caba-10k_20201231.htm

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

OR

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

Commission File Number 001-39103

 

CABALETTA BIO, INC.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

82-1685768

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

2929 Arch Street, Suite 600

Philadelphia, PA

19104

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (267) 759-3100

 

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, par value $0.00001 per share

 

CABA

 

The Nasdaq Global Select Market

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

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes  No 

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

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

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

 

Large accelerated filer

 

  

Accelerated filer

 

.

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

  

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

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

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

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).  Yes No 

As of June 30, 2020 (the last business day of the registrant's most recently completed second fiscal quarter), the aggregate market value of the registrant's common stock held by non-affiliates was approximately $214 million based on the last reported sale price of the registrant's common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on June 30, 2020.

The number of shares of registrant’s Common Stock outstanding as of March 10, 2021 was 24,062,775.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K incorporates by reference certain information from the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for its 2021 annual meeting of shareholders, which the registrant intends to file pursuant to Regulation 14A with the Securities and Exchange Commission not later than 120 days after the registrant’s fiscal year end of December 31, 2020. Except with respect to information specifically incorporated by reference in this Form 10-K, the Proxy Statement is not deemed to be filed as part of this Form 10-K.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

3

Item 1.

Business

4

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

54

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

123

Item 2.

Properties

123

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

123

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

123

 

 

 

PART II

 

124

Item 5.

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

124

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

126

Item 7.

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

127

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

139

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

139

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

139

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

140

Item 9B.

Other Information

141

 

 

 

PART III

 

142

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

142

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

142

Item 12.

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

142

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

142

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

142

 

 

 

PART IV

 

143

Item 15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

143

Item 16

Form 10-K Summary

143

 

Signatures

147

 

 

 

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Summary of the Material and Other Risks Associated with Our Business

 

We are a clinical-stage company with a limited operating history, have incurred significant losses since our inception, and anticipate that we will continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future.

 

We are highly dependent on our relationship with University of Pennsylvania, or Penn, for our preclinical research and development activities, key technology and our current manufacturing needs for our clinical trial of DSG3-CAART, or the DesCAARTesTM trial, and if Penn’s manufacturing capacity is reduced or otherwise delayed or limited, this could adversely impact enrollment in our DesCAARTesTM trial.

 

We are reliant on intellectual property licensed to us by Penn and termination of our license agreement with Penn would result in the loss of significant rights, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.

 

If we are unable to obtain and maintain sufficient intellectual property protection for DSG3-CAART, our other product candidates and technologies or any future product candidates, we may not be able to compete effectively in our markets.

 

We will need to raise substantial additional funding before we can expect to complete development of any of our product candidates or generate any revenues from product sales.

 

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.

 

If we are unable to successfully develop our current programs into a portfolio of product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, we may not realize the full commercial potential of our current and future product candidates.

 

If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our DesCAARTesTM trial or future clinical trials, these clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.

 

If we are unable to advance our product candidates through clinical development, obtain regulatory approval and ultimately commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

 

Results of earlier studies may not be predictive of future study or trial results, and we may fail to establish an adequate safety and efficacy profile to conduct clinical trials or obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates.

 

If serious adverse events, undesirable side effects or unexpected characteristics are identified during the development of any of our product candidates, we may need to delay, abandon or limit our further clinical development of those product candidates.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the future outbreak of other highly infectious or contagious diseases could seriously harm our research, development and potential future commercialization efforts, increase our costs and expenses and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Manufacturing and administering our product candidates is complex and we may encounter difficulties in technology transfer from Penn to a contract manufacturing organization.

 

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

 

We may establish our own manufacturing facility and infrastructure in addition to or in lieu of relying on third parties for the manufacture of our product candidates, which will be costly and time-consuming, and which may not be successful.

 

Our future success depends in part upon our ability to retain our key employees, consultants and advisors and to attract, retain and motivate other qualified personnel.


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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” contains express or implied forward-looking statements that are based on our management’s belief and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements relate to future events or our future operational or financial performance, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, but are not limited to, statements about:

 

the success, cost and timing and conduct of our clinical trial program, including our clinical trial of DSG3-CAART, or the DesCAARTesTM trial, and our other product candidates, including statements regarding the timing of initiation and completion of the clinical trials and the period during which the results of the clinical trials will become available;

 

the timing of and our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval of our product candidates, including DSG3-CAART, MuSK-CAART, FVIII-CAART and DSG3/1-CAART, in any of the indications for which we plan to develop them, and any related restrictions, limitations, and/or warnings in the label of an approved product candidate;

 

the impact of any business interruptions to our operations, including the timing and enrollment of patients in our ongoing and planned clinical trials and our planned Investigational New Drug application submissions, or to those of our clinical sites, manufacturers, suppliers, or other vendors resulting from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic or similar public health crisis;

 

our expected use of proceeds from the initial public offering and the period over which such proceeds, together with cash, will be sufficient to meet our operating needs;

 

our plans to pursue research and development of other product candidates;

 

our plan to infuse our DSG3-CAART product candidate without lymphodepletion or other preconditioning agents initially in our DesCAARTesTM trial;

 

the potential advantages of our proprietary Cabaletta Approach for selective B cell Ablation platform, called our CABA platform, and our product candidates;

 

the extent to which our scientific approach and CABA platform may potentially address a broad range of diseases;

 

the potential benefits and success of our arrangements and our expanded sponsored research agreement with the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, or Penn, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, and our scientific co-founders, Drs. Milone and Payne;

 

our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates, including DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates;

 

the potential receipt of revenue from future sales of DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates;

 

the rate and degree of market acceptance and clinical utility of DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates;

 

our estimates regarding the potential market opportunity for DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates, and our ability to serve those markets;

 

our sales, marketing and distribution capabilities and strategy, whether alone or with potential future collaborators;

 

our ability to establish and maintain arrangements or a facility for manufacture of DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates;

 

our ability to obtain funding for our operations, including funding necessary to initiate and complete our  DesCAARTesTM trial and our ongoing preclinical studies of MuSK-CAART, DSG3/1-CAART and FVIII-CAART;

 

the potential achievement of milestones and receipt of payments under our collaborations;

 

our ability to enter into additional collaborations with existing collaborators or other third parties;

 

our expectations regarding our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection for our product candidates and our ability to operate our business without infringing on the intellectual property rights of others;

 

the success of competing therapies that are or become available, and our competitive position;

 

the accuracy of our estimates regarding expenses, future revenues, capital requirements and needs for additional financing;

 

the impact of government laws and regulations in the United States and foreign countries; and

 

our ability to attract and retain key scientific or management personnel.

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These factors should not be construed as exhaustive and should be read in conjunction with the other cautionary statements that are included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are made as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and we undertake no obligations to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

Overview

We are a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of engineered T cell therapies, and exploring their potential to provide a deep and durable, perhaps curative, treatment, for patients with B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. Our proprietary technology utilizes Chimeric AutoAntibody Receptor, or CAAR, T cells that are designed to selectively bind and eliminate only specific B cells that produce disease-causing autoantibodies, or pathogenic B cells, while sparing normal B cells. Our lead CAAR T cell product candidate was designed based on the clinically validated and commercially approved Chimeric Antigen Receptor, or CAR, T cell technology that is marketed for the treatment of B cell cancers. By harnessing the power of targeted cell therapy, we believe our CAAR T product candidates have the potential to provide responses that may be a safer and more effective option than current treatments. We believe our technology, in combination with our proprietary Cabaletta Approach for selective B cell Ablation platform, called our CABA platform, has applicability across over two dozen B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases that we have identified, evaluated and prioritized. Our initial focus is mucosal pemphigus vulgaris, or mPV, which is an autoimmune blistering disease. Our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, designed to treat patients with mPV, is currently enrolling patients for a Phase 1 trial, or the DesCAARTesTM  trial. We expect to report the acute safety data from the first cohort of patients in the DesCAARTesTM  trial in the first half of 2021, with additional topline data on any completed dose cohorts throughout the second half of 2021. Our lead preclinical product candidate, designed for the treatment of muscle-specific kinase myasthenia gravis, or MuSK MG, is currently in Investigational New Drug, or IND, enabling studies with an IND submission expected in the second half of 2021. We are also advancing additional product candidates currently in discovery-stage or preclinical development for the treatment of mucocutaneous PV, or mcPV, and Hemophilia A with Factor VIII, or FVIII, alloantibodies in addition to three undisclosed targets.

B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases occur when certain populations of B cells mistakenly produce autoantibodies, which are directed against specific healthy tissue or cells in the body. The presence of autoantibodies can manifest in a variety of autoimmune diseases and result in the destruction of healthy tissue in the body. Current treatment options for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases are generally limited to corticosteroids and other generalized immunosuppressants that offer only temporary disease suppression, may require chronic, in-hospital administration and are associated with potentially life-threatening side effects. We believe the ideal therapy for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases would selectively and completely eliminate the pathogenic B cells while sparing the body’s normal B cells.

We are pioneering the development of a new class of engineered T cell therapies that express CAARs to selectively engage and eliminate pathogenic B cells. Our CAARs build upon the scientific foundation of CARs, differing primarily in the use of the antigen rather than an antibody fragment, which enables the CAAR T cells to serve as a “decoy” for specific autoantibodies expressed on the surface of B cells. This allows these pathogenic B cells to engage with the CAAR T cells instead of benign antigens, resulting in their elimination. We have developed our CABA platform to inform product candidate development from scientific, clinical and commercial assessment through CAAR design. Using our CABA platform, we have identified and thoroughly evaluated over two dozen B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases that we believe will be amenable to treatment with the Cabaletta approach and have advanced several of our highest priority targets into discovery and preclinical testing.

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Our current product candidate pipeline is illustrated below.

 

 

*

In our discovery stage, we perform epitope mapping and optimize CAAR construct and design.

**

May not be required if Phase 2 is a registrational clinical trial, subject to discussion with the FDA.

 

Our initial therapeutic focus is on pemphigus vulgaris, or PV, a chronic, autoimmune blistering skin disease. Despite a current standard of care that includes corticosteroids and adjunctive immunosuppressive agents, PV remains associated with frequent recurrences as well as substantial morbidity and mortality. Our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, is being evaluated for the treatment of mPV, a subtype of PV that affects mucosal surfaces. mPV is caused by autoantibodies against the cell adhesion protein desmoglein 3, or DSG3. DSG3-CAART is designed to selectively target B cells expressing autoantibodies specific for DSG3, which may prevent these B cells from producing DSG3 antibodies that are the cause of mPV while preserving general B cell immune function. In January 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, granted orphan drug designation to DSG3-CAART for the treatment of PV. In May 2020, DSG3-CAART received fast track designation from the FDA for improving healing of mucosal blisters in patients with mPV. In December 2020, we announced that the first patient had been dosed in the DesCAARTes™ trial. Our next PV-directed product candidate, DSG3/1-CAART, is being designed to target B cells expressing autoantibodies against DSG3 and desmoglein 1, or DSG1. It is being developed for the treatment of mucocutaneous PV, or mcPV, another subtype of PV that affects both mucosal and skin surfaces and is caused by autoantibodies against DSG3 and DSG1, respectively.

Our lead preclinical product candidate, MuSK-CAART, is designed to treat a subset of patients with myasthenia gravis, or MG. MG is an autoimmune disease induced by autoantibodies targeting the neuromuscular junction, or NMJ, which can lead to life-threatening muscle weakness. Our product candidate targets B cells expressing autoantibodies against a transmembrane protein, muscle-specific kinase, or MuSK, and is being developed for the treatment of MuSK MG. Data from our initial in vitro and in vivo studies of MuSK-CAART was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Science Highlights Virtual Platform in May 2020. The efficacy and safety of MuSK CAAR T cells were investigated using in vitro cytotoxicity assays, in vitro screens for off-target toxicity and a mouse model to evaluate the efficacy of human MuSK CAAR T cells against MuSK antibody expressing B cells in vivo. In preclinical studies, MuSK CAAR T cells demonstrated in vitro cytotoxicity towards a B cell line expressing anti-MuSK antibodies, but we did not observe any cytotoxicity when the anti-MuSK antibody was not expressed. In addition, MuSK CAAR T cells also targeted and eliminated a panel of B cells targeting different MuSK epitopes. In an in vivo mouse model, MuSK CAAR T cells, but not control CAAR T cells, showed biological activity by blocking the growth of B cell lines expressing an anti-MuSK antibody. Based in part on these results, IND-enabling studies have been initiated and an IND submission is anticipated in the second half of 2021.

We are also pursuing development of an additional product candidate, FVIII-CAART, which is being designed to treat a subset of patients with Hemophilia A, an X-linked bleeding disorder caused by mutations in the FVIII gene. While our CABA platform is primarily focused on the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, we believe our approach may be applicable in other instances where B cell antibody production is

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implicated in response to exogenous FVIII, which is administered for the treatment of Hemophilia A. Specifically, we have identified an unmet need in cases where the immune system produces antibodies against exogenous antigens, which is known as an alloimmune response. Some patients receiving repeated administrations of exogenous FVIII will develop alloantibodies against the treatment, also known as inhibitors, neutralizing its therapeutic potential. Patients with FVIII alloantibodies may often require high-dose FVIII, immune tolerance induction with FVIII, agents that mimic FVIII or plasmapheresis to remove the FVIII alloantibodies. FVIII-CAART leverages a CAAR designed to target B cells expressing alloantibodies against FVIII, and it is initially being developed as an adjunctive therapy for Hemophilia A patients who develop FVIII alloantibodies.

 

Our manufacturing strategy is a three-stage process designed to initially leverage the extensive early-stage manufacturing expertise of our academic partners while migrating to contract manufacturing organization, or CMO, partnerships and ultimately aiming to achieve full manufacturing independence. We believe partnering with proven and reputable manufacturing partners has allowed us to efficiently deploy financial and personnel resources. Stage 1 leverages the expertise in cell and vector manufacturing of our partners at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, and the University of Pennsylvania, or Penn. This stage included early development work, support of the DSG3-CAART IND, and cell and vector product manufacturing for our DesCAARTesTM trial. We believe these partnerships and use of these established facilities have allowed us to move efficiently into clinical trials, but are not sufficient to support a commercial license. Stage 2, which is ongoing, is designed to engage partners who are qualified for manufacturing of vectors at commercial grade and scale and who have experience with cell processing. In January 2021, we initiated a collaboration with WuXi Advanced Therapies, Inc. or WuXi, to serve as our cell processing manufacturing partner for the anticipated MuSK-CAART Phase 1 clinical trial. Contingent on sufficient clinical evidence from the DesCAARTesTM trial, we plan to advance the third stage of our manufacturing strategy which will include building, qualifying and operating our own manufacturing facility. We believe this additional stage will enable full control of product development and commercial supply for products arising from our CABA platform, enabling us to achieve continuous improvement of our product candidates. Our Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President, Science and Technology, have both, in prior roles, built and led organizations that have constructed and commissioned cell therapy facilities which we hope will enable us to smoothly transition to stage 3 when feasible.

We plan to build upon our first mover advantage in the field of targeted cell therapy for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases and further advance the discovery, development and commercialization of our CAAR T portfolio. Our extensive correlative study program has been designed to inform clinical observations from the DesCAARTesTM trial in order to preserve and expand our industry leading insights into the impact of CAAR T therapies in patients. Our scientific founders are leading experts in B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases and CAR T technology, and we are led by an experienced team with demonstrated success in discovering, developing, manufacturing, and evaluating novel cell therapy products in clinical trials. In addition, we have partnered our discovery and initial development efforts with Penn, a pioneer in cell and gene therapy with a proven track record of expertise in the translational research, clinical development and manufacturing of cell therapy products, in order to advance our lead product candidate in clinical trials along with our preclinical product candidates.

Our History and Team

Our scientific co-founders, Aimee Payne, M.D., Ph.D., and Michael Milone, M.D., Ph.D., began partnering at Penn in 2013 to combine Dr. Payne’s expertise in B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases with Dr. Milone’s deep and experienced insights into the design and implementation of CAR T products. Dr. Payne is a worldwide leader in characterizing B cell-mediated autoantibody repertoires in PV and other autoimmune diseases. Dr. Milone is a renowned scientist in CAR T therapy and was a co-inventor of and a key driver in the preclinical discovery and development efforts that yielded Kymriah, the first FDA-approved CAR T therapy for the treatment of B cell cancers. Dr. Payne’s laboratory surmised that by incorporating an antigen instead of an antibody fragment as the extracellular domain of the CAAR, specific pathogenic B cells could be targeted. This resulted in a collaboration between the two investigators to apply the scientific foundation of CAR T technology as it has been advanced by Drs. Payne and Milone in order to address B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.

Their first scientific publication, “Reengineering chimeric antigen receptor T cells for targeted therapy of autoimmune disease” (Science, July 2016), attracted the attention of a colleague, Steven Nichtberger, M.D., who is an adjunct professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching a class on biotech company

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formation, financing and leadership in the Vagelos Life Sciences & Management Program. Additionally, Dr. Nichtberger has experience creating and building companies, including a novel cellular therapy company, which required transferring the technology from an academic institution, establishing a research and development organization, hiring of manufacturing and quality teams, creating novel manufacturing processes, reaching agreement with the FDA on novel clinical development pathways and constructing a commercial-scale Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, facility that manufactured autologous cell therapy products for clinical trials. In 2017, based on over a year of interaction and discussions regarding the optimal strategy to advance the scientific opportunity into a commercially developed product portfolio that could offer potentially curative treatment options to patients, Drs. Payne, Milone and Nichtberger decided to launch Cabaletta Bio.

The longstanding and highly productive partnership between our co-founders has been complemented by additional management experience that brings a successful history of translating academic cellular therapy research from Penn and elsewhere into commercially sponsored clinical trials and the establishment of a GMP manufacturing facility and organization. Gwendolyn Binder, Ph.D., our Executive Vice President, Science and Technology, was an early member of the Translational Research Program Operations team at Penn for over five years and participated in the submission and acceptance of multiple INDs for novel engineered T cell therapy products. As part of the cell therapy organization at Penn, Dr. Binder partnered with Dr. Milone and others to drive the IND-enabling translational studies that facilitated the initial CAR T clinical trial in B cell cancers at Penn. Dr. Binder also built and led a clinical stage biotechnology company’s manufacturing operations and quality teams, including creation of a fully functioning commercial grade GMP facility. Dr. Binder also built the translational research program and ultimately led the company’s research organization.

Our Research and Manufacturing Collaboration with Penn

Our CABA platform has already produced multiple product candidates through our sponsored research agreements, or SRAs, with Penn for the laboratories of our scientific co-founders, Drs. Payne and Milone. Our continuing relationship with our scientific co-founders provides important guidance and insights to us. Our contractual relationship with Penn through ongoing licensing and research arrangements also provides important services around manufacturing supply.

In May 2020, we amended and restated our worldwide license agreement with Penn to develop our CAAR T technology to treat B cell-mediated autoimmune and alloimmune diseases. This license agreement provides us with access to multiple patent families covering CAAR T therapy as applied to the field of B cell-mediated autoimmune and alloimmune diseases and to the robust intellectual property portfolio created by Penn under these SRAs in this field. See “—Our Material Agreements—Amended and Restated License Agreement with Penn.”

Our ongoing collaboration with Penn is also based on a Master Translational Research Services Agreement, or the Services Agreement, that we entered into in October 2018, along with multiple additional agreements under the Services Agreement to engage and partner in individual Penn entities, including cell product manufacturing, correlative research, vector manufacturing, clinical trial operations and protocol development. In addition to the Services Agreement, we have agreements in place with various functional areas and centers that provide additional resources to Penn as well as contractual commitments from Penn with the goal of providing the capacity to manufacture our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART. Penn has also agreed to manufacture vector product for use in our clinical trials. Penn’s obligations are subject to certain limitations and termination rights. See “—Our Material Agreements—Master Translational Research Services Agreement with Penn”.

We believe Penn is uniquely suited to be our partner in our efforts to develop product candidates leveraging our CAAR T technology based on a decade of experience, including manufacturing and clinical support for approximately a dozen active cell therapy clinical trials. The original manufacturing process for the first FDA-approved CAR T therapy was developed at Penn before being transferred to Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation during late-stage clinical trials. We are leveraging Penn’s experience, validated standard operating procedures, manufacturing facilities and staffing to accelerate development efforts for our lead product candidate.

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Our Strategy

Our goal is to build upon our first mover advantage and expertise in cell therapies for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases to accelerate the discovery, development and commercialization of our CAAR T cell therapies, with a focus on reliable manufacturing. We believe achieving this goal could result in potentially curative therapies for patients with unmet medical needs who suffer from certain B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. To achieve this goal, key elements of our strategy include:

 

Achieving clinical proof-of-concept for our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART in mPV, the first in a series of well-understood and validated B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases for which we are developing CAAR T cell product candidates. It is well-established that the presence of DSG3 autoantibodies and DSG3 autoantibody producing B cells in patients are both necessary and sufficient to cause mPV in the vast majority of cases. We believe our biologic understanding coupled with the well-understood clinical signs, symptoms and natural course of the disease, identify mPV as a model disease to evaluate our CAAR T approach. In addition, we have made significant investment in the design and development of DSG3-CAART, generating a lead candidate that has demonstrated robust target engagement and no off-target toxicities in preclinical studies. Taken together, our Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating DSG3-CAART for the treatment of mPV represents an optimal first opportunity to establish initial clinical proof-of-concept of our CABA platform.

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Leveraging our CABA platform to identify optimal targets for the CAAR T approach and apply learnings from DSG3-CAART to advance additional product candidates. Shortly after inception, we undertook a comprehensive review of all known B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases in order to evaluate and prioritize the opportunity for selective destruction of B cells in an effort to cure B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. Central to this analysis were (i) scientific, clinical and commercial assessment, (ii) epitope mapping to determine regions targeted by autoantibodies, (iii) evaluation of the ability to optimize the CAAR construct and design with the goal of selectively ablating reactive B cells, and (iv) evaluation of existing or required development of new preclinical models and in vitro and in vivo clinical testing. As we performed this analysis of potential product candidates, we considered possible paths for clinical trial design and regulatory approval. This analysis incorporated the extensive learnings gleaned from years of effort devoted to development of DSG3-CAART. We prioritized the targets and since then have been focused on being first to discover and develop a series of products with each providing the potential for cure of an important B cell-mediated autoimmune disease in patients. We intend to continue to apply our proprietary learnings from DSG3-CAART, including scientific and regulatory learnings, to most effectively advance these additional opportunities. Preclinical studies that are generally similar to, and informed by, DSG3-CAART preclinical studies are actively ongoing with other CAAR T cell product candidates.

 

Expanding upon our established IP position and first mover advantage in CAAR T therapy targeted towards B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. We are focused on protecting our intellectual property as we continue to pursue the development of future product candidates. We believe the issued U.S. patent on our initial CAAR constructs is the first patent covering cells engineered to express the known pathogenic epitopes recognized by DSG3 and DSG1 autoantibodies, which we are working to supplement with additional patent filings. The design of a broadly effective CAAR requires a deep understanding of the location of immunogenic epitopes targeted by autoantibodies, a competency that we believe we are uniquely positioned to utilize in product candidate development. We believe there is a particularly high value to the first mover advantage including, but not limited to, experience in discovery, preclinical development, regulatory efforts, intellectual property and insights from clinical trials that can be translated across programs.

 

Leveraging our cellular therapy experience and knowledge in addition to knowledge gained through our Penn collaboration to rapidly build our own fully-integrated internal infrastructure. We have differentiated expertise that we believe is uniquely suited for the continued buildout of our CABA platform specializing in B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. Our scientific co-founders who initially developed our technology continue to collaborate closely with us through SRAs. In addition, our management team has a successful history of building the capabilities of cell therapy-based companies from the discovery and preclinical stage through Phase 3 readiness. In combination with our team, which possesses significant experience in executing on manufacturing strategies for cell therapy products, our partnership with Penn allows us to utilize their existing infrastructure, which accelerated our ability to submit our first IND. In parallel, we continue to build out an experienced team to manage the relationship with Penn while also developing and continuing to implement a path to our manufacturing independence. Ultimately, we intend to prepare and build our own manufacturing facility depending on the achievement of sufficient initial clinical trial data for DSG3-CAART.

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B Cell-Mediated Autoimmune Diseases: Overview and Current Treatment Paradigm

The body’s immune system, which is designed to protect the body from infection and cancer, includes B cells and T cells. B cells are responsible for producing antibodies against antigens that the body perceives as foreign whereas T cells are responsible for cell-mediated immunity. In the case of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, certain populations of the patient’s B cells mistakenly produce antibodies directed against normal tissues and cells, leading to disease. While these autoantibodies are the major effectors of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, the underlying root cause of each B cell-mediated autoimmune disease is the defective B cells that mistakenly make these pathogenic antibodies. These pathogenic B cells express autoantibodies on their surface with the same antigen specificity as the circulating pathogenic autoantibodies, which can be used to distinguish them from the healthy B cell population, as shown in the figure below.

 

 

Antibodies are B cell receptors that drive B cell maturation. CD19 serves as a B cell marker throughout the naïve B cell phase, while CD20 is a surface marker expressed later in B cell maturation. CAAR T is designed to eliminate antigen specific B cells and prevent their further development to antibody producing plasma cells. IgM: immunoglobulin M; IgD: immunoglobulin D; IgA: immunoglobulin A; sIg: surface immunoglobulin, representing the autoantibody on the B cell surface.

Current treatment options for autoimmune mediated diseases involve generalized immune suppression, achieved through corticosteroids, immunosuppressive medications and biologics. Most commonly, corticosteroids are used on both a chronic and acute basis to control disease, and act via a variety of mechanisms to control or downregulate multiple inflammatory pathways. In many cases, systemic immunosuppressive medications often used in chemotherapy such as mycophenolate, azathioprine and methotrexate, are added in an effort to minimize symptoms and manage the expected recurrences in patients. Biologic therapies have emerged as a new class of therapies and have a variety of targets including cytokines, B cells, and co-stimulation molecules. One particular biologic, rituximab, is an anti-CD20 antibody and is employed in multiple autoimmune diseases. Rituximab was approved by the FDA in 2018 for treatment of moderate to severe PV. Currently existing treatment options target parts of the immune system in addition to disease-causing B cells, and in general require chronic administration to reduce recurrence rates. We believe the ideal therapy in autoimmune diseases would completely and specifically eliminate the pathogenic B cells while sparing the immune cells that protect against infection, without requiring chronic administration.

Our Approach

Using our CABA platform, we are developing engineered T cell therapy candidates that express CAARs, which serve as “decoys” for antibodies expressed on the surface of B cells. We believe these CAARs enable the T cells to specifically engage and eliminate pathogenic B cells while sparing normal B cells. By harnessing the power of cell therapy, our technology has the potential to overcome the ability of these B cells to evade elimination and thus lead to durable responses. Our CAAR T platform is based on the foundation of established CAR T therapeutics, differing primarily in their use of the antigen rather than an antibody fragment to target pathogenic B cells. We

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believe our technology has broad applicability and we are building a portfolio of product candidates for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.

Background: CAR T Cells

Engineered T cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy in which human T cells are genetically modified to express specific receptors, enabling the T cells to recognize and eliminate pathogenic cells.

A key application of engineered cell therapy involves the use of CARs, which are engineered molecules that enable T cells to identify specific antigens present on the surface of diseased cells. When expressed on the patient’s T cells, the CAR directs the T cells to kill cells that express a particular antigen. These CAR-expressing T cells, or CAR T cells, can proliferate, generating memory CAR T cells.

Many companies are using CAR T technology to develop therapies for the treatment of B cell cancers. Several drug candidates have demonstrated clinical success, leading to the first FDA regulatory approvals of CAR T therapies for certain B cell cancers. In these B cell cancers, CAR T therapy has resulted in complete remission of disease in many patients, even in cancer patients with severe, refractory disease. Despite success in treating certain B cell cancers, we believe that CARs have not yet been developed or evaluated as a treatment option for other types of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases in patients.

Our Technology: CAARs

Our CAAR T platform builds upon the scientific foundation of CARs to enable targeted B cell elimination in an autoimmune setting, which may lead to complete and durable remission of disease while sparing all other B cell populations that can provide beneficial immunity from infection.

The co-stimulatory domain and the signaling domain of both a CAR T cell and CAAR T cell carry out the same activation and cytotoxic functions once the engineered cell therapy engages a B cell. Our CAAR T cells differ from CAR T cells primarily in the extracellular targeting domain. Our CAAR T cells incorporate the relevant parts of the autoantigen that is subject to attack in autoimmune disease, as shown in the figure below.

 

 

Key differences between CAR T (left) vs. CAAR T therapy (right). A CAR T cell typically contains a signaling domain and a co-stimulatory domain and incorporates antibody fragments that recognize a specific antigen, such as CD19, which is present in both B cell leukemia cells and healthy B cells. In contrast, a CAAR T cell typically contains an antigen as its targeting domain rather than an antibody fragment. The antigen is recognized by the specific, pathogenic antibody along with the limited population of B cells that produce the antibody. The model

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CAAR T cell depicted here contains an identical signaling domain and a co-stimulatory domain. The primary difference between a CAR T cell and a CAAR T cell is the target domain expressed on the cell surface. The example shown demonstrates the pan-B cell ablation that happens when targeting the B cell lineage marker, CD19, and the highly selective pathogenic B cell targeting approach of CAAR T.

Potential Advantages of CAAR T Cell Therapy in B Cell-Mediated Autoimmune Diseases

In contrast to currently available therapies for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, based on observations of CAR T activity in refractory B cell cancers, we believe a single CAAR T treatment could potentially offer complete and durable remission of certain specific B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases while leaving the humoral, or bodily fluid, antibody-producing immune system intact. We believe our CAAR T cells can recognize the specific autoantibodies that are responsible for causing an underlying disease and kill the cells that express the autoantibodies on their surface. As a result, we believe CAAR T cell therapy used in B cell-mediated autoimmune disease has the potential for durable elimination of pathogenic B cells and an associated elimination of clinical recurrences with an improved adverse event, or tolerability, profile relative to the current standard of care.

Enhanced target specificity and preservation of humoral immune system

Preservation of the humoral immune system with CAAR T cell therapy represents a potentially meaningful benefit over existing CD19- or CD20-targeting methods for B cell ablation, as patients would be less susceptible to infection they may encounter after non-specific B cell elimination and would not require chronic in-hospital treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG, or other prophylactic therapies. Additionally, because self-reactive B cells make up only 0.01% to 1% of the normal B cell population, we believe the risk of on-target toxicity may be reduced compared to systemically immunosuppressive medications that non-specifically weaken the immune system. Continued use of these drugs poses significant risks, such as the potential for fatal infections due to the non-specific tempering of the immune system related to the complete depletion of CD20+ or CD19+ B cells.

Potential for complete, long-lasting elimination of pathogenic B cells

The current standard of care for B cell-mediated autoimmune disease displays limited and transient therapeutic benefit while also weakening the humoral immune system. We believe our CAAR T cells have the potential to eliminate the reactive, antibody-producing B cells that are ultimately responsible for disease, while sparing normal B cells. The curative potential of CAAR T cells would be consistent with clinical findings from use of CAR T products in B cell cancers and would be a significant improvement relative to the current standard of care for certain B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.

While CAR T has demonstrated significant clinical success in B cell cancers, cancer cells employ a variety of mechanisms to evade detection by targeting immune cells, and antigen escape poses a significant risk of failure for CAR T cell treatment in oncology. Antigen escape in CAR T treatment occurs when the antigen that the CAR T cell targets is lost from the malignant cell. Clinically, this results in response rates that decline from an initial complete response level of about 80% to approximately 50% over a period of years.

We believe this risk of antigen escape is reduced in our setting as mechanisms to evade CAAR T therapy would involve B cell receptor down-regulation or mutation such that antigen specificity is lost. We believe that the implication of this is that the mutated B cell would no longer produce autoantibodies that recognize the antigen and therefore should no longer be pathogenic. We also believe that a single infusion of CAAR T cells has the potential for curative effects due to either complete ablation of pathogenic cells or production of memory CAAR T cells.

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Our CABA Platform

Our team has developed our CABA platform to inform product candidate development from indication selection through preclinical studies. Using our CABA platform, our team has identified our highest priority target indications following a rigorous analysis of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. A deep understanding of the antigenic epitopes targeted in these diseases is required to design and construct a successful CAAR. Our scientific founders have studied B cell repertoires for many years in the context of PV. Their expertise is essential to provide insights and guidance regarding our portfolio of products. We leverage the experience and insight gained from the development of each product candidate to improve the efficiency of our CABA platform in evaluating additional potential product candidates.

 

 

Scientific, Clinical and Commercial Assessment

Through broad literature review and consultation with internal and external experts, we have identified and continue to monitor the universe of diseases where pathogenic B cells are implicated in disease pathophysiology. From this set of possible indications, our team then evaluates each disease based on numerous criteria, which include, but are not limited to:

Biologic Opportunity for Cure

 

the presence of the antibody is well established in patients with the clinical manifestations of the disease;

 

the identified antibody has been shown to be necessary and sufficient in causing clinical disease;

 

there is a correlation between antibody titer and disease activity;

 

B cell-depleting therapies are shown or believed to be effective in treating the disease;

 

the antibody repertoire has been or can be characterized for the disease;

Identifiable and Underserved Patient Populations

 

a routine and established antibody test exists or can be developed for diagnosis and biomarker assessment;

 

the clinical course and severity of the disease warrant a cellular therapy despite current standard of care;

 

products in development do not have the potential to materially improve outcomes versus the current standard of care;

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Evaluation of Preclinical and Clinical Development Pathway

 

preclinical in vitro and in vivo models exist or can be developed; and

 

potential clinical trial designs and endpoints appear reasonable and achievable.

In addition to assessing the underlying biologic and clinical rationale for each potential target, we also assess commercial feasibility of CAAR T therapy in various B cell-mediated indications. As part of this assessment, we evaluate the direct lifetime drug and overall healthcare costs due to the burden from the disease, including the costs of managing potential adverse effects from existing standard of care compared to the potential CAAR T therapy.

We perform this rigorous and detailed conceptual analysis to enable us to be thorough and thoughtful before committing significant resources to a program. We believe this analysis allows us to prioritize and advance potential product candidates through the CABA platform with a higher degree of confidence and a higher probability of success.

Epitope Mapping

Epitope mapping involves identifying specific sites on the antigen that are responsible for binding to the antibody of interest. This step is required in order to facilitate an understanding of CAAR design and feasibility. An understanding of the locations of the key immunogenic epitopes on the antigen heavily informs the potential feasibility of a CAAR. With an understanding of these epitopes, we then leverage our cell therapy expertise to design the CAAR construct.

CAAR Construct / Design

Our scientists and collaborators design and create multiple CAAR constructs following completion of epitope mapping, which are tested against the antibody or antibodies of interest. The goal in CAAR design is to maximize the inclusion of known immunogenic epitopes on the antigen while also optimizing the size of the construct to improve the ability of the CAAR to bind to the antibody. Determining the location of antigen expression and if there are other antigens that may unintentionally cross-react with the CAAR will also inform CAAR design and feasibility. The size of the antigen will also determine whether a CAAR can be designed based on the size constraints of the delivery system. Once we have designed and developed optimal CAAR constructs, we test them in a variety of in vitro and in vivo studies.

In Vitro and In Vivo Testing

In vitro preclinical testing is focused on establishing the specificity and activity of the potential CAAR T cell product candidate against B cells expressing known pathogenic target antibodies. Specificity is evaluated against non-target membrane proteins that may be expressed on other cells, with specific focus against any proteins that are known to bind to the antigen presented on the CAAR. CAAR T function is tested in the presence and absence of soluble, or free, antibodies isolated from patients, since these antibodies may enhance or inhibit CAAR T cell function. Where relevant animal models exist, the CAAR T cell product candidate is tested in one or more models to address specific questions around safety and the ability of the potential product candidate to reduce disease activity in vivo.

Pipeline

We are developing a portfolio of CAAR T cell product candidates for the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. Our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, targets B cells that express pathogenic autoantibodies against the DSG3 protein, which cause mPV. The publication of the first in vivo evaluation of activity and toxicity of the candidate in an animal model was followed by additional preclinical studies to support our IND submission, which was cleared by the FDA in September 2019 The FDA granted our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, designed to treat patients with mPV, orphan drug designation for the treatment of PV in January 2020 and fast track designation for improving healing of mucosal blisters in patients with mPV in May 2020. We initiated our DesCAARTes™  trial in June 2020 and announced the dosing of the first patient in December 2020. Our next PV-directed product candidate, DSG3/1-CAART, targets B cells that give rise to pathogenic autoantibodies against either the DSG3 or DSG1 protein, which cause mcPV, and could address a broader PV population.

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Our second product candidate, MuSK-CAART, targets B cells that give rise to pathogenic autoantibodies against the MuSK receptor in patients with MG. An additional product candidate, FVIII-CAART, targets B cells that produce alloantibodies against exogenous FVIII in Hemophilia A patients who consequently require repeated and increased exogenous FVIII administration. In May 2020, we expanded our Payne SRA to include CAAR design and optimization efforts in three additional B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. We are exploring additional CAAR T cell product candidates that will focus on patients with B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases with well-defined antibody targets.

 

Our Product Candidates

DSG3-CAART for Mucosal PV

Our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, is a CAAR T cell therapy expressing DSG3 antigen epitopes as the extracellular domain of a chimeric immunoreceptor, and is designed to enable specific cytotoxicity toward B cells with DSG3 autoantibody targeting abilities. We believe this strategy has the potential to enable direct elimination of DSG3 autoantibody memory B cells and indirect elimination of DSG3-specific short-lived plasma cells that produce the pathogenic autoantibodies.

Scientific, Clinical and Commercial Assessment

PV is a potentially fatal, chronic autoimmune disease characterized by acantholysis, which is the loss of adhesion between cells of the skin or mucous membranes. Desmosomes are a collection of proteins that provide the structure for epithelial cells to connect with each other. PV results when specific pathogenic autoantibodies disrupt desmosomes by targeting DSG3 and/or DSG1, which are proteins that are part of the desmosomes. These autoantibodies cause the upper layer of the epidermis to split away from its base resulting in characteristic erosions and blisters. Widespread damage to the skin and mucous membranes increases susceptibility to life-threatening systemic infections. PV has two major subtypes:

 

mPV—Characterized by DSG3 autoantibodies only, affecting only mucosal surfaces—accounts for approximately 25% of PV

 

mcPV—Characterized by DSG3 autoantibodies and DSG1 autoantibodies, affecting both mucosal and cutaneous surfaces—accounts for approximately 75% of PV

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The presence of DSG-specific antibodies is 98% to 100% sensitive and specific in identifying patients with PV, and these antibodies have been deemed both necessary and sufficient to cause the disease. Thus, in the absence of DSG autoantibodies, PV generally does not occur. In mPV, patients will typically develop painful skin blisters on their mucosal membrane surface, including mouth, nose, throat, genitals, and other orifices, often leading to an inability to eat, drink and function normally. The pathogenic DSG3 autoantibody is made by a specific small number of aberrant B cells, which express the DSG3 autoantibody on their surface. An overview of mPV and mcPV is provided in the figure below.

 

 

Visual evidence of clinical manifestations of PV. (Left panel) Inside of cheek of a patient with mPV, showing sloughing mucosa and blistering. (Right panel) Back of a patient showing cutaneous skin blistering and sloughing in a patient with mcPV. Image credit: D@nderm.

Like most autoimmune diseases, the current standard of care for PV relies on general immune suppression, which is often transiently effective but can lead to severe infection, potentially resulting in hospitalization and death. First-line therapy for PV typically consists of corticosteroids in moderate to high doses in combination with the anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab where clinically appropriate. Second-line therapy focuses on the several systemically immunosuppressive medications such as mycophenolate, azathioprine and methotrexate. Additional options used in the acute setting with severe disease presentation include plasmapheresis, or infusions of intravenous immunoglobulin.

B cell depletion with rituximab was approved by the FDA for the treatment of PV in 2018 and is playing an increasing role as part of the standard of care because it has proven to be one of the more effective therapies for PV. However, data suggest that a significant number of patients treated with rituximab will relapse with or without chronic therapy. Despite its recent approval for use as an adjuvant therapy with corticosteroids in PV, rituximab has several limitations in terms of efficacy, safety and convenience. Rituximab treatment frequently results in relapse, which is reduced but still occurs despite chronic treatment every six months in PV. It does not specifically target the pathogenic B cells, but rather it depletes all CD20-expressing B cells, which leads to an ongoing risk of severe infection and death. As such, there remains not only an unmet medical need in PV, but also a need for safer therapies that can provide a reliable, durable and complete remission off of all other medications.

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There are several emerging therapies also being developed for the treatment of PV, which are being evaluated in late-stage clinical trials. These therapies provide important alternative therapeutic options for patients; however, we believe based on early published data that these therapies are unlikely to be curative and do not specifically ablate autoantibody producing B cells.

Epitope Mapping

DSG3 consists of five extracellular cadherin, or EC, domains as shown schematically in the figure below. Since T cell activation depends on the intermembrane distance of the immunologic synapse, we tested different combinations of ECs for expression in primary human T cells using DSG3 fragments as the extracellular domain as shown in the figure below.

 

 

Image showing the naturally occurring DSG3 protein and the five EC domains. (B) The CAAR constructs that were evaluated in preclinical studies, containing the whole or subsets of the DSG3 protein. The transmembrane and intracellular signaling domains are identical to those in the CART19 studies published by Penn.

CAAR Construct / Design

The DSG3 EC1-5 CAAR was minimally functional, likely due to the extracellular domain being too large to enable CAAR function or aggregation of the CAAR on the T cell surface. The CAAR designs with either DSG3 EC1-3 or DSG3 EC1-4 showed interferon-gamma production after exposure to the target cells, demonstrating specific cytotoxic activity across targets. In addition, no cytokine production was detected after exposure to cells that did not express surface immunoglobulins or other non-target cells.

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The DSG3 EC1-3 was not effective against one target cell known to bind to the DSG3 EC3-4 domain. Together, this data suggests that the DSG3 EC1-4 CAAR is the optimal construct to balance activity while retaining the ability to target locations of known pathogenic antibodies, as shown in the figures below.

 

 

Cytotoxicity assay to assess killing activity of DSG3 CAART. Negative control is a CAR T with an antibody fragment attached to the extracellular domain. * indicates construct that was selected for further development. E:T ratio = effector to target ratio.

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In Vitro Studies

A variety of in vitro studies were conducted to evaluate DSG3-CAART from a preclinical activity and toxicity perspective. These studies included an evaluation of DSG3-CAART against proteins that are known to bind the DSG3 antigen, a screen of DSG3-CAART against an array of other membrane proteins and a set of studies designed to evaluate the potential effects of soluble DSG3 antibodies against DSG3-CAART. The results of these studies are summarized below.

Evaluation of DSG3-CAART reactivity against known DSG3 binding proteins. The DSG3 antigen presented on the extracellular domain of DSG3-CAART may naturally bind proteins in the body. These proteins may bind to and activate DSG3-CAART, potentially causing toxicity. The native binding proteins for DSG3 are the desmocollin proteins, which are important for cell adhesion in the skin and mucosa. We performed a variety of studies to test whether DSG3-CAART recognizes and activates the desmocollin proteins. Epithelial cells isolated from various primary organ systems that express some level of desmocollin proteins were screened. Potential DSG3-CAART activity was evaluated through the detection of cytokines released against each cell type and cytotoxicity. The data demonstrated an absence of inflammatory T cell cytokines after being exposed to these cells, indicating an absence of T cell activation. No cytotoxicity was detected except at very high, non-pharmacologically feasible doses. Collectively, we believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the DSG3 protein in the context of a CAAR does not meaningfully interact with desmocollin proteins.

Evaluation of DSG3-CAART off-target binding against membrane proteins. A membrane protein array was utilized to screen the DSG3-CAART extracellular domain against 5,300 membrane proteins, which encompass the approximate number of membrane proteins contained in the human genome. The confirmatory screen yielded no off-target signals, except for one weak signal against a protein that is known to bind to glycoproteins, and which was detected in both the test and control conditions. Further evaluation of this protein in cell-based assays indicated that DSG3-CAART does not recognize and activate against this protein.

Evaluation of the effect of soluble antibodies on DSG3-CAART function. We expect that circulating antibodies may prompt an active immune response against treatment with CAAR T cell therapy. These antibodies can induce proliferation of DSG3 CAAR T cells but may also neutralize the cells. In our preclinical in vitro studies, we observed that while DSG3 antibodies may have a variable effect on CAAR function, there was no systematic effect to enhance or reduce CAAR function. These dynamics were evaluated in a series of in vitro studies as follows:

 

Soluble DSG3 antibodies were added to CAAR T cell cytotoxicity assays, at a range of concentrations likely to be encountered in patients, to assess the impact on CAAR function. In all cases when the CAAR T cells were tested in the presence of soluble DSG3 antibodies, they retained their killing function. In addition, the presence of antibodies did not demonstrate a systematic effect to enhance or reduce the CAAR T cells’ cytotoxic ability. Therefore, we believe that removal of circulating soluble DSG3 antibodies from patients prior to infusions may not be necessary to enable potential benefit.

 

Monoclonal DSG3 antibodies with an enhancing effect were evaluated in combination with PV patient serum to assess their impact on DSG3 CAAR T cell division and stimulation of cytokine production. Monoclonal DSG3 antibodies were capable of inducing DSG3 CAAR T cell division and stimulated production of moderate levels of cytokine production, as measured by interferon gamma. Therefore, we believe the presence of DSG3 autoantibodies in patients may contribute to the DSG3 CAAR T cell population expansion post-infusion.

 

Antibodies purified from PV patients were added to DSG3 CAAR T cells at a range of concentrations known to commonly occur in patients in order to evaluate the extent to which patient serum may activate CAAR T cells. These antibodies induced a dose dependent increase in interferon gamma.

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Off-target toxicity may also be seen due to antibody-mediated bridging of DSG3 CAAR T cell cytotoxicity against hematopoietic cells that express receptors designed to bind to antibodies, known as Fc receptors. To evaluate this, we loaded DSG3 antibodies onto cells expressing antibody-binding receptors, and evaluated the ability of DSG3 CAAR T cells to bind and activate against these targets in vitro. No evidence of cytotoxicity was observed, suggesting the potentially low risk of off-target killing mediated by this mechanism.

In Vivo Studies

To evaluate DSG3-CAART in vivo, four murine models were used. These models were designed to directly compare the potency of DSG3-CAART in comparison with CART19 cells; evaluate the potential for on-target skin toxicity; and measure the activity of DSG3-CAART in the presence of polyclonal soluble DSG3 antibodies.

 

Evaluation of potency of DSG3-CAART in a human B cell tumor line compared to CART19 cells. This B cell model contained genetically-modified B cells to express DSG3 antibodies on the cell surface in addition to luciferase, a bioluminescence marker, and allowed evaluation of DSG3-CAART’s ability to engage and kill B cells that express the pathogenic antibody. CART19 cells were used as a positive control in this model as the B cells express CD19 on their cell surface. In this model, DSG3-CAART was found to result in a similar reduction of B cells compared to the CART19 cells.

 

Evaluation of on-target skin toxicity mediated by DSG3-CAART. A human skin-xenografted model was used to evaluate the potential skin toxicity of DSG3-CAART by evaluating if the extracellular domain would react with desmocollin proteins, which are the known target for DSG3. These results were compared directly to a positive control CAR T expressing a DSG3 specific antibody as an extracellular domain. In this model, we observed the absence of skin toxicity mediated by the DSG3-CAART cells compared to the positive control, which did demonstrate skin toxicity.

 

Evaluation of DSG3-CAART in the presence of soluble antibodies. We also tested a model where mice have circulating DSG3 antibodies to mimic the situation in PV patients. In this model, the DSG3 antibodies have well-defined and different epitopes with varying affinities, which may reflect the potential breadth of B cell targets that could be encountered in PV patients. The mice were then treated with DSG3-CAART, which was compared to non-CAAR expressing T cells, or negative control CAR T cells. In this model, we observed amelioration of disease (see figure A below), reduction of DSG3 antibody titers (see figure B below), as well as control of the pathogenic B cells (see figure C below), by DSG3-CAART. In this model, DSG3-CAART also demonstrated dose-related activity, particularly in regard to reduction of serum autoantibodies, epithelial-bound autoantibodies (not shown in Figures) and DSG3-CAART engraftment, suggesting that higher DSG3-CAART doses may promote engraftment (see Figures D and E). We believe these results show the functional activity of DSG3-CAART in the presence of soluble antibody.

 

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Histology showing DSG3 CAAR maintaining normal epithelial cell structure in treated animals.

 

 

OD450 is a proxy measure for anti-serum DSG3antibodies in the blood. * indicates statistically significant reduction in DSG3 serum antibody level in DSG3-CAART treated mice. P value is < 0.05. *** indicates statistically significant increase in DSG3 serum antibody level in the negative control CAR treated group. P value is < 0.001.

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Total flux is a quantitative measure of cell bioluminescence, which approximates cell activity in this assay.

 

D

 

OD450 is a proxy measure for the level serum anti-DSG3 antibodies in the blood. Serum anti-DSG3 ELISA was performed on day 10 for all mice with remaining serum samples available, indicating that mice treated with the 3x107 and 1x107 DSG3-CAART dose effectively reduced serum anti-DSG3 IgG production compared to mice treated with NTD T-cells or the 3x106 DSG3-CAART dose.** indicates statistically significant reduction in DSG3 serum antibody level in DSG3-CAART treated mice. P value is < 0.01. * indicates statistically significant increase in DSG3 serum antibody level in the negative control CAR treated group. P value is < 0.05. ns indicates a non-significant difference.


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Quantification by flow cytometry of CD3-positive T-cells in peripheral blood on day 10 and 17 is shown.  The data support dose-related DSG3-CAART engraftment based on increased CD3+ cells with increased DSG3-CAART dose.

 

Evaluation of DSG3-CAART in an active immune model. An exploratory active immune mouse model for PV was developed to better represent the human phenotype in autoimmune disease. This model involved generating anti-DSG3 B cells in a mouse without DSG3 by repeated immunization with human DSG3. Splenocytes containing anti-DSG3 B cells from the immunized mouse were transferred into an immunodeficient mouse to generate the PV phenotype. These mice produced DSG3 antibodies against multiple extracellular domains of the DSG3 antigen, including EC5, at physiologic levels comparable to those observed in PV patients. Treatment with DSG3 EC1-4 CAAR T cells, in the absence of preconditioning, effectively lowered serum DSG3 antibody levels by ELISA, reduced antibodies against relevant DSG3 domains by epitope mapping and reduced blistering by histology. These mice retained autoantibodies targeting the DSG3 EC5 region, though the mice did not show clinical manifestations of PV.

 

See figure F below for a schematic representation of the experiment.

 

F

 

 

Schematic representation of the PV active immune model. A DSG3 knockout mouse is immunized with DSG3 EC1-5. The knockout mouse develops antibodies against DSG3 across all EC domains. The splenocytes from the knockout mouse are transferred to an immunodeficient mouse where the DSG3 antibodies cause a clinical phenotype consistent with PV. Those mice are then treated with DSG3-CAART (EC1-4 domains only).

 

Clinical Development Plan

The FDA cleared our IND for a Phase 1 trial of DSG3-CAART in September 2019. The FDA granted DSG3-CAART orphan drug designation for the treatment of PV in January 2020 and fast track designation for improving healing of mucosal blisters in patients with mPV in May 2020. We announced that the first patient was dosed in the DesCAARTesTM trial in December 2020. The DesCAARTesTM trial is an open-label trial to assess the safety and tolerability of various dosing regimens of DSG3-CAART in the treatment of subjects with active mPV. DSG3-CAART will be administered by intravenous infusion, using a fractionated-dose infusion scheme of escalating numbers of DSG3-CAART cells for the initial cohorts in the first phase. This dosing scheme is designed to reduce the potential risks associated with acute infusion-related toxicities while preserving potential benefit for subjects by

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allowing a total infused dose that we believe is large enough to be potentially therapeutic based on prior CAR T trials.

We expect that the Phase 1 trial will have three parts:

 

Part A: Fractionated dose escalation

 

Part B: Fractionation reduction at the selected dose

 

Part C: Expansion phase at the selected dose and administration scheme

In Part A, the split dose uses dose fractionation to accommodate a low number of cells in the first infusion while still advancing the dose within the cohort up towards and spanning the range of cell doses that have been therapeutic in past gene-engineered T cell therapy trials. In Part B, the dose selected from Part A will be delivered in a decreasing number of dose fractionations to determine the dose fractionation strategy. In Part C, subjects will be enrolled at the dose and fractionation, as determined in Part A and B, to generate additional safety and outcome data to support the rationale for and design of future clinical trials.

Patients are eligible to be enrolled if they have a confirmed diagnosis of mPV based on biopsy for histology and positive DSG3 ELISA; active disease at screening; elevated DSG3 by ELISA at screening; and previously been inadequately managed by, or refractory to, or relapsed after, or with contraindications to or intolerance of at least one prior systemic therapy. The primary objective of the trial is to evaluate the safety of DSG3-CAART cells, and secondary objectives include evaluating the initial signs of target engagement.

We believe the risk of cytokine release syndrome, or CRS, a potentially life-threatening toxicity that has been observed after treatment with some types of immunotherapy, may be reduced with our CAAR T cells, due to its correlation with target cell burdens. In the context of treating cancer, the target cell population consists of all B cells (healthy and cancerous), whereas our CAAR T cells only target the small subset of disease-causing reactive B cell population. While the possibility of cytokine release in a clinical trial resulting from strongly activating soluble antibody cannot be ruled out, to date we have not observed any evidence of it in preclinical studies.

The primary endpoint of the study is the incidence of adverse events within three months of DSG3-CAART infusion, including dose limiting toxicity defined as occurring within 28 days of infusion. The FDA has requested, and we have agreed, that we will share data from cohort A to inform a discussion on the optimal design of cohort C. According to FDA guidance, the submission of cohort A data is not gating to planned enrollment in cohort B and the FDA plans to provide feedback, if any, in a timely manner. In addition, we plan to report on acute tolerability data on no less than a cohort basis, which is defined to include adverse events within eight days following DSG3-CAART infusion. We believe the eight-day timeframe appropriately covers the period of time when one would expect the onset of CRS in most subjects. We also currently intend to communicate serious adverse events once we have sufficient understanding of the events, if they materially change timelines or the trial design.

We also expect to provide updates from time-to-time related to target engagement in subjects receiving DSG3-CAART typically only once data is available for a full cohort. Although possible but not expected in the lower dosing cohorts, we believe target engagement could be observed if DSG3 autoantibody titer falls within six months after DSG3-CAART infusion in addition to other parameters of engraftment and target engagement that will be monitored regularly. Clinical responses, including improvement or resolution of mucosal lesions and absence of new lesions will also be evaluated.

DSG3/1-CAART for mcPV

Scientific and Commercial Assessment

Our next PV product candidate, DSG3/1-CAART, is being designed to target DSG3 and/or DSG1 autoantibodies on pathogenic B cells that cause mcPV. mcPV is the most severe and most common subtype of PV and affects approximately 75% of PV patients. While mPV is caused by DSG3 autoantibodies, mcPV involves autoantibodies to both DSG3 and DSG1, resulting in the additional involvement of skin erosion and blistering.

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Similar to mPV, mcPV is typically treated with immune suppression, which has a high rate of relapse and potential for hospitalizations and fatal infections.

Epitope Mapping

DSG1 consists of five EC domains, with all known pathogenic epitopes occurring in the DSG1 EC1-4 domains. Similar to development of DSG3-CAART, we tested different combinations of DSG1 ECs for expression in primary human T cells using DSG1 fragments as the DSG1 EC domains. Given prior development of DSG3 CAAR, we leveraged those findings in the design of our DSG1 CAAR.

CAAR Construct / Design

We also tested multiple combinations of EC domains of DSG1 CAAR administered alone and in combination with the DSG3 EC1-4 CAAR to evaluate for cell-surface expression of the CAAR along with the potency and breadth of target cell killing. In this setting, the DSG1 EC1-4 CAAR showed robust and specific cytotoxicity towards all known pathogenic epitopes.

In Vitro Studies

CAAR development for mcPV, based on the targeting of DSG3- and/or DSG1-specific B cells, has shown promising preclinical results. DSG1 CAAR T cells specifically killed DSG1-specific B cells in vitro. In addition, we observed that with a 1:1 mixture of DSG3 and DSG1 CAAR T cells had killing capabilities without synergistic or antagonistic effect.

In Vivo Studies

The activity and toxicity of DSG3 and DSG1-CAAR T cells was evaluated using human skin xenografts in comparison with anti-CART19 cells, which are known from human clinical trials not to cause direct skin toxicity. A 1:1 mixture of DSG3 and DSG1 CAAR T cells did not show off-target toxicity in vivo.

Development Plan

From a regulatory and clinical trial design perspective, we anticipate that many of the elements incorporated into the planned DesCAARTesTM trial will carry over to DSG3/1-CAART. We plan to evaluate the initial cohorts of patients from the planned DesCAARTesTM trial to evaluate for safety and evidence of target engagement prior to proceeding with an IND submission for DSG3/1-CAART. We believe that, because mcPV is the most prevalent subset of PV and the patients are generally followed by the same subspecialists, it will allow for a wider patient pool eligible for a clinical trial. We anticipate the DSG3/1-CAART clinical trial protocol will have a significant amount of overlap with the DSG3-CAART protocol, but it will be informed by clinical data from the early cohorts in the DesCAARTesTM trial. We further anticipate being able to use the same centers from the DesCAARTesTM trial to enroll patients for the DSG3/1-CAART clinical trials.

We are currently evaluating advanced manufacturing technologies that would potentially allow us to administer DSG3/1-CAART as a single product rather than requiring separate administration. The size of the DSG3/1 product candidate will likely require us to incorporate additional technologies to accommodate the size of the final CAAR construct. An evaluation of potential technologies to achieve this objective is ongoing. Upon completing the evaluation of these manufacturing technologies, we expect to conduct additional in vitro and in vivo studies using the combined product. While a product that administers a DSG3 CAAR and DSG1 CAAR as two separate products may be feasible, we believe that there would be significant advantages to developing a combined product from a regulatory and commercial perspective.

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MuSK-CAART for MuSK Myasthenia Gravis

Scientific, Clinical and Commercial Assessment

MG is an autoimmune disease induced by autoantibodies targeting the neuromuscular junction, or NMJ, which can lead to life-threatening muscle weakness. Generalized MG, or gMG, is characterized by profound muscle weakness throughout the body, resulting in motor impairment, disabling fatigue, shortness of breath due to respiratory muscle weakness and episodes of respiratory failure.

gMG affects approximately 50,000 to 80,000 patients in the United States. The majority of patients who develop gMG have autoantibodies against some part of the NMJ that are known to be pathogenic. 80% to 90% of patients with gMG have autoantibodies against the acetylcholine receptor, or AchR, detectable in their serum. Approximately 6% to 7.5% of patients with gMG have autoantibodies against MuSK, which is a different target on the surface of the muscle membrane.

Patients diagnosed with MuSK MG have a different recommended treatment course compared to patients with AchR MG. Importantly, many patients with MuSK MG respond poorly to cholinesterase inhibitors, which are often the first line of therapy in AchR MG. In that setting, patients with MuSK MG are typically started on corticosteroids in addition to one or more steroid-sparing immunosuppressive agents. Corticosteroids are tapered to the extent possible to prevent disease relapse, though many remain dependent on corticosteroid despite concomitant treatment with immunosuppressive medications. In the acute setting, plasmapheresis or intravenous immunoglobulin may be used to address severe disease. Rituximab is often considered as a second-line therapeutic option in patients with an inadequate response to initial immunosuppressive medications. Importantly, complement is not thought to be meaningfully implicated in the pathophysiology of MuSK MG, and complement inhibitors are not indicated for treatment of disease.

Epitope Mapping

The MuSK protein has a similar structure and size as compared to DSG3. MuSK contains four extracellular domains, as shown below.

 

 

Figure illustrating the domains of the wild-type MuSK protein.

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Studies conducted in patients with MuSK MG have revealed that the autoantibodies may be against epitopes located in each of the extracellular domains for MuSK.

CAAR Construct and Design

With an understanding that pathogenic autoantibody epitopes may target any domain of MuSK, multiple MuSK CAAR candidates have been engineered that incorporate all extracellular domains. Each CAAR construct is being or will be tested in preliminary in vitro and in vivo experiments.

In Vitro Studies, In Vivo Studies and Development Plan

Data from our initial in vitro and in vivo studies of MuSK-CAART was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Science Highlights Virtual Platform in May 2020. The efficacy and safety of MuSK CAAR T cells were investigated using in vitro cytotoxicity assays, in vitro screens for off-target toxicity and a mouse model to evaluate the efficacy of human MuSK CAAR T cells against MuSK antibody expressing B cells in vivo. In preclinical studies, MuSK CAAR T cells containing the native MuSK extracellular domain demonstrated in vitro cytotoxicity towards a panel of B cells expressing anti-MuSK antibodies specific for different extracellular regions of the MuSK protein, but no observed cytotoxicity when anti-MuSK antibodies are not expressed (figure below). Additionally, MuSK CAAR T cells did not demonstrate cytotoxicity toward cells expressing LRP4, which is a different protein in the neuromuscular junction that can bind with naturally occurring MuSK in certain configurations.

 

Figure illustrating that MuSK-CAART, which contains the native MuSK extracellular domain, demonstrated selective and specific in vitro cytotoxicity towards a B cell line expressing anti-MuSK antibodies targeting different MuSK epitopes across multiple domains of the native MuSK protein. The specific lysis increases directly with increasing effector to target ratios for MuSK-CAART.

 


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As illustrated in the figure below, in an in vivo mouse model, MuSK CAAR T cells, but not control CAAR T cells, showed biological activity by blocking the growth of B cell lines expressing an anti-MuSK antibody.

Figure illustrating MuSK CAAR T cells are able to recognize and suppress anti-MuSK target cells in a murine model. The target cells express both CD19 and anti-MuSK B cell receptors, and CART19 is used as a positive control in this experimental system.

Based in part on these results, IND-enabling studies were initiated for the MuSK-CAART product candidate. An IND submission is anticipated in the second half of 2021 for MuSK-CAART.

FVIII-CAART for Hemophilia A with Factor VIII Alloantibodies

While our CABA platform is primarily directed towards the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, we believe the approach may be applicable in other instances where B cell antibody production is implicated. Specifically, we have identified an opportunity to apply the CABA platform to develop potential CAAR adjunctive therapies in cases where the immune system has or produces antibodies against potential therapies, which is known as an alloimmune response. These alloantibodies can prevent a particular therapy from being delivered effectively because the therapy is degraded by the immune response due to alloantibody binding. We believe our approach has the potential to address the alloantibody response by specifically ablating the B cells responsible for producing the alloantibodies through a similar mechanism seen in autoimmune disease. With the alloantibody producing cells ablated, the treatment could then be provided.

Scientific, Clinical and Commercial Assessment

Hemophilia A is an X-linked bleeding disorder caused by mutations in the FVIII gene resulting in a deficiency of functional FVIII, a critical factor in blood coagulation. It affects about 1:5,000 male births. Severe Hemophilia A, where FVIII levels are less than 1% of normal, accounts for about 60% of all cases and is characterized by frequent spontaneous bleeds. Currently, Hemophilia A is treated with FVIII replacement via intravenous administration.

The main complication of FVIII replacement therapy is that 20% to 30% of patients with severe disease develop neutralizing alloantibodies against the FVIII protein. These alloantibodies decrease the levels of FVIII and at high titers, render attempts to replace or stimulate the production of FVIII ineffective. The risk of alloantibody development for patients with severe Hemophilia A is highest during their initial FVIII exposures. The standard treatment to reverse alloantibody formation consists of repeated high-dose infusions of FVIII, which has limited efficacy, a high cost and is difficult to titrate to an appropriate therapeutic level for the patient. We believe FVIII-

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CAART could be effective in addressing patients with Hemophilia A who have developed FVIII antibodies that require repeated, high-dose administrations of FVIII.

Epitope Mapping

The following image depicts FVIII, which is a large glycoprotein consisting of six domains that interact with each other to form the full complex.

 

 

Studies conducted in patients with Hemophilia A have revealed that acquired FVIII alloantibodies following exogenous FVIII administration are typically directed against A2, C1 and C2 domains of FVIII.

CAAR Construct and Design

Preliminary FVIII CAAR and CAAR-like constructs have been engineered that target parts, but not all, of the FVIII domains. Dr. Milone, one of our scientific co-founders, has led the development of one such construct.

Development Plan

Internally, we are conducting additional studies to optimize our FVIII-CAART development. The focus of these studies will be to fully characterize any additional pathogenic epitopes and construct a FVIII-CAART that includes additional FVIII domains. Given the size of the FVIII protein, this will likely require us to incorporate additional technologies to reduce the size of the final CAAR construct. An evaluation of potential technologies to achieve this objective is ongoing.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing Strategy

We intend to implement a three-stage plan that we believe will ultimately enable us to achieve manufacturing independence. Part of our strategy relies on engaging non-profit and commercial suppliers early and in a staged manner. We believe partnering with proven and reputable manufacturing partners will allow us to efficiently deploy financial and personnel resources. Stage 1 of this plan is in place and utilizes the deep expertise in cell and vector manufacturing from our partners at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, and Penn. This included early development work, support of the DSG3-CAART IND, and cell and vector product manufacturing for our DesCAARTesTM trial. We believe these facilities will allow us to move efficiently into clinical trials but are not sufficient to support a commercial license.

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Stage 2 of our plan is designed to engage partners who are qualified for manufacturing of vector at commercial grade and scale and cell therapy products. We are aware that changes in any manufacturing process or facility introduces regulatory and scientific risk to a development program, if the changes result in a product that is not comparable. We plan to mitigate these risks primarily in two ways:

 

1.

By securing contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, as partners during Stage 2 of our manufacturing strategy early on for both vector and cell manufacturing. We plan to prioritize potential partners who are qualified to, and have an established track record of, the commercial production of vector and cell products. We believe this allows us to make one change in our supply partners during an early period of clinical development to facilitate in vitro comparability testing and clinical validation, prior to controlled clinical studies.

 

2.

By licensing the cell manufacturing process used for our planned Phase 1 DSG3-CAART first-in-human study from Penn. This is allowing us the time to understand the process used in order to reduce the chance of changes that may impact comparability.

In addition to Stage 2, and contingent on sufficient clinical evidence from our planned DesCAARTesTM trial, we are further planning to pursue Stage 3 in manufacturing supply. During Stage 3, we plan to build, qualify and run our own manufacturing facility. We believe this additional stage will enable full control of continuous improvement, product development and commercial supply for products arising from our CABA platform. Our Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President, Science and Technology have both, in prior roles, built and led organizations that have constructed and commissioned cell therapy facilities.

Vector Manufacturing

The lentiviral vector that we plan to use in the initial subjects in our DesCAARTesTM trial was manufactured at CHOP. We have also reserved multiple vector manufacturing slots at Penn and CHOP, which we may use in our DSG3-CAART or subsequent clinical trials. In parallel, we are engaging in development work with multiple CMOs with a plan to secure production slots for vector which may be used in our DSG3-CAART or subsequent clinical trials. We believe these efforts will provide us with sufficient clinical-grade vector to move forward with our anticipated clinical trials.

Cell Manufacturing

We have entered into a collaboration with the Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility, or CVPF, at Penn, to provide focused scientific, technical and regulatory support for CAAR T cell manufacture. CVPF is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy and is capable of and experienced at supporting manufacture for early-phase clinical trials of novel cell therapy products in first-in-man clinical trials. We expect to rely upon CVPF to provide initial Phase 1 clinical trial drug supply for DSG3-CAART. Penn’s manufacturing process for DSG3-CAART is directly related to the process developed at Penn for early clinical trials of CART19, which subsequently became known commercially as Kymriah. The process was later transferred to Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and further modified for the Kymriah program.

As we scale our manufacturing of DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates to meet our expected needs for further clinical trials, we may or may not rely on Penn, but we also expect to rely on CMOs and other third parties for the manufacturing and processing of our clinical trial materials. Any CMO that we select will be subject to cGMP requirements. We believe the use of contract manufacturing for our pipeline programs will be cost-effective and allow us to rapidly prepare for clinical trials in accordance with our development plans. In preparation for this transition, we have engaged multiple third-party contractors to manufacture clinical grade viral vector used to deliver the applicable CAAR gene into the T cells. We have also initiated development work with certain contractors for cGMP and commercial vector production. We expect third-party manufacturers will be capable of providing and processing sufficient quantities of our product candidates to meet anticipated clinical trial demands and commercial need. In January 2021, we initiated a collaboration with WuXi to serve as our cell processing manufacturing partner for the anticipated MuSK-CAART Phase 1 clinical trial.

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Once we have sufficient clinical data from subjects in our DSG3-CAART study, we intend to begin the process of engineering and then establishing our own commercial scale GMP-compliant manufacturing facility. We believe this will allow us to enhance supply chain control, increase supply capacity and help ensure clinical and commercial demand for our pipeline programs is met in the event that DSG3-CAART receives marketing approval. Informed by our experience in building cell therapy facilities and creating supply chains, we plan to develop a robust supply chain with alternative sources to maintain continuous supply. In parallel with these activities, we are evaluating and executing proof-of-concept studies to test advanced manufacturing and automation technologies to continuously improve the manufacturing process and meet commercial and scalability targets.

Commercialization

Our aim is to become a fully integrated cellular therapy company in order to improve the lives of patients with B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. We have designed a strategic approach to move forward with our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, while at the same time having a number of product candidates in development. The product candidates from our CABA platform address clinical indications where there is a compelling opportunity to improve clinical outcomes in comparison with the current standard of care in an easily identified patient population. Our initial product candidates are focused on rare disease populations where we believe there is potential to commercialize independently. This is due to a concentration of treatment paradigms and limited but easily identified patient populations. Our plan is to focus commercialization and launch efforts initially in the United States, and eventually in the European Union and Asia-Pacific geographies.

Competition

The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by rapidly advancing technologies, intense competition and a strong focus on intellectual property. We face competition from many different players, including large and specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic research organizations and governmental agencies. Any therapeutic candidates we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with the existing standard of care as well as any novel therapies that may gain regulatory approval in the future.

Existing treatment options for PV are limited. Rituximab, marketed by Roche Holding AG, is the first drug to have received approval for PV in the United States in over 60 years. In Europe, the approved therapies for PV are corticosteroids, azathioprine and rituximab. Other standard of care treatments include various immunosuppressants, plasmapheresis, and intravenous immunoglobulin infusions given monthly or on another periodic chronic basis. Additionally, multiple biopharmaceutical companies have therapies in clinical development.

Competition in the MuSK MG autoimmune space is currently dominated by the current standard of care, rituximab. A second approved approach to treating patients is IVIG, which is available through CSL Behring LLC, Grifols, S.A., and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation. Additionally, multiple biopharmaceutical companies have therapies in clinical development.

Multiple therapies are approved or in development for the treatment of Hemophilia A patients who develop alloantibodies against FVIII. Standard of care is typically immune tolerance induction, or ITI, therapy with higher doses of FVIII. Available treatments for those who do not respond to ITI include anti-inhibitor coagulation complexes, recombinant factor VIIa, and bispecific factor IXa- and factor X-directed antibodies. Companies who market products or are developing product candidates within these categories of medicine include Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Novo Nordisk A/S, OPKO Health, Inc., Roche Holding AG and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.

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We believe we are the first and only company developing CAAR T drug candidates for the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. However, despite the significant differences in discovery, development and target populations between oncology and autoimmune targets, we recognize that companies with an investment and expertise in CAR T cell development for oncology indications could attempt to leverage their expertise into B cell-mediated autoimmune disease-affected populations. We are aware of biotechnology companies that are exploring other methods of engineering T cells for the treatment of autoimmune conditions. In addition, some biotechnology companies are engineering red blood cells to incorporate self-antigens with the goal of tolerizing the immune system to treat autoimmune and alloimmune conditions.

Many of the companies against which we are competing or against which we may compete in the future have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and marketing approved products than we do. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Smaller or early stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.

Intellectual Property and Barriers to Entry

We strive to protect the proprietary technologies that we believe are important to our business, including pursuing and maintaining patent protection intended to cover our product candidates and their use, as well as other inventions that are important to our business. In addition to patent protection, we also rely on know-how, confidentiality agreements, invention assignment agreements and trade secrets to protect aspects of our business that are not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection, to develop and maintain our proprietary position. The confidentiality agreements are designed to protect our proprietary information and the invention assignment agreements are designed to grant us ownership of technologies that are developed for us by our employees, consultants or certain other third parties. We seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in our agreements and security measures, either may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or independently discovered by competitors.

Our commercial success depends in part upon our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for commercially important technologies, inventions and trade secrets related to our business, defend and enforce our intellectual property rights, particularly our patent rights, preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets and operate without infringing valid and enforceable intellectual property rights of others.

The patent positions for biotechnology companies like us are generally uncertain and can involve complex legal, scientific and factual issues. In addition, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before a patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted and even challenged after issuance. As a result, we cannot guarantee that any of our product candidates will be protectable or remain protected by enforceable patents. We cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient proprietary protection from competitors. Any patents that we hold may be challenged, circumvented or invalidated by third parties.

As of February 1, 2021, our patent estate (all of which has been in-licensed) included one issued U.S. patent, seven pending U.S. patent applications, and 34 pending foreign patent applications. See “—Our Material Agreements—Amended and Restated License Agreement with the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.”

With regard to our DSG3-CAART and DSG3/1-CAART product candidates, we have one issued U.S. patent with claims directed to a genetically modified cell containing a chimeric autoantibody receptor containing an extracellular domain containing DSG3, DSG1 or fragments thereof, which is scheduled to expire in 2035, without taking a potential patent term extension into account. We also have four pending U.S. patent applications and

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counterpart patent applications pending in Canada, China and Europe, which if issued, would be expected to expire in 2035. This patent family is owned by Penn and exclusively licensed to us in the field of the license.

With regard to our MuSK-CAAR T cell product candidate, we have one pending U.S. patent application and counterpart patent applications pending in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and Russia, which if issued, would be expected to expire in 2039. This patent family is owned by Penn and exclusively licensed to us in the field of the license.

With regard to our FVIII-CAAR T cell product candidate, we have one pending U.S. patent application and counterpart patent applications pending in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and Russia, which if issued, would be expected to expire in 2037. This patent family is co-owned by Penn and CHOP and is exclusively licensed to us in the field of the license.

The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term of the patents in the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries in which we file, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing a non-provisional patent application.

In the United States, the term of a patent covering an FDA-approved drug may be eligible for a patent term extension under the Hatch-Waxman Act as compensation for the loss of patent term during the FDA regulatory review process. The period of extension may be up to five years beyond the expiration of the patent, but cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval. Only one patent among those eligible for an extension may be extended, and a given patent may only be extended once. Similar provisions are available in Europe and in certain other jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved drug. It is possible that issued U.S. patents covering each of our product candidates may be entitled to patent term extensions. If our product candidates receive FDA approval, we intend to apply for patent term extensions, if available, to extend the term of patents that cover the approved product candidates. We also intend to seek patent term extensions in any jurisdictions where they are available, however, there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities, including the FDA, will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and even if granted, the length of such extensions.

In addition to patent protection, we also rely on know-how and trade secret protection for our proprietary information that is not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection, to develop and maintain our proprietary position. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect. Although we take steps to protect our proprietary information, including restricting access to our premises and our confidential information, as well as entering into agreements with our employees, consultants, advisors and potential collaborators, third parties may independently develop the same or similar proprietary information or may otherwise gain access to our proprietary information. As a result, we may be unable to meaningfully protect our know-how, trade secrets, and other proprietary information.

In addition, we plan to rely on regulatory protection based on orphan drug exclusivities, data exclusivities, and market exclusivities. See “—Government Regulation” for additional information.

Our Material Agreements

Amended and Restated License Agreement with the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

In July 2019, we entered into an amended and restated license agreement, or the License Agreement, as further amended in May 2020, with Penn and CHOP, collectively the Institutions, pursuant to which we obtained (a) a non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, worldwide research license to make, have made and use products in two subfields of use, (b) effective as of October 2018, an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license, with the right to sublicense, under certain patent rights of the Institution to make, use, sell, offer for sale and import products in the same two subfields of use, and (c) effective as of October 2018, a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license, with limited rights to sublicense, under certain of Penn’s know-how, which know-how satisfies certain criteria and is listed on a mutually agreed-to schedule, to make, have made, use, sell, offer for sale, import and have imported products in the same two subfields of use. Our rights are subject to the rights of the U.S. government and certain

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rights retained by the Institutions. The License Agreement was amended in May 2020 to add certain intellectual property relating to one of the three undisclosed disease targets.

Unless earlier terminated, the License Agreement expires on the expiration or abandonment or other termination of the last valid claim in the intellectual property we license from Penn. We may terminate the License Agreement at any time for convenience upon 60 days written notice. In the event of an uncured, material breach, Penn may terminate the License Agreement upon 60 days written notice.

Penn maintains control of all filing, prosecution and maintenance of the Institutions’ patent rights licensed by us, and we are responsible for all ongoing patent costs during the term of the agreement. We also reimbursed Penn for its out-of-pocket expenses incurred prior to the effective date of the agreement with respect to the filing, prosecution and maintenance of the patent rights licensed by us. Under the terms of the License Agreement, we were also obligated to pay $2.0 million annually for three years beginning August 2018 for funding to the laboratories of each of Drs. Milone and Payne. See “—Sponsored Research Agreements with the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.”

Under the License Agreement, we must use commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize a product in each subfield. During the term of the License Agreement until the first commercial sale of the first product, we are obligated to pay Penn a non-refundable, non-creditable annual license maintenance fee of $10,000. We are required to pay certain milestone payments upon the achievement of specified clinical and commercial milestones. Milestone payments are reduced by a certain percentage for the second product that achieves a milestone, by an additional percentage for the third product that achieves a milestone, and so on, for each subsequent product that achieves a milestone. In the event that we are able to successfully develop and launch multiple products under the License Agreement, total milestone payments could be approximately $21.0 million. Penn is also eligible to receive tiered royalties at percentage rates in the low single-digits, subject to an annual minimum royalty, on annual worldwide net sales of any products that are commercialized by us, our affiliates or our sublicensees that contain, use, embody, result from the use of or incorporate, or are covered by, the intellectual property licensed by us. To the extent we sublicense our license rights under the License Agreement, Penn would be eligible to receive tiered sublicense income at percentage rates in the mid-single to low double-digits. We have also entered into a subscription and technology transfer agreement with Penn, pursuant to which we owed Penn an upfront subscription fee, which was paid in 2019, and a nominal non-refundable royalty on the net sales of products, a portion of which will be credited toward milestone payments and royalties under this License Agreement. Technology transfer activities would be at our cost and subject to agreement as to the technology to be transferred.

Sponsored Research Agreements with Penn

Dr. Michael Milone

In April 2018, we entered into a Sponsored Research Agreement with Penn for the laboratory of Dr. Milone, or the Milone SRA, pursuant to which we agreed to sponsor certain research related to the development of (i) T cell based immunotherapies for autoimmune and alloimmune antibodies of pathologic significance and (ii) a clinical grade microfluidic device designed for single step selection and activation of T cells from blood samples to be conducted in Dr. Milone’s laboratory at Penn. Under the Milone SRA, Penn granted us a perpetual, irrevocable, non-transferable, non-exclusive license to use all intellectual property resulting from the research sponsored by us for internal research purposes. In addition, Penn granted us an option to include, in exchange for a fee, any intellectual property resulting from the research sponsored by us that relates to CAAR T cell therapies for hemophilia and/or pemphigus within the scope of the License Agreement. Penn also granted us an option to negotiate a license to all other intellectual property resulting from the research sponsored by us. Unless earlier terminated, the Milone SRA will expire on April 23, 2021.

Dr. Aimee Payne

In April 2018, we entered into a Sponsored Research Agreement with Penn for the laboratory of Dr. Payne, or the Payne SRA, pursuant to which we agreed to sponsor certain research related to the development of T cell based immunotherapies for autoimmune and alloimmune antibodies of pathologic significance to be conducted in Dr. Payne’s laboratory at Penn. In May 2020, the Payne SRA was amended to include CAAR design and optimization efforts in three additional B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. In August 2020, this agreement was further amended to extend the term of the original research plan. Under the Payne SRA, Penn granted us a perpetual, irrevocable, non-transferable, non-exclusive license to use all intellectual property resulting from the research sponsored by us for internal research purposes. In addition, Penn granted us an option to include, in exchange for a fee, any intellectual property resulting from the research sponsored by us that relates to CAAR T cell therapies for

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hemophilia, MG and/or pemphigus within the scope of the License Agreement. Penn also granted us an option to negotiate a license to all other intellectual property resulting from the research sponsored by us. Unless earlier terminated, the Payne SRA will expire in February 2023.

We have committed to funding a defined research plan for through February 2023 under both the Milone and Payne SRAs. We have estimated the total cost of the two SRAs to be $11.8 million, which satisfies the $2.0 million annual obligation under the License Agreement. As of December 31, 2020, $7.1 million of cost has been incurred pursuant to the Milone and Payne SRAs.

Master Translational Research Services Agreement with Penn

In October 2018, we entered into a Master Translational Research Services Agreement with Penn, or the Services Agreement, pursuant to which Penn agreed to perform certain services related to the research and development of the technology licensed to us under the License Agreement, as well as certain clinical, regulatory and manufacturing services. The Services Agreement will expire on the later of (i) October 19, 2021 or (ii) completion of the services for which we have engaged Penn under the Services Agreement. Either party may terminate this agreement with or without cause upon a certain number of days’ prior written notice. The services encompassed by the Services Agreement are performed by different organizations at Penn pursuant to certain addenda to the Services Agreement, including the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics, or CAROT, Addendum, as amended in May 2020, and the CVPF Addendum. In addition, in July 2019 we entered into an Alliance Agreement with Penn, pursuant to which we will pay Penn a nominal annual fee in order for Penn to provide an adequate and consistent level of support to the services that it provides to us.

The CAROT Addendum

Under the CAROT Addendum, Penn manufactures vector that is then to be used by the CVPF in the manufacture of our product candidates. In the event that certain materials owned by Penn are incorporated into a product developed for us, Penn has agreed to grant us a limited license to use those materials. Further, Penn agreed to grant us an exclusive, paid-up, royalty-free, transferable, irrevocable, perpetual exclusive license to any deliverables produced under the CAROT Addendum, except with respect to certain technical information of Penn that is contained or incorporated in the deliverables, to which Penn agreed to grant us a limited nonexclusive license. However, any necessary technology transfer would be pursuant to the subscription and technology transfer agreement described above.

The CVPF Addendum

Under the CVPF Addendum, Penn conducts process validation studies and large-scale engineering runs for our product candidates. Under the CVPF Addendum, CVPF will contractually agree to manufacture agreed upon quantities of DSG3-CAART material for use in connection with our DesCAARTesTM trial, unless the agreement is terminated by either party. Any necessary technology transfer would be pursuant to the subscription and technology transfer agreement described above.

Research Agreements with The Regents of the University of California

In October 2018, we entered into the first Research Agreement, or the First UC Agreement, with The Regents of the University of California, or the UC Regents, pursuant to which the UC Regents agreed to perform certain research projects relating to the toxicity and activity of MuSK CAAR T cells in various models of anti-MuSK MG, or the UC Research. In January 2021, we entered into the Second Research Agreement, or the Second UC Agreement, collectively, the UC Agreements, pursuant to which the UC Regents agreed to perform the same.

The UC Agreements provide that the UC Regents will own all rights to any intellectual property developed solely by UC Regents employees in conducting the UC Research, or developed solely by any of our employees that conduct the UC Research using the UC Regents’ facilities or resources. The UC Regents granted us an irrevocable, royalty-free, nonexclusive, worldwide, nontransferable, perpetual license to use this UC-owned intellectual property for internal research purposes only.

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We and the UC Regents jointly own the rights to any intellectual property jointly developed by our employees and UC Regents employees in conducting the UC Research, provided that our employees did not use the UC Regents’ facilities or resources in the research. We were granted an option to acquire a non-exclusive or exclusive, worldwide, transferable license, including the right to sublicense, to make, use sell, offer for sale, import and otherwise exploit products embodying these joint inventions.

If we exercise our option with respect to certain intellectual property under the UC Agreements, any license we enter into will require us to diligently pursue timely commercial development and marketing of product candidates using such intellectual property, and will be subject to other terms and conditions to be negotiated at the time of entering into any such license. Unless earlier terminated, the term of the First UC Agreement will expire in January 2022. Unless earlier terminated, the term of the Second UC Agreement will expire in 2023.

Government Regulation

U.S. Regulation

As a biopharmaceutical company that operates in the United States, we are subject to extensive regulation. Our cell products will be regulated as biologics. With this classification, commercial production of our products will need to occur in registered facilities in compliance with cGMP for biologics. The FDA categorizes human cell- or tissue-based products as either minimally manipulated or more than minimally manipulated, and has determined that more than minimally manipulated products require clinical trials to demonstrate product safety and efficacy and the submission of a BLA for marketing authorization. Our products are considered more than minimally manipulated and will require evaluation in clinical trials and the submission and approval of a BLA before we can market them.

Government authorities in the United States (at the federal, state and local level) and in other countries extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacturing, quality control, approval, labeling, packaging, storage, record-keeping, promotion, advertising, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, marketing and export and import of biopharmaceutical products such as those we are developing. Our product candidates must be approved by the FDA before they may be legally marketed in the United States and by the appropriate foreign regulatory agency before they may be legally marketed in foreign countries. Generally, our activities in other countries will be subject to regulation that is similar in nature and scope as that imposed in the United States, although there can be important differences. Additionally, some significant aspects of regulation in Europe are addressed in a centralized way, but country-specific regulation remains essential in many respects. The process for obtaining regulatory marketing approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.

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U.S. Biological Product Development

In the United States, the FDA regulates biologics under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, and the Public Health Service Act, or PHSA, and their implementing regulations. Biologics are also subject to other federal, state and local statutes and regulations. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. Failure to comply with the applicable U.S. requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process or after approval, may result in delays to the conduct of a study, regulatory review and approval or subject an applicant to administrative or judicial sanctions. These sanctions could include, among other actions, the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications, withdrawal of an approval, license suspension or revocation, refusal to allow an applicant to proceed with clinical trials, imposition of a clinical hold, issuance of untitled or warning letters, product recalls or withdrawals from the market, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement of profits, or civil or criminal investigations or penalties. Any agency or judicial enforcement action could have a material adverse effect on us.

Our drug product candidates must be approved by the FDA through the Biologics License Application, or BLA, process before they may be legally marketed in the United States. The process required by the FDA before a biologic may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:

 

completion of extensive nonclinical, sometimes referred to as preclinical, laboratory tests, animal studies and formulation studies in accordance with applicable regulations, including the FDA’s Good Laboratory Practice, or GLP, regulations and standards;

 

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

 

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

 

performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials in accordance with applicable IND regulations, good clinical practices, or GCPs, and other clinical trial-related regulations to establish the safety and efficacy of the proposed drug product candidate for its proposed indication;

 

submission to the FDA of a BLA, which includes not only the results of the clinical trials, but also, detailed information on the chemistry, manufacture and quality controls for the product candidate and proposed labeling;

 

satisfactory completion of an FDA pre-approval inspection of the manufacturing facility or facilities where the product is produced to assess compliance with the FDA’s current good manufacturing practice, or cGMP, requirements to assure that the facilities, methods and controls are adequate to preserve the product’s identity, strength, quality, purity and potency;

 

potential FDA audit of the preclinical trial sites and/or clinical trial sites that generated the data in support of the BLA; and

 

FDA review and approval of the BLA prior to any commercial marketing or sale of the product in the United States.

The data required to support a BLA is generated in two distinct development stages: preclinical and clinical. The preclinical development stage generally involves laboratory evaluations of drug chemistry, formulation and stability, as well as studies to evaluate toxicity in animals, which support subsequent clinical testing. The conduct of the preclinical studies must comply with federal regulations, including GLPs. The sponsor must submit the results of the preclinical studies, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, any available clinical data or literature and a proposed clinical protocol, as well as other information, to the FDA as part of the IND. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational drug product to humans. The central focus of an IND submission is on the general investigational plan and the protocol(s) for human trials. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA raises concerns or questions regarding the proposed clinical trials and places the IND on clinical hold within that 30-day time period. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. The FDA may also impose clinical holds on a drug product candidate at any time before or during clinical trials due to safety concerns, non-compliance, or other issues affecting the integrity of the trial. Accordingly, we cannot be sure that submission of an IND will result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to begin, or that, once begun, issues will not arise that could cause the trial to be suspended or terminated.

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In addition to the submission of an IND to the FDA before initiation of a clinical trial in the United States, certain human clinical trials involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules had historically been subject to review by the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, or RAC, of the NIH Office of Biotechnology Activities, or the NIH Office of Biotechnology Activities, or OBA, pursuant to the NIH Guidelines. On August 17, 2018, the NIH issued a notice in the Federal Register and issued a public statement proposing changes to the oversight framework for gene therapy trials, including changes to the applicable NIH Guidelines to modify the roles and responsibilities of the RAC with respect to human clinical trials of gene therapy products, and requesting public comment on its proposed modifications. During the public comment period, which closed October 16, 2018, the NIH announced that it will no longer accept new human gene transfer protocols for review as a part of the protocol registration process or convene the RAC to review individual clinical protocols. In April 2019, NIH announced the updated guidelines, which reflect these proposed changes, and clarify that these trials will remain subject to the FDA’s oversight and other clinical trial regulations, and oversight at the local level will continue as set forth in the NIH Guidelines. Specifically, under the NIH Guidelines, supervision of human gene transfer trials includes evaluation and assessment by an Institutional Biosafety Committee, or IBC, a local institutional committee that reviews and oversees research utilizing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules at that institution. The IBC assesses the safety of the research and identifies any potential risk to public health or the environment, and such review may result in some delay before initiation of a clinical trial. While the NIH Guidelines are not mandatory unless the research in question is being conducted at or sponsored by institutions receiving NIH funding of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecule research, many companies and other institutions not otherwise subject to the NIH Guidelines voluntarily follow them.

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The clinical stage of development involves the administration of the drug product candidate to healthy volunteers and patients under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by or under the trial sponsor’s control, in accordance with GCPs, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria, and the parameters to be used to monitor subject safety and assess efficacy. Each protocol, and any subsequent amendments to the protocol, must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Further, each clinical trial must be reviewed and approved by an IRB at or servicing each institution at which the clinical trial will be conducted. An IRB is charged with protecting the welfare and rights of trial participants and considers such items as whether the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trials are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the informed consent form that must be provided to each clinical trial subject or his or her legal representative and must monitor the clinical trial until completed.

There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed clinical trial results to public registries. Sponsors of certain clinical trials of FDA-regulated products, including biologics, are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information, which is publicly available at www.clinicaltrials.gov.

Clinical trials are generally conducted in three sequential phases, known as Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3, and may overlap. Phase 1 clinical trials generally involve a small number of healthy volunteers who are initially exposed to a single dose and then multiple doses of the drug product candidate. The primary purpose of these clinical trials is to assess the metabolism, pharmacologic action tolerability, adverse effects, and safety of the drug product candidate and, if possible, to gain early evidence on effectiveness. Phase 2 clinical trials typically involve studies in disease-affected patients to determine the dose required to produce the desired benefits. At the same time, safety and further pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic information is collected, as well as identification of possible adverse effects and safety risks and preliminary evaluation of efficacy. Phase 3 clinical trials generally involve large numbers of patients at multiple sites, in multiple countries, and are designed to provide the data necessary to demonstrate the efficacy of the product for its intended use, its safety in use, and to establish the overall benefit/risk relationship of the product and provide an adequate basis for product approval. Phase 3 clinical trials may include comparisons with placebo and/or other comparator treatments. The duration of treatment is often extended to mimic the actual use of a product during marketing. Generally, two adequate and well-controlled Phase 3 clinical trials are required by the FDA for approval of a BLA. In certain instances, FDA may condition approval of a BLA on the sponsor’s agreement to conduct additional clinical trials to further assess the biologic’s safety and effectiveness after BLA approval. Such post-approval trials are sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials. These trials are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication and further document clinical benefit in the case of drugs approved under Accelerated Approval regulations. Failure to exhibit due diligence with regard to conducting Phase 4 clinical trials could result in withdrawal of approval for products.

Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials, among other information, must be submitted at least annually to the FDA, and written IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and the investigators for serious and unexpected suspected adverse events, findings from other studies suggesting a significant risk to humans exposed to the biologic, findings from animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human subjects, and any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, if at all. The FDA, the IRB, or the sponsor may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the drug has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients. Additionally, some clinical trials are overseen by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical trial sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board or committee. This group provides authorization for whether or not a trial may move forward at designated intervals based on access to certain data from the trial and may halt the clinical trial if it determines that there is an unacceptable safety risk for subjects or other grounds, such as interim data suggesting a lack of efficacy. We may also suspend or terminate a clinical trial based on evolving business objectives and/or competitive climate. Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal studies and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the drug product candidate as well as finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the drug product candidate and, among other things, must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, potency and purity of the final product. Additionally,

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appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the drug product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.

BLA and FDA Review Process

Following trial completion, trial data are analyzed to assess safety and efficacy. The results of preclinical studies and clinical trials are then submitted to the FDA as part of a BLA, along with proposed labeling for the product and information about the manufacturing process and facilities that will be used to ensure product quality, results of analytical testing conducted on the chemistry of the drug product candidate, and other relevant information. The BLA is a request for approval to market the biologic for one or more specified indications and must contain proof of safety, purity, potency and efficacy, which is demonstrated by extensive preclinical and clinical testing. The application may include both negative or ambiguous results of preclinical and clinical trials as well as positive findings. Data may come from company-sponsored clinical trials intended to test the safety and efficacy of a use of a product, or from a number of alternative sources, including studies initiated by investigators. To support marketing approval, the data submitted must be sufficient in quality and quantity to establish the safety and efficacy of the investigational product to the satisfaction of the FDA. FDA approval of a BLA must be obtained before a biologic may be marketed in the United States.

Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, as amended, each BLA must be accompanied by a significant user fee, which is adjusted on an annual basis. PDUFA also imposes an annual prescription drug product program fee. Fee waivers or reductions are available in certain circumstances, including a waiver of the application fee for the first application filed by a small business.

Once a BLA has been accepted for filing, which occurs, if at all, sixty days after the BLA’s submission, the FDA’s goal is to review BLAs within 10 months of the filing date for standard review or six months of the filing date for priority review, if the application is for a product intended for a serious or life-threatening condition and the product, if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness. The FDA has substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or decide that the data is insufficient for approval, and may require additional preclinical, clinical or other studies before it accepts the filing. Additionally, the review process is often significantly extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification.

After the BLA submission is accepted for filing, the FDA reviews the BLA to determine, among other things, whether the proposed drug product candidate is safe and effective for its intended use, and whether the drug product candidate is being manufactured in accordance with cGMP to assure and preserve the drug product candidate’s identity, strength, quality, purity and potency. The FDA may refer applications for novel drug product candidates or drug product candidates which present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee, typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions. The FDA will likely re-analyze the clinical trial data, which could result in extensive discussions between the FDA and us during the review process. The review and evaluation of a BLA by the FDA is extensive and time consuming and may take longer than originally planned to complete, and we may not receive a timely approval, if at all.

Before approving a BLA, the FDA will conduct a pre-approval inspection of the manufacturing facilities for the new product to determine whether the facilities comply with cGMPs. The FDA will not approve the product unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. In addition, before approving a BLA, the FDA may also audit data from clinical trials to ensure compliance with GCP requirements. After the FDA evaluates the application, manufacturing process and manufacturing facilities, it may issue an approval letter or a Complete Response Letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the product with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A Complete Response Letter indicates that the review cycle of the application is complete and the application will not be approved in its present form. A Complete Response Letter usually describes all of the specific deficiencies in the BLA identified by the FDA. The Complete Response Letter may require additional clinical data and/or an additional pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial(s), and/or other significant and time-consuming requirements related to clinical trials, preclinical studies or manufacturing. If a Complete Response Letter is issued, the applicant may either resubmit the BLA, addressing all of the deficiencies identified in the letter, withdraw the application or request a hearing. Even if such data and information is submitted, the FDA may

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ultimately decide that the BLA does not satisfy the criteria for approval. Data obtained from clinical trials are not always conclusive, and the FDA may interpret data differently than we interpret the same data.

There is no assurance that the FDA will ultimately approve a product for marketing in the United States, and we may encounter significant difficulties or costs during the review process. If a product receives marketing approval, the approval may be significantly limited to specific populations, severities of allergies, and dosages or the indications for use may otherwise be limited, which could restrict the commercial value of the product. Further, the FDA may require that certain contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling or may condition the approval of the BLA on other changes to the proposed labeling, development of adequate controls and specifications, or a commitment to conduct post-market testing or clinical trials and surveillance to monitor the effects of approved products. For example, the FDA may require Phase 4 testing which involves clinical trials designed to further assess the product’s safety and effectiveness and may require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the safety of approved products that have been commercialized. The FDA may also place other conditions on approvals including the requirement for a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, to assure the safe use of the product. If the FDA concludes a REMS is needed, the sponsor of the BLA must submit a proposed REMS. The FDA will not approve the BLA without an approved REMS, if required. A REMS could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. Any of these limitations on approval or marketing could restrict the commercial promotion, distribution, prescription or dispensing of products. Product approvals may be withdrawn for non-compliance with regulatory standards or based on the results of post-market studies or surveillance programs. Additionally, post-approval, many types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, changing manufacturing processes and adding labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval. Such post-approval requirements can be costly and time-consuming and can affect the potential market and profitability of the product.

Orphan Designation and Exclusivity

Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug or biological product intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or more than 200,000 individuals in the United States and for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making the product available in the United States for this type of disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product.

Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an NDA or BLA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process.

If a product that has orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same drug or biologic for the same indication for seven years from the date of such approval, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan exclusivity on the basis of greater effectiveness or safety or providing a major contribution to patient care or in instances of drug supply issues. Competitors, however, may receive approval of either a different product for the same indication or the same product for a different indication but that could be used off-label in the orphan indication. Orphan drug exclusivity also could block the approval of one of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains approval before we do for the same product, as defined by the FDA, for the same indication we are seeking approval, or if our product is determined to be contained within the scope of the competitor’s product for the same indication or disease. If we pursue marketing approval for an indication broader than the orphan drug designation we have received, we may not be entitled to orphan drug exclusivity. Orphan drug status in the European Union has similar, but not identical, requirements and benefits.

Expedited Development and Review Programs

The FDA has a fast track program that is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing new drugs and biological products that meet certain criteria. Specifically, new drugs and biological products are eligible for fast track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and nonclinical or clinical data

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demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Fast track designation applies to the combination of the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a new drug or biologic may request the FDA to designate the drug or biologic as a fast track product concurrently with, or at any time after, submission of an IND, and the FDA must determine if the product qualifies for fast track designation within 60 days of receipt of the sponsor’s request. Under the fast track designation, the FDA may consider for review sections of the marketing application on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the application, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the application and determines that the schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the application.

Any product submitted to the FDA for marketing, including under a fast track program, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite development and review, such as priority review and accelerated approval. Any product is eligible for priority review, or review within a six-month timeframe from the date a complete BLA is accepted for filing, if it has the potential to provide a significant improvement in safety and effectiveness compared to available therapies. The FDA will attempt to direct additional resources to the evaluation of an application for a new drug or biological product designated for priority review in an effort to facilitate the review.

Additionally, a product may be eligible for accelerated approval. An investigational drug may obtain accelerated approval if it treats a serious or life-threatening condition and generally provides a meaningful advantage over available therapies and demonstrates an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, or IMM, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on IMM or other clinical benefit. As a condition of approval, the FDA may require that a sponsor of a drug or biological product receiving accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical trials. If the FDA concludes that a drug shown to be effective can be safely used only if distribution or use is restricted, it will require such post-marketing restrictions as it deems necessary to assure safe use of the drug, such as:

 

distribution restricted to certain facilities or physicians with special training or experience; or

 

distribution conditioned on the performance of specified medical procedures.

The limitations imposed would be commensurate with the specific safety concerns presented by the product. In addition, the FDA currently requires as a condition for accelerated approval pre-approval of promotional materials, which could adversely impact the timing of the commercial launch of the product. Fast track designation, priority review and accelerated approval do not change the standards for approval but may expedite the development or approval process.

Breakthrough Designation

A product can be designated as a breakthrough therapy if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that it may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. A sponsor may request that a drug product candidate be designated as a breakthrough therapy concurrently with, or at any time after, the submission of an IND, and the FDA must determine if the drug product candidate qualifies for breakthrough therapy designation within 60 days of receipt of the sponsor’s request. If so designated, the FDA shall act to expedite the development and review of the product’s marketing application, including by meeting with the sponsor throughout the product’s development, providing timely advice to the sponsor to ensure that the development program to gather preclinical and clinical data is as efficient as practicable, involving senior managers and experienced review staff in a cross-disciplinary review, assigning a cross-disciplinary project lead for the FDA review team to facilitate an efficient review of the development program and to serve as a scientific liaison between the review team and the sponsor, and taking steps to ensure that the design of the clinical trials is as efficient as practicable.

Accelerated Approval for Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapies

As part of the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress amended the FDCA to create an accelerated approval program for regenerative advanced therapies, which include cell therapies, therapeutic tissue engineering products,

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human cell and tissue products, and combination products using any such therapies or products. Regenerative medicine advanced therapies do not include those human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products regulated solely under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act and 21 CFR Part 1271. The new program is intended to facilitate efficient development and expedite review of regenerative medicine advanced therapies, which are intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. A drug sponsor may request that FDA designate a drug as a regenerative medicine advanced therapy concurrently with or at any time after submission of an IND. FDA has 60 calendar days to determine whether the drug meets the criteria, including whether there is preliminary clinical evidence indicating that the drug has the potential to address unmet medical needs for a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. A new drug application or BLA for a regenerative medicine advanced therapy may be eligible for priority review or accelerated approval through (1) surrogate or intermediate endpoints reasonably likely to predict long-term clinical benefit or (2) reliance upon data obtained from a meaningful number of sites. Benefits of such designation also include early interactions with FDA to discuss any potential surrogate or intermediate endpoint to be used to support accelerated approval. A regenerative medicine advanced therapy that is granted accelerated approval and is subject to post approval requirements may fulfill such requirements through the submission of clinical evidence, clinical studies, patient registries, or other sources of real world evidence, such as electronic health records; the collection of larger confirmatory data sets; or post approval monitoring of all patients treated with such therapy prior to its approval.

Pediatric Trials

Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, or PREA, a BLA or supplement to a BLA must contain data to assess the safety and efficacy of the product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The FDCA requires that a sponsor who is planning to submit a marketing application for a drug or biological product that includes a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen or new route of administration submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan, or PSP, within sixty days of an end-of-Phase 2 meeting or as may be agreed between the sponsor and FDA. The initial PSP must include an outline of the pediatric study or studies that the sponsor plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, age groups, relevant endpoints and statistical approach, or a justification for not including such detailed information, and any request for a deferral of pediatric assessments or a full or partial waiver of the requirement to provide data from pediatric studies along with supporting information. The FDA and the sponsor must reach agreement on the PSP. A sponsor can submit amendments to an agreed-upon initial PSP at any time if changes to the pediatric plan need to be considered based on data collected from nonclinical studies, early phase clinical trials, and/or other clinical development programs. The FDA may, on its own initiative or at the request of the applicant, grant deferrals for submission of data or full or partial waivers.

Post-Marketing Requirements

Following approval of a new product, a manufacturer and the approved product are subject to continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, monitoring and recordkeeping activities, reporting to the applicable regulatory authorities of adverse experiences with the product, providing the regulatory authorities with updated safety and efficacy information, product sampling and distribution requirements, and complying with promotion and advertising requirements, which include, among others, standards for direct-to-consumer advertising, restrictions on promoting products for uses or in patient populations that are not described in the product’s approved labeling (known as “off-label use”), limitations on industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities, and requirements for promotional activities involving the internet. Although physicians may prescribe legally available drugs and biologics for off-label uses, manufacturers may not market or promote such off-label uses.

Modifications or enhancements to the product or its labeling or changes of the site of manufacture are often subject to the approval of the FDA and other regulators, which may or may not be received or may result in a lengthy review process. Prescription drug promotional materials must be submitted to the FDA in conjunction with their first use.

In the United States, once a product is approved, its manufacture is subject to comprehensive and continuing regulation by the FDA. The FDA regulations require that products be manufactured in specific approved facilities and in accordance with cGMPs. We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the production of clinical and commercial quantities of our products in accordance with cGMP regulations. cGMP regulations require,

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among other things, quality control and quality assurance as well as the corresponding maintenance of records and documentation and the obligation to investigate and correct any deviations from cGMP. Manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved products are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with cGMP and other laws. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money, and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain cGMP compliance. These regulations also impose certain organizational, procedural and documentation requirements with respect to manufacturing and quality assurance activities. BLA holders using contract manufacturers, laboratories or packagers are responsible for the selection and monitoring of qualified firms, and, in certain circumstances, qualified suppliers to these firms. These firms and, where applicable, their suppliers are subject to inspections by the FDA at any time, and the discovery of violative conditions, including failure to conform to cGMP, could result in enforcement actions that interrupt the operation of any such facilities or the ability to distribute products manufactured, processed or tested by them. Discovery of problems with a product after approval may result in restrictions on a product, manufacturer, or holder of an approved BLA, including, among other things, recall or withdrawal of the product from the market.

The FDA also may require post-approval testing, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 testing, REMS and post-marketing surveillance to monitor the effects of an approved product or place conditions on an approval that could restrict the distribution or use of the product. Discovery of previously unknown problems with a product or the failure to comply with applicable FDA requirements can have negative consequences, including adverse publicity, judicial or administrative enforcement, untitled or warning letters from the FDA, mandated corrective advertising or communications with doctors, and civil or criminal penalties, among others. Newly discovered or developed safety or effectiveness data may require changes to a product’s approved labeling, including the addition of new warnings and contraindications, and also may require the implementation of other risk management measures. Also, new government requirements, including those resulting from new legislation, may be established, or the FDA’s policies may change, which could delay or prevent regulatory approval of our products under development.

Other Regulatory Matters

Manufacturing, sales, promotion and other activities following product approval are also subject to regulation by numerous regulatory authorities in addition to the FDA, including, in the United States, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, other divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (e.g., the Office of Inspector General, or OIG, and Office for Civil Rights), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and state and local governments. In the United States, sales, marketing and scientific/educational programs must also comply with federal and state fraud and abuse laws, data privacy and security laws, transparency laws, and pricing and reimbursement requirements in connection with governmental payor programs, among others. The handling of any controlled substances must comply with the U.S. Controlled Substances Act and Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. Products must meet applicable child-resistant packaging requirements under the U.S. Poison Prevention Packaging Act. Manufacturing, sales, promotion and other activities are also potentially subject to federal and state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.

The distribution of pharmaceutical products is subject to additional requirements and regulations, including extensive record-keeping, licensing, storage and security requirements intended to prevent the unauthorized sale of pharmaceutical products.

The failure to comply with regulatory requirements subjects firms to possible legal or regulatory action. Depending on the circumstances, failure to meet applicable regulatory requirements can result in criminal prosecution, fines or other penalties, injunctions, recall or seizure of products, total or partial suspension of production, denial or withdrawal of product approvals, or refusal to allow a firm to enter into supply contracts, including government contracts. In addition, even if a firm complies with FDA and other requirements, new information regarding the safety or efficacy of a product could lead the FDA to modify or withdraw product approval. Prohibitions or restrictions on sales or withdrawal of future products marketed by us could materially affect our business in an adverse way.

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Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements; (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling; (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products; or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect the operation of our business.

U.S. Patent Term Restoration and Marketing Exclusivity

Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of the FDA approval of our drug product candidates, some of our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, commonly referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent restoration term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during product development and the FDA regulatory review process. However, patent term restoration cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date. The patent term restoration period is generally one-half the time between the effective date of an IND and the submission date of a BLA plus the time between the submission date of a BLA and the approval of that application, except that the review period is reduced by any time during which the applicant failed to exercise due diligence. Only one patent applicable to an approved drug is eligible for the extension and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent. The U.S. PTO, in consultation with the FDA, reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension or restoration. In the future, we may apply for restoration of patent term for our currently owned or licensed patents to add patent life beyond its current expiration date, depending on the expected length of the clinical trials and other factors involved in the filing of the relevant BLA.

An abbreviated approval pathway for biological products shown to be biosimilar to, or interchangeable with, an FDA-licensed reference biological product was created by the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCI Act, which was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or collectively the ACA. This amendment to the PHSA attempts to minimize duplicative testing. Biosimilarity, which requires that the biological product be highly similar to the reference product notwithstanding minor differences in clinically inactive components and that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the product and the reference product in terms of safety, purity, and potency, can be shown through analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical trial or trials. Interchangeability requires that a biological product be biosimilar to the reference product and that the product can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in any given patient and, for products administered multiple times, that the product and the reference product may be switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biological product. However, complexities associated with the larger, and often more complex, structure of biological products as compared to small molecule drugs, as well as the processes by which such products are manufactured, pose significant hurdles to implementation that are still being worked out by the FDA.

A reference biological product is granted twelve years of exclusivity from the time of first licensure of the product, and the FDA will not accept an application for a biosimilar or interchangeable product based on the reference biological product until four years after first licensure. “First licensure” typically means the initial date the particular product at issue was licensed in the United States. This does not include a supplement for the biological product or a subsequent application by the same sponsor or manufacturer of the biological product (or licensor, predecessor in interest, or other related entity) for a change that results in a new indication, route of administration, dosing schedule, dosage form, delivery system, delivery device, or strength, unless that change is a modification to the structure of the biological product and such modification changes its safety, purity, or potency. Whether a subsequent application, if approved, warrants exclusivity as the “first licensure” of a biological product is determined on a case-by-case basis with data submitted by the sponsor.

Pediatric exclusivity is another type of regulatory market exclusivity in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity, if granted, adds six months to existing exclusivity periods and patent terms. This six-month exclusivity, which attaches to the twelve-year exclusivity period for reference biologics, may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric trial in accordance with an FDA-issued “Written Request” for such a trial.

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Pricing and Reimbursement

United States

Sales of our products will depend, in part, on the extent to which our products, once approved, will be covered and reimbursed by third-party payors, such as government health programs, commercial insurance and managed healthcare organizations. These third-party payors are increasingly reducing reimbursements for medical products and services. The process for determining whether a third-party payor will provide coverage for a drug product, including a biologic, typically is separate from the process for setting the price of a drug product or for establishing the reimbursement rate that a payor will pay for the drug product once coverage is approved. 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.

In order to secure coverage and reimbursement for any drug product candidate that might be approved for sale, we may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of the drug product candidate, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA or other comparable regulatory approvals. Whether or not we conduct such studies, our drug product candidates may not be considered medically necessary or cost-effective. A third-party payor’s decision to provide coverage for a drug product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Third party reimbursement may not be sufficient to enable us to maintain price levels high enough to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development. In the United States, the principal decisions about reimbursement for new drug products are typically made by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS. CMS decides whether and to what extent a new drug product will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare, and private payors tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. However, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for drug products exists among third-party payors and coverage and reimbursement levels for drug products can differ significantly from payor to payor. Additionally, one third-party payor’s decision to cover a particular product or service does not ensure that other payors will also provide coverage for the product or service, and the level of coverage and reimbursement can differ significantly from payor to payor. As a result, the coverage determination process will often require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our products to each payor separately and can be a time-consuming process, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance.

The containment of healthcare costs has become a priority of federal and state governments, and the prices of drugs, including biologics, have been a focus in this effort. The U.S. government, state legislatures and foreign governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls, restrictions on reimbursement and requirements for substitution of generic products. In many countries, the prices of drug products are subject to varying price control mechanisms as part of national health systems. In general, the prices of drug products under such systems are substantially lower than in the United States. Other countries allow companies to fix their own prices for drug products, but monitor and control company profits. Accordingly, in markets outside the United States, the reimbursement for drug products may be reduced compared with the United States. Adoption of price controls and cost-containment measures, and adoption of more restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could further limit our net revenue and results. Decreases in third-party reimbursement for our drug product candidate or a decision by a third-party payor to not cover our drug product candidate could reduce physician usage of the drug product candidate and have a material adverse effect on our sales, results of operations and financial condition.

Outside of the United States, the pricing of pharmaceutical products is subject to governmental control in many countries. For example, in the European Union, pricing and reimbursement schemes vary widely from country to country. Some countries provide that products may be marketed only after a reimbursement price has been approved. Some countries may require the completion of additional studies that compare the cost effectiveness of a particular therapy to currently available therapies or so-called health technology assessments, in order to obtain reimbursement or pricing approval. Other countries may allow companies to fix their own prices for products, but monitor and control product volumes and issue guidance to physicians to limit prescriptions. Efforts to control prices and utilization of pharmaceutical products will likely continue as countries attempt to manage healthcare expenditures.

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Other Healthcare Laws and Compliance Requirements

Healthcare providers, physicians, and third-party payors will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any products for which we obtain marketing approval. Our business operations in the United States and our current and future arrangements with clinical investigators, healthcare providers, consultants, third-party payors and patients may expose us to broadly applicable federal and state fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we market, sell and distribute any drugs for which we obtain marketing approval. In the United States, these laws include: the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the False Claims Act, and HIPAA.

The Anti-Kickback Statute makes it illegal for any person, including a prescription drug manufacturer (or a party acting on its behalf), to knowingly and willfully solicit, receive, offer or pay any remuneration, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind, that is intended to induce or reward referrals, including the purchase, recommendation, order or prescription of a particular drug, for which payment may be made under a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Violations of this law are punishable by imprisonment, criminal fines, administrative civil money penalties and exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs. In addition, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it. Moreover, the ACA provides that the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal civil False Claims Act. On December 2, 2020, the Office of Inspector General, or OIG, published further modifications to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Under the final rules, OIG added safe harbor protections under the Anti-Kickback Statute for certain coordinated care and value-based arrangements among clinicians, providers, and others. This rule (with exceptions) became effective January 19, 2021. Implementation of this change and new safe harbors for point-of-sale reductions in price for prescription pharmaceutical products and pharmacy benefit manager service fees are currently under review by the Biden administration and may be amended or repealed. We continue to evaluate what effect, if any, the rule will have on our business.

Although we would not submit claims directly to payors, drug manufacturers can be held liable under the federal civil False Claims Act, which imposes civil penalties, including through civil whistleblower or qui tam actions, against individuals or entities (including manufacturers) for, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented to federal programs (including Medicare and Medicaid) claims for items or services, including drugs, that are false or fraudulent, claims for items or services not provided as claimed, or claims for medically unnecessary items or services. Penalties for a False Claims Act violation include three times the actual damages sustained by the government, plus mandatory civil penalties for each separate false claim, the potential for exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs and, although the federal False Claims Act is a civil statute, conduct that results in a False Claims Act violation may also implicate various federal criminal statutes. The government may deem manufacturers to have “caused” the submission of false or fraudulent claims by, for example, providing inaccurate billing or coding information to customers or promoting a product off- label. Claims which include items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute are false or fraudulent claims for purposes of the False Claims Act. Our future marketing and activities relating to the reporting of wholesaler or estimated retail prices for our products, if approved, the reporting of prices used to calculate Medicaid rebate information and other information affecting federal, state and third-party reimbursement for our products, and the sale and marketing of our product candidates, are subject to scrutiny under this law.

The civil monetary penalties statute imposes penalties against any person or entity that, among other things, is determined to have presented or caused to be presented a claim to a federal health program that the person knows or should know is for an item or service that was not provided as claimed or is false or fraudulent.

Additionally, we may be subject to data privacy and security regulations by both the federal government and states in which we conduct our business. For example, HIPAA created new federal criminal statutes that prohibit among other things, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud or to obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises, any money or property owned by, or under the control or custody of, any healthcare benefit program, including private third party payors, knowingly and willfully embezzling or stealing from a healthcare benefit program, willfully obstructing a criminal investigation of a healthcare offense, and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up by trick, scheme or device, a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement in connection with the delivery of or

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payment for healthcare benefits, items or services. Like the federal Anti-Kickback Statute a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation.

HIPAA, as amended by HITECH, and their implementing regulations, mandates, among other things, the adoption of uniform standards for the electronic exchange of information in common healthcare transactions, as well as standards relating to the privacy and security of individually identifiable health information, which require the adoption of administrative, physical and technical safeguards to protect such information. Among other things, HITECH makes HIPAA’s security standards directly applicable to business associates, defined as independent contractors or agents of covered entities, which include certain health care providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, that create, receive or obtain protected health information in connection with providing a service for or on behalf of a covered entity. HITECH also increased the civil and criminal penalties that may be imposed against covered entities and business associates, and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce the federal HIPAA laws and seek attorney’s fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions. In addition, certain state laws govern the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, some of which are more stringent than HIPAA and many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts. Failure to comply with these laws, where applicable, can result in the imposition of significant civil and criminal penalties.

Further, the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, or the Sunshine Act, within the ACA, and its implementing regulations, require that certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biological and medical supplies for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (with certain exceptions) report annually to CMS information related to certain payments or other transfers of value made or distributed to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, or to entities or individuals at the request of, or designated on behalf of, physicians, certain other healthcare professionals, and teaching hospitals and to report annually certain ownership and investment interests held by physicians, certain other healthcare professionals, and their immediate family members. Effective January 1, 2022, these reporting obligations will extend to include transfers of value made to certain non-physician providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners. In addition, many states also govern the reporting of payments or other transfers of value, many of which differ from each other in significant ways, are often not pre-empted, and may have a more prohibitive effect than the Sunshine Act, thus further complicating compliance efforts.

Similar federal, state and foreign fraud and abuse laws and regulations, such as state anti-kickback and false claims laws, may apply to sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services. Such laws are generally broad and are enforced by various state agencies and private actions. Also, many states have similar fraud and abuse statutes or regulations that may be broader in scope and may apply regardless of payor, in addition to items and services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs. Some state laws require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant federal government compliance guidance, and require drug manufacturers to report information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians and other healthcare providers or marketing expenditures.

In order to distribute products commercially, we must comply with state laws that require the registration of manufacturers and wholesale distributors of drug and biological products in a state, including, in certain states, manufacturers and distributors who ship products into the state even if such manufacturers or distributors have no place of business within the state. Some states also impose requirements on manufacturers and distributors to establish the pedigree of product in the chain of distribution, including some states that require manufacturers and others to adopt new technology capable of tracking and tracing product as it moves through the distribution chain. Several states have enacted legislation requiring pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to establish marketing compliance programs, file periodic reports with the state, make periodic public disclosures on sales, marketing, pricing, clinical trials and other activities, and/or register their sales representatives, as well as to prohibit pharmacies and other healthcare entities from providing certain physician prescribing data to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for use in sales and marketing, and to prohibit certain other sales and marketing practices. All of our activities are potentially subject to federal and state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.

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The scope and enforcement of each of these laws is uncertain and subject to rapid change in the current environment of healthcare reform, especially in light of the lack of applicable precedent and regulations. Federal and state enforcement bodies have recently increased their scrutiny of interactions between healthcare companies and healthcare providers, which has led to a number of investigations, prosecutions, convictions and settlements in the healthcare industry. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices may not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of these laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, individual imprisonment, exclusion of drugs from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results. If any of the physicians or other healthcare providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found to be not in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs. Ensuring business arrangements comply with applicable healthcare laws, as well as responding to possible investigations by government authorities, can be time- and resource- consuming and can divert a company’s attention from the business.

Current and Future Legislation

In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and likely will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system directed at broadening the availability of healthcare, improving the quality of healthcare, and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare.

For example, in March 2010, the ACA was enacted in the United States. The ACA includes measures that have significantly changed, and are expected to continue to significantly change, the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers. Among the provisions of the ACA of greatest importance to the pharmaceutical industry are that the ACA:

 

1.

made several changes to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, including increasing pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebate liability by raising the minimum basic Medicaid rebate on average manufacturer price, or AMP, on most branded prescription drugs and adding a new rebate calculation for “line extensions” (i.e., new formulations, such as extended release formulations) of solid oral dosage forms of branded products, as well as potentially impacting their rebate liability by modifying the statutory definition of AMP;

 

2.

imposed a requirement on manufacturers of branded drugs to provide a 50% point-of-sale discount (increased to 70% pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, effective as of January 1, 2019) off the negotiated price of branded drugs dispensed to Medicare Part D beneficiaries in the coverage gap (i.e., “donut hole”) as a condition for a manufacturer’s outpatient drugs being covered under Medicare Part D;

 

3.

extended a manufacturer’s Medicaid rebate liability to covered drugs dispensed to individuals who are enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations;

 

4.

expanded the entities eligible for discounts under the 340B Drug Discount Program;

 

5.

established 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;

 

6.

imposed an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports certain branded prescription drugs, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs, and

 

7.

established a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research. The research conducted by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute may affect the market for certain pharmaceutical products. The ACA established the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending,

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potentially including prescription drug spending. Funding has been allocated to support the mission of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation through 2019.

Since its enactment, there have been numerous judicial, administrative, executive, and legislative challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. Various portions of the ACA are currently undergoing constitutional challenges in the Fifth Circuit Court and the United States Supreme Court. The former Trump Administration issued various Executive Orders eliminating cost sharing subsidies and various provisions that would impose a fiscal burden on states or a cost, fee, tax, penalty or regulatory burden on individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices, and Congress has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at significantly revising or repealing the ACA. It is unclear whether the ACA will be further amended, and we cannot predict what affect further changes to the ACA would have on our business, especially under the new Biden administration.

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 $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers up to 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect in April 2013, following passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and subsequent legislation, and will remain in effect through 2030 unless additional congressional action is taken. However, pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, the 2% Medicare sequester reductions have been suspended from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed legislation, if passed, would extend this suspension until the end of the pandemic. Further, in January 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors, which may adversely affect our future profitability. Additionally, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices.

On May 30, 2018, the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017, or the Right to Try Act, was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to request access to certain investigational new drug products that have completed a Phase I clinical trial and that are undergoing investigation for FDA approval. There is no obligation for a pharmaceutical manufacturer to make its drug products available to eligible patients as a result of the Right to Try Act.

In addition, there has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient assistance programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs. For example, the former Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 included a $135 billion allowance to support legislative proposals seeking to reduce drug prices, increase competition, lower out-of-pocket drug costs for patients, and increase patient access to lower-cost generic and biosimilar drugs. On March 10, 2020, the former Trump administration sent “principles” for drug pricing to Congress, calling for legislation that would, among other things, cap Medicare Part D beneficiary out-of-pocket pharmacy expenses, provide an option to cap Medicare Part D beneficiary monthly out-of-pocket expenses, and place limits on pharmaceutical price increases. Moreover, in May 2018, the former Trump administration also previously released its “Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs,” or the Blueprint. The Blueprint contains several potential regulatory actions and legislative recommendations aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, including measures to promote innovation and competition for biologics, changes to Medicare Part D to give plan sponsors more leverage when negotiating prices with manufacturers, and updating the Medicare drug-pricing dashboard to make price increases and generic competition more transparent. In addition, HHS released a Request for Information, or RFI, soliciting public input on ways to lower drug pricing. HHS has already started the process of soliciting feedback on some of these measures and, at the same, is immediately implementing others under its existing authority. For example, in May 2019, CMS issued a final rule to allow Medicare Advantage Plans the option of using step therapy, a type of prior authorization, for Part B drugs beginning January 1, 2020. This final rule codified CMS’s policy change that was effective January 1, 2019. It is unclear

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whether the Biden administration will challenge, reverse, revoke or otherwise modify these executive and administrative actions after January 20, 2021.

In addition, there have been several changes to the 340B drug pricing program, which imposes ceilings on prices that drug manufacturers can charge for medications sold to certain health care facilities. It is unclear how these developments could affect covered hospitals who might purchase our future products and affect the rates we may charge such facilities for our approved products in the future, if any.

On July 24, 2020 and September 13, 2020, President Trump announced several executive orders related to prescription drug pricing that seek to implement several of the administration's proposals. In response, the FDA released a final rule on September 24, 2020, which went into effect on November 30, 2020, providing guidance for states to build and submit importation plans for drugs from Canada. Further, on November 20, 2020 CMS issued an Interim Final Rule implementing the Most Favored Nation, or MFN, Model under which Medicare Part B reimbursement rates will be calculated for certain drugs and biologicals based on the lowest price drug manufacturers receive in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries with a similar gross domestic product per capita.  However, in response to a lawsuit filed by several industry groups, on December 28, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining government defendants from implementing the MFN Rule pending completion of notice-and-comment procedures under the Administrative Procedure Act. On January 13, 2021, in a separate lawsuit brought by industry groups in the U.S. District of Maryland, the government defendants entered a joint motion to stay litigation on the condition that the government would not appeal the preliminary injunction granted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and that performance for any final regulation stemming from the MFN Interim Final Rule shall not commence earlier than 60 days after publication of that regulation in the Federal Register. Further, authorities in Canada have passed rules designed to safeguard the Canadian drug supply from shortages. If implemented, importation of drugs from Canada and the MFN Model may materially and adversely affect the price we receive for any of our product candidates.

Additionally, on December 2, 2020, HHS finalized a regulation removing safe harbor protection for price reductions from pharmaceutical manufacturers to plan sponsors under Part D, either directly or through pharmacy benefit managers, unless the price reduction is required by law. The rule also creates a new safe harbor for price reductions reflected at the point-of-sale, as well as a safe harbor for certain fixed fee arrangements between pharmacy benefit managers and manufacturers. Pursuant to an order entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the portion of the rule eliminating safe harbor protection for certain rebates related to the sale or purchase of a pharmaceutical product from a manufacturer to a plan sponsor under Medicare Part D has been delayed to January 1, 2023. Further, implementation of this change and new safe harbors for point-of-sale reductions in price for prescription pharmaceutical products and pharmacy benefit manager service fees are currently under review by the Biden administration and may be amended or repealed. While many of the proposed measures will require authorization through additional legislation to become effective, and the Biden Administration may reverse or otherwise change these measures, Congress has indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative, administrative and/or additional measures to control drug costs.

We cannot predict what healthcare reform initiatives may be adopted in the future. Further federal, state and foreign legislative and regulatory developments are likely, and we expect ongoing initiatives to increase pressure on drug pricing. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenues from product candidates and may affect our overall financial condition and ability to develop product candidates.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The FCPA prohibits any U.S. individual or business from paying, offering, or authorizing payment or offering of anything of value, directly or indirectly, to any foreign official, political party or candidate for the purpose of influencing any act or decision of the foreign entity in order to assist the individual or business in obtaining or retaining business. The FCPA also obligates companies whose securities are listed in the United States to comply with accounting provisions requiring the company to maintain books and records that accurately and fairly reflect all transactions of the corporation, including international subsidiaries, and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls for international operations.

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Additional Regulation

In addition to the foregoing, state and federal laws regarding environmental protection and hazardous substances, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Resource Conservancy and Recovery Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act, affect our business. These and other laws govern our use, handling and disposal of various biological, chemical and radioactive substances used in, and wastes generated by, our operations. If our operations result in contamination of the environment or expose individuals to hazardous substances, we could be liable for damages and governmental fines. We believe that we are in material compliance with applicable environmental laws and that continued compliance therewith will not have a material adverse effect on our business. We cannot predict, however, how changes in these laws may affect our future operations.

Europe / Rest of World Government Regulation

In addition to regulations in the United States, we may be subject to a variety of regulations in other jurisdictions that we may in the future select governing, among other things, clinical trials and any commercial sales and distribution of our products. Whether or not we obtain FDA approval of a product, we would need to obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. Certain countries outside of the United States have a similar process that requires the submission of a clinical trial application much like the IND prior to the commencement of human clinical trials. In the EU, for example, a clinical trial application must be submitted to each country’s national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and IRB, respectively. Once the clinical trial application is approved in accordance with a country’s requirements, clinical trial development may proceed. Because biologically sourced raw materials are subject to unique contamination risks, their use may be restricted in some countries.

The requirements and process governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. In all cases, the clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with GCP and the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.

To obtain regulatory approval of an investigational drug or biological product under EU regulatory systems, we must submit an MAA. The application used to file the BLA in the United States is similar to that required in the EU, with the exception of, among other things, country-specific document requirements.

For other countries outside of the EU, such as countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America or Asia, the requirements governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. In all cases, again, the clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with GCP and the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.

If we or our potential collaborators fail to comply with applicable foreign regulatory requirements, we may be subject to, among other things, fines, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals, product recalls, seizure of products, operating restrictions and criminal prosecution.

European Union General Data Protection Regulation

In addition to EU regulations related to the approval and commercialization of our products, we may be subject to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The GDPR imposes stringent requirements for controllers and processors of personal data of persons in the EU, including, for example, more robust disclosures to individuals and a strengthened individual data rights regime, shortened timelines for data breach notifications, limitations on retention of information, increased requirements pertaining to special categories of data, such as health data, and additional obligations when we contract with third-party processors in connection with the processing of the personal data. The GDPR also imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the European Union to the United States and other third countries. In addition, the GDPR provides that EU member states may make their own further laws and regulations limiting the processing of personal data, including genetic, biometric or health data.

The GDPR applies extraterritorially, and we may be subject to the GDPR because of our data processing activities that involve the personal data of individuals located in the European Union, such as in connection with our EU clinical trials. Failure to comply with the requirements of the GDPR and the applicable national data protection laws of the EU member states may result in fines of up to €20,000,000 or up to 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher, and other administrative penalties. GDPR regulations

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may impose additional responsibility and liability in relation to the personal data that we process and we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms to ensure compliance with the new data protection rules.

Employees

As of December 31, 2020, we had 34 employees, 33 of whom were full-time. Of those, 27 were engaged in research and development activities. All company employees are located in the United States. We do not have any employees that are represented by a labor union or covered under a collective bargaining agreement. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.

Corporate History and Trademarks

We were incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware in April 2017 under the name Tycho Therapeutics, Inc. In August 2018, our corporate name was changed to Cabaletta Bio, Inc. Our principal executive offices are located at 2929 Arch Street, Suite 600, Philadelphia, PA 19104 and our telephone number is (267) 759-3100. Our website address is www.cabalettabio.com. We do not incorporate the information on or accessible through our website into this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and you should not consider any information on, or that can be accessed through, our website to be part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We have included our website address in this Annual Report on Form 10-K solely as an inactive textual reference.

We view our operations and measure our business as one reportable segment. All of the Company's tangible assets are held in the United States. Refer to Note 2, Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, to our financial statements appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information.

We own or have rights to various trademarks, service marks and trade names that we use in connection with the operation of our business. This Annual Report on Form 10-K may also contain trademarks, service marks and trade names of third parties, which are the property of their respective owners. Our use or display of third parties’ trademarks, service marks, trade names or products in this Annual Report on Form 10-K is not intended to, and does not imply a relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship by us. Solely for convenience, the trademarks, service marks and trade names referred to in this Annual Report on Form 10-K may appear without the ®, ™ or SM symbols, but the omission of such references is not intended to indicate, in any way, that we will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights or the right of the applicable owner of these trademarks, service marks and trade names.

Available Information

Our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, are available free of charge on our website located at www.cabalettabio.com as soon as reasonably practicable after they are filed with or furnished to the SEC. These reports are also available at the SEC’s Internet website at www.sec.gov.

A copy of our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of Conduct and Business Ethics and the charters of the Audit Committee, Compensation Committee and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee are posted on our website, www.cabalettabio.com, under the heading “Investors & Media.”

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Item 1A. Risk Factors.

Our business involves material and other risks, some of which are summarized and described below. You should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below, together with all of the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and the condensed financial statements and the related notes. If any of the following risks actually occur, it could harm our business, prospects, operating results and financial condition and future prospects. In such event, the market price of our common stock could decline and you could lose all or part of your investment. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also impair our business operations. This Annual Report on Form 10-K also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of factors that are described below and elsewhere in this Annual Report.

 

Risks Related to Our Business, Technology and Industry

 

Risks Related to Clinical Development

We are early in our development efforts. If we are unable to advance our product candidates through clinical development, obtain regulatory approval and ultimately commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

We are early in our development efforts and we have only initiated one clinical trial to date: our DesCAARTesTM trial in June 2020. Our ability to generate product revenues, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend heavily on the successful development and eventual commercialization of one or more of our product candidates. Even if we are able to develop and commercialize a marketable product, we may face challenges generating revenue from product sales. The success of our product candidates will depend on several factors, including the following:

 

successful completion of preclinical studies resulting in data that is supportive of advancing to an IND submission;

 

successful submission and acceptance of INDs or comparable applications;

 

successful initiation of clinical trials;

 

demonstration of adequate safety to progress to a therapeutic dose level;

 

successful patient enrollment in and completion of clinical trials;

 

receipt and related terms of regulatory and marketing approvals and licensures from applicable regulatory authorities;

 

establishing commercial manufacturing capabilities or making arrangements with third-party manufacturers for clinical supply and commercial manufacturing of our product candidates;

 

making arrangements with various medical divisions across hospitals for administration of our product candidates, including with cancer treatment centers to conduct leukapheresis and with the relevant hospital divisions to perform infusion;

 

obtaining and maintaining patent and trade secret protection and regulatory exclusivity for our product candidates;

 

establishing sales, marketing and distribution and patient administration capabilities and launching commercial sales of our products, if and when licensed, whether alone or in collaboration with others;

 

acceptance of our products, if and when licensed, by patients, the medical community and third-party payors;

 

effectively competing with other therapies targeting the same indications as our product candidates;

 

obtaining and maintaining third-party coverage and adequate reimbursement; and

 

maintaining a continued acceptable safety profile of our products following licensure.

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If we do not achieve one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or be unable to successfully commercialize our product candidates, which would materially harm our business. If we do not receive regulatory approvals for our product candidates, we may not be able to continue our operations.

Cellular therapies, including our engineered CAAR T product candidates, represent a novel approach to the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, which creates significant challenges for us. Negative perception or increased regulatory scrutiny of any product candidates that we develop could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business or obtain regulatory approvals for such product candidates.

Cellular therapies are a novel approach and negative perception or increased regulatory scrutiny of any product candidates that we develop could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business or obtain regulatory approvals for such product candidates. Cellular therapies in general, and CAAR T cell therapies in particular, remain novel therapies, with no cellular immunotherapies licensed to date in the United States or the European Union to treat autoimmune diseases or alloimmune responses. CAAR T cell therapies may not gain the acceptance of the public or the medical community. For example, CAR Ts and other cellular therapies have in some cases caused severe side effects, including death, and their broader use may therefore be limited. Even if CAR Ts and other cellular therapies are accepted by the public and medical community in the short term, long-term adverse events observed in these therapies may increase negative perception and regulatory scrutiny. Although our CAAR Ts are different from CAR Ts and other cellular therapies, they may be viewed in the same vein, limiting their market acceptance. Public perception may be influenced by claims that gene therapy, including the insertion of a transgene, is unsafe, and products incorporating gene therapy may not gain the acceptance of the public or the medical community. The patient populations targeted by our product candidates are also typically not at risk of near-term death, even if they may suffer life-threatening symptoms, so patients will need to deem the benefits of cell therapy to be worth the risk of unknown potential adverse side effects. Our success will depend upon physicians who specialize in the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases targeted by our product candidates prescribing treatments that involve the use of our product candidates in lieu of, or in addition to, existing treatments with which they are more familiar and for which greater clinical data may be available. Adverse events in clinical trials of our product candidates or in clinical trials of others developing similar products and the resulting publicity, as well as any other adverse events in the field of cellular therapies, could result in a decrease in demand for any product that we may develop.

We are developing a pipeline of CAAR T product candidates that are intended for use in treating individuals with B cell-mediated autoimmune disease. Advancing these novel product candidates creates significant challenges for us, including:

 

manufacturing our product candidates to our specifications and in a timely manner to support our clinical trials, and, if licensed, commercialization;

 

sourcing clinical and, if licensed, commercial supplies for the materials used to manufacture our product candidates;

 

understanding and addressing variability in the quality and quantity of a subject’s T cells, which could ultimately affect our ability to manufacture clinical supply and, if licensed, commercial supply of our product candidates in a reliable and consistent manner;

 

educating medical personnel regarding the potential side effect profile of our product candidates, if licensed, such as the potential adverse side effects related to pemphigus flare from infusion of activated T cells or medication taper, cytokine release syndrome, or CRS, or other unexpected adverse effects of therapy with our product candidates;

 

facilitating patient access to the limited number of facilities able to administer our product candidates, if licensed;

 

using medicines to manage adverse side effects of our product candidates that may not adequately control the side effects and/or may have a detrimental impact on the efficacy of the treatment;

 

potentially utilizing preconditioning agents in patients to enhance engraftment in advance of administering our product candidates, which may increase the risk of adverse side effects;

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obtaining and maintaining regulatory approval for our product candidates, as the FDA and other regulatory authorities have limited or no experience with development of engineered T cell therapies for the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases;

 

establishing sales and marketing capabilities upon obtaining any regulatory approval to gain market acceptance of a novel therapy; and

 

managing costs of inputs and other supplies while scaling production.

In addition, preclinical murine and other animal models may not exist or be adequate for some or all of the B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases we choose to pursue in our programs, and because we are early in the clinical development process, we are unable to predict whether there may be short-term or long-term effects from treatment with any product candidates that we develop. In developing our product candidates, we have not exhaustively explored different options in the method for manufacturing CAAR T cells. We may find our existing manufacturing process may be substantially improved with future design or process changes, necessitating further clinical testing, delaying commercial launch of our first products, and causing us to incur additional expenses. For example, while we have used a lentiviral vector in our manufacturing process, we may in the future find that another viral vector or non-viral vector-based process offers advantages. Switching from one lentiviral vector to another or switching from lentiviral to another delivery system would necessitate additional process development and clinical testing, and this may delay the development of existing product candidates.

In addition, we do not know the doses to be evaluated in pivotal trials or, if licensed, commercially. Finding a suitable dose may delay our anticipated clinical development timelines. Our expectations with regard to our scalability and costs of manufacturing may vary significantly as we develop our product candidates and understand these critical factors. We may experience delays in developing a sustainable, reproducible and scalable manufacturing process or transferring that process to commercial partners, which may prevent us from completing our clinical studies or commercializing our product candidates on a timely or profitable basis, if at all.

Moreover, our product candidates may not perform successfully in clinical trials or may be associated with adverse events that distinguish them from the chimeric antigen receptor T, or CAR T, therapies that have previously been licensed. For instance, subjects in our clinical trials will be infused with our proposed therapies, and may possess strongly activating soluble antibodies, which, are not present in oncology patients and when they interact with our infused product candidates, could result in potential adverse side effects, such as CRS. Unexpected side effects or clinical outcomes would significantly impact our business. Adverse side effects caused by even one of our product candidates could negatively affect our ability to develop future product candidates based on our CABA platform.

In addition, two of our current product candidates, DSG3/1-CAART and FVIII-CAART, and certain of our future product candidates may require introducing large transgenes into T cells, and lentiviral vectors may have too limited a genome capacity to accomplish this process. We currently use lentiviral vector transduction for transgene delivery. However, lentiviral vectors have a limited genome capacity that restricts the size of the transgene that can be delivered using this vector system. For example, designing a lentiviral vector that will have sufficient capacity to introduce DSG3 CAAR and DSG1 CAAR together into T cells may not be possible. In addition to reducing lentiviral vector titers that may substantially increase the cost of gene transfer, it may be entirely unsuccessful, thus necessitating use of alternative strategies for transfer of these larger transgenes into T cells.

Further, the clinical study requirements of the FDA and other regulatory agencies and the criteria they use to determine the safety, potency and purity of a product candidate are determined according to the type, complexity, novelty and intended use and market of the potential products. The regulatory approval process for novel product candidates such as ours is less clear, and can be more complex and consequently have higher development risk, be more expensive and take longer than for other, better known or extensively studied pharmaceutical or other product candidates. Approvals by the FDA for existing cell therapies treating B cell-mediated diseases, such as Kymriah (Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation) and Yescarta (Gilead Sciences, Inc.), may not be indicative of what the FDA may require for approval of our therapies. Approvals by any regulatory agency may not be indicative of what any other regulatory agency may require for approval or what such regulatory agencies may require for approval in connection with new product candidates. As we advance our product candidates, we will be required to consult with these regulatory agencies and comply with applicable requirements and guidelines. If we fail to do so, we may be

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required to delay or discontinue development of such product candidates. These additional processes may result in a review and approval process that is longer than we otherwise would have expected. More restrictive statutory regimes, government regulations or negative public opinion would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects and may delay or impair the development and commercialization of our product candidates or demand for any products we may develop.

In addition, responses by agencies at the federal and state level to negative public perception or ethical concerns may result in new legislation or regulations that could limit our ability to develop or commercialize any product candidates, obtain or maintain regulatory approval or otherwise achieve profitability. The FDA has expressed interest in further regulating biotechnology products, such as cellular therapies. Agencies at both the federal and state level in the United States, as well as the U.S. Congressional committees and other government entities or governing agencies have also expressed interest in further regulating the biotechnology industry. Such action may delay or prevent commercialization of some or all of our product candidates. Adverse developments in clinical trials of cellular therapy products conducted by others may cause the FDA or other oversight bodies to change the requirements for approval of any of our product candidates. These regulatory review agencies and committees and the new requirements or guidelines they promulgate may lengthen the regulatory review process, require us to perform additional studies or trials, increase our development costs, lead to changes in regulatory positions and interpretations, delay or prevent approval and commercialization of our product candidates or lead to significant post-approval limitations or restrictions.

Patients receiving T cell-based immunotherapies, such as our product candidates, may experience serious adverse events, including neurotoxicity, CRS and killing of cells other than the intended B cells that express the autoantibodies. If our product candidates are revealed to have high and unacceptable severity and/or prevalence of side effects or unexpected characteristics, their clinical development, regulatory approval, and commercial potential will be negatively impacted, which will significantly harm our business, financial condition and prospects.

Our product candidates are CAAR T cell-based immunotherapies. There is a possibility that our product candidates could have adverse side effects, such as neurotoxicity and CRS. In other similarly designed cellular immunotherapies to treat cancer, there have been life threatening events related to severe neurotoxicity and CRS requiring intense medical intervention, such as intubation or medications to support blood pressure, and in several cases, resulted in death. Severe neurotoxicity is a condition that is currently defined clinically by cerebral edema, confusion, drowsiness, speech impairment, tremors, seizures or other central nervous system side effects, when such side effects are serious enough to lead to intensive care. CRS is a condition that is currently defined clinically by certain symptoms related to the release of cytokines, which can include fever, chills and low blood pressure, when such side effects are serious enough to lead to intensive care with mechanical ventilation or significant medications to support blood pressure.

Our product candidates may have serious and potentially fatal targeting of cells within the body due to unexpected protein interactions with the CAAR. Although we have completed multiple preclinical studies designed to screen for toxicity caused by unintended off-target recognition by the cell binding domain of the DSG3 CAAR, our product candidates may still recognize and react with one or more proteins unrelated to the intended surface immunoglobin target protein to which it is designed to link. If unexpected binding occurs in normal tissue, our product candidates may target and kill the normal tissue in a patient, leading to serious and potentially fatal adverse events, undesirable side effects, toxicities or unexpected characteristics. Detection of any unexpected targeting may halt or delay any ongoing clinical trials for our product candidates and prevent or delay regulatory approval. While we have developed a preclinical screening process to identify cross-reactivity of our product candidates, we cannot be certain that this process will identify all potential tissue that our product candidates may target. For example, a membrane protein array with DSG3-CAART yielded one weak signal against a protein that is designed to bind to glycoproteins and which was detected in both the test and control conditions. Further analysis of this protein in confirmatory cell-based assays repeatedly demonstrated that DSG3-CAART does not recognize nor activate against this protein. However, this further analysis may prove to be inaccurate. Any unexpected targeting that impacts patient safety could materially impact our ability to advance our product candidates into clinical trials or to proceed to marketing approval and commercialization.

Results of our studies could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects or unexpected characteristics. Undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates could cause us or regulatory

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authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA. The FDA has requested and we have agreed to provide data on the subjects dosed in Part A of our DesCAARTesTM trial prior to dosing subjects in Part B. The FDA has communicated that the dosing of patients in Part B1 is not dependent on the review of Part A data and that they will provide feedback, if any, in a timely manner. In some cases, side effects such as neurotoxicity or CRS have resulted in clinical holds of ongoing clinical trials and/or discontinuation of the development of the product candidate. Given that the autoimmune and alloimmune diseases we are seeking to treat are, in some cases, less serious than the later stage cancers being treated with other immunotherapy products, we believe the FDA and other regulatory authorities likely will apply a different benefit-risk assessment thresholds such that even if our product candidate demonstrated a similar safety profile as current CAR T therapies, the FDA may ultimately determine that the harmful side effects outweigh the benefits and require us to cease clinical trials or deny approval of our product candidates. We believe tolerance for adverse events in the patient population being pursued with CAAR T cell therapies will be lower than it is in oncology, and the risks of negative impact from these toxicities may therefore be higher for us than for CAR T programs in oncology.

Furthermore, treatment-related side effects could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the studies or result in potential product liability claims. In addition, these side effects may not be appropriately recognized or managed by the treating medical staff, as toxicities resulting from T cell-based immunotherapies are not normally encountered in routine medical care. Medical personnel may need additional training regarding T cell-based immunotherapy product candidates to understand their side effects. Inadequate training in recognizing or failure to effectively manage the potential side effects of T cell-based immunotherapy product candidates could result in patient deaths. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.

In addition to side effects caused by our product candidates, the preconditioning, administration process or related procedures, which we evaluate from time to time as part of our process improvement and optimization efforts, may also cause adverse side effects. For example, severe neurotoxicity has been noted to be associated with the use of certain lymphodepleting regimens. While we believe there are sufficient data from other CAR T programs to suggest that it is reasonable for us to initiate our first clinical trial of DSG3-CAART without a preconditioning regimen, we cannot be certain that a preconditioning regimen, with or without lymphodepleting agents, will not be required.

Although we plan to infuse DSG3-CAART without preconditioning initially in our DesCAARTesTM trial, we may in the future use a preconditioning regimen for our CAAR T cell product candidates, which may increase the risk of adverse side effects and impact our ability to accurately assess the efficacy of our product candidates.

In oncology patients receiving CAR T cell therapy, a lymphodepleting preconditioning regimen is typically used to condition the patient prior to CAR T cell infusion in order to improve tumor immunogenicity and to promote the expansion of the infused CAR T cells. Together, these effects have been shown to enhance the clinical activity of CAR T cells in oncology patients. These regimens often include cyclophosphamide and fludarabine and are usually administered within the week prior to infusion of CAR T cells. Serious adverse events have been observed in some patients following CAR T cell infusion, and these include infection, cytokine release syndrome and neurotoxicity. The preconditioning regimen may contribute to the occurrence and severity of these adverse events due to its role in inducing lymphopenia, or low levels of lymphocytes in the blood, and enhanced CAR T cell activity.

Lymphodepleting preconditioning may not be required in all oncology settings for CAR T cell activity. A recent clinical trial in multiple myeloma patients published in 2019 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation showed similar clinical activity of CAR T cell infusions in patients with or without a lymphodepleting preconditioning regimen. Furthermore, the requirement for lymphodepleting preconditioning for potentiating engineered T cell therapy outside of oncology has not been well established. Specifically, the effect on tumor immunogenicity is not relevant in settings outside oncology, and therefore the contribution of this aspect to the potential enhancing effect of preconditioning would not apply.

In addition, a lymphodepleting regimen may eliminate pathogenic B cells targeted by our CAAR T cell product candidates. As a result, any lymphodepleting regimen for preconditioning that we use may adversely affect our ability to use DSG3 autoantibody titers, a standard clinical assay, to assess the activity of DSG3-CAART. An

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inability to use DSG3 autoantibody levels to demonstrate the specific activity of our CAAR T cell product candidates may require us to rely on the subjective measurement of blister formation in patients, which can be a less sensitive and accurate measurement of CAAR T cell activity. This therefore could delay efficient clinical development. As a result of these factors, including the concern that lymphodepletion may confer a potential increased safety risk to an autoimmune patient population, we believe the inclusion of such a regimen must be justified by clinical data demonstrating the need for it in the setting of autoimmune patients and is therefore difficult to justify in our first-in-human studies.

We initiated our DesCAARTesTM trial without a preconditioning regimen. If clinical data suggest that a preconditioning regimen is advisable, or if FDA requires that we employ a preconditioning regimen, we may employ such a regimen. If we ultimately use a preconditioning regimen, with or without lymphodepleting agents, prior to infusing patients with our CAAR T cell product candidates, our clinical patients may experience increased or more severe adverse effects specifically related to the preconditioning regimen, some of which may result in death. These undesirable side effects, whether associated with the preconditioning regimen alone or in combination with our CAAR T cell product candidates, could cause delays in patient enrollment in our clinical trials, could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a change to our clinical trial design, a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA. Any of the foregoing may increase the duration and expense of the clinical development of our product candidates or limit market acceptance of such product candidates, if approved, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition. Even if we do not use a preconditioning regimen, patients may experience adverse effects related to our CAAR T cell product candidates, and our decision to design our clinical trials without preconditioning does not eliminate the risk of those side effects.

Our business is highly dependent on the success of our initial product candidates targeting B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, particularly DSG3-CAART. All of our product candidates will require significant additional preclinical and clinical development before we can seek regulatory approval for and launch a product commercially.

Our business and future success depend on our ability to obtain regulatory approval of, and then successfully launch and commercialize our initial product candidates targeting B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, including DSG3-CAART, MuSK-CAART, DSG3/1-CAART and others that may be selected from preclinical programs. Our product candidates are in the early stages of development and will require additional preclinical studies, clinical trials, regulatory review and licensure, substantial investment, access to sufficient commercial manufacturing capacity and significant marketing efforts before we can generate any revenue from product sales. There is no guarantee that we will be able to advance our product candidates through clinical development or obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates. The process for obtaining marketing approval for any product candidate is very long and risky and there will be significant challenges for us to address in order to obtain marketing approval as planned, if at all.

Our IND was cleared in September 2019, and we initiated our DesCAARTesTM trial in June 2020. We announced dosing of the first patient in this trial in December 2020. Until dosing of this patient, DSG3-CAART had only been administered in murine models, and the preclinical results we have observed may not be predictive of the results of our clinical trial or any future clinical trials. Because DSG3-CAART is the first product candidate that we are testing in the clinic, we may experience preliminary complications surrounding trial design, protocol establishment and execution, establishing trial protocols, patient recruitment and enrollment, quality and supply of clinical doses, or safety issues. For example, while the majority of oncology CAR T clinical trials have been conducted with a lymphodepleting or other preconditioning regimen prior to infusion, we do not intend to use pre-infusion lymphodepletion or other preconditioning regimen initially in our Phase 1 trial. However, we may determine that use of a lymphodepleting or other preconditioning regimen is necessary for our product candidates to be successful, which could result in delays in clinical development and will expose patients to the associated risks.

Additionally, a failure of our clinical trial of DSG3-CAART could influence physicians’ and regulators’ opinions with regard to the viability of our CABA platform more broadly, particularly if treatment-related side effects are observed. The occurrence of any of these risks could significantly harm our development plans and business prospects. If treatment-related side effects are observed with the administration of DSG3-CAART, or if it is viewed as less safe, potent or pure than other therapies, our ability to develop other CAAR T cell therapies may be significantly harmed.

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We have never successfully completed any clinical trials, and we may be unable to do so for any product candidates we develop.

We have not yet demonstrated our ability to successfully complete any clinical trials, including large-scale, pivotal clinical trials, obtain regulatory 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 commercialization. Although our key employees have significant experience in leading clinical development programs, we have no experience as a company in conducting clinical trials beyond our current DesCAARTesTM trial initiated in June 2020. Otherwise, we currently have ongoing IND-enabling studies for our MuSK CAAR T program, with a planned IND submission anticipated in the second half of 2021. We may not be able to file such IND or INDs for any of our other product candidates on the timelines we expect, if at all. For example, we may experience manufacturing delays with IND-enabling studies. Moreover, we cannot be sure that submission of an IND will result in the FDA allowing further clinical trials to begin, or that, once begun, issues will not arise that require us to suspend or terminate clinical trials. Commencing each of these clinical trials is subject to finalizing the trial design based on discussions with the FDA and other regulatory authorities. Any guidance we receive from the FDA or other regulatory authorities is subject to change. These regulatory authorities could change their position, including, on the acceptability of our trial designs or the clinical endpoints selected, which may require us to complete additional clinical trials or impose stricter approval conditions than we currently expect.

If we are required to conduct additional clinical trials or other testing of our product candidates beyond those that we currently contemplate, if we are unable to successfully complete clinical trials of our product candidates or other testing, if the results of these trials or tests are not positive or are only modestly positive or if there are safety concerns, we may:

 

 

 

be delayed in obtaining marketing approval for our product candidates;

 

 

 

not obtain marketing approval at all;

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

be subject to post-marketing testing requirements; or

 

 

 

have the product removed from the market after obtaining marketing approval.

We may not be able to file INDs to commence clinical trials on the timelines we expect, and even if we are able to, the FDA may not permit us to proceed.

We submitted an IND to the FDA to initiate a clinical trial of DSG3-CAART targeting mPV in August 2019, which was cleared by the FDA in September 2019. The timing of submissions on future product candidates will be dependent on further preclinical and manufacturing success. We cannot be sure that submission of an IND or IND amendment will result in the FDA allowing testing and clinical trials to begin, or that, once begun, issues will not arise that would cause us or the FDA to suspend or terminate such clinical trials. Additionally, even if such regulatory authorities agree with the design and implementation of the clinical trials set forth in an IND or clinical trial application, we cannot guarantee that such regulatory authorities will not change their requirements in the future.

Risks Related to the Current Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and the future outbreak of other highly infectious or contagious diseases could seriously harm our research, development and potential future commercialization efforts, increase our costs and expenses and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Public health crises such as pandemics or similar outbreaks could adversely impact our business, the business operations of third parties on whom we rely and our ongoing or planned research and development activities. In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus surfaced in Wuhan, China and has since reached multiple other regions and countries, including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where our primary office and laboratory space, as well as certain of our CMO partners, are located. The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving, and to date has led to the implementation of various responses, including government-imposed quarantines, travel restrictions and other public

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health safety measures. The extent to which COVID-19 impacts our operations or those of our third party partners will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including the duration of the pandemic, new information that may emerge concerning the severity of COVID-19, the impact of new strains of the virus, the effectiveness and availability of vaccines and the actions to contain COVID-19 or treat its impact, among others.

Additionally, timely enrollment in our ongoing and planned clinical trials is dependent upon clinical trial sites which will be adversely affected by global health matters, such as COVID-19. We plan to conduct clinical trials for our product candidates in geographies which are currently being affected by COVID-19. Some factors from the COVID-19 pandemic that have delayed and could further delay or otherwise adversely affect enrollment in the clinical trials of our product candidates, as well as our business generally, include:

 

the potential diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials to focus on pandemic concerns, including the attention of physicians serving as our clinical trial investigators, hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our prospective clinical trials;

 

limitations on travel that could interrupt key trial and business activities, such as clinical trial site initiations and monitoring, domestic and international travel by employees, contractors or patients to clinical trial sites, including any government-imposed travel restrictions or quarantines that will impact the ability or willingness of patients, employees or contractors to travel to our clinical trial sites or secure visas or entry permissions, a loss of face-to-face meetings and other interactions with potential partners, any of which could delay or adversely impact the conduct or progress of our prospective clinical trials;

 

interruption in global shipping affecting the transport of clinical trial materials, such as patient samples, investigational drug product and conditioning drugs and other supplies used in our prospective clinical trials;

 

interruptions in operations at our third-party manufacturers, which could result in delays or disruptions in the supply of our current product candidates and any future product candidates; and

 

business disruptions caused by potential workplace, laboratory and office closures and an increased reliance on employees working from home, disruptions to or delays in ongoing laboratory experiments and operations, product manufacturing and supply, staffing shortages, travel limitations or mass transit disruptions, any of which could adversely impact our business operations or delay necessary interactions with local regulators, ethics committees and other important agencies and contractors.

These and other factors arising from the coronavirus could continue to worsen. Any of these factors, and other factors related to any such disruptions that are unforeseen, could have a material adverse effect on our business and our results of operation and financial condition. Further, uncertainty around these and related issues could lead to adverse effects on the economy of the United States and other economies, which could impact our ability to raise the necessary capital needed to develop and commercialize our product candidates.

Risks Related to the Industry

Our product candidates may cause undesirable side effects or have other properties that could halt their clinical development, prevent their regulatory approval, limit their commercial potential or result in significant negative consequences.

Undesirable or unacceptable side effects caused by our product candidates could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA. Further, clinical trials by their nature utilize a sample of the potential patient population. With a limited number of subjects and limited duration of exposure, rare and severe side effects of our product candidates may only be uncovered with a significantly larger number of patients exposed to the drug. Undesirable side effects could also result in an expansion in the size of our clinical trials, increasing the expected costs and timeline of our clinical trials. Additionally, results of our clinical trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects or unexpected characteristics.

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Licensed CAR T cell therapies and those under development have shown frequent rates of CRS and neurotoxicity, and adverse events have resulted in the death of patients. Similar adverse events could occur during treatment with our CAAR T cell product candidates. For example, activation of CAAR T cells by patient autoantibodies or alloantibodies could stimulate CRS. When CAAR T cells are infused and the CAAR binds to soluble antibodies in the blood or tissues of treated patients, these soluble antibodies may cause the CAAR T cells to proliferate, resulting in an activation of the immune system that is too high, leading to CRS. Further, it is possible that patients will exhibit acute rejection of the CAAR T cells because of preexisting immunity to the antigen within the CAAR. This could render our product candidates ineffective.

If unacceptable toxicities or health risks, including risks inferred from other unrelated immunotherapy trials, arise in the development of our product candidates, we could suspend or terminate our trials or the FDA, the Data Safety Monitoring Board, or DSMB, or local regulatory authorities such as institutional review boards, or IRBs, could order us to cease clinical trials. Regulatory authorities, such as the FDA, could also 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, as toxicities resulting from T cell therapy are not normally encountered in the general patient population and by medical personnel. We expect to have to train medical personnel using CAAR T cell product candidates to understand the side effect profile of our product candidates for both our preclinical studies and clinical trials and upon any commercialization of any of our product candidates, if licensed. Inadequate training in recognizing or managing the potential side effects of our product candidates could result in patient deaths. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.

Our preclinical studies and clinical trials may fail to demonstrate the safety, potency and purity of any of our product candidates, which would prevent or delay regulatory approval and commercialization.

Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of any of our product candidates, we must demonstrate through lengthy, complex and expensive preclinical testing and clinical trials that our product candidates are safe, potent and pure for use in each target indication. Clinical trials are expensive and can take many years to complete, and their outcomes are inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the clinical trial process. The results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials of our product candidates may not be predictive of the results of later-stage clinical trials, including in any post-approval studies of our product candidates. In addition, initial success in any clinical trials may not be indicative of results obtained when such trials are completed. There is typically an extremely high rate of attrition from the failure of product candidates proceeding through clinical trials. Product candidates in later stages of clinical trials may fail to show the desired safety, potency and purity profile despite having progressed through preclinical studies and initial clinical trials.

A number of companies in the biopharmaceutical industry have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of potency or efficacy, insufficient durability of potency or efficacy or unacceptable safety issues, notwithstanding promising results in earlier trials, and we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. These setbacks have been caused by, among other things, preclinical and other nonclinical findings made while clinical trials were underway, or safety or efficacy observations made in preclinical studies and clinical trials, including previously unreported adverse events. Moreover, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses and many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials nonetheless failed to obtain FDA or EMA approval. Most product candidates that commence clinical trials are never approved as products.

Any preclinical studies or clinical trials that we may conduct may not demonstrate the safety, potency and purity necessary to obtain regulatory approval to market our product candidates. If the results of our ongoing or future preclinical studies and clinical trials are inconclusive with respect to the safety, potency and purity of our product candidates, if we do not meet the clinical endpoints with statistical and clinically meaningful significance, or if there are safety concerns associated with our product candidates, we may be prevented or delayed in obtaining marketing approval for such product candidates. In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety, potency or purity results between different preclinical studies and 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 clinical trial protocols and the rate of dropout among clinical trial participants. For example, because our CAAR T cell product candidates only target approximately 0.01% to 1% of the B cells in a patient, they may not engage enough of the target to achieve adequate engraftment necessary for elimination of all pathogenic B cells. Insufficient safety or potency in clinical trials may delay product development to enable time to modify the product candidate for next generation approaches or make manufacturing changes or may lead us to discontinue development of the product candidate.

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Additionally, our ongoing DesCAARTes™ trial utilizes, and our planned trials may utilize, an “open-label” trial design. An “open-label” clinical trial is one where both the patient and investigator know whether the patient is receiving the investigational product candidate or either an active drug or placebo. Most typically, open-label clinical trials test only the investigational product candidate and sometimes may do so at different dose levels. Open-label clinical trials are subject to various limitations that may exaggerate any therapeutic effect as patients in open-label clinical trials are aware when they are receiving treatment. Open-label clinical trials may be subject to a “patient bias” where patients perceive their symptoms to have improved merely due to their awareness of receiving an experimental treatment. In addition, open-label clinical trials may be subject to an “investigator bias” where those assessing and reviewing the physiological outcomes of the clinical trials are aware of which patients have received treatment and may interpret the information of the treated group more favorably given this knowledge. The results from an open-label trial may not be predictive of future clinical trial results with any of our product candidates for which we include an open-label clinical trial when studied in a controlled environment with a placebo or active control.

In addition, for DSG3-CAART, MuSK-CAART and any future trials that may be completed, we cannot guarantee that the FDA will interpret the results as we do, and more trials could be required before we submit our product candidates for approval. To the extent that the results of the trials are not satisfactory to the FDA to support a marketing application, approval of our product candidates may be significantly delayed, or we may be required to expend significant additional resources, which may not be available to us, to conduct additional trials in support of potential approval of our product candidates.

Interim, topline or preliminary data from any preclinical studies or clinical trials that we conduct may change as more data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.

Our initial clinical trial for our lead product candidate will be open-label. From time to time, we may publicly disclose preliminary or topline or data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials, which will be based on a preliminary analysis of then-available data, and the results and related findings and conclusions are subject to change following a more comprehensive review of the data related to the particular study or trial. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully and carefully evaluate all data. Additionally, in our DesCAARTesTM trial, the product candidate will be administered by intravenous infusion, using a fractionated-dose infusion scheme of escalating numbers of DSG3-CAART cells.

As a result, the topline results that we report may differ from future results of the same studies, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results, once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Topline data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data we previously published. As a result, topline data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. From time to time, we may also disclose interim data from planned interim analyses in our clinical trials. Interim data from clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available. Adverse differences between preliminary or interim data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects. Further, disclosure of interim data by us or by our competitors could result in volatility in the price of our common stock.

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Regulatory agencies, including the FDA, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions or analyses or may interpret or weigh the importance of data differently, which could impact the value of the particular program, the approvability or commercialization of the particular product candidate or product and our company in general.

If the interim, topline or preliminary data that we report differ from actual results, or if others, including regulatory authorities, disagree with the conclusions reached, our ability to obtain approval for, and commercialize, our product candidates may be harmed, which could harm our business, operating results, prospects or financial condition.

We may encounter substantial delays in our clinical trials or may not be able to conduct our trials on the timelines we expect or at all.

Clinical testing is expensive, time consuming and subject to uncertainty. We cannot guarantee that any clinical trials will be conducted as planned or completed on schedule, if at all. Even if these trials begin as planned, issues may arise that could suspend or terminate such clinical trials. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing, and our ongoing and future clinical trials may not be successful. Events that may prevent successful or timely completion of clinical development include:

 

inability to generate sufficient preclinical, toxicology or other in vivo or in vitro data to support the initiation of clinical trials;

 

delays in sufficiently developing, characterizing or controlling a manufacturing process suitable for clinical trials;

 

delays in developing suitable assays for screening patients for eligibility for clinical trials with respect to certain product candidates;

 

delays in reaching a consensus with the FDA and other regulatory agencies on trial design;

 

delays in reaching agreement on acceptable terms with prospective CROs and clinical study sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and clinical trial sites;

 

delays in obtaining required institutional review board, or IRB, approval at each clinical trial site;

 

imposition of a temporary or permanent clinical hold by regulatory agencies for a number of reasons, including after review of an IND submission or amendment, or equivalent application or amendment; as a result of a new safety finding that presents unreasonable risk to clinical trial participants; a negative finding from an inspection of our clinical study operations or study sites; developments on trials conducted by competitors for related technology that raises FDA concerns about risk to patients of the technology broadly; or if FDA finds that the investigational protocol or plan is clearly deficient to meet its stated objectives;

 

delays in recruiting eligible patients to participate in our clinical trials;

 

delays in treating one or more patients, once enrolled, due to a patient’s inability to accommodate parts of the complex study procedures schedule;

 

difficulty collaborating with patient groups and investigators;

 

failure by our CROs, other third parties or us to adhere to clinical trial requirements;

 

limitations on our recourse in our CRO relationship with Penn as compared to a CRO that is not an academic institution;

 

failure to perform in accordance with the FDA’s good clinical practice, or GCP, requirements or applicable regulatory guidelines in other countries;

 

transfer of manufacturing processes to any new CMO or our own manufacturing facilities or any other development or commercialization partner for the manufacture of product candidates;

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

 

patients dropping out of a trial;

 

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

 

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

 

changes in the standard of care on which a clinical development plan was based, which may require new or additional trials;

 

the cost of clinical trials of our product candidates being greater than we anticipate;

 

clinical trials of our product candidates producing negative or inconclusive results, which may result in our deciding, or regulators requiring us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon product development programs;

 

delays or failure to secure supply agreements with suitable raw material suppliers, or any failures by suppliers to meet our quantity or quality requirements for necessary raw materials; and

 

delays in manufacturing, testing, releasing, validating or importing/exporting sufficient stable quantities of our product candidates for use in clinical trials or the inability to do any of the foregoing.

Any inability to successfully complete preclinical and clinical development could result in additional costs to us or impair our ability to generate revenue. In addition, if we make manufacturing or formulation changes to our product candidates, we may be required to, or we may elect to, conduct additional trials to bridge our modified product candidates to earlier versions. Clinical trial delays could also shorten any periods during which our product candidates and products, if licensed, have patent protection and may allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, which could impair our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates and may harm our business and results of operations.

We could also encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, by the DSMB for such trial or by the FDA or other regulatory authority, or if the IRBs of the institutions in which such trials are being conducted suspend or terminate the participation of their clinical investigators and sites subject to their review. Such authorities may suspend or terminate a clinical trial due to a number of factors, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols, inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial site by the FDA or other regulatory authorities resulting in the imposition of a clinical hold, unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects, failure to demonstrate a benefit from using a product candidate, changes in governmental regulations or administrative actions or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial.

Delays in the initiation, conduct or completion of any clinical trial of our product candidates will increase our costs, slow down our product candidate development and approval process and delay or potentially jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenue. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates. In the event we identify any additional product candidates to pursue, we cannot be sure that submission of an IND will result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to begin in a timely manner, if at all. Any of these occurrences may significantly harm our business, financial condition and prospects.

Monitoring safety of patients receiving our product candidates will be challenging, which could adversely affect our ability to obtain regulatory approval and commercialize our product candidates.

For our clinical trials of DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates, we expect to continue to contract with Penn and other academic medical centers and hospitals experienced in the assessment and management of toxicities arising during clinical trials. In the future, we may also contract with non-academic medical centers and hospitals with similar capabilities. Nonetheless, these centers and hospitals may have difficulty observing patients, including due to failure by patients to comply with post-clinical trial follow-up programs, and treating toxicities,

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which may be more challenging due to personnel changes, inexperience, shift changes, house staff coverage or related issues. This could lead to more severe or prolonged toxicities or even patient deaths, which could result in us or the FDA delaying, suspending or terminating one or more of our clinical trials, and which could jeopardize regulatory approval. We also expect the centers using DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates, if licensed, on a commercial basis could have similar difficulty in managing adverse events. Medicines used at centers to help manage adverse side effects of DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates may not adequately control the side effects and/or may have a detrimental impact on the efficacy of the treatment.

If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.

We may experience difficulties in patient enrollment in our clinical trials for a variety of reasons. The timely completion of clinical trials in accordance with their protocols depends, among other things, on our ability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who remain in the trial until its conclusion. The enrollment of patients depends on many factors, including:

 

the size and nature of the patient population;

 

the patient eligibility criteria defined in the protocol;

 

the size of the patient population required for analysis of the trial’s primary endpoints;

 

recruiting an adequate number of suitable patients to participate in a clinical trial;

 

reaching agreement on acceptable terms with prospective CROs and clinical trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and clinical trial sites;

 

obtaining IRB and other required reviewing body approval at each clinical trial site;

 

the proximity of patients to trial sites;

 

the design of the trial and whether the FDA agrees to the design and implementation of the trial;

 

our ability to identify clinical trial sites and recruit clinical trial investigators with the appropriate capabilities, competencies and experience;

 

clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages and risks of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs that may be approved for the indications we are investigating;

 

the occurrence of dose-limiting toxicity in the clinical trial;

 

the efforts to facilitate timely enrollment in clinical trials;

 

the patient referral practices of physicians;

 

the ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment;

 

our ability to obtain and maintain patient consents;

 

the risk that patients enrolled in clinical trials will drop out of the trials before the infusion of our product candidates or trial completion; and

 

the ability of patients to meet the complex follow-up requirements of the clinical trial.

In addition, our clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials for product candidates that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates, and this competition will reduce the number and types of patients available to us because some patients who might have opted to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by one of our competitors. Since the number of qualified clinical investigators is limited, some of our clinical trial sites may also be used by some of our competitors, which may reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials in that clinical trial site.

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Moreover, because our product candidates represent a departure from more commonly used methods for B cell-mediated autoimmune disease treatment, potential patients and their doctors may be inclined to use conventional therapies, such as corticosteroids or systemic immunosuppressive medications, rather than enroll patients in our clinical trial.

Delays in patient enrollment may result in increased costs or may affect the timing or outcome of our ongoing and planned clinical trials, which could prevent completion of these trials and adversely affect our ability to advance the development of our product candidates.

Our DesCAARTesTM trial and additional expected Phase 1 clinical trials for each of our product candidates will be pilot dose escalation studies with a limited number of patients. The activity and toxicity data from these clinical trials of our product candidates may differ from future results of Phase 2 and/or Phase 3 clinical trials that enroll a larger number of patients.

Since the number of patients that we plan to dose in our DesCAARTesTM trial is small, the results from such clinical trial, once completed, may be less reliable than results achieved in larger clinical trials, which may hinder our efforts to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates. In our DesCAARTesTM trial, we plan to evaluate the toxicity profile of DSG3-CAART and establish the recommended dose for the next clinical trial. The preliminary results of clinical trials with smaller sample sizes, such as our DesCAARTesTM trial, can be disproportionately influenced by various biases associated with the conduct of small clinical trials, such as the potential failure of the smaller sample size to accurately depict the features of the broader patient population, which limits the ability to generalize the results across a broader community, thus making the clinical trial results less reliable than clinical trials with a larger number of patients. As a result, there may be less certainty that such product candidates would achieve a statistically significant effect in any future clinical trials. If we conduct any future clinical trials of DSG3-CAART, we may not achieve a statistically significant result or the same level of statistical significance, if any, that we might have anticipated based on the results observed in our DesCAARTesTM trial.

 

Risks Related to Sales, Marketing and Competition

The market opportunities for our product candidates may be limited to those patients who are ineligible for or have failed prior treatments and may be small.

Our projections of both the number of people who have the B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases we are targeting, as well as the subset of people with these diseases in a position to receive second or later lines of therapy and who have the potential to benefit from treatment with our product candidates, are based on our beliefs and estimates. These estimates have been derived from a variety of sources, including scientific literature, surveys of clinics, patient foundations, or market research and may prove to be incorrect. Further, new studies may change the estimated incidence or prevalence of these B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. The number of patients may turn out to be lower than expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our product candidates may be limited or may not be amenable to treatment with our product candidates. For instance, we expect our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, to initially target a small patient population that suffers from mPV. Even if we obtain significant market share for our product candidates, because the potential target populations are small, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining regulatory approval for additional indications.

We face significant competition from other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and our operating results will suffer if we fail to compete effectively.

The biopharmaceutical and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by rapidly advancing technologies, intense competition and a strong focus on intellectual property. We face competition from many different players, including large and specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic research organizations and governmental agencies. Any therapeutic candidates we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with the existing standard of care as well as novel therapies that may gain regulatory approval in the future. Many of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical and other resources, such as larger research and development staff and experienced marketing and manufacturing organizations and well-established sales forces. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large, established companies. Mergers and acquisitions in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical

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industries may result in even more resources being concentrated in our competitors. We believe we are the first and only company developing CAAR T drug candidates for the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. However, despite the significant differences in discovery, development and target populations between oncology and autoimmune targets, we recognize that companies with an investment and expertise in CAR T cell development for oncology indications could attempt to leverage their expertise into B cell-mediated autoimmune disease affected populations. Competition may increase further as a result of advances in the commercial applicability of technologies and greater availability of capital for investment in these industries. Our competitors, either alone or with collaborative partners, may succeed in developing, acquiring or licensing on an exclusive basis drug or biologic products that are more effective, safer, more easily commercialized or less costly than our product candidates or may develop proprietary technologies or secure patent protection that we may need for the development of our technologies and products.

Specifically, while rituximab is the first drug for the treatment of PV, the target indication of our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART, to have received regulatory approval in the United States in over 60 years, we are aware that multiple biopharmaceutical companies have therapies in clinical development. We are also aware of other biopharmaceutical companies developing therapies for muscle-specific kinase myasthenia gravis, or MuSK MG, and Hemophilia A patients who develop alloantibodies against FVIII. While we do not expect these product candidates to be directly competitive to our product candidates, even if we obtain regulatory approval of our product candidates, the availability and price of these other products could limit the demand and the price we are able to charge for our product candidates. We may not be able to implement our business plan if the acceptance of our product candidates is inhibited by price competition or the reluctance of physicians to switch from existing methods of treatment to our product candidates, or if physicians switch to other new drug or biologic products or choose to reserve our product candidates for use in limited circumstances.

Even if we obtain regulatory approval of our product candidates, the products may not gain the market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, treatment centers and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.

The use of engineered T cells as a potential treatment for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases is a recent development and may not become broadly accepted by physicians, patients, hospitals, treatment centers and others in the medical community. We expect physicians to be particularly influential and we may not be able to convince them to use our product candidates for many reasons. Additional factors will influence whether our product candidates are accepted in the market, including:

 

the clinical indications for which our product candidates are licensed;

 

physicians, hospitals, treatment centers and patients considering our product candidates as a safe and effective treatment;

 

the potential and perceived advantages of our product candidates over alternative treatments;

 

the prevalence and severity of any side effects;

 

product labeling or product insert requirements of the FDA or other regulatory authorities;

 

limitations or warnings contained in the labeling approved by the FDA;

 

the timing of market introduction of our product candidates as well as competitive products;

 

the cost of treatment in relation to alternative treatments;

 

the availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement and pricing by third-party payors and government authorities;

 

the willingness of patients to pay out-of-pocket in the absence of coverage and adequate reimbursement by third-party payors and government authorities;

 

relative convenience and ease of administration, including as compared to alternative treatments and competitive therapies; and

 

the effectiveness of our sales and marketing efforts.

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The product candidates we plan to develop and commercialize are premised on offering a potential cure for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, which may result in a high degree of uncertainty related to pricing and long-term demand for our product. Our target patient populations are relatively small. Because of this pricing and demand for our product candidates, if licensed, may not be adequate to support an extended period of commercial viability, which could adversely affect our continued ability to successfully produce and market our product or any follow-on products.

In addition, if our product candidates are licensed but fail to achieve market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, treatment centers or others in the medical community, we will not be able to generate significant revenue. Even if our products achieve market acceptance, we may not be able to maintain that market acceptance over time if new products or technologies are introduced that are more favorably received than our products, are more cost effective or render our products obsolete.

 

Risks Related to Business Development

We may not be successful in our efforts to identify additional product candidates. Due to our limited resources and access to capital, we must prioritize development of certain product candidates, which may prove to be wrong and may adversely affect our business.

Although we intend to explore other therapeutic opportunities, in addition to the product candidates that we are currently developing, we may fail to identify viable new product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons. If we fail to identify additional potential product candidates, our business could be materially harmed.

Research programs to pursue the development of our existing and planned product candidates for additional indications and to identify new product candidates and disease targets require substantial technical, financial and human resources whether or not they are ultimately successful. Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential indications and/or product candidates, yet fail to yield results for clinical development for a number of reasons, including:

 

the research methodology used may not be successful in identifying potential indications and/or product candidates;

 

potential product candidates may be identified but may not be able to be expressed on T cells in a manner that enables product activity;

 

potential product candidates may, after further study, be shown to have harmful adverse effects or other characteristics that indicate they are unlikely to be effective drugs; or

 

it may take greater human and financial resources than we will possess to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our product candidates or to develop suitable potential product candidates through internal research programs, thereby limiting our ability to develop, diversify and expand our product portfolio.

Because we have limited financial and human resources, we intend to initially focus on research programs and product candidates for a limited set of indications. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential or a greater likelihood of success. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities.

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Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will ever be able to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our product candidates or to develop suitable potential product candidates through internal research programs, which could materially adversely affect our future growth and prospects. We may focus our efforts and resources on potential product candidates or other potential programs that ultimately prove to be unsuccessful.

If we fail to develop additional product candidates, our commercial opportunity will be limited.

One of our core strategies is to pursue clinical development of additional product candidates beyond DSG3-CAART, MuSK-CAART, DSG3/1-CAART and FVIII-CAART. Developing, obtaining regulatory approval and commercializing additional CAAR T cell product candidates will require substantial additional funding and is prone to the risks of failure inherent in medical product development. We cannot provide you any assurance that we will be able to successfully advance any of these additional product candidates through the development process.

Even if we receive FDA approval to market additional product candidates for the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, we cannot assure you that any such product candidates will be successfully commercialized, widely accepted in the marketplace or more effective than other commercially available alternatives. If we are unable to successfully develop and commercialize additional product candidates, our commercial opportunity will be limited. Moreover, a failure in obtaining regulatory approval of additional product candidates may have a negative effect on the approval process of any other, or result in losing approval of any approved, product candidate.

We are highly dependent on our key personnel, and if we are not successful in attracting and retaining highly qualified personnel, we may not be able to successfully implement our business strategy.

Our ability to compete in the highly competitive biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries depends upon our ability to attract and retain highly qualified managerial, scientific and medical personnel. We are highly dependent on our management, scientific, and medical personnel, including our Chief Executive Officer and President, our Scientific Advisory Board members, our Chief Medical Officer, our Executive Vice President, Science and Technology, and our Chief Financial Officer. The loss of the services of any of our executive officers, other key employees, and other scientific and medical advisors, and our inability to find suitable replacements could result in delays in product development and harm our business.

Competition for skilled personnel in our market is intense and may limit our ability to hire and retain highly qualified personnel on acceptable terms or at all. To induce valuable employees to remain at our company, in addition to salary and cash incentives, we have provided stock options that vest over time. The value to employees of stock options that vest over time may be significantly affected by movements in our stock price that are beyond our control and may at any time be insufficient to counteract more lucrative offers from other companies. Despite our efforts to retain valuable employees, members of our management, scientific and development teams may terminate their employment with us on short notice. Although we have employment agreements with our key employees, these employment agreements provide for at-will employment, which means that any of our employees could leave our employment at any time, with or without notice. We do not maintain “key person” insurance policies on the lives of these individuals or the lives of any of our other employees. Our success also depends on our ability to continue to attract, retain and motivate highly skilled junior, mid-level and senior managers as well as junior, mid-level and senior scientific and medical personnel.

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We expect to grow the size of our organization, and we may experience difficulties in managing this growth.

As of December 31, 2020, we had 33 full-time employees and one part-time employee. As our development and commercialization plans and strategies develop, and as we continue to transition into operating as a public company, we expect to rapidly expand our employee base and continue to add managerial, operational, sales, research and development, marketing, financial and other personnel. For example, we are still dependent on Penn and certain Penn-affiliated entities to continue providing certain research and development as well as manufacturing services under that certain research services agreement. Current and future growth imposes significant added responsibilities on members of management, including:

 

identifying, recruiting, integrating, maintaining and motivating additional employees;

 

managing our internal development efforts effectively, including the clinical and FDA review process for our product candidates, while complying with our contractual obligations to contractors and other third parties; and

 

improving our operational, financial and management controls, reporting systems and procedures.

Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize our product candidates will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage our growth, and our management may also have to divert a disproportionate amount of its attention away from day-to-day activities in order to devote a substantial amount of time to managing these growth activities.

We currently rely, and for the foreseeable future will continue to rely, in substantial part on certain independent organizations, advisors and consultants to provide certain services, including certain research and development as well as general and administrative support, pursuant to agreements which expire after a certain period of time. There can be no assurance that the services of independent organizations, advisors and consultants will continue to be available to us on a timely basis when needed, or that we can find qualified replacements. In addition, if we are unable to effectively manage our outsourced activities or if the quality or accuracy of the services provided by consultants is compromised for any reason, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of our product candidates or otherwise advance our business. There can be no assurance that we will be able to manage our existing consultants or find other competent outside contractors and consultants on economically reasonable terms, or at all.

If we are not able to effectively expand our organization by hiring new employees and expanding our groups of consultants and contractors, or if we are not able to raise sufficient funds in the future to support our hiring efforts beyond our research and development personnel, we may not be able to successfully implement the tasks necessary to further develop and commercialize our product candidates and, accordingly, may not achieve our research, development and commercialization goals.

Business disruptions could seriously harm our future revenue and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses.

Our operations, Penn’s operations and those of any CMOs, CROs and other contractors and consultants that we may engage could be subject to earthquakes, power shortages, telecommunications failures, water shortages, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, fires, extreme weather conditions, medical epidemics and other natural or man-made disasters or business interruptions, for which we are predominantly self-insured. The occurrence of any of these business disruptions could seriously harm our operations and financial condition and increase our costs and expenses. We currently rely on Penn to produce and process our first product candidate and anticipate that in the future we will rely on a third-party CMO for the same. Our ability to obtain clinical supplies of our product candidates could be disrupted if the operations of these suppliers are affected by a man-made or natural disaster or other business interruption.

In addition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our increased reliance on personnel working from home may negatively impact productivity, or disrupt, delay, or otherwise adversely impact our business operations. Further, this could increase our cyber security risk, create data accessibility concerns, and make us more susceptible to communication disruptions, any of which could adversely impact our business operations or delay necessary

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interactions with local and federal regulators, ethics committees, manufacturing sites, research or clinical trial sites and other important agencies and contractors.

 

Risks Related to Litigation

If product liability lawsuits are brought against us, we may incur substantial liabilities and may be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates.

We face an inherent risk of product liability as a result of the clinical testing of our product candidates and will face an even greater risk if we commercialize any products. For example, we may be sued if our product candidates cause or are perceived to cause injury or are found to be otherwise unsuitable during clinical testing, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, negligence, strict liability or a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we may incur substantial liabilities or be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates. Even successful defense would require significant financial and management resources. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

 

inability to bring our product candidates to the market;

 

decreased demand for our product candidates;

 

injury to our reputation;

 

withdrawal of clinical trial participants;

 

initiation of investigations by regulators;

 

costs to defend the related litigation;

 

a diversion of management’s time and our resources;

 

substantial monetary awards to trial participants or patients;

 

product recalls, withdrawals or labeling, marketing or promotional restrictions;

 

loss of revenue;

 

exhaustion of any available insurance and our capital resources;

 

the inability to commercialize any product candidate; and

 

a decline in our share price.

Since we have not yet commenced marketing of any products, we do not yet hold product liability insurance for commercialization of our product candidates. Our inability to obtain sufficient product liability insurance at an acceptable cost to protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the commercialization of products we develop, alone or with corporate collaborators. Our insurance policies may also have various exclusions, and we may be subject to a product liability claim for which we have no coverage. Assuming we obtained clinical trial insurance for our clinical trials, we may have to pay amounts awarded by a court or negotiated in a settlement that exceed our coverage limitations or that are not covered by our insurance, and we may not have, or be able to obtain, sufficient capital to pay such amounts. Even if our agreements with any future corporate collaborators entitle us to indemnification against losses, such indemnification may not be available or adequate should any claim arise.

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Risks Related to Our Financial Condition and Capital Requirements

Risks Related to Past Financial Condition

We have incurred net losses in every period since our inception and anticipate that we will incur substantial net losses over the next several years, and may never achieve or maintain profitability.

Investment in biopharmaceutical product development is highly speculative because it entails substantial upfront capital expenditures and significant risk that any potential product candidate will fail to demonstrate adequate effect or an acceptable safety profile, gain regulatory approval and become commercially viable. We have only recently licensed rights to the patents underlying our product candidates and initiated our DesCAARTesTM trial in June 2020. We have no products licensed for commercial sale, and we will continue to incur significant research and development and other expenses related to our ongoing operations. Our net losses may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year. We have to date financed our operations primarily through private placements of our preferred stock.

As a result, we are not profitable and have incurred net losses in each period since our inception. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, we recorded net losses of $33.3 million and $16.9 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2020, we had an accumulated deficit of $66.3 million. We expect to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future, and we expect these losses to increase substantially if, and as, we:

 

continue our research and development efforts and submit additional Investigational New Drug applications, or INDs, for our product candidates;

 

conduct preclinical studies and clinical trials for our current and future product candidates;

 

further develop our product candidate platform;

 

continue to discover and develop additional product candidates;

 

maintain, expand and protect our intellectual property portfolio;

 

hire additional clinical, scientific manufacturing and commercial personnel;

 

establish a commercial manufacturing source and secure supply chain capacity sufficient to provide commercial quantities of any product candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval, whether through a contract manufacturing organization, or CMO, or through a manufacturing facility that we establish;

 

acquire or in-license other product candidates and technologies, including advanced manufacturing and translational capabilities that we will need for the further development and possible commercialization of our product candidates;

 

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

 

establish a sales, marketing and distribution infrastructure to support the sales and marketing of any product candidates for which we may obtain marketing approvals; and

 

add operational, financial and management information systems and personnel, including personnel to support our product development and planned future commercialization efforts, as well as to support our transition to a public company.

To become and remain profitable, we must succeed in developing, and eventually commercializing, a product or products that generate significant revenue. The ability to achieve this success will require us to be effective in a range of challenging activities, including completing preclinical testing and clinical trials of our product candidates, discovering additional product candidates, obtaining regulatory approval for these product candidates and manufacturing, marketing and selling any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval. We are only in the preliminary stages of most of these activities and have not yet demonstrated our ability to successfully develop any product candidate, obtain regulatory 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. We may never be able to develop, manufacture or commercialize a marketable product.

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Even if we are able to succeed in these activities, we may never generate revenues that are significant enough to achieve profitability. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with pharmaceutical product development, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of increased expenses or when, or if, we will be able to achieve profitability. Our expenses will increase if, among other things:

 

there are any delays in completing our clinical trials or the development of any of our product candidates;

 

we are required by the FDA or other regulatory authorities to perform trials or studies in addition to, or different than, those expected; or

 

there are any third-party challenges to our intellectual property or we need to defend against any intellectual property-related claim.

Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with pharmaceutical product development, we are unable to accurately predict the timing or amount of increased expenses we will incur or when, if ever, we will be able to achieve profitability. Even if we succeed in commercializing one or more of our product candidates, we will continue to incur substantial research and development and other expenditures to develop, seek regulatory approval for and market additional product candidates. We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other unknown factors that may adversely affect our business. The size of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of future growth of our expenses and our ability to generate revenue. Our prior losses and expected future losses have had and will continue to have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity and working capital.

We have a limited operating history, which may make it difficult to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability, and we may face significant challenges and expense as we test our product candidates and build our capabilities.

We were incorporated in 2017 and initially acquired rights to license certain patent rights Penn in August 2018. We are early in our development efforts, have a limited operating history and are subject to the risks inherent to any newly-formed organization, including, among others, risks that we may not be able to hire sufficient qualified personnel and establish operating controls and procedures.

Our limited operating history, particularly in light of the rapidly evolving cell therapy field, may make it difficult to evaluate our technology and industry and predict our future performance. Our short history as an operating company makes any assessment of our future success or viability subject to significant uncertainty. We will encounter risks and difficulties frequently experienced by early-stage companies in rapidly evolving fields. If we do not address these risks successfully, our business will suffer. Similarly, we expect that our financial condition and operating results will fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. As a result, our shareholders should not rely upon the results of any quarterly or annual period as an indicator of future operating performance.

We currently do not have in-house resources sufficient to enable our chimeric autoantibody receptor, or CAAR, T cell platform. We are reliant on several manufacturing and support services from Penn through a Master Translational Research Services Agreement, or the Services Agreement, as well as certain research and development and general and administrative services through two sponsored research agreements. We also rely on Penn for access to key technologies for current manufacturing of our product candidates. As we build our own capabilities, and enter into agreements with third parties, we expect to encounter risks and uncertainties frequently experienced by growing companies in new and rapidly evolving fields, including the risks and uncertainties described herein. Our ability to rely on services from Penn is limited to a specified period of time, to specific capabilities, and is subject to Penn’s right to terminate these services with or without cause. If we are unable to establish necessary relationships with third party partners and build our own capabilities, our operating and financial results could differ materially from our expectations, and our business could suffer.

All of our programs require additional preclinical research and development, clinical development, regulatory approval in multiple jurisdictions, obtaining manufacturing supply, capacity and expertise, building of a commercial organization, substantial investment and significant marketing efforts before we generate any revenue from product sales. Other programs of ours require additional discovery research and then preclinical and clinical development. In

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addition, our product candidates must be licensed for marketing by the FDA before we may commercialize any product.

In addition, as an early-stage company, we have encountered and may continue to encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown circumstances. As we advance our product candidates, we will need to transition from a company with a research focus to a company capable of supporting clinical development and if successful, commercial activities. We may not be successful in such a transition.

We have not generated any revenue from our product candidates and our ability to generate revenue from product sales and become profitable depends significantly on our success in a number of areas.

To become and remain profitable, we or any potential future collaborator must develop and eventually commercialize products with significant market potential at an adequate profit margin after cost of goods sold and other expenses. All of our product candidates are in the early stages of development and we will require additional preclinical studies, clinical development, regulatory review and approval, substantial investment, access to sufficient commercial manufacturing capacity and significant marketing efforts before we can generate any revenue from product sales. We initiated our DesCAARTesTM trial of DSG3-CAART, our most advanced product candidate, targeting pathogenic B cells in patients with mucosal pemphigus vulgaris, or mPV, in June 2020. Our other product candidates, which include DSG3/1-CAART, targeting pathogenic B cells in patients with mucocutaneous pemphigus vulgaris, or mcPV, MuSK-CAART, targeting pathogenic B cells in a subset of patients with myasthenia gravis, or MG, and FVIII-CAART, for potential use as an adjunctive therapy targeting a subset of patients with Hemophilia A who develop alloantibody resistance to Factor VIII, or FVIII, replacement therapy, have yet to complete IND-enabling studies. We have not yet administered any of our product candidates in humans and, as such, we face significant translational risk as our product candidates advance to the clinical stage. Our ability to generate revenue depends on a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

 

timely completion of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, which may be significantly slower or cost more than we currently anticipate and will depend substantially upon the performance of third-party academic and commercial contractors;

 

our ability to complete IND-enabling studies and successfully submit INDs or comparable applications;

 

whether we are required by the FDA to conduct additional clinical trials or other studies beyond those planned to support the licensure and commercialization of our product candidates or any future product candidates;

 

our ability to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the FDA the safety, potency, purity and acceptable risk to benefit profile of our product candidates or any future product candidates;

 

the prevalence, duration and severity of potential side effects or other safety issues experienced with our product candidates or future product candidates, if any;

 

the cost of manufacturing and processing our product candidates being greater than we anticipate;

 

the timely receipt of necessary marketing approvals from the FDA;

 

the willingness of physicians, operators of clinics and patients to utilize or adopt any of our product candidates or future product candidates to treat B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases;

 

our ability and the ability of third parties with whom we contract to manufacture adequate clinical and commercial supplies of our product candidates or any future product candidates, remain in good standing with regulatory authorities and develop, validate and maintain commercially viable manufacturing processes that are compliant with current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMP;

 

our ability to successfully develop a commercial and competitive strategy and thereafter commercialize our product candidates or any future product candidates in the United States, if licensed for marketing, reimbursement, sale and distribution, whether alone or in collaboration with others;

 

patient demand for our product candidates and any future product candidates, if licensed; and

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our ability to establish and enforce intellectual property rights in and to our product candidates or any future product candidates.

Many of the factors listed above are beyond our control and could cause us to experience significant delays or prevent us from obtaining regulatory approvals or commercialize our product candidates. Even if we are able to commercialize our product candidates, we may not achieve profitability soon after generating product sales, if ever. If we are unable to generate sufficient revenue through the sale of our product candidates or any future product candidates, we may be unable to continue operations without continued funding.

If we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Additionally, even if we succeed in commercializing one or more of our product candidates, we will continue to incur substantial research and development and other expenditures to research, develop and market additional product candidates. Our failure to become and remain profitable would decrease the value of our company and could impair our ability to raise capital, maintain our research and development efforts, expand our business or continue our operations. A decline in the value of our company also could cause you to lose all or part of your investment.

We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other unknown factors that may adversely affect our business. The size of our future net losses will depend, in part, on the rate of future growth of our expenses and our ability to generate revenue. Our prior losses and expected future losses have had and will continue to have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity and working capital.

Risks Related to Future Financial Condition

We will require substantial additional financing to develop and commercialize our product candidates and implement our operating plans. If we fail to obtain additional financing or cannot obtain financing at the levels we require due to unstable market and economic conditions or other reasons, we may be delayed in our plans or unable to complete the development and commercialization of our product candidates.

Our operations have consumed substantial amounts of cash since inception. We expect to continue to spend substantial amounts to continue the preclinical and clinical development of our product candidates, including our DesCAARTesTM trial, our initial in vitro studies and expected in vivo studies of MuSK-CAART, and our planned studies for DSG3/1-CAART as well as research and development, preclinical studies and clinical trials for FVIII-CAART and any future product candidates, to seek regulatory approvals for our product candidates, to enable commercial production of our products, if licensed, and to initiate and complete registration trials for multiple products. While we currently expect our existing cash and cash equivalents and investments to be sufficient to fund our operations through completion of Part A Dose Escalation of our DesCAARTesTM trial, we expect to require significant additional financing to complete this Phase 1 trial, and any future clinical trials of DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates. Further, if licensed, we will require significant additional amounts of cash to launch and commercialize our product candidates.

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As of December 31, 2020, we had approximately $108.7 million of cash and cash equivalents and investments. On October 29, 2019, we completed an initial public offering of our common stock by issuing 7,275,501 shares of our common stock (including 475,501 shares of our common stock pursuant to the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares that we issued in November 2019), at $11.00 per share, for gross proceeds of $80.0 million, or net proceeds of $71.0 million. Based on our current operating plan, we believe that the net proceeds from our IPO together with our existing cash and cash equivalents and investments will be sufficient to fund our operations through at least the third quarter of 2022. However, we have based this estimate on assumptions that may prove to be wrong. Additionally, changing circumstances may cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, and we may need to spend more money than currently expected because of circumstances beyond our control. We may require substantial additional capital for the further development and commercialization of our product candidates, including funding our internal manufacturing capabilities, and may need to raise additional funds sooner if we choose to expand more rapidly than we presently anticipate. Because the length of time and activities associated with development of our product candidates is highly uncertain, we are unable to estimate the actual funds we will require for development and any approved marketing and commercialization activities. Our future funding requirements, both near- and long-term, will depend on many factors, including, but not limited to:

 

the initiation, progress, timing, costs and results of preclinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidates;

 

the clinical development plans we establish for these product candidates;

 

the number and characteristics of product candidates that we may develop or in-license;

 

the terms of any collaboration agreements we may choose to conclude;

 

the outcome, timing and cost of meeting regulatory requirements established by the FDA;

 

the cost of filing, prosecuting, defending and enforcing our patent claims and other intellectual property rights;

 

the cost of defending intellectual property disputes, including patent infringement actions brought by third parties against us or our product candidates;

 

the effect of competing technological and market developments;

 

the costs of establishing and maintaining a supply chain for the development and manufacture of our product candidates;

 

the cost and timing of establishing, expanding and scaling manufacturing capabilities;

 

the cost of maintaining the amount patient data for which we would be responsible following commercialization of one or more of our product candidates; and

 

the cost of establishing sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for any product candidates for which we may receive regulatory approval in regions where we choose to commercialize our products on our own.

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We cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. As widely reported, global credit and financial markets have experienced extreme volatility and disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and related factors, including severely diminished liquidity and credit availability, declines in consumer confidence, declines in economic growth, increases in unemployment rates and uncertainty about economic stability. There can be no assurance that further deterioration in credit and financial markets and confidence in economic conditions will not occur. Until we are able to generate sufficient revenue to finance our cash requirements, we will need to finance our future cash needs through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, strategic alliances, licensing arrangements and other marketing or distribution arrangements. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue our research and development initiatives and clinical development plans. We could be required to seek collaborators for our product candidates at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable or on terms that are less favorable than might otherwise be available or relinquish or license on unfavorable terms our rights to our product candidates in markets where we otherwise would seek to pursue development or commercialization ourselves.

Future sales and issuances of our common stock or rights to purchase common stock, including pursuant to our equity incentive plans, could result in additional dilution of the percentage ownership of our stockholders and could cause our stock price to fall.

We expect that significant additional capital may be needed in the future to continue our planned operations, including conducting clinical trials, commercialization efforts, expanded research and development activities and costs associated with operating a public company. To raise capital, we may sell common stock, convertible securities or other equity securities in one or more transactions at prices and in a manner we determine from time to time. If we sell common stock, convertible securities or other equity securities, investors may be materially diluted by subsequent sales. Such sales may also result in material dilution to our existing stockholders, and new investors could gain rights, preferences and privileges senior to the holders of our common stock.

Pursuant to our equity incentive plans, our management is authorized to grant stock options to our employees, directors and consultants. Additionally, the number of shares of our common stock reserved for issuance under the 2019 Stock Option and Incentive Plan automatically increased on January 1, 2020 and will automatically increase each January 1 thereafter through and including January 1, 2029, by 4% of the total number of shares of our capital stock outstanding on December 31 of the preceding calendar year, or a lesser number of shares determined by our board of directors. Unless our board of directors elects not to increase the number of shares available for future grant each year, our stockholders may experience additional dilution, which could cause our stock price to fall.

Any of the above events could significantly harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations and cause the price of our common stock to decline.

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Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property

We rely heavily on certain in-licensed patent and other intellectual property rights in connection with our development of our product candidates and, if we fail to comply with our obligations under our existing and any future intellectual property licenses with third parties, we could lose license rights that are important to our business.

Our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates is heavily dependent on in-licenses to patent rights and other intellectual property granted to us by third parties. For example, we depend heavily on our License Agreement with Penn and CHOP, which was entered into in 2018, amended and restated in July 2019, and further amended in May 2020, pursuant to which we obtained (a) a non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, worldwide research license to intellectual property controlled by Penn and CHOP to make, have made and use products in two subfields of use, (b) effective as of October 2018, an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license, with the right to sublicense, under certain of such intellectual property to make, use, sell, offer for sale and import products in the same two subfields of use, and (c) effective as of October 2018, a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license, with limited rights to sublicense, under certain of Penn’s know-how, which know-how satisfies certain criteria and is listed on a mutually agreed to schedule, to make, have made, use, sell, offer for sale, import and have imported products in the same two subfields of use. We may enter into additional license agreements in the future. Our license agreement with Penn and CHOP imposes, and we expect that future 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, including Penn and CHOP, may have the right to terminate these license agreements, in which event we might not be able to market our product candidates. Termination of any of our 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.

We may need to obtain additional licenses from third parties to advance our research or allow commercialization of our product candidates, and we have done so from time to time. We may fail to obtain any of these licenses at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, if at all. In that event, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to develop or license replacement technology. If we are unable to do so, we may be unable to develop or commercialize the affected product candidates, which could harm our business significantly. We cannot provide any assurances that third-party patents do not exist which might be enforced against our current product candidates or future products, resulting in either an injunction prohibiting our sales, or, with respect to our sales, an obligation on our part to pay royalties and/or other forms of compensation to third parties.

Furthermore, in many cases, we may not have the right to control the preparation, filing and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain the patents, covering technology that we in-license from third parties. For example, pursuant to our License Agreement with Penn and CHOP, Penn controls such activities for the patent rights licensed to us under such agreement. Therefore, although we provide input to Penn and CHOP on these activities, we cannot be certain that these patents will be prosecuted, maintained and enforced in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business. If our current or future licensors or collaboration partners fail to obtain, maintain or protect any patents or patent applications licensed to us, our rights to such patents and patent applications may be reduced or eliminated and our right to develop and commercialize any of our product candidates that are the subject of such licensed rights could be adversely affected.

Disputes may arise between us and our current and future licensors regarding intellectual property subject to a license agreement, including those related to:

 

the scope of rights granted under the License Agreement and other interpretation-related issues;

 

whether we have breached the License Agreement and whether any such breach is subject to a cure period;

 

whether and the extent to which our technology and processes infringe on intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the licensing agreement;

 

our right to sublicense patent and other rights to third parties under collaborative development relationships;

 

our diligence obligations with respect to the use of the licensed technology in relation to our development and commercialization of our product candidates, and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations; and

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

Furthermore, disputes may arise between us and our current or future licensors regarding the ownership of intellectual property developed by us, such that we may be required to assign or otherwise transfer such intellectual property to such licensor. In the event that the assigned or transferred intellectual property is covered by an existing license agreement with such licensor we may be required to make additional royalty or milestone payments, or both, to such licensor. If the assigned or transferred intellectual property is not covered by an existing license agreement, then we may be required to enter into an additional license agreement to advance our research or allow commercialization of our product candidates, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all.

If disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed, or license in the future, prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangements on acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates.

If our efforts to protect the proprietary nature of the intellectual property related to our current and any future product candidates are not adequate, we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.

Our success depends in large part on our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection in the United States and other countries with respect to our product candidates. If we do not adequately protect or enforce our intellectual property rights, competitors may be able to erode or negate any competitive advantage we may have, which could harm our business and ability to achieve profitability. To protect our proprietary position, we have in-licensed patent rights in the United States and abroad relating to the product candidates that are important to our business. The patent application and approval process is expensive, complex and time-consuming. Our licensors may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner.

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 biological and pharmaceutical products 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. Pending patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties practicing the technology claimed in such applications unless and until a patent issues from such applications. Assuming the other requirements for patentability are met, currently, the first to file a patent application is generally entitled to the patent. However, prior to March 16, 2013, in the United States, the first to invent was entitled to the patent. Publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, or in some cases not at all. Therefore, we cannot be certain that our licensors were the first to make the inventions claimed in the patents or pending patent applications we in-license, or that our licensors were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions.

Moreover, because the issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity or enforceability, the patents or pending patent applications we in-license may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. For example, we may be subject to a third party preissuance submission of prior art to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, or become involved in post-grant review procedures, derivation proceedings, reexaminations, or inter partes review in the United States, or oppositions and other comparable proceedings in foreign jurisdictions, challenging our patent rights or the patent rights of others. An adverse determination in any such challenges may result in loss of exclusivity or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, in whole or in part, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and products, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our technology and product candidates. In addition, 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.

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Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of the patents we in-license or narrow the scope of our patent protection. In addition, the laws of foreign countries may not protect our rights to the same extent or in the same manner as the laws of the United States. For example, European patent law is more restrictive than U.S. patent law in connection with the patentability of methods of treatment of the human body.

We cannot predict whether the patent applications we in-license currently being pursued will issue as patents, whether the claims of any patent that has or may issue will provide us with a competitive advantage or prevent competitors from designing around the claims to develop competing technologies in a non-infringing manner, or whether we or our licensors will be able to successfully pursue patent applications in the future relating to our current product candidates or future products and product candidates. Moreover, the patent application and approval process is expensive and time-consuming. We or our licensors 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 the patents or patent applications we in-license, such patents may be invalid and/or unenforceable, and such applications may never result in valid, enforceable patents. Any of these outcomes could impair our ability to prevent competition from third parties, which may have an adverse impact on our business.

Even if the patent applications we in-license issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent competitors from competing with us or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. Our competitors may be able to circumvent our patent rights by developing similar or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner. Our competitors may also seek approval to market their own products similar to or otherwise competitive with our product candidates. Alternatively, our competitors may seek to market generic versions of any approved products by submitting abbreviated BLAs to the FDA during which process they may claim that patents licensed by us are invalid, unenforceable or not infringed. In these circumstances, we may need to defend or assert our intellectual property rights, 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 the patents we in-license invalid or unenforceable, or that our competitors are competing in a non-infringing manner. Thus, even if we have in-licensed valid and enforceable patents, these patents still may not provide protection against competing products or processes sufficient to achieve our business objectives. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.

In the future, we likely will need to expand our patent portfolio to pursue patent coverage for new product candidates that we wish to develop. The patent prosecution process is competitive, and other companies, some which may have greater resources than we do in this area, may also be pursuing intellectual property rights that we may consider necessary or attractive in order to develop and commercialize future product candidates.

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

Filing, prosecuting, maintaining, defending and enforcing patents on our 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 deadline to pursue protection in foreign jurisdictions for many of the patent families licensed under the License Agreement with Penn has not yet expired. Prior to applicable deadlines, we and Penn will need to decide where to pursue protection, and we will not have the opportunity to pursue protection unless we do so in applicable jurisdictions prior to the deadlines. Although our License Agreement grants us worldwide rights, 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 even in jurisdictions where we and our licensors pursue patent protection. Consequently, we and our licensors may

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not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, even in jurisdictions where we and our licensors 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 and our licensors have not pursued and obtained patent protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we and our licensors have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our product candidates and the patents we in-license 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 products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of the patents we in-license or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. 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 the patents we in-license at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and the patent applications we in-license at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate, and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.

We or our licensors may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of the patents and other intellectual property that we own or license.

We or our licensors 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 in-license or that we may own or in-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. Our licensors may face similar obstacles. We or our licensors could be subject to ownership disputes arising, for example, from conflicting obligations of employees, consultants or others who are involved in developing our product candidates. For example, our scientific co-founders, Drs. Payne and Milone, are members of our scientific advisory board and are also employed by and subject to Penn’s intellectual property policy. Litigation may be necessary to defend against any claims challenging inventorship or ownership. If we or our licensors 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.

Some intellectual property which we have in-licensed was discovered through government funded programs and thus is subject to federal regulations such as “march-in” rights, certain reporting requirements, and a preference for U.S. industry. Compliance with such regulations may limit our exclusive rights and limit our ability to contract with non-U.S. manufacturers.

Certain of the intellectual property rights we have licensed, including rights licensed to us by Penn relating to our DSG3-CAART and DSG3/1-CAART product candidates, was generated through the use of U.S. government funding and may therefore be subject to certain federal laws and regulations. As a result, the U.S. government has certain rights to intellectual property embodied in our DSG3-CAART and DSG3/1-CAART product candidates and may have rights in future product candidates pursuant to the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. These U.S. government rights in certain inventions developed under a government-funded program include a non-exclusive, non-transferable, irrevocable worldwide license to use inventions for any governmental purpose. In addition, the U.S. government has the right to require us to grant exclusive, partially exclusive, or non-exclusive licenses to any of these inventions to a third party if it determines that: (i) adequate steps have not been taken to commercialize the invention; (ii) government action is necessary to meet public health or safety needs; or (iii) government action is necessary to meet requirements for public use under federal regulations, also referred to as “march-in rights”. The U.S. government also has the right to take title to these inventions if we, or the applicable licensor, such as Penn, fail to disclose the invention to the government and fail to file an application to register the intellectual property within

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specified time limits. Intellectual property generated under a government funded program is also subject to certain reporting requirements, compliance with which may require us or the applicable licensor to expend substantial resources. In addition, the U.S. government requires that products embodying the subject invention or produced through the use of the subject invention be manufactured substantially in the United States. The manufacturing preference requirement can be waived if the owner of the intellectual property can show that reasonable but unsuccessful efforts have been made to grant licenses on similar terms to potential licensees that would be likely to manufacture substantially in the United States or that under the circumstances domestic manufacture is not commercially feasible. This preference for U.S. manufacturers may limit our ability to contract with non-U.S. product manufacturers for product candidates covered by such intellectual property.

We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patent rights or other intellectual property rights, which could be expensive, time consuming and unsuccessful.

Competitors may infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate patents, trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property that we own or in-license. To counter infringement, misappropriation or other unauthorized use, we may be required to file claims, which can be expensive and time consuming and divert the time and attention of our management and scientific personnel. Any claims we assert against perceived violators could provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us alleging that we infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate their intellectual property, in addition to counterclaims asserting that the patents we in-license are invalid or unenforceable, or both. In any patent infringement proceeding, there is a risk that a court will decide that a patent we in-license is invalid or unenforceable, in whole or in part, and that we do not have the right to stop the other party from using the invention at issue. There is also a risk that, even if the validity of such patents is upheld, the court will construe the patent’s claims narrowly or decide that we do not have the right to stop the other party from using the invention at issue on the grounds that the patent claims do not cover the invention. An adverse outcome in a litigation or proceeding involving the patents we in-license could limit our ability to assert the patent we in-license against those parties or other competitors and may curtail or preclude our ability to exclude third parties from making and selling similar or competitive products. Any of these occurrences could adversely affect our competitive business position, business prospects and financial condition.

Even if we establish infringement, misappropriation or another violation of our intellectual property rights, the court may decide not to grant an injunction against the offender and instead award only monetary damages, which may or may not be an adequate remedy. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during litigation. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our shares. Moreover, there can be no assurance that we will have sufficient financial or other resources to file and pursue such claims, which typically last for years before they are concluded. Even if we ultimately prevail in such claims, the monetary cost of such litigation and the diversion of the attention of our management and scientific personnel could outweigh any benefit we receive as a result of the proceedings. Any of the foregoing may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

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 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

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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 impact, if any, 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 the patent applications we in-license and the enforcement or defense of the issued patents we in-license, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

The patent positions of companies engaged in the development and commercialization of biologics are particularly uncertain. For example, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., or Myriad, a case involving patent claims held by Myriad Genetics, Inc. relating to the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Myriad held that an isolated segment of naturally occurring DNA, such as the DNA constituting the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, is not patent-eligible subject matter, but that complementary DNA, which is an artificial construct that may be created from RNA transcripts of genes, may be patent-eligible. Thereafter, the USPTO issued a guidance memorandum instructing USPTO examiners on the ramifications of the Prometheus and Myriad rulings and apply the Myriad ruling to natural products and principles including all naturally occurring nucleic acids. Certain claims of our in-licensed patent applications contain, and any future patents we may obtain may contain, claims that relate to specific recombinant DNA sequences that are naturally occurring at least in part and, therefore, could be the subject of future challenges made by third parties.

We cannot assure you that our efforts to seek patent protection for one or more of our product candidates will not be negatively impacted by this Supreme Court decision, rulings in other cases or changes in guidance or procedures issued by the USPTO. We cannot fully predict what impact the Supreme Court’s decisions in Myriad 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.

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

In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect certain proprietary know-how that is not patentable or that we elect not to patent, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce, and any other elements of our product candidate discovery and development processes that involve proprietary know-how, information or technology that is not covered by patents. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect and some courts inside and outside the United States are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets. We seek to protect our proprietary technology and processes, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors, and contractors. We cannot guarantee that we have entered into such agreements with each party that may have or has had access to our trade secrets or proprietary technology and processes. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach.

In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors. Competitors and other third parties could 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.

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Patent term may be inadequate to protect our competitive position on our product candidates for an adequate amount of time.

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. In the United States, the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 permits a patent term extension of up to five years beyond the normal expiration of the patent, which is limited to the approved indication (or any additional indications approved during the period of extension). However, a patent term extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of the product’s approval by the FDA, only one patent applicable to an approved drug is eligible for the extension, and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. In the future, if and when our product candidates receive FDA approval, we plan to apply for patent term extensions on patents covering those product candidates in any jurisdiction where these are available. However, the applicable authorities, including the FDA and the USPTO in the United States, and any equivalent regulatory authority in other countries, may not agree with our assessment of whether such extensions are available, and may refuse to grant extensions to the patents we in-license, or may grant more limited extensions than we request. Moreover, we may not receive an extension because of, for example, failing to apply within applicable deadlines, failing to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents or otherwise failing to satisfy applicable requirements. If this occurs, our competitors may be able to take advantage of our investment in development and clinical trials by referencing our clinical and preclinical data and launch their product earlier than might otherwise be the case.

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

Certain of our employees, consultants or advisors are currently, or were previously, employed at universities or other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Although we try to ensure that our employees, consultants and advisors do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that these individuals or we have used or disclosed intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of any such individual’s current or former employer. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management. Our licensors may face similar risks, which could have an adverse impact on intellectual property that is licensed to us.

Intellectual property rights do not necessarily address all potential threats.

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

 

others may be able to make products that are similar to our product candidates or utilize similar cell therapy technology but that are not covered by the claims of our current or future patent portfolio;

 

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

 

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

 

others may independently develop similar or alternative technologies or duplicate any of our technologies without infringing our licensed intellectual property rights;

 

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

 

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

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

 

we may not develop additional proprietary technologies that are patentable;

 

the patents of others may harm our business;

 

we may choose not to file a patent application in order to maintain certain trade secrets or know-how, and a third party may subsequently file a patent application covering such intellectual property; and

 

third-party patents may issue with claims covering our activities; we may have infringement liability exposure arising from such patents.

Should any of these events occur, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We may become subject to claims that we are infringing certain third-party patents or other third-party intellectual property rights, any of which may prevent or delay our development and commercialization efforts and have a material adverse effect on our business.

Our commercial success depends in part on avoiding infringing, misappropriating and otherwise violating the patents and other intellectual property and proprietary rights of third parties. There is a substantial amount of litigation, both within and outside the United States, involving patent and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, including patent infringement lawsuits, and administrative proceedings such as interferences, inter partes review and post grant review proceedings before the USPTO and opposition proceedings before foreign patent offices. Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications, which are owned or controlled by third parties, including our competitors, exist in the fields in which we are pursuing product candidates. As the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our product candidates may be subject to claims of infringement of the patent rights of third parties.

Third parties may assert that we or our licensors are employing their proprietary technology without authorization. There may be third-party patents or patent applications with claims to materials, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment relating to our product candidates and, because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending third party patent applications which may later result in issued patents, in each case that our product candidates, their manufacture or use may infringe or be alleged to infringe. We may fail to identify potentially relevant patents or patent applications, incorrectly conclude that a patent is invalid or does not cover our activities, or incorrectly conclude that a patent application is unlikely to issue in a form of relevance to our activities.

Parties making patent infringement claims against us may obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could effectively block our ability to further develop and commercialize one or more of our product candidates. Defense of these claims, including demonstrating non-infringement, invalidity or unenforceability of the respective patent rights in question, regardless of their merit, is time-consuming, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. For example, in order to successfully challenge the validity of any U.S. patent in federal court, we would need to overcome a presumption of validity. This is a high burden requiring us to present clear and convincing evidence as to the invalidity of any such U.S. patent claim, and we can provide no assurance that a court of competent jurisdiction would invalidate the claims of any such U.S. patent. We may not have sufficient resources to bring these actions to a successful conclusion. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our shares.

 

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In the event that a holder of any such patents seeks to enforce its patent rights against us with respect to one or more of our product candidates, and our defenses against the infringement of such patent rights are unsuccessful, we may be precluded from commercializing our product candidates, even if approved, without first obtaining a license to some or all of these patents, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Moreover, we may be required to pay significant fees and royalties to secure a license to the applicable patents. Such a license may only be non-exclusive, in which case our ability to stop others from using or commercializing technology and products similar or identical to ours may be limited. Furthermore, we could be liable for damages to the holder of these patents, which may be significant and could include treble damages if we are found to have willfully infringed such patents. In the event that a challenge to these patents were to be unsuccessful or we were to become subject to litigation or unable to obtain a license on commercially reasonable terms with respect to these patents, it could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We are aware of third-party issued U.S. patents relating to the lentiviral vectors which may be used in the manufacture or use of our product candidates. If these patent rights were enforced against us, we believe that we have defenses against any such action, including that these patents would not be infringed by our product candidates and/or that these patents are not valid. However, if these patents were enforced against us and defenses to such enforcement were unsuccessful, unless we obtain a license to these patents, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, we could be liable for damages and precluded from commercializing any product candidates that were ultimately held to infringe these patents, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Even in the absence of a finding of infringement, we may need or may choose to obtain licenses from third parties to advance our research or allow commercialization of our product candidates. We may fail to obtain any of these licenses at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, or at all. In that event, we would be unable to further develop and commercialize our product candidates. Claims that we have misappropriated the confidential information or trade secrets of third parties could have a similar negative impact on our business. Any of the foregoing could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

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Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties

We are reliant on a research services agreement with Penn for our nonclinical research and development activities and current manufacturing activities.

If Penn and its affiliated entities were to fail to perform their obligations in accordance with the terms of the Services Agreement or terminate the Services Agreement with little notice, we may have difficulty continuing our normal business operations and our business prospects, financial condition and results of operations could be harmed. In addition, the termination of our relationship with Penn and the Services Agreement and any delay in appointing or finding a suitable replacement provider, if one exists, could make it difficult for us to operate our business for that period. Moreover, we will be reliant on Penn to assist us with any necessary technology transfer. Any delays or inadequacies in such technology transfer, or disputes regarding the scope of such technology transfer, could delay our operations, including our clinical trials, require us to expend additional resources and otherwise have an adverse effect on our business.

Additionally, over time we will need to transition from receiving the services that Penn currently provides to performing such services internally. The Services Agreement is scheduled to expire on the later of October 19, 2021 or completion of all research and development projects, and unless the Services Agreement is amended, Penn will not be obligated to provide any further services under the Services Agreement after that time. In addition, Penn has the right to terminate the Services Agreement in whole at any time with 90 days’ notice and to terminate any research and development project being performed under the Services Agreement if the Penn service provider appointed to lead such project is unavailable and Penn is unavailable to find a replacement within 60 days for such service provider. Penn also has the right to terminate certain manufacturing services being performed under the Services Agreement with 180 days’ written notice. From time to time, we may enter into further addenda to the Services Agreement that provide Penn with the right to terminate such addenda with limited notice periods. If we do not have adequate personnel and capabilities at the time that we assume responsibilities for such services, we may not be successful in effectively or efficiently transitioning these services from Penn, which could disrupt our business and have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. Further, we will incur costs relating to establishing our own financial, administrative, information technology and other support functions as well as running and maintaining such functions on a going-forward basis. In addition, the process of establishing such functions may distract our management from focusing on business and strategic opportunities and could result in disruptions to our business. Even if we are able to successfully transition these services, they may be more expensive or less efficient than the services we are receiving from Penn during the transition period.

We will rely on third parties to conduct our clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of or commercialize our product candidates.

We depend and will continue to depend upon third parties, including independent investigators and collaborators, such as universities, medical institutions, CROs and strategic partners, to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials under agreements with us. Specifically, we depend on clinical trial sites to enroll patients and conduct the DesCAARTesTM trial in a timely and appropriate manner. If our clinical trial sites do not conduct the trial on the timeline we expect or otherwise fail to support the trial, our clinical trial results could be significantly delayed, thereby adversely impacting our leadership position in the CAAR T industry and our ability to progress additional product candidates. Further, although we intend to transition our manufacturing needs to a CMO and eventually secure our own clinical manufacturing facility, we must currently rely on Penn to manufacture supplies and process our product candidates. As we open additional clinical trial sites, we expect to have to negotiate budgets and contracts with CROs and study sites, which may result in delays to our development timelines and increased costs.

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We will rely heavily on these third parties, including Penn, to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials, and as a result, will have limited control over the clinical investigators and limited visibility into their day-to-day activities, including with respect to their compliance with the approved clinical protocol. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our trials is conducted in accordance with applicable protocol, legal, regulatory and scientific standards, and our reliance on third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and these third parties are required to comply with Good Clinical Practices, or GCPs, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA for product candidates in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCPs through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, principal investigators and trial sites. If we or any of these third parties fail to comply with applicable GCP requirements, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot provide assurance that, upon inspection, such regulatory authorities will not determine that some or all of our clinical trials do not fully comply with the GCP requirements. For any violations of laws and regulations during the conduct of our clinical trials, we could be subject to untitled and warning letters or enforcement action that may include civil penalties up to and including criminal prosecution. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with biologic product produced under cGMPs and will require a large number of test patients. We also are required to register ongoing clinical trials and post the results of completed clinical trials on a government-sponsored database within certain timeframes. Failure to do so can result in fines, adverse publicity and civil and criminal sanctions.

As widely reported, global credit and financial markets have experienced extreme volatility and disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and related factors, including severely diminished liquidity and credit availability, declines in consumer confidence, declines in economic growth, increases in unemployment rates and uncertainty about economic stability. In the event that one or more of our current or future service providers, manufacturers and other partners 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, due to the economic downturn or for any other reasons, then we may not be able to obtain, or may be delayed in obtaining, marketing approvals for any product candidates we may develop and will not be able to, or may be delayed in our efforts to, successfully commercialize our medicines. Our failure or the failure of these third parties to comply with applicable regulatory requirements or our stated protocols could also subject us to enforcement action. Moreover, our business may be implicated if any of these third parties violates federal or state fraud and abuse or false claims laws and regulations or healthcare privacy and security laws.

Any third parties conducting our clinical trials will not be our employees and, except for remedies available to us under our agreements with such third parties, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time and resources to our ongoing preclinical and clinical programs. These third parties may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical studies or other drug development activities, which could affect their performance on our behalf. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or regulatory requirements or for other reasons, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated and we may not be able to complete development of, obtain regulatory approval of or successfully commercialize our product candidates. As a result, our financial results and the commercial prospects for our product candidates would be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.

If any of our relationships with trial sites, or any CRO that we may use in the future, terminates, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative trial sites or CROs or do so on commercially reasonable terms. Switching or adding third parties to conduct our clinical trials involves substantial cost and requires extensive management time and focus. In addition, there is often a natural transition period when a new third party commences work. As a result, delays may occur, which can materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines. Though we carefully manage our relationships with our CROs, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter similar challenges or delays in the future or that these delays or challenges will not have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and prospects.

We also expect to rely on other third parties to store and distribute drug supplies for our clinical trials. Any performance failure on the part of our distributors could delay clinical development or marketing approval of any

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product candidates we may develop or commercialization of our medicines, producing additional losses and depriving us of potential product revenue.

We intend to rely on third parties to manufacture our clinical product supplies, and we may have to rely on third parties to produce and process our product candidates, if licensed.

Although we may eventually secure our own clinical manufacturing facility for any late phase clinical development that we undertake, we currently rely on Penn to supply raw materials and other important components that are used to manufacture our product candidates and intend in the future to rely on CMOs. In the case of any manufacturing performed for us by Penn, the services performed for us risk being delayed because of the competing priorities that Penn has for utilization of its manufacturing resources and any capacity issues that thereby arise.

We do not yet have sufficient information to reliably estimate the cost of the manufacturing and processing of our product candidates in clinical quantity or commercial quantity, and the actual cost to manufacture and process our product candidates could ultimately materially and adversely affect the commercial viability of our product candidates. As a result, we may never be able to develop a commercially viable product.

In addition, our anticipated reliance on a limited number of third-party manufacturers exposes us to the following risks:

 

We may be unable to identify manufacturers on acceptable terms or at all because the number of potential manufacturers is limited and the FDA may have questions regarding any replacement contractor. This may require new testing and regulatory interactions. In addition, a new manufacturer would have to be educated in, or develop substantially equivalent processes for, production of our products after receipt of FDA questions, if any.

 

Our third-party manufacturers might be unable to timely formulate and manufacture our product or produce the quantity and quality required to meet our clinical and commercial needs, if any.

 

Contract manufacturers may not be able to execute our manufacturing procedures appropriately.

 

Any contract manufacturers that we engage may not perform as agreed or may not remain in the contract manufacturing business for the time required to supply our clinical trials or to successfully produce, store and distribute our product candidates.

 

Manufacturers are subject to ongoing periodic unannounced inspection by the FDA and corresponding state agencies to ensure strict compliance with cGMP and other government regulations. We do not have control over third-party manufacturers’ compliance with these regulations and standards.

 

We may not own, or may have to share, the intellectual property rights to any improvements made by our third-party manufacturers in the manufacturing process for our product candidates.

 

Our third-party manufacturers could breach or terminate their agreement with us.

Furthermore, all of our contract manufacturers are engaged with other companies to supply and/or manufacture materials or products for such companies, which exposes our manufacturers to regulatory risks related to the production of such materials and products. As a result, failure to meet the regulatory requirements for the production of those materials and products may affect the regulatory clearance of our contract manufacturers’ facilities generally. If the FDA does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates or if any agency withdraws its approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would negatively impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our product candidates, if licensed.

Our contract manufacturers would also be subject to the same risks we face in developing our own manufacturing capabilities, as described above. Each of these risks could delay our clinical trials, the approval, if any of our product candidates by the FDA or the commercialization of our product candidates or result in higher costs or deprive us of potential product revenue. In addition, we will rely on third parties to perform release tests on our product candidates prior to delivery to patients. If these tests are not appropriately done and test data are not reliable, patients could be put at risk of serious harm.

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For more information, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Manufacturing and Supply”.

We may form or seek strategic alliances or enter into additional licensing arrangements in the future, and we may not realize the benefits of such alliances or licensing arrangements.

We may form or seek strategic alliances, create joint ventures or collaborations or enter into additional licensing arrangements with third parties that we believe will complement or augment our development and commercialization efforts with respect to our product candidates and any future product candidates that we may develop. Any of these relationships may require us to incur non-recurring and other charges, increase our near and long-term expenditures, issue securities that dilute our existing stockholders or disrupt our management and business. In addition, we face significant competition in seeking appropriate strategic partners and the negotiation process is time-consuming and complex. Moreover, we may not be successful in our efforts to establish a strategic partnership or other alternative arrangements for our product candidates because they may be deemed to be at too early of a stage of development for collaborative effort and third parties may not view our product candidates as having the requisite potential to demonstrate safety, potency and purity. Any delays in entering into new strategic partnership agreements related to our product candidates could delay the development and commercialization of our product candidates in certain geographies for certain indications, which would harm our business prospects, financial condition and results of operations.

If we license products or businesses, we may not be able to realize the benefit of such transactions if we are unable to successfully integrate them with our existing operations and company culture. For instance, our License Agreement with Penn and CHOP requires significant research and development commitments that may not result in the development and commercialization of our product candidates, including DSG3-CAART and our other product candidates. We cannot be certain that, following a strategic transaction or license, we will achieve the results, revenue or specific net income that justifies such transaction.

We may not realize the benefits of acquired assets or other strategic transactions, including any transactions whereby we acquire or license manufacturing and other advanced technologies.

In August 2018, we entered into a License Agreement with Penn and CHOP which was amended and restated in July 2019, and further amended in May 2020, or the License Agreement, pursuant to which we were granted licenses to certain patent rights for the research and development of products, as well as an exclusive license under those same patent rights to make, use, sell and import such products, in the autoimmune disease and alloimmune response subfields, in each case, for the treatment of humans.

We actively evaluate various strategic transactions on an ongoing basis. We may acquire other businesses, products or technologies as well as pursue joint ventures or investments in complementary businesses. The success of our strategic transactions, including the License Agreement, and any future strategic transactions depends on the risks and uncertainties involved including:

 

unanticipated liabilities related to acquired companies or joint ventures;

 

difficulties integrating acquired personnel, technologies and operations into our existing business;

 

retention of key employees;

 

diversion of management time and focus from operating our business to management of strategic alliances or joint ventures or acquisition integration challenges;

 

increases in our expenses and reductions in our cash available for operations and other uses;

 

disruption in our relationships with collaborators or suppliers as a result of such a transaction; and

 

possible write-offs or impairment charges relating to acquired businesses or joint ventures.

If any of these risks or uncertainties occur, we may not realize the anticipated benefit of any acquisition or strategic transaction. Additionally, foreign acquisitions and joint ventures are subject to additional risks, including those related to integration of operations across different cultures and languages, currency risks, potentially adverse

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tax consequences of overseas operations and the particular economic, political and regulatory risks associated with specific countries.

Future acquisitions or dispositions could result in potentially dilutive issuances of our equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities or amortization expenses or write-offs of goodwill, any of which could harm our financial condition.

Risks Related to Manufacturing and Supply

We currently rely upon Penn for our manufacturing needs, and we intend to rely on other third parties for our future manufacturing needs prior to establishing our own manufacturing facility.

We are currently reliant upon Penn for our cell product manufacturing for our lead product candidate, DSG3-CAART. In parallel with initiating our first clinical trial, we have entered into an agreement with a CMO to help secure the manufacturing supply chain for future product candidates. We will need to develop relationships with suppliers, increase the scale of production and demonstrate comparability of the material produced at these facilities to the material that was previously produced. Transferring manufacturing processes and know-how is complex and involves review and incorporation of both documented and undocumented processes that may have evolved over time.

In addition, transferring production to different facilities may require utilization of new or different processes to meet the specific requirements of a given facility. We would expect additional comparability work will also need to be conducted to support the transfer of certain manufacturing processes and process improvements. We cannot be certain that all relevant know-how and data has been adequately incorporated into the manufacturing process until the completion of studies (and the related evaluations) intended to demonstrate the comparability of material previously produced with that generated by any CMO that we engage for our manufacturing needs. If we are not able to successfully transfer and produce comparable product candidates, our ability to further develop and manufacture our product candidates may be negatively impacted.

We plan to eventually establish our own manufacturing facility. While the addition of our own manufacturing facility would provide us with future flexibility within our manufacturing network, we still may need to identify additional CMOs for continued production of supply for some or all of our product candidates. Given the nature of our manufacturing processes, the number of CMOs who possess the requisite skill and capability to manufacture our CAAR T cell immunotherapy product candidates is limited.

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Further, we may not be able to achieve clinical manufacturing and cell processing through Penn on a timely basis, on our own or at any future CMO. While our current manufacturing process is based off the validated process developed at Penn for CD19 CAR T, or CART19, we have limited experience as an organization in managing the CAAR T engineering process. Finally, because clinical manufacturing and cell processing is highly complex and patient donor material is inherently variable, we cannot be sure that the manufacturing processes employed by Penn, any CMO that we engage in the future, or by us at a manufacturing facility that we establish will consistently result in T cells that will be safe and effective.

Our product candidates are uniquely manufactured. If we, Penn or any of our third-party manufacturers encounter difficulties in manufacturing our product candidates, our ability to provide supply of our product candidates for clinical trials or, if licensed, for commercial sale, could be delayed or stopped, or we may be unable to maintain a commercially viable cost structure.

The manufacturing process used to produce our product candidates is complex and novel, and it has not yet been validated for commercial production. Among the complex processes used in the manufacture of our product candidates is the manufacture of the lentiviral delivery vector used to deliver the applicable CAAR gene into the T cells. For example, the manufacture of our product candidates includes harvesting white blood cells from each patient, stimulating certain T cells from the white blood cells and thereby causing them to activate and proliferate, combining patient T cells with our lentiviral delivery vector through a process known as transduction, expanding the transduced T cells to obtain the desired dose, and ultimately infusing the modified T cells back into the patient’s body. Notably, the manufacture of both DSG3/1-CAART and FVIII-CAART may be more challenging or require new gene delivery technology due to the need to deliver large transgenes for these programs, and vector delivery systems have size limitations. Because of these complexities, the cost to manufacture our product candidates is higher than traditional small molecule chemical compounds and monoclonal antibodies, and the manufacturing process is less reliable and is more difficult to reproduce. Furthermore, our manufacturing process development and scale-up is at an early stage. The actual cost to manufacture and process our product candidates could be greater than we expect and could materially and adversely affect the commercial viability of our product candidates.

Our manufacturing process may be susceptible to technical and logistics delays or failures due to the fact that each patient is an independent manufacturing lot, and also due to unique supply chain requirements.  These include the collection of white blood cells from patients’ blood, variability in the quality of white blood cells collected from patients’ blood, cryopreservation of the white blood cells collected, packaging and shipment of frozen white blood cells to the manufacturing site in order to enable multi-site studies, procurement of lentiviral vectors that meet potency and purity requirements and shipment to the product candidate manufacturing site, shipment of the final product to clinical centers, manufacturing issues associated with interruptions in the manufacturing process, scheduling constraints for cell manufacturing slots, process contamination, equipment or reagent failure, improper installation or operation of equipment, vendor or operator error, and inconsistency in cell growth. Even minor deviations from normal manufacturing processes could result in reduced production yields, lot failures, product defects, product recalls, product liability claims and other supply disruptions. If microbial, viral, or other contaminations are discovered in our product candidates or in the manufacturing facilities in which our product candidates are made, production at such manufacturing facilities may be interrupted for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination. Further, as product candidates are developed through preclinical studies to late-stage clinical trials toward approval and commercialization, it is common that various aspects of the development program, such as manufacturing methods, are altered along the way in an effort to optimize processes and results. Such changes may result in the need to enroll additional patients or to conduct additional clinical studies to evaluate the impact of changes on product safety and efficacy. Penn has informed us that it will be unable provide clinical supply for any late-phase clinical trials of our product candidates that we may conduct. Therefore, we will need to enter into new agreements with CMOs to produce clinical supply of our product candidates for late-phase clinical trials. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to enter into such agreements on commercially acceptable terms, if at all. We will need to transfer the technology to manufacture our product candidates to these CMOs, and these CMOs may decide or be required to adopt different manufacturing protocols or processes, which may require us to amend any ongoing or proposed clinical trial protocols or perform additional preclinical studies to demonstrate the comparability of any such new manufacturing protocols or processes. We cannot provide any assurance that Penn will provide adequate support to efficiently and effectively transfer the technology or that disputes will not arise between us and Penn regarding the necessary scope of technology transfer, that the technology transfer will be successful, or that any CMO will be successful in producing our product candidates in sufficient quantities or of acceptable quality, if at all. Such changes carry the risk that they will not achieve these intended objectives, and any of these changes could cause our product candidates to perform differently and affect the results of ongoing and planned clinical trials or other future clinical trials.

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Although we continue to optimize our manufacturing process for our product candidates, doing so is a difficult and uncertain task, and there are risks associated with scaling to the level required for advanced clinical trials or commercialization, including, among others, cost overruns, potential problems with process scale-up, process reproducibility, stability issues, lot consistency and timely availability of reagents and/or raw materials. We ultimately may not be successful in transferring our production system from our contract manufacturer to any manufacturing facilities we may establish ourselves, or our contract manufacturer may not have the necessary capabilities to complete the implementation and development process. If we are unable to adequately validate or scale-up the manufacturing process for our product candidates with our current manufacturer, we will need to transfer to another manufacturer and complete the manufacturing validation process, which can be lengthy. If we are able to adequately validate and scale-up the manufacturing process for our product candidates with a contract manufacturer, we will still need to negotiate with such contract manufacturer an agreement for commercial supply and it is not certain we will be able to come to agreement on terms acceptable to us. As a result, we may ultimately be unable to reduce the cost of goods for our product candidates to levels that will allow for an attractive return on investment if and when those product candidates are commercialized.

In addition, many of the components which are required to support our cell manufacturing process, such as equipment, media, growth factors and disposables, are highly specialized and it is possible that the supply chain for these materials may be interrupted. If we are unable to promptly remedy such interruption, then there may be delays to our clinical development efforts.

The manufacturing process for any products that we may develop is subject to the FDA approval process, and we will need to contract with manufacturers who can meet all applicable FDA requirements on an ongoing basis.

The manufacturing process for any products that we may develop is subject to the FDA approval process, and we will need to contract with manufacturers who can meet all applicable FDA requirements on an ongoing basis. If we or our CMOs are unable to reliably produce products to specifications acceptable to the FDA, we may not obtain or maintain the approvals we need to commercialize such products. Even if we obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, there is no assurance that either we or our CMOs will be able to manufacture the approved product in accordance with requirements from the FDA, to produce it in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements for the potential launch of the product, or to meet potential future demand. Any of these challenges could delay completion of clinical trials, require bridging clinical trials or the repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical trial costs, result in sanctions being imposed on us, including clinical holds, fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, license revocation, suspension of production or recalls of the product candidates or marketed biologics, operating restriction and criminal prosecutions, delay approval of our product candidates, impair commercialization efforts, increase our cost of goods, and have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects. Our future success depends on our ability to manufacture our products, if licensed, on a timely basis with acceptable manufacturing costs, while at the same time maintaining good quality control and complying with applicable regulatory requirements, and an inability to do so could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. In addition, we could incur higher manufacturing costs if manufacturing processes or standards change, and we could need to replace, modify, design, or build and install equipment, all of which would require additional capital expenditures. Specifically, because our product candidates may have a higher cost of goods than conventional therapies, the risk that coverage and reimbursement rates may be inadequate for us to achieve profitability may be greater.

The manufacture of viral vectors is complex and variable, and there are a limited number of manufacturers able to supply us with viral vectors.

Our DSG3-CAART and MuSK-CAART product candidates utilize a lentiviral delivery vector and some or all of our other product candidates may require a lentiviral delivery vector, a key drug substance that delivers the CAAR to the target T cells. We do not have the capability to manufacture lentiviral vector and plan to obtain the vector we require from third parties. The manufacturing process for lentiviral vector is variable and still evolving. It is not uncommon for manufacturing runs to fail, whether due to contamination, supplier error, or equipment failure, or to be delayed. To the extent our product candidates use a lentiviral delivery vector, a lack of vector supply will cause us to be unable to manufacture our CAAR T cells as well as a delay in patient enrollment, which may have a negative impact on our ability to successfully develop our product candidates.

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Further, there are a limited number of manufacturers capable of producing lentiviral vectors. It can be challenging to secure a relationship with any of these manufacturers, and the manufacturing and release process can take a significant amount of time. We have secured a supply of lentiviral vector from CHOP sufficient for a portion of the patients we plan to enroll in our DesCAARTesTM trial. We have also reserved additional vector manufacturing capacity at Penn and CHOP and we have engaged other CMOs to evaluate their potential capabilities and capacity for additional supply. There is no assurance that we will be able to secure adequate and timely supply of lentiviral vector. Moreover, we cannot be certain that our CAAR T cell product candidates produced with lentiviral vector from different manufacturers will be comparable or that results of clinical trials will be consistent if conducted with lentiviral vector from different manufacturers.

Vector production also requires the production of high-quality DNA plasmids, for which there is also a limited number of suppliers. Although we have established relationships with multiple suppliers for lentiviral vector and plasmids, we do not yet have our own clinical-scale manufacturing facility established, and are therefore highly dependent on the ability of these suppliers to manufacture necessary materials and to deliver these materials to us on a timely and reliable basis.

If we are to operate our own manufacturing facility, significant resources will be required and we may fail to successfully operate our facility, which could adversely affect our clinical trials and the commercial viability of our product candidates.

If we establish our own manufacturing facility, our operations will be subject to review and oversight by the FDA and the FDA could object to our use of our manufacturing facility. We must first receive approval from the FDA prior to licensure to manufacture our product candidates, which we may never obtain. Even if licensed, we would be subject to ongoing periodic unannounced inspection by the FDA and corresponding state agencies to ensure strict compliance with cGMPs and other government regulations. Our license to manufacture product candidates will be subject to continued regulatory review.

Our cost of goods development is at an early stage. The actual cost to manufacture and process our product candidates could be greater than we expect and could materially and adversely affect the commercial viability of our product candidates.

The manufacture of biopharmaceutical products is complex and requires significant expertise, and can be impacted by resource constraints, labor disputes and workforce limitations.

The manufacture of biopharmaceutical products is complex and requires significant expertise, including the development of advanced manufacturing techniques and process controls. Manufacturers of cell therapy products often encounter difficulties in production, particularly in scaling out and validating initial production and ensuring the absence of contamination. These problems include difficulties with production costs and yields, quality control, including stability of the product, quality assurance testing, operator error, shortages of qualified personnel, as well as compliance with strictly enforced federal, state and foreign regulations. Furthermore, if contaminants are discovered in our supply of product candidates or in the manufacturing facilities upon which we currently or will rely, such manufacturing facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination. We cannot assure you that any stability or other issues relating to the manufacture of our product candidates, whether by Penn, by a third-party CMO, or at any manufacturing facility that we may establish, will not occur in the future.

Penn, third-party CMOs that we engage or we may fail to manage the logistics of storing and shipping our product candidates. Storage failures and shipment delays and problems caused by us, our vendors or other factors not in our control, such as weather, could result in loss of usable product or prevent or delay the delivery of product candidates to patients.

Penn, third-party CMOs that we engage, or we may also experience manufacturing difficulties due to resource constraints, labor disputes or workforce limitations arising from the expanding need for manufacturing in the cell therapy field and the limited number of training programs for technical staff. If we were to encounter any of these difficulties, our ability to provide our product candidates to patients would be jeopardized.

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We are dependent upon the availability of specialty raw materials and the production capabilities of small manufacturers to source the components of our product candidates.

Our product candidates require many specialty raw materials, some of which are manufactured by small companies with limited resources and experience to support a commercial product, and the suppliers may not be able to deliver raw materials to our specifications. In addition, those suppliers generally do not have the capacity to support commercial products manufactured under cGMP by biopharmaceutical firms. The suppliers may be ill-equipped to support our needs, especially in non-routine circumstances like an FDA inspection or medical crisis, such as widespread contamination. We also do not have contracts with many of these suppliers, and we may not be able to contract with them on acceptable terms or at all. Accordingly, we may experience delays in receiving key raw materials to support clinical or commercial manufacturing.

In addition, some raw materials are currently available from a single supplier, or a small number of suppliers. We cannot be sure that these suppliers will remain in business or that they will not be purchased by one of our competitors or another company that is not interested in continuing to produce these materials for our intended purpose. In addition, the lead time needed to establish a relationship with a new supplier can be lengthy, and we may experience delays in meeting demand in the event we must switch to a new supplier. The time and effort to qualify a new supplier could result in additional costs, diversion of resources or reduced manufacturing yields, any of which would negatively impact our operating results. Further, we may be unable to enter into agreements with a new supplier on commercially reasonable terms, which could have a material adverse impact on our business. We are also unable to predict how changing global economic conditions or global health concerns such as the COVID-19 pandemic will affect our third-party suppliers and manufacturers. For example, two vaccines for COVID-19 were granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA in late 2020, and more are likely to be authorized in the coming months. The resultant demand for vaccines and potential for manufacturing facilities and materials to be commandeered under the Defense Production Act of 1950, or equivalent foreign legislation, may make it more difficult to obtain materials or manufacturing slots for the products needed for our clinical trials, which could lead to delays in these trials. Any negative impact of such matters on our third-party suppliers and manufacturers may also have an adverse impact on our results of operations or financial condition.

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We may encounter difficulties in production, particularly with respect to process development or scaling up of our manufacturing capabilities. If we encounter such difficulties, our ability to provide supply of our CAAR T cells for clinical trials or for commercial purposes could be delayed or stopped.

Establishing clinical and commercial manufacturing and supply is a difficult and uncertain task, and there are risks associated with scaling to the level required for advanced clinical trials or commercialization, including, among others, increased costs, potential problems with process scale-out, process reproducibility, stability issues, lot consistency, and timely availability of reagents or raw materials. For example, we may find it difficult to establish a manufacturing process that is consistent. If this occurs, we may need to complete more than one manufacturing run for each treated patient, which would impact the availability of adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors. Competitors that have developed CAR T cell therapies have had difficulty reliably producing engineered T cell therapies in the commercial setting. If we experience similar challenges manufacturing product candidates to approved specifications, this may limit our product candidates’ utilization and our ability to receive payment for these product candidates once licensed. Alternatively, these challenges may require changes to our manufacturing processes, which could require us to perform additional clinical studies, incurring significant expense. We may ultimately be unable to reduce the expenses associated with our product candidates to levels that will allow us to achieve a profitable return on investment.

If we or our third-party suppliers use hazardous, non-hazardous, biological or other materials in a manner that causes injury or violates applicable law, we may be liable for damages.

Our research and development activities involve the controlled use of potentially hazardous substances, including chemical and biological materials. We and our suppliers are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations in the United States governing the use, manufacture, storage, handling and disposal of medical and hazardous materials. Although we believe that we and our suppliers’ procedures for using, handling, storing and disposing of these materials comply with legally prescribed standards, we and our suppliers cannot completely eliminate the risk of contamination or injury resulting from medical or hazardous materials. As a result of any such contamination or injury, we may incur liability or local, city, state or federal authorities may curtail the use of these materials and interrupt our business operations. In the event of an accident, we could be held liable for damages or penalized with fines, and the liability could exceed our resources. We do not have any insurance for liabilities arising from medical or hazardous materials. Compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations is expensive, and current or future environmental regulations may impair our research, development and production efforts, which could harm our business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations.

Changes in product candidate manufacturing or formulation may result in additional costs or delay, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.