SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
Date of Report (Date of earliest event reported): May 16, 2020
SONNET BIOTHERAPEUTICS HOLDINGS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction
100 Overlook Center, Suite 102
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (609) 375-2227
(Former name or former address, if changed since last report.)
Check the appropriate box below if the Form 8-K filing is intended to simultaneously satisfy the filing obligation of the registrant under any of the following provisions:
|[ ]||Written communications pursuant to Rule 425 under the Securities Act (17 CFR 230.425)|
|[ ]||Soliciting material pursuant to Rule 14a-12 under the Exchange Act (17 CFR 240.14a-12)|
|[ ]||Pre-commencement communications pursuant to Rule 14d-2(b) under the Exchange Act (17 CFR 240.14d-2(b))|
|[ ]||Pre-commencement communications pursuant to Rule 13e-4(c) under the Exchange Act (17 CFR 240.13e-4(c))|
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||SONN||The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC|
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is an emerging growth company as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act of 1933 (§230.405 of this chapter) or Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (§240.12b-2 of this chapter).
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. [ ]
This Current Report on Form 8-K (this “report”) is filed by Sonnet BioTherapeutics Holdings, Inc. (“Sonnet,” “we,” “us,” “our,” or the “Company”), formerly known as Chanticleer Holdings, Inc. As of and for the period ending March 31, 2020, the Company was in the business of owning, operating and franchising fast casual dining concepts domestically and internationally. As reported in its Current Report on Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on April 3, 2020 and as discussed in more detail in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ending March 31, 2020, filed or to be filed concurrently with this report (the “Form 10-Q”), on April 1, 2020, the Company completed its merger transaction with Sonnet BioTherapeutics, Inc. (“Sonnet Sub”), pursuant to which Sonnet Sub became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company (the “Merger”). On April 1, 2020, in connection with the Merger, the Company changed its name to “Sonnet BioTherapeutics Holdings, Inc.”
The Merger was treated by the Company as a reverse merger and accounted for as a reverse recapitalization in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (“U.S. GAAP”). For accounting purposes, Sonnet Sub is considered to have acquired the Company.
In connection with and prior to the Merger, the Company contributed and transferred to Amergent Hospitality Group, Inc. (“Amergent”), a newly formed, wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, all of the assets and liabilities relating to the Company’s restaurant business. On March 16, 2020, the board of directors of the Company declared a dividend with respect to the shares of the Company common stock outstanding at the close of business on March 26, 2020 of one share of the Amergent common stock held by the Company for each outstanding share of the Company’s common stock. The dividend was paid to the stockholders of the Company on April 1, 2020 immediately prior to the Merger. The dividend, which together with the contribution and transfer of the Company’s restaurant business described above, is referred to as the “Spin-Off.” Prior to the Spin-Off, Amergent engaged in no business or operations.
As a result of the Spin-Off and the Merger, since April 1, 2020 the Company has operated through Sonnet Sub and its direct and indirect subsidiaries and the ongoing business of the Company is the Sonnet Sub business. Sonnet Sub is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with a proprietary technology for developing novel biologic medicines we refer to as FHAB™ (Fully Human Albumin Binding). FHAB utilizes a fully human single chain antibody fragment (scFv) linked to either one or two therapeutic molecules capable of affecting single- or bi-specific mechanisms of action.
In addition, in connection with and prior to the Merger, on April 1, 2020, Sonnet Sub completed its acquisition of the global development rights for Atexakin Alfa (low dose formulation of Interleukin-6, IL-6, now “SON-080”) from Relief Therapeutics Holding SA (“Relief Holding”) through its acquisition of Relief Holding’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Relief Therapeutics SA (“Relief”), in exchange for the issuance to Relief Holding of shares of Sonnet Sub common stock that converted into an aggregate of 757,933 shares of Company common stock in the Merger.
This report includes financial statements of Sonnet Sub as of and for the three months and six months ended March 31, 2020, financial statements of Relief as of and for the three months ended March 31, 2020 and certain pro forma financial information. This report should be read in conjunction with the information in the Form 10-Q.
The financial condition and results of operations of the Company for the periods presented in the 10-Q are for periods prior to the Merger and Spin-Off and thus bear no relationship to the business, financial condition and results of operations of Sonnet Sub and are not indicative of the business, financial condition and results of operations of the Company for any future period. The Company’s future business, financial condition and results of operations will reflect the business, financial condition and results of operations of Sonnet Sub and its consolidated subsidiaries.
Item 2.02. Results of Operations and Financial Condition.
On May 18, 2020, Sonnet BioTherapeutics Holdings, Inc. (the “Company” or the “Registrant”) issued a press release regarding financial results and certain business updates for the fiscal quarter ended March 31, 2020. A copy of the press release is furnished as Exhibit 99.1 hereto and is incorporated by reference herein.
Item 4.01 Changes in Registrant’s Certifying Accountant
On May 16, 2020, the Audit Committee (the “Audit Committee”) of the Board of the Company dismissed Cherry Bekaert LLP (“Cherry Bekaert”) as the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm, effectively immediately.
The reports of Cherry Bekaert on the Company’s consolidated financial statements for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018 did not contain an adverse opinion or a disclaimer of opinion and were not qualified or modified as to uncertainty, audit scope or accounting principles except that, the reports on the consolidated financial statements of the Company as of and for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, each contained a separate explanatory paragraph regarding substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.
During the fiscal years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018 and the subsequent interim period through May 16, 2020, there have been no “disagreements” (as defined in Item 304(a)(1)(iv) of Regulation S-K and related instructions) with Cherry Bekaert on any matter of accounting principles or practices, financial statement disclosure or auditing scope or procedure, which disagreements, if not resolved to the satisfaction of Cherry Bekaert, would have caused Cherry Bekaert to make reference thereto in their reports on the consolidated financial statements for such fiscal years.
During the fiscal years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018 and any subsequent interim period through May 16, 2020, there have been no “reportable events” (as defined in Item 304(a)(1)(v) of Regulation S-K).
The Company has provided Cherry Bekaert with a copy of the disclosure it is making herein in response to Item 304(a) of Regulation S-K and requested that Cherry Bekaert furnish the Company with a copy of its letter addressed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), pursuant to Item 304(a)(3) of Regulation S-K, stating whether Cherry Bekaert agrees with the statements made by the Company in response to Item 304(a) of Regulation S-K. A copy of Cherry Bekaert’s letter to the SEC dated May 18, 2020, is filed as Exhibit 16.1 to this Current Report on Form 8-K.
On May 16, 2020, the Audit Committee approved the appointment of KPMG LLP (“KPMG”) as the Company’s new independent registered public accounting firm, effective immediately. During the fiscal years ended September 30, 2019 and 2018 and the subsequent interim period through May 16, 2020, neither the Company, nor anyone on its behalf, consulted KPMG regarding either (i) the application of accounting principles to a specified transaction, either completed or proposed; or the type of audit opinion that might be rendered on the financial statements of the Company, and no written report or oral advice was provided to the Company by KPMG that KPMG concluded was an important factor considered by the Company in reaching a decision as to any accounting, auditing or financial reporting issue; or (ii) any matter that was either the subject of a “disagreement” (as defined in Item 304(a)(1)(iv) of Regulation S-K and the related instructions) or a “reportable event” (as that term is defined in Item 304(a)(1)(v) of Regulation S-K).
Item 5.03 Amendments to Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws; Change in Fiscal Year
As previously reported, in April 2020, the Company acquired Sonnet BioTherapeutics, Inc. (“Sonnet Sub”), our wholly owned subsidiary, by way of a reverse merger transaction in which Sonnet Sub is treated as the acquirer for financial accounting purposes. On May 17, 2020, therefore, the Board of the Company approved a change in the Company’s fiscal year end from December 31 to September 30, the fiscal year end of Sonnet Sub.
In accordance with SEC guidance, no transition report is required in connection with the change in the Company’s fiscal year end. Accordingly, the Company intends to file a Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2020.
Item 8.01 Other Events.
As a result of the Merger, the Spin-Off and the transactions related thereto occurring on or about April 1, 2020, we are a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with a proprietary technology for developing novel biologic medicines we refer to as FHAB™ (Fully Human Albumin Binding). FHAB utilizes a fully human single chain antibody fragment (scFv) linked to either one or two therapeutic molecules capable of affecting single or bispecific mechanisms of action. The FHAB construct contains a domain that is designed to bind to and “hitch hike” on human serum albumin (HSA) for transport to and accumulation in target tissues, with an extended duration of therapeutic activity. FHAB development candidates are produced in a mammalian cell culture, which enables glycosylation, thereby reducing the risk of immunogenicity. Our current internal research and development activities are focused on cytokines, a class of cell signaling peptides that serve important immunomodulatory functions. We have a pipeline of therapeutic compounds focused on oncology indications of high unmet medical need and we recently announced an initiative to explore FHAB opportunities in virology. We believe our FHAB technology is well suited for future drug development across a range of human disease areas, including anti-infective, autoimmune, inflammatory, and hematological applications.
● SON-080, our most advanced candidate, is a low-dose formulation of Interleukin-6, in development for Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN), an indication of high unmet medical need. Through Serono SA’s original exploration of the cytokine as a potential treatment for thrombocytopenia in cancer, over 200 patients worth of Phase I clinical data were generated. After observing transient efficacy at doses approaching the estimated maximum tolerated dose (MTD) for thrombocytopenia, Serono elected to pursue CIPN using lower doses, but the program was de-prioritized by Merck KGaA after it acquired the company in 2006. We purchased the global development rights to SON-080 in August 2019 and will be applying the Merck Serono preclinical and clinical data package to our ongoing work in CIPN.
We are currently requalifying the legacy clinical batch product and updating the safety package to comply with current regulatory requirements. We are undertaking the qualification and validation of the product prior to entering a preclinical toxicology study for further refining the dosing parameters for a Phase Ia/IIb trial in CIPN patients. We are designing this trial to leverage data from prior studies. Although the CIPN program continues to progress forward, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted workflow at our contract research partners such that we now estimate delays pushing a trial initiation into the first half of 2021 from late 2020. Additionally, we continue to explore business development opportunities for the Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN) indication.
● SON-1010 (IL12- FHAB), our most advanced FHAB-derived compound, utilizes a fully human version of Interleukin-12 (IL-12) linked to FHAB. IL-12 is a well-known immune stimulator that we believe carries potential therapeutic utility in both immune oncology and antiviral applications. The Sonnet FHAB was designed to deliver low doses of conjugated drug candidates to target tissues such as solid tumors or the lymphatic system for oncology or virology indications, respectively.
We have filed updated intellectual property that includes provisions for three areas of antiviral drug development: (i) as an adjuvant to potentiate vaccine efficacy; (ii) as a broad spectrum antiviral that could be deployed against a wide array of viruses, particularly those that do not elicit Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS); and (iii) as a platform for configuring bispecific, multifunctional vaccines comprising the FHAB construct conjugated with both a vaccine peptide and an immune stimulator (e.g., IL-12) that could enhance delivery to the lymphatic system.
We have successfully manufactured and initiated animal testing of SON-1010 for select virology applications. We have initiated work on preliminary viral challenge studies in mice using an H1N1 model with data expected during the second half of 2020. If successful, a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-1 challenge model study is expected to follow, which we expect would help us develop a clinical trial strategy using FHAB in an adjuvant capacity, paired with a vaccine.
In immune oncology, we have completed in vitro pharmacology studies of affinity and binding kinetics that demonstrate species cross-reactivity of SON-1010 in serum albumin for hamster, rat, dog, cynomolgus monkey and human. The results verified that SON-1010 displays species specificity to cynomolgus monkey and human subjects, which will guide species selection for further preclinical toxicology work. A humanized mouse model (SCID) study designed to evaluate pK/pD and dose response is underway. This work will inform our decision about dosing in a forthcoming nonhuman primate study, scheduled to commence following analysis of the SCID mouse data.
Work on the master cell bank expressing SON-1010, formulation development and process development activities have all been completed, in addition to drug product formulation (liquid and lyophilized). Process transfer and cGMP product manufacturing are scheduled for the second half of 2020, followed by an IND-enabling toxicology study in the first half of 2021. An IND submission is expected in the second half of 2021.
● SON-1210 (IL15- FHAB-IL12), our first bi-specific construct, combines FHAB with fully human IL-12 and fully human Interleukin-15 (IL-15). This compound has demonstrated significant reduction in tumor volume compared to concomitantly administered naked IL-12 and IL-15. Cell line development is underway and final clone selection is expected in 2020. Early development material will be used in a humanized mouse model (SCID) study designed to evaluate PK/PD and dose response. This work will inform our decision about dosing in a forthcoming nonhuman primate study, expected to be initiated by mid-2021. We will also explore potential antiviral applications for SON-1210.
● SON-2014 (GMcSF- FHAB-IL18), is a bi-specific combination of Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) and Interleukin-18 (IL-18). Discrete GMcSF and IL-18 for preclinical studies have been manufactured and we are currently undertaking a proof-of-concept study in mice to evaluate the efficacy of the co-administered cytokines.
● SON-3015 (anti-IL6- FHAB-anti-TGFβ), is a bi-specific combination of anti-IL6 and anti-Tumor Growth Factor Beta. We expect to complete lead selection for this discovery-stage bispecific molecule around year-end 2020 followed by a preclinical proof-of-concept study in mice.
Investing in Sonnet involves a high degree of risk. Before deciding whether to invest, you should carefully consider the following risks and uncertainties, together with all other information in this Current Report on Form 8-K, including Sonnet’s consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition”, our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 19, 2020, as amended on April 22, 2020, and our definitive proxy statement/prospectus/information statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 11, 2020 under Rule 424 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. All references in this section to “Sonnet,” the “Company,” “we,” “us,” or “our” mean Sonnet BioTherapeutics Holdings, Inc. unless we state otherwise or the context otherwise indicates. The occurrence of any of the events or developments described below could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and/or growth prospects. Additional risks that we currently do not know about or that we currently believe to be immaterial may also impair our business. Certain statements below are forward- looking statements. See “Forward-Looking Statements” in this Current Report on Form 8-K.
Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital
We have a history of significant operating losses and expect to incur significant and increasing losses for the foreseeable future, and we may never achieve or maintain profitability.
We do not expect to generate revenue or profitability that is necessary to finance our operations in the short term. Sonnet Sub incurred net losses of $5.0 million, $4.9 million and $0.9 million for the six months ended March 31, 2020 and years ended September 30, 2019 and 2018, respectively. In addition, Sonnet Stub’s accumulated deficit as of March 31, 2020 was $17.4 million. To date, we have not commercialized any products or generated any revenues from the sale of products, and absent the realization of sufficient revenues from product sales, we may never attain profitability in the future. We have devoted substantially all of our financial resources and efforts to research and development, including preclinical studies and our clinical trials. Our net losses may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year. Net losses and negative cash flows have had, and will continue to have, an adverse effect on our shareholders’ (deficit) equity and working capital.
We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if and as we:
● continue to develop and conduct clinical trials with respect to our lead product candidate, SON-080, and our other product candidates;
● initiate and continue research, preclinical and clinical development efforts for any future product candidates;
● seek to discover and develop additional product candidates and further expand our clinical product pipeline;
● seek marketing and regulatory approvals for any product candidates that successfully complete clinical trials;
● require the manufacture of larger quantities of product candidates for clinical development and, potentially, commercialization;
● maintain, expand and protect our intellectual property portfolio;
● expand our research and development infrastructure, including hiring and retaining additional personnel, such as clinical, quality control and scientific personnel;
● establish sales, marketing, distribution and other commercial infrastructure in the future to commercialize products for which we obtain marketing approval, if any;
● add operational, financial and management information systems and personnel, including personnel to support our product development and commercialization and help us comply with our obligations as a public company; and
● add equipment and physical infrastructure to support our research and development.
Our ability to become and remain profitable depends on our ability to license our products and generate revenue. Generating product revenue will depend on our ability to obtain marketing approval for, and successfully commercialize, one or more of our product candidates.
Successful commercialization will require achievement of key milestones, including completing clinical trials of our product candidates, obtaining marketing approval for these product candidates, manufacturing, marketing and selling those products for which we, or any collaborators, may obtain marketing approval, satisfying any post-marketing requirements and obtaining reimbursement for our products from private insurance or government payors. Because of the uncertainties and risks associated with these activities, we are unable to accurately predict the timing and amount of revenues, and if or when we might achieve profitability. We and any collaborators may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, or any collaborators do, we may never generate revenues that are large enough for us to achieve profitability. 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 would depress the market price of our common stock and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, diversify our product offerings or continue our operations. If we continue to suffer losses, investors may not receive any return on their investment and may lose their entire investment.
Our limited operating history may make it difficult for you to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.
Our business commenced operations in 2015. Our operations to date have been limited to financing and staffing our company, developing our technology, conducting preclinical research and early-stage clinical trials for our product candidates and pursuing strategic collaborations to advance our product candidates. We have not yet demonstrated an ability to successfully conduct late-stage clinical trials, obtain marketing approvals, manufacture a commercial-scale product, or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Accordingly, you should consider our prospects in light of the costs, uncertainties, delays and difficulties frequently encountered by companies in the early stages of development, especially clinical-stage biopharmaceutical companies such as ours. Any predictions you make about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they would be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing and commercializing pharmaceutical products.
We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known or unknown factors in achieving our business objectives. We will eventually need to transition from a company with a development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities. We may not be successful in such a transition.
We expect our financial condition and operating results to continue to fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Accordingly, you should not rely upon the results of any quarterly or annual periods as indications of future operating performance.
Our recurring losses from operations have raised substantial doubt regarding our ability to continue as a going concern.
Sonnet Sub has incurred recurring losses and negative cash flows from operations activities since inception and it expects to generate losses from operations for the foreseeable future primarily due to research and development costs for its potential product candidates. As of March 31, 2020, Sonnet Sub had cash of $272,855 and stockholders’ deficit of $3,541,258. The Company believes Sonnet Sub’s cash at March 31, 2020 and approximately $8.3 million received in connection with the Merger and related transactions will fund the Company’s projected operations through the end of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020. Substantial additional financing will be needed by the Company to fund its operations. These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. The accompanying financial statements have been prepared on a going concern basis, which contemplates the realization of assets and satisfaction of liabilities in the normal course of business. The financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of this uncertainty.
The Company will require additional capital in the future through equity or debt financings, partnerships, collaborations, or other sources to carry out the Company’s planned development activities. If additional capital is not secured when required, the Company may need to delay or curtail its operations until such funding is received. Various internal and external factors will affect whether and when the Company’s product candidates become approved for marketing and successful commercialization. The regulatory approval and market acceptance of the Company’s products candidates, length of time and cost of developing and commercializing these product candidates and/or failure of them at any stage of the approval process will materially affect the Company’s financial condition and future operations.
Operations since inception have consisted primarily of organizing the Company, securing financing, developing its technologies through performing research and development and conducting preclinical studies. The Company faces risks associated with companies whose products are in development. These risks include the need for additional financing to complete its research and development, achieving its research and development objectives, defending its intellectual property rights, recruiting and retaining skilled personnel, and dependence on key members of management.
Our ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on our ability to raise additional equity or debt capital or spin-off non-core assets to raise additional cash. Should we be unable to raise sufficient additional capital, we may be required to undertake cost-cutting measures including delaying or discontinuing certain clinical activities.
The source, timing and availability of any future financing will depend principally upon market conditions, and, more specifically, on the progress of our clinical development programs. Funding may not be available when needed, at all, or on terms acceptable to us. Lack of necessary funds may require us, among other things, to delay, scale back or eliminate some or all of our planned clinical trials. These factors among others create a substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.
While the potential economic impact brought by, and the duration of, COVID-19, discussed further below, may be difficult to assess or predict, a widespread pandemic could result in significant disruption of global financial markets, reducing our ability to access capital, which could in the future negatively affect our liquidity. In addition, a recession or market correction resulting from the spread of COVID-19 could materially affect our business and the value of our common shares.
We will need substantial additional funding, and if we are unable to raise capital when needed, we could be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our product discovery and development programs or commercialization efforts.
Developing pharmaceutical products, including conducting preclinical studies and clinical trials, is a very time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process that takes years to complete. For example, in the six months ended March 31, 2020 and years ended September 30, 2019 and 2018, Sonnet Sub used $3.6 million, $2.2 million and $0.7 million, respectively, in net cash for its operating activities, substantially all of which related to research and development activities. We expect our expenses to increase in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we initiate new clinical trials of, initiate new research and preclinical development efforts for and seek marketing approval for, our current product candidates or any future product candidates. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, we may incur significant commercialization expenses related to product sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution to the extent that such sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution are not the responsibility of a collaborator. Furthermore, as a result of the Merger, we incur significant 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 or on attractive terms, we may be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our research and development programs or any future commercialization efforts.
We will be required to expend significant funds in order to advance the development of the product candidates in our pipeline, as well as other product candidates we may seek to develop. In addition, while we may seek one or more collaborators for future development of our product candidates, we may not be able to enter into a collaboration for any of our product candidates for such indications on suitable terms, on a timely basis or at all. In any event, our existing cash will not be sufficient to fund all of the efforts that we plan to undertake or to fund the completion of development of any of our product candidates. Accordingly, we will be required to obtain further funding through public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations and licensing arrangements or other sources. We do not have any committed external source of funds. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. Our failure to raise capital as and when needed would have a negative impact on our financial condition and our ability to pursue our business strategy.
Our estimate may prove to be wrong, and we could use our available capital resources sooner than we currently expect. Further, changing circumstances, some of which may be beyond our control, could cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, and we may need to seek additional funds sooner than planned. Our future funding requirements, both short-term and long-term, will depend on many factors, including:
● the scope, progress, timing, costs and results of clinical trials of, and research and preclinical development efforts for, our current and future product candidates;
● our ability to enter into, and the terms and timing of, any collaborations, licensing or other arrangements;
● our ability to identify one or more future product candidates for our pipeline;
● the number of future product candidates that we pursue and their development requirements;
● the outcome, timing and costs of seeking regulatory approvals;
● the costs of commercialization activities for any of our product candidates that receive marketing approval to the extent such costs are not the responsibility of any collaborators, including the costs and timing of establishing product sales, marketing, distribution and manufacturing capabilities;
● the receipt of marketing approval, revenue, if any, received from commercial sales of our current and future product candidates;
● our headcount growth and associated costs as we expand our research and development and establish a commercial infrastructure;
● the costs of preparing, filing and prosecuting patent applications, maintaining and protecting our intellectual property rights including enforcing and defending intellectual property related claims; and
● the costs of operating as a public company.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our existing shareholders, restrict our operations or cause us to relinquish valuable rights.
We may seek additional capital through a combination of public and private equity offerings, debt financings, strategic partnerships and alliances, licensing arrangements or monetization transactions. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity, convertible debt securities or other equity-based derivative securities, your ownership interest will be diluted and the terms may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a shareholder. Any indebtedness we incur would result in increased fixed payment obligations and could involve restrictive covenants, such as limitations on our ability to incur additional debt, limitations on our ability to acquire or license intellectual property rights and other operating restrictions that could adversely impact our ability to conduct our business. Furthermore, the issuance of additional securities, whether equity or debt, by us, or the possibility of such issuance, may cause the market price of our common stock to decline and existing shareholders may not agree with our financing plans or the terms of such financings. If we raise additional funds through strategic partnerships and alliances, licensing arrangements or monetization transactions with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, or our product candidates, or grant licenses on terms unfavorable to us. Adequate additional financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to raise additional funds when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development or future commercialization efforts or grant rights to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves.
Risks Related to the Discovery, Development and Regulatory Approval of Our Product Candidates
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic or the widespread outbreak of any other communicable disease could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We face risks related to health epidemics or outbreaks of communicable diseases, for example, the recent outbreak around the world of the highly transmissible and pathogenic coronavirus COVID-19. The outbreak of such communicable diseases could result in a widespread health crisis that could adversely affect general commercial activity and the economies and financial markets of many countries.
In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China and on March 11, 2020 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The extent to which COVID-19 may impact our preclinical and clinical trial operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the duration and geographic reach of the outbreak, the severity of COVID-19, and the effectiveness of actions to contain and treat COVID-19.
To date, many countries around the world have imposed quarantines and restrictions on travel and mass gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19 and have closed non-essential businesses. As local jurisdictions continue to put restrictions in place, our ability to continue to operate our business may also be limited. Such events may result in a period of business, supply and drug product manufacturing disruption, and in reduced operations, any of which could materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
This pandemic or outbreak could result in difficulty securing clinical trial site locations, CROs, and/or trial monitors and other critical vendors and consultants supporting the trial. In addition, outbreaks or the perception of an outbreak near a clinical trial site location could impact the Company’s ability to enroll patients. These situations, or others associated with Covid-19, could cause delays in the Company’s clinical trial plans and could increase expected costs, all of which could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business and its financial condition.
In particular, although our CIPN program with SON-080 continues to progress forward, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted workflow at our contract research partners such that we now estimate delays pushing a trial initiation into the first half of 2021 from our previous plan of late 2020.
While the potential economic impact brought by, and the duration of, COVID-19 may be difficult to assess or predict, a widespread pandemic could result in significant disruption of global financial markets, reducing our ability to access capital, which could in the future negatively affect our liquidity. In addition, a recession or market correction resulting from the spread of COVID-19 could materially affect our business and the value of our common shares.
The COVID-19 outbreak may also affect the ability of our staff and the parties we work with to carry out our non-clinical, clinical, and drug manufacturing activities. We rely or may in the future rely on clinical sites, investigators and other study staff, consultants, independent contractors, contract research organizations and other third-party service providers to assist us in managing, monitoring and otherwise carrying out our nonclinical studies and clinical trials. We also rely or may in the future rely on consultants, independent contractors, contract manufacturing organizations, and other third-party service providers to assist us in managing, monitoring and otherwise carrying out our API production, formulation, and drug manufacturing activities. COVID-19 may affect the ability of any of these external people, organizations, or companies to devote sufficient time and resources to our programs or to travel to perform work for us.
Potential negative impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the conduct of current or future clinical studies include delays in gaining feedback from regulatory agencies, starting new clinical studies, and recruiting subjects to studies that are enrolling. The potential negative impacts also include inability to have study visits at study sites, incomplete collection of safety and efficacy data, and higher rates of drop-out of subjects from ongoing studies, delays in site entry of study data into the data base, delays in monitoring of study data because of restricted physical access to study sites, delays in site responses to queries, delays in data-base lock, delays in data analyses, delays in time to top-line data, and delays in completing study reports. New or worsening COVID-19 disruptions or restrictions could have the potential to further negatively impact our non-clinical studies, clinical trials, and drug manufacturing activities.
We are substantially dependent on the success of our internal development programs and our product pipeline candidates may not successfully complete clinical trials, receive regulatory approval or be successfully commercialized.
Our future success will depend heavily on the success of our internal development programs and of product candidates from our pipeline program.
Our ability to successfully commercialize our pipeline and our other product candidates will depend on, among other things, our ability to:
● successfully complete preclinical studies and clinical trials;
● receive regulatory approvals from the FDA, the EMA and other similar regulatory authorities;
● establish and maintain collaborations with third parties for the development and/or commercialization of our product candidates, or otherwise build and maintain strong development, sales, distribution and marketing capabilities that are sufficient to develop products and launch commercial sales of any approved products;
● obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement from payors such as government health care systems and insurance companies and achieve commercially attractive levels of pricing;
● secure acceptance of our product candidates from physicians, health care payors, patients and the medical community;
● produce, through a validated process, in manufacturing facilities inspected and approved by regulatory authorities, including the FDA, sufficiently large quantities of our product candidates to permit successful commercialization;
● manage our spending as expenses increase due to clinical trials and commercialization; and
● obtain and enforce sufficient intellectual property rights for any approved products and product candidates.
Of the large number of drugs in development in the pharmaceutical industry, only a small percentage result in the submission of a new drug application, or NDA, or biologics licensing application, or BLA, to the FDA and even fewer are approved for commercialization. Furthermore, even if we do receive regulatory approval to market our product candidates, any such approval may be subject to limitations on the indicated uses or patient populations for which we may market the product. Accordingly, even if we are able to obtain the requisite financing to continue to fund our development programs, we cannot assure you that our product candidates will be successfully developed or commercialized. If we are unable to develop, or obtain regulatory approval for, or, if approved, to successfully commercialize our product candidates, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to continue our business.
We are at a very early stage in our development efforts, our product candidates represent a new category of medicines and may be subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny until they are established as a therapeutic modality.
Our pipeline product candidates represent a new therapeutic modality of including engaging a Fully Human Albumin Binding Domain to deliver therapeutic products. Our product candidates may not demonstrate in patients any or all of the pharmacological benefits we believe they may possess. We have not yet succeeded and may never succeed in demonstrating efficacy and safety for these or any other product candidates in clinical trials or in obtaining marketing approval thereafter.
Regulatory authorities do not have experience with our product candidate and may require evidence of safety and efficacy that goes beyond what we have included in our development plans. In such a case, development of our product candidates may be more costly or time-consuming than expected, and our candidate products may not prove to be viable.
If we are unsuccessful in our development efforts, we may not be able to advance the development of our product candidates, commercialize products, raise capital, expand our business or continue our operations.
Our product candidates and those of any collaborators will need to undergo preclinical and clinical trials that are time-consuming and expensive, the outcomes of which are unpredictable, and for which there is a high risk of failure. If preclinical or clinical trials of our or their product candidates fail to satisfactorily demonstrate safety and efficacy to the FDA, the EMA and any other comparable regulatory authority, additional costs may be incurred or delays experienced in completing, the development of these product candidates, or their development may be abandoned.
The FDA in the United States, the EMA in the European Union and the European Economic Area, and other comparable regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions must approve new product candidates before they can be marketed, promoted or sold in those territories. We have not previously submitted an IND or BLA to the FDA or similar drug approval filings to comparable foreign regulatory authorities for any of our product candidates. We must provide these regulatory authorities with data from preclinical studies and clinical trials that demonstrate that our product candidates are safe and effective for a specific indication before they can be approved for commercial distribution. We cannot be certain that our clinical trials for our product candidates will be successful or that any of our product candidates will receive approval from the FDA, the EMA or any other comparable regulatory authority.
Preclinical studies and clinical trials are long, expensive and unpredictable processes that can be subject to extensive delays. We cannot guarantee that any clinical trials will be conducted as planned or completed on schedule, if at all. It may take several years and require significant expenditures to complete the preclinical studies and clinical trials necessary to commercialize a product candidate, and delays or failure are inherently unpredictable and can occur at any stage. We may also be required to conduct additional clinical trials or other testing of our product candidates beyond the trials and testing that we contemplate, which may lead to us incurring additional unplanned costs or result in delays in clinical development. In addition, we may be required to redesign or otherwise modify our plans with respect to an ongoing or planned clinical trial, and changing the design of a clinical trial can be expensive and time consuming. An unfavorable outcome in one or more trials would be a major setback for our product candidates and for us. An unfavorable outcome in one or more trials may require us to delay, reduce the scope of or eliminate one or more product development programs, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position, results of operations and future growth prospects.
Many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of marketing approval for our product candidates. The FDA, EMA or any other comparable regulatory authority may disagree with our clinical trial design and our interpretation of data from clinical trials, or may change the requirements for approval even after it has reviewed and commented on the design for our clinical trials.
In connection with clinical trials of our product candidates, we face a number of risks, including risks that:
● a product candidate is ineffective or inferior to existing approved products for the same indications;
● a product candidate causes or is associated with unacceptable toxicity or has unacceptable side effects;
● patients may die or suffer adverse effects for reasons that may or may not be related to the product candidate being tested;
● the results may not confirm the positive results of earlier trials;
● the results may not meet the level of statistical significance required by the FDA, the EMA or other relevant regulatory agencies to establish the safety and efficacy of our product candidates for continued trial or marketing approval; and
● our collaborators may be unable or unwilling to perform under their contracts.
Furthermore, we sometimes estimate for planning purposes the timing of the accomplishment of various scientific, clinical, regulatory and other product development objectives. These milestones may include our expectations regarding the commencement or completion of scientific studies, clinical trials, the submission of regulatory filings or commercialization objectives. From time to time, we may publicly announce the expected timing of some of these milestones, such as the completion of an ongoing clinical trial, the initiation of other clinical programs, the receipt of marketing approval or a commercial launch of a product. The achievement of many of these milestones may be outside of our control. All of these milestones are based on a variety of assumptions, which may cause the timing of achievement of the milestones to vary considerably from our estimates. If we fail to achieve milestones in the timeframes we expect, the commercialization of our product candidates may be delayed, we may not be entitled to receive certain contractual payments, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position, results of operations and future growth prospects.
We may find it difficult to enroll patients in our clinical trials, which could delay or prevent us from proceeding with clinical trials of our product candidates.
Identifying and qualifying patients to participate in clinical trials of our product candidates is critical to our success. The timing of our clinical trials depends on our ability to recruit patients to participate as well as the completion of required follow-up periods. Patients may be unwilling to participate in our clinical trials because of negative publicity from adverse events related to novel therapeutic approaches, competitive clinical trials for similar patient populations, the existence of current treatments or for other reasons. Enrollment risks are heightened with respect to certain indications that we may target for one or more of our product candidates that may be rare diseases, which may limit the pool of patients that may be enrolled in our planned clinical trials. The timeline for recruiting patients, conducting trials and obtaining regulatory approval of our product candidates may be delayed, which could result in increased costs, delays in advancing our product candidates, delays in testing the effectiveness of our product candidates or termination of the clinical trials altogether.
We may not be able to identify, recruit and enroll a sufficient number of patients, or those with the required or desired characteristics, to complete our clinical trials in a timely manner. For example, due to the nature of the indications that we are initially targeting, patients with advanced disease progression may not be suitable candidates for treatment with our product candidates and may be ineligible for enrollment in our clinical trials. Therefore, early diagnosis in patients with our target diseases is critical to our success. Patient enrollment and trial completion is affected by factors including the:
● size of the patient population and process for identifying subjects;
● design of the trial protocol;
● eligibility and exclusion criteria;
● safety profile, to date, of the product candidate under study;
● perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under study;
● perceived risks and benefits of our approach to treatment of diseases;
● availability of competing therapies and clinical trials;
● severity of the disease under investigation;
● degree of progression of the subject’s disease at the time of enrollment;
● proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective subjects;
● ability to obtain and maintain subject consent;
● risk that enrolled subjects will drop out before completion of the trial;
● patient referral practices of physicians; and
● ability to monitor subjects adequately during and after treatment.
In addition, clinical development for pilot scale feasibility study of SON-080 is currently planned to take place outside of the U.S. Our ability to successfully initiate, enroll and complete a clinical trial in any foreign country is subject to numerous risks unique to conducting business in foreign countries, including:
● difficulty in establishing or managing relationships with academic partners or contract research organizations, or CROs, and physicians;
● different standards for the conduct of clinical trials;
● the absence in some countries of established groups with sufficient regulatory expertise for review of protocols related to our novel approach;
● our inability to locate qualified local consultants, physicians and partners; and
● the potential burden of complying with a variety of foreign laws, medical standards and regulatory requirements, including the regulation of pharmaceutical and biotechnology products and treatment.
If we have difficulty enrolling a sufficient number of patients to conduct our clinical trials as planned, we may need to delay, limit or terminate ongoing or planned clinical trials, any of which would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of results of future clinical trials.
The outcome of preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of later clinical trials, and interim results of clinical trials do not necessarily predict success in the results of completed clinical trials. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in earlier development, and we could face similar setbacks. For example, the Phase IIa trial of SON-080 will be conducted outside of the U.S., and the findings may not be replicated in future trials at global clinical trial sites in a later stage clinical trial conducted by us or our collaborators. The design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. We may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial to support marketing approval.
Preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses. Many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval for the product candidates. Even if we, or any collaborators, believe that the results of clinical trials for our product candidates warrant marketing approval, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may disagree and may not grant marketing approval of our product candidates.
In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety or efficacy results between different clinical trials of the same product candidate due to numerous factors, including changes in trial procedures set forth in protocols, differences in the size and type of the patient populations, changes in and adherence to the dosing regimen and other clinical trial protocols and the rate of dropout among clinical trial participants. If we fail to receive positive results in clinical trials of our product candidates, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for our most advanced product candidates, and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects would be negatively impacted.
Our current or future product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties when used alone or in combination with other approved products or investigational new drugs that could halt their clinical development, prevent their marketing approval, limit their commercial potential or result in significant negative consequences.
Undesirable or clinically unmanageable side effects could occur and cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of marketing approval by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Results of our trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects or unexpected characteristics.
If unacceptable side effects arise in the development of our product candidates, we, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, the Institutional Review Boards, or IRBs, or independent ethics committees at the institutions in which our studies are conducted, or the Data Safety Monitoring Board, or DSMB, could suspend or terminate our clinical trials or the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease clinical trials or deny approval of our product candidates for any or all targeted indications. Treatment-related side effects could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled subjects to complete the trial, or result in potential product liability claims. In addition, these side effects may not be appropriately recognized or managed by the treating medical staff. We may be required to train medical personnel using our product candidates to understand the side effect profiles for our clinical trials and upon any commercialization of any of our product candidates. Inadequate training in recognizing or managing the potential side effects of our product candidates could result in patient injury or death. Any of these occurrences may prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product candidate and may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Moreover, clinical trials of our product candidates are conducted in carefully defined sets of patients who have agreed to enter into clinical trials. Consequently, it is possible that our clinical trials may indicate an apparent positive effect of a product candidate that is greater than the actual positive effect, if any, or alternatively fail to identify undesirable side effects. If, following approval of a product candidate, we, or others, discover that the product is less effective than previously believed or causes undesirable side effects that were not previously identified, any of the following consequences could occur:
● regulatory authorities may withdraw their approval of the product or seize the product;
● we, or any collaborators, may need to recall the product, or be required to change the way the product is administered or conduct additional clinical trials;
● additional restrictions may be imposed on the marketing of, or the manufacturing processes for, the particular product;
● we may be subject to fines, injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties;
● regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, such as a boxed warning or a contraindication;
● we, or any collaborators, may be required to create a medication guide outlining the risks of the previously unidentified side effects for distribution to patients;
● we, or any collaborators, could be sued and held liable for harm caused to patients;
● the product may become less competitive; and
● our reputation may suffer.
If any of our current or future product candidates fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy in clinical trials or do not gain marketing approval, we will not be able to generate revenue and our business will be harmed. Any of these events could harm our business and operations, and could negatively impact the price of our common stock.
We may not be successful in our efforts to identify or discover additional product candidates.
Although we intend to explore other therapeutic opportunities in addition to the product candidates that we are currently developing, we may fail to identify other product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons. For example, our research methodology may not be successful in identifying potential product candidates or those we identify may be shown to have harmful side effects or other characteristics that make them unmarketable or unlikely to receive regulatory approval. Additional product candidates will require additional, time-consuming development efforts prior to commercial sale, including preclinical studies, clinical trials and approval by the FDA and/or applicable foreign regulatory authorities. All product candidates are prone to the risks of failure that are inherent in pharmaceutical product development. If we fail to identify and develop additional potential product candidates, we may be unable to grow our business and our results of operations could be materially harmed.
We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.
Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we intend to focus on developing product candidates for specific indications that we identify as most likely to succeed, in terms of both their potential for marketing approval and commercialization. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that may prove to have greater commercial potential.
Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable product candidates. 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 the product candidate.
We face potential product liability, and, if successful claims are brought against us, we may incur substantial liability and costs. If the use of our product candidates harms patients, or is perceived to harm patients even when such harm is unrelated to our product candidates, our regulatory approvals could be revoked or otherwise negatively impacted and we could be subject to costly and damaging product liability claims.
The use of our product candidates in clinical trials and the sale of any products for which we obtain marketing approval expose us to the risk of product liability claims. Product liability claims might be brought against us by patients, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies or others selling or otherwise coming into contact with our products. There is a risk that our product candidates may induce adverse events. If we cannot successfully defend against product liability claims, we could incur substantial liability and costs. In addition, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, product liability claims may result in:
|●||the impairment of our business reputation;|
|●||the withdrawal of clinical trial participants;|
|●||substantial monetary awards to patients or other claimants;|
|●||costs due to related litigation;|
|●||the distraction of management’s attention from our primary business;|
|●||the inability to commercialize our product candidates; and|
|●||decreased demand for our product candidates, if approved for commercial sale.|
We intend to acquire product liability insurance coverage in light of our current clinical programs; however, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses due to liability. We intend to expand our insurance coverage each time we commercialize an additional product; however, we may be unable to obtain product liability insurance on commercially reasonable terms or in adequate amounts. On occasion, large judgments have been awarded in class action lawsuits based on drugs or medical treatments that had unanticipated adverse effects. A successful product liability claim or series of claims brought against us could cause our stock price to decline and, if judgments exceed our insurance coverage, could adversely affect our results of operations and business.
Patients with the diseases targeted by certain of our product candidates, such as our lead indications in oncology, are often already in severe and advanced stages of disease and have both known and unknown significant pre-existing and potentially life-threatening health risks. During the course of treatment, patients may suffer adverse events, including death, for reasons that may be related to our product candidates. Such events could subject us to costly litigation, require us to pay substantial amounts of money to injured patients, delay, negatively impact or end our opportunity to receive or maintain regulatory approval to market our products, or require us to suspend or abandon our commercialization efforts. Even in a circumstance in which we do not believe that an adverse event is related to our products, the investigation into the circumstance may be time-consuming or inconclusive. These investigations may interrupt our sales efforts, delay our regulatory approval process, or impact and limit the type of regulatory approvals our product candidates receive or maintain. As a result of these factors, a product liability claim, even if successfully defended, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may seek designations for our product candidates with the FDA and other comparable regulatory authorities that are intended to confer benefits such as a faster development process or an accelerated regulatory pathway, but there can be no assurance that we will successfully obtain such designations. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates are granted such designations, we may not be able to realize the intended benefits of such designations.
The FDA and other comparable regulatory authorities offer certain designations for product candidates that are intended to encourage the research and development of pharmaceutical products addressing conditions with significant unmet medical need. These designations may confer benefits such as additional interaction with regulatory authorities, a potentially accelerated regulatory pathway and priority review. There can be no assurance that we will successfully obtain such designation for any of our other product candidates. In addition, while such designations could expedite the development or approval process, they generally do not change the standards for approval. Even if we obtain such designations for one or more of our product candidates, there can be no assurance that we will realize their intended benefits.
For example, we may seek a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for one or more of our product candidates. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a therapy that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other therapies, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, if preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the therapy may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. For therapies that have been designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor of the trial can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens. Therapies designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA are also eligible for accelerated approval. Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe one of our product candidates meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. In any event, the receipt of a Breakthrough Therapy Designation for a product candidate may not result in a faster development process, review or approval compared to therapies considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates qualify as breakthrough therapies, the FDA may later decide that such product candidates no longer meet the conditions for qualification.
We may also seek Fast Track Designation for some of our product candidates. If a therapy is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and the therapy demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for this condition, the therapy sponsor may apply for Fast Track Designation. The FDA has broad discretion whether or not to grant this designation, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for this designation, there can be no assurance that the FDA would decide to grant it. Even if we do receive Fast Track Designation, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures, and receiving a Fast Track Designation does not provide assurance of ultimate FDA approval. The FDA may withdraw Fast Track Designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program.
We may seek priority review designation for one or more of our product candidates, but we might not receive such designation, and even if we do, such designation may not lead to a faster regulatory review or approval process.
If the FDA determines that a product candidate offers a treatment for a serious condition and, if approved, the product would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness, the FDA may designate the product candidate for priority review. A priority review designation means that the goal for the FDA to review an application is six months, rather than the standard review period of ten months. We may request priority review for our product candidates. The FDA has broad discretion with respect to whether or not to grant priority review status to a product candidate, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for such designation or status, in particular if such product candidate has received a Breakthrough Therapy Designation, the FDA may decide not to grant it. Moreover, a priority review designation does not result in expedited development and does not necessarily result in expedited regulatory review or approval process or necessarily confer any advantage with respect to approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. Receiving priority review from the FDA does not guarantee approval within the six-month review cycle or at all.
Obtaining and maintaining marketing approval of our current and future product candidates in one jurisdiction does not mean that we will be successful in obtaining marketing approval of our current and future product candidates in other jurisdictions.
Obtaining and maintaining marketing approval of our current and future product candidates in one jurisdiction does not guarantee that we will be able to obtain or maintain marketing approval in any other jurisdiction, while a failure or delay in obtaining marketing approval in one jurisdiction may have a negative effect on the marketing approval process in others. For example, even if the FDA grants marketing approval of a product candidate, comparable regulatory authorities in foreign jurisdictions must also approve the manufacturing, marketing and promotion of the product candidate in those countries. Approval procedures vary among jurisdictions and can involve requirements and administrative review periods different from, and greater than, those in the United States, including additional preclinical studies or clinical trials as clinical studies conducted in one jurisdiction may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions outside the United States, a product candidate must be approved for reimbursement before it can be approved for sale in that jurisdiction. In some cases, the price that we intend to charge for our products is also subject to approval. We do not have experience in obtaining reimbursement or pricing approvals in international markets.
Obtaining marketing approvals and compliance with regulatory requirements could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in certain countries outside of the United States. If we fail to comply with the regulatory requirements in international markets and/or receive applicable marketing approvals, our target market will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of our product candidates will be harmed.
Risks Related to Commercialization of Our Product Candidates and Other Regulatory 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 or any collaborators from obtaining approvals for the commercialization of some or all of our product candidates. As a result, we cannot predict when or if, and in which territories, we, or any collaborators, will obtain marketing approval to commercialize a product candidate.
The process of obtaining marketing approvals, both in the United States and abroad, is lengthy, expensive and uncertain. It may take many years, 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. Securing marketing approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the product candidate’s safety and efficacy. Securing marketing approval also requires the submission of information about the product manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the regulatory authorities. The FDA or other regulatory authorities may determine that our product candidates are not safe and effective, only moderately effective or have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render the approved product not commercially viable.
In addition, 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. Regulatory authorities have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or may decide that our data are insufficient for approval and require additional preclinical, clinical or other studies. Varying interpretations of the data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing could delay, limit or prevent marketing approval of a product candidate. We cannot commercialize a product until the appropriate regulatory authorities have reviewed and approved the product candidate. Even if our product candidates demonstrate safety and efficacy in clinical trials, the regulatory 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. In addition, we may experience delays or rejections based upon additional government regulation from future legislation or administrative action, or changes in regulatory agency policy during the period of product development, clinical trials and the review process. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render the approved product commercially unviable.
Moreover, principal investigators for our clinical trials may serve as scientific advisors or consultants to us from time to time and receive compensation in connection with such services. Under certain circumstances, we may be required to report some of these relationships to the FDA or other regulatory authority. The FDA or other regulatory authority may conclude that a financial relationship between us and a principal investigator has created a conflict of interest or otherwise affected interpretation of the study. The FDA or other regulatory authority may therefore question the integrity of the data generated at the applicable clinical trial site and the utility of the clinical trial itself may be jeopardized. This could result in a delay in approval, or rejection, of our marketing applications by the FDA or other regulatory authority, as the case may be, and may ultimately lead to the denial of marketing approval of one or more of our product candidates.
In addition, regulatory agencies may not approve the labeling claims that are necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of our product candidates. For example, regulatory agencies may approve a product candidate for fewer or more limited indications than requested or may grant approval subject to the performance of post-marketing studies. Regulators may approve a product candidate for a smaller patient population, a different drug formulation or a different manufacturing process, than we are seeking. If we are unable to obtain necessary regulatory approvals, or more limited regulatory approvals than we expect, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations may suffer.
Any delay in obtaining or failure to obtain required approvals could negatively impact our ability to generate revenue from the particular product candidate, which likely would result in significant harm to our financial position and adversely impact the price of our common stock.
We currently have no marketing, sales or distribution infrastructure with respect to our product candidates. If we are unable to develop our sales, marketing and distribution capability on our own or through collaborations with marketing partners, we will not be successful in commercializing our product candidates.
We currently have no marketing, sales or distribution capabilities and have limited sales or marketing experience within our organization. If one or more of our product candidates is approved, we intend either to establish a sales and marketing organization with technical expertise and supporting distribution capabilities to commercialize that product candidate, or to outsource this function to a third party. There are risks involved with either establishing our own sales and marketing capabilities and entering into arrangements with third parties to perform these services.
Recruiting and training an internal commercial organization is expensive and time consuming and could delay any product launch. Some or all of these costs may be incurred in advance of any approval of any of our product candidates. If the commercial launch of a product candidate for which we recruit a sales force and establish marketing capabilities is delayed or does not occur for any reason, we would have prematurely or unnecessarily incurred these commercialization expenses. This may be costly and our investment would be lost if we cannot retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel. In addition, we may not be able to hire a sales force in the United States or other target market that is sufficient in size or has adequate expertise in the medical markets that we intend to target.
Factors that may inhibit our efforts to commercialize our product candidates on our own include:
● the inability to recruit, train and retain adequate numbers of effective sales and marketing personnel;
● the inability of sales personnel to obtain access to physicians or persuade adequate numbers of physicians to prescribe any future product that we may develop;
● the lack of complementary treatments 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 enter into arrangements with third parties to perform sales, marketing and distribution services, our product revenue or the profitability to us from these revenue streams is likely to be lower than if we were to market and sell any product candidates that we develop ourselves. In addition, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to sell and market our product candidates or may be unable to do so on terms that are favorable to us. We likely will have little control over such third parties and any of them may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our product candidates effectively. If we do not establish sales and marketing capabilities successfully, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates.
The market opportunities for any current or future product candidate we develop, if and when approved, may be limited to those patients who are ineligible for established therapies or for whom prior therapies have failed, and therefore may be small.
Cancer therapies are sometimes characterized as first-line, second-line, or third-line, and the FDA often approves new therapies initially only for third-line use. When cancer is detected early enough, first-line therapy, usually chemotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy or a combination of these, is sometimes adequate to cure the cancer or prolong life without a cure. Second- and third-line therapies are administered to patients when prior therapy is not effective. We may initially seek approval of SON-080 and any other product candidates we develop as a therapy for patients who have received one or more prior treatments. Subsequently, for those products that prove to be sufficiently beneficial, if any, we would expect to seek approval potentially as a first-line therapy, but there is no guarantee that product candidates we develop, even if approved, would be approved for first-line therapy, and, prior to any such approvals, we may have to conduct additional clinical trials.
The number of patients who have the cancers we are targeting may turn out to be lower than expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our current programs or future product candidates may be limited, if and when approved. Even if we obtain significant market share for any product candidate, if and when approved, if the potential target populations are small, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining marketing approval for additional indications, including use as first- or second-line therapy.
Even if we receive marketing approval of a product candidate, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our products, if approved.
Any marketing approvals that we receive for any current or future product candidate may be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-market testing and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the product candidate. The FDA may also require a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, as a condition of approval of any product candidate, which could include requirements for a medication guide, physician communication plans or additional elements to ensure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority approves a product candidate, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, advertising, promotion, import and export and record keeping for the product candidate will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. These requirements include, among others, prohibitions on the promotion of an approved product for uses not included in the product’s approved labeling, submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration, as well as continued compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practice, or cGMP, and Good Clinical Practice, or GCP, for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with any approved candidate, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with our third-party manufacturers or manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in, among other things:
● restrictions on the labeling, distribution, marketing or manufacturing of the product, withdrawal of the product from the market, or product recalls;
● untitled and warning letters, or holds on clinical trials;
● refusal by the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications we filed or suspension or revocation of license approvals;
● requirements to conduct post-marketing studies or clinical trials;
● restrictions on coverage by third-party payors;
● fines, restitution or disgorgement of profits or revenues;
● suspension or withdrawal of marketing approvals;
● product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of the product; and
● injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.
The FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay marketing approval of a product. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
We face significant competition and if our competitors develop and market products that are more effective, safer or less expensive than the product candidates we develop, our commercial opportunities will be negatively impacted.
The life sciences industry is highly competitive. We are currently developing therapeutics that will compete, if approved, with other products and therapies that currently exist, are being developed or will in the future be developed, some of which we may not currently be aware.
We have competitors both in the United States and internationally, including major multinational pharmaceutical companies, established biotechnology companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies, universities and other research institutions. Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial, manufacturing, marketing, product development, technical and human resources than we do. Large pharmaceutical companies, in particular, have extensive experience in clinical testing, obtaining marketing approvals, recruiting patients and manufacturing pharmaceutical products. These companies also have significantly greater research and marketing capabilities than we do and may also have products that have been approved or are in late stages of development, and collaborative arrangements in our target markets with leading companies and research institutions. Established pharmaceutical companies may also invest heavily to accelerate discovery and development of novel compounds or to in-license novel compounds that could make the product candidates that we develop obsolete. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. As a result of all of these factors, our competitors may succeed in obtaining patent protection and/or marketing approval or discovering, developing and commercializing products in our field before we do.
There is a large number of companies developing or marketing treatments for cancer, including many major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. These treatments consist both of small molecule drug products, such as traditional chemotherapy, as well as novel immunotherapies. For example, a number of multinational companies as well as large biotechnology companies, including Astellas Pharma Inc., Seattle Genetics, Inc., AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline plc, are developing programs for the targets that we are exploring for our pipeline programs.
Our commercial opportunities could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe effects, are more convenient, have a broader label, are marketed more effectively, are reimbursed or are less expensive than any products that we may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA, EMA or other marketing 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. Even if the product candidate we develop achieve marketing approval, they may be priced at a significant premium over competitive products if any have been approved by then, resulting in reduced competitiveness.
Smaller and other early stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors. 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. In addition, the biopharmaceutical industry is characterized by rapid technological change. If we fail to stay at the forefront of technological change, we may be unable to compete effectively. Technological advances or products developed by our competitors may render our product candidates obsolete, less competitive or not economical.
The commercial success of any current or future product candidate will depend upon the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, payors and others in the medical community.
We have never commercialized a product, and even if we obtain any regulatory approval for our product candidates, the commercial success of our product candidates will depend in part on the medical community, patients, and payors accepting our product candidates as effective, safe and cost-effective. Any product that we bring to the market may not gain market acceptance by physicians, patients, payors and others in the medical community. Physicians are often reluctant to switch their patients from existing therapies even when new and potentially more effective or convenient treatments enter the market. Further, patients often acclimate to the therapy that they are currently taking and do not want to switch unless their physicians recommend switching products or they are required to switch therapies due to lack of reimbursement for existing therapies.
The degree of market acceptance of these product candidates, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:
|●||the potential efficacy and potential advantages over alternative treatments;|
|●||the frequency and severity of any side effects, including any limitations or warnings contained in a product’s approved labeling;|
|●||the frequency and severity of any side effects resulting from follow-up requirements for the administration of our product candidates;|
|●||the relative convenience and ease of administration;|
|●||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 and timing of market introduction of competitive products;|
|●||publicity concerning our products or competing products and treatments; and|
|●||sufficient third-party insurance coverage and adequate reimbursement.|
Even if a product candidate displays a favorable efficacy and safety profile in preclinical studies and clinical trials, market acceptance of the product, if approved for commercial sale, will not be known until after it is launched. Our efforts to educate the medical community and payors on the benefits of our product candidates may require significant resources and may never be successful. Such efforts to educate the marketplace may require more resources than are required by the conventional technologies marketed by our competitors, particularly due to the novelty of our Sonnet approach. If these products do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenue and may not become profitable.
If the market opportunities for our product candidates are smaller than we believe they are, our product revenues may be adversely affected and our business may suffer.
We currently focus our research and product development on treatments for oncology indications and our product FHAB candidates are designed to target solid tumors. Our understanding of both the number of people who have these diseases, as well as the subset of people with these diseases who have the potential to benefit from treatment with our product candidates, are based on estimates. These estimates may prove to be incorrect and new studies may reduce the estimated incidence or prevalence of these diseases. Patient identification efforts also influence the ability to address a patient population. If efforts in patient identification are unsuccessful or less impactful than anticipated, we may not address the entirety of the opportunity we are seeking.
The insurance coverage and reimbursement status of newly-approved products is uncertain. Failure to obtain or maintain adequate coverage and reimbursement for any of our product candidates, if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.
We expect the cost of our product candidates to be substantial, when and if they achieve market approval. The availability and extent of reimbursement by governmental and private payors is essential for most patients to be able to afford expensive treatments. Sales of our product candidates will depend substantially, both domestically and abroad, on the extent to which the costs of our product candidates will be paid by private payors, such as private health coverage insurers, health maintenance, managed care, pharmacy benefit and similar healthcare management organizations, or reimbursed by government health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. We may not be able to provide data sufficient to gain acceptance with respect to coverage and reimbursement. If reimbursement is not available, or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our product candidates, even if approved. 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 coverage and reimbursement for new medicines are typically made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as the CMS decides whether and to what extent a new medicine will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare. Private payors tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. It is difficult to predict what CMS will decide with respect to coverage and reimbursement for novel products such as ours, as there is no body of established practices and precedents for these new products. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that use of a product is: (1) a covered benefit under its health plan; (2) safe, effective and medically necessary; (3) appropriate for the specific patient; (4) cost-effective; and (5) neither experimental nor investigational. In the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors. As a result, the coverage determination process is often a time-consuming and costly process that will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our products to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. Even if we obtain coverage for a given product, the resulting reimbursement payment rates might not be adequate for us to achieve or sustain profitability or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific drug products on an approved list, also known as a formulary, which might not include all of the approved drugs for a particular indication.
Additionally, third-party payors may not cover, or provide adequate reimbursement for, long-term follow-up evaluations required following the use of product candidates. Patients are unlikely to use our product candidates unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of our product candidates. Because our product candidates may have a higher cost of goods than conventional therapies, and may require long-term follow-up evaluations, the risk that coverage and reimbursement rates may be inadequate for us to achieve profitability may be greater. There is significant uncertainty related to insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. It is difficult to predict at this time what third-party payors will decide with respect to the coverage and reimbursement for our product candidates.
Moreover, increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payors in the United States and abroad to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and the level of reimbursement for newly approved products and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment for our product candidates. There has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of any of our product candidates due to the trend toward managed healthcare, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations, cost containment initiatives and additional legislative changes.
Outside the United States, certain countries, including a number of member states of the European Union, set prices and reimbursement for pharmaceutical products, or medicinal products, as they are commonly referred to in the European Union. These countries have broad discretion in setting prices and we cannot be sure that such prices and reimbursement will be acceptable to us or our collaborators. If the regulatory authorities in these jurisdictions set prices or reimbursement levels that are not commercially attractive for us or our collaborators, our revenues from sales by us or our collaborators, and the potential profitability of our drug products, in those countries would be negatively affected. An increasing number of countries are taking initiatives to attempt to reduce large budget deficits by focusing cost-cutting efforts on pharmaceuticals for their state-run health care systems. These international price control efforts have impacted all regions of the world, but have been most drastic in the European Union. Additionally, some countries require approval of the sale price of a product before it can be lawfully marketed. In many countries, the pricing review period begins after marketing or product licensing approval is granted. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we, or any collaborators, may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost-effectiveness of our product to other available therapies. As a result, we might obtain marketing approval for a product in a particular country, but then may experience delays in the reimbursement approval of our product or be subject to price regulations that would delay our commercial launch of the product, possibly for lengthy time periods, which could negatively impact the revenues we are able to generate from the sale of the product in that particular country.
Moreover, efforts by governments and payors, in the United States and abroad, 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 reimbursement for our product candidates. There has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of any of our product candidates, due to the trend toward managed healthcare, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations and additional legislative changes. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs and other treatments, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products. If reimbursement of our products is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business could be harmed.
If the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities approve generic versions of any of our product candidates that receive marketing approval, or such authorities do not grant such products appropriate periods of data exclusivity before approving generic versions of such products, the sales of such products could be adversely affected.
In the United States, manufacturers may seek approval of biosimilar versions of biologics approved by the FDA under a BLA through submission of abbreviated biologic license applications, or ABLAs. In support of an ABLA, a biosimilar manufacturer generally must show that its product is similar to the original biologic product. Biosimilar products may be less costly to bring to market than the original biologic and companies that produce biosimilar products are sometimes able to offer them at lower prices. Thus, following the introduction of a biosimilar product, a significant percentage of the sales of the original biologic may be lost to the biosimilar product, and the price of the original biologic product may be lowered.
The FDA may not accept for review or approve an ABLA for a biosimilar product until any applicable period of non-patent exclusivity for the original biologic has expired. The Public Health Service (PHS) Act provides a period of twelve years of non-patent exclusivity for a biologic approved under a BLA.
Competition that our products may face from biosimilar versions of our products could negatively impact our future revenue, profitability and cash flows and substantially limit our ability to obtain a return on our investments in those product candidates.
|We may be subject, directly or indirectly, to federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws, false claims laws health information privacy and security laws, and other health care laws and regulations. If we are unable to comply, or have not fully complied, with such laws, we could face substantial penalties.|
If we obtain FDA approval for any of our product candidates and begin commercializing those products in the United States, our operations will be directly, or indirectly through our prescribers, customers and purchasers, subject to various federal and state fraud and abuse laws and regulations, including, without limitation, the federal Health Care Program Anti-Kickback Statute, or Anti-Kickback Statute, the federal civil and criminal False Claims Act and Physician Payments Sunshine Act and regulations. These laws will impact, among other things, our proposed sales, marketing and educational programs. In addition, we may be subject to patient privacy laws by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. The laws that will affect our operations include, but are not limited to:
|●||the Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons or entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, receiving, offering or paying any remuneration (including any kickback, bribe or rebate), directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce, or in return for, either the referral of an individual, or the purchase, lease, order, arrangement, or recommendation of any good, facility, item or service for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under a federal healthcare program, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs. “Remuneration” has been interpreted broadly to include anything of value. A person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the Anti-Kickback Statute or specific intent to violate it to have committed a violation. In addition, the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal False Claims Act, or FCA, or federal civil money penalties. The Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers, and formulary managers on the other. There are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting some common activities from prosecution;|
|●||the federal civil and criminal false claims laws and civil monetary penalty laws, including the FCA, which impose criminal and civil penalties against individuals or entities for, among other things: knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the federal government, claims for payment that are false or fraudulent; knowingly making, using or causing to be made or used, a false statement of record material to a false or fraudulent claim or obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the federal government. Manufacturers can be held liable under the FCA even when they do not submit claims directly to government payors if they are deemed to “cause” the submission of false or fraudulent claims. The FCA also permits a private individual acting as a “whistleblower” to bring actions on behalf of the federal government alleging violations of the FCA and to share in any monetary recovery;|
|●||the beneficiary inducement provisions of the CMP Law, which prohibits, among other things, the offering or giving of remuneration, which includes, without limitation, any transfer of items or services for free or for less than fair market value (with limited exceptions), to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary that the person knows or should know is likely to influence the beneficiary’s selection of a particular supplier of items or services reimbursable by a federal or state governmental program;|
|●||the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which created new federal criminal statutes that prohibit a person from knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program or obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody or control of, any healthcare benefit program, regardless of the payor (e.g., public or private) and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up by any trick or device a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services relating to healthcare matters; similar to the Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation;|
|●||HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, and their respective implementing regulations, which impose requirements on certain healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, known as covered entities, as well as their respective business associates, individuals and entities that perform services on their behalf that involve the use or disclosure of individually identifiable health information, relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information;|
|●||the U.S. federal transparency requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or collectively, ACA, including the provision commonly referred to as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which requires applicable manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (with certain exceptions) to report annually to CMS information related to payments or other transfers of value made to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by the physicians described above and their immediate family members. Beginning in 2022, applicable manufacturers also will be required to report information regarding payments and transfers of value provided to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives;|
|●||federal government price reporting laws, which require us to calculate and report complex pricing metrics in an accurate and timely manner to government programs; and|
|●||federal consumer protection and unfair competition laws, which broadly regulate marketplace activities and activities that potentially harm consumers.|
Additionally, we are subject to state and foreign equivalents of each of the healthcare laws and regulations described above, among others, some of which may be broader in scope and may apply regardless of the payer. Many U.S. states have adopted laws similar to the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act, and may apply to our business practices, including, but not limited to, research, distribution, sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by non-governmental payors, including private insurers. In addition, some states have passed laws that require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the April 2003 Office of Inspector General Compliance Program Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and/or the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals. Several states also impose other marketing restrictions or require pharmaceutical companies to make marketing or price disclosures to the state. There are ambiguities as to what is required to comply with these state requirements and if we fail to comply with an applicable state law requirement we could be subject to penalties. Finally, there are state and foreign laws governing the privacy and security of health information, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.
Because of the breadth of these laws and the narrowness of the statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors available, it is possible that some of our business activities could be subject to challenge under one or more of such laws. Law enforcement authorities are increasingly focused on enforcing fraud and abuse laws, and it is possible that some of our practices may be challenged under these laws. Efforts to ensure that our current and future business arrangements with third parties, and our business generally, will comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. If our operations, including our arrangements with physicians and other healthcare providers, some of whom receive stock options as compensation for services provided, are found to be in violation of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including, without limitation, administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs (such as Medicare and Medicaid), additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, and individual imprisonment, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results. Any action for violation of these laws, even if successfully defended, could cause a pharmaceutical manufacturer to incur significant legal expenses and divert management’s attention from the operation of the business. Prohibitions or restrictions on sales or withdrawal of future marketed products could materially affect business in an adverse way.
Healthcare legislative reform measures and constraints on national budget social security systems may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Payors, whether domestic or foreign, or governmental or private, are developing increasingly sophisticated methods of controlling healthcare costs and those methods are not always specifically adapted for new technologies such as those we are developing. In both the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes to the health care system that could impact our ability to sell our products profitably. In particular, in the United States, the ACA was enacted in 2010 which, among other things, subjects biologic products to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars; addresses a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected; increases the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by most manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program; extends the Medicaid Drug Rebate program to utilization of prescriptions of individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations; subjects manufacturers to new annual fees and taxes for certain branded prescription drugs; and provides incentives to programs that increase the federal government’s comparative effectiveness research.
Since its enactment, there have been judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA, as well as recent efforts by the current administration to repeal or replace certain aspects of the ACA. Further, since January 2017, President Trump has signed two Executive Orders and other directives designed to delay the implementation of certain provision of the ACA or otherwise circumvent some of the requirements for health insurance mandated by the ACA. In addition, CMS recently issued a final rule that will give states greater flexibility, starting in 2020, in setting benchmarks for insurers in the individual and small group marketplaces, which may have the effect of relaxing the essential health benefits required under the ACA for plans sold through such marketplaces.
Concurrently, Congress has considered legislation that would repeal and replace all or part of the ACA. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, two bills affecting the implementation of certain taxes under the ACA have been signed into law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or TCJA, includes a provision repealing, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the ACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” Additionally, on January 22, 2018, President Trump signed a continuing resolution on appropriations for fiscal year 2018 that delayed the implementation of certain ACA-mandated fees, including the so-called “Cadillac” tax on certain high cost employer-sponsored insurance plans, the annual fee imposed on certain high cost employer-sponsored insurance plans, the annual fee imposed on certain health insurance providers based on market share, and the medical device exercise tax on non-exempt medical devices. Further, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or BBA, among other things, amends the ACA, effective January 1, 2019, to increase from 50 percent to 70 percent the point-of-sale discount that is owed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who participate in Medicare Part D and to close the coverage gap in most Medicare drug plans, commonly referred to as the “donut hole.” More recently, in July 2018, CMS published a final rule permitting further collections and payments to and from certain ACA qualified health plans and health insurance issuers under the ACA risk adjustment program in response to the outcome of federal district court litigation regarding the method CMS uses to determine this risk adjustment. Congress also could consider additional legislation to repeal or replace other elements of the ACA. Thus, the full impact of the ACA, any law repealing or replacing elements of it, and the political uncertainty surrounding any repeal or replacement legislation on our business remains unclear.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. In August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.5 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect in April 2013, and due to subsequent legislative amendments, including the BBA, will remain in effect through 2027 unless additional Congressional action is taken. In January 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.
Also, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny recently over the manner in which drug manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. For example, the current administration released a “Blueprint” to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contains additional proposals to increase manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products and reduce the out of pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers. For example, in November 2018, CMS issued a proposed rule for comment that would, among other things, provide Medicare prescription drug plans under Part D more transparency in pricing and greater flexibility to negotiate discounts for, and in certain circumstances exclude, drugs in the six “protected” formulary classes and allow Medicare Advantage plans to use certain drug management tools such as step therapy for physician-administered drugs. Although a number of these, and other proposed measures will require authorization through additional legislation to become effective, Congress and the Trump administration have each indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs.
There have been, and likely will continue to be, legislative and regulatory proposals at the foreign, federal and state levels directed at broadening the availability of healthcare and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare. We cannot predict the initiatives that may be adopted in the future. The continuing efforts of these governments and other payors to contain or reduce costs of healthcare and/or impose price controls may adversely affect:
|●||the demand for our product candidates, if we obtain regulatory approval;|
|●||our ability to set a price that we believe is fair for our products;|
|●||our ability to generate revenue and achieve or maintain profitability;|
|●||the level of taxes that we are required to pay; and|
|●||the availability of capital.|
Any denial in coverage or reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar denial or reduction in payments from private payors, which may adversely affect our future profitability.
We are subject to the the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, or the FCPA, and other anti-corruption laws, as well as export control laws, import and customs laws, trade and economic sanctions laws and other laws governing our operations.
Our operations are subject to anti-corruption laws, including the FCPA, the U.S. domestic bribery statute contained in 18 §201, the U.S. Travel Act, and other anti-corruption laws that apply in countries where we do business. The Bribery Act, the FCPA and these other laws generally prohibit us and our employees and intermediaries from authorizing, promising, offering, or providing, directly or indirectly, improper or prohibited payments, or anything else of value, to government officials or other persons to obtain or retain business or gain some other business advantage. Under the Bribery Act, we may also be liable for failing to prevent a person associated with us from committing a bribery offense. We and our commercial partners operate in a number of jurisdictions that pose a high risk of potential Bribery Act or FCPA violations, and we participate in collaborations and relationships with third parties whose corrupt or illegal activities could potentially subject us to liability under the Bribery Act, FCPA or local anti-corruption laws, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have actual knowledge of such activities. In addition, we cannot predict the nature, scope or effect of future regulatory requirements to which our international operations might be subject or the manner in which existing laws might be administered or interpreted.
We are also subject to other laws and regulations governing our international operations, including regulations administered by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States, and authorities in the European Union, including applicable export control regulations, economic sanctions and embargoes on certain countries and persons, anti-money laundering laws, import and customs requirements and currency exchange regulations, collectively referred to as the Trade Control laws.
There is no assurance that we will be completely effective in ensuring our compliance with all applicable anti-corruption laws, including the Bribery Act, the FCPA or other legal requirements, including Trade Control laws. If we are not in compliance with the Bribery Act, the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws, we may be subject to criminal and civil penalties, disgorgement and other sanctions and remedial measures, and legal expenses, which could have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. Likewise, any investigation of any potential violations of the Bribery Act, the FCPA, other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws by United Kingdom, United States or other authorities could also have an adverse impact on our reputation, our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If we fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.
We are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Our operations involve the use of hazardous and flammable materials, including chemicals and biological materials. Our operations also produce hazardous waste products. We generally contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and wastes. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from these materials. In the event of contamination or injury resulting from our use of hazardous materials, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources. We also could incur significant costs associated with civil or criminal fines and penalties. Furthermore, environmental laws and regulations are complex, change frequently and have tended to become more stringent. We cannot predict the impact of such changes and cannot be certain of our future compliance. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.
Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of hazardous materials or other work-related injuries, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions or liabilities, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks Related to Our International Operations
As one of our subsidiaries, Relief, is based outside of the United States, we are subject to economic, political, regulatory and other risks associated with international operations.
As Relief is based in the Switzerland, our business is subject to risks associated with conducting business outside of the United States. Many of our suppliers and clinical trial relationships are located outside the United States. Accordingly, our future results could be harmed by a variety of factors, including:
|●||economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability in particular non-U.S. economies and markets;|
|●||differing and changing regulatory requirements for product approvals;|
|●||differing jurisdictions could present different issues for securing, maintaining or obtaining freedom to operate in such jurisdictions;|
|●||potentially reduced protection for intellectual property rights;|
|●||difficulties in compliance with different, complex and changing laws, regulations and court systems of multiple jurisdictions and compliance with a wide variety of foreign laws, treaties and regulations;|
|●||changes in non-U.S. regulations and customs, tariffs and trade barriers;|
|●||changes in non-U.S. currency exchange rates of the pound sterling, U.S. dollar, euro and currency controls;|
|●||trade protection measures, import or export licensing requirements or other restrictive actions by governments;|
|●||differing reimbursement regimes and price controls in certain non-U.S. markets;|
|●||negative consequences from changes in tax laws;|
|●||compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad, including, for example, the variable tax treatment in different jurisdictions of options granted under our share option schemes or equity incentive plans;|
|●||workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States;|
|●||litigation or administrative actions resulting from claims against us by current or former employees or consultants individually or as part of class actions, including claims of wrongful terminations, discrimination, misclassification or other violations of labor law or other alleged conduct;|
|●||difficulties associated with staffing and managing international operations, including differing labor relations;|
|●||production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad; and|
|●||business interruptions resulting from geo-political actions, including war and terrorism, or natural disasters including earthquakes, typhoons, floods and fires.|
European data collection is governed by restrictive regulations governing the use, processing, and cross-border transfer of personal information.
The collection and use of personal health data in the European Union is was governed by the provisions of the Data Protection Directive, and which, as of May 25, 2018, has been superseded by the GDPR. These directives impose several requirements relating to the consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, the information provided to the individuals, notification of data processing obligations to the competent national data protection authorities and the security and confidentiality of the personal data. The Data Protection Directive and GDPR also impose strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the European Union to the United States. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, the GDPR, and the related national data protection laws of the European Union Member States may result in fines and other administrative penalties. While the Data Protection Directive did not apply to organizations based outside the EU, the GDPR has expanded its reach to include any business, regardless of its location, that provides goods or services to residents in the EU. This expansion would incorporate any potential clinical trial activities in EU member states. The GDPR imposes strict requirements on controllers and processors of personal data, including special protections for “sensitive information” which includes health and genetic information of data subjects residing in the EU. GDPR grants individuals the opportunity to object to the processing of their personal information, allows them to request deletion of personal information in certain circumstances, and provides the individual with an express right to seek legal remedies in the event the individual believes his or her rights have been violated. Further, the GDPR imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the European Union to the United States or other regions that have not been deemed to offer “adequate” privacy protections. Failure to comply with the requirements of the GDPR and the related national data protection laws of the European Union Member States, which may deviate slightly from the GDPR, may result in fines of up to 4% of global revenues, or € 20,000,000, whichever is greater. As a result of the implementation of the GDPR, we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms ensuring compliance with the new data protection rules.
Exchange rate fluctuations may materially affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Owing to the international scope of our operations, fluctuations in exchange rates, particularly between the pound sterling and the U.S. dollar, may adversely affect us. Although we are based in the United Kingdom, we source research and development, manufacturing, consulting and other services from the United States and the European Union. Further, potential future revenue may be derived from abroad, particularly from the United States. As a result, our business and the price of our common stock may be affected by fluctuations in foreign exchange rates not only between the pound sterling and the U.S. dollar, but also the euro, which may have a significant impact on our results of operations and cash flows from period to period. Currently, we do not have any exchange rate hedging arrangements in place.
Risks Related to Our Dependence on Third Parties
For certain product candidates, we may depend on development and commercialization collaborators to develop and conduct clinical trials with, obtain regulatory approvals for, and if approved, market and sell product candidates. If such collaborators fail to perform as expected, the potential for us to generate future revenue from such product candidates would be significantly reduced and our business would be harmed.
For certain products candidates, we depend, or will depend, on our development and commercial collaborators to develop, conduct clinical trials of, and, if approved, commercialize product candidates.
Our current collaborations and any future collaborations that we enter into are subject to numerous risks, including:
|●||collaborators have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to the collaborations;|
|●||collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected or fail to fulfill their responsibilities in a timely manner, or at all;|
|●||collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates that achieve regulatory approval or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on preclinical studies or clinical trial results, changes in the collaborators’ strategic focus or available funding or external factors, such as an acquisition, that divert resources or create competing priorities;|
|●||collaborators may delay preclinical studies or clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for 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;|
|●||we may not have access to, or may be restricted from disclosing, certain information regarding product candidates being developed or commercialized under a collaboration and, consequently, may have limited ability to inform our shareholders about the status of such product candidates;|
|●||collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidates 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;|
|●||The collaborations may not result in product candidates to develop and/or preclinical studies or clinical trials conducted as part of the collaborations may not be successful;|
|●||product candidates developed with collaborators may be viewed by our collaborators as competitive with their own product candidates or products, which may cause collaborators to stop commercialization of our product candidates;|
|●||a collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more of our product candidates that achieve regulatory approval may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of any such product candidate; and|
|●||collaborators may not properly maintain or defend our intellectual property rights or may use our proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our intellectual property or proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation.|
In addition, certain collaboration and commercialization agreements provide our collaborators with rights to terminate such agreements, which rights may or may not be subject to conditions, and which rights, if exercised, would adversely affect our product development efforts and could make it difficult for us to attract new collaborators. In that event, we would likely be required to limit the size and scope of efforts for the development and commercialization of such product candidates or products; we would likely be required to seek additional financing to fund further development or identify alternative strategic collaborations; our potential to generate future revenue from royalties and milestone payments from such product candidates or products would be significantly reduced, delayed or eliminated; and it could have an adverse effect on our business and future growth prospects. Our rights to recover tangible and intangible assets and intellectual property rights needed to advance a product candidate or product after termination of a collaboration may be limited by contract, and we may not be able to advance a program post- termination.
|If conflicts arise with our development and commercialization collaborators or licensors, they may act in their own self-interest, which may be adverse to the interests of our company.|
We may in the future experience disagreements with our development and commercialization collaborators or licensors. Conflicts may arise in our collaboration and license arrangements with third parties due to one or more of the following:
|●||disputes with respect to milestone, royalty and other payments that are believed due under the applicable agreements;|
|●||disagreements with respect to the ownership of intellectual property rights or scope of licenses;|
|●||disagreements with respect to the scope of any reporting obligations;|
|●||unwillingness on the part of a collaborator to keep us informed regarding the progress of its development and commercialization activities, or to permit public disclosure of these activities; and|
|●||disputes with respect to a collaborator’s or our development or commercialization efforts with respect to our products and product candidates.|
Conflicts with our development and commercialization collaborators or licensors could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations and future growth prospects.
|We will rely on third parties, including independent clinical investigators and CROs, to conduct and sponsor some of the clinical trials of our product candidates. Any failure by a third party to meet its obligations with respect to the clinical development of our product candidates may delay or impair our ability to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates.|
We will be relying upon and plan to continue to rely upon third parties, including independent clinical investigators, academic partners, regulatory affairs consultants and third-party CROs, to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including in some instances sponsoring such clinical trials, and to engage with regulatory authorities and monitor and manage data for our ongoing preclinical and clinical programs. Given the breadth of clinical therapeutic areas for which we believe our product candidates may have utility, we intend to continue to rely on external service providers rather than build internal regulatory expertise.
Any of these third parties may terminate their engagements with us under certain circumstances. We may not be able to enter into alternative arrangements or do so on commercially reasonable terms. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new contract research organization begins work. As a result, delays would likely occur, which could negatively impact our ability to meet our expected clinical development timelines and harm our business, financial condition and prospects.
We remain responsible for ensuring that each of our preclinical studies and clinical trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol and legal, regulatory and scientific standards, and our reliance on these third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and our third-party contractors and CROs are required to comply with GCP requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA, the Competent Authorities of the Member States of the European Economic Area, or EEA, and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for all of our products in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCP requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, principal investigators and trial sites. If we fail to exercise adequate oversight over any of our academic partners or CROs or if we or any of our academic partners or CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations, fail to meet expected deadlines, or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or regulatory requirements, or for any other reasons, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA, the 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 a regulatory inspection of us, our academic partners or our CROs or other third parties performing services in connection with our clinical trials, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our clinical trials complies with GCP regulations. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with product produced under applicable CGMP regulations. Our failure to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process.
Furthermore, the third parties conducting clinical trials on our behalf are not our employees, and except for remedies available to us under our agreements with such contractors, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time, skill and resources to our ongoing development programs. These contractors may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical trials or other drug development activities, which could impede their ability to devote appropriate time to our clinical programs. If these third parties, including clinical investigators, do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, meet expected deadlines or conduct our clinical trials in accordance with regulatory requirements or our stated protocols, we may not be able to obtain, or may be delayed in obtaining, marketing approvals for our product candidates. If that occurs, we will not be able to, or may be delayed in our efforts to, successfully commercialize our product candidates.
In addition, with respect to investigator-sponsored trials that may be conducted, we would not control the design or conduct of these trials, and it is possible that the FDA or EMA will not view these investigator-sponsored trials as providing adequate support for future clinical trials or market approval, whether controlled by us or third parties, for any one or more reasons, including elements of the design or execution of the trials or safety concerns or other trial results. We expect that such arrangements will provide us certain information rights with respect to the investigator-sponsored trials, including access to and the ability to use and reference the data, including for our own regulatory submissions, resulting from the investigator-sponsored trials. However, we would not have control over the timing and reporting of the data from investigator-sponsored trials, nor would we own the data from the investigator- sponsored trials. If we are unable to confirm or replicate the results from the investigator-sponsored trials or if negative results are obtained, we would likely be further delayed or prevented from advancing further clinical development. Further, if investigators or institutions breach their obligations with respect to the clinical development of our product candidates, or if the data proves to be inadequate compared to the firsthand knowledge we might have gained had the investigator-sponsored trials been sponsored and conducted by us, then our ability to design and conduct any future clinical trials ourselves may be adversely affected. Additionally, the FDA or EMA may disagree with the sufficiency of our right of reference to the preclinical, manufacturing or clinical data generated by these investigator-sponsored trials, or our interpretation of preclinical, manufacturing or clinical data from these investigator-sponsored trials. If so, the FDA or EMA may require us to obtain and submit additional preclinical, manufacturing, or clinical data.
|We intend to rely on third parties to manufacture product candidates, which increases the risk that we will not have sufficient quantities of such product candidates or products or such quantities at an acceptable cost, which could delay, prevent or impair our development or commercialization efforts.|
We do not own or operate manufacturing facilities for the production of clinical or commercial supplies of the product candidates that we are developing or evaluating in our development programs. We have limited personnel with experience in drug manufacturing and lack the resources and the capabilities to manufacture any of our product candidates on a clinical or commercial scale. We rely on third parties for supply of our product candidates, and our strategy is to outsource all manufacturing of our product candidates and products to third parties.
In order to conduct clinical trials of product candidates, we will need to have them manufactured in potentially large quantities. Our third- party manufacturers may be unable to successfully increase the manufacturing capacity for any of our product candidates in a timely or cost- effective manner, or at all. In addition, quality issues may arise during scale-up activities and at any other time. For example, ongoing data on the stability of our product candidates may shorten the expiry of our product candidates and lead to clinical trial material supply shortages, and potentially clinical trial delays. If these third-party manufacturers are unable to successfully scale up the manufacture of our product candidates in sufficient quality and quantity, the development, testing and clinical trials of that product candidate may be delayed or infeasible, and regulatory approval or commercial launch of that product candidate may be delayed or not obtained, which could significantly harm our business.
Our use of new third-party manufacturers increases the risk of delays in production or insufficient supplies of our product candidates as we transfer our manufacturing technology to these manufacturers and as they gain experience manufacturing our product candidates. Even after a third-party manufacturer has gained significant experience in manufacturing our product candidates or even if we believe we have succeeded in optimizing the manufacturing process, there can be no assurance that such manufacturer will produce sufficient quantities of our product candidates in a timely manner or continuously over time, or at all.
We may be delayed if we need to change the manufacturing process used by a third party. Further, if we change an approved manufacturing process, then we may be delayed if the FDA or a comparable foreign authority needs to review the new manufacturing process before it may be used.
We operate an outsourced model for the manufacture of our product candidates, and contract with good manufacturing practice, or GMP, licensed pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organizations. While we have engaged several third-party vendors to provide clinical and non-clinical supplies and fill-finish services, we do not currently have any agreements with third-party manufacturers for long-term commercial supplies. In the future, we may be unable to enter into agreements with third-party manufacturers for commercial supplies of any product candidate that we develop, or may be unable to do so on acceptable terms. Even if we are able to establish and maintain arrangements with third-party manufacturers, reliance on third- party manufacturers entails risks, including:
|●||reliance on third-parties for manufacturing process development, regulatory compliance and quality assurance;|
|●||limitations on supply availability resulting from capacity and scheduling constraints of third-parties;|
|●||the possible breach of manufacturing agreements by third-parties because of factors beyond our control; and|
|●||the possible termination or non-renewal of the manufacturing agreements by the third-party, at a time that is costly or inconvenient to us.|
Third-party manufacturers may not be able to comply with cGMP requirements or similar regulatory requirements outside the United States. Our failure, or the failure of our third-party manufacturers, to comply with applicable requirements could result in sanctions being imposed on us, including fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, license revocation, seizures or recalls of product candidates or products, operating restrictions and/or criminal prosecutions, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our product candidates. In addition, some of the product candidates we intend to develop, including SON-080, use toxins or other substances that can be produced only in specialized facilities with specific authorizations and permits, and there can be no guarantee that we or our manufacturers can maintain such authorizations and permits. These specialized requirements may also limit the number of potential manufacturers that we can engage to produce our product candidates, and impair any efforts to transition to replacement manufacturers.
Our future product candidates and any products that we may develop may compete with other product candidates and products for access to manufacturing facilities. There are a limited number of manufacturers that operate under cGMP requirements that might be capable of manufacturing for us.
If the third parties that we engage to supply any materials or manufacture product for our preclinical tests and clinical trials should cease to continue to do so for any reason, we likely would experience delays in advancing these tests and trials while we identify and qualify replacement suppliers or manufacturers and we may be unable to obtain replacement supplies on terms that are favorable to us. In addition, if we are not able to obtain adequate supplies of our product candidates or the substances used to manufacture them, it will be more difficult for us to develop our product candidates and compete effectively.
Our current and anticipated future dependence upon others for the manufacture of our product candidates may adversely affect our future profit margins and our ability to develop product candidates and commercialize any products that receive marketing approval on a timely and competitive basis.
|Our reliance on third parties requires us to share our trade secrets, which increases the possibility that a competitor will discover them or that our trade secrets will be misappropriated or disclosed.|
Because we rely on third parties to manufacture our product candidates, and because we collaborate with various organizations and academic institutions on the development of our product candidates, we must, at times, share 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 or other similar agreements with our collaborators, advisors, employees and consultants prior to beginning research or disclosing proprietary information. These agreements typically limit the rights of the third parties to use or disclose our confidential information, such as 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, are inadvertently incorporated into the technology of others, or are disclosed or used in violation of these agreements. Given that our proprietary position is based, in part, on our know-how and trade secrets, a competitor’s discovery of our trade secrets or other unauthorized use or disclosure would impair our competitive position and may have a material adverse effect on our business.
In addition, these agreements typically restrict the ability of our collaborators, advisors, employees and consultants to publish data potentially relating to our trade secrets. Our academic collaborators typically have rights to publish data, provided that we are notified in advance and may delay publication for a specified time in order to secure our intellectual property rights arising from the collaboration. In other cases, publication rights are controlled exclusively by us, although in some cases we may share these rights with other parties. 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 in cases where we do not have proprietary or otherwise protected rights at the time of publication. A competitor’s discovery of our trade secrets would impair our competitive position and have an adverse impact on our business.
Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property
If we are unable to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection for our products and product candidates, or if the scope of the patent and other intellectual property protection obtained is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize our products and product candidates may be adversely affected.
Our ability to compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to maintain the proprietary nature of our technology and manufacturing processes. We rely on research, manufacturing and other know-how, patents, trade secrets, license agreements and contractual provisions to establish our intellectual property rights and protect our products and product candidates. These legal means, however, afford only limited protection and may not adequately protect our rights. As of May 18, 2020, our intellectual property portfolio includes six patent applications.
In certain situations and as considered appropriate, we have sought, and we intend to continue to seek to protect our proprietary position by filing patent applications in the United States and, in at least some cases, one or more countries outside the United States relating to current and future products and product candidates that are important to our business. However, we cannot predict whether the patent applications currently being pursued will issue as patents, or whether the claims of any resulting patents will provide us with a competitive advantage or whether we will be able to successfully pursue patent applications in the future relating to our current or future products and product candidates. Moreover, the patent application and approval process is expensive and time-consuming. We may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. Furthermore, we, or any future partners, collaborators, or licensees, may fail to identify patentable aspects of inventions made in the course of development and commercialization activities before it is too late to obtain patent protection on them. Therefore, we may miss potential opportunities to seek additional patent protection. It is possible that defects of form in the preparation or filing of patent applications may exist, or may arise in the future, for example with respect to proper priority claims, inventorship, claim scope, or requests for patent term adjustments. If we fail to establish, maintain or protect such patents and other intellectual property rights, such rights may be reduced or eliminated. If there are material defects in the form, preparation, prosecution or enforcement of our patents or patent applications, such patents may be invalid and/or unenforceable, and such applications may never result in valid, enforceable patents.
Even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications, if issued, may not provide us with any meaningful protection or prevent competitors from designing around our patent claims by developing similar or alternative technologies or therapeutics in a non-infringing manner. For example, a third party may develop a competitive therapy that provides benefits similar to one or more of our product candidates but that falls outside the scope of our patent protection. If the patent protection provided by the patents and patent applications we hold or pursue with respect to our product candidates is not sufficiently broad to impede such competition, our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates could be negatively affected.
As discussed in “Business of Sonnet,” Sonnet’s WO/2018/151868 patent application was not timely filed in the PCT receiving office due to a computer issue at the filing office. Despite the restoration of priority by the PCT as “unintentional”, some countries in which this application was foreign filed did not accept this restoration. Canada and China do not allow for such priority restoration. Brazil, Europe, India and Japan allow priority restoration under a more rigorous “due care” standard, and such restoration procedures are pending in these jurisdictions. However, if priority is not restored, these patent applications will face both Sonnet’s own publications as well as any additional prior art published by third parties in the year preceding the PCT filing. This could affect the scope or breadth of the patent claims we are pursuing in these specific jurisdictions, or could result in no ability to receive patents in these countries.
Other parties, many of whom have substantially greater resources and have made significant investments in competing technologies, have developed or may develop technologies that may be related or competitive with our approach, and may have filed or may file patent applications and may have been issued or may be issued patents with claims that overlap or conflict with our patent applications, either by claiming the same compositions, formulations or methods or by claiming subject matter that could dominate our patent position. In addition, the laws of foreign countries may not protect our rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. As a result, any patents we may obtain in the future may not provide us with adequate and continuing patent protection sufficient to exclude others from commercializing products similar to our products and product candidates.
The patent position of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies generally is highly uncertain. No consistent policy regarding the breadth of claims allowed in biotechnology and pharmaceutical patents has emerged to date in the United States or in many foreign jurisdictions. In addition, the determination of patent rights with respect to pharmaceutical compounds commonly involves complex legal and factual questions, which has in recent years been the subject of much litigation. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our patent rights are highly uncertain. Our competitors may also seek approval to market their own products similar to or otherwise competitive with our products. Alternatively, our competitors may seek to market generic versions of any approved products by submitting ANDAs to the FDA in which they claim that our patents are invalid, unenforceable or not infringed. In these circumstances, we may need to defend or assert our patents, or both, including by filing lawsuits alleging patent infringement. In any of these types of proceedings, a court or other agency with jurisdiction may find our patents invalid or unenforceable, or that our competitors are competing in a non-infringing manner. Thus, even if we have valid and enforceable patents, these patents still may not provide protection against competing products or processes sufficient to achieve our business objectives.
In the future, one or more of our products and product candidates may be in-licensed from third parties. Accordingly, in some cases, the availability and scope of potential patent protection is limited based on prior decisions by our licensors or the inventors, such as decisions on when to file patent applications or whether to file patent applications at all. Our failure to obtain, maintain, enforce or defend such intellectual property rights, for any reason, could allow third parties, in particular, other established and better financed competitors having established development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities, to make competing products or impact our ability to develop, manufacture and market our products and product candidates, even if approved, on a commercially viable basis, if at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
In addition to patent protection, we expect to rely heavily on trade secrets, know-how and other unpatented technology, which are difficult to protect. Although we seek such protection in part by entering into confidentiality agreements with our vendors, employees, consultants and others who may have access to proprietary information, we cannot be certain that these agreements will not be breached, adequate remedies for any breach would be available, or our trade secrets, know-how and other unpatented proprietary technology will not otherwise become known to or be independently developed by our competitors. If we are unsuccessful in protecting our intellectual property rights, sales of our products may suffer and our ability to generate revenue could be severely impacted.
|Issued patents covering our products and product candidates could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or in administrative proceedings. We may not be able to protect our trade secrets in court.|
If we initiate legal proceedings against a third-party to enforce a patent covering one of our products or product candidates, should such a patent issue, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product or product candidate 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, 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, post grant review, inter partes review and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. An adverse determination in any of the foregoing proceedings could result in the revocation or cancellation of, or amendment to, our patents in such a way that they no longer cover our products or product candidates. 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 were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant or 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 products and product candidates. Such a loss of patent protection could have a material adverse impact on our business.
In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. Competitors and other third parties could purchase our products and product candidates and attempt to replicate some or all of the competitive advantages we derive from our development efforts, willfully infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate our intellectual property rights, design around our protected technology or develop their own competitive technologies that fall outside 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 it, from using that technology or information to compete with us. If our trade secrets are not adequately protected or sufficient to provide an advantage over our competitors, our competitive position could be adversely affected, as could our business. Additionally, if the steps taken to maintain our trade secrets are deemed inadequate, we may have insufficient recourse against third parties for misappropriating our trade secrets.
|We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of the patents and other intellectual property.|
We may be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other third parties have an ownership interest in the patents and intellectual property that we own or that we may own or license in the future. While it is our policy to require our employees and contractors who may be involved in the 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 develops intellectual property that we regard as our own or such assignments may not be self-executing or may be breached. We could be subject to ownership disputes arising, for example, from conflicting obligations of employees, consultants or others who are involved in developing our products or product candidates. Litigation may be necessary to defend against any claims challenging inventorship or ownership. If we or fail in defending any such claims, we may have to pay monetary damages and may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, intellectual property, which could adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
|Obtaining and maintaining patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment and other requirements imposed by governmental 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 governmental fees on patents and applications are required to be paid to the USPTO and various governmental patent agencies outside of the United States in several stages over the lifetime of the patents and applications. The USPTO and various non-U.S. governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application process and after a patent has issued. There are situations in which non- compliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. The terms of one or more licenses that we enter into the future may not provide us with the ability to maintain or prosecute patents in the portfolio, and must therefore rely on third parties to do so.
|If we do not obtain patent term extension and data exclusivity for our products and product candidates, our business may be materially harmed.|
Patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, if all maintenance fees are timely paid, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years from its earliest U.S. non-provisional filing date. Various extensions may be available, but the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Even if patents covering our product candidates are obtained, once the patent life has expired for a product candidate, we may be open to competition from competitive products. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, our patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.
In the future, if we obtain an issued patent covering one of our present or future product candidates, depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of any FDA marketing approval of such product candidates, such patent may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, or 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 drug, a method for using it or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. A patent may only be extended once and only based on a single approved product. However, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failure to obtain a granted patent before approval of a product candidate, failure to exercise due diligence during the testing phase or regulatory review process, failure to apply within applicable deadlines, failure to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents or otherwise our failure to satisfy applicable requirements. A patent licensed to us by a third party may not be available for patent term extension. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. If we are unable to obtain patent term extension or 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, possibly materially.
|Changes in patent law in the United States and other jurisdictions could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products and product candidates.|
Changes in either the patent laws or the interpretation of the patent laws in the United States or other jurisdictions could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of patent applications and the enforcement or defense of issued patents. On September 16, 2011, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the Leahy-Smith Act, was signed into law. When implemented, the Leahy-Smith Act included several significant changes to U.S. patent law that impacted how patent rights could be prosecuted, enforced and defended. In particular, the Leahy-Smith Act also included provisions that switched the United States from a “first-to-invent” system to a “first-to-file” system, allowed third- party submission of prior art to the USPTO during patent prosecution and set forth additional procedures to attack the validity of a patent by the USPTO administered post grant proceedings. Under a first-to-file system, assuming the other requirements for patentability are met, the first inventor to file a patent application generally will be entitled to the patent on an invention regardless of whether another inventor had made the invention earlier. The USPTO developed new regulations and procedures governing the administration of the Leahy-Smith Act, and many of the substantive changes to patent law associated with the Leahy-Smith Act, and in particular, the first to file provisions, only became effective on March 16, 2013. It remains unclear what, if any, impact the Leahy-Smith Act will have on the operation of our business. However, the Leahy-Smith Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
In addition, the patent positions of companies in the development and commercialization of biologics and pharmaceuticals are particularly uncertain. Recent rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court have narrowed the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances and weakened the rights of patent owners in certain situations. This combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the validity and enforceability of patents, once obtained. Depending on future actions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that could have a material adverse effect on our existing patent portfolio and our ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property in the future.
We cannot assure you that our efforts to seek patent protection for one or more of our products and product candidates will not be negatively impacted by the decisions described above, rulings in other cases or changes in guidance or procedures issued by the USPTO. We cannot fully predict what impact courts’ decisions in historical and future cases may have on the ability of life science companies to obtain or enforce patents relating to their products in the future. These decisions, the guidance issued by the USPTO and rulings in other cases or changes in USPTO guidance or procedures could have a material adverse effect on our existing patent rights and our ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property in the future.
|We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.|
Filing, prosecuting, maintaining, defending and enforcing patents on products and product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States could be less extensive than those in the United States. The requirements for patentability may differ in certain countries, particularly in developing countries; thus, even in countries where we do pursue patent protection, there can be no assurance that any patents will issue with claims that cover our products. There can be no assurance that we will obtain or maintain patent rights in or outside the United States under any future license agreements. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, even in jurisdictions where we pursue patent protection, or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not pursued and obtained patent protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our products and product candidates and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biotechnology and pharmaceutical products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. For example, many foreign countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights, even if obtained, in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. While we intend to protect our intellectual property rights in major markets for our products, we cannot ensure that we will be able to initiate or maintain similar efforts in all jurisdictions in which we may wish to market our products. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop.
|If we are sued for infringing intellectual property rights of third parties, such litigation could be costly and time consuming and could prevent or delay us from developing or commercializing our product candidates.|
Our commercial success depends, in part, on our ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidates without infringing the intellectual property and other proprietary rights of third parties. Third parties may have U.S. and non-U.S. issued patents and pending patent applications relating to compounds, methods of manufacturing compounds and/or methods of use for the treatment of the disease indications for which we are developing our product candidates. If any third-party patents or patent applications are found to cover our product candidates or their methods of use or manufacture, we and our collaborators or sublicensees may not be free to manufacture or market our product candidates as planned without obtaining a license, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. We may also be required to indemnify our collaborators or sublicensees in such an event.
There is a substantial amount of intellectual property litigation in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, and we may become party to, or threatened with, litigation or other adversarial proceedings regarding intellectual property rights with respect to our products candidates, including interference and post-grant proceedings before the USPTO. There may be third-party patents or patent applications with claims to materials, formulations, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment related to the composition, use or manufacture of our product candidates. We cannot guarantee that any of our patent searches or analyses including, but not limited to, the identification of relevant patents, the scope of patent claims or the expiration of relevant patents are complete or thorough, nor can we be certain that we have identified each and every patent and pending application in the United States and abroad that is relevant to or necessary for the commercialization of our product candidates in any jurisdiction. Because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending patent applications which may later result in issued patents that our product candidates may be accused of infringing. In addition, third parties may obtain patents in the future and claim that use of our technologies infringes upon these patents. Accordingly, third parties may assert infringement claims against us based intellectual property rights that exist now or arise in the future. The outcome of intellectual property litigation is subject to uncertainties that cannot be adequately quantified in advance. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have produced a significant number of patents, and it may not always be clear to industry participants, including us, which patents cover various types of products or methods of use or manufacture. The scope of protection afforded by a patent is subject to interpretation by the courts, and the interpretation is not always uniform. If we were sued for patent infringement, we would need to demonstrate that our product candidates, products or methods either do not infringe the patent claims of the relevant patent or that the patent claims are invalid or unenforceable, and we may not be able to do this. Proving invalidity is difficult. For example, in the United States, proving invalidity requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption of validity enjoyed by issued patents. Even if we are successful in these proceedings, we may incur substantial costs and the time and attention of our management and scientific personnel could be diverted in pursuing these proceedings, which could significantly harm our business and operating results. In addition, we may not have sufficient resources to bring these actions to a successful conclusion.
If we are found to infringe a third party’s intellectual property rights, we could be forced, including by court order, to cease developing, manufacturing or commercializing the infringing product candidate or product. Alternatively, we may be required to obtain a license from such third party in order to use the infringing technology and continue developing, manufacturing or marketing the infringing product candidate or product.
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 access to the same technologies licensed to us; alternatively or additionally it could include terms that impede or destroy our ability to compete successfully in the commercial marketplace. 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. A finding of infringement could prevent us from commercializing our product candidates 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.
|We may be subject to claims by third parties asserting that our employees or we have misappropriated their intellectual property, or claiming ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.|
Many of our current and former employees, including our senior management, were previously employed at universities or at other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including some which may be competitors or potential competitors. Some of these employees may be subject to proprietary rights, non-disclosure and non- competition agreements, or similar agreements, in connection with such previous employment. Although we try to ensure that our employees do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or these employees have used or disclosed intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such third party. Litigation may be necessary to defend against such claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel or sustain damages. Such intellectual property rights could be awarded to a third party, and we could be required to obtain a license from such third party to commercialize our technology or products. Such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management.
In addition, while we typically require our employees, consultants and contractors who may be involved in the 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 develops intellectual property that we regard as our own, which may result in claims by or against us related to the ownership of such intellectual property. If we fail in prosecuting or defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights. Even if we are successful in prosecuting or defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to our senior management and scientific personnel.
|We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents and other intellectual property rights, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.|
Competitors may infringe our patents, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time consuming and divert the time and attention of our management and scientific personnel. In addition, our patents may become, involved in inventorship, priority, or validity disputes. To counter or defend against such claims can be expensive and time-consuming, and our adversaries may have the ability to dedicate substantially greater resources to prosecuting these legal actions than we can. Any claims we assert against perceived infringers could provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us alleging that we infringe their patents, in addition to counterclaims asserting that our patents are invalid or unenforceable, or both.
In an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that a patent is invalid or unenforceable, or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology in question. Accordingly, despite our efforts, we may not be able to prevent third parties from infringing upon or misappropriating intellectual property rights we own or control. An adverse result in any litigation proceeding could put one or more of our owned or in-licensed patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly. Further, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation.
Even if resolved in our favor, the court may decide not to grant an injunction against further infringing activity and instead award only monetary damages, which may or may not be an adequate remedy. Litigation or other legal proceedings relating to intellectual property claims may cause us to incur significant expenses and could distract our 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 conduct such litigation or proceedings adequately. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources and more mature and developed intellectual property portfolios. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete in the marketplace.
If we fail to comply with our obligations under any future intellectual property licenses with third parties, we could lose license rights that are important to our business.
In connection with our efforts to build our product candidate pipeline, we may enter into license agreements in the future. We expect that such license agreements will impose, various diligence, milestone payment, royalty, insurance and other obligations on us. If we fail to comply with our obligations under these licenses, our licensors may have the right to terminate these license agreements, in which event we might not be able to market any product that is covered by these agreements, or our licensors may convert the license to a non-exclusive license, which could negatively impact the value of the product candidate being developed under the license agreement. Termination of these license agreements or reduction or elimination of our licensed rights may also result in our having to negotiate new or reinstated licenses with less favorable terms.
If our trademarks and trade names are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our marks of interest and our business may be adversely affected.
Our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented or declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We rely on both registration and common law protection for our trademarks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names or may be forced to stop using these names, which we need for name recognition by potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. During trademark registration proceedings, we may receive rejections. Although we would be given an opportunity to respond to those rejections, we may be unable to overcome such rejections. In addition, in the USPTO and in comparable agencies in many foreign jurisdictions, third parties are given an opportunity to oppose pending trademark applications and to seek to cancel registered trademarks. Opposition or cancellation proceedings may be filed against our trademarks, and our trademarks may not survive such proceedings. If we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected.
Risks Related to Employee Matters and Managing Growth
We only have a limited number of employees to manage and operate our business.
As of May 18, 2020, we had about seven full-time U.S. employees and two Swiss employees on contract. Additionally, we utilize independent contractors and other third parties to assist with various aspects of our business. Our focus on the development of our product candidates requires us to optimize cash utilization and to manage and operate our business in a highly efficient manner. We cannot assure you that we will be able to hire or retain adequate staffing levels to develop our product candidates or run our operations or to accomplish all of the objectives that we otherwise would seek to accomplish.
|Cyber-attacks or other failures in telecommunications or information technology systems could result in information theft, data corruption and significant disruption of our business operations.|
We utilize information technology, or IT, systems and networks to process, transmit and store electronic information in connection with our business activities. As use of digital technologies has increased, cyber incidents, including deliberate attacks and attempts to gain unauthorized access to computer systems and networks, have increased in frequency and sophistication. These threats pose a risk to the security of our systems and networks, the confidentiality and the availability and integrity of our data.
|Our future success depends on our ability to retain key employees, consultants and advisors and to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel.|
We are highly dependent on principal members of our executive team and key employees, the loss of whose services may adversely impact the achievement of our objectives. While we have entered into employment agreements with certain of our executive officers, any of them could leave our employment at any time. We do not maintain “key person” insurance policies on the lives of these individuals or the lives of any of our other employees. The loss of the services of one or more of our current employees might impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives. Furthermore, replacing executive officers or other key employees may be difficult and may take an extended period of time because of the limited number of individuals in our industry with the breadth of skills and experience required to develop, gain marketing approval of and commercialize products successfully.
Recruiting and retaining other qualified employees, consultants and advisors for our business, including scientific and technical personnel, will also be critical to our success. There is currently a shortage of skilled executives in our industry, which is likely to continue. As a result, competition for skilled personnel is intense and the turnover rate can be high. We may not be able to attract and retain personnel on acceptable terms given the competition among numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for individuals with similar skill sets. In addition, failure to succeed in preclinical or clinical trials may make it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified personnel.
In addition, we rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our research and development and commercialization strategy. Our consultants and advisors may be employed by other entities and may have commitments under consulting or advisory contracts with those entities that may limit their availability to us. If we are unable to continue to attract and retain highly qualified personnel, our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates will be limited.
The inability to recruit or the loss of the services of any executive, key employee, consultant or advisor may impede the progress of our research, development and commercialization objectives.
|Our employees, independent contractors, consultants, collaborators and contract research organizations may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards and requirements, which could cause significant liability for us and harm our reputation.|
We are exposed to the risk that our employees, independent contractors, consultants, collaborators and contract research organizations may engage in fraudulent conduct or other illegal activity. Misconduct by those parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct or disclosure of unauthorized activities to us that violates: (1) FDA regulations or similar regulations of comparable non-U.S. regulatory authorities, including those laws requiring the reporting of true, complete and accurate information to such authorities, (2) manufacturing standards, (3) federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations and similar laws and regulations established and enforced by comparable non-U.S. regulatory authorities, and (4) laws that require the reporting of financial information or data accurately. In particular, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self- dealing, bribery and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Employee or collaborator misconduct could also involve the improper use of, including trading on, information obtained in the course of clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious harm to our reputation. While we have a code of conduct and business ethics, it is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to be in compliance with such laws, standards or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business and results of operations, including the imposition of civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs, additional reporting requirements and/or oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or similar agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and curtailment of our operations, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.
|We expect to expand our organization, and as a result, we may encounter difficulties in managing our growth, which could disrupt our operations.|
We expect to experience significant growth in the number of our employees and the scope of our operations, particularly in the areas of drug manufacturing, regulatory affairs and sales, marketing and distribution, as well as to support our public company operations. To manage these growth activities, we must continue to implement and improve our managerial, operational and financial systems, expand our facilities and continue to recruit and train additional qualified personnel. Our management may need to devote a significant amount of its attention to managing these growth activities. Moreover, our expected growth could require us to relocate to geographic areas beyond those where we have been historically located. For example, we maintain an office in Princeton, New Jersey, at which many of our finance, management and administrative personnel work. Due to our limited financial resources and the limited experience of our management team in managing a company with such anticipated growth, we may not be able to effectively manage the expansion or relocation of our operations, retain key employees, or identify, recruit and train additional qualified personnel. Our inability to manage the expansion or relocation of our operations effectively may result in weaknesses in our infrastructure, give rise to operational mistakes, loss of business opportunities, loss of employees and reduced productivity among remaining employees. Our expected growth could also require significant capital expenditures and may divert financial resources from other projects, such as the development of additional product candidates. If we are unable to effectively manage our expected growth, our expenses may increase more than expected, our ability to generate revenues could be reduced and we may not be able to implement our business strategy, including the successful commercialization of our product candidates.
Sonnet has material weaknesses in its internal control systems and will need to hire additional personnel and develop and maintain proper and effective internal control over financial reporting, or the accuracy and timeliness of its financial reporting will be adversely affected.
Our management is required, pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or Section 404, to furnish a report by management on, among other things, the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. We are required to perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal control over financial reporting to allow management to report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. We were informed by our independent registered public accounting firm that Sonnet Sub had a material weakness in its internal control over financial reporting as it did not maintain a sufficient complement of personnel commensurate with its accounting and reporting requirements. The material weakness had not been remediated as of September 30, 2019. A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. The material weaknesses identified relate to controls to address segregation of certain accounting duties, timely reconciliation and analysis of certain key accounts and the review of journal entries. Sonnet has concluded that these material weaknesses arose because, as a pre-revenue private company, Sonnet did not have the necessary business processes, systems, personnel and related internal controls necessary to satisfy the accounting and financial reporting requirements of a public company.
To address these material weaknesses, the Company intends to (a) hire additional accounting personnel with appropriate expertise in accounting and reporting under U.S. GAAP and SEC regulations and to be better aligned with segregation of duties, (b) institute quarterly meetings to identify significant infrequent and unusual transactions as well as ensure timely reporting (c) continue to engage an accounting advisory firm to assist with, among other areas, the analysis of complex, infrequent and unusual transactions and (d) initiate a preliminary assessment of management’s internal controls over financial reporting in accordance with the 2013 integrated framework, as prescribed by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission, or COSO.
Our independent registered public accounting firm will not be required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting for so long as we remain a “smaller reporting company” as defined in applicable SEC regulations. Our management team is required to disclose changes made in our internal controls and procedures on a quarterly basis. To comply with the requirements of Sonnet Sub’s financial statements becoming those of the Company now that the Merger has closed, we will need to undertake various actions, such as implementing new internal controls and procedures and hiring additional accounting or internal audit staff. Our audit committee must also be advised and regularly updated on management’s review of internal controls. We are only now beginning the costly and challenging process of compiling the system and processing documentation necessary to perform the evaluation of our internal control over financial reporting needed to comply with Section 404, and we may not be able to complete our evaluation, testing and any required remediation in a timely fashion. Moreover, if we are not able to comply with the requirements of Section 404 in a timely manner or if we identify or our independent registered public accounting firm identifies deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses, the market price of our common stock could decline and we could be subject to sanctions or investigations by NASDAQ, the SEC or other regulatory authorities, which would require additional financial and management resources.
Risks Related to Our Common Stock
The market price of our common stock may be significantly volatile.
The market price for our common stock may be volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in response to factors including the following:
|●||actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly or annual operating results;|
|●||changes in financial or operational estimates or projections;|
|●||conditions in markets generally;|
|●||changes in the economic performance or market valuations of companies similar to ours; and|
|●||general economic or political conditions in the United States or elsewhere.|
In particular, the market prices of biotechnology companies like ours have been highly volatile due to factors, including, but not limited to:
|●||any delay or failure to conduct a clinical trial for our product or receive approval from the FDA and other regulatory agencies;|
|●||developments or disputes concerning a company’s intellectual property rights;|
|●||technological innovations of such companies or their competitors;|
|●||changes in market valuations of similar companies;|
|●||announcements by such companies or their competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures, capital commitments, new technologies, or patents; and|
|●||failure to complete significant transactions or collaborate with vendors in manufacturing a product.|
The securities market has from time to time experienced significant price and volume fluctuations that are not related to the operating performance of particular companies. These market fluctuations may also materially and adversely affect the market price of shares of our common stock.
Our common stock could be further diluted as the result of the issuance of additional shares of common stock, convertible securities, warrants or options.
In the past, we have issued common stock, convertible securities (such as convertible notes) and warrants in order to raise capital. We have also issued common stock as compensation for services and incentive compensation for our employees, directors and certain vendors. We have shares of common stock reserved for issuance upon the exercise of certain of these securities and may increase the shares reserved for these purposes in the future. Our issuance of additional common stock, convertible securities, options and warrants could affect the rights of our stockholders, could reduce the market price of our common stock or could result in adjustments to exercise prices of outstanding warrants (resulting in these securities becoming exercisable for, as the case may be, a greater number of shares of our common stock), or could obligate us to issue additional shares of common stock to certain of our stockholders.
Shares eligible for future sale may adversely affect the market.
From time to time, certain of our stockholders may be eligible to sell all or some of their shares of common stock by means of ordinary brokerage transactions in the open market pursuant to Rule 144 promulgated under the Securities Act, subject to certain limitations. In general, pursuant to Rule 144, stockholders who have been non-affiliates for the preceding three months may sell shares of our common stock freely after six months subject only to the current public information requirement. Affiliates may sell shares of our common stock after six months subject to the Rule 144 volume, manner of sale, current public information and notice requirements. Any substantial sales of our common stock pursuant to Rule 144 may have a material adverse effect on the market price of our common stock.
We do not expect to pay cash dividends in the foreseeable future and therefore investors should not anticipate cash dividends on their investment.
Our board of directors does not intend to pay cash dividends in the foreseeable future but instead intends to retain any and all earnings to finance the growth of the business. To date, we have not paid any cash dividends and there can be no assurance that cash dividends will ever be paid on our common stock.
We may issue additional shares of our common stock, which could depress the market price of our common stock and dilute your ownership.
Market sales of large amounts of our common stock, or the potential for those sales even if they do not actually occur, may have the effect of depressing the market price of our common stock. In addition, if our future financing needs require us to issue additional shares of common stock or securities convertible into common stock, the amount of common stock available for resale could be increased which could stimulate trading activity and cause the market price of our common stock to drop, even if our business is doing well. Furthermore, the issuance of any additional shares of our common stock, or securities convertible into our common stock could be substantially dilutive to holders of our common stock.
Anti-takeover provisions under Delaware law could make an acquisition of the combined company more difficult and may prevent attempts by the combined company stockholders to replace or remove the combined company management.
Because the combined company will be incorporated in Delaware, it is governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, or the DGCL, which prohibits stockholders owning in excess of 15% of the outstanding combined company voting stock from merging or combining with the combined company. Although Chanticleer and Sonnet believe these provisions collectively will provide for an opportunity to receive higher bids by requiring potential acquirers to negotiate with the combined company’s board of directors, they would apply even if the offer may be considered beneficial by some stockholders. In addition, these provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by the combined company’s stockholders to replace or remove then current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of the board of directors, which is responsible for appointing the members of management.
Director and officer liability is limited.
As permitted by Delaware law, our bylaws limit the liability of our directors for monetary damages for breach of a director’s fiduciary duty except for liability in certain instances. As a result of our bylaw provisions and Delaware law, stockholders may have limited rights to recover against directors for breach of fiduciary duty.
This report, including Exhibits 99.1 and 99.2 furnished herewith, contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. Forward-looking statements typically are identified by use of terms such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “plan,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate” and similar words, and the opposites of such words, although some forward-looking statements are expressed differently. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that exist in the Registrant’s operations and business environment, which may be beyond the Registrant’s control, and which may cause actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact are statements that could be forward- looking statements. For example, forward-looking statements include, without limitation: statements regarding the Registrant’s product development, clinical and regulatory timelines, market opportunity, competitive position, possible or assumed future results of operations, business strategies, potential growth opportunities and other statements that are predictive in nature. The risks and uncertainties referred to above include, but are not limited to, risks detailed from time to time in the Registrant’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2020, proxy statement/prospectus/information statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 11, 2020 under Rule 424 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and this report. These risks could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in any forward- looking statements made by, or on behalf of, the Registrant. Forward-looking statements represent the judgment of management of the Registrant regarding future events. Although the Registrant believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable at the time that they are made, the Registrant can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Unless otherwise required by applicable law, the Registrant assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements, and expressly disclaims any obligation to do so, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Item 9.01. Financial Statements and Exhibits.
(a) Financial Statements of Business Acquired
Sonnet Sub’s unaudited interim financial statements for the three and six months ended March 31, 2020, and the notes related thereto, filed herewith and attached hereto as Exhibit 99.2, are incorporated herein by reference.
Relief Therapeutics SA’s unaudited interim financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 2020, and the notes related thereto, filed herewith and attached hereto as Exhibit 99.3, are incorporated herein by reference.
(b) Pro Forma Financial Information
The Company’s unaudited pro forma condensed consolidated financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 2020 and for the year ended December 31, 2019, and the notes related thereto, filed herewith and attached hereto as Exhibit 99.4, are incorporated herein by reference.
|16.1||Letter from Cherry Bekaert LLP, dated May 18, 2020.|
|99.1||Press Release dated May 18, 2020|
|99.2||The unaudited interim financial statements of Sonnet Sub for the three and six months ended March 31, 2020, and the notes related thereto and accompanying Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.|
|99.3||Relief Therapeutics SA’s unaudited interim financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 2020, and the notes related thereto.|
|99.4||Unaudited pro forma condensed consolidated financial statements of Sonnet BioTherapeutics Holdings, Inc,|
Pursuant to the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the registrant has duly caused this report to be signed on its behalf by the undersigned hereunto duly authorized.
|Sonnet BioTherapeutics Holdings, Inc.|
|a Delaware corporation|
|Date: May 18, 2020||By:||/s/ Pankaj Mohan, Ph.D.|
|Name:||Pankaj Mohan, Ph.D.|
|Title:||Chief Executive Officer|