dyn-10k_20201231.htm

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

OR

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 FOR THE TRANSITION PERIOD FROM                      TO                     

 

Commission File Number: 001-39509

 

Dyne Therapeutics, Inc.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

36-4883909

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

830 Winter Street

Waltham, Massachusetts

02451

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (781) 786-8230

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

 

Trading

Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, $0.0001 par value per share

 

DYN

 

Nasdaq Global Select Market

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. YES  NO 

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act.  YES  NO 

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.  YES  NO 

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files).  YES  NO 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

  

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

  

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  YES  NO 

As of June 30, 2020, the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, there was no public market for the Registrant’s common stock. The Registrant’s common stock began trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on September 17, 2020. The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant, based on the closing price of the shares of common stock on Nasdaq Global Select Market on February 26, 2021, was $552,278,064.

The number of shares of Registrant’s Common Stock outstanding as of February 26, 2021 was 51,457,555.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

The Registrant intends to file a definitive proxy statement pursuant to Regulation 14A relating to the 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders within 120 days of the end of the Registrant’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2020. Portions of such definitive proxy statement are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K to the extent stated herein.

 

 

 

 


 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

 

Item 1.

Business

2

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

60

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

124

Item 2.

Properties

124

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

124

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

124

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

125

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

126

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

127

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

139

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

139

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

139

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

139

Item 9B.

Other Information

139

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

140

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

140

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

140

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

140

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

140

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

141

Item 16

Form 10-K Summary

144

 

 


i


Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements and Industry Data

 

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements within the meaning of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, other than statements of historical fact, contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including statements regarding our strategy, future operations, future financial position, future revenue, projected costs, prospects, plans and objectives of management, are forward-looking statements. The words “anticipate,” “believe,” “continue” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “might,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “project,” “should,” “target,” “would,” or the negative of these words or other similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words.

 

The forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, among other things, statements about:

 

 

the initiation, timing, progress and results of our research and development programs and preclinical studies and clinical trials;

 

the anticipated timing of the submission of investigational new drug applications, or INDs, for any product candidates we develop;

 

the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and our response to it;

 

our estimates regarding expenses, future revenue, capital requirements, need for additional financing and the period over which we believe our cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities, will be sufficient to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements;

 

our plans to develop and, if approved, subsequently commercialize any product candidates we may develop;

 

the timing of and our ability to submit applications for, obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for any product candidates we may develop;

 

the potential advantages of our FORCE platform;

 

our estimates regarding the potential addressable patient populations for our programs;

 

our commercialization, marketing and manufacturing capabilities and strategy;

 

our intellectual property position and our expectations regarding our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection;

 

our ability to identify additional products, product candidates or technologies with significant commercial potential that are consistent with our commercial objectives;

 

the impact of government laws and regulations;

 

our competitive position and expectations regarding developments and projections relating to our competitors and any competing therapies that are or become available;

 

developments and expectations regarding developments and projections relating to our competitors and our industry;

 

our ability to establish and maintain collaborations or obtain additional funding; and

 

our expectations regarding the time during which we will be an emerging growth company under the JOBS Act.

 

We may not actually achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in our forward-looking statements, and you should not place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements. Actual results or events could differ materially from the plans, intentions and expectations disclosed in the forward-looking statements we make. We have included important factors in the cautionary statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, particularly in Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, that we believe could cause actual results or events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements that we make. Moreover, we operate in a competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risk factors and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to

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predict all risk factors and uncertainties, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements we may make. Our forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any future acquisitions, mergers, dispositions, collaborations, joint ventures or investments we may make or enter into.

 

You should read this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the documents that we have filed or incorporated by reference as exhibits to this Annual Report on Form 10-K with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. The forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are made as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and we do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.

 

This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes statistical and other industry and market data that we obtained from independent industry publications and research, surveys and studies conducted by independent third parties as well as our own estimates of the prevalence of certain diseases and conditions. The market data used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K involves a number of assumptions and limitations, and you are cautioned not to give undue weight to such data. Industry publications and third-party research, surveys and studies generally indicate that their information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, although they do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information. Our estimates of the patient population with the potential to benefit from treatment with any product candidates we may develop include several key assumptions based on our industry knowledge, industry publications, third-party research and other surveys, which may be based on a small sample size and may fail to accurately reflect the addressable patient population. While we believe that our internal assumptions are reasonable, no independent source has verified such assumptions.

 

 


iii


Risk Factor Summary

 

Our business is subject to a number of risks that, if realized, could materially affect our business, prospects, operating results and financial condition. These risks are discussed more fully in the “Risk Factors” section of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. These risks include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

 

our limited operating history may make it difficult to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability;

 

we are very early in our development efforts. We have not initiated IND-enabling studies or identified any product candidates for clinical development, and as a result it will be many years before we commercialize a product candidate, if ever. If we are unable to identify and advance product candidates through preclinical studies and clinical trials, obtain marketing approval and ultimately commercialize them, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed;

 

we may encounter substantial delays in commencement, enrollment or completion of our clinical trials or we may fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of applicable regulatory authorities, which could prevent us from commercializing any product candidates we determine to develop on a timely basis, if at all;

 

our approach to the discovery and development of product candidates based on our FORCE platform is unproven, and we may not be successful in our efforts to identify, discover or develop potential product candidates;

 

the outcome of preclinical studies and earlier-stage clinical trials may not be predictive of future results or the success of later preclinical studies and clinical trials;

 

if any product candidates we may develop cause undesirable side effects or have other unexpected adverse properties, such side effects or properties could delay or prevent regulatory approval, limit the commercial potential or result in significant negative consequences following any potential marketing approval;

 

we rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties to conduct some or all aspects of our product manufacturing, research, preclinical and clinical testing, and these third parties may not perform satisfactorily;

 

we face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before us or more successfully than we do;

 

our rights to develop and commercialize any product candidates are subject and may in the future be subject, in part, to the terms and conditions of licenses granted to us by third parties. If we fail to comply with our obligations under current or future intellectual property license agreements or otherwise experience disruptions to our business relationships with our current or any future licensors, we could lose intellectual property rights that are important to our business;

 

if we or our licensors are unable to obtain, maintain and defend patent and other intellectual property protection for any product candidates or technology, or if the scope of the patent or other intellectual property protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products and technology similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully develop and commercialize any product candidates we may develop or our technology may be adversely affected due to such competition; and

 

the COVID-19 pandemic may affect our ability to initiate and complete preclinical studies, delay the initiation of our planned clinical trial or future clinical trials, disrupt regulatory activities, or have other adverse effects on our business and operations. In addition, this pandemic has caused substantial disruption in the financial markets and may adversely impact economies worldwide, which could negatively impact our operations.

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

 

Overview

We are building a leading muscle disease company focused on advancing innovative life-transforming therapeutics for patients with genetically driven diseases. We are utilizing our proprietary FORCE platform to overcome the current limitations of muscle tissue delivery and advance modern oligonucleotide therapeutics for muscle diseases. Our proprietary FORCE platform therapeutics consist of an oligonucleotide payload that we rationally design to target the genetic basis of the disease we are seeking to treat, a clinically validated linker and an antigen-binding fragment, or Fab, that we attach to the payload using the linker. With our FORCE platform, we have the flexibility to deploy different types of oligonucleotide payloads with specific mechanisms of action that modify target functions. We leverage this modularity to focus on muscle diseases with high unmet need, with etiologic targets and with clear translational potential from preclinical disease models to well-defined clinical development and regulatory pathways. Using our FORCE platform, we are assembling a broad portfolio of muscle disease therapeutics, including our lead programs in myotonic dystrophy type 1, or DM1, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or DMD, and facioscapulohumeral dystrophy, or FSHD. In addition, we plan to expand our portfolio through development efforts focused on rare skeletal muscle diseases, as well as cardiac and metabolic muscle diseases, including some with larger patient populations. Our programs are currently all in the preclinical stage. We expect to submit investigational new drug, or IND, applications to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, for product candidates in each of our DM1, DMD and FSHD programs between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Oligonucleotide therapeutics are a genetic medicine modality that, using nucleic acids, specifically aims to correct the function of disease-causing genes by either degrading the target gene or modifying expression of a target protein. While some oligonucleotide therapeutics have been approved, the development of oligonucleotide therapeutics has been limited by challenges in the delivery of the oligonucleotide to the tissue that requires therapy. To overcome these limitations, our FORCE platform utilizes the importance of Transferrin 1 receptor, or TfR1, in muscle biology as the foundation of our novel approach of linking therapeutic payloads to our TfR1-binding Fab to deliver targeted therapeutics for muscle diseases. TfR1, which is highly expressed on the surface of muscle cells, is required for iron transport into muscle cells, and evidence to date suggests that there are no other proteins that can substitute for TfR1 function. We believe our FORCE platform may provide several advantages, including targeted delivery to muscle tissue, extended durability, redosable administration and potent targeting of the genetic basis of disease to stop or reverse disease progression.

 

Our approach

We have designed our proprietary FORCE platform using our deep knowledge of muscle biology and oligonucleotide therapeutics. We have demonstrated proof-of-concept of our FORCE platform in multiple in vitro and in vivo studies. In murine and non-human primate studies, we have delivered antisense oligonucleotides, or ASOs, and phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, or PMOs, to genetic targets within muscle tissue and observed durable, disease-modifying, functional benefit in preclinical models of disease. For instance, in our DM1 program, we observed almost complete reversal of myotonia after a single dose in the HSA-LR mouse DM1 model and reductions in levels of DMPK in wild-type, or WT, mice for up to 12 weeks after a single dose, and in our DMD program, we observed increased muscle function four weeks after a single dose in the mdx mouse DMD model that mirrored levels of muscle function in a control cohort of healthy, wild-type mice.

 

Our therapeutics consist of three essential components: a proprietary Fab, a clinically validated linker and an oligonucleotide payload that we attach to our Fab using the linker.

 

Proprietary antibody (Fab)

Our proprietary Fabs are engineered to bind to TfR1 to enable targeted delivery of nucleic acids and other molecules to skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle. A Fab is the region of an antibody that binds to

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antigens. We selected a Fab antibody over monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs, due to its potential significant advantages when targeting TfR1 to enable muscle delivery, including enhanced tissue penetration, increased tolerability due to lower protein load and reduced risk of immune system activation due to the lack of the Fc domain on the Fab. The Fc domain is the portion of an antibody that interacts with the immune system. To identify the proprietary Fab we plan to use in our product candidates, we generated and screened proprietary antibodies for selectivity to TfR1 in order to enhance muscle specificity and for binding to TfR1 without interfering with the receptor’s function of transporting iron into cells. These proprietary antibodies were also screened to minimize competition with transferrin binding and interference of iron uptake in targeted muscle cells.

 

Clinically validated linker

The role of the linker is to connect, or conjugate, the Fab and the oligonucleotide payload. As a result, it is critical that the linker maintain stability in serum and provide release kinetics that favor sufficient payload accumulation in the targeted muscle cell. We have selected the Val-Cit linker as the linker for our FORCE platform based on its clinically validated safety and efficacy in approved products, its serum stability and its endosomal release attributes. Additionally, our linker and conjugation chemistry allow us to optimize the ratio of payload molecules attached to the Fab for each type of payload. We believe that our linker and conjugation chemistry will enable us to rapidly design, produce and screen molecules to enable new muscle disease programs.

 

Optimized payload

With our FORCE platform, we have the flexibility to deploy different types of therapeutic payloads with specific mechanisms of action that modify target functions. Using this modularity, we rationally select the therapeutic payload for each program to match the biology of the target, with the aim of addressing the genetic basis of disease and stopping or reversing disease progression.

 

Advantages of our FORCE platform

Our FORCE platform is designed to deliver disease-modifying therapeutics for a broad portfolio of serious muscle diseases. We believe that our FORCE platform may provide the following potential advantages:

 

 

Targeted delivery to muscle tissue;

 

Potent targeting of the genetic basis of disease to stop or reverse disease progression;

 

Enhanced tolerability;

 

Extended durability;

 

Redosable administration;

 

Well-established and scalable manufacturing; and

 

Accelerated and efficient development enabled by use of a single Fab and linker across all of our programs.

 

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Our portfolio

We are building a pipeline of programs to address genetically-driven muscle diseases with high unmet need with etiologic targets. Our initial focus is on DM1, DMD and FSHD with potential pipeline expansion opportunities in additional rare skeletal muscle diseases, as well as cardiac and metabolic muscle diseases. In selecting diseases to target with our FORCE platform, we seek diseases with clear translational potential from preclinical disease models to well-defined clinical development and regulatory pathways. We have global commercial rights to all of our programs.

 

 

DM1 program overview

Our DM1 program is focused on the development of a potentially disease-modifying treatment for DM1. DM1 is a monogenic, autosomal dominant, progressive disease that affects skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle, resulting in significant physical, cognitive and behavioral impairments and disability. There are currently no disease-modifying therapies to treat DM1 that are approved or in clinical development. DM1 is caused by an abnormal CTG triplet repeat expansion in a region of the DMPK gene and it is estimated to have a genetic prevalence of 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 8,000 people in the United States and Europe, affecting over 40,000 people in the United States and over 74,000 people in Europe. Our program candidates consist of a proprietary TfR1-binding Fab conjugated using our linker to an ASO that is designed to address the genetic basis of DM1 by reducing the levels of mutant DMPK RNA in the nucleus, releasing splicing proteins, allowing normal mRNA processing and translation of normal proteins, and potentially stopping or reversing disease. In preclinical studies, we have observed reduction of nuclear foci and correction of splicing in DM1 patient cells, reduction of toxic human nuclear DMPK in a DM1 mouse model developed by us, reversal of myotonia after a single dose in a separate DM1 mouse disease model which demonstrates a DM1 phenotype, durability of response up to 12 weeks in WT mice and enhanced muscle distribution as evidenced by reduced levels of cytoplasmic WT DMPK RNA in non-human primates. We expect to submit an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our DM1 program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

DMD program overview

Our DMD program is focused on the development of potentially disease-modifying treatments for DMD. DMD is a monogenic, X-linked disease caused by mutations in the gene that encodes for the dystrophin protein. In patients with DMD, mutations in the dystrophin gene lead to certain exons being misread resulting in the loss of function of the dystrophin protein, muscle cell death and progressive loss of muscle function. We estimate that DMD occurs in approximately one in every 3,500 to 5,000 live male births and that the patient population is approximately 12,000 to 15,000 in the United States and approximately 25,000 in Europe. We are developing program candidates to address the genetic basis of DMD by delivering a PMO to muscle tissue to promote the skipping of specific DMD exons in the nucleus, allowing muscle cells to create a more complete, functional dystrophin protein and potentially stop or reverse disease progression. In in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies, our PMOs when conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 have shown increased exon skipping, increased dystrophin expression, reduced muscle

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damage and increased muscle function. We are seeking to build a DMD franchise by initially focusing on the development of a therapeutic for patients with mutations amenable to skipping Exon 51, to be followed by the development of therapeutics for patients with mutations amenable to skipping other exons, including Exon 53, 45 and 44. We expect to submit an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our Exon 51 skipping program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

FSHD program overview

Our FSHD program is focused on the development of a potentially disease-modifying therapy for FSHD. FSHD is an autosomal dominant muscular dystrophy characterized by progressive skeletal muscle loss, resulting in significant physical impairments and disability. FSHD is caused by aberrant expression of the double homeobox 4, or DUX4, gene in muscle tissue, which leads to death of muscle and replacement by fat. There are no approved treatments for FSHD. We estimate the patient population is between 16,000 and 38,000 in the United States and approximately 35,000 in Europe. Our FSHD program candidates consist of our proprietary TfR1-binding Fab conjugated using our linker to an ASO that is designed to address the genetic basis of FSHD by reducing DUX4 expression in muscle tissue. In preclinical studies, we observed that administration of our proprietary ASO conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 reduced expression of key DUX4 biomarkers in FSHD patient myotubes. We expect to submit an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our FSHD program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Discovery programs overview

We intend to utilize our FORCE platform to expand our portfolio by pursuing the development of programs in additional indications, including additional rare skeletal muscle diseases, as well as cardiac and metabolic muscle diseases. By rationally selecting therapeutic payloads to conjugate with our proprietary Fab and linker, we believe we can develop product candidates to address the genetic basis of additional muscle diseases. We have completed screening and identified potent ASO and siRNA payloads against a number of cardiac and metabolic targets. In addition to our muscle disease portfolio, we believe there is an opportunity to leverage our TfR1 antibody expertise to develop novel antibodies that cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver therapeutics to the central nervous system, or CNS, tissue through systemic intravenous administration.

 

Our strategy

Our goal is to become the leading muscle disease company by advancing innovative life-transforming therapeutics for genetically driven diseases. To accomplish this, we intend to continue building a team that shares our commitment to patients, to continue to enhance our platform and to advance our pipeline. The key elements of our strategy are to:

 

 

Advance our lead programs in DM1, DMD and FSHD to clinical proof-of-concept and approval to offer meaningful benefit to patients. We are developing our lead programs for the treatment of DM1, DMD and FSHD. By applying our FORCE platform, we are able to optimize product candidates for each indication based on extensive preclinical data, including disease-specific models and biomarkers, thus enhancing the probability of clinical success of our programs. Our immediate focus is on our programs for DM1 and DMD followed by our program for FSHD, and we expect to submit INDs to the FDA for product candidates in each of our DM1, DMD and FSHD programs between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022. We intend to conduct our clinical studies in a genetically-defined patient population and to leverage learnings from other therapeutics in clinical development or approved by the FDA to inform the clinical and regulatory pathways for our programs. We believe our DM1, DMD and FSHD programs have the potential to stop or reverse the progression of the disease and offer meaningful benefit to patients in need.

 

Establish a DMD franchise by expanding our DMD program to reach additional DMD patient populations. We are developing our DMD program to treat the genetic basis of DMD. Approximately 80% of patients with DMD have mutations amenable to exon skipping in the

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nucleus. Exons 51, 53, 45 and 44 represent nearly half of the total mutations observed in DMD that are amenable to exon skipping. We are seeking to build a DMD franchise by initially focusing on the development of a therapeutic for patients with mutations amenable to skipping Exon 51, to be followed by the development of therapeutics for patients with mutations amenable to skipping other exons, including Exons 53, 45 and 44.

 

Expand our pipeline of therapeutics for muscle diseases to fully exploit the potential of our proprietary FORCE platform. Our FORCE platform leverages the pivotal role played by TfR1 in muscle biology as the foundation of our novel approach of linking therapeutic payloads to TfR1-targeted Fabs to deliver precision therapeutics for muscle diseases. We believe there are many muscle diseases with significant unmet need and we aim to expand our portfolio by pursuing additional programs where our FORCE platform could improve clinical efficacy relative to current therapeutic approaches. We have completed screening and identified potent ASO and siRNA payloads against a number of cardiac and metabolic targets. In addition to our muscle disease portfolio, we believe there is an opportunity to leverage our TfR1 antibody expertise to develop novel antibodies that cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver therapeutics to CNS tissue through systemic intravenous administration.

 

Selectively enter into strategic collaborations to maximize the value of our pipeline and our proprietary FORCE platform. Given the potential of our platform to generate novel product candidates addressing a wide variety of muscle diseases, we may opportunistically enter into strategic collaborations around certain targets, programs or muscle tissues. We may seek strategic collaborations where we believe we can utilize our FORCE platform to enhance delivery of third-party payloads to muscle tissue. We may also explore collaboration arrangements to commercialize any product candidates where we believe the resources and expertise of the third party could be beneficial. These collaborations could advance and accelerate our programs to maximize their market potential and expand our FORCE platform capabilities.

 

Build a sustainable leadership position in muscle diseases with a deep connection to patients, caregivers, the research community and physicians. We have global commercial rights to all of our programs and intend to build a fully integrated biotechnology company and independently pursue the development and commercialization of our lead programs. Our mission is to expand our portfolio into a wide range of muscle diseases and become a leader in this area by advancing life-transforming therapeutics for patients with serious muscle diseases. To achieve this, we plan to continue to evaluate and invest in enhancing our platform and technologies that may accelerate the development of our therapeutics, to build out our capabilities to commercialize our therapeutics on our own and to cultivate a strong network with patient advocacy groups and thought leaders.

 

Our culture and team

We have established a patient-focused culture that drives our shared mission of developing life-transforming therapeutics for patients with serious muscle diseases. Our shared definition of success is simple: we do what we say we are going to do. We keep our commitments to patients, employees and Dyne stakeholders. We endeavor to act with integrity and transparency.

 

Our management team is led by Joshua Brumm, our President and Chief Executive Officer, who brings over 15 years of leadership experience with life sciences companies; Romesh Subramanian, Ph.D., our Chief Scientific Officer and Founder, who is an expert in nucleic acid, antibody and peptide therapeutic development as well as delivery platforms with 20 years of experience across pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies; Susanna High, our Chief Operating Officer, who has more than two decades of experience leading corporate strategy, portfolio management, business planning and operations for biotechnology companies; and Oxana Beskrovnaya, Ph.D., our Senior Vice President, Head of Research, who has extensive experience in musculoskeletal and renal research. Our organization is comprised of 47 talented individuals with significant experience across discovery, preclinical research, manufacturing, clinical development and operations. We have also established scientific and clinical advisory boards comprised of leading experts in the fields of muscle disease drug discovery and development and nucleic

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acid therapeutics, who share our mission of delivering disease-modifying therapeutics for patients with serious muscle diseases.

 

Genetic medicines background

Overview

Each person’s genetic material, or genome, consists of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in sequences of genetic code called genes. A genetic disease is caused by a change, or a mutation, in an individual’s DNA sequence. Genetic diseases can be caused by a mutation in a single gene, known as a monogenic disorder, or by mutations in multiple genes, known as a multifactorial inheritance disorder. Current estimates suggest that there are more than 10,000 monogenic diseases. Many of these are rare muscle diseases, affecting thousands of patients worldwide, such as DM1, DMD and FSHD. There are also a number of more prevalent genetic muscle diseases, including many types of cardiac disease.

 

Genetic medicines are designed to correct disease-causing dysfunction at the genetic level and include multiple therapeutic modalities, such as oligonucleotide therapeutics, including ASOs and siRNAs, viral gene therapy and small molecules. Significant progress has been made in the field of genetic medicine over the last decade as a number of genetic medicines have been approved or are in clinical development. However, the nature and fundamental limitations of these genetic medicines, such as poor tissue specificity, reduced efficacy, unknown durability and immunogenicity, make them poorly suited to effectively address the majority of genetic muscle diseases.

 

Viral gene therapy, in which viral vectors are employed to deliver therapeutic genes to defective cells or tissues, has made significant progress in the past decade. The most advanced method for systemic administration is adeno-associated virus, or AAV, gene therapy, which has demonstrated durable transduction of cells in several organ systems, with long-lasting expression in non-dividing cells. Several AAV gene therapy products have been approved, including LUXTURNA (voretigene neparvovec-rzyl) for the treatment of biallelic RPE65 mutation-associated retinal dystrophy, a rare inherited blindness disorder, and ZOLGENSMA (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi) for spinal muscular atrophy, and a number of AAV gene therapy products are in clinical development for muscle diseases, including microdystrophin gene therapy candidates for DMD.

 

However, current AAV gene therapy has significant limitations, including:

 

 

Limited durability: AAV gene therapies, which are administered in a single dose, have shown limited durability. This limited durability is problematic because following a single dose of AAV, antibodies are induced against the AAV capsid, the protein shell of the virus used for delivery, with the result that the therapy cannot be re-administered after the first dose.

 

Pre-existing immunity: Up to half of patients have antibodies against AAV due to naturally acquired infections. These antibodies prevent them from receiving AAV gene therapy due to pre-existing AAV immunity to the capsid encapsulating the transgene.

 

Variable safety profile: Multiple clinical trials have reported significant adverse events associated with systemic administration of AAV to treat muscle diseases, particularly at higher doses.

 

Limited payload capacity: AAV constructs are limited to 4.7 kb in length, restricting both the size of genes and complexity of regulatory sequences that can be delivered. For example, AAV payload capacity prevents the delivery of the full dystrophin gene. As a result, AAV gene therapies being developed for DMD use a microdystrophin, a smaller, less complete version of the dystrophin protein, as the therapeutic payload.

 

Off-target, multi-tissue delivery: Due to the inherent nature of AAVs, off-target delivery to unintended tissues and cell-types can lead to adverse events.

 

Limited manufacturing scale: The production systems for AAV gene therapies are limited in scale to 2,000 liters per batch or less. In general, the high doses required by AAV gene therapies and the low productivity of these systems combine to limit treatment to rare disease populations at a higher cost relative to other treatment modalities. 

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Evolution of oligonucleotide therapeutics

Oligonucleotide therapeutics are a genetic medicine modality that, using nucleic acids, specifically aims to correct the function of disease-causing genes by either degrading the disease-causing gene or modifying expression of a gene or a protein. Oligonucleotides are rationally designed genetic medicines which have demonstrated clinical benefit and been approved for marketing in multiple diseases, such as spinal muscular atrophy, elevated cholesterol and hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis. Oligonucleotides are designed based on genomic data, using Watson-Crick base pairing rules, to bind to and decrease or modify the expression of specific disease-causing RNA or proteins which ultimately results in disease modification.

 

Oligonucleotide therapeutics include single-stranded nucleic acids, known as antisense oligonucleotides or ASOs, as well as double-stranded nucleic acids, known as small interfering RNA, or siRNAs. The ASOs are generally less than 30 nucleobases in length. ASOs can have either charged nucleobases or uncharged bases. ASOs with uncharged bases are referred to as phosphorodiamidate morpholinos oligomers, or PMOs. The charged nucleobases impart an overall negative charge to ASOs that enhances their ability to cross membranes and enter into cells without the assistance of a delivery formulation. Once inside the cell, the charged ASOs can degrade RNA if they are gapmers, which have a DNA region in the center flanked by RNA wings, by recruiting the RNAseH1 enzyme to cleave heteroduplexes of DNA and RNA. ASOs can also alter splicing or exon skipping if they are non-gapmers. ASOs are functional in the nucleus and the cytoplasm. In contrast, a PMO is neutral in charge and unable to enter into cells without a delivery enhancement. PMOs are capable of exon skipping and are functional in the nucleus. In addition to ASOs and PMOs, siRNAs are a third type of oligonucleotide therapy which are generally less than 23 nucleobases in length and are a negatively charged duplex molecule comprised of a guide strand and a passenger strand. In order to modulate RNA or protein expressions, siRNAs need to be loaded into an RNA-induced silencing complex which is generally present in the cytoplasm but not the nucleus.

 

While some oligonucleotide therapeutics have been approved, the development of oligonucleotide therapeutics has been limited by challenges in the delivery of the oligonucleotide to the tissue that requires therapy. These challenges have been particularly evident in the delivery of oligonucleotides to muscle tissue. Unconjugated, or naked, oligonucleotides bind non-specifically to plasma proteins which increases their plasma half-life and circulation time through filtering organs such as the liver and kidney, leading the oligonucleotides to accumulate primarily in the liver and kidney, and resulting in increased toxicity in these organs. As a result, many oligonucleotide therapeutics are limited to organs where direct delivery to the target organ can be an effective approach, such as intravitreal administration in the retina or intrathecal administration in the central nervous system. There have been efforts to enhance delivery of siRNAs to tissue by utilizing lipid nanoparticles, or LNPs, and other encapsulation vehicles. Although these approaches can increase the effectiveness of an siRNA therapeutic, they are largely limited to filtering organs such as the liver and kidney and increase the safety risk of the therapeutic. Despite these limitations, both naked ASOs and encapsulated siRNAs have been approved and commercialized.

 

Subsequent efforts using targeted delivery of ASOs or siRNAs have demonstrated that conjugation to a delivery moiety can effectively deliver these compounds to target tissues and provide significant health benefits to patients. For instance, third-party developers have leveraged proteins on cell surfaces to enhance the delivery of oligonucleotides using a process called receptor-mediated uptake. These developers have conjugated sugar molecules referred to as GalNAcs to oligonucleotides in order to engage asiaglycoprotein, or ASGPR, a transporter protein expressed primarily on the surface of liver cells, and facilitate intracellular delivery of oligonucleotide therapeutics, resulting in increased target engagement as compared to naked oligonucleotides. The emerging preclinical and clinical data around the GalNAc-ASGPR approach and recent FDA approval of GIVLAARI (givosiran) and OXLUMO (lumasiran), which use this approach, supports receptor-mediated uptake as a delivery strategy for oligonucleotide therapeutics.

 

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In order to increase the uptake of oligonucleotides, third-party developers have also used antibody conjugates as a means of delivering oligonucleotides into cells. Antibodies are naturally occurring proteins produced by the immune system that first identify and then neutralize or clear antigens, such as bacteria, viruses and other substances, by selectively binding to these foreign substances. Antibodies can be engineered for desired characteristics, such as high selectivity and high affinity for their target cell surface proteins and antibody format, such as mAb or Fab, in order to facilitate the delivery of oligonucleotide therapeutics into those cells. The use of engineered antibodies as a conjugate to oligonucleotide therapeutics is being studied for the delivery of oligonucleotides to muscle tissue and tumors.

 

Developers have sought to use the TfR1 receptor, which is highly expressed on the surface of muscle cells, to deliver oligonucleotides to muscle tissue. TfR1 is required for iron transport into muscle cells, and evidence to date suggests that there are no other proteins that can substitute for TfR1 function. For instance, in third-party studies, a conditional knock-out of TfR1 in cardiac muscle was lethal in mice, and a conditional knock-out of TfR1 in skeletal muscle resulted in significant metabolic imbalance in mice. These studies provide evidence that TfR1 is critical for muscle function. However, we believe that previous efforts to develop muscle disease therapeutics based on TfR1-mediated delivery have been unsuccessful because receptor-mediated uptake requires the optimization of each component of the conjugate molecule (the antibody, the linker and the oligonucleotide), which has not yet been achieved.

 

Our FORCE platform utilizes the importance of TfR1 in muscle biology as the foundation of our novel approach of linking therapeutic payloads to TfR1-targeted Fabs to deliver targeted therapeutics for muscle diseases.

 

Our approach

We are using our proprietary FORCE platform to develop targeted, life-transforming therapeutics for serious muscle diseases. We have designed our proprietary FORCE platform using our deep knowledge of muscle biology and oligonucleotide therapeutics with the goal of overcoming the current limitations of muscle tissue delivery and advancing modern oligonucleotide therapeutics for muscle diseases. Our therapeutics consist of three essential components: a proprietary Fab, a clinically validated linker and an oligonucleotide payload that we attach to our Fab using the linker. We engineered our proprietary Fab to bind to TfR1 to enable targeted delivery to skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle. We selected the linker for our platform based on its clinically validated safety and efficacy in approved products, its serum stability and its ability to release the therapeutic payload within the muscle cell. Finally, we attach the Fab and linker to a therapeutic payload that can be an ASO, siRNA, PMO or small molecule that we rationally select to target the genetic basis of disease to potentially stop or reverse disease progression.

 

We have demonstrated proof-of-concept of our FORCE platform in multiple in vitro and in vivo studies. In murine and non-human primate (NHP) studies, we have delivered ASOs and PMOs to genetic targets within muscle tissue and observed durable, disease-modifying, functional benefit in preclinical models of disease. For instance, in our DM1 program, we observed almost complete reversal of myotonia after a single dose in the HSA-LR mouse DM1 model, reduction of toxic human nuclear DMPK in a hTfR1/DMSXL DM1 mouse model developed by us and reductions in levels of DMPK in WT mice for up to 12 weeks after a single dose, and in our DMD program, we observed increased muscle function four weeks after a single dose in the mdx mouse DMD model that mirrored levels of muscle function in a control cohort of healthy, wild-type mice.

 

The following graphic illustrates the three components of our therapeutics:

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FORCE platform

 

Proprietary antibody (Fab)

Our proprietary Fabs are engineered to bind to TfR1 to enable targeted delivery of nucleic acids and other molecules to skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle. A Fab is the region of an antibody that binds to antigens. Although we have engineered a number of Fabs, we plan to use the same Fab to target TfR1 across all of our muscle programs. We chose to develop our programs using a Fab rather than using mAbs because we believe Fabs provide the following potential significant advantages:

 

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Potential advantages of Fabs targeting TfR1

 

 

To identify the proprietary Fab we plan to use in our product candidates, we generated and screened proprietary antibodies for selectivity to TfR1 in order to enhance muscle specificity and for binding to TfR1 without interfering with the receptor’s function of transporting iron into cells.

 

Clinically validated linker

The role of the linker is to connect the Fab and the oligonucleotide therapy. As a result, it is critical that the linker maintain stability in serum and provide release kinetics that favor sufficient payload accumulation in the targeted muscle cell. We have selected the Val-Cit linker for our FORCE platform based on its clinically validated safety and efficacy in approved products, its serum stability and its endosomal release attributes. As shown in the figure below, serum stability of our linker was comparable across multiple species, showing at least 75% stability measured at 72 hours after intravenous dosing.

 

Serum stability of linker >75% at 72 hours

 

 

We believe that serum stability is necessary to enable systemic intravenous administration, stability of the conjugated oligonucleotide in the bloodstream, delivery to muscle tissue and internalization of the

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therapeutic payload in the muscle cells. In preclinical studies, our Val-Cit linker facilitated precise conjugation of multiple types of payloads to our proprietary Fabs, including ASOs, siRNAs and PMOs. This flexibility enables us to rationally select the appropriate type of payload to address the genetic basis of each muscle disease. Additionally, our linker and conjugation chemistry allow us to optimize the ratio of payload molecules attached to each Fab for each type of payload. We believe that our linker and conjugation chemistry will enable us to rapidly design, produce and screen molecules to enable new muscle disease programs.

 

Optimized payload

With our FORCE platform, we have the flexibility to deploy different types of therapeutic payloads with specific mechanisms of action that modify target functions. Using this modularity, we rationally select the therapeutic payload for each program to match the biology of the target, with the aim of addressing the genetic basis of disease and stopping or reversing disease progression. For instance, in our DM1 program, where the genetic driver of DM1 is mutant DMPK pre-mRNA located in the nucleus, we have determined to use an ASO because ASOs have advantages in degrading RNA in the nucleus when compared to siRNAs. In the case of our DMD program, we are utilizing an exon skipping PMO payload with the goal of enhancing dystrophin expression. In the case of certain cardiac and metabolic programs where the genetic targets are focused in the cytoplasm, we have engineered proprietary siRNA payloads to reduce the expression of these cytoplasmic targets.

 

Advantages of our FORCE platform

We are using our FORCE platform to develop disease-modifying therapeutics for a broad portfolio of serious muscle diseases. We believe that these therapeutics may provide the following potential advantages:

 

 

Targeted delivery to muscle tissue:   Using our FORCE platform, we are designing our oligonucleotide therapeutics to leverage TfR1 expression on skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle cells to deliver muscle-targeted therapeutics to benefit patients with serious muscle disease.

 

Potent targeting of the genetic basis of disease:   The flexibility of our FORCE platform allows us to deploy different types of payloads with specific mechanisms of action to modify target function. This enables us to rationally select payloads that match the biology of the target, with the aim of addressing the genetic basis of disease and stopping or reversing disease progression.

 

Enhanced tolerability:   We engineered our Fabs to enhance the tolerability of oligonucleotide therapeutics by limiting systemic drug exposure through targeted delivery of potent therapeutic payloads to muscle tissue. Additionally, we engineered our Fabs to minimize competition with transferrin binding and interference of iron uptake in targeted muscle cells.

 

Extended durability:   Our program candidates have demonstrated in preclinical studies the ability to deliver oligonucleotides to muscle cells at concentrations that we believe could produce prolonged disease-modifying pharmacodynamic effects. We believe that the potential durability of our program candidates may enable less frequent dosing of patients.

 

Redosable administration:   Our program candidates are engineered to be redosable, not just administered one time, which may enable individualized patient titration to reach the desired level of therapeutic expression and to potentially maintain efficacy throughout a patient’s life.

 

Well-established and scalable manufacturing:   Our program candidates can be manufactured using well-established and scalable methods for manufacturing antibodies, linkers and oligonucleotides. In addition, we expect our manufacturing costs will be reduced by our use of the same Fab and linker in each product candidate we develop.

 

Accelerated and efficient development:   We believe our use of a single Fab and linker across all of our programs reduces the development risk and cost of each product candidate and enables us to more quickly expand our portfolio of programs through either internally or externally developed payloads as the focus of our development will remain with the selection and optimization of each program-specific therapeutic payload.

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Our portfolio

Our mission is to develop life-transforming medicines for patients with serious muscle diseases. We are creating a pipeline of programs to address diseases with high unmet need with etiologic targets. Our initial focus is on DM1, DMD and FSHD with potential pipeline expansion opportunities in additional rare skeletal muscle diseases, as well as cardiac and metabolic muscle diseases. In selecting diseases to target with our FORCE platform, we seek diseases with clear translational potential from preclinical disease models to well-defined clinical development and regulatory pathways, and where we believe that we would be able to commercialize any products that we develop and are approved with an efficient, targeted sales force. We have global commercial rights to all of our programs.

 

 

Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1)

Overview

We are developing program candidates under our DM1 program to address the genetic basis of DM1 by targeting the toxic nuclear DMPK RNA that causes the disease. Our DM1 program is designed to deliver an ASO to muscle tissue to reduce the accumulation of DMPK pre-mRNA in the nucleus, release splicing proteins and potentially stop or reverse disease progression. In in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies, our ASOs when conjugated to Fabs targeting TfR1 have shown reduction in nuclear foci, correction of splicing changes, reversal of myotonia, which is a neuromuscular condition in which the relaxation of a muscle is impaired, and enhanced muscle distribution as evidenced by reduced levels of cytoplasmic wild type, or WT, DMPK RNA. We anticipate submitting an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our DM1 program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Disease overview and prevalence

DM1 is a monogenic, autosomal dominant, progressive disease that primarily affects skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscles. DM1 patients can suffer from various manifestations of the disease including myotonia, muscle weakness, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory problems, fatigue, cardiac abnormalities, gastrointestinal, or GI, complications, early cataracts and cognitive and behavioral impairment.

 

DM1 is caused by an abnormal expansion in a region of the DMPK gene. Specifically, DM1 is caused by an increase in the number of CTG triplet repeats found in the 3’ non-coding region of the DMPK gene. The number of repeats ranges from up to approximately 35 in healthy individuals to many thousands in DM1 patients. The higher than normal number of triplet repeats form large hairpin loops that entrap the DMPK pre-mRNA in the nucleus and impart toxic activity, referred to as a toxic gain-of-function mutation. The mutant DMPK pre-mRNA sequesters in the nucleus, forming nuclear foci that bind splicing proteins. This inhibits the ability of splicing proteins to perform their normal function in the nucleus of guiding pre-mRNA processing of gene transcripts from many other genes. As a result, multiple pre-mRNAs that encode key proteins are mis-spliced. This mis-splicing in the nucleus results in the translation of atypical proteins which ultimately cause the clinical presentation of DM1. When nuclear DMPK levels are reduced, the nuclear foci that bind splicing proteins are diminished, releasing splicing proteins, allowing normal mRNA processing and translation of normal proteins, and potentially stopping or reversing disease progression. This disease process is illustrated below:

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DM1: Genetic basis and clinical presentation

 

 

DM1 is estimated to have a genetic prevalence of 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 8,000 people in the United States and Europe, affecting over 40,000 people in the United States and over 74,000 people in Europe. However, we believe that the patient population is currently underdiagnosed due to lack of available therapies as is observed for other rare diseases. DM1 is highly variable with respect to disease severity, presentation and age of onset.

 

We are advancing our own efforts to better characterize the actual DM1 patient population through a natural history study that we are sponsoring. We believe that the introduction of new therapies for DM1 will cause the diagnosis rate to improve, resulting in an increase in the overall prevalence estimates for the disease. Based on age of onset and severity of symptoms, DM1 is typically categorized into four overlapping phenotypes: late-onset; classical (adult-onset); childhood; and congenital (cDM1):

 

Overview of DM1 phenotypes

 

 

 

 

 

Phenotype

Clinical presentation

Estimated % of DM1 patients

Age of onset

Late-onset

•Myotonia

•Muscle weakness

•Cataracts

10%

40 - 70 years

Classical (Adult-onset)

•Muscle weakness and wasting

•Myotonia

•Cardiac conduction abnormalities

•Respiratory insufficiency

•Fatigue/Excessive daytime sleepiness

•GI disturbance

•Cataracts

65%

Early teens - 50 years

Childhood

•Psychological problems

•Low IQ

•Incontinence

15%

1 - 10 years

Congenital (cDM1)

•Infantile hypotonia

•Severe generalized weakness

•Respiratory deficits

•Intellectual disability

•Classic signs present in adults

10%

Birth

 

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All DM1 phenotypes, except the late-onset form, are associated with high levels of disease burden and premature mortality. The clinical course of DM1 is progressive, and may become extremely disabling, especially when more generalized limb weakness and respiratory muscle involvement develops. Systemic manifestations such as fatigue, GI complications, cataracts and excessive daytime sleepiness greatly impact a patient’s quality of life. As a result, DM1 leads to physical impairment, activity limitations and decreased participation in social activities and work. Excluding congenital DM1 deaths, life expectancy ranges from 45 years to 60 years. Approximately 80% of early mortality is caused by cardiorespiratory complications. Respiratory failure due to muscle weakness (especially diaphragmatic weakness) causes at least 50% of early mortality, and cardiac abnormalities, including sudden death, account for approximately 30% of early mortality.

 

Current approaches and limitations

There are currently no disease-modifying therapies to treat DM1 that are approved or in clinical development, and treatment is focused largely on symptom management or palliative therapies. There are a number of product candidates in development, including product candidates in late stage clinical development that also are focused on symptom management or palliative therapies and do not target toxic nuclear DMPK RNA, which is the genetic basis of the disease. There remains a high unmet medical need for new disease-modifying therapies.

 

Our approach

Our program is designed to address the genetic basis of DM1 by targeting the toxic nuclear DMPK RNA that is the cause of the disease. We are developing program candidates linking our proprietary Fab to a proprietary ASO to address the genetic basis of DM1 by reducing the levels of mutant DMPK RNA in the nucleus, thereby releasing splicing proteins, allowing normal mRNA processing and translation of normal proteins, and potentially stopping or reversing disease progression. We expect that the proprietary ASO will be a gapmer oligonucleotide that is designed to translocate to the nucleus, bind its complementary sequence on the DMPK RNA, recruit RNAseH1 to degrade DMPK RNA and thus reduce toxic nuclear DMPK RNA. We have chosen to develop our program candidates for DM1 with an ASO because single-stranded ASOs preferentially target nuclear RNAs, which is essential for degradation of toxic nuclear DMPK RNA.

 

Another company previously attempted to develop a naked ASO to treat DM1 but discontinued its program due to challenges related to delivery. Specifically, the program was unable to reach the oligonucleotide muscle tissue concentration required to reduce nuclear DMPK levels, correct splicing abnormalities and address the clinical presentation. The other company believed there was a need to focus on more potent delivery to muscle. We believe that our FORCE platform has the potential to overcome the limitations faced by the other company and address the genetic basis of DM1 by achieving enhanced delivery of therapeutic ASOs to muscle.

 

Preclinical data

We are conducting preclinical studies of our ASOs conjugated to Fabs targeting TfR1 in DM1 patient cells and in the HSA-LR DM1 mouse model, which are disease models in which toxic RNA is observed. In in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies, our conjugated ASOs have shown reduction of nuclear foci, correction of splicing changes and reversal of myotonia in disease models, reduction of toxic human nuclear DMPK in a hTfR1/DMSXL DM1 mouse model developed by us, as well as enhanced muscle distribution as evidenced by reduced levels of cytoplasmic WT DMPK RNA. We believe these data support the potential for our oligonucleotide therapy to be a disease-modifying therapy for patients with DM1.

 

Reduction of nuclear foci

In preclinical studies in DM1 patient cells that contained toxic nuclear DMPK RNA, we observed that administration of an ASO conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 resulted in reduction of nuclear foci. In DM1, the higher than normal number of CUG repeats form large hairpin loops that remain trapped in the nucleus, forming nuclear foci that bind splicing proteins and inhibit the ability of splicing proteins to perform their normal function. When toxic nuclear DMPK levels are reduced, the nuclear foci are

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diminished, releasing splicing proteins, allowing restoration of normal mRNA processing, and potentially stopping or reversing disease progression. As illustrated in the figure below, in this study in DM1 patient cells, a single dose of conjugated ASO (shown as Dyne in the figure below) reduced nuclear DMPK foci as determined through a fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis. The reduced nuclear DMPK foci are indicated by the reduction in red punctate staining in the figure below for Dyne as compared to a saline control (shown as PBS). We believe the approximately 40% reduction in nuclear foci observed in this study supports the potential for our approach to advance a disease-modifying therapy for patients with DM1.

 

FORCE targeted nuclear DMPK and reduced nuclear foci in DM1 patient cells

 

 

Correction of splicing

In preclinical studies in DM1 patient cells that contained toxic nuclear DMPK RNA, we observed that administration of an ASO conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 resulted in correction of splicing of downstream RNAs such as Bridging Integrator Protein 1, or BIN1. Toxic DMPK RNA in the nucleus binds splicing proteins, inhibiting splicing protein function, and thereby reducing Exon 11 in BIN1 RNA. As illustrated in the figure below, in this study in DM1 patient cells, a single dose of the conjugated ASO (shown as Dyne in the figure) resulted in a statistically significant increase (p < 0.001) in Exon 11 inclusion compared to saline (shown as PBS), indicating that our conjugated ASO had reduced toxic DMPK RNA in the nucleus, causing the release of splicing proteins and the correction of BIN1 splicing. A p-value is a conventional statistical method for measuring the statistical significance of study results. A p-value of less than 0.05 is generally considered to represent statistical significance, meaning that there is a less than 5% likelihood that the observed results occurred by chance.

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FORCE targeted nuclear DMPK and corrected BIN1 splicing in DM1 patient cells

 

 

              *** P < 0.001

 

We have also observed correction of splicing in the HSA-LR DM1 mouse model. The HSA-LR DM1 mouse model is a well-validated model of DM1 that exhibits pathologies that are very similar to human DM1 patients. This model accumulates toxic RNA with triplet repeats within the nucleus and sequesters proteins responsible for splicing such as Muscleblind-like Protein, or MBNL, thus causing mis-splicing of multiple RNAs such as CLCN1 (chloride channel) and Atp2a1 (calcium channel), among others. This mis-splicing causes the mice to exhibit myotonia, which is a hallmark of the DM1 clinical presentation in humans.

 

In blinded preclinical studies, single doses of one of our ASOs conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 delivered intravenously demonstrated dose-dependent correction of splicing in multiple RNAs and multiple muscles and was well tolerated by HSA-LR mice. In these studies, we tested the ability of the conjugated ASO to correct splicing in more than 30 different RNAs that are critical for contraction and relaxation of muscle in HSA-LR mice and observed dose-dependent correction of splicing. In DM1, significant RNA mis-splicing of these RNAs reduces muscle function.

 

The first figure below presents the data from these studies with respect to the Atp2a1 RNA, which encodes a calcium channel and contributes to muscle contraction and relaxation. The X-axis in the figure below represents splice derangement with 1.00 on the right side of the figure representing severe mis-splicing and 0.00 on the left side of the figure representing a normal or WT splice pattern. Hence, progression from right to left on the X-axis in the figure represents a correction of splicing. The Y-axis of the figure below represents the percent of the gene spliced in, or PSI. Severe mis-splicing of Atp2a1 is caused by the lack of Exon 22 inclusion in the Atp2a1 RNA as reflected in a PS1 close to 0.00, while WT splicing reflects near complete inclusion of Exon 22 as reflected in a PSI close to 1.00. Accordingly, the blue dots in the figure indicate a near-WT splicing pattern and near-WT Exon 22 inclusion. As the figure shows, our conjugated ASO (shown as Dyne) corrected splicing of Atp2a1 in a dose-dependent manner in the gastrocnemius muscle. Two doses were administered in this study in order to evaluate dose dependence.

 

The second figure below presents the same data from these studies with respect to the more than 30 different RNAs that were tested, showing similar dose-dependent correction of splicing for all of the tested

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RNAs in gastrocnemius muscle. For some of these RNAs, correction of splicing toward WT reflects an increase in PSI, like Atp2a1 RNA in the first figure below, and for others it reflects a decrease in PSI.

 

FORCE dose-dependently corrected Atp2a1 splicing in HSA-LR DM1 mouse model

 

 

FORCE dose-dependently corrected splicing in multiple RNAs in HSA-LR DM1 mouse model

 

 

In addition to the dose-dependent changes shown in the gastrocnemius muscle, we also observed similar dose-dependent correction of splicing across the same panel of RNAs in the quadriceps and tibialis anterior muscles.

 

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The figure below presents the levels of splicing derangement observed for saline and different doses of one of our conjugated ASOs, presented on a composite basis across the more than 30 RNAs that we tested in each muscle type.

 

FORCE dose-dependently corrected splicing in multiple muscles in HSA-LR DM1 mouse model

 

 

Reversal of myotonia

In addition to these reductions in splicing derangement across multiple genes and muscles in the HSA-LR model, we observed in the HSA-LR model disease modification and almost complete reversal of myotonia after a single dose (20 mg/kg) of one of our ASOs conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1. As shown in the figure below, we evaluated the severity of myotonia on a four-point scale 14 days following dosing with saline (PBS), naked ASO and the conjugated ASO, with grade 0 representing no myotonia, grade 1 representing myotonic discharge as measured by electromyography (EMG) in less than 50% of needle insertions, grade 2 representing myotonic discharge in greater than 50% of needle insertions and grade 3 representing myotonic discharge with nearly every needle insertion. We conducted this evaluation in quadriceps, gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscles.

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Single dose of FORCE reversed myotonia in HSA-LR DM1 mouse model

 

 

Separately, in a third-party study of a naked ASO conducted in the same HSA-LR model by the company that discontinued its program due to delivery challenges, reductions in myotonia were observed after one month following eight 25 mg/kg doses of a naked ASO administered biweekly for a total dose of 200 mg/kg.

 

We believe the correction of splicing and reduction of myotonia we observed in our studies show that the intravenously administered ASO conjugated to a Fab was internalized into multiple muscles, enabling the ASO payload to enter the nucleus and degrade toxic DMPK RNA, thereby releasing splicing proteins to correct splicing of multiple RNAs and reverse myotonia.

 

Reduction of toxic human nuclear DMPK in a DM1 mouse disease model

We have developed an innovative hTfR1/DMSXL mouse model designed to evaluate pharmacodynamics and accelerate the advancement of our DM1 program. This model was designed with two key characteristics:

 

 

it expresses a human TfR1, or hTfR1, rather than the murine TfR1 expressed in WT mice, enabling uptake of human TfR1-targeting Fabs; and

 

it expresses murine WT DMPK and toxic human nuclear DMPK that represents a severe DM1 phenotype with more than 1,000 CTG repeats.

 

 These characteristics enable us to evaluate the ability of our lead DM1 candidate to reduce toxic human nuclear DMPK RNA. This hTfR1/DMSXL mouse model is illustrated below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Overview of hTfR1/DMSXL DM1 mouse model

 

 

In a preclinical study using the hTfR1/DMSXL mouse model, as shown below, we observed that two doses of an ASO conjugated to a Fab targeting human TfR1 resulted in significant reductions after 14 days in toxic human nuclear DMPK RNA in the tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, heart and diaphragm muscles. In the study, our candidate was well tolerated.

 

FORCE reduced toxic human nuclear DMPK RNA in multiple muscles in hTfR1/DMSXL DM1 mouse model

 

** P < 0.01

*** P < 0.001

**** P < 0.0001

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Separately, in a third-party study of a naked ASO conducted in a DMSXL mouse model, after 44 days and significantly more and higher doses of the naked ASO, the naked ASO achieved toxic human nuclear DMPK knockdown at levels comparable to what we observed after 14 days in our study in the hTfR1/DMSXL mouse model.

 

Enhanced muscle distribution

While oligonucleotides are rationally designed genetic medicines, the current limitations with respect to delivery of oligonucleotides to muscle tissue present a significant limitation to advancing modern oligonucleotide therapeutics for muscle diseases. We have designed our FORCE platform to overcome these limitations. In preclinical studies, we observed that a single intravenous dose of one of our ASOs conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 was able to deliver its DMPK-targeted ASO payload to skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle cells in mice and non-human primates and decrease WT DMPK RNA in the cytoplasm of different muscle cells.

 

We have observed dose-dependent and long-lasting reductions in the levels of DMPK in WT mice. In preclinical studies shown in the figures below, one of our ASOs when conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in levels of cytoplasmic WT DMPK RNA that was greater than the reductions observed with the naked ASO. In this study we also evaluated our ASO conjugated to a Fab “scramble control” which does not bind to any known murine cell receptor in the gastrocnemius, soleus, heart and diaphragm muscles, at two dose levels, to demonstrate the advantage of leveraging TfR1 to deliver oligonucleotides to muscle. The percentages in the green boxes reflect the amount by which DMPK RNA decreased with the conjugated ASO compared to saline (PBS) administration.

 

FORCE dose-dependently decreased DMPK RNA

 

 

              Dose A: low dose

              Dose B: high dose

              * P < 0.05

              ** P < 0.01

              *** P < 0.001

 

We have also observed results in preclinical studies important to our efforts to develop redosable, titratable and durable therapeutics under our FORCE platform. Specifically, we observed durability of

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response up to 12 weeks in the tibialis anterior muscle and other muscles after a single dose in WT mice. In addition, repeat doses in WT mice were well tolerated and resulted in increased reductions in cytoplasmic WT DMPK RNA as compared to single doses.

 

We have also developed a distinct hTfR1 mouse model which expresses a human TfR1, rather than the murine TfR1 expressed in WT mice, and cytoplasmic WT DMPK. In preclinical studies using the hTfR1 mouse model, as shown below, we observed that two doses of an ASO conjugated to a Fab targeting human TfR1 resulted in significant reductions in cytoplasmic WT DMPK RNA in the tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, heart and diaphragm muscles.

 

FORCE decreased WT DMPK RNA in hTfR1 mouse model

 

 

** P < 0.01

**** P < 0.0001

 

We also are evaluating our DM1 program in non-human primates. Currently there are no known DM1 disease models in non-human primates. As a result, any therapeutic candidate that reduces DMPK RNA expression in non-human primates is a result of targeting cytoplasmic WT DMPK RNA and not reflective of disease modification, which would require targeting toxic DMPK RNA in the nucleus. Consequently, we utilize non-human primate studies to evaluate muscle delivery, pharmacokinetics and tolerability of our FORCE platform. As shown in the figure below, in studies in non-human primates, a single intravenous dose of one of our ASOs when conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 reduced cytoplasmic DMPK RNA in multiple skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscles. In addition, and also as shown in the figure below, our conjugated ASO produced greater reductions, or knockdown (KD), in DMPK RNA than an equivalent dose of the naked ASO. Furthermore, our conjugated ASO produced less knockdown in DMPK RNA in non-muscle tissues, including kidney, liver and spleen tissues, as compared to a naked ASO, which we believe indicates specificity of our conjugated ASO for muscle tissue. Treatment with our conjugated ASO in these non-human primates was well tolerated with no clinically meaningful changes in hematology, serum biochemistry, platelet numbers, iron homeostasis, or kidney or liver function.

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FORCE significantly decreased cytoplasmic DMPK RNA in non-human primate skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle

 

 

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Next steps

In our preclinical studies, we have observed targeting of mutant DMPK RNA in the nucleus, reduction of nuclear foci and splicing correction of key genes in DM1 patient cells, dose-dependent correction of splicing and reversal of myotonia after a single dose in the HSA-LR mouse DM1 model, reduction of toxic human nuclear DMPK in a hTfR1/DMSXL DM1 mouse model developed by us, durability of DMPK RNA knockdown up to 12 weeks, enhanced DMPK RNA knockdown with repeat dosing in WT and hTfr1 mice and enhanced delivery of DMPK-targeting ASO payload to murine and non-human primate skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle tissue.

 

Based on these results, we plan to conduct IND-enabling safety studies in non-human primates and anticipate submitting an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our DM1 program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)

Overview

We are developing program candidates under our DMD program to address the genetic basis of DMD by delivering a PMO to muscle tissue to promote the skipping of specific DMD exons in the nucleus, allowing muscle cells to create a more complete, functional dystrophin protein and to potentially stop or reverse disease progression. We believe that PMOs, with their preferential targeting of nuclear mechanisms, are the best payload to address nuclear exon skipping. In in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies, our PMOs when conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 have shown increased exon skipping, increased dystrophin expression, reduced muscle damage and increased muscle function. We are seeking to build a DMD franchise by initially focusing on the development of a therapeutic for patients with mutations amenable to skipping Exon 51, to be followed by the development of therapeutics for patients with mutations amenable to skipping other exons, including Exon 53, 45 and 44. We expect to submit an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our Exon 51 skipping program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Disease overview and prevalence

DMD is a monogenic, X-linked, disease caused by mutations in the gene that encodes for the dystrophin protein. Dystrophin protein is essential to maintain the structural integrity and normal function of muscle cells for walking, breathing and cardiac function. In patients with DMD, mutations in the dystrophin gene lead to certain exons being misread, resulting in the loss of function of the dystrophin protein. The reduction or absence of dystrophin leads to damage to muscle cell membranes, resulting in muscle cell death and progressive loss of muscle function.

 

DMD symptoms typically begin to manifest with weakness and progressive loss of muscle function beginning in the first few years of life. Young boys experience progressive muscle wasting and have difficulty standing up, climbing stairs, running, breathing and performing daily functions. As the disease progresses the severity of damage to skeletal and cardiac muscles results in patients experiencing total loss of ambulation in the pre-teenage or early teenage years. Progressive loss of upper extremity function is often observed in the mid-to-late teens followed by respiratory and/or cardiac failure, resulting in death before the age of 30.

 

We estimate that DMD occurs in approximately one in every 3,500 to 5,000 live male births and that approximately 12,000 to 15,000 patients in the United States, and approximately 25,000 patients in Europe, have DMD. Approximately 80% of patients with DMD have DMD mutations amenable to exon skipping in the nucleus. Exons 51, 53, 45 and 44 represent nearly half of the total mutations observed in DMD that are amenable to exon skipping, as illustrated in the figure below.

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Overview of DMD exons amenable to skipping

 

 

Current approaches and limitations

Currently, patients with DMD are treated with corticosteroids to manage the inflammatory component of the disease. There are four FDA-approved naked PMO-based oligonucleotide therapies, each addressing a specific mutation: EXONDYS 51 (eteplirsen), which is approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to Exon 51 skipping, VYONDYS 53 (golodirsen), which is approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to Exon 53 skipping, VILTEPSO (vitolarsen), which is approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to Exon 53 skipping and AMONDYS 45 (casimersen), which is approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to EXON 45 skipping. However, each of the drugs requires weekly intravenous infusions. Eteplirsen, golodirsen and casimersen have demonstrated a less than 1% mean increase in dystrophin in clinical trials and vitolarsen has demonstrated an approximately 3% increase in dystrophin in clinical trials. The FDA-approved labels for all four drugs state that a clinical benefit has not yet been established and that continued approval may be contingent upon the verification of such clinical benefit in confirmatory clinical trials. In Europe, the European Medicines Agency has rejected an application for approval of eteplirsen citing insufficient evidence of clinical benefit. In addition, a fourth drug, TRANSLARNA (ataluren), has only been conditionally approved in the European Union, Iceland and South Korea for non-sense mutations in DMD in ambulatory patients aged five years and older. Each of these approved products seeks to address DMD through the exon skipping approach we are pursuing, but we believe their limited efficacy is due to poor muscle uptake and biodistribution. There are a number of product candidates in development, including product candidates in late stage clinical development, which seek to address DMD through the exon skipping approach we are pursuing, including naked oligonucleotides, targeted oligonucleotides and PMOs conjugated to charged peptides, as well as product candidates that seek to address DMD through gene editing and gene replacement with viral gene therapies and with other approaches. We believe that each of these approaches currently have significant limitations, and that there continues to be a high unmet medical need for new disease-modifying therapies.

 

Our approach

Our DMD program is designed to address the genetic basis of DMD by promoting the skipping of specific DMD exons in the nucleus, allowing muscle cells to create more complete, functional dystrophin protein. Under our DMD program, we are developing program candidates for intravenous infusion that incorporate a Fab targeting TfR1 conjugated to a PMO designed to promote the skipping of specific DMD exons in the nucleus. Existing clinical data generated by others supports the benefits of utilizing a single stranded ASO or PMO to skip the faulty exon in the nucleus of DMD patient cells. We believe the Fab targeting TfR1 allows for more efficient delivery of a PMO to skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle cells, creating an opportunity to increase dystrophin expression, enable less frequent dosing and provide greater clinical benefit compared to current therapeutic approaches. We plan to develop our program candidates for DMD with a PMO, initially for Exon 51 and in the future for other exon mutations including Exons 53, 45

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and 44. We have identified potential PMOs for mutations amenable to skipping Exons 51, 53 and 45 and plan to identify PMOs for mutations amenable to skipping Exon 44.

 

Preclinical data

We are conducting preclinical studies of our PMOs conjugated to Fabs targeting TfR1 in human DMD cell lines and in mouse models of DMD. In in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies, these PMOs when conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 have shown increased exon skipping, increased dystrophin expression, reduced muscle damage and increased muscle function. We believe these data support the potential for our oligonucleotide therapy to be a disease-modifying therapy for patients with DMD.

 

Increased exon skipping

We evaluated a candidate Exon 51-targeting PMO conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 in human DMD myotubes, a type of muscle cell, with a mutation amenable to Exon 51 skipping. We observed that treatment with the conjugated PMO resulted in a 50% increase in exon skipping as compared to a 25% increase in exon skipping following treatment with an equimolar dose of the naked PMO (p=0.001), as illustrated in the figure below.

 

FORCE increased exon skipping in human DMD myotubes with exon 51 mutation

 

 

              *** P < 0.001

 

In studies in the mdx mouse DMD model, a validated and widely accepted mouse model in DMD which has a mutation in Exon 23, we observed that single intravenous doses of an Exon 23-targeting PMO conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 which we refer to as FORCE-M23D, achieved effective, dose-dependent exon skipping in multiple muscles, including in the quadriceps, diaphragm and cardiac muscles, 14 days following treatment, as illustrated in the figure below.

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FORCE achieved effective exon skipping in mdx mouse DMD model

 

 

Levels of exon skipping of FORCE-M23D in this study were also higher than levels of exon skipping observed in third-party studies of a naked PMO or a stereopure ASO in the same mdx mouse model.

 

Increased dystrophin expression

In the same mdx mouse DMD model, we observed that the exon skipping promoted by a Exon 23-targeting PMO when conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 resulted in dose-dependent production of dystrophin protein in the quadriceps muscle, as illustrated in the western blot (top) and bar graph (bottom) below. Levels of dystrophin expression in this study were also higher than levels of dystrophin expression observed in a third-party study of a naked PMO in the same mdx mouse model. In this study, we utilized Alpha-Actinin as a control protein.

 

FORCE dose-dependently increased dystrophin expression in mdx mouse DMD model quadriceps muscle

 

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We also observed in the mdx mouse DMD model that a single dose of FORCE-M23D restored dystrophin expression to the muscle cell membrane based on immunohistochemistry in the quadricep. In addition, FORCE-M23D restored more dystrophin compared to an equivalent dose of the naked PMO which we refer to as naked M23D, as indicated by the greater purple shading in the figure for FORCE-M23D as compared to naked M23D and a saline control.

 

Dystrophin expression in quadriceps muscle

 

 

 

We believe localization of dystrophin to the muscle cell membrane is critical to restore muscle cell structural integrity and function in patients with DMD and that these data show more effective PMO delivery to muscle when using our conjugated PMO as compared to the naked PMO.

 

Reduced muscle damage

In DMD patients, the reduction of muscle cell structural integrity leads to muscle cell membrane damage and the leakage of creatine kinase (CK), an enzyme normally found inside muscle cells, into serum. As a result, the presence of creatine kinase in serum is utilized as a biomarker for muscle damage in DMD. In preclinical studies in the mdx mouse DMD model, we observed that levels of creatine kinase decreased significantly more in mice treated with a single dose of FORCE-M23D when measured two and four weeks following dosing compared to mice treated with naked M23D, as illustrated in the figure below.

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Single dose of FORCE significantly reduced serum creatine kinase in mdx mouse DMD model

 

 

          **** P < 0.0001

 

Increased muscle function

In additional preclinical studies in the mdx mouse DMD model, we observed that a single dose of FORCE-M23D demonstrated a functional benefit in multiple standardized assessments conducted in blinded conditions. In a hind limb fatigue challenge, mice treated with a single dose of FORCE-M23D performed significantly better than those treated with naked M23D two weeks following treatment. In addition, the performance of the mdx mice treated with FORCE-M23D was statistically equivalent to the performance of a control cohort of healthy, wild-type mice treated with saline, as illustrated in the figure below.

 

Single dose of FORCE demonstrated functional benefit in mdx mouse DMD model: hind limb fatigue challenge

 

 

** P < 0.01

*** P < 0.001

NS: not statistically significant

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In the home cage running wheel study, the distance traveled by mice is measured over a 24-hour period. In this functional assessment, mdx mice treated with a single dose of FORCE-M23D performed better than those treated with naked M23D four weeks following treatment, with the performance of the mdx mice treated with FORCE-M23D mirroring the performance of a control cohort of healthy, wild-type mice treated with saline, as illustrated in the figure below. In this study, the mice were subjected to both light and dark periods to simulate the course of a day, and activity was higher during dark periods reflecting the nocturnal nature of mice.

 

Single dose of FORCE demonstrated functional benefit in mdx mouse DMD model: home cage running wheel

 

 

We believe the results from these preclinical studies are consistent with improvements in both skeletal and cardiac muscle function resulting from targeted delivery of PMOs in muscle tissue, enhanced exon skipping, increased dystrophin expression and improved muscle health.

 

Next steps

We are seeking to build a DMD franchise by initially focusing on the development of a therapeutic for patients with mutations amenable to skipping Exon 51, to be followed by the development of therapeutics for patients with mutations amenable to skipping other exons, including Exons 53, 45 and 44. We plan to conduct IND-enabling safety studies in non-human primates and anticipate submitting an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our Exon 51 skipping program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Facioscapulohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD)

Overview

We are developing program candidates under our FSHD program that are designed to address the genetic basis of FSHD by reducing DUX4 expression in muscle tissue. We exclusively licensed from the University of Mons, or UMONS, intellectual property covering multiple ASOs that have been shown to potently target DUX4 in preclinical studies. We anticipate submitting an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our FSHD program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Disease overview and prevalence

FSHD is one of the most common muscular dystrophies and affects both sexes equally, with onset typically in teens and young adults. FSHD is characterized by progressive skeletal muscle loss that initially causes weakness in muscles in the face, shoulders, arms and trunk and progresses to weakness

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in muscles in lower extremities and the pelvic girdle. Skeletal muscle weakness results in significant physical limitations, including progressive loss of facial muscles that can cause an inability to smile or communicate, difficulty using arms for activities of daily living and difficulty getting out of bed, with many patients ultimately becoming dependent upon the use of a wheelchair for daily mobility activities. We estimate that the patient population is between 16,000 and 38,000 in the United States and approximately 35,000 in Europe. We believe that there may be additional patients who are not formally diagnosed due to a perceived difficulty of obtaining a diagnosis and the fact that there are no approved treatments. Approximately two-thirds of cases are familial-inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion and one-third of cases occur randomly or as a result of environmental factors. FSHD affects all ethnic groups with similar incidence and prevalence.

 

FSHD is caused by aberrant expression of the DUX4 gene in muscle resulting in inappropriate presence of the DUX4 protein, a transcription factor causing the expression of other genes. Normally, DUX4-driven gene expression is limited to early embryonic development, after which time the DUX4 gene is silenced. In patients with FSHD, a genetic mutation causes expression of DUX4 protein to continue after embryonic development. The DUX4 protein regulates the expression of multiple genes encoding other proteins, some of which are toxic to muscle. Evidence of aberrant expression of DUX4 and the genes it activates, including ZSCAN4, MBD3L2, and TRIM43, is a major molecular signature that distinguishes muscles affected by FSHD from healthy muscle. The aberrant expression of DUX4 in FSHD results in muscle death and replacement by fat, which leads to the progressive muscle weakness and disability which characterize the disease, as shown in the figure below.

 

FSHD: genetic basis and disease process

 

 

Current approaches and limitations

There are currently no approved therapies for FSHD, and patients are treated with pain management and physical therapy. There are a number of product candidates in clinical development, including losmapimod, a p38 MAPK inhibitor that is intended to modulate DUX4 expression and is being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial. To aid in the development of therapies for FSHD, we are sponsoring an ongoing natural history study seeking to validate new clinical outcome assessments and evaluate physiological biomarkers to support the design and implementation of future clinical trials.

 

Our approach

We are developing program candidates under our FSHD program that are designed to address the genetic basis of FSHD by reducing DUX4 expression in muscle tissue. We exclusively licensed from UMONS intellectual property covering multiple DUX-targeting ASOs that have been shown to potently target DUX4 in preclinical studies. We are currently evaluating these ASOs conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1 in patient-derived FSHD myotubes.

 

As shown in the figure below, we administered to patient-derived myotubes an ASO conjugated to a Fab targeting TfR1, which we refer to as FORCE-FM10, and naked FM10 and observed reduced DUX4-associated gene expression, as measured by the mRNA transcribed by three genes that are known to be only expressed following DUX4 activation, MBD3L2, TRIM43 and ZSCAN4. In addition, IC50

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concentrations for the conjugated FM10 were up to 9.6 times lower than those observed for naked FM10, indicating that conjugated FORCE-FM10 was up to 9.6 times more potent than naked FM10. IC50 concentration is a measure of the potency of a substance that indicates how much of the substance is needed to inhibit a biological process.

 

FORCE-FM10 suppressed expression of key DUX4 biomarkers in FSHD patient myotubes

 

 

Next steps

We plan to conduct IND-enabling safety studies in non-human primates and anticipate submitting an IND to the FDA for a product candidate in our FSHD program as one of the three INDs we expect to submit between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

Discovery programs

We intend to expand our FORCE portfolio by pursuing programs in additional indications, including additional rare skeletal muscle diseases, as well as cardiac and metabolic muscle diseases. By rationally selecting therapeutic payloads to conjugate with our proprietary Fab and linker, we plan to develop product candidates to address the genetic basis of additional muscle diseases. In selecting these payloads, we plan to prioritize ASOs for indications driven by nuclear genetic targets and siRNAs for indications driven by cytoplasmic targets. We have completed screening and identified potent ASO and siRNA payloads against a number of cardiac and metabolic targets. We may selectively establish strategic collaborations for certain of these programs where we believe we could benefit from the resources or capabilities of other biopharmaceutical companies. We may also seek strategic collaborations where we believe we can utilize our FORCE platform to enhance delivery of third-party payloads to muscle tissue.

In addition to our muscle disease portfolio, we believe there is an opportunity to leverage our TfR1 antibody expertise to develop novel antibodies that cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver therapeutics to CNS tissue through systemic intravenous administration. These antibodies will likely have different characteristics, such as TfR1 affinity, than the antibodies we have optimized for muscle delivery.

 

Manufacturing

We do not own or operate manufacturing facilities. We currently rely on third-party contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, and suppliers for the Fab antibodies, linker and oligonucleotide payloads that comprise our program candidates and the conjugation of these components. We plan to use third-party CMOs to support our IND-enabling studies and to fully supply our clinical trials and commercial activities, but may also seek to eventually establish our own manufacturing facility for long-term commercial supply. As we scale manufacturing, we intend to continue to expand and strengthen our network of CMOs. We believe there are multiple sources for all of the materials required for the manufacture of our product candidates, as well as multiple CMOs who could assemble the antibody, linker and payload that comprise our program candidates.

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Manufacturing is subject to extensive regulations that impose procedural and documentation requirements. These regulations govern record keeping, manufacturing processes and controls, personnel, quality control and quality assurance. Our CMOs are required to comply with these regulations and are assessed through regular monitoring and formal audits. Our third-party manufacturers are required to manufacture any product candidates we develop under current Good Manufacturing Practice, or cGMP, requirements and other applicable laws and regulations.

 

We have personnel with extensive technical, manufacturing, analytical and quality experience to oversee all contracted manufacturing and testing activities. We have established a CMC Advisory Board to support our manufacturing personnel.

 

Intellectual property

We strive to protect our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, platforms, program candidates, product candidates and components thereof, their methods of use and processes for their manufacture that we believe are important to our business, including by obtaining, maintaining, defending and enforcing patent and other intellectual property rights for the foregoing in the United States and in foreign jurisdictions. We also rely on trade secrets and confidentiality agreements to protect our confidential information and know-how and other aspects of our business that are not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection.

 

Our future commercial success depends in part on our ability to:

 

 

obtain, maintain, enforce and defend patent and other intellectual property rights for our important technology, inventions and know-how;

 

preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets and other confidential information;

 

obtain and maintain licenses to use and exploit intellectual property owned or controlled by third parties;

 

operate without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating any valid and enforceable patents and other intellectual property rights of third parties; and

 

defend against challenges and assertions by third parties challenging the validity or enforceability of our intellectual property rights, or our rights in our intellectual property, or asserting that the operation of our business infringes, misappropriates or otherwise violates their intellectual property rights.

 

As of March 2, 2021, we owned 36 patent application families related to our business, comprised of 40 U.S. provisional patent applications, 10 pending U.S. non-provisional patent applications, 14 pending Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT, patent applications, and 75 pending foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, Europe, Eurasia, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa, and we exclusively licensed one patent family, comprised of two issued U.S. patents, two pending U.S. patent applications and one issued European patent that has been validated in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden. None of our pending PCT patent applications has entered the national stage.

 

Our owned and licensed patent estate covers various aspects of our programs and technology, including our FORCE platform, proprietary antibodies, oligonucleotide conjugates, methods of treatment and aspects of manufacturing. Any U.S. or foreign patents issued from national stage filings of our PCT patent applications and any U.S. patents issued from non-provisional applications we may file in connection with our provisional patent applications would be scheduled to expire on various dates from 2039 through 2041, without taking into account any possible patent term adjustments or extensions and assuming payment of all appropriate maintenance, renewal, annuity and other governmental fees. Further details on certain segments of our patent portfolio are included below.

 

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FORCE platform

With regard to our FORCE platform, as of March 2, 2021, we owned four pending PCT patent applications, nineteen pending U.S. provisional patent applications, one pending U.S. non-provisional patent application, and eleven pending foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, Europe, Eurasia, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa. These applications relate to various aspects of our FORCE platform including proprietary antibodies, oligonucleotide conjugates, methods of manufacture and methods of treatment. Any patents issued from these applications are expected to expire from 2039 to 2041; however, patent term extension may be available.

 

DM1 program

With regard to our DM1 program, as of March 2, 2021, we owned two pending PCT patent applications, seven pending U.S. provisional patent applications, one pending U.S. non-provisional patent application, and eleven pending foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, Europe, Eurasia, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa. These applications relate to composition of matter and methods of treating disease involving our FORCE platform in the context of DM1. Any patents issued from these applications are expected to expire from 2039 to 2041; however, patent term extension may be available.

 

DMD program

With regard to our DMD program, as of March 2, 2021, we owned one pending PCT patent application, five pending U.S. provisional patent applications, one pending US non-provisional patent application, and eleven pending foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, Europe, Eurasia, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa. These applications relate to composition of matter and methods of treating disease involving our FORCE platform in the context of DMD. Any patents issued from these applications are expected to expire in 2039 and 2041; however, patent term extension may be available.

 

FSHD program

With regard to our FSHD Program, as of March 2, 2021, we owned one pending PCT patent application, five pending U.S. provisional patent applications, one pending US non-provisional patent application, and eleven pending foreign patent applications in Australia, Canada, Europe, Eurasia, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa. These applications relate to composition of matter and methods of treating disease involving our FORCE platform in the context of FSHD. Any patents issued from these applications are expected to expire in 2039 and 2041; however, patent term extension may be available. We also in-license a patent family from UMONS comprised of two issued U.S. patents, two pending U.S. patent applications and one issued European patent that has been validated in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden. The issued patents expire in 2031; however, a patent term extension may be available.

 

Discovery programs

With regard to our discovery programs, as of March 2, 2021, we owned five pending PCT patent applications, one pending US non-provisional patent application, and one European patent application. These applications relate to composition of matter and methods of treating disease involving our FORCE platform in the context of a variety of additional rare skeletal muscle diseases, as well as cardiac and metabolic muscle diseases. Any patents issued from these applications are expected to expire in 2039 and 2041; however, patent term extension may be available.

 

Patent prosecution

A PCT patent application is not eligible to become an issued patent until, among other things, we file one or more national stage patent applications in the jurisdictions in which we seek patent protection and do so within prescribed timelines of the PCT application’s priority date. These prescribed timelines are generally 30 months, 31 months or 32 months, depending on the jurisdiction. If we do not timely file any

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national stage patent applications, we may lose our priority date with respect to our PCT patent application and any potential patent protection on the inventions disclosed in such PCT patent application.

 

Moreover, a provisional patent application is not eligible to become an issued patent. A provisional patent application may serve as a priority filing for a non-provisional patent application we file within 12 months of such provisional patent application. If we do not timely file non-provisional patent applications, we may lose our priority date with respect to our existing provisional patent applications and any potential patent protection on the inventions disclosed in our provisional patent applications.

 

While we intend to timely file additional provisional patent applications and national stage and non-provisional patent applications relating to our PCT patent applications, we cannot predict whether any of our patent applications will result in the issuance of patents. If we do not successfully obtain patent protection, or if the scope of the patent protection we or our licensors obtain with respect to our product candidates or technology is insufficient, we will be unable to use patent protection to prevent others from using our technology or from developing or commercializing technology and products similar or identical to ours or other similar competing products and technologies. Our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell, importing or otherwise commercializing any of our technology, inventions and improvements, either directly or indirectly, will depend in part on our success in obtaining, maintaining, defending and enforcing patent claims that cover our technology, inventions and improvements.

 

The patent positions of companies like ours are generally uncertain and involve complex legal and factual questions. The protection afforded by a patent varies on a product-by-product basis, from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction, and depends upon many factors, including the type of patent, the scope of its coverage, the availability of patent term adjustments and regulatory-related patent term extensions, the availability of legal remedies in a particular jurisdiction and the validity and enforceability of the patent. Patent laws and related enforcement in various jurisdictions outside of the United States are uncertain and may not protect our rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. Changes in the patent laws and rules, whether by legislation, judicial decisions or regulatory interpretation, in the United States and other jurisdictions may have uncertain affects that could improve or diminish our ability to protect our inventions and obtain, maintain, defend and enforce our patent rights, and could therefore affect the value of our business in uncertain ways.

 

The area of patent and other intellectual property rights in biotechnology is evolving and has many risks and uncertainties, and third parties may have blocking patents and other intellectual property that could be used to prevent us from commercializing our platform and product candidates and practicing our proprietary technology. Our patent rights may be challenged, narrowed, circumvented, invalidated or ruled unenforceable, which could limit our ability to stop third parties from marketing and commercializing related platforms or product candidates or limit the term of patents that cover our platform and any product candidates. In addition, the rights granted under any issued patents may not provide us with protection or competitive advantages against third parties with similar technology, and third parties may independently develop similar technologies.

 

Moreover, because of the extensive time required for development, testing and regulatory review of a potential product, it is possible that before any of our product candidates can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in force for only a short period following commercialization, thereby reducing any competitive advantage provided by the patent. For this and other risks related to our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, platforms and product candidates and intellectual property rights related to the foregoing, please see the section entitled “Risk factors—Risks related to our intellectual property.”

 

Patent term

The term of individual patents depends upon the laws of the jurisdictions in which they are obtained. In most jurisdictions in which we file, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing of the

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first non-provisional patent application to which the patent claims priority. However, the term of U.S. patents may be extended or adjusted for delays incurred due to compliance with FDA requirements or by delays encountered during prosecution that are caused by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO. For example, in the United States, a patent claiming a new biologic product, its method of use or its method of manufacture may be eligible for a limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, or the Hatch-Waxman Act, for up to five years beyond the normal expiration date of the patent. Patent term extension cannot be used to extend the remaining term of a patent past a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date in the United States. Only one patent applicable to an approved product is eligible for the extension, and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent for which extension is sought. A patent that covers multiple products for which approval is sought can only be extended in connection with one of the approvals. During the period of extension, if granted, the scope of exclusivity is limited to the approved product for approved uses. Some foreign jurisdictions, including Europe and Japan, have analogous patent term extension provisions, which allow for extension of the term of a patent that covers a drug approved by the applicable foreign regulatory agency. For more information on patent term extensions, see Item 1. “Business—Government regulation—Patent term restoration and extension” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. In the future, if and when any product candidates we may develop receive FDA approval, we expect to apply for patent term extensions on issued patents covering those product candidates. Moreover, we intend to seek patent term adjustments and extensions for any of our issued patents in any jurisdiction where such adjustments and extensions are available. However, there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities, including the USPTO and FDA, will agree with our assessment of whether such adjustments and extensions should be granted, and even if granted, the length of such adjustments and extensions.

 

Trade secrets

In addition to patent protection, we also rely on trade secrets, know-how, unpatented technology and other proprietary information to strengthen our competitive position. We currently, and may continue in the future continue to, rely on third parties to assist us in developing and manufacturing our products. Accordingly, we must, at times, share trade secrets, know-how, unpatented technology and other proprietary information, including those related to our platform, with them. We may in the future also enter into research and development collaborations with third parties that may require us to share trade secrets, know-how, unpatented technology and other proprietary information under the terms of research and development partnerships or similar agreements. Nonetheless, we take steps to protect and preserve our trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information and prevent the unauthorized disclosure of the foregoing, including by entering into non-disclosure and invention assignment agreements with parties who have access to our trade secrets or other confidential and proprietary information, such as employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, contract research and manufacturing organizations, sponsored researchers and other advisors, at the commencement of their employment, consulting or other relationships with us. In addition, we take other appropriate precautions, such as maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems, to guard against any misappropriation or unauthorized disclosure of our trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information by third parties.

 

Despite these efforts, third parties may independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques or otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or other confidential or proprietary information. In addition, we cannot provide any assurances that all of the foregoing non-disclosure and invention assignment agreements have been duly executed, and any of the counterparties to such agreements may breach them and disclose our trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information. Although we have confidence in the measures we take to protect and preserve our trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information, they may be inadequate, our agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for such breaches. Moreover, to the extent that our employees, contractors, consultants, collaborators and advisors use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to our rights in any know-how or inventions arising out of such work. For more information, please see the section entitled “Risk factors—Risks related to our intellectual property.”

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License agreement with the University of Mons

In April 2020, we entered into a license agreement with UMONS, or the UMONS Agreement, pursuant to which UMONS granted to us an exclusive, worldwide license to certain patents and patent applications related to oligonucleotides for our FSHD program and a non-exclusive, worldwide license to existing, related know-how. Each of the issued patents licensed to us under the UMONS Agreement is scheduled to expire in 2031. The licenses under the UMONS Agreement confer on us the right to research, develop and commercialize products, which we refer to as licensed products, and to practice processes, in each case, covered by the licensed patents and existing, related know-how.

 

Under the UMONS Agreement, we are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop at least one licensed product and, to the extent regulatory approval is obtained in such jurisdictions, to commercialize at least one licensed product in the United States and the United Kingdom or a member country of the European Union. Unless terminated earlier, the UMONS Agreement will remain in effect until the last to expire of the licensed patent rights on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis. UMONS may terminate the UMONS Agreement in the event of a material breach by us and our failure to cure such breach within a specified time period. We may voluntarily terminate the UMONS Agreement with prior notice to UMONS.

 

In connection with our entry into the UMONS Agreement, we paid UMONS an upfront payment of €50,000. We also agreed to make milestone payments to UMONS upon the achievement of specified development and regulatory milestones up to a maximum aggregate total of €400,000 for the first licensed product to achieve such milestones and up to a maximum aggregate total of €200,000 for each subsequent licensed product to achieve each such milestones, as well as a low single-digit percentage royalty on net sales of licensed products by us, our affiliates and sublicensees. These royalty obligations continue on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis until the expiration of the last licensed patent rights covering such licensed product in such country. In addition, if we sublicense rights under the UMONS Agreement, we are required to pay a low double-digit percentage of the sublicense revenue to UMONS. Additionally, if we choose to file, prosecute or maintain any patents included in the licensed patent rights under the UMONS Agreement, we will be required to bear the full cost and expenses of preparing, filing, prosecuting and maintaining any such patents.

 

Competition

The biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries generally, and the muscle disease field specifically, are characterized by rapid evolution of technologies, sharp competition and strong defense of intellectual property. Any product candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will have to compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future. While we believe that our technology, development experience and scientific knowledge in the field of muscle diseases, oligonucleotide therapeutics and manufacturing provide us with competitive advantages, we face potential competition from many different sources, including major pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic institutions and governmental agencies and public and private research institutions.

 

There are currently no approved therapies to treat the underlying cause of DM1. Product candidates currently in development to treat DM1 include: tideglusib, a GSK3-ß inhibitor in late-stage clinical development by AMO Pharma Ltd. for the congenital phenotype of DM1; AT466, which is an AAV-antisense candidate in preclinical development by Audentes Therapeutics, Inc.; an antibody linked siRNA in preclinical development by Avidity Biosciences, Inc.; gene editing treatments in preclinical development by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., or Vertex; an RNA-targeting gene therapy in preclinical development by Locana, Inc.; small molecules interacting with RNA in preclinical development by Expansion Therapeutics, Inc. and therapeutics based on biomolecular condensate biology in preclinical development by Dewpoint Therapeutics, Inc.

 

Currently, patients with DMD are treated with corticosteroids to manage the inflammatory component of the disease. EMFLAZA (deflazacort) is an FDA-approved corticosteroid marketed by PTC Therapeutics,

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Inc., or PTC. In addition, there are four FDA-approved exon skipping drugs: EXONDYS 51 (eteplirsen), VYONDYS 53 (golodirsen) and AMONDYS 45 (casimersen), which are naked PMOs approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to Exon 51, Exon 53 and Exon 45 skipping, respectively, and are marketed by Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc., or Sarepta, and VILTEPSO (vitolarsen), a naked PMO approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to Exon 53 skipping, which is marketed by Nippon Shinyaku Co. Ltd. Companies focused on developing treatments for DMD that target dystrophin mechanisms, as does our DMD program, include Sarepta with SRP-5051, a peptide-linked PMO currently being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial for patients amenable to Exon 51 skipping, Wave Life Sciences Ltd. with WVE-N531, a stereopure oligonucleotide in preclinical development for patients amenable to Exon 53 skipping, PTC with ataluren, a small molecule targeting nonsense mutations in a Phase 3 clinical trial, and Avidity Biosciences, Inc., which is in preclinical development with an antibody oligonucleotide conjugate that targets dystrophin production. In addition, several companies are developing gene therapies to treat DMD, including Milo Biotechnology (AAV1-FS344), Pfizer Inc. (PF-06939926), Sarepta (SRP-9001 and Galgt2 gene therapy program), Solid Biosciences Inc. (SGT-001) and REGENXBIO Inc. Gene editing treatments that are in preclinical development are also being pursued by Vertex and Sarepta. We are also aware of several companies targeting non-dystrophin mechanisms for the treatment of DMD.

 

There are currently no therapies to treat the underlying cause of FSHD. Products currently in development to treat FSHD include: creatine monohydrate, a supplement that enhances muscle performance, which is being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and losmapimod, a p38 MAPK inhibitor that may modulate DUX4 expression, which is being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial by Fulcrum Therapeutics Inc.

 

We will also compete more generally with other companies developing alternative scientific and technological approaches, including other companies working to develop conjugates with oligonucleotides for extra-hepatic delivery, including Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Aro Biotherapeutics, Arrowhead Therapeutics, Avidity Biosciences, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Ionis Pharmaceuticals, NeuBase Therapeutics, Inc. and Sarepta, as well as gene therapy and gene editing approaches.

 

Many of our competitors, either independently or with strategic partners, have substantially greater financial, technical and human resources than we do. Accordingly, our competitors may be more successful than we are in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approval for treatments and achieving widespread market acceptance. Merger and acquisition activity in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries may result in resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. These companies also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials and acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies.

 

Our commercial opportunity could be substantially limited if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are more effective, safer, less toxic, more convenient or less expensive than products we may develop. In geographies that are critical to our commercial success, competitors may also obtain regulatory approvals before us, resulting in our competitors building a strong market position in advance of the entry of our products. In addition, our ability to compete may be affected in many cases by insurers or other third-party payers seeking to encourage the use of other drugs. The key competitive factors affecting the successful of all any products we may develop are likely to be their efficacy, safety, convenience, price and availability of reimbursement.

 

Government regulation

Government authorities in the United States, at the federal, state and local level and in other countries and jurisdictions, including the European Union, extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, pricing, reimbursement, sales, quality control, approval, packaging, storage, recordkeeping, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, marketing, post-approval monitoring and reporting and import and export of pharmaceutical products, including biological products. The

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processes for obtaining marketing approvals in the United States and in foreign countries and jurisdictions, along with subsequent compliance with applicable statutes and regulations and other regulatory authorities, require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.

 

Licensure and regulation of biologics in the United States

In the United States, any product candidates we may develop would be regulated as biological products, or biologics, under the Public Health Service Act, or PHSA, and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, and their implementing regulations and guidance. The failure to comply with the applicable U.S. requirements at any time during the product development process, including preclinical testing, clinical testing, the approval process, or post-approval process, may subject an applicant to delays in the conduct of the study, regulatory review and approval and/or administrative or judicial sanctions. These sanctions may include, but are not limited to, the FDA’s refusal to allow an applicant to proceed with clinical testing, refusal to approve pending applications, license suspension, or revocation, withdrawal of an approval, warning letters, adverse publicity, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines and civil or criminal investigations and penalties brought by the FDA or the Department of Justice, or DOJ, and other governmental entities, including state agencies.

 

An applicant seeking approval to market and distribute a new biologic in the United States generally must satisfactorily complete each of the following steps:

 

 

preclinical laboratory tests, animal studies and formulation studies all performed in accordance with the FDA’s Good Laboratory Practices, or GLP regulations;

 

completion of the manufacture, under cGMP conditions, of the drug substance and drug product that the sponsor intends to use in human clinical trials along with required analytical and stability testing;

 

submission to the FDA of an IND application for human clinical testing, which must become effective before human clinical trials may begin;

 

approval by an independent institutional review board, or IRB, representing each clinical site before each clinical trial may be initiated;

 

performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials to establish the safety, potency and purity of the product candidate for each proposed indication, in accordance with current Good Clinical Practices, or GCP;

 

preparation and submission to the FDA of a BLA for a biologic product requesting marketing for one or more proposed indications, including submission of detailed information on the manufacture and composition of the product in clinical development and proposed labelling;

 

review of the product by an FDA advisory committee, where appropriate or if applicable;

 

satisfactory completion of one or more FDA inspections of the manufacturing facility or facilities, including those of third parties, at which the product, or components thereof, are produced to assess compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMP, requirements and to assure that the facilities, methods and controls are adequate to preserve the product’s identity, strength, quality and purity;

 

satisfactory completion of any FDA audits of the preclinical studies and clinical trial sites to assure compliance with GLP, as applicable, and GCP, and the integrity of clinical data in support of the BLA;

 

payment of user Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, securing FDA approval of the BLA and licensure of the new biologic product; and

 

compliance with any post-approval requirements, including the potential requirement to implement a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, and any post-approval studies or other post-marketing commitments required by the FDA.

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Preclinical studies and investigational new drug application

Before testing any biologic product candidate in humans, including an antibody, the product candidate must undergo preclinical testing. Preclinical tests include laboratory evaluations of product chemistry, formulation and stability, as well as studies to evaluate the potential for efficacy and toxicity in animal studies. The conduct of the preclinical tests and formulation of the compounds for testing must comply with federal regulations and requirements. The results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information and analytical data, are submitted to the FDA as part of an IND application.

 

An IND is an exemption from the FDCA that allows an unapproved product candidate to be shipped in interstate commerce for use in an investigational clinical trial and a request for FDA authorization to administer such investigational product to humans. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless before that time the FDA raises concerns or questions about the product or conduct of the proposed clinical trial, including concerns that human research subjects will be exposed to unreasonable health risks. In that case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding FDA concerns before the clinical trials can begin or recommence.

 

As a result, submission of the IND may result in the FDA not allowing the trials to commence or allowing the trial to commence on the terms originally specified by the sponsor in the IND. If the FDA raises concerns or questions either during this initial 30-day period, or at any time during the IND review process, it may choose to impose a partial or complete clinical hold. Clinical holds are imposed by the FDA whenever there is concern for patient safety, may be a result of new data, findings, or developments in clinical, preclinical and/or chemistry, manufacturing and controls or where there is non-compliance with regulatory requirements. This order issued by the FDA would delay either a proposed clinical trial or cause suspension of an ongoing trial, until all outstanding concerns have been adequately addressed and the FDA has notified the company that investigations may proceed. This could cause significant delays or difficulties in completing our planned clinical trial or future clinical trials in a timely manner.

 

Expanded access to an investigational drug for treatment use

Expanded access, sometimes called “compassionate use,” is the use of investigational products outside of clinical trials to treat patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases or conditions when there are no comparable or satisfactory alternative treatment options. The rules and regulations related to expanded access are intended to improve access to investigational products for patients who may benefit from investigational therapies. FDA regulations allow access to investigational products under an IND by the company or the treating physician for treatment purposes on a case-by-case basis for: individual patients (single-patient IND applications for treatment in emergency settings and non-emergency settings); intermediate-size patient populations; and larger populations for use of the investigational product under a treatment protocol or treatment IND application.

 

When considering an IND application for expanded access to an investigational product with the purpose of treating a patient or a group of patients, the sponsor and treating physicians or investigators will determine suitability when all of the following criteria apply: patient(s) have a serious or immediately life-threatening disease or condition, and there is no comparable or satisfactory alternative therapy to diagnose, monitor, or treat the disease or condition; the potential patient benefit justifies the potential risks of the treatment and the potential risks are not unreasonable in the context or condition to be treated; and the expanded use of the investigational drug for the requested treatment will not interfere with initiation, conduct, or completion of clinical investigations that could support marketing approval of the product or otherwise compromise the potential development of the product.

 

There is no obligation for a sponsor to make its drug products available for expanded access; however, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act, or Cures Act, passed in 2016, if a sponsor has a policy regarding how it responds to expanded access requests, it must make that policy publicly available. Although these requirements were rolled out over time, they have now come into full effect. This provision requires drug and biologic companies to make publicly available their policies for expanded access for

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individual patient access to products intended for serious diseases. Sponsors are required to make such policies publicly available upon the earlier of initiation of a Phase 2 or Phase 3 trial; or 15 days after the investigational drug or biologic receives designation as a breakthrough therapy, fast track product, or regenerative medicine advanced therapy.

 

In addition, on May 30, 2018, the Right to Try Act was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to access certain investigational products that have completed a Phase 1 clinical trial and that are undergoing investigation for FDA approval. Under certain circumstances, eligible patients can seek treatment without enrolling in clinical trials and without obtaining FDA permission under the FDA expanded access program. There is no obligation for a manufacturer to make its investigational products available to eligible patients as a result of the Right to Try Act.

 

Human clinical trials in support of a BLA

Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational product candidate to healthy volunteers or patients with the disease or condition to be treated under the supervision of a qualified principal investigator in accordance with GCP requirements. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the trial, inclusion and exclusion criteria, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety, and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. A protocol for each clinical trial and any subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND.

 

A sponsor who wishes to conduct a clinical trial outside the United States may, but need not, obtain FDA authorization to conduct the clinical trial under an IND. When a foreign clinical trial is conducted under an IND, all FDA IND requirements must be met unless waived. When a foreign clinical trial is not conducted under an IND, the sponsor must ensure that the trial complies with certain regulatory requirements of the FDA in order to use the trial as support for an IND or application for marketing approval. Specifically, the FDA requires that such trials be conducted in accordance with GCP, including review and approval by an independent ethics committee and informed consent from participants. The GCP requirements encompass both ethical and data integrity standards for clinical trials. The FDA’s regulations are intended to help ensure the protection of human subjects enrolled in non-IND foreign clinical trials, as well as the quality and integrity of the resulting data. They further help ensure that non-IND foreign trials are conducted in a manner comparable to that required for clinical trials in the United States.

 

Further, each clinical trial must be reviewed and approved by an IRB either centrally or individually at each institution at which the clinical trial will be conducted. The IRB will consider, among other things, clinical trial design, patient informed consent, ethical factors, the safety of human subjects, and the possible liability of the institution. An IRB must operate in compliance with FDA regulations. The FDA, IRB, or the clinical trial sponsor may suspend or discontinue a clinical trial at any time for various reasons, including a finding that the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with FDA requirements or that the participants are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Clinical testing also must satisfy extensive GCP rules and the requirements for informed consent.

 

Additionally, some clinical trials are overseen by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical trial sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board, or DSMB. This group may recommend continuation of the trial as planned, changes in trial conduct, or cessation of the trial at designated check points based on certain available data from the trial to which only the DSMB has access. Finally, research activities involving infectious agents, hazardous chemicals, recombinant DNA and genetically altered organisms and agents may be subject to review and approval of an Institutional Biosafety Committee, or IBC, in accordance with NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules.

 

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Clinical trials typically are conducted in three sequential phases, but the phases may overlap or be combined. Additional studies may be required after approval.

 

 

Phase 1    clinical trials are initially conducted in a limited population to test the product candidate for safety, including adverse effects, dose tolerance, absorption, metabolism, distribution, excretion and pharmacodynamics in healthy subjects or patients.

 

Phase 2    clinical trials are generally conducted in a limited patient population to identify possible adverse effects and safety risks, evaluate the efficacy of the product candidate for specific targeted indications and determine dose tolerance and optimal dosage. Multiple Phase 2 clinical trials may be conducted by the sponsor to obtain information prior to beginning larger and more costly Phase 3 clinical trials.

 

Phase 3    clinical trials proceed if the Phase 2 clinical trials demonstrate that a dose range of the product candidate is potentially effective and has an acceptable safety profile. Phase 3 clinical trials are undertaken within an expanded patient population to further evaluate dosage, provide substantial evidence of clinical efficacy and further test for safety in an expanded and diverse patient population at multiple, geographically dispersed clinical trial sites. A well-controlled, statistically robust Phase 3 trial may be designed to deliver the data that regulatory authorities will use to decide whether or not to approve, and, if approved, how to appropriately label a biologic; such Phase 3 studies are referred to as “pivotal.”

 

In some cases, the FDA may approve a BLA for a product but require the sponsor to conduct additional clinical trials to further assess the product’s safety and effectiveness after approval. Such post-approval trials are typically referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials. These studies are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication and to document a clinical benefit in the case of biologics approved under accelerated approval regulations. If the FDA approves a product while a company has ongoing clinical trials that were not necessary for approval, a company may be able to use the data from these clinical trials to meet all or part of any Phase 4 clinical trial requirement or to request a change in the product labeling. The failure to exercise due diligence with regard to conducting Phase 4 clinical trials could result in withdrawal of approval for products.

 

Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003, a BLA or supplement thereto must contain data that are adequate to assess the safety and effectiveness of the product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations, and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. Sponsors must also submit pediatric study plans prior to the assessment data. Those plans must contain an outline of the proposed pediatric study or studies the applicant plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, any deferral or waiver requests, and other information required by regulation. The applicant, the FDA, and the FDA’s internal review committee must then review the information submitted, consult with each other, and agree upon a final plan. The FDA or the applicant may request an amendment to the plan at any time.

 

For products intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, the FDA must, upon the request of an applicant, meet to discuss preparation of the initial pediatric study plan or to discuss deferral or waiver of pediatric assessments. In addition, FDA will meet early in the development process to discuss pediatric study plans with sponsors and FDA must meet with sponsors by no later than the end-of-phase 1 meeting for serious or life-threatening diseases and by no later than 90 days after FDA’s receipt of the study plan.

 

The FDA may, on its own initiative or at the request of the applicant, grant deferrals for submission of some or all pediatric data until after approval of the product for use in adults, or full or partial waivers from the pediatric data requirements. Additional requirements and procedures relating to deferral requests and requests for extension of deferrals are contained in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. Unless otherwise required by regulation, the pediatric data requirements do not apply to products with orphan designation.

 

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Information about applicable clinical trials must be submitted within specific timeframes to the NIH for public dissemination on its ClinicalTrials.gov website.

 

Compliance with cGMP requirements

Before approving a BLA, 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 full compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. The PHSA emphasizes the importance of manufacturing control for products like biologics whose attributes cannot be precisely defined.

 

Manufacturers and others involved in the manufacture and distribution of products must also register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies. Both domestic and foreign manufacturing establishments must register and provide additional information to the FDA upon their initial participation in the manufacturing process. Any product manufactured by or imported from a facility that has not registered, whether foreign or domestic, is deemed misbranded under the FDCA. Establishments may be subject to periodic unannounced inspections by government authorities to ensure compliance with cGMPs and other laws. Inspections must follow a “risk-based schedule” that may result in certain establishments being inspected more frequently. Manufacturers may also have to provide, on request, electronic or physical records regarding their establishments. Delaying, denying, limiting, or refusing inspection by the FDA may lead to a product being deemed to be adulterated.

 

Review and approval of a BLA

The results of product candidate development, preclinical testing and clinical trials, including negative or ambiguous results as well as positive findings, are submitted to the FDA as part of a BLA requesting license to market the product. The BLA must contain extensive manufacturing information and detailed information on the composition of the product and proposed labeling as well as payment of a user fee. Under federal law, the submission of most BLAs is subject to an application user fee, which for federal fiscal year 2021 is $2,875,842 for an application requiring clinical data. The sponsor of a licensed BLA is also subject to an annual program fee, which for fiscal year 2021 is $336,432. Certain exceptions and waivers are available for some of these fees, such as an exception from the application fee for products with orphan designation and a waiver for certain small businesses.

 

The FDA has 60 days after submission of the application to conduct an initial review to determine whether to accept it for filing based on the agency’s threshold determination that it is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. Once the submission has been accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth review of the application. Under the goals and policies agreed to by the FDA under the PDUFA, the FDA has ten months in which to complete its initial review of a standard application and respond to the applicant, and six months for a priority review of the application. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs. The review process may often be significantly extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification. The review process and the PDUFA goal date may be extended by three months if the FDA requests or if the applicant otherwise provides additional information or clarification regarding information already provided in the submission within the last three months before the PDUFA goal date.

 

Under the PHSA, the FDA may approve a BLA if it determines that the product is safe, pure and potent, and the facility where the product will be manufactured meets standards designed to ensure that it continues to be safe, pure and potent. On the basis of the FDA’s evaluation of the application and accompanying information, including the results of the inspection of the manufacturing facilities and any FDA audits of preclinical and clinical trial sites to assure compliance with GCPs, the FDA may issue an approval letter or a complete response letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the product with specific prescribing information for specific indications. If the application is not approved, the FDA will issue a complete response letter, which will contain the conditions that must be met in order to secure final approval of the application, and when possible will outline recommended actions the sponsor might take to obtain approval of the application. Sponsors that receive a complete response letter may submit to the FDA information that represents a complete response to the issues identified by the FDA.

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Such resubmissions are classified under PDUFA as either Class 1 or Class 2. The classification of a resubmission is based on the information submitted by an applicant in response to an action letter. Under the goals and policies agreed to by the FDA under PDUFA, the FDA has two months to review a Class 1 resubmission and six months to review a Class 2 resubmission. The FDA will not approve an application until issues identified in the complete response letter have been addressed.

 

The FDA may also refer the application to an advisory committee for review, evaluation and recommendation as to whether the application should be approved. In particular, the FDA may refer applications for novel biologic products or biologic products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee.

 

Typically, an advisory committee is a panel of independent experts, including clinicians and other scientific experts, that reviews, evaluates and provides a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.

 

If the FDA approves a new product, it may limit the approved indication(s) for use of the product. It may also require that contraindications, warnings, or precautions be included in the product labeling. In addition, the FDA may call for post-approval studies, including Phase 4 clinical trials, to further assess the product’s efficacy and/or safety after approval. The agency may also require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution restrictions or other risk management mechanisms, including REMS, to help ensure that the benefits of the product outweigh the potential risks. REMS can include medication guides, communication plans for healthcare professionals and elements to assure safe use, or ETASU. ETASU can include, but are not limited to, special training or certification for prescribing or dispensing, dispensing only under certain circumstances, special monitoring and the use of patent registries. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-market studies or surveillance programs. After approval, many types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval.

 

Fast track, breakthrough therapy, priority review and regenerative medicine advanced therapy designations

The FDA is authorized to designate certain products for expedited review if they are intended to address an unmet medical need in the treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. These programs are referred to as fast track designation, breakthrough therapy designation, priority review designation and regenerative medicine advanced therapy, or RMAT, designation. These designations are not mutually exclusive, and a product candidate may qualify for one or more of these programs. While these programs are intended to expedite product development and approval, they do not alter the standards for FDA approval.

 

Specifically, the FDA may designate a product for fast track review if it is intended, whether alone or in combination with one or more other products, for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and it demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for such a disease or condition. For fast track products, sponsors may have greater interactions with the FDA and the FDA may initiate review of sections of a fast track product’s application before the application is complete. This rolling review may be available if the FDA determines, after preliminary evaluation of clinical data submitted by the sponsor, that a fast track product may be effective. The sponsor must also provide, and the FDA must approve, a schedule for the submission of the remaining information and the sponsor must pay applicable user fees. However, the FDA’s time period goal for reviewing a fast track application does not begin until the last section of the application is submitted. In addition, the fast track designation may be withdrawn by the FDA if the FDA believes that the designation is no longer supported by data emerging in the clinical trial process.

 

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Second, in 2012, Congress enacted the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. This law established a new regulatory scheme allowing for expedited review of products designated as “breakthrough therapies.” A product may be designated as a breakthrough therapy if it is intended, either alone or in combination with one or more other products, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. The FDA may take certain actions with respect to breakthrough therapies, including holding meetings with the sponsor throughout the development process; providing timely advice to the product sponsor regarding development and approval; involving more senior staff in the review process; assigning a cross-disciplinary project lead for the review team; and taking other steps to design the clinical trials in an efficient manner. Breakthrough designation may be rescinded if a product no longer meets the qualifying criteria.

 

Third, the FDA may designate a product for priority review if it is a product that treats a serious condition and, if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness. The FDA determines, on a case-by-case basis, whether the proposed product represents a significant improvement when compared with other available therapies. Significant improvement may be illustrated by evidence of increased effectiveness in the treatment of a condition, elimination or substantial reduction of a treatment-limiting product reaction, documented enhancement of patient compliance that may lead to improvement in serious outcomes, and evidence of safety and effectiveness in a new subpopulation. A priority designation is intended to direct overall attention and resources to the evaluation of such applications, and to shorten the FDA’s goal for taking action on a marketing application from ten months to six months. Priority designation may be rescinded if a product no longer meets the qualifying criteria.

 

With passage of the Cures Act in December 2016, Congress authorized the FDA to accelerate review and approval of products designated as regenerative medicine advanced therapies. A product is eligible for RMAT designation if it is a regenerative medicine therapy that is intended to treat, modify, reverse or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product has the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition. The benefits of a regenerative medicine advanced therapy designation include early interactions with FDA to expedite development and review, benefits available to breakthrough therapies, potential eligibility for priority review, and accelerated approval based on surrogate or intermediate endpoints. RMAT designation may be rescinded if a product no longer meets the qualifying criteria.

 

Accelerated approval pathway

The FDA may grant accelerated approval to a product for a serious or life-threatening condition that provides meaningful therapeutic advantage to patients over existing treatments based upon a determination that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit. The FDA may also grant accelerated approval for such a condition when the product has an effect on an intermediate clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality, or IMM, and that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on IMM or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments. Products granted accelerated approval must meet the same statutory standards for safety and effectiveness as those granted traditional approval.

 

For the purposes of accelerated approval, a surrogate endpoint is a marker, such as a laboratory measurement, radiographic image, physical sign, or other measure that is thought to predict clinical benefit but is not itself a measure of clinical benefit. Surrogate endpoints can often be measured more easily or more rapidly than clinical endpoints. An intermediate clinical endpoint is a measurement of a therapeutic effect that is considered reasonably likely to predict the clinical benefit of a product, such as an effect on IMM. The FDA has limited experience with accelerated approvals based on intermediate clinical endpoints but has indicated that such endpoints generally may support accelerated approval where the therapeutic effect measured by the endpoint is not itself a clinical benefit and basis for traditional approval, if there is a basis for concluding that the therapeutic effect is reasonably likely to predict the ultimate clinical benefit of a product.

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The accelerated approval pathway is most often used in settings in which the course of a disease is long and an extended period of time is required to measure the intended clinical benefit of a product, even if the effect on the surrogate or intermediate clinical endpoint occurs rapidly. Thus, accelerated approval has been used extensively in the development and approval of products for treatment of a variety of cancers in which the goal of therapy is generally to improve survival or decrease morbidity and the duration of the typical disease course requires lengthy and sometimes large trials to demonstrate a clinical or survival benefit.

 

The accelerated approval pathway is usually contingent on a sponsor’s agreement to conduct, in a diligent manner, additional post-approval confirmatory studies to verify and describe the product’s clinical benefit. As a result, a product candidate approved on this basis is subject to rigorous post-marketing compliance requirements, including the completion of Phase 4 or post-approval clinical trials to confirm the effect on the clinical endpoint. Failure to conduct required post-approval studies, confirm a clinical benefit during post-marketing studies or dissemination of false or misleading promotional materials would allow the FDA to withdraw the product from the market on an expedited basis. All promotional materials for product candidates approved under accelerated regulations are subject to prior review by the FDA.

 

Post-approval regulation

If regulatory approval for marketing of a product or new indication for an existing product is obtained, the sponsor will be required to comply with all regular post-approval regulatory requirements as well as any post-approval requirements that the FDA have imposed as part of the approval process. The sponsor will be required to report certain adverse reactions and production problems to the FDA, provide updated safety and efficacy information and comply with requirements concerning advertising and promotional labeling requirements. Manufacturers and certain of their subcontractors 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 regulations, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements upon manufacturers. Accordingly, the sponsor and its third-party manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the areas of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP regulations and other regulatory requirements.

 

A product may also be subject to official lot release, meaning that the manufacturer is required to perform certain tests on each lot of the product before it is released for distribution. If the product is subject to official lot release, the manufacturer must submit samples of each lot, together with a release protocol showing a summary of the history of manufacture of the lot and the results of all of the manufacturer’s tests performed on the lot, to the FDA. The FDA may in addition perform certain confirmatory tests on lots of some products before releasing the lots for distribution. Finally, the FDA will conduct laboratory research related to the safety, purity, potency and effectiveness of pharmaceutical products.

 

Once an approval is granted, the FDA may withdraw the approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information; imposition of post- market studies or clinical trials to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential consequences include, among other things:

 

 

restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the product, complete withdrawal of the product from the market or product recalls;

 

fines, warning letters or holds on post-approval clinical trials;

 

refusal of the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications, or suspension or revocation of product license approvals;

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product recall, seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products; or

 

injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

 

Pharmaceutical products may be promoted only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. Although healthcare providers may prescribe products for uses not described in the drug’s labeling, known as off-label uses, in their professional judgment, drug manufacturers are prohibited from soliciting, encouraging or promoting unapproved uses of a product. 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.

 

The FDA strictly regulates the marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of prescription drug products placed on the market. This regulation includes, among other things, standards and regulations for direct-to-consumer advertising, communications regarding unapproved uses, industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities and promotional activities involving the Internet and social media. Promotional claims about a drug’s safety or effectiveness are prohibited before the drug is approved. After approval, a drug product generally may not be promoted for uses that are not approved by the FDA, as reflected in the product’s prescribing information. In the United States, healthcare professionals are generally permitted to prescribe drugs for such off-label uses because the FDA does not regulate the practice of medicine. However, FDA regulations impose rigorous restrictions on manufacturers’ communications, prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses. It may be permissible, under very specific, narrow conditions, for a manufacturer to engage in nonpromotional, non-misleading communication regarding off-label information, such as distributing scientific or medical journal information.

 

If a company is found to have promoted off-label uses, it may become subject to adverse public relations and administrative and judicial enforcement by the FDA, the DOJ, or the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as state authorities. This could subject a company to a range of penalties that could have a significant commercial impact, including civil and criminal fines and agreements that materially restrict the manner in which a company promotes or distributes drug products. The federal government has levied large civil and criminal fines against companies for alleged improper promotion and has also requested that companies enter into consent decrees or permanent injunctions under which specified promotional conduct is changed or curtailed.

 

Orphan drug designation

Orphan drug designation in the United States is designed to encourage sponsors to develop products intended for treatment of rare diseases or conditions. In the United States, a rare disease or condition is statutorily defined as a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States or that affects more than 200,000 individuals in the United States and for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available the biologic for the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product in the United States.

 

Orphan drug designation qualifies a company for tax credits and market exclusivity for seven years following the date of the product’s marketing approval if granted by the FDA. An application for designation as an orphan product can be made any time prior to the filing of an application for approval to market the product. A product becomes an orphan when it receives orphan drug designation from the Office of Orphan Products Development at the FDA based on acceptable confidential requests made under the regulatory provisions. The product must then go through the review and approval process like any other product.

 

A sponsor may request orphan drug designation of a previously unapproved product or new orphan indication for an already marketed product. In addition, a sponsor of a product that is otherwise the same product as an already approved orphan drug may seek and obtain orphan drug designation for the subsequent product for the same rare disease or condition if it can present a plausible hypothesis that its product may be clinically superior to the first drug. More than one sponsor may receive orphan drug

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designation for the same product for the same rare disease or condition, but each sponsor seeking orphan drug designation must file a complete request for designation.

 

If a product with orphan designation receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation or for a select indication or use within the rare disease or condition for which it was designated, the product generally will receive orphan drug exclusivity. Orphan drug exclusivity means that the FDA may not approve another sponsor’s marketing application for the same product for the same indication for seven years, except in certain limited circumstances. If a product designated as an orphan drug ultimately receives marketing approval for an indication broader than what was designated in its orphan drug application, it may not be entitled to exclusivity.

 

The period of exclusivity begins on the date that the marketing application is approved by the FDA and applies only to the indication for which the product has been designated. The FDA may approve a second application for the same product for a different use or a second application for a clinically superior version of the product for the same use. The FDA cannot, however, approve the same product made by another manufacturer for the same indication during the market exclusivity period unless it has the consent of the sponsor or the sponsor is unable to provide sufficient quantities.

 

Pediatric exclusivity

Pediatric exclusivity is another type of non-patent marketing exclusivity in the United States and, if granted, provides for the attachment of an additional six months of marketing protection to the term of any existing regulatory exclusivity, including the non-patent and orphan exclusivity. This six-month exclusivity may be granted if a BLA sponsor submits pediatric data that fairly respond to a written request from the FDA for such data. The data do not need to show the product to be effective in the pediatric population studied; rather, if the clinical trial is deemed to fairly respond to the FDA’s request, the additional protection is granted. If reports of requested pediatric studies are submitted to and accepted by the FDA within the statutory time limits, whatever statutory or regulatory periods of exclusivity that cover the product are extended by six months.

 

Biosimilars and exclusivity

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or, collectively, the ACA, which was signed into law in March 2010, included a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA. The BPCIA established a regulatory scheme authorizing the FDA to approve biosimilars and interchangeable biosimilars. A biosimilar is a biological product that is highly similar to an existing FDA-licensed “reference product.” As of January 1, 2021, the FDA has approved 29 biosimilar products for use in the United States. No interchangeable biosimilars, however, have been approved. The FDA has issued several guidance documents outlining an approach to review and approval of biosimilars. Additional guidances are expected to be finalized by the FDA in the near term. Under the BPCIA, a manufacturer may submit an application for licensure of a biologic product that is “biosimilar to” or “interchangeable with” a previously approved biological product or “reference product.” In order for the FDA to approve a biosimilar product, it must find that there are no clinically meaningful differences between the reference product and proposed biosimilar product in terms of safety, purity and potency. For the FDA to approve a biosimilar product as interchangeable with a reference product, the agency must find that the biosimilar product can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product, and (for products administered multiple times) that the biologic and the reference biologic may be switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic.

 

Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date of approval of the reference product. The FDA may not approve a biosimilar product until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was approved. Even if a product is considered to be a reference product eligible for exclusivity, another company could market a competing version of that product if the FDA approves a full BLA for such product containing the sponsor’s own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity

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and potency of their product. The BPCIA also created certain exclusivity periods for biosimilars approved as interchangeable products. At this juncture, it is unclear whether products deemed “interchangeable” by the FDA will, in fact, be readily substituted by pharmacies, which are governed by state pharmacy law. Since the passage of the BPCIA, many states have passed laws or amendments to laws, including laws governing pharmacy practices, which are state-regulated, to regulate the use of biosimilars.

 

Federal and state data privacy and security laws

Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, has issued regulations to protect the privacy and security of protected health information, or PHI, used or disclosed by covered entities including certain healthcare providers, health plans and healthcare clearinghouses. HIPAA also regulates standardization of data content, codes and formats used in healthcare transactions and standardization of identifiers for health plans and providers. HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 or HITECH, and their regulations, including the final omnibus rule published on January 25, 2013, also imposes certain obligations on the business associates of covered entities and their subcontractors that obtain protected health information in providing services to or on behalf of covered entities. In addition to federal privacy regulations, there are a number of state laws governing confidentiality and security of health information that are applicable to our business. In addition to possible federal administrative, civil and criminal penalties for HIPAA violations, state attorneys general are authorized to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce HIPAA and seek attorney’s fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions. Accordingly, state attorneys general have brought civil actions seeking injunctions and damages resulting from alleged violations of HIPAA’s privacy and security rules. New laws and regulations governing privacy and security may be adopted in the future as well.

 

Additionally, California recently enacted legislation that has been dubbed the first “GDPR-like” law in the United States. Known as the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, it creates new individual privacy rights for consumers (as that word is broadly defined in the law) and places increased privacy and security obligations on entities handling personal data of consumers or households. The CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020 and requires covered companies to provide new disclosures to California consumers, provide such consumers new ways to opt-out of certain sales of personal information, and allow for a new cause of action for data breaches. Additionally, effective starting on January 1, 2023, the California Privacy Rights Act, or CPRA, will significantly modify the CCPA, including by expanding consumers’ rights with respect to certain sensitive personal information. The CPRA also creates a new state agency that will be vested with authority to implement and enforce the CCPA and the CPRA. The CCPA and CPRA could impact our business activities depending on how it is interpreted and exemplifies the vulnerability of our business to not only cyber threats but also the evolving regulatory environment related to personal data and protected health information.

 

Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors available under such laws, it is possible that some of our current or future business activities, including certain clinical research, sales and marketing practices and the provision of certain items and services to our customers, could be subject to challenge under one or more of such privacy and data security laws. The heightening compliance environment and the need to build and maintain robust and secure systems to comply with different privacy compliance and/or reporting requirements in multiple jurisdictions could increase the possibility that a healthcare company may fail to comply fully with one or more of these requirements. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the privacy or data security laws or regulations described above that are applicable to us, or any other laws that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including potentially significant criminal, civil and administrative penalties, damages, fines, imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a consent decree or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations. To the extent that any product candidates we may develop, once approved, are sold in a foreign country, we may be subject to similar foreign laws.

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Patent term restoration and extension

In the United States, a patent claiming a new biologic product, its method of use or its method of manufacture may be eligible for a limited patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Act, which permits a patent extension of up to five years for patent term lost during product development and FDA regulatory review. Assuming grant of the patent for which the extension is sought, the restoration period for a patent covering a product is typically one-half the time between the effective date of the IND involving human beings and the submission date of the BLA, plus the time between the submission date of the BLA and the ultimate approval date. Patent term restoration cannot be used to extend the remaining term of a patent past a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date in the United States. Only one patent applicable to an approved product is eligible for the extension, and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent for which extension is sought. A patent that covers multiple products for which approval is sought can only be extended in connection with one of the approvals. The USPTO reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension in consultation with the FDA.

 

Regulation and procedures governing approval of medicinal products in the European Union

In order to market any product outside of the United States, a company must also comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries and jurisdictions regarding quality, safety and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials, marketing authorization, commercial sales and distribution of products. Whether or not it obtains FDA approval for a product, an applicant will need to obtain the necessary approvals by the comparable foreign regulatory authorities before it can commence clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries or jurisdictions. Specifically, the process governing approval of medicinal products in the European Union generally follows the same lines as in the United States. It entails satisfactory completion of preclinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of the product for each proposed indication. It also requires the submission to the relevant competent authorities of a marketing authorization application, or MAA, and granting of a marketing authorization by these authorities before the product can be marketed and sold in the European Union.

 

Clinical trial approval

Pursuant to the currently applicable Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC and the Directive 2005/28/EC on GCP, a system for the approval of clinical trials in the European Union has been implemented through national legislation of the member states. Under this system, an applicant must obtain approval from the competent national authority of a European Union member state in which the clinical trial is to be conducted, or in multiple member states if the clinical trial is to be conducted in a number of member states. Furthermore, the applicant may only start a clinical trial at a specific site after the competent ethics committee has issued a favorable opinion. The clinical trial application must be accompanied by an investigational medicinal product dossier with supporting information prescribed by Directive 2001/20/EC and Directive 2005/28/EC and corresponding national laws of the member states and further detailed in applicable guidance documents.

 

In April 2014, the European Union adopted a new Clinical Trials Regulation (EU) No 536/2014, but it has not yet become effective. It will overhaul the current system of approvals for clinical trials in the European Union. Specifically, the new legislation, which will be directly applicable in all member states, aims at simplifying and streamlining the approval of clinical trials in the European Union. For instance, the new Clinical Trials Regulation provides for a streamlined application procedure via a single-entry point and strictly defined deadlines for the assessment of clinical trial applications. On January 1, 2020, the website of the European Commission reported that the implementation of the new Clinical Trials Regulation was dependent on the development of a fully functional clinical trials portal and database, which would be confirmed by an independent audit, and that the new legislation would come into effect six months after the European Commission publishes a notice of this confirmation. In late 2020, the EMA indicated that it plans to focus on the findings of a system audit; improving the usability, quality and stability of the clinical trial information system; and knowledge transfer to prepare users and their organizations for the new

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clinical trial system. The EMA has indicated that the system will go live in December 2021. Parties conducting certain clinical trials must, as in the United States, post clinical trial information in the European Union at the EudraCT website: https://eudract.ema.europa.eu.

 

PRIME designation in the European Union

In March 2016, the EMA launched an initiative to facilitate development of product candidates in indications, often rare, for which few or no therapies currently exist. The PRIority MEdicines, or PRIME, scheme is intended to encourage drug development in areas of unmet medical need and provides accelerated assessment of products representing substantial innovation reviewed under the centralized procedure. Products from small- and medium-sized enterprises may qualify for earlier entry into the PRIME scheme than larger companies. Many benefits accrue to sponsors of product candidates with PRIME designation, including but not limited to, early and proactive regulatory dialogue with the EMA, frequent discussions on clinical trial designs and other development program elements, and accelerated marketing authorization application assessment once a dossier has been submitted. Importantly, a dedicated EMA contact and rapporteur from the Committee for Human Medicinal Products, or CHMP, or Committee for Advanced Therapies are appointed early in the PRIME scheme facilitating increased understanding of the product at the EMA’s Committee level. A kick-off meeting initiates these relationships and includes a team of multidisciplinary experts at the EMA to provide guidance on the overall development and regulatory strategies.

 

Marketing authorization

To obtain a marketing authorization for a product under the European Union regulatory system, an applicant must submit an MAA, either under a centralized procedure administered by the EMA or one of the procedures administered by competent authorities in European Union Member States (decentralized procedure, national procedure, or mutual recognition procedure). A marketing authorization may be granted only to an applicant established in the European Union. Regulation (EC) No 1901/2006 provides that prior to obtaining a marketing authorization in the European Union, an applicant must demonstrate compliance with all measures included in an EMA-approved Pediatric Investigation Plan, or PIP, covering all subsets of the pediatric population, unless the EMA has granted a product-specific waiver, class waiver or a deferral for one or more of the measures included in the PIP.

 

The centralized procedure provides for the grant of a single marketing authorization by the European Commission that is valid for all European Union member states. Pursuant to Regulation (EC) No. 726/2004, the centralized procedure is compulsory for specific products, including for medicines produced by certain biotechnological processes, products designated as orphan medicinal products, advanced therapy products and products with a new active substance indicated for the treatment of certain diseases, including products for the treatment of cancer. For products with a new active substance indicated for the treatment of other diseases and products that are highly innovative or for which a centralized process is in the interest of patients, the centralized procedure may be optional. Manufacturers must demonstrate the quality, safety and efficacy of their products to the EMA, which provides an opinion regarding the MAA. The European Commission grants or refuses marketing authorization in light of the opinion delivered by the EMA.

 

Under the centralized procedure, the CHMP established at the EMA is responsible for conducting an initial assessment of a product. Under the centralized procedure in the European Union, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of an MAA is 210 days, excluding clock stops when additional information or written or oral explanation is to be provided by the applicant in response to questions of the CHMP. Accelerated evaluation may be granted by the CHMP in exceptional cases, when a medicinal product is of major interest from the point of view of public health and, in particular, from the viewpoint of therapeutic innovation. If the CHMP accepts such a request, the time limit of 210 days will be reduced to 150 days, but it is possible that the CHMP may revert to the standard time limit for the centralized procedure if it determines that it is no longer appropriate to conduct an accelerated assessment.

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Regulatory data protection in the European Union

In the European Union, new chemical entities approved on the basis of a complete independent data package qualify for eight years of data exclusivity upon marketing authorization and an additional two years of market exclusivity pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 726/2004, as amended, and Directive 2001/83/EC, as amended. Data exclusivity prevents regulatory authorities in the European Union from referencing the innovator’s data to assess a generic (abbreviated) application for a period of eight years. During the additional two-year period of market exclusivity, a generic marketing authorization application can be submitted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but no generic medicinal product can be marketed until the expiration of the market exclusivity. The overall ten-year period will 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 authorization, is held to bring a significant clinical benefit in comparison with existing therapies. Even if a compound is considered to be a new chemical entity so that the innovator gains the prescribed period of data exclusivity, another company may market another version of the product if such company obtained marketing authorization based on an MAA with a complete independent data package of pharmaceutical tests, preclinical tests and clinical trials.

 

Patent term extensions in the European Union and other jurisdictions

The European Union also provides for patent term extension through Supplementary Protection Certificates, or SPCs. The rules and requirements for obtaining a SPC are similar to those in the United States. An SPC may extend the term of a patent for up to five years after its originally scheduled expiration date and can provide up to a maximum of fifteen years of marketing exclusivity for a drug. In certain circumstances, these periods may be extended for six additional months if pediatric exclusivity is obtained. Although SPCs are available throughout the European Union, sponsors must apply on a country-by-country basis. Similar patent term extension rights exist in certain other foreign jurisdictions outside the European Union.

 

Periods of authorization and renewals

A marketing authorization is valid for five years, in principle, and it may be renewed after five years on the basis of a reevaluation of the risk-benefit balance by the EMA or by the competent authority of the authorizing member state. To that end, the marketing authorization holder must provide the EMA or the competent authority with a consolidated version of the file in respect of quality, safety and efficacy, including all variations introduced since the marketing authorization was granted, at least six months before the marketing authorization ceases to be valid. Once renewed, the marketing authorization is valid for an unlimited period, unless the European Commission or the competent authority decides, on justified grounds relating to pharmacovigilance, to proceed with one additional five-year renewal period. Any authorization that is not followed by the placement of the drug on the European Union market (in the case of the centralized procedure) or on the market of the authorizing member state within three years after authorization ceases to be valid.

 

Regulatory requirements after marketing authorization

Following approval, the holder of the marketing authorization is required to comply with a range of requirements applicable to the manufacturing, marketing, promotion and sale of the medicinal product. These include compliance with the European Union’s stringent pharmacovigilance or safety reporting rules, pursuant to which post-authorization studies and additional monitoring obligations can be imposed. In addition, the manufacturing of authorized products, for which a separate manufacturer’s license is mandatory, must also be conducted in strict compliance with the EMA’s GMP requirements and comparable requirements of other regulatory bodies in the European Union, which mandate the methods, facilities and controls used in manufacturing, processing and packing of drugs to assure their safety and identity. Finally, the marketing and promotion of authorized products, including industry-sponsored continuing medical education and advertising directed toward the prescribers of drugs and/or the general public, are strictly regulated in the European Union under Directive 2001/83EC, as amended.

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Orphan drug designation and exclusivity

 

Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 and Regulation (EC) No. 847/2000 provide that a product can be designated as an orphan drug by the European Commission if its sponsor can establish: that the product is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of (1) a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition affecting not more than five in ten thousand persons in the European Union when the application is made, or (2) a life-threatening, seriously debilitating or serious and chronic condition in the European Union and that without incentives it is unlikely that the marketing of the drug in the European Union would generate sufficient return to justify the necessary investment. For either of these conditions, the applicant must demonstrate that there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of the condition in question that has been authorized in the European Union or, if such method exists, the drug will be of significant benefit to those affected by that condition.

 

An orphan drug designation provides a number of benefits, including fee reductions, regulatory assistance and the possibility to apply for a centralized European Union marketing authorization. Marketing authorization for an orphan drug leads to a ten-year period of market exclusivity. During this market exclusivity period, neither the EMA nor the European Commission or the member states can accept an application or grant a marketing authorization for a “similar medicinal product.” A “similar medicinal product” is defined as a medicinal product containing a similar active substance or substances as contained in an authorized orphan medicinal product, and which is intended for the same therapeutic indication. The market exclusivity period for the authorized therapeutic indication may, however, 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 drug designation because, for example, the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify market exclusivity.

 

Brexit and the regulatory framework in the United Kingdom

On June 23, 2016, the electorate in the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit. Following protracted negotiations, the United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020. Pursuant to the formal withdrawal arrangements agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, effective December 31, 2020. On December 24, 2020, the United Kingdom and the European Union entered into a Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The agreement sets out certain procedures for approval and recognition of medical products in each jurisdiction. Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any marketing approvals, as a result of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement or otherwise, would prevent pharmaceutical companies from commercializing any product candidates in the United Kingdom and/or the European Union and restrict their ability to generate revenue and achieve and sustain profitability. It remains to be seen how the new arrangement will be implemented and operate.

 

Furthermore, while the GDPR continues to apply in the United Kingdom in substantially unvaried form under the UK GDPR and is complemented by the United Kingdom Data Protection Act of 2018, which achieved Royal Assent on May 23, 2018 and remains effective in the United Kingdom in amended form, it is still unclear whether transfers of data from the EEA to the United Kingdom will remain lawful under GDPR. As noted above, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides for a transitional period during which the United Kingdom will be treated like a European Union member state in relation to processing and transfers of personal data for four months from January 1, 2021. This may be extended by two further months. After such period, the United Kingdom will be a “third country” under the GDPR unless the European Commission adopts an adequacy decision in respect of transfers of personal data to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has already determined that it considers all of the EU 27 and EEA member states to be adequate for the purposes of data protection, ensuring that data flows from the United Kingdom to the EU/EEA remain unaffected. We may, however, incur liabilities, expenses, costs and other operational losses under GDPR and applicable European Union Member States and the United Kingdom privacy laws in connection with any measures we take to comply with them.

General Data Protection Regulation

The collection, use, disclosure, transfer or other processing of personal data regarding individuals in the European Union, including personal health data, is subject to the GDPR, which became effective on

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May 25, 2018. The GDPR is wide-ranging in scope and imposes numerous requirements on companies that process personal data, including requirements relating to processing health and other sensitive data, obtaining consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, providing information to individuals regarding data processing activities, implementing safeguards to protect the security and confidentiality of personal data, providing notification of data breaches, and taking certain measures when engaging third-party processors. The GDPR also imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data to countries outside the European Union, including the United States, and permits data protection authorities to impose large penalties for violations of the GDPR, including potential fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual global revenues, whichever is greater. The GDPR also confers a private right of action on data subjects and consumer associations to lodge complaints with supervisory authorities, seek judicial remedies and obtain compensation for damages resulting from violations of the GDPR. Compliance with the GDPR will be a rigorous and time-intensive process that may increase the cost of doing business or require companies to change their business practices to ensure full compliance.

 

For more information on these matters and the GDPR, please see the section entitled “Risk Factors—Risks related to regulatory approval and other regulatory and legal compliance matters—We are subject to stringent privacy laws, information security laws, regulations, policies and contractual obligations related to data privacy and security and changes in such laws, regulations, policies, contractual obligations and failure to comply with such requirements could subject us to significant fines and penalties, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects.”

 

Coverage, pricing and reimbursement

Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any product candidates for which we may seek regulatory approval by the FDA or other government authorities. In the United States and markets in other countries, patients who are prescribed treatments for their conditions and providers performing the prescribed services generally rely on third-party payers to reimburse all or part of the associated healthcare costs. Patients are unlikely to use any product candidates we may develop unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of such product candidates. Even if any product candidates we may develop are approved, sales of such product candidates will depend, in part, on the extent to which third-party payers, including government health programs in the United States such as Medicare and Medicaid, commercial health insurers and managed care organizations, provide coverage and establish adequate reimbursement levels for, such product candidates. The process for determining whether a payer will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the price or reimbursement rate that the payer will pay for the product once coverage is approved. Third-party payers are increasingly challenging the prices charged, examining the medical necessity, and reviewing the cost-effectiveness of medical products and services and imposing controls to manage costs. Third-party payers may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list, also known as a formulary, which might not include all of the approved products for a particular indication.

 

In order to secure coverage and reimbursement for any product that might be approved for sale, a company may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of the product, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA or other comparable marketing approvals. Nonetheless, product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost effective. A decision by a third-party payer not to cover any product candidates we may develop could reduce physician utilization of such product candidates once approved and have a material adverse effect on our sales, results of operations and financial condition. Additionally, a payer’s decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Further, one payer’s determination to provide coverage for a product does not assure that other payers will also provide coverage and reimbursement for the product, and the level of coverage and reimbursement can differ significantly from payer to payer. Third-party reimbursement and coverage may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development. In addition, any companion diagnostic tests require coverage and reimbursement separate and apart from the coverage and reimbursement for their companion

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pharmaceutical or biological products. Similar challenges to obtaining coverage and reimbursement, applicable to pharmaceutical or biological products, will apply to any companion diagnostics.

 

The containment of healthcare costs also has become a priority of federal, state and foreign governments and the prices of pharmaceuticals have been a focus in this effort. Governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls, restrictions on reimbursement and requirements for substitution of generic products. Adoption of price controls and cost-containment measures, and adoption of more restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could further limit a company’s revenue generated from the sale of any approved products. Coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which a company or its collaborators receive marketing approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.

 

If we obtain approval in the future to market in the United States any product candidates we may develop, we may be required to provide discounts or rebates under government healthcare programs or to certain

government and private purchasers in order to obtain coverage under federal healthcare programs such as Medicaid. Participation in such programs may require us to track and report certain drug prices. We may be subject to fines and other penalties if we fail to report such prices accurately.

 

Outside the United States, ensuring adequate coverage and payment for any product candidates we may develop will face challenges. Pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to governmental control in many countries. Pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can extend well beyond the receipt of regulatory marketing approval for a product and may require us to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost effectiveness of any product candidates we may develop to other available therapies. The conduct of such a clinical trial could be expensive and result in delays in our commercialization efforts.

 

In the European Union, pricing and reimbursement schemes vary widely from country to country. Some countries provide that products may be marketed only after a reimbursement price has been agreed. Some countries may require the completion of additional studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies (so called health technology assessments) in order to obtain reimbursement or pricing approval. For example, the European Union provides options for its member states to restrict the range of products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. European Union member states may approve a specific price for a product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the product on the market. Other member states allow companies to fix their own prices for products but monitor and control prescription volumes and issue guidance to physicians to limit prescriptions. Recently, many countries in the European Union have increased the amount of discounts required on pharmaceuticals and these efforts could continue as countries attempt to manage healthcare expenditures, especially in light of the severe fiscal and debt crises experienced by many countries in the European Union. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription products, has become intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products. Political, economic and regulatory developments may further complicate pricing negotiations and pricing negotiations may continue after reimbursement has been obtained. Reference pricing used by various European Union member states, and parallel trade (arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced member states), can further reduce prices. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for pharmaceutical products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our products, if approved in those countries.

 

Healthcare law and regulation

Healthcare providers and third-party payers play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of pharmaceutical products that are granted marketing approval. Arrangements with providers, consultants, third-party payers and customers are subject to broadly applicable fraud and abuse, anti-kickback, false claims laws, reporting of payments to physicians and teaching hospitals and patient privacy laws and

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regulations and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain our business and/or financial arrangements. Restrictions under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, include the following:

 

 

the U.S. federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons and entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, paying, receiving or providing remuneration, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, order or recommendation of, any good or service, for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under a federal healthcare program such as Medicare and Medicaid;

 

the federal civil and criminal false claims laws, including the civil False Claims Act, false statement laws and civil monetary penalties laws, which prohibit individuals or entities from, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the federal government, claims for payment that are false, fictitious or fraudulent or knowingly making, using or causing to made or used a false record or statement to avoid, decrease or conceal an obligation to pay money to the federal government;

 

the federal regulations relating to pricing and submission of pricing information for government programs, including penalties for knowingly and intentionally overcharging 340b eligible entities and the submission of false or fraudulent pricing information to government entities;

 

HIPAA, which created additional federal criminal laws that prohibit, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program or making false statements relating to healthcare matters;

 

HIPAA, as amended by HITECH, and their respective implementing regulations, including the final omnibus rule published in January 2013, which impose obligations, including mandatory contractual terms, on certain covered healthcare providers, health plans and healthcare clearinghouses, as well as their respective business associates that perform services for them, that involve the use, or disclosure of, individually identifiable health information, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information;

 

the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits companies and their intermediaries from making, or offering or promising to make improper payments to non-U.S. officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or otherwise seeking favorable treatment;

 

the federal transparency requirements known as the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, under the ACA, which requires certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies to report annually to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, information related to payments and other transfers of value made by that entity to physicians, as defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Effective January 1, 2022, these reporting obligations will extend to include transfers of value made during the previous year to other healthcare providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners; and

 

analogous state and foreign laws and regulations, such as state anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to healthcare items or services that are reimbursed by non-governmental third-party payers, including private insurers.

 

Some state laws require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government in addition to requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to report information related to payments to physicians and other healthcare providers, drug pricing or marketing expenditures. In addition, certain state and local laws require drug manufacturers to register pharmaceutical sales representatives. State and foreign laws also govern the privacy and security of health information in some circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.

 

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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, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, imprisonment, integrity oversight and reporting obligations and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations.

 

Healthcare reform

A primary trend in the U.S. healthcare industry and elsewhere is cost containment. There have been a number of federal and state proposals during the last few years regarding the pricing of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products, limiting coverage and reimbursement for drugs and other medical products, government control and other changes to the healthcare system in the United States.

 

By way of example, the United States and state governments continue to propose and pass legislation designed to reduce the cost of healthcare. In March 2010, the United States Congress enacted the ACA, which, among other things, includes changes to the coverage and payment for products under government healthcare programs.

 

Since enactment of the ACA, there have been, and continue to be, numerous judicial, administrative, executive, and legislative challenges to certain aspects of the ACA, and we expect there will be additional challenges and amendments to the ACA in the future. For example, various portions of the ACA are currently undergoing legal and constitutional challenges in the U.S. Supreme Court. It is unclear whether the ACA will be overturned, repealed, replaced, or further amended. We cannot predict what affect further changes to the ACA would have on our business.

 

Further, there have been several recent U.S. congressional inquiries and proposed federal and proposed and enacted state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, reduce the costs of drugs under Medicare and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. At the federal level, the Trump Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 includes a $135 billion allowance to support legislative proposals seeking to reduce drug prices, increase competition, lower out-of-pocket drug costs for patients, and increase patient access to lower cost generic and biosimilar drugs.

 

More recently, President Trump has issued five executive orders that are intended to lower the costs of prescription drug products. Several of these orders are reflected in recently promulgated regulations, and one of these regulations is currently subject to a nationwide preliminary injunction. It remains to be seen whether these orders and resulting regulations will remain in force in the Biden Administration.

 

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 any product candidates we may develop or additional pricing pressures.

 

Employees and human capital

As of January 31, 2021, we had 47 full-time employees, including a total of 15 employees with M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. Of these full-time employees, 35 employees are engaged in research and development. 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 additional employees. The principal purposes of our equity incentive plans are to attract, retain and motivate selected employees, consultants and directors through the granting of stock-based compensation awards.

 

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Our corporate information

We were incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware on December 1, 2017 under the name Dyne Therapeutics, Inc. Our principal executive offices are located at 830 Winter Street, Waltham, Massachusetts 02451 and our telephone number is (781) 786-8230.

 

We own or have rights to trademarks, service marks and trade names that we use in connection with the operation of our business, including our corporate name, logos and website names. The service marks and trademarks that we own include the marks Dyne Therapeutics™ and FORCE™. Other trademarks, service marks and trade names appearing in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are the property of their respective owners. Solely for convenience, some of the trademarks, service marks and trade names referred to in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are listed without the ® and ™ symbols, but we will assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights to our trademarks, service marks and trade names.

 

Available information

We file reports and other information with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, as required by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act. You can review our electronically filed reports and other information that we file with the SEC on the SEC’s website at http://www.sec.gov.

 

Our website address is https://www.dyne-tx.com. We make available free of charge through our website our Annual Report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Sections 13(a) and 15(d) of the Exchange Act. We make these reports available through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such reports with, or furnish such reports to, the SEC. In addition, we regularly use our website to post information regarding our business, product development programs and governance, and we encourage investors to use our website, particularly the information in the section entitled “Investors & Media,” as a source of information about us.

 

The foregoing references to our website are not intended to, nor shall they be deemed to, incorporate information on our website into this Annual Report on Form 10-K by reference. We have included our website address in this Annual Report on Form 10-K as an inactive textual reference.

 

 

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Item 1A. Risk Factors.

Our business is subject to numerous risks. You should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below together with all of the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K including our consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto in evaluating our company. The risks described below are not the only risks facing our company. The occurrence of any of the following risks, or of additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial, could cause our business, prospects, operating results and financial condition to suffer materially.

 

Risks related to our financial position and need for additional capital

We have incurred significant losses since our inception, have no products approved for sale and we expect to incur losses for the foreseeable future.

Since inception, we have incurred significant operating losses. Our net losses were $14.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 and $59.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2020. As of December 31, 2020, we had an accumulated deficit of $79.2 million. To date, we have financed our operations with the proceeds raised from the sale of equity securities and borrowings under a loan and security agreement. We have devoted substantially all of our financial resources and efforts to research and development. We are still in the early stages of development of our programs, have not initiated investigational new drug, or IND, -enabling studies or identified a product candidate for clinical development and have not commenced or completed clinical development. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and operating losses for the foreseeable future. Our operating expenses and net losses may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if and as we:

 

 

continue our current research programs and conduct additional research programs;

 

advance any product candidates we identify through our research programs into IND-enabling studies and clinical trials;

 

expand the capabilities of our proprietary FORCE platform;

 

seek marketing approvals for any product candidates that successfully complete clinical trials;

 

obtain, expand, maintain, defend and enforce our intellectual property portfolio;

 

hire additional clinical, regulatory and scientific personnel;

 

establish manufacturing sources for any product candidate we may develop, including the Fab antibody, Val-cit linker and therapeutic payload that will comprise the product candidate, and secure supply chain capacity to provide sufficient quantities for preclinical and clinical development and commercial supply;

 

ultimately establish a sales, marketing and distribution infrastructure to commercialize any products for which we may obtain marketing approval; and

 

add operational, legal, compliance, financial and management information systems and personnel to support our research, product development and future commercialization efforts, as well as to support our operations as a public company.

 

Even if we obtain regulatory approval of, and are successful in commercializing, one or more of any product candidates we may develop, we will continue to incur substantial research and development and other costs to develop and market additional product candidates. We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other unknown factors that may adversely affect our business. The size of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of future growth of our expenses and our ability to generate revenue.

 

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We have never generated revenue from product sales and may never achieve or maintain profitability.

We have not initiated IND-enabling studies, identified any product candidates for clinical development or initiated clinical development of any product candidate and expect that it will be many years, if ever, before we have a product candidate ready for commercialization. To become and remain profitable, we must succeed in developing, obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals for and eventually commercializing a product or products that generate significant revenue. The ability to achieve this success will require us to be effective in a range of challenging activities, including:

 

 

identifying product candidates and completing preclinical and clinical development of any product candidates we may identify;

 

obtaining regulatory approval for any product candidates we may develop;

 

manufacturing, marketing and selling any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval;

 

achieving market acceptance of any products for which we obtain regulatory approval as a viable treatment option; and

 

satisfying any post-marketing requirements.

 

We are only in the preliminary stages of most of these activities. We may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, may never generate revenues that are significant enough to achieve profitability. We are currently only in the preclinical stage of our research programs. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with product development, we are unable to accurately estimate or know the nature, timing or costs of the efforts that will be necessary to complete the preclinical and clinical development and commercialization of any product candidate we may develop or when, or if, we will be able to generate revenues or achieve profitability.

 

If we are successful in obtaining regulatory approval to market one or more of our products, our revenue will be dependent, in part, upon the size of the markets in the territories for which we gain regulatory approval, the accepted price for the product, the ability to obtain coverage and reimbursement, and whether we own the commercial rights for that territory. If the number of our addressable patients is not as significant as we estimate, the indication approved by regulatory authorities is narrower than we expect, or the treatment population is narrowed by competition, physician choice or treatment guidelines, we may not generate significant revenue from sales of such products, even if approved.

 

Even if we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable could impair our ability to raise capital, maintain our research and development efforts, expand our business or even continue our operations. A decline in the value of our company could also cause our stockholders to lose all or part of their investment.

 

We will need substantial additional funding. If we are unable to raise capital when needed, we could be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our product development programs or commercialization efforts.

We expect our expenses to increase substantially in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we identify, continue the research and development of, initiate preclinical testing and clinical trials of, arrange for the manufacturing of, and potentially seek marketing approval for any product candidates we may develop. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for any product candidates we may develop, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution. Furthermore, we expect to continue to incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company. Accordingly, we will need to obtain substantial additional funding in connection with our continuing operations. If we are unable to raise capital when needed, on attractive terms or at all, we may be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our research and development programs or future commercialization efforts.

 

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As of December 31, 2020, we had cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities of $345.3 million. In addition, in January 2021 we issued and sold an aggregate of 6,000,000 shares of our common stock at a public offering price of $28.00 per share, resulting in net proceeds to us of $153.7 million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us. We believe that our existing cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities will enable us to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements into the second half of 2024. However, we have based this estimate on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and our operating plan may change as a result of many factors currently unknown to us. As a result, we could deplete our capital resources sooner than we currently expect and could be forced to seek additional funding sooner than planned.

 

Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors, including:

 

 

the identification of additional research programs and product candidates;

 

the scope, progress, costs and results of preclinical and clinical development for any product candidates we may develop;

 

the scope, costs, timing and outcome of regulatory review of any product candidates we may develop;

 

the cost and timing of manufacturing activities;

 

the costs and scope of the continued development of our FORCE platform;

 

the costs and timing of preparing, filing and prosecuting applications for patents, maintaining and enforcing our intellectual property rights and defending any intellectual property-related claims, including claims of infringement, misappropriation or other violations of third-party intellectual property;

 

the costs and timing of future commercialization activities, including product manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution, for any product candidates we may develop for which we receive marketing approval;

 

the costs of satisfying any post-marketing requirements;

 

the revenue, if any, received from commercial sales of product candidates we may develop for which we receive marketing approval;

 

the costs of operational, financial and management information systems and associated personnel;

 

the associated costs in connection with any acquisition of in-licensed products, intellectual property and technologies; and

 

the costs of operating as a public company.

 

Identifying potential product candidates and conducting preclinical testing and clinical trials is a time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process that takes years to complete, and we may never generate the necessary data or results required to obtain marketing approval and achieve product sales. In addition, even if we successfully identify and develop product candidates and those are approved, we may not achieve commercial success. Our commercial revenues, if any, may not be sufficient to sustain our operations. Accordingly, we will need to continue to rely on additional financing to achieve our business objectives. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all.

 

Any additional fundraising efforts may divert our management from their day-to-day activities, which may adversely affect our operations. We cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, when needed or at all. We have no committed source of additional capital and, if we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts, when needed or on terms acceptable to us, we may be required to significantly curtail, delay or discontinue one or more of our research or development programs or the commercialization of any product candidate we may develop, or be unable to expand our operations or otherwise capitalize on our business opportunities, as desired, which could materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. We could be required to seek collaborators for

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product candidates we may develop at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable or on terms that are less favorable than might otherwise be available or relinquish or license on unfavorable terms our rights to product candidates we may develop in markets where we otherwise would seek to pursue development or commercialization ourselves. Any of the above events could significantly harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations and cause the price of our common stock to decline.

 

 

Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our technologies or product candidates.

Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial product revenues, we expect to finance our cash needs through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, strategic alliances and/or licensing arrangements. We do not have any committed external source of funds. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, our stockholders’ ownership interests will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect the rights of common stockholders. Any debt financing or 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, selling or licensing our assets, making capital expenditures, declaring dividends or encumbering our assets to secure future indebtedness.

 

If we raise additional funds through collaborations, strategic alliances or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams, research programs or product candidates or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. If we are unable to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings or other arrangements when needed or on terms acceptable to us, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or eliminate some or all of our research and development programs, pipeline expansion or future commercialization efforts or grant rights to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves.

 

Our limited operating history may make it difficult to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.

We commenced operations in 2017, and our operations to date have been limited to organizing and staffing our company, business planning, raising capital, conducting research activities and filing and prosecuting patent applications. All of our research programs are still in the research or preclinical stage of development, and their risk of failure is high. We have not yet demonstrated our ability to initiate or complete any clinical trials, obtain marketing approvals, manufacture product for clinical trials or on a commercial scale or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct sales, marketing and distribution activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Consequently, any predictions our stockholders make about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing and commercializing products.

 

Our limited operating history may make it difficult to evaluate our technology and industry and predict our future performance. Our limited history as an operating company makes any assessment of our future success or viability subject to significant uncertainty. We will encounter risks and difficulties frequently experienced by early stage companies in rapidly evolving fields. If we do not address these risks successfully, our business will suffer.

 

In addition, as our business grows, we may encounter unforeseen expenses, restrictions, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown factors. We will need to transition at some point from a company with a research focus to a company capable of conducting development activities and then to a company supporting commercial activities. We may not be successful in such transitions.

 

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Our ability to utilize our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes may be subject to limitations.

We have a history of cumulative losses and anticipate that we will continue to incur significant losses in the foreseeable future; thus, we do not know whether or when we will generate taxable income necessary to utilize our net operating losses, or NOLs, or research and development tax credit carryforwards. As of December 31, 2020, we had federal NOL carryforwards of $69.1 million and state NOL carryforwards of $68.9 million.

 

In general, under Sections 382 and 383 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, and corresponding provisions of state law, a corporation that undergoes an “ownership change,” generally defined as a greater than 50 percentage point change (by value) in its equity ownership by certain stockholders over a three-year period, is subject to limitations on its ability to utilize its pre-change NOLs and pre-change research and development tax credit carryforwards to offset post-change income or taxes. We have not conducted a study to assess whether any such ownership changes have occurred. We may have experienced such ownership changes in the past and may experience such ownership changes in the future through subsequent changes in our stock ownership (which may be outside our control). As a result, if, and to the extent that, we earn net taxable income, our ability to use our NOL carryforwards and research and development tax credit carryforwards to offset such taxable income may be subject to limitations.

 

There is also a risk that due to regulatory changes, such as suspensions on the use of NOLs, or other unforeseen reasons, our existing NOLs could expire or otherwise become unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities. As described below in “Changes in tax laws or in their implementation or interpretation may adversely affect our business and financial condition,” legislation enacted in 2017, informally titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or the Tax Act, as amended by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, includes changes to U.S. federal tax rates and the rules governing NOL carryforwards that may significantly impact our ability to utilize our NOLs to offset taxable income in the future. In addition, state NOLs generated in one state cannot be used to offset income generated in another state. For these reasons, even if we attain profitability, we may be unable to use a material portion of our NOLs and other tax attributes.

 

Risks related to discovery and development

We are very early in our development efforts. We have not initiated IND-enabling studies or identified any product candidates for clinical development, and as a result it will be years before we commercialize a product candidate, if ever. If we are unable to identify and advance product candidates through preclinical studies and clinical trials, obtain marketing approval and ultimately commercialize them, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

We are very early in our development efforts and have invested our research efforts to date in developing our platform. We have a portfolio of programs that are in early stages of preclinical development and have not yet initiated IND-enabling studies or identified any product candidates for clinical development. We may never advance any product candidates to clinical-stage development. Our ability to generate product revenue, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend heavily on the successful development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates, which may never occur. We currently generate no revenue from sales of any product, and we may never be able to develop or commercialize a marketable product.

 

Commencing clinical trials in the United States is subject to acceptance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, of an IND and finalizing the trial design based on discussions with the FDA and other regulatory authorities. In the event that the FDA requires us to complete additional preclinical studies or we are required to satisfy other FDA requests prior to commencing clinical trials, the start of our first clinical trials may be delayed. Even after we receive and incorporate guidance from these regulatory authorities, the FDA or other regulatory authorities could disagree that we have satisfied their requirements to commence any clinical trial or change their position on the acceptability of our trial design

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or the clinical endpoints selected, which may require us to complete additional preclinical studies or clinical trials or impose stricter approval conditions than we currently expect. There are equivalent processes and risks applicable to clinical trial applications in other countries, including countries in the European Union.

 

Commercialization of any product candidates we may develop will require preclinical and clinical development; regulatory and marketing approval in multiple jurisdictions, including by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency, or EMA; manufacturing supply, capacity and expertise; a commercial organization; and significant marketing efforts. The success of product candidates we may identify and develop will depend on many factors, including the following:

 

timely and successful completion of preclinical studies, including toxicology studies, biodistribution studies and minimally efficacious dose studies in animals, where applicable;

 

effective INDs or comparable foreign applications that allow commencement of our planned clinical trials or future clinical trials for any product candidates we may develop;

 

 

successful enrollment and completion of clinical trials, including under the FDA’s current Good Clinical Practices, or cGCPs, current Good Laboratory Practices, or cGLPs, and any additional regulatory requirements from foreign regulatory authorities;

 

positive results from our future clinical trials that support a finding of safety and effectiveness and an acceptable risk-benefit profile in the intended populations;

 

receipt of marketing approvals from applicable regulatory authorities;

 

establishment of arrangements through our own facilities or with third-party manufacturers for clinical supply and, where applicable, commercial manufacturing capabilities;

 

establishment, maintenance, defense and enforcement of patent, trademark, trade secret and other intellectual property protection or regulatory exclusivity for any product candidates we may develop;

 

commercial launch of any product candidates we may develop, if approved, whether alone or in collaboration with others;

 

acceptance of the benefits and use of our product candidates we may develop, including method of administration, if and when approved, by patients, the medical community and third-party payers;

 

effective competition with other therapies;

 

maintenance of a continued acceptable safety, tolerability and efficacy profile of any product candidates we may develop following approval; and

 

establishment and maintenance of healthcare coverage and adequate reimbursement by payers.

 

If we do not succeed in one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully commercialize any product candidates we may develop, which would materially harm our business. If we are unable to advance our product candidates to clinical development, obtain regulatory approval and ultimately commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

 

We may encounter substantial delays in commencement, enrollment or completion of our clinical trials or we may fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of applicable regulatory authorities, which could prevent us from commercializing any product candidates we determine to develop on a timely basis, if at all.

The risk of failure in developing product candidates is high. It is impossible to predict when or if any product candidate would prove effective or safe in humans or will receive regulatory approval. Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the sale of any product candidate, we must complete preclinical development and then conduct extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and

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efficacy of product candidates in humans. We have not yet conducted a clinical trial of any product candidate. Clinical trials may fail to demonstrate that our product candidates are safe for humans and effective for indicated uses. Even if the clinical trials are successful, changes in marketing approval policies during the development period, changes in or the enactment or promulgation of additional statutes, regulations or guidance or changes in regulatory review for each submitted product application may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application.

 

Before we can commence clinical trials for a product candidate, we must complete extensive preclinical testing and studies that support our INDs and other regulatory filings. We cannot be certain of the timely identification of a product candidate or the completion or outcome of our preclinical testing and studies and cannot predict whether the FDA will accept our proposed clinical programs or whether the outcome of our preclinical testing and studies will ultimately support the further development of any product candidates. Conducting preclinical testing 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. As a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to submit INDs for our preclinical programs on the timelines we expect, if at all, and we cannot be sure that submission of INDs will result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to begin.

 

Furthermore, product candidates are subject to continued preclinical safety studies, which may be conducted concurrently with our clinical testing. The outcomes of these safety studies may delay the launch of or enrollment in future clinical trials and could impact our ability to continue to conduct our clinical trials.

 

Clinical testing is expensive, is difficult to design and implement, can take many years to complete and is uncertain as to outcome. We cannot guarantee that any clinical trials will be conducted as planned or completed on schedule, or at all. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing, which may result from a multitude of factors, including, but not limited to, flaws in trial design, dose selection issues, patient enrollment criteria and failure to demonstrate favorable safety or efficacy traits.

 

Other events that may prevent successful or timely completion of clinical development include:

 

 

delays in reaching a consensus with regulatory authorities on trial design;

 

delays in reaching agreement on acceptable terms with prospective clinical research organizations, or CLROs, and clinical trial sites;

 

delays in opening clinical trial sites or obtaining required institutional review board, or IRB, or independent ethics committee approval, or the equivalent review groups for sites outside the United States, at each clinical trial site;

 

imposition of a clinical hold by regulatory authorities as a result of a serious adverse event or after an inspection of our clinical trial operations or trial sites;

 

negative or inconclusive results observed in clinical trials, including failure to demonstrate statistical significance, which could lead us, or cause regulators to require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon product development programs;

 

failure by us, any CLROs we engage or any other third parties to adhere to clinical trial requirements;

 

failure to perform in accordance with the FDA’s cGCPs;

 

failure by physicians to adhere to delivery protocols leading to variable results;

 

delays in the testing, validation, manufacturing and delivery of any product candidates we may develop to the clinical sites, including delays by third parties with whom we have contracted to perform certain of those functions;

 

failure of our third-party contractors to comply with regulatory requirements or to meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all;

 

delays in having patients complete participation in a trial or return for post-treatment follow-up;

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clinical trial sites or patients dropping out of a trial;

 

selection of clinical endpoints that require prolonged periods of clinical observation or analysis of the resulting data;

 

occurrence of serious adverse events associated with the product candidate that are viewed to outweigh its potential benefits;

 

occurrence of serious adverse events associated with a product candidate in development by another company, which are viewed to outweigh its potential benefits, and which may negatively impact the perception of our product due to a similarity in technology or approach;

 

changes in regulatory requirements and guidance that require amending or submitting new clinical protocols;

 

changes in the legal or regulatory regimes domestically or internationally related to patient rights and privacy; or

 

lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial.

 

Any inability to successfully complete preclinical studies and clinical trials could result in additional costs to us or impair our ability to generate revenues from product sales, regulatory and commercialization milestones and royalties. In addition, if we make manufacturing or formulation changes to any product candidates we may develop, we may need to conduct additional studies or trials to bridge our modified product candidates to earlier versions. Clinical trial delays also could shorten any periods during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize any product candidates we may develop or allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, which could impair our ability to successfully commercialize any product candidates we may develop and may harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Additionally, if the results of future clinical trials are inconclusive or if there are safety concerns or serious adverse events associated with any product candidates we may develop, we may:

 

 

be delayed in obtaining marketing approval for product candidates, if at all;

 

obtain approval for indications or patient populations that are not as broad as intended or desired;

 

obtain approval with labeling that includes significant use or distribution restrictions or safety warnings;

 

be subject to changes in the way the product is administered;

 

be required to perform additional clinical trials to support approval or be subject to additional post-marketing testing requirements;

 

have regulatory authorities withdraw, or suspend, their approval of the product or impose restrictions on its distribution in the form of a modified risk evaluation and mitigation strategy;

 

be subject to the addition of labeling statements, such as warnings or contraindications;

 

be sued; or

 

experience damage to our reputation.

 

In particular, each of the conditions for which we plan to develop product candidates are rare genetic diseases with limited patient pools from which to draw for clinical trials. Further, because it can be difficult to diagnose these diseases in the absence of a genetic screen, we may have difficulty finding patients who are eligible to participate in our studies. The eligibility criteria of our clinical trials will further limit the pool of available study participants. Additionally, the process of finding and diagnosing patients may prove costly. The treating physicians in our clinical trials may also use their medical discretion in advising patients enrolled in our clinical trials to withdraw from our studies to try alternative therapies.

 

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Our approach to the discovery and development of product candidates based on our FORCE platform is unproven, and we may not be successful in our efforts to identify, discover or develop potential product candidates.

The success of our business depends upon our ability to identify, develop and commercialize products based on our proprietary FORCE platform. Our therapeutics consist of three essential components: a proprietary Fab, a clinically validated linker and an oligonucleotide payload that we attach to our Fab using the linker. The Fab is engineered to bind to TfR1 to enable targeted delivery of nucleic acids and other molecules to skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle.

 

All of our product development programs are still in the research or preclinical stage of development and our approach to treating muscle disease is unproven. Our research programs may fail to identify potential product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons. Our research methodology may be unsuccessful in identifying potential product candidates and our potential product candidates may be shown to have harmful side effects in preclinical in vitro experiments or animal model studies. In addition, our potential product candidates may not show promising signals of therapeutic effect in such experiments or studies or they may have other characteristics that may make the product candidates impractical to manufacture, unmarketable or unlikely to receive marketing approval. Further, because all of our development programs are based on our FORCE platform, adverse developments with respect to one of our programs may have a significant adverse impact on the actual or perceived likelihood of success and value of our other programs.

 

In addition, we have not initiated any IND-enabling studies, identified any product candidates for clinical development or successfully developed any product candidate and our ability to identify and develop a product candidate may never materialize. The process by which we identify and disclose product candidates may fail to yield product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons, including those discussed in these risk factors. In addition:

 

 

we may not be able to assemble sufficient resources to acquire or discover product candidates;

 

competitors may develop alternatives that render our potential product candidates obsolete or less attractive;

 

potential product candidates we develop may nevertheless be covered by third parties’ patents or other intellectual property rights;

 

potential product candidates may, on further study, be shown to have harmful side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that indicate that they are unlikely to be products that will receive marketing approval and achieve market acceptance;

 

potential product candidates may not be effective in treating their targeted diseases or disorders;

 

the market for a potential product candidate may change so that the continued development of that product candidate is no longer reasonable;

 

a potential product candidate may not be capable of being produced in commercial quantities at an acceptable cost, or at all; or

 

the regulatory pathway for a potential product candidate may be too complex and difficult to navigate successfully or economically.

 

If we are unable to identify and discover suitable product candidates for clinical development, this would adversely impact our business strategy and our financial position and share price and could potentially cause us to cease operations.

 

The outcome of preclinical studies and earlier-stage clinical trials may not be predictive of future results or the success of later preclinical studies and clinical trials.

We are in the early stage of research in the development of our platform and programs and have not initiated any IND-enabling studies or identified any product candidates for clinical development. As a result, our belief in the capabilities of our platform is based on early research and preclinical studies.

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However, the results of preclinical studies may not be predictive of the results of later preclinical studies or clinical trials, and the results of any early-stage clinical trials may not be predictive of the results of later clinical trials. In addition, initial success in clinical trials may not be indicative of results obtained when such trials are completed. Moreover, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that have believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval of their products. Our future clinical trials may not ultimately be successful or support further clinical development of any product candidates we may develop. There is a high failure rate for product candidates proceeding through clinical trials. A number of companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in clinical development even after achieving encouraging results in earlier studies. Any such setbacks in our clinical development could materially harm our business and results of operations.

 

If we experience delays or difficulties in the enrollment of patients in clinical trials, our ability to complete clinical trials may be adversely impacted.

Identifying and qualifying patients to participate in clinical trials of any product candidates we may develop is critical to our success. We may not be able to identify, recruit and enroll a sufficient number of patients, or those with required or desired characteristics, to complete our clinical trials in a timely manner. Patient enrollment and trial completion is affected by factors including:

 

 

perceived risks and benefits of novel unproven approaches;

 

size of the patient population, in particular for rare diseases such as the diseases on which we are initially focused, and process for identifying patients;

 

design of the trial protocol;

 

eligibility and exclusion criteria;

 

perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under study;

 

availability of competing therapies and clinical trials;

 

severity of the disease or disorder under investigation;

 

proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective patients;

 

ability to obtain and maintain patient consent;

 

risk that enrolled patients will drop out before completion of the trial;

 

patient referral practices of physicians; and

 

ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment.

 

Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for clinical trials would result in significant delays and could require us to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. Enrollment delays in these clinical trials may result in increased development costs for our product candidates, which would cause the value of our company to decline and limit our ability to obtain additional financing. Furthermore, we rely on and expect to continue to rely on contract research organizations, or CROs, CLROs and clinical trial sites to ensure the proper and timely conduct of our clinical trials and we will have limited influence over their performance.

 

Even if we are able to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials, we may have difficulty maintaining patients in our clinical trials. Many of the patients who end up receiving placebo may perceive that they are not receiving the product candidate being tested, and they may decide to withdraw from our clinical trials to pursue other alternative therapies rather than continue the trial with the perception that they are receiving placebo. If we have difficulty enrolling or maintaining a sufficient number of patients to conduct our clinical trials, we may need to delay, limit or terminate clinical trials, any of which would harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

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If any product candidates we may develop cause undesirable side effects or have other unexpected adverse properties, such side effects or properties could delay or prevent regulatory approval, limit the commercial potential or result in significant negative consequences following any potential marketing approval.

We have not evaluated any product candidates in human clinical trials. It is impossible to predict when or if any product candidates we may develop will prove safe in humans. There can be no assurance that our technologies will not cause undesirable side effects.

 

Although other oligonucleotide therapeutics have received regulatory approval, our approach, which combines oligonucleotides with a Fab, is a novel approach to oligonucleotide therapy. As a result, there is uncertainty as to the safety profile of product candidates we may develop compared to more well-established classes of therapies, or oligonucleotide therapeutics on their own. Moreover, there have been only a limited number of clinical trials involving the use of conjugated oligonucleotide therapeutics and none involving the proprietary technology used in our FORCE platform.

 

If any product candidates we develop are associated with serious adverse events, undesirable side effects or unexpected characteristics, we may need to abandon their development or limit development to certain uses or subpopulations in which the serious adverse events, undesirable side effects or other characteristics are less prevalent, less severe or more acceptable from a risk-benefit perspective, any of which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Many product candidates that initially showed promise in early-stage testing have later been found to cause side effects that prevented further clinical development of the product candidates.

 

If in the future we are unable to demonstrate that such side effects were caused by factors others than our product candidates, the FDA, the EMA or other regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of, or deny approval of, any product candidates for any or all targeted indications. Even if we are able to demonstrate that any future serious adverse events are not product-related and regulatory authorities do not order us to cease further development of our product candidates, such occurrences could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the trial. Moreover, if we elect, or are required, to delay, suspend or terminate any clinical trial of any product candidate, 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.

 

We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular program, product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on programs, product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.

Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we focus on research programs and expect to focus on product candidates that we identify for specific indications among many potential options. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential, or we may choose to focus our efforts and resources on a potential product candidate that ultimately proves to be unsuccessful. 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 medicines. 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. Any such event could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

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Clinical trial and product liability lawsuits against us could divert our resources, could cause us to incur substantial liabilities and could limit commercialization of any product candidates we may develop.

We will face an inherent risk of clinical trial and product liability exposure related to the testing of any product candidates we may develop in clinical trials, and we will face an even greater risk if we commercially sell any products that we may develop. While we currently have no product candidates in clinical trials or that have been approved for commercial sale, the future use of product candidates by us in clinical trials, and the sale of any approved products in the future, may expose us to liability claims. These claims might be made by patients that use the product, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies or others selling such products. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against claims that our product candidates or products caused injuries, we will incur substantial liabilities. Regardless of merit or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

 

 

decreased demand for any product candidates we may develop;

 

injury to our reputation and significant negative media attention;

 

withdrawal of clinical trial participants;

 

significant costs to defend any related litigation;

 

substantial monetary awards to trial participants or patients;

 

loss of revenue;

 

reduced resources of our management to pursue our business strategy; and

 

the inability to commercialize any product candidates we may develop.

 

We will need to increase our insurance coverage if we commence clinical trials or if we commence commercialization of any product candidates. Insurance coverage is increasingly expensive. We may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in an amount adequate to satisfy any liability that may arise. If a successful clinical trial or product liability claim or series of claims is brought against us for uninsured liabilities or in excess of insured liabilities, our assets may not be sufficient to cover such claims and our business operations could be impaired.

 

Risks related to our dependence on third parties

We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties to conduct some or all aspects of our product manufacturing, research and preclinical and clinical testing, and these third parties may not perform satisfactorily.

We do not expect to independently conduct all aspects of our product manufacturing, research and preclinical and clinical testing. We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties with respect to many of these items, including contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, for the manufacturing of any product candidates we test in preclinical or clinical development, as well as CROs for the conduct of our animal testing and research and CLROs for the conduct of our planned clinical trials. Any of these third parties may terminate their engagements with us at any time. If we need to enter into alternative arrangements, it could delay our product development activities.

 

Our reliance on these third parties for research and development activities will reduce our control over these activities but will not relieve us of our responsibility to ensure compliance with all required regulations and study protocols. For example, for product candidates that we develop and commercialize on our own, we will remain responsible for ensuring that each of our IND-enabling studies and clinical trials are conducted in accordance with the study plan and protocols. Moreover, the FDA requires us to comply with cGCPs for conducting, recording and reporting the results of clinical trials to assure that data and reported results are credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of trial participants are protected. We also are required to register ongoing clinical trials and post the results of completed clinical trials on a government-sponsored database, ClinicalTrials.gov, within specified timeframes. Failure to do so can result in fines, adverse publicity and civil and criminal sanctions. If we or any of our CLROs or other third parties, including trial sites, fail to comply with applicable cGCPs, the

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clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA, EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that upon inspection by a given regulatory authority, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our clinical trials complies with cGCP regulations. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with product produced under conditions that comply with the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practices. Our failure to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process.

 

Although we intend to design the clinical trials for any product candidates we may develop, CLROs will conduct some or all of the clinical trials. As a result, many important aspects of our development programs, including their conduct and timing, will be outside of our direct control. Our reliance on third parties to conduct future preclinical studies and clinical trials will also result in less direct control over the management of data developed through preclinical studies and clinical trials than would be the case if we were relying entirely upon our own staff. Communicating with outside parties can also be challenging, potentially leading to mistakes as well as difficulties in coordinating activities. Outside parties may:

 

 

have staffing difficulties;

 

fail to comply with contractual obligations;

 

experience regulatory compliance issues;

 

undergo changes in priorities or become financially distressed; or

 

form relationships with other entities, some of which may be our competitors.

 

These factors may materially adversely affect the willingness or ability of third parties to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials and may subject us to unexpected cost increases that are beyond our control. In addition, any third parties conducting our clinical trials will not be our employees, and except for remedies available to us under our agreements with such third parties, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time and resources to our clinical programs. If the CROs, CLROs and other third parties do not perform preclinical studies and future clinical trials in a satisfactory manner, if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols, or if they breach their obligations to us or fail to comply with regulatory requirements, the development, regulatory approval and commercialization of any product candidates we may develop may be delayed, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval and commercialize our product candidates or our development programs may be materially and irreversibly harmed. If we are unable to rely on preclinical and clinical data collected by our CROs, CLROs and other third parties, we could be required to repeat, extend the duration of or increase the size of any preclinical studies or clinical trials we conduct and this could significantly delay commercialization and require greater expenditures.

 

If third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, meet expected deadlines or conduct our studies in accordance with regulatory requirements or our stated study plans and protocols, we will not be able to complete, or may be delayed in completing, the preclinical studies and clinical trials required to support future IND submissions and approval of any product candidates we may develop.

 

We currently depend on a small number of third-party suppliers for the manufacture of the Fabs, linker and oligonucleotide payloads that we are evaluating in our research programs. The loss of these or future third-party suppliers, or their inability provide us with sufficient supply, could harm our business.

We do not own or operate manufacturing facilities and have no current plans to develop our own clinical or commercial-scale manufacturing capabilities. We rely on a small number of third-party suppliers for the manufacture of the Fabs, linker and oligonucleotide payloads that we are evaluating in our research programs. We expect to continue to depend on third-party suppliers for the manufacture of any product candidates we advance into preclinical and clinical development, as well as for commercial manufacture if those product candidates receive marketing approval. The facilities used by third-party manufacturers to manufacture our product candidates must be approved by the FDA and any comparable foreign regulatory authority pursuant to inspections that will be conducted after we submit an NDA to the FDA or

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any comparable filing to a foreign regulatory authority. We do not control the manufacturing process of, and are completely dependent on, third-party manufacturers for compliance with cGMP requirements for manufacture of products. If these third-party manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or any comparable foreign regulatory authority, they will not be able to secure and/or maintain regulatory approval for their manufacturing facilities.

 

Any product candidate we may develop will consist of a proprietary Fab conjugated with the oligonucleotide therapy. Our Fab is manufactured by starting with cells which are stored in a cell bank. If we lose multiple cell banks, our manufacturing will be adversely impacted by the need to replace the cell banks.

 

In addition, we have no control over the ability of third-party manufacturers to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. If the FDA or any comparable foreign regulatory authority does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of any product candidates we may develop or if it withdraws any such approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market any product candidates we may develop, if approved. Our failure, or the failure of our third-party manufacturers, to comply with applicable regulations could result in sanctions being imposed on us, including clinical holds, fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, seizures or recalls of product candidates or products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecutions, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our product candidates.

 

We may also seek to eventually establish our own manufacturing facility for the long-term commercial supply of any product candidates we may develop and which receive regulatory approval. If we determine to establish our own manufacturing facility and manufacture our products on our own, we will need to obtain the resources and expertise in order to build such manufacturing capabilities and to conduct such manufacturing operations. In addition, our conduct of such manufacturing operations will be subject to the extensive regulations and operational risks to which our third-party suppliers are subject. If we are not successful in building these capabilities or complying with the regulations or otherwise operating our manufacturing function, our commercial supply could be disrupted and our business could be materially harmed.

 

Our or a third party’s failure to execute on our manufacturing requirements on commercially reasonable terms and in compliance with cGMP could adversely affect our business in a number of ways, including:

 

 

an inability to initiate preclinical studies or clinical trials of product candidates;

 

delays in submitting regulatory applications, or receiving marketing approvals, for product candidates;

 

subjecting third-party manufacturing facilities or our manufacturing facilities to additional inspections by regulatory authorities;

 

requirements to cease development or to recall batches of product candidates; and

 

in the event of approval to market and commercialize any product, an inability to meet commercial demands for the product.

 

We are party to manufacturing agreements with a number of third-party manufacturers. We may be unable to maintain these agreements or establish any additional agreements with third-party manufacturers or to do so on acceptable terms. Even if we are able to maintain or establish agreements with third-party manufacturers, reliance on third-party manufacturers entails additional risks, including:

 

 

failure of third-party manufacturers to comply with regulatory requirements and maintain quality assurance;

 

breach of the manufacturing agreement by the third party;

 

failure to manufacture according to our specifications;

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failure to manufacture according to our schedule or at all;

 

misappropriation of our proprietary information, including our trade secrets and know-how; and

 

termination or nonrenewal of the agreement by the third party at a time that is costly or inconvenient for us.

 

We may compete with third parties for access to manufacturing facilities. There are a limited number of manufacturers that operate under cGMP regulations and that might be capable of manufacturing for us.

 

We do not currently have arrangements in place for redundant supply or a second source for all required raw materials. If our existing or future third-party manufacturers cannot perform as agreed, we may be required to replace such manufacturers and we may be unable to replace them on a timely basis or at all.

 

Additionally, if supply from one approved manufacturer is interrupted, there could be a significant disruption in supply. An alternative manufacturer would need to be qualified through a biologics license application, or BLA, supplement which could result in further delay. The regulatory agencies may also require additional studies or trials if a new manufacturer is relied upon for commercial production. Switching manufacturers may involve substantial costs and is likely to result in a delay in our desired clinical and commercial timelines.

 

These factors could cause the delay of clinical trials, regulatory submissions, required approvals or commercialization of our product candidates, cause us to incur higher costs and prevent us from commercializing our products successfully. Furthermore, if our suppliers fail to meet contractual requirements, and we are unable to secure one or more replacement suppliers capable of production at a substantially equivalent cost, our clinical trials may be delayed or we could lose potential revenue.

 

Our current and anticipated future dependence upon third parties for the manufacture of any product candidates we develop may adversely affect our development programs and our ability to commercialize any products that receive marketing approval on a timely and competitive basis.

 

We may from time to time be dependent on single-source suppliers for some of the components and materials used in the product candidates we may develop.

We may from time to time depend on single-source suppliers for some of the components and materials used in any product candidates we may develop. For instance, we currently use a single supplier for each of our Fab, linker and payloads. We cannot ensure that these suppliers or service providers will remain in business, have sufficient capacity or supply to meet our needs or that they will not be purchased by one of our competitors or another company that is not interested in continuing to work with us. Our use of single-source suppliers of raw materials, components, key processes and finished goods could expose us to several risks, including disruptions in supply, price increases or late deliveries. There are, in general, relatively few alternative sources of supply for substitute components. These vendors may be unable or unwilling to meet our future demands for our clinical trials or commercial sale. Establishing additional or replacement suppliers for these components, materials and processes could take a substantial amount of time and it may be difficult to establish replacement suppliers who meet regulatory requirements. Any disruption in supply from any single-source supplier or service provider could lead to supply delays or interruptions which would damage our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

If we have to switch to a replacement supplier, the manufacture and delivery of any product candidates we may develop could be interrupted for an extended period, which could adversely affect our business. Establishing additional or replacement suppliers, if required, may not be accomplished quickly. If we are able to find a replacement supplier, the replacement supplier would need to be qualified and may require additional regulatory authority approval, which could result in further delay. While we seek to maintain adequate inventory of the single source components and materials used in our products, any interruption or delay in the supply of components or materials, or our inability to obtain components or materials from alternate sources at acceptable prices in a timely manner, could impair our ability to meet the demand for our investigational medicines.

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We may enter into collaborations with third parties for the research, development and commercialization of certain of the product candidates we may develop. If any such collaborations are not successful, we may not be able to capitalize on the market potential of those product candidates.

We may seek third-party collaborators for the research, development and commercialization of certain of the product candidates we may develop. If we enter into any such arrangements with any third parties, we will likely have limited control over the amount and timing of resources that our collaborators dedicate to the development or commercialization of any product candidates we may seek to develop with them. Our ability to generate revenues from these arrangements will depend on our collaborators’ abilities to successfully perform the functions assigned to them in these arrangements. We cannot predict the success of any collaboration that we enter into.

 

Collaborations involving our research programs or any product candidates we may develop pose numerous risks to us, including the following:

 

 

collaborators would have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to these collaborations;

 

collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates we may develop or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on clinical trial results, changes in the collaborator’s strategic focus or available funding or external factors such as an acquisition that diverts resources or creates competing priorities;

 

collaborators may delay programs, preclinical studies or clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for programs, preclinical studies or clinical trials, stop a preclinical study or clinical trial or abandon a product candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials or require a new formulation of a product candidate for clinical testing;

 

collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with any product candidates we may develop if the collaborators believe that competitive products are more likely to be successfully developed or can be commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours;

 

collaborators may be acquired by a third party having competitive products or different priorities, causing the emphasis on our product development or commercialization program under such collaboration to be delayed, diminished or terminated;

 

collaborators with marketing and distribution rights to one or more products may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of such product or products;

 

collaborators may not properly obtain, maintain, enforce or defend our intellectual property or proprietary rights or may use our proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation;

 

disputes may arise between the collaborators and us that result in the delay or termination of the research, development, or commercialization of any product candidates we may develop or that result in costly litigation or arbitration that diverts management attention and resources;

 

we may lose certain valuable rights under certain circumstances, including if we undergo a change of control;

 

collaborations may be terminated and, if terminated, may result in a need for additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates we may develop; and

 

collaboration agreements may not lead to development or commercialization of product candidates in the most efficient manner or at all.

 

If our collaborations do not result in the successful development and commercialization of product candidates, or if one of our collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may not receive any future research funding or milestone or royalty payments under the collaboration. If we do not receive the

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funding we expect under these agreements, our development of product candidates could be delayed, and we may need additional resources to develop product candidates. In addition, if one of our collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may find it more difficult to find a suitable replacement collaborator or attract new collaborators, and our development programs may be delayed or the perception of us in the business and financial communities could be adversely affected. All of the risks relating to product development, regulatory approval and commercialization described in this “Risk Factors” section apply to the activities of our collaborators.

 

These relationships, or those like them, 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 could face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators, and the negotiation process is time-consuming and complex. Our ability to reach a definitive collaboration agreement will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration, and the proposed collaborator’s evaluation of several factors. If we license rights to any product candidates we or our collaborators may develop, we may not be able to realize the benefit of such transactions if we are unable to successfully integrate them with our existing operations and company culture.

 

If conflicts arise between us and our potential collaborators, these parties may act in a manner adverse to us and could limit our ability to implement our strategies.

If conflicts arise between us and our potential collaborators, the other party may act in a manner adverse to us and could limit our ability to implement our strategies. Our collaborators may develop, either alone or with others, products in related fields that are competitive with the product candidates we may develop that are the subject of these collaborations with us. Competing products, either developed by the collaborators or to which the collaborators have rights, may result in the withdrawal of support for our product candidates.

 

Some of our future collaborators could also become our competitors. Our collaborators could develop competing products, preclude us from entering into collaborations with their competitors, fail to obtain timely regulatory approvals, terminate their agreements with us prematurely, fail to devote sufficient resources to the development and commercialization of products, or merge with or be acquired by a third party who may do any of these things. Any of these developments could harm our product development efforts.

 

If we are not able to establish collaborations on commercially reasonable terms, we may have to alter our development and commercialization plans.

Our product development and research programs and the potential commercialization of any product candidates we may develop will require substantial additional cash to fund expenses. For some of the product candidates we may develop, we may decide to collaborate with other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for the development and potential commercialization of those product candidates.

 

We face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Whether we reach a definitive agreement for a collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration, and the proposed collaborator’s evaluation of a number of factors. Those factors may include the design or results of clinical trials, the likelihood of approval by the FDA, the EMA or similar regulatory authorities outside the United States, the potential market for the subject product candidate, the costs and complexities of manufacturing and delivering such product candidate to patients, the potential of competing products, the existence of uncertainty with respect to our ownership of technology, which can exist if there is a challenge to such ownership without regard to the merits of the challenge, and industry and market conditions generally. The collaborator may also consider alternative product candidates or technologies for similar indications that may be available to collaborate on and whether such a collaboration could be more attractive than the one with us.

 

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Collaborations are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. In addition, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future collaborators.

 

We may not be able to negotiate collaborations on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to do so, we may have to curtail the development of the product candidate for which we are seeking to collaborate, reduce or delay its development program or one or more of our other development programs, delay its potential commercialization, reduce the scope of any sales or marketing activities, or increase our own expenditures on the development of the product candidate.

 

We are dependent on third-party vendors to provide certain licenses, products and services and our business and operations, including clinical trials, could be disrupted by any problems with our significant third-party vendors.

We engage a number of third-party suppliers and service providers to supply critical goods and services, such as contract research services, contract manufacturing services and IT services. Disruptions to the business, financial stability or operations of these suppliers and service providers, including due to strikes, labor disputes or other disruptions to the workforce, for instance, if, as a result of COVID-19, employees are not able to come to work, or to their willingness and ability to produce or deliver such products or provide such services in a manner that satisfies the requirements put forth by the authorities, or in a manner that satisfies our own requirements, could affect our ability to develop and market our future product candidates on a timely basis. If these suppliers and service providers were unable or unwilling to continue to provide their products or services in the manner expected, or at all, we could encounter difficulty finding alternative suppliers. Even if we are able to secure appropriate alternative suppliers in a timely manner, costs for such products or services could increase significantly. Any of these events could adversely affect our results of operations and our business.

 

Risks related to commercialization

We face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before us or more successfully than we do.

The development and commercialization of new drug products is highly competitive. We face competition with respect to any product candidates that we may develop from major pharmaceutical companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies worldwide. There are a number of large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that currently market and sell products or are pursuing the development of products for the treatment of many of the disorders for which we are conducting research programs. Some of these competitive products and therapies are based on scientific approaches that are the same as or similar to our approach, and others are based on entirely different approaches. 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.

 

Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient or are less expensive than our product candidates or that would render any product candidates that we may develop obsolete or non-competitive. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market. Additionally, technologies developed by our competitors may render our potential product candidates uneconomical or obsolete, and we may not be successful in marketing any product candidates we may develop against competitors.

 

We expect to face competition from existing products and product candidates in development for each of our programs. There are currently no approved therapies to treat the underlying cause of DM1. Product candidates currently in development to treat DM1 include: tideglusib, a GSK3-ß inhibitor in late-stage clinical development by AMO Pharma Ltd. for the congenital phenotype of DM1; AT466, which is an AAV-antisense candidate in preclinical development by Audentes Therapeutics, Inc.; an antibody linked siRNA

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in preclinical development by Avidity Biosciences, Inc.; gene editing treatments in preclinical development by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., or Vertex; an RNA-targeting gene therapy in preclinical development by Locana, Inc.; small molecules interacting with RNA in preclinical development by Expansion Therapeutics, Inc.; and therapeutics based on biomolecular condensate biology in preclinical development by Dewpoint Therapeutics, Inc.

 

Currently, patients with DMD are treated with corticosteroids to manage the inflammatory component of the disease. EMFLAZA (deflazacort) is an FDA-approved corticosteroid marketed by PTC Therapeutics, Inc., or PTC. In addition, there are four FDA-approved exon skipping drugs: EXONDYS 51 (eteplirsen), VYONDYS 53 (golodirsen) and AMONDYS 45 (casimersen), which are naked PMOs approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to Exon 51, Exon 53 and Exon 45 skipping, respectively, and are marketed by Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc., or Sarepta, and VILTEPSO (vitolarsen), a naked PMO approved for the treatment of DMD patients amenable to Exon 53 skipping, which is marketed by Nippon Shinyaku Co. Ltd. Companies focused on developing treatments for DMD that target dystrophin mechanisms, as does our DMD program, include Sarepta with SRP-5051, a peptide-linked PMO currently being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial for patients amenable to Exon 51 skipping, Wave Life Sciences Ltd. with WVE-N531, a stereopure oligonucleotide in preclinical development for patients amenable to Exon 53 skipping, PTC with ataluren, a small molecule targeting nonsense mutations in a Phase 3 clinical trial, and Avidity Biosciences, Inc., which is in preclinical development with an antibody oligonucleotide conjugate that targets dystrophin production. In addition, several companies are developing gene therapies to treat DMD, including Milo Biotechnology (AAV1-FS344), Pfizer Inc. (PF-06939926), Sarepta (SRP-9001 and Galgt2 gene therapy program), Solid Biosciences Inc. (SGT-001) and REGENXBIO Inc. Gene editing treatments that are in preclinical development are also being pursued by Vertex and Sarepta. We are also aware of several companies targeting non-dystrophin mechanisms for the treatment of DMD.

 

There are currently no therapies to treat the underlying cause of FSHD. Products currently in development to treat FSHD include: creatine monohydrate, a supplement that enhances muscle performance, which is being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and losmapimod, a p38 MAPK inhibitor that may modulate DUX4 expression, which is being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial by Fulcrum Therapeutics Inc.

 

We will also compete more generally with other companies developing alternative scientific and technological approaches, including other companies working to develop conjugates with oligonucleotides for extra-hepatic delivery, including Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Aro Biotherapeutics, Arrowhead Therapeutics, Avidity Biosciences, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Ionis Pharmaceuticals, NeuBase Therapeutics, Inc.  and Sarepta, as well as gene therapy and gene editing approaches.

 

Many of the companies against which we compete or against which we may compete in the future have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and marketing approved products than we do. Accordingly, our competitors may be more successful than us in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining approval for treatments and achieving widespread market acceptance, rendering our treatments obsolete or non-competitive.

 

Additionally, mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Smaller and other early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These third parties compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.

 

If we successfully obtain approval for any product candidate, we will face competition based on many different factors, including the safety and effectiveness of our products, the ease with which our products can be administered and the extent to which patients accept relatively new routes of administration, the

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timing and scope of regulatory approvals for these products, the availability and cost of manufacturing, marketing and sales capabilities, price, reimbursement coverage and patent position. Competing products could present superior treatment alternatives, including by being more effective, safer, more convenient, less expensive or marketed and sold more effectively than any products we may develop. Competitive products or technological approaches may make any products we develop, or our FORCE platform, obsolete or noncompetitive before we recover the expense of developing and commercializing our product candidates. If we are unable to compete effectively, our opportunity to generate revenue from the sale of our products we may develop, if approved, could be adversely affected.

 

Even if any product candidate that we may develop receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payers and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.

If any product candidate we may develop receives marketing approval, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payers and others in the medical community. Sales of medical products depend in part on the willingness of physicians to prescribe the treatment, which is likely to be based on a determination by these physicians that the products are safe, therapeutically effective and cost-effective. In addition, the inclusion or exclusion of products from treatment guidelines established by various physician groups and the viewpoints of influential physicians can affect the willingness of other physicians to prescribe the treatment. We cannot predict whether physicians, physicians’ organizations, hospitals, other healthcare providers, government agencies or private insurers will determine that our product is safe, therapeutically effective and cost-effective as compared with competing treatments. Efforts to educate the medical community and third-party payers on the benefits of any product candidates we may develop may require significant resources and may not be successful. If any product candidates we may develop do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenues and we may not become profitable. The degree of market acceptance of any product candidates we may develop, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:

 

 

the efficacy and safety of such product candidates as demonstrated in clinical trials;

 

the potential advantages and limitations compared to alternative treatments;

 

the effectiveness of sales and marketing efforts;

 

the cost of treatment in relation to alternative treatments;

 

the clinical indications for which the product is approved;

 

the convenience and ease of administration compared to alternative treatments;

 

the willingness of the target patient population to try new therapies and of physicians to prescribe these therapies;

 

the strength of marketing and distribution support;

 

the timing of market introduction of competitive products;

 

the availability of third-party coverage and adequate reimbursement;

 

the prevalence and severity of any side effects; and

 

any restrictions on the use of our products, if approved, together with other medications.

 

If the market opportunities for any product candidates we develop are smaller than we believe they are, our revenue may be adversely affected, and our business may suffer. Because the target patient populations of our programs are small, and the addressable patient population even smaller, we must be able to successfully identify patients and capture a significant market share to achieve profitability and growth.

We focus our research and product development on treatments for rare diseases. Given the small number of patients who have the diseases that we are targeting, it is critical to our ability to grow and become profitable that we continue to successfully identify patients with these rare diseases. Our projections of both the number of people who have these diseases, as well as the subset of people with

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these diseases who have the potential to benefit from treatment with any product candidates we may develop, are based on our beliefs and estimates. These estimates have been derived from a variety of sources, including the scientific literature, surveys of clinics, patient foundations or market research that we conducted, and may prove to be incorrect or contain errors. New studies may change the estimated incidence or prevalence of these diseases. The number of patients may turn out to be lower than expected. The effort to identify patients with diseases we seek to treat is in early stages, and we cannot accurately predict the number of patients for whom treatment might be possible. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for each of our product candidates may be limited or may not be amenable to treatment with our product candidates, and new patients may become increasingly difficult to identify or gain access to, which would adversely affect our results of operations and our business. Further, even if we obtain significant market share for our product candidates, because the potential target populations are very small, we may never achieve profitability despite obtaining such significant market share.

 

Our target patient populations are relatively small, and there is currently no standard of care treatment directed at some of our target indications, such as FSHD. As a result, the pricing and reimbursement of any product candidates we may develop, if approved, is uncertain, but must be adequate to support commercial infrastructure. If we are unable to obtain adequate levels of reimbursement, our ability to successfully market and sell product candidates will be adversely affected.

 

The pricing, insurance coverage and reimbursement status of newly approved products is uncertain. Failure to obtain or maintain adequate coverage and reimbursement for our future product candidates, if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate product revenue.

The initial target platforms in our pipeline are indications with small patient populations. For product candidates that are designed to treat smaller patient populations to be commercially viable, the reimbursement for such product candidates must be higher, on a relative basis, to account for the lack of volume. Accordingly, we will need to implement a coverage and reimbursement strategy for any approved product candidate that accounts for the smaller potential market size. If we are unable to establish or sustain coverage and adequate reimbursement for any future product candidates from third-party payers, the adoption of those product candidates and sales revenue will be adversely affected, which, in turn, could adversely affect the ability to market or sell those product candidates, if approved.

 

We expect that coverage and reimbursement by third-party payers will be essential for most patients to be able to afford these treatments. Accordingly, sales of our future product candidates will depend substantially, both domestically and internationally, on the extent to which the costs of our product candidates will be paid by health maintenance, managed care, pharmacy benefit and similar healthcare management organizations, or will be reimbursed by government authorities, private health coverage insurers and other third-party payers. Even if coverage is provided, the approved reimbursement amount may not be high enough to allow us to establish or maintain pricing sufficient to realize a sufficient return on our investment.

 

There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. In the United States, the principal decisions about reimbursement by government authorities for new products are typically made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, since CMS decides whether and to what extent a new product will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare. Private payers tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. However, one payer’s determination to provide coverage for a product does not assure that other payers will also provide coverage for the drug product. Further, a payer’s decision to provide coverage for a drug product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Reimbursement agencies in the European Union may be more conservative than CMS.

 

Outside the United States, international operations are generally subject to extensive governmental price controls and other market regulations, and we believe the increasing emphasis on cost-containment initiatives in Europe, Canada and other countries has and will continue to put pressure on the pricing and

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usage of therapeutics such as any product candidates we may develop. In many countries, particularly the countries of the European Union, the prices of medical products are subject to varying price control mechanisms as part of national health systems. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after the receipt of marketing approval for a product. As a result, we might obtain marketing approval for a product in a particular country, but then be subject to price regulations that delay or might even prevent our commercial launch of the product, possibly for lengthy periods of time. 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. In general, the prices of products under such systems are substantially lower than in the United States. Other countries allow companies to fix their own prices for products but monitor and control company profits. Additional foreign price controls or other changes in pricing regulation could restrict the amount that we are able to charge for product candidates. Accordingly, in markets outside the United States, the reimbursement for any product candidates we may develop may be reduced compared with the United States and may be insufficient to generate commercially reasonable revenues and profits.

 

Moreover, increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payers, in the United States and internationally, to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and level of reimbursement for new products approved and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment for any product candidates we may develop. We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of any product candidates we may develop due to the trend toward managed healthcare, the increasing influence of certain third-party payers, such as health maintenance organizations, and additional legislative changes. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs and surgical procedures and other treatments, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products into the healthcare market. There have been instances in which third-party payers have refused to reimburse treatments for patients for whom the treatment is indicated in the FDA-approved product label. Even if we are successful in obtaining FDA approvals to commercialize our product candidates, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to secure reimbursement for all patients for whom treatment with our product candidates is indicated.

 

In addition to CMS and private payers, professional organizations such as the American Medical Association, can influence decisions about reimbursement for new products by determining standards for care. In addition, many private payers contract with commercial vendors who sell software that provide guidelines that attempt to limit utilization of, and therefore reimbursement for, certain products deemed to provide limited benefit to existing alternatives. Such organizations may set guidelines that limit reimbursement or utilization of our product candidates. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more product candidates for which we or our collaborators receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.

 

If we are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities or enter into sales, marketing and distribution agreements with third parties, we may not be successful in commercializing any product candidates we may develop if and when they are approved.

We do not have a sales or marketing infrastructure and have no experience in the sale, marketing or distribution of pharmaceutical products. To achieve commercial success for any product for which we have obtained marketing approval, we will need to establish a sales, marketing and distribution organization, either ourselves or through collaborations or other arrangements with third parties.

 

In the future, we may build a sales and marketing infrastructure to market some of the product candidates we may develop 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. These efforts may be costly, and our investment would be lost if we cannot retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel.

 

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Factors that may inhibit our efforts to commercialize our products on our own include:

 

 

our inability to recruit, train and retain adequate numbers of effective sales, marketing, coverage or reimbursement, customer service, medical affairs and other support personnel;

 

the inability of sales personnel to educate adequate numbers of physicians on the benefits of any future products;

 

the inability of reimbursement professionals to negotiate arrangements for formulary access, reimbursement and other acceptance by payers;

 

the inability to price our products at a sufficient price point to ensure an adequate and attractive level of profitability;

 

restricted or closed distribution channels that make it difficult to distribute our products to segments of the patient population;

 

the lack of complementary products to be offered by sales personnel, which may put us at a competitive disadvantage relative to companies with more extensive product lines; and

 

unforeseen costs and expenses associated with creating an independent sales and marketing organization.

 

If we are unable to establish our own sales, marketing and distribution capabilities and we enter into arrangements with third parties to perform these services, our product revenues and our profitability, if any, are likely to be lower than if we were to market, sell and distribute any products that we develop ourselves. In addition, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to sell, market and distribute any product candidates we may develop or may be unable to do so on terms that are acceptable 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 any product candidates we may develop.

 

The biologic product candidates for which we intend to seek approval may face competition sooner than anticipated.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Amendment, or the ACA, includes a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA, which created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-licensed reference biological product. Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date that the reference product was first licensed by the FDA. In addition, the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was first licensed. During this 12-year period of exclusivity, another company may still market a competing version of the reference product if the FDA approves a full BLA for the competing product containing the sponsor’s own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity and potency of their product. The law is complex and is still being interpreted and implemented by the FDA. As a result, its ultimate impact, implementation, and meaning are subject to uncertainty. While it is uncertain when such processes intended to implement BPCIA may be fully adopted by the FDA, any such processes could have an adverse effect on the future commercial prospects for our biological products.

 

There is a risk that any product candidates we may develop that are approved as a biological product under a BLA would not qualify for the 12-year period of exclusivity or that this exclusivity could be shortened due to congressional action or otherwise, or that the FDA will not consider any product candidates we may develop to be reference products for competing products, potentially creating the opportunity for generic competition sooner than anticipated. Other aspects of the BPCIA, some of which may impact the BPCIA exclusivity provisions, have also been the subject of recent litigation. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once approved, will be substituted for any one of our reference products

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in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for nonbiological products is not yet clear, and will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing.

 

Risks related to our intellectual property

Although we own and license a number of pending patent applications which have not yet issued as patents, we do not currently own any issued patents. We do, however, in-license two issued U.S. patents and one issued European patent relating to product candidates we may develop. If we or our licensors are unable to obtain, maintain and defend patent and other intellectual property protection for any product candidates or technology, or if the scope of the patent or other intellectual property protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products and technology similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully develop and commercialize any product candidates we may develop or our technology may be adversely affected due to such competition.

Our success depends in large part on our and our licensors’ ability to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection in the United States and other jurisdictions. We currently own and license patent applications relating to our FORCE platform technology, including our Fabs, oligonucleotide payloads and Fab-oligonucleotide conjugates, as well as aspects of our manufacturing and methods of treatment. We and our licensors have sought, and will seek, to protect our proprietary position by filing additional patent applications in the United States and abroad related to certain technologies and our platform that are important to our business. However, our patent portfolio is at an early stage and we currently do not own or exclusively license any issued patents in any jurisdiction other than two issued U.S. patents and one issued European patent which we exclusively license. Moreover, there can be no assurance as to whether or when our patent applications will issue as granted patents. Our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, marketing, offering to sell, importing and commercializing any product candidates we may develop and our technology is dependent upon the extent to which we have rights under valid and enforceable patents and other intellectual property that cover our platform and technology. If we are unable to secure, maintain, defend and enforce patents and other intellectual property with respect to any product candidates we may develop and technology, it would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Our pending Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT, patent applications are not eligible to become issued patents until, among other things, we file a national stage patent application within 30 to 32 months, depending on the jurisdiction, from such application’s priority date in the jurisdictions in which we are seeking patent protection. Similarly, our pending provisional patent applications are not eligible to become issued patents until, among other things, we file a non-provisional patent application within 12 months of such provisional patent application’s filing date. If we do not timely file such national stage patent applications or non-provisional patent applications, we may lose our priority date with respect to such PCT or provisional patent applications, respectively, and any patent protection on the inventions disclosed in such PCT or provisional patent applications, respectively. While we and our licensors intend to timely file national stage and non-provisional patent applications relating to our PCT and provisional patent applications, respectively, we cannot predict whether any such patent applications will result in the issuance of patents. If we or our licensors do not successfully obtain issued patents, or, if the scope of any patent protection we or our licensors obtain is not sufficiently broad, we will be unable to prevent others from using any product candidates we may develop or our technology or from developing or commercializing technology and products similar or identical to ours or other competing products and technologies. Any failure to obtain or maintain patent protection with respect to our product candidates or our FORCE platform would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

The patent prosecution process is expensive, time-consuming and complex, and we and our licensors may not be able to file, prosecute, maintain, defend, enforce or license all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. We and our licensors may not be able to obtain, maintain or defend patents and patent applications due to the subject matter claimed in such patents and patent applications being in the public domain. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable

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aspects of our research and development output before it is too late to obtain patent protection. Although we enter into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to confidential or patentable aspects of our research and development output, such as our employees, corporate collaborators, outside scientific collaborators, contract manufacturers, consultants, advisors and other third parties, any of these parties may breach these agreements and disclose such output before a patent application is filed, thereby jeopardizing our ability to seek patent protection. Consequently, we would not be able to prevent any third party from using any of our technology that is in the public domain to compete with any product candidates we may develop.

 

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 a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of patent rights are highly uncertain. Our pending and future owned and licensed patent applications may not result in patents being issued which protect our technology or product candidates, effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and product or otherwise provide any competitive advantage. In fact, patent applications may not issue as patents at all, and even if such patent applications do issue as patents, they may not issue in a form, or with a scope of claims, that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent others from competing with us or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. In addition, the scope of claims of an issued patent can be reinterpreted after issuance, and changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States and other jurisdictions may diminish the value of our patent rights or narrow the scope of our patent protection. Furthermore, our competitors or other third parties may be able to circumvent our patents by developing similar or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner.

 

Third parties have developed technologies that may be related or competitive to our own technologies and product candidates and may have filed or may file patent applications, or may have obtained issued patents, claiming inventions that may overlap or conflict with those claimed in our owned or licensed patent applications or issued patents. We may not be aware of all third-party intellectual property rights potentially relating to our current and future product candidates and technology. Publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing or, in some cases, not at all. Therefore, we cannot know for certain whether the inventors of our owned or licensed patents and patent applications were the first to make the inventions claimed in any owned or licensed patents or pending patent applications, or that we were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions. If a third party can establish that we or our licensors were not the first to make or the first to file for patent protection of such inventions, our owned or licensed patent applications may not issue as patents and even if issued, may be challenged and invalidated or ruled unenforceable.

 

The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity or enforceability, and our owned and licensed patents may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and other jurisdictions. For example, we may be subject to a third-party submission of prior art to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, challenging the validity of one or more claims of our owned or licensed patents. Such submissions may also be made prior to a patent’s issuance, precluding the granting of a patent based on one of our owned or licensed pending patent applications. We may become involved in opposition, derivation, re-examination, inter partes review, post-grant review or interference proceedings and similar proceedings in foreign jurisdictions (for example, opposition proceedings) challenging our owned or licensed patent rights. In addition, a third party may claim that our owned or licensed patent rights are invalid or unenforceable in a litigation. An adverse result in any litigation or patent office proceeding could put one or more of our owned or licensed patents at risk of being invalidated, ruled unenforceable or interpreted narrowly and could allow third parties to commercialize products identical or similar to any product candidates we may develop and compete directly with us, without payment to us. Moreover, we, or one of our licensors, may have to participate in interference proceedings declared by the USPTO to determine priority of invention or in post-grant challenge proceedings, such as oppositions in a foreign patent office, that challenge priority of invention or other features of patentability. Such challenges and proceedings may result in loss of patent rights, exclusivity or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, which could limit our

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ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and products, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our technology and any product candidates we may develop. Such challenges and proceedings may also result in substantial cost and require significant time from our scientists and management, even if the eventual outcome is favorable to us. Moreover, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments related to such challenges and proceedings. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock.

 

Furthermore, patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, the expiration of a patent is generally 20 years from the earliest date of filing of the first non-provisional patent application to which the patent claims priority. Patent term adjustments and extensions may be available; however, the overall term of a patent, and 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 product candidates might expire before or shortly after such product candidates are commercialized. As a result, our owned and licensed patent and other intellectual property rights may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to our technology and any product candidates we may develop. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Our rights to develop and commercialize any product candidates are subject and may in the future be subject, in part, to the terms and conditions of licenses granted to us by third parties. If we fail to comply with our obligations under our current or future intellectual property license agreements or otherwise experience disruptions to our business relationships with our current or any future licensors, we could lose intellectual property rights that are important to our business.

We are and expect to continue to be reliant upon third-party licensors for certain patent and other intellectual property rights that are important or necessary to the development of our technology and product candidates. For example, we rely on a license from the University of Mons, or UMONS, to certain patent rights and know-how of UMONS. Our license agreement with UMONS imposes, and we expect that any future license agreement will impose, specified diligence, milestone payment, royalty, commercialization, development and other obligations on us and require us to meet development timelines, or to exercise diligent or commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize licensed products, in order to maintain the licenses. For more information on the terms of the license agreement with UMONS, see Item 1. “Business—Intellectual Property—License Agreement with the University of Mons” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Furthermore, our licensors have, or may in the future have, the right to terminate a license if we materially breach the agreement and fail to cure such breach within a specified period or in the event we undergo certain bankruptcy events. In spite of our best efforts, our current or any future licensors might conclude that we have materially breached our license agreements and might therefore terminate the license agreements. If our license agreements are terminated, we may lose our rights to develop and commercialize product candidates and technology, lose patent protection, experience significant delays in the development and commercialization of our product candidates and technology, and incur liability for damages. If these in-licenses are terminated, or if the underlying intellectual property fails to provide the intended exclusivity, our competitors or other third parties could have the freedom to seek regulatory approval of, and to market, products and technologies identical or competitive to ours and we may be required to cease our development and commercialization of certain of our product candidates and technology. In addition, we may seek to obtain additional licenses from our licensors and, in connection with obtaining such licenses, we may agree to amend our existing licenses in a manner that may be more favorable to the licensors, including by agreeing to terms that could enable third parties, including our competitors, to receive licenses to a portion of the intellectual property that is subject to our existing licenses and to compete with any product candidates we may develop and our technology. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Disputes may arise regarding intellectual property subject to a licensing agreement, including:

 

 

the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation-related issues;

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our or our licensors’ ability to obtain, maintain and defend intellectual property and to enforce intellectual property rights against third parties;

 

the extent to which our technology, product candidates and processes infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate the intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the license agreement;

 

the sublicensing of patent and other intellectual property rights under our license agreements;

 

our diligence, development, regulatory, commercialization, financial or other obligations under the license agreement and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations;

 

the inventorship and ownership of inventions and know-how resulting from the joint creation or use of intellectual property by our current or future licensors and us and our partners; and

 

the priority of invention of patented technology.

 

In addition, our license agreement with UMONS is, and future license agreements are likely to be, complex, and certain provisions in such agreements may be susceptible to multiple interpretations. The resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement that may arise could narrow what we believe to be the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property or technology, or increase what we believe to be our diligence, development, regulatory, commercialization, financial or other obligations under the relevant agreement. In addition, if disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed or any other dispute related to our license agreements prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current license agreements on commercially acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates and technology. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

License agreements we may enter into in the future may be non-exclusive. Accordingly, third parties may also obtain non-exclusive licenses from such licensors with respect to the intellectual property licensed to us under such license agreements. Accordingly, these license agreements may not provide us with exclusive rights to use such licensed patent and other intellectual property rights, or may not provide us with exclusive rights to use such patent and other intellectual property rights in all relevant fields of use and in all territories in which we may wish to develop or commercialize our technology and any product candidates we may develop in the future.

 

Moreover, some of our in-licensed patent and other intellectual property rights may in the future be subject to third party interests such as co-ownership. If we are unable to obtain an exclusive license to such third-party co-owners’ interest, in such patent and other intellectual property rights, such third-party co-owners may be able to license their rights to other third parties, including our competitors, and our competitors could market competing products and technology. We or our licensors may need the cooperation of any such co-owners of our licensed patent and other intellectual property rights in order to enforce them against third parties, and such cooperation may not be provided to us or our licensors.

 

Additionally, we may not have complete control over the preparation, filing, prosecution, maintenance, enforcement and defense of patents and patent applications that we license from third parties. It is possible that our licensors’ filing, prosecution and maintenance of the licensed patents and patent applications, enforcement of patents against infringers or defense of such patents against challenges of validity or claims of enforceability may be less vigorous than if we had conducted them ourselves, and accordingly, we cannot be certain that these patents and patent applications will be prepared, filed, prosecuted, maintained, enforced and defended in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business. If our licensors fail to file, prosecute, maintain, enforce and defend such patents and patent applications, or lose rights to those patents or patent applications, the rights we have licensed may be reduced or eliminated, our right to develop and commercialize any of our technology and any product candidates we may develop that are the subject of such licensed rights could be adversely affected and we may not be able to prevent competitors or other third parties from making, using and selling competing products.

 

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Furthermore, our owned and in-licensed patent rights may be subject to a reservation of rights by one or more third parties. When new technologies are developed with government funding, in order to secure ownership of patent rights related to the technologies, the recipient of such funding is required to comply with certain government regulations, including timely disclosing the inventions claimed in such patent rights to the U.S. government and timely electing title to such inventions. A failure to meet these obligations may lead to a loss of rights or the unenforceability of relevant patents or patent applications. In addition, the U.S. government may have certain rights in such patent rights, including a non-exclusive license authorizing the U.S. government to use the invention or to have others use the invention on its behalf. If the U.S. government decides to exercise these rights, it is not required to engage us as its contractor in connection with doing so. The U.S. government’s rights may also permit it to disclose the funded inventions and technology, which may include our confidential information, to third parties and to exercise march-in rights to use or allow third parties to use the technology that was developed using U.S. government funding. The U.S. government may exercise its march-in rights if it determines that action is necessary because we or our licensors failed to achieve practical application of the U.S. government-funded technology, because action is necessary to alleviate health or safety needs, to meet requirements of federal regulations, or to give preference to U.S. industry. In addition, our rights in such U.S. government-funded inventions may be subject to certain requirements to manufacture any product candidates we may develop embodying such inventions in the United States. Any of the foregoing could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects significantly.

 

We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.

Filing, prosecuting, maintaining, enforcing and defending patents and other intellectual property rights on our technology and any product candidates we may develop in all jurisdictions throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and accordingly, our intellectual property rights in some jurisdictions outside the United States could be less extensive than those in the United States. In some cases, we or our licensors may not be able to obtain patent or other intellectual property protection for certain technology and product candidates outside the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign jurisdictions do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Consequently, we and our licensors may not be able to obtain issued patents or other intellectual property rights covering any product candidates we may develop and our technology in all jurisdictions outside the United States and, as a result, may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our and our licensors’ inventions in all countries outside the United States, or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other jurisdictions. Third parties may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we and our licensors have not pursued and obtained patent or other intellectual property protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing, misappropriating or violating products to territories where we have patent or other intellectual property protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with any product candidates we may develop and our technology and our or our licensors’ patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.

 

Additionally, many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain jurisdictions, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement, misappropriation or other violation of our patent and other intellectual property rights or marketing of competing products in violation of our intellectual property rights generally. For example, an April 2019 report from the Office of the United States Trade Representative identified a number of countries, including China, Russia, Argentina, Chile and India, where challenges to the procurement and enforcement of patent rights have been reported. Proceedings to enforce our or our licensors’ patent and other intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patent and other intellectual property rights at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We or our licensors may not prevail in any lawsuits that we or our licensors initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our

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intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.

 

Many jurisdictions have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties. In addition, many jurisdictions limit the enforceability of patents against government agencies or government contractors. In these jurisdictions, the patent owner may have limited remedies, which could materially diminish the value of such patents. If we or any of our licensors is forced to grant a license to third parties with respect to any patents relevant to our business, our competitive position may be impaired, and our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be adversely affected.

 

Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment and other requirements imposed by government patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for non-compliance with these requirements.

Periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, annuity fees and various other government fees on patents and/or patent applications will be due to be paid to the USPTO and various government patent agencies outside of the United States over the lifetime of our owned or licensed patent rights. We rely on our outside counsel and other professionals or our licensing partners to pay these fees due to the USPTO and non-U.S. government patent agencies. The USPTO and various non-U.S. government patent agencies also require compliance with several procedural, documentary and other similar provisions during the patent application process. We rely on our outside counsel and other professionals to help us comply and we are also dependent on our licensors to take the necessary action to comply with these requirements with respect to our licensed intellectual property. In many cases, an inadvertent lapse can be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules. There are situations, however, in which non-compliance can result in abandonment, loss of priority or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, potential competitors might be able to enter the market and this circumstance could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

We may not be successful in obtaining necessary rights to product candidates we may develop through acquisitions and in-licenses.

We currently have rights to certain intellectual property through licenses from third parties. Because our programs may require the use of additional intellectual property rights held by third parties, the growth of our business likely will depend, in part, on our ability to acquire, in-license or use these intellectual property rights. In addition, with respect to any patent or other intellectual property rights that we co-own with third parties, we may require exclusive licenses to such co-owners’ interest in such patent or other intellectual property rights. However, we may be unable to secure such licenses or otherwise acquire or in-license any intellectual property rights related to compositions, methods of use, processes or other components from third parties that we identify as necessary for any product candidates we may develop and our technology on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Even if we are able to in-license any such necessary intellectual property, it could be on non-exclusive terms, thereby giving our competitors and other third parties access to the same intellectual property licensed to us, and the applicable licensors could require us to make substantial licensing and royalty payments. The licensing or acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and several more established companies may pursue strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider attractive or necessary. These established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, capital resources and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us. We also may be unable to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights on terms that would allow us to make an appropriate return on our investment.

 

We sometimes collaborate with non-profit and academic institutions to accelerate our preclinical research or development under written agreements with these institutions. Typically, these institutions provide us

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with an option to negotiate a license to any of the institution’s rights in technology resulting from the collaboration. Regardless of such option, we may be unable to negotiate a license within the specified timeframe or under terms that are acceptable to us. If we are unable to do so, the institution may offer the intellectual property rights to third parties, potentially blocking our ability to pursue our research program and develop and commercialize our product candidates.

 

If we are unable to successfully obtain rights to required third-party intellectual property rights or maintain the existing intellectual property rights we have licensed, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to redesign any product candidates we may develop or the methods for manufacturing them or to develop or license replacement technology, all of which may not be feasible on a technical or commercial basis. If we are unable to do so, we may be unable to develop or commercialize the affected product candidates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Issued patents covering any product candidates we may develop could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad.

Our owned and licensed patent rights may be subject to priority, validity, inventorship and enforceability disputes. If we or our licensors are unsuccessful in any of these proceedings, such patent rights may be narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, we may be required to obtain licenses from third parties, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all, or we may be required to cease the development, manufacture and commercialization of one or more of our product candidates. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

If we or one of our licensors initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering any of any product candidates we may develop or our technology, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering the product candidate or technology is invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, lack of written description or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld information material to patentability from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Third parties also may raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, interference proceedings, derivation proceedings, post grant review, inter partes review and equivalent proceedings such as opposition, invalidation and revocation proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. Such proceedings could result in the revocation or cancellation of or amendment to our patents in such a way that they no longer cover any product candidates we may develop or our technology or prevent third parties from competing with any product candidates we may develop or our technology. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which the patent examiner and we or our licensing partners were unaware during prosecution. If a third party were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we could lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on one or more of our product candidates or technology. Such a loss of patent protection could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

If we are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, our business and competitive position would be harmed.

In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary know-how that is not patentable or that we elect not to patent, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our product candidate discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know-how, information or technology that is not covered by patents. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect and some courts inside and outside the United States are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets. We seek to protect our

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proprietary technology and processes, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors, contractors and other parties who have access to such technology and processes. However, we may not be able to prevent the unauthorized disclosure or use of our technical know-how or other trade secrets by the parties to these agreements. Monitoring unauthorized uses and disclosures is difficult, and we do not know whether the steps we have taken to protect our proprietary technologies will be effective. If any of the collaborators, scientific advisors, employees and consultants who are parties to these agreements breach or violate the terms of any of these agreements, we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach or violation. As a result, we could lose our trade secrets and third parties could use our trade secrets to compete with any product candidates we may develop and our technology. Additionally, we cannot guarantee that we have entered into such agreements with each party that may have or has had access to our trade secrets or proprietary technology and processes.

 

We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems; however, such systems and security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach.

 

In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors or other third parties. Competitors or third parties could purchase any product candidates we may develop or our technology and attempt to replicate some or all of the competitive advantages we derive from our development efforts, willfully infringe our intellectual property rights, design around our intellectual property rights or develop their own competitive technologies that fall outside the scope of our intellectual property rights. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor or other third party, we would have no right to prevent them, or those to whom they communicate such trade secrets, from using that technology or information to compete with us. If our trade secrets are not adequately protected so as to protect our market against competitors’ products, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

 

Third parties may initiate legal proceedings alleging that we are infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating their intellectual property rights, the outcome of which would be uncertain and could harm our business.

Our commercial success depends upon our ability and the ability of our collaborators to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidates and use our proprietary technologies without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property rights of third parties. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by extensive and complex litigation regarding patents and other intellectual property rights. We may become party to, or be threatened with, adversarial proceedings or litigation in which third parties may assert infringement, misappropriation or other violation claims against us, alleging that any product candidates we may develop, manufacturing methods, formulations or administration methods are covered by their patents. Given the vast number of patents and other intellectual property in our field of technology, we cannot be certain or guarantee that we do not infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate patents or other intellectual property. Other companies and institutions have filed, and continue to file, patent applications that may be related to our technology and, more broadly, to gene therapy and related manufacturing methods. Some of these patent applications have already been allowed or issued and others may issue in the future. Since this area is competitive and of strong interest to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, there will likely be additional patent applications filed and additional patents granted in the future, as well as additional research and development programs expected in the future. Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications, which are owned by third parties, exist in the fields in which we are pursuing development candidates. As the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that we may be subject to claims of infringement of the patent rights of third parties. If a patent holder believes the manufacture, use, sale or importation of any product candidates we may develop or our technology infringes its patent, the patent holder may sue us even if we have licensed other patent rights for our technology.

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We are aware of certain patents in the United States and other jurisdictions owned by third parties that claim subject matter that relates to our program candidates and the FORCE platform. Although we believe that these patents are invalid and/or not infringed, such third parties may assert these patents against us in litigation in the United States or other jurisdictions. The outcome of any such litigation is uncertain and, even if we prevail, the costs of such litigation could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, result in disclosure of our trade secrets, distract key personnel from the continued development of our business, and adversely affect our ability to enter or maintain commercial relationships with collaborators, clients or customers. If we are unsuccessful in such litigation, we could be prevented from commercializing products or could be required to take licenses from such third parties which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, if at all.

 

It is also possible that we have failed to identify relevant third-party patents or applications. Because patent applications can take many years to issue, may be confidential for 18 months or more after filing and can be revised before issuance, there may be applications now pending which may later result in issued patents that may be infringed by the manufacture, use, sale or importation of any product candidates we may develop or our technology and we may not be aware of such patents. Furthermore, applications filed before November 29, 2000 and certain applications filed after that date that will not be filed outside the United States may remain confidential until a patent issues. Moreover, it is difficult for industry participants, including us, to identify all third-party patent rights that may be relevant to any product candidates we may develop and our technologies because patent searching is imperfect due to differences in terminology among patents, incomplete databases and the difficulty in assessing the meaning of patent claims. We may fail to identify relevant patents or patent applications or may identify pending patent applications of potential interest but incorrectly predict the likelihood that such patent applications may issue with claims of relevance to our technology. In addition, we may incorrectly conclude that a third-party patent is invalid, unenforceable or not infringed by our activities. Additionally, pending patent applications that have been published can, subject to certain limitations, be later amended in a manner that could cover our technologies, any product candidates we may develop or the use of any product candidates we may develop.

 

Third parties may assert infringement claims against us based on existing patents or patents that may be granted in the future, regardless of their merit. There is a risk that third parties may choose to engage in litigation with us to enforce or to otherwise assert their patent rights against us. Even if we believe such claims are without merit, a court of competent jurisdiction could hold that these third-party patents are valid, enforceable and infringed, which could adversely affect our ability to commercialize any product candidates we may develop or any other of our product candidates or technologies covered by the asserted third-party patents. In order to successfully challenge the validity of any such U.S. patent in federal court, we would need to overcome a presumption of validity. As this burden is a high one requiring us to present clear and convincing evidence as to the invalidity of any such U.S. patent claim, there is no assurance that a court of competent jurisdiction would invalidate the claims of any such U.S. patent. If we are found to infringe a third party’s valid and enforceable intellectual property rights, we could be required to obtain a license from such third party to continue developing, manufacturing and marketing any product candidates we may develop and our technology. However, we may not be able to obtain any required license on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we were able to obtain a license, it could be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors and other third parties access to the same technologies licensed to us, and it could require us to make substantial licensing and royalty payments. We could be forced, including by court order, to cease developing, manufacturing and commercializing the infringing technology or product candidates. In addition, we could be found liable for monetary damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees, if we are found to have willfully infringed a patent or other intellectual property right. A finding of infringement could prevent us from manufacturing and commercializing any product candidates we may develop or force us to cease some of our business operations, which could harm our business. Claims that we have misappropriated the confidential information or trade secrets of third parties could have a similar negative impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

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Intellectual property litigation or other proceedings could cause us to spend substantial resources and distract our personnel from their normal responsibilities.

Competitors may challenge the validity and enforceability of our patent rights or those of our licensing partners, infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate our or our licensors’ patent and other intellectual property rights, or we may be required to defend against claims of infringement, misappropriation or other violation. Litigation and other proceedings in connection with any of the foregoing claims can be unpredictable, expensive and time consuming. Even if resolved in our favor, litigation or other proceedings relating to intellectual property claims may cause us to incur significant expenses and could distract our scientific, technical and management personnel from their normal responsibilities. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing or distribution activities.

 

We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to adequately conduct such litigation or proceedings. Some of our competitors or other third parties 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 adversely affect our ability to compete in the marketplace and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

We may be subject to claims asserting that our employees, consultants or advisors have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade secrets of their current or former employers or claims asserting ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.

Many of our employees, consultants or advisors are currently, or were previously, employed at universities or other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Although we try to ensure that our employees, consultants and advisors do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that these individuals or we have used or disclosed intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such individual’s current or former employer. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or be required to obtain licenses to such intellectual property rights, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. An inability to incorporate such intellectual property rights would harm our business and may prevent us from successfully commercializing any product candidates we may develop or at all. In addition, we may lose personnel as a result of such claims and any such litigation or the threat thereof may adversely affect our ability to hire employees or contract with independent contractors. A loss of key personnel or their work product could hamper or prevent our ability to commercialize any product candidates we may develop and our technology, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to our scientific and management personnel.

 

In addition, while it is our policy to require our employees and contractors who may be involved in the conception or development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who, in fact, conceives or develops intellectual property that we regard as our own. Moreover, even when we obtain agreements assigning intellectual property to us, the assignment of intellectual property rights may not be self-executing or the assignment agreements may be breached, and we may be forced to bring claims against third parties, or defend claims that they may bring against us, to determine the ownership of what we regard as our intellectual property. Furthermore, individuals executing agreements with us may have pre-existing or competing obligations to a third party, such as an academic institution, and thus an agreement with us may be ineffective in perfecting ownership of inventions developed by that individual.

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Disputes about the ownership of intellectual property that we own may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

In addition, we or our licensors may in the future be subject to claims by former employees, consultants or other third parties asserting an ownership right in our owned or licensed patent rights. 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 technology and therapeutics, without payment to us, or could limit the duration of the patent protection covering our technology and any product candidates we may develop. Such challenges may also result in our inability to develop, manufacture or commercialize our technology and product candidates without infringing third-party patent rights. In addition, if the breadth or strength of protection provided by our owned or licensed patent rights are threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to license, develop or commercialize current or future technology and product candidates. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

If we do not obtain patent term extension and data exclusivity for any product candidates we may develop, our business may be harmed.

Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of any FDA marketing approval of any product candidates we may develop and our technology, one or more of our U.S. patents that we license or may own in the future may be eligible for limited patent term extension under Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent extension term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. A patent term extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval, only one patent may be extended and only those claims covering the approved product, a method for using it or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. The application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent for which extension is sought. A patent that covers multiple products for which approval is sought can only be extended in connection with one of the approvals. However, we may not be granted an 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. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. In addition, to the extent we wish to pursue patent term extension based on a patent that we in-license from a third party, we would need the cooperation of that third party. If we are unable to obtain patent term extension or the term of any such extension is less than we request, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration, and our revenue could be reduced. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of our patent and other intellectual property rights.

We or our licensors may be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other third parties have an interest in our owned or in-licensed patent rights, trade secrets or other intellectual property as an inventor or co-inventor. For example, we or our licensors may have inventorship disputes arise from conflicting obligations of employees, consultants or others who are involved in developing our product candidates or technology. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these and other claims challenging inventorship or our or our licensors’ ownership of our owned or in-licensed patent rights, trade secrets or other intellectual property. If we or our licensors fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of or right to use intellectual property that is important to any product candidates we may develop or our technology. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

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If our trademarks and trade names are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our markets of interest and our business may be adversely affected.

We have filed trademark applications with the USPTO for our corporate name, logos and tagline. Our current and future trademark applications in the United States and other foreign jurisdictions may not be allowed or may be subsequently opposed. Once filed and registered, our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented or declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. As a means to enforce our trademark rights and prevent infringement, we may be required to file trademark claims against third parties or initiate trademark opposition proceedings. This can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly for a company of our size. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names, which we need to build name recognition among potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. At times, third parties may adopt trade names or trademarks similar to ours, thereby impeding our ability to build brand identity and possibly leading to market confusion. In addition, there could be potential trade name or trademark infringement claims brought by owners of other registered trademarks or trademarks that incorporate variations of our registered or unregistered trademarks or trade names. Over the long term, if we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, then we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected. Our efforts to enforce or protect our proprietary rights related to trademarks, trade secrets, domain names, copyrights or other intellectual property may be ineffective and could result in substantial costs and diversion of resources. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects.

 

Intellectual property rights do not necessarily address all potential threats.

The degree of future protection afforded by our intellectual property rights is uncertain because intellectual property rights have limitations and may not adequately protect our business or permit us to maintain our competitive advantage. For example:

 

 

others may be able to make products that are similar to any product candidates we may develop but that are not covered by the intellectual property, including the claims of the patents, that we own or license currently or in the future;

 

we, or our license partners or current or future collaborators, might not have been the first to make the inventions covered by the issued patent or pending patent application that we own or license currently or in the future;

 

we, or our license partners or current or future collaborators, might not have been the first to file patent applications covering certain of our or their inventions;

 

others may independently develop similar or alternative technologies or duplicate any of our technologies without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating our owned or licensed intellectual property rights;

 

it is possible that our or our licensors’ current or future pending patent applications will not lead to issued patents;

 

issued patents that we hold rights to may be held invalid or unenforceable, including as a result of legal challenges by third parties;

 

third parties might conduct research and development activities in jurisdictions where we do not have patent or other intellectual property rights and then use the information learned from such activities to develop competitive products for sale in our major commercial markets;

 

we may not develop additional proprietary technologies that are patentable;

 

the patents or other intellectual property rights of others may have an adverse effect on our business; and

 

we may choose not to file a patent for certain trade secrets or know-how, and a third party may subsequently file a patent covering such intellectual property.

 

Should any of these events occur, they could significantly harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

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Our reliance on third parties requires us to share our trade secrets, which increases the possibility that a competitor or other third party will discover our trade secrets or that our trade secrets will be misappropriated or disclosed.

Because we currently rely on certain third parties to manufacture all or part of our drug product and to perform quality testing, and because we collaborate with various organizations and academic institutions for the advancement of our product engine and pipeline, we must, at times, share our proprietary technology and confidential information, including trade secrets, with them. We seek to protect our proprietary technology, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements and, if applicable, material transfer agreements, collaborative research agreements, consulting agreements and other similar agreements with our collaborators, advisors, employees, consultants and contractors prior to beginning research or disclosing any proprietary information. These agreements typically limit the rights of the third parties to use or disclose our confidential information, including our trade secrets. Despite the contractual provisions employed when working with third parties, the need to share trade secrets and other confidential information increases the risk that such trade secrets become known by our competitors or other third parties, are inadvertently incorporated into the technology of others or are disclosed or used in violation of these agreements. Despite our efforts to protect our trade secrets, our competitors may discover our trade secrets, either through breach of these agreements, independent development or publication of information including our trade secrets by third parties. Given that our proprietary position is based, in part, on our know-how and trade secrets, a competitor’s or other third party’s discovery of our proprietary technology and confidential information or other unauthorized use or disclosure would impair our competitive position and may harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Risks related to regulatory approval and other regulatory and legal compliance matters

Even if we complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials, the marketing approval process is expensive, time-consuming and uncertain and may prevent us from obtaining approvals for the commercialization of any product candidates we may develop. If we are not able to obtain, or if there are delays in obtaining, required regulatory approvals, we will not be able to commercialize, or will be delayed in commercializing, product candidates we may develop, and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired.

Any product candidates we may develop and the activities associated with their development and commercialization, including their design, testing, manufacture, safety, efficacy, recordkeeping, labeling, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale and distribution, are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory authorities in the United States and by comparable authorities in other countries. Failure to obtain marketing approval for a product candidate we may develop will prevent us from commercializing the product candidate in a given jurisdiction. We have not received approval to market any product candidates from regulatory authorities in any jurisdiction. We have no experience as a company in filing and supporting the applications necessary to gain marketing approvals and expect to rely on third-party CLROs to assist us in this process. 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, purity and potency. Securing regulatory approval also requires the submission of information about the product manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the relevant regulatory authority. Any product candidates we may develop 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.

 

The process of obtaining marketing approvals, both in the United States and abroad, is expensive, may take many years if additional clinical trials are required, if approval is obtained at all, and can vary substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity and novelty of the product candidates involved. Of the large number of products in development, only a small percentage successfully complete the FDA or foreign regulatory approval processes and are commercialized. Even if any product candidates we may develop demonstrate safety and efficacy in clinical trials, the regulatory

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agencies may not complete their review processes in a timely manner, or we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval. Additional delays may result if an FDA Advisory Committee or other regulatory authority recommends non-approval or restrictions on approval. Changes in marketing approval policies during the development period, changes in or the enactment of additional statutes or regulations, or changes in regulatory review for each submitted product application, may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application. The FDA and comparable authorities in other countries have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or may decide that our data is insufficient for approval and require additional preclinical, clinical or other studies. In addition, varying interpretations of the data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing could delay, limit or prevent marketing approval of a product candidate. If we experience delays in obtaining approval or if we fail to obtain approval of any product candidates we may develop, the commercial prospects for those product candidates may be harmed, and our ability to generate revenues will be materially impaired.

 

Even if we eventually complete clinical testing and receive approval of a BLA or foreign marketing application for any product candidates, the FDA or the applicable foreign regulatory agency may grant approval or other marketing authorization contingent on the performance of costly additional clinical trials, including post-market clinical trials. The FDA or the applicable foreign regulatory agency also may approve or authorize for marketing a product candidate for a more limited indication or patient population that we originally request, and the FDA or applicable foreign regulatory agency may not approve or authorize the labeling that we believe is necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of a product candidate. Any of these restrictions or commitments could render an approved product not commercially viable, which would materially adversely impact our business and prospects.

 

Obtaining and maintaining marketing approval or commercialization of our product candidates in the United States does not mean that we will be successful in obtaining marketing approval of our product candidates in other jurisdictions. Failure to obtain marketing approval in foreign jurisdictions would prevent any product candidates we may develop from being marketed in such jurisdictions, which, in turn, would materially impair our ability to generate revenue.

In order to market and sell any product candidates we may develop in the European Union and many other foreign jurisdictions, we or our collaborators must obtain separate marketing approvals and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements. The approval procedure varies among countries and can involve additional testing. The time required to obtain approval may differ substantially from that required to obtain FDA approval. The regulatory approval process outside the United States generally includes all of the risks associated with obtaining FDA approval. In addition, in many countries outside the United States, it is required that the product be approved for reimbursement before the product can be approved for sale in that country. We or these third parties may not obtain approvals from regulatory authorities outside the United States on a timely basis, if at all. Approval by the FDA does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions, and approval by one regulatory authority outside the United States does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions or by the FDA. We may not be able to file for marketing approvals and may not receive necessary approvals to commercialize our medicines in any jurisdiction, which would materially impair our ability to generate revenue.

 

Additionally, we could face heightened risks with respect to seeking marketing approval in the United Kingdom as a result of the recent withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit. Pursuant to the formal withdrawal arrangements agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, effective December 31, 2020. On December 24, 2020, the United Kingdom and the European Union entered into a Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The agreement sets out certain procedures for approval and recognition of medical products in each jurisdiction.

 

Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any marketing approvals, as a result of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement or otherwise, would prevent us from commercializing any product candidates in the United Kingdom and/or the European Union and restrict our ability to generate revenue and achieve and sustain profitability.  If any of these outcomes occur, we may be forced to restrict or delay efforts to

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seek regulatory approval in the United Kingdom and/or the European Union for any product candidates we may develop, which could significantly and materially harm our business.

 

Fast track designation by the FDA may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process and does not assure FDA approval of any product candidates we may develop.

If any product candidate we may develop is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and the product candidate demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical need for this condition, the sponsor may apply for FDA fast track designation. However, a fast track designation does not ensure that the product candidate will receive marketing approval or that approval will be granted within any particular timeframe. As a result, while we may seek and receive fast track designation for any product candidates we may develop, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. In addition, the FDA may withdraw fast track designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program. Fast track designation alone does not guarantee qualification for the FDA’s priority review procedures.

 

Breakthrough or RMAT therapy designation by the FDA may not lead to a faster regulatory review or approval process and, in any event, does not assure FDA approval of any product candidates we may develop.

If any product candidate we may develop is intended, either alone or in combination with one or more other products, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development, the sponsor may apply for FDA breakthrough designation or a regenerative medicine advanced therapy, or RMAT, designation. However, neither a breakthrough designation nor an RMAT designation ensures that the product candidate will receive marketing approval or that approval will be granted within any particular timeframe. As a result, while we may seek and receive breakthrough or RMAT designation for any product candidates we may develop, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. In addition, the FDA may withdraw breakthrough or RMAT designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program. Neither breakthrough nor RMAT designation alone guarantees qualification for the FDA’s priority review procedures.

 

Priority review designation by the FDA may not lead to a faster regulatory review or approval process and, in any event, does not assure FDA approval of any product candidates we may develop.

If the FDA determines that a product candidate we may develop offers major advances in treatment or provides a treatment where no adequate therapy exists, the FDA may designate the product candidate for priority review. A priority review designation means that the goal for the FDA to review an application is six months, rather than the standard review period of ten months. We may request priority review for any product candidates we may develop. The FDA has broad discretion with respect to whether or not to grant priority review status to a product candidate, so even if we believe a particular product candidate we may develop is eligible for such designation or status, the FDA may decide not to grant it. Moreover, a priority review designation does not necessarily mean a faster regulatory review process or necessarily confer any advantage with respect to approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. Receiving priority review from the FDA does not guarantee approval within the six-month review cycle or thereafter.

 

We may not be able to obtain orphan drug exclusivity for any product candidates we may develop, and even if we do, that exclusivity may not prevent regulatory authorities from approving other competing products.

Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a product as an orphan drug if it is a drug or biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition. A similar regulatory scheme governs approval of orphan products by the EMA in the European Union. Generally, if a product candidate with an orphan drug

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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 product for the same therapeutic indication for that time period. The applicable period is seven years in the United States and ten years in the European Union. The exclusivity period in the European Union can be reduced to six years if a product no longer meets the criteria for orphan drug designation, in particular if the product is sufficiently profitable so that market exclusivity is no longer justified.