchange Act, or any other claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction, the choice of forum provision may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or other employees, which may discourage such lawsuits against our and our directors, officers, and other employees. If a court were to find the choice of forum provision contained in the bylaws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions.
We do not anticipate that we will pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future.
The current expectation is that we will retain our future earnings, if any, to fund the development and growth of our business. As a result, capital appreciation, if any, of our Common Stock will be your sole source of gain, if any, for the foreseeable future.
Historically, there has not been an active trading market for our Common Stock, and we cannot guarantee an active market for our Common Stock will be sustained in the future. As a result, our stockholders may not be able to resell their shares of Common Stock for a profit, if at all.
An active trading market for our Common Stock has yet to develop, and even if an active market for our common stock were to develop, it may not be sustained. If an active market for our common stock is not sustained, it may be difficult for our stockholders to sell their shares at an attractive price or at all.
Future sales of shares by existing stockholders could cause our stock price to decline.
Concurrently and in connection with the acquisition of Private Viridian, certain Private Viridian securityholders as of immediately prior to the acquisition, and our directors and officers as of immediately following the acquisition entered into the Lock-up Agreements, pursuant to which each such stockholder will be subject to a 180-day lockup on the sale or transfer of shares of our common stock held by each such stockholder at the closing of the acquisition, including those shares received by Private Viridian securityholders in the acquisition. Upon expiration of this 180-day lockup period, these shares will become eligible for sale in the public market.
If our stockholders sell, or indicate an intention to sell, substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market after legal restrictions on resale lapse, the trading price of our common stock could decline. In addition, shares of our common stock that are subject to our outstanding options will become eligible for sale in the public market to the extent permitted by the provisions of various vesting agreements and Rules 144 and 701 under the Securities Act.
Future sales and issuances of equity and debt could result in additional dilution to our stockholders.
We expect that we will need significant additional capital to fund our current and future operations, including to complete potential clinical trials for our product candidates. To raise capital, we may sell common stock, convertible securities, or other equity securities in one or more transactions at prices and in a manner we determine from time to time. As a result, our stockholders may experience additional dilution, which could cause our stock price to fall.
In addition, pursuant to our Equity Incentive Plans, we may grant equity awards and issue additional shares of our Common Stock to our employees, directors, and consultants, and the number of shares of our Common Stock reserved for future issuance under certain of these plans will be subject to automatic annual increases in accordance with the terms of the plans. To the extent that new options are granted and exercised, or we issue additional shares of Common Stock in the future, our stockholders may experience additional dilution, which could cause our stock price to fall.
Our principal stockholders own a significant percentage of our stock and will be able to exert significant control over matters subject to stockholder approval.
Our directors, officers, 5% stockholders, and their affiliates currently beneficially own a substantial portion of our outstanding voting stock. Therefore, these stockholders have the ability and may continue to have the ability to influence us through this ownership position. These stockholders may be able to determine some or all matters requiring stockholder approval. For example, these stockholders, acting together, may be able to control elections of directors, amendments of organizational documents, or approval of any merger, sale of assets, or other major corporate transaction. This may prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals or offers for our Common Stock that you may believe are in your best interest as one of our stockholders.
General Risk Factors
The market price of our Common Stock has historically been volatile, and the market price of our Common Stock may drop in the future.
The market price of our Common Stock has been, and may continue to be, subject to significant fluctuations. Market prices for securities of early-stage pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and other life sciences companies have historically been particularly volatile. Some of the factors that may cause the market price of our Common Stock to fluctuate include:
•our ability to obtain regulatory approvals for our product candidates, and delays or failures to obtain such approvals;
•failure of any of our product candidates, if approved, to achieve commercial success;
•failure to maintain our existing third-party license and supply agreements;
•changes in laws or regulations applicable to our product candidates;
•any inability to obtain adequate supply of our product candidates or the inability to do so at acceptable prices;
•adverse regulatory authority decisions;
•introduction of new products, services, or technologies by our competitors;
•failure to meet or exceed financial and development projections we may provide to the public and the investment community;
•the perception of the pharmaceutical industry by the public, legislatures, regulators, and the investment community;
•announcements of significant acquisitions, strategic collaborations, joint ventures, or capital commitments by us or our competitors;
•disputes or other developments relating to proprietary rights, including patents, litigation matters, and our ability to obtain patent protection for our technologies;
•additions or departures of key personnel;
•significant lawsuits, including patent or stockholder litigation;
•if securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they issue an adverse or misleading opinion regarding our business and stock;
•changes in the market valuations of similar companies;
•general market or macroeconomic conditions, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic;
•sales of our Common Stock by us or our stockholders in the future;
•trading volume of our Common Stock;
•announcements by commercial partners or competitors of new commercial products, clinical progress or the lack thereof, significant contracts, commercial relationships, or capital commitments;
•the introduction of technological innovations or new therapies that compete with our potential products;
•changes in the structure of health care payment systems; and
•period-to-period fluctuations in our financial results.
Moreover, the capital markets in general have experienced substantial volatility that has often been unrelated to the operating performance of individual companies, including as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These broad market fluctuations may also adversely affect the trading price of our Common Stock.
In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities, stockholders have often instituted class action securities litigation against those companies. Such litigation, if instituted, could result in substantial costs and diversion of management attention and resources, which could significantly harm our profitability and reputation.
We incur costs and demands upon management as a result of complying with the laws and regulations affecting public companies.
We incur significant legal, accounting, and other expenses associated with public company reporting requirements. We also incur costs associated with corporate governance requirements, including requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules implemented by the SEC and The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (“Nasdaq”). These rules and regulations increase our legal and financial compliance costs and make some activities more time-consuming and costly. These rules and regulations may also make it difficult and expensive for us to obtain directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. As a result, it may be more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified individuals to serve on our board of directors or as our executive officers, which may adversely affect investor confidence and could cause our business or stock price to suffer.
If equity research analysts do not publish research or reports, or publish unfavorable research or reports, about us, our business, or our market, our stock price and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our Common Stock is influenced by the research and reports that equity research analysts publish about us and our business. Equity research analysts may elect not to provide research coverage of our Common Stock and such lack of research coverage may adversely affect the market price of our Common Stock. In the event we do have equity research analyst coverage, we will not have any control over the analysts or the content and opinions included in their reports. The price of our Common Stock could decline if one or more equity research analysts downgrade our stock or issue other unfavorable commentary or research. If one or more equity research analysts ceases coverage of us or fails to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our Common Stock could decrease, which in turn could cause our stock price or trading volume to decline.
If we fail to maintain proper and effective internal controls, our ability to produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis could be impaired, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports and the market price of our Common Stock may be negatively affected.
We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the rules and regulations of Nasdaq. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting. We must perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal control over financial reporting to allow management to report on the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting in our annual report filing for that year, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This requires that we incur substantial professional fees and internal costs to expand our accounting and finance functions and that we expend significant management efforts. We may experience difficulty in meeting these reporting requirements in a timely manner for each period.
We may discover weaknesses in our system of internal financial and accounting controls and procedures that could result in a material misstatement of our financial statements. Our internal control over financial reporting will not prevent or detect all errors and all fraud. A control system, no matter how well designed and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the control system’s objectives will be met. Because of the inherent limitations in all control systems, no evaluation of controls can provide absolute assurance that misstatements due to error or fraud will not occur or that all control issues and instances of fraud will be detected.
If we are not able to comply with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or if we are unable to maintain proper and effective internal controls, it could result in a material misstatement of our financial statements that would not be prevented or detected on a timely basis, which could require a restatement, cause us to be subject to sanctions or investigations by Nasdaq, the SEC, or other regulatory authorities, cause investors to lose confidence in our financial information, or cause our stock price to decline.
As a public company, we incur significant legal, accounting, insurance, and other expenses, and our management and other personnel have and will need to continue to devote a substantial amount of time to compliance initiatives resulting from
operating as a public company. We also anticipate that these costs and compliance initiatives will continue to increase as a result of ceasing to be an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We lease approximately 27,128 sq. ft. of office and laboratory space in Boulder, Colorado under a lease that expires in December 2021, subject to two three-year renewal options prior to the expiration, and that includes rent escalation clauses through the lease term. Additionally, we lease approximately 1,087 sq. ft. of research and development space in Waltham, Massachusetts under a lease that expires in February 2023 that includes rent escalation clauses through the lease term. We believe that our current space is suitable for our current needs.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
From time to time, we may be involved in legal proceedings in the ordinary course of business. We are currently not a party to any legal proceedings that we believe would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Our common stock is traded on The Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol “VRDN.”
As of March 18, 2021, we had 29 registered holders of record of our common stock. A substantially greater number of holders of our common stock are in “street name” or beneficial holders, whose shares of record are held by banks, brokers, other financial institutions, and registered clearing agencies.
We historically have not, and do not anticipate in the future, paying dividends on our common stock. We currently intend to retain all of our future earnings, as applicable, to finance the growth and development of our business. In addition to legal restrictions under applicable law, we are subject to certain dividend-related limitations under our loan and security agreement with Silicon Valley Bank. Subject to these limitations, any future determination as to the payment of cash dividends on our common stock will be at our board of directors’ discretion and will depend on our financial condition, operating results, capital requirements, and other factors that our board of directors considers to be relevant.
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
We are a smaller reporting company, as defined by Rule 12b-2 under the Exchange Act and in Item 10(f)(1) of Regulation S-K, and are not required to provide the information under this item.
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following discussion and analysis should be read together with our consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto included in our consolidated financial statements and related notes thereto included elsewhere in this Annual Report. This discussion and other parts of this report contain forward-looking statements reflecting our current expectations that involve risks and uncertainties, such as our plans, objectives, expectations, intentions, and beliefs. See “Forward-Looking Statements” for a discussion of the uncertainties, risks, and assumptions associated with these statements. Actual results and the timing of events could differ materially from those discussed in these forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to, those identified below and those discussed in the section entitled “Risk Factors” included elsewhere in this Annual Report.
Overview and Recent Developments
We are a biotechnology company advancing new treatments for patients with diseases that are underserved by current therapies. We are developing multiple product candidates to treat patients who suffer from TED, a debilitating auto-immune disease that causes inflammation and fibrosis of the orbit and tissues surrounding the eye which can lead to proptosis, or bulging of the eyes, redness and swelling, double vision, pain, and potential blindness. TED significantly impacts quality of life, imposing a high physical and mental burden on patients. There is currently one FDA-approved treatment for TED, which is an intravenously administered monoclonal antibody that targets IGF-1R.
Our most advanced program, VRDN-001, is an intravenously administered anti-IGF-1R monoclonal antibody licensed from ImmunoGen for TED, a debilitating condition that can cause bulging eyes, or proptosis, as well as double vision and potential blindness. Manufacturing is underway, and we expect to have clinical drug product on hand in the third quarter of 2021 and to file an IND in the fourth quarter of 2021, with initial proof of concept data in patients expected in the second quarter of 2022.
We are also developing VRDN-002, a distinct anti-IGF-1R antibody that incorporates half-life extension technology and is intended for subcutaneous administration. Manufacturing of VRDN-002 is underway, and we expect to file an IND before the end of 2021. We expect to initiate clinical development with a Phase 1 single ascending dose trial to explore safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and target engagement of VRDN-002 in healthy volunteers. Data from this trial is expected in mid-year 2022, and we expect to initiate the dosing of patients later in 2022.
In addition to developing therapies for TED, we have applied criteria similar to those used to select our TED research and development programs to identify other opportunities to develop fast-follower therapies in other rare disease indications. We intend to identify and initiate additional programs over time and plan to disclose these when we are closer to initiating clinical trials in these programs.
Agreement and Plan of Merger
On October 27, 2020, we acquired Private Viridian. In accordance with the terms of the Agreement and Plan of Merger, dated October 27, 2020 (the “Merger Agreement”), by and among us, Oculus Merger Sub I, Inc., a Delaware corporation and our wholly owned subsidiary (the “First Merger Sub”), Oculus Merger Sub II, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company and our wholly owned subsidiary (the “Second Merger Sub”), and Viridian. Pursuant to the Merger Agreement, First Merger Sub merged with and into Viridian, pursuant to which Viridian was the surviving corporation and became our wholly owned subsidiary (the “First Merger”). Immediately following the First Merger, Viridian merged with and into Second Merger Sub, pursuant to which Second Merger Sub was the surviving entity (the “Second Merger,” and together with the First Merger, the “Merger”). The Merger is intended to qualify as a tax-free reorganization for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Our board of directors approved the Merger Agreement and the related transactions. The consummation of the Merger was not subject to approval of our stockholders.
Under the terms of the Merger Agreement, at the closing of the Merger on October 27, 2020 (the “Closing”) we issued 72,131 shares of our common stock and 203,197 shares of Series A Non-Voting Convertible Preferred Stock (the “Series A Preferred Stock”) (as described below) to the securityholders of Private Viridian. Each share of Series A Preferred Stock is convertible into 66.67 shares of our common stock, subject to certain conditions described below.
Certain shares of our common stock outstanding immediately after the Merger are held by stockholders subject to lock-up restrictions, pursuant to which such stockholders have agreed, except in limited circumstances, not to sell or transfer, or engage in swap or similar transactions with respect to, shares of our common stock, including, as applicable, shares received in the Merger and issuable upon exercise of certain options, for a period of 180 days following the closing of the Merger.
Concurrently and in connection with the execution of the Merger Agreement, certain Private Viridian securityholders as of immediately prior to the Merger, and our directors and officers as of immediately following the Merger entered into lock-up agreements with us and Private Viridian, pursuant to which each such stockholder will be subject to a 180-day lockup on the sale or transfer of shares of our common stock held by each such stockholder at the closing of the Merger, including those shares received by Private Viridian securityholders in the Merger (the “Lock-up Agreements”).
Contingent Value Rights Agreement
In accordance with the Merger Agreement, on November 4, 2020, we and the Rights Agent (as defined therein) executed and delivered a contingent value rights agreement (the “CVR Agreement”), pursuant to which each holder of our common stock as of November 6, 2020, other than former stockholders of Private Viridian, is entitled to one contractual contingent value right issued by us, subject to and in accordance with the terms and conditions of the CVR Agreement, for each share of our common stock held by such holder. Each contingent value right entitles the holder thereof to receive certain cash payments equal to 80% of the net proceeds, if any, related to the disposition of our legacy programs to develop product candidates that modulate microRNAs within five years following the date of the Merger. The contingent value rights are not transferable, except in certain limited circumstances as will be provided in the CVR Agreement, will not be certificated or evidenced by any instrument, and will not be registered with the SEC or listed for trading on any exchange.
Private Placement and Securities Purchase Agreement
On October 27, 2020, we entered into a Securities Purchase Agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”) with the purchasers named therein (the “Investors”). Pursuant to the Purchase Agreement, we sold an aggregate of approximately 195,290 shares of Series A Preferred Stock for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $91.0 million (collectively, the “Financing”). Each share of Series A Preferred Stock is convertible into 66.67 shares of our common stock, as described below. The powers, preferences, rights, qualifications, limitations, and restrictions applicable to the Series A Preferred Stock are set forth in the Certificate of Designation filed in connection with the Merger. We plan to use the proceeds from the Financing to potentially advance multiple compounds through Phase 2 proof of concept studies in TED and expand our orphan disease pipeline and for general and working capital purposes.
Holders of Series A Preferred Stock are entitled to receive dividends on shares of Series A Preferred Stock equal, on an as-if-converted-to-Common-Stock basis, and in the same form as dividends actually paid on shares of our common stock. Except as
otherwise required by law, the Series A Preferred Stock does not have voting rights. However, as long as any shares of Series A Preferred Stock are outstanding, we will not, without the affirmative vote of the holders of a majority of the then outstanding shares of the Series A Preferred Stock, (a) alter or change adversely the powers, preferences or rights given to the Series A Preferred Stock, (b) alter or amend the Certificate of Designation, (c) amend its certificate of incorporation or other charter documents in any manner that adversely affects any rights of the holders of Series A Preferred Stock, (d) increase the number of authorized shares of Series A Preferred Stock, (e) at any time while at least 30% of the originally issued Series A Preferred Stock remains issued and outstanding, consummate a Fundamental Transaction (as defined in the Certificate of Designation) or (f) enter into any agreement with respect to any of the foregoing. The Series A Preferred Stock does not have a preference upon any liquidation, dissolution, or winding-up of us.
Following stockholder approval of the conversion of the Series A Preferred Stock into shares of Common Stock in December 2020, each share of Series A Preferred Stock is convertible into shares of our common stock at any time at the option of the holder thereof, into 66.67 shares of our common stock, subject to certain limitations, including that a holder of Series A Preferred Stock is prohibited from converting shares of Series A Preferred Stock into shares of our common stock if, as a result of such conversion, such holder, together with its affiliates, would beneficially own more than a specified percentage (to be established by the holder between 4.99% and 19.99%) of the total number of shares of our common stock issued and outstanding immediately after giving effect to such conversion.
On October 30, 2020, we entered into a Registration Rights Agreement (the “Registration Rights Agreement”), pursuant to which we agreed to register for resale the shares of common stock sold to Investors in the Financing. The registration statement that was filed pursuant to the Registration Rights Agreement was declared effective by the SEC on December 22, 2020.
Reverse Stock Split
On November 12, 2020, we effected a reverse stock split of our shares of common stock at a ratio of 1-for-15, and trading of our common stock began on a split-adjusted basis on November 13, 2020. Our common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the ticker symbol “VRDN,” under CUSIP number 92790C104.
As a result of the reverse stock split, every 15 shares of our pre-reverse split common stock were combined and reclassified into one share of our common stock. No fractional shares were issued in connection with the reverse stock split, and in the case the stock split resulted in any stockholders owning a fractional share, then such stockholders received a cash payment in lieu of such fractional share. The reverse stock split did not modify any rights of our common stock. The reverse stock split reduced the number of shares of our common stock issuable upon the conversion of our outstanding shares of Series A Preferred Stock to a ratio of 66.67 and the exercise or vesting of outstanding stock options and warrants in proportion to the ratio of the reverse stock split and caused a proportionate increase in the conversion and exercise prices of such preferred stock, stock options, and warrants. The accompanying consolidated financial statements and notes to the consolidated financial statements in this Annual Report give retroactive effect to the exchange ratio for all periods presented.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19, a novel strain of Coronavirus, a global pandemic. To date, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the United States and worldwide. We could be materially and adversely affected by the risks, or the public perception of the risks, related to an epidemic, pandemic or other public health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to potential delays in our clinical trials. The ultimate extent of the impact of any epidemic, pandemic or other public health crisis on our business, financial condition and results of operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including new information that may emerge concerning the severity of such epidemic, pandemic or other public health crisis and actions taken to contain or prevent the further spread, among others. Accordingly, we cannot predict the extent to which our business, financial condition and results of operations may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are monitoring the situation closely.
Financial Operations Overview
Our revenue has historically consisted primarily of up-front payments for licenses, milestone payments, and payments for other research and development services earned under a license and collaboration agreement (the “Servier Collaboration Agreement”), with Les Laboratoires Servier and Institut de Recherches Servier (collectively, “Servier”) for the research,
development, and commercialization of RNA-targeting therapeutics in cardiovascular disease. We also recognize revenue for amounts received or receivable under certain grants we have been awarded.
In August 2019, Servier terminated the Servier Collaboration Agreement, with such termination becoming effective in February 2020. We completed certain activities under the Servier Collaboration Agreement through the effective termination date in February 2020. The activities eligible for reimbursement under the Servier Collaboration Agreement were considered a research and development performance obligation and revenue was recognized through the termination date.
In October 2020, we became party to a license agreement with Zenas BioPharma. In February 2021, we entered into a letter agreement with Zenas BioPharma in which we agreed to provide assistance to Zenas BioPharma with certain manufacturing activities. Under the terms of the Zenas Agreements, we granted Zenas BioPharma an exclusive license to develop, manufacture, and commercialize certain IGF-1R directed antibody products for non-oncology indications in the greater area of China in exchange for upfront non-cash consideration and non-refundable milestone payments upon achieving specific milestone events during the contract term. Additionally, we may receive royalty payments based on a percentage of the annual net sales of any licensed products sold on a country-by-country basis in the greater area of China. The royalty percentage may vary based on different tiers of annual net sales of the licensed products made. Zenas BioPharma is obligated to make royalty payments to us for the royalty term in the Zenas Agreements. The Zenas Agreements may be considered related party transactions because Tellus BioVentures, a 5% or greater stockholder of our Company (on an as-converted basis, assuming that only the shares of convertible preferred stock held by Tellus BioVentures are converted into shares of our common stock), is also a 5% or greater stockholder of Zenas BioPharma and has a seat on Zenas BioPharma’s board of directors.
In the future, we may generate revenue from a combination of license fees and other up-front payments, payments for research and development services, milestone payments, product sales, and royalties in connection with strategic alliances. We expect that any revenue we generate will fluctuate from quarter to quarter as a result of the timing of our achievement of preclinical, clinical, regulatory, and commercialization milestones, the timing and amount of payments relating to such milestones, and the extent to which any of our products are approved and successfully commercialized by us or our strategic alliance collaborators, if any. If our strategic alliance collaborators do not elect or otherwise agree to fund our development costs pursuant to our strategic alliance agreements, or we or our strategic alliance collaborators, if any, fail to develop product candidates in a timely manner or to obtain regulatory approval for them, then our ability to generate future revenue, and our results of operations and financial position would be adversely affected.
Research and Development Expenses
Research and development expenses consist of costs incurred for the research and development of our therapeutic programs and product candidates, which include:
•employee-related expenses, including salaries, severance, retention, benefits, insurance, and share-based compensation expense;
•expenses incurred under agreements with CROs, investigative sites that conduct our clinical trials, and other clinical trial-related vendors, and consultants;
•the costs of acquiring, developing, and manufacturing and testing clinical and preclinical materials, including costs incurred under agreements with CMOs;
•costs associated with non-clinical activities and regulatory operations;
•license fees and milestone payments related to the acquisition and retention of certain licensed technology and intellectual property rights; and
•facilities, depreciation, market research, and other expenses, which include allocated expenses for rent and maintenance of facilities, depreciation of leasehold improvements and equipment, and laboratory supplies.
We make non-refundable advance payments for goods and services that will be used in future research and development activities. These payments are recorded as expense in the period in which we receive or take ownership of the goods or when the services are performed.
We record up-front and milestone payments to acquire and retain contractual rights to in-licensed technology and intellectual property rights as research and development expenses when incurred if there is uncertainty in our receiving future economic
benefit from the acquired contractual rights. We consider future economic benefits from acquired contractual rights to licensed technology to be uncertain until such a drug candidate is approved by the FDA, or when other significant risk factors are abated.
Our research and development expenses may increase if we initiate new clinical trials. The process of conducting clinical trials and preclinical studies necessary to obtain regulatory approval is costly and time consuming. We, or our strategic alliance collaborators, if any, may never succeed in achieving marketing approval for any of our product candidates. The probability of success for each product candidate may be affected by numerous factors, including clinical data, preclinical data, competition, manufacturability, and commercial viability of our product candidates.
Successful development of future product candidates is highly uncertain and may not result in approved products. Completion dates and completion costs can vary significantly for each future product candidate and are difficult to predict. We anticipate we will make determinations as to which programs to pursue and how much funding to direct to each program on an ongoing basis in response to our ability to maintain or enter into new strategic alliances with respect to each program or potential product candidate, the scientific and clinical success of each future product candidate, and ongoing assessments as to each future product candidate’s commercial potential. We will need to raise additional capital and may seek additional strategic alliances in the future in order to advance our various programs.
General and Administrative Expenses
General and administrative expenses consist primarily of salaries and related benefits, including share-based compensation, and severance and retention benefits related to our finance, accounting, human resources, legal, business development, and other support functions, professional fees for auditing, tax, and legal services, as well as insurance, board of director compensation, consulting, and other administrative expenses.
Acquired In-process Research and Development Expense
Acquired in-process research and development (“IPR&D”) expense resulted from the acquisition of Private Viridian in October 2020. The acquisition cost allocated to acquire IPR&D with no alternative future use was recorded as expense at the acquisition date.
Other Income (Expense)
Other income (expense) consists primarily of interest income, interest expense, and various income or expense items of a non-recurring nature. We earn interest income from interest-bearing accounts, money market funds, and short-term investments. Interest expense is comprised of interest incurred under prior notes payable.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
This discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations is based on our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (“U.S. GAAP”). The preparation of financial statements requires us to make estimates and judgments that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, and expenses. On an ongoing basis, we evaluate these estimates and judgments. We base our estimates on historical experience and on various assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. These estimates and assumptions form the basis for making judgments about the carrying values of assets and liabilities and the recording of expenses that are not readily apparent from other sources. Actual results may differ materially from these estimates. We believe that the accounting policy discussed below is critical to understanding our historical and future performance, as this policy relates to the more significant areas involving our judgments and estimates.
Clinical Trial and Preclinical Study Accruals
We make estimates of our accrued expenses as of each balance sheet date in our consolidated financial statements based on certain facts and circumstances at that time. Our accrued expenses for preclinical studies and clinical trials are based on estimates of costs incurred for services provided by external service providers and for other trial-related activities. The timing and amount of expenses we incur through our external service providers depend on a number of factors, such as site initiation, patient screening, enrollment, delivery of reports, and other events. In accruing for these activities, we obtain information from various sources and estimate the level of effort or expense allocated to each period. Adjustments to our research and development expenses may be necessary in future periods as our estimates change.
Acquisition of Private Viridian
On October 27, 2020, we completed our acquisition of Private Viridian in accordance with the terms of the Merger Agreement. We concluded that the acquisition of Private Viridian did not result in the acquisition of a business, as substantially all of the fair value of the non-monetary assets acquired was concentrated in a single identifiable asset, the exclusive license agreement with ImmunoGen. We considered several pertinent factors and identified the Company as the accounting acquirer in the transaction. Significant judgment was required in evaluating the terms of the Merger Agreement and in identifying, valuing, and recording the acquired assets at fair value, including acquired IPR&D, and determining the acquirer for accounting purposes..
Results of Operations
Comparison of the Years Ended December 31, 2020 and 2019
|Revenue||$||1,050 ||$||4,461 |
|Research and development expenses||28,304 ||34,794 |
|General and administrative expenses||13,265 ||11,646 |
|Acquired in-process research and development expense||69,861 ||— |
|Other income (expense), net||(335)||106 |
Revenue was $1.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to $4.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. The $3.4 million decrease in revenue was primarily due to a decrease in research and development activities related to the legacy microRNA programs reimbursable to us under a prior collaboration agreement.
Research and Development Expenses
Research and development expenses were $28.3 million during the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to $34.8 million during the year ended December 31, 2019. The $6.5 million decrease in research and development expenses was primarily attributable to an $5.8 million decrease in clinical and related manufacturing development activities associated with our legacy microRNA programs and a $5.5 million decrease in personnel-related costs, including restructuring charges. These decreases were partially offset by a $6.0 million increase in licensing fees primarily attributable to the Xencor License Agreement.
Acquired In-process Research and Development (IPR&D) Expense
Acquired IPR&D expense was $69.9 million during the year ended December 31, 2020. Acquired IPR&D expense resulted from the acquisition of Private Viridian in October 2020. The acquisition cost allocated to acquire IPR&D with no alternative future use was recorded as an expense at the acquisition date. No acquired IPR&D expenses were incurred in 2019.
General and Administrative Expenses
General and administrative expenses were $13.3 million during the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to $11.6 million during the year ended December 31, 2019. The $1.6 million increase in general and administrative expenses was due primarily to a $1.3 million increase in professional and personnel-related costs, including consulting and contract labor.
Liquidity and Capital Resources
We have funded our operations to date principally through proceeds received from the sale of our common stock, our preferred stock, and other equity securities, debt financings, and from amounts received under a prior collaboration agreement. As of December 31, 2020, we had $127.6 million in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments. We expect that our current resources will enable us to fund our planned operations into the second half of 2023.
We have no products approved for commercial sale and have not generated any revenue from product sales. Since our inception and through December 31, 2020, we have generated an accumulated deficit of $278.9 million. Substantially all of our operating losses resulted from expenses incurred in connection with our research and development programs and from general and administrative costs associated with our operations.
We will continue to require substantial additional capital to continue the development of our product candidates, and potential commercialization activities, and to fund our ongoing operations. The amount and timing of future funding requirements will depend on many factors, including the pace and results of our clinical development efforts, equity financings, securing additional license and collaboration agreements, and issuing debt or other financing vehicles. Our ability to secure capital is dependent upon a number of factors, including success in developing our technology and product candidates. Failure to raise capital as and when needed, on favorable terms or at all, would have a negative impact on our financial condition and our ability to develop our product candidates. Changing circumstances may cause us to consume capital significantly faster or slower than we currently anticipate. If we are unable to acquire additional capital or resources, we will be required to modify our operational plans to complete future milestones. We have based these estimates on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could exhaust our available financial resources sooner than we currently anticipate. We may be forced to reduce our operating expenses and raise additional funds to meet our working capital needs, principally through the additional sales of our securities or debt financings or entering into strategic collaborations.
We expect that our operating losses will fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to timing of our development activities and efforts to achieve regulatory approval.
If we raise additional funds through the issuance of debt, the obligations related to such debt could be senior to rights of holders of our capital stock and could contain covenants that may restrict our operations. Should additional capital not be available to us in the near term, or not be available on acceptable terms, we may be unable to realize value from our assets and discharge our liabilities in the normal course of business, which may, among other alternatives, cause us to further delay, substantially reduce, or discontinue operational activities to conserve our cash resources.
In March 2017, we entered into the ATM Agreement, with Cowen under which we may offer and sell, from time to time, at our sole discretion, shares of our common stock having an aggregate offering price of up to $50.0 million through Cowen as our sales agent. Cumulative net proceeds received from the sale of 189,763 shares of our common stock through December 31, 2020 were approximately $11.6 million, after giving effect to commissions to Cowen as sales agent and initial expenses for executing the “at the market offering.” We are not obligated to make any sales of our common stock under the ATM Agreement. The offering of shares of our common stock pursuant to the ATM Agreement will terminate upon the earlier of: (i) the sale of all Common Stock subject to the ATM Agreement or (ii) termination of the ATM Agreement in accordance with its terms.
In December 2019, we entered into the Common Stock Purchase Agreement with Aspire Capital, which provides that, subject to the terms, conditions, and limitations set forth therein, Aspire Capital is committed to purchase up to an aggregate of $20.0 million of shares of our common stock over the 30-month term of the Common Stock Purchase Agreement. Upon execution of the Common Stock Purchase Agreement, we sold to Aspire Capital 106,564 shares of common stock at $9.38 per share for proceeds of $1.0 million as the Initial Purchase Shares. During the year ended December 31, 2020, we sold to Aspire Capital 412,187 shares of our common stock at a weighted-average price of $21.35 per share for aggregate net proceeds of $8.8 million. As of December 31, 2020, we may sell an additional $10.2 million of shares of our common stock to Aspire Capital.
In February 2020, we entered into the 2020 Underwriting Agreement with the Underwriter for the sale and issuance of 1,000,000 shares of our common stock and warrants to purchase 500,000 shares of our common stock (the 2020 Public Offering). Each warrant has an exercise price of $16.50 per share, was exercisable immediately and expires on the fifth anniversary of the date of issuance. The 2020 Public Offering resulted in approximately $13.9 million of net proceeds to us after deducting underwriting commissions and discounts and other estimated offering expenses payable by us and excluding the proceeds from the exercise of the warrants.
In October 2020, we entered into the Purchase Agreement with the Investors. Pursuant to the Purchase Agreement, we agreed to sell an aggregate of approximately 195,290 shares of Series A Preferred Stock for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $91.0 million in the Financing. Each share of Series A Preferred Stock is convertible into 66.67 shares of our common stock, subject to specified conditions. The powers, preferences, rights, qualifications, limitations, and restrictions applicable to the Series A Preferred Stock are set forth in the Certificate of Designation.
Cost Restructuring Plan
In August 2019 we initiated a cost restructuring plan to streamline the organization, reduce costs, and direct resources towards prioritized initiatives and product candidates, which provided a reduction of approximately 50% of workforce in place at that time, primarily associated with research and development functions. Through December 31, 2020, we had recorded cumulative restructuring expense of approximately $2.4 million. As of December 31, 2020, the restructuring plan was completed and no additional expense under the restructuring plan is expected.
Summarized cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 are as follows:
|Net cash provided by (used in):|
|Investing activities||(50,481)||28,226 |
|Financing activities||101,311 ||70 |
Net cash used in operating activities was $29.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to $36.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. The $6.3 million decrease was primarily the net result of a $68.8 million increase in net loss reduced by non-cash expenses related to IPR&D expense of $66.0 million that resulted from the acquisition of Private Viridian in October 2020, a $6.0 million non-cash charge related to the issuance of common stock as payment for certain licensing fees, and a $2.8 million net decrease related to changes in other working capital.
Net cash used in investing activities was $50.5 million during the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to net cash provided by investing activities of $28.2 million during the year ended December 31, 2019. The change in cash flow from investing activities was driven primarily by a $59.0 million decrease in the related maturities of short-term investments and a $49.1 million increase in purchases of short-term investments during 2020 compared to 2019. This decrease was partially offset by $29.4 million of cash acquired in the acquisition of Private Viridian in October 2020.
Net cash provided by financing activities was $101.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to $0.1 million during the year ended December 31, 2019. During the year ended December 31, 2020, we received net proceeds from the issuance of preferred stock of $86.1 million, received increased net proceeds from the sale of our common stock and warrants and exercise of warrants of $21.4 million, and made increased net repayments on notes payable of $6.2 million.
Contractual Obligations and Commitments
We are a smaller reporting company, as defined by Rule 12b-2 under the Exchange Act and in Item 10(f)(1) of Regulation S-K, and are not required to provide the information under this item.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
We have not entered into any off-balance sheet arrangements and do not have any holdings in variable interest entities.
ITEM 7A. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
We are a smaller reporting company, as defined by Rule 12b-2 under the Exchange Act and in Item 10(f)(1) of Regulation S-K, and are not required to provide the information under this item.
ITEM 8. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTARY DATA
The financial statements and supplemental data required by this item are set forth on the pages indicated in Part IV, Item 15(a)(1) of this Annual Report.
ITEM 9. CHANGES IN AND DISAGREEMENTS WITH ACCOUNTANTS ON ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE
ITEM 9A. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES
Evaluation of Disclosure Controls and Procedures
We maintain disclosure controls and procedures that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed in the reports that we file under the Exchange Act, is recorded, processed, summarized, and reported within the time periods specified in the rules and forms of the SEC, and that such information is accumulated and communicated to our management, including our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosures. In designing and evaluating the disclosure controls and procedures, management recognizes that any controls and procedures, no matter how well designed and operated, can provide only reasonable assurance of achieving the desired control objectives, and management is required to apply its judgment in evaluating the cost-benefit relationship of possible controls and procedures. Under the supervision and with the participation of our principal executive officer, principal financial officer, and other senior management personnel, we evaluated the effectiveness of the design and operation of our disclosure controls and procedures (as defined in Rules 13a-15(e) and 15d-15(e) under the Exchange Act) as of the end of the period covered by this Annual Report. Based on this evaluation, our principal executive officer and principal financial officer have concluded that our disclosure controls and procedures were effective as of the end of the period covered by this Annual Report.
Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting
Internal control over financial reporting refers to the process designed by, or under the supervision of, our principal officer and principal financial officer, and effected by our board of directors, management and other personnel, to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with U.S. GAAP, and includes those policies and procedures that: (1) pertain to the maintenance of records that in reasonable detail accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of our assets, (2) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, and that our receipts and expenditures are being made only in accordance with authorizations of our management and directors, and (3) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use or disposition of the company’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.
Internal control over financial reporting cannot provide absolute assurance of achieving financial reporting objectives because of its inherent limitations. Internal control over financial reporting is a process that involves human diligence and compliance and is subject to lapses in judgment and breakdowns resulting from human failures. Internal control over financial reporting also can be circumvented by collusion or improper management override. Because of such limitations, there is a risk that material misstatements may not be prevented or detected on a timely basis by internal control over financial reporting. However, these inherent limitations are known features of the financial reporting process. Therefore, it is possible to design into the process safeguards to reduce, though not eliminate, this risk.
Management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over our financial reporting, as such term is defined in Rule 13a-15(f) under the Exchange Act. Under the supervision and with the participation of our management, including our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, we conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of the end of the period covered by this Annual Report. Management used the framework set forth in the report entitled “Internal Control — Integrated Framework (2013 Framework)” published by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. Based on its evaluation, management concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective at a reasonable level of assurance as of December 31, 2020, the end of our most recent fiscal year.
Changes in Internal Control Over Financial Reporting
There have been no changes in our internal control over financial reporting that occurred during our most recent fiscal quarter that have materially affected, or are reasonably likely to materially effect, our internal control over financial reporting.
ITEM 9B. OTHER INFORMATION
ITEM 10. DIRECTORS, EXECUTIVE OFFICERS, AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to our 2021 Proxy Statement to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after December 31, 2020.
Our board of directors has adopted a written code of business conduct and ethics that applies to our directors, officers, and employees, including our principal executive officer, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer or controller, or persons performing similar functions. A current copy of the code is posted on our website, which is located at www.viridiantherapeutics.com. If we make any substantive amendments to, or grant any waivers from, the code of business conduct and ethics for any officer or director, we will disclose the nature of such amendment or waiver on our website or in a Current Report on Form 8-K.
ITEM 11. EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to our 2021 Proxy Statement to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after December 31, 2020.
ITEM 12. SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF CERTAIN BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT AND RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to our 2021 Proxy Statement to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after December 31, 2020.
ITEM 13. CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED TRANSACTIONS AND DIRECTOR INDEPENDENCE
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to our 2021 Proxy Statement to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after December 31, 2020.
ITEM 14. PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTING FEES AND SERVICES
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to our 2021 Proxy Statement to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after December 31, 2020.
ITEM 15. EXHIBITS, FINANCIAL STATEMENT SCHEDULES
(a)(1) Financial Statements
The financial statements required by this item are submitted in a separate section beginning on page F-1 of this Annual Report.
(a)(2) Financial Statement Schedules
Financial statement schedules have been omitted because they are either not required, not applicable, or the information is otherwise included.
See Exhibit Index, which is incorporated herein by reference.
The exhibits listed in the Exhibit Index are required by Item 601 of Regulation S-K. The SEC file number for all items incorporated by reference herein from reports on Forms 10-K, 10-Q, and 8-K is 001-36483.
|Incorporated by Reference|
|Exhibit No. ||Description of Exhibit||Form||Filing Date||Number|
|101.INS**||XBRL Instance Document||x|
|101.SCH**||XBRL Taxonomy Extension Schema Document||x|
|101.CAL**||XBRL Taxonomy Extension Calculation Linkbase Document||x|
|101.DEF**||XBRL Taxonomy Extension Definition Linkbase Document||x|
|101.LAB**||XBRL Taxonomy Extension Label Linkbase Document||x|
|101.PRE**||XBRL Taxonomy Extension Presentation Linkbase Document||x|
|104||Cover Page Interactive Data File (formatted as Inline XBRL and contained in Exhibit 101)||x|
Schedules have been omitted from this filing pursuant to Item 601(b)(2) of Regulation S-K. Viridian agrees to furnish supplementally a copy of any omitted schedule to the SEC upon its request; provided, however, that Viridian may request confidential treatment pursuant to Rule 24b-2 of the Exchange Act for any schedule so furnished. Certain portions of the exhibit, identified by the mark, “[*],” have been omitted because such portions contained information that is both (i) not material and (ii) would likely cause competitive harm if publicly disclosed.
|*||This certification is being furnished pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350 and is not being filed for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act and is not to be incorporated by reference into any filing of the Registrant, whether made before or after the date hereof.|
|**||In accordance with Rule 406T of Regulation S-T, the Interactive Data Files in Exhibit 101 are deemed not filed or part of a registration statement or prospectus for purposes of Sections 11 or 12 of the Securities Act are deemed not filed for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act and otherwise are not subject to liability under these sections.|
ITEM 16. FORM 10-K SUMMARY
VIRIDIAN THERAPEUTICS, INC.
INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
To the Stockholders and Board of Directors
Viridian Therapeutics, Inc.:
Opinion on the Consolidated Financial Statements
We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of Viridian Therapeutics, Inc. and subsidiaries (the Company) as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, the related consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss, changes in stockholders’ equity, and cash flows for the years then ended, and the related notes (collectively, the consolidated financial statements). In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the years then ended, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.
Change in Accounting Principle
As discussed in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements, the Company has changed its method of accounting for Leases as of January 1, 2020 due to the adoption of ASU No. 2016-02, Leases (Topic 842).
Basis for Opinion
These consolidated financial statements are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these consolidated financial statements based on our audits. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (PCAOB) and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.
We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the consolidated financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. Our audits included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the consolidated financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the consolidated financial statements. Our audits also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the consolidated financial statements. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.
Critical Audit Matter
The critical audit matter communicated below is a matter arising from the current period audit of the consolidated financial statements that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee and that: (1) relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the consolidated financial statements and (2) involved our especially challenging, subjective, or complex judgments. The communication of a critical audit matter does not alter in any way our opinion on the consolidated financial statements, taken as a whole, and we are not, by communicating the critical audit matter below, providing a separate opinion on the critical audit matter or on the accounts or disclosures to which it relates.
Accounting acquirer in the merger with Viridian Therapeutics, Inc.
As discussed in Notes 1 and 3 to the consolidated financial statements, the Company completed a merger with Viridian Therapeutics, Inc. (Private Viridian) on October 28, 2020. The merger was accounted for as an asset acquisition, with the Company being identified as the accounting acquirer.
We identified the evaluation of identified accounting acquirer in the Company’s merger with Private Viridian as a critical audit matter. Subjective auditor judgment was required to evaluate the Company’s determination of the accounting acquirer due to the subjectivity inherent in assessing the reasonableness of the accounting conclusion.
The following are the primary procedures we performed to address this critical audit matter. We evaluated the design of certain internal controls related to the merger with Private Viridian, including a control related to
management’s determination of the accounting acquirer. We read and evaluated the Company’s accounting memorandum that documented the factors the Company considered in determining the accounting acquirer, including voting interests held by the former shareholder groups and the composition of the board of directors and senior management of the combined Company. We obtained and read the Merger Agreement and Purchase Agreement to identify factors relevant to the accounting acquirer determination and compared them to the Company’s accounting memorandum.
/s/ KPMG LLP
We have served as the Company’s auditor since 2009.
March 26, 2021
VIRIDIAN THERAPEUTICS, INC.
CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS
(in thousands, except share and per share data)
|Cash and cash equivalents||$||45,897 ||$||24,846 |
|Short-term investments||81,742 ||1,999 |
|Prepaid expenses and other current assets||1,972 ||2,894 |
|Total current assets||129,611 ||29,739 |
|Property and equipment, net||309 ||523 |
|Operating lease right-of-use asset, net||478 ||— |
|Other assets||857 ||— |
|Total assets||$||131,255 ||$||30,262 |
|Liabilities, Convertible Preferred Stock, and Stockholders’ Equity|
|Accounts payable||$||670 ||$||1,096 |
|Accrued liabilities||9,703 ||5,108 |
|Current portion of notes payable||— ||3,976 |
|Current portion of deferred revenue||301 ||— |
|Total current liabilities||10,674 ||10,180 |
|Notes payable, net of current portion||— ||4,328 |
|Other liabilities||544 ||— |
|Total liabilities||11,218 ||14,508 |
|Commitments and contingencies|
Preferred stock, series A non-voting convertible preferred stock, $0.01 par value; 435,000 shares authorized; 398,487 and no shares issued and outstanding at December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively
|180,801 ||— |
Preferred stock, $0.01 par value; 5,000,000 shares authorized; 0 shares issued and outstanding at December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively
Common stock, $0.01 par value; 100,000,000 shares authorized; 4,231,135 and 2,324,126 shares issued and outstanding at December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively
|42 ||23 |
|Additional paid-in capital||218,089 ||183,900 |
|Accumulated other comprehensive loss||(8)||— |
|Total stockholders’ equity||120,037 ||15,754 |
|Total liabilities, preferred stock, and stockholders’ equity||$||131,255 ||$||30,262 |
See accompanying notes to these consolidated financial statements.
VIRIDIAN THERAPEUTICS, INC.
CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS AND COMPREHENSIVE LOSS
(in thousands, except share and per share data)
|Collaboration revenue||$||735 ||$||4,308 |
|Grant revenue||315 ||153 |
|Total revenue||1,050 ||4,461 |
|Research and development||28,304 ||34,794 |
|General and administrative||13,265 ||11,646 |
|Acquired in-process research and development||69,861 ||— |
|Total operating expenses||111,430 ||46,440 |
|Loss from operations||(110,380)||(41,979)|
|Other income (expense):|
|Interest and other income||173 ||941 |
|Interest and other expense||(508)||(835)|
|Change in unrealized gain (loss) on investments||(8)||3 |
|Net loss per share, basic and diluted||$||(31.13)||$||(20.04)|
|Weighted-average shares used to compute basic and diluted net loss per share||3,557,065 |