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Table of Contents
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, or Annual Report, contains forward-looking statements which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report are forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terminology such as “may”, “will”, “should”, “expects”, “intends”, “plans”, “anticipates”, “believes”, “estimates”, “predicts”, “potential”, “continue” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. These statements are not guarantees of future results or performance and involve substantial risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements in this Annual Report include, but are not limited to, statements about:
Any forward-looking statements in this Annual Report reflect our current views with respect to future events and with respect to our future financial performance, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance, or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance, or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations include, among other things, those described under Item 1A, “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this Annual Report. Given these uncertainties, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.
All of our forward-looking statements are as of the date of this Annual Report only. In each case, actual results may differ materially from such forward-looking information. We can give no assurance that such expectations or forward-looking statements will prove to be correct. An occurrence of or any material adverse change in one or more of the risk factors or risks and uncertainties referred to in this Annual Report or included in our other public disclosures or our other periodic reports or other documents or filings filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, could materially and adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. Except as required by law, we do not undertake or plan to update or revise any such forward-looking statements to reflect actual results, changes in plans, assumptions, estimates or projections or other circumstances affecting such forward-looking statements occurring after the date of this Annual Report, even if such results, changes or circumstances make it clear that any forward-looking information will not be realized. Any public statements or disclosures by us following this Annual Report that modify or impact any of the forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report will be deemed to modify or supersede such statements in this Annual Report.
We may from time to time provide estimates, projections and other information concerning our industry, the general business environment, and the markets for certain diseases, including estimates regarding the potential size of those markets and the estimated incidence and prevalence of certain medical conditions. Information that is based on estimates, forecasts, projections, market research or similar methodologies is inherently subject to uncertainties, and actual events, circumstances or numbers, including actual disease prevalence rates and market size, may differ materially from the information reflected in this Annual Report. Unless otherwise expressly stated, we obtained this industry, business information, market data, prevalence information and other data from reports, research surveys, studies and similar data prepared by market research firms and other third parties, industry, medical and general publications, government data, and similar sources, in some cases applying our own assumptions and analysis that may, in the future, prove not to have been accurate.
SUMMARY OF RISK FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH OUR BUSINESS
Our business is subject to numerous material and other risks and uncertainties that you should be aware of in evaluating our business. These risks are described more fully in Part II, “Item 1A—Risk Factors,” and include, but are not limited to, the following:
Item 1. Business
We are a biopharmaceutical company developing a portfolio of novel and proprietary small molecule drugs that employ the body’s natural mechanisms to selectively degrade therapeutically-relevant proteins, so called molecular glue degraders or “MGDs”. We have developed a proprietary protein degradation platform, called QuEEN (an abbreviation for “Quantitative and Engineered Elimination of Neosubstrates”), to enable our target-centric approach to our MGD discovery and development. Our QuEEN platform enables us to rapidly identify protein targets and associated MGD product candidates that are designed to specifically eliminate therapeutically-relevant proteins. We believe our MGDs provide significant advantages over existing therapeutic modalities, including other protein degradation approaches, by allowing us to broadly target proteins otherwise considered undruggable or inadequately drugged. To date, our QuEEN platform has identified thousands of proteins for potential targeting using our MGDs. Many of these are highly credentialed targets, and at least 75% of those targets would be otherwise considered undruggable. Identified targets are recorded in our Degron encyclopedia, described below, for analysis using our artificial intelligence (“AI”) platforms and for potential MGD design and development. Incorporating insights and expertise we gain from QuEEN, we are building our proprietary MGD library. Our library is composed of a diverse set of rationally designed small molecules currently representing more than 400 unique low molecular weight scaffolds. We focus our product development on therapeutic targets backed by strong biological and genetic rationale with the goal of discovering and developing novel medicines. These opportunities include oncology and non-oncology indications, including immunology, inflammation, neurological and genetic diseases. Our most advanced product candidate, MRT-2359, is an orally bioavailable degrader of the translation termination factor protein GSPT1 currently in development for use in Myc-driven tumors. Our novel strategy for MRT-2359 is based on our previously unreported observation of a functional association between GSPT1 and the Myc family of transcription factors. We have shown that through this association, GSPT1 serves as a key regulator and vulnerability of Myc-induced protein translation in certain Myc-driven tumors. We plan to submit an Investigational New Drug application, or IND, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, for MRT-2359 in mid-2022. Beyond GSPT1, our NEK7 and CDK2 programs are now in lead optimization and we continue to advance those programs towards development candidate selection. Our pipeline further includes multiple additional discovery phase programs that we continue to advance through development.
Our proprietary QuEEN platform uniquely enables us to rationally design and develop our diverse library of small molecule MGDs against an identified pool of target proteins, many of which are considered inadequately drugged or otherwise undruggable. Our MGDs are drug-like small molecules that currently bring together a therapeutically-relevant target protein and an E3 ligase, known as cereblon, leading to degradation of the target protein via the intracellular protein degradation system, called the proteasome. Our MGDs are non-heterobifunctional, in contrast to proteolysis targeting chimeras, or PROTACs. Central to our QuEEN platform is a detailed understanding of the molecular interactions promoted by our small molecule MGDs between E3 ligases and structural features, called degrons, on the surface of therapeutically-relevant proteins. Key components of our QuEEN platform are:
Our lead candidate, MRT-2359, is an orally bioavailable degrader of the translation termination factor protein GSPT1 in development initially for use in the treatment of cancers overexpressing one of the Myc family genes (c-Myc, N-Myc and L-Myc). The Myc transcription factors are some of the most frequently mutated, translocated and overexpressed oncogenes in human cancers. For example, we estimate 15% of non-small cell lung cancer, or NSCLC, and over 50% of small cell lung cancer, or SCLC, overexpress L- or N-Myc. Myc-driven cancer cells are highly addicted to protein translation. Because of the key role of GSPT1 in protein synthesis, we have shown that selective GSPT1 degradation by MRT-2359 in these cells leads to cell death. In multiple Myc-driven preclinical models, we have shown that MRT-2359 is selective in potently degrading GSPT1 and inducing tumor regression after oral administration. We expect to submit an IND to the FDA in mid-2022.
In addition to our GSPT1 program, our QuEEN platform has identified multiple additional pipeline and discovery stage programs drawn to multiple therapeutically-relevant, degron-containing target proteins otherwise considered undruggable or inadequately drugged. We have been able to identify selective MGD molecules for CDK2, an oncology target and key driver of cancers such as ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer. Our CDK2 program is currently in lead optimization. We have also identified potential targets outside of oncology as exemplified by our NEK7 program. NEK7 is a key component of the NLRP3 inflammasome, a central regulator of cellular inflammatory responses to pathogens, damage and stress. Aberrant NLRP3 inflammasome activation is implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple autoimmune diseases, including Crohn’s disease, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and liver diseases. Our NEK7 program is currently in lead optimization. We continue to progress our discovery stage programs, including VAV1, a target protein in autoimmune disease, BCL11A, a therapeutically-relevant protein in hemoglobinopathies, and multiple other currently undisclosed targets.
We have identified a large number of therapeutically-relevant targets that are amenable to degradation by the MGDs discovered and developed through our QuEEN platform. Applying our unique structural biology and computational tools encompassed by QuEEN, we have built and continue to grow an encyclopedia of thousands degron-containing proteins, many of which have links to human diseases. The majority of these proteins have been considered undruggable because they lack suitable small molecule binding pockets, which our MGDs do not require. We are systematically validating and rapidly advancing the most compelling of these targets while prioritizing those with a strong established therapeutic rationale for inclusion in our pipeline.
We are led by an experienced team of drug discovery and development experts with decades of experience in targeted protein degradation, molecular glues, chemistry, structural biology, data science, disease biology, translational medicine, and clinical development.
Monte Rosa Therapeutics, Inc. was incorporated in the State of Delaware on November 21, 2019. Our principal executive office is located at 645 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210 and our telephone number is (617) 949-2643. Information about us is available on our corporate websites at www.monterosatx.com. Information available on our website is not a part of, and is not incorporated into, this Annual Report. We trade on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “GLUE”.
Our product pipeline
We have leveraged our QuEEN platform to generate our pipeline of products with the potential to treat a diverse range of disease through targeted protein degradation. Our current programs are focused on delivering therapies to targets that have been considered undruggable or inadequately drugged in well-characterized biological pathways across clinical indications in oncology, inflammation, immunology and genetic diseases with high unmet needs. We currently retain worldwide rights to the programs shown in the Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Monte Rosa Pipeline; Rapidly Advancing Wholly-Owned MGD Programs Targeting Undruggable Proteins
Our mission is to reshape disease treatment paradigms by discovering and developing a portfolio of novel small molecule MGDs that selectively eliminate therapeutically-relevant proteins in a broad range of indications with significant unmet medical need.
We believe the product candidates identified through our proprietary QuEEN platform can provide distinct advantages over other modalities to address targets that have been considered undruggable or inadequately drugged. In order to achieve our mission, key elements of our strategy include:
Background on targeted protein degradation and molecular glues
Proteins are large, complex molecules that are involved in essentially all of the biochemical reactions that take place in the body. Many human diseases are associated with abnormal intracellular protein behavior driven by modified functional activation or inactivation of the protein itself. Given their critical role, proteins are attractive therapeutic targets, including those that act inside the cell and on its surface. While significant progress has been made in the development of therapeutics that address malfunctioning proteins, at least 75 % of human proteins are considered undruggable by traditional small molecules.
Challenges with druggable vs. undruggable proteins
The most common methods of targeting proteins, including intracellular proteins, involve traditional small molecule inhibitors that bind to a pocket in the protein and, there, act to inhibit or modify the function of the protein. Having such a pocket is what has traditionally led to a protein being considered druggable yet most proteins lack suitably sized and shaped binding pockets. In particular, proteins such as transcription factors, those that act as scaffolding for other proteins and modulators of enzyme activity, all of which can play a critical role in disease, often don’t have binding pockets suited for efficient ligand binding. The absence of a binding pocket presents a challenge to the development of traditional small molecule inhibitors. Furthermore, the features of therapeutic antibodies, oligo-based nucleotides and other genetic therapies limit their ability to address aberrant protein behavior.
Some of the aforementioned therapeutic modalities have meaningfully advanced the treatment of disease and improved the quality of life for millions of patients. However, these modalities face specific challenges related to their mode of delivery, scalability and their therapeutic application. A summary of these characteristics can be found in Figure 2.
Figure 2: The Next Generation of Precision Medicine-Based Small Molecule Drugs; Selectively Editing the Human Proteome with Rationally Designed MGDs
Molecular glues: a new approach to protein degradation
A new and promising approach to modulating protein function using small molecules in cells was recently elucidated: protein degradation. Illustrated in Figure 3, protein degradation is one of the body’s natural processes by which proteins are eliminated from human cells through the attachment of a molecular tag, called ubiquitin, to a protein by any of the approximately 600 human E3 ligases, marking the protein for degradation by the proteasome in the cell. Protein degradation can be induced by small molecule-based degraders, including both PROTACs and MGDs. It was found that lenalidomide, now an approved best-selling drug in multiple indications with 2021 global sales of $12.8 billion, functioned as a small molecule-based degrader, or as an MGD, more specifically. In one of these indications, multiple myeloma, lenalidomide acts by causing two disease-driving transcription factors, IKZF1 and IKZF3, that lack druggable pockets, to bind to cereblon, an E3 ligase protein, resulting in their degradation. In this context, lenalidomide leads to the formation of a complex of IKZF1 and IKZF3 with cereblon by inducing surface complementarity between the components of the complex rather than by binding of the MGD into a succinct binding pocket on the protein target.
Figure 3: Overview of Protein Degradation
We believe the targeted protein degradation approach offers many features that make it an attractive therapeutic modality:
As mentioned above, there are multiple advantages of the protein degradation approach, but one of the most beneficial is the potential to achieve greater therapeutic efficacy resulting from the removal of a target protein from the cellular proteome.
Current approaches to protein degradation
While lenalidomide is an MGD, the majority of recent drug discovery efforts in the design of protein degraders has been focused on PROTACs. These heterobifunctional degraders are composed of two separate small molecules connected by a chemical linker. One molecule binds to a necessary binding pocket on the target protein and the other to a component of the E3 ubiquitin ligase complex. Binding of the PROTAC to both the protein of interest and the E3 ligase brings the target protein into proximity of the E3 ligase, resulting in tagging of the protein of interest for degradation. While this represents a novel way to eliminate therapeutically-relevant proteins from cells, we believe an MGD approach offers the following advantages over PROTACs:
Figure 4: Molecule Glue Degraders; Expanding Target Space, Fostering a New Generation of Drugs
In summary, and as shown in Figure 4, MGDs are non-heterobifunctional and do not require an active site or binding pocket on target proteins. We believe these properties potentially expand the universe of amenable targets while also maintaining the favorable drug-like properties of small molecule therapeutics.
Our approach to protein degradation involves rationally designing and developing small molecule-based MGDs to precisely edit the human proteome. Molecular glues are small molecules that induce protein-protein interactions, but not all known and characterized molecular glues lead to degradation of target proteins. Lenalidomide and pomalidomide are two approved drugs that were subsequently found to function as MGDs by causing the degradation of therapeutically-relevant proteins through the induced interaction with a component of the E3 ligase cereblon. They provide clinical validation of the MGD approach.
While the mechanism of action for these two drugs was discovered years after their introduction into the clinic, we are leveraging our platform to rationally and efficiently design our library of MGDs. Our MGDs are drug-like, non-heterobifunctional small molecules that bring together a therapeutically-relevant target protein and an E3 ligase, leading to degradation of the target protein. We believe our platform will continue to deliver MGD product candidates that have the potential to address target proteins that have been considered undruggable or inadequately drugged, while possessing attractive pharmaceutical properties. While our initial programs are utilizing cereblon as the E3 ligase system to tag target proteins the platform is built to universally leverage other E3 ligases in the future.
Our QuEEN platform was purpose-built to support our target-centric approach to the discovery and development of MGD drugs that degrade a wide landscape of therapeutically-relevant proteins by (i) systematically identifying degrons and other surface features on therapeutically-relevant target proteins that may enable degradation through our approach; and (ii) rationally designing molecules that can be optimized towards high potency and selectivity, with favorable pharmaceutical properties. Our proprietary library of rationally designed MGDs currently includes around 20,000 unique small molecules built around 400 binding scaffolds. Through our platform, we have built expertise that allows us to induce a high degree of surface complementarity between the E3 ligase and a neosubstrate, leading to high potency and selectivity for the therapeutically-relevant targets we select. Figure 5 provides an overview of our QuEEN platform.
Figure 5: Monte Rosa’s QuEEN Discovery Platform; A Target-Centric Approach to MGD Discovery and Development
Our proprietary, Quantitative and Engineered Elimination of Neosubstrates platform, or QuEEN platform, encapsulates our team’s deep and growing expert knowledge and discovery capabilities across biology, chemistry and computational sciences, from which we are generating our library and pipeline of MGD product candidates. Central to our QuEEN platform is a detailed understanding of the molecular interactions promoted by our small molecule MGDs between E3 ligases and therapeutically-relevant proteins, which have been considered undruggable or inadequately drugged. We believe this depth of knowledge allows us to leverage our platform to rationally design MGDs with favorable pharmaceutical properties that have the potential to translate into clinical success across multiple therapeutic areas. Our capabilities have been developed through the three key features of our QuEEN platform, which include the following:
Proprietary MGD library
We continue to rationally build our highly diverse library of MGDs by applying our computational chemistry tools and our knowledge of the cereblon-binding site and variations in degron structures. Our proprietary MGD library currently consists of over 400 unique drug scaffolds, each designed to probe different three-dimensional spaces. We use Tanimoto similarity scores, a standard way to assess compound diversity, as a design characteristic to enable the continued expansion of our diverse chemical library. Our highly diverse proprietary library currently consists of approximately 20,000 unique MGDs, as represented in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Overview of Monte Rosa’s Proprietary Library of MGDs
We specifically designed our MGD library to focus on molecules with properties that resemble those of approved drugs including molecular weight; solubility, as predicted by a metric known as the partition coefficient or clogP; and polar surface area. These molecular properties impact factors such as oral bioavailability, drug exposure and metabolism, making their understanding important for drug development. Because our proprietary compounds were rationally designed to have properties that are consistent with those that result in oral compounds, they uniquely offer highly optimized starting points for drug discovery programs thereby enabling potentially rapid progress in lead optimization. Using this library, we have found multiple starting points for proteins previously not reported to be degradable by a molecular glue-based approach.
We have shown in preclinical studies that increasing MGD diversity, while maintaining desirable pharmaceutical properties of each molecule, enabled binding to different degrons. This allows us to address more target proteins and address different protein families within the proteome.
As shown in Figure 7, our MGDs, utilizing cereblon as an E3 ligase, sit between the ligase and a neosubstrate, and function by reshaping the receptor surface, thereby attracting neosubstrates to different parts of its substrate binding site.
Figure 7: Using MGDs to Reprogram the Cereblon Surface
For proteins to be targeted by MGDs, they need to expose a structural feature on their surface that mediates their recruitment and degradation by an E3 ligase complex. These features are called degrons and the proteins
exposing these degrons are called neosubstrates. Neosubstrates are proteins degraded only in the presence of an MGD and are not physiological substrates of the E3 ligase. As shown in Figure 8, one such example is a protruding protein surface loop that contains a glycine amino acid, or G-loop, that mediates the interaction with a known MGD, Lenalidomide, and an E3 ligase protein called cereblon.
Figure 8: Our Rational Approach to Unleashing the Full Potential of MGDs
We have developed sophisticated and proprietary AI-powered algorithms to mine databases of protein structures, including structures determined from x-ray crystallography and structures from predicted protein folding, as well as to mine databases of protein sequences. We have identified topological, structural and sequence features associated with published, or canonical, as well as newly discovered, or non-canonical, degrons and encoded these features in OneVision, our suite of AI-powered algorithms that include modules leveraging deep neural networks, or DNNs, and geometric deep learning. Using both protein amino acid sequences and three-dimensional protein structures as inputs, we have deployed OneVision to identify degrons with an initial focus on identification of degrons predicting putative neosubstrates of cereblon. Using OneVision to computationally predict the presence of structural features with a high potential to function as a degron along with the presence of a surface complementary to cereblon, we have identified thousands of proteins with the potential to be neosubstrates and hence targetable by our MGDs.
A key feature of the OneVision process is the ability to integrate new discoveries from our Glueomics platform: as we characterize the activity of our expanding MGD library, OneVision learns more degron features and, projecting these features into the entire proteome, identifies more potential neosubstrates targetable by our MGDs. We have
also started to apply OneVision to other E3 ligases. Below Figure 9 summarizes our insights into proteins that contain a canonical degron, or g-loop degron.
Figure 9: Our G-Loop Degron Encyclopedia
Our Degron Encyclopedia represents a rich, differentiated target space across protein domains and diseases. These potential neosubstrates represent multiple protein classes including receptors, enzymes, scaffolding proteins and other regulatory proteins, transcription factors and transcriptional repressors. Of the thousands of potential neosubstrates we have identified, over 75 % have a unique degron sequence. Because recruitment and degradation by an E3 ligase complex is mediated by both degron structure and sequence, the uniqueness of degron sequences suggests the possibility to degrade each neosubstrate with high selectivity. Over three quarters of target candidates we identified are generally considered to be undruggable due to the lack of suitable drug binding pockets. Further, these degron-containing proteins are associated with a wide landscape of diseases, suggesting that MGDs may provide benefit to patients suffering many illnesses across therapeutic areas. The ability to use an MGD to selectively degrade these target proteins could lead to the redefinition of what constitutes a druggable target and a substantial expansion of the universe of intracellular targets that are amenable to small molecule pharmaceutical intervention to treat oncology and non-oncology diseases. We prioritize target proteins based on their credentialed association with disease biology and advance the most promising targets into our drug discovery process.
We continue to build our experienced team of data scientists, structural biologists, biochemists, biologists and chemists. With our team’s deep expertise, we have innovated proprietary tools designed to broadly match our MGDs against degron-containing target proteins and validate these proteins as neosubstrates. Our MGD design capabilities are driven by both in silico and laboratory-based assays that predict and assess the ability of our MGDs to induce the binding of targets to E3 ligase components, such as cereblon, and directly measure target degradation. More specifically, our toolbox comprises:
Our proprietary in silico and laboratory-based toolbox allows us to rationally design MGDs, and to rapidly optimize their selectivity as well as chemical and biological properties, with the goal of constructing a robust pipeline of product candidates.
Many of these tools have been built around cereblon as an E3 ligase but can be universally applied to other E3 ligases. Figure 10 is an illustrative overview of our Glueomics toolbox.
Figure 10: Glueomics Toolbox to Accelerate MGD Discovery
Quantitative biochemical and cellular assays
We have developed a suite of assays that have been tailored to measure specific steps of the MGD-induced protein degradation cascade. With our first set of assays, we can measure ternary complex formation and screen for MGDs which have the most efficient binding characteristics. We have developed a Homogeneous Time Resolved Fluorescence, or HTRF, assay to measure ternary complex formation, whereby the close proximity of cereblon and the target protein are detected by fluorescent energy transfer between antibodies binding to the two proteins. We have used these types of assays to screen multiple targets using our proprietary MGD library. Our studies have validated the ability of MGDs to drive ternary complex formation in a concentration dependent manner. By measuring the dependency of ternary complex formation on MGD concentration, we generate concentration dependent curves, enabling us to calculate objective measures of potency such as the EC50, or the concentration at which the effect is half of the maximum.
We have also developed multiple assays to measure degradation of targets in cells. The HiBiT cellular assay is one example of a high-throughput assay that we have used to screen our proprietary MGD chemical library and identify MGDs that promote cellular target degradation in a selective manner. The assay measures the decrease in luminescence signal by using an endogenous HiBiT tag fused to the target of interest. Preclinical studies using our MGDs have shown these compounds can drive target degradation in a concentration dependent manner. By measuring the dependency of target protein levels on MGD concentration, we generate concentration dependent curves, enabling us to calculate objective measures of potency such as the DC50, or the concentration at which the degradation is half of the maximum, and the Dmax, the maximum amount of target protein that is degraded.
We are using our tailored suite of biochemical and cellular assays to screen, identify and rapidly optimize our MGDs. We have demonstrated that multiple targets from our Degron Encyclopedia can be engaged and/or degraded using MGDs from our proprietary MGD library. Several examples are highlighted below in Figure 11, where we have identified MGDs that promote the association between a target protein and cereblon, including both undruggable targets and targets that have historically been inadequately drugged.
Figure 11: Examples of MGDs that Promote Associations Between a Target Protein and Cereblon
Quantitative chemo-proteomics profiling assays
Utilizing our expertise in mass-spectrometry-based proteomics, we have developed a suite of high throughput quantitative profiling assays to assess multiple parameters, including cellular target degradation, selectivity of degradation and ternary complex formation in cells, the latter allowing us to identify potential neosubstrates not yet predicted by our in silico approach. We utilize this information in multiple ways, including:
In silico Ternary Complex Modeling and Screening (Rhapsody)
Built on our expertise in AI and data sciences, computational chemistry, structural biology and software engineering, we have developed a proprietary AI-driven engine of algorithms to rapidly identify, progress and prioritize MGDs that in silico induce ternary complexes in a neosubstrate specific manner. The engine includes modules for in silico docking, molecular fingerprinting, and SAR cliff discovery, enumeration, expansion, and generation, synthesis filtering, and structure- and ligand based virtual screening. We have named this computational tool Rhapsody.
For in silico screening, we run Rhapsody on our custom-designed cloud computing infrastructure to rapidly screen MGDs, including both those MGDs already found in our physical MGD library as well as virtual MGD libraries. Rhapsody results are used to create and identify novel MGDs that are predicted to induce neosubstrate-specific ternary complex formation, are available for rapid synthesis, and can be prioritized for follow-up experiments.
For hit expansion and MGD optimization, Rhapsody is used to generate an in silico model of the MGD-specific, MGD-induced ternary complex. Evaluation of the model allows us to rapidly predict which parts of the MGD anatomy are involved in target recruitment and which parts may be modified. This enables us to maintain or
enhance the target-specific potency of the MGD, while optimizing its selectivity, and its other chemical and biological properties.
Figure 12: Rhapsody, QuEEN’s In Silico Engine; A Suite of Proprietary AI-Powered Algorithms To Design, Discover, and Develop MGDs
QuEEN expansion opportunities
Our QuEEN platform to date has been focused on identifying and developing MGDs that induce the binding of degron-containing neosubstrates to cereblon as a means of targeting them for degradation and including these MGDs in our proprietary library. We are expanding the scope of QuEEN to increase the cereblon target space and to leverage additional E3 ligases for targeted protein degradation.
Expanding the universe of neosubstrates and recruitment of neosubstrates to additional E3 ligases through the continued identification of degrons has the potential to bring more therapeutically-relevant proteins into the universe of degradable targets, which we anticipate will allow us to address additional therapeutic targets that are undruggable or insufficiently drugged.
Our precision medicine approach
MRT-2359- A Highly-Selective and Orally Bioavailable GSPT1 degrader for Myc-driven diseases
MRT-2359 is an oral MGD molecule that selectively targets GSPT1, a G-loop degron-containing neosubstrate that has been identified as a drug target in oncology. GSPT1 is a translational termination factor. We have shown that MRT-2359 reduces viability of tumor cell lines addicted to high levels of protein translation, such as those driven by the Myc oncogenes. We have shown that once daily oral dosing of MRT-2359 induced regression of Myc-driven tumors in human xenograft and patient-derived xenograft mouse models including models of NSCLC and SCLC. We anticipate filing our IND for MRT-2359 in mid-2022.
Myc regulates transcription and translation of cancer-related genes
The Myc family of transcription factors has long been recognized as a driver of multiple human cancers and they are among the most frequently mutated, translocated and overexpressed oncogenes in human cancers. We believe that targeting the Myc pathways via downstream vulnerabilities is a viable approach to addressing Myc-driven tumors.
In humans, the Myc family of transcription factors comprises three proteins, c-Myc, L-Myc, and N-Myc, encoded by three different genes. Mutation, translocation or overexpression of any of these three proteins can lead to tumor development and progression. Extensive published studies on the role of Myc in cancer have provided insight on the mechanism by which mutations, translocations or overexpression of Myc result in uncontrolled cell growth. c-Myc is a transcription factor that is normally activated by growth factors to drive the expression of a number of genes involved in cell growth and proliferation. The aberrant activation of the gene encoding c-Myc can lead to constitutive, or always on, activation of the transcription of cell proliferation genes resulting in uncontrolled cell growth. As a consequence, there is an increasing realization that Myc-driven tumors critically rely on high translational output and the ramp up of the protein translational machinery to drive growth and proliferation.
Inhibition of Myc activity using genetic constructs has been observed to lead to strong antitumor responses in animal models of cancer. However, over forty years after the discovery of the Myc oncogene, there are no approved therapies that target the Myc family of transcription factors itself or its downstream pathways. We believe that the administration of our GSPT1-directed MGD product candidate will address a critical downstream vulnerability of oncogenic Myc activation.
Development opportunity of GSPT1 degraders to target downstream vulnerabilities of Myc activation
Aberrant activation of Myc signaling in cancer cells leads to increased transcription and, as a consequence, dependence on high rates of protein translation. This addiction creates a vulnerability to changes to the protein translation machinery in Myc-driven tumors. Using our QuEEN platform, we confirmed GSPT1, a key player of protein synthesis, as a degron-containing protein and possible neosubstrate and generated several chemical series of GSPT1 targeted MGD molecules. Leveraging our GSPT1-directed MGD molecules, we observed changes in several downstream markers for the Myc pathway in vitro, which we believe demonstrates that GSPT1 degradation is a key vulnerability for Myc-driven cancers. We observed that GSPT1 degradation was associated with downregulation of Myc proteins itself and reduced Myc signaling, including the expression of multiple Myc induced genes.
Figure 13: The Role of GSPT1 in Myc-driven, Translationally Addicted Cancer Cells and Consequences of GSPT1 Degradation
Recent studies across 33 tumor types showed that 28% of solid cancers have an amplification of one of the Myc family genes. Amplification of c-Myc occurs most frequently in ovarian cancer (64%), esophageal cancer (45.3%), squamous lung cancer (37.2%) and breast cancer (30%). In hematological malignancies c-Myc was found to be translocated in 36% of patients with multiple myeloma, and different translocations were found at a rate between 70% and 100% in Burkitt lymphoma and to a lesser extent in other lymphomas.
N-Myc amplifications or overexpression have been reported in approximately seven to ten percent of lung adenocarcinomas, or LUAD, the main subtype of NSCLC, in addition to tumors with neuroendocrine features such
as neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, medulloblastoma, or lung cancer and prostate cancer (neuroendocrine type, Lu-NET and NEPC, respectively). Similarly, L-Myc amplifications or overexpression have been observed in approximately 50% of SCLC. High N-Myc expression has also been reported in highly proliferative acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.
In addition, shown in Figure 14, we analyzed the expression of both L-Myc and N-Myc in samples from patients with both NSCLC and SCLC using real world genomic data and determined the frequency to be 15% and 72% respectively. (Figures adapted from real world molecular and genomic data analysis on 3241 lung cancers (in collaboration with Tempus Labs, Inc.).)
Figure 14: Real-world Data Analysis of L-Myc and N-Myc mRNA Expression and Amplification in Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer
There are an estimated 228,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. Also, lung cancer causes 143,000 deaths annually in the United States. NSCLC accounts for 80% to 85% of lung cancer cases. While targeted therapies have been developed for patients with tumors containing alterations in epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, ROS proto-oncogene 1, or ROS1, rearranged during transfection gene, or RET, anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene, or ALK, less than thirty percent of patients are eligible for these therapies. Patients who are ineligible or resistant to these therapies can be treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors that lead to significant improvements in progression free survival and overall survival compared to standard chemotherapy. However, despite the availability of these therapies, very few patients are cured of their disease and the prognosis in NSCLC remains poor, with an overall five-year survival rate for all patients diagnosed with NSCLC of 19 percent.
Our and others’ analyses of molecular data from NSCLC tumors found that around 15% of these tumors have elevated L- or N-Myc expression which our preclinical data suggests will sensitize them to GSPT1-directed MGD molecules. Furthermore, we found that there is little overlap between tumors that have high levels of L- and N-Myc and those that have genetic changes that are targeted by approved drugs. Most L- and N-Myc overexpressing lung tumors, for example, do not have alterations in genes encoding EGFR, ALK, ROS1 or RET.
Small cell lung cancer
SCLC represents approximately 15% of all lung cancers, accounting for 30,000 new cases a year in the United States. SCLC is a rapidly progressive disease with short overall survival after initial therapeutic responses. SCLC is derived from neuroendocrine cells and is distinguished clinically from NSCLC by its rapid doubling time and the early development of metastases. Most patients have metastatic disease at the time of their initial diagnoses. Unlike NSCLC, there are no targeted therapies approved for SCLC. First line therapy for these patients typically involves combination chemotherapy or radiation therapy. While patients initially respond to this chemotherapy, approximately 90% progress within one year and die within two years. The average five-year survival for newly diagnosed SCLC is 7%. Immuno-oncology agents have received approval in SCLC, but their efficacy is limited compared to that in other tumors, and some agents, such as nivolumab and pembrolizumab, have been recently withdrawn from the market for this indication. Our analyses of molecular data from SCLC tumors found that over half of these tumors have elevated levels of L- and N-Myc expression which our preclinical data suggests will sensitize them to GSPT1-directed MGD molecules.
We believe MRT-2359 will be useful for the treatment of Myc-driven tumors.
Preclinical studies and data
Targeting GSPT1 with our MGD molecules
We rationally designed highly selective GSPT1-directed MGD molecules to generate our product candidate MRT-2359 for the treatment of Myc-driven cancers.
Figure 15: MRT-2359 is a Potent and Selective GSPT1-Directed MGD
As shown in Figure 15, MRT-2359 is a potent cereblon binder, and potently induces the degradation of GSPT1 in vitro. MRT-2359 is selective against other known neosubstrates of cereblon, including the transcription factors IKZF1 & 3, SALL4, ZPF91 and the kinase CK1a. Broader selectivity profiling was undertaken using the Turbo-ID assay described previously, and this data confirmed high selectivity. The data indicates that GSPT1 and its related family member GSPT2 are the two most statistically significant proteins recruited to cereblon after treatment of cells with MRT-2359.
Figure 16: Myc-Driven NSCLC Lines are Highly Sensitive to MRT-2359
As shown in Figure 16, in a broad panel of non-small cell lung cancer cell lines, MRT-2359 was demonstrated to induce preferential activity of those cell lines that had the highest expression of N-Myc or N-Myc pathway biomarkers such as p-4EBP1. The ability of MRT-2359 to preferentially reduce viability in Myc-driven cancer lines was further explored in two high N-Myc expressing cell lines (NCI-H1155 & ABC-1) and two low N-Myc expressing cell lines (NCI-H2023 and NCI-H441). The level of GSPT1 degradation in all four cell lines was comparable, however there is a clear difference in viability between the high N-Myc expressing and low N-Myc expressing cell lines, with MRT-2359 selectively targeting the Myc-driven cancer cell lines.
Figure 17: MRT-2359 Affects N-Myc Pathway Only in Myc-Driven Cells
As shown in Figure 17, MRT-2359 has been demonstrated to induce a down-regulation of the oncogenic driver of these cancers, N-Myc, itself. Treatment of the high N-Myc cell line NCI-H1155 with MRT2359 induced complete degradation of GSPT1 and concomitantly induced a reduction in the N-Myc protein. These cell lines were then profiled using RNAseq and a downregulation of Myc target genes was observed at 6 hours and, most notably, at 24 hours.
Conversely, in the non-Myc-driven cell line H2023, there was minimal impact on the Myc target gene set at either time point.
Figure 18: MRT-2359 Induces Tumor Regressions in N-Myc-Driven Xenograft Models
As shown in Figure 18, oral administration of MRT-2359 in a mouse xenograft model of the high N-Myc NSCLC line NCI-H1155 demonstrated antitumor activity when dosed at 1, 3 or 10 mg/kg, and tumor growth regression was observed at the 10 mg/kg dose. In addition, MRT-2359 induced dose- and plasma concentration-dependent degradation of GSPT1 at 1 and 10 mg/kg, and a concomitant reduction in N-Myc protein levels in tumors was observed.
Figure 19: MRT-2359 exhibits Anti-Tumor Activity in L-Myc and N-Myc Positive NSCLC PDX Models
MRT-2359 was profiled in more than 30 patient-derived xenograft mouse models. As shown in Figure 19, when dosed orally once daily at 10mg/kg, MRT-2359 induced significant regressions and lead to an overall reduction of time to progression beyond a size of >800mm in tumors with high L- or L-Myc expression. No statistically significant effect on time to progression was seen in tumors with low L- and N-Myc expression.
Clinical development plans for GSPT1-directed MGD MRT-2359
We intend to submit our IND for MRT-2359 in mid-2022 and initiate a Phase 1/2 clinical trial shortly thereafter. Our early phase clinical development is designed as a dose escalation trial to identify the recommended dose for expansion. The primary endpoint of this trial will be to determine the safety and tolerability of MRT-2359 when dosed orally and the secondary endpoints will be to characterize the PK/PD and anti-tumor activity in the biomarker positive patients.
Figure 20: MRT-2359 Early Phase Clinical Development
CDK2-directed MGD molecules for the treatment of ovarian and breast cancer
Cyclin dependent kinases, or CDKs, are a family of closely related kinases that regulate progression through the cell cycle. CDK activity is further modulated by levels of specific cyclins. For example, cyclin E1 activates cyclin-dependent kinase 2, or CDK2. CDK2 is activated in tumors by (i) amplification or overexpression of Cyclin E1 or E2, (ii) loss-of-function alterations of the AMBRA1 gene, or (iii) loss-of-function alterations of the retinoblastoma (RB1) gene. Cyclin E1 dysregulation has been found in a number of cancers, including ovarian and triple negative breast cancer. In addition, cyclin E1 dysregulation and CDK2 activation has also been found to be one of the mechanisms of resistance in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients treated with CDK4/CDK6 inhibitors, such as palbociclib. Therefore, we believe selective elimination of CDK2 may provide benefit to these patients. Previously reported small molecule inhibitors and PROTACs of CDK2 have been limited in their selectivity due to the high degree of similarity among the active sites of CDKs. We have identified multiple MGD molecules that selectively promoted the association of CDK2 and cereblon in vitro, while avoiding other CDKs, and are in the process of optimizing the chemical leads.
Figure 21: CDK2 is One of the Key Regulators of the Cell Cycle
Identification of CDK2 degron and MGD molecules
Our Degron Encyclopedia indicates that CDK2 contains a degron which has unique amino acid sequence compared to other members of the CDK family and within the protein kinase family in general. This contrasts with the higher sequence similarity of the active site (ATP-binding pocket) shared between, for example, CDK protein family members CDK2, CDK4 and CDK6 which has historically been used to develop small molecule kinase inhibitors.
We screened a CDK2/cyclin E1 complex in a biochemical HTRF assay with our proprietary MGD library and identified several MGDs that promoted the association of the CDK2/cyclin E1 complex with cereblon. We then confirmed that these MGD molecules showed concentration-dependent ternary complex formation. We also assessed the biochemical selectivity of the hits over CDK1, CDK4 and CDK9 using similar HTRF assays. No ternary complex formation with these closely related kinases was observed (data not shown). Based on these initial hits, we have initiated lead optimization chemistry and have successfully delivered several lead compounds from different chemical series.
Preclinical studies and data
In support of future preclinical development activities, we have observed high selectivity potential in in vitro studies for our CDK2-directed MGD molecules.
In vitro data
Our lead optimization process has provided several MGDs that promote ternary complex formation in cells as demonstrated using our proximity-based Turbo-ID proteomics assay. In the experiment shown in the left panel of Figure 22, HEK293 cells were treated for 6 hours with one of our MGD lead molecules. As shown in the volcano plot, proximity of CDK2 protein to cereblon was significantly increased after treatment of cells with the CDK2-directed MGD, indicating formation of ternary complexes. Proteomic analysis of HEK293 cells treated for 24 hours with the same MGD indicated preferential degradation of CDK2, shown in the right panel in Figure 22. Neither induced cereblon proximity nor degradation were observed for other CDK family members, further highlighting the selectivity of our MGD.
Figure 22: Rationally Designed CDK2-Directed MGDs are Selective
NEK7 degraders for inflammatory disease
The NLRP3 inflammasome is a multiprotein complex that serves as a central node to integrate cellular signals generated by pathogens, damage and stress, and subsequently triggers the generation of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Aberrant NLRP3 inflammasome activation has been implicated in a number of autoinflammatory disorders including Crohn’s disease, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and liver disease. Additionally, multiple activating NLRP3 mutations have been shown to be associated with Cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes. NIMA-Related Kinase 7, or NEK7, a serine/threonine-protein kinase, activates the NLRP3 inflammasome in a kinase independent manner, suggesting that degradation of NEK7 with an MGD molecule is an attractive therapeutic approach. We found that NEK7 contains a well-defined degron and have identified MGD molecules that are highly selective for NEK7 in in vitro models. We are currently optimizing chemical leads that are derived from multiple series of MGD molecules in this program.
NEK7 binding to NLRP3 is an essential step in promoting the assembly of the NLRP3 inflammasome. The assembly of NLRP3/NEK7 with ASC and pro-caspase 1 in a multi-protein complex induces cleavage of pro-caspase 1, which then activates multiple inflammatory responses including secretion of the cytokines interleukin-1ß and interleukin-18 and induction of pyroptosis. Knockout of NEK7 in animal models has been shown to decrease inflammatory signaling, which leads to decreased disease severity in models of inflammatory diseases. Activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome is driven through a kinase-independent function of NEK7, suggesting that inhibition of the catalytic activity of NEK7 would be ineffective in blocking NLRP3 inflammasome activation.
Figure 23: NEK7 is an Essential Regulator of the Inflammasome
Figure 24: Overactivation of the NLRP3 Inflammasome in Diseases
Identification of NEK7 degron and MGD molecules
NEK7 contains a well-defined degron, as identified using our proprietary QuEEN platform (shown in Figure 25). The amino acid sequence of the NEK7 degron is unique among the NEK family members, indicating the potential to identify MGD molecules that are highly selective for NEK7. Given the kinase independent role of NEK7 in activating the NLRP3 inflammasome, we believe that degradation of NEK7 with our MGDs will be preferable over conventional catalytic inhibition strategies. We screened NEK7 in a biochemical HTRF proximity assay with our proprietary MGD molecule library and identified multiple MGD molecules that promoted association of NEK7 and cereblon (not shown). These MGD molecules showed concentration dependent ternary complex formation as exemplified in Figure 25 (left panel). Based on these initial hits, we have initiated lead optimization chemistry and have successfully delivered several lead compounds from different chemical series.
Figure 25: Rationally Designed NEK7-Directed MGDs are Selective
Preclinical studies and data
In support of future preclinical development activities, we have observed high selectivity potential in in vitro [MW1] studies for our NEK7 MGD molecules using both our multiple HTRF and NanoBiT assays as well as our chemoproteomic approaches such as Turbo-ID.
In vitro data
Our lead optimization process has provided several MGDs that promote ternary complex formation in cells as demonstrated using our proximity-based Turbo-ID proteomics assay. In the experiment, U937 human leukemia cells were treated for six hours with one of our MGD lead molecules. As shown in the volcano plot (Figure 25, middle panel), proximity of NEK7 protein to cereblon was significantly increased after treatment of cells with the NEK7-directed MGD, indicating formation of ternary complexes in cells. Proteomic analysis of U937 cells treated for 24 hours with the same MGD indicated preferential degradation of NEK7 (Figure 25, right panel).
Our MGD molecules show high potency for modulation of NLRP3 pathway in human Monocyte Derived Macrophages
We treated human Monocyte Derived Macrophages, or hMDMs, from multiple donors with increasing concentrations of one of our MGD molecules. As shown in the left panel of Figure 26, treatment with this MGD molecule led to a dose-dependent degradation of NEK7 in hMDMs, with a DC50of 3.2 nM. We also measured IL-1β secretion from hMDMs following 20 hour treatment with our MGD molecule and subsequent exposure to inflammasome stimulators LPS+Nigericin. As shown in the middle panel of Figure 26, our NEK7-directed MGD molecule led to a dose-dependent decrease in IL-1β secretion. We also compared the efficacy of our MGD molecule to the clinical stage NLRP3 inhibitor Inzomelid and as shown in the right panel of Figure 26, our MGD molecule shows superior modulation of NLRP3 pathway-induced IL-1β and IL-18 secretion.
Figure 26: NEK7-Directed MGDs Modulate NLRP3 Pathway in Human Macrophages
VAV1-directed MGD molecules for hematological cancers and autoimmune disease
VAV1, a Rho-family guanine nucleotide exchange factor, is expressed in immune cells including T and B cells and functions to mediate T and B cell receptor signaling (shown in Figure 27). Because of VAV1’s function in both T and B cells, degradation could provide therapeutic benefits in multiple autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, and in settings of transplantation and graft-versus-host disease. VAV1 has also been implicated in hematological malignancies, including T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or T-ALL, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, or DLBCL, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL. While considered an undruggable protein, we identified VAV1 as a degron-containing protein and have discovered MGD molecules that promoted association of VAV1 and cereblon and lead to degradation of VAV1 protein. We plan to optimize chemical leads that are derived from multiple series of MGD molecules.
Figure 27: VAV1 Functions to Mediate T and B Cell Receptor Signaling
Identification of VAV1 degron and MGD molecules
Our Degron Encyclopedia indicates that VAV1 contains a degron that is unique compared to other members of the VAV family, suggesting we can target VAV1 selectively with our MGD molecules.
As shown in Figure 28, we screened VAV1 in a biochemical HTRF assay with our proprietary MGD molecule library and identified multiple MGD molecules that promoted the association of VAV1 and cereblon. We then observed that these MGD molecules showed concentration-dependent ternary complex formation, shown in Figure 28, left-hand panel. These MGD molecules were also highly selective over several known and novel neosubstrates, including GSPT1.
Figure 28: Rationally Designed MGDs Selectively Degrade VAV1
VAV1-directed MGDs lead to selective VAV1 degradation
To assess the potency of cellular degradation in cells, we tested a MGD in an engineered VAV1-NanoBiT system. As shown above in the middle panel, this MGD molecule led to a dose-dependent degradation of VAV1 in Jurkat cells, with a DC50of 24.9 nM. To further test degradation and selectivity, we also performed spectrometry-based proteomics in wildtype Jurkat cells, treated with 10 μM MGD for 24 hours. Shown in the volcano plot in Figure 28, right panel, VAV1 was selectively and significantly down-modulated, relative to DMSO control.
BCL11A-directed MGD molecules for the treatment of sickle cell disease and ß-Thalassemia
Sickle cell disease, or SCD, is caused by a mutation in a form of hemoglobin, leading to severe disease manifestations, including anemia and vaso-occlusive crises. However, in SCD patients, increasing levels of fetal hemoglobin, or HbF, are associated with fewer co-morbidities and a better prognosis. In adults, B-cell lymphoma/leukemia 11A, or BCL11A, represses transcription of the HBG gene, thereby silencing HbF expression. We believe that downregulation of BCL11A to reactivate HbF expression is a promising therapeutic strategy, and it is being clinically tested by third parties to treat SCD using adoptive cell therapy. BCL11A has to date been considered undruggable using small molecule therapies. We believe reactivation of HbF through MGD-mediated BCL11A degradation could be used as a therapeutic strategy for both SCD as well as other hemoglobinopathies, such as ß-Thalassemia. We identified BCL11A as a degron-containing protein and, in preclinical studies, we observed that our MGD molecules induced the association of BCL11A with cereblon. We plan to optimize chemical leads that are derived from multiple series of MGD molecules.
Figure 29: BCL11A is the Zinc Finger Transcription Repressor of the Fetal Globin Genes
Current status and next steps of our discovery programs
We are currently optimizing chemical leads that are derived from multiple series of MGD molecules in the CDK2, NEK7, VAV1 and BCL11A programs. The CDK2 and NEK7 programs are in lead optimization with the next anticipated milestone being selection of a development candidate and the initiation of IND-enabling studies.
We are specifically focused on developing product candidates for targets that have been deemed undruggable or inadequately drugged. Our QuEEN platform was purpose-built to support the discovery and development of drugs that degrade a wide landscape of therapeutically-relevant proteins by (i) systematically identifying therapeutically-relevant target proteins that may be amenable to molecular glue-based degradation; and (ii) rationally designing molecules that can be optimized towards high potency and selectivity, with properties that we believe to be favorable. Our early pipeline includes programs in genetically defined oncology indications, as well as inflammatory, immunologic and genetic disease indications. We are further engaged in the discovery of additional targets in other indications, including, but not limited to, neurodegenerative and other neurological diseases. We are planning to develop our MGD molecules in succinct patient populations through biomarker-driven clinical trials.
Figure 30: Monte Rosa Therapeutics; From Serendipity to Rational Design of MGDs
Our services, collaboration and licenses agreements
Agreements with Cancer Research Technology Limited and the Institute of Cancer Research
CRT and the ICR jointly own certain intellectual property generated at the ICR using funding from CRUK related to the field of protein degradation. In April 2018, we concurrently entered into a license agreement, or the License Agreement, with CRT and the ICR, and a formation and investment agreement, or the Formation and Investment Agreement with CRT and the ICR, pursuant to which we agreed to issue an aggregate of 1,132,984 common shares to CRT, the ICR and affiliated founding scientists as consideration for the rights granted under the License Agreement at a price per share of CHF 0.04 for an aggregate purchase price of CHF 40,000.
Collaboration and option agreement
In April 2018, we entered into the Collaboration and Option Agreement, with CRT, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK, or CRUK, and the ICR. Under the Collaboration and Option Agreement, to support our early product develop as we built our internal capabilities, the ICR was responsible for performing certain research and development activities through December 31, 2020, or the Collaboration Term, which included assembling a library of cereblon-binding compounds and identifying and validating new biological targets for drug discovery through phenotypic cell based screening. During the Collaboration Term, we paid the ICR certain amounts to cover the cost of employing eight full-time employees and certain research outsourcing costs.
Under the Collaboration and Option Agreement, we are obligated to, among other things, exercise commercially reasonable efforts at all times to (i) develop one or more products for use in human clinical trials, including at least one product with an application in oncology indication, (ii) pursue regulatory authorization for each product and, where applicable, price approval in at least one major market (iii) introduce and commercialize each product in major markets where regulatory authorization and, where applicable, price approval for such product has been obtained.
Pursuant to the Collaboration and Option Agreement, we are obligated to pay CRT certain milestone payments upon the achievement of certain milestones. The aggregate amount of milestone payments and royalties to be paid will depend on whether or not any development candidate that we identify is subject to the Collaboration and Option Agreement. Those milestone payments are $7.0 million for any first product we develop that is subject to the Collaboration and Option Agreement and $3.5 million for any additional product we develop that is subject to the Collaboration and Option Agreement. We are also obligated to pay CRT low-single digit royalties on net sales on a product-by-product and country-by-country basis for any product that is subject to the Collaboration and Option Agreement. Our obligation to pay royalties will expire upon the later of (i) the expiration of the last patent which covers such product in such country; (ii) 10 years following the first commercial sale of such product in such country; and (iii) the expiration of any extended patent exclusivity period in the relevant country. To date we have paid $4.8 million under the Collaboration and Option Agreement.
All intellectual property developed or discovered pursuant to the research collaboration during the Collaboration term is owned by us, subject to the ICR’s and CRT’s rights in and to their pre-existing intellectual property and the ICR’s and CRT’s research rights; provided, however, any substrate list and target deconvolution data that is generated by or on behalf of the ICR in connection with its independent research and screening activities that result in a non-degradation program may be jointly owned by CRT and the ICR under certain conditions. We are permitted to grant sub-licenses in respect of the rights granted under the Collaboration and Option Agreement, subject to certain limitations.
Even though the Collaboration Term under the Collaboration and Option Agreement expired on December 31, 2020, the term of the Collaboration and Option Agreement itself continues until it is otherwise terminated by (i) either party in the event of a material breach or upon an insolvency event, (ii) mutual agreement of the parties for any reason, (iii) us in the event that CRT and/or the ICR challenges the validity of any patent made or conceived pursuant to the research collaboration or if the joint steering committee determines that the continuation of the research collaboration would be commercially unreasonable, scientifically unviable, illegal or impossible or (iv) CRT and the ICR (acting together) in the event that any person who develops, sells or manufactures tobacco or otherwise makes a majority of its profits in the tobacco business acquires more than 50% of our voting securities or if we permanently abandon all discovery, development and commercialization efforts for all products related to the research collaboration.
Under the License Agreement, CRT and the ICR granted us a worldwide, exclusive, fully-paid, irrevocable, perpetual, sub-licensable license to (i) CRT and the ICR’s intellectual property rights in its compound library to research, develop and commercialize products that (a) contain or comprise such compounds or (b) are discovered, developed or generated using or incorporating CRT and the ICR’s existing intellectual property, or Licensed Products, and (ii) CRT and the ICR’s certain specified know-how and other intellectual property rights unrelated to its compound library to research, develop and commercialize products designed or intended to have a primary mechanism of action through cereblon-mediated protein degradation, or Protein Degradation Products, in each case of (i) and (ii), for the treatment, prevention and/or diagnosis of any and all diseases, disorders or conditions. CRT and the ICR also granted us a worldwide, non-exclusive, fully-paid, irrevocable, perpetual and sub-licensable license to certain of CRT and the ICR’s specified non-compound related intellectual property rights and know-how to research, develop and commercialize Licensed Products and Protein Degradation Products for the treatment, prevention and/or diagnosis of any and all diseases, disorders or conditions. The foregoing exclusive license is subject to CRT and the ICR’s retained rights to practice certain specified licensed intellectual property rights to carry out noncommercial academic research and teaching.
In consideration for the rights granted under the License Agreement, we issued an aggregate of 1,132,984 common shares to CRT, the ICR and affiliated founding scientists pursuant to the Formation and Investment Agreement at a price per share of CHF 0.04 for an aggregate purchase price of CHF 40,000 and paid CRT a technology access fee equal to approximately $42,000. The License Agreement will remain effective until terminated by written agreement between us, CRT and the ICR.
Intercompany services agreement
In December 2020, we entered into the Services Agreement with our wholly owned subsidiary, Monte Rosa Therapeutics AG, whereby we agreed to provide certain research and development services and management, administrative and support services to Monte Rosa Therapeutics AG’s business operations.
The biotechnology industry is extremely competitive in the race to develop new products and the industry is characterized by a high level of innovation and strong emphasis on proprietary products and intellectual property rights. While we believe we have significant competitive advantages due to our management team’s years of expertise in protein degradation, molecular glues and clinical and preclinical development of precision medicines in general, coupled with our unique scientific expertise and our growing portfolio of intellectual property rights, we currently face and will continue to face competition for our development programs from other companies that develop heterobifunctional degraders, similar molecular glue degraders or have protein degradation development platforms and their own associated intellectual property. Our competition will also include companies focused on existing and novel therapeutic modalities such as small molecule inhibitors antibodies and gene therapies. The competition is likely to come from multiple sources, including large and specialty pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and academic institutions that are in the business of research, development,
manufacturing and commercialization. Moreover, the existence of large numbers of patents and frequent allegations of patent infringement is typical in our industry.
Competitors in our efforts to develop MGD therapeutics for patients, include, but are not limited to, BioTheryX Therapeutics, Inc., C4 Therapeutics, Inc., Nurix Therapeutics, Inc., Kymera Therapeutics, Inc., Seed Therapeutics, Inc., Plexium Inc, Bristol-Myers Squib, and Novartis, all of whom have reported having MGD product candidates in preclinical or clinical development. In addition, lenalidomide and pomalidomide, which are both marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, are believed to function as MGDs. Further, several large pharmaceutical companies have disclosed investments in this field.
In addition to the competitors we face in developing small molecule protein degraders, we will also face competition in the indications we expect to pursue with our MGD programs. Many of these indications already have approved standards of care which may include existing therapeutic modalities. In order to compete effectively with these existing therapies, we will need to demonstrate that our MGDs perform favorably when compared to existing therapeutics.
We do not own or operate manufacturing facilities for the production of our product candidates and we currently have no plans to build our own clinical or commercial scale manufacturing capabilities. We currently contract with third-party contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, for the manufacture of our product candidates and we intend to continue to do so in the future. We rely on and expect to continue to engage on third-party manufacturers for the production of both drug substance and finished drug product. We currently obtain our supplies from these manufacturers on a purchase order basis and do not have long-term supply arrangements in place. Should any of these manufacturers become unavailable to us or their services to us become delayed for any reason, we believe that there are a number of potential replacements, although we may incur some delay in identifying and qualifying such replacements.
We are an innovation-driven company and we seek to aggressively protect the innovations, intellectual property, and proprietary technology that we generate that we consider important to our business, including by pursuing patent applications that cover our product candidates and methods of using the same, innovations around our QuEEN platform and our proprietary library of MGDs, as well as any other relevant innovations, inventions, and improvements that are considered potentially commercially relevant to the development of our business and to maintain our perceived competitive advantages. We also rely on trade secrets, know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our proprietary and intellectual property position. For our product candidates, we generally intend to pursue patent protection covering compositions of matter, pharmaceutical compositions, methods of use, including combination therapies, methods of administration including dosing methods, methods for monitoring potential clinical events, compositions and methods for personalizing, monitoring, and potentially refining clinical use, including biomarkers, processes of manufacture and process intermediates, where relevant. For our QuEEN platform, we generally intend to pursue patent protection covering our approaches, methods, and research and development tools relevant to our degron encyclopedia, our Rhapsody, tools, and our library of MGDs. We continually assess and iteratively refine our intellectual property strategies as we develop new innovations and product candidates. We currently plan to continue to invest in filing additional patent applications based on our intellectual property strategies to continue to build value in our business and/or to improve our business and potential partnering opportunities, where appropriate.
Our commercial success depends, in part, on our ability to obtain, maintain, enforce and protect our intellectual property and other proprietary rights for the technology, inventions and improvements we consider important to our business, and to defend any patents we may own or in-license in the future, prevent others from infringing any patents we may own or in-license in the future, preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets, and operate without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the valid and enforceable patents and proprietary rights of third parties.
As with other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, our ability to maintain and solidify our proprietary and intellectual property position for our product candidates and technologies will depend on our success in obtaining effective patent claims and enforcing those claims if granted. However, our pending provisional and Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT, 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 and the validity and/or enforceability of any of our issued patents may be challenged by third parties. Further, as with other companies, the patents may obtain
do not guarantee us the right to practice our technology in relation to the commercialization of our products. Regarding obtaining issued patents, here in the United States as well as in other jurisdictions of interest to our business, the patent positions for biopharmaceutical companies like us are generally uncertain and can involve complex legal, scientific and factual issues. Further, the laws governing the protection of intellectual property may change over time due to the issuance of new judicial decisions or the passage of new laws, rules or regulations. In addition, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before a patent is issued and its scope can be reinterpreted and challenged even after issuance. As a result, we cannot guarantee that any of our product candidates will be protected or remain protectable by valid, enforceable patents. We also cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient proprietary protection from competitors. Any patents that we hold may be challenged, circumvented or invalidated by third parties.
The exclusivity terms of our patents depend upon the laws of the countries in which they are obtained. In the countries in which we currently intend to file, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing of a non-provisional patent application. The term of a U.S. patent may be extended to compensate for the time required to obtain regulatory approval to sell a drug (referred to as a patent term extension) or by delays encountered during patent prosecution that are caused by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (referred to as patent term adjustment). For example, the Hatch-Waxman Act permits a patent term extension for FDA-approved new chemical entity drugs of up to five years beyond the ordinary expiration date of one patent that covers the approved drug or its use. The length of the patent term extension is related to the length of time the drug is under regulatory review and diligence during the review process. Patent term extensions in the United States cannot extend the term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval and only one patent covering an approved drug or its method of use may be extended. A similar kind of patent extension, referred to as a Supplementary Protection Certificate, is available in Europe. Legal frameworks may also be available in certain other jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent. We currently intend to seek patent term extensions for our products on any of our issued patents in any jurisdiction where we have a qualifying patent and the extension is available; however, there is no guarantee that the applicable regulatory authorities, including the FDA in the United States, will agree with our assessment of whether extensions of this nature should be granted and, even if granted, the length of these extensions. Further, even if any of our patents are extended or adjusted, those patents, including the extended or adjusted portion of those patents, may be held invalid or unenforceable by a court of final jurisdiction in the United States or a foreign country.
Patents and Patent Applications
As of December 31, 2021, we solely owned one pending patent application filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty and multiple pending foreign patent applications and United States provisional patent applications, as further described below. Patent prosecution related to our pending patent applications is currently in the early stages and, as such, no patent examiner has yet fully scrutinized the merits of any of our pending patent applications.
Wholly Owned Product Candidates
With respect to our GSPT1 program, as of December 31, 2021, we owned six pending Swiss priority patent applications, four pending United States provisional applications, and one pending PCT patent application (WO2021069705) that has not entered national stage that cover various GSPT1 degraders and uses thereof. These patent applications are drawn compositions of matter, pharmaceutical compositions, and methods of using our GSPT1 degraders. The earliest scheduled expiration of any U.S. or foreign patent issuing from the PCT patent application drawn to GSPT1 degraders, if such patent is issued, would be 2040, excluding any additional term for available patent term adjustment or patent term extension, and assuming national phase entries are timely made based upon the pending PCT application and timely payment of all applicable maintenance or annuity fees. We also owned six Swiss priority patent applications that cover biomarkers related to use of our GSPT1 degraders. We also owned four U.S. provisional patent applications relating to our CDK1 program, and one U.S. provisional patent application relating to our NEK7 program. The earliest scheduled expiration of any U.S. or foreign patents issuing from these U.S. provisional patent applications, if such patents are issued, would be 2042, excluding any additional term for available patent term adjustment or patent term extension.
With respect to our QuEEN platform, as of December 31, 2021, we owned four U.S. provisional patent applications drawn to our QuEEN platform and the use thereof in developing and applying therapeutics. QuEEN platform. The earliest scheduled expiration of any U.S. or foreign patent issuing from these U.S. provisional patent
applications, if such patents are issued, would be 2042, excluding any available additional term for patent term adjustment or patent term extension.
As of December 31, 2021, we owned various registered and unregistered trademarks in the United States, including Monte Rosa Therapeutics, our housemark logo, the name of our QuEEN platform, and the name of our Glueomics resource.
Trade Secrets and Know How
As an innovation driven biotechnology company, we rely on trade secrets, technical know-how and continuing innovation to develop and maintain the competitive advantage relevant to our business. Under the agreements we enter into with our employees and consultants, full rights in any intellectual property are assigned to us. We also rely on confidentiality or other agreements with our employees, consultants, other advisors and business partners to protect our proprietary information. Our policy is to require third parties that receive material confidential information to enter into confidentiality or other agreements with us that contain appropriate protections for our confidential and trade secret information.
The FDA and other regulatory authorities at federal, state and local level, as well as in foreign countries and local jurisdictions, extensively regulate among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, sampling, import, export, safety, effectiveness, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, record keeping, approval, advertising, promotion, marketing, post-approval monitoring and post-approval reporting of drugs. We, along with our vendors, contract research organizations and contract manufacturers, will be required to navigate the various preclinical, clinical, manufacturing and commercial approval requirements of the governing regulatory agencies of the countries in which we wish to conduct studies or seek approval of our product candidates. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals of drugs and ensuring subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations requires the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.
In the U.S., the FDA regulates drug products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FD&C Act, as amended, its implementing regulations and other laws. If we fail to comply with applicable FDA or other requirements at any time with respect to product development, clinical testing, approval or any other legal requirements relating to product manufacture, processing, handling, storage, quality control, safety, marketing, advertising, promotion, packaging, labeling, export, import, distribution, or sale, we may become subject to administrative or judicial sanctions or other legal consequences. These sanctions or consequences could include, among other things, the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications, issuance of clinical holds for ongoing studies, withdrawal of approvals, warning or untitled letters, product withdrawals or recalls, product seizures, relabeling or repackaging, total or partial suspensions of manufacturing or distribution, injunctions, fines, civil penalties or criminal prosecution.
The process required by the FDA before a drug may be marketed in the U.S. generally involves the following:
Preclinical studies and clinical trials for drugs
Before testing any drug in humans, the product candidate must undergo rigorous preclinical testing. Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluations of drug chemistry, formulation and stability, as well as in vitro and animal studies to assess safety and in some cases to establish the rationale for therapeutic use. The conduct of preclinical studies is subject to federal and state regulations and requirements, including GLP requirements for safety/toxicology studies. The results of the preclinical studies, together with manufacturing information and analytical data must be submitted to the FDA as part of an IND. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational product to humans and must become effective before clinical trials may begin. Some long-term preclinical testing may continue after the IND is submitted. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA, within the 30-day time period, raises concerns or questions about the conduct of the clinical trial, including concerns that human research patients will be exposed to unreasonable health risks, and imposes a clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. Submission of an IND may result in the FDA not allowing clinical trials to commence or not allowing clinical trials to commence on the terms originally specified in the IND.
The clinical stage of development involves the administration of the product candidate to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by or under the trial sponsor’s control, in accordance with GCP requirements, which include the requirements that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria and the parameters and criteria to be used in monitoring safety and evaluating effectiveness. Each protocol, and any subsequent amendments to the protocol must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Furthermore, each clinical trial must be reviewed and approved by an IRB for each institution at which the clinical trial will be conducted to ensure that the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trials are minimized and are reasonable related to the anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the informed consent form that must be provided to each clinical trial subject or his or her legal representative, and must monitor the clinical trial until completed. The FDA, the IRB or the sponsor may suspend or discontinue a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk or that the trial is unlikely to meet its stated objectives. Some studies also include oversight by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical study sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board, which provides authorization for whether or not a study may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the study and may halt the clinical trial if it determines that there is an unacceptable safety risk for subjects or other grounds, such as no demonstration of efficacy. There also are requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed clinical trials to public registries. Information about applicable clinical trials, including clinical trial results, must be submitted within specific timeframes for publication on the www.clinicaltrials.gov website.
A sponsor who wishes to conduct a clinical trial outside of the U.S. may, but need not, obtain FDA authorization to conduct the clinical trial under an IND. If a foreign clinical trial is not conducted under an IND, the sponsor must submit data from the clinical trial to the FDA in support of an NDA. The FDA will accept a well-designed and well-conducted foreign clinical trial not conducted under an IND if the trial was conducted in accordance with GCP requirements, and the FDA is able to validate the data through an onsite inspection if deemed necessary.
Clinical trials to evaluate therapeutic indications to support NDAs for marketing approval are typically conducted in three sequential phases, which may overlap or be combined.
Post-approval trials, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials, may be conducted after initial marketing approval. These trials are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication and are commonly intended to generate additional safety data regarding use of the product in a clinical setting. In certain instances, the FDA may mandate the performance of Phase 4 clinical trials as a condition of approval of an NDA.
Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials, among other information, must be submitted at least annually to the FDA. Written IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and the investigators fifteen days after the trial sponsor determines the information qualifies for reporting for serious and unexpected suspected adverse events, findings from other studies or animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human volunteers and 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 also notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction as soon as possible but in no case later than seven calendar days after the sponsor’s initial receipt of the information.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal studies and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the product candidate and finalize a process for manufacturing the drug product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product candidate and manufacturers must develop, among other things, methods for testing the identity, strength, quality and purity of the final drug product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested, and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.
U.S. marketing approval for drugs
Assuming successful completion of the required clinical testing, the results of the preclinical studies and clinical trials, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacture, controls and proposed labeling, among other things are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the product for one or more indications. An NDA must contain proof of the drug’s safety and efficacy in order to be approved. The marketing application may include both negative and ambiguous results of preclinical studies and clinical trials, as well as positive findings. Data may come from company-sponsored clinical trials intended to test the safety and efficacy of a product’s use or from a number of alternative sources, including studies initiated by investigators. To support marketing approval, the data submitted must be sufficient in quality and quantity to establish the safety and efficacy of the investigational product to the satisfaction of the FDA. FDA approval of an NDA must be obtained before a drug may be marketed in the U.S.
The FDA reviews all submitted NDAs before it accepts them for filing and may request additional information rather than accepting the NDA for filing. The FDA must make a decision on accepting an NDA for filing within 60 days of receipt, and such decision could include a refusal to file by the FDA. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth substantive review of the NDA. The FDA reviews an NDA to determine, among other things, whether the drug is safe and effective and whether the facility in which it is manufactured, processed, packaged or held meets standards designed to assure the product’s continued safety, quality and purity. Under the goals and polices agreed to by the FDA under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, the FDA targets ten months, from the filing date, in which to complete its initial review of a new molecular entity NDA and respond to the applicant, and six months from the filing date of a new molecular entity NDA for priority review. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard or priority NDAs, and the review process is often extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification.
Further, under PDUFA, as amended, each NDA must be accompanied by a user fee. The FDA adjusts the PDUFA user fees on an annual basis. Fee waivers or reductions are available in certain circumstances, including
a waiver of the application fee for the first application filed by a small business. Additionally, no user fees are assessed on NDAs for products designated as orphan drugs, unless the product also includes a non-orphan indication.
The FDA also may require submission of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, program to ensure that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks. The REMS program could include medication guides, physician communication plans, assessment plans and/or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries or other risk-minimization tools.
The FDA may refer an application for a novel drug to an advisory committee. An advisory committee is a panel of independent experts, including clinicians and other scientific experts, which reviews, evaluates and provides a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.
Before approving an NDA, the FDA typically will inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving an NDA, the FDA may inspect one or more clinical trial sites to assure compliance with GCP and other requirements and the integrity of the clinical data submitted to the FDA.
After evaluating the NDA and all related information, including the advisory committee recommendation, if any, and inspection reports regarding the manufacturing facilities and clinical trial sites, the FDA may issue an approval letter, or, in some cases, a complete response letter. A complete response letter generally contains a statement of specific conditions that must be met in order to secure final approval of the NDA and may require additional clinical or preclinical testing in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. Even with submission of this additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval. If and when those conditions have been met to the FDA’s satisfaction, the FDA will typically issue an approval letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the drug with specific prescribing information for specific indications.
Even if the FDA approves a product, depending on the specific risk(s) to be addressed it may limit the approved indications for use of the product, require that contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling, require that post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, be conducted to further assess a drug’s safety after approval, require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization or impose other conditions, including distribution and use restrictions or other risk management mechanisms under a REMS, which can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the product. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs. After approval, some types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval.
Orphan drug designation and exclusivity
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the U.S., or if it affects 200,000 or more individuals in the U.S., there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making the product available in the U.S. for the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product. Orphan designation must be requested before submitting an NDA. After the FDA grants orphan designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process, though companies developing orphan products are eligible for certain incentives, including tax credits for qualified clinical testing and waiver of application fees.
If a product that has orphan designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a seven-year period of marketing exclusivity during which the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same therapeutic agent for the same indication, except in limited circumstances, such as a subsequent product’s showing of clinical superiority over the product with orphan exclusivity or where the original applicant cannot produce sufficient quantities of product. Competitors, however, may receive approval of different therapeutic agents for the indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity or obtain approval for the same therapeutic agent but for a different indication than that for
which the orphan product has exclusivity. Orphan product exclusivity could also block the approval of one of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains approval for the same therapeutic agent for the same indication before we do, unless we are able to demonstrate that our product is clinically superior. If an orphan designated product receives marketing approval for an indication broader than what is designated, it may not be entitled to orphan exclusivity. Further, orphan drug exclusive marketing rights in the U.S. may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or the manufacturer of the approved product is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.
Expedited development and review programs for drugs
The FDA maintains several programs intended to facilitate and expedite development and review of new drugs to address unmet medical needs in the treatment of serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions. These programs include Fast Track designation, Breakthrough Therapy designation, Priority Review and Accelerated Approval, and the purpose of these programs is to either expedite the development or review of important new drugs to get them to patients earlier than under standard FDA development and review procedures.
A new drug is eligible for Fast Track designation if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition. Fast Track designation provides increased opportunities for sponsor interactions with the FDA during preclinical and clinical development, in addition to the potential for rolling review once a marketing application is filed, meaning that the agency may review portions of the marketing application before the sponsor submits the complete application, as well as Priority Review, discussed below.
In addition, a new drug may be eligible for Breakthrough Therapy designation if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. Breakthrough Therapy designation provides all the features of Fast Track designation in addition to intensive guidance on an efficient drug development program beginning as early as Phase 1, and FDA organizational commitment to expedited development, including involvement of senior managers and experienced review staff in a cross-disciplinary review, where appropriate.
Any product submitted to the FDA for approval, including a product with Fast Track or Breakthrough Therapy designation, may also be eligible for additional FDA programs intended to expedite the review and approval process including Priority Review designation and Accelerated Approval. A product is eligible for Priority Review if it has the potential to provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness in the treatment, diagnosis or prevention of a serious disease or condition. Under priority review, the FDA targets reviewing an application in six months after filing compared to ten months after filing for a standard review.
Additionally, products are eligible for Accelerated Approval if they can be shown to have an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or an effect on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality which is reasonably likely to predict an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments. Accelerated Approval is usually contingent on a sponsor’s agreement to conduct additional post-approval studies to verify and describe the product’s clinical benefit. The FDA may withdraw approval of a drug or indication approved under Accelerated Approval if, for example, the confirmatory trial fails to verify the predicted clinical benefit of the product. In addition, unless otherwise informed by the FDA, the FDA currently requires, as a condition for Accelerated Approval, that all advertising and promotional materials that are intended for dissemination or publication within 120 days following marketing approval be submitted to the agency for review during the pre-approval review period, and that after 120 days following marketing approval, all advertising and promotional materials must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the intended time of initial dissemination or publication.
Even if a product qualifies for one or more of these programs, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or the time period for FDA review or approval may not be shortened. Furthermore, Fast Track designation, Breakthrough Therapy designation, Priority Review and Accelerated Approval do not change the scientific or medical standards for approval or the quality of evidence necessary to support approval but may expedite the development or review process.
Pediatric information and pediatric exclusivity
Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, or PREA, as amended, certain NDAs and certain supplements to an NDA must contain data to assess the safety and efficacy of the drug 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 pediatric data or full or partial waivers. The FD&C Act requires that a sponsor who is planning to submit a marketing application for a drug that includes a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen or new route of administration submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan, or PSP, within 60 days of an end-of-Phase 2 meeting or, if there is no such meeting, as early as practicable before the initiation of the Phase 3 or Phase 2/3 trial. The FDA and the sponsor must reach an agreement on the PSP. A sponsor can submit amendments to an agreed-upon initial PSP at any time if changes to the pediatric plan need to be considered based on data collected from preclinical studies, early phase clinical trials and/or other clinical development programs.
A drug can also obtain pediatric market exclusivity in the U.S. Pediatric exclusivity, if granted, adds six months to existing exclusivity periods and patent terms. This six-month exclusivity, which runs from the end of other exclusivity protection or patent term, may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric trial or of multiple pediatric trials in accordance with an FDA-issued “Written Request” for such trials.
U.S. post-approval requirements for drugs
Drugs manufactured or distributed pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to recordkeeping, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, reporting of adverse experiences with the product, complying with promotion and advertising requirements, which include restrictions on promoting products for unapproved uses or patient populations (known as “off-label use”) and limitations on industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities. Although physicians may prescribe legally available products for off-label uses, manufacturers and individuals working on behalf of manufacturers may not market or promote such uses. 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, including investigation by federal and state authorities. Prescription drug promotional materials must be submitted to the FDA in conjunction with their first use or first publication. Further, if there are any modifications to the drug, including changes in indications, labeling or manufacturing processes or facilities, the applicant may be required to submit and obtain FDA approval of a new NDA or NDA supplement, which may require the development of additional data or preclinical studies and clinical trials. The FDA may impose a number of post-approval requirements as a condition of approval of an NDA. For example, the FDA may require post-market testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness after commercialization.
In addition, drug manufacturers and their subcontractors involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved drugs are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with ongoing regulatory requirements, including cGMP, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements upon us and our contract manufacturers. Failure to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements can subject a manufacturer to possible legal or regulatory action, such as warning letters, suspension of manufacturing, product seizures, injunctions, civil penalties or criminal prosecution. There is also a continuing, annual prescription drug product program user fee.
Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information, requirements for post-market studies or clinical trials to assess new safety risks, or imposition of distribution or other restrictions under a REMS. Other potential consequences include, among other things:
Market exclusivity provisions under the FD&C Act can delay the submission or the approval of certain marketing applications. The FD&C Act provides a five-year period of non-patent exclusivity within the United States to the first applicant to obtain approval of an NDA for a new chemical entity. A drug is a new chemical entity if the FDA has not previously approved any other new drug containing the same active moiety, which is the molecule or ion responsible for the action of the drug substance. During the exclusivity period, the FDA may not approve or even accept for review an abbreviated new drug application, or ANDA, or an NDA submitted under Section 505(b)(2), or 505(b)(2) NDA, submitted by another company for another drug based on the same active moiety, regardless of whether the drug is intended for the same indication as the original innovative drug or for another indication. However, such an application may be submitted after four years if it contains a certification of patent invalidity or non-infringement to one of the patents listed with the FDA by the innovator NDA holder.
The FD&C Act alternatively provides three years of marketing exclusivity for an NDA, or supplement to an existing NDA, if new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability studies, that were conducted or sponsored by the applicant are deemed by the FDA to be essential to the approval of the application, for example new indications, dosages or strengths of an existing drug. This three-year exclusivity covers only the modification for which the drug received approval on the basis of the new clinical investigations and does not prohibit the FDA from approving ANDAs or 505(b)(2) NDAs for drugs containing the active agent for the original indication or condition of use. Five-year and three-year exclusivity will not delay the submission or approval of a full NDA. However, an applicant submitting a full NDA would be required to conduct or obtain a right of reference to any preclinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials necessary to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.
Other regulatory matters
Manufacturing, sales, promotion and other activities of product candidates following product approval, where applicable, or commercialization are also subject to regulation by numerous regulatory authorities in the U.S. in addition to the FDA, which may include the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, other divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and state and local governments and governmental agencies.
Current and future healthcare reform legislation
In the United States and in some foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and likely will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes intended to broaden access to healthcare, improve the quality of healthcare, and contain or lower the cost of healthcare. For example, in the United States, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or ACA, among other things, subjected products to potential competition by lower-cost products, expanded the types of entities eligible for the 340B drug discount program, addressed a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, increases rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, established annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs, and created a Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program for certain Medicare Part D beneficiaries, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 50% (increased to 70% pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or BBA, effective as of January 2019) point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D.
There have been executive, judicial and congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA Act as well as efforts to repeal or replace certain aspects of the ACA. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA brought by several states without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through August 15, 2021 for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructed certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work
requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA.
Other federal health reform measures have been proposed and adopted in the U.S. since the ACA was enacted. By way of example, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, included aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers of up to 2% per fiscal year. This reduction went into effect in April 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments, will remain in effect through 2030, with the exception of a temporary suspension from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022. Then, a 1% payment reduction will occur beginning April 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022, and the 2% payment reduction will resume on July 1, 2022. CMS has indicated that it is delaying the processing of claims in April to allow Congress to pass legislation that would extend the suspension. In addition, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law which, 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.
Furthermore, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several congressional inquiries and proposed legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient assistance programs and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. At the federal level, the previous administration used several means to propose or implement drug pricing reform, including through federal budget proposals, executive orders and policy initiatives. On July 9, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order directing the FDA to, among other things, continue to clarify and improve the approval framework for generic drugs and identify and address any efforts to impede generic drug competition.
Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. In addition, regional healthcare authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other healthcare programs. It is difficult to predict the future legislative landscape in healthcare and the effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. However, we expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future. Further, it is possible that additional governmental action is taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Third-party payor coverage and reimbursement
Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval. In the U.S. and markets in other countries, sales of any products for which we may receive regulatory marketing approval for commercial sale will depend, in part, on the availability of coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors. Third-party payors include government healthcare programs (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid), managed care providers, private health insurers, health maintenance organizations and other organizations. These third-party payors decide which medications they will pay for and will establish reimbursement levels. The availability of coverage and extent of reimbursement by governmental and other third-party payors is essential for most patients to be able to afford treatments such as targeted protein degradation therapies.
In the United States, no uniform policy exists for coverage and reimbursement for products among third-party payors. Therefore, decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided can differ significantly from payor to payor. Third-party payors often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Factors payors consider in determining reimbursement are based on whether the product is:
One third-party payor’s decision to cover a particular product or service does not ensure that other payors will also provide coverage for the medical product or service . Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list or formulary, which may not include all FDA-approved products for a particular indication. Also, third-party payors may refuse to include a particular branded product on their formularies or otherwise restrict patient access to a branded drug when a less costly generic equivalent or other alternative is available. Our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from third-party payors.
Moreover, the process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the reimbursement rate a payor will pay for the product. A payor’s decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Further, third-party payors are increasingly challenging the price and examining the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of medical products and services, in addition to their safety and efficacy. In order to secure coverage and reimbursement for any product that might be approved for sale, we may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of our products, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA or comparable regulatory approvals. Additionally, we may also need to provide discounts to purchasers, private health plans or government healthcare programs. Despite our best efforts, our product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost-effective. If third-party payors do not consider a product to be cost-effective compared to other available therapies, they may not cover an approved product as a benefit under their plans or, if they do, the level of payment may not be sufficient to allow us to sell our products at a profit. A decision by a third-party payor not to cover a product could reduce physician utilization once the product is approved and have a material adverse effect on sales, our operations and financial condition.
Finally, in some foreign countries, the proposed pricing for a product candidate must be approved before it may be lawfully marketed. The requirements governing product pricing vary widely from country to country. For example, in the European Union, or EU, pricing and reimbursement of pharmaceutical products are regulated at a national level under the individual EU Member States’ social security systems. Some foreign countries provide options to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and can control the prices of medicinal products for human use. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval, some of these countries may require the completion of clinical trials that compare the cost effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. A country may approve a specific price for the medicinal product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our product candidates. Even if approved for reimbursement, historically, product candidates launched in some foreign countries, such as some countries in the EU, do not follow price structures of the U.S. and prices generally tend to be significantly lower.
Other healthcare laws and regulations
Healthcare providers, physicians, and third-party payors will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any products for which we obtain marketing approval. Our business operations and any current or future arrangements with third-party payors may expose us to broadly applicable federal and state fraud and abuse laws, as well as other healthcare laws and regulations. These laws may impact, among other things, our proposed sales, marketing, and distribution strategies. In the U.S., these laws include, among others:
The scope and enforcement of each of these laws is uncertain and subject to rapid change in the current environment of healthcare reform, especially in light of the lack of applicable precedent and regulations. Federal, state and foreign enforcement bodies have recently increased their scrutiny of interactions between healthcare companies and healthcare providers, which has led to a number of investigations, prosecutions, convictions and settlements in the healthcare industry. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices may not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of these laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, individual imprisonment, exclusion from participation in government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, as well as additional reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar settlement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results. If any of the physicians or other healthcare providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found to be not in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to similar actions, penalties, and sanctions. Ensuring business arrangements comply with applicable healthcare laws, as well as responding to possible investigations by government authorities, can be time- and resource consuming and can divert a company’s attention from the business.
Failure to comply with privacy and data protection laws and regulations could lead to government enforcement actions (which could include civil or criminal penalties), private litigation and/or adverse publicity, and could negatively affect our operating results and business.
We may be subject to Swiss, European, US federal, state, and foreign data protection laws and regulations (i.e., laws and regulations that address privacy and data security). In the European Union, we may be subject to additional privacy restrictions. The collection and use of personal data including health information in the European Union is governed by the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR as well as national data protection laws.. The GDPR imposes a broad range of strict requirements on companies subject to the GDPR, such as including requirements relating to having legal bases for processing personal data relating to identifiable individuals and transferring such information outside the European Economic Area, or EEA, including to the U.S. (see below), providing details to those individuals regarding the processing of their personal data, implementing safeguards to keep personal data secure, having data processing agreements with third parties who process personal data, providing information to individuals regarding data processing activities, responding to individuals’ requests to exercise their rights in respect of their personal data, obtaining consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, reporting security and privacy breaches involving personal data to the competent national data protection authority and affected individuals, appointing data protection officers, conducting data protection impact assessments, and record-keeping. The GDPR substantially increases the penalties to which we could be subject in the event of any non-compliance, including fines of up to €20,000,000 or 4% of total annual global revenue, whichever is greater. The GDPR increases the responsibility and liability of pharmaceutical companies in relation to processing personal data, and companies may be required to put in place additional mechanisms to ensure compliance with the new EU data protection rules. The GDPR introduced new data protection requirements in the EU and substantial fines for breaches of the data protection rules. The GDPR may impose additional responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process and we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms ensuring compliance with the new data protection rules. This may be onerous and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
In addition, the United Kingdom (UK) incorporated the GDPR (as it existed on December 31, 2020 but subject to certain UK specific amendments) into UK law (referred to as the 'UK GDPR'), following its exit from the EU in 2020. The UK GDPR and the UK Data Protection Act 2018 set out the UK’s data protection regime, which is independent from but aligned to the EU’s data protection regime. Non-compliance with the UK GDPR may result in monetary penalties of up to £17.5 million or 4% of worldwide revenue, whichever is higher. Although the UK is regarded as a third country under the EU’s GDPR, the European Commission (“EC”) has now issued a decision recognizing the UK as providing adequate protection under the EU GDPR and, therefore, transfers of personal data originating in the EU to the UK remain unrestricted. Like the EU GDPR, the UK GDPR restricts personal data transfers outside the UK to countries not regarded by the UK as providing adequate protection. The UK government has confirmed that personal data transfers from the UK to the EEA remain free flowing.
In Switzerland, we are also subject to comprehensive data protection requirements including the Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection (DPA) which imposes stringent rules on the processing of personal data including health related information.
In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including federal health information privacy laws, state data breach notification laws, state health information privacy laws, and federal and state consumer protection laws (e.g., Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act), that govern the collection, use, disclosure and protection of health-related and other personal information could apply to our operations or the operations of our collaborators. In California, for example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was enacted in June 2018, became effective on January 1, 2020, and became subject to enforcement by the California Attorney General's office on July 1, 2020. The CCPA broadly defines personal information, and creates new individual privacy rights and protections for California consumers. places increased privacy and security obligations on entities handling personal data of consumers or households, and provides for civil penalties for violations and a private right of action for data breaches. The CCPA requires covered companies to provide certain disclosures to consumers about its data collection, use and sharing practices, and to provide affected California residents with ways to opt-out of certain sales or transfers of personal information. While there is an exception for protected health information that is subject to HIPAA and clinical trial regulations, the CCPA may impact our business activities if we become a "Business" regulated by the scope of the CCPA.
Further, a new privacy law, the California Privacy Rights Act, or CPRA, was passed by California voters on November 3, 2020. The CPRA will create additional obligations relating to personal information that are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2023 (with certain provisions having retroactive effect to January 1, 2022). While the legislation and proposed regulations include the CCPA and CPRA contain an exception for activities that are subject to HIPAA, we cannot yet determine the impact the CCPA, CPRA or other such future laws, regulations and standards may have on our business. A number of other states have proposed new privacy laws, some of which are similar to the above discussed recently passed laws. Such proposed legislation, if enacted, may add additional complexity, variation in requirements, restrictions and potential legal risk, require additional investment of resources in compliance programs, impact strategies and the availability of previously useful data and could result in increased compliance costs and/or changes in business practices and policies. The existence of comprehensive privacy laws in different states in the country would make our compliance obligations more complex and costly and may increase the likelihood that we may be subject to enforcement actions or otherwise incur liability for noncompliance
The uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the CCPA, recent and emerging state privacy and other similar laws, regulations and standards that may be adopted in other jurisdictions exemplifies the vulnerability of our business to the evolving regulatory environment related to personal data and protected health information. Compliance with U.S. and international data protection laws and regulations could require us to take on more onerous obligations in our contracts, restrict our ability to collect, use and disclose data, or in some cases, impact our ability to operate in certain jurisdictions. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations could result in government enforcement actions (which could include civil, criminal and administrative penalties), private litigation, and/or adverse publicity and could negatively affect our operating results and business. Moreover, clinical trial subjects, employees and other individuals about whom we or our potential collaborators obtain personal information, as well as the providers who share this information with us, may limit our ability to collect, use and disclose the information. Claims that we have violated individuals’ privacy rights, failed to comply with data protection laws, or breached our contractual obligations, even if we are not found liable, could be expensive and time-consuming to defend and could result in adverse publicity that could harm our business.
Many jurisdictions outside of Europe where we do business directly or through master resellers today and may seek to expand our business in the future, are also considering and/or have enacted comprehensive data protection legislation. We also continue to see jurisdictions imposing data localization laws. These and similar regulations may interfere with our intended business activities, inhibit our ability to expand into those markets, require modifications to our products or services or prohibit us from continuing to offer services in those markets without significant additional costs.
Compliance with other federal and state laws or requirements; changing legal requirements
If any products that we may develop are made available to authorized users of the Federal Supply Schedule of the General Services Administration, additional laws and requirements apply. Products must meet applicable child-resistant packaging requirements under the U.S. Poison Prevention Packaging Act. Manufacturing, labeling, packaging, distribution, sales, promotion and other activities also are potentially subject to federal and state consumer protection and unfair competition laws, among other requirements to we may be subject.
The distribution of pharmaceutical products is subject to additional requirements and regulations, including extensive record-keeping, licensing, storage and security requirements intended to prevent the unauthorized sale of pharmaceutical products.
The failure to comply with any of these laws or regulatory requirements subjects firms to possible legal or regulatory action. Depending on the circumstances, failure to meet applicable regulatory requirements can result in criminal prosecution, fines or other penalties, injunctions, exclusion from federal healthcare programs, requests for recall, seizure of products, total or partial suspension of production, denial or withdrawal of product approvals, relabeling or repackaging, or refusal to allow a firm to enter into supply contracts, including government contracts. Any claim or 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. Prohibitions or restrictions on marketing, sales or withdrawal of future products marketed by us could materially affect our business in an adverse way.
Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements; (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling or packaging; (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products; or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect the operation of our business.
Other U.S. environmental, health and safety laws and regulations
We may be subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. From time to time and in the future, our operations may involve the use of hazardous and flammable materials, including chemicals and biological materials, and may also produce hazardous waste products. Even if we contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and waste products, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of contamination or injury resulting from these materials. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from the use or disposal of our hazardous materials, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We also could incur significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties for failure to comply with such laws and regulations.
We maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees, but this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. However, we do not maintain insurance for environmental liability or toxic tort claims that may be asserted against us.
In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. Current or future environmental laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. In addition, failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.
Government regulation of drugs outside of the United States
To market any product outside of the U.S., we would need to comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries regarding safety and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials, marketing authorization or identification of an alternate regulatory pathway, manufacturing, commercial sales and distribution of our products.
Whether or not we obtain FDA approval of a product, we must 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. Failure to comply with applicable foreign regulatory requirements, may be subject to, among other things, fines, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals, product recalls, seizure of products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecution.
Non-clinical studies and clinical trials
Similarly to the U.S., the various phases of non-clinical and clinical research in the European Union, or EU, are subject to significant regulatory controls.
Non-clinical studies are performed to demonstrate the safety and non-toxicity of new chemical (or biological) substances. Non-clinical studies must be conducted in compliance with the principles of good laboratory practice, or GLP, as set forth in the Directive 2004/10/EC. In particular, non-clinical studies, both in vitro and in vivo, must be planned, performed, monitored, recorded, reported and archived in accordance with the GLP principles, which define a set of rules and criteria for a quality system for the organizational process and the conditions for non-clinical studies. These GLP standards reflect the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development requirements.
Certain countries outside of the United States have a similar process that requires the submission of a clinical study application much like the IND prior to the commencement of human clinical studies. In the EU for example,
a clinical trial authorization, or CTA, must be submitted to each country’s national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and the IRB, respectively. Once the CTA is approved by the national health authority and the ethics committee has granted a positive opinion in relation to the conduct of the trial in the relevant member state(s), in accordance with a country’s requirements, clinical study development may proceed.
Clinical trials of medicinal products in the European Union must be conducted in accordance with EU and national regulations and the International Conference on Harmonization, or ICH, guidelines on Good Clinical Practices, or GCP, as well as the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki. If the sponsor of the clinical trial is not established within the EU, it must appoint an EU entity to act as its legal representative. The sponsor must take out a clinical trial insurance policy, and in most EU countries, the sponsor is liable to provide ‘no fault’ compensation to any study subject injured in the clinical trial.
The Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC, the Directive 2005/28/EC on GCP and the related national implementing provisions of the individual EU member states govern the system for the approval of clinical trials in the EU. Under this system, and prior to commencing a clinical trial, the sponsor must obtain a CTA from the competent national authority of each EU member state in which the clinical trial is to be conducted. Furthermore, the sponsor may only start a clinical trial at a specific trial site after the relevant independent ethics committee has issued a favorable opinion. The CTA must be accompanied by, among other documents, a copy of the trial protocol and an investigational medicinal product dossier (the Common Technical Document) containing information about the manufacture and quality of the medicinal product under investigation and other supporting information prescribed by Directive 2001/20/EC, Directive 2005/28/EC, where relevant the implementing national provisions of the individual EU member states and further detailed in applicable guidance documents. Any substantial changes to the trial protocol or other information submitted with the CTA must be notified to or approved by the relevant competent authorities and ethics committees. Medicines used in clinical trials must be manufactured in accordance with GMP. Other national and EU-wide regulatory requirements may also apply.
In April 2014, the new Clinical Trials Regulation (EU) No 536/2014, or the Clinical Trials Regulation, was adopted. It is expected that the Clinical Trials Regulation will apply following confirmation of full functionality of the Clinical Trials Information System, or CTIS, the centralized EU portal and database for clinical trials foreseen by the regulation, through an independent audit. The regulation becomes applicable six months after the European Commission publishes notice of this confirmation. The Clinical Trials Regulation is currently expected to become applicable by early 2022. The Clinical Trials Regulation will be directly applicable in all EU member states, repealing the current Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC. Conduct of all clinical trials performed in the EU will continue to be bound by currently applicable provisions until the new Clinical Trials Regulation becomes applicable. The extent to which ongoing clinical trials will be governed by the Clinical Trials Regulation will depend on when the Clinical Trials Regulation becomes applicable and on the duration of the individual clinical trial. If a clinical trial continues for more than three years from the day on which the Clinical Trials Regulation becomes applicable, the Clinical Trials Regulation will apply to the clinical trial from the expiry of such three year period. The Clinical Trials Regulation aims to simplify and streamline the approval of clinical trials in the EU, for example by providing for a streamlined application procedure via a single entry point and simplifying reporting procedures for clinical trial sponsors.
In the EU, medicinal products can only be placed on the market after obtaining a marketing authorization, or MA. To obtain regulatory approval of an investigational drug in the EU, a marketing authorization application, or MAA must be submitted. The process for doing this depends, among other things, on the nature of the medicinal product. Medicinal products must be authorized for marketing by using either the centralized authorization procedure or a national authorization procedures.
MAs have an initial duration of five years. After these five years, the authorization may be renewed for an unlimited period on the basis of a reevaluation of the risk-benefit balance.
Now that the UK (which comprises Great Britain and Northern Ireland) has left the EU, Great Britain will no longer be covered by centralized MAs (under the Northern Irish Protocol, centralized MAs will continue to be recognized in Northern Ireland). All medicinal products with a current centralized MA were automatically converted to Great Britain MAs on January 1, 2021. For a period of two years from January 1, 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, the UK medicines regulator, may rely on a decision taken by the European Commission on the approval of a new MA in the centralized procedure, in order to more quickly grant a new Great Britain MA. A separate application will, however, still be required.
Data and marketing exclusivity
In the EU, upon receiving a MA, innovative medicinal products, sometimes referred to as new chemical entities (i.e., reference products) generally qualify for eight years of data exclusivity and an additional two years of market exclusivity. If granted, the data exclusivity period prevents generic or biosimilar applicants from relying on the non-clinical and clinical trial data contained in the dossier of the reference product when applying for a generic or biosimilar MA in the EU during a period of eight years from the date on which the reference product was first authorized in the EU. During the additional two-year period of market exclusivity, a generic/biosimilar MAA can be submitted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but no generic or biosimilar product can be marketed in the EU until the expiration of the market exclusivity period. The overall ten-year period can be extended to a maximum of eleven years if, during the first eight years of those ten years, the marketing authorization holder obtains an authorization for one or more new therapeutic indications which, during the scientific evaluation prior to their authorization, are held to bring a significant clinical benefit in comparison with existing therapies. However, there is no guarantee that a product will be considered by the EU or member state regulatory authorities to be a new chemical entity, and products may not qualify for data exclusivity.
Orphan medicinal products
The criteria for designating an “orphan medicinal product” in the EU are similar in principle to those in the U.S. In the EU a medicinal product may be designated as orphan if (i) it is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition; (ii) 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 (iii) 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 application for orphan drug designation must be submitted before the application for MA. Orphan medicinal products are eligible for financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers and are, upon grant of a MA, entitled to ten years of market exclusivity for the approved therapeutic indication. During this ten-year orphan market exclusivity period, no MAA shall be accepted by the EMA for the same indication in respect of a similar medicinal product for the same indication. An orphan product can also obtain an additional two years of market exclusivity in the EU for pediatric studies. No extension to any supplementary protection certificate can be granted on the basis of pediatric studies for orphan indications. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
The ten-year market exclusivity may 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, MA may be granted to a similar product for the same indication at any time if (i) the second applicant can establish that its product, although similar, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior; (ii) the applicant consents to a second orphan medicinal product application; or (iii) the applicant cannot supply enough orphan medicinal product.
In the EU, MAAs for new medicinal products must include the results of trials conducted in the pediatric population, in compliance with a pediatric investigation plan, or PIP, agreed with the EMA’s Pediatric Committee, or PDCO, unless a waiver or deferral applies. The PIP sets out the timing and measures proposed to generate data to support a pediatric indication of the drug for which a MA is being sought. The PDCO can grant a deferral of the obligation to implement some or all of the measures of the PIP until there are sufficient data to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the product in adults. Further, the obligation to provide pediatric clinical trial data can be waived by the PDCO when these data are not needed or appropriate because the product is likely to be ineffective or unsafe in children, the disease or condition for which the product is intended occurs only in adult populations, or when the product does not represent a significant therapeutic benefit over existing treatments for pediatric patients. Once the MA is obtained in all EU member states and study results are included in the product information, even when negative, the product is eligible for a six-months supplementary protection certificate extension (if any is in effect at the time of approval) or, in the case of orphan pharmaceutical products, a two year extension of the orphan market exclusivity is granted.
Similar to the United States, both MA holders and manufacturers of medicinal products are subject to comprehensive regulatory oversight by the EMA, the European Commission and/or the competent regulatory authorities of the member states. The holder of a MA must establish and maintain a pharmacovigilance system and appoint an individual qualified person for pharmacovigilance who is responsible for oversight of that system. Key obligations include expedited reporting of suspected serious adverse reactions and submission of periodic safety update reports, or PSURs. All new MAAs must include a risk management plan, or RMP, describing the risk management system that the company will put in place and documenting measures to prevent or minimize the risks associated with the product. The regulatory authorities may also impose specific obligations as a condition of the MA. Such risk-minimization measures or post-authorization obligations may include additional safety monitoring, more frequent submission of PSURs, or the conduct of additional clinical trials or post-authorization safety studies.
The advertising and promotion of medicinal products is also subject to laws concerning promotion of medicinal products, interactions with physicians, misleading and comparative advertising and unfair commercial practices. All advertising and promotional activities for the product must be consistent with the approved summary of product characteristics, and therefore all off-label promotion is prohibited. Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines is also prohibited in the EU. Although general requirements for advertising and promotion of medicinal products are established under EU directives, the details are governed by regulations in each member state and can differ from one country to another.
Failure to comply with EU and member state laws that apply to the conduct of clinical trials, manufacturing approval, authorization of medicinal products and marketing of such products, both before and after grant of the MA, manufacturing of pharmaceutical products, statutory health insurance, bribery and anti-corruption or with other applicable regulatory requirements may result in administrative, civil or criminal penalties. These penalties could include delays or refusal to authorize the conduct of clinical trials, or to grant MA, product withdrawals and recalls, product seizures, suspension, withdrawal or variation of the MA, total or partial suspension of production, distribution, manufacturing or clinical trials, operating restrictions, injunctions, suspension of licenses, fines and criminal penalties.
The aforementioned EU rules are generally applicable in the European Economic Area, or EEA, which consists of the 27 EU member states plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
For other countries outside of the European Union, such as countries in Latin America or Asia, the requirements governing the conduct of clinical studies, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. In all cases, again, the clinical studies are conducted in accordance with GCP and the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.
Should we utilize third-party distributors, compliance with such foreign governmental regulations would generally be the responsibility of such distributors, who may be independent contractors over whom we have limited control.
Brexit and the regulatory framework in the United Kingdom
In June 2016, the electorate in the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the European Union, commonly referred to as “Brexit”. Thereafter, in March 2017, the country formally notified the European Union of its intention to withdraw pursuant to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The United Kingdom formally left the European Union on January 31, 2020. A transition period began on February 1, 2020, during which European Union pharmaceutical law remains applicable to the United Kingdom. This transition period is due to end on December 31, 2020. This means that since January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom operates under a distinct regulatory regime. EU pharmaceutical laws now only apply to the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland (as laid out in the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, including but not limited to MAAs). Since the regulatory framework for pharmaceutical products in the United Kingdom covering quality, safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products, clinical trials, MA, commercial sales and distribution of pharmaceutical products is derived from European Union directives and regulations, Brexit could materially impact the future regulatory regime which applies to products and the approval of product candidates in the United Kingdom. It remains to be seen how, if at all, Brexit will impact regulatory requirements for product candidates and products in the United Kingdom.
Employees and human capital resources
As of December 31, 2021, we had 93 full-time employees, of which 47 have M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. Within our workforce, 72 employees are engaged in research and development and 21 are engaged in business development, finance, legal, and general management and administration. None of our employees are represented by labor unions or covered by collective bargaining agreements. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.
Our human capital resources objectives include, as applicable, identifying, recruiting, retaining, incentivizing and integrating our existing and new employees, advisors and consultants. The principal purposes of our equity incentive plans are to attract, retain and reward personnel through the granting of equity-based compensation awards in order to increase shareholder value and the success of our company by motivating such individuals to perform to the best of their abilities and achieve our objectives.
Our corporate headquarters is located in Boston, Massachusetts, where we currently lease and occupy approximately 16,748 square feet of office space at 645 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210. The current term of our Boston lease expires in March 2026. In December 2021, we executed a lease with B9 LS Harrison & Washington LLC, or the Landlord, for approximately 63,327 square feet of office and laboratory space at 321 Harrison Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, or the Premises, which is expected to serve as our new headquarters beginning in April 1, 2022, and our obligation to pay rent will begin upon the earlier of (a) eight (8) months following April 1, 2022 and (b) the date which is two (2) months following the date which we complete our tenant improvements. The initial term of the lease is one hundred twenty-eight (128) months following April 1, 2022. The annual base rent under the lease is $95.00 per square foot for the first year, which is subject to scheduled annual increases of 3%, plus certain costs, operating expenses and property management fees. We have the option to
extend the lease once for (5) five-years upon notice to the Landlord at least one (1) year prior to the end of the then-current term. We also have the option to sublet the Premises on the terms and conditions set forth in the lease. We have an additional location used for office and lab space that occupies approximately 21,422 square feet located at Klybeckstrasse 191, WKL-136.3, 4057 Basel, Basel-City, Switzerland.
We believe that our facilities are adequate for our current needs and for the foreseeable future. To meet the future needs of our business, we may lease additional or alternate space. We believe that suitable additional or substitute space at commercially reasonable terms will be available as needed to accommodate any future expansion of our operations.
From time to time, we may become involved in litigation or other legal proceedings arising in the ordinary course of business. We are not currently a party to any litigation or legal proceedings that, in the opinion of our management, are probable to have a material adverse effect on our business. Regardless of outcome, litigation can have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects because of defense and settlement costs, diversion of management resources and other factors.
We file Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. Our filings with the SEC are available on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. We also maintain a website at www.monterosatx.com. We make available, free of charge, in the Investor Relations section of our website, documents we file with or furnish to the SEC, including our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and any exhibits and amendments to those reports. We make this information available as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such materials with, or furnish such information to, the SEC. The other information found on our website is not part of this or any other report we file with, or furnish to, the SEC. Copies of such documents are available in print at no charge to any shareholder who makes a request. Such requests should be made to our corporate secretary at our corporate headquarters, 645 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Careful consideration should be given to the following risk factors, in addition to the other information set forth in this Annual Report and in other documents that we file with the SEC, in evaluating our business. Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. If any of the following risks and uncertainties actually occurs, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. The risks described below are not intended to be exhaustive and are not the only risks that we face. New risk factors can emerge from time to time, and it is not possible to predict the impact that any factor or combination of factors may have on our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. Certain statements in this Annual Report are forward-looking statements. Please also see the section entitled “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.”
Risks related to our financial position and capital needs
We are a biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history and have not generated any revenue to date from drug sales, and may never become profitable.
Biopharmaceutical drug development is a highly speculative undertaking and involves a substantial degree of risk. Since our formation as Monte Rosa Therapeutics AG in 2018, our operations have been limited primarily to organizing and staffing our company, business planning, raising capital, researching and developing our Quantitative and Engineered Elimination of Neosubstrates drug discovery platform, or our QuEEN platform, building our proprietary library of MGDs, developing our pipeline of product candidates, building our intellectual property portfolio, and undertaking preclinical and IND-enabling studies of our lead product candidates, including MRT-2359. We have never generated any revenue from drug sales. We have not obtained regulatory approvals for any of our current or future product candidates.
Typically, it takes many years to develop one new pharmaceutical drug from the time it is discovered to when it is available for treating patients. Consequently, any predictions we make about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history. In addition, as a business with a limited operating history, we may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown factors, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or the effect of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other countries in response to the war in Ukraine. We will need to transition from a company focused on research and early stage development to a company capable of supporting late stage development and commercial activities. We may not be successful in such a transition.
We have incurred significant operating losses since our inception and anticipate that we will incur continued losses for the foreseeable future.
Since our inception, we have focused substantially all of our efforts and financial resources on developing our proprietary QuEEN platform, our proprietary MGD library, and our initial pipeline of product candidates. To date, we have financed our operations primarily through the issuance and sale of convertible promissory notes and our convertible preferred stock to outside investors in private equity financings. From our inception through the date hereof, we raised an aggregate of $479.1 million of gross proceeds from such transactions. As of December 31, 2021, our cash and cash equivalents and investments were $351.4 million. We have incurred net losses in each year since our inception, and we had an accumulated deficit of $122.0 million as of December 31, 2021. For the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, we reported net losses of $74.0 million and $35.9 million, respectively. Substantially all of our operating losses have resulted from costs incurred in connection with our research and initial pipeline programs and from general and administrative costs associated with our operations. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and increasing operating losses over the next several years and for the foreseeable future. Our prior losses, combined with expected future losses, have had and will continue to have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ deficit and working capital. We expect our expenses to significantly increase in connection with our ongoing activities, as we:
In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for our current or future product candidates, we will incur significant expenses relating to our commercialization of such via our sales, marketing, product manufacturing and distribution efforts. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with developing pharmaceutical drugs, including in light of the ongoing evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to predict the extent of any future losses or when we will become profitable, if at all.
Even if we achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase our profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable would depress the value of our company and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, maintain our development efforts, obtain product approvals, diversify our offerings or continue our operations. A decline in the value of our company could also cause you to lose all or part of your investment.
We are very early in our development efforts. All of our programs are still in the preclinical stages of drug development. If we are unable to commercialize our product candidates or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
Our ability to become profitable depends upon our ability to generate revenue. To date we have not generated any revenue from our product candidates, and we do not expect to generate any revenue from the sale of drugs in the near future. We do not expect to generate revenue from product sales unless and until we complete the development of, obtain marketing approval for, and begin to sell, one or more of our product candidates. We are also unable to predict when, if ever, we will be able to generate revenue from such product candidates due to the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with drug development, including the uncertainty of:
We expect to incur significant sales and marketing costs as we prepare to commercialize our current or future product candidates. Even if we initiate and successfully complete pivotal or registration-enabling clinical trials of our current or future product candidates, and our current or future product candidates are approved for commercial sale, and despite expending these costs, our current or future product candidates may not be commercially successful. We may not achieve profitability soon after generating drug sales, if ever. If we are unable to generate revenue, we will not become profitable and may be unable to continue operations without continued funding.
As part of our ongoing business, we will need to raise substantial additional funding beyond our current capital. If we are unable to raise capital when needed or on attractive terms, we would be forced to delay, scale back or discontinue some of our product candidate development programs or future commercialization efforts.
We are currently advancing multiple discovery programs through the preclinical stages of drug development across a number of potential indications. We expect our expenses to increase substantially in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we continue the research and development of, advance the preclinical and clinical activities of, and seek marketing approval for, our current or future product candidates. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution. Furthermore, we expect to incur significant additional costs associated with operating as a public company. Accordingly, we will need to obtain substantial additional funding in connection with our continuing operations. However, changing circumstances may cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, and we may need to spend more money than currently expected because of circumstances beyond our control. We cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial product revenue, we expect to finance our operations through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, governmental funding, collaborations, strategic partnerships and alliances or marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements with third parties. If we are unable to raise capital or generate revenue when needed or on attractive terms, we would be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our discovery and preclinical development programs or any future commercialization efforts. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, your ownership interest will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a common stockholder. Debt financing and preferred equity financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends.
We expect that the net proceeds from our initial public offering, or IPO, together with our existing cash and cash equivalents and marketable securities, will be sufficient to fund our operations into the third quarter of 2024. We have based this estimate on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could use our capital resources
sooner than we currently expect. This estimate also assumes that we do not obtain any additional funding through collaborations or other strategic alliances. Our future capital requirements will depend on, and could increase significantly as a result of, many factors, including:
Identifying potential current or future product candidates and conducting preclinical studies 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 obtain marketing approval and achieve drug sales. In addition, our current or future product candidates, if approved, may not achieve commercial success. Our commercial revenues, if any, will be derived from sales of drugs that we do not expect to be commercially available for many years, if at all. Accordingly, we will need to continue to rely on additional funding to achieve our business objectives. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all.
Risks related to our business and industry
Risks related to drug development and regulatory approval
Our approach to the discovery and development of product candidates based on our QuEEN platform is novel, which makes it difficult to predict the time, cost of development and likelihood of successfully developing any product candidates.
Our QuEEN platform is a relatively new technology. Our future success depends on the successful development of this novel product candidate development approach. We have not yet succeeded and may not succeed in demonstrating the efficacy and safety of any of our product candidates in clinical trials or in obtaining marketing approval thereafter. In particular, our ability to successfully target therapeutically-relevant proteins using MGDs requires the successful development of MGDs developed via our QuEEN platform. This is a complex process requiring a number of component parts or biological mechanisms to work in unison to achieve the desired effect. We cannot be certain that we will be able to discover MGDs by matching the right target and its degron with the ideal E3 ligase in a timely manner, or at all. We have not yet initiated a clinical trial of any product candidate and we have not yet assessed the safety of any product candidate in humans. As such, there may be adverse effects from treatment with any of our current or future product candidates that we cannot predict at this time.
As a result of these factors, it is more difficult for us to predict the time and cost of product candidate development, and we cannot predict whether our approaches will result in the development and marketing approval of any product candidates. Any development problems we experience in the future related to our QuEEN platform or any of our discovery programs may cause significant delays or unanticipated costs or may prevent the development of a commercially viable product. Any of these factors may prevent us from completing our preclinical studies or any clinical trials that we may initiate or commercializing any product candidates we may develop on a timely or profitable basis, if at all.
We may not be successful in our efforts to identify or discover additional product candidates or we may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.
A key element of our strategy is to apply our QuEEN platform and product pipeline to address a broad array of targets in various therapeutic areas. The discovery activities that we are conducting may not be successful in identifying product candidates that are useful in treating oncology, inflammatory, immunologic and genetic diseases, and neurodegenerative or other neurologic diseases. Our discovery programs may be unsuccessful in identifying potential product candidates, or our potential product candidates may be shown to have harmful side effects or may have other characteristics that may make the products unmarketable or unlikely to receive marketing approval.
Because we have limited financial and management resources, we focus on a limited number of discovery programs and product candidates at a time. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other current or future product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable products. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to such product candidate.
Our business is dependent on the success of our lead program, and any other product candidates that we advance into the clinic. We cannot be certain that we will be able to obtain regulatory approval for, or successfully commercialize, any of our current or future product candidates.
All of our pipeline programs are currently in preclinical development, including MRT-2359. The preclinical studies and future clinical trials of our current or future product candidates are, and the manufacturing and marketing of our current or future product candidates will be, subject to extensive and rigorous review and regulation by numerous government authorities in the U.S. and in other countries where we intend to test or, if approved, market any of our current or future product candidates. Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of any of our current or future product candidates, we must demonstrate through preclinical studies and clinical trials that each product candidate is safe and effective for use in each target indication. Drug development is a long, expensive and uncertain process, and delay or failure can occur at any stage of any of our preclinical studies and clinical trials. This process can take many years and may include post-marketing studies and surveillance, which will require the expenditure of substantial resources beyond the proceeds we raised in our IPO. Of the large number of drugs in development in the U.S., only a small percentage will successfully complete the FDA regulatory approval process and will be commercialized, with similarly low rates of success for drugs in development in the European Union obtaining regulatory approval from the European Medicines Agency, or EMA. Accordingly, even if we are able to obtain the requisite financing to continue to fund our development and preclinical studies and clinical trials, we cannot assure you that any of our current or future product candidates will be successfully developed or commercialized.
We are not permitted to market our current or future product candidates in the U.S. until we receive approval of a New Drug Application, or an NDA, from the FDA, in the European Economic Area, or EEA, until we receive approval of a marketing authorization applications, or an MAA, from the EMA, or in any other foreign countries until we receive the requisite approval from such countries. Obtaining approval of an NDA or MAA is a complex, lengthy, expensive, and uncertain process, and the FDA or EMA may delay, limit or deny approval of any of our current or future product candidates for many reasons, including, among others:
Any of these factors, many of which are beyond our control, could jeopardize our ability to obtain regulatory approval for and successfully market our current or future product candidates. Any such setback in our pursuit of regulatory approval would have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.
If we experience delays or difficulties in the initiation, enrollment and/or retention of patients in clinical trials, our regulatory submissions or receipt of necessary regulatory approvals could be delayed or prevented.
We may not be able to initiate or continue our planned clinical trials on a timely basis or at all for our product candidates if we are unable to recruit and enroll a sufficient number of eligible patients to participate in these trials as required by the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside the U.S. Patient enrollment is a significant factor in the timing of clinical trials. Our ability to enroll eligible patients may be limited or may result in slower enrollment than we anticipate.
Moreover, some of our clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials that are in the same therapeutic areas as our current or future product candidates, and this competition reduces the number and types of patients available to us, as some patients who would otherwise be eligible for our clinical trials may instead enroll in clinical trials of our competitors’ current or future product candidates. Because the number of qualified clinical investigators and clinical trial sites is limited, we expect to conduct some of our clinical trials at the same clinical trial sites that some of our competitors use, which will reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials at such clinical trial sites. There may be limited patient pools from which to draw for clinical studies. In addition to the rarity of some diseases, the eligibility criteria of our clinical studies will further limit the pool of available study participants as we will require that patients have specific characteristics that we can measure or to assure their disease is either severe enough or not too advanced to include them in a study.
Patient enrollment for any of our future clinical trials may be affected by other factors including:
These factors may make it difficult for us to enroll enough patients to complete our clinical trials in a timely and cost-effective manner. Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials would result in significant delays or may require us to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. Enrollment delays in our clinical trials may result in increased development costs for our product candidates and jeopardize our ability to obtain marketing approval for the sale of our product candidates. Furthermore, even if we are able to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials, we may have difficulty maintaining participation in our clinical trials through the treatment and any follow-up periods.
The incidence and prevalence for target patient populations of our product candidates have not been established with precision. If the market opportunities for our product candidates are smaller than we estimate or if any approval that we obtain is based on a narrower definition of the patient population, our revenue and ability to achieve profitability will be adversely affected, possibly materially.
The precise incidence and prevalence for the indications being pursued by our current and future product candidates is currently unknown. Our projections of both the number of people who have these diseases, as well as the subset of people with these diseases who have the potential to benefit from treatment with our product candidates, are based on estimates. Our GSPT1 program developed a product candidate, MRT-2359, for the treatment of cancers overexpressing one of the Myc family genes, our NEK7 program will develop a product candidate for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, our CDK2 program will develop a product candidate for the treatment of cancers such as ovarian and breast cancers, our VAV1 program will develop a product candidate for the treatment of T and B cell malignancies and autoimmune diseases, and our BCL11A program will develop a product candidate for the treatment of sickle cell disease and ß-Thalassemia. The total addressable market opportunity for product candidates from these discovery programs and future product candidates will ultimately depend upon, among other things, its proven safety and efficacy, the diagnosis criteria included in the final label for each, whether our product candidates are approved for sale for these indications, acceptance by the medical community and patient access, product pricing and reimbursement. The number of patients for our product candidates in the United States and elsewhere may turn out to be lower than expected, patients may not be otherwise amenable to treatment with our products, or new patients may become increasingly difficult to identify or gain access to, all of which would adversely affect our results of operations and our business.
Preclinical and clinical drug development is a lengthy and expensive process, with an uncertain outcome. Our preclinical and clinical programs may experience delays or may never advance, which would adversely affect our ability to obtain regulatory approvals or commercialize our product candidates on a timely basis or at all, which could have an adverse effect on our business.
In order to obtain FDA approval to market a new small molecule product, we must demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our product candidates in humans to the satisfaction of the FDA. To meet these requirements, we will have to conduct adequate and well-controlled clinical trials. Clinical testing is expensive, time-consuming and subject to uncertainty. Before we can commence clinical trials for a product candidate, we must complete extensive preclinical studies that support our planned and future INDs in the United States. Other than for MRT-2359, we are currently selecting lead development candidates for preclinical development. We cannot be certain of the timely completion or outcome of our preclinical studies and cannot predict if the FDA will allow our proposed clinical programs to proceed or if the outcome of our preclinical studies will ultimately support further development of our programs. We have not yet received authorization to proceed under an IND for any product candidate, and we cannot be sure that we will be able to submit INDs or similar applications with respect to our other product candidates on the timelines we expect, if at all, and we cannot be sure that submission of IND or similar applications will result in the FDA or other regulatory authorities allowing clinical trials to begin.
Conducting preclinical testing and clinical trials represents is a lengthy, time-consuming and expensive process. The length of time may vary substantially according to the type, complexity and novelty of the program, and often can be several years or more per program. Delays associated with programs for which we are directly conducting preclinical studies may cause us to incur additional operating expenses. The commencement and rate of completion of preclinical studies and clinical trials for a product candidate may be delayed by many factors, including, for example:
Further, conducting clinical trials in foreign countries, as we may do for our product candidates, presents additional risks that may delay completion of our clinical trials. These risks include the failure of enrolled patients in foreign countries to adhere to clinical protocol as a result of differences in healthcare services or cultural customs, managing additional administrative burdens associated with foreign regulatory schemes, as well as political and economic risks relevant to such foreign countries. Delays in the completion of any preclinical studies or clinical trials of our product candidates will increase our costs, slow down our product candidate development and approval process and delay or potentially jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate product revenue. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates. Any delays to our preclinical studies or clinical trials that occur as a result could shorten any period during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates and our competitors may be able to bring products to market before we do, and the commercial viability of our product candidates could be significantly reduced. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
The results of preclinical testing and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the results of later preclinical studies and clinical trials, and the results of our planned and future clinical trials may not satisfy the requirements of the FDA or other comparable regulatory authorities. If we cannot replicate the positive results from our preclinical studies of our current or future product candidates in our future clinical trials, we may be unable to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize our current or future product candidates.
We will be required to demonstrate with substantial evidence through well-controlled clinical trials that our product candidates are safe and effective before we can seek marketing approvals for their commercial sale. Positive results from our preclinical studies of our current or future product candidates, and any positive results we may obtain from our early clinical trials of our current or future product candidates, may not necessarily be predictive of the results from required subsequent preclinical studies and clinical trials. Similarly, even if we are able to complete our planned preclinical studies or any clinical trials of our current or future product candidates according to our current development timeline, the positive results from such preclinical studies and clinical trials of our current or future product candidates may not be replicated in subsequent preclinical studies or clinical trial results.
Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in early-stage development, and we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. These setbacks have been caused by, among other things, preclinical findings made while clinical trials were underway or safety or efficacy observations made in preclinical studies and clinical trials, including previously unreported adverse events. Moreover, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials nonetheless failed to obtain approval from the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority. If we fail to produce positive results in our planned preclinical studies or clinical trials of any of our current or future product candidates, the development timeline and regulatory approval
and commercialization prospects for our current or future product candidates, and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects, would be materially adversely affected. Thus, even if the results from our initial research and preclinical activities appear positive, we do not know whether subsequent clinical studies we may conduct will demonstrate adequate efficacy and safety to result in regulatory approval to market any product candidates.
Interim, top-line and preliminary data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials 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 publicly disclose interim, topline or preliminary data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials, which is based on a preliminary analysis of then-available data, and the results and related findings and conclusions are subject to change following a more comprehensive review of the data related to the particular study or trial. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully and carefully evaluate all data. As a result, the interim, topline or preliminary results that we report may differ from future results of the same studies, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results, once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Interim, topline and preliminary data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data we previously published. As a result, such data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Adverse differences between preliminary, interim or topline data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects.
Further, others, including regulatory agencies, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions or analyses or may interpret or weigh the importance of data differently, which could impact the value of the particular program, the approvability or commercialization of the particular product candidate or product and our company in general. In addition, the information we choose to publicly disclose regarding a particular study or clinical trial is based on what is typically extensive information, and you or others may not agree with what we determine is the material or otherwise appropriate information to include in our disclosure, and any information we determine not to disclose may ultimately be deemed significant with respect to future decisions, conclusions, views, activities or otherwise regarding a particular product, product candidate or our business. If the interim, topline or preliminary data that we report differ from actual results, or if others, including regulatory authorities, disagree with the conclusions reached, our ability to obtain approval for, and commercialize, our product candidates may be harmed, which could harm our business, operating results, prospects or financial condition.
If we are not able to obtain, or if there are delays in obtaining, required regulatory approvals for our current or future product candidates, we will not be able to commercialize, or will be delayed in commercializing, our current or future product candidates, and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired.
Our current or future product candidates and the activities associated with their development and commercialization, including their design, testing, manufacture, safety, efficacy, recordkeeping, labeling, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale, distribution, import and export, are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory agencies in the U.S. and by comparable authorities in other countries. Before we can commercialize any of our current or future product candidates, we must obtain marketing approval from the regulatory authorities in the relevant jurisdictions. We have not received approval to market any of our current or future product candidates from regulatory authorities in any jurisdiction, and it is possible that none of our current product candidates, nor any product candidates we may seek to develop in the future, will ever obtain regulatory approval. Securing regulatory approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to the various regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the product candidate’s safety and efficacy. Securing regulatory approval also requires the submission of information about the drug manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the relevant regulatory authority. Our current or future product candidates may not be effective, may be only moderately effective or may prove to have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that may preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use.
In addition, even if we were to obtain approval, regulatory authorities may approve any of our current or future product candidates for fewer or more limited indications than we request, may not approve the price we intend to charge for our drugs, may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials, or may approve a product candidate with a label that does not include the labeling claims necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of that product candidate. Any of the foregoing scenarios could materially harm the commercial prospects for our current or future product candidates.
If we experience delays in obtaining approval or if we fail to obtain approval of our current or future product candidates, the commercial prospects for our current or future product candidates may be harmed and our ability to generate revenues will be materially impaired.
The current ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 and its variants, and the future outbreak of other highly infectious or contagious diseases, may materially and adversely affect our business and our financial results and could cause a disruption to the development of our product candidates.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of new variant strains of COVID-19, including the delta and omicron variants, and government measures taken in response, have 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. In response to the spread of COVID-19, we have implemented policies at our locations to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by our personnel, including by limiting the number of staff in any given research and development laboratory or manufacturing facility, a work-from-home policy applicable to our non-laboratory based employees, such as clinical, manufacturing, finance, administrative, quality, regulatory and program managers, and a phased approach to bringing personnel back to our locations over time. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced and we expect to continue to experience disruptions that could severely impact our business and preclinical studies, including:
Health regulatory agencies globally may experience disruptions in their operations as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The FDA and comparable foreign regulatory agencies may have slower response times or be under-resourced and review, inspection, and other timelines may be materially delayed. As of May 26, 2021, the FDA noted it is continuing to ensure timely reviews of applications for medical products during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in line with its user fee performance goals. However, the FDA may not be able to continue its current pace and approval timelines could be extended. It is unknown how long these disruptions could continue, were they to occur. In addition, since March 2020 when foreign and domestic inspections of facilities were largely placed on hold, the FDA has been working to resume routine surveillance, bioresearch monitoring and pre-approval inspections on a prioritized basis. Since April 2021, the FDA has conducted limited inspections and employed remote interactive evaluations, using risk management methods, to meet user fee commitments and goal dates. Ongoing travel restrictions and other uncertainties continue to impact oversight operations both domestic and abroad and it is unclear when standard operational levels will resume. The FDA is continuing to complete mission-critical work, prioritize other higher-tiered inspectional needs (e.g., for-cause inspections), and carry out surveillance inspections using risk-based approaches for evaluating public health. Should FDA determine that an inspection is necessary for approval and an inspection cannot be completed during the review cycle due to restrictions on travel, and the FDA does not determine a remote interactive evaluation to be adequate, the agency has stated that it generally intends to issue, depending on the circumstances, a complete response letter or defer action on the application until an inspection can be completed. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, a number of companies announced receipt of complete response letters due to the
FDA’s inability to complete required inspections for their applications. 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. Any delay in regulatory review resulting from such disruptions could materially affect the development and study of our product candidates.
Additionally, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, three vaccines for COVID-19 have received Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA and two of those later received marketing approval. Additional vaccines may be authorized or approved in the future. The resultant demand for vaccines and potential for manufacturing facilities and materials to be commandeered under the Defense Production Act of 1950, or equivalent foreign legislation, may make it more difficult to obtain materials or manufacturing slots for the products needed for our planned clinical trials, which could lead to delays in these trials.
The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly evolve. The extent to which COVID-19 impacts our business, results of operations and financial condition will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the emergence of new variants of the disease, duration of the outbreak, travel restrictions or the effectiveness of actions taken in the United States and other countries to contain COVID-19 or treat its impact, among others. We cannot presently predict the scope and severity of any potential business shutdowns or disruptions, but if we or any of the third parties with whom we engage, including the suppliers, service providers, regulators and other third parties with whom we conduct business, were to experience prolonged business shutdowns or other business disruptions, our ability to conduct our business in the manner and on the timelines presently planned could be materially and negatively impacted.
Our current or future product candidates may cause adverse or other undesirable side effects that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial profile of an approved label, or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.
We have not evaluated any product candidates in human clinical trials. Undesirable side effects caused by our current or future product candidates could cause us to interrupt, delay or halt preclinical studies or could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or other regulatory authorities. As is the case with many treatments for cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, neurodegeneration or genetic diseases it is likely that there may be adverse side effects associated with the use of our product candidates. Additionally, a potential risk in any protein degradation product is that healthy proteins or proteins not targeted for degradation will be degraded or that the degradation of the targeted protein, in itself, could cause adverse events, undesirable side effects, or unexpected consequences. It is possible that healthy proteins or proteins not targeted for degradation could be degraded using our degrader molecules in any of our planned or future clinical studies. There is also the potential risk of delayed adverse events following treatment using any of our current or future product candidates.
These side effects could arise due to off-target activity, allergic reactions in trial subjects or unwanted on-target effects in the body. Results of our planned clinical trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of these or other side effects. In such an event, our trials could be suspended or terminated and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of, or deny approval of, our current or future product candidates for any or all targeted indications. The drug-related side effects could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the trial or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Further, our current or future product candidates could cause undesirable side effects in clinical trials related to on-target toxicity. If on-target toxicity is observed, or if our current or future product candidates have characteristics that are unexpected, we may need to abandon their development or limit development to more narrow uses or subpopulations in which the undesirable side effects or other characteristics are less prevalent, less severe or more acceptable from a risk-benefit perspective. Many compounds that initially showed promise in early-stage testing for treating cancer or other diseases have later been found to cause side effects that prevented further development of the compound.
In addition, clinical trials by their nature utilize a sample of the potential patient population. With a limited number of patients and limited duration of exposure, rare and severe side effects of our current or future product candidates may only be uncovered with a significantly larger number of patients exposed to the product candidate. In any such event, our studies could be suspended or terminated and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval of our product candidates for any or all targeted indications. The side effects experienced could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled subjects to complete the study or result in potential product liability claims. Moreover, if we elect, or are
required, not to initiate, or to delay, suspend or terminate any future clinical trial of any of our product candidates, the commercial prospects of such product candidates may be harmed and our ability to generate product revenues from any of these product candidates may be delayed or eliminated. Any of these occurrences may harm our ability to develop other product candidates, and may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
In addition, if our current or future product candidates receive marketing approval and we or others identify undesirable side effects caused by such current or future product candidates after such approval, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:
We believe that any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product candidates and could substantially increase the costs of commercializing our current or future product candidates, if approved, and significantly impact our ability to successfully commercialize our current or future product candidates and generate revenues.
We may seek and fail to obtain Breakthrough Therapy Designation or Fast Track Designation from the FDA for our current or future product candidates. Even if granted for any of our current or future product candidates, these programs may not lead to a faster development, regulatory review or approval process, and such designations do not increase the likelihood that any of our product candidates will receive marketing approval in the United States.
We may seek a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for one or more of our current or future product candidates. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a drug that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. For drugs that have been designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor of the trial can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens. Product candidates designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA may also be eligible for priority review and accelerated approval. Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe one of our current or future product candidates meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. In any event, the receipt of a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for a current or future 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 current or future product candidates qualify as breakthrough therapies, the FDA may later decide that such product candidates no longer meet the conditions for qualification and rescind the designation or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.
We may also seek Fast Track Designation for one or more of our current or future product candidates. If a product candidate is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and preclinical or clinical data demonstrate the potential to address an unmet medical need for this condition, the product sponsor may apply for Fast Track Designation. The sponsor of a product candidate with Fast Track Designation has opportunities for more frequent interactions with the applicable FDA review team during product development and, once an NDA is submitted, the product candidate may be eligible for priority review. Such product candidate may also be eligible for rolling review, where the FDA may consider to review sections of the NDA on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the NDA, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the NDA and determines that the schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the NDA. The FDA has broad discretion whether or not to grant this designation, so even if we believe a particular current or future product candidate is eligible for this designation, we cannot assure you that the FDA would decide to grant it. Even if we do receive Fast Track Designation for certain current or future product candidates, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. The FDA may rescind fast Track Designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program. Fast Track Designation alone does not guarantee qualification for the FDA’s priority review procedures.
We may seek Orphan Drug Designation for certain of our current or future product candidates, and we may be unsuccessful or may be unable to maintain the benefits associated with Orphan Drug Designation, including the potential for market exclusivity.
As part of our business strategy, we may seek Orphan Drug Designation for certain indications of our current or future product candidates, and we may be unsuccessful. Regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the U.S. and Europe, may designate drugs for relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a drug as an orphan drug if it is a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally defined as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals annually in the U.S., or a patient population of 200,000 or more in the U.S. where there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing the drug will be recovered from sales in the U.S. In the U.S., Orphan Drug Designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as opportunities for grant funding towards clinical trial costs, tax advantages and user-fee waivers.
Similarly, in Europe, the European Commission, upon the recommendation of the EMA’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products, grants orphan drug designation to promote the development of products that are intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of life-threatening or chronically debilitating conditions affecting not more than 5 in 10,000 persons in the EU and for which no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment has been authorized for marketing in the EU (or, if a method exists, the product would be of significant benefit to those affected by the condition). Additionally, designation is granted for products intended for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of life-threatening or chronically debilitating conditions, and when, without incentives, it is unlikely that sales of the product in the EU would generate sufficient return to justify the necessary investment in developing the product. In the EU, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers.
Generally, if a product 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 the same drug for the same indication for that time period. The applicable period is seven years in the U.S. and ten years in the European Union. The exclusivity period in the European Union can be reduced to six years if a drug no longer meets the criteria for Orphan Drug Designation or if the drug is sufficiently profitable so that market exclusivity is no longer justified. Orphan Drug exclusivity may 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 drug to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.
Even if we obtain orphan drug exclusivity for a product candidate, that exclusivity may not effectively protect the product candidate from competition because different therapies can be approved for the same condition and the same therapies can be approved for different conditions but used off-label. Even after an orphan drug is approved, the FDA can subsequently approve the same drug for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the
later drug is clinically superior in that it is shown to be safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. In addition, a designated orphan drug may not receive orphan drug exclusivity if it is approved for a use that is broader than the indication for which it received orphan designation. Orphan Drug Designation neither shortens the development time or regulatory review time of a drug nor gives the drug any advantage in the regulatory review or approval process. While we may seek Orphan Drug Designation for applicable indications for our current and any future product candidates, we may never receive such designations. Even if we do receive such designations, there is no guarantee that we will enjoy the benefits of those designations.
Even if we receive marketing authorization for our product candidates, we will be subject to extensive ongoing regulatory obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our product candidates.
If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority approves any of our current or future product candidates, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, advertising, promotion and recordkeeping for the drug will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration requirements, continued compliance with cGMPs and GCPs , and applicable product tracking and tracing requirements. Any regulatory approvals that we receive for our current or future product candidates may also be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the drug may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-marketing testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the drug. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a drug, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with our third-party manufacturers or manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in, among other things:
The occurrence of any event or penalty described above may inhibit our ability to commercialize our product candidates and generate revenue and could require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate negative publicity.
The FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our current or future product candidates. We also cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained, which would adversely affect our business, prospects and ability to achieve or sustain profitability.
Even if we receive marketing approval for our current or future product candidates in the U.S., we may never receive regulatory approval to market our current or future product candidates outside of the U.S.
We plan to seek regulatory approval of our current or future product candidates outside of the U.S. Obtaining and maintaining regulatory approval of our product candidates in one jurisdiction does not guarantee that we will be able to obtain or maintain regulatory approval in any other jurisdiction.
For example, even if the FDA grants marketing approval of a product candidate, we may not obtain approvals in other jurisdictions, and comparable regulatory authorities in foreign jurisdictions must also approve the manufacturing, marketing and promotion and reimbursement of the product candidate in those countries. However, a failure or delay in obtaining marketing approval in one jurisdiction may have a negative effect on the regulatory approval process in others. Approval procedures vary among countries and can involve additional product candidate testing and administrative review periods different from those in the United States. The time required to obtain approvals in other countries might differ substantially from that required to obtain FDA approval. The marketing approval processes in other countries generally implicate all of the risks detailed above regarding FDA approval in the U.S. as well as other risks. In particular, in many countries outside of the U.S., products must receive pricing and reimbursement approval before the product can be commercialized. Obtaining this approval can result in substantial delays in bringing products to market in such countries.
Obtaining foreign regulatory approvals and establishing and maintaining compliance with foreign regulatory requirements could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in certain countries. If we or any future collaborator fail to comply with regulatory requirements in international markets or fail to receive applicable marketing approvals, it would reduce the size of our potential market, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and prospects.
If we fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
We are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Our operations involve the use of hazardous and flammable materials, including chemicals and biological and radioactive materials. Our operations also produce hazardous waste products. We generally contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and wastes. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from these materials. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from our use of hazardous materials, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We also could incur significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties.
Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of hazardous materials, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. We do not maintain insurance for environmental liability or toxic tort claims that may be asserted against us in connection with our storage or disposal of biological, hazardous or radioactive materials. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. Current or future environmental laws and regulations may impair our research, development and production efforts, which could harm our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations.
Our future growth may depend, in part, on our ability to penetrate foreign markets, where we would be subject to additional regulatory burdens and other risks and uncertainties that could materially adversely affect our business.
We are not permitted to market or promote any of our current or future product candidates before we receive regulatory approval from the applicable regulatory authority in that foreign market, and we may never receive such regulatory approval for any of our current or future product candidates. To obtain separate regulatory approval in many other countries we must comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of such countries regarding safety and efficacy. Such requirements govern, among other things, clinical trials and commercial sales, and pricing and distribution of our current or future product candidates, and we cannot predict success in these jurisdictions. If we obtain approval of our current or future product candidates and ultimately commercialize our current or future product candidates in foreign markets, we would be subject to additional risks and uncertainties, including:
Foreign sales of our current or future product candidates could also be adversely affected by the imposition of governmental controls, political and economic instability, trade restrictions and changes in tariffs.
Changes in funding or disruptions at the FDA, the SEC and other government agencies caused by funding shortages or global health concerns could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, or otherwise prevent new or modified products from being developed, approved or commercialized in a timely manner or at all, 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 and other events that may otherwise affect the FDA’s ability to perform routine functions. Average review times at the FDA have fluctuated in recent years as a result. 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 drugs to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, in recent years, including for 35 days beginning on December 22, 2018, the U.S. government shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the SEC, had to furlough critical employees and stop critical activities.
Separately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 10, 2020 the FDA announced its intention to postpone most inspections of foreign manufacturing facilities and products, and on March 18, 2020 the FDA temporarily postponed routine surveillance inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities. Since March 2020, the FDA has been working to resume routine surveillance, bioresearch monitoring and pre-approval inspections on a prioritized basis. Since April 2021, the FDA has conducted limited inspections and employed remote interactive evaluations, using risk management methods, to meet user fee commitments and goal dates. Ongoing travel restrictions and other uncertainties continue to impact oversight operations both domestic and abroad and it is unclear when standard operational levels will resume. The FDA is continuing to complete mission-critical work,
prioritize other higher-tiered inspectional needs (e.g., for-cause inspections), and carry out surveillance inspections using risk-based approaches for evaluating public health. Should FDA determine that an inspection is necessary for approval and an inspection cannot be completed during the review cycle due to restrictions on travel, and the FDA does not determine a remote interactive evaluation to be adequate, the agency has stated that it generally intends to issue, depending on the circumstances, a complete response letter or defer action on the application until an inspection can be completed. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, a number of companies announced receipt of complete response letters due to the FDA’s inability to complete required inspections for their applications. Regulatory authorities outside the United States may adopt similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and may experience delays in their regulatory activities. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns continue to prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews or other regulatory activities, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Further, in our operations as a public company, future government shutdowns or delays could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.
We may in the future conduct clinical trials for current or future product candidates outside the U.S., and the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities may not accept data from such trials.
We may in the future choose to conduct one or more clinical trials outside the U.S., including in Europe. The acceptance of study data from clinical trials conducted outside the U.S. or another jurisdiction by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority may be subject to certain conditions or may not be accepted at all. In cases where data from foreign clinical trials are intended to serve as the sole basis for marketing approval in the U.S., the FDA will generally not approve the application on the basis of foreign data alone unless (i) the data are applicable to the U.S. population and U.S. medical practice; (ii) the trials were performed by clinical investigators of recognized competence and pursuant to GCP regulations; and (iii) the data may be considered valid without the need for an on-site inspection by the FDA, or if the FDA considers such inspection to be necessary, the FDA is able to validate the data through an on-site inspection or other appropriate means. In addition, even where the foreign study data are not intended to serve as the sole basis for approval, the FDA will not accept the data as support for an application for marketing approval unless the study is well-designed and well-conducted in accordance with GCP and the FDA is able to validate the data from the study through an onsite inspection if deemed necessary. Many foreign regulatory authorities have similar approval requirements. In addition, such foreign trials would be subject to the applicable local laws of the foreign jurisdictions where the trials are conducted. There can be no assurance that the FDA or any comparable foreign regulatory authority will accept data from trials conducted outside of the U.S. or the applicable jurisdiction. If the FDA or any comparable foreign regulatory authority does not accept such data, it would result in the need for additional trials, which could be costly and time-consuming, and which may result in current or future product candidates that we may develop not receiving approval for commercialization in the applicable jurisdiction.
We are subject to certain U.S. and foreign anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, export control, sanctions, and other trade laws and regulations. We can face serious consequences for violations.
Among other matters, U.S. and foreign anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, export control, sanctions, and other trade laws and regulations, which we collectively refer to as Trade Laws, prohibit companies and their employees, agents, clinical research organizations, legal counsel, accountants, consultants, contractors, and other partners from authorizing, promising, offering, providing, soliciting, or receiving directly or indirectly, corrupt or improper payments or anything else of value to or from recipients in the public or private sector. Violations of Trade Laws can result in substantial criminal fines and civil penalties, imprisonment, the loss of trade privileges, debarment, tax reassessments, breach of contract and fraud litigation, reputational harm, and other consequences. We have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies or government-affiliated hospitals, universities, and other organizations.
Governments outside the United States tend to impose strict price controls, which may adversely affect our revenues, if any.
In some countries, the pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to governmental control. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after the receipt of marketing approval for a product candidates. In addition, there can be considerable pressure by governments and other stakeholders on prices and reimbursement levels, including as part of cost containment measures. Political, economic and regulatory developments may further complicate pricing negotiations, and pricing negotiations may continue after coverage and reimbursement have been obtained. Reference pricing used by various countries and
parallel distribution or arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced countries, 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, which is time-consuming and costly. If coverage and reimbursement of our product candidates are unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business could be harmed, possibly materially.
Risks related to commercialization
Even if we receive marketing approval for our current or future product candidates, our current or future product candidates may not achieve broad market acceptance, which would limit the revenue that we generate from their sales.
The commercial success of our current or future product candidates, if approved by the FDA or other applicable regulatory authorities, will depend upon the awareness and acceptance of our current or future product candidates among the medical community, including physicians, patients and healthcare payors. If our product candidates do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant revenue and we may not become profitable. Market acceptance of our current or future product candidates, if approved, will depend on a number of factors, including, among others:
If our current or future product candidates are approved but do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance by patients, physicians and payors, we may not generate sufficient revenue from our current or future product candidates to become or remain profitable. Before granting reimbursement approval, healthcare payors may require us to demonstrate that our current or future product candidates, in addition to treating these target indications, also provide incremental health benefits to patients. Our efforts to educate the medical community, patient organizations and third-party payors about the benefits of our current or future product candidates may require significant resources and may never be successful.
If we are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for any product candidate that may receive regulatory approval, we may not be successful in commercializing those product candidates if and when they are approved.
We do not have sales or marketing infrastructure. To achieve commercial success for any product candidate for which we may obtain marketing approval, we will need to establish a sales and marketing organization. In the future, we expect to build a focused sales and marketing infrastructure to market some of our product candidates in the United States, if and when they are approved. There are risks involved with establishing our own sales, marketing and distribution capabilities. For example, recruiting and training a sales force is expensive and time consuming and could delay any product launch. If the commercial launch of a product candidate for which we recruit a sales force and establish marketing capabilities is delayed or does not occur for any reason, we would have prematurely or unnecessarily incurred these commercialization expenses. This may be costly, and our investment would be lost if we cannot retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel.
Factors that may inhibit our efforts to market our products on our own include:
If we are unable to establish our own sales, marketing and distribution capabilities and are forced to enter into arrangements with, and rely on, third parties to perform these services, our revenue and our profitability, if any, are likely to be lower than if we had developed such capabilities ourselves. In addition, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to sell, market and distribute our product candidates or may be unable to do so on terms that are favorable to us. We likely will have little control over such third parties, and any of them may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our products effectively. If we do not establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities successfully, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we will not be successful in commercializing our product candidates.
The market opportunities for any current or future product candidate we develop, if and when approved, may be limited to those patients who are ineligible for established therapies or for whom prior therapies have failed, and may be small.
Cancer therapies are sometimes characterized as first-line, second-line, or third-line, and the FDA often approves new therapies initially only for third-line use. When cancer is detected early enough, first-line therapy, usually chemotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of these, is sometimes adequate to cure the cancer or prolong life without a cure. Second- and third-line therapies are administered to patients when prior therapy is not effective. We expect to initially seek approval of our product candidates we develop as a therapy for patients who have received one or more prior treatments. Subsequently, for those products that prove to be sufficiently beneficial, if any, we would expect to seek approval potentially as a first-line therapy, but there is no guarantee that product candidates we develop, even if approved, would be approved for first-line therapy, and, prior to any such approvals, we may have to conduct additional clinical trials.
The number of patients who have the cancers we are targeting may turn out to be lower than expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our current programs or future product candidates in both oncology and non-oncology indications may be limited, if and when approved. Even if we obtain significant market share for any product candidate, if and when approved, if the potential target populations are small, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining marketing approval for additional indications, including to be used as first- or second-line therapy.
We face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing drugs before or more successfully than we do.
The development and commercialization of new drugs is highly competitive. We face and will continue to face competition from third parties that use protein degradation, antibody therapy, inhibitory nucleic acid, gene editing or gene therapy development platforms and from companies focused on more traditional therapeutic modalities, such as small molecule inhibitors. Potential competitors also include academic institutions, government agencies and other public and private research organizations that conduct research, seek patent protection and establish collaborative arrangements for research, development, manufacturing and commercialization of new drugs.
We are aware of several biotechnology companies focused on developing MGD therapeutics for patients, including but not limited to, BioTheryX Therapeutics, Inc., C4 Therapeutics, Inc., Nurix Therapeutics, Inc., Kymera
Therapeutics, Inc., Seed Therapeutics, Inc., Plexium Inc., Bristol-Myers Squib, and Novartis, all of which are currently in development. In addition, lenalidomide and pomalidomide, which are both marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, are believed to function as MGDs. Further, several large pharmaceutical companies have disclosed investments in this field.
Many of our current or future competitors have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and reimbursement and marketing of approved drugs than we do. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostic 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. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific, sales, marketing and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient recruitment for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.
Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize drugs that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient or are less expensive than any drugs that we or our collaborators may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their drugs more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we or our collaborators are able to enter the market. The key competitive factors affecting the success of all of our current or future product candidates, if approved, are likely to be their efficacy, safety, convenience, price, the level of generic competition and the availability of reimbursement from government and other third-party payors.
Product liability lawsuits against us could cause us to incur substantial liabilities and could limit commercialization of any current or future product candidates that we may develop.
We will face an inherent risk of product liability exposure related to the testing of our current or future product candidates in human clinical trials and will face an even greater risk if we commercially sell any current or future product candidates that we may develop. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against claims that our current or future product candidates caused injuries, we could incur substantial liabilities. Regardless of merit or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:
We do not yet maintain product liability insurance, and we anticipate that we will need to increase our insurance coverage when we begin clinical trials and if we successfully commercialize any product candidate. Insurance coverage is increasingly expensive. We may not be able to maintain product liability insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in an amount adequate to satisfy any liability that may arise.
Even if we are able to commercialize any current or future product candidates, such drugs may become subject to unfavorable pricing regulations or third-party coverage and reimbursement policies, which would harm our business.
Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval. In the U.S. and in other countries, sales of any products for which we may receive regulatory marketing approval for commercial sale will depend, in part, on the availability of coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors. Third-party payors include government healthcare programs (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid), managed care providers, private health insurers, health maintenance organizations and other organizations. These third-party payors decide which medications they will pay for and establish reimbursement levels. The availability of coverage and extent of reimbursement by governmental and other third-party payors is essential for most patients to be able to afford treatments such as targeted protein degradation therapies.
In the United States, no uniform policy exists for coverage and reimbursement for products among third-party payors. Therefore, decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided can differ significantly from payor to payor. Third-party payors often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Factors payors consider in determining reimbursement are based on whether the product is:
One third-party payor’s decision to cover a particular product or service does not ensure that other payors will also provide coverage for the medical product or service. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list or formulary, which may not include all FDA-approved products for a particular indication. Also, third-party payors may refuse to include a particular branded product on their formularies or otherwise restrict patient access to a branded drug when a less costly generic equivalent or other alternative is available. We cannot be sure that coverage will be available for any product candidate that we commercialize.
Moreover, the process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the reimbursement rate a payor will pay for the product. A payor’s decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. If coverage is available, but reimbursement is available only to limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval.
Further, third-party payors are increasingly challenging the price and examining the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of medical products and services, in addition to their safety and efficacy. In order to secure coverage and reimbursement for any product that might be approved for sale, we may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of our products, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA or comparable regulatory approvals. Additionally, we may also need to provide discounts to purchasers, private health plans or government healthcare programs. Despite our best efforts, our product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost-effective. If third-party payors do not consider a product to be cost-effective compared to other available therapies, they may not cover an approved product as a benefit under their plans or, if they do, the level of payment may not be sufficient to allow us to sell our products at a profit. A decision by a third-party payor not to cover a product could reduce physician utilization once the product is approved and have a material adverse effect on sales, our operations and financial condition.
Finally, in some foreign countries, the proposed pricing for a product candidate must be approved before it may be lawfully marketed. The requirements governing product pricing vary widely from country to country. For example, in the European Union, or EU, pricing and reimbursement of pharmaceutical products are regulated at a national level under the individual EU Member States’ social security systems. Some foreign countries provide options to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and can control the prices and reimbursement levels of medicinal products for human use. Some jurisdictions operate positive and negative list systems under which products may only be marketed once a reimbursement price has been agreed. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval, some of these countries may require the completion of clinical trials that compare the cost effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. A country may approve a specific price for the medicinal product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our product candidates. Even if approved for reimbursement, historically, product candidates launched in some foreign countries, such as some countries in the EU, do not follow price structures of the U.S. and prices generally tend to be significantly lower.
Current and future healthcare legislative reform measures may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
In the United States and in some foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and likely will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes intended to broaden access to healthcare, improve the
quality of healthcare, and contain or lower the cost of healthcare. For example, in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or the ACA, was passed, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impacted the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, subjected drug products to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars, expanded the types of entities eligible for the 340B drug discount program, addressed a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, increased rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, establishes annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs, and created a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 50% (increased to 70% pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or BBA, effective as of January 2019) point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D.
Since its enactment, there have been judicial, Congressional and executive challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA brought by several states without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through August 15, 2021 for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructed certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA. It is unclear how other healthcare reform measures of the Biden administration or other efforts, if any, to challenge, repeal or replace the ACA will impact our business.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. For example, in August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, included aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of up to 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect in April 2013, and, due to subsequent legislative amendments, will remain in effect through 2030, with the exception of a temporary suspension from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022, unless additional Congressional action is taken. Then, a 1% payment reduction will occur beginning April 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022, and the 2% payment reduction will resume on July 1, 2022. On January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.
Furthermore, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several congressional inquiries and proposed legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient assistance programs and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for pharmaceutical and biological products. At the federal level, the previous administration used several means to propose or implement drug pricing reform, including through federal budget proposals, executive orders and policy initiatives. On July 9, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order directing the FDA to, among other things, continue to clarify and improve the approval framework for generic drugs and identify and address any efforts to impede generic drug competition. Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. In addition, regional healthcare authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other healthcare programs. It is difficult to predict the future legislative landscape in healthcare and the effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. However, we expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future. Further, it is possible that additional governmental action is taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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, once 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 current or future product candidates or additional pricing pressures. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action in the United States. 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, health care providers, physicians, and third-party payors will be subject to applicable anti-kickback, fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations, which could expose us to criminal sanctions, civil penalties, exclusion from government healthcare programs, contractual damages, reputational harm and diminished future profits and earnings.
Healthcare providers, physicians and third-party payors will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any current or future product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. Our business operations and any current or future arrangements with third-party payors and customers may expose us to broadly applicable federal and state laws relating to fraud and abuse, as well as other healthcare laws and regulations. These laws may impact, among other things, the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we market, sell and distribute any current or future product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval. Restrictions under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, include, among others:
It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices, including our arrangements with certain physicians, some of whom are compensated in the form of stock or stock options for services provided to us, do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are to be found to be in violation of any of these laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, imprisonment, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, as well as additional reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar settlement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results. If any of the physicians or other healthcare providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found to be not in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to similar actions, penalties, and sanctions.
The provision of benefits or advantages to physicians to induce or encourage the prescription, recommendation, endorsement, purchase, supply, order or use of medicinal products is also prohibited in the EU. The provision of benefits or advantages to physicians is generally governed by the national anti-bribery laws of EU Member
States, and the U.K. Bribery Act 2010 in the U.K. Infringement of these laws could result in substantial fines and imprisonment. Payments made to physicians in certain EU Member States must be publicly disclosed. Moreover, agreements with physicians often must be the subject of prior notification and approval by the physician’s employer, his or her competent professional organization and/or the regulatory authorities of the individual EU Member States. These requirements are provided in the national laws, industry codes or professional codes of conduct, applicable in the EU Member States. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in reputational risk, public reprimands, administrative penalties, fines or imprisonment.
Risks related to our dependence on third parties
We currently rely, and plan to rely on in the future, on third parties to conduct and support our preclinical studies, and we expect to rely on third parties to conduct our clinical trials for our current and future product candidates. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, comply with regulatory requirements or meet expected deadlines, we may not be able to obtain marketing approval for or commercialize our current and potential future product candidates and our business could be substantially harmed.
We utilize and depend upon independent investigators and collaborators, such as medical institutions, CROs, CMOs and strategic partners to help conduct our preclinical studies.
We do not have the ability to independently conduct clinical trials. We expect to rely on medical institutions, clinical investigators, contract laboratories, and other third parties, including collaboration partners, to conduct or otherwise support clinical trials for our current or future product candidates. We expect to rely heavily on these parties for execution of clinical trials for our product candidates and control only certain aspects of their activities. Nevertheless, we will be responsible for ensuring that each of our clinical trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal and regulatory requirements and scientific standards, and our reliance on CROs will not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities.
We and any third parties that we contract with are required to comply with regulations and requirements, including GCP requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for product candidates in clinical development, for conducting, monitoring, recording and reporting the results of clinical trials to ensure that the data and results are scientifically credible and accurate, and that the trial patients are adequately informed of the potential risks of participating in clinical trials and their rights are protected. These regulations are enforced by the FDA, the Competent Authorities of the Member States of the European Economic Area and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for any drugs in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCP requirements through periodic inspections of clinical trial sponsors, principal investigators and trial sites. If we or the third parties we contract with fail to comply with applicable GCP requirements, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that, upon inspection, the FDA will determine that any of our future clinical trials will comply with GCP requirements. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with current or future product candidates produced under cGMP regulations and will require a large number of study subjects. Our failure or the failure of third parties that we may contract with to comply with these regulations or to recruit a sufficient number of subjects may require us to repeat some aspects of a specific, or an entire, clinical trial, which would delay the marketing approval process and could also subject us to enforcement action. We also are required to register certain ongoing clinical trials and provide certain information, including information relating to the trial’s protocol, on a government-sponsored database, ClinicalTrials.gov, within specific timeframes. Failure to do so can result in fines, adverse publicity and civil and criminal sanctions.
Although we intend to design the clinical trials for our current or future product candidates, or be involved in the design when other parties sponsor the trials, we anticipate that third parties will conduct all of our clinical trials. As a result, many important aspects of our clinical development, including their conduct, timing and response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will be outside of our direct control. Our reliance on third parties to conduct future clinical trials will also result in less direct control over the management of data developed through clinical trials than would be the case if we were relying entirely upon our own staff, and we cannot control whether or not they will devote sufficient time and resources to our product candidates. These third parties may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical trials or other product development activities, which could affect their performance on our behalf. Communicating with outside parties can also be challenging, potentially leading to mistakes as well as difficulties in coordinating activities. Outside parties may:
These factors may materially adversely affect the willingness or ability of third parties to conduct our clinical trials and may subject us to unexpected cost increases that are beyond our control. If our CROs do not perform clinical trials in a satisfactory manner, breach their obligations to us or fail to comply with regulatory requirements, the development, marketing approval and commercialization of our current or future product candidates may be delayed, we may not be able to obtain marketing approval and commercialize our current or future product candidates, or our development programs may be materially and irreversibly harmed. If we are unable to rely on clinical data collected by our CROs, we could be required to repeat, extend the duration of, or increase the size of any clinical trials we conduct and this could significantly delay commercialization and require significantly greater expenditures.
If any of our relationships with these third-party CROs terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. If our CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain are compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols, regulatory requirements or for other reasons, any clinical trials such CROs are associated with may be extended, delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to obtain marketing approval for or successfully commercialize our current or future product candidates. As a result, we believe that our financial results and the commercial prospects for our current or future product candidates in the subject indication would be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.
The third parties upon whom we rely on for the supply of drug product and starting materials used in our product candidates are limited in number, and the loss of any of these suppliers, or their noncompliance with regulatory requirements or our quality standards, could significantly harm our business.
The drug substance and drug product in our product candidates are supplied to us from a small number of suppliers, and in some cases sole source suppliers. Our ability to successfully develop our current or future product candidates, and to ultimately supply our commercial drugs in quantities sufficient to meet the market demand, depends in part on our ability to obtain the drug product and drug substance for these drugs in accordance with regulatory requirements and in sufficient quantities for commercialization and clinical testing.
The facilities used by our contract manufacturers to manufacture our product candidates will be identified in, and subject to inspections that will be conducted after we submit, any marketing application to the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities. We may not control the manufacturing process of, and may be completely dependent on, our contract manufacturing partners for compliance with cGMP requirements and any other regulatory requirements of the FDA or other regulatory authorities for the manufacture of our product candidates. Beyond periodic audits, we have no control over the ability of our contract manufacturers to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority does not approve our marketing applications identifying these facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates or if it withdraws any approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would require that we incur significant additional costs and materially adversely affect our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our product candidates, if approved. Similarly, if any third-party manufacturers on which we will rely fail to manufacture quantities of our product candidates at quality levels necessary to meet regulatory requirements and at a scale sufficient to meet anticipated demand at a cost that allows us to achieve profitability, our business, financial condition and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.
Further, we do not currently have arrangements in place for a redundant or second-source supply of all drug product or drug substance in the event any of our current suppliers of such drug product and drug substance cease their operations for any reason. Any delays in the delivery of our drug substance, drug product or starting materials could have an adverse effect and potentially harm our business.
For all of our current or future product candidates, we intend to identify and qualify additional manufacturers to provide drug product and drug substance prior to submission of an NDA to the FDA and/or an MAA to the EMA. We are not certain, however, that our single-source and dual source suppliers will be able to meet our demand for their products, either because of the nature of our agreements with those suppliers, our limited experience with
those suppliers or our relative importance as a customer to those suppliers. It may be difficult for us to assess their ability to timely meet our demand in the future based on past performance. While our suppliers have generally met our demand for their products on a timely basis in the past, they may subordinate our needs in the future to their other customers.
Establishing additional or replacement suppliers for the drug product and drug substance used in our current or future product candidates, if required, may not be accomplished quickly. In some cases, the technical skills required to manufacture our products or product candidates may be unique or proprietary to the original supplier and we may have difficulty, or there may be contractual restrictions prohibiting us from, transferring such skills to a back-up or alternate supplier, or we may be unable to transfer such skills at all. If we are able to find a replacement supplier, such replacement supplier would need to be qualified and may require additional regulatory approval, which could result in further delay. In addition, changes in manufacturers often involve changes in manufacturing procedures and processes, which could require that we conduct bridging studies between our prior clinical supply used in our clinical trials and that of any new manufacturer. We may be unsuccessful in demonstrating the comparability of clinical supplies which could require the conduct of additional clinical trials.
While we seek to maintain adequate inventory of the drug product and drug substance used in our current or future product candidates, any interruption or delay in the supply of components or materials, or our inability to obtain drug product and drug substance from alternate sources at acceptable prices in a timely manner, could impede, delay, limit or prevent our development efforts, which could harm our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
In addition, some of our suppliers are located outside of the United States. We currently have a supplier based in Ukraine which supplies us with services and materials related to the ongoing expansion of our library of MGDs, and recent Ukrainian geopolitical developments, including any threatened or actual military activities, could adversely affect the ability for such supplier to meet our ongoing demand. We also have a supplier based in China which supplies us with services and materials to support the ongoing expansion of our library of MGDs and materials for use in the pre-clinical and clinical development of our product candidates, including for MRT-2359, and recent changes in U.S.-China trade policies, and a number of other economic and geopolitical factors both in China and abroad could affect the ability for such supplier to meet our ongoing demand. Disruptions in our suppliers ability to meet our ongoing demand could have an adverse effect on our business and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects.
Our success is dependent on our executive management team’s ability to successfully pursue business development, strategic partnerships and investment opportunities as our company matures.We may also form or seek strategic alliances or acquisitions or enter into additional collaboration and licensing arrangements in the future, and we may not realize the benefits of such collaborations, alliances, acquisitions or licensing arrangements.
We may in the future form or seek strategic alliances or acquisitions, create joint ventures, or enter into additional collaboration and licensing arrangements with third parties that we believe will complement or augment our development and commercialization efforts with respect to our current product candidates and any future product candidates that we may develop. Any of these relationships may require us to incur non-recurring and other charges, increase our near and long-term expenditures, issue securities that dilute our existing stockholders or disrupt our management and business.
In addition, we face significant competition in seeking appropriate strategic partners and the negotiation process is time-consuming and complex. Moreover, we may not be successful in our efforts to establish a strategic partnership or acquisition or other alternative arrangements for our current or future product candidates because they may be deemed to be at too early of a stage of development for collaborative effort and third parties may not view our current or future product candidates as having the requisite potential to demonstrate safety, potency, purity and efficacy and obtain marketing approval.
Further, collaborations involving our technologies or current or future product candidates are subject to numerous risks, which may include the following:
As a result, we may not be able to realize the benefits of our existing collaboration and licensing arrangements or any future strategic partnerships or acquisitions, collaborations or license arrangements we may enter into if we are unable to successfully integrate them with our existing operations and company culture, which could delay our timelines or otherwise adversely affect our business. We also cannot be certain that, following a strategic transaction, license, collaboration or other business development partnership, we will achieve the revenue or specific net income that justifies such transaction. Any delays in entering into new collaborations or strategic partnership agreements related to our current or future product candidates could delay the development and commercialization of our current or future product candidates in certain geographies or for certain indications, which would harm our business prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Manufacturing our current or future product candidates is complex and we may encounter difficulties in production. If we encounter such difficulties, our ability to provide supply of our current or future product candidates for preclinical studies and future clinical trials or for commercial purposes could be delayed or stopped.
The process of manufacturing of our current or future product candidates is complex and highly regulated. We do not have our own manufacturing facilities or personnel and currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the manufacture of our current or future product candidates. These third-party manufacturing providers may not be able to provide adequate or timely resources or capacity to meet our needs and may incorporate their own proprietary processes into our product candidate manufacturing processes. We have limited control and oversight of a third party’s proprietary process, and a third party may elect to modify its process without our consent or knowledge. These modifications could negatively impact our manufacturing, including product loss or failure that requires additional manufacturing runs or a change in manufacturer, either of which could significantly increase the cost of and significantly delay the manufacture of our current or future product candidates.
As our current or future product candidates progress through preclinical studies and clinical trials towards potential approval and commercialization, it is expected that various aspects of the manufacturing process will be altered in an effort to optimize processes and results. Such changes may require amendments to be made to regulatory applications which may further delay the timeframes under which modified manufacturing processes can be used for any of our current or future product candidates and additional bridging studies or trials may be required and may not be successful. We may be unsuccessful in demonstrating the comparability of clinical supplies which could require the conduct of additional clinical trials. Any such delay could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and prospects.
Our manufacturing process needs to comply with FDA regulations relating to the quality and reliability of such processes. Any failure to comply with relevant regulations could result in delays in or termination of our preclinical and future clinical programs and suspension or withdrawal of any regulatory approvals.
In order to commercially produce our products either at our own facility or at a third party’s facility, we will need to comply with the FDA’s cGMP regulations and guidelines. We may encounter difficulties in achieving quality control and quality assurance and may experience shortages in qualified personnel. We and our third party manufacturers are subject to inspections by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities to confirm compliance with applicable regulatory requirements. Any failure to follow cGMP or other regulatory requirements or delay, interruption or other issues that arise in the manufacture, fill-finish, packaging, or storage of our product candidates as a result of a failure of our facilities or the facilities or operations of third parties to comply with regulatory requirements or pass any regulatory authority inspection could significantly impair our ability to develop and commercialize our current or future product candidates, including leading to significant delays in the availability of our product candidates for our future clinical trials or the termination of or suspension of a future clinical trial, or the delay or prevention of a filing or approval of marketing applications for our current or future product candidates. Significant non-compliance could also result in the imposition of sanctions, including warning or untitled letters, fines, injunctions, civil penalties, failure of regulatory authorities to grant marketing approvals for our current or future product candidates, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, license revocation, seizures or recalls of products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecutions, any of which could damage our reputation and our business.
If our third-party manufacturers use hazardous and biological materials in a manner that causes injury or violates applicable law, we may be liable for damages.
Our research and development activities involve the controlled use of potentially hazardous substances, including chemical materials, by our third-party manufacturers. Our manufacturers are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations in the U.S. governing the use, manufacture, storage, handling and disposal of medical and hazardous materials. Although we believe that our manufacturers’ procedures for using, handling, storing and disposing of these materials comply with legally prescribed standards, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of contamination or injury resulting from medical or hazardous materials. As a result of any such contamination or injury, we may incur liability or local, city, state or federal authorities may curtail the use of these materials and interrupt our business operations. In the event of an accident, we could be held liable for damages or penalized with fines, and the liability could exceed our resources. We do not have any insurance for liabilities arising from medical or hazardous materials. Compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations is expensive, and current or future environmental regulations may impair our research, development and production efforts, which could harm our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations.
Risks related to intellectual property
If we are unable to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection for our technology and product candidates or if the scope of the intellectual property protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize technology and drugs similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize our technology and drugs may be impaired, and we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.
We rely upon a combination of patents, trademarks, trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our products and technologies and to prevent third parties from copying and surpassing our achievements, thus eroding our competitive position in our market. Our commercial success depends in part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent or other intellectual property protection in the U.S. and other countries for our current or future product candidates and our core technologies, including our proprietary QuEEN platform, our GSPT1 program, including our product candidate named MRT-2359, NEK7, CDK2, VAV1 and BCL11A programs, which are our five most advanced preclinical stage pipeline programs, as well as our proprietary compound library and other know-how. We seek to protect our proprietary and intellectual property position by, among other methods, filing patent applications in the U.S. and abroad related to our proprietary technology, inventions and improvements that are important to the development and implementation of our business.
We own patent applications related to our QuEEN platform, our CDK2 program, our NEK7 program, and our GSPT1 program, including GSPT1-directed MGDs, biomarkers related to these compounds. We currently do not own any issued patents. Further, patent prosecution related to our pending patent applications is in the early stages and, as such, no patent examiner has yet fully scrutinized the merits of any of our pending patent applications.
As of December 31, 2021, our patent portfolio covering GSPT1-directed MGDs and uses thereof includes ten patent families, our patent portfolio related to our QuEEN platform includes four patent families, our patent portfolio related to our CDK2 program includes five patent family, and our patent portfolio related to our NEK7 program includes one patent family. Patent term adjustments, supplementary protection certificate filings, or patent term extensions could result in later expiration dates in various countries, while terminal disclaimers could result in earlier expiration dates in the U.S.
The patent position of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies generally is highly uncertain, involves complex legal and factual questions and has in recent years been the subject of much litigation. As such, we cannot guarantee that our pending and future patent applications will result in patents being issued or that issued patents will afford sufficient protection of our product candidates or their intended uses against competitors, nor can there be any assurance that the patents issued will not be infringed, designed around, invalidated by third parties, or effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies, products or product candidates.
The degree of patent protection we require to successfully commercialize our current or future product candidates may be unavailable or severely limited in some cases and may not adequately protect our rights or permit us to gain or keep any competitive advantage. We cannot provide any assurances that any of our pending patent applications that mature into issued patents will include claims with a scope sufficient to protect our QuEEN platform and our current or future product candidates. In addition, if the breadth or strength of protection provided by our patent applications or any patents we may own or in-license is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to license, develop or commercialize current or future product candidates.
Other parties have developed technologies that may be related or competitive to our own, and such parties may have filed or may file patent applications, or may have acquired or may acquire patents, claiming inventions that may overlap or conflict with those claimed in our own patent applications or issued patents, with respect to either the same compounds, methods, formulations or other subject matter, in either case that we may rely upon to dominate our patent position in the market. Publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the U.S. and other jurisdictions are typically not published until at least 18 months after the earliest priority date of the patent filing, or in some cases not at all. Therefore, we cannot know with certainty whether we were the first to make the inventions claimed in patents we may own or in-license patents or pending patent applications, or that we were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions. In addition, the USPTO might require that the term of a patent issuing from a pending patent application be disclaimed and limited to the term of another patent that is commonly owned or names a common inventor. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our patent rights cannot be predicted with any certainty.
In addition, the patent prosecution process is expensive and time-consuming, and we may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. Further, with respect to certain pending patent applications covering our current or future product candidates or technologies, prosecution has yet to commence and as such, no patent examiner has scrutinized the merits of such pending patent applications. Patent prosecution is a lengthy process, during which the scope of the claims initially submitted for examination by the relevant patent office(s) may be significantly narrowed by the time they issue, if they ever do. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output before it is too late to obtain patent protection. Moreover, in some circumstances, we may not have the right to control the preparation, filing and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain the patents, covering technology that we license from or to third parties. Therefore, these patents and applications may not be prosecuted and enforced in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business.
Even if we acquire patent protection that we expect should enable us to establish and/or maintain a competitive advantage, third parties may challenge the validity, enforceability or scope thereof, which may result in such patents being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable. The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity or enforceability, and our patents may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the U.S. and abroad. We may become involved in opposition, derivation, reexamination, inter partes review, or post-grant review proceedings challenging our patent rights or the patent rights of others from whom we may in the future obtain licenses to such rights, in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, the European Patent Office, or EPO, or the relevant patent authorities in other countries. In addition, we may be subject to third-party submissions to the USPTO, the EPO, or elsewhere, that may reduce the scope or preclude the granting of claims from our pending patent applications. Competitors may challenge our issued patents or may file patent applications before we do.
Competitors may also claim that we are infringing their patents and that we therefore cannot practice our technology as claimed under our patents or patent applications. Competitors may also contest our patents by arguing before an administrative patent authority or judge that the invention was not patent-eligible, was not novel, was obvious, and/or lacked inventive steps, and/or that the patent application failed to meet relevant requirements relating to description, basis, enablement, and/or support; in litigation, a competitor could assert that our patents are not valid or are unenforceable for a number of reasons. If a court or administrative patent authority agrees, we would lose our protection of those challenged patents.
An adverse determination in any such submission or proceeding may result in loss of exclusivity or freedom to operate or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, in whole or in part, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and drugs, without payment to us, or could limit the duration of the patent protection covering our technology and current or future product candidates. Such challenges may also result in our inability to manufacture or commercialize our current or future product candidates without infringing third-party patent rights. In addition, if the breadth or strength of protection provided by our patents and patent applications is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to license, develop or commercialize current or future product candidates.
Even if they are unchallenged, our issued patents and our pending patent applications, if issued, may not provide us with any meaningful protection or prevent competitors from designing around our patent claims to circumvent patents we may own or in-license by developing similar or alternative technologies or drugs in a non-infringing manner. For example, a third party may develop a competitive drug or product that provides benefits similar to one or more of our current or future product candidates but that has a different composition or otherwise falls outside the scope of our patent protection. If the patent protection provided by the patents and patent applications we hold or pursue with respect to our current or future product candidates is not sufficiently broad to impede such competition, our ability to successfully commercialize our current or future product candidates could be negatively affected, which would harm our business.
Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection, including patent term, depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, deadlines, fee payment and other requirements imposed by governmental patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated if we miss a filing deadline for patent protection on these inventions or otherwise fail to comply with these requirements.
The USPTO and foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application process and after issuance of any patent. In addition, periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, annuity fees and/or various other government fees are required to be paid periodically. While an inadvertent lapse, including due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on us or our maintenance vendors, can in some cases be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. Noncompliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent include, but are not limited to, failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, non-payment of fees and failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents. In such an event, our competitors might be able to enter the market with similar or identical products or platforms, which could have a material adverse effect on our business prospects and financial condition.
Patent terms may be inadequate to protect our competitive position on our product candidates for an adequate amount of time.
Patents have a limited lifespan. In the U.S., and most other jurisdictions in which we have undertaken patent filings, the natural expiration of a patent is generally twenty years after it is filed, assuming all maintenance fees are paid. Various extensions may be available, on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis; however, the life of a patent, and thus the protection it affords, is limited. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, patents we may own or in-license may not provide us with adequate and continuing patent protection sufficient to exclude others from commercializing drugs similar or identical to our current or future product candidates, including generic versions of such drugs.
Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of FDA marketing approval of our current or future product candidates, one or more of the U.S. patents we own or license may be eligible for limited patent term restoration under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent restoration term of up to five years as
compensation for patent term lost during product development and the FDA regulatory review process. Different laws govern the extension of patents on approved pharmaceutical products in Europe and other jurisdictions. However, we may not be granted a patent extension because of, for example, failing to exercise due diligence during the testing phase or regulatory review process, failing to apply within applicable deadlines, failing to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents or otherwise failing to satisfy applicable requirements. For example, we may not be granted an extension in the U.S. if all of our patents covering an approved product expire more than fourteen years from the date of NDA approval for a product covered by those patents. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. If we are unable to obtain patent term extension or restoration or the term of any such extension is less than we request, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration, and our ability to generate revenues could be materially adversely affected.
If our trademarks and trade names for our products or company name are not adequately protected in one or more countries where we intend to market our products, we may delay the launch of product brand names, use different trademarks or tradenames in different countries, or face other potentially adverse consequences to building our product brand recognition.
We use and will continue to use registered and/or unregistered trademarks or trade names to brand and market ourselves and our products. Our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, diluted, circumvented or declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We intend to rely on both registration and common law protection for our trademarks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names or may be forced to stop using these names, which we need for name recognition by potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. During the trademark registration process, we may receive Office Actions from the USPTO or from comparable agencies in foreign jurisdictions objecting to the registration of our trademark. In addition, in the USPTO and in comparable agencies in many foreign jurisdictions, third parties are given an opportunity to oppose pending trademark applications and/or to seek the cancellation of registered trademarks. Opposition or cancellation proceedings may be filed against our trademark applications or registrations, and our trademark applications or registrations may not survive such proceedings. In addition, there could be potential trade name or trademark infringement claims brought by owners of other trademarks or trademarks that incorporate variations of our registered or unregistered trademarks or trade names. Over the long run, if we are unable to obtain a registered trademark or establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected.
Additionally, we may license our trademarks and trade names to third parties, such as distributors. Though these license agreements may provide guidelines for how our trademarks and trade names may be used, a breach of these agreements or misuse of our trademarks and tradenames by our licensees may jeopardize our rights in or diminish the goodwill associated with our trademarks and trade names.
If we are unable to adequately protect and enforce our trade secrets, our business and competitive position would be harmed.
In addition to the protection afforded by patents we may own or in-license, we seek to rely on trade secret protection, confidentiality agreements, and license agreements to protect proprietary know-how that may not be patentable, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our product discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know-how, information, or technology that may not be covered by patents. Although we require all of our employees, consultants, advisors and any third parties who have access to our proprietary know-how, information, or technology to enter into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, trade secrets can be difficult to protect and we have limited control over the protection of trade secrets used by our collaborators and suppliers. We cannot be certain that we have or will obtain these agreements in all circumstances and we cannot guarantee that we have entered into such agreements with each party that may have or have had access to our trade secrets or proprietary information.
Moreover, any of these parties might breach the agreements and intentionally or inadvertently disclose our trade secret information and we may not be able to obtain adequate remedies for such breaches. In addition, competitors may otherwise gain access (such as through a cybersecurity breach) to our trade secrets or independently develop substantially equivalent information and techniques. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret is difficult, expensive and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. If we choose to go to court to stop a third party from using any of our trade secrets, we may incur substantial costs. These lawsuits may consume our time and other resources even if we are successful. Furthermore, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect proprietary rights and trade secrets to the same extent or in the same manner as the laws of the U.S. We may need to share our proprietary information, including
trade secrets, with future business partners, collaborators, contractors and others located in countries at heightened risk of theft of trade secrets, including through direct intrusion by private parties or foreign actors, and those affiliated with or controlled by state actors. As a result, we may encounter significant problems in protecting and defending our intellectual property both in the U.S. and abroad. If we are unable to prevent unauthorized material disclosure of our intellectual property to third parties, we will not be able to establish or maintain a competitive advantage in our market, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and future prospects.
We may initiate, become a defendant in, or otherwise become party to lawsuits to protect or enforce our intellectual property rights, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe or otherwise violate any patents or other intellectual property we may own or in-license. In addition, any patents we may own or in-license also may become involved in inventorship, priority, validity or unenforceability disputes. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Any such claims could provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us, including claims alleging that we infringe their patents or other intellectual property rights. In patent litigation in the U.S. and in some other jurisdictions, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, for example, lack of novelty, obviousness or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld material information from the USPTO or the applicable foreign counterpart, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. A litigant or the USPTO itself could challenge our patents on this basis even if we believe that we have conducted our patent prosecution in accordance with the duty of candor and in good faith. The outcome following such a challenge is unpredictable. Moreover, with respect to challenges to the validity of our patents, there might be invalidating prior art, of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution.
We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate, and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. In addition, in an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that one or more of any patents we may own or in-license is not valid or is unenforceable or that the other party’s use of our technology that may be patented falls under the safe harbor to patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. §271(e)(1). There is also the risk that, even if the validity of these patents is upheld, the court may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that any patents we may own or in-license do not cover the technology in question or that such third party’s activities do not infringe our patent applications or any patents we may own or in-license. An adverse result in any litigation or defense proceedings could put one or more of any patents we may own or in-license at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable, or interpreted narrowly and could put our patent applications at risk of not issuing. Even if resolved in our favor, litigation or other legal proceedings relating to our intellectual property rights may cause us to incur significant expenses, and could distract our technical and management personnel from their normal responsibilities. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing, patient support or distribution activities. We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to conduct such litigation or proceedings adequately. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources and more mature and developed intellectual property portfolios. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete in the marketplace.
We may be required to