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DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
The registrant intends to file a definitive proxy statement pursuant to Regulation 14A within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022. Portions of such definitive proxy statement are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Table of Contents
Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure
Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections
Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters
Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence
CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS AND INDUSTRY DATA
This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes forward-looking statements, which involve risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology, including the terms “believe,” “estimate,” “project,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “seek,” “predict,” “aim,” “continue,” “possible,” “intend,” “may,” “might,” “will,” “could,” “would” or “should” or, in each case, their negative, or other variations or comparable terminology. These forward-looking statements include all matters that are not historical facts. They appear in a number of places throughout this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We derive many of our forward-looking statements from our operating budgets and forecasts, which are based upon many detailed assumptions. While we believe that our assumptions are reasonable, we caution that it is very difficult to predict the impact of known factors, and, of course, it is impossible for us to anticipate all factors that could affect our actual results. All forward-looking statements are based upon information available to us on the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
The forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, among other things, statements about:
By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties because they relate to events and depend on circumstances that may or may not occur in the future. We caution you that forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and that our actual results of operations, financial condition, business and prospects may differ materially from those made in or suggested by the forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. In addition, even if our results of operations, financial condition, business and prospects are consistent with the forward-looking
statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, those results may not be indicative of results in subsequent periods.
You should read this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the documents that we have filed as exhibits to this Annual Report on Form 10-K completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements. The forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are made as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and we do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes statistical and other industry and market data that we obtained from industry publications and research, surveys and studies conducted by third parties as well as our own estimates of potential market opportunities based on our analysis of these data, research, surveys and studies. All of the market data used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K involves a number of assumptions and limitations, and you are cautioned not to give undue weight to such data. Industry publications and third-party research, surveys and studies generally indicate that their information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, although they do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information. Our estimates of the potential market opportunities for our candidates include a number of key assumptions based on our industry knowledge, industry publications and third-party research, surveys and studies, which may be based on a small sample size and fail to accurately reflect market opportunities. While we believe that our internal assumptions are reasonable, no independent source has verified such assumptions.
As used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the terms “Solid,” “the Company,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to Solid Biosciences Inc. unless the context indicates otherwise.
RISK FACTOR SUMMARY
Our business is subject to a number of risks that if realized could materially affect our business, operating results and financial condition and the trading price of our common stock could decline. These risks are discussed more fully in the “Risk Factors” section of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. These risks include the following:
Item 1. Business.
We are a life science company focused on advancing a portfolio of neuromuscular and cardiac programs, including SGT-003, a differentiated gene therapy candidate, for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or Duchenne; AVB-202-TT, a gene therapy program for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia, or FA; AVB-401, a gene therapy program for the treatment of BAG3-mediated dilated cardiomyopathy; and additional assets for the treatment of undisclosed cardiac diseases. We aim to be a center of excellence, bringing together those with expertise in science, technology, disease management and care. Patient-focused and founded by those directly impacted by Duchenne, our mandate is to improve the daily lives of patients living with these devastating diseases.
Solid was purpose-built to advance the best science and accelerate the discovery and development of treatments that may benefit all patients with Duchenne. As Solid expands to bring meaningful treatments to patients living with other neuromuscular and cardiac diseases, the values and guiding principles that drive us continue. Our corporate vision is to build an innovation platform enabling the discovery and development of high-value genetic medicines for neuromuscular and cardiac diseases by integrating internal capabilities, including a vector core, use of validated animal models, optimized expression cassettes, novel capsids and regulatory elements, and collaborations with leaders in related clinical and research fields. Our mission, which guides our operations, is to treat and change the course of neuromuscular and cardiac diseases at all stages. Underscoring this mission, our disease-focused business model is founded on the following fundamental principles:
On October 26, 2022, our board of directors approved a reverse stock split of our outstanding shares of common stock at a ratio of one-for-15 (1:15). The reverse stock split became effective on October 27, 2022. The reverse stock split was approved by our stockholders at our Annual Meeting of Stockholders on June 7, 2022. All share and per share amounts of the common stock included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including in the accompanying consolidated financial statements, have been retrospectively adjusted to give effect to the reverse stock split for all periods presented, including reclassifying an amount equal to the reduction in par value to additional paid-in capital.
On December 2, 2022, we completed our acquisition of AavantiBio, Inc., or AavantiBio, a privately held gene therapy company focused on transforming the lives of patients with FA and rare cardiomyopathies, or the Acquisition. Upon the consummation of the Acquisition, we acquired AavantiBio’s gene therapy programs, AVB-202-TT and AVB-401, additional assets for the treatment of undisclosed cardiac diseases, platform technologies and know-how related thereto.
We are focused on developing transformative treatments to improve the lives of patients with rare neuromuscular and cardiac diseases. Our current programs are all designed for treating these diseases with gene transfer products. Gene transfer, a type of gene therapy, is designed to address diseases caused by mutated genes through the delivery of functional versions of those genes, called transgenes. The transgenes are then utilized by the body to produce proteins that are absent or not functional prior to treatment, potentially offering long-lasting clinical benefit. In addition to a transgene, our gene transfer candidates include a viral capsid (a protein shell utilized as a vehicle to deliver a transgene to cells in the body) and a promoter (a specialized DNA sequence that directs cells to produce the protein in specific tissues). The vector is modified to no longer self-replicate yet still retain its ability to introduce new genetic material directly into patients’ cells. Adeno-associated virus, or AAV, vectors have been approved for use to deliver transgenes to patients, including via systemic delivery. The use of AAV vectors to deliver gene therapies has also been extensively studied by third parties in human clinical trials for multiple disease indications, and in certain of these trials AAV was delivered systemically to the patient.
About Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Duchenne is a genetic muscle-wasting disease predominantly affecting boys, with symptoms that usually manifest between three and five years of age. Duchenne is a progressive, irreversible, and ultimately fatal disease that affects approximately one in every 3,500 to 5,000 live male births and has an estimated prevalence of 5,000 to 15,000 cases in the United States alone. Duchenne is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, which results in the absence or near-absence of dystrophin protein. Dystrophin protein works to strengthen muscle fibers and protect them from daily wear and tear. Dystrophin protein also serves as the cornerstone of the dystrophin glycoprotein complex, or DGC, a group of proteins that links the inner and outer components of muscle cells to ensure proper muscle function. Without functioning dystrophin and DGC, muscles suffer excessive damage from normal daily activities and are unable to regenerate, leading to the build-up of fibrotic, or scar, and fat tissue. More than 1,000 dystrophin gene mutations, which can be inherited or can occur spontaneously, have been identified in people with Duchenne. By their early teens, Duchenne patients typically lose their ability to walk and become dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. By their 20s, patients essentially become paralyzed from the neck down and require a ventilator to breathe. Though disease severity and life expectancy vary, a patient’s quality of life dramatically decreases over time, with death typically occurring by early adulthood from either cardiac or respiratory complications.
There is no cure for Duchenne, and for the vast majority of patients, there are no satisfactory symptomatic or disease-modifying treatments. Glucocorticoid treatment, the current standard-of-care, has been shown to temporarily improve muscle strength, prolong the period of ambulation and slow the progression of Duchenne. However, glucocorticoid use is associated with well-known adverse side effects, including: severe weight gain, stunted growth, weakening of bone structure and metabolic dysfunctions, among others. The most commonly used glucocorticoids include prednisone and deflazacort (EMFLAZA).
In recent years, certain regulators have conditionally approved therapies which target specific mutations in the dystrophin gene. These therapies are indicated for only a small portion of the Duchenne patient population, and their respective efficacy profiles still need to be fully understood.
Despite recent therapeutic advances, Duchenne represents a significant societal and economic burden. The economic burden, estimated at $1.2 billion annually in the United States (excluding costly mortality and end-of-life care expenses), includes costs associated with hospital admissions, medication, frequent doctor visits and investment in assistive devices, as well as indirect costs related to productivity losses for the caregivers and costs due to pain, anxiety and social handicap. Of this amount, approximately 45% is represented by indirect costs. Only a small proportion of Duchenne patients are employed and many caregivers reduce their hours or stop working altogether to care for their children, who progressively require more help with everyday tasks, such as eating, dressing and using the bathroom. In some cases, patients also experience serious mental health issues that require additional support and treatment.
We are actively involved in engaging with the Duchenne patient, clinical and research communities to support advancement of therapies for patients with Duchenne. In November 2021, in collaboration with REGENXBIO Inc., we formally launched the Pathway Development Consortium, or the PDC, a multistakeholder initiative which aims to identify, develop, expand and maintain pathways to effective therapies for patients diagnosed early in life with rare diseases, including Duchenne. The PDC seeks to achieve these goals by bringing together a broad and diverse group of stakeholders from the rare disease and AAV gene therapy communities, including patients, industry, regulators, academia and payers, among others, for meaningful scientific and policy discussions.
SGT-003 and SGT-001
Our efforts have historically been focused on our two Duchenne gene transfer candidates, SGT-003 and SGT-001, which are designed to address the underlying genetic cause of Duchenne by delivering a synthetic transgene that produces dystrophin-like protein that is only expressed in muscles of the body, including skeletal, cardiac and respiratory muscles. Our Duchenne candidate vectors are derived from a naturally occurring, non-pathogenic virus called AAV, which was selected for its ability to efficiently enter skeletal, diaphragm and cardiac muscle tissues. The vectors are designed to carry a synthetic dystrophin transgene construct, called microdystrophin, that retains the most critical components of the full-size dystrophin gene yet is small enough to fit within AAV packaging constraints and a muscle specific promoter.
Our microdystrophin is based on three decades of development and optimization work at the University of Missouri and the University of Washington as well as other academic institutions. In preclinical studies, the laboratories of Jeffrey Chamberlain, Ph.D., from the University of Washington, and Dongsheng Duan, Ph.D., from the University of Missouri, identified a proprietary configuration of genetic components that, when administered systemically, produces functional microdystrophin protein expression that not only stabilizes muscle membranes and protects muscle against injury, but also simultaneously restores the localization of DGC to the muscle membrane, notably increasing neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase, or nNOS, concentration. In subsequent published studies, Drs. Duan and Chamberlain demonstrated in animal models that, in comparison to earlier configurations, nNOS-restoring microdystrophins were more effective in improving muscle function and resistance to fatigue.
We believe the unique functionality of our proprietary microdystrophin may result in functional benefits including diminished muscle fatigue and protection against ischemic muscle damage, which can lead to loss of functional muscle.
The expression of our microdystrophin is regulated by a modified, synthetic muscle-specific promoter cassette called CK8, which is derived from the naturally occurring muscle creatine kinase promoter. Regulatory cassettes, such as CK8, are used to prompt gene expression specifically in muscle tissues. In comparison to other regulatory cassettes, we chose CK8 due to its small size and its ability to drive microdystrophin transgene expression in skeletal, diaphragm and cardiac muscle tissues. In our preclinical studies in small and large animal models, CK8 restricted microdystrophin transgene expression to these muscles.
In contrast to some other therapeutic approaches, our Duchenne candidates are agnostic to specific mutations in the dystrophin gene.
SGT-003, our next-generation Duchenne gene transfer candidate program, is a preclinical candidate designed to preserve muscle function in Duchenne patients after a single administration and is based on some of the most recent understanding of dystrophin biology in the field. SGT-003 utilizes an updated construct, including our microdystrophin with AAV-SLB101, a novel, rationally designed capsid derived from AAV9 and developed for enhanced muscle tropism and reduced liver uptake, to more selectively deliver the drug to target tissue. We believe the SGT-003 construct is differentiated from other gene transfer candidates and may provide unique clinical benefit.
Following in vitro studies in mouse and human muscle cells, AAV-SLB101 was evaluated in a head-to-head study against AAV9 with the CK8-microdystrophin construct in the dystrophin-negative mouse model of Duchenne (mdx mouse). Separate groups of animals were administered a single intravenous dose of either construct and the biodistribution, microdystrophin protein expression, and biomarker analyses were performed at the conclusion of the study. Overall, the in vivo study data supported the results seen from in vitro assays and further demonstrated the potential benefits of SGT-003. The mdx mice dosed with the novel capsid showed increased biodistribution (vector genome copies) in representative muscle tissues and increased microdystrophin expression compared to those administered the AAV9 vector. In addition, there were lower vector genome copies in the liver compared to AAV9-administered animals, with the data supporting a preferential distribution of the novel capsid towards muscle tissue and away from the liver. These data supported the proof of concept for the novel capsid microdystrophin construct in Duchenne and formed a basis for establishing and advancing the SGT-003 program.
In April 2022, we released additional preclinical data from reporter transgene studies in non-human primates, or NHP, and both mdx and wild type mice suggesting that AAV-SLB101 may have meaningful advantages for the delivery of muscle-related gene therapies. Data from the NHP study using a reporter transgene in AAV-SLB101 demonstrated increased muscle tropism, decreased liver biodistribution and improved efficiency compared with AAV9. The results from the NHP study are consistent with the data from the reporter transgene studies in both mdx and wild type mouse models, which suggested improved muscle tropism and reduced liver uptake.
In September 2022, we announced that we made the strategic decision to prioritize SGT-003 based on its potential clinical attributes and manufacturing process. We also released additional SGT-003 non-clinical data which reinforced previous comparative analyses that demonstrated increased microdystrophin expression using the novel muscle-tropic capsid AAV-SLB101 compared to AAV9. In an in vivo mdx mouse study, muscle tissues collected 28 days post-dosing from mice treated with SGT-003 manufactured using a transient-transfection based process showed approximately 2.3-fold higher levels of microdystrophin protein, as measured by western blot, compared to mice treated at equivalent doses with SGT-001 manufactured using an HSV based process. We believe these data continue to suggest that the AAV-SLB101 capsid, which is used in SGT-003, may be a superior candidate for muscle-targeted gene therapies, with the potential of achieving higher levels of microdystrophin expression with lower total doses, and support the advancement of the development of SGT-003 for the treatment of Duchenne.
Development activities for SGT-003 are ongoing and we anticipate submitting an IND for SGT-003 in the second half of 2023 and, subject to IND clearance, initiating patient dosing in late-2023.
SGT-001 was our first-generation gene therapy candidate for the treatment of Duchenne, and utilized an AAV9 vector with our proprietary nNOS containing microdystrophin. In April 2022, we announced that we completed enrollment in the IGNITE DMD Phase I/II dose-ascending clinical trial, a first in human study evaluating SGT-001, after the treatment of nine Duchenne patients across two dose cohorts. Other than the required ongoing observation of patients in IGNITE DMD and the completion of already in process preclinical experiments, the SGT-001 program has concluded.
One-year post treatment data relating to safety, efficacy and microdystrophin expression in muscle biopsies for patients enrolled in IGNITE DMD was released at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Clinical and Scientific Conference on March 19, 2023. Per regulatory guidelines, the trial remains active to monitor patients for long-term follow up and we expect the next IGNITE DMD clinical update to be at its conclusion, following the 5-year post-dosing visit for the last patient enrolled. As previously disclosed, our primary efforts in Duchenne are currently focused on the ongoing development of SGT-003, our next-generation Duchenne candidate which utilizes an updated construct, including transgene and capsid, designed to increase expression in skeletal muscle while reducing the dose ultimately delivered to the liver.
About Friedreich’s Ataxia
FA is a rare, inherited, multisystem, genetic disease caused by loss of functional frataxin protein, or FXN. One in every approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people suffer from FA, with a carrier rate between 1:60 and 1:100, making FA the most common hereditary ataxia. The average age of diagnosis is in the early teens, which leads to many undiagnosed patients. Males and females are equally affected by FA. Approximately 9,000 patients in the United States and approximately 26,000 patients in the European Union are affected by FA.
FA is a multisystem disease having both neurological and cardiac manifestations. FA affects the nerves and spinal cord, causing loss of control of body movements (ataxia). The most common manifestations of FA are progressive neurological symptoms, including loss of balance and coordination, loss of sensation in the arms and legs and loss of vision and hearing. A person with FA will usually need a wheelchair within ten to twenty years of symptom onset, may be completely incapacitated in later stages of the disease and may have a shortened life span. Mortality in FA is most commonly due to cardiac complications as 59% of FA deaths are from cardiac dysfunction. Only symptomatic treatment options are available, with none addressing the underlying cause of the disease, the defective frataxin gene. Thus, there is a substantial unmet need with no approved therapies and no disease-modifying standard of care for the broad population of those impacted by FA.
The primary cause of FA is a triplet repeat mutation in the frataxin gene, which encodes for FXN, a mitochondrial iron-binding protein involved in iron homeostasis. FA is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by a defect in both copies of the frataxin gene, most commonly due to GAA repeat expansions. Normal frataxin has GAA repeat levels ranging from 1 to 43. Mutated frataxin genes have GAA repeat levels ranging from 44 to 1,700. An increased number of GAA repeats between exon 1 and 2 of the frataxin gene results in abnormally low levels of the frataxin protein and accumulation of intracellular iron. This excess of iron in the heart and brain cells of FA patients promotes the production of toxic reactive oxygen species and leads to mitochondrial damage. This damage ultimately leads to progressive nervous system degeneration, movement problems, and cardiac dysfunction. Disease severity is correlated with increasing GAA repeat number in the frataxin gene.
We believe that FA is a natural candidate for gene therapy treatments. Mutations in both copies of the frataxin gene are the cause of the disease. Onset and progression of the disease are directly related to the amount of FXN expressed in cells. Carriers of one normal and one mutated copy of the frataxin gene are clinically normal. All patients express some level of FXN, and thus will not mount an immune response to the therapeutic protein. Proof-of-concept data in animal models suggests that gene therapy may be a viable treatment for FA. Thus, we believe that delivery of gene therapy to one or more impacted tissues may provide clinical benefit to patients.
Our approach for the treatment of FA is to target both the neurological and cardiac impairments experienced by patients through dual-route administration (intravenous and intrathecal) of gene transfer therapy to more comprehensively target disease pathology. We have conducted extensive characterization of our initial gene transfer therapy candidate for FA, AVB-202, which was developed utilizing an HSV-based manufacturing process, designed with a transgene encoding full length FXN protein packaged into an AAV9 capsid and under control of a universal promoter intended to drive expression of FXN in target tissues of disease, especially those of the central nervous system and heart. Preclinical data from mouse and NHP studies conducted with AVB-202 produced by an HSV manufacturing process supported preclinical proof of concept, including enhanced survival and cardiac function in a cardiac-specific FXN knockout mouse, and an overall favorable safety profile at high FXN expression levels.
We believe that the AVB-202 construct design, along with the planned dual route of administration, supports further development of gene therapy for the treatment of FA. We have moved to a transient transfection manufacturing method for AVB-202, known as AVB-202-TT, the development of which is underway. We are currently working to determine the most appropriate development path for AVB-202-TT and plan to conduct preclinical studies with this candidate in 2023.
Genetic cardiac disease, or inherited cardiac conditions, is an umbrella terms to describe cardiac diseases caused by mutations in one or more genes. Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that impairs the ability of the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body, resulting in arrhythmias, backup of blood into the lungs and other parts of the body, and ultimately heart failure. Forms of cardiomyopathy include dilated, or DCM, hypertrophic, or HCM, and arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy. DCM is characterized by left ventricular enlargement and systolic dysfunction leading to heart failure and/or arrhythmia with significantly heightened risk of sudden cardiac death. DCM is the most common indication for heart transplant and the third most common cause of heart failure, with an annual incidence rate of sudden cardiac death of between 2% to 4%. Approximately 20% to 37% of DCM is estimated to be based on genetic causes. Individual patient prognosis varies, but patients with certain mutation profiles often present with arrhythmia and/or heart failure by approximately age 40 and have an overall severe risk of adverse cardiac events. There is a significant unmet need for gene therapy in DCM given a lack of available disease-modifying therapies and a high morbidity/mortality with burdensome standard-of-care for these patients.
About BAG3-mediated DCM
Our lead cardiac program is directed to BAG3-mediated dilated cardiomyopathy. BAG3-mediated DCM is a rare cardiac disease and is characterized by mutations in the BAG3 gene. The BAG3 gene codes for the BCL-2-associated athanogene 3, or BAG3, protein. Sufficient levels of functional BAG3 are required for healthy cardiac function. BAG3 gene mutations lead to reduced BAG3 protein levels and ultimately DCM. Deletions and truncations in the BAG3 protein that result in haplo-insufficiency have been associated with the development of dilated cardiomyopathy resulting from myofilament damage, poor contraction, left ventricular dysfunction, dilatation and heart failure. Mechanistically, these physiologic impairments are caused from decreased BAG3 protein levels leading to heat shock protein dysfunction and a subsequent build-up of mis-folded, dysfunctional proteins in the sarcomere, which results in poor sarcomere integrity, increased mechanical stress, inflammation, remodeling and fibrosis. BAG3-mediated DCM accounts for approximately 3-4% of all diagnosed cases of DCM, representing a prevalent population of about 29,000 patients in the United States. The most common presentation of BAG3-mediated DCM is dyspnea but can range from leg swelling and fatigue to more severe complications including thromboembolic events, arrhythmias or even sudden cardiac death. Thus, activities of daily life are severely impacted in patients with BAG3-mediated DCM. Once patients are symptomatic, mortality is approximately 25% at one year and approximately 50% at five years. The penetrance of DCM in patients with BAG3 haploinsufficiency is 80% by age 40. There are no approved therapies to address the underlying cause of the disease and the current standard of care relies on symptomatic treatment depending on disease severity/progression. Treating the underlying cause of BAG3-mediated DCM requires expression of functional BAG3 within the heart muscle only.
We are currently developing a preclinical stage candidate, AVB-401, for the treatment of BAG3-mediated DCM utilizing the AAVrh74 capsid and a muscle-specific promoter. Preclinical data in wild type mice indicate that the AAVrh74 capsid and muscle-specific promoter combination show enhanced cardiac biodistribution and expression and decreased liver expression relative to an AAV9 capsid and constitutive promoter combination at doses of 5E13 vg/kg or less. Thus, we believe that AVB-401 has the potential to allow for a more targeted, lower dose systemic AAV therapeutic.
Other Cardiac Programs
We also have two pipeline programs, AVB-501 for DCM and AVB-601 for HCM, that are both in preclinical development to treat undisclosed cardiac indications.
In addition to our gene transfer candidates, we have development programs focusing on platform technologies, including novel capsid libraries and dual gene expression, a technology that allows us to package multiple transgenes into one vector. These programs are part of our ongoing research efforts to develop innovative technologies that we believe may hold potential to translate into meaningful treatments, and drive future pipeline expansion, which we may seek to out-license to or develop through partnerships and collaborations with other biotechnology companies.
Novel Capsid Programs
Our novel capsid programs are directed toward developing skeletal and cardiac capsid libraries using two strategies designed to enhance skeletal and cardiac muscle tropism. Preclinical data in both wild-type and disease animal models demonstrated that we have developed a library of novel capsids that have shown increased muscle tropism with concomitant decreased liver biodistribution, resulting in improved efficiency compared to AAV9.
We have developed a rationally designed library of novel AAV capsids with the goal of improving skeletal muscle tropism. We approached this through the insertion of unique peptide sequences into traditional capsids and initially evaluated these candidates through an in vitro screening platform. The primary goal of developing this library was to generate capsids that preferentially target and transduce skeletal muscle cells, compared to traditional capsids such as AAV9. Candidate novel capsids were packaged with our microdystrophin transgene under the control of a muscle-specific promoter, such as CK8, and used to transduce muscle cells. Evaluation of microdystrophin expression from in vitro studies performed in mouse muscle cell lines showed multiple-fold increases in numerous novel capsid candidates over AAV9. Further in vitro characterization of these capsids was performed in human Duchenne muscle cell lines. Results from these studies showed similar findings of multiple-fold increases in expression for novel capsid candidates over AAV9.
Non-specific novel capsids were packaged comprised of a bioluminescent protein (luciferase) under the control of a ubiquitous promoter (CMV) in order to allow expression across a wide range of tissue types. These constructs were further evaluated in vivo in both mdx and wild-type mice to understand the potential broader applicability of these capsids for other indications. Results from this study supports preferential targeting of muscle, with increases in biodistribution and expression over AAV9 across muscle tissues and decreased biodistribution and expression compared to AAV9 in the liver, and the potential applicability to a wide variety of indications that may benefit from such a targeting profile, in addition to Duchenne.
AAV-SLB101, the novel rationally designed capsid being used in our SGT-003 program, was screened in our internal development platform for enhanced muscle tropic capsids. We believe that the properties of this novel capsid may allow for enhanced benefit over therapies using traditional capsids, both in terms of efficacy and safety. We are continuing to further develop this rationally designed novel capsid library. Using both directed evolution and rational design, we are also developing a library of novel AAV capsids with the goal of enhancing cardiac tissue tropism and avoiding liver transduction.
We are using non-human primates, pigs, and mice as selection models to screen libraries at the level of RNA expression. Selection for effective transduction in cardiac tissue across different mammalian species is intended to identify capsid variants that potentially utilize conserved transduction mechanisms and may therefore be more likely to exhibit efficacy in humans.
Manufacturing and Supply
Currently, we are working to develop and optimize a transient transfection manufacturing process for producing drug product for our current and future programs, including SGT-003, AVB-202-TT and AVB-401. This process will build on industry wide accepted practices and is expected to increase the yield, robustness and scalability of our current methods.
SGT-003 is manufactured using transient transfection. We selected a manufacturing process that we believe will be scalable to support clinical and commercial production needs for SGT-003. The transient transfection process was selected in order to efficiently advance SGT-003 along its development timeline. In October 2021, we announced a partnership with a cell and gene therapy-focused CDMO, for the development and clinical stage manufacture of SGT-003.
We plan to manufacture AVB-202-TT and AVB-401 using transient transfection.
Our commercial success depends in part on our ability to obtain and maintain proprietary or intellectual property protection for our pipeline programs, our platform technologies and other know-how, to operate without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property rights of others, and to prevent others from infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating our intellectual property rights. We also rely on patents, trade secrets, know-how, confidentiality procedures and agreements, and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our proprietary and intellectual property position.
We own and in-license various patents, patent applications, know-how and trade secrets relating to the development and commercialization of our gene therapy candidates and platform technologies. As of February 2023, our patent portfolio includes both owned and in-licensed patent families relating to our gene therapy programs and platform technologies.
Exclusive of our platform technologies, our Duchenne program includes three patent families with respect to microdystrophin and promoter sequences. We have filed one pending PCT international patent application, and have also exclusively licensed two issued U.S. patents, two pending U.S. non-provisional patent applications, and eleven granted patents and ten pending patent applications in foreign jurisdictions. The issued U.S. patents are projected to expire between 2028 and 2036, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions, and any U.S. patents that may issue from the pending U.S. non-provisional patent applications currently pending or that would be filed based on the PCT application would be projected to expire between 2036 and 2042, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
Exclusive of our platform technologies, our FA program includes two patent families with respect to frataxin. We co-own one pending PCT international patent application, and have also exclusively licensed two issued U.S. patents, one pending U.S. non-provisional patent application and one pending patent application in a foreign jurisdiction. The issued U.S. patents are projected to expire in 2036, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions, and any U.S. patents that may issue from the pending U.S. non-provisional patent application currently pending or that would be filed based on the PCT application would be projected to expire in 2042, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
Exclusive of our platform technologies, our cardiac programs include three patent families. We have filed one pending PCT international patent application and co-own two pending PCT international patent applications. Any U.S. patents that may issue that would be filed based on the PCT application would be projected to expire in 2042, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
We own or license patents, patent applications and know-how related to various platform technologies. Certain of these technologies may be applicable to one or more of our current or future gene therapy candidates.
Our capsid program includes one patent family related to modified AAV capsids. We have filed one pending U.S. patent application and nine pending patent applications in foreign jurisdictions. Any U.S. patents that may issue from the pending U.S. non-provisional patent application would be projected to expire in 2040, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
Our multi-packaging platform includes three patent families. We have filed two pending U.S. patent applications and fourteen pending patent applications in foreign jurisdictions and exclusively licensed two granted U.S. patents and one pending U.S. non-provisional patent application. The issued U.S. patents are projected to expire in 2035, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions, and any U.S. patents that may issue from the pending U.S. non-provisional patent applications would be projected to expire between 2035 and 2041, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
Immune modulation and dosing technologies
Our immune modulation and dosing platform includes two patent families. We have exclusively licensed two U.S. non-provisional patent applications and one foreign patent applications. any U.S. patents that may issue from the pending U.S. non-provisional patent applications would be projected to expire between 2035 and 2040 excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
Substantive prosecution of our patent applications has not yet commenced at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. We cannot predict whether such pending patent applications will result in the issuance of patents that effectively protect our candidates and our platform technologies, or if such issued patents or any of our licensor’s issued patents will effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive products. In any event, patent prosecution is a lengthy process, during which the scope of the claims initially submitted for examination by the patent offices in various jurisdictions are often significantly narrowed by the time they issue, if they issue at all.
The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term for patents in the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries, including the United States, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest filing date of a non-provisional patent application. In the United States, a patent’s term may be lengthened by patent term adjustment, which compensates a patentee for administrative delays by the USPTO in examining and granting a patent, or may be shortened if a patent is terminally disclaimed over an earlier filed patent. The term of a patent that covers a drug or biological product may also be eligible for patent term extension when FDA approval is granted, subject to certain limitations and provided statutory and regulatory requirements are met (for more information, please see “Business— Government regulation and product approval —U.S. patent term restoration and marketing exclusivity”). In the future, if and when our candidates receive approval from the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities, we expect to apply for patent term extensions on issued patents we may obtain in the future covering those products, depending upon the length of the clinical trials for each product and other factors. There can be no assurance that any of our pending patent applications will issue or that we will benefit from any patent term extension or favorable adjustment to the term of any of our patents.
As with other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, our ability to maintain and solidify our proprietary and intellectual property position for our candidates will depend on our success in obtaining effective patent claims and enforcing those claims if granted. However, our owned and licensed pending patent applications, and any patent applications that we may in the future file or license from third parties may not result in the issuance of patents. We also cannot predict the breadth of claims that may be allowed or enforced in our patents. Any issued patents that we may receive in the future may be challenged, invalidated or circumvented. In addition, because of the extensive time required for clinical development and regulatory review of a candidate we may develop, it is possible that, before any of our candidates can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in force for only a short period following commercialization, thereby limiting protection such patent would afford the respective product and any competitive advantage such patent may provide.
In addition to patents, we rely upon unpatented trade secrets and know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. We seek to protect our proprietary information, in part, by executing confidentiality agreements with our collaborators and scientific advisors, and non-competition, non-solicitation, confidentiality, and invention assignment agreements with our employees and consultants. We have also executed agreements requiring assignment of inventions with selected scientific advisors and collaborators. The confidentiality agreements we enter into are designed to protect our proprietary information and the agreements or clauses requiring assignment of inventions to us are designed to grant us ownership of technologies that are developed through our relationship with the respective counterparty. We cannot guarantee, however, that these agreements will afford us adequate protection of our intellectual property and proprietary information rights.
We also seek trademark protection in the United States and internationally where available and when appropriate. We currently own U.S. federal registrations for the marks SOLID, SOLID BIOSCIENCES and SOLID BIOSCIENCES logo, as well as registrations in the European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, and Hong Kong for the mark SOLID BIOSCIENCES, registrations in the European Union and United Kingdom for the marks SOLID BIOSCIENCES logo and SOLID GT. We also own pending trademark applications in the U.S. and in foreign jurisdictions for the mark AAVANTIBIO and a pending trademark application in the U.S. for the mark AAVANTIBIO logo.
Strategic partnerships and collaborations/licenses
We have certain obligations under licensing agreements with third parties that include annual maintenance fees and payments that are contingent upon achieving various development, commercial and regulatory milestones. Pursuant to many of these license agreements, we are required to make milestone payments if certain development, regulatory and commercial sales milestones are achieved, and may have certain additional research funding obligations. Also, pursuant to the terms of many of these license agreements, when and if commercial sales of a licensed product commence, we must pay royalties to our licensors on net sales of the respective licensed products.
University of Washington License Agreement
In 2015, we entered into a license agreement with the University of Washington, acting through UW CoMotion, under which we obtained an exclusive, royalty-bearing, sublicensable, worldwide license under certain patent applications owned by the University of Washington relating to novel micro-dystrophins to develop, manufacture, and commercialize products for use in the treatment of Duchenne and related disease indications caused by a lack of functional dystrophin. We have the right to grant sublicenses to third parties contingent upon written approval by the University of Washington prior to executing such sublicense, which approval may not be unreasonably withheld.
In consideration for the rights granted by the agreement, we paid a one-time, non-refundable license fee, which was recorded as a research and development expense in 2015. We are required to reimburse the University of Washington for costs incurred in applying for, prosecuting and maintaining patents and pay up to an aggregate of approximately $1 million upon the achievement of certain milestones. There were no milestones achieved during the years ended December 31, 2022, 2020, and 2019. In October 2017, the first milestone was achieved under this agreement. The milestone payment was recorded as a research and development expense in the fourth quarter of 2017. In October 2020, the license agreement was amended such that we were required to pay the University of Washington $375 thousand in connection with the execution of the collaboration and license agreement with Ultragenyx, or the Collaboration Agreement, in October 2020. This payment was recorded as a research and development expense in the fourth quarter of 2020. The license agreement was also amended such that we are required to pay an aggregate of approximately $3.4 million upon the achievement of certain milestones. We must also pay royalties of a low single digit percentage of future sales by us and our sublicensees of products developed under the licensed patent rights. In addition, we must pay an annual maintenance fee until certain milestones are achieved, at which time a minimum annual royalty requirement will replace such maintenance fee and will apply to us and our sublicensees.
We are obligated to use our commercially reasonable efforts, consistent with sound and reasonable business practices and judgment, to commercialize the inventions covered by the licensed patent rights and to make and sell products based on that patent as soon as practicable and maximize sales thereof.
The University of Washington controls the prosecution and maintenance of the licensed patents in consultation with us and at our expense. In countries in which we have not requested prosecution or maintenance of licensed patents, the University of Washington may prosecute and maintain such licensed patents at its own cost. We have the first right to enforce such licensed patents at our expense. However, we may not enter into any settlement in any manner relating to the licensed patents without the University of Washington’s prior written consent.
The license agreement remains in effect until the expiration of the last-to-expire patent licensed under the agreement. We may terminate the agreement at any time upon providing sixty days’ written notice to the University of Washington. The
University of Washington may terminate the agreement upon our uncured, material breach of the agreement or if we enter into an insolvency-related event.
The University of Missouri License Agreement
In 2015, we entered into a license agreement with the Curators of the University of Missouri, or the University of Missouri, a public corporation of Missouri, under which we obtained an exclusive, royalty-bearing, sublicensable, worldwide license under certain patents and patent applications owned by the University of Missouri relating to a novel synthetic microdystrophin gene to make, sell and distribute products for use in the treatment of Duchenne and related disease indications resulting from a lack of functional dystrophin.
In consideration for the rights granted by the agreement, we paid a one-time, non-refundable license fee, which was recorded as a research and development expense in 2015. We were required to reimburse the University of Missouri for costs incurred in applying for, prosecuting and maintaining the licensed patents and pay up to an aggregate of approximately $1 million upon the achievement of certain milestones for each product developed based on the licensed patents.
Under the agreement, in the event we grant a sublicense to another party, we are required to pay the University of Missouri a percentage of the consideration received. The license agreement was amended such that we were required to pay, and did pay, the University of Missouri $0.8 million in February 2021 and $1.3 million in February 2022 as a result of the execution of the Collaboration Agreement with Ultragenyx in October 2020. These amounts were recorded as a research and development expense in the fourth quarter of 2020. The license agreement was also amended such that we are required to make aggregate milestone payments of approximately $1.9 million upon the achievement of certain milestones.
There were no milestones achieved during the years ended December 31, 2022, 2021, and 2020. We must pay a royalty of a low single digit percentage of future sales or by its sublicensees of products developed using the licensed patents. In addition, we must pay an annual maintenance fee until certain milestones are achieved, after which time a minimum annual royalty will replace such maintenance fee.
Under the agreement, we granted the University of Missouri a non-exclusive, royalty-free, irrevocable, paid-up license, with the right to grant sublicenses to non-profit, academic, educational or governmental institutions, to practice and use improvements made by us using the licensed patent rights, solely for non-commercial research purposes.
We are obligated to use our reasonable best efforts to introduce products based on the licensed patent rights into the commercial market as soon as possible, consistent with sound and reasonable business practices and judgment, and thereafter to keep such products reasonably available to the public.
The University of Missouri controls the prosecution and maintenance of the licensed patents in consultation with us and at our expense. In countries in which we have not requested prosecution or maintenance of licensed patents, the University of Missouri may prosecute and maintain such licensed patents at its own cost. We have the first right to enforce such licensed patents at our expense. However, any settlement, consent judgment or other voluntary disposition of litigation that materially limits the scope, validity or enforceability of the licensed patent or admits fault or wrongdoing on the part of the University of Missouri must be pre-approved in writing by the University of Missouri. The license agreement remains in effect until the expiration of the last-to-expire patent or the abandonment of the last to be abandoned patent application licensed under the agreement. The University of Missouri may terminate the agreement, or render the license granted thereunder non-exclusive, in individual countries if we and our sublicensees fail to achieve certain milestones. We may terminate the license agreement at any time upon providing six months’ written notice to the University of Missouri and paying a termination fee. Each of the University of Missouri and we may also terminate the agreement for an uncured default or breach of the agreement by the other party. Our ability to cure such breach only applies to the first two notices of such breach provided by the University of Missouri, and thereafter, the University of Missouri may terminate the agreement for our default or breach of the agreement upon thirty days’ written notice without an opportunity to cure such default or breach.
University of Florida License Agreement
In 2020, as amended, AavantiBio entered into license agreements with the University of Florida Research Foundation, Inc., or UFRF. Broadly, the agreements relate to FA. We acquired the agreements in connection with the Acquisition. Under each agreement we obtained an exclusive, royalty-bearing, sublicensable, world-wide license to certain patents and patent applications and a royalty-bearing non-exclusive license under the know-how, to make, have made, use, see, have sold, import and export licensed products. UFRF retains the right to practice the patent rights and know-how for internal non-commercial research, including research sponsored by commercial entities, and educational purposes.
In consideration for the rights granted under each agreement, AavantiBio paid a one-time non-refundable license fee. In connection with each agreement, we are required to pay an annual license maintenance fee until the first commercial sale of a licensed product after which time a minimum annual royalty will replace such maintenance fees. Under each agreement, we are required to reimburse UFRF for costs incurred in applying for, prosecuting and maintaining patents, pay up to an aggregate of approximately $2.9 million upon the achievement of certain intellectual property, clinical and regulatory milestones for each licensed product under the agreement and pay a low, single digit royalty on annual net sales by us and our sublicensees of licensed products on a licensed-product-by-licensed product basis. For any licensed product covered by both of these agreements, we are only obligated to make one payment for each milestone achieved and royalty payment due. Prior to the Acquisition, AavantiBio paid a single milestone fee related to these agreements in an amount of less than $0.1 million. Under each agreement, in the event we grant a sublicense to another party, we are required to pay UFRF a percentage of the consideration received.
Under each agreement, we have the right to grant sublicenses to third parties through multiple tiers, to the extent we are in compliance with our diligence obligations under the agreement and that sublicensee is subject to the terms of such agreement.
Under each agreement, we are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize products covered by the licensed patent rights or know-how and to achieve certain regulatory and commercialization milestones within estimated time periods.
Under each agreement, UFRF controls the prosecution and maintenance of the licensed patents in consultation with us and at our expense. In countries in which we have not requested prosecution or maintenance of licensed patents in a particular country or jurisdiction, the license granted to such patent rights will terminate in such country or jurisdiction. We have the first right to enforce such licensed patents at our expense.
Each of the agreements terminates on a licensed product-by-licensed product basis on the later of: (i) expiration of the patent rights covering such licensed product or (ii) ten (10) years from the first commercial sale of such licensed product. After five years, we may terminate an agreement for any reason giving advance written notice and reason for termination. UFRF may terminate an agreement for our uncured default or breach of the agreement. UFRF may immediately terminate an agreement if we bring or assist others in bringing a patent challenge against the licensed patent rights. If UFRF sends us a written demand to terminate a sublicense agreement due to such sublicensee bringing or assisting a patent challenge, UFRF may terminate such agreement if we do not terminate the license with such sublicensee.
Ultragenyx Collaboration Agreement
On October 22, 2020, or the Effective Date, we entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Ultragenyx, to focus on the development and commercialization of new gene therapies for Duchenne. We granted Ultragenyx an exclusive worldwide license for any pharmaceutical product that expresses our proprietary microdystrophin construct from AAV8 and variants thereof in clade E for the treatment of Duchenne and other diseases resulting from the lack of functional dystrophin. We retain exclusive rights to all other uses of our microdystrophin proteins, including under our SGT-003 and SGT-001 programs.
We have conducted and may conduct in the future certain activities agreed to by the parties with respect to the development of licensed products. Ultragenyx is obligated to reimburse us for personnel and out-of-pocket costs that we incur in conducting such development activities. Otherwise, Ultragenyx has decision-making authority with respect to the development, manufacturing and commercialization of licensed products. In connection with the execution of the Collaboration Agreement, we also entered into a stock purchase agreement and an investor agreement with Ultragenyx, pursuant to which we issued and sold 521,719 shares of our common stock to Ultragenyx at a price of $76.669 per share for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $40.0 million. The shares purchased by Ultragenyx were subject to a lock-up period until the earliest to occur of (i) 18 months from the closing date, (ii) the termination of the Collaboration Agreement or (iii) other specified events. Pursuant to the terms of the investor agreement, Ultragenyx agreed that, so long as it holds at least 10% of our outstanding common stock, the shares will be subject to a voting agreement, such that until the earliest to occur of certain specified events, and subject to specified conditions, Ultragenyx will, and will cause its permitted transferees to, vote in accordance with the recommendation of our Board of Directors with respect to specified matters.
Ultragenyx also agreed to pay up to $255.0 million in cumulative milestone payments per product upon achievement of specified milestone events, and tiered royalties on worldwide net sales at low double digit to mid-teens percentages. Upon achievement of proof-of-concept, we have the right to opt-in to co-fund collaboration programs in return for participation in a profit share or increased royalty payments. None of the payments under the Collaboration Agreement are refundable.
For each licensed product for which Ultragenyx decides to initiate a registrational trial in humans, we have the option to fund 30% of the development costs in the United States and European Union for such licensed product and forgo the development milestones and regulatory milestones, or the Development Option, and receive tiered royalties on a licensed
product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis ranging from a mid-teens percentage to a low twenties percentage based on Ultragenyx’s, and any of its affiliates’ and sublicensees’ annual worldwide net sales of each such licensed product.
For each Licensed Product for which we exercise the Development Option, we may also elect to share 30% of the net income and net losses on net sales of such Licensed Product in the United States and European Union, or the Income Share Option. For licensed products for which we have exercised the Income Share Option, we will not be entitled to milestone payments and Ultragenyx will pay us tiered royalties on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis ranging from a mid-teens percentage to a low twenties percentage based on Ultragenyx’s, and any of its affiliates’ and sublicensees’, annual net sales of each such licensed product outside of the United States and European Union.
We and Ultragenyx established a Joint Steering Committee, or the JSC. The JSC will, among other responsibilities, review and oversee certain development activities performed under the Collaboration Agreement, including reviewing the development plan and budget for the development activities to be performed by us.
The term of the Collaboration Agreement began on the Effective Date and expires upon the expiration of all payment obligations from Ultragenyx to us under the Collaboration Agreement. Ultragenyx also has the ability to terminate for convenience with prior written notice to us, and either party may terminate for an uncured material breach.
As described in Note 3, the Company entered into the Collaboration Agreement with Ultragenyx for the research, development and commercialization of other pharmaceutical products that express the Company’s MD5 nNOS binding domain form of microdystrophin protein. Ultragenyx is a related party since Ultragenyx is one of the Company’s significant stockholders. During the year ended December 31, 2022, the Company recognized revenue of $8.1 million associated with the Collaboration Agreement. As of December 31, 2022, there was $0 million of deferred revenue related to the Collaboration Agreement. There is $0 million due from Ultragenyx as of December 31, 2022.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by rapidly changing technologies, significant competition and a strong emphasis on intellectual property. This is also true in treatments of neuromuscular diseases, such as Duchenne, cardiac diseases as well as in gene therapy. While we believe that our focus, strength of team, expertise in gene therapy, scientific knowledge and intellectual property provide us with competitive advantages, we face competition from several different sources, including large and small biopharmaceutical companies, academic research institutions, government agencies and public and private research institutions. Not only must we compete with other companies that are focused on gene transfer technology, but any product candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future.
Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, clinical trials, regulatory approvals and product marketing than we do. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies.
We are aware of several companies and research institutions conducting clinical trials of product candidates focused on systemic gene transfer for Duchenne, including Pfizer Inc. and Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc. with product candidates currently in Phase III clinical development, Genethon with a product candidate currently in a Phase I/II/III clinical trial , and REGENXBIO Inc. which has announced that it initiated a Phase I/II clinical trial in the first quarter of 2023. In September 2022, Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc. announced that it had submitted a BLA for its gene therapy candidate SRP-9001 for the treatment of ambulant patients with Duchenne. In February 2023, Reata Pharmaceuticals announced FDA approval of SKYCLARYSTM (omaveloxolone) indicated the treatment of FA in adults and adolescents aged 16 years and older. We are also aware of several companies and research institutions conducting clinical trials of product candidates focused on systemic gene transfer for cardiomyopathy associated with FA, including Lexeo Therapeutics with a product candidate currently in a Phase I/II clinical trial and a Phase IA study sponsored by Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Government regulation and product licensure
U.S. government regulation and product licensure
In the United States, biologic products including gene therapy products, such as our lead candidates, are licensed for marketing by the FDA under the Public Health Service Act, or PHS Act, and regulated by the FDA under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FD&C Act, as well as by other federal, state and local statutes and regulations. Both the FD&C Act and the PHS Act and their corresponding rules and regulations govern, among other things, the testing, manufacturing, safety, efficacy, labeling, packaging, storage, record keeping, distribution, reporting, advertising and other promotional practices involving biologic products. FDA approval must be obtained before conducting human clinical testing of biologic products. FDA must license a biologic product before it may be marketed within the United States.
U.S. biologic products development process
A company, institution, or organization which takes responsibility for the initiation and management of a clinical development program for such products is referred to as a sponsor. A sponsor seeking approval to market and distribute a new biological product in the United States must typically secure the following:
Preclinical Studies and Investigational New Drug Application
Before testing any biologic product candidate in humans, including a gene therapy product candidate, the product candidate must undergo preclinical testing. Preclinical tests, also referred to as nonclinical studies, include laboratory evaluations of product chemistry, toxicity and formulation, as well as in vivo studies to assess the potential safety and activity of the product candidate and to establish a rationale for therapeutic use. These studies are generally referred to as IND-enabling studies. The conduct of certain nonclinical studies must comply with federal regulations and requirements, including GLPs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Act, if applicable.
If a gene therapy trial is conducted at, or sponsored by, institutions receiving NIH funding for recombinant DNA research, prior to the submission of an IND to the FDA, a protocol and related documents must be submitted to, and the study registered with, the NIH Office of Biotechnology Activities, or OBA, pursuant to the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving
Recombinant DNA Molecules, or NIH Guidelines. Compliance with the NIH Guidelines is mandatory for investigators at institutions receiving NIH funds for research involving recombinant DNA. However, many companies and other institutions, not otherwise subject to the NIH Guidelines, voluntarily follow them.
The clinical trial sponsor must submit the results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, any available clinical data or literature and a proposed clinical protocol, to the FDA as part of the IND. An IND is an exemption from the FD&C Act that allows an unapproved product to be shipped in interstate commerce for use in an investigational clinical trial and a request for FDA authorization to administer an investigational product to humans. Some preclinical tests may continue even after the IND is submitted. The IND becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA notifies the sponsor of deficiencies that require correction before human studies can begin. The sponsor cannot initiate studies until the FDA notifies the sponsor that the submitted corrections are satisfactory. The FDA may also place the clinical trial on a full clinical hold or partial clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin.
In addition, the FDA may impose a partial clinical hold at any time before or during clinical trials. A partial clinical hold is a delay or suspension of only part of the clinical work requested under the IND (e.g., a specific protocol or part of a protocol is not allowed to proceed; however, other protocols or parts of the protocol are allowed to proceed under the IND). If the FDA requires that progress to the next study is contingent on (i) FDA review of additional data and (ii) subsequent specific permission for the study to proceed, this represents a partial clinical hold.
Human clinical trials under an IND
Clinical trials involve the administration of the biologic product candidate to healthy volunteers or subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by, or under the control of, the trial sponsor. Clinical trials are conducted under written study protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria, and the parameters to be used to monitor subject safety, including stopping rules that assure a clinical trial will be stopped if certain adverse events should occur. Each protocol and any amendments to the protocol must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Clinical trials must be conducted and monitored in accordance with the FDA’s regulations comprising the GCP requirements, including the requirement that all research subjects provide informed consent.
Further, each clinical trial must be reviewed and approved by an IRB at or servicing each institution at which the clinical trial will be conducted. An IRB is charged with protecting the welfare and rights of trial participants and considers such items as whether the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trials are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the form and content of the informed consent that must be signed by each clinical trial subject or his or her legal representative, reviews and approves the study protocol and must monitor the clinical trial until completed.
Additionally, some trials are overseen by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the trial sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board or committee, or DSMB. This group provides authorization as to whether or not a trial may move forward at designated check points based on access that only the group maintains to available data from the study. Clinical trials involving recombinant DNA also must be reviewed by an IBC a local institutional committee that reviews and oversees basic and clinical research and utilizes recombinant DNA at that institution. The IBC assesses the safety of the research and identifies any potential risk to public health or the environment.
Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:
Post-approval clinical trials, sometimes referred to as Phase IV clinical trials, may be conducted after initial approval. These clinical trials are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication, particularly for long-term safety follow-up.
A clinical trial may combine the elements of more than one phase and the FDA often requires more than one Phase III trial to support marketing approval of a product candidate. A company’s designation of a clinical trial as being of a particular phase is not necessarily indicative that the study will be sufficient to satisfy the FDA requirements of that phase because this determination cannot be made until the protocol and data have been submitted to and reviewed by the FDA. Generally, pivotal trials are Phase III trials, but they may be Phase II trials if the design provides a well-controlled and reliable assessment of clinical benefit, particularly in an area of unmet medical need.
In December 2022, with the passage of Food and Drug Omnibus Reform Act, or FDORA, Congress required sponsors to develop and submit a diversity action plan for each Phase 3 clinical trial or any other “pivotal study” of a new biological product. These plans are meant to encourage the enrollment of more diverse patient populations in late-stage clinical trials of FDA-regulated products. Specifically, action plans must include the sponsor’s goals for enrollment, the underlying rationale for those goals, and an explanation of how the sponsor intends to meet them. In addition to these requirements, the legislation directs the FDA to issue new guidance on diversity action plans.
During all phases of clinical development, regulatory agencies require extensive monitoring and auditing of all clinical activities, clinical data and clinical trial investigators. Annual progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted to the FDA. In addition, sponsors are given opportunities to meet with the FDA at certain points in the clinical development program, including prior to the submission of an IND (Pre-IND meeting), at the end of a Phase II clinical trial and before a BLA is submitted.
Written IND safety reports must be promptly submitted to the FDA, the IRB and the investigators for serious and unexpected adverse events, any findings from other trials, in vivo laboratory tests or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human subjects, or any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. The sponsor must submit an IND safety report within 15 calendar days after the sponsor determines that the information qualifies for reporting. The sponsor also must notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction within seven calendar days after the sponsor’s initial receipt of the information.
The FDA or the sponsor or its DSMB may suspend a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the biologic product candidate has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients.
Finally, sponsors of certain clinical trials are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information on a public registry (clinicaltrials.gov) maintained by the NIH. In particular, information related to the product, patient population, phase of investigation, study sites and investigators and other aspects of the clinical trial is made public as part of the registration of the clinical trial. The NIH’s Final Rule on registration and reporting requirements for clinical trials became effective in 2017. Although the FDA has historically not enforced these reporting requirements due to the Department of Health and Human Services’, or HHS’s, long delay in issuing final implementing regulations, the FDA has issued several Notices of Noncompliance to manufacturers since April 2021.
Expanded Access to an Investigational Drug for Treatment Use
Expanded access, sometimes called “compassionate use,” is the use of investigational new drug products outside of clinical trials to treat patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases or conditions when there are no comparable or satisfactory alternative treatment options. The rules and regulations related to expanded access are intended to improve access to investigational drugs for patients who may benefit from investigational therapies. FDA regulations allow access to investigational drugs under an IND by the company or the treating physician for treatment purposes on a case-by-case basis for: individual patients (single-patient IND applications for treatment in emergency settings and non-emergency settings); intermediate-size patient populations; and larger populations for use of the drug under a treatment protocol or Treatment IND Application.
When considering an IND application for expanded access to an investigational product with the purpose of treating a patient or a group of patients, the sponsor and treating physicians or investigators will determine suitability when all of the following criteria apply: patient(s) have a serious or immediately life-threatening disease or condition, and there is no comparable or satisfactory alternative therapy to diagnose, monitor, or treat the disease or condition; the potential patient benefit justifies the potential risks of the treatment and the potential risks are not unreasonable in the context or condition to be treated; and the expanded use of the investigational drug for the requested treatment will not interfere with initiation, conduct, or completion of clinical investigations that could support marketing approval of the product or otherwise compromise the potential development of the product.
There is no obligation for a sponsor to make its investigational products available for expanded access; however, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act, or the Cures Act, passed in 2016, if a sponsor has a policy regarding how it responds to expanded access requests, it must make that policy publicly available. Sponsors are required to make such policies publicly available upon the earlier of initiation of a Phase II or Phase III study; or 15 days after the drug or biologic receives designation as a breakthrough therapy, fast track product, or regenerative medicine advanced therapy.
In addition, on May 30, 2018, the Right to Try Act, was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to access certain investigational new drug products that have completed a Phase I clinical trial and that are undergoing investigation for FDA approval. Under certain circumstances, eligible patients can seek treatment without enrolling in clinical trials and without obtaining FDA permission under the FDA expanded access program. There is no obligation for a drug manufacturer to make its drug products available to eligible patients as a result of the Right to Try Act, but the manufacturer must develop an internal policy and respond to patient requests according to that policy.
Special Regulations and Guidance Governing Gene Therapy Products
The FDA has defined a gene therapy product as one that mediates its effects by transcription and/or translation of transferred genetic material and/or by integrating into the host genome and which is administered as nucleic acids, viruses, or genetically engineered microorganisms. The products may be used to modify cells in vivo or transferred to cells ex vivo prior to administration to the recipient. Within the FDA, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, or CBER, regulates gene therapy products. CBER’s Office of Therapeutic Products is responsible for the review of gene therapy and related products, and the FDA has established the Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee to advise CBER on its reviews. The NIH also advises the FDA on gene therapy issues and other issues related to emerging technologies. The FDA and the NIH have published guidance documents with respect to the development and submission of gene therapy protocols.
The FDA has issued various guidance documents regarding gene therapies, including final guidance documents released in January 2020 relating to chemistry, manufacturing and controls information for gene therapy INDs, gene therapies for rare diseases and gene therapies for retinal disorders, as well as final guidance in October 2022 for Human Gene Therapy for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Although the FDA has indicated that these and other guidance documents it previously issued are not legally binding, we believe that our compliance with them is likely necessary to gain approval for any gene therapy product candidate we may develop. The guidance documents provide additional factors that the FDA will consider at each of the above stages of development and relate to, among other things, the proper preclinical assessment of gene therapies; the chemistry, manufacturing, and control information that should be included in an IND application; the proper design of tests to measure product potency in support of an IND or BLA application; and measures to observe delayed adverse effects in subjects who have been exposed to investigational gene therapies when the risk of such effects is high. For AAV vectors specifically, the FDA typically recommends that sponsors continue to monitor participants for potential gene therapy-related adverse events for up to a 5-year period. Other types of gene therapy or gene editing products may require longer follow up, potentially up to a maximum 15-year period.
Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003, or PREA, a BLA or supplement thereto must contain data that are adequate to assess the safety and effectiveness of the product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations, and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. Sponsors must also submit pediatric study plans prior to the assessment data. Those plans must contain an outline of the proposed pediatric study or studies the sponsor plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, any deferral or waiver requests, and other information required by regulation. The sponsor, the FDA, and the FDA’s internal review committee must then review the information submitted, consult with each other, and agree upon a final plan. The FDA or the sponsor may request an amendment to the plan at any time.
For products intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, the FDA must, upon the request of a sponsor, meet to discuss preparation of the initial pediatric study plan or to discuss deferral or waiver of pediatric assessments. In addition, the FDA will meet early in the development process to discuss pediatric study plans with sponsors
and FDA must meet with sponsors by no later than the end-of-phase 1 meeting for serious or life-threatening diseases and by no later than 90 days after the FDA’s receipt of the study plan.
The FDA may, on its own initiative or at the request of the sponsor, grant deferrals for submission of some or all pediatric data until after approval of the product for use in adults, or full or partial waivers from the pediatric data requirements. The FDA is required to send a PREA Non-Compliance letter to sponsors who have failed to submit their pediatric assessments required under PREA, have failed to seek or obtain a deferral or deferral extension or have failed to request approval for a required pediatric formulation. It further requires the FDA to publicly post the PREA Non-Compliance letter and sponsor’s response. Unless otherwise required by regulation, the pediatric data requirements do not apply to products with orphan designation, although FDA has recently taken steps to limit what it considers abuse of this statutory exemption. Additional requirements and procedures relating to deferral requests and requests for extension of deferrals are contained in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, or FDASIA. The FDA also maintains a list of diseases that are exempt from the requirements PREA, due to low prevalence of disease in the pediatric population.
Compliance with cGMP requirements
Manufacturers of biologics must comply with applicable cGMP regulations, including quality control and quality assurance and maintenance of records and documentation. Manufacturers and others involved in the manufacture and distribution of such products also must register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies. Both domestic and foreign manufacturing establishments must register and provide additional information to the FDA upon their initial participation in the manufacturing process. Establishments may be subject to periodic, unannounced inspections by government authorities to ensure compliance with cGMP requirements and other laws. Discovery of problems may result in a government entity placing restrictions on a product, manufacturer or holder of an approved BLA, and may extend to requiring withdrawal of the product from the market. The FDA will not approve a BLA unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specification. The PREVENT Pandemics Act, which was enacted in December 2022, clarifies that foreign drug manufacturing establishments are subject to registration and listing requirements even if a biologic undergoes further manufacture, preparation, propagation, compounding, or processing at a separate establishment outside the United States prior to being imported or offered for import into the United States.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional preclinical studies and must also develop additional information about the physical characteristics of the biologic product candidate as well as finalize a process for manufacturing the product candidate in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. To help reduce the risk of the introduction of adventitious agents or of causing other adverse events with the use of biologic products, the PHS Act emphasizes the importance of manufacturing control for products whose attributes cannot be precisely defined. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product candidate and, among other requirements, the sponsor must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, potency and purity of the final biologic product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested, and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the biologic product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.
Submission and filing of a BLA
After the completion of clinical trials of a biologic product, FDA licensure of a BLA must be obtained before commercial marketing of the biologic product. The BLA must include results of product development, laboratory and animal studies, human studies, information on the manufacture and composition of the product, proposed labeling and other relevant information. In addition, under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, a BLA or supplement to a BLA must contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the biologic product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The FDA may grant deferrals for submission of data or full or partial waivers.
Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, as amended, each BLA must be accompanied by a significant user fee. Under federal law, the submission of most BLAs is subject to an application user fee, which for federal fiscal year 2023 is approximately $3.2 million for an application requiring clinical data. The sponsor of an approved BLA is also subject to an annual program fee, which for federal fiscal year 2023 is approximately $0.4 million. Fee waivers or reductions are available in certain circumstances, including a waiver of the application fee for the first application filed by a small business. Additionally, no user fees are assessed on BLAs for product candidates designated as orphan drugs, unless the product candidate also includes a non-orphan indication.
The FDA reviews a BLA within 60 days of submission to determine if it is substantially complete before the agency accepts it for filing, and it must so notify the sponsor of that determination within the 60 days. The FDA may refuse to file any BLA that it deems incomplete or not properly reviewable at the time of submission and may request additional information. In the event that FDA determines that an application does not satisfy this standard, it will issue a Refuse to File, or RTF, determination to the sponsor. The BLA may be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application also is subject to review before the FDA accepts it for filing. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth substantive review of the BLA.
With filing of the application, the FDA reviews the BLA to determine, among other things, whether the proposed product is safe and potent, or effective, for its intended use, and has an acceptable purity profile, and whether the product is being manufactured in accordance with cGMP to assure and preserve the product’s identity, safety, strength, quality, potency and purity. The FDA may refer applications for novel biologic products or biologic products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee, typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.
During the biologic product approval process, the FDA also will determine whether a REMS, is necessary to assure the safe use of the biologic product. REMS use risk minimization strategies beyond the professional labeling to ensure that the benefits of the product outweigh the potential risks. To determine whether a REMS is needed, the FDA will consider the size of the population likely to use the product, seriousness of the disease, expected benefit of the product, expected duration of treatment, seriousness of known or potential adverse events and whether the product is a new molecular entity. A REMS could include medication guides, physician communication plans and elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. If the FDA concludes a REMS is needed, the sponsor of the BLA must submit a proposed REMS; the FDA will not approve the BLA without a REMS, if required.
In connection with its review of a BLA, the FDA will inspect the facilities at which the product candidate is manufactured. The FDA will not approve the product candidate unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure that the clinical trials were conducted in compliance with IND study requirements and GCP requirements to ensure the integrity of the clinical data. cGMP, GLP and GCP compliance requires significant expenditure of time, money and effort in the areas of training, recordkeeping, production and quality control.
With passage of FDORA, Congress clarified FDA’s authority to conduct inspections by expressly permitting inspection of facilities involved in the preparation, conduct, or analysis of clinical and non-clinical studies submitted to FDA as well as other persons holding study records or involved in the study process.
Decisions on a BLA
After evaluating the application and all related information, including the advisory committee recommendations, if any, and inspection reports of manufacturing facilities and clinical trial sites, the FDA will issue either a Complete Response Letter, or CRL, or an approval letter. To reach this determination, the FDA must determine that the expected benefits of the proposed product outweigh its potential risks to patients. This “benefit-risk” assessment is informed by the extensive body of evidence about the product in the BLA.
A CRL indicates that the review cycle of the application is complete, and the application will not be approved in its present form. A CRL generally outlines the deficiencies in the submission and may require substantial additional testing or information in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. A CRL generally outlines the deficiencies in the submission and may require substantial additional testing or information in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. The deficiencies identified may be minor, for example, requiring labeling changes; or major, for example, requiring additional clinical trials. Additionally, the CRL may include recommended actions that the sponsor might take to place the application in a condition for approval. If a CRL is issued, the sponsor may either resubmit the BLA, addressing all of the deficiencies identified in the letter, or withdraw the application. For those seeking to challenge FDA’s CRL decision, the agency has indicated that sponsors may request a formal hearing on the CRL or they may file a request for reconsideration or a request for a formal dispute resolution.
If a product receives regulatory approval, the FDA will issue an approval letter. The approval may be significantly limited to specific diseases and dosages or the indications for use may otherwise be limited, which could restrict the commercial value of the product. Further, the FDA may require that certain contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling. The FDA may impose restrictions and conditions on product distribution, prescribing or dispensing in the form of a REMS, or otherwise limit the scope of any approval. In addition, the FDA may require post-marketing clinical trials, sometimes referred to as Phase IV clinical trials, designed to further assess a biologic product’s safety and effectiveness, and testing and surveillance programs to monitor the safety of approved products that have been commercialized.
The FDA has agreed to specified performance goals in the review of BLAs under the PDUFA. One such goal is to review standard BLAs in ten months after the FDA accepts the BLA for filing, and priority BLAs in six months, whereupon a review decision is to be made. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs and its review goals are subject to change from time to time. The review process and the PDUFA goal date may be extended by three months if the FDA requests or the BLA sponsor otherwise provides additional information or clarification regarding information already provided in the submission within the last three months before the PDUFA goal date.
Biosimilars and Reference Product Exclusivity
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the companion Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or the Health Care Reform Law, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, included a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA. That Act established a regulatory scheme authorizing the FDA to approve biosimilars and interchangeable biosimilars.
Under the BPCIA, a manufacturer may submit an application for licensure of a biologic product that is “biosimilar to” or “interchangeable with” a previously approved biological product or “reference product.” In order for the FDA to approve a biosimilar product, it must find that there are no clinically meaningful differences between the reference product and proposed biosimilar product in terms of safety, purity and potency. For the FDA to approve a biosimilar product as interchangeable with a reference product, the agency must find that the biosimilar product can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product, and (for products administered multiple times) that the biologic and the reference biologic may be switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic. In December 2022, Congress clarified through FDORA that FDA may approve multiple first interchangeable biosimilar biological products so long as the products are all approved on the first day on which such a product is approved as interchangeable with the reference product.
Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date of approval of the reference product. The FDA may not approve a biosimilar product until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was approved. Even if a product is considered to be a reference product eligible for exclusivity, another company could market a competing version of that product if the FDA approves a full BLA for such product containing the sponsor’s own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity and potency of their product. The BPCIA also created certain exclusivity periods for biosimilars approved as interchangeable products. There have been recent government proposals to reduce the 12-year reference product exclusivity period, but none has been enacted to date. Since passage of the BPCIA, many states have passed laws or amendments to laws, which address pharmacy practices involving biosimilar products.
As of December 27, 2020 (enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021), the “patent dance” lists became public information as listed in the Purple Book (FDA’s “Database of Licensed Biological Products”). In particular, reference product BLA holders must submit to the FDA within 30 days of exchanging a patent list (patents with expiry dates) with a biosimilar applicant, as well as any supplemental lists. This information was previously maintained a confidential as between the BLA holder and biosimilar applicant. Despite publication of these lists, a BLA holder may assert other patents against future filers, and does not exclude enforcement of newly granted patents.
Additionally, under the Act, the FDA must now publish in the Purple Book the following information about patented biological products:
The FDA must publish in the Purple Book all of the above information in the first instance within 180 days of enactment and update every 30 days.
The FDA has approved a number of biosimilars and several interchangeable biosimilar products. The FDA has also issued numerous guidance documents outlining its approach to reviewing and licensing biosimilars and interchangeable biosimilars under the PHS Act.
Pediatric exclusivity is another type of non-patent exclusivity in the United States and, if granted, provides for the attachment of an additional six months of regulatory exclusivity to the term of any existing regulatory exclusivity, including reference product and orphan exclusivity. This six-month exclusivity may be granted if an application sponsor submits pediatric data that fairly respond to a written request from the FDA for such data. The data do not need to show the product to be effective in the pediatric population studied; rather, if the clinical trial is deemed to fairly respond to the FDA’s request, the additional protection is granted. If reports of requested pediatric studies are submitted to and accepted by the FDA within the statutory time limits, whatever statutory or regulatory periods of exclusivity cover the product are extended by six months. Thus, pediatric exclusivity adds six months to existing exclusivity periods applicable to biological products under the BPCIA—namely, the four-year period during which the FDA will not consider an application for a biosimilar product, and the 12-year period during which the FDA will not approve a biosimilar application.
Orphan drug designation and exclusivity
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a biologic product as an “orphan drug” if it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition (generally meaning that it affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or more in cases in which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making a biologic product available in the United States for treatment of the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product). Orphan product designation must be requested before submitting a BLA. After the FDA grants orphan product designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan product designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
If a product with orphan status receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan product exclusivity, meaning that the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same drug or biologic product for the same indication for seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as if the party holding the exclusivity fails to assure the availability of sufficient quantities of the drug to meet the needs of patients with the disease or condition for which the drug was designated. In addition, the FDA may not approve other applications to market the same drug or biologic product for the same indication for seven years unless the sponsor of the other product demonstrates that its product is clinically superior to the product with orphan drug exclusivity. Under Omnibus legislation enacted in December 2020, this clinical superiority requirement applies to drugs and biologics that received orphan drug designation before enactment of the FDA Reauthorization Act in 2017, but have not yet been approved or licensed by FDA.
Orphan exclusivity does not block the approval of a different product for the same rare disease or condition, nor does it block the approval of the same product for different indications. In particular, the concept of what constitutes the "same drug" for purposes of orphan drug exclusivity remains in flux in the context of gene therapies, and the FDA issued final guidance in September 2021 suggesting that it would not consider two gene therapy products to be different drugs solely based on minor differences in the transgenes or vectors. If a product designated as an orphan drug ultimately receives marketing approval for an indication broader than what was designated in its orphan drug application, it may not be entitled to exclusivity. Orphan medicinal product status in the European Union has similar, but not identical, benefits.
In September 2021, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that, for the purpose of determining the scope of market exclusivity, the term “same disease or condition” in the statute means the designated “rare disease or condition” and could not be interpreted by the FDA to mean the “indication or use.” Thus, the court concluded, orphan drug exclusivity applies to the entire designated disease or condition rather than the “indication or use.” Although there have been legislative proposals to overrule this decision, they have not been enacted into law. On January 23, 2023, FDA announced that, in matters beyond the scope of that court order, FDA will continue to apply its existing regulations tying orphan-drug exclusivity to the uses or indications for which the orphan drug was approved.
Expedited development and review programs
The FDA is authorized to expedite the review of BLAs in several ways. Under the Fast Track program, the sponsor of a biologic product candidate may request the FDA to designate the product for a specific indication as a Fast Track product concurrent with or after the filing of the IND. Biologic products are eligible for Fast Track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product candidate and the specific indication for which it is being studied. In addition to other benefits, such as the ability to have greater interactions with the FDA, the FDA may initiate review of sections of a Fast Track BLA before the application is complete, a process known as rolling review.
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 breakthrough therapy designation, priority review and accelerated approval.
With passage of FDORA, Congress modified certain provisions governing accelerated approval of drug and biologic products. Specifically, the new legislation authorized the FDA to: require a sponsor to have its confirmatory clinical trial underway before accelerated approval is awarded, require a sponsor of a product granted accelerated approval to submit progress reports on its post-approval studies to FDA every six months (until the study is completed) and use expedited procedures to withdraw accelerated approval of an NDA or BLA after the confirmatory trial fails to verify the product’s clinical benefit. Further, FDORA requires the agency to publish on its website “the rationale for why a post-approval study is not appropriate or necessary” whenever it decides not to require such a study upon granting accelerated approval.
None of these expedited programs change the standards for approval but they may help expedite the development or approval process of product candidates.
Rare Pediatric Disease Designation and Priority Review Vouchers
In 2012, Congress enacted the FDASIA, requiring the FDA to award priority review vouchers, or PRVs, to sponsors of certain rare pediatric disease product applications. This program is designed to encourage development of new drug and biological products for prevention and treatment of “rare pediatric diseases” by, upon initial approval of an application meeting certain specified criteria, providing companies with a voucher that can be redeemed to receive a priority review of a subsequent marketing application for a different product. The sponsor of a rare pediatric disease product receiving a PRV may sell or otherwise transfer the voucher to another company. The voucher may be further transferred any number of times before the voucher is used, as long as the sponsor making the transfer has not yet submitted an application relying on the priority review voucher. The FDA may also revoke any PRV if the rare pediatric disease product for which the voucher was awarded is not marketed in the United States within one year following the date of approval.
In order to receive a PRV upon BLA or NDA approval, the product must receive designation from the FDA as a product for a rare pediatric disease prior to submission of the marketing application. A “rare pediatric disease” is a disease that is serious or life-threatening, in which the serious or life-threatening manifestations primarily affect individuals aged from birth to 18 years and affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States, or affects more than 200,000 people in the United States but there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available in the United States a product for such disease or condition will be recovered from sales in the United States of such product. In addition to receiving rare pediatric disease designation, in order to receive a PRV, the NDA or BLA must be given priority review, rely on clinical data derived from studies examining a pediatric population and dosages of the product intended for that population, not seek approval for a different adult indication in the original rare pediatric disease product application and be for a product that does not include a previously approved active ingredient.
The Rare Pediatric Disease PRV program was scheduled to expire after September 30, 2020. After that, only drugs designated as rare pediatric treatments and approved by the FDA by October 1, 2022, could receive a voucher. In December 2020, however, Congress renewed the program as part of the 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Consolidated Appropriations Act through the federal fiscal year 2024. Thus, under the current statutory sunset provisions, FDA may only award PRVs for approved rare pediatric disease product applications if sponsors have rare pediatric disease designation for the drug granted by September 30, 2024. The FDA may not award any rare pediatric disease PRVs after September 30, 2026.
After regulatory approval of a product is obtained, there may be a number of post-approval requirements. For example, as a condition of approval of a BLA, the FDA may require post-marketing testing and surveillance to monitor the product’s safety or efficacy. In addition, holders of an approved BLA are required to keep extensive records, to report certain adverse reactions and production problems to the FDA, to provide updated safety and efficacy information and to comply with requirements concerning advertising and promotional labeling for their products. Also, quality control and manufacturing procedures must continue to conform to cGMP regulations and practices, as well as the manufacturing conditions of approval set forth in the BLA. The FDA periodically inspects manufacturing facilities to assess compliance with cGMP requirements, which impose certain procedural, substantive and recordkeeping requirements. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP and other aspects of regulatory compliance.
The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of products that are placed on the market. Products 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 September 2021, the FDA published final regulations which describe the types of evidence that the agency will consider in determining the intended use of a biologic product.
It may be permissible, under very specific, narrow conditions, for a manufacturer to engage in nonpromotional, non-misleading communication regarding off-label information, such as distributing scientific or medical journal information. Moreover, with passage of the Pre-Approval Information Exchange Act in December 2022, sponsors of products that have not been approved may proactively communicate to payors certain information about products in development to help expedite patient access upon product approval. Previously, such communications were permitted under FDA guidance but the new legislation explicitly provides protection to sponsors who convey certain information about products in development to payors, including unapproved uses of approved products.
If a company is found to have promoted off-label uses, it may become subject to adverse public relations and administrative and judicial enforcement by the FDA, the Department of Justice, or the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as state authorities. This could subject a company to a range of penalties that could have a significant commercial impact, including civil and criminal fines and agreements that materially restrict the manner in which a company promotes or distributes drug products.
U.S. patent term restoration
Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of FDA approval of product candidates, some of a sponsor’s U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, or the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent restoration term of up to five years as compensation for patent terms lost during product development and FDA regulatory review process. However, patent term restoration cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date. The patent term restoration period generally is one-half the time between the effective date of an IND and the submission date of a BLA plus the time between the submission date of a BLA and the approval of that application. Only one patent applicable to an approved biologic product is eligible for the extension, the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent, and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. Moreover, a given patent may only be extended once based on a single product. The USPTO in consultation with the FDA, reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension or restoration.
Government regulation outside of the U.S.
In addition to regulations in the United States, a manufacturer is subject to a variety of regulations in foreign jurisdictions to the extent it chooses to sell any products in those foreign countries. Even if a manufacturer obtains FDA approval of a product, it must still obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. Because biologically sourced materials are subject to unique contamination risks, their use may also be restricted in some countries.
Clinical trial approval in the European Union
On January 31, 2022, the new Clinical Trials Regulation (EU) No 536/2014 became effective in the European Union and replaced the prior Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC. The new regulation aims at simplifying and streamlining the authorization, conduct and transparency of clinical trials in the European Union. Under the new coordinated procedure for the approval of clinical trials, the sponsor of a clinical trial to be conducted in more than one Member State of the European Union, or EU Member State, will only be required to submit a single application for approval. The submission will be made through the Clinical Trials Information System, a new clinical trials portal overseen by the EMA and available to clinical trial sponsors, competent authorities of the EU Member States and the public.
Beyond streamlining the process, the new Regulation includes a single set of documents to be prepared and submitted for the application as well as simplified reporting procedures for clinical trial sponsors, and a harmonized procedure for the assessment of applications for clinical trials, which is divided in two parts. Part I is assessed by the competent authorities of all EU Member States in which an application for authorization of a clinical trial has been submitted (Member States concerned). Part II is assessed separately by each Member State concerned. Strict deadlines have been established for the assessment of clinical trial applications. The role of the relevant ethics committees in the assessment procedure will continue to be governed by the national law of the concerned EU Member State. However, overall related timelines will be defined by the Clinical Trials Regulation.
The new regulation did not change the preexisting requirement that a sponsor must obtain prior approval from the competent national authority of the EU Member State in which the clinical trial is to be conducted. If the clinical trial is conducted in different EU Member States, the competent authorities in each of these EU Member States must provide their approval for the conduct of the clinical trial. Furthermore, the sponsor may only start a clinical trial at a specific study site after the applicable ethics committee has issued a favorable opinion.
Parties conducting certain clinical studies must, as in the U.S., post clinical trial information in the European Union at the EudraCT website: https://eudract.ema.europa.eu.
In March 2016, the EMA, launched the PRIority MEdicines, or PRIME, initiative to foster research and development of medicines that may offer a major therapeutic advantage over existing treatments, or benefit patients without treatment options. PRIME aims to strengthen clinical trial designs to facilitate the generation of high-quality data for the evaluation of an application for marketing authorization. To be accepted for PRIME, a medicine has to show its potential to benefit patients
with unmet medical needs based on preclinical and/or early clinical data. These medicines are considered priority medicines within the European Union.
After an investigational candidate has been selected for PRIME, developers are assigned a rapporteur from the Committee for Human Medicinal Products, or CHMP, to provide continuous support and help to build knowledge ahead of a marketing authorization application, or MAA. A multidisciplinary group of experts will provide broader guidance on the overall development plan and regulatory strategy of the product. Companies are also eligible for accelerated assessment at the time of their regulatory application.
Sponsors developing a new medicinal product must agree upon a Pediatric Investigation Plan, or PIP, with the EMA’s pediatric committee, or PDCO, and must conduct pediatric clinical trials in accordance with that PIP, unless a waiver applies (e.g., because the relevant disease or condition occurs only in adults). The PIP sets out the timing and measures proposed to generate data to support a pediatric indication of the drug for which marketing authorization is being sought. The marketing authorization application for the product must include the results of pediatric clinical trials conducted in accordance with the PIP, unless a waiver applies, or a deferral has been granted by the PDCO of the obligation to implement some or all of the measures of the PIP until there are sufficient data to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the product in adults, in which case the pediatric clinical trials must be completed at a later date.
In the European Union, marketing authorizations for medicinal products may be obtained through several different procedures founded on the same basic regulatory process.
The centralized procedure provides for the grant of a single marketing authorization by the European Commission that is valid across the European Economic Area (i.e., the EU as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The centralized procedure is compulsory for medicinal products produced by certain biotechnological processes, products designated as orphan medicinal products, and products with a new active substance indicated for the treatment of certain diseases. It is optional for those products that are highly innovative or for which a centralized process is in the interest of patients. Under the centralized procedure in the European Union, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of an MAA is 210 days, excluding clock stops, when additional written or oral information is to be provided by the sponsor in response to questions asked by the CHMP. Accelerated evaluation may be granted by the CHMP in exceptional cases. These are defined as circumstances in which a medicinal product is expected to be of a “major public health interest.” Three cumulative criteria must be fulfilled in such circumstances: the seriousness of the disease, such as severely disabling or life-threatening diseases, to be treated; the absence or insufficiency of an appropriate alternative therapeutic approach; and anticipation of high therapeutic benefit. In these circumstances, the EMA ensures that the opinion of the CHMP is given within 150 days.
The EMA’s Committee for Advanced Therapies, or CAT, is responsible for assessing the quality, safety and efficacy of advanced-therapy medicinal products. Advanced-therapy medical products include gene therapy medicine, somatic cell therapy medicines and tissue-engineered medicines. The role of the CAT is to prepare a draft opinion on an application for marketing authorization for a gene therapy medicinal candidate that is submitted to the EMA. In the EU, the development and evaluation of a gene therapy medicinal product must be considered in the context of the relevant EU guidelines. The EMA may issue new guidelines concerning the development and marketing authorization for somatic cell therapy medicinal products and require that we comply with these new guidelines. Similarly, complex regulatory environments exist in other jurisdictions in which we might consider seeking regulatory approvals for our product candidates, further complicating the regulatory landscape. As a result, the procedures and standards applied to gene therapy products and cell therapy products may be applied to any of our gene therapy or genome editing candidates, but that remains uncertain at this point.
Specifically, the grant of marketing authorization in the European Union for products containing viable human tissues or cells such as gene therapy medicinal products is governed by Regulation 1394/2007/EC on advanced therapy medicinal products, read in combination with Directive 2001/83/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, commonly known as the Community code on medicinal products. Regulation 1394/2007/EC includes specific rules concerning the authorization, supervision, and pharmacovigilance of gene therapy medicinal products, somatic cell therapy medicinal products, and tissue engineered products. Manufacturers of advanced therapy medicinal products must demonstrate the quality, safety, and efficacy of their products to EMA which provides an opinion regarding the MAA. The European Commission grants or refuses marketing authorization in light of the opinion delivered by EMA.
The decentralized procedure provides for approval by one or more other concerned EU Member States of an assessment of an application for marketing authorization conducted by one EU Member State, known as the reference EU Member State. In accordance with this procedure, a sponsor submits an application for marketing authorization to the reference EU Member State and the concerned EU Member States. This application is identical to the application that would be submitted to the EMA for authorization through the centralized procedure. The reference EU Member State prepares a draft assessment and drafts of the related materials within 120 days after receipt of a valid application. The resulting assessment report is submitted to the concerned EU Member States which, within 90 days of receipt, must decide whether to approve the assessment report and related materials.
If a concerned EU Member State cannot approve the assessment report and related materials due to concerns relating to a potential serious risk to public health, disputed elements may be referred to the European Commission, whose decision is binding on all EU Member States. In accordance with the mutual recognition procedure, the sponsor applies for national marketing authorization in one EU Member State. Upon receipt of this authorization the sponsor can then seek the recognition of this authorization by other EU Member States. Authorization in accordance with either of these procedures will result in authorization of the medicinal product only in the reference EU Member State and in the other concerned EU Member States.
A marketing authorization may be granted only to a sponsor established in the European Union. Regulation No. 1901/2006 provides that, prior to obtaining a marketing authorization in the European Union, a sponsor must demonstrate compliance with all measures included in a Pediatric Investigation Plan, or PIP, approved by the Pediatric Committee of the EMA, covering all subsets of the pediatric population, unless the EMA has granted a product-specific waiver, class waiver, or a deferral for one or more of the measures included in the PIP.
In specific circumstances, E.U. legislation on Conditional Marketing Authorizations for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or conditional marketing authorization, enables sponsors to obtain a conditional marketing authorization prior to obtaining the comprehensive clinical data required for an application for a full marketing authorization. Such conditional approvals may be granted for product candidates (including medicines designated as orphan medicinal products) if the risk-benefit balance of the product candidate is positive, it is likely that the sponsor will be in a position to provide the required comprehensive clinical trial data, the product fulfills unmet medical needs and the benefit to public health of the immediate availability on the market of the medicinal product concerned outweighs the risk inherent in the fact that additional data are still required. A conditional marketing authorization may contain specific obligations to be fulfilled by the marketing authorization holder, including obligations with respect to the completion of ongoing or new studies, and with respect to the collection of pharmacovigilance data.
Conditional marketing authorization
Conditional marketing authorizations are valid for one year, and may be renewed annually, if the risk-benefit balance remains positive, and after an assessment of the need for additional or modified conditions and/or specific obligations. The timelines for the centralized procedure described above also apply with respect to the review by the CHMP of applications for a conditional marketing authorization.
The requirements and processes governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. In all cases, the clinical trials are conducted in accordance with GCPs and the applicable regulatory requirements of the country or countries in which the clinical trial is performed, as well as the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki (whichever provides the greater protection to the clinical trial participants).
General Data Protection Regulation
The collection, use, disclosure, transfer, or other processing of personal data regarding individuals in the EU, including personal health data, is subject to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, which became effective on May 25, 2018. The GDPR is wide-ranging in scope and imposes numerous requirements on companies that process personal data, including requirements relating to processing health and other sensitive data, obtaining consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, providing information to individuals regarding data processing activities, implementing safeguards to protect the security and confidentiality of personal data, providing notification of data breaches, and taking certain measures when engaging third-party processors. The GDPR also imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data to countries outside the EU, including the U.S., and permits data protection authorities to impose large penalties for violations of the GDPR, including potential fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual global revenues, whichever is greater. The GDPR also confers a private right of action on data subjects and consumer associations to lodge complaints with supervisory authorities, seek judicial remedies, and obtain compensation for damages resulting from violations of the GDPR.
Compliance with the GDPR will be a rigorous and time-intensive process that may increase the cost of doing business or require companies to change their business practices to ensure full compliance. In July 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union, or the CJEU, invalidated the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, one of the mechanisms used to legitimize the transfer of personal data from the EEA to the United States. The CJEU decision also drew into question the long-term viability of an alternative means of data transfer, the standard contractual clauses, for transfers of personal data from the EEA to the United States.
Additionally, in October 2022, President Biden signed an executive order to implement the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework, which would serve as a replacement to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. The European Commission initiated the process to adopt an adequacy decision for the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework in December 2022. It is unclear if and when the framework will be finalized and whether it will be challenged in court. The uncertainty around this issue may further impact our business operations in the EU.
Following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, the U.K. Data Protection Act 2018 applies to the processing of personal data that takes place in the United Kingdom and includes parallel obligations to those set forth by GDPR, including in relation to data transfers.
Orphan Drug Designation and Exclusivity
The criteria for designating an orphan medicinal product in the EU are similar in principle to those in the United States. Under Article 3 of Regulation (EC) 141/2000, a medicinal product may be designated as orphan if (1) it is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life- threatening or chronically debilitating condition, (2) either (a) such condition affects no more than five in 10,000 persons in the EU when the application is made, or (b) the product, without the benefits derived from orphan status, would not generate sufficient return in the EU to justify investment and (3) there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of such condition authorized for marketing in the EU, or if such a method exists, the product will be of significant benefit to those affected by the condition. The term “significant benefit” is defined in Regulation (EC) 847/2000 to mean a clinically relevant advantage or a major contribution to patient care.
Orphan medicinal products are eligible for financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers and are, upon grant of a marketing authorization, entitled to ten years of market exclusivity for the approved therapeutic indication. During this ten year market exclusivity period, the EMA or the competent authorities of the Member States of the European Economic Area, or EEA, cannot accept an application for a marketing authorization for a similar medicinal product for the same indication. A similar medicinal product is defined as a medicinal product containing a similar active substance or substances as contained in an authorized orphan medicinal product, and which is intended for the same therapeutic indication. The application for orphan designation must be submitted before the application for marketing authorization. The sponsor will receive a fee reduction for the marketing authorization application if the orphan designation has been granted, but not if the designation is still pending at the time the marketing authorization is submitted. Orphan designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
The ten-year market exclusivity in the EU may be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the product no longer meets the criteria for orphan designation, for example, if the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity. Additionally, marketing authorization may be granted to a similar product for the same indication at any time if: (1) the second sponsor can establish that its product, although similar, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior; (2) the sponsor consents to a second orphan medicinal product application; or (3) the sponsor cannot supply enough orphan medicinal product.
Products that are granted a marketing authorization with the results of the pediatric clinical trials conducted in accordance with the PIP are eligible for a six month extension of the protection under a supplementary protection certificate (if any is in effect at the time of approval) even where the trial results are negative. In the case of orphan medicinal products, a two-year extension of the orphan market exclusivity may be available. This pediatric reward is subject to specific conditions and is not automatically available when data in compliance with the PIP are developed and submitted.
Brexit and the Regulatory Framework in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU took place on January 31, 2020. As of January 1, 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or the MHRA, became responsible for supervising medicines and medical devices in Great Britain, comprising England, Scotland and Wales under domestic law whereas Northern Ireland continues to be subject to EU rules under the Northern Ireland Protocol. The MHRA will rely on the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/1916) (as amended), or the HMR, as the basis for regulating medicines. The HMR has incorporated into the domestic law the body of EU law instruments governing medicinal products that pre-existed prior to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU. Until December 31, 2023, the MHRA may rely on a decision taken by the European Commission on the approval of a new marketing authorization via the centralized procedure.
Healthcare law and regulation
Healthcare providers and third-party payors play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of products that are granted marketing approval. Arrangements with providers, consultants, third-party payors and customers are subject to broadly applicable fraud and abuse, anti-kickback, false claims laws, reporting of payments to physicians and teaching physicians and patient privacy laws and regulations and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain business and/or financial arrangements. Restrictions under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, include the following:
Some state laws require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government in addition to requiring manufacturers to report information related to payments to physicians and other health care providers or marketing expenditures. State and foreign laws also govern the privacy and security of health information in some circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.
Pharmaceutical insurance coverage and health care reform
In the United States and markets in other countries, 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 health care costs. Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of products approved by the FDA and other government authorities. Thus, even if a product candidate is approved, sales of the product will depend, in part, on the extent to which third-party payors, including government health programs in the United States such as Medicare and Medicaid, commercial health insurers and managed care organizations, provide coverage and establish adequate reimbursement levels for, the product. The process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the price or reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the product once coverage is approved. Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the prices charged, examining the medical necessity and reviewing the cost-effectiveness of medical products and services and imposing controls to manage costs. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list, also known as a formulary, which might not include all of the approved products for a particular indication.
By way of example, the United States and state governments continue to propose and pass legislation designed to reduce the cost of healthcare. In March 2010, the United States Congress enacted the Health Care Reform Law, which, among other things, includes changes to the coverage and payment for products under government health care programs. In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the Health Care Reform Law was enacted. In August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. These changes included aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers of up to 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect in April 2013 and will remain in effect through 2031 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. These Medicare sequester reductions were reduced and suspended through June 2022, with the full 2% cut resuming thereafter.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, among other things, 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. These laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding and otherwise affect the prices we may obtain for any of our candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval or the frequency with which any such candidate is prescribed or used. Indeed, under current legislation, the actual reductions in Medicare payments may vary up to 4%.
Since enactment of the Health Care Reform Law, there have been, and continue to be, numerous legal challenges and Congressional actions to repeal and replace provisions of the law. For example, with enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or the TCJA, Congress repealed the “individual mandate.” The repeal of this provision, which requires most Americans to carry a minimal level of health insurance, became effective in 2019. On December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court judge in the Northern District of Texas ruled that the individual mandate portion of the Health Care Reform Law is an essential and inseverable feature of the Health Care Reform Law, and therefore because the mandate was repealed as part of the TCJA, the remaining provisions of the Health Care Reform Law are invalid as well. The U.S. Supreme Court heard this case on November 10, 2020 and, on June 17, 2021, dismissed this action after finding that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Health Care Reform Law. Litigation and legislation over the Health Care Reform Law are likely to continue, with unpredictable and uncertain results.
Although the previous administration took executive actions to undermine or delay implementation of the Health Care Reform Law, President Biden rescinded those actions with the issuance of an Executive Order on January 28, 2021, which directs federal agencies to reconsider rules and other policies that limit Americans’ access to health care, and consider actions that will protect and strengthen that access. Under this Order, federal agencies are directed to re-examine: policies that undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19; demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the Health Care Reform Law that may reduce coverage or undermine the programs, including work requirements; policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets for health insurance; policies that make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the Health Care Reform Law; and policies that reduce affordability of coverage or financial assistance, including for dependents.
The prices of prescription pharmaceuticals have also been the subject of considerable discussion in the United States. There have been several recent U.S. congressional inquiries, as well as proposed and enacted state and federal legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to pharmaceutical pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reduce the costs of pharmaceuticals under Medicare and Medicaid. In 2020, CMS issued an interim final rule implementing a most favored nation model for prices that would tie Medicare Part B payments for certain physician-administered pharmaceuticals to the lowest price paid in other economically advanced countries, effective January 1, 2021. That rule, however, has been subject to a nationwide preliminary injunction and, on December 29, 2021, CMS issued a final rule to rescind it. With issuance of this rule, CMS stated that it will explore all options to incorporate value into payments for Medicare Part B pharmaceuticals and improve beneficiaries' access to evidence-based care.
In addition, in October 2020, HHS and the FDA published a final rule allowing states and other entities to develop a Section 804 Importation Program, or SIP, to import certain prescription drugs from Canada into the United States. The final rule is currently the subject of ongoing litigation, but at least six states (Vermont, Colorado, Florida, Maine, New Mexico, and New Hampshire) have passed laws allowing for the importation of drugs from Canada with the intent of developing SIPs for review and approval by the FDA. Further, on November 20, 2020, HHS finalized a regulation removing safe harbor protection for price reductions from pharmaceutical manufacturers to plan sponsors under Part D, either directly or through pharmacy benefit managers, unless the price reduction is required by law. The final rule would eliminate the current safe harbor for Medicare drug rebates and create new safe harbors for beneficiary point-of-sale discounts and pharmacy benefit manager service fees. It originally was set to go into effect on January 1, 2022, but with passage of the Inflation Reduction Act has been delayed by Congress to January 1, 2032.
On August 16, 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, or IRA, was signed into law by President Biden. The new legislation has implications for Medicare Part D, which is a program available to individuals who are entitled to Medicare Part A or enrolled in Medicare Part B to give them the option of paying a monthly premium for outpatient prescription drug coverage. Among other things, the IRA requires manufacturers of certain drugs to engage in price negotiations with Medicare (beginning in 2026), with prices that can be negotiated subject to a cap; imposes rebates under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation (first due in 2023); and replaces the Part D coverage gap discount program with a new discounting program (beginning in 2025). The IRA permits the Secretary of the Department of HHS to implement many of these provisions through guidance, as opposed to regulation, for the initial years.
Specifically, with respect to price negotiations, Congress authorized Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain costly single-source drug and biologic products that do not have competing generics or biosimilars and are reimbursed under Medicare Part B and Part D. CMS may negotiate prices for ten high-cost drugs paid for by Medicare Part D starting in 2026, followed by 15 Medicare Part D drugs in 2027, 15 Medicare Part B or Part D drugs in 2028, and 20 Medicare Part B or Part D drugs in 2029 and beyond. This provision applies to drug products that have been approved for at least 9 years and biologics that have been licensed for 13 years, but it does not apply to drugs and biologics that have been approved for a single rare disease or condition. Further, the legislation subjects drug manufacturers to civil monetary penalties and a potential excise tax for failing to comply with the legislation by offering a price that is not equal to or less than the negotiated “maximum fair price” under the law or for taking price increases that exceed inflation. The legislation also requires manufacturers to pay rebates for drugs in Medicare Part D whose price increases exceed inflation. The new law also caps Medicare out-of-pocket drug costs at an estimated $4,000 a year in 2024 and, thereafter beginning in 2025, at $2,000 a year.
At the state level, individual states are increasingly aggressive in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. A number of states, for example, require drug manufacturers and other entities in the drug supply chain, including health carriers, pharmacy benefit managers, wholesale distributors, to disclose information about pricing of pharmaceuticals. In addition, regional health care authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other health care programs. These measures could reduce the ultimate demand for our products, if approved, or put pressure on our product pricing. 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 for our candidates or additional pricing pressures.
We are also subject to regulation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and other present and potential federal, state or local regulations. These and other laws govern our use, handling and disposal of various biological and chemical substances used in, and waste generated by, our operations. Our research and development involves the controlled use of hazardous materials, chemicals and viruses.
We recognize that attracting, motivating and retaining talented employees is vital to our success. We value the health and wellness of our employees and their families. It is our goal to deliver innovative programs that provide choice, quality and value. We aim to create an equitable, inclusive and empowering environment in which our employees can grow and advance their careers, with the overall goal of developing, expanding and retaining our workforce to support our current pipeline and future business goals. Our success also depends on our ability to attract, engage and retain a diverse group of employees. Our efforts to recruit and retain a diverse and passionate workforce include providing competitive compensation and benefits packages.
Our human capital resources objectives include, as applicable, identifying, recruiting, retaining, incentivizing and integrating our existing and additional employees. The principal purposes of our equity incentive plans are to attract, retain and motivate selected employees, consultants and directors through the granting of stock-based compensation awards. We offer a comprehensive benefits program that provides resources to help employees manage their health, finances, and life outside of work.
In April and December 2022, we announced reductions in our workforce as part of strategic plans designed to streamline our operating structure, including in connection with our acquisition of AavantiBio. As of December 31, 2022, we employed 87 full-time employees, including 59 in research and development and 28 in general and administrative positions, and of which 19 of our employees hold Ph.D. or M.D. degrees.
Our principal executive offices are located at 500 Rutherford Avenue, Third Floor, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129 and our telephone number is (617) 337-4680. Our website address is www.solidbio.com. The information contained in, or accessible through, our website does not constitute a part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We make available free of charge on our website our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
You should carefully consider the following risk factors, in addition to the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the section of this report titled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our financial statements and related notes. If any of the events described in the following risk factors and the risks described elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K occurs, our business, operating results and financial condition could be seriously harmed and the trading price of our common stock could decline. This Annual Report on Form 10-K also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of factors that are described below and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Additional risks not presently known to us or other factors not perceived by us to present significant risks to our business at this time also may impair our business operations.
Risks related to the Acquisition
We may fail to realize the anticipated benefits of our acquisition of AavantiBio, those benefits may take longer to realize than expected, and we may encounter significant integration difficulties.
On December 2, 2022, we completed our acquisition, or the Acquisition, of AavantiBio, Inc., or AavantiBio, a privately held gene therapy company focused on transforming the lives of patients with FA and rare cardiomyopathies. Upon the consummation of the Acquisition, we acquired AavantiBio’s pipeline programs which included programs for the treatment of FA and BAG3 mediated dilated cardiomyopathy, as well as additional assets for the treatment of undisclosed cardiac diseases. Our ability to realize the anticipated benefits of the Acquisition will depend, to a large extent, on our ability to integrate AavantiBio and these programs into our business and business strategy and realize anticipated growth opportunities and synergies. We have devoted and will continue to devote significant management attention and resources to integrating the business practices and operations of AavantiBio into ours. We may fail to realize some or all of the anticipated benefits of the Acquisition, including if the integration process takes longer than expected or is more costly than expected. Potential difficulties we may encounter in the integration process include the following:
It is possible that the integration process could result in the diversion of our management’s attention, the disruption or interruption of, or the loss of momentum in, our ongoing businesses or inconsistencies in standards, controls, procedures and policies, any of which could adversely affect our ability to maintain our relationships with third parties or the ability to achieve the anticipated benefits of the Acquisition, or could otherwise adversely affect our business and financial results.
Also, we now possess certain liabilities and obligations, including contractual liabilities and obligations, that were assumed by us upon closing of the Acquisition. Further, it is possible that undisclosed, contingent or other liabilities, problems or obligations may arise in the future of which we were previously unaware. These disclosed and undisclosed liabilities could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Any or all of these factors could decrease or delay the expected accretive effect of the Acquisition and negatively impact our stock price. As a result, it cannot be assured that we will be successful in the integration of AavantiBio with our business or that we will realize the benefits anticipated from the Acquisition or in the anticipated time frames or at all.
Our stockholders may not realize a benefit from the Acquisition and the related private placement commensurate with the ownership dilution they experienced in connection with the Acquisition and the related private placement.
If we are unable to realize the full strategic and financial benefits anticipated from the Acquisition, our stockholders will have experienced substantial dilution of their ownership interests without receiving any commensurate benefit, or only
receiving part of the commensurate benefit to the extent the combined company is able to realize only part of the benefits anticipated from the Acquisition and the related private placement.
We may be exposed to increased litigation, including stockholder litigation, which could have an adverse effect on our business and operations.
We may be exposed to increased litigation from stockholders, customers, suppliers, consumers and other third parties due to the combination of Solid’s and AavantiBio’s businesses following the Acquisition. Such litigation may have an adverse impact on our business and results of operations or may cause disruptions to our operations. In addition, in the past, stockholders have initiated class action lawsuits against biotechnology companies following periods of volatility in the market prices of these companies’ stock. Such litigation, if instituted against us, could cause us to incur substantial costs and divert management’s attention and resources, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Risks related to our financial position and need for capital requirements
We have incurred significant net losses since inception and anticipate that we will continue to incur net losses for the foreseeable future and may never achieve or maintain profitability.
Since inception, we have incurred significant net losses. Our net loss was $86.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2022. Our net losses were $72.2 million and $88.3 million for the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, respectively. As of December 31, 2022, we had an accumulated deficit of $562.7 million. To date, we have devoted substantially all of our efforts to research and development, including clinical development of our gene transfer candidate, SGT-001, which we are no longer developing, and preclinical development of our gene transfer candidate, SGT-003, as well as to building out our management team and infrastructure. Following the Acquisition, we began also devoting efforts to preclinical development of our FA and cardiac programs. We expect that it could be several years before we have a commercialized product, and we may never have a commercialized product. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and see continued operating losses for the foreseeable future. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if, and as, we:
To become and remain profitable, we must develop and eventually commercialize one or more product candidates with significant market potential. This will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities, and our expenses will increase substantially as we continue to monitor patients dosed in IGNITE DMD and complete preclinical studies and future clinical trials of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates, obtain marketing approval for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401, or other future candidates, develop and validate commercial-scale manufacturing processes,
manufacture, market and sell any future candidates for which we may obtain marketing approval and satisfy any post-marketing requirements. Moreover, the manufacturing process requires materials which may fluctuate in cost or be limited or unavailable to us, as well as relationships with contract development and manufacturing organizations to facilitate the manufacturing process. We may never succeed in any of these activities and, even if we do, we may never generate revenue that is significant or large enough to achieve profitability. If we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable would decrease the value of our company and could impair our ability to raise capital, maintain our research and development efforts, expand our business or continue our operations. A decline in the value of our company also could cause stockholders to lose all or part of their investment.
We will need additional funding, which may not be available on acceptable terms, or at all. Failure to obtain this necessary capital when needed may force us to delay, limit or terminate our product development efforts or other operations.
We expect our expenses to increase in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we continue the research and development of, conduct clinical trials of, and seek marketing approval for, SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates and otherwise integrate the operations of AavantiBio into our business. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, we expect to incur significant expenses related to product sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution. We also expect to continue to incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company. While we believe that our cash, cash equivalents and available-for-sale securities as of December 31, 2022, will be sufficient to fund our operating expenses and capital requirements into 2025, we have based this estimate on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could use our available capital resources sooner than we currently anticipate. In order to continue to operate our business beyond that time, we will need to raise additional funds. However, there can be no assurance that we will be able to generate funds on terms acceptable to us, on a timely basis, or at all. In addition, we anticipate that we will need additional funding to complete the development of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates.
Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors, including:
Identifying potential product candidates and conducting preclinical testing and clinical trials is a time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process that takes years to complete, and we may never generate the necessary data or results required to submit a new drug application, or NDA, or biologic license application, or BLA, or obtain marketing approval and achieve product sales. In addition, our product candidates, if approved, may not achieve commercial success. Our product revenue, if any, will be derived from or based on sales of product candidates that may not be commercially available for many years, if at all. Accordingly, we will need to continue to rely on additional financing to achieve our business objectives. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all, and may be impacted by the economic climate and market conditions. Our ability to raise additional funds may be adversely impacted by general economic conditions, both inside and outside the U.S., including disruptions to, and instability and volatility in, the credit and financial markets in the U.S. and worldwide, heightened inflation, interest rate and currency rate fluctuations, and economic slowdown or recession as well as concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical events, including civil or political unrest. In addition, market instability and volatility, high levels of inflation and interest rate fluctuations may increase our cost of financing or restrict our access to potential sources of future liquidity. Alternatively, we may seek additional capital due to favorable market conditions or strategic considerations, even if we believe we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our existing stockholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our technologies, SGT-001, SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or our other future candidates.
We may seek additional capital through a combination of public and private equity offerings, debt financings, strategic partnerships and alliances and licensing arrangements. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, ownership of our common stock will be diluted and the terms may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect the rights of our current stockholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased fixed payment obligations and could involve restrictive covenants, such as limitations on our ability to incur additional debt, limitations on our ability to acquire or license intellectual property rights and other operating restrictions that could adversely impact our ability to conduct our business. If we raise additional funds through strategic partnerships and alliances and licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, SGT-001, SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, or grant licenses on terms unfavorable to us.
We have never generated revenue from product sales and do not expect to do so for the foreseeable future, if ever.
Our ability to generate revenue from product sales and achieve profitability depends on our ability, alone or with collaborative partners, to successfully complete the development of, and obtain the regulatory approvals necessary to commercialize, SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates that we may pursue in the future. We do not anticipate generating revenue from product sales for the foreseeable future, if ever. Our ability to generate future revenue from product sales depends heavily on our success in:
Our limited operating history may make it difficult for our stockholders to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.
We are a development-stage company founded in 2013. Our operations to date, with respect to the development of SGT-001, SGT-003 and other potential candidates, have been limited to organizing and staffing our company, business planning, raising capital, acquiring rights to our technology, identifying SGT-001 and SGT-003 as potential gene transfer candidates and undertaking preclinical studies of SGT-001 and SGT-003 and a clinical trial of SGT-001 and establishing research and development and manufacturing collaborations. Following the Acquisition, we have expanded our operations to include the development of AVB-202-TT and AVB-401. We have not yet demonstrated the ability to complete clinical trials of any product candidate, obtain marketing approvals, manufacture at commercial-scale or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful commercialization. Consequently, any predictions our stockholders make about our prospects may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history or prior experience integrating acquired businesses into our existing business.
The COVID-19 pandemic or other pandemics may affect our ability to initiate and complete current or future preclinical studies or clinical trials, disrupt regulatory activities, disrupt our manufacturing and supply chain or have other adverse effects on our business and operations. In addition, this pandemic may continue to adversely impact economies worldwide, which could result in adverse effects on our business and operations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many governments to implement measures to slow the spread of the outbreak through quarantines, travel restrictions, heightened border scrutiny, and other measures. The outbreak and government measures taken in response have also had a significant impact, both direct and indirect, on businesses and commerce, as worker shortages have occurred; supply chains have been disrupted; facilities and production have been suspended; and demand for certain goods and services, such as medical services and supplies, has spiked, while demand for other goods and services, such as travel, has fallen. The future progression of the outbreak and its effects on our business and operations are uncertain.
We and our third-party manufacturers for supply of drug product for our candidates, and prospective contract research organizations, or CROs, may face disruptions that may affect our ability to initiate and complete preclinical studies or clinical trials, including disruptions in procuring items that are essential for our research and development activities, including, for example, raw materials used in the manufacturing of drug product for our candidates, and laboratory supplies for our current and future preclinical studies and clinical trials, in each case, for which there may be shortages because of ongoing efforts to address the outbreak. We and our third-party manufacturers, and prospective CROs, may face disruptions related to future clinical trials arising from delays in IND-enabling studies, manufacturing disruptions, and the ability to obtain necessary institutional review board or other necessary site approvals, as well as other delays at clinical trial sites.
We may also face difficulties recruiting or enrolling patients for our clinical trials if patients are affected by the COVID-19 virus or are fearful of visiting or traveling to, or unable to travel to, clinical trial sites because of the outbreak. For example, we experienced a few missed or postponed patient visits in our IGNITE DMD trial due to site closures early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic may redirect resources with respect to regulatory and intellectual property matters in a way that would adversely impact our ability to progress regulatory approvals and protect our intellectual property. For example, the FDA has announced that in order to bring new therapies to patients sick with COVID-19 as quickly as possible, it has redeployed medical and regulatory staff from other areas to work on COVID-19 therapies. In addition, we may face impediments to regulatory meetings and approvals due to measures intended to limit in-person interactions.
We expect to continue to take actions as may be required or recommended by government authorities or as we determine are in the best interests of our employees, and other business partners in light of COVID-19. In the event of a
continuation of shelter-in-place orders and/or other mandated local travel restrictions, our employees conducting research and development activities may not be able to access our research space, and our core activities may be significant limited or curtailed, possibly for an extended period of time.
The pandemic has caused significant disruptions in the financial markets, and may continue to cause such disruptions, which could impact our ability to raise additional funds through public offerings and may also impact the volatility of our stock price and trading in our stock. Moreover, it is possible the pandemic will significantly impact economies worldwide, which could result in adverse effects on our business and operations. We cannot be certain what the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including any variant strains of the COVID-19 virus, will be on our business and it has the potential to adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Finally, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA issued numerous guidance documents to govern and facilitate the study and development of biologic products during the pandemic. On January 30, 2023, the Biden Administration announced that it will end the public health emergency declarations related to COVID-19 on May 11, 2023. On January 31, 2023, the FDA indicated that it would soon issue a Federal Register notice describing how the termination of the public health emergency will impact the agency’s COVID-19 related guidances. At this point, it is unclear how, if at all, these developments will impact our efforts to develop and commercialize our product candidates.
Unfavorable global economic conditions could harm our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Our results of operations could be harmed by general conditions in the global economy and in the global financial markets. A severe or prolonged economic downturn, including the impact of increased interest rates and inflation (such as the recent rise in inflation in the United States), could result in a variety of risks to our business, including weakened demand for our product candidates and our ability to raise additional capital when needed on acceptable terms, if at all. A weak or declining economy could strain our manufacturers, possibly resulting in manufacturing disruption, or cause delays in payments for our services by third-party payors or our future collaborators. Any of the foregoing could harm our business and we cannot anticipate all of the ways in which the current economic climate and financial market conditions could harm our business.
We hold a portion of our cash and cash equivalents that we use to meet our working capital and operating expense needs in deposit accounts that could be adversely affected if the financial institutions holding such funds fail.
We hold a portion of our cash and cash equivalents that we use to meet our working capital and operating expense needs in deposit accounts at multiple financial institutions. The balance held in these accounts may exceed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, standard deposit insurance limit of $250,000. If a financial institution in which we hold such funds fails or is subject to significant adverse conditions in the financial or credit markets, we could be subject to a risk of loss of all or a portion of such uninsured funds or be subject to a delay in accessing all or a portion of such uninsured funds. Any such loss or lack of access to these funds could adversely impact our short-term liquidity and ability to meet our operating expense obligations, including payroll obligations.
For example, on March 10, 2023, Silicon Valley Bank, or SVB, and Signature Bank, were closed by state regulators and the FDIC was appointed receiver for each bank. The FDIC created successor bridge banks and all deposits of SVB and Signature Bank were transferred to the bridge banks under a systemic risk exception approved by the United States Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC. If financial institutions in which we hold funds for working capital and operating expenses were to fail, we cannot provide any assurances that such governmental agencies would take action to protect our uninsured deposits or investments in a similar manner.
We also maintain investment accounts with other financial institutions in which we hold our investments and marketable securities and, if access to the funds we use for working capital and operating expenses is impaired, we may not be able to sell investments or transfer funds from our investment accounts to other operating accounts on a timely basis sufficient to meet our operating expense obligations.
Risks related to the development of our product candidates
Our gene transfer candidates are based on novel technology, which makes it difficult to predict the time and cost of development and of subsequently obtaining regulatory approval. To our knowledge, only a limited number of gene transfer products have been approved for commercialization in the United States and the European Union.
We have historically concentrated our research and development efforts on SGT-001 and SGT-003 for the treatment of Duchenne. Prior to the Acquisition, AavantiBio concentrated its research and development efforts on candidates for the treatment of FA and BAG3-mediated dilated cardiomyopathy. We have prioritized SGT-003 for the treatment of Duchenne, and we plan to prioritize AVB-202-TT for the treatment of FA and AVB-401 for the treatment of BAG3-mediated dilated cardiomyopathy and our future success depends on our successful development of these and other future candidates. Our risk of failure is high. We have experienced with SGT-001, and may in the future experience with our other candidates, problems or delays in developing these and other future candidates. Any such problems or delays would cause unanticipated costs, and any development problems may not be solved. For example, we or another party may uncover a previously unknown risk associated with SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401, the adeno-associated virus, or AAV, vector, construct toxicity or other issues that may be more problematic than we currently believe and this may prolong the period of observation required for obtaining, or result in the failure to obtain, regulatory approval or may necessitate additional clinical testing.
In addition, our ability to conduct and complete our preclinical development testing and studies is contingent on our ability to source animals and other supplies required for the conduct of such testing and studies. If we are unable to obtain all necessary animals and other supplies required for the conduct of our preclinical testing and studies, we may be unable to complete such preclinical development testing and studies in a timely manner or at all. For example, some of our IND-enabling toxicology and other studies require certain non-human primates, or NHPs, that may be imported from countries in which trade relation with the U.S. are or may become challenging or through vendors who may not be able to timely source certain NHPs or at all, which may impair our ability to complete preclinical development testing and studies to support IND or similar applications or delay submission of such applications. Additionally, we may fail to demonstrate adequate product candidate efficacy and/or safety as required by regulatory authorities. We may fail to access relevant, adequate, or necessary animal models, including genetic models of disease and non-human primates in particular, for use in such studies as requested by regulatory authorities. We may also experience substantial delays as a result of our reliance on CROs to conduct all animal model experimentation necessary to assess the efficacy and safety of our product candidates. Any of these factors may result in delays to candidate progression, inability to obtain regulatory approval, and/or substantial increases in candidate development costs.
In addition, the product specifications and the clinical trial requirements of the FDA, the European Commission, the European Medicines Agency, or the EMA, and other regulatory authorities and the criteria these regulators use to determine the safety and efficacy of a product candidate vary substantially according to the type, complexity, novelty and intended use and market of such product candidate. The regulatory approval process for novel product candidates such as ours is unclear and can be more expensive and take longer than for other, better known or more extensively studied product candidates. To our knowledge, only a limited number of gene transfer products have been approved for commercialization in the United States and the European Union. As a result, it is difficult to determine how long it will take or how much it will cost to obtain regulatory approvals for our gene transfer candidates in either the United States or the European Union, if at all. Approvals by the European Commission may not be indicative of what the FDA may require for approval and vice versa.
Our gene transfer candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit their commercial potential or result in significant negative consequences following any potential marketing approval.
SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 have not yet been studied in human patients. During the conduct of clinical trials, patients may experience changes in their health, including illnesses, injuries, discomforts or a fatal outcome. Often, it is not possible to determine whether the product candidate being studied caused these conditions. For instance, we reported a serious adverse event in IGNITE DMD, which resulted in a clinical hold in November 2019, which has since been resolved. In April 2021, a patient treated with SGT-001 in IGNITE DMD experienced a systemic inflammatory response classified as a serious adverse event and considered by the investigator to be drug related.
In addition, it is possible that as we test SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates in larger, longer and more extensive clinical programs, or as use of these candidates becomes more widespread if they receive regulatory approval, illnesses, injuries, discomforts and other adverse events that were observed in earlier clinical trials, as well as conditions that did not occur or went undetected in previous clinical trials, will be reported by subjects. Many times, side effects are only detectable after investigational products are tested in large-scale, Phase III clinical trials or, in some cases, after they are made available to patients on a commercial scale after approval. If additional clinical experience indicates that
SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or any other future candidate has side effects or causes serious or life-threatening side effects, the development of the candidate may fail or be delayed, or, if the candidate has received regulatory approval, such approval may be withdrawn.
There have been several significant adverse side effects in gene therapy treatments in the past, including reported cases of leukemia and death seen in other clinical trials using other vectors. The FDA convened the Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee in September 2021 to discuss toxicity risks of AAV based gene therapy products. Discussed risks included oncogenicity risks due to vector genome integration, hepatotoxicity, thrombotic microangiopathy, and neurotoxicity (especially related to dorsal root ganglion toxicity). While new recombinant vectors have been developed with the intent to reduce these side effects, gene therapy is still a relatively new approach to disease treatment and additional adverse side effects could develop. More recently, there have been reports of significant adverse side effects, including muscle weakness and myocarditis, in clinical trials of other gene therapy treatments for Duchenne that may be related to the type and location of the specific gene mutation causing the disease. One clinical trial sponsor reported the death, preceded by hypovolemia and cardiogenic shock, of a non-ambulatory trial Duchenne subject with advanced disease and cardiac dysfunction. There also is the potential risk of delayed adverse events following exposure to gene therapy products due to persistent biologic activity of the genetic material or other components of products used to carry the genetic material. Possible adverse side effects that may occur with treatment with gene therapy products include an immunologic reaction early after administration that could substantially limit the effectiveness of the treatment or represent safety risks for patients. Additionally, in previous clinical trials involving AAV vectors for gene therapy, some subjects experienced the development of a positive ELISPOT test associated with T-cell responses, which is of unclear clinical translatability. If T-cells are activated, the cellular immune response system may trigger the removal of transduced cells. If our gene transfer candidates demonstrate a similar effect or other undesirable side effects, we may decide or be required to halt or delay further clinical development of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates involving AAV vectors for gene therapy.
For example, as part of our SGT-001 preclinical program, we performed necessary good laboratory practices, or GLP, toxicology studies to establish the overall safety profile of SGT-001 in wild-type mice and non-human primates, or NHPs. The data and our conclusions from these studies were included in our IND submission to the FDA. Systemic administration of SGT-001 was generally well tolerated in both species. We observed no evidence of test-article-related toxicity for up to 13 weeks after systemic administration of SGT-001 in either species that would prevent us from initiating clinical trials. In the NHP study, test-article-related effects were self-limited, mild chemistry and hematology changes with no microscopic correlates at the end of the study. There was a transient and asymptomatic increase in liver function enzymes observed in NHPs starting on day 9, which returned to normal levels by day 21. We believe there were no other relevant test-article-related adverse events associated with SGT-001 administration in either GLP study. In the NHP toxicology study, a single animal from the high dose cohort was euthanized after it did not recover from an anesthetic procedure. We believe this event was attributed to procedural errors. However, AAV vector cannot be completely ruled out as a contributing factor to the toxicity that gave rise to the event.
Additional adverse side effects may be observed following administration of any AAV gene therapy, SGT-003 or other current or future candidates. For example, integration of AAV DNA into the host cell’s genome has been reported to occur. Not all contemplated AAV delivery systems have been validated in human clinical trials previously, such as AAV-SLB101, which is a novel capsid. If a delivery system does not meet the safety criteria or cannot provide the desired efficacy results, then we may be forced to suspend or terminate our development of SGT-003 or other current or future candidates. In addition, the relatively high anticipated dosing requirements for SGT-003 may amplify the risk of adverse side effects relating to the AAV vector. We, and others, have seen serious adverse events when administering high dose AAV vectors. The FDA convened the Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee in September 2021 to discuss toxicity risks of AAV based gene therapy products. Discussed risks included oncogenicity risks due to vector genome integration, hepatotoxicity, thrombotic microangiopathy, and neurotoxicity (especially related to dorsal root ganglion toxicity). If any such adverse side effects were to occur in the future and we are unable to demonstrate that they were not caused by the administration process or related procedures, the FDA, the European Commission, the EMA or other regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of, or deny approval of, SGT-003 or any other future candidate for any or all targeted indications. Even if we are able to demonstrate that any serious adverse events are not product-related, such occurrences could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the clinical trial. Patients will also create antibodies to the AAV vector and a second administration of gene transfer might not be safe or successful.
Additionally, if SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other candidates receive marketing approval, the FDA could require us to adopt a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks, which may include, among other things, a medication guide outlining the risks of the product for distribution to patients and a communication plan to health care practitioners. Furthermore, if we or others later identify undesirable side effects caused by
SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, several potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:
One of our clinical trials has been placed on clinical hold by the FDA in the past, and we cannot guarantee that similar events will not happen in future clinical trials for other candidates.
In November 2019, the FDA placed a clinical hold on SGT-001 following a serious adverse event in IGNITE DMD. The third patient in the 2E14 vg/kg cohort of IGNITE DMD, dosed in late October 2019, experienced a serious adverse event deemed related to the study drug that was characterized by complement activation, thrombocytopenia, decrease in red blood cell count, acute kidney injury, and cardio-pulmonary insufficiency. In October 2020, the FDA lifted the clinical hold placed on IGNITE DMD. In connection with the lifting of the clinical hold, we determined to reduce the maximum weight of the next two patients dosed in IGNITE DMD to 18 kg per patient. Additionally, to mitigate the risk of serious drug-related adverse events, we amended the IGNITE DMD clinical protocol to include the prophylactic use of both anti-complement inhibitor eculizumab and C1 esterase inhibitor, and increase the prednisone dose in the first month post dosing. In March 2021, we announced that a seventh patient was safely dosed under the amended protocol, with transient and manageable adverse events, none of which were serious. In April 2021, an eighth patient was treated with SGT-001. The patient experienced a systemic inflammatory response which has since fully resolved. The event was classified as a serious adverse event and considered by the investigator to be drug related. This type of event is described in our Investigators Brochure and is not considered unexpected. Following dosing of these two patients with our second-generation manufacturing process and clinical strategy, we conducted an extensive review of all clinical data, which resulted in a strengthened risk mitigation plan including new patient management guidance. In November 2021, a ninth patient was safely dosed under the amended clinical protocol, with transient and manageable adverse events, none of which were serious. However, we cannot guarantee that similar serious adverse events or clinical holds will not happen in future clinical trials.
Delays in the completion of any clinical trial of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or any other future candidate, as a result of similar serious adverse events or clinical holds or otherwise, will increase our costs, slow down our product candidate development and approval process and delay or potentially jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenue. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates.
We have never completed a clinical trial and may be unable to do so for any product candidates we may develop, including SGT-003, AVB-202-TT and AVB-401.
We are very early in our development efforts, and all of our candidates are still in preclinical development. Preclinical studies involve a lengthy and expensive process with an uncertain outcome. There are many potential preclinical models to test for different disease states, and we could fail to choose the best or a predictive preclinical model to determine proof of concept and potential safety and efficacy of our candidates. We may decide to suspend further testing on our candidates or technologies if, in the judgment of our management and advisors, the preclinical test results do not support further development.
We will need to successfully initiate and complete clinical trials in order to obtain FDA approval to market SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates. We have limited experience in preparing, submitting and prosecuting regulatory submissions, and have not previously submitted a BLA for any product candidate. We cannot be sure that submission of an IND, including the IND we plan to submit for SGT-003 in the second half of 2023, will result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to begin or to begin as proposed, or that, once begun, issues will not arise that suspend or terminate such clinical trials. Carrying out later-stage clinical trials and the submission of a successful BLA is a complicated process. This may be particularly true for design of a pivotal trial for the treatment of Duchenne as the FDA has not given clear guidance as to the necessary endpoints for approval of a treatment for Duchenne. In addition, we cannot be certain how many clinical trials of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates will be required or how such trials should be designed. Consequently, we may be unable to successfully and efficiently execute and complete necessary clinical trials in a
way that leads to BLA submission and approval of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates. We may require more time and incur greater costs than our competitors and may not succeed in obtaining regulatory approvals of product candidates that we develop. Failure to commence or complete, or delays in, clinical trials, could prevent us from or delay us in commercializing SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates.
Success in preclinical studies or early clinical trials may not be indicative of results obtained in later trials.
Results from preclinical studies or early clinical trials are not necessarily predictive of future clinical trial results and are not necessarily indicative of final results. Our preclinical studies for SGT-003 and AVB-202-TT in animals have been limited. We have only dosed a limited number of human subjects with SGT-001, and we have not dosed any human subjects with SGT-003, AVB-202-TT or AVB-401. There is a high failure rate for gene therapy and biologic products proceeding through clinical trials. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials even after achieving promising results in preclinical testing and earlier-stage clinical trials. Data obtained from preclinical and clinical activities are subject to varying interpretations, which may delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. We also may experience regulatory delays or rejections as a result of many factors, including due to changes in regulatory policy during the period of our product candidate development. SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy in clinical development despite positive results in preclinical studies. This failure could cause us to abandon SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates.
Preliminary or interim data that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.
From time to time, we may announce or publish preliminary or interim data from clinical trials. Positive preliminary or interim data may not be predictive of such trial’s subsequent or overall results. Preliminary or interim data are subject to the risk that one or more of the outcomes may materially change as more data become available. Additionally, preliminary or interim data are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available. Therefore, positive preliminary or interim data in any ongoing clinical trial may not be predictive of such results in the completed trial. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully evaluate all data. As a result, preliminary or interim data that we report may differ from future results from the same clinical trials, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results, once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Preliminary or interim data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary or interim data we previously published. As a result, preliminary or interim data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Material adverse changes in the final data compared to preliminary or interim data could significantly harm our business prospects.
We may encounter substantial delays in our clinical trials or we may fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of applicable regulatory authorities.
Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the sale of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, we must conduct extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the product candidate for its intended indications. Clinical testing is expensive, time-consuming and uncertain as to outcome. 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 testing. Events that may prevent successful or timely completion of clinical development include:
Additionally, if the results of any clinical trials are inconclusive or if there are safety concerns or serious adverse events associated with SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, we may:
In addition, the FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies with respect to clinical trials may change and additional government regulations may be enacted. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies governing clinical trials, our development plans may be impacted. For example, in December 2022, with the passage of Food and Drug Omnibus Reform Act, or FDORA, Congress required sponsors to develop and submit a diversity action plan for each Phase 3 clinical trial or any other “pivotal study” of a new drug or biological product. Similarly, the regulatory landscape related to clinical trials in the EU recently evolved. If we are not able to adapt to these and other changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies governing clinical trials, our development plans may be impacted.
Our product development costs will increase if we experience delays in testing or marketing approvals. In addition, if we make manufacturing or other changes to SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, we may need to conduct additional studies to bridge our modified product candidates to earlier versions. We do not know whether any of our preclinical studies or clinical trials will begin as planned, will need to be restructured or will be completed on schedule, or at all. We may also determine to change the design or protocol of one or more of our clinical trials, which we have done in the past and which could result in delays. Significant preclinical study or clinical trial delays also could shorten any periods during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates or allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do and impair our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates.
If our third-party clinical trial vendors fail to comply with strict regulations, any clinical trials for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates may be delayed or unsuccessful.
We do not have the personnel capacity to conduct or manage the clinical trials that will be necessary for the development of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates. For IGNITE DMD we are relying, and for any future clinical trials we expect we will rely, on third parties to assist us in managing, monitoring and conducting our clinical trials. If these third parties fail to comply with applicable regulations or do not adequately fulfill their obligations under the terms of our agreements with them, we may not be able to enter into alternative arrangements without undue delay or additional expenditures and, therefore, the clinical trials for SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates may be delayed or unsuccessful.
Furthermore, the FDA can be expected to inspect some or all of the clinical sites participating in our clinical trials to determine if our clinical trials are being conducted according to GCPs. If the FDA determines that these clinical sites are not in compliance with applicable regulations, we may be required to delay, repeat or terminate the clinical trials.
We may find it difficult to enroll patients in our clinical trials, which could delay or prevent us from proceeding with clinical trials of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates.
Identifying and qualifying patients to participate in any clinical trials of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates are critical to our success. Because of our primary focus on rare diseases, we may have difficulty enrolling a sufficient number of eligible patients. The timing of any clinical trials depends on our ability to recruit patients to participate as well as complete required follow-up periods. If patients are unwilling or unable to participate in our gene therapy clinical trials, including because of negative publicity from adverse events related to our candidates, other approved gene therapies or the biotechnology or gene therapy fields, or due to competitive clinical trials or approvals for similar patient populations, clinical trials in products employing our vector or our platform or for other reasons, the timeline for recruiting patients, conducting clinical trials and obtaining regulatory approval of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or our other candidates may be delayed. We may also experience delays if patients withdraw from the clinical trial or do not complete the required monitoring period. Furthermore, we may face difficulties in recruiting patients to enroll in, or once enrolled, retaining patients in future clinical trials if they or their caretakers are affected by the COVID-19 virus or are fearful of traveling to, or are unable to travel to, our clinical trial sites because of the COVID-19 pandemic or other unforeseen events. These delays could result in increased costs, delays in advancing SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, delays in testing the effectiveness of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates or termination of clinical trials altogether.
We may not be able to identify, recruit and enroll a sufficient number of patients, or those with required or desired characteristics, to complete any clinical trials in a timely manner. Patient enrollment and trial completion is affected by many factors, including:
Our ability to successfully initiate, enroll and complete a clinical trial in any foreign country is subject to numerous risks unique to conducting business in foreign countries, including:
Even if we complete the necessary clinical trials, we cannot predict when, or if, we will obtain regulatory approval to commercialize SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates and the approval may be for a more narrow indication than we seek.
We cannot commercialize SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates until the appropriate regulatory authorities have reviewed and approved the product candidate. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state and local statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources and we may not be able to obtain the required regulatory approvals. Even if our product candidates meet their safety and efficacy endpoints in clinical trials, the regulatory authorities may not complete their review processes in a timely manner, or we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval. Additional delays may result if an FDA advisory committee or other regulatory authority recommends non-approval or restrictions on approval. In addition, we may experience delays or rejections based upon additional government regulation from future legislation or administrative action or changes in regulatory authority policy during the period of product development, clinical trials and the regulatory review process.
Even if we receive regulatory approval, regulatory authorities may approve a product candidate for more limited indications than requested or they may impose significant limitations in the form of narrow indications, warnings or a REMS. Regulatory authorities may require precautions or contra-indications with respect to conditions of use or they may grant approval subject to the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials. In addition, regulatory authorities may not approve the labeling claims that are necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of our product candidates. Any of the foregoing scenarios could materially harm the commercial prospects for our product candidates.
Even if we obtain regulatory approval for a product candidate, our product candidates will remain subject to regulatory oversight.
Even if we obtain any regulatory approval for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory requirements for manufacturing, labeling, packaging, storage, advertising, promotion, sampling, record-keeping and submission of safety and other post-market information. Any regulatory approvals that we receive for our product candidates may also be subject to a REMS, limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or conditions of approval, or requirements for potentially costly post-marketing testing, including Phase IV clinical trials, and surveillance to monitor the quality, safety and efficacy of the product. Advertising and promotional materials must comply with FDA rules and are subject to FDA review, in addition to other potentially applicable federal and state laws.
In addition, later discovery of previously unknown adverse events or other problems with our products, manufacturers or manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may have various consequences, including:
In addition, manufacturers of approved products and those manufacturers’ facilities are required to comply with extensive FDA requirements, including ensuring that quality control and manufacturing procedures conform to cGMPs applicable to drug manufacturers or quality assurance standards applicable to medical device manufacturers, which include requirements relating to quality control and quality assurance as well as the corresponding maintenance of records and documentation and reporting requirements. We, any contract manufacturers we may engage in the future, our future collaborators and their contract manufacturers will also be subject to other regulatory requirements, including submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration and listing requirements, requirements regarding the distribution of samples to clinicians, recordkeeping, and costly post-marketing studies or clinical trials and surveillance to monitor the safety or efficacy of the product such as the requirement to implement a REMS.
Non-compliance with European Union requirements regarding safety monitoring or pharmacovigilance, and with requirements related to the development of products for the pediatric population, can also result in significant financial penalties. Similarly, failure to comply with the European Union’s requirements regarding the protection of personal information can also lead to significant penalties and sanctions. Further, similar restrictions apply to approved products in the EU. The holder of a marketing authorization is required to comply with a range of requirements applicable to the manufacturing, marketing, promotion and sale of medicinal products. These include: compliance with the EU’s stringent pharmacovigilance or safety reporting rules, which can impose post-authorization studies and additional monitoring obligations; the manufacturing of authorized medicinal products, for which a separate manufacturer’s license is mandatory; and the marketing and promotion of authorized drugs, which are strictly regulated in the EU and are also subject to EU Member State laws.
Accordingly, assuming we, or our collaborators, receive marketing approval for one or more of our product candidates, we, and our collaborators, and our and their contract manufacturers will continue to expend time, money and effort in all areas of regulatory compliance, including manufacturing, production, product surveillance and quality control. If we, and our collaborators, are not able to comply with post-approval regulatory requirements, our or our collaborators’ ability to market any future products could be limited, which could adversely affect our ability to achieve or sustain profitability. Further, the cost of compliance with post-approval regulations may have a negative effect on our operating results and financial condition.
Even if we obtain and maintain approval for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates from the FDA, we may never obtain approval for our product candidates outside of the United States, which would limit our market opportunities and adversely affect our business.
Even if we receive FDA approval of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates in the United States, approval of a product candidate in the United States by the FDA does not ensure approval of such product candidate by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions, and approval by one foreign regulatory authority does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other foreign countries or by the FDA. Future sales of our product candidates outside of the United States will be subject to foreign regulatory requirements governing clinical trials, manufacturing and marketing approval. Approval procedures vary among jurisdictions and can involve requirements and administrative review periods different from, and more onerous than, those in the United States, including additional preclinical studies or clinical trials. In many countries outside the United States, a product candidate must be approved for reimbursement before it can be approved for sale in that country. We intend to submit a marketing authorization application, or MAA, to the EMA for approval of SGT-003 in the European Union, but obtaining such approval from the European Commission following the opinion of the EMA is a lengthy and expensive process. Regulatory authorities in countries outside of the United States and the European Union also have requirements for approval of product candidates with which we must comply prior to marketing in those countries. Obtaining foreign regulatory approvals and compliance with foreign regulatory requirements could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and could delay or prevent the introduction of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future product candidates in certain countries.
Further, clinical trials conducted in one country may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other countries. Also, regulatory approval for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future product candidates may be withdrawn. If we fail to comply with the regulatory requirements, our target market will be reduced, and our ability to realize the full market potential of our product candidates will be harmed.
Additionally, we could face heightened risks with respect to seeking marketing approval in the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit. The United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Single Market and European Union Customs Union. As of January 1, 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or the MHRA, became responsible for supervising medicines and medical devices in Great Britain, comprising England, Scotland and Wales under domestic law, whereas Northern Ireland will continue to be subject to European Union rules under the Northern Ireland Protocol. Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any marketing approvals, as a result of Brexit or otherwise, may prevent us from commercializing any product candidates in the United Kingdom and/or the EU and may force us to restrict or delay efforts to seek regulatory approval in the United Kingdom for our product candidates, which could significantly and materially harm our business.
Since a significant proportion of the regulatory framework for pharmaceutical products in the U.K. covering the quality, safety, and efficacy of pharmaceutical products, clinical trials, marketing authorization, commercial sales, and distribution of pharmaceutical products is derived from EU directives and regulations, Brexit may have a material impact upon the regulatory regime with respect to the development, manufacture, importation, approval and commercialization of our product candidates in the U.K. For example, the U.K. is no longer covered by the centralized procedures for obtaining EU-wide marketing authorization from the EMA, and a separate marketing authorization will be required to market our product candidates in the U.K.
Regulatory requirements governing gene therapy products are periodically updated and may continue to change in the future.
Regulatory requirements governing gene therapy products have changed frequently and will likely continue to change in the future. Moreover, there is substantial, and sometimes uncoordinated, overlap in those responsible for regulation of gene therapy products. For example, in the United States, the FDA has established the Office of Therapeutic Products within the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, or the CBER, to consolidate the review of gene therapy and related products, and the Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee to advise CBER on its review. Gene therapy clinical trials may also be subject to review and oversight by an institutional biosafety committee, a local institutional committee that reviews and oversees basic and clinical research conducted at the institution participating in the clinical trial. Although the FDA decides whether individual gene therapy protocols may proceed, the review process and determinations of other reviewing bodies can impede or delay the initiation of a clinical trial, even if the FDA has reviewed the trial and approved its initiation.
The FDA has issued various guidance documents regarding gene therapies, including final guidance documents released in January 2020 relating to chemistry, manufacturing and controls information for gene therapy INDs, gene therapies for rare diseases and gene therapies for retinal disorders, as well as final guidance in October 2022 for Human Gene Therapy for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Although the FDA has indicated that these and other guidance documents it previously
issued are not legally binding, we believe that our compliance with them is likely necessary to gain approval for any gene therapy product candidate we may develop. The guidance documents provide additional factors that the FDA will consider at each of the above stages of development and relate to, among other things, the proper preclinical assessment of gene therapies; the chemistry, manufacturing, and control information that should be included in an IND application; the proper design of tests to measure product potency in support of an IND or BLA application; and measures to observe delayed adverse effects in subjects who have been exposed to investigational gene therapies when the risk of such effects is high. Further, for AAV vectors specifically, the FDA typically recommends that sponsors continue to monitor participants for potential gene therapy-related adverse events for up to a 5-year period. Other types of gene therapy or gene editing products may require longer follow up, potentially up to a maximum 15-year period.
Similarly, the EMA may issue new guidelines concerning the development and marketing authorization for gene therapy products and require that we comply with these new guidelines. The grant of marketing authorization in the European Union for gene therapy products is governed by Regulation 1394/2007/EC on advanced therapy medicinal products, read in combination with Directive 2001/83/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, commonly known as the Community code on medicinal products. Regulation 1394/2007/EC includes specific rules concerning the authorization, supervision, and pharmacovigilance of gene therapy medicinal products. Manufacturers of advanced therapy medicinal products must demonstrate the quality, safety, and efficacy of their products to the EMA, which provides an opinion regarding the MAA. The European Commission grants or refuses marketing authorization in light of the opinion delivered by the EMA.
Finally, ethical, social and legal concerns about gene therapy, genetic testing and genetic research could result in additional regulations or prohibiting the processes we may use. Federal and state agencies, congressional committees and foreign governments have expressed their intentions to further regulate biotechnology. More restrictive regulations or claims that our product candidates are unsafe or pose a hazard could prevent us from commercializing any products. New government requirements may be established that could delay or prevent regulatory approval of our product candidates under development. It is impossible to predict whether legislative changes will be enacted, regulations, policies or guidance changed, or interpretations by agencies or courts changed, or what the impact of such changes, if any, may be.
As we advance our product candidates through clinical development, we will be required to consult with these regulatory and advisory groups, and comply with applicable guidelines. These regulatory review committees and advisory groups and any new guidelines they promulgate may lengthen the regulatory review process, require us to perform additional studies, increase our development costs, lead to changes in regulatory positions and interpretations, delay or prevent approval and commercialization of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future product candidates or lead to significant post-approval limitations or restrictions. Delay or failure to obtain, or unexpected costs in obtaining, the regulatory approval necessary to bring a potential product to market could decrease our ability to generate sufficient product revenue.
We may not be able to obtain orphan drug exclusivity for one or more of our product candidates, and even if we do, that exclusivity may not prevent the FDA or the EMA from approving other competing products.
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a product candidate as an orphan drug if it is a drug or biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition. A similar regulatory scheme governs approval of orphan products by the EMA in the European Union. Generally, if a product candidate with an orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first marketing approval for the indication for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a period of marketing exclusivity, which precludes the FDA or the EMA from approving another marketing application for a similar product for the same therapeutic indication for that time period. The applicable period is seven years in the United States and ten years in the European Union. The exclusivity period in the European Union can be reduced to six years if a product no longer meets the criteria for orphan drug designation, in particular if the product is sufficiently profitable so that market exclusivity is no longer justified.
In order for the FDA to grant orphan drug exclusivity to one of our products, the FDA must find that the product is indicated for the treatment of a condition or disease with a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals annually in the United States. The FDA may conclude that the condition or disease for which orphan drug exclusivity is sought does not meet this standard. Even if we obtain orphan drug exclusivity for a product, that exclusivity may not effectively protect the product from competition because different products can be approved for the same condition.
In addition, even after an orphan drug is approved, the FDA can subsequently approve a similar product for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the later product is clinically superior in that it is shown to be safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. Orphan drug exclusivity may also be lost if the FDA or EMA determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantity of the product to meet the needs of the patients with the rare disease or condition.
The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, or FDARA, requires that a drug sponsor demonstrate the clinical superiority of an orphan drug that is otherwise the same as a previously approved drug for the same rare disease in order to receive orphan drug exclusivity. FDARA reverses prior precedent holding that the Orphan Drug Act unambiguously requires that the FDA recognize the orphan exclusivity period regardless of a showing of clinical superiority.
The FDA and Congress may further reevaluate the Orphan Drug Act and its regulations and policies. This may be particularly true in light of a decision from the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in September 2021 finding that, for the purpose of determining the scope of exclusivity, the term “same disease or condition” means the designated “rare disease or condition” and could not be interpreted by the FDA to mean the “indication or use.” Thus, the Court of Appeals concluded that orphan drug exclusivity applies to the entire designated disease or condition rather than the “indication or use.” Although there have been legislative proposals to overrule this decision, they have not been enacted into law. On January 23, 2023, FDA announced that, in matters beyond the scope of that court order, FDA will continue to apply its existing regulations tying orphan-drug exclusivity to the uses or indications for which the orphan drug was approved. We do not know if, when, or how the FDA or Congress may change the orphan drug regulations and policies in the future, and it is uncertain how any changes might affect our business. Depending on what changes the FDA or Congress may make to its orphan drug regulations and policies, our business could be adversely impacted.
We may seek a breakthrough therapy designation for one or more of our product candidates, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.
We may seek a breakthrough therapy designation for one or more of our product candidates; however, we cannot assure our stockholders that one or more of our product candidates will meet the criteria for that designation. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a therapy that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other therapies, to treat a serious condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the therapy may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. For therapies and biologics that have been designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor of the trial can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens. Therapies designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA may also be eligible for priority review if supported by clinical data at the time the new drug application is submitted to the FDA.
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. Even if we receive breakthrough therapy designation, the receipt of such designation for a product candidate may not result in a faster development or regulatory review or approval process compared to drugs considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates qualifies as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may later decide that the product candidate no longer meets the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.
Accelerated approval by the FDA, even if granted for one or more of our product candidates, may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process and it does not increase the likelihood that our product candidates will receive marketing approval.
We may seek approval of one or more of our product candidates using the FDA’s accelerated approval pathway. A product may be eligible for accelerated approval if it treats a serious or life-threatening condition and generally provides a meaningful advantage over available therapies. In addition, it must demonstrate an effect on a surrogate or intermediate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, or IMM, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on IMM or other clinical benefit. The FDA or other applicable regulatory agency makes the determination regarding whether a surrogate or intermediate endpoint is reasonably likely to predict long-term clinical benefit. Given that expression of microdystrophin has not yet been established to predict long-term clinical benefit, it is not currently accepted, and it is possible the FDA and/or other applicable regulatory agencies could decide never to accept it, as a surrogate endpoint for the accelerated approval pathway for the treatment of Duchenne.
As a condition of approval, the FDA may require that a sponsor of a drug or biologic product candidate receiving accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical trials. These confirmatory trials must be completed with due diligence and may be required to be initiated prior to submission of the BLA. 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. Further, with passage of FDORA in December 2022, Congress modified certain provisions governing accelerated approval of drug and biologic products. Specifically, the new legislation authorized the FDA to: require a sponsor to have its confirmatory clinical trial underway before accelerated approval is awarded, require a sponsor of a product granted accelerated approval to submit progress reports on its post-approval studies to FDA every six months (until the study is completed) and use expedited procedures to withdraw accelerated approval of an NDA or BLA after the confirmatory trial fails to verify the product’s clinical benefit.
We may not be able to satisfy these requirements and conditions governing accelerated approval and, even if we do receive accelerated approval, we may not experience a faster development or regulatory review or approval process and receiving accelerated approval does not provide assurance of ultimate FDA approval.
A potential regenerative medicine advanced therapy designation by the FDA for our product candidates may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process, and it does not increase the likelihood that our product candidates will receive marketing approval.
We may seek a regenerative medicine advanced therapy designation, or RMAT, for some of our product candidates. A regenerative medicine advanced therapy is defined as cell therapies, therapeutic tissue engineering products, human cell and tissue products, and combination products using any such therapies or products. Gene therapies, including genetically modified cells, that lead to a durable modification of cells or tissues may meet the definition of a regenerative medicine therapy. The regenerative medicine advanced therapy program is intended to facilitate efficient development and expedite review of regenerative medicine advanced therapies, which are intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. A new drug application or a BLA for a regenerative medicine advanced therapy may be eligible for priority review or accelerated approval through (1) surrogate or intermediate endpoints reasonably likely to predict long-term clinical benefit or (2) reliance upon data obtained from a meaningful number of sites. Benefits of such designation also include early interactions with the FDA to discuss any potential surrogate or intermediate endpoint to be used to support accelerated approval. A regenerative medicine therapy that is granted accelerated approval and is subject to post-approval requirements may fulfill such requirements through the submission of clinical evidence, clinical studies, patient registries, or other sources of real world evidence, such as electronic health records; the collection of larger confirmatory data sets; or post-approval monitoring of all patients treated with such therapy prior to its approval.
Designation as a regenerative medicine advanced therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe one of our product candidates meets the criteria for designation as a regenerative medicine advanced therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. In any event, the receipt of a regenerative medicine advanced 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 or more of our product candidates qualify as regenerative medicine advanced therapies, the FDA may later decide that the biological products no longer meet the conditions for qualification.
We may seek PRIME Designation in the EU for one or more of our product candidates, but we might not receive such designations and, even if we do, such designations may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.
In the EU, we may seek PRIME designation for our product candidates in the future. PRIME is a voluntary program aimed at enhancing the EMA’s role to reinforce scientific and regulatory support in order to optimize development and enable accelerated assessment of new medicines that are of major public health interest with the potential to address unmet medical needs. The program focuses on medicines that target conditions for which there exists no satisfactory method of treatment in the EU or even if such a method exists, it may offer a major therapeutic advantage over existing treatments. PRIME is limited to medicines under development and not authorized in the EU and the sponsor intends to apply for an initial marketing authorization application through the centralized procedure. To be accepted for PRIME, a product candidate must meet the eligibility criteria in respect of its major public health interest and therapeutic innovation based on information that is capable of substantiating the claims.
The benefits of a PRIME designation include the appointment of a Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use rapporteur to provide continued support and help to build knowledge ahead of a marketing authorization application, early dialogue and scientific advice at key development milestones, and the potential to qualify products for accelerated review, meaning reduction in the review time for an opinion on approvability to be issued earlier in the application process. PRIME enables a sponsor to request parallel EMA scientific advice and health technology assessment advice to facilitate timely market access. Even if we receive PRIME designation for any of our product candidates, the designation may not result in a materially faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional EMA procedures. Further, obtaining PRIME designation does not assure or increase the likelihood of EMA’s grant of a marketing authorization.
We may seek a Rare Pediatric Disease Designation for SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates. However, a BLA for SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates may not meet the eligibility criteria for a priority review voucher upon approval.
With enactment of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act in 2012, Congress authorized the FDA to award priority review vouchers to sponsors of certain rare pediatric disease product applications that meet the criteria specified in the law. This provision is designed to encourage development of new drug and biological products for prevention and treatment of certain rare pediatric diseases. Specifically, under this program, a sponsor who receives an approval for a drug or biologic for a “rare pediatric disease” may qualify for a voucher that can be redeemed to receive a priority review of a subsequent marketing application for a different product. The sponsor of a rare pediatric disease drug product receiving a priority review voucher may transfer (including by sale) the voucher to another sponsor. The voucher may be further transferred any number of times before the voucher is used, as long as the sponsor making the transfer has not yet submitted the application.
In order to receive a priority review voucher upon BLA approval, the product must receive designation from the FDA as a product for a rare pediatric disease prior to approval of the marketing application. A “rare pediatric disease” is a disease that is serious or life-threatening, in which the serious or life-threatening manifestations primarily affect individuals aged from birth to 18 years and affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States, or affects more than 200,000 people in the United States but there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available in the United States a product for such disease or condition will be recovered from sales in the United States of such product. In addition to receiving rare pediatric disease designation, in order to receive a priority review voucher, the BLA must be given priority review, rely on clinical data derived from studies examining a pediatric population and dosages of the product intended for that population, not seek approval for a different adult indication in the original rare pediatric disease product application and be for a product that does not include a previously approved active ingredient.
Under the current statutory sunset provisions for the Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Voucher Program, after September 30, 2024, FDA may only award a voucher for an approved rare pediatric disease product application if the sponsor has rare pediatric disease designation for the drug, and that designation was granted by September 30, 2024. After September 30, 2026, FDA may not award any rare pediatric disease priority review vouchers. If we do not obtain approval of a BLA by these dates, and if the Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Voucher Program is not further extended by congressional action, we may not receive a Priority Review Voucher.
We may seek a fast track designation for one or more of our product candidates. However, such designation may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process. We might not receive such designation for one or more of our product candidates.
If a therapy 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 drug sponsor may apply for FDA fast track designation. However, fast track designation does not ensure that we will receive marketing approval or that approval will be granted within any particular timeframe. 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 or if the unmet need has been fulfilled with the approval of another product. Fast track designation alone does not guarantee qualification for the FDA’s priority review procedures.
We may seek priority review designation for one or more of our product candidates, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.
If the FDA determines that a product candidate offers a treatment for a serious condition and, if approved, the product would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness, the FDA may designate the product candidate for priority review. A priority review designation means that the goal for the FDA to review an application is six months, rather than the standard review period of ten months. We may request priority review for our product candidates, however, we cannot assume that one or more of our product candidates will meet the criteria for that designation. The FDA has broad discretion with respect to whether or not to grant priority review status to a product candidate, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for such designation or status, the FDA may decide not to grant it. Moreover, a priority review designation does not necessarily mean a faster development or regulatory review or approval process or necessarily confer any advantage with respect to approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. Receiving priority review from the FDA does not guarantee approval within the six-month review cycle or at all.
Inadequate funding for the FDA, the SEC and other government agencies, including from government shut downs, or other disruptions to these agencies’ operations, could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, prevent new products and services from being developed or commercialized in a timely manner or otherwise prevent those agencies from performing normal business functions on which the operation of our business may rely, which could negatively impact our business.
The ability of the FDA to review and approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and statutory, regulatory and policy changes. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new product candidates to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. In addition, government funding of the SEC and other government agencies on which our operations may rely, including those that fund research and development activities, is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable.
Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new product candidates to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the SEC, have had to furlough critical FDA, SEC and other government employees and stop critical activities. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to review and process our regulatory submissions in a timely manner, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Further, future government shutdowns could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.
Separately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of companies in 2020 and 2021 announced receipt of complete response letters due to the FDA’s inability to complete required inspections for their applications. Following a period of false starts, and temporary suspensions due to the omicron variant, the FDA announced on February 2, 2022 that it would resume domestic inspections beginning on February 7, 2022, and indicated that it would conduct foreign inspections beginning in April 2022 on a prioritized basis. However, the FDA may not be able to continue its current pace and review timelines could be extended, including where a pre-approval inspection or an inspection of clinical sites is required and due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, the FDA is unable to complete such required inspections during the review period. Regulatory authorities outside the U.S. may adopt similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and may experience delays in their regulatory activities.
We face significant competition and our competitors may achieve regulatory approval before us or develop therapies that are more advanced or effective than ours, which may adversely affect our ability to successfully market or commercialize SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates.
We operate in a highly competitive segment of the biopharmaceutical market. We face competition from many different sources, including larger and better-funded pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as from academic institutions, government agencies and private and public research institutions. Our product candidates, if successfully developed and approved, will compete with established therapies as well as with new treatments that may be introduced by our competitors. There are a variety of product candidates, including gene therapies, in development for Duchenne and FA or dilated cardiomyopathy. Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial, product candidate development, manufacturing and marketing resources than we do. Large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have extensive experience in clinical testing and obtaining regulatory approval for their products, and mergers and acquisitions within these industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of larger competitors. Smaller and other early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These third parties compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.
For example, we are aware of several companies and research institutions conducting clinicals trials of product candidates focused on systemic gene transfers for Duchenne, including Pfizer Inc. and Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc. with product candidates currently in Phase III clinical development, Genethon with a product candidate currently in a Phase I/II/III clinical trial, and REGENXBIO Inc., which has announced that it has initiated a Phase I/II clinical trial in the first quarter of 2023. In September 2022, Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc. announced that it had submitted a BLA for its gene therapy candidate SRP-9001 for the treatment of ambulant patients with Duchenne with a PDUFA date of May 29, 2023. In February 2023, Reata Pharmaceuticals announced FDA approval of SKYCLSRYSTM (omaveloxolone) for the treatment of FA in adults and adolescents aged 16 years and older. We are also aware of several companies and research institutions conducting clinical trials of product candidates focused on systemic gene transfer for cardiomyopathy associated with FA, including Lexeo Therapeutics with a product candidate currently in a Phase I/II clinical trial.
Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if competitors develop and commercialize products that are first to market or are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, have broader market acceptance, are more convenient or are less expensive than any product candidate that we may develop.
We are aware of several companies focused on developing gene therapies in various indications, as well as several companies addressing other methods for modifying genes and regulating gene expression. Any advances in gene therapy technology made by a competitor may be used to develop therapies that could compete against SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or any future gene therapy candidates we develop.
We may fail to capitalize on other potential product candidates that may represent a greater commercial opportunity or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.
The success of our business depends upon our ability to develop and commercialize SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates. Because we have limited resources, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with certain programs or product candidates or for indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential than SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates. For example, in January 2020, in connection with implementing our strategic plan to create a leaner company focused on advancing SGT-001, we curtailed certain activities supporting our other research and development programs. Similarly, in April 2022, we announced a reorganization of our corporate operations to prioritize the advancement of our key programs, and we focused our research and development activities to those related to our SGT-001 and SGT-003 programs. Subsequent to that, in September 2022, we announced that we would be pausing activities for SGT-001.
In addition, in October 2020, we entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Ultragenyx, pursuant to which we granted Ultragenyx an exclusive worldwide license under certain intellectual property rights controlled by us to develop AAV8 or other clade E AAV variant pharmaceutical products that express our MD5 nNOS binding domain form of microdystrophin protein for the treatment of Duchenne and other disease indications resulting from a lack of functional dystrophin, which we refer to as the Licensed Products.
Our spending on current and future research and development programs may not yield any commercially viable product candidates. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through strategic collaborations, licensing or other arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to such
product candidate. Alternatively, 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 partnering arrangement. If any of these events occur, we may be forced to abandon our development efforts with respect to a particular product candidate or fail to develop a potentially successful product candidate.
Risks related to the manufacturing and commercialization of our product candidates
We have entered into, and may in the future enter into, collaborations with third parties for the development or commercialization of our product candidates. If our collaborations are not successful, we may not be able to capitalize on the market potential of these product candidates and our business could be adversely affected.
In October 2020, we entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Ultragenyx, pursuant to which we granted Ultragenyx an exclusive worldwide license under certain intellectual property rights controlled by us to develop the Licensed Products.
While we have retained all rights to and are developing on our own SGT-003, we may in the future enter into development, distribution or marketing arrangements with third parties with respect to SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or future candidates. Our likely collaborators for any such sales, marketing, distribution, development, licensing or broader collaboration arrangements include large and mid-size pharmaceutical companies, regional and national pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies. If we enter into any such arrangements with any third parties in the future, we will likely have limited control over the amount and timing of resources that our collaborators dedicate to the development or commercialization of our product candidates. Our ability to generate revenues from these arrangements will depend on our collaborators’ abilities and efforts to successfully perform the functions assigned to them in these arrangements.
Collaborations that we enter into, including our collaboration with Ultragenyx, may not be successful, and any success will depend heavily on the efforts and activities of such collaborators. Collaborations pose a number of risks, including the following:
Collaboration agreements may not lead to development or commercialization of product candidates in the most efficient manner, or at all. If any collaborations that we enter into do not result in the successful development and commercialization of products or if one of our collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may not receive any future research funding or milestone or royalty payments under the collaboration. If we do not receive the funding we expect under these agreements, our development of our product candidates could be delayed and we may need additional resources to develop our product candidates. All of the risks relating to product development, regulatory approval and commercialization described herein also apply to the activities of our collaborators.
Additionally, subject to its contractual obligations to us, if a collaborator of ours is involved in a business combination, the collaborator might deemphasize or terminate the development or commercialization of any product candidate licensed to it by us. If one of our collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may find it more difficult to attract new collaborators and our perception in the business and financial communities could be adversely affected.
We may not be successful in finding strategic collaborators for continuing development of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates or platform technologies, or for successfully commercializing or competing in the market for certain indications.
We may seek to establish strategic partnerships for developing SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates or platform technologies due to capital costs required to develop, manufacture and commercialize our product candidates or platform technologies. We may not be successful in our efforts to establish strategic partnerships or other alternative arrangements because, among other things, our research and development pipeline may be insufficient, SGT-003, AVB-202-TT or AVB-401 or platform technologies may be deemed to be at too early of a stage of development for collaborative effort or third parties may not view SGT-003, AVB-202-TT or AVB-401 or platform technologies as having the requisite potential to demonstrate safety and efficacy. We cannot be certain that, following a strategic transaction, we will achieve an economic or business benefit that justifies such transaction. If we seek to but are unable to reach agreements with suitable collaborators on a timely basis, on acceptable terms or at all, we may have to curtail, reduce or delay the development of a product candidate, delay its potential commercialization, reduce the scope of any sales or marketing activities or increase our expenditures and undertake development, manufacturing or commercialization activities independently. If we elect to fund our own independent development or commercialization activities, we will need to obtain additional expertise and additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. If we fail to enter into collaborations and do not have sufficient funds or expertise to undertake the necessary development, manufacturing and commercialization activities, we may not be able to further develop SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates or platform technologies.
We have limited gene therapy manufacturing experience and could experience production problems and delays in obtaining regulatory approval of our manufacturing processes, which could result in delays in the development or commercialization of SGT-003 or other current and future candidates. In addition, changes to manufacturing sites or processes, or formulations for our product candidates may result in additional cost or delay.
We have limited experience manufacturing SGT-003 and our other current or future candidates. The manufacturing process we have used historically and the manufacturing process we plan to use in the future to produce product for our candidates are complex and our processes have not been validated for commercial use. As candidates progress through preclinical studies and clinical trials to marketing approval and commercialization, it is common that various aspects of the development program, such as manufacturing methods and formulation, are altered along the way in an effort to optimize safety, quality, efficacy, yield, manufacturing batch size, minimize costs and achieve consistent results. For example, we have recently moved to a transient transfection-based manufacturing process for SGT-003. While we have observed positive results in preclinical studies using this new manufacturing process, any further changes in manufacturing or formulation may result in effects and results that are different from those observed in our completed preclinical studies to date. Similarly, in the future we may introduce an alternative process or formulation of one or more of our candidates during the course of our planned preclinical studies or clinical trials. Such changes carry the risk that they will not achieve these intended objectives. Any of these changes could cause our candidates to perform differently and affect the results of planned clinical trials or other future clinical trials conducted with the altered materials. This could delay initiation or completion of clinical trials, require the conduct of bridging studies or clinical trials or the repetition of one or more studies or clinical trials, increase development costs, delay approval of our candidates and jeopardize our ability to commercialize our candidates, if approved, and generate revenue.
The production of SGT-003 uses a transient transfection-based process which requires processing steps that are more complex than those required for most chemical pharmaceuticals. We also intend to use transient transfection manufacturing for our other current and future candidates. Moreover, unlike chemical pharmaceuticals, the physical and chemical properties of a gene therapy candidate such as ours generally cannot be fully characterized. As a result, assays of the finished product may not be sufficient to ensure that the product will perform in the intended manner. Accordingly, we have and will continue to employ multiple steps to control our manufacturing processes to assure that the process works and that SGT-003 and our current and future products are made strictly and consistently in compliance with such processes. We must supply all necessary documentation in support of an IND, BLA or MAA on a timely basis and must adhere to the FDA’s and the European Union’s cGMP requirements before we can obtain marketing approval for SGT-003 and other current and future candidates. In order to obtain approval, we will need to ensure that all of our processes, methods and equipment are compliant with cGMP requirements, by performing extensive audits of contract laboratories, manufacturers and suppliers.
We currently rely on third-party manufacturers for SGT-003 and plan to rely on third-party manufacturers for our AVB-202-TT and AVB-401 programs. In order to produce sufficient quantities of for clinical trials and initial U.S. commercial demand, we have and will continue to further optimize and increase the capacity of our manufacturing process at our third-party manufacturers. We may need to make changes to our manufacturing processes, beyond implementation of a transient transfection-based manufacturing process. We may not be able to produce sufficient quantities of drug product due to several factors, including equipment malfunctions, facility contamination, material shortages or contamination, natural disasters, a public health issue (for example, an outbreak of a contagious disease such as the COVID-19 pandemic), disruption in utility services, human error or disruptions in the operations of our suppliers. For example, we have not released a manufacturing lot for clinical supply utilizing the transient transfection-based manufacturing process and may experience variability with respect to the success and yield between lots that will require continued engagement in process development activities to improve the reproducibility, reliability, quality and consistency of yields of the manufacturing process. Additional manufacturing runs will be required to produce necessary or adequate supply for our future clinical trials and there is no guarantee that all of those runs will be within specifications or produce adequate supply. If we are not able to produce sufficient supply on the timeline expected, our overall development schedule for SGT-003 and other current and future candidates could be delayed, and we could incur additional expense. Any such failure could delay or prevent our IND or commercialization of SGT-003 or other current and future candidates.
If supply from a manufacturing facility is interrupted, including as a result of equipment malfunctions, facility contamination, material shortages or contamination, natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic or another public health issue, disruption in utility services or human error, there could be a significant disruption in supply of SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates. In such instance, we may need to locate appropriate replacement third-party manufacturers, and we may not be able to enter into arrangements with such additional third-party manufacturers on favorable terms or at all. Use of new third-party manufacturers could increase the risk of delays in production or insufficient supplies of our product candidates as we transfer our manufacturing technology to these manufacturers and as they gain experience manufacturing our product candidates.
In addition, product manufacturers and their facilities are subject to payment of user fees and continual review and periodic inspections by the FDA and other regulatory authorities for compliance with cGMP requirements and adherence to commitments made in the BLA or foreign marketing application. If we, or a regulatory authority, discover previously unknown problems with a product, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facility where the product is manufactured, a regulatory authority may impose restrictions relative to that product, the manufacturing facility or us, including requiring recall or withdrawal of the product from the market or suspension of manufacturing.
In addition, the FDA, the EMA and other foreign regulatory authorities may require us to submit samples of any lot of any approved product together with the protocols showing the results of applicable tests at any time. Under some circumstances, the FDA, the EMA or other foreign regulatory authorities may require that we not distribute a lot until the agency authorizes its release. Lot failures or product recalls could cause us to delay or abandon clinical trials or product launches.
We also may encounter problems hiring and retaining the experienced scientific, quality control and manufacturing personnel needed to oversee our manufacturing and quality control process, which could result in delays in our production or difficulties in maintaining compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.
Any problems in our manufacturing process or facilities could make us a less attractive collaborator for potential partners, including biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and academic research institutions, which could limit our access to additional attractive development programs. Problems in our manufacturing process or facilities also could restrict our ability to meet market demand for SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates.
We expect to utilize third parties to conduct our product manufacturing for the foreseeable future. Therefore, we are subject to the risk that these third parties may not perform satisfactorily or meet regulatory requirements.
We do not independently manufacture material for our planned and future clinical programs and we expect to utilize materials manufactured by cGMP-compliant third-party suppliers. If these third-party manufacturers do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, meet expected deadlines or manufacture SGT-003 and other current and future product candidates in accordance with quality and regulatory requirements or if there are disagreements between us and these third-party manufacturers, we may not be able to complete, or may be delayed in completing, the clinical trials required for approval of SGT-003 and other current and future product candidates. In such instances, we may need to locate an appropriate replacement third-party relationship, which may not be readily available or on acceptable terms, which would cause additional delay or increased expense prior to the approval of our product candidates.
Additionally, we rely on our third-party manufacturers for their compliance with the cGMP and their maintenance of adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. Furthermore, all of our third-party suppliers and manufacturers are engaged with other companies to supply and/or manufacture materials or products for such companies, which exposes them to regulatory risks for the production of such materials and products. FDA inspections may identify compliance issues at third-party manufacturer facilities or at the facilities of third-party suppliers that may disrupt production or distribution, or require substantial resources to correct and prevent recurrence of any deficiencies, and could result in fines or penalties by regulatory authorities. In addition, discovery of problems with a product or the failure to comply with applicable requirements may result in restrictions on a product, manufacturer or holder of an approved BLA, including withdrawal or recall of the product from the market or other voluntary, FDA-initiated or judicial action, including fines, injunctions, civil penalties, license revocations, seizure, total or partial suspension of production or criminal penalties, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our product candidates.
In addition, we do not currently have long-term supply or manufacturing arrangements in place for the production of SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates at commercial scale. Although we intend to establish additional sources for long-term supply, from one or more third-party manufacturers, if the gene therapy industry were to grow, we may encounter increasing competition for the materials necessary for the production of SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates. We may experience difficulties in scaling up production beyond clinical batches. Furthermore, demand for third-party cGMP manufacturing facilities may grow at a faster rate than existing manufacturing capacity, which could disrupt our ability to find and retain third-party manufacturers capable of producing sufficient quantities of SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates for future clinical trials or to meet initial commercial demand in the United States. We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on additional third parties to manufacture materials for our product candidates
and to perform quality testing. We intend to maintain third-party manufacturers for these materials, as well as to serve as additional sources of SGT-003 and other current and future product candidates, which will expose us to risks including:
Any of these events could lead to clinical trial delays or failure to obtain regulatory approval or impact our ability to successfully commercialize SGT-003 or other current and future product candidates. Some of these events could be the basis for FDA action, including injunction, recall, seizure or total or partial suspension of product manufacture.
If we are unable to establish sales, distribution and marketing capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell SGT-003 and other current and future candidates, we will be unable to generate any product revenue.
We currently have no sales, distribution or marketing organization. To successfully commercialize any product candidate that may result from our development programs, we will need to develop these capabilities, either on our own or with others. The establishment and development of our own commercial team or the establishment of a contract sales force to market any product candidate we may develop will be expensive and time-consuming and could delay any product launch. Moreover, we cannot be certain that we will be able to successfully develop this capability. We may enter into collaborations regarding SGT-003 and other current and future candidates with other entities to utilize their established marketing and distribution capabilities, but we may be unable to enter into such agreements on favorable terms, if at all. If any future collaborators do not commit sufficient resources to commercialize our product candidates, or we are unable to develop the necessary capabilities on our own, we will be unable to generate sufficient product revenue to sustain our business. We compete with many companies that currently have extensive, experienced and well-funded sales, distribution and marketing operations to recruit, hire, train and retain marketing and sales personnel. We will also face competition in our search for third parties to assist us with the sales and marketing efforts of any future products. Without an internal team or the support of a third party to perform marketing and sales functions, we will be unable to compete successfully against these more established companies.
If we are unable to establish medical affairs capabilities, we will be unable to establish an educated market of physicians to administer any future products.
We currently have no medical affairs team. If we are unable to successfully build a medical affairs team to address scientific and medical questions and provide expert guidance and education in the application, administration and utilization of any future products to physicians, we may not be able to establish an educated market for our products. The establishment and development of our own medical affairs team will be expensive and time-consuming and could delay any product launch. Moreover, we cannot be certain that we will be able to successfully develop this capability.
If the market opportunities for any of our future products are smaller than we believe they are, our revenue prospects may be adversely affected and our business may suffer.
We currently focus our research and product development on treatments for Duchenne, FA, BAG3-mediated dilated cardiomyopathy and other undisclosed cardiac indications. Our understanding of the patient population with these diseases is based on estimates in published literature and by disease-focused foundations. These estimates may prove to be incorrect and new studies may reduce the estimated incidence or prevalence of these diseases. The number of patients in the United States, the European Union and elsewhere may turn out to be lower than expected, patients may not be otherwise amenable to treatment with our product candidates or patients may become increasingly difficult to identify and access.
Further, there are several factors that could contribute to reducing the actual number of patients who could receive SGT-003, AVB-202. AVB-401 or other future candidates less than the potentially addressable market. These include the lack of widespread availability of, and limited reimbursement for, new therapies in many underdeveloped markets. Further, the
severity of the progression of a degenerative disease such as Duchenne and FA up to the time of treatment will likely diminish the therapeutic benefit conferred by a gene therapy due to irreversible cell damage.
Certain patients’ immune systems might prohibit the successful delivery of certain gene therapy products, thereby potentially limiting the population of patients amenable to gene transfer.
As with many AAV-mediated gene therapy approaches, certain patients’ immune systems might prohibit the successful delivery of certain gene therapy products, thereby potentially limiting the population of patients amenable to gene transfer. While we are working to better understand the prevalence of antibodies to AAV, or seroprevalence, as it relates to gene therapy, the exact seroprevalence is currently unknown and varies by AAV serotype and age. We may not be able to address these potentially limiting factors for gene therapy as a treatment for certain patients.
The commercial success of any of our candidates, if approved, will depend upon market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community.
Even with the requisite approvals from the FDA in the United States, the European Commission in the European Union and other regulatory authorities internationally, the commercial success of our candidates will depend, in part, on the acceptance of physicians, patients and health care payors of gene therapy products in general, and, in particular for each of our current and future candidate, as medically necessary, cost-effective and safe. Any product that we commercialize may not gain acceptance by physicians, patients, health care payors and others in the medical community due to ethical, social, medical and legal concerns. If our products do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenue and may not become profitable. The degree of market acceptance of gene therapy products and, in particular, our current and future candidates, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on multiple factors, including:
Even if a potential product candidate displays a favorable efficacy and safety profile in preclinical studies and clinical trials, market acceptance of the product will not be fully known until after it is launched.
Our efforts to educate the medical community and third-party payors on the benefits of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 and other future candidates may require significant resources and may never be successful. Such efforts may require more resources than are typically required due to the complexity and uniqueness of our potential product candidates. If SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other future candidates are approved but fail to achieve market acceptance among physicians, patients or third-party payors, we will not be able to generate significant revenue from any such product.
Our gene transfer approach utilizes a vector derived from a virus, which may be perceived as unsafe or may result in unforeseen adverse events. Negative public opinion and increased regulatory scrutiny of gene therapy may damage public perception of the safety of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or our other gene transfer product candidates and adversely affect our ability to conduct our business or obtain regulatory approvals for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT, AVB-401 or other gene transfer candidates.
Gene transfer remains a novel technology that faces many challenges imposed by the humoral immune response. The immunogenicity of AAV gene transfers is a very complex process that we and others continue to work understand through the extensive clinical experience that now exists over a broad spectrum of therapeutic areas and indications. Marked inflammatory toxicities have been observed, including complement activation, cytopenias, severe hepatotoxicity as well as transgene related toxicities representing part of the continuum of diverse aspects of clinical immune responses that can be observed post gene transfer.
In particular, our success will depend upon physicians who specialize in the treatment of Duchenne, FA and our cardiac pipeline indications, prescribing treatments that involve the use of viral vectors in lieu of, or in addition to, other treatments with which they are more familiar and for which greater clinical data may be available. More restrictive government regulations or negative public opinion may delay or impair the development and commercialization or demand for any product candidate we may develop. A public backlash developed against gene therapy following the death of a patient in 1999 during a gene therapy clinical trial of research subjects with ornithine transcarbamylase, or OTC, deficiency, a rare disorder in which the liver lacks a functional copy of the OTC gene. The death of the clinical trial subject was due to complications of adenovirus vector administration. Dr. James M. Wilson, former chair of our Scientific Advisory Board, was a co-investigator of the 1999 trial while he was Director of the Institute for Human Gene Therapy of the University of Pennsylvania. Serious adverse events in our clinical trials, including the events that led to the previously-lifted clinical holds on IGNITE DMD or other clinical trials involving gene transfer products or our competitors’ products, even if not ultimately attributable to the relevant product candidates, and the resulting publicity, could result in increased government regulation, unfavorable public perception, potential regulatory delays in the testing or approval of SGT-003, AVB-202-TT and our other future product candidates, stricter labeling requirements for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT and our other future candidates, if approved, and a decrease in demand for SGT-003, AVB-202-TT and our other future candidates.
Any contamination in our manufacturing process, shortages of materials or failure of any of our key suppliers to deliver necessary components could result in interruption in the supply of our product candidates and delays in our clinical development or commercialization schedules.
Given the nature of biologics manufacturing, there is a risk of contamination in our manufacturing processes. Any contamination could materially adversely affect our ability to produce our candidates on schedule and could cause reputational damage.
Some of the materials required in our manufacturing process are derived from biologic sources. Such materials are difficult to procure and may be subject to contamination or recall. A material shortage, contamination, recall or restriction on the use of biologically derived substances in the manufacture of our candidates could adversely impact or disrupt the manufacturing or the production of clinical material, which could materially and adversely affect our development timelines.
The insurance coverage and reimbursement status of newly approved products is uncertain. Failure to obtain or maintain adequate coverage and reimbursement for our product candidates, if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate product revenue.
There is significant uncertainty related to third-party coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. We expect the cost of a single administration of gene transfer products, such as those we are developing, to be substantial, when and if they achieve regulatory approval. We expect that coverage and reimbursement by government and private payors will be essential for most patients to be able to afford these treatments. Accordingly, sales of our future products, if approved, will depend substantially, both domestically and abroad, on the extent to which the costs of such product candidates will be paid by health maintenance, managed care, pharmacy benefit and similar health care management organizations, or will be reimbursed by government authorities, private health coverage insurers and other third-party payors. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon several factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that use of a product is:
Obtaining coverage and reimbursement for a product from third-party payors is a time-consuming and costly process that could require us to provide to the payor supporting scientific, clinical and cost-effectiveness data. If coverage and reimbursement are not available, or are available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our future products, if approved. Even if coverage is provided, the approved reimbursement amount may not be adequate to realize a sufficient return on our investment.
To our knowledge, only a limited number of gene transfer products have been approved for coverage and reimbursement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or the CMS, the agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. It is difficult to predict what the CMS will decide with respect to coverage and reimbursement for fundamentally novel products such as ours, as there is no body of established practices and precedents for these types of products either in the United States or the European Union. For example, several cancer drugs have been approved for reimbursement in the United States and have not been approved for reimbursement in certain European Union member states and vice versa. It is difficult to predict what third-party payors will decide with respect to the coverage and reimbursement for our future products, if approved.
Governments outside the United States tend to impose strict price controls, which may adversely affect our revenue, if any.
Outside the United States, international operations generally are subject to extensive government price controls and other market regulations, and increasing emphasis on cost-containment initiatives in the European Union, Canada and other countries may put pricing pressure on us. In general, the prices of therapeutics outside the United States are substantially lower than in the United States. Other countries may allow companies to fix their own prices for therapeutics, but monitor and control company profits. Additional foreign price controls or other changes in pricing regulations could restrict the amount that we are able to charge for our product candidates. Accordingly, in markets outside the United States, the reimbursement for our product candidates may be reduced compared with the United States and may be insufficient to generate commercially reasonable product revenue.
Additionally, in countries where the pricing of gene therapy products is subject to governmental control, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after the receipt of marketing approval for a product. Political, economic and regulatory developments may further complicate pricing negotiations, and pricing negotiations may continue after reimbursement has been obtained. Reference pricing used by various European Union member states and parallel distribution, or arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced member states, can further reduce prices. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost-effectiveness of our product candidate to other available therapies. Reimbursement of our products may be unavailable or limited in scope or amount, which would adversely affect our revenue, if any.
If we obtain approval to commercialize our future products outside of the United States, in particular in the European Union, a variety of risks associated with international operations could materially adversely affect our business.
We expect that we will be subject to additional risks in commercializing our future products, if approved, outside the United States, including:
The failure to comply with applicable foreign regulatory requirements may result in, among other things, fines, suspension, variation or withdrawal of regulatory approvals, product recalls, seizure of products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecution.
If we engage in future acquisitions or strategic collaborations, this may increase our capital requirements, dilute our stockholders, cause us to incur debt or assume contingent liabilities and subject us to other risks.
We may evaluate various acquisitions and strategic collaborations, including licensing or acquiring complementary products, intellectual property rights, technologies or businesses. Any potential acquisition or strategic collaboration may entail numerous risks, including:
In addition, if we undertake acquisitions, we may issue dilutive securities, assume or incur debt obligations, incur large one-time expenses and acquire intangible assets that could result in significant future amortization expense. Moreover, we may not be able to locate suitable acquisition or collaboration opportunities and this inability could impair our ability to grow or obtain access to technology or products that may be important to the development of our business.
Risks related to our business operations
Our future success depends on our ability to retain key employees, consultants and advisors and to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel.
We are highly dependent on members of our executive team, the loss of whose services may adversely impact the achievement of our objectives. While we have entered into employment agreements with certain of our executive officers, any of them could leave our employment at any time. We currently do not have “key person” insurance on any of our employees. The loss of the services of one or more of our current key employees might impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives.
Recruiting and retaining other qualified employees, consultants and advisors for our business, including scientific and technical personnel, also will be critical to our success. There currently is a shortage of skilled individuals with substantial gene therapy experience, which is likely to continue. As a result, competition for skilled personnel, including in gene therapy research and vector manufacturing, 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 and academic institutions for individuals with similar skill sets. In addition, the failure to succeed in preclinical or clinical trials or applications for marketing approval may make it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified personnel. The inability to recruit, or loss of services of certain executives, key employees, consultants or advisors, may impede the progress of our research, development and commercialization objectives.
Our strategic plan and associated workforce reductions may not result in anticipated savings, could result in total costs and expenses that are greater than expected and could disrupt our business.
In April 2022 and December 2022, we announced a reduction in workforce by approximately 35% and 18%, respectively, as part of a strategic plan designed to streamline our operating structure. We may not realize, in full or in part, the anticipated benefits, savings and improvements in our cost structure from our restructuring efforts due to unforeseen difficulties, delays or unexpected costs. If we are unable to realize the expected operational efficiencies and cost savings from the restructuring, our operating results and financial condition would be adversely affected. We also cannot guarantee that we will not have to undertake additional workforce reductions or restructuring activities in the future. Furthermore, our strategic restructuring plan and the Acquisition may be disruptive to our operations. For example, our workforce reductions and integration of AavantiBio’s business and operations into ours could yield unanticipated consequences, such as attrition beyond planned staff reductions, or increase difficulties in our day-to-day operations. Our workforce reductions and the Acquisition could also harm our ability to attract and retain qualified management, scientific, clinical, manufacturing and sales and marketing personnel who are critical to our business. Any failure to attract or retain qualified personnel could prevent us from successfully developing and commercializing our product candidates in the future.
If we are unable to manage growth in the scale and complexity of our operations, our performance may suffer.
If we are successful in executing our business strategy, we will need to expand our managerial, operational, financial and other systems and resources to manage our operations, continue our research and development activities and, in the longer term, build a commercial infrastructure to support commercialization of our current and future candidates and products that are approved for sale. Future growth would impose significant added responsibilities on members of management. It is likely that our management, finance, development personnel, systems and facilities currently in place may not be adequate to support this future growth. Our need to effectively manage our operations, growth and any future product candidates requires that we continue to develop more robust business processes and improve our systems and procedures in each of these areas and to attract and retain sufficient numbers of talented employees. We may be unable to successfully implement these tasks on a larger scale and, accordingly, may not achieve our research, development and growth goals.
Our employees may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards and requirements, which could cause significant liability for us and harm our reputation.
We are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other misconduct, including intentional failures to comply with FDA regulations or similar regulations of comparable foreign regulatory authorities, provide accurate information to the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, comply with manufacturing standards, comply with federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations and similar laws and regulations established and enforced by comparable foreign regulatory authorities, report financial information or data accurately or disclose unauthorized activities to us. Employee misconduct could also involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious harm to our reputation. This could include violations of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, other U.S. federal and state law, and requirements of non-U.S. jurisdictions, including the European Union Data Protection Directive. It is not always possible to identify and deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to be in compliance with such laws, standards, regulations, guidance or codes of conduct. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business and results of operations, including the imposition of significant fines or other sanctions.
Enacted and future legislation may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize our product candidates and may affect the prices we may set.
Our business and financial prospects could be affected by changes in health care spending and policy in the United States and abroad. We operate in a highly regulated industry and new laws or judicial decisions, or new interpretations of existing laws or decisions, related to health care availability, the method of delivery or payment for health care products and services could negatively impact our business, operations and financial condition.
For example, in the United States there is significant interest in promoting health care reform, as evidenced by the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the companion Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or the Health Care Reform Law. The Health Care Reform Law increased federal oversight of private health insurance
plans and included a number of provisions designed to reduce Medicare expenditures and the cost of health care generally, to reduce fraud and abuse, and to provide access to increased health coverage.
The Health Care Reform Law also imposed substantial changes to the U.S. system for paying for health care, including programs to extend medical benefits to millions of individuals who have lacked insurance coverage. Generally, implementation of the Health Care Reform Law has thus far included significant cost-saving, revenue and payment reduction measures with respect to, for example, several government health care programs that might cover our products in the United States, should they be commercialized, including Medicaid and Medicare. Additional downward pricing pressure associated with the Health Care Reform Law includes that the Health Care Reform Law established and provided significant funding for a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to coordinate and fund Comparative Effectiveness Research, as those terms are defined in the Health Care Reform Law. While the stated intent of Comparative Effectiveness Research is to develop information to guide providers to the most efficacious therapies, outcomes of Comparative Effectiveness Research could influence the reimbursement or coverage for therapies that are determined to be less cost-effective than others. Should any of our products be approved for sale, but then determined to be less cost-effective than alternative therapies, the levels of reimbursement for these products, or the willingness to reimburse at all, could be adversely impacted.
In addition to legislative changes resulting from the passage of the Health Care Reform Law, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the Health Care Reform Law was enacted. In August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. These changes included aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers of up to 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect in April 2013 and will remain in effect through 2029 unless additional Congressional action is taken. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, suspended the 2% Medicare sequester from May 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, and extended the sequester through 2031. These Medicare sequester reductions were suspended through June 2022, with the full 2% cut resuming thereafter. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, among other things, 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. These new laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding and otherwise affect the prices we may obtain for any of our product candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval or the frequency with which any such product candidate is prescribed or used. Indeed, under current legislation, the actual reductions in Medicare payments may vary up to 4%.
Since enactment of the Health Care Reform Law, there have been, and continue to be, numerous legal challenges and Congressional actions to repeal and replace provisions of the law. For example, with enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or the TCJA, Congress repealed the “individual mandate.” The repeal of this provision of the Health Care Reform Law, which requires most Americans to carry a minimal level of health insurance, became effective in 2019. Further, on December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court judge in the Northern District of Texas ruled that the individual mandate portion of the Health Care Reform Law is an essential and inseverable feature of the Health Care Reform Law, and therefore because the mandate was repealed as part of the TCJA, the remaining provisions of the Health Care Reform Law are invalid as well. The U.S. Supreme Court heard this case on November 10, 2020 and on June 17, 2021, dismissed this action after finding that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute. It is unclear how such litigation and other efforts to repeal and replace the Health Care Reform Law will impact the Health Care Reform Law and our business. Litigation and legislation over the Health Care Reform Law are likely to continue, with unpredictable and uncertain results.
Although the previous administration took actions to undermine or delay implementation of the Health Care Reform Law, those policies President Biden rescinded those actions with the issuance of an Executive Order on January 28, 2021 which directs federal agencies to reconsider rules and other policies that limit Americans’ access to health care, and consider actions that will protect and strengthen that access. Under this Executive Order, federal agencies are directed to re-examine policies that undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19; demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the Health Care Reform Law that may reduce coverage or undermine the programs, including work requirements; policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets for health insurance; policies that make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the Health Care Reform Law; and policies that reduce affordability of coverage or financial assistance, including for dependents. This Executive Order also directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create a special enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current and future legislative efforts may limit the prices for our products, if and when they are licensed for marketing and that could materially impact our ability to generate revenues.
The prices of prescription pharmaceuticals have been the subject of considerable discussion in the United States. To date, there have been several recent U.S. congressional inquiries, as well as proposed and enacted state and federal legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, reduce the costs of drugs under Medicare and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for products. In 2020, CMS issued an interim final rule implementing a most favored nation model for prices that would tie Medicare Part B payments for certain physician-administered pharmaceuticals to the lowest price paid in other economically advanced countries, effective January 1, 2021. That rule, however, has been subject to a nationwide preliminary injunction and, on December 29, 2021, CMS issued a final rule to rescind it. With issuance of this rule, CMS stated that it will explore all options to incorporate value into payments for Medicare Part B pharmaceuticals and improve beneficiaries’ access to evidence-based care.
In addition, in October 2020, HHS and the FDA published a final rule allowing states and other entities to develop a Section 804 Importation Program, or SIP, to import certain prescription drugs from Canada into the United States. The final rule is currently the subject of ongoing litigation, but at least six states (Vermont, Colorado, Florida, Maine, New Mexico, and New Hampshire) have passed laws allowing for the importation of drugs from Canada with the intent of developing SIPs for review and approval by the FDA. Further, on November 20, 2020, HHS finalized a regulation removing safe harbor protection for price reductions from pharmaceutical manufacturers to plan sponsors under Part D, either directly or through pharmacy benefit managers, unless the price reduction is required by law. The final rule would eliminate the current safe harbor for Medicare drug rebates and create new safe harbors for beneficiary point-of-sale discounts and pharmacy benefit manager service fees. It originally was set to go into effect on January 1, 2022, but with passage of the Inflation Reduction Act has been delayed by Congress to January 1, 2032.
More recently, on August 16, 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, or IRA, was signed into law by President Biden. The new legislation has implications for Medicare Part D, which is a program available to individuals who are entitled to Medicare Part A or enrolled in Medicare Part B to give them the option of paying a monthly premium for outpatient prescription drug coverage. Among other things, the IRA requires manufacturers of certain drugs to engage in price negotiations with Medicare (beginning in 2026), with prices that can be negotiated subject to a cap; imposes rebates under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation (first due in 2023); and replaces the Part D coverage gap discount program with a new discounting program (beginning in 2025). The IRA permits the Secretary of HHS to implement many of these provisions through guidance, as opposed to regulation, for the initial years.
Specifically, with respect to price negotiations, Congress authorized Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain costly single-source drug and biologic products that do not have competing generics or biosimilars and are reimbursed under Medicare Part B and Part D. CMS may negotiate prices for ten high-cost drugs paid for by Medicare Part D starting in 2026, followed by 15 Part D drugs in 2027, 15 Part B or Part D drugs in 2028, and 20 Part B or Part D drugs in 2029 and beyond. This provision applies to drug products that have been approved for at least 9 years and biologics that have been licensed for 13 years, but it does not apply to drugs and biologics that have been approved for a single rare disease or condition. Nonetheless, since CMS may establish a maximum price for these products in price negotiations, we would be fully at risk of government action if our products are the subject of Medicare price negotiations. Moreover, given the risk that could be the case, these provisions of the IRA may also further heighten the risk that we would not be able to achieve the expected return on our drug products or full value of our patents protecting our products if prices are set after such products have been on the market for nine years.
Accordingly, while it is currently unclear how the IRA will be effectuated, we cannot predict with certainty what impact any federal or state health reforms will have on us, but such changes could impose new or more stringent regulatory requirements on our activities or result in reduced reimbursement for our products, any of which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
At the state level, individual states are increasingly aggressive in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. In addition, regional health care authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other health care programs. These measures could reduce the ultimate demand for our products, if approved, or put pressure on our product pricing. 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 for our product candidates or additional pricing pressures.
It is likely that federal and state legislatures within the United States and foreign governments will continue to consider changes to existing health care legislation. We cannot predict the reform initiatives that may be adopted in the future or whether initiatives that have been adopted will be repealed or modified. The continuing efforts of the government, insurance companies, managed care organizations and other health care payors of to contain or reduce costs of health care may adversely affect:
Finally, in the European Union, similar political, economic and regulatory developments may affect our ability to profitably commercialize our product candidates, if approved. In addition to continuing pressure on prices and cost containment measures, legislative developments at the European Union or member state level may result in significant additional requirements or obstacles that may increase our operating costs. The delivery of healthcare in the European Union, including the establishment and operation of health services and the pricing and reimbursement of medicines, is almost exclusively a matter for national, rather than European Union, law and policy. National governments and health service providers have different priorities and approaches to the delivery of healthcare and the pricing and reimbursement of products in that context. In general, however, the healthcare budgetary constraints in most European Union member states have resulted in restrictions on the pricing and reimbursement of medicines by relevant health service providers. Coupled with ever-increasing European Union and national regulatory burdens on those wishing to develop and market products, this could prevent or delay marketing approval of our product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities and affect our ability to commercialize our product candidates, if approved.
In markets outside of the United States and the European Union, reimbursement and healthcare payment systems vary significantly by country, and many countries have instituted price ceilings on specific products and therapies. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action in the United States, the European Union or any other jurisdiction. If we or any third parties we may engage are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we or such third parties are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, our product candidates may lose any regulatory approval that may have been obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
Our relationships with customers, physicians and third-party payors will be subject, directly or indirectly, to federal and state health care fraud and abuse laws, false claims laws, health information privacy and security laws, and other health
care laws and regulations. If we are unable to comply, or have not fully complied, with such laws, we could face substantial penalties.
If we obtain FDA approval for our current or future candidates and begin commercializing one or more of those products in the United States, our operations will be directly or indirectly through our prescribers, customers and purchasers, subject to various federal and state fraud and abuse laws and regulations, including, without limitation, the federal Health Care Program Anti-Kickback Statute, the federal civil and criminal laws and the Physician Payment Sunshine Act and regulations. These laws will impact, among other things, our proposed sales, marketing and educational programs. In addition, we may be subject to patient privacy laws by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. The laws that will affect our operations include, but are not limited to:
Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and safe harbors available, it is possible that some of our business activities could be subject to challenge under one or more of such laws. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the laws described above or any other government regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, exclusion from participation in government health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, imprisonment and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations.
The risk of our being found in violation of these laws is increased by the fact that many of them have not been fully interpreted by the regulatory authorities or the courts, and their provisions are open to a variety of interpretations. Any action against us for violation of these laws, even if we successfully defend against it, could cause us to incur significant legal expenses and divert our management’s attention from the operation of our business. The shifting compliance environment and the need to build and maintain robust and expandable systems to comply with multiple jurisdictions with different compliance and/or reporting requirements increases the possibility that we may run afoul of one or more of the requirements.
We are subject to stringent privacy laws, information security laws, regulations, policies and contractual obligations related to data privacy and security and changes in such laws, regulations, policies, contractual obligations and failure to comply with such requirements could subject us to significant fines and penalties, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We are subject to data privacy and protection laws and regulations that apply to the collection, transmission, storage and use of personally-identifying information, which among other things, impose certain requirements relating to the privacy, security and transmission of personal information, including comprehensive regulatory systems in the United States, EU and UK. The legislative and regulatory landscape for privacy and data protection continues to evolve in jurisdictions worldwide, and there has been an increasing focus on privacy and data protection issues with the potential to affect our business. Failure to comply with any of these laws and regulations could result in enforcement action against us, including fines, imprisonment of company officials and public censure, claims for damages by affected individuals, damage to our reputation and loss of goodwill, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects.
There are numerous U.S. federal and state laws and regulations related to the privacy and security of personal information. In particular, regulations promulgated pursuant to HIPAA establish privacy and security standards that limit the use and disclosure of individually identifiable health information, or protected health information, and require the implementation of administrative, physical and technological safeguards to protect the privacy of protected health information and ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information. Determining whether protected health information has been handled in compliance with applicable privacy standards and our contractual obligations can be complex and may be subject to changing interpretation. These obligations may be applicable to some or all of our business activities now or in the future.
If we are unable to properly protect the privacy and security of protected health information, we could be found to have breached our contracts. Further, if we fail to comply with applicable privacy laws, including applicable HIPAA privacy and security standards, we could face civil and criminal penalties. HHS enforcement activity can result in financial liability and reputational harm, and responses to such enforcement activity can consume significant internal resources. In addition, state attorneys general are authorized to bring civil actions seeking either injunctions or damages in response to violations that threaten the privacy of state residents. We cannot be sure how these regulations will be interpreted, enforced or applied to our operations. In addition to the risks associated with enforcement activities and potential contractual liabilities, our ongoing efforts to comply with evolving laws and regulations at the federal and state level may be costly and require ongoing modifications to our policies, procedures and systems.
In 2018, California passed into law the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which took effect on January 1, 2020 and imposed many requirements on businesses that process the personal information of California residents. Many of the CCPA’s requirements are similar to those found in the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, including requiring businesses to provide notice to data subjects regarding the information collected about them and how such information is used and shared, and providing data subjects the right to request access to such personal information and, in certain cases, request the erasure of such personal information. The CCPA also affords California residents the right to opt-out of “sales” of their personal information. The CCPA contains significant penalties for companies that violate its requirements. In November 2020, California voters passed a ballot initiative for the California Privacy Rights Act, or CPRA, which went into effect on January 1, 2023 and significantly expanded the CCPA to incorporate additional GDPR-like provisions including requiring that the use, retention, and sharing of personal information of California residents be reasonably necessary and proportionate to the purposes of collection or processing, granting additional protections for sensitive personal information, and requiring greater disclosures related to notice to residents regarding retention of information. The CPRA also created a new enforcement agency – the California Privacy Protection Agency – whose sole responsibility is to enforce the CPRA, which will further increase compliance risk. The provisions in the CPRA may apply to some of our business activities. In addition, other states, including Virginia, Colorado, Utah, and Connecticut already have passed state privacy laws. Virginia’s privacy law also went into effect on January 1, 2023, and the laws in the other three states will go into effect later in the year. Other states will be considering these laws in the future, and Congress has also been debating passing a federal privacy law. These laws may impact our business activities, including our identification of research subjects, relationships with business partners and ultimately the marketing and distribution of our products.
Similar to the laws in the United States, there are significant privacy and data security laws that apply in Europe and other countries. The collection, use, disclosure, transfer, or other processing of personal data, including personal health data, regarding individuals who are located in the EEA, and the processing of personal data that takes place in the EEA, is regulated by the GDPR, which went into effect in May 2018 and which imposes obligations on companies that operate in our industry with respect to the processing of personal data and the cross-border transfer of such data. The GDPR imposes onerous accountability obligations requiring data controllers and processors to maintain a record of their data processing and policies. If our or our partners’ or service providers’ privacy or data security measures fail to comply with the GDPR requirements, we may be subject to litigation, regulatory investigations, enforcement notices requiring us to change the way we use personal data and/or fines of up to 20 million Euros or up to 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher, as well as compensation claims by affected individuals, negative publicity, reputational harm and a potential loss of business and goodwill.
The GDPR places restrictions on the cross-border transfer of personal data from the EU to countries that have not been found by the European Commission to offer adequate data protection legislation, such as the United States. There are ongoing concerns about the ability of companies to transfer personal data from the EU to other countries. In July 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union, or the CJEU, invalidated the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, one of the mechanisms used to legitimize the transfer of personal data from the EEA to the U.S. The CJEU decision also drew into question the long-term viability of an alternative means of data transfer, the standard contractual clauses, for transfers of personal data from the EEA to the U.S. While we were not self-certified under the Privacy Shield, this CJEU decision may lead to increased scrutiny on data transfers from the EEA to the U.S. generally and increase our costs of compliance with data privacy legislation as well as our costs of negotiating appropriate privacy and security agreements with our vendors and business partners.
Additionally, in October 2022, President Biden signed an executive order to implement the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework, which would serve as a replacement to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. The European Commission initiated the process to adopt an adequacy decision for the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework in December 2022. It is unclear if and when the framework will be finalized and whether it will be challenged in court. The uncertainty around this issue may further impact our business operations in the EU.
Following Brexit, the UK Data Protection Act 2018 applies to the processing of personal data that takes place in the United Kingdom and includes parallel obligations to those set forth by GDPR. In relation to data transfers, both the United Kingdom and the EU have determined, through separate “adequacy” decisions, that data transfers between the two jurisdictions are in compliance with the UK Data Protection Act and the GDPR, respectively. Any changes or updates to these adequacy decisions have the potential to impact our business.
Beyond GDPR, there are privacy and data security laws in a growing number of countries around the world. While many loosely follow GDPR as a model, other laws contain different or conflicting provisions. These laws will impact our ability to conduct our business activities, including both our clinical trials and the sale and distribution of commercial products, through increased compliance costs, costs associated with contracting and potential enforcement actions.
While we continue to address the implications of the recent changes to data privacy regulations, data privacy remains an evolving landscape at both the domestic and international level, with new regulations coming into effect and continued legal challenges, and our efforts to comply with the evolving data protection rules may be unsuccessful. It is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our practices. We must devote significant resources to understanding and complying with this changing landscape. Failure to comply with laws regarding data protection would expose us to risk of enforcement actions taken by data protection authorities in the EEA and elsewhere and carries with it the potential for significant penalties if we are found to be non-compliant. Similarly, failure to comply with federal and state laws in the United States regarding privacy and security of personal information could expose us to penalties under such laws. Any such failure to comply with data protection and privacy laws could result in government-imposed fines or orders requiring that we change our practices, claims for damages or other liabilities, regulatory investigations and enforcement action, litigation and significant costs for remediation, any of which could adversely affect our business. Even if we are not determined to have violated these laws, government investigations into these issues typically require the expenditure of significant resources and generate negative publicity, which could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects.
We are subject to anti-corruption laws, as well as export control laws, customs laws, sanctions laws and other laws governing our operations. If we fail to comply with these laws, we could be subject to civil or criminal penalties, other remedial measures and legal expenses, be precluded from developing manufacturing and selling certain products outside
the United States or be required to develop and implement costly compliance programs, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.