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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 001-37773

 

MERUS N.V.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

The Netherlands

Not Applicable

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

Yalelaan 62

3584 CM Utrecht

The Netherlands

Not Applicable

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code:

+31 30 253 8800

 

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 shares,

nominal value €0.09 per share

 

MRUS

 

The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

(Nasdaq Global Market)

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

None

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

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

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

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

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, 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 Exchange Act). Yes  No 

The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant, based on the closing price of the shares of common stock on The Nasdaq Stock Market on June 30, 2020, was approximately $464.9 million.

The number of shares of registrant’s Common Shares outstanding as of February 28, 2021 was 38,126,976.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement that the registrant intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Regulation 14A in connection with the registrant’s 2021 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K to the extent stated herein.

 

 

 


 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

 

 

Item 1.

Business

 

3

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

 

37

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

79

Item 2.

Properties

 

79

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

 

79

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

79

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

Item 5.

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

 

80

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

 

80

Item 7.

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

 

81

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

88

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

88

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

88

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

 

88

Item 9B.

Other Information

 

89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

90

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

 

92

Item 12.

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

 

92

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

92

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

93

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

 

94

Item 16

Form 10-K Summary

 

97

 

 

 

i


 

 

CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “expect,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “could,” “intend,” “target,” “project,” “contemplate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “forecast,” “predict,” “potential” or “continue” or the negative of these terms or other similar expressions, although not all forward-looking statements contain these words. Forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, include without limitation statements regarding our plans to develop and commercialize our product candidates, the timing of our ongoing or planned clinical trials, the timing of and our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals, the clinical utility of our product candidates, our commercialization, marketing and manufacturing capabilities and strategy, our expectations surrounding our collaborations, our expectations about the willingness of healthcare professionals to use our product candidates, the sufficiency of our cash, cash equivalents and investments, and the plans and objectives of management for future operations and capital expenditures.

The forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are only predictions and are based largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and are subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions and other important factors, including those described under the sections in this Annual Report on Form 10-K entitled “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Because forward-looking statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties, some of which cannot be predicted or quantified and some of which are beyond our control, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The events and circumstances reflected in our forward-looking statements may not be achieved or occur and actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties. Except as required by applicable law, we do not plan to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements contained herein, whether as a result of any new information, future events, changed circumstances or otherwise. We intend the forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to be covered by the safe harbor provisions for forward-looking statements contained in Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act.

 

SUMMARY RISK FACTORS

Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including those described in Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. You should carefully consider these risks and uncertainties when investing in our common shares. The principal risks and uncertainties affecting our business include the following:

 

 

We have incurred significant net losses since inception and we expect to continue to incur significant net losses for the foreseeable future.

 

 

We have a limited operating history, have not completed any clinical trials, and have no products approved for commercial sale, which may make it difficult for you to evaluate our current business and predict our future success and viability.

 

 

We will require substantial additional capital to finance our operations. If we are unable to raise such capital when needed, or on acceptable terms, we may be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate one or more of our research and drug development programs or future commercialization efforts.

 

 

The outcome of preclinical testing and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of later clinical trials, and the results of our clinical trials may not satisfy the requirements of the FDA, EMA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities.

 

 

The clinical trial and regulatory approval processes are lengthy, time consuming and inherently unpredictable, and we may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of our product candidates.

 

 

Our antibody candidates may have serious adverse, undesirable or unacceptable side effects which may delay or prevent marketing approval. If such side effects are identified during the development of our antibody candidates or following approval, if any, we may need to abandon our development of such antibody candidates, the commercial profile of any approved label may be limited, or we may be subject to other significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any

 

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We depend on enrollment of patients in our clinical trials for our antibody candidates, including patients having NRG1 fusion positive tumors, which are rare, tumorigenic genomic events. If we are unable to enroll patients in our clinical trials, including those having these rare tumorigenic events, our research and development efforts and business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

 

 

We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties, including independent clinical investigators and contract research organizations or CROs, to conduct our pre-clinical studies and 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 for or commercialize our antibody candidates and our business could be substantially harmed.

 

 

Due to our limited resources and access to capital, we must, and have in the past decided to, prioritize development of certain antibody candidates over other potential candidates. These decisions may prove to have been wrong and may adversely affect our revenues.

 

 

The competition for qualified personnel is particularly intense in our industry. If we are unable to retain or hire key personnel, we may not be able to sustain or grow our business.

 

 

We operate in highly competitive and rapidly changing industries, and if our competitors develop and market technologies or products more rapidly than we do or that are more effective, safer or less expensive than the product candidates we develop, our commercial opportunities will be negatively impacted.

 

 

Our success depends on our ability to protect our intellectual property and our proprietary technologies. If we are unable to adequately protect our intellectual property and our proprietary technologies, or obtain and maintain issued patents which are sufficient to protect our product candidates, others could compete against us more directly, which would negatively impact our business.

 

 

Our existing collaborations are important to our business and future licenses may also be important to us, and if we are unable to maintain any of these collaborations, or if these arrangements are not successful, our business could be adversely affected.

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has and may continue to adversely impact our business, including our pre-clinical studies and clinical trials, financial condition and results of operations.

 

 

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

 

Overview

 

We are a clinical-stage oncology company developing innovative antibody therapeutics. Our pipeline of full-length human multispecific antibody candidates are generated from our proprietary technology platforms, which are able to generate a diverse array of antibody binding domains, or Fabs, against virtually any target. Each antibody binding domain consists of a target-specific heavy chain paired with a common light chain. Multiple binding domains can be combined to produce novel bispecific and trispecific antibodies that bind to a wide range of targets and display novel and innovative biology. These platforms, referred to as Biclonics® and Triclonics®, allow us to generate large numbers of diverse panels of bispecific and trispecific antibodies, respectively, which can then be functionally screened in large-scale cell-based assays to identify those unique molecules that possess novel biology, which we believe are best suited for a given therapeutic application. Further, by binding to multiple targets, Biclonics® and Triclonics® may be designed to provide a variety of mechanisms of action, including simultaneously blocking receptors that drive tumor cell growth and survival and mobilizing the patient’s immune response by engaging T cells, and/or activating various killer cells to eradicate tumors.

 

Our technology platforms employ an assortment of patented technologies and techniques to generate human antibodies. We utilize our patented MeMo® mouse to produce a host of antibodies with diverse heavy chains and a common light chain that are capable of binding to virtually any antigen target. We use our patented heavy chain and CH3 domain dimerization technology to generate substantially pure bispecific and trispecific antibodies. We also employ our patented Spleen to Screen® technology to efficiently screen panels of diverse heavy chains, designed to allow us to more rapidly identify Biclonics® and Triclonics® therapeutic candidates with differentiated modes of action for pre-clinical and clinical testing.

 

Using our Biclonics® platform we have produced, and are currently developing, the following candidates: MCLA-128 (zenocutuzumab) for the potential treatment of solid tumors that harbor Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) gene fusions; MCLA-158 for the potential treatment of solid tumors; and MCLA-145, developed in collaboration with Incyte Corporation, for the potential treatment of solid tumors. In 2021, we are planning to commence a clinical trial in the United States for MCLA-129, for the potential treatment of solid tumors, which is also the subject to collaboration and license agreement, which permits Betta Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. (Betta) to exclusively develop MCLA-129 in China, while Merus retains full ex-China rights. Furthermore, we have a pipeline of proprietary antibody candidates in pre-clinical development and intend to further leverage our Biclonics® and Triclonics® technology platforms to identify multiple additional antibody candidates and advance them to clinical development.

 

Our Strategy

 

Our goal is to become a leading oncology company developing innovative multispecific antibodies to treat various types of cancer. Our business strategy comprises the following components:

 

 

Successfully develop our most advanced bispecific antibody candidate, zenocutuzumab, for the treatment of NRG1 fusion solid tumors. We are developing our most advanced bispecific antibody candidate, zenocutuzumab, for the potential treatment of solid tumors that contain NRG1 gene fusions. The NRG1 protein is the ligand for the HER3 receptor—a known cause of cancer cell growth. The gene encoding NRG1 can form genetic rearrangements referred to as NRG1 gene fusions. The protein product of the NRG1 gene fusion can drive signaling through the HER3 receptor and thus drive cancer cell growth. NRG1 gene fusions occur infrequently in a wide range of different cancer types. Zenocutuzumab has been shown pre-clinically to potently disrupt binding of NRG1 (and NRG1-fusion proteins) to HER3 and halt NRG1-stimulated tumor cell growth. In October 2019, we reported on the 9 patients with NRG1 gene fusion cancers who had received zenocutuzumab as of that date, either while participating in the clinical trial or in connection with an Early Access Program (EAP), including, for several patients, clinical responses and stable disease with tumor reduction and reductions in serum tumor markers. We expect to present data from our Phase 1/2 NRG1 fusion-positive solid tumor trial, eNRGy, at a medical conference in the second quarter of 2021. We believe that if zenocutuzumab is successfully developed and obtains regulatory approval, it has the potential to address an important unmet medical need that is not currently being met by existing therapies. In July 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted zenocutuzumab Orphan Drug Designation for pancreatic cancer and in January 2021, the FDA granted Fast Track Designation to zenocutuzumab for the treatment of patients with metastatic solid tumors harboring NRG1 gene fusions that have progressed on standard-of-care therapy.

 

 

 

Successfully develop our bispecific antibody candidate MCLA-158. We are developing MCLA-158 for a potential dual EGFR/LRG5 blockade for the treatment of solid tumors. Our Phase 1 clinical trial of MCLA-158 is ongoing in the dose expansion phase. On January 15, 2021, we presented in a poster session interim clinical data from the phase 1 dose escalation of MCLA-158 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2021 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. As of a data cut-off of September 2020, MCLA-158 was administered to 33 patients over 11 dose levels (5-1500 mg, flat dose), a heavily pretreated population with a median of four lines of prior therapy. As of the cut-off date, MCLA-158 was observed to be well tolerated, and no dose limiting toxicities occurred. The recommended Phase 2 dose was established at 1500 mg

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administered intravenously once every two weeks. Enrollment of patients with gastro-esophageal and head-and-neck cancers continues at this dose in the expansion phase of the open-label, multicenter trial, and preliminary evidence of antitumor activity has been observed.

 

 

Successfully develop our bispecific antibody candidate MCLA-145. We are developing MCLA-145, in collaboration with Incyte Corporation (Incyte), in an ongoing Phase 1 trial for the potential treatment of solid tumors. MCLA-145 is designed to recruit, activate and prevent the exhaustion of tumor-infiltrating T-cells, and we believe has the potential to avoid the known side effects experienced with CD137 agonists that have been tested in the clinic. We plan to present a clinical update at a major medical conference in the second half of 2021.

 

 

Successfully develop our bispecific antibody candidate MCLA-129. We are developing MCLA-129, in collaboration with Betta, and are planning to commence a Phase 1 trial in 2021 to investigate MCLA-129 as a potential treatment for solid tumors, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We presented at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in October 2019 pre-clinical data showing that MCLA-129 inhibited tyrosine kinase inhibitor-resistant NSCLC in pre-clinical xenograft mouse models. We plan to dose the first patient in a clinical trial in the US in 2021.

 

 

Accelerate the discovery and development of additional internal and collaboration-related bispecific antibody candidates and internal trispecific antibody candidates. We believe we are well positioned to expand our pipeline of Biclonics® and Triclonics® molecules for the potential treatment of cancer and potentially other forms of disease. We are conducting pre-clinical studies for our internal proprietary bispecific and trispecific pipeline as well as leveraging our bispecific platform with our collaborators including Incyte, Eli Lilly and Company (Eli Lilly), Simcere Pharmaceutical Group (Simcere), and Betta.

 

 

Seek strategic collaborations. We intend to seek strategic collaborations to facilitate the capital-efficient development of our pipeline and to maximize the value of our Biclonics® and Triclonics® technology platforms and to access unique partner capabilities and capacity. We have entered into collaborations with Incyte, Eli Lilly, Simcere, and Betta to develop bispecific antibody candidates based on our Biclonics® technology platform. We plan to work with other potential future collaborators to further validate and expand the use of our Biclonics® and Triclonics® platforms in developing bispecific and trispecific antibody candidates. We have also worked with ONO Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., under a research license agreement to generate bispecific antibodies for indications outside oncology, which further underscore the breadth of the Merus platform. We believe these collaborations, license and future agreements could potentially provide significant funding to advance our pipeline and allow us to benefit from the additional resources, development and commercialization expertise of our collaborators.

 

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Our Biclonics® and Triclonics® Candidate Portfolio

 

We currently have bispecific candidates in clinical development, with a variety bispecific and trispecific candidates in pre-clinical development. The following table summarizes our development candidate pipeline:

 

 

Cancer Immunotherapeutics

 

Immunotherapy is relatively a new class of cancer treatment that works to harness a patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells. There are a number of immunotherapies that are designed to engage various aspects of the immune system, for example: (1) adaptive immunity, specifically directing genetically modified T cells to the tumor with chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR T cells or T-cell receptor modification; or modulating T-cell activity through co-stimulation or checkpoint signals; (2) innate immunity, including antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), cellular-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC), monocyte/macrophage cytotoxicity, natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity, or other forms of T-cell cytotoxicity; all directed at the cancer cells. While these therapies vary in mechanism of action, they rely on specific components of the innate or adaptive immune system to kill tumor cells or counteract signals produced by cancer cells that suppress immune responses.

 

While these approaches have advanced the field of oncology, each also have limitations. For example, the enhanced ADCC of monoclonal antibodies that bind to a single target expressed by tumor cells can potentially induce an autoimmune “on-target, off-tumor” toxicity to normal non-tumor tissues that may also express the same target antigen. Cell-based therapies such as genetically modified CAR-T cells can be difficult and expensive to manufacture, can persist in patients for many months, can be associated with a toxic cytokine release syndrome as safety concerns, or can become ineffective if the tumor loses expression of the single antigen against which the CAR-T cells are directed. We believe bispecific and trispecific antibody candidates developed from our novel platforms offer the potential to overcome these limitations.

 

Background on Antibodies

 

The conventional antibody in full length immunoglobulin G (IgG) format is a Y-shaped molecule that consists of two identical heavy chains and two identical light chains, as shown in the figure below. Each heavy chain pairs with the light chain to form two variable regions, or antigen binding fragment, Fab, that bind to antigens, or targets, and a constant region, which includes a region known as the fragment crystallizable (Fc) that binds to receptors present on effector cells in the immune system. In conventional full-length IgG, the variable regions are identical and bind to the same targets.

 

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In bispecific antibodies, the two variable regions bind to two different targets. To achieve this in the full-length IgG format, two different heavy chain variable regions that can both use a common light chain are combined. In addition, modifications of the heavy chain Fc regions are engineered to drive the formation of full-length IgG that use two different heavy chains rather that two copies of the same heavy chain, which make a monospecific antibody.

 

In both conventional monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and IgG bispecific antibodies, the Fc region can bind to Fc receptors present on effector cells. This binding results in the recruitment and activation of immune effector cells and amplifies the immune system’s response to antigens bound by the variable region of the antibody. This process is called ADCC. The Fc region can be modified to enhance ADCC so as to generate a more potent immune response against a particular target. The Fc region can also be silenced to block interactions with the immune system.

 

Our Biclonics® and Triclonics® Platforms

 

Our two technology platforms use large-scale functional screening in molecular and cell-based assays to identify novel, innovative Biclonics® and Triclonics® with the specific characteristics desired for further development.

 

We believe our Biclonics® and Triclonics® platforms allow us to approach cancer treatment through multiple innovative modes of action:

 

 

Blocking oncogenic growth factor signaling by disrupting the signaling pathways that drive tumor cell growth or resistance to monoclonal antibody therapy. This includes, for example tumor cell growth driven by NRG1 fusions interacting with the HER3 receptor. Hard-to-target receptors that may drive tumor growth or escape can be targeted by our Dock and Block® mechanism whereby the binding a tumor associated target prevalent on cancer cells facilitates a second domain to bind and block lesser expressed targets that are critical for cancer growth.

 

 

Engaging an adaptive immune response by recruiting T-cells and/or modulating co-stimulation or checkpoint inhibition. We can produce multispecific antibodies that are designed to simultaneously bind to the T-cell antigen CD3 or other effector cell engaging antigens, and/or tumor-associated targets, for a potentially potent T cell or other effector cell recruitment and engagement to selectively kill tumor cells.

 

Engaging the innate immune response through multiple mechanisms. We can produce enhanced ADCC modifications in the Fc region of our Biclonics® or Triclonics® designed to facilitate the recruitment of immune effector cells, such as natural killer cells, or NK cells, and macrophages, to directly kill tumor cells. Specific binding domains engineered in multispecific antibodies can directly bind to macrophages and monocytes; NK cells, each providing specific immune cell function to attack cancer cells.

 

 

Employing combinations of the above mechanisms. Using our platforms, we can design antibodies to simultaneously target a growth factor receptor expressed by tumor cells and an immunomodulatory molecule involved in blocking and/or reactivating tumor-specific T cells. Biclonics® and Triclonics® can be designed to target growth factor receptors, like epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) and HER2 that are expressed on many tumors, while delivering an activation signal or checkpoint blockade to T cells.

 

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Our process to select lead Biclonics® for clinical development is illustrated below. We use our patented MeMo® and Spleen to Screen® human antibody generation and Biclonics® production technologies to rapidly build large collections of Biclonics® or Triclonics® directed against particular target combinations. We then test these collections in cell-based functional assays to identify multispecific antibodies that have the potential for novel and innovative modes of action. We select the most potent or efficacious and evaluate them in multiple in vitro and in vivo assays to identify lead candidates for clinical development.

 

Selection of Lead Biclonics®

 

 

 

 

Our Biclonics® technology platform includes the following:

 

Human antibody generation. Our platform for generating human antibodies employs our patented transgenic murine technology, which we refer to as MeMo®, which harbors human heavy chain variable regions and a human common light chain in its germline. MeMo® harnesses the power of the in vivo immune system to yield human antibodies with the potential for high affinity, specificity, optimal biophysical characteristics and low immunogenicity. Upon immunization, MeMo® is capable of generating large and diverse panels of human common light chain antibodies against a broad variety of targets. These human common light chain antibodies are then used to generate large and diverse panels of Biclonics®, human multispecific antibodies capable of binding different targets of virtually any combination.

 

Patented dimerization technology and the full-length Immunoglobulin G format. Our Biclonics® consist of two different heavy chains that need to stably form, or heterodimerize, inside a manufacturing cell line. Using our patented dimerization technology, we employ amino acid residues with opposite charges in the CH3 domains of these heavy chains to efficiently drive the formation of the heterodimer bispecific antibody rather than the homodimer antibody consisting of two copies of the same heavy chain. In addition, the use of a single, or common, light chain in our human Biclonics® antibodies ensures that each heavy chain pairs with the correct, common light chain to efficiently form the intended functional antigen binding regions. The combination of these approaches prevents the need for additional, more artificial techniques, such as the use of linkers or chemical reactions, to force the pairing of different parts of the bispecific antibody. In addition, the format is designed to retain favorable attributes of conventional human IgG mAbs, including their stability and predictability during manufacturing as well as their long half-life and low immunogenicity during treatment of patients. The resulting Biclonics® are bispecific heterodimeric IgG antibodies that are designed to closely mimic IgG antibodies that are produced naturally by the immune system.

 

The Biclonics® format also permits us to make modifications to the Fc region of the IgG antibody in order to enhance or limit effector functions associated with this part of the molecule. This strategy has been successfully executed with conventional therapeutic mAbs. In order to enhance efficacy and promote immunotherapeutic activity, we can use glycoengineered cell lines used in production to generate Biclonics® that are enhanced for ADCC, resulting in the improved ability to recruit NK cells and macrophages. This ADCC enhancement has been made to our most advanced bispecific antibody candidate, zenocutuzumab, and other of our antibody candidates, MCLA-158 and MCLA-129. In order to improve safety and tolerability, we can modify our Biclonics® to prevent the excessive release of signaling proteins called cytokines, which can overstimulate the immune system. This process is called Fc-silencing as it blocks the ability of our Biclonics® to bind to certain protein receptors on cells, known as Fc receptors, which are associated with cytokine release. We utilize Fc silencing in the design of our bispecific antibody candidate MCLA-145.

 

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High-throughput functional screening. We employ our patented Spleen to Screen® technology to rapidly screen panels of new target-specific heavy chains that form common light chain binding domains, or we employ our already established panels of common light chain antibodies. To date we have discovered over 10,000 unique common light chain antibodies directed at more than 40 different antigens, including tumor-associated antigens such as EGFR and cMET; T-cell binding, stimulating or co-stimulating proteins such as CD3 and CD137 (also called 4-1BB); and other immune-cell engaging antigens. For example, we have an established a panel of more than 175 unique and novel anti-CD3 common light chain antibodies from which to discover and develop the next generation of T-cell engaging bispecific and trispecific antibodies. We then generate DNA constructs that encode target-specific human antibodies and express them in mammalian cells. The common light chain format and proprietary dimerization modifications to the CH3 domain of the IgG promote the secretion of virtually pure Biclonics® into the cell culture medium. The medium of thousands of cell cultures that each express a different Biclonics® is harvested and individually used in high throughput molecular and cell-based functional assays to identify Biclonics® with specific novel characteristics for further development.

 

For example, the chart below shows the results of a pre-clinical study in which hundreds of different Biclonics® targeting HER2 and HER3 were functionally screened for cell growth inhibition of tumor cell samples in the presence or absence of the HER3 ligand NRG1. Forty of the Biclonics® depicted in the chart exhibited superior inhibition of cell growth compared to trastuzumab, a drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of breast cancer, and were selected in the process leading to identification of zenocutuzumab.

 

 

Advantages of Biclonics®

 

We believe our Biclonics® technology platform provides the following advantages:

 

 

Rapid generation of human IgG antibodies having diversity at the heavy chain targeting an array of antigens, that are ready to be paired to produce our Biclonics®, bispecific antibodies. Use of our patented MeMo®, Spleen to Screen®, heterodimerization and Fc modification technologies, permits us to rapidly generate a large amount of diverse bispecific antibodies capable of targeting an array of antigen combinations.

 

 

Biclonics® are stable, bispecific, full-length human IgG antibodies with no linkers or fusion proteins. Biclonics® retain the IgG format of antibodies that are produced naturally by the immune system. Additionally, in contrast to many other bispecific antibody formats, Biclonics® do not require linkers or modifications to force the correct pairing of heavy and light chain variable regions or exploit fusion proteins to add functionality to the molecule. These qualities minimize time-consuming engineering efforts and allow us to create Biclonics® with predictable behavior during pre-clinical development.

 

 

Our Biclonics® technology platform allows for functional evaluation of Biclonics® in the relevant therapeutic format leading to the discovery of therapeutic candidates with novel and innovative properties. Our Biclonics® technology platform permits rapid functional screening of large collections of bispecific antibodies which allows us to identify lead candidates with multiple mechanisms of action that have the potential to effectively kill tumor cells with high potency. This is an important step in the identification of lead bispecific antibody candidates with functionalities that compare favorably against other forms of therapeutics, such as conventional mAbs as well as their combinations.

 

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Biclonics® preserve the stability, behavior and adaptability of normal IgG antibodies. Biclonics® are based on the robust and commonly used IgG format to yield the favorable in vivo qualities associated with conventional mAbs, such as stability, long half-life and low immunogenicity. As a result, our Biclonics® format provides attractive options for dosage schedules and methods of administration, rendering them compatible with multiple modes of action for the efficient killing of tumor cells. Further, the IgG format allows us to apply previously established technologies to further optimize our Biclonics® for therapeutic use.

 

 

Biclonics® can be reliably manufactured with high yields. Because our Biclonics® retain the IgG format of antibodies, our Biclonics® are manufactured using the large-scale industry-standard processes that are also used for the production of conventional mAbs, and the yields of Biclonics® we obtain are comparable to those of normal IgG antibodies. In stable cell lines, we are able to obtain over 90% of bispecific antibody formation using these processes and the IgG-based purification process results in up to greater than 98% purity for our Biclonics®.

 

Our Triclonics® Platform

 

Our next generation proprietary Triclonics® technology is covered by existing Merus patents and other pending applications. This new format and the suite of technologies that underpin it permit the development of therapeutic candidates designed to bind three targets with a single multivalent molecule. In pre-clinical studies and modeling, Triclonics® have shown similar qualities of a natural IgG antibody, including favorable half-life, stability, low immunogenicity and favorable developability characteristics. We believe Triclonics® have the potential to produce tumor cell-killing activity and/or to modulate the immune system to promote more robust anti-tumor immune responses, and have the potential for less on-target off-tumor toxicity. This format allows us to leverage our proprietary genetically modified MeMo® mice, which as described above, harbors human heavy chain variable region gene segments and a human common light chain in its germline. MeMo® harnesses the power of the in vivo immune system to yield human antibodies with the potential for high affinity, specificity, optimal biophysical characteristics and low immunogenicity, which can be combined into a single trispecific antibody produced with relative high purity. The Triclonics® platform employs our proprietary technologies to produce large panels of substantially pure trispecific antibodies. In addition, we have engineered a panel of novel linkers that attach a third binding domain to the antibody. This panel of linkers vary in properties such as length and flexibility, and are empirically selected for stability and other drug-like properties, while remaining stable and are predicted to have low immunogenicity. The linker panel provides another lever of flexibility in optimizing functional characteristics in our high-throughput screening while maintaining high quality, stability and limiting risk of immunogenicity.

 

 

 

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One application of the Triclonics® platform is as a T-cell engager for solid tumors. By binding to three targets, we can generate Triclonics® designed to specifically engage a combination of two tumor antigens for enhanced specificity, binding preferentially to tumor cells expressing both antigens, over normal tissues that may express either antigen, but not both or both at lower expression levels. In this construct, the third binding domain can for example engage an innate or adaptive immune effector cell protein, to stimulate killing of the tumor cell. We believe our Triclonics® platform will permit us to develop molecules with enhanced on target, on tumor specificity, while optimally engaging the immune system mechanisms.

 

 

Our process to select lead Triclonics® leverages our patented MeMo® and Spleen to Screen® human antibody generation and heterodimerization technologies, along with our proprietary linkers based on natural structures to undertake high throughput unbiased functional screening of Triclonics®. With this approach, we have been able to evaluate up to 1,800 different trispecific antibodies targeting three different antigens to identify those unique combinations that pre-clinically have been observed to have desired characteristics for further development.

 

Our Bispecific and Trispecific Antibody Candidate Portfolio

 

We currently have four bispecific antibody candidates in clinical development, with additional bispecific and trispecific programs in pre-clinical development.

 

Zenocutuzumab (MCLA-128, HER3 x HER2 Biclonics®)

 

Zenocutuzumab is an antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) -enhanced Biclonics® that utilizes Merus’ Dock & Block® mechanism to bind to HER2, and bind to and disrupt the interaction between HER3 and ligand, NRG1, in solid tumors. HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, is amplified in many solid tumors and is associated with poor prognosis, and the activation of HER3, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 3, is associated with tumor progression and treatment resistance. On the surface of tumor cells, HER2 pairs, or dimerizes, with HER3, and the resulting pair drives malignant progression of HER2-expressing cancer cells. NRG1, which is the ligand for HER3, causes cancer cells to grow and become resistant to treatment with HER2-targeted therapies. Zenocutuzumab is believed to target the HER3 signaling pathway by disrupting the interaction of Her3 with its ligand NRG1 and to overcome the resistance of tumor cells to HER2-targeted therapies using two mechanisms: blocking growth and survival pathways to stop tumor expansion and recruitment, and ADCC enhanced elimination of the tumor via effector cells. In addition, we have identified a rare, genetically defined patient population whose cancers harbor NRG1 fusions. The NRG1 gene encodes for neuregulin, the ligand for HER3. Fusions between NRG1 and other genes in the genome are rare genetic events occurring in lung, pancreatic and other solid tumors, and are associated with activation of HER2/HER3 signaling and growth of cancer cells. Overall estimates of the incidence of NRG1 fusions’ occurrence are based on limited published information. Based on available literature, we estimate NRG1 fusions occur at a rate of approximately 0.3% – 3.0% in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) 0.5% - 1.5% in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and less than 1% in all other tumor types. Importantly, we believe NRG1 fusions occur more frequently in the invasive mucinous adenocarcinoma subtype of lung cancer, and in the subset of patients with PDAC lacking a mutation in the K-RAS gene. The NRG1 fusion is a powerful driver of cancer cell growth. We believe that pre-clinical studies and early clinical evaluation suggest zenocutuzumab (binding to HER2 and blocking NRG1 fusion protein interaction with HER3) has the potential to be particularly effective against tumors harboring NRG1 fusions.

 

 

 

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Development

 

In our pre-clinical studies, the administration of zenocutuzumab resulted in the inhibition of NRG-induced growth in cultures of cancer cells. Zenocutuzumab also blocked activation of two key signaling pathways for the growth and survival of tumor cells more than Herceptin (trastuzumab) or the combination of Herceptin and Perjeta (pertuzumab) (shown in red below) or experimental anti-HER3 mAbs (shown in green below). See Geuijen et al. Cancer Cell (2018).

 

 

* indicates analog antibodies.

 

In a patient-derived tumor xenograph mouse model (PDX model) zenocutuzumab significantly blocked tumor growth of a cancer containing an NRG1 gene fusion.

 

 

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Based on encouraging pre-clinical results, we initiated a Phase 1/2 study of zenocutuzumab in solid tumors. As of January 2019, zenocutuzumab administered as a single-agent had been evaluated in 117 patients, who received the recommended Phase 2 doses. Zenocutuzumab was well-tolerated as a single agent, with low observed immunogenicity, and most reported adverse events (AEs) were mild to moderate. Also as of January 2019, the incidence of grade 3 and 4 AEs irrespective of causality was 37% and 3%, respectively, with the incidence of suspected drug-related grade 3 AEs of about 4%, no suspected drug-related grade 4 adverse events, and one patient experienced a grade 5 hypersensitivity reaction.

 

 

NRG1 Fusions

 

In June 2019, we opened a zenocutuzumab EAP and amended the Phase 1/2 trial to focus on patients with solid tumors harboring an NRG1 fusion (the eNRGy trial). Patients treated under EAP and the protocol amendment receive zenocutuzumab at 750 mg administered intravenously every other week. As of October 27, 2019, nine patients identified with cancers harboring NRG1 fusions (three pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and six NSCLC) who had previously progressed through standard of care, had been enrolled and treated with zenocutuzumab across the EAP under single patient investigational new drug applications, and the eNRGy trial. Of the nine patients treated, six had at least one evaluation and thus were considered evaluable.

 

On October 27, 2019, investigators from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) provided an oral presentation at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, in Boston, Massachusetts, entitled “Clinical proof-of-concept for zenocutuzumab, a bispecific HER2/3 antibody therapy, in NRG1 fusion-positive cancers”, reporting a summary and initial data concerning the treatment of three cancer patients harboring NRG1 fusions (NRG1+) with zenocutuzumab at 750 mg administered intravenously every other week. Assessments of these patients were conducted locally at MSKCC. All three patients, two having PDAC and one having NSCLC, exhibited tumor shrinkage, symptomatic improvement and durability up to the then most recent assessment. All three patients remained on treatment as of October 29, 2019.

 

Of the two patients having PDAC reported by MSKCC on October 27, 2019, one exhibited a 54% reduction in tumor diameter at a confirmatory 5 months scan (partial response (PR) by RECIST v1.1).

 

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The other PDAC patient exhibited a 25% reduction in tumor diameter at a confirmatory 5 months scan (stable disease (SD) by RECIST v1.1). Both patients remained on treatment for over 7 months as of October 29, 2019.

 

The third patient reported by MSKCC on October 27, 2019 has NSCLC and exhibited a 41% reduction in tumor diameter at a confirmatory scan (PR by RECIST v1.1) and improvement in brain metastases. Prior to zenocutuzumab treatment the patient progressed on six lines of therapy, including the tyrosine kinase inhibitor afatinib. The patient remained on treatment for approximately 5 months as of October 29, 2019.

 

We also reported that as of October 29, 2019, we had previously treated six additional patients with NRG1+ cancers, one having PDAC and five having NSCLC. The one patient with PDAC, who was enrolled under a single patient IND outside of MSKCC, had received two treatments with zenocutuzumab, at a four-week non-standard interval due to the severity of the patient’s illness, and was non-evaluable, passing away due to complications related to the underlying disease prior to a first tumor evaluation.

 

For the five of these additional six patients, each with NRG1+ NSCLC enrolled in the eNRGy clinical trial that received treatment with zenocutuzumab, one patient had SD for greater than 7 months but discontinued the trial due to poor adherence to the treatment protocol (unrelated to any AE or lack of efficacy); two patients had progressive disease and are no longer on the trial; and two patients as of October 29, 2019, had only recently started treatment and had not yet undergone initial assessment for tumor response.

 

We reported in October 2019 that the safety results observed for zenocutuzumab in patients with cancers harboring NRG1 gene fusions was observed to be well tolerated, consistent with what has been previously reported in the overall patient population treated with zenocutuzumab.

 

We are currently enrolling patients for the Phase 1/2 eNRGy trial to assess the anti-tumor activity of monotherapy zenocutuzumab in NRG1+ cancers. The eNRGy trial enrolls patients with NRG1+ pancreatic cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and other solid tumors. Enrolled patients will receive 750mg of zenocutuzumab every two weeks. We expect to present data at a medical conference in the second quarter of 2021. In January of 2021 the FDA granted Fast Track designation of zenocutuzumab for the treatment of patients with metastatic solid tumors harboring NRG1 gene fusions that have progressed on standard-of-care therapy.

 

 

Her2 Amplified Metastatic Breast Cancer (mBC)

 

In May 2020, we announced that we had completed enrollment of a Phase 2 trial of zenocutuzumab (zeno) in metastatic breast cancer, and would be presenting data at Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology ASCO20 Virtual Scientific Program. These data presented at that program showed that zeno in combination with trastuzumab and vinorelbine was active in heavily pretreated HER2+ metastatic breast cancer patients who have progressed on multiple lines of anti-HER2 therapies and that zeno was well tolerated. With a safety cut-off (sample size 28) of November 2019, and an efficacy data cut-off (sample size 39) of March 31, 2020, 39 patients were treated with the triplet combination – among the 39 patients, 12 were ongoing on study treatment, and the median numbers of prior therapies and prior anti-HER2 lines were 5 and 3, respectively. The most common severe adverse event (AE) reported with the triplet therapy was neutropenia considered related to vinorelbine, with few patients discontinuing due to AEs. As of March 31, 2020, anti-tumor activity was evaluated in 37 evaluable patients with locally confirmed Her2 amplification (3+ immunohistochemistry (IHC) or 2+ IHC confirmed by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH)) with a the clinical benefit rate (compete response (CR)+ partial response (PR)+ [stable disease (SD) at 24 weeks]) of 35.1% [90%CI 22.2-50.0], with one patent having a CR lasting 19.3 weeks, 6 patients having a PR (lasting from 5.3+ to 12.3 weeks), and 22 having SD (lasting from 5.9+ to 59.1+ weeks).  As of the efficacy cut-off, among those with a best response of SD, 5 patients had an unconfirmed PR, 2 of which were

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ongoing as of the presentation. Currently, certain patients remain on treatment in the Phase 2 trial. We plan to present data from the Phase 2 trial in a future medical conference when the studies are completed.

 

In October 2019, we previously disclosed that we plan to advance development in metastatic breast cancer only with a partner and intend to focus our efforts on the eNRGy trial of zeno in NRG1 fusion cancers.

 

MCLA-158 (Lgr5 x EGFR Biclonics®)

 

MCLA-158 is an investigational antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC)-enhanced Biclonics® for the potential treatment of solid tumors that is designed to bind to cancer stem cells expressing leucine-rich repeat-containing G protein-coupled receptor 5 (Lgr5) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Lgr5 is a WNT target gene expressed in cancer cells with aberrations in the WNT signaling pathway, while EGFR is a member of the HER family of receptor tyrosine kinases and is important for growth and survival of cancer stem cells, including those with RAS mutations. MCLA-158 is designed to use two different mechanisms of action. The first is intended to block growth and survival pathways in cancer stem cells. The second involves the recruitment and enhancement of immune effector cells in an effort to directly kill cancer stem cells that persist in solid tumors and cause relapse and metastasis.

 

Development

 

In our pre-clinical studies, MCLA-158 demonstrated superior growth inhibition and selectivity versus the EGFR-targeting mAb, cetuximab. MCLA-158 was significantly more potent than cetuximab in inhibiting the growth of patient-derived colorectal cancer organoids. Additionally, MCLA-158 was observed to be selectively more active in human tumor-derived organoids than in organoids derived from normal human colon. The activity of MCLA-158 on the tumor organoid size was more than 100 times greater than on the normal colon organoids. In contrast, the activity of cetuximab was similar to the activity of MCLA-158 on normal colon organoids and 20 to 100 times less than the activity of MCLA-158 on tumor organoids. These ex-vivo observations of MCLA-158 with organoid models were further observed in vivo in xenograft models generated from the same patient-derived organoids.

 

 

 

 

Solid Tumors

 

MCLA-158 is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1 open-label, multicenter study, currently in the expansion phase, in patients with solid tumors. The primary endpoint is safety and tolerability of the defined dose; secondary endpoints include single-agent preliminary anti-tumor activity. On January 15, 2021, we presented in a poster session interim clinical data from our Phase 1 dose escalation of MCLA-158 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2021 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. As of a data cut-off of September 2020, MCLA-158 was administered to 33 patients over 11 dose levels (5-1500 mg, flat dose), a heavily pretreated population with a median of four lines of prior therapy. As of the cut-off date, MCLA-158 was observed to be well tolerated, and no dose limiting toxicities occurred. The recommended Phase 2 dose was established at 1500 mg administered intravenously once every two weeks. Enrollment of patients with gastro-esophageal and head-and-neck cancers continues at this dose in the expansion phase of the open-label, multicenter trial, and preliminary evidence of antitumor activity has been observed.

 

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MCLA-145 (CD137 x PD-L1 Biclonics®)

 

MCLA-145 is a Biclonics® T-cell engager that binds to human programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) and CD137. MCLA-145 is designed to recruit, activate and prevent the exhaustion of tumor-infiltrating T cells, and to cause a potent and durable T-cell activation in the tumor microenvironment. MCLA-145’s binding to a cell is predicted to lead to clustering of CD137 on T cells when PD-L1 is expressed on adjacent cells, and block the T-cell inhibitory PD-1/PD-L1 interactions in the tumor. Because T-cell activation in our pre-clinical studies was shown to be context-dependent, requiring PD-L1 expression in the tumor microenvironment, we believe MCLA-145 has the potential to overcome the known side effects experienced with CD137 agonists that have been tested in the clinic

 

MCLA-145 is the first drug candidate co-developed under our global research and collaboration with Incyte Corporation (Incyte), which permits the development and commercialization of up to 11 bispecific and monospecific antibodies from our Biclonics® platform. Under the terms of the collaboration, Merus retains all rights to develop and commercialize MCLA-145, if approved, in the United States, while Incyte has rights to develop and commercialize MCLA-145, if approved, outside the United States.  We plan to present a clinical update on MCLA-145 at a major medical conference in the second half of 2021.

 

Development

 

In our pre-clinical studies, MCLA-145 showed binding to PD-L1 and CD137, recruitment of T cells into the tumor, blocking of inhibitory PD-1/PD-L1 axis and potent T-cell activation.

 

 

 

Further, MCLA-145 demonstrated superior tumor cell killing as compared to the administration of a combination of monospecific anti-PD-L1 and anti-CD137 antibodies in PDX models.

 

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Solid Tumors

 

In May 2019, we commenced a Phase 1 open-label, single-agent clinical trial of MCLA-145, consisting of dose escalation followed by dose expansion, for the potential treatment of patients with advanced solid tumors. The primary objectives of the Phase 1 trial are dose finding and evaluation of safety and tolerability in patients. The trial will also examine potential preliminary antitumor activity and functional target engagement of single-agent MCLA-145.

 

MCLA-129 (EGFR x c-MET Biclonics®)

 

MCLA-129 is an investigational Biclonics®, designed to bind EGFR and c-MET, for the potential treatment of solid tumors. EGFR is an important oncogenic driver in many cancers. The upregulation of c-MET signaling has been associated with resistance to EGFR inhibition. MCLA-129 has two distinct mechanisms of action. First, MCLA-129 is designed to block the signaling of EGFR as well as c-MET, in an effort to inhibit tumor growth and survival. Second, MCLA-129 utilizes ADCC-enhancement technology, which is designed for greater cell-killing potential. Because both mechanisms of action are dependent on the co-expression of EGFR and c-MET, we believe MCLA-129 has the potential for less toxicity compared to agents targeting EGFR alone.

 

MCLA-129 is being developed in collaboration with Betta Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. (Betta). Under the terms of the collaboration, Betta is responsible for the clinical development and commercialization of MCLA-129, if approved, in China and we retain all rights to MCLA-129 outside of China. In January 2021, Betta announced that the Chinese National Medical Products Administration had accepted its IND for MCLA-129 injection. We have also announced we plan to dose the first patient in a clinical trial in the US in 2021.

 

Development

 

Pre-clinical data on MCLA-129 were presented in October 2019, at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics. The poster, entitled “Pre-clinical evaluation of MCLA-129: a bispecific antibody targeting c-MET and EGFR,” showed that MCLA-129 inhibited and reversed resistance to tyrosine kinase resistant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), cell lines resulting in tumor growth inhibition in xenograft models of NSCLC. In these xenograft models, MCLA-129 showed tumor shrinkage in mice whose tumors are resistant to the EGFR small molecule inhibitor erlotinib.

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MCLA-129 Inhibited TKI Resistant NSCLC |MCLA-129 Reversed Acquired TKI Resistance

 

 

 

 

These pre-clinical data suggest MCLA-129, if successfully developed and approved, could benefit patients having NSCLC that become resistant to EGFR targeted therapies.

 

Pre-clinical Discovery Programs

 

We intend to further leverage our Biclonics® and Triclonics® technology platforms to identify multiple additional antibody candidates and advance them to clinical development. Each of these antibody candidates are designed to bind to targets believed to be useful in the treatment of cancer with an intention to establish efficacy and obtain information for submission to the FDA. Using our platform, we will continue to evaluate new targets and combinations to identify potential candidates with the highest therapeutic potential and select those candidates to be advanced into clinical trials.

 

 

Collaboration Agreements

 

As part of our business strategy, we collaborate with a range of partners, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostic companies as well as academic institutions. We intend to continue to seek collaborations and license agreements to develop and commercialize therapeutics in order to exploit the potential of our Biclonics® and Triclonics® platforms.

 

Incyte Corporation

 

We have entered into a collaboration and license agreement (Collaboration Agreement) with Incyte Corporation (Incyte). Under the terms of the Collaboration Agreement, we and Incyte have agreed to collaborate with respect to the research, discovery and development of monospecific or bispecific antibodies utilizing our proprietary Biclonics® technology platform. The collaboration encompasses up to 11 independent programs, including some of our current pre-clinical immuno-oncology discovery programs. For one of the current clinical programs, concerning MCLA-145, we retain the exclusive right to develop and commercialize the product candidate in the United States, while Incyte has the exclusive right to develop and commercialize the product candidate outside the United States. For MCLA-145, we and Incyte will conduct and share equally the costs of mutually agreed global development activities and will be solely responsible for independent development activities in our respective territories.

 

We have the option to co-fund development of products, if any, arising from one specified program, and subject to certain conditions, to a second specified program, in each case in exchange for a share of profits in the United States, as well as the right to participate in a specified proportion of detailing activities in the United States for one of such programs. If we exercise our co-funding option for a program, we would be responsible for funding 35% of the associated future global development costs and, for certain of such programs, would be responsible for reimbursing Incyte for certain development costs incurred prior to the option exercise. All products as to which we have exercised our option to co-fund development would be subject to joint development plans and overseen by a joint development committee, with Incyte having final determination as to such plans in cases of dispute.

 

 

For each program other than MCLA-145, where we have not elected to co-fund development or where we do not have such a co-funding option, Incyte is solely responsible for all costs of global development and commercialization activities. We retain the rights

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to, among other things, our Biclonics® technology platform as well as clinical and pre-clinical candidates and future programs emerging from our platform that are outside the scope of the Collaboration Agreement.

 

In January 2017, upon the Collaboration Agreement becoming effective, Incyte made an upfront non-refundable payment to us of $120 million for the rights granted under the Collaboration Agreement. For each program as to which we do not have commercialization or co-development rights, we are eligible to receive up to $100 million in future contingent development and regulatory milestones and up to $250 million in commercialization milestones, as well as tiered royalties ranging from 6% to 10% of global net sales. For each program as to which we have exercised our option to co-fund development, we are eligible to receive a 50% share of profits (or sustain 50% of any losses) in the United States and tiered royalties ranging from 6% to 10% of net sales of products outside of the United States. If we opt to cease co-funding a program as to which we exercised our co-development option, then we will no longer receive a share of profits in the United States but will be eligible to receive the same milestones from the co-funding termination date and the same tiered royalties described above with respect to non-co-developed programs and, depending on the stage at which we choose to cease co-funding development costs, additional royalties ranging up to 4% of net sales in the United States. For MCLA-145, for which we retain all commercial rights in the United States, we and Incyte are each eligible to receive tiered royalties on net sales in the other’s territory at rates ranging from 6% to 10%.

 

The Collaboration Agreement will continue on a program-by-program basis until neither party has any royalty payment obligations with respect to such program or, if earlier, the termination of the Collaboration Agreement or any program in accordance with the terms of the Collaboration Agreement. The Collaboration Agreement may be terminated in its entirety, or on a program-by-program basis, by Incyte for convenience. The Collaboration Agreement may also be terminated by either party under certain other circumstances, including material breach, or on a program-by-program basis for patent challenge of patents under the applicable program, in each case as set forth in the Collaboration Agreement. If the Collaboration Agreement is terminated in its entirety or with respect to one or more programs, all rights in the terminated programs revert to us, subject to payment to Incyte of a reverse royalty of up to 4% on sales of future products, if we elect to pursue development and commercialization of products arising from the terminated programs.

 

In connection with the Collaboration Agreement, we entered into a Share Subscription Agreement with Incyte, pursuant to which, in January 2017, we issued and sold to Incyte 3,200,000 common shares for an aggregate purchase price of $80.0 million.

 

Eli Lilly and Company (Eli Lilly)

In 2021, we entered into a collaboration and license agreement (the “Lilly Collaboration Agreement”) and share subscription agreement (the “Lilly Subscription Agreement”) with Eli Lilly and Company, an Indiana corporation (“Eli Lilly”).

Under the terms of the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, we and Eli Lilly agreed to collaborate with respect to the discovery and research of bispecific antibodies utilizing our proprietary Biclonics® bispecific technology platform. The collaboration encompasses up to three (3) independent programs directed to the generation of T-cell re-directing bispecific antibodies that bind CD3 and a tumor associated antigen target selected by Eli Lilly (“Target”) to be the subject of each such program.

We granted to Eli Lilly an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing, sublicensable license, under certain patent rights and know-how to exploit certain compounds and products directed to designated Targets in combination with CD3, or directed to such designated Target(s) alone as a monospecific antibody or monospecific antibody drug conjugate, subject to rights granted by us to third parties under one or more existing third party agreements. We also retain all rights not granted to Eli Lilly.

Additionally, in the case of a change of control that may adversely impact certain rights and obligations of us and Eli Lilly under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, (a) we have agreed to terminate or transfer its rights to third parties under certain research programs and (b) Eli Lilly has the option to take over certain of our research obligations.

Eli Lilly paid an upfront, non-refundable payment of $40 million for the rights granted under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement. Eli Lilly agreed to fund the research and development activities we conduct for each program under an agreed research plan and budget. With respect to each product arising from each program, we are eligible to receive up to $290 million in future contingent development and regulatory milestones and up to $250 million in commercial sales milestones, for a total of up to approximately $1.6 billion for a single product generated from all three programs. We are further eligible to receive, on a product-by-product and country-by-country basis, tiered royalties based on the level of worldwide aggregate annual net sales at percentages ranging from the mid-single digits to low double digits until the royalty term expires.

The Lilly Collaboration Agreement includes a three-year research term for us to perform research and development activities, subject to two extension terms of six months at Eli Lilly’s discretion. The Lilly Collaboration Agreement will continue on a product-by-product basis until Eli Lilly has no royalty payment obligations with respect to such product or, if earlier, the termination of the Lilly Collaboration Agreement or any program in accordance with the terms of the Lilly Collaboration Agreement. The Lilly Collaboration Agreement may be terminated in its entirety or on a program-by-program basis at will by Eli Lilly. The Lilly Collaboration Agreement may also be terminated by either us or Eli Lilly under certain other circumstances, including material breach, as set forth in the Lilly Collaboration Agreement. If the Lilly Collaboration Agreement is terminated with respect to one or more programs, depending on the

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stage of development, certain rights in the terminated programs revert to us, in accordance with the terms of the Lilly Collaboration Agreement.

Also in January 2021, in connection with entering into the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, pursuant to the Lilly Subscription Agreement, Eli Lilly agreed to purchase 706,834 common shares of the Company at a price per share of $28.295 for aggregate gross proceeds to us of approximately $20 million (the “Private Placement”). Eli Lilly agreed not to transfer, sell, or otherwise dispose of the shares purchased in the private placement for a period of time following the closing date, subject to certain customary exceptions.

ONO Pharmaceutical

 

In April 2014, we entered into a strategic research and license agreement with ONO, under which we granted ONO an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license to research, test, make, use and market a limited set of bispecific antibody candidates, if approved, based on our Biclonics® technology platform, directed to two undisclosed targets.

 

ONO paid us a non-refundable upfront fee of €1.0 million, and we are eligible to receive up to an aggregate of €57.0 million in milestone payments upon achievement of specified research and clinical development milestones. To date, we have achieved four of the specified pre-clinical milestones under this research and license agreement and have received an aggregate of €2.7 million in milestone payments. For products commercialized under this agreement, if any, we are also eligible to receive a mid-single digit royalty on net sales. For a designated period, which may include limited time periods following termination of this agreement, in certain circumstances we and our affiliates are prohibited from researching, developing or commercializing bispecific antibodies against the target combination that are the subject of this agreement. ONO also provides funding for our research and development activities under an agreed-upon plan. This research and license agreement will expire after all milestone payments have been received and all related patent rights have expired, unless terminated earlier. ONO has the right to terminate this agreement at any time for any reason, with or without cause. The licenses granted to ONO may convert to royalty-free, fully-paid, perpetual licenses if ONO terminates the agreement for uncured material breach. We retain all rights to use and commercialize any antibodies directed to one target utilized under the collaborative research program, and any antibodies directed to the second target developed under the collaborative research program, excluding the up to five lead and/or selected antibodies against the second target ONO is pursuing, provided that the use and commercialization is not with respect to the particular target combination.

 

On March 14, 2018, we entered into a second contract research and license agreement with ONO. Pursuant to an exclusive option granted to ONO in the prior agreement executed in April 2014, ONO exercised its option to enter into the March 2018 agreement. We granted ONO an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing license, with the right to sublicense, research, test, make, use and market bispecific antibody candidates based on our Biclonics® technology platform against two undisclosed targets directed to a particular undisclosed target combination. ONO identifies and selects the licensed bispecific antibodies for which it is responsible for conducting further non-clinical and clinical development activities for such licensed bispecific antibodies and pharmaceutical products containing such antibodies, including manufacture and process development. ONO controls and has exclusive rights over the worldwide commercialization of any approved products, including worldwide supply, and is solely responsible for all costs and expenses related to commercialization. ONO has agreed to fund our research and development activities and be responsible for the payment of all costs and expenses for its own research and development activities, which are set out in a mutually agreed upon research plan. We retain all rights to use and commercialize any antibodies that are generated under the collaborative research program, excluding the up to five lead and/or selected antibodies against the targets ONO is pursuing, provided that the use and commercialization is not with respect to the particular target combination.

 

ONO has agreed to pay an upfront non-refundable payment of €700,000 for the rights granted and we are also eligible to receive an aggregate of €57.0 million in milestone payments upon achievement of specified research and clinical development milestones. To date, we have achieved four of the specified pre-clinical milestones under this research and license agreement and have received an aggregate of €3.7 million in milestone payments. For products commercialized under the License Agreement, if any, the Company is eligible to receive a mid-single digit royalty on net sales.

 

For a designated period, which may include limited time periods following termination of this agreement, in certain circumstances we are prohibited from researching, developing or commercializing bispecific antibodies against the undisclosed target combination that are the subject of this agreement. ONO also provides funding for our research and development activities under an agreed-upon plan. This research and license agreement will expire after all milestone payments have been received and all related patent rights have expired, unless terminated earlier. ONO has the right to terminate this agreement at any time for any reason, with or without cause. The licenses granted to ONO may convert to royalty-free, fully-paid, perpetual licenses if ONO terminates the agreement for uncured material breach.

 

Simcere Pharmaceutical Group

 

On January 8, 2018, we entered into an agreement with Simcere Pharmaceutical Group (Simcere) granting Simcere an exclusive license to develop and commercialize in China up to three bispecific antibodies to be produced by Merus utilizing our proprietary Biclonics® technology platform. We retain all rights outside of China.

 

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We have agreed to lead research and discovery activities while Simcere has agreed to be responsible for the IND-enabling studies, clinical development, regulatory filings and commercialization of these product candidates in China. Under the terms of the agreement, for a program achieving development candidate nomination, Simcere will retain a contract manufacturing organization with experience in filing IND applications with U.S. authorities and clinical trial agreements (CTAs) with European regulatory authorities in order to produce clinical trial materials. We received an upfront payment, and are eligible to receive milestone payments contingent upon Simcere achieving certain specified development and commercial goals. To date, we have achieved two undisclosed milestone payments under this agreement. We are eligible to receive tiered royalty payments on sales of any products resulting from the collaboration in China from Simcere. Simcere is eligible to receive tiered royalty payments on sales outside of China from us.

 

Betta Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd.

 

On December 10, 2018, we entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Betta Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. (Betta) where we granted Betta an exclusive license to develop and commercialize in China MCLA-129, a Merus proprietary Biclonics® produced by our Biclonics® technology platform. We retain all rights outside of China. Under the terms of the agreement, Betta retained a contract manufacturing organization with experience in filing IND applications with U.S. authorities and CTAs with European regulatory authorities in order to produce clinical trial materials for the Chinese market and the rest of the world.

 

In addition to a non-refundable upfront payment, we and Betta will share equally the cost of the transfer of the manufacturing technology to a contract manufacturing organization. We are also eligible to receive milestone payments contingent upon Betta achieving certain specified development and commercial goals as well as tiered royalty payments of net sales of any products resulting from the collaboration in China. Betta is eligible to receive milestone payments contingent upon us achieving certain specified development and commercial goals, and is eligible to receive tiered royalty payments of net sales outside of China.

 

Manufacturing

 

Our Biclonics® technology platform relies on third parties for biological materials. We rely on and expect to continue to rely on third-party contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) for the supply of current good manufacturing practice-grade (cGMP-grade) clinical trial materials and commercial quantities of our antibody candidates and products, if approved. We currently do not have any agreements for the commercial production of product candidates, but we have contracted several biopharmaceutical CMOs for the clinical manufacture of zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158, MCLA-145, and MCLA-129. We believe that the standardized Biclonics® manufacturing process can be transferred to additional CMOs and potential future co-development or co-commercialization collaborations or partnerships for the production of clinical and commercial supplies of our Biclonics® in the ordinary course of business.

 

Sales and Marketing

 

We have not yet defined our sales, marketing or product distribution strategy for zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158, MCLA-145, MCLA-129 or any of our other antibody candidates because our antibody candidates are still in pre-clinical or early-to-middle-stage clinical development. Our commercial strategy may include the use of strategic partners, distributors, a contract sales force, or the establishment of our own commercial and specialty sales force. We plan to further evaluate these alternatives as we approach approval, if any, for one of our antibody candidates.

 

Competition

 

We compete directly with companies that focus on oncology and companies dedicating their resources to cancer therapies. We also face competition from academic research institutions, governmental agencies and other various public and private research institutions. With the proliferation of new drugs and therapies into oncology, we expect to face increasingly intense competition as new technologies become available and new therapeutic candidates are clinically developed or approved therapies are explored for new indications. Any antibody candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future.

 

Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial, manufacturing, marketing, drug development, technical and human resources than we do. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostic industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining top qualified scientific and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, manufacturer’s production capacity, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.

 

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The key competitive factors affecting the success of all of our therapeutic antibody candidates, if approved, are likely to be their efficacy, safety, dosing convenience, price, the effectiveness of companion diagnostics in guiding the use of related therapeutics, the level of generic competition and the availability of reimbursement from government and other third-party payors.

 

Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, less expensive, more convenient or easier to administer, or have fewer or less severe effects than any products that we may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA, EMA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market. Even if our antibody candidates achieve marketing approval, they may be priced at a significant premium over competitive products if any have been approved by then.

 

In addition to currently marketed therapies, there are also a number of products in late-stage clinical development to treat cancer, including other bispecific antibodies or similar molecules. Our closest competitors in this area include Affimed N.V., Zymeworks Inc., Genmab A/S, EpimAb Biotherapeutics, MacroGenics, Inc., NuMab Therapeutics, Elevation Oncology, Rain Therapeutics, Hummingbird Bioscience, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Xencor, Inc. The antibody candidates in development by competitors may provide efficacy, safety, dosing convenience and other benefits that are not provided by currently marketed therapies. As a result, they may provide significant competition for any of our antibody candidates for which we obtain marketing approval.

 

Intellectual Property

We strive to protect and enhance the proprietary technologies, inventions, and improvements that we believe are important to our business, including seeking, maintaining, and defending patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from third parties. Our policy is to seek to protect our proprietary position by, among other methods, pursuing and obtaining patent protection in the United States and in jurisdictions outside of the United States related to our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, platforms and antibody candidates that are important to the development and implementation of our business.

As of January 31, 2021:

 

 

Our patent portfolio related to our bispecific antibody candidate zenocutuzumab consists of one application filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application, filed on February 27, 2015 with two issued patents in Europe and applications pending in the United States, Europe and 16 other foreign jurisdictions with an expected expiry not earlier than February, 2035. Claims are directed to the zenocutuzumab composition of matter and methods of using zenocutuzumab to treat subjects having or at risk of having an ErbB-2 and/or ErbB3 positive tumor. In addition, our portfolio includes four PCT patent applications covering further methods of using zenocutuzumab, including in combination therapies to treat patients, concerning methods of treating patients with cancer harbor NRG1 gene fusions, three of which were filed on April 3, 2018, and one filed on May 17, 2018. Three of these four PCT patent applications entered national phases in the United States, Europe and 17 other foreign jurisdictions. One of these four PCT patent applications entered national phases in the United States, Europe and four other foreign jurisdictions.

 

 

Our patent portfolio related to our CD3 technology consists of a first PCT application, filed on July 8, 2016, with issued patents in the United States and Europe and applications pending in the United States, Europe and 13 foreign jurisdictions with an expected expiry not earlier than July 2036. A second PCT application was filed on March 27, 2020, as well as in two foreign jurisdictions with an expected expiry not earlier than March, 2040. Claims are related to the anti-CD3 binding domains, antibodies, their use, among other subject matter.

 

 

Our patent portfolio related to our bispecific antibody candidate MCLA-158 consists of one PCT filed on October 21, 2016, with two issued patents in foreign jurisdictions and applications pending in the United States, Europe and 14 other foreign jurisdictions with an expiry no earlier than October, 2036. Claims are directed to the MCLA-158 composition of matter and methods of using MCLA-158 in the treatment or prevention of various solid tumors.

 

 

Our patent portfolio related our bispecific antibody candidate MCLA-145 consists of one PCT filed on September 22, 2017, with application pending in the United States, Europe and 19 other foreign jurisdictions with an expiry no earlier than September 2037. Claims are directed to the MCLA-145 composition of matter and methods of using MCLA-145 in the treatment or prevention of various solid tumors.

 

 

Our patent portfolio related our bispecific antibody candidate MCLA-129 consists of one PCT filed on August 9, 2018, with applications pending in the United States, Europe and 19 other foreign jurisdictions with an expiry of no earlier than August 2038. Claims are directed to the MCLA-129 composition of matter and methods of using MCLA-129 in the treatment or prevention of various solid tumors.

 

 

Our patent portfolio related to our MeMo® transgenic animal consists of four issued U.S. patents, nine pending U.S. applications, two issued European patents that have been validated in many countries, and four pending European applications, 16 issued foreign patents and 15 pending foreign applications, all with an expected expiry not earlier than June

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2029. Claims are directed to a common light chain animal and methods of producing hybridomas, host cells, and antibodies relating to the use of a common light chain and by exposing the animal to an antigen.

 

 

Our patent portfolio related to our Spleen to Screen® technology consists of three issued U.S. patents, one pending U.S. application, one issued European Patent, which was revoked in opposition and currently subject to appeal before the Technical Board of Appeals, one pending European application and three issued foreign patents, with three foreign pending applications, all with an expected expiry not earlier than September 2032.

 

 

Our patent portfolio related to recombinant production of mixtures of antibodies includes claims directed to host cells generating multispecific antibodies and consists of five issued U.S. patents, and three pending U.S. applications, two issued European patents, 16 issued foreign patents, and four pending foreign applications, all with an expected expiry not earlier than July, 2023.

 

Our patent portfolio related to efficient dimerization of heavy chains promoting efficient production of Biclonics® and mixtures of antibodies, methods and host cells for recombinant production thereof, and consists of two PCT applications filed on April 19, 2013, which resulted in seven issued U.S. patents, one pending U.S. application, two issued European patents, 2 pending European applications, 25 issued foreign patents, and twenty-one pending foreign applications, all with an expected expiry not earlier than April, 2033.

 

Our patent portfolio related to our trispecific antibody technology consists of one PCT application, filed on March 29, 2019, with pending applications in the United States, Europe, and 19 foreign jurisdictions, having with an expiry no earlier than March 2039. Claims are directed to a multivalent antibody format, including the Triclonics® format.

We plan to continue to expand our intellectual property estate by filing patent applications directed to dosage forms, methods of treatment and additional compositions created or identified from our Biclonics® technology platform, improvements to our Biclonics® technology platform, our next generation Triclonics® platform and ongoing development of our antibody candidates. Specifically, we seek patent protection in the United States and internationally for novel compositions of matter directed to aspects of the molecules, basic structures and processes for manufacturing these molecules and the use of these molecules in a variety of therapies.

 

Our patent portfolio is intended to cover, but is not limited to, the composition of matter of our bispecific antibody candidates, their methods of use, the Biclonics® and Triclonics® technology platforms used to generate them, related technologies and/or other aspects of the inventions that are important to our business, including our MeMo® mouse, Spleen to Screen® technology, and recombinant host cells capable of producing our antibody candidates, methods of purification, and heterodimerization, among other proprietary technology. We also rely on trademarks, trade secrets and careful monitoring of our proprietary information to protect aspects of our business that are not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection.

 

We also rely on know-how, continuing technological innovation and in-licensing opportunities to develop, strengthen, and maintain our proprietary positions.

 

Our success will depend on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for commercially important technology, inventions and know-how related to our business, defend and enforce our patents, maintain our licenses to use intellectual property owned by third parties, preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets and operate without infringing valid and enforceable patents and other proprietary rights of third parties. For important factors related to our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, platforms and antibody candidates, please see the section entitled “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Intellectual Property and Information Technology.”

 

Government Regulation

 

We are subject to extensive regulation. We expect our antibody candidates to be regulated as biologics. Biological products are subject to regulation under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) and other federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations. Both the FD&C Act and the PHS Act and their corresponding regulations govern, among other things, the testing, manufacturing, safety, efficacy, labeling, packaging, storage, record keeping, distribution, reporting, advertising and other promotional practices involving biological products.

 

U.S. Biological Products Development Process

 

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 pre-clinical laboratory tests, and pre-clinical animal trials and applicable requirements for the humane use of laboratory animals and formulation studies in accordance with applicable regulations, including good laboratory practices (GLPs);

 

 

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

 

 

performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials according to the FDA’s regulations, commonly referred to as good clinical practice (GCP), regulations and any additional requirements for the protection of human research subjects and their health information, to establish the safety and efficacy of the proposed biological product for its intended use;

 

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submission to the FDA of a Biologics License Application (BLA) that includes substantive evidence of safety, purity, and potency from results of nonclinical testing and clinical trials;

 

 

satisfactory completion of an FDA inspection of the manufacturing facility or facilities where the biological product is produced to assess compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements to assure that the facilities, methods and controls are adequate to preserve the biological product’s identity, strength, quality and purity;

 

 

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

 

 

FDA review and approval, or licensure, of the BLA.

 

Before testing any antibody candidate in humans, the antibody candidate enters the pre-clinical testing stage. Pre-clinical tests, also referred to as nonclinical trials, generally include laboratory evaluations of product chemistry, toxicity and formulation, as well as animal studies to assess the potential safety and activity of the antibody candidate. The conduct of the pre-clinical tests must comply with federal regulations and requirements including GLPs.

 

The clinical trial sponsor must submit the results of the pre-clinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, any available clinical data or literature and a proposed clinical protocol, to the FDA as part of the IND. Some pre-clinical testing may continue even after the IND is submitted. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA places the clinical trial on a 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, at any time before or during clinical trials due to safety concerns or non-compliance. If the FDA imposes a clinical hold, trials may not recommence without FDA authorization and then only under terms authorized by the FDA.

 

Clinical trials involve the administration of the biological antibody candidate to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by or under the trial sponsor’s control. 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, including stopping rules that assure a clinical trial will be stopped if certain adverse events should occur. Each protocol and any amendments to the protocol must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Clinical trials must be conducted and monitored in accordance with the FDA’s regulations comprising the GCP requirements, including the requirement that all research subjects provide informed consent. Further, each clinical trial must be reviewed and approved by an independent institutional review board (IRB) at or servicing each institution at which the clinical trial will be conducted. An IRB is charged with protecting the welfare and rights of trial participants and considers such items as whether the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trials are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the form and content of the informed consent that must be signed by each clinical trial subject or his or her legal representative and must monitor the clinical trial until completed.

 

Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:

 

 

Phase 1. The biological antibody candidate is initially introduced into healthy human subjects and tested for safety. In the case of some products for severe or life-threatening diseases, especially when the product may be too inherently toxic to ethically administer to healthy volunteers, the initial human testing is often conducted in patients.

 

 

Phase 2. The biological antibody candidate is evaluated in a limited patient population to identify possible adverse effects and safety risks, to preliminarily evaluate the efficacy of the product for specific targeted diseases and to determine dosage tolerance, optimal dosage and dosing schedule.

 

 

Phase 3. Clinical trials are undertaken to further evaluate dosage, clinical efficacy, potency, and safety in an expanded patient population at geographically dispersed clinical trial sites. These clinical trials are intended to establish the overall risk/benefit ratio of the product and provide an adequate basis for product labeling.

 

Post-approval clinical trials, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials, may be conducted after initial marketing approval. These clinical trials are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication, particularly for long-term safety follow-up.

 

During all phases of clinical development, regulatory agencies require extensive monitoring and auditing of all clinical activities, clinical data, and clinical trial investigators. Annual progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials must be submitted to the FDA. Written IND safety reports must be promptly submitted to the FDA and the investigators for serious and unexpected adverse events, any findings from other trials, tests in laboratory animals or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human subjects, or any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. The sponsor must submit an IND safety report within 15 calendar days after the sponsor determines that the information qualifies for reporting. The sponsor also must notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction within seven calendar days after the sponsor’s initial receipt of the information. The FDA or the sponsor or its data safety monitoring board may suspend a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being

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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 biological antibody candidate has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients.

 

There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed clinical trial results to public registries. Sponsors of 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. Information related to the product, patient population, phase of investigation, trial sites and investigators, and other aspects of the clinical trial is then made public as part of the registration. Sponsors are also obligated to discuss the results of their clinical trials after completion. Disclosure of the results of these trials can be delayed until the new product or new indication being studied has been approved.

 

Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal trials and must also develop additional information about the physical characteristics of the biological antibody candidate as well as finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. To help reduce the risk of the introduction of adventitious agents with use of biological products, the PHS Act emphasizes the importance of manufacturing control for products whose attributes cannot be precisely defined. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the biological antibody candidate and, among other things, the sponsor must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, potency and purity of the final biological product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the biological antibody candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.

 

U.S. Review and Approval Processes

 

After the completion of clinical trials of a biological antibody candidate, FDA approval of a BLA must be obtained before commercial marketing of the biological product. The BLA must include results of product development, laboratory and animal trials, human trials, information on the manufacture and composition of the product, proposed labeling and other relevant information. In addition, under the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA) a BLA or supplement to a BLA must contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the biological antibody candidate 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. 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 must submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan within sixty days after an end-of-Phase 2 meeting or as may be agreed between the sponsor and FDA. Unless otherwise required by regulation, PREA does not apply to any biological product for an indication for which orphan designation has been granted.

Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), as amended, each BLA must be accompanied by a user fee. The FDA adjusts the PDUFA user fees on an annual basis. Fee waivers or reductions are available in certain circumstances, including a waiver of the application fee for the first application filed by a small business. Additionally, no user fees are assessed on BLAs for products designated as orphan drugs, unless the product also includes a non-orphan indication.

 

Within 60 days following submission of the application, the FDA reviews a BLA submitted to determine if it is substantially complete before the agency accepts it for filing. The FDA may refuse to file any BLA that it deems incomplete or not properly reviewable at the time of submission and may request additional information. In this event, the BLA must be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application also is subject to review before the FDA accepts it for filing. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth substantive review of the BLA. The FDA reviews the BLA to determine, among other things, whether the proposed product is safe, pure and potent, and whether the product is being manufactured in accordance with cGMP requirements to assure and preserve the product’s identity, safety, strength, quality, potency and purity. The FDA may refer applications for novel biological products or biological products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee, typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions. During the biological product approval process, the FDA also will determine whether a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) is necessary to assure the safe use of the biological antibody candidate. If the FDA concludes a REMS is needed, the sponsor of the BLA must submit a proposed REMS; the FDA will not approve the BLA without a REMS, if required.

 

Before approving a BLA, the FDA will inspect the facilities at which the product is manufactured. 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. Additionally, before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure that the clinical trials were conducted in compliance with IND trial requirements and GCP requirements.

 

Notwithstanding the submission of relevant data and information, the FDA may ultimately decide that the BLA does not satisfy its regulatory criteria for approval and deny approval. If the FDA decides not to approve the BLA in its present form, the FDA will issue a complete response letter that usually describes all of the specific deficiencies in the BLA identified by the FDA. The deficiencies identified may be minor, for example, requiring labeling changes, or major, for example, requiring additional clinical trials.

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Additionally, the complete response letter may include recommended actions that the applicant might take to place the application in a condition for approval. If a complete response letter is issued, the applicant may either resubmit the BLA, addressing all of the deficiencies identified in the letter, or withdraw the application.

 

If a product receives regulatory approval, the approval may be significantly limited to specific diseases and dosages or the indications for use may otherwise be limited, which could restrict the commercial value of the product. Further, the FDA may require that certain contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling. The FDA may impose restrictions and conditions on product distribution, prescribing, or dispensing in the form of a REMS, or otherwise limit the scope of any approval. In addition, the FDA may require post marketing clinical trials, sometimes referred to as Phase IV clinical trials, designed to further assess a biological product’s safety and effectiveness, and testing and surveillance programs to monitor the safety of approved products that have been commercialized.

 

One of the performance goals agreed to by the FDA under the PDUFA is to review 90% of standard BLAs in 10 months from the filing date and 90% of priority BLAs in six months from the filing date, whereupon a review decision is to be made. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs and its review goals are subject to change from time to time. The review process and the PDUFA goal date may be extended by three months if the FDA requests or the BLA sponsor otherwise provides additional information or clarification regarding information already provided in the submission within the last three months before the PDUFA goal date.

 

Orphan Drug Designation

 

The FDA may grant orphan drug designation to drugs intended to treat a rare disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or if it affects more than 200,000 individuals in the United States, there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and marketing the drug for this type of disease or condition will be recovered from sales in the United States. Orphan product designation must be requested before submitting a BLA. After the FDA grants orphan product designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan product designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process.

 

In the United States, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as opportunities for grant funding towards clinical trial costs, tax advantages and user-fee waivers. In addition, if a product receives the first FDA approval for the indication for which it has orphan designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means the FDA may not approve any other application to market the same drug for the same indication for a period of seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority over the product with orphan exclusivity or where the manufacturer with orphan exclusivity is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the approved orphan designated product. Competitors, however, may receive approval of different products for the indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity or obtain approval for the same product but for a different indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity. Orphan product exclusivity also could block the approval of one of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains approval of the same biological product as defined by the FDA or if our antibody candidate is determined to be contained within the competitor’s product for the same indication or disease. If a drug or biological product designated as an orphan product receives marketing approval for an indication broader than what is designated, it may not be entitled to orphan product exclusivity.

 

Expedited Development and Review Programs

 

The FDA has a Fast Track program that is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing new biological products that meet certain criteria. Specifically, new biological products are eligible for Fast Track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the disease or 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 biologic may request that the FDA designate the biologic as a Fast Track product at any time during the clinical development of the product. With regard to a Fast Track product, 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 if it is intended to treat a serious disease or condition, if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness compared to marketed products. The FDA will attempt to direct additional resources to the evaluation of an application for a new biological product designated for priority review in an effort to facilitate the review. Additionally, a product may be eligible for accelerated approval. Biological products studied for their safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening illnesses and that provide meaningful therapeutic benefit over existing treatments may be eligible for accelerated approval, which means that they may be approved on the basis of adequate and well-controlled clinical trials establishing that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit, or on the basis of an effect on a clinical endpoint other than survival or irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments. As a condition of approval, the FDA may require that a sponsor of a biological product subject to accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical trials. Biological products receiving accelerated approval may be subject to expedited withdrawal procedures if the sponsor fails to conduct the required

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post-market clinical trials or if such trials fail to verify the predicted clinical benefit. 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.

 

In addition, under the provisions of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) enacted in 2012, the FDA established a Breakthrough Therapy designation which is intended to expedite the development and review of products that treat serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a drug that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. The designation includes all of the features of Fast Track designation, as well as more intensive FDA interaction and guidance. The Breakthrough Therapy designation is a distinct status from both accelerated approval and priority review, but these can also be granted to the same antibody candidate if the relevant criteria are met. The FDA must take certain actions, such as holding timely meetings and providing advice, intended to expedite the development and review of an application for approval of a breakthrough therapy. All requests for breakthrough therapy designation will be reviewed within 60 days of receipt, and FDA will either grant or deny the request.

 

Fast Track designation, priority review and Breakthrough Therapy designation do not change the standards for approval but may expedite the development or approval process. Even if we receive one of these designations for our antibody candidates, the FDA may later decide that our antibody candidates no longer meet the conditions for qualification. In addition, these designations may not provide us with a material commercial advantage.

 

Post-Approval Requirements

 

Maintaining substantial compliance with applicable federal, state, and local statutes and regulations requires the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. Rigorous and extensive FDA regulation of biological products continues after approval, particularly with respect to cGMP requirements. Manufacturers of approved biologics are required to comply with applicable requirements in the cGMP regulations, including quality control and quality assurance and maintenance of records and documentation. Other post-approval requirements applicable to biological products include record-keeping requirements, reporting of adverse effects, and reporting updated safety and efficacy information.

 

We also must comply with the FDA’s advertising and promotion requirements, such as those related to direct-to-consumer advertising, the prohibition on promoting products for uses or in patient populations that are not described in the product’s approved labeling (known as “off-label use”), industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities, and promotional activities involving the internet. Discovery of previously unknown problems or the failure to comply with the applicable regulatory requirements may result in restrictions on the marketing of a product or withdrawal of the product from the market as well as possible civil or criminal sanctions. Failure to comply with the applicable U.S. requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process or after approval, may subject an applicant or manufacturer to administrative or judicial civil or criminal sanctions and adverse publicity. FDA sanctions could include refusal to approve pending applications, withdrawal of an approval, clinical hold, warning or untitled letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, mandated corrective advertising or communications with doctors, debarment, restitution, disgorgement of profits, or civil or criminal penalties.

 

Biological product manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved biological 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 requirements 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. In addition, changes to the manufacturing process or facility generally require prior FDA approval before being implemented and other types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications and additional labeling claims, are also subject to further FDA review and approval.

 

Biosimilars and Exclusivity

 

The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-licensed reference biological product. The FDA has issued several guidance documents outlining an approach to review and approve biosimilars.

 

Biosimilarity, which requires that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the biological 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 studies. Interchangeability requires that a product is biosimilar to the reference product and the product must demonstrate that it can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in any given patient and, for products that are administered multiple times to an individual, the biologic and the reference biologic may be alternated or switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic. However, complexities associated with the larger, and often more complex, structures of biological products, as well as the processes

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by which such products are manufactured, pose significant hurdles to implementation of the abbreviated approval pathway that are still being worked out by the FDA.

 

Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date that the reference product was first licensed by the FDA. In addition, the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was first licensed. During this 12-year period of exclusivity, another company may still market a competing version of the reference product if the FDA approves a full BLA for the competing product containing the sponsor’s own pre-clinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity and potency of their product. The BPCIA also created certain exclusivity periods for biosimilars approved as interchangeable products. At this juncture, it is unclear whether products deemed “interchangeable” by the FDA will, in fact, be readily substituted by pharmacies, which are governed by state pharmacy law.

 

A biological product can also obtain pediatric 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 runs from the end of other exclusivity protection or patent term, may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric trial in accordance with an FDA-issued “Written Request” for such a trial.

 

The BPCIA is complex and continues to be interpreted and implemented by the FDA. Certain aspects of the BPCIA, some of which may impact the BPCIA exclusivity provisions, have also been the subject of recent litigation. As a result, the ultimate impact, implementation, and meaning of the BPCIA remain subject to significant uncertainty.

 

FDA Regulation of Companion Diagnostics

 

We expect that our antibody candidates may require use of an in vitro diagnostic to identify appropriate patient populations for our products. These diagnostics, often referred to as companion diagnostics, are regulated as medical devices. In the United States, the FD&C Act and its implementing regulations, and other federal and state statutes and regulations govern, among other things, medical device design and development, pre-clinical and clinical testing, premarket clearance or approval, registration and listing, manufacturing, labeling, storage, advertising and promotion, sales and distribution, export and import, and post-market surveillance. Unless an exemption applies, diagnostic tests require marketing clearance or approval from the FDA prior to commercial distribution. The two primary types of FDA marketing authorization applicable to a medical device are premarket notification, also called 510(k) clearance, and premarket approval (PMA) approval. We expect that any companion diagnostic developed for use with our antibody candidates may utilize the PMA pathway.

 

If use of a companion diagnostic is essential to safe and effective use of a drug or biologic product, then the FDA generally will require approval or clearance of the diagnostic contemporaneously with the approval of the therapeutic product. On August 6, 2014, the FDA issued a final guidance document addressing the development and approval process for “ In Vitro Companion Diagnostic Devices.” According to the guidance, for novel candidates such as our antibody candidates, a companion diagnostic device and its corresponding drug or biologic candidate may be required to be approved or cleared contemporaneously by the FDA for the use indicated in the therapeutic product labeling, although the FDA may decide that it is appropriate to approve a therapeutic product even though a companion diagnostic device is not approved or cleared contemporaneously. In general, the FDA expects that a companion diagnostic that is intended for use with the therapeutic product will be later approved or cleared through an appropriate submission and the therapeutic product labeling will be revised to stipulate the use of the companion diagnostic. The guidance also explains that a companion diagnostic device used to make treatment decisions in clinical trials of a drug generally will be considered an investigational device, unless it is employed for an intended use for which the device is already approved or cleared. If used to make critical treatment decisions, such as patient selection, the diagnostic device generally will be considered a significant risk device under the FDA’s Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) regulations. Thus, the sponsor of the diagnostic device will be required to comply with the IDE regulations. According to the guidance, if a diagnostic device and a drug are to be studied together to support their respective approvals, both products can be studied in the same investigational study, if the study meets both the requirements of the IDE regulations and the IND regulations. The guidance provides that depending on the details of the study plan and subjects, a sponsor may seek to submit an IND alone, or both an IND and an IDE. In July 2016, the FDA issued a draft guidance document intended to further assist sponsors of therapeutic products and sponsors of in vitro companion diagnostic devices on issues related to co-development of these products, and in December 2018, the FDA issued a draft guidance describing considerations for the development and labeling of in vitro companion diagnostic devices to support the indicated uses of multiple drug or biological oncology products.

 

The FDA generally requires companion diagnostics intended to select the patients who will respond to cancer treatment to obtain approval of a PMA for that diagnostic contemporaneously with approval of the therapeutic. The review of these in vitro companion diagnostics in conjunction with the review of a cancer therapeutic involves coordination of review by the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and by the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The PMA process, including the gathering of clinical and pre-clinical data and the submission to and review by the FDA, can take several years or longer. It involves a rigorous premarket review during which the applicant must prepare and provide the FDA with reasonable assurance of the device’s safety and effectiveness and information about the device and its components regarding, among other things, device design, manufacturing and

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labeling. PMA applications are subject to an application fee. In addition, PMAs for certain devices must generally include the results from extensive pre-clinical and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and effectiveness of the device for each indication for which FDA approval is sought. In particular, for a diagnostic, the applicant must demonstrate that the diagnostic produces reproducible results when the same sample is tested multiple times by multiple users at multiple laboratories. As part of the PMA review, the FDA will typically inspect the manufacturer’s facilities for compliance with the Quality System Regulation (QSR) which imposes elaborate testing, control, documentation and other quality assurance requirements.

 

If the FDA evaluations of both the PMA application and the manufacturing facilities are favorable, the FDA will either issue an approval letter or an approvable letter, which usually contains a number of conditions that must be met in order to secure the final approval of the PMA, such as changes in labeling, or specific additional information, such as submission of final labeling, in order to secure final approval of the PMA. If the FDA concludes that the applicable criteria have been met, the FDA will issue a PMA for the approved indications, which can be more limited than those originally sought by the applicant. The PMA can include post-approval conditions that the FDA believes necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the device, including, among other things, restrictions on labeling, promotion, sale and distribution.

 

If the FDA’s evaluation of the PMA or manufacturing facilities is not favorable, the FDA will deny approval of the PMA or issue a not approvable letter. A not approvable letter will outline the deficiencies in the application and, where practical, will identify what is necessary to make the PMA approvable. The FDA may also determine that additional clinical trials are necessary, in which case the PMA approval may be delayed for several months or years while the trials are conducted and then the data is submitted in an amendment to the PMA. Once granted, PMA approval may be withdrawn by the FDA if compliance with post approval requirements, conditions of approval or other regulatory standards is not maintained or problems are identified following initial marketing. PMA approval is not guaranteed, and the FDA may ultimately respond to a PMA submission with a not approvable determination based on deficiencies in the application and require additional clinical trials or other data that may be expensive and time-consuming to generate and that can substantially delay approval.

 

After a device is placed on the market, it remains subject to significant regulatory requirements. Medical devices may be marketed only for the uses and indications for which they are cleared or approved. Device manufacturers must also establish registration and device listings with the FDA. A medical device manufacturer’s manufacturing processes and those of its suppliers are required to comply with the applicable portions of the QSR, which cover the methods and documentation of the design, testing, production, processes, controls, quality assurance, labeling, packaging and shipping of medical devices. Domestic facility records and manufacturing processes are subject to periodic unscheduled inspections by the FDA. The FDA also may inspect foreign facilities that export products to the United States.

 

Government Regulation Outside of the United States

 

In addition to regulations in the United States, we will be subject to a variety of regulations in other jurisdictions governing, among other things, clinical trials and any commercial sales and distribution of our products. Because biologically sourced raw materials are subject to unique contamination risks, their use may be restricted in some countries. In addition, ethical, social and legal concerns about gene-editing technology, gene therapy, genetic testing and genetic research could result in additional regulations restricting or prohibiting the processes we may use.

Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product, we must obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. The requirements and process governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary from country to country. If we 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.

Clinical Trials

Certain countries outside of the United States have a similar process that requires the submission of a clinical trial application (CTA) much like the IND prior to the commencement of human clinical trials. In the European Economic Area (EEA) (which is comprised of the 27 Member States of the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), for example, a CTA must be submitted to each country’s national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and the IRB, respectively. Once the CTA is approved by the national health authority and the Ethics Committee has granted a positive opinion in relation to the conduct of the trial in the relevant Member State(s), in accordance with a country’s requirements, clinical trial development may proceed.

Clinical trials of medicinal products in the European Union must be conducted in accordance with European Union and national regulations and the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH), guidelines on Good Clinical Practices (GCP) as well as the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki.

Prior to commencing a clinical trial, the sponsor must obtain a CTA from the Competent Authority, and a positive opinion from an independent Ethics Committee. The CTA must include, among other things, a copy of the trial protocol and an investigational medicinal product dossier containing information about the manufacture and quality of the medicinal product under investigation.  

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Currently, CTAs must be submitted to the Competent Authority in each EU Member State in which the trial will be conducted.  Under the new Regulation on Clinical Trials, which is currently expected to take effect by early 2022, there will be a centralized application procedure where one national authority takes the lead in reviewing the application and the other national authorities have only a limited involvement.  Any substantial changes to the trial protocol or other information submitted with the CTA must be notified to or approved by the relevant Competent Authorities and Ethics Committees.  Medicines used in clinical trials must be manufactured in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Other national and European Union-wide regulatory requirements may also apply.

During the development of a medicinal product, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and national regulators provide the opportunity for dialogue and guidance on the development program. At the EMA level, this is usually done in the form of scientific advice, which is given by the Scientific Advice Working Party of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP). A fee is incurred with each scientific advice procedure. Advice from the EMA is typically provided based on questions concerning, for example, quality (chemistry, manufacturing and controls testing), nonclinical testing and clinical trials, and pharmacovigilance plans and risk-management programs.  Advice is not legally binding with regard to any future marketing authorization application of the product concerned.

Marketing Authorizations

In the EEA, medicinal products can only be placed on the market after obtaining a Marketing Authorization (MA). To obtain regulatory approval of an investigational biological product in the EEA, we must submit a marketing authorization application (MAA). The application used to file the BLA in the United States is similar to that required in the EEA, with the exception of, among other things, country-specific document requirements. The European Union also provides opportunities for market exclusivity. The process for doing this depends, among other things, on the nature of the medicinal product.

The centralized procedure results in a single MA, issued by the European Commission, based on the opinion of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or CHMP, of the EMA which is valid across the entire territory of the EEA. The centralized procedure is compulsory for human drugs that are: (i) derived from biotechnology processes, such as genetic engineering, (ii) contain a new active substance indicated for the treatment of certain diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune and other immune dysfunctions and viral diseases, (iii) designated orphan medicines and (iv) advanced-therapy medicines, such as gene therapy, somatic cell therapy or tissue-engineered medicines. The centralized procedure may at the request of the applicant also be used in certain other cases.

Under the centralized procedure, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of a MAA by the EMA is 210 days.  This excludes so-called clock stops, during which additional written or oral information is to be provided by the applicant in response to questions asked by the CHMP.  At the end of the review period, the CHMP provides an opinion to the European Commission.  If this opinion is favorable, the Commission may then adopt a decision to grant an MA.  

MAs have an initial duration of five years. After these five years, the authorization may be renewed on the basis of a reevaluation of the risk-benefit balance. Once renewed, the MA is valid for an unlimited period unless the European Commission or the national Competent Authority decides, on justified grounds relating to pharmacovigilance, to proceed with one additional five-year renewal.

In exceptional cases, the CHMP might perform an accelerated review of an MAA in no more than 150 days (not including clock stops). Innovative products that target an unmet medical need and are expected to be of major public health interest may be eligible for a number of expedited development and review programs, such as the PRIME scheme, which provides incentives similar to the breakthrough therapy designation in the U.S. PRIME is a voluntary scheme aimed at enhancing the EMA’s support for the development of medicines that target unmet medical needs. It is based on increased interaction and early dialogue with companies developing promising medicines, to optimize their product development plans and speed up their evaluation to help them reach patients earlier. Product developers that benefit from PRIME designation can expect to be eligible for accelerated assessment but this is however not guaranteed. The benefits of a PRIME designation includes the appointment of a rapporteur from the CHMP before submission of an MAA, early dialogue and scientific advice at key development milestones, and the potential to qualify products for accelerated review earlier in the application process.

Data and Marketing Exclusivity

The EEA also provides opportunities for market exclusivity.  For example, in the European Union, upon receiving marketing authorization, new chemical entities generally receive eight years of data exclusivity and an additional two years of market exclusivity. The overall ten-year market exclusivity period may be extended to a maximum of eleven years if, during the first eight years a new therapeutic indication with significant clinical benefit over existing therapies is approved. If granted, data exclusivity prevents regulatory authorities in the EEA from referencing the innovator’s data to assess a generic or biosimilar application. During the additional two-year period of market exclusivity, a generic or biosimilar marketing authorization can be submitted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but no generic or biosimilar product can be marketed until the expiration of the market exclusivity. However, there is no guarantee that a product will be considered by the EEA’s regulatory authorities to be a new chemical entity, and products may not qualify for data exclusivity.

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Orphan Medicinal Products

The criteria for designating an “orphan medicinal product” in the EEA are similar in principle to those in the United States. A medicinal product may be designated as orphan if (1) it is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition; (2) either (a) such condition affects no more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union when the application is made, or (b) the product, without the benefits derived from orphan status, would not generate sufficient return in the European Union to justify investment; and (3) there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of such condition authorized for marketing in the European Union, or if such a method exists, the product will be of significant benefit to those affected by the condition. Orphan medicinal products are eligible for financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers. During this period, the EMA cannot accept another application for a MA, or grant a MA or accept an application to extend an existing MA for the same indication, in respect of a similar medicinal product. An orphan medicinal product can also obtain an additional two years of market exclusivity in the EEA for pediatric studies. No extension to any supplementary protection certificate can be granted on the basis of pediatric studies for orphan indications. The application for orphan drug designation must be submitted before the MAA. The applicant will receive a fee reduction for the MAA if the orphan drug designation has been granted, but not if the designation is still pending at the time the MA is submitted. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.

The 10-year market exclusivity may be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the product no longer meets the criteria for orphan designation, for example, if the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity. Additionally, marketing authorization may be granted to a similar product for the same indication at any time if:

 

the second applicant can establish that its product, although similar, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior;

 

the applicant consents to a second orphan medicinal product application; or

 

the applicant cannot supply enough orphan medicinal product.

 

Post-Approval Requirements

 

Similar to the United States, both marketing authorization holders and manufacturers of medicinal products are subject to comprehensive regulatory oversight by the EMA, the European Commission and/or the competent regulatory authorities of the Member States. The holder of a MA must establish and maintain a pharmacovigilance system and appoint an individual qualified person for pharmacovigilance who is responsible for oversight of that system. Key obligations include expedited reporting of suspected serious adverse reactions and submission of periodic safety update reports, or PSURs.

 

All new MAAs must include a risk management plan (RMP) describing the risk management system that the company will put in place and documenting measures to prevent or minimize the risks associated with the product. The regulatory authorities may also impose specific obligations as a condition of the marketing authorization. Such risk-minimization measures or post-authorization obligations may include additional safety monitoring, more frequent submission of PSURs, or the conduct of additional clinical trials or post-authorization safety studies.  

 

The advertising and promotion of medicinal products is also subject to laws concerning promotion of medicinal products, interactions with physicians, misleading and comparative advertising and unfair commercial practices. All advertising and promotional activities for the product must be consistent with the approved summary of product characteristics, and therefore all off-label promotion is prohibited.  Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines is also prohibited in the EEA. Although general requirements for advertising and promotion of medicinal products are established under EU directives, the details are governed by regulations in each Member State and can differ from one country to another.

 

Failure to comply with EU and Member State laws that apply to the conduct of clinical trials, manufacturing approval, marketing authorization of medicinal products and marketing of such products, both before and after grant of the MA, manufacturing of pharmaceutical products, statutory health insurance, bribery and anti-corruption or with other applicable regulatory requirements may result in administrative, civil or criminal penalties. These penalties could include delays or refusal to authorize the conduct of clinical trials or to grant MA, product withdrawals and recalls, product seizures, suspension, withdrawal or variation of the marketing authorization, total or partial suspension of production, distribution, manufacturing or clinical trials, operating restrictions, injunctions, suspension of licenses, fines and criminal penalties.

 

Approval and Regulation of Companion Diagnostics

 

In the EEA, in vitro diagnostic medical devices are regulated by Directive 98/79/EC which regulates the placing on the market, the CE-marking, the essential requirements, the conformity assessment procedures, the registration obligations for manufactures and devices as well as the vigilance procedure. In vitro diagnostic medical devices must comply with the requirements provided for in the Directive, and with further requirements implemented at national level (as the case may be).

 

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Companion diagnostics can also be considered “combination products” which are governed by a different regulatory pathway depending on the mode of action of the products. A combination medicine/device product could either be regulated as a medicinal product or a medical device based on its primary mode of action. In principle, if a medical device incorporates a substance which, if used separately, is likely to be considered as a medicinal product and act on the human body by an action ancillary to that of the device, the device must be evaluated and authorized in accordance with the medical device regulations. However, if the medicinal substance constitutes the main function of the product then the product is considered as a medicinal product. Currently, for such combination products, the manufacturer will have to consult, prior to obtaining the CE marking of the device, the EMA or national Competent Authorities to obtain scientific advice on the quality and safety of the medicinal substance, including the benefit/risk profile of its incorporation into the device.

 

The regulation of companion diagnostics will be subject to further requirements as of the entry into force of the in-vitro diagnostic devices Regulation (No 2017/746) which introduces a new classification system for companion diagnostics which are now specifically defined as diagnostic tests that support the safe and effective use of a specific medicinal product, by identifying patients that are suitable or unsuitable for treatment. Companion diagnostics will have to undergo a conformity assessment by a notified body. Before it can issue a CE certificate, the notified body must seek a scientific opinion from the EMA on the suitability of the companion diagnostic to the medicinal product concerned if the medicinal product falls exclusively within the scope of the centralized procedure for the authorization of medicines, or the medicinal product is already authorized through the centralized procedure, or a marketing authorization application for the medicinal product has been submitted through the centralized procedure. For other substances, the notified body can seek the opinion from a national Competent Authorities or the EMA.

 

With respect to the United Kingdom, the transition period, during which EU pharmaceutical laws continued to apply to the United Kingdom, has expired on December 31, 2020. However, the EU and the United Kingdom have concluded a trade and cooperation agreement, or TCA, which is provisionally applicable since January 1, 2021.

The TCA includes specific provisions concerning pharmaceuticals, which include the mutual recognition of Good Manufacturing Practice, or GMP, inspections of manufacturing facilities for medicinal products and GMP documents issued, but does not foresee wholesale mutual recognition of UK and EU pharmaceutical regulations.

For other countries outside of the European Union, 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 are 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 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.

 

Other Healthcare Laws

 

In addition to FDA restrictions on marketing of pharmaceutical and biological products, other U.S. federal and state healthcare regulatory laws restrict business practices in the biopharmaceutical industry, which include, but are not limited to, state and federal anti-kickback, false claims, data privacy and security, and physician payment and drug pricing transparency laws.

 

The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, any person or entity from knowingly and willfully offering, paying, soliciting, receiving or providing any remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, to induce or in return for purchasing, leasing, ordering, or arranging for or recommending the purchase, lease, or order of any item or service reimbursable, in whole or in part, under Medicare, Medicaid or other federal healthcare programs. The term “remuneration” has been broadly interpreted to include anything of value. The Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers, and formulary managers on the other. Although there are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting some common activities from prosecution, the exceptions and safe harbors are drawn narrowly. Practices that involve remuneration that may be alleged to be intended to induce prescribing, purchases, or recommendations may be subject to scrutiny if they do not meet the requirements of a statutory or regulatory exception or safe harbor. Failure to meet all of the requirements of a particular applicable statutory exception or regulatory safe harbor does not make the conduct per se illegal under the Anti-Kickback Statute. Instead, the legality of the arrangement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on a cumulative review of all its facts and circumstances. Several courts have interpreted the statute’s intent requirement to mean that if any one purpose of an arrangement involving remuneration is to induce referrals of federal healthcare covered business, the statute has been violated. Additionally, 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. The majority of states also have anti-kickback laws, which establish similar prohibitions and in some cases may apply to items or services reimbursed by any third-party payor, including commercial insurers.

 

The federal false claims laws, including the civil False Claims Act, prohibit any person or entity from, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim for payment to, or approval by, the federal government, knowingly making, using, or causing to be made or used a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim to the federal government, or from knowingly making a false statement to avoid, decrease or conceal an obligation to pay money to the U.S. federal government. A claim includes “any request or demand” for money or property presented to the U.S. government. In addition, a

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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. Actions under the civil False Claims Act may be brought by the Attorney General or as a qui tam action by a private individual in the name of the government. Violations of the civil False Claims Act can result in very significant monetary penalties and treble damages. Several pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies have been prosecuted under these laws for, among other things, allegedly providing free product to customers with the expectation that the customers would bill federal programs for the product. Other companies have been prosecuted for causing false claims to be submitted because of the companies’ marketing of products for unapproved ( e.g. , off-label) uses. In addition, the civil monetary penalties statute imposes penalties against any person who 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. Many states also have similar fraud and abuse statutes or regulations that apply to items and services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs, or, in several states, apply regardless of the payor. Given the significant size of actual and potential settlements, it is expected that the government authorities will continue to devote substantial resources to investigating healthcare providers’ and manufacturers’ compliance with applicable fraud and abuse laws.

 

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) created additional federal criminal statutes that prohibit, among other actions, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud 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 a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services. Similar to the U.S. 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.

 

In addition, there has been a recent trend of increased federal and state regulation of payments made to physicians and certain other healthcare providers. The ACA imposed, among other things, new annual reporting requirements through the Physician Payments Sunshine Act for covered manufacturers for certain payments and “transfers of value” provided to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors), certain other healthcare professionals beginning in 2022, and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by physicians, as defined by statute, and their immediate family members. Failure to submit timely, accurately and completely the required information for all payments, transfers of value and ownership or investment interests may result in civil monetary penalties. Covered manufacturers must submit reports by the 90th day of each subsequent calendar year. In addition, certain states require implementation of compliance programs and compliance with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government, impose restrictions on marketing practices, and/or tracking and reporting of pricing and marketing information as well as gifts, compensation and other remuneration or items of value provided to physicians and other healthcare professionals and entities. We are not currently a covered manufacturer under the ACA, but may become one if successful in obtaining approval of one of our antibody candidates.

 

We may also be subject to data privacy and security regulation by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) and their respective implementing regulations, impose specified requirements relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information held by covered entities and their business associates. Among other things, HITECH made HIPAA’s security standards directly applicable to “business associates,” defined as independent contractors or agents of covered entities that create, receive, maintain or transmit 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, business associates and possibly other persons, 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, state laws govern the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same requirements, thus complicating compliance efforts. By way of example, California enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) effective January 1, 2020, which gives California residents expanded rights to access and delete their personal information, opt out of certain personal information sharing, and receive detailed information about how their personal information is used. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for data breaches that is expected to increase data breach litigation. The CCPA may increase our compliance costs and potential liability. Additionally, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), recently passed in California. The CPRA significantly amends the CCPA, and imposes additional data protection obligations on covered companies doing business in California, including additional consumer rights processes and opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data. It also creates a new California data protection agency specifically tasked to enforce the law, which would likely result in increased regulatory scrutiny of California businesses in the areas of data protection and security. The substantive requirements for businesses subject to the CPRA will go into effect on January 1, 2023, and become enforceable on July 1, 2023.

 

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If our operations are found to be in violation of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that apply to us, we may be subject to penalties, including, without limitation, administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs, reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or other agreement, and individual imprisonment, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our financial results.

 

To the extent that any of our antibody candidates, once approved, are sold in a foreign country, we may be subject to similar foreign laws and regulations, which may include, for instance, applicable post-marketing requirements, including safety surveillance, anti-fraud and abuse laws, and implementation of corporate compliance programs and reporting of payments or other transfers of value to healthcare professionals.

 

Privacy and Data Protection Laws in Europe

 

We are subject to European laws relating to our and our suppliers’, collaborators’ and subcontractors’ (where they act as processors) collection, control, processing and other use of personal data (i.e., any data relating to an identifiable living individual, whether that individual can be identified directly or indirectly). We are subject to the supervision of local data protection authorities in those jurisdictions where we are established, and where we process personal data in the context of the activities of that establishment (e.g., undertaking clinical trials). We and our suppliers, collaborators and subcontractors process personal data including in relation to our employees, employees of customers, clinical trial patients, healthcare professionals and employees of suppliers including health and medical information. The data privacy regime in the EU includes the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and national laws and regulations implementing or supplementing it.

 

The GDPR requires that personal data is only collected for specified, explicit and legal purposes as set out in the GDPR or local laws, and the data may then only be processed in a manner compatible with those purposes. The personal data collected and processed must be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which it is collected and processed, it must be held securely, not transferred outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) unless certain steps are taken to ensure an adequate level of protection, and must not be retained for longer than necessary for the purposes for which it was collected. In addition, the GDPR requires companies processing personal data to take certain organizational steps to ensure that they have adequate records, policies, security, training and governance frameworks in place to ensure, and to be able to demonstrate, protection. For example, the GDPR requires us to make more detailed disclosures to data subjects, requires disclosure of the legal basis on which we can process personal data, makes it harder for us to obtain valid consent for processing, may require the appointment of a data protection officer where sensitive personal data (i.e., health data) is processed on a sufficiently large scale, introduces mandatory data breach notification throughout the EU and imposes additional obligations on us when we are contracting with certain service providers.

 

In addition, to the extent a company processes, controls or otherwise uses “special category” personal data (including patients’ health or medical information, genetic information and biometric information), more stringent rules apply, further limiting the circumstances and the manner in which a company is legally permitted to process that data. The GDPR provides a broad right for EU and EEA member states to create supplemental national laws which may result in divergence across Europe making it harder to maintain a consistent operating model or standard operating procedures. Such laws, for example, may relate to the processing of health, genetic and biometric data, which could further limit our ability to use and share such data or could cause our costs to increase, and harm our business and financial condition.

 

We are also subject to EU laws on personal data export, as we may transfer personal data from the EEA to other jurisdictions which are not considered by the European Commission to offer “adequate” protection of personal data. Such transfers need to be legitimized by a valid transfer mechanism under the GDPR. From January 1, 2021, we are subject to the GDPR and also the United Kingdom (UK) GDPR, which, together with the amended UK Data Protection Act 2018, retains the GDPR in UK national law. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union in relation to certain aspects of data protection law remains unclear, and it is unclear how UK data protection laws and regulations will develop in the medium to longer term, and how data transfers to and from the United Kingdom will be regulated in the long term. Currently there is a four to six-month grace period agreed in the EU and UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, ending 30 June 2021 at the latest, whilst the parties discuss an adequacy decision. Further, recent legal developments in Europe have created complexity and compliance uncertainty regarding certain transfers of personal data from the EEA. For example, on July 16, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework (Privacy Shield) under which personal data could be transferred from the EEA to United States entities who had self-certified under the Privacy Shield scheme. It is uncertain whether the standard contractual clauses will also be invalidated by the European courts or legislature.

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There are costs and administrative burdens associated with compliance with the GDPR and the resultant changes in the EU and EEA member states’ national laws. Any failure or perceived failure to comply with global privacy laws carries with it the risk of significant penalties and sanctions of up to €20 million or up to 4% of total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year. Additionally, following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EEA and the EU, and the expiry of the transition period, companies have to comply with the GDPR and the GDPR as incorporated into United Kingdom national law, the latter regime having the ability to separately fine up to the greater of €20 million (£17.5 million) or 4% of global turnover. These laws or new interpretations, enactments or supplementary forms of these laws, could create liability for us, could impose additional operational requirements on our business, could affect the manner in which we use and transmit patient information and could increase our cost of doing business. Claims of violations of privacy rights or contractual breaches, even if we are not found liable, could be expensive and time-consuming to defend and could result in adverse publicity that could harm our business.

Recent legal developments in Europe have created complexity and uncertainty regarding transfers of personal data from the EEA to the United States. Most recently, on July 16, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework (Privacy Shield), under which personal data could be transferred from the EEA to US entities who had self-certified under the Privacy Shield scheme. While the CJEU upheld the adequacy of the standard contractual clauses (a standard form of contract approved by the European Commission as an adequate personal data transfer mechanism, and potential alternative to the Privacy Shield), it made clear that reliance on them alone may not necessarily be sufficient in all circumstances. Use of the standard contractual clauses must now be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the legal regime applicable in the destination country, in particular applicable surveillance laws and rights of individuals and additional measures and/or contractual provisions may need to be put in place, however, the nature of these additional measures is currently uncertain. The CJEU went on to state that if a competent supervisory authority believes that the standard contractual clauses cannot be complied with in the destination country and the required level of protection cannot be secured by other means, such supervisory authority is under an obligation to suspend or prohibit that transfer.

 

These recent developments may require us to review and amend the legal mechanisms by which we make and/ or receive personal data transfers to/ in the U.S.  As supervisory authorities issue further guidance on personal data export mechanisms, including circumstances where the standard contractual clauses cannot be used, and/or start taking enforcement action, we could suffer additional costs, complaints and/or regulatory investigations or fines, and/or if we are otherwise unable to transfer personal data between and among countries and regions in which we operate, it could affect the manner in which we provide our services, the geographical location or segregation of our relevant systems and operations, and could adversely affect our financial results.

 

Coverage and Reimbursement

 

Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any pharmaceutical or biological products for which we obtain regulatory approval. In the United States and markets in other countries, patients who are prescribed treatments for their conditions and providers performing the prescribed services generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the associated healthcare costs. Patients are unlikely to use our products unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of our products. Sales of any products for which we receive regulatory approval for commercial sale will therefore depend, in part, on the availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors. Third-party payors include government authorities, managed care plans, private health insurers and other organizations.

 

In the United States, the process for determining whether a third-party payor will provide coverage for a pharmaceutical or biological product typically is separate from the process for setting the price of such product or for establishing the reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the product once coverage is approved. For products administered under the supervision of a physician, obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement may be particularly difficult because of the higher prices often associated with such drugs. Additionally, separate reimbursement for the product itself or the treatment or procedure in which the product is used may not be available, which may impact physician utilization. A decision by a third-party payor not to cover our bispecific antibody candidates could reduce physician utilization of our products once approved and have a material adverse effect on our sales, results of operations and financial condition. Moreover, a third-party payor’s decision to provide coverage for a pharmaceutical or biological product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Adequate third-party reimbursement may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development. Additionally, coverage and reimbursement for new products can differ significantly from payor to payor. One third-party payor’s decision to cover a particular medical product or service does not ensure that other payors will also provide coverage for the medical product or service, or will provide coverage at an adequate reimbursement rate. As a result, the coverage determination process will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our products to each payor separately and will be a time-consuming process.

 

In the EEA, governments influence the price of products through their pricing and reimbursement rules and control of national health care systems that fund a large part of the cost of those products to consumers. Member States are free to restrict the range of pharmaceutical products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement, and to control the prices and reimbursement levels of pharmaceutical products for human use. Some jurisdictions operate positive and negative list systems under which products may only be marketed once a reimbursement price has been agreed to by the government. Member States may approve a specific price or level of reimbursement for the pharmaceutical product, or alternatively adopt a system of direct or indirect

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controls on the profitability of the company responsible for placing the pharmaceutical product on the market, including volume-based arrangements, caps and reference pricing mechanisms. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval, some of these countries may require the completion of clinical trials that compare the cost effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. Other member states allow companies to fix their own prices for medicines, but monitor and control company profits. The downward pressure on health care costs in general, particularly prescription products, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products. In addition, in some countries, cross border imports from low-priced markets exert a commercial pressure on pricing within a country.

 

The containment of healthcare costs has become a priority of federal, state and foreign governments, and the prices of pharmaceutical or biological products have been a focus in this effort. Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the prices charged for medical products and services, examining the medical necessity and reviewing the cost-effectiveness of pharmaceutical or biological products, medical devices and medical services, in addition to questioning safety and efficacy. If these third-party payors do not consider our products to be cost-effective compared to other available therapies, they may not cover our products after FDA approval or, if they do, the level of payment may not be sufficient to allow us to sell our products at a profit.

 

Healthcare Reform

 

A primary trend in the U.S. healthcare industry and elsewhere is cost containment. Government authorities and other third-party payors have attempted to control costs by limiting coverage and the amount of reimbursement for particular medical products. For example, in March 2010, the ACA was enacted, which, among other things, increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by most manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program; introduced 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; extended the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program to utilization of prescriptions of individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans; imposed mandatory discounts for certain Medicare Part D beneficiaries as a condition for manufacturers’ outpatient drugs coverage under Medicare Part D; subjected drug manufacturers to new annual fees based on pharmaceutical companies’ share of sales to federal healthcare programs; and created a new Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research.

 

Since its enactment, there have been judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. On December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Northern District of Texas, ruled that the individual mandate is a critical and inseverable feature of the ACA, and therefore, because it was repealed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. On December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision that the individual mandate was unconstitutional but remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case, although it is unclear when or how the Supreme Court will rule. It is also unclear how other efforts, if any, to challenge, repeal or replace the ACA will impact the law.

 

We expect that other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding, more rigorous coverage criteria and lower reimbursement, new payment methodologies and additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved product. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government-funded programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. Moreover, recently there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which have resulted in several recent Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for pharmaceutical and biological products. Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability or commercialize our drugs.

 

Additionally, on August 2, 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was enacted, which, among other things, included aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year, which went into effect on April 1, 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute will stay in effect through 2030, with the exception of a temporary suspension from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, unless additional Congressional action is taken. On January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.

 

We expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our products once approved or additional pricing pressures.

 

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Employees

 

As of January 31, 2021, we had 93 full-time employees and 48 part-time employees, including 60 employees with M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. Of these employees, 93 were primarily engaged in research and development activities and 48 were primarily engaged in general and administrative activities. None of our employees are represented by a labor union, and we consider our employee relations to be good.

 

Corporate Information

 

We were incorporated as Merus B.V. under the laws of the Netherlands on June 16, 2003. Our principal executive offices are located at Yalelaan 62, 3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands. Our telephone number at the Utrecht address is +31 30 253 8800. Our website address is www.merus.nl. Information contained on, or that can be accessed through, our website does not constitute a 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.

 

Available Information

 

We file electronically with the SEC our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements and other information. Our SEC filings are available to the public over the Internet at the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov. We make available on our website at www.merus.nl, under “Investors & Media,” free of charge, copies of these reports as soon as reasonably practicable after filing or furnishing these reports with the SEC.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors.

 

RISK FACTORS

Risks Related to Our Business and Industry

Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should consider carefully the risks described below, together with the other information included or incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. If any of the following risks occur, our business, financial condition, results of operations and future growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected. In these circumstances, the market price of our common stock could decline. Other events that we do not currently anticipate or that we currently deem immaterial may also affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.

We are a clinical-stage company and have incurred significant losses since our inception. We expect to incur losses for the foreseeable future and may never achieve or maintain profitability.

We are a clinical-stage oncology company with a limited operating history. We have incurred net losses of $85.5 million, and $55.2 million for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. As of December 31, 2020, we had an accumulated loss of $400.1 million. Our losses have resulted principally from expenses incurred in research and development of our antibody candidates and from management and administrative costs and other expenses that we have incurred while building our business infrastructure. We expect to continue to incur significant operating losses for the foreseeable future as we continue our research and development efforts and seek to obtain regulatory approval and commercialization of our antibody candidates. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially as we:

 

conduct our ongoing, single agent, Phase 1/2 eNRGy clinical trial of zenocutuzumab, our most advanced bispecific antibody candidate, for the treatment of solid tumors harboring neuregulin 1 (NRG1) gene fusions and conclude our ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer in combination with other therapies;

 

conclude our ongoing dose-escalation portion of our Phase 1 clinical trial of MCLA-117, our bispecific antibody candidate, for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML);

 

conduct our ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial of MCLA-158 for the treatment of solid tumors;

 

conduct our ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial for MCLA-145 for the treatment of advanced solid tumors and B-cell lymphomas, which is being co-developed with Incyte Corporation (Incyte);

 

commence our Phase 1 clinical trial for MCLA-129 in collaboration with Betta Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. (Betta);

 

continue the research and development of our other pre-clinical antibody candidates;

 

expand our clinical programs to explore new potential combination therapies or indications;

 

expand and enhance our technology platforms, including our Biclonics® technology platform which generates our pipeline of bispecific product candidates, our Triclonics® technology platform, which generates pre-clinical trispecific candidates and generate and develop additional multispecific antibody candidates;

 

seek regulatory approvals for any antibody candidates that successfully complete clinical trials;

 

potentially establish a sales, marketing and distribution infrastructure and scale-up manufacturing capabilities to commercialize any products for which we may obtain regulatory approvals;

 

maintain, expand and protect our intellectual property portfolio;

 

secure, maintain and/or obtain freedom to operate for our technologies and products;

 

add clinical, scientific, operational, financial, information technology and management information systems and personnel, including personnel to support our product development and potential future commercialization efforts and to support our operation as a public company; and

 

experience any delays or encounter any issues with any of the above, including but not limited to failed studies, complex results, manufacturing challenges, safety issues or other regulatory challenges.

We have financed our operations primarily through public offerings and private placements of our common shares and our collaboration and license agreement with Incyte and Eli Lilly. We have devoted a significant portion of our financial resources and efforts to developing our full-length bispecific antibody therapeutics, which we refer to as Biclonics®, our technology platforms, identifying potential antibody candidates, conducting pre-clinical studies of a variety of candidates, and conducting our clinical trials of zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158, and MCLA-145, concluding MCLA-117 and expected commencement of a clinical trial of MCLA-

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129. We are in the early stages of development of our antibody candidates, and we have not completed development of any Biclonics® or any other drugs or biologics.

To become and remain profitable, we must succeed in developing and eventually commercializing products that generate significant revenue. This will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities, including completing pre-clinical testing and clinical trials of our bispecific antibody candidates, discovering and developing additional bispecific and trispecific antibody candidates, obtaining regulatory approval for any antibody candidates that successfully complete clinical trials, establishing manufacturing and marketing capabilities and ultimately selling any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval. We are only in the preliminary stages of most of these activities. We may never succeed in these activities and, even if we do, may never generate revenue that is significant enough to achieve profitability.

Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with pharmaceutical product and biological 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. If we are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), or other regulatory authorities to perform studies in addition to those we currently anticipate, or if there are any delays in completing our clinical trials or the development of any of our antibody candidates, our expenses could increase and commercial revenue could be further delayed.

Even if we do generate product royalties or product sales, we may never achieve or sustain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to sustain profitability could depress the market price of our common shares and could impair our ability to raise capital, expand our business, diversify our product offerings or continue our operations.

We will need additional funding in order to complete development of our antibody candidates and commercialize our products, if approved. If we are unable to raise capital when needed, we could be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our product development programs or commercialization efforts.

We expect our expenses to increase in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we conduct our ongoing clinical trials of zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158, and MCLA-145, conclude our trial of MCLA-117, commence our clinical trial for MCLA-129 and continue to research, develop and conduct pre-clinical studies of our other antibody candidates. In addition, if we obtain regulatory approval for any of our antibody candidates, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution. Furthermore, we continue to incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company. Accordingly, we will need to obtain substantial additional funding in connection with our continuing operations. If we are unable to raise capital when needed or on attractive terms, we could be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate our research and development programs or any future commercialization efforts. For example, the trading prices for our and other biopharmaceutical companies’ stock have been highly volatile as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we may face difficulties raising capital through sales of our common stock and any such sales may be on unfavorable terms.

Based on our current operating plan, we expect that our existing cash, cash equivalents and investments as of December 31, 2020 will be sufficient to fund our operations into at least the second half of 2024. We have based this estimate on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could use our capital resources sooner than we currently expect. Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors, including:

 

the cost, progress and results of our ongoing clinical trials of zenocutuzumab and the Phase 1 clinical trials of MCLA-117, MCLA-158, and MCLA-145;

 

the success of our collaboration with Incyte to develop monospecific and bispecific antibodies candidates, including our ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial for MCLA-145;

 

the cost, progress and results of our anticipated clinical trial for MCLA-129;

 

the cost of manufacturing clinical supplies of our bispecific antibody candidates;

 

the scope, progress, results and costs of pre-clinical development, laboratory testing and clinical trials for our other bispecific and multi-specific antibody candidates;

 

the costs, timing and outcome of regulatory review of any of our antibody candidates;

 

the costs and timing of future commercialization activities, including manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution, for any of our antibody candidates to the extent any receive marketing approval;

 

the costs and timing of preparing, filing and prosecuting patent applications, maintaining and enforcing our intellectual property rights and defending any intellectual property-related claims, including any potential future claims by third parties that we are alleged to be infringing upon their intellectual property rights;

 

the costs and timing of securing, maintaining and/or obtaining freedom to operate for our technologies and products;

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the revenue, if any, received from commercial sales of our antibody candidates to the extent any receive marketing approval;

 

the effect of competing technological and market developments; and

 

the extent to which we acquire or invest in businesses, products and technologies, including our existing collaborations and any other future licensing or collaboration arrangements for any of our antibody candidates.

We depend heavily on the success of our antibody candidates, and we cannot give any assurance that any of our antibody candidates will receive regulatory approval, which is necessary before they can be commercialized. If we, any of our collaborators, or any other strategic partners we may enter into collaboration agreements with for the development and commercialization of our antibody candidates, are unable to commercialize our antibody candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business, financial condition and results of operations will be materially adversely affected.

We have invested a significant portion of our efforts and financial resources in the development of bispecific antibody candidates using our Biclonics® technology platform and in development of multi-specific antibody candidates using our Triclonics® technology platform. Our ability to generate royalty and product revenues, which we do not expect will occur for at least the next several years, if ever, will depend heavily on the successful development and eventual commercialization of these antibody candidates, which may never occur. We currently generate no revenues from sales of any products, and we may never be able to develop or commercialize a marketable product. Each of our bispecific antibody candidates and pre-clinical trispecific antibody candidates will require additional clinical development, management of clinical, pre-clinical and manufacturing activities, regulatory approval in multiple jurisdictions, obtaining manufacturing supply, including commercial manufacturing supply, building of a commercial organization, substantial investment and significant marketing efforts before we generate any revenues from product sales. We are not permitted to market or promote any of our antibody candidates before we receive regulatory approval from the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, and we may never receive such regulatory approval for any of our antibody candidates. The success of our antibody candidates will depend on several factors, including the following:

 

for antibody candidates which we may license to others, such as to our collaborators, the successful efforts of those parties in completing clinical trials of, receipt of regulatory approval for and commercialization of such antibody candidates;

 

for the antibody candidates to which we retain rights, completion of pre-clinical studies and clinical trials of, receipt of marketing approvals for, establishment of commercial manufacturing supplies of and successful commercialization of such antibody candidates; and

 

for all of our antibody candidates, if approved, acceptance of our antibody candidates by patients, the medical community and third-party payors, effectively competing with other therapies, a continued acceptable safety profile following approval and qualifying for, maintaining, enforcing and defending our intellectual property rights and claims.

If we or our collaborators, as applicable, do not achieve one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully commercialize our antibody candidates, which would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We have not previously submitted a Biologics License Application (BLA), to the FDA, a Marketing Authorisation Application (MAA) to the EMA, or similar regulatory approval filings to comparable foreign authorities, for any antibody candidate, and we cannot be certain that any of our antibody candidates will be successful in clinical trials or receive regulatory approval. Further, our antibody candidates may not receive regulatory approval even if they are successful in clinical trials. If we do not receive regulatory approvals for our antibody candidates, we may not be able to continue our operations. Even if we successfully obtain regulatory approvals to market one or more of our antibody candidates, our revenues will be dependent, in part, upon the size of the markets in the territories for which we gain regulatory approval and have commercial rights. If the markets for patient subsets that we are targeting are not as significant as we estimate, we may not generate significant revenues from sales of such products, if approved.

We plan to seek regulatory approval to commercialize our antibody candidates both in the United States and the EU, and potentially in additional foreign countries. While the scope of regulatory approval is similar in other countries, to obtain separate regulatory approval in many other countries we must comply with the numerous and varying regulatory requirements of such countries regarding safety and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials and commercial sales, pricing and distribution of our antibody candidates, and we cannot predict success in these jurisdictions.

The Biclonics® technology platform and Triclonics® technology platform are unproven, novel approaches to the production of molecules for therapeutic intervention.

We have not received regulatory approval for a therapeutic based on a full-length human bispecific or trispecific IgG approach. We cannot be certain that our approach will lead to the development of approvable or marketable products. In addition, our Biclonics® and Triclonics® may have different effectiveness rates in various indications and in different geographical areas. Finally, the FDA, the EMA or other regulatory agencies may lack experience in evaluating the safety and efficacy of products based on Biclonics® and

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Triclonics® therapeutics, which could result in a longer than expected regulatory review process, increase our expected development costs and delay or prevent commercialization of our antibody candidates.

Our Biclonics® and Triclonics® technology platforms rely on third parties for biological materials. Some biological materials have not always met our expectations or requirements, and any disruption in the supply of these biological materials could materially adversely affect our business. Although we have control processes and screening procedures, biological materials are susceptible to damage and contamination and may contain active pathogens. Improper storage of these materials, by us or any third-party suppliers, may require us to destroy some of our biological raw materials or antibody candidates.

Failure to successfully validate, develop and obtain regulatory approval for companion diagnostics could harm our development strategy.

We may seek to identify patient subsets within a disease category that may derive selective and meaningful benefit from the antibody candidates we are developing. Through collaborations or license agreements, we may develop companion diagnostics to help us to more accurately identify patients within a particular subset, both during our clinical trials and in connection with the commercialization of our antibody candidates, if approved. Companion diagnostics are subject to regulation by the FDA, and comparable foreign regulatory authorities as medical devices and typically require separate regulatory approval (or clearance, or certification) prior to commercialization. If needed, we intend to develop companion diagnostics in collaboration with or via license agreements with third parties and are dependent on the scientific insights and sustained cooperation and effort of any third-party collaborators in developing and obtaining approval (or clearance, or certification) for companion diagnostics. We and our collaborators may encounter difficulties in developing and obtaining approval for any companion diagnostics, including issues relating to selectivity/specificity, analytical validation, reproducibility or clinical validation. Any delay or failure by us or our collaborators to develop or obtain regulatory approval (or clearance, or certification) of companion diagnostics could delay or prevent approval of our antibody candidates. In addition, our collaborators may encounter production difficulties that could constrain the supply of the companion diagnostics, and both they and we may have difficulties gaining acceptance of the use of the companion diagnostics in the clinical community. If such companion diagnostics fail to gain market acceptance, it would have an adverse effect on our ability to derive revenues from sales of our products. In addition, the diagnostic company with whom we contract may decide to discontinue selling or manufacturing the companion diagnostic that we anticipate using in connection with development and commercialization of our antibody candidates or our relationship with such diagnostic company may otherwise terminate. We may not be able to enter into arrangements with another diagnostic company to obtain supplies of an alternative companion diagnostic test for use in connection with the development and commercialization of our antibody candidates or do so on commercially reasonable terms, which could adversely affect and/or delay the development or commercialization of our antibody candidates.

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.

Since our inception in 2003, we have devoted a significant portion of our resources to developing zenocutuzumab, MCLA-117, MCLA-158, MCLA-145, MCLA-129 and our other antibody candidates, building our intellectual property portfolio, developing our clinical manufacturing supply chain, generating and enhancing our Biclonics® technology platform, generating our Triclonics® technology platform, planning our business, raising capital and providing general and administrative support for these operations. While we have ongoing clinical trials for zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158, and MCLA-145, concluding the MCLA-117 trial and anticipate commencing a clinical trial for MCLA-129, we have not successfully completed any clinical trials for any antibody candidate. We have not yet demonstrated our ability to successfully complete any Phase 2 clinical trial or any Phase 3 or other 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 product commercialization. Additionally, we expect our financial condition and operating results to continue to fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Consequently, any predictions you make about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history.

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

Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial product revenues, we expect to finance our cash needs through equity or debt financings and upfront and milestone payments, if any, received under our existing collaborations and any other future licenses or collaborations, together with our existing cash and cash equivalents. In order to accomplish our business objectives and further develop our product pipeline, we will, however, need to seek additional funds. If we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, our existing shareholders’ ownership interests will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect our existing shareholders’ rights as holders of our common shares. In addition, the possibility of such issuance may cause the market price of our common shares to decline. Debt financing, if available, may result in increased fixed payment obligations and involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures, declaring dividends, or acquiring, selling or licensing intellectual property rights, which could adversely impact our ability to conduct our business.

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If we raise additional funds through collaborations, strategic alliances or marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our intellectual property, technologies, future revenue streams or antibody candidates or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. We could also be required to seek funds through arrangements with collaborators or others at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable. Any of these occurrences may have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and prospects.

Any additional fundraising efforts may divert our management from their day-to-day activities, which may adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our antibody candidates. In addition, we cannot guarantee that future financing will be available in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all. For example, the trading prices for our and other biopharmaceutical companies’ stock have been highly volatile as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we may face difficulties raising capital through sales of our common stock and any such sales may be on unfavorable terms. If we are unable to obtain funding on a timely basis, we may be required to significantly curtail, delay or discontinue one or more of our research or development programs or the commercialization of any of our antibody candidates, if approved, or be unable to expand our operations or otherwise capitalize on our business opportunities, as desired, which could materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our business may become subject to economic, political, regulatory and other risks associated with international operations

As a company based in the Netherlands, our business is subject to risks associated with conducting business internationally. Many of our suppliers and collaborative and clinical trial relationships are located outside the United States. Accordingly, our future results could be harmed by a variety of factors, including:

 

economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability, in particular, in non-U.S. economies and markets;

 

differing regulatory requirements for drug approvals in non-U.S. countries;

 

differing jurisdictions could present different issues for securing, maintaining and/or obtaining freedom to operate in such jurisdictions;

 

potentially reduced protection for intellectual property rights;

 

difficulties in compliance with non-U.S. laws and regulations;

 

changes in non-U.S. regulations and customs, tariffs and trade barriers;

 

changes in non-U.S. currency exchange rates of the euro and currency controls;

 

changes in a specific country’s or region’s political or economic environment;

 

trade protection measures, import or export licensing requirements or other restrictive actions by U.S. or non-U.S. governments;

 

differing reimbursement regimes and price controls in certain non-U.S. markets;

 

negative consequences from changes in tax laws;

 

compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad;

 

compliance with international privacy regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR);

 

negative consequences from the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, and its potential impact on supply-chain and our personnel;

 

workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States;

 

difficulties associated with staffing and managing international operations, including differing labor relations;

 

production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad; and

 

business interruptions resulting from geo-political actions, including war, riots and terrorism, or natural disasters including earthquakes, typhoons, floods, fires, epidemics or public health emergencies and U.S. or non-U.S. governmental actions or restrictions related thereto.

Exchange rate fluctuations or abandonment of the euro currency may materially affect our results of operations and financial condition.

Due to the international scope of our operations, fluctuations in exchange rates, particularly between the euro and the U.S. dollar, may adversely affect us. Although we are based in the Netherlands, we source research and development, manufacturing, consulting and other services from several countries. Further, potential future revenue may be derived from abroad, particularly from the United States. Additionally, our funding has mainly come from investors and collaborators mainly in the United States. As a result, our

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business and share price may be affected by fluctuations in foreign exchange rates between the euro and these other currencies, which may also have a significant impact on our reported results of operations and cash flows from period to period. Currently, we do not have any exchange rate hedging arrangements in place.

In addition, the possible abandonment of the euro by one or more members of the EU could materially affect our business in the future. Despite measures taken by the EU to provide funding to certain EU member states in financial difficulties and by a number of European countries to stabilize their economies and reduce their debt burdens, it is possible that the euro could be abandoned in the future as a currency by countries that have adopted its use. This could lead to the re-introduction of individual currencies in one or more EU member states, or in more extreme circumstances, the dissolution of the EU. The effects on our business of a potential dissolution of the EU, the exit of one or more EU member states from the EU or the abandonment of the euro as a currency, are impossible to predict with certainty, and any such events could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Risks from improper conduct by our employees, agents, contractors, or collaborators could adversely affect our reputation, business, prospects, operating results, and financial condition.

We cannot ensure that our compliance controls, policies, and procedures will in every instance protect us from acts committed by our employees, agents, contractors, or collaborators that would violate the laws or regulations of the jurisdictions in which we operate, including, without limitation, health care, employment, foreign corrupt practices, trade restrictions and sanctions, environmental, import and export requirements, competition, patient privacy and other privacy laws and regulations. Such improper actions could subject us to civil or criminal investigations, and monetary and injunctive penalties, and could adversely impact our ability to conduct business, operating results, and reputation.

We are subject to a number of anti-corruption laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in the United States, the Bribery Act in the United Kingdom and the anti-corruption provisions of the Dutch Criminal Code in the Netherlands. Our failure to comply with anti-corruption laws applicable to us could result in penalties, which could harm our reputation and harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows or prospects. The FCPA generally prohibits companies and their intermediaries from making improper payments to foreign officials for the purpose of improperly or corruptly obtaining or keeping business, obtaining preferential treatment and/or other undue benefits or advantages. The FCPA also requires public companies to maintain accurate books and records and devise a system of sufficient internal accounting controls. We regularly review and update our policies and procedures and internal controls designed to provide reasonable assurance that we, our employees, distributors and other intermediaries comply with the anti-corruption laws to which we are subject. However, there are inherent limitations to the effectiveness of any policies, procedures and internal controls, including the possibility of human error and the circumvention or overriding of the policies, procedures and internal controls. There can be no assurance that such policies or procedures or internal controls will work effectively at all times or protect us against liability under these or other laws for actions taken by our employees, distributors and other intermediaries with respect to our business.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice continue to view FCPA enforcement activities as a high priority. There is no certainty that all of our employees, agents, contractors, or collaborators, or those of our affiliates, will comply with all applicable laws and regulations, particularly given the high level of complexity of these laws. Violations of these laws and regulations could result in fines, criminal sanctions against us, our officers, or our employees, requirements to obtain export licenses, cessation of business activities in sanctioned countries, implementation of compliance programs, and prohibitions on the conduct of our business. Any such violations could materially damage our reputation, our brand, our international operations, our ability to attract and retain employees, and our business, prospects, operating results, and financial condition.

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union may have a negative effect on global economic conditions and financial markets, which could materially affect our financial condition and results of operations.

Following a national referendum and enactment of legislation by the government of the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom formally withdrew from the EU on January 31, 2020 and entered into a transition period. On December 24, 2020, the United Kingdom and the EU announced that they had agreed to the terms of their future trading relationship in the EU—UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (“TCA”), which became binding on both the EU and the United Kingdom on January 1, 2021, and awaits the final agreement of the remaining 27 EU Member States. While agreement on the terms of the TCA has avoided a “no deal” Brexit scenario, and provides in principle for quota- and tariff-free trading of goods, it is nevertheless expected that the TCA will result in the creation of non-tariff barriers (such as increased shipping and regulatory costs and complexities) to the trade in goods between the United Kingdom and the EU. Further, the TCA does not provide for the continued free movement of services between the UK and the EU and imposes additional restrictions on the free movement of people between the UK and the EU. The TCA includes provisions affecting pharmaceutical businesses (including on customs and tariffs). In addition, there are some specific provisions concerning pharmaceuticals. These include the mutual recognition of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspections of manufacturing facilities for medicinal products and GMP documents issued. The TCA does not, however, contain wholesale mutual recognition of UK and EU pharmaceutical regulations and product standards. Significant political and economic uncertainty remains about how much the relationship between the United Kingdom and EU will differ as a result of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.

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The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and the associated uncertainty has had and may continue to have a significant adverse effect on global economic conditions and the stability of global financial markets, and could significantly reduce global market liquidity and restrict the ability of key market participants to operate in certain financial markets. Asset valuations, currency exchange rates and credit ratings may be especially subject to increased market volatility. Any of these factors could have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Further, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU has resulted in the relocation of the EMA from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands. This relocation has caused, and may continue to cause, disruption in the administrative and medical scientific links between the EMA and the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, including delays in granting clinical trial authorization or marketing authorization, disruption of importation and export of active substance and other components of new drug formulations, and disruption of the supply chain for clinical trial product and final authorized formulations. The cumulative effects of the disruption to the regulatory framework may add considerably to the development lead time to marketing authorization and commercialization of products in the EU and/or the United Kingdom.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has and may continue to adversely impact our business, including our pre-clinical studies and clinical trials, financial condition and results of operations.

In December 2019, a strain of novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 disease was reported to have surfaced in Wuhan, China. Since then, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, including the Netherlands and the United States. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has interfered with the normal function of businesses worldwide, including in the form of travel restrictions, shelter-in-place orders and quarantines, office and school closures, bans on public gatherings and employees being encouraged or required to work from home pursuant to guidance provided by national, state and local officials including the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and European local health agencies, including the Dutch National Institute for Health and Environment or Het Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM). For example, most of our employees located in the Netherlands restricted from traveling to the U.S., where certain of our collaborators and employees are located, which could have an adverse impact on our ability to conduct our business. Similarly, employees located in the U.S. are restricted from travel to the Netherlands under current guidelines. Additionally, on March 18, 2020, we temporarily suspended our laboratory research activities at our facilities in Utrecht, the Netherlands to help secure the safety of our employees and to adhere to government recommendations of social distancing and limited public exposure in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. We have since re-opened our offices and laboratory in Utrecht, maintaining social distancing and imposing other requirements consistent with government guidance. Further, we have recommended our employees in the Netherlands and employees of our subsidiary Merus US, Inc., in the U.S. work from home when possible.  For those employees working at our offices and laboratory in Utrecht, and offices of our subsidiary in Cambridge Ma., they are required to maintain social distancing and follow requirements consistent with the guidance provided by the CDC, Federal, state and local regulations for the U.S. and RIVM for the Netherlands. While we use reasonable business practices to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while on Company-operated premises, we cannot guarantee that traveling to and from and visiting the office will not expose employees to infectious agents or eliminate inherent risks to our workforce and our business operations resulting from COVID-19. Given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic we cannot be certain that we will not suspend our laboratory research activities at our facilities or suspend use of our offices in the future.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain of our contract research organizations (CROs) and third-party suppliers, as well as collaborators in the U.S. and China that are developing or collaborating with us to develop certain of our pre-clinical and clinical-stage antibody candidates have been affected. As a result of such impact, we may face difficulties with and delays in performance of certain chemistry manufacturing and controls associated with our clinical candidates, including as it relates to sourcing materials required for such manufacture that may be diverted for other purposes associated with COVID-19, or difficulties or delays associated with testing of our pre-clinical antibody candidates associated with our collaborations with Incyte, Eli Lilly and Simcere, which may delay or prevent their potential clinical development. Additionally, our collaborators, CROs and third-party suppliers may in the future experience closures and labor shortages, which may delay or prevent our development of our antibody candidates, including zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158 and MCLA-145 and MCLA-129. Moreover, although our collaborators based in China and elsewhere have resumed operations, we may experience labor shortages associated with these chemistry manufacturing and controls, or pre-clinical development activities due to the current restrictions on travel and work globally, which may force us to reduce related workflows until such work and travel restrictions are lifted. Also, there can be no assurances that the applicable governments will not renew or extend these closures.

With respect to our clinical trials, the COVID-19 pandemic and related precautions have directly or indirectly impacted enrollment, new, planned clinical trial site openings, patient visits, and on-site monitoring of our clinical trials and source verification of clinical data required for presentation of clinical data for zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158 and MCLA-145, and anticipated commencement of the clinical trial for MCLA-129. To date, we have observed a moderate to high impact on clinical trial enrollment and operations as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly at sites in countries not yet open to recruitment, and to a lesser extent in countries where COVID-19 related restrictions have been eased, with adjustments made to allow remote visits for some patient follow-up, and reduced onsite monitoring by the sponsor or CRO and insufficient source verification of clinical data required for presentation of clinical data. The extent of the impact to our overall clinical development timeline is uncertain at this time and we

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continue to monitor this impact on a regular basis. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may experience further disruptions that could severely impact our business, preclinical studies and clinical trials, including:

 

delays in receiving approval from local regulatory authorities to initiate our planned clinical trials;

 

delays or difficulties in enrolling patients in our clinical trials;

 

delays or difficulties in clinical site initiation, including difficulties in recruiting clinical site investigators and clinical site staff;

 

diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials, including the diversion of hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials;

 

risk that participants enrolled in our clinical trials will contract COVID-19 while the clinical trial is ongoing, which could impact the results of the clinical trial, including by increasing the number of observed adverse events;

 

interruption of key clinical trial activities, operations, source data verification, and other clinical trial activities such as clinical trial site patient visits, patient and data monitoring, due to limitations on travel imposed or recommended by national, state or local governments, employers and others or interruption of clinical trial subject visits and study procedures (such as endoscopies that are deemed non-essential), which may impact the integrity of subject data and clinical study endpoints;

 

interruption or delays in the operations of the FDA or EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, which may impact approval timelines;

 

interruption of, or delays in receiving, supplies of our product candidates from our contract manufacturing organizations due to staffing shortages, production slowdowns, global shipping delays or stoppages and disruptions in delivery systems;

 

limitations on employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including because of sickness of employees or their families or the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people;

 

refusal of the FDA or EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities to accept data from clinical trials in affected geographies;

 

interruption or delays in our collaborations, including with Incyte, Eli Lilly, Betta Pharma, Simcere, and our license agreements with Ono and our academic collaborators, which may experience laboratory closures causing delays in preclinical, translational and development studies that support our clinical programs and IND-enabling studies;

 

impacts from prolonged remote work arrangements, such as increased cybersecurity risks and strains on our business continuity plans; and

 

delays or difficulties with equity offerings due to disruptions and uncertainties in the securities market.

In addition, the trading prices for our and other biopharmaceutical companies’ stock have been highly volatile as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we may face difficulties raising capital through sales of our common shares and any such sales may be on unfavorable terms. The COVID-19 outbreak continues to rapidly evolve. The extent to which the outbreak further impacts our business, including our preclinical studies and clinical trials, results of operations and financial condition will depend on future developments which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence. Such factors include but are not limited to the spread of the disease, the duration of the outbreak, travel restrictions, quarantines, shelter-in-place orders and social distancing in the United States, the Netherlands and other countries, business closures or business disruptions and the effectiveness of actions taken in the United States, the Netherlands and other countries to contain and treat the disease.

Risks Related to the Development and Clinical Testing of Our Antibody Candidates

All of our antibody candidates are in pre-clinical or early-stage clinical development. Clinical drug development is a lengthy and expensive process with uncertain timelines and uncertain outcomes. If clinical trials of our antibody candidates, particularly zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158, or MCLA-145, which we are developing with Incyte, are prolonged or delayed, we or any collaborators may be unable to obtain required regulatory approvals, and therefore be unable to commercialize our antibody candidates on a timely basis or at all.

To obtain the requisite regulatory approvals to market and sell any of our antibody candidates, we or any collaborator for such candidates must demonstrate through extensive pre-clinical studies and clinical trials that such candidates are safe, pure and potent in humans. Clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the clinical trial process. The results of pre-clinical studies and early-stage clinical trials of our antibody candidates may not be predictive of the results of later-stage clinical trials. Antibody candidates in later stages of clinical trials may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy traits despite having progressed through pre-clinical studies and initial clinical trials. A number of

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companies in the biopharmaceutical industry have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or adverse safety profiles, notwithstanding promising results in earlier trials. Our future clinical trial results may not be successful.

To date, we have not completed any clinical trials required for the approval of any of our antibody candidates. Although we are conducting ongoing clinical trials for zenocutuzumab, MCLA-158, and MCLA-145, concluding our work on the Phase I clinical trial of MCLA-117, and anticipating commencement of the Phase I clinical trial of MCLA-129 and pre-clinical studies for other antibody candidates, we may experience delays in our ongoing clinical trials and we do not know whether planned clinical trials will begin on time, need to be redesigned, enroll patients on time or be completed on schedule, if at all. Clinical trials can be delayed, suspended, or terminated for a variety of reasons, including the following: 

 

delays in or failure to reach 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 trial sites;

 

delays in or failure to recruit suitable patients to participate in a trial;

 

delays in or failure to establish the appropriate dose and schedule for antibody candidates in clinical trials;

 

the difficulty in identifying the sub-populations that we are trying to treat in a particular trial, which may delay enrollment and reduce the power of a clinical trial to detect statistically significant results;

 

lower than anticipated retention rates of patients in clinical trials;

 

failure to have patients complete a trial or return for post-treatment follow-up;

 

clinical sites deviating from trial protocol or dropping out of a trial;

 

investigator-sponsored studies of our product candidates, including expanded access protocols, may identify safety or efficacy concerns associated with our antibody candidates, or otherwise negatively affect patient enrollment in our ongoing and planned clinical trials;

 

adding new clinical trial sites;

 

safety or tolerability concerns could cause us or our collaborators or regulatory authorities, as applicable, to suspend or terminate a trial if we or our collaborators or regulatory authorities, find that the participants are being exposed to unacceptable health risks;

 

failure to observe a meaningful clinical benefit;

 

delays in or failure to obtain regulatory approval or authorizations to commence a trial;

 

delays in or failure to obtain institutional review board (IRB) or Ethics Committee approval at each site;

 

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

 

changes in regulatory requirements, policies and guidelines;

 

manufacturing sufficient quantities of antibody candidate for use in clinical trials;

 

the quality or stability of an antibody candidate falling below acceptable standards;

 

changes in the treatment landscape for our target indications that may make our antibody candidates no longer relevant;

 

third party actions claiming infringement by our antibody candidates in clinical trials outside of the United States and obtaining injunctions interfering with our progress; and

 

business interruptions resulting from geo-political actions, including war and terrorism, or natural disasters including earthquakes, typhoons, floods and fires, epidemics or public health emergencies and U.S. or non-U.S. governmental actions or restrictions related thereto.

In addition, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may increase the likelihood that we encounter such difficulties or delays in initiating, enrolling, conducting, reporting on or completing our planned and ongoing clinical trials. We could encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, by the IRBs or Ethics Committees of the institutions in which such trials are being conducted, by the Data Review Committee or Data Safety Monitoring Board for such trial or by the FDA, the Competent Authorities of the EEA Member States (the 27 EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the UK) or other regulatory authorities. Such authorities may impose such a suspension or termination 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, EEA Competent Authorities 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 drug, changes in governmental regulations or

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administrative actions or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial. If we experience delays in the completion of, or termination of, any clinical trial of our antibody candidates, the commercial prospects of our antibody candidates will be harmed, and our ability to generate product revenues from any of these antibody candidates, if approved, will be delayed. In addition, any delays in completing our clinical trials will increase our costs, slow down our antibody candidate development and approval process and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues. Significant clinical trial delays could also allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do or shorten any periods during which we have the exclusive right to commercialize our antibody candidates and impair our ability to commercialize our antibody candidates, if approved, and may harm our business and results of operations.

Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly. 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 antibody candidates.

Clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with the FDA, EU, EEA Member States, and other applicable regulatory authorities’ legal requirements, other regulations or guidelines, and are subject to oversight by these governmental agencies and Ethics Committees or IRBs at the medical institutions where the clinical trials are conducted. In addition, clinical trials must be conducted with supplies of our antibody candidates produced under current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) requirements and other regulations. Furthermore, we rely on CROs and clinical trial sites to ensure the proper and timely conduct of our clinical trials and while we have agreements governing their committed activities, we have limited influence over their actual performance. We depend on our collaborators and on medical institutions and CROs to conduct our clinical trials in compliance with good clinical practice (GCP) requirements. To the extent our collaborators or the CROs fail to enroll participants for our clinical trials, fail to conduct the study to GCP standards or are delayed for a significant time in the execution of trials, including achieving full enrollment, we may be affected by increased costs, program delays or both, which may harm our business. In addition, clinical trials that are conducted in countries outside the EEA and the United States may subject us to further delays and expenses as a result of increased shipment costs, additional regulatory requirements and the engagement of non-EEA and non-U.S. CROs, as well as expose us to risks associated with clinical investigators who are unknown to the FDA or the EEA Competent Authorities, and different standards of diagnosis, screening and medical care.

Interim, preliminary, and “top-line” data from our clinical trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more patient data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.

From time to time, we may publish interim, preliminary or “top-line” data from 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. Preliminary data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data previously published. Further, as a result of the COVID-19 or for other reasons, we may not be able to collect accurate or complete data at the time we collect such preliminary data, including as a result of the inability of sites to properly record data due to staffing limitations or the inability of patients to visit sites at scheduled times, the inability of CROs to access site data or for other reasons. In addition, we may report interim or preliminary analyses of only certain endpoints rather than all endpoints. As a result, top-line data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available.

Furthermore, the information we choose to publicly disclose regarding a particular study or clinical trial is based on more extensive information, and others may not agree with what we determine is the material or otherwise appropriate information to disclose. Any information we determine not to disclose may ultimately be deemed significant with respect to future decisions, conclusions, views, activities, or otherwise regarding a particular antibody candidate or our business. Others, including regulatory agencies, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions, or analyses or may interpret or weigh the importance of data differently, which could impact the value of particular programs, the approvability or commercialization of the particular antibody candidates, and our business in general. As a result, interim, preliminary or top-line data and analyses should be viewed with caution. Adverse differences between preliminary, top-line or interim data and final data or changes in what is material information regarding the results from a particular study or clinical trial could significantly harm our clinical development and business prospects and cause volatility in the price of our common shares. If the interim, top-line, 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.

Our antibody candidates may have serious adverse, undesirable or unacceptable side effects which may delay or prevent marketing approval. If such side effects are identified during the development of our antibody candidates or following approval, if any, we may need to abandon our development of such antibody candidates, the commercial profile of any approved label may be limited, or we may be subject to other significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.

Undesirable side effects that may be caused by our antibody 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, the EMA or

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other comparable foreign authorities. In February 2015, we commenced a Phase 1/2 clinical trial in Europe of our most advanced antibody candidate, zenocutuzumab, for the treatment of various solid tumors, which was amended to treat patients having solid tumors harboring a NRG1 gene fusion. Additionally, in January 2018 we commenced a Phase 2 clinical trial in Europe and the United States exploring zenocutuzumab, in combination with other agents, in patients with metastatic breast cancer. To date, patients treated with zenocutuzumab have experienced adverse reactions that may be related to the treatment, including infusion-related reactions, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, sore mouth and shortness of breath. In May 2016, we commenced a Phase 1 clinical trial in Europe of our bispecific antibody MCLA-117. To date, patients treated with MCLA-117 have experienced adverse reactions that may be related to the treatment, most commonly infusion-related reactions including fever, cytokine release syndrome and chills. In May 2018 we commenced a Phase 1 clinical trial in Europe of our bispecific antibody MCLA-158 in patients with solid tumors. To date, patients treated with MCLA-158 have experienced adverse reactions that may be related to the treatment, most commonly infusion-related reactions and skin rash associated with mAb EGFR inhibitors. In May 2019, we commenced a Phase 1 clinical trial in the United States of our bispecific antibody MCLA-145 developed in collaboration with Incyte. To date, patients treated with MCLA-145 have experienced adverse events irrespective of causality including blood alkaline phosphatase increase, anemia, and hypoalbuminemia, lymphocyte count decrease, and white blood cell count decrease. Febrile neutropenia and elevated liver enzymes have been reported as serious adverse events.

Results of our trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of these or other side effects. In such an event, our trials could be suspended or terminated and the FDA, the EMA, EEA Competent Authorities, or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval of our antibody candidates for any or all targeted indications. The drug-related side effects could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the trial or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly. Additionally, if any of our antibody candidates receives marketing approval and we or others later identify undesirable or unacceptable side effects caused by such products, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:

 

regulatory authorities may withdraw approvals of such products and require us to take our approved product off the market;

 

regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, specific warnings, a contraindication or field alerts to physicians and pharmacies;

 

regulatory authorities may require a medication guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients, or that we implement a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy plan to ensure that the benefits of the product outweigh its risks;

 

we may be required to change the dose or the way the product is administered, conduct additional clinical trials or change the labeling of the product;

 

we may be subject to limitations on how we may promote the product;

 

sales of the product may decrease significantly;

 

we may be subject to litigation or product liability claims; and

 

our reputation may suffer.

Any of these events could prevent us, our collaborators or our potential future partners from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected antibody candidate, if approved, or could substantially increase commercialization costs and expenses, which in turn could delay or prevent us from generating significant revenue from the sale of our antibody candidates, if approved.

We depend on enrollment of patients in our clinical trials for our antibody candidates. If we are unable to enroll patients in our clinical trials, our research and development efforts and business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

Successful and timely completion of clinical trials will require that we enroll a sufficient number of patient candidates. For our Phase 1/2 clinical trial of zenocutuzumab in solid tumors, we are enrolling up to 90 patients with tumors harboring NRG1 gene fusions. Solid tumors with NRG1 gene fusions occur infrequently, which could result in slow enrollment of clinical trial participants. In the Phase 1 clinical trial of MCLA-117, we announced in May 2020 we will not continue enrollment into the planned dose expansion cohorts in the trial, but plan to complete enrollment in the dose escalation phase. In the Phase 1 clinical trial of MCLA-158, we plan to enroll approximately 120 adult patients with solid tumors. In the Phase 1 clinical trial of MCLA-145, we plan to enroll approximately 118 adult patients with solid tumors or B-cell lymphoma. These trials and other trials we conduct may be subject to delays as a result of patient enrollment taking longer than anticipated or patient withdrawal.

Our clinical trials will also compete with other clinical trials for antibody candidates that are in the same therapeutic areas as our antibody 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. Because the number of qualified clinical investigators and clinical trial sites is limited, we expect to conduct some of our clinical trials at the same

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clinical trial sites that some of our competitors use, which will reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials at such clinical trial sites.

Patient enrollment depends on many factors, including the size and nature of the patient population, eligibility criteria for the trial, the proximity of patients to clinical sites, the design of the clinical protocol, the availability of competing clinical trials, the availability of new drugs approved for the indication the clinical trial is investigating, and clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of the drug being studied in relation to other available therapies. These factors may make it difficult for us to enroll enough patients to complete our clinical trials in a timely and cost-effective manner. Delays in the completion of any clinical trial of our antibody candidates will increase our costs, slow down our antibody candidate development and approval process, delay or potentially jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenue and harm our reputation and ability to obtain financing. In addition, some 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 antibody candidates.

We may become exposed to costly and damaging liability claims, either when testing our antibody candidates in the clinic or at the commercial stage; and our product liability insurance may not cover all damages from such claims.

We are exposed to potential product liability and professional indemnity risks that are inherent in the research, development, manufacturing, marketing and use of pharmaceutical products. Currently, we have no products that have been approved for commercial sale; however, the current and future use of antibody candidates by us and our collaborators in clinical trials, and the sale of any approved products in the future, may expose us to liability claims. These claims might be made by patients that use the product, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, our collaborators or others selling such products. Any claims against us, regardless of their merit, could be difficult and costly to defend and could materially adversely affect the market for our antibody candidates or any prospects for commercialization of our antibody candidates, if approved.

Although the clinical trial process is designed to identify and assess potential side effects, it is always possible that a drug, even after regulatory approval, may exhibit unforeseen side effects. If any of our antibody candidates were to cause adverse side effects during clinical trials or after approval of the antibody candidate, we may be exposed to substantial liabilities. Physicians and patients may not comply with any warnings that identify known potential adverse effects and patients who should not use our antibody candidates.

Although we maintain adequate product liability insurance for our antibody candidates, it is possible that our liabilities could exceed our insurance coverage. We intend to expand our insurance coverage to include the sale of commercial products if we obtain marketing approval for any of our antibody candidates. However, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or obtain insurance coverage that will be adequate to satisfy any liability that may arise. If a successful product liability claim or series of claims is brought against us for uninsured liabilities or in excess of insured liabilities, our assets may not be sufficient to cover such claims and our business operations could be impaired.

Should any of the events described above occur, this could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The regulatory approval processes of the FDA, the EMA and comparable foreign authorities are lengthy, time consuming and inherently unpredictable, and if we are ultimately unable to obtain regulatory approval for our antibody candidates, our business will be substantially harmed.

The time required to obtain approval by the FDA, the EMA and comparable foreign authorities is unpredictable but typically takes many years following the commencement of clinical trials and depends upon numerous factors, including the substantial discretion of the regulatory authorities. In addition, approval policies, regulations, or the type and amount of clinical data necessary to gain approval may change during the course of a antibody candidate’s clinical development and may vary among jurisdictions. We have not obtained regulatory approval for any antibody candidate and it is possible that none of our existing antibody candidates or any antibody candidates we may seek to develop in the future will ever obtain regulatory approval.

Our antibody candidates could fail to receive regulatory approval for many reasons, including the following:

 

the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may disagree with the design or implementation of our clinical trials;

 

we may be unable to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities that an antibody candidate is safe and effective for its proposed indication;

 

we may be unable to demonstrate that an antibody candidate’s clinical and other benefits outweigh its safety risks;

 

the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may disagree with our interpretation of data from pre-clinical studies or clinical trials;

 

the data collected from clinical trials of our antibody candidates may not be sufficient to support the submission of a BLA or other submission or to obtain regulatory approval in the United States, the EU or elsewhere;

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the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may fail to approve the manufacturing processes or facilities of third-party manufacturers with which we contract for clinical and commercial supplies;

 

the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may fail to approve (or to clear or to certify) the companion diagnostics we contemplate developing with collaborators; and

 

the approval policies or regulations of the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may significantly change in a manner rendering our clinical data insufficient for approval.

This lengthy approval process as well as the unpredictability of future clinical trial results may result in our failing to obtain regulatory approval to market any of our antibody candidates, which would significantly harm our business, results of operations and prospects. The FDA, the EMA and other regulatory authorities have substantial discretion in the approval process, and determining when or whether regulatory approval will be obtained for any of our antibody candidates. Even if we believe the data collected from clinical trials of our antibody candidates are promising, such data may not be sufficient to support approval by the FDA, the EMA or any other regulatory authority.

In addition, even if we were to obtain approval, regulatory authorities may approve any of our antibody candidates for fewer or more limited indications than we request, may not approve the price we intend to charge for our products, may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials, or may approve an antibody candidate with a label that does not include the labeling claims necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of that antibody candidate. Any of the foregoing scenarios could materially harm the commercial prospects for our antibody candidates.

Fast Track designation by the FDA for zenocutuzumab or potential future Fast Track designation of our other antibody candidates may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.

We have been granted a Fast Track designation for zenocutuzumab in the United States for the treatment of patients with metastatic solid tumors harboring NRG1 gene fusions that have progressed on standard-of-care therapy, and we may seek additional Fast Track designations for zenocutuzumab or for our other antibody candidates. The Fast Track program is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing therapeutic candidates that meet certain criteria. Specifically, new biologics are eligible for Fast Track designation if they are intended, alone or in combination with one or more drugs or biologics, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the disease or condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product candidate and the specific indication for which it is being studied. With a Fast Track antibody candidate, the FDA may consider for review sections of the BLA on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the BLA, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the BLA and determines that the schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the BLA.

Obtaining a Fast Track designation does not change the standards for product approval, but may expedite the development or approval process. Even though the FDA has granted such designation for zenocutuzumab for the treatment of patients with metastatic solid tumors harboring NRG1 gene fusions that have progressed on standard-of-care therapy, it may not actually result in faster clinical development or regulatory review or approval. Furthermore, such a designation does not increase the likelihood that zenocutuzumab or any other antibody candidate that may be granted Fast Track designation will receive marketing approval in the United States.

Even if our antibody candidates obtain regulatory approval, we will be subject to ongoing obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense. Additionally, our antibody candidates, if approved, could be subject to labeling and other restrictions and market withdrawal and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our products.

Any regulatory approvals that we may receive for our antibody candidates will require the submission of reports to regulatory authorities and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the product candidate, may contain significant limitations related to use restrictions for specified age groups, warnings, precautions or contraindications, and may include burdensome post-approval study or risk management requirements. For example, the FDA may require a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy in order to approve our antibody candidates, which could entail requirements for a medication guide, physician training and communication plans or additional elements to ensure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. In addition, if the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities approve our antibody candidates, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, advertising, promotion, import, export and recordkeeping for our product candidates will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration, as well as on-going compliance with cGMPs, and GCPs for any clinical trials that we conduct following approval. In addition, manufacturers of drug products and their facilities are subject to continual review and periodic, unannounced inspections by the FDA and other regulatory authorities for compliance with cGMP regulations and standards.

If we or a regulatory authority discover previously unknown problems with a product, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facilities where the product is manufactured, a regulatory authority may impose restrictions on that

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product, the manufacturing facility or us, including requiring recall or withdrawal of the product from the market or suspension of manufacturing. In addition, failure to comply with FDA and other comparable foreign regulatory requirements may subject our company to administrative or judicially imposed sanctions, including:

 

delays in or the rejection of product approvals;

 

restrictions on our ability to conduct clinical trials, including full or partial clinical holds on ongoing or planned trials;

 

restrictions on the products, manufacturers or manufacturing process;

 

warning or untitled letters;

 

civil and criminal penalties;

 

injunctions;

 

suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals;

 

product seizures, detentions or import bans;

 

voluntary or mandatory product recalls and publicity requirements;

 

total or partial suspension of production; and

 

imposition of restrictions on operations, including costly new manufacturing requirements.

The occurrence of any event or penalty described above may inhibit our ability to commercialize our product candidates and generate revenue and could require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate negative publicity.

The FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies may change, and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained, and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.

We also cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative or executive action, either in the United States or abroad.

We may not be successful in our efforts to use and expand our Biclonics® technology platform to build a pipeline of antibody candidates or to use our Triclonics® technology platform to build a pipeline of trispecific antibody candidates.

A key element of our strategy is to use and expand our Biclonics® technology platform to build a pipeline of antibody candidates and progress these antibody candidates through clinical development for the treatment of a variety of different types of diseases. Although our research and development efforts to date have resulted in a pipeline of antibody candidates directed at various cancers, we may not be able to develop antibody candidates that are safe and effective.

Another important element of our strategy is to develop, use and exploit our Triclonics® technology platform to build a pipeline of trispecific antibody candidates and collaborate with third parties in potentially researching and developing these trispecific antibody candidates through pre-clinical and clinical development for the treatment of a variety of different types of diseases. Although our research and development efforts to date have resulted in proof of concept pre-clinical candidates, we may not be able to develop or monetize these trispecific antibody candidates or demonstrate in the clinic that they are safe and effective. Even if we are successful in continuing to build our bispecific and trispecific pipelines, the potential antibody candidates that we identify may not be suitable for clinical development, including as a result of being shown to have harmful side effects or other characteristics that indicate that they are unlikely to be products that will receive marketing approval and achieve market acceptance. If we do not continue to successfully develop and begin to commercialize our bispecific antibody candidates or if we do not successfully develop, collaborate, license or begin to commercialize our trispecific antibody candidates, we will face difficulty in obtaining product revenues in future periods, which could result in significant harm to our financial position and adversely affect our share price.

Even if we obtain marketing approval of any of our antibody candidates in a major pharmaceutical market such as the United States or the EU, we may never obtain approval or commercialize our products in other major markets, which would limit our ability to realize their full market potential.

In order to market any products in a country or territory, we must establish and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of such countries or territories regarding safety and efficacy. Clinical trials conducted in one country may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other countries, and regulatory approval in one country does not mean that regulatory approval will be obtained in any other country. Approval procedures vary among countries and can involve additional product testing and validation and additional administrative review periods. Seeking regulatory approvals in all major markets could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and may require additional pre-clinical studies or clinical trials which would be costly and time

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consuming. Regulatory requirements can vary widely from country to country and could delay or prevent the introduction of our products in those countries. Satisfying these and other regulatory requirements is costly, time consuming, uncertain and subject to unanticipated delays. In addition, our failure to obtain regulatory approval in any country may delay or have negative effects on the process for regulatory approval in other countries. We currently do not have any antibody candidates approved for sale in any jurisdiction, whether in the Netherlands, the United States or any other international markets, and we do not have experience in obtaining regulatory approval in international markets. If we fail to comply with regulatory requirements in international markets or to obtain and maintain required approvals, our target market will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of our products, if any, will be harmed.

Due to our limited resources and access to capital, we must, and have in the past decided to, prioritize development of certain antibody candidates over other potential candidates. These decisions may prove to have been wrong and may adversely affect our revenues.

Because we have limited resources and access to capital to fund our operations, we must decide which antibody candidates to pursue and the amount of resources to allocate to each. Our decisions concerning the allocation of research, collaboration, management and financial resources toward particular compounds, antibody candidates or therapeutic areas may not lead to the development of viable commercial products and may divert resources away from better opportunities. Similarly, our decisions to delay, terminate or collaborate with third parties in respect of certain antibody development programs may also prove not to be optimal and could cause us to miss valuable opportunities. If we make incorrect determinations regarding the market potential of our antibody candidates or misread trends in the biopharmaceutical industry, in particular for our lead antibody candidates, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

Because we are subject to environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we may become exposed to liability and substantial expenses in connection with environmental compliance or remediation activities which may adversely affect our business and financial condition.

Our operations, including our research, development, testing and manufacturing activities, are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These laws and regulations govern, among other things, the importation, storage, controlled use, handling, release and disposal of, and the maintenance of a registry for, hazardous materials and biological materials, such as chemical solvents, human cells, animal byproducts, genetically modified organisms, carcinogenic compounds, mutagenic compounds and compounds that have a toxic effect on reproduction, laboratory procedures and exposure to blood-borne pathogens. If we fail to comply with such laws and regulations, we could be subject to fines or other sanctions.

As with other companies engaged in activities similar to ours, we face a risk of environmental liability inherent in our current and historical activities, including liability relating to releases of or exposure to hazardous or biological materials. Environmental, health and safety laws and regulations are becoming more stringent. We may be required to incur substantial expenses in connection with future environmental compliance or remediation activities, in which case, our production and development efforts may be interrupted or delayed and our financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.

Our employees, independent contractors, principal investigators, CROs, consultants, vendors and collaborators may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with applicable law, regulatory standards and requirements, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

We are exposed to the risk that our employees, independent contractors, principal investigators, CROs, consultants, vendors and collaborators may engage in fraudulent conduct or other illegal activities. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct or unauthorized activities that violate: (i) the regulations of the FDA, the EMA and other regulatory authorities, including those laws that require the reporting of true, complete and accurate information to such authorities; (ii) manufacturing standards; (iii) federal and state data privacy, security, fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations in the United States and abroad; or (iv) laws that require the reporting of true, complete and accurate financial information and data. Specifically, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Activities subject to these laws could also involve the improper use or misrepresentation of information obtained in the course of clinical trials or creating fraudulent data in our pre-clinical studies or clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and cause serious harm to our reputation. It is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct by employees and other third parties, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with such laws or regulations. Additionally, we are subject to the risk that a person or government could allege such fraud or other misconduct, even if none occurred. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business and results of operations, including the imposition of significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, disgorgements, possible exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and other U.S. federal healthcare programs, individual imprisonment, other sanctions, contractual

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damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, and curtailment of our operations, any of which could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations.

Our research and development activities could be affected or delayed as a result of possible restrictions on animal testing.

Certain laws and regulations require us to test our antibody candidates on animals before initiating clinical trials involving humans. Animal testing activities have been the subject of controversy and adverse publicity. Animal rights groups and other organizations and individuals have attempted to stop animal testing activities by pressing for legislation and regulation in these areas and by disrupting these activities through protests and other means. To the extent the activities of these groups are successful, our research and development activities may be interrupted, delayed or become more expensive.

Risks Related to Regulatory Approval of Our Antibody Candidates

Enacted and future legislation may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize our antibody candidates and may affect the prices we may set. The successful commercialization of our antibody candidates will depend in part on the extent to which governmental authorities and health insurers establish adequate coverage and reimbursement levels and pricing policies.

In the United States, the EU, and other foreign jurisdictions, there have been, and we expect there will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes to the healthcare system that could affect our future results of operations. In particular, there have been and continue to be a number of initiatives at the United States federal and state levels that seek to reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of healthcare. For example, in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (collectively the ACA) was enacted, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers. Among the provisions of the ACA, those of greatest importance to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries include the following:

 

an annual, non-deductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports certain branded prescription drugs and biologic agents, which is apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs;

 

a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D;

 

an increase in the statutory minimum rebates a manufacturer must pay under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program to 23.1% and 13.0% of the average manufacturer price for branded and generic drugs, respectively;

 

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;

 

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

 

expansion of eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs by, among other things, allowing states to offer Medicaid coverage to certain individuals with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, thereby potentially increasing a manufacturer’s Medicaid rebate liability;

 

expansion of the entities eligible for discounts under the Public Health Service pharmaceutical pricing program;

 

a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research; and

 

establishment of a Center for Medicare Innovation at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.

Since its enactment, there have been judicial, executive and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), includes a provision repealing, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the ACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” On December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Northern District of Texas, ruled that the individual mandate is a critical and inseverable feature of the ACA, and therefore, because it was repealed as part of the TCJA, the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. On December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court's decision that the individual mandate was unconstitutional but remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case, although it is unclear when or how the Supreme Court will rule. It is also unclear how other efforts, if any, to challenge, repeal, or replace the ACA will impact the ACA or our business.

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In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. For example, the Budget Control Act of 2011 resulted in aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year. These reductions went into effect on April 1, 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute will remain in effect through 2030, with the exception of a temporary suspension from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, unless additional Congressional action is taken. On January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several types of 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. These new laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other health care funding, which could have a material adverse effect on our future customers and accordingly, our financial operations.

Moreover, payment methodologies, including payment for companion diagnostics, may be subject to changes in healthcare legislation and regulatory initiatives. For example, CMS began bundling the Medicare payments for certain laboratory tests ordered while a patient received services in a hospital outpatient setting and, beginning in 2018, CMS began paying for clinical laboratory services based on a weighted average of reported prices that private payors, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicaid Managed Care plans pay for laboratory services. In addition, recently there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. For example, the 21st Century Cures Act changed the reimbursement methodology for infusion drugs and biologics furnished through durable medical equipment in an attempt to remedy over- and underpayment of certain products. We expect that additional U.S. federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that the U.S. federal government will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our antibody candidates or additional pricing pressures.

Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. Legally mandated price controls on payment amounts by third-party payors or other restrictions could harm our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. In addition, regional healthcare authorities and individual hospitals are increasingly using bidding procedures to determine what pharmaceutical products and which suppliers will be included in their prescription drug and other healthcare programs. This could reduce the ultimate demand for any future products or put pressure on our product pricing, which could negatively affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.

In the EU, similar political, economic and regulatory developments may affect our ability to profitably commercialize any future products. In addition to continuing pressure on prices and cost containment measures, legislative developments at the EU or member state level may result in significant additional requirements or obstacles that may increase our operating costs. The delivery of healthcare in the EU, including the establishment and operation of health services and the pricing and reimbursement of medicines, is almost exclusively a matter for national, rather than EU, law and policy. National governments and health service providers have different priorities and approaches to the delivery of health care and the pricing and reimbursement of products in that context. In general, however, the healthcare budgetary constraints in most EU member states have resulted in restrictions on the pricing and reimbursement of medicines by relevant health service providers. Coupled with ever-increasing EU and national regulatory burdens on those wishing to develop and market products, this could prevent or delay marketing approval of our antibody candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities and affect our ability to commercialize any products for which we obtain marketing approval. In international markets, reimbursement and healthcare payment systems vary significantly by country, and many countries have instituted price ceilings on specific products and therapies.

We cannot predict how the policies of changing political administrations could impact, impose significant burdens on, or otherwise materially delay, the FDA’s ability to engage in routine regulatory and oversight activities such as implementing statutes through rulemaking, issuance of guidance, and review and approval of marketing applications. For example, certain policies of the current presidential administration may impact our business and industry. Namely, the current presidential administration has taken several executive actions, including the issuance of a number of Executive Orders. It is difficult to predict how these requirements will be implemented, and the extent to which they will impact the FDA’s ability to exercise its regulatory authority. If these executive actions impose constraints on the FDA’s ability to engage in oversight and implementation activities in the normal course, our business may be negatively impacted.

Finally, policies of the individual government agencies, including the FDA or similar regulatory authorities, may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. If we or our collaborators are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we or our collaborators are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, our antibody candidates may lose any regulatory approval that may have been obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability, which would adversely affect our business.

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If we are required by the FDA or similar authorities to obtain approval (or clearance, or certification) of a companion diagnostic test in connection with approval of any of our antibody candidates, and we do not obtain or face delays in obtaining approval (or clearance, or certification) of a diagnostic device, we will not be able to commercialize such product candidate and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired.

If safe and effective use of any of our antibody candidates depends on an diagnostic that is not otherwise commercially available, then the FDA may require approval or clearance of that diagnostic, known as a companion diagnostic, at the same time that the FDA approves our antibody candidates, if at all. According to FDA guidance, if the FDA determines that a companion diagnostic device is essential to the safe and effective use of a novel therapeutic product or indication, the FDA generally will not approve the therapeutic product or new therapeutic product indication if the companion diagnostic is not also approved or cleared for that indication. If a satisfactory companion diagnostic is not commercially available, we may be required to develop or obtain one that would be subject to regulatory approval requirements. The process of obtaining or creating such diagnostics is time consuming and costly.

Companion diagnostics are developed in conjunction with clinical programs for the associated product and are subject to regulation as medical devices by the FDA and comparable regulatory authorities, and, to date, the FDA has generally required premarket approval of companion diagnostics labeled for use with cancer therapies. The approval of a companion diagnostic as part of the therapeutic product’s labeling limits the use of the therapeutic product to only those patients who express the specific genetic alteration that the companion diagnostic was developed to detect.

If the FDA or a comparable regulatory authority requires approval (or clearance, or certification) of a companion diagnostic for any of our antibody candidates, whether before or after such candidate obtains marketing approval, we, and/or future collaborators, may encounter difficulties in developing and obtaining approval for such antibody candidate. Any delay or failure by us or third-party collaborators to develop or obtain regulatory approval (or clearance, or certification) of a companion diagnostic could delay or prevent approval or continued marketing of such antibody candidate.

We may also experience delays in developing a sustainable, reproducible and scalable manufacturing process for the companion diagnostic or in transferring that process to commercial partners or negotiating insurance reimbursement plans, all of which may prevent us from completing our clinical trials or commercializing our product candidate, if approved, on a timely or profitable basis, if at all.

Approval, clearance or certification of companion diagnostics may be subject to further legislative or regulatory reforms notably in the EU. On May 25, 2017, the new In Vitro Medical Devices Regulation (2017/746 or “IVDR”) entered into force. The IVDR repeals and replaces the EU In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Directive. Unlike directives, which must be implemented into the national laws of the EEA Member States, regulations are directly applicable, i.e., without the need for adoption of EEA Member States laws implementing them, in all EEA Member States and are intended to eliminate current differences in the regulation of medical devices among EEA Member States. The IVDR, among other things, is intended to establish a uniform, transparent, predictable and sustainable regulatory framework across the EEA for medical devices and ensure a high level of safety and health while supporting innovation. The IVDR will, however, only become applicable in May 2022.

The regulation of companion diagnostics will be subject to further requirements as of the entry into force of the in-vitro diagnostic devices Regulation (No 2017/746) which introduces a new classification system for companion diagnostics which are now specifically defined as diagnostic tests that support the safe and effective use of a specific medicinal product, by identifying patients that are suitable or unsuitable for treatment. Companion diagnostics will have to undergo a conformity assessment by a notified body. Before it can issue a CE certificate, the notified body must seek a scientific opinion from the EMA on the suitability of the companion diagnostic to the medicinal product concerned if the medicinal product falls exclusively within the scope of the centralized procedure for the authorization of medicines, or the medicinal product is already authorized through the centralized procedure, or a marketing authorization application for the medicinal product has been submitted through the centralized procedure. For other substances, the notified body can seek the opinion from a national competent authorities or the EMA. These modifications may make it more difficult and costly for us to obtain regulatory clearances or approvals for our companion diagnostics or to manufacture, market or distribute our products after clearance or approval is obtained.

Disruptions at the FDA and other government agencies caused by funding shortages or global health concerns could hinder their ability to hire, retain or deploy key leadership and other personnel, or otherwise prevent new or modified products from being developed, approved or commercialized in a timely manner or at all, which could negatively impact our business.

The ability of the FDA to review and or approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, statutory, regulatory, and policy changes, the FDA’s ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and other events that may otherwise affect the FDA’s ability to perform routine functions. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of other government agencies that fund research and development activities is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable. Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new drugs and biologics to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, including for 35 days

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beginning on December 22, 2018, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, have had to furlough critical FDA employees and stop critical activities.

Separately, in response to the global pandemic of COVID-19, on March 10, 2020 the FDA announced its intention to postpone most foreign inspections of manufacturing facilities and products through April 2020, and subsequently, on March 18, 2020, the FDA temporarily postponed routine surveillance inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities. Subsequently, on July 10, 2020 the FDA announced its intention to resume certain on-site inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities subject to a risk-based prioritization system. The FDA intends to use this risk-based assessment system to identify the categories of regulatory activity that can occur within a given geographic area, ranging from mission critical inspections to resumption of all regulatory activities. Regulatory authorities outside the United States may adopt similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns continue to prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews, or other regulatory activities, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA or other regulatory authorities to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

We may be subject to healthcare laws, regulation and enforcement; our failure to comply with these laws could harm our results of operations and financial conditions.

Although we do not currently have any products on the market, if we obtain FDA approval for any of our antibody candidates and begin commercializing those products in the United States, our operations may be directly, or indirectly through our customers and third-party payors, subject to various U.S. federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, including, without limitation, the U.S. federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Healthcare providers, physicians and others play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of any products for which we obtain marketing approval. These laws may impact, among other things, our proposed sales, marketing and education programs and constrain our financial arrangements and relationships with healthcare providers, physicians and other parties through which we market, sell and distribute our products for which we obtain marketing approval. In addition, we may be subject to additional healthcare, statutory and regulatory requirements and enforcement by foreign regulatory authorities in jurisdictions in which we conduct our business. The laws that may affect our ability to operate include:

 

the U.S. federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons or entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, receiving or paying any remuneration (including any kickback, bribe, or certain rebate), directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, lease, order or recommendation of, any good, facility, item or service, for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under U.S. federal and state healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid; 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;

 

the U.S. federal false claims and civil monetary penalties laws, including the civil False Claims Act, which, among other things, impose criminal and civil penalties, including through civil whistleblower or qui tam actions, against individuals or entities for, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the U.S. federal government, claims for payment or approval that are false or fraudulent, knowingly making, using or causing to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim, or from knowingly making a false statement to avoid, decrease or conceal an obligation to pay money to the U.S. federal government. In addition, the government may assert that a claim including items and services resulting from a violation of the U.S. federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the False Claims Act;

 

the U.S. federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) which imposes criminal and civil liability for, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, or knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false statement, in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services; similar to the U.S. 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;

 

the U.S. federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) which prohibits, among other things, the adulteration or misbranding of drugs, biologics and medical devices;

 

the U.S. federal legislation commonly referred to as Physician Payments Sunshine Act, enacted as part of the ACA, and its implementing regulations, which requires certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies that are reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program to report annually to the CMS information related to certain payments and other transfers of value to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors), certain other health care professionals beginning in 2022, and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by the physicians described above and their immediate family members;

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analogous state laws and regulations, including: state anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to our business practices, including but not limited to, research, distribution, sales and marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by any third-party payor, including private insurers; state laws that require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the U.S. federal government, or otherwise restrict payments that may be made to healthcare providers and other potential referral sources; and state laws and regulations that require drug manufacturers to file reports relating to pricing and marketing information, and that require the tracking and reporting of gifts and other remuneration and items of value provided to healthcare professionals and entities; and

 

European and other foreign law equivalents of each of the laws, including reporting requirements detailing interactions with and payments to healthcare providers.

Ensuring that our internal operations and future business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations could involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations, agency guidance 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 the laws described above or any other governmental laws and regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant penalties, including civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, exclusion from U.S. government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, disgorgement, individual imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits, reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or other agreement, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. If any of the physicians or other providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found not to be in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs and imprisonment. If any of the above occur, it could adversely affect our ability to operate our business and our results of operations. Further, defending against any such actions can be costly, time-consuming and may require significant personnel resources. Therefore, even if we are successful in defending against any such actions that may be brought against us, our business may be impaired.

We face potential liability related to the privacy of health information we obtain from clinical trials sponsored by us or our collaborators, from research institutions, and directly from individuals.

Most health care providers, including research institutions from which we or our collaborators obtain patient health information, are subject to privacy and security regulations promulgated under HIPAA, as amended by HITECH. Any person may be prosecuted under HIPAA’s criminal provisions either directly or under aiding-and-abetting or conspiracy principles. Consequently, depending on the facts and circumstances, we could face substantial criminal penalties if we knowingly receive individually identifiable health information from a HIPAA-covered health care provider or research institution that has not satisfied HIPAA’s requirements for disclosure of individually identifiable health information.

In addition, we may maintain sensitive personally identifiable information, including health information, that we receive throughout the clinical trial process, in the course of our research collaborations, and directly from individuals (or their healthcare providers) who enroll in our patient assistance programs. Even when HIPAA does not apply, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), failing to take appropriate steps to keep consumers’ personal information secure constitutes unfair acts or practices in or affecting commerce in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The FTC expects a company’s data security measures to be reasonable and appropriate in light of the sensitivity and volume of consumer information it holds, the size and complexity of its business, and the cost of available tools to improve security and reduce vulnerabilities. Individually identifiable health information is considered sensitive data that merits stronger safeguards. The FTC’s guidance for appropriately securing consumers’ personal information is similar to what is required by the HIPAA Security Rule. As such, we, our collaborators, research institutions, health care providers and other entities that provide personally identifiable information to us may be subject to state information security laws, and state laws requiring notification of affected individuals and state regulators in the event of a breach of personal information, which is a broader class of information than the health information protected by HIPAA.

The United States and global data protection landscape is rapidly evolving, and we may be affected by or subject to new or amended laws and regulations in the future. For example, California recently enacted legislation, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which went into effect January 1, 2020. The CCPA, among other things, creates new data privacy obligations for covered companies and provides new privacy rights to California residents, including the right to opt out of certain disclosures of their information. The CCPA also creates a private right of action with statutory damages for certain data breaches, thereby potentially increasing risks associated with a data breach. Although the law includes limited exceptions, including for “protected health information” maintained by a covered entity or business associate, it may regulate or impact our processing of personal information depending on the context. Further, the CPRA was also recently voted into law by California residents. The CPRA will impose additional data protection obligations on covered businesses, including additional consumer rights processes, limitations on data uses, new audit requirements for higher risk data, and opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data. It will also create a new California data protection agency authorized to issue substantive regulations and could result in increased privacy and information security enforcement. The majority of

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the provisions will go into effect on January 1, 2023, and additional compliance investment and potential business process changes may be required.

Our and our collaborators’ clinical trial programs and research collaborations outside the U.S. may implicate international data protection laws, including, in Europe, the GDPR and local laws further implementing or supplementing the GDPR. The GDPR implements more stringent operational requirements for processors and controllers of personal data including requirements for such companies to be able to ensure and be able to demonstrate compliance with the GDPR. If our or our collaborators’ privacy or data security measures fail to comply with the GDPR requirements, we may be subject to litigation, regulatory investigations, enforcement notices requiring us to change the way we use personal data and/or fines of up to €20 million or up to 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher. In addition to statutory enforcement, a non-compliance can lead to compensation claims by affected individuals, negative publicity and a potential loss of business. Further, following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU on January 31, 2020, we have to comply with the GDPR and separately the GDPR as implemented in the United Kingdom, with each regime having the ability to fine up to the greater of €20 million/ £17 million or 4% of global turnover. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU in relation to certain aspects of data protection law remains unclear, including how data transfers between EU member states and the United Kingdom will be treated. These changes may lead to additional compliance costs and could increase our overall risk.

We are also subject to EU/national laws on personal data export, as we may transfer personal data from the EU/EEA to other jurisdictions which are not considered by the European Commission to offer “adequate” protection of personal data. Such transfers need to be legitimized by a valid transfer mechanism under the GDPR. In addition, in July 2020, the CJEU invalidated the Privacy Shield, under which personal data could be transferred from the EEA to US entities who had self-certified under the Privacy Shield scheme. While the CJEU upheld the adequacy of the standard contractual clauses (a standard form of contract approved by the European Commission as an adequate personal data transfer mechanism, and potential alternative to the Privacy Shield), it made clear that reliance on them alone may not necessarily be sufficient in all circumstances. Use of the standard contractual clauses must now be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the legal regime applicable in the destination country, in particular applicable surveillance laws and rights of individuals and additional measures and/or contractual provisions may need to be put in place, however, the nature of these additional measures is currently uncertain. As supervisory authorities issue further guidance on personal data export mechanisms, including circumstances where the standard contractual clauses cannot be used, and/or start taking enforcement action, we could suffer additional costs, complaints and/or regulatory investigations or fines, and/or if we are otherwise unable to transfer personal data between and among countries and regions in which we operate, it could affect the manner in which we provide our services, the geographical location or segregation of our relevant systems and operations, and could adversely affect our financial results. We employ model clauses which remain valid according to the recent CJEU decision, but the changes and uncertainty in this area of law could require us to make operational changes and could increase costs and may lead to governmental enforcement actions, litigation, fines and penalties or adverse publicity that could have an adverse effect on our business.

Although we work to comply with applicable laws, regulations and standards, our contractual obligations and other legal obligations, these requirements are evolving and may be modified, interpreted and applied in an inconsistent manner among jurisdictions in which we operate. We are likely to be required to expend significant capital and other resources to ensure ongoing compliance with applicable privacy and data security laws both inside and outside the United States. Claims that we have violated individuals’ privacy rights or breached our contractual obligations regardless of merit and even if we are not found liable, could be expensive and time-consuming to defend and could result in adverse publicity that could harm our business.

Claims that we or any collaborators fail to comply with applicable federal, state, or local, legal or regulatory requirements, could subject us to a range of regulatory actions that could affect our or any collaborators’ ability to seek to commercialize our antibody candidates, if approved. Any threatened or actual government enforcement action could also generate adverse publicity and require that we devote substantial resources that could otherwise be used in other aspects of our business.

Risks Related to Commercialization of Our Antibody Candidates

We operate in highly competitive and rapidly changing industries, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing competing products before or more successfully than we do.

The biopharmaceutical and pharmaceutical industries are highly competitive and subject to significant and rapid technological change. Our success is highly dependent on our ability to discover, develop and obtain marketing approval for new and innovative products on a cost-effective basis and to market them successfully. In doing so, we face and will continue to face intense competition from a variety of businesses, including large, fully integrated pharmaceutical companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies and biopharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, government agencies and other private and public research institutions in Europe, the United States and other jurisdictions. These organizations may have significantly greater resources than we do and conduct similar research, seek patent protection and establish collaborative arrangements for research, development, manufacturing and marketing of products that compete with our antibody candidates.

With the proliferation of new drugs and therapies into oncology, we expect to face increasingly intense competition as new technologies become available. If we fail to stay at the forefront of technological change, we may be unable to compete effectively.

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Any antibody candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future. The highly competitive nature of and rapid technological changes in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries could render our antibody candidates or our technology obsolete, less competitive or uneconomical. Our competitors may, among other things: 

 

have significantly greater financial, manufacturing, marketing, drug development, technical and human resources than we do;

 

develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, less expensive, more convenient or easier to administer, or have fewer or less severe side effects;

 

obtain quicker regulatory approval;

 

establish superior proprietary positions covering our products and technologies;

 

implement more effective approaches to sales and marketing; or

 

form more advantageous strategic alliances.

Should any of these factors occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

In addition, existing and future collaborators may decide to market and sell products that compete with the antibody candidates that we have agreed to license to them. While we have agreements governing their committed activities, we have limited influence over their actual performance, and any competition by our collaborators could also have a material adverse effect on our future business, financial condition and results of operations.

Smaller and other early stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These third parties compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, retaining manufacturers to produce clinical trial materials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.

If we fail to obtain orphan drug designation or obtain or maintain orphan drug exclusivity for our products, or lose such designation for zenocutuzumab in the United States, our competitors may sell products to treat the same conditions and our revenue will be reduced.

Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a product as an orphan drug if it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition, defined as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 in the United States, or a patient population greater than 200,000 in the United States where there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing the drug will be recovered from sales in the United States. In the EU, a medicinal product may be designated as orphan if (1) it is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition; (2) either (a) such condition affects no more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union when the application is made, or (b) the product, without the benefits derived from orphan status, would not generate sufficient return in the EU to justify investment; and (3) there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of such condition authorized for marketing in the EU, or if such a method exists, the product will be of significant benefit to those affected by the condition. During this period, the EMA cannot accept another application for a MA, or grant a MA or accept an application to extend an existing MA for the same indication, in respect of a similar medicinal product. The application for orphan drug designation must be submitted before the MAA. The applicant will receive a fee reduction for the MAA if the orphan drug designation has been granted, but not if the designation is still pending at the time the MA is submitted. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.

In the United States, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as opportunities for grant funding towards clinical trial costs, tax advantages and user-fee waivers. In addition, if a product receives the first FDA approval for the indication for which it has orphan designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means the FDA may not approve any other application to market the same drug for the same indication for a period of seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority over the product with orphan exclusivity or where the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient product quantity. In the EU, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers and ten years of market exclusivity following drug or biological product approval. This period may be reduced to six years if the orphan drug designation criteria are no longer met, including where it is shown that the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity.

We have obtained orphan drug designation from the FDA for zenocutuzumab for the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer and potentially may seek that or a similar designation from the EMA for zenocutuzumab, and we may seek such designation from the FDA and EMA for other clinical assets, where supported by data in the appropriate indications that meet the criteria for orphan status. Even though we obtained orphan designation in the United States for zenocutuzumab and may obtain such designation for other antibody

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candidates in the United States and/or the EU, we may not be the first to obtain marketing approval for any particular orphan indication due to the uncertainties associated with developing pharmaceutical products. In addition, exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be limited if we seek approval for an indication broader than the orphan-designated indication or may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition. Further, even if we obtain orphan drug exclusivity for a product, that exclusivity may not effectively protect the product from competition because different drugs with different active moieties can be approved for the same condition. Even after an orphan drug is approved, the FDA or the EMA can subsequently approve the same drug with the same active moiety for the same condition if the FDA or the EMA concludes that the later drug is safer, more effective, or makes a major contribution to patient care. Orphan drug designation neither shortens the development time or regulatory review time of a drug nor gives the drug any advantage in the regulatory review or approval process. In addition, while we intend to seek orphan drug designation, when appropriate, we may not receive such designation.

The successful commercialization of our antibody candidates will depend in part on the extent to which governmental authorities and health insurers establish adequate coverage, reimbursement levels and pricing policies. Failure to obtain or maintain adequate coverage and reimbursement for our antibody candidates, if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.

The availability and adequacy of coverage and reimbursement by governmental healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, private health insurers and other third-party payors are essential for most patients to be able to afford products such as our antibody candidates, assuming approval. Our ability to achieve acceptable levels of coverage and reimbursement for products by governmental authorities, private health insurers and other organizations will have an effect on our ability to successfully commercialize and attract additional collaborators to invest in the development of our antibody candidates. Assuming we obtain coverage for a given product by a third-party payor, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement in the United States, the EU or elsewhere will be available for any product that we may develop, and any reimbursement that may become available may be decreased or eliminated in the future. Third-party payors increasingly are challenging prices charged for pharmaceutical products and services, and many third-party payors may refuse to provide coverage and reimbursement for particular drugs when an equivalent generic drug or a less expensive therapy is available. It is possible that a third-party payor may consider our antibody candidate and other therapies as substitutable and only offer to reimburse patients for the less expensive product. Even if we show improved efficacy or improved convenience of administration with our antibody candidate, pricing of existing drugs may limit the amount we will be able to charge for our antibody candidate. These payors may deny or revoke the reimbursement status of a given drug product or establish prices for new or existing marketed products at levels that are too low to enable us to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development. If reimbursement is not available or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our antibody candidates and may not be able to obtain a satisfactory financial return on products that we may develop.

There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. In the United States, third-party payors, including private and governmental payors, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs, play an important role in determining the extent to which new drugs and biologics will be covered. The Medicare and Medicaid programs increasingly are used as models for how private payors and other governmental payors develop their coverage and reimbursement policies for drugs and biologics. Some third-party payors may require pre-approval of coverage for new or innovative devices or drug therapies before they will reimburse health care providers who use such therapies. It is difficult to predict at this time what third-party payors will decide with respect to the coverage and reimbursement for our antibody candidates.

Obtaining and maintaining reimbursement status is time-consuming and costly. No uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement for drug products exists among third-party payors in the United States. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for drug products can differ significantly from payor to payor. As a result, the coverage determination process is often a time-consuming and costly process that will require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of any future products to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. Furthermore, rules and regulations regarding reimbursement change frequently, in some cases at short notice, and we believe that changes in these rules and regulations are likely.

Outside the United States, international operations are generally subject to extensive governmental price controls and other market regulations, and we believe the increasing emphasis on cost-containment initiatives in Europe, Canada, and other countries has and will continue to put pressure on the pricing and usage of our antibody candidates, if approved. In many countries, the prices of medical products are subject to varying price control mechanisms as part of national health systems. Other countries allow companies to fix their own prices for medical products, but monitor and control company profits. Additional foreign price controls or other changes in pricing regulation could restrict the amount that we are able to charge for our antibody candidates, if approved. Accordingly, in markets outside the United States, the reimbursement for our products may be reduced compared with the United States and may be insufficient to generate commercially reasonable revenue and profits.

Moreover, increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payors in the United States and abroad to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and the level of reimbursement for newly approved products and, as a result, they

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may not cover or provide adequate payment for our antibody candidates, if approved. We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of any of our antibody candidates that are approved due to the trend toward managed healthcare, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations, and additional legislative changes. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs and surgical procedures and other treatments, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products.

In addition, even if a pharmaceutical product obtains a marketing authorization in the EU, there can be no assurance that reimbursement for such product will be secured on a timely basis or at all.

Our products may not gain market acceptance, in which case we may not be able to generate product revenues, which will materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Even if the FDA, the EMA or any other regulatory authority approves the marketing of any antibody candidates that we develop on our own or with a collaborator, physicians, healthcare providers, patients or the medical community may not accept or use them. If these products do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenues or any profits from operations. The degree of market acceptance of any of our antibody candidates that are approved will depend on a variety of factors, including:

 

the timing of market introduction;

 

the number and clinical profile of competing products;

 

our ability to provide acceptable evidence of safety and efficacy;

 

the prevalence and severity of any side effects;

 

relative convenience and ease of administration;

 

cost-effectiveness;

 

patient diagnostics and screening infrastructure in each market;

 

marketing and distribution support;

 

availability of adequate coverage, reimbursement and adequate payment from health maintenance organizations and other insurers, both public and private; and

 

other potential advantages over alternative treatment methods.

Failure of our antibody candidates, if approved, to gain market acceptance will have a material adverse impact on our ability to generate revenues to provide a satisfactory, or any, return on our investments. Even if some products achieve market acceptance, the market may prove not to be large enough to allow us to generate significant revenues.

We currently have no marketing, sales or distribution infrastructure. If we are unable to develop sales, marketing and distribution capabilities on our own or through collaborations, we will not be successful in commercializing our antibody candidates.

We currently have no marketing, sales and distribution capabilities because all of our antibody candidates are still in clinical or pre-clinical development. If any of our antibody candidates are approved, we intend either to establish a sales and marketing organization with technical expertise and supporting distribution capabilities to commercialize our antibody candidates, or to outsource this function to a third party. Either of these options would be expensive and time consuming. These costs may be incurred in advance of any approval of our antibody candidates. In addition, we may not be able to hire a sales force that is sufficient in size or has adequate expertise in the medical markets that we intend to target. Any failure or delay in the development of our internal sales, marketing and distribution capabilities would adversely impact the commercialization of any approved products.

To the extent that we enter into collaboration agreements with respect to marketing, sales or distribution, our product revenue may be lower than if we directly marketed or sold any approved products. In addition, any revenue we receive will depend in whole or in part upon the efforts of these third-party collaborators, which may not be successful and are generally not within our control. If we are unable to enter into these arrangements on acceptable terms or at all, we may not be able to successfully commercialize any approved products. If we are not successful in commercializing any approved products, either on our own or through collaborations with one or more third parties, our future product revenue will suffer and we may incur significant additional losses.

We have never commercialized an antibody candidate before and may lack the necessary expertise, personnel and resources to successfully commercialize our products on our own or together with suitable collaborators.

We have never commercialized an antibody candidate, and we currently have no sales force, marketing or distribution capabilities. To achieve commercial success for our antibody candidates, if approved, which we may license to others, we will rely on the assistance and guidance of those collaborators. For antibody candidates for which we retain commercialization rights, we will have to develop

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our own sales, marketing and supply organization or outsource these activities to a third party. We may rely on outside consultants to provide advice on commercialization strategies, which may fail to deliver or provide effective guidance to maximize any commercial opportunity, if any, that may arise from our antibody candidates.

Factors that may affect our ability to commercialize our antibody candidates on our own include obtaining effective advice from consultants on commercialization strategy, recruiting and retaining adequate numbers of effective sales and marketing personnel, obtaining access to or persuading adequate numbers of physicians to prescribe our antibody candidates and other unforeseen costs associated with creating an independent sales and marketing organization. Developing a sales and marketing organization will be expensive and time-consuming and could delay the launch of our antibody candidates, if approved. We may not be able to build an effective sales and marketing organization. If we are unable to build our own distribution and marketing capabilities or to find suitable partners for the commercialization of our antibody candidates, we may not generate revenues from them or be able to reach or sustain profitability.

Our antibody candidates for which we intend to seek approval as biologic products may face competition sooner than anticipated.

The ACA includes a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) which created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-licensed reference biological product. Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date that the reference product was first approved by the FDA. In addition, the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was first approved. During this 12-year period of exclusivity, another company may still market a competing version of the reference product if the FDA approves a full BLA for the competing product containing the sponsor’s own pre-clinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity and potency of their product. The law is complex and is still being interpreted and implemented by the FDA. As a result, its ultimate impact, implementation, and meaning are subject to uncertainty.

We believe that any of our antibody candidates approved as a biological product under a BLA should qualify for the 12-year period of exclusivity. However, there is a risk that this exclusivity could be shortened due to congressional action or otherwise. Other aspects of the BPCIA, some of which may impact the BPCIA exclusivity provisions, have also been the subject of recent litigation. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once approved, will be substituted for any one of our reference products in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for non-biological products is not yet clear, and will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing.

Jurisdictions in addition to the United States have established abbreviated pathways for regulatory approval of biological products that are biosimilar to earlier approved reference products. For example, the EU has had an established regulatory pathway for biosimilars since 2006.

The increased likelihood of biosimilar competition has increased the risk of loss of innovators’ market exclusivity. Due to this risk, and uncertainties regarding patent protection, if our antibody candidates are approved for marketing, it is not possible to predict the length of market exclusivity for any particular product with certainty based solely on the expiration of the relevant patent(s) or the current forms of regulatory exclusivity. It is also not possible to predict changes in United States regulatory law that might reduce biological product regulatory exclusivity. The loss of market exclusivity for a product would likely materially and negatively affect revenues and we may not generate adequate or sufficient revenues from them or be able to reach or sustain profitability.

Risks Related to Our Dependence on Third Parties

We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties, including independent clinical investigators and CROs, to conduct our pre-clinical studies and 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 for or commercialize our antibody candidates and our business could be substantially harmed.

We have relied upon and plan to continue to rely upon third parties, including independent clinical investigators and third-party CROs, to conduct our pre-clinical studies and clinical trials and to monitor and manage data for our ongoing pre-clinical and clinical programs. We rely on these parties for execution of our pre-clinical studies and clinical trials, and control only certain aspects of their activities. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our studies and trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal, regulatory and scientific standards, and our reliance on these third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and our third-party contractors and CROs are required to comply with GCP requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA, the Competent Authorities of the Member States of the EEA, and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for all of our antibody 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 our CROs fail to comply with applicable GCPs, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that upon inspection by a given regulatory authority, such regulatory authority will determine that any of our clinical trials comply with GCP regulations. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with the antibody candidate produced under cGMP

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regulations. Our failure to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process.

Further, these investigators and CROs are not our employees and we will not be able to control, other than by contract, the amount of resources, including time, which they devote to our antibody candidates and clinical trials. If independent investigators or CROs fail to devote sufficient resources to the development of our antibody candidates, or if their performance is substandard, it may delay or compromise the prospects for approval and commercialization of any antibody candidates that we develop. Moreover, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain of our third-party CROs have been affected and in some instances have experienced cessation or mitigation of activity and may experience closures and labor shortages, which may negatively affect our pre-clinical and clinical development activities. In addition, the use of third-party service providers may require us to disclose our proprietary information to these parties, which could increase the risk that this information will be misappropriated.

Our CROs have the right to terminate their agreements with us in the event of an uncured material breach. In addition, some of our CROs have an ability to terminate their respective agreements with us if it can be reasonably demonstrated that the safety of the subjects participating in our clinical trials warrants such termination, if we make a general assignment for the benefit of our creditors or if we are liquidated.

If any of our relationships with these third-party CROs terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs or to do so on commercially reasonable terms. If CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols, regulatory requirements or for other reasons, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated and we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval for or successfully commercialize our antibody candidates. As a result, our results of operations and the commercial prospects for our antibody candidates would be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenues could be delayed.

Switching or adding additional CROs involves additional cost and requires management time and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new CRO commences work. As a result, delays occur, which can materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines. Additionally, CROs may lack the capacity to absorb higher workloads or take on additional capacity to support our needs. 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.

The collaboration and license agreement, or the Collaboration Agreement, with Incyte Corporation (Incyte) is important to our business. If suitable monospecific or bispecific antibody candidates are not identified for further development and commercialization activities under the Collaboration Agreement, or if we or Incyte fail to adequately perform under the Collaboration Agreement, or if we or Incyte terminate the Collaboration Agreement, the development and commercialization of our antibody candidates would be delayed or terminated and our business would be adversely affected.

The Collaboration Agreement may be terminated:

 

in its entirety or on a program-by-program basis by Incyte for convenience;

 

in its entirety or on a program-by-program basis by either party due to a material breach of the Collaboration Agreement, or any one or more programs under the Collaboration Agreement, as applicable; and

 

on a program-by-program basis (but not in its entirety), by either party if the other party challenges the terminating party’s patents for such program, and such challenge is not withdrawn within 30 days.

If the Collaboration Agreement is terminated with respect to one or more programs, all rights in the terminated programs revert to us, subject to payment to Incyte of a reverse royalty of up to 4% on sales of future products, depending on the stage of development as of the date of termination, if we elect to pursue development and commercialization of monospecific or bispecific antibody candidates arising from the terminated programs.

Termination of the Collaboration Agreement could cause significant delays in our antibody candidate development and commercialization efforts, which could prevent us from commercializing our antibody candidates without first expanding our internal capabilities or entering into another agreement with a third party. Any suitable alternative collaboration or license agreement would take considerable time to negotiate and could also be on less favorable terms to us. In addition, under the Collaboration Agreement, Incyte agreed to conduct certain clinical development activities. If the Collaboration Agreement were to be terminated, and whether or not we identify another suitable collaborator, we may need to seek additional financing to support the research and development of any terminated antibody candidates so that we may continue development activities, or we may be forced to discontinue development of terminated antibody candidates, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Under the Collaboration Agreement, with the exception of MCLA-145 where we retain full U.S. rights, we are dependent upon Incyte to successfully develop and commercialize any antibody candidates that are identified for further development under the Collaboration

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Agreement. With the exception of those programs where we retain certain co-development rights, we have limited ability to influence or control Incyte’s development and commercialization activities or the resources it allocates to development of product candidates identified under the Collaboration Agreement. Our interests and Incyte’s interests may differ or conflict from time to time, or we may disagree with Incyte’s level of effort or resource allocation. Incyte may internally prioritize programs under development within the collaboration differently than we would, or it may not allocate sufficient resources to effectively or optimally develop or commercialize antibody candidates arising from such programs. If these events were to occur, our ability to receive revenue from the commercialization of products arising from such programs would be reduced, and our business would be adversely affected.

The collaboration and license agreement, or the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, with Eli Lilly is important to our business. If suitable monospecific or bispecific antibody candidates are not identified for further development and commercialization activities under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, or if we or Eli Lilly fail to adequately perform under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, or if we or Eli Lilly terminate the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, the development and commercialization of our antibody candidates would be delayed or terminated and our business would be adversely affected.

The Lilly Collaboration Agreement may be terminated:

 

in its entirety or on a program-by-program basis by Eli Lilly for convenience; and

 

in its entirety or on a program-by-program basis by either party due to a material breach of the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, or any one or more programs under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, as applicable.

If the Lilly Collaboration Agreement is terminated with respect to one or more programs, depending on the stage of development, certain rights in the terminated programs revert to us.

Termination of the Lilly Collaboration Agreement could cause significant delays in our antibody candidate development and commercialization efforts, which could prevent us from commercializing our antibody candidates without first expanding our internal capabilities or entering into another agreement with a third party. Any suitable alternative collaboration or license agreement would take considerable time to negotiate and could also be on less favorable terms to us. In addition, under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, Eli Lilly agreed to conduct certain pre-clinical and clinical development activities. If the Lilly Collaboration Agreement were to be terminated, and whether or not we identify another suitable collaborator, we may need to seek additional financing to support the research and development of any terminated antibody candidates so that we may continue development activities, or we may be forced to discontinue development of terminated antibody candidates, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement, we are dependent upon Eli Lilly to successfully develop and commercialize any antibody candidates that are identified for further development under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement. We have limited ability to influence or control Eli Lilly’s development and commercialization activities or the resources it allocates to development of product candidates identified under the Lilly Collaboration Agreement. Our interests and Eli Lilly’s interests may differ or conflict from time to time, or we may disagree with Eli Lilly’s level of effort or resource allocation. Eli Lilly may internally prioritize programs under development within the collaboration differently than we would, or it may not allocate sufficient resources to effectively or optimally develop or commercialize antibody candidates arising from such programs. If these events were to occur, our ability to receive revenue from the commercialization of products arising from such programs would be reduced, and our business would be adversely affected.

The collaboration and license agreements with Simcere, and Betta Pharma, and the research and license agreement with Ono are important to our business. If our Biclonics® antibodies licensed in these collaboration and license agreements fail to advance or experience unacceptable safety or efficacy results if clinically developed, this could adversely impact the reputation of our platform and our ability to engage in future collaborations.

If our collaboration agreements with Simcere or Betta Pharma or our research and license agreements with Ono are terminated with respect to one or more programs, or the pre-clinical assets associated with these agreements fail to advance into the clinic, or experience negative results with respect to safety, efficacy, manufacturability, or other features of research and development, this could adversely affect the reputation of our Biclonics® technology platform and our ability to engage in future collaborations or licensing agreements. While we have certain contractual provisions in place in our collaboration agreements with Simcere and Betta Pharma that permit us to supervise development efforts associated with our pre-clinical assets with respect to Simcere, or MCLA-129, which we anticipate entering the clinic in 2021 with Betta Pharma, which have product rights in China, we cannot guarantee that these assets will be developed in China in accordance with our standards as applied to our wholly owned programs. Ono is currently pursuing at least one antibody program generated by us through use of our proprietary Biclonics® platform in an area outside oncology. To the extent this asset does not successfully advance through clinical development, this may impair our ability to leverage our platform in areas outside oncology or to engage in future license agreements to further expand the use of our platform and generate future revenue. Should any of these collaborations or license agreements fail or be terminated, any suitable alternative collaboration or license agreement would take considerable time to negotiate, if at all, and could also be on less favorable terms to us. If these agreements were to be terminated, and whether or not we identify a suitable alternative collaborator, we may need to seek additional financing to support the research and development of any terminated antibody candidates so that we may continue

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development activities, or we may be forced to discontinue development of terminated antibody candidates, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business. 

If we fail to enter into new strategic relationships our business, financial condition, commercialization prospects and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.

Our product development programs and the potential commercialization of our antibody candidates will require substantial additional cash to fund expenses. Therefore, for some of our antibody candidates and with respect to our recently developed Triclonics® technology platform, we may decide to enter into new collaborations with pharmaceutical or biopharmaceutical companies for the development and potential commercialization of those bispecific and trispecific antibody candidates. For instance, we have license and collaboration agreements with Ono, Incyte, Eli Lilly, Simcere and Betta, under which we have licensed the development and commercialization of certain of our monospecific or bispecific antibody candidates.

We face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Collaborations are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. We may also be restricted under existing and future collaboration agreements from entering into agreements on certain terms with other potential collaborators. We may not be able to negotiate collaborations on acceptable terms, or at all. If that were to occur, we may have to curtail the development of a particular bispecific or trispecific antibody candidate, reduce or delay its development program or one or more of our other development programs, delay its potential commercialization or reduce the scope of our sales or marketing activities, or increase our expenditures and undertake development or commercialization activities at our own expense. If we elect to increase our expenditures to fund development or commercialization activities on our own, we may need to obtain additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. If we do not have sufficient funds, we will not be able to bring our antibody candidates to market, further research and develop new trispecific antibody candidates, enhance our Biclonics® and Triclonics® technology platforms and generate product revenue. If we do enter into a new collaboration agreement, we could be subject to the following risks, each of which may materially harm our business, commercialization prospects and financial condition:

 

we may not be able to control the amount and timing of resources that the collaborator devotes to the product development program;

 

the collaborator may experience financial difficulties;

 

we may be required to relinquish important rights such as marketing, distribution and intellectual property rights;

 

a collaborator may experience technical, clinical, intellectual property, manufacturing or other setbacks in the research or development of a product program arising from our collaboration adversely affecting the financial return of our collaboration or the reputation of our technology platform;

 

a collaborator could move forward with a competing product developed either independently or in collaboration with third parties, including our competitors; or

 

business combinations or significant changes in a collaborator’s business strategy may adversely affect our willingness to complete our obligations under any arrangement.

We currently rely on third-party suppliers and other third parties for production of our antibody candidates and our dependence on these third parties may impair the advancement of our research and development programs and the development of our antibody candidates. Moreover, we intend to rely on third parties to produce commercial supplies of any approved antibody candidate and our commercialization of any of our antibody candidates could be stopped, delayed or made less profitable if those third parties fail to obtain approval of the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities following inspection of their facilities and procedures to manufacture our antibody candidates and products, fail to provide us with sufficient quantities of antibody product or fail to do so at acceptable quality levels or prices or fail to otherwise complete their duties in compliance with their obligations to us or other parties.

We rely on and expect to continue to rely on third-party contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) for the supply of cGMP-grade clinical trial materials and commercial quantities of our antibody candidates and products, if approved. Reliance on third-party providers may expose us to more risk than if we were to manufacture antibody candidates ourselves. The facilities used by our CMOs to manufacture our antibody candidates must be approved by the FDA pursuant to inspections that will be conducted after we submit our BLA to the FDA. We have limited control over the manufacturing process of, and beyond contractual terms, we are completely dependent on our CMOs for compliance with cGMP for the manufacture of our antibody candidates. If our CMOs cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, or are unable to do so in a timely manner, they will not be able to secure and/or maintain regulatory approval for their manufacturing facilities or may result in delay of our ability to obtain marketing authorization, if any, of our antibody candidates. In addition, we have limited control over the ability of our CMOs to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. If the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of our antibody candidates or if it withdraws any such approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities,

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which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our antibody candidates, if approved. In addition, any failure to achieve and maintain compliance with these laws, regulations and standards could subject us to the risk that we may have to suspend the manufacturing of our antibody candidates or that obtained approvals could be revoked, which would adversely affect our business and reputation. Furthermore, third-party providers may breach existing agreements they have with us because of factors beyond our control. They may also terminate or refuse to renew their agreement because of their own financial difficulties or business priorities, at a time that is costly or otherwise inconvenient for us. If we were unable to find an adequate replacement or another acceptable solution in time, our clinical trials could be delayed or our commercial activities could be harmed. In addition, the fact that we are dependent on our collaborators, our CMOs and other third parties for the manufacture, filling, storage and distribution of our antibody candidates means that we are subject to the risk that the products may have manufacturing defects that we have limited ability to prevent or control. The sale of products containing such defects could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Growth in the costs and expenses of components or raw materials may also adversely influence our business, financial condition and results of operations. Supply sources could be interrupted from time to time and, if interrupted, there is no guarantee that supplies could be resumed (whether in part or in whole) within a reasonable timeframe and at an acceptable cost or at all.

We rely on our CMOs to purchase from third-party suppliers the materials necessary to produce our antibody candidates for our clinical trials, and will rely on our existing and future collaborators to purchase from third-party suppliers the materials necessary to develop and produce our antibody candidates for future clinical trials and, upon approval, our products for commercialization. There are a limited number of suppliers for raw materials that we use to manufacture our antibody candidates and there may be a need to assess alternate suppliers to prevent a possible disruption of the manufacture of the materials necessary to produce our antibody candidates for our clinical trials, and if approved, ultimately for commercial sale. Apart from contractual measures, we do not have any control over the process or timing of the acquisition of these raw materials by our manufacturers or manufacturers paid by our collaborators. Moreover, we currently do not have any agreements for the commercial production of these raw materials. Although we generally do not begin a clinical trial unless we believe we have a sufficient supply of an antibody candidate to complete the clinical trial or have secured resupply capacity, any significant delay in the supply of an antibody candidate, or the raw material components thereof, for a planned or an ongoing clinical trial due to the need to replace a third-party manufacturer could considerably delay completion of our clinical trials, product testing and potential regulatory approval of our antibody candidates. If our manufacturers, collaborators or we are unable to purchase these raw materials after regulatory approval has been obtained for our antibody candidates, the commercial launch of our antibody candidates would be delayed or there would be a shortage in supply, which would impair our ability to generate revenues from the sale of our antibody candidates. Moreover, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, third-party manufacturers have been affected, which could disrupt or delay their activities or ability to source materials and as a result we could face difficulty sourcing key components necessary to produce supply of our product candidates, which may negatively affect our pre-clinical and clinical development activities.

We rely on our manufacturers and other subcontractors to comply with and respect the proprietary rights of others in conducting their contractual obligations for us. If our manufacturers or other subcontractors fail to acquire the proper licenses or otherwise infringe third party proprietary rights in the course of completing their contractual obligations to us, we may have to find alternative manufacturers or defend against claims of infringement, either of which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our antibody candidates, if approved.

Risks Related to Intellectual Property and Information Technology

We rely on patents and other intellectual property rights to protect our technology, including antibody candidates and our Biclonics® technology platform and Triclonics® technology platform, the enforcement, defense and maintenance of which may be challenging and costly. Failure to enforce or protect these rights adequately could harm our ability to compete and impair our business.

Our commercial success depends in part on obtaining and maintaining patents and other forms of intellectual property rights for our Biclonics® technology platform, Triclonics® technology platform, our common light chain transgenic murine technology, our CH3 domain dimerization technology, our heavy chain variable regions and binding domains that bind particular antigens, our monospecific antibodies, bispecific antibody, trispecific antibody and antibody clinical candidates, products, their format and methods and host cells used to produce, screen, manufacture and purify those antibody and antibody clinical candidates, the methods for treating patients using those candidates, among other aspects of our technology or on licensing-in such rights. Failure to protect or to obtain, maintain or extend adequate patent and other intellectual property rights could materially adversely affect our ability to develop and market our platform technologies, and antibody candidates.

The patent prosecution process is expensive and time-consuming, and we and our current or future licensors, licensees or collaborators may not be able to prepare, file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. It is also possible that we or our licensors, licensees or collaborators will 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. Further, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability and commercial value of our and our current or future licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ patent

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rights are highly uncertain. Our and our licensors’ pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued which protect our technology or products, in whole or in part, or which effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and products. The patent examination process may require us or our licensors, licensees or collaborators to narrow the scope of the claims of our or our licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ pending and future patent applications, which may limit the scope of patent protection that may be obtained. We cannot assure you that all of the potentially relevant prior art relating to our patents and patent applications has been found. If such prior art exists, it can invalidate a patent or prevent a patent from issuing from a pending patent application. Even if patents do successfully issue, or have issued and even if such patents cover our Biclonics® technology platform, Triclonics® technology platform, our common light chain transgenic murine technology, our CH3 domain dimerization technology our heavy chain variable regions and binding domains that bind particular antigens, our monospecific antibodies, antibody, trispecific antibody and antibody clinical candidates, products, their format and methods and host cells used to produce, screen, manufacture and purify those antibody and antibody clinical candidates, the methods for treating patients using those candidates, and other technologies, third parties may initiate opposition, interference, re-examination, post-grant review, inter partes review, nullification or derivation action in court or before patent offices, or similar proceedings challenging the validity, enforceability or scope of such patents, which may result in the patent claims being narrowed or invalidated. Our and our licensors’, licensees’ or collaborators’ patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties practicing the technology claimed in such applications unless and until a patent issues from such applications, and then only to the extent the issued claims cover the technology.

Because patent applications are confidential for a period of time after filing, and some remain so until issued, we cannot be certain that we or our licensors were the first to file any patent application related to our technology, including our antibody candidates. Furthermore, if third parties have filed such patent applications on or before March 15, 2013, an interference proceeding can be initiated by such third parties to determine who was the first to invent any of the subject matter covered by the patent claims of our applications. If third parties have filed such applications after March 15, 2013, a derivation proceeding can be initiated by such third parties to determine whether our invention was derived from theirs.

Issued patents covering one or more of our products or the Biclonics® technology or Triclonics® technology platforms could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court.

To protect our competitive position, we may from time to time need to resort to litigation to enforce or defend any patents or other intellectual property rights owned by or licensed to us, or to determine or challenge the scope or validity of patents or other intellectual property rights of third parties. As enforcement of intellectual property rights is difficult, unpredictable and expensive, we may fail in enforcing our rights—in which case our competitors may be permitted to use our technology without being enjoined, required to pay us any license fees, or compensate us for lost profits or reasonable royalty. In addition, litigation involving our patents carries the risk that one or more of our patents will be held invalid (in whole or in part, on a claim-by-claim basis) or held unenforceable. Such an adverse court ruling could allow third parties to commercialize technology covered by our patents we seek to enforce, such as those covering our antibody candidates or methods, our Biclonics® technology and Triclonics® technology platforms, our common light chain transgenic murine technology, or our CH3 domain dimerization technology, among other technologies, and then compete directly with us, without payment to us.

If we were to initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a pa