SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, DC 20549
|x||ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022
|o||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: 001-40631
Caribou Biosciences, Inc.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in its Charter)
|(State or other jurisdiction of|
incorporation or organization)
2929 7th Street, Suite 105
|(Address of principal executive offices)||(Zip Code)|
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (510) 982-6030
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Common Stock, par value $0.0001 per share||CRBU||The Nasdaq Global Select Market|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes o No x
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes o No x
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 x No o
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 x No o
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||o||Accelerated filer||o|
|Non-accelerated filer||x||Smaller reporting company||x|
|Emerging growth company||x|
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. o
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. ☐
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the Registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements are restatements. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the Registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b). ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). YES o NO x
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant on June 30, 2022, based on the closing price of the shares of common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on such date, was $308.4 million This calculation does not reflect a determination that certain persons are affiliates of the Registrant for any purpose.
The number of shares of Registrant’s Common Stock outstanding as of March 3, 2023 was 61,299,687.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the Registrant’s definitive proxy statement for the 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III.
Table of Contents
Risk Factors Summary
Our business is subject to a number of risks of which you should be aware before making a decision to invest in our common stock. These risks are more fully described in the “Risk Factors” section in Part I, Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. These risks include, among others, the following:
•We have incurred significant net losses since our inception and anticipate that we will incur continued net losses for the foreseeable future.
•We will need substantial additional financing to develop our product candidates and implement our operating plans. If we fail to obtain additional financing, we may be delayed or unable to complete the development and commercialization of our product candidates.
•We have a limited operating history, which may make it difficult to evaluate our technologies and product candidate development capabilities or to predict our future performance.
•We are early in our development efforts and it will be many years before we commercialize a product candidate, if ever. If we are unable to advance our product candidates through clinical trials, obtain regulatory approval, and ultimately commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
•Our product candidates are cell therapies generated by our novel CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing technologies, which make it difficult to predict the time and cost of developing these product candidates and obtaining regulatory approval. To date, no other products that use these chRDNA genome-editing technologies have advanced into clinical trials or received marketing approval in the United States.
•Our business is highly dependent on the success of our product candidates, which will require significant additional preclinical studies and/or human clinical trials before we can seek regulatory approval and potentially commercialize our product candidates. If we are unable to advance our preclinical studies and clinical trials and obtain regulatory approval for, and successfully commercialize, our product candidates for the treatment of patients in approved indications, or if we are substantially delayed in doing so, our business will be significantly harmed.
•If we experience delays or difficulties enrolling patients in the clinical trials for our product candidates, including our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-010 product candidate and our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-011 product candidate, our ability to advance our product candidates through clinical development and the regulatory process could be delayed or prevented.
•Our clinical trials may fail to adequately demonstrate the safety and efficacy of any of our product candidates and the development of our product candidates may be delayed or unsuccessful, which could prevent or delay regulatory approval and commercialization.
•If our product candidates cause serious adverse events or undesirable side effects, including injury and death, or have other properties that could delay or prevent regulatory approval, their commercial potential may be limited or extinguished.
•We rely on third parties to supply the materials for, and the manufacturing of, our clinical product candidates, and, if such product candidates receive regulatory approval, we may continue our reliance on third parties for manufacturing of our commercial products. Our continued success is subject to the performance of these third parties.
•We rely and will continue to rely on third parties to conduct our clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or do not meet expected deadlines, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of, or commercialize, our product candidates.
•We face significant competition from other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, which may result in other companies developing or commercializing products before, or more successfully than, we do, thus rendering our product candidates non-competitive or reducing the size of the market for our product candidates. Our operating results will suffer if we fail to compete effectively.
•If we do not possess the necessary intellectual property rights covering our CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing technologies and our product candidates, we may not be able to block competitors or to compete effectively in the market.
•Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may prevent or delay our ability to commercialize our product candidates.
•Our rights to develop and commercialize our product candidates are subject to the terms and conditions of our licenses and assignments with third parties. If we fail to comply with our obligations under these agreements, we could lose intellectual property rights and be subject to litigation from our licensors or assignors.
•Our ability to continue to receive licensing revenue and to enter into new licensing arrangements related to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property will be substantially impaired if such intellectual property is limited by administrative patent proceedings.
•AbbVie has the right to delay timelines or terminate our collaboration and license agreement at its sole discretion, which will affect our ability to receive reimbursements, milestone payments, and royalties. In addition, we may not be able to meet our obligations under the AbbVie collaboration, and the development of our product candidates may be delayed in light of our obligations to AbbVie.
•Our future success depends on our ability to retain our executive officers and to attract, retain, and motivate qualified personnel.
•We have incurred, and will continue to incur, increased costs as a result of operating as a public company, and our management will continue to devote substantial time to compliance initiatives and corporate governance practices.
•The market price of our common stock has been, and may continue to be, volatile, and our investors may suffer substantial losses if the price of our common stock drops significantly.
Throughout this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the “Company,” “Caribou,” “Caribou Biosciences,” “we,” “us,” and “our,” except where the context requires otherwise, refer to Caribou Biosciences, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries, and “our board of directors” refers to the board of directors of Caribou Biosciences, Inc.
We have registered CARIBOU BIOSCIENCES®, CARIBOU®, SITE-SEQ®, and our logo as trademarks in the United States and certain other jurisdictions. This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains references to our trademarks and service marks and to those belonging to other entities. Solely for convenience, trademarks and service marks referred to in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including logos, artwork, and other visual displays, may appear without the ® or ™ symbols, but in the case of our trademarks and service marks, such references are not intended to indicate in any way that we will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights to these trademarks and service marks. We do not intend our use or display of other entities’ trademarks or service marks to imply a relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship of us by, any other entity.
Special 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, including statements regarding our business strategy, plans, and objectives; expectations regarding our clinical and preclinical development programs, including our timing expectations with respect to such programs and the expected timing of disclosure of initial data from such programs; future regulatory filings; our results of operations and financial position; plans and objectives of management for future operations; and the like, 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,” “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 include, but are not limited to, statements concerning:
•our expectations regarding the initiation, timing, progress, and results of our product candidate preclinical studies, clinical trials, and research programs including, without limitation, our timing expectations relating to the release of additional patient data from our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial for CB-010 and updates from our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial for CB-011 as well as our timing expectations relating to the submission of our IND application for CB-012;
•our ability to demonstrate, and the timing of, preclinical proof-of-concept in vivo for our product candidates;
•our ability to successfully develop our product candidates and to obtain and maintain regulatory approval for our product candidates;
•the likelihood of our clinical trials demonstrating safety and efficacy of our product candidates;
•the beneficial characteristics, therapeutic effects, and potential advantages of our product candidates;
•the timing or likelihood of regulatory filings and approval for our product candidates;
•our strategic plans for our business, product candidates, research programs, and technologies;
•the scope of protection we are able to establish and maintain for intellectual property rights covering our product candidates and genome-editing technology;
•anticipated developments related to our competitors and our industry;
•estimates regarding the sufficiency of our existing capital resources to fund our future operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements; and
•our anticipated use of our existing resources, capital requirements, and timing and needs for additional financing.
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, including those described in the “Risk Factors” section in Part I, Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and in the “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” section in Part II, Item 7 of 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 may not occur and actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Moreover, we operate in a very competitive and rapidly 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.
Item 1. Business.
We are a clinical-stage Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (“CRISPR”) genome-editing biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing transformative therapies for patients with devastating diseases. Our genome-editing platform, including our novel chRDNA (CRISPR hybrid RNA-DNA, or “chRDNA,” pronounced “chardonnay”) technologies, enables high-precision genome editing to develop cell therapies that are armored to improve antitumor activity. We are advancing a pipeline of allogeneic, or off-the-shelf, cell therapies from our chimeric antigen receptor (“CAR”) T (“CAR-T”) cell and CAR-natural killer (“CAR-NK”) cell platforms as readily available therapeutic treatments for patients.
We are initially focused on advancing multiple allogeneic cell therapies for the treatment of hematologic malignancies and solid tumors. Our therapies are directed at established tumor cell surface targets for which autologous CAR-T cell therapeutics have already demonstrated clinical proof of concept, including CD19 and B cell maturation antigen (“BCMA”), as well as targets such as C-type lectin-like molecule-1 (“CLL-1,” also known as CD371). We use our chRDNA technologies to armor our cell therapies’ antitumor activity by using tailored armoring strategies, such as checkpoint disruption, immune cloaking, or a combination of these two strategies.
Our pipeline includes allogeneic cell therapies from our CAR-T and CAR-NK platforms. We currently are advancing four wholly owned programs for the treatment of hematologic malignancies and solid tumors. Additionally, under a collaboration agreement with AbbVie Manufacturing Management Unlimited Company (“AbbVie”), we are developing two CAR-T cell therapies for AbbVie. Our pipeline is shown below:
1 Phase 3 may not be required if Phase 2 is pivotal
2 Also known as CD371
3 AbbVie has an option to include two additional CAR-T cell programs
Figure 1. We are developing a pipeline of allogeneic immune cell therapies for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors.
Our Clinical Programs
Our lead product candidate, CB-010, is an allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy that is, to our knowledge, the first clinical-stage allogeneic anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy with programmed cell death protein 1 (“PD-1”) removed from the CAR-T cell surface by a genome-edited knockout of the PDCD1 gene. We have demonstrated in preclinical models that the PD-1 knockout improved the durability of antitumor activity by disrupting a pathway that leads to rapid T cell exhaustion.
CB-010 is being evaluated in our ongoing ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial in patients with relapsed or refractory B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (“r/r B-NHL”). As reported in 2022, the first cohort contained six patients who have been dosed with CB-010 at dose level 1 (40x106 CAR-T cells). In this first cohort of patients, CB-010 was generally well tolerated with adverse events as expected for anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapies, and we observed complete responses in three of six patients that lasted at least six months. As reported in 2022, the second cohort enrolled three patients at dose level 2 (80x106 CAR-T cells), and we are currently enrolling patients at dose level 3 (120x106 CAR-T cells). We plan to provide an ANTLER update in the second half of 2023. CB-010 has received Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (“RMAT”) designation for relapsed or refractory large B cell lymphoma (“LBCL”), fast track designation for r/r B-NHL, and orphan drug designation for follicular lymphoma (“FL”) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”).
Our second product candidate, CB-011, is an allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy that is, to our knowledge, the first anti-BCMA CAR-T cell therapy incorporating an immune cloaking approach that includes both the removal of the endogenous beta-2 microglobulin (“B2M”) protein and insertion of a beta-2-microglobulin–human-leukocyte-antigen-E–peptide transgene (“B2M–HLA-E”). This strategy is designed to reduce CAR-T cell rejection by both patient T cells and natural killer (“NK”) cells to potentially enable more durable antitumor activity. CB-011 is being evaluated in our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial in patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma (“r/r MM”), and we are currently recruiting patients at dose level 1 (50x106 CAR-T cells).
Our Preclinical Programs
Our third product candidate from our CAR-T cell platform is CB-012, an allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy targeting CLL-1 (also known as CD371). CB-012 is, to our knowledge, the first allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy with both checkpoint disruption and immune cloaking strategies, and its manufacture requires a total of five genome edits. We believe that CLL-1 is an attractive target for acute myeloid leukemia (“AML”) due to its expression on myeloid cancer cells, its enrichment in leukemic stem cells, and its absence on hematopoietic stem cells (“HSCs”). CB-012 is being evaluated in investigational new drug (“IND”)-enabling studies to support a planned IND application submission for relapsed or refractory AML (“r/r AML”) in the second half of 2023.
Additionally, we are developing allogeneic CAR-NK cell therapies derived from genome-edited induced pluripotent stem cells (“iPSCs”) for the treatment of solid tumors. We have multiple armoring strategies in development for our CAR-NK platform, including a Casitas B-Lineage lymphoma proto-oncogene-B (“CBLB”) gene knockout for enhanced antitumor activity, IL-15/IL-15RA fusion gene insertion for enhanced persistence, and immune cloaking to reduce T cell-mediated rejection and to prevent NK fratricide (collectively, “NK cell self-killing”). CB-020 is our first CAR-NK cell therapy and we have selected receptor tyrosine kinase like orphan receptor 1 (“ROR-1”) as the tumor cell surface target.
AbbVie Programs under Collaboration Agreement
In February 2021, we entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement (as amended, the “AbbVie Agreement”) with AbbVie to develop two CAR-T cell therapies for AbbVie. We view this collaboration as an external recognition of the potential for our Cas12a chRDNA genome-editing technology to significantly improve genome-editing specificity and efficiency.
Our CRISPR chRDNA Technologies
The genome-editing technologies currently used in the allogeneic cell therapy field generally have limited efficiency, specificity, and versatility for performing the multiple, precise genomic edits necessary to enhance efficacy and antitumor activity of these therapies. Our chRDNA technologies are designed to address these genome-editing limitations and improve the antitumor activity in allogeneic cell therapies. Our goal is to apply armoring strategies to our allogeneic cell therapies, which we believe could unlock their full potential by improving upon their effectiveness and antitumor activity.
We believe that our chRDNA technologies have broad potential to generate gene and cell therapies in oncology and in therapeutic areas beyond oncology. Potential applications include immune cell therapies, cell therapies derived from genome-edited iPSCs, and in vivo genome-editing therapies. We own a robust worldwide patent portfolio protecting our Cas9 and Cas12a chRDNA technologies.
Our team and our culture are critical to our mission to develop innovative, transformative therapies for patients with devastating diseases through our novel CRISPR chRDNA genome editing. We were founded in 2011 by globally-recognized pioneers in CRISPR genome editing and nucleic acid biology: Jennifer A. Doudna, Ph.D., who was a co-recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of CRISPR-Cas9 as a method for genome editing; Martin Jinek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Zurich in the Department of Biochemistry; James Berger, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Rachel E. Haurwitz, Ph.D., who has served as our president and chief executive officer since our formation. Drs. Doudna and Jinek serve on our scientific advisory board (“SAB”), which also includes world experts in patient care, clinical trial development to support commercialization, immunotherapies, T cell metabolism and tumor interactions, and NK cell biology. Our team of employees includes some of the scientists who invented the technologies we use today in our research and product development and who continue to drive innovation.
Genome-Editing Landscape and Limitations
Genome editing is a class of technologies that facilitate making specific changes to deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) sequences inside living cells. Genome editing occurs in two steps, as shown in figure 2 below. In the first step, a double-stranded break (“DSB”) is made at the location of the genome where the edit is desired. A cell typically has two ways to repair the DSB, which results in the knockout of a gene or the insertion of new genetic material: non-homologous end joining (“NHEJ”) and homology-directed repair (“HDR”), respectively. NHEJ is an error-prone process in which the broken DNA ends are reattached. During NHEJ, the cell typically inserts or deletes a few nucleotides at the DSB. These insertions and deletions (“indels”) destroy the coding sequence for the targeted gene, resulting in the knockout of the targeted sequence. HDR, by contrast, is a more controlled repair system where the cell incorporates donor DNA delivered during the experiment into the DSB, resulting in the site-specific insertion of the provided DNA sequence.
Figure 2. Genome editing may be initiated by generating a double-stranded break (“DSB”) in chromosomal DNA at a desired location. The cell will seal the break by an error-prone process called non-homologous end joining (“NHEJ”), leading to the formation of indels, resulting in a site-specific gene knockout. If a donor DNA template is provided to the cell during genome editing that encodes a gene of interest, a process called homology-directed repair (“HDR”) will result in the insertion of the donor DNA in a site-specific manner.
There are several well-established genome-editing technologies being applied to generate immune cell therapies currently in preclinical research or clinical development, including zinc-finger nucleases (“ZFNs”), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (“TALENs”), and meganucleases, but each has limitations with respect to both their agility and their ability to generate site-specific gene insertions with high efficiency. More recently, CRISPR genome-editing technology has been used for the generation of ex vivo immune cell therapeutics that are in preclinical research or clinical development.
The canonical CRISPR system utilizes Cas9, an enzyme that can cut genomic DNA. Cas9 is targeted to a specific site in a genome by a guide ribonucleic acid (“RNA”). One of the drawbacks of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing is the occurrence of off-target editing, edits that occur at sites in the genome other than at the intended target site. Off-target edits can alter an oncogene or tumor suppressor gene, impact the biology of the target cell, or have other negative consequences on therapeutic development. Additionally, the simultaneous occurrence of both on-target and off-target edits may lead to genomic rearrangements including chromosomal translocations that may be problematic for immune cell therapeutics, especially for ones requiring multiple edits.
Our CRISPR Hybrid RNA-DNA (chRDNA) Technologies
We deploy a new, next-generation CRISPR genome-editing platform, our novel chRDNA technologies, which uses hybrid guides containing both RNA and DNA for editing genomic DNA, providing a powerful tool with the potential to expand the use of allogeneic cell therapies. The advantages of our chRDNA technologies include:
•Specificity: Significantly fewer off-target events are observed using our chRDNA guides versus first-generation CRISPR-Cas9 or CRISPR-Cas12a using all-RNA guides. The improved genome-editing specificity from the use of our chRDNA guides leads to a high degree of editing specificity with lower levels of off-target events. See figure 3 below.
•High efficiency: We achieve a high degree of on-target gene knockout and insertion efficiency, facilitating robust multiplex editing including multiple gene insertions. For example, for CB-011, Cas12a chRDNA genome editing leads to >60% of manufacturing-scale T cells with all four intended edits, including two separate site-specific gene insertions. See figure 4 below.
•Versatility: Our chRDNA guides are compatible with and offer utility across multiple cell types.
•Simplicity: Our chRDNA guides are manufactured via chemical synthesis using readily available technologies.
Figure 3. chRDNA guides significantly improve genome-editing specificity relative to all-RNA guides.
Figure 4. Our Cas12a chRDNA technology mediates high rates of site-specific insertion. High efficiency Cas12a chRDNA editing yields >60% of the T cell population possessing 2 gene inserts and 2 gene knockouts, thus having all 4 intended edits.
Our chRDNA Guides
Our chRDNA technologies use the canonical Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 protein or the Acidaminococcus sp. Cas12a protein and a guide that is composed of a mixture of RNA and DNA nucleotides in both the region that interacts with the chromosomal target DNA and in the region that does not interact with the target DNA. The presence of DNA in a chRDNA guide significantly improves editing specificity relative to an all-RNA guide. Like Cas9, Cas12a is a CRISPR protein used to edit genomic DNA site-specifically. See figures 5 and 6 below.
Figure 5. Our next-generation chRDNA guides are hybrid molecules that contain both RNA and DNA nucleotides. They enable significantly improved specificity compared to first-generation all-RNA guides.
Figure 6. We use our novel chRDNA guides with Cas9 or Cas12a in the development of our allogeneic cell therapies.
Our chRDNA Guides: Highly Specific On-Target Genome Editing
Our chRDNA guides mediate higher genome-editing specificity as compared to all-RNA guides. Our chRDNA guides retain sufficiently high affinity to edit a genome at the intended location; however these guides have sufficiently low affinity for potential off-target sites to reduce the likelihood of a genome edit at an unintended location. We evaluated the integrity and performance of chRDNA guides by employing two unique assays, the SITE-Seq assay and the VINE assay, on two genes known from the scientific literature to suffer from high rates of off-target editing with either the Cas9 or Cas12a protein. As seen in figure 3 above, all-RNA guides generated both robust on-target and off-target editing. We developed chRDNA guides that target the exact same genomic locations that achieve equivalent on-target editing compared to the all-RNA guides. However, the chRDNA guides, in contrast to the all-RNA guides, result in minor to no detectable off-target editing. For any single genome edit, the chRDNA platform provides high specificity for use in our product candidates. We have generated chRDNA guides for Cas9 and for Cas12a targeting multiple distinct locations in the human primary T cell genome that lead to high efficiency and high specificity editing. We published an article in Molecular Cell, a peer-reviewed journal, on the mitigation of off-target editing using Cas9 chRDNAs (Donohoue, P.D. et al., Molecular Cell 81, 3637–3649, September 2, 2021). Figure 3 above shows the increased editing specificity with Cas9 and Cas12a chRDNA guides relative to all-RNA guides.
Our chRDNA Guides: Achieve Equivalent, High Gene Knockout Efficiencies Compared to Conventional all-RNA Guides
The inclusion of DNA in our chRDNA guides does not impair their activity, and they achieve knockout efficiencies in human primary T cells with either the Cas9 or Cas12a protein that are equivalent to the knockout efficiencies achieved with all-RNA guides.
Our chRDNA Guides: Cas12a chRDNA-Mediated Editing Drives High Efficiency Gene Insertions
One of the challenges in the genome-editing field is obtaining a high degree of site-specific gene insertion. High efficiency gene knockout is achievable with a variety of genome-editing technologies, but achieving high efficiency gene insertion is more challenging. Either Cas9 or Cas12a can be used to insert a new gene into a genome. We use the combination of the Cas12a protein and our chRDNA guides to generate particularly high and reproducible gene insertion rates. Gene insertion requires delivery of the new gene into the target cells. To insert genes into T cells with our chRDNA technology, we transduce the cells with adeno-associated virus serotype 6 (“AAV6”), which contains the DNA template of interest to facilitate the integration of the DNA into the double-stranded break generated by the Cas9 chRDNA complex or the Cas12a chRDNA complex via the homology-directed repair pathway.
As shown in figure 4 above, during full-scale current good manufacturing processes (“cGMP”) manufacturing of CB-011 carried out by a contract manufacturing organization (“CMO”), we observed that approximately 76-80% gene insertion rates were achieved in human primary T cells edited with Cas12a chRDNAs, a significant rate compared to other genome-editing platforms, resulting in >60% of the T cell population containing all four desired edits. We demonstrated the insertion of a BCMA-specific CAR transgene, or Insert 1, into the TRAC locus by staining the edited T cells for the expression of the CAR following the knockout of the T cell receptor (“TCR”), via a TRAC knockout, and the insertion of
the CAR transgene into the TRAC locus. In the same T cells, we demonstrated the insertion of a B2M–HLA-E fusion gene, or Insert 2, into the B2M locus by staining the edited T cells for the expression of HLA-E following the knockout of all class I antigens via a B2M knockout and the insertion of the B2M–HLA-E fusion gene into the B2M locus.
Immune Cell Therapies
Immune cell therapies have emerged as a revolutionary and potentially curative treatment for multiple kinds of cancers. The regulatory approval and commercialization of multiple first-generation CD19- and BCMA-directed autologous CAR-T cell products have laid the foundation and opened a path for the development of more advanced cell therapeutics, including CAR-T and CAR-NK cell products with next-generation capabilities and approaches. Among these approaches, allogeneic cell therapy is positioned to unlock the broad potential of immune cells as a leading therapeutic modality. Expansion, trafficking, and sufficient antitumor activity of allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cells are critical to achieving long-term efficacy. We believe that the genome-editing technologies currently utilized in the allogeneic cell therapy field have limited specificity, efficiency, and versatility for performing the multiplex editing necessary to address these challenges.
Within the immune system, white blood cells, such as T cells and NK cells, are responsible for defending the body against not only pathogens but also abnormal cells, including cancer cells. Receptors on the surface of T cells enable them to recognize tumor cells and coordinate the activation of other cells in an immune response leading to the destruction of the cancerous cells. However, in many cases, cancer-specific T cells are not present in sufficiently high numbers or do not have the appropriate tumor specificity in a patient to eliminate a tumor.
Autologous immune cell therapies, the most advanced of which use T cells, are a class of therapies in which immune cells are removed from a patient’s body and modified to express a CAR. A CAR is an engineered molecule that, when present on the surface of an immune cell, enables the immune cell to recognize specific proteins, or antigens, that are present on the surface of other cells, including cancer cells. To manufacture autologous CAR-T cell therapies, a cancer patient’s own T cells are modified to express a particular CAR, grown outside the patient’s body to expand their numbers, and then infused back into the same patient to recognize and destroy cancer cells in a targeted manner.
Allogeneic Cell Therapies
Despite the regulatory approvals and commercialization of autologous CAR-T cell therapies, several limitations have prevented autologous therapies from achieving the full potential of CAR-T products:
•Limited patient access. Many patients are not eligible for autologous therapy because of the quality of their T cells or the lengthy vein-to-vein time.
•Bridging therapy often required. Long wait times between the initial collection of the patient’s T cells and the return of the manufactured cells back to the patient may require bridging therapy, an additional line of therapy.
•Manufacturing constraints. At present, there are a limited number of CAR-T cell centers and there are often insufficient manufacturing slots available to meet patient demand for autologous therapies. In addition, autologous cell manufacturing is complex and lengthy, and there can be manufacturing failures. The consequence of a manufacturing failure is that a patient might never receive their treatment.
•High production costs limit scalability. Due to the personalized nature of autologous therapy, only one patient can be treated from each manufacturing run; the supply chain logistics, including manufacturing and delivery, result in high costs with limited ability to scale.
•Variable potency. Often a patient’s T cells may be damaged and weakened due to prior cancer treatments or the biology of their disease, which may lead to manufacturing failures or variable potency of the manufactured CAR-T cells with variability in clinical outcomes of the therapy.
Universal off-the-shelf, or allogeneic, versions of CAR-T or CAR-NK cell therapies derived from healthy donors or stem cells are attractive options for several reasons.
•Off-the-shelf availability. Allogeneic CAR-T cells are manufactured in advance, are stored in inventory, and are available for any eligible patient at any time, which significantly shortens wait times and avoids the need to undergo leukapheresis and to wait for a manufacturing slot, thereby reducing patient burden. In addition, allogeneic cell therapies may offer an opportunity for repeated dosing in patients with significant tumor burden.
•Broad patient access. Allogeneic cell therapies derived from healthy donor cells have the potential to provide therapeutic options for patients who are ineligible for autologous CAR-T cell treatments due to the condition of their T cells or rate of disease progression.
•Bridging therapy not required. Patients receiving autologous cell therapy may require bridging therapy to treat their cancer from the time their T cells are collected until their CAR-T cell therapy is manufactured and administered. Patients receiving allogeneic cell therapy, however, do not have to wait for their CAR-T cell therapy to be manufactured and thus avoid the potential need for bridging therapy.
•More efficient and scalable manufacturing. Allogeneic approaches utilize cells from healthy donors or stem cells, resulting in a streamlined manufacturing process and enhanced scalability relative to autologous cell therapies where each patient requires their own bespoke batch of cell therapy.
•Healthy donor cells engineered with genome-editing strategies enhanced antitumor activity. Allogeneic cell therapies are prone to rapid rejection by a patient’s immune system, thus limiting antitumor activity. Donor-derived or stem cell-derived allogeneic cell therapies can be armored via one or multiple genome-editing strategies with the intent of enhancing antitumor activity.
Key Components of our Strategy
Our mission is to develop innovative, transformative therapies for patients with devastating diseases through our novel chRDNA genome editing. Our overarching goal is to build an integrated company that discovers, develops, manufactures, and commercializes genome-edited therapies that have the potential to treat patients with significant unmet needs. Our initial focus is on allogeneic cell therapies for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors, and our chRDNA technologies offer broad potential applications longer-term.
Key components of our strategy include:
•Applying our chRDNA genome-editing technology to engineer allogeneic cell therapies from our CAR-T and CAR-NK platforms that have the potential for durable antitumor activity. Our chRDNA technologies enable us to design allogeneic cell therapies with the potential to achieve enhanced antitumor activity through the use of tailored armoring strategies, including (i) checkpoint disruption, through a knockout of PD-1 to sustain the initial activity of CAR-T cells by disrupting a pathway that leads to CAR-T cell exhaustion, (ii) immune cloaking of CAR-T cells to reduce rejection by the patient’s immune system, (iii) cytokine support to enhance antitumor activity, and (iv) a combination of these strategies.
•Developing allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies against clinically proven targets for the treatment of hematologic malignancies. We are advancing the clinical development of two product candidates, CB-010 for r/r B-NHL and CB-011 for r/r MM. CB-010 is directed to the CD19 tumor antigen, and CB-011 is directed to the BCMA tumor antigen. These targets have been clinically proven in autologous CAR-T cell therapies that have received regulatory approvals, which reduces target risk as we evaluate the safety, antitumor activity, and duration of response of our two clinical-stage allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies. CB-010 is being evaluated in our ongoing ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial and CB-011 is being evaluated in our recently initiated CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial.
•Developing additional allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies against new targets for the treatment of hematologic malignancies. Immune cell therapies have emerged as an exciting and powerful approach for difficult-to-treat hematologic malignancies in patients with limited treatment options. We are applying our chRDNA platform and insights from our more advanced programs to design allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies against targets,
such as CLL-1, for diseases for which there are no approved autologous CAR-T cell therapies, such as AML. Our CB-012 product candidate is directed to the CLL-1 target and is being evaluated in IND-enabling studies to support a planned IND application submission for r/r AML in the second half of 2023.
•Developing CAR-NK cell therapies for the treatment of solid tumors by leveraging our iPSC-derived NK cell (“iNK”) therapy platform. We believe NK cells are a promising cell type for the treatment of solid tumors and metastases. We have developed robust protocols to edit iPSCs and to differentiate and expand them into NK cells that have antitumor potential. We intend to pursue targeting multiple types of solid tumors for which there is high unmet medical need. Our anti-ROR1 CB-020 product candidate is in preclinical development.
•Reinforcing our leadership in CRISPR genome editing through strategic investments in our platform and new technologies. Our company was founded by leaders in CRISPR biology and the core of our company is based on technologies protected by a robust IP portfolio. We will continue to invest in these areas to maintain our prominence in the field and to develop therapies in which our genome edits confer potential benefits to patients.
•Further expanding patient access to cell therapies via selective strategic collaborations. We executed a strategic license and collaboration agreement with AbbVie in February 2021 to develop two allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies for AbbVie using our Cas12a chRDNA genome-editing and cell therapy technologies. In the future, we plan to seek additional opportunities with select collaborators as appropriate to accelerate our ability to develop therapeutics to address significant unmet medical need.
•Pursuing potential indications both within and outside of oncology, selectively on our own and through strategic collaborations. We believe that our technology has broad potential to generate gene and cell therapies in oncology and in therapeutic areas beyond oncology. Potential applications include immune cell therapies, cell therapies derived from genome-edited iPSCs, and in vivo genome-editing therapies. We aspire to maximize the value of our technologies and capabilities for patient benefit through internal investment and development and through collaborations.
Multiplex Genome-Editing Strategy Using our chRDNA Technologies
Using our chRDNA genome-editing technologies, we have successfully demonstrated multiplex genome editing while maintaining genomic integrity. We believe this level of editing sophistication has the potential to unlock the broad use of allogeneic cell therapies by:
•Increasing the antitumor activity of allogeneic cell therapies, thereby potentially achieving long-term efficacy: Our chRDNA technologies enable us to apply tailored armoring strategies to our allogeneic CAR-T cells, including (i) checkpoint disruption, through the knockout of PD-1 to sustain the initial activity of CAR-T cells by disrupting a pathway that leads to CAR-T cell exhaustion, (ii) immune cloaking of CAR-T cells to reduce rejection by the patient’s immune system, and (iii) a combination of these two strategies. See figure 7 below. Our CB-010 preclinical mouse xenograft data demonstrate that the PD-1 knockout results in a significant survival advantage compared to conventional allogeneic CAR-T cells without a PD-1 knockout.
•Improving the genomic integrity of our products: We have observed that our product candidates have significantly lower levels of off-target edits compared to those made with first-generation CRISPR-Cas9, and we believe we can make multiple edits while maintaining genomic integrity.
•Expanding into solid tumors: We are also focused on developing genome-edited, off-the-shelf CAR-NK cell therapies for the treatment of solid tumors. In our preclinical studies to date, we have observed that our chRDNA technologies can precisely edit iPSCs, and we can generate genome-edited iNKs that are armored to enhance tumor targeting, allogeneic CAR-NK cell survival, and persistence of antitumor activity.
Figure 7. We employ multiple armoring strategies to engineer allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies with the potential for durable antitumor activity.
Engineering Enhanced Antitumor Activity is the Key to Unlocking the Full Potential of Allogeneic Cell Therapies
CAR-T cells will generally proliferate in response to tumor antigen engagement via their respective CAR. However, allogeneic CAR-T cells are rapidly rejected by a patient’s immune system due to their divergent donor-derived genetic profile. We believe engineering CAR-T cells to achieve enhanced antitumor activity is necessary for the realization of the full potential of allogeneic cell therapies. Furthermore, development of an allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy requires genome editing to remove proteins from donor T cells that may recognize and attack a patient’s tissue that, without removal, would pose a risk of graft versus host disease (“GvHD”).
Our Approach: Armoring Cell Therapies for Enhanced Antitumor Activity
We believe that engineering enhanced antitumor activity is the key to unlocking the full potential of allogeneic cell therapies. Our strategies to improve CAR-T cell antitumor activity are three-fold: (i) checkpoint disruption, through a knockout of PD-1 to sustain the antitumor activity of CAR-T cells by disrupting a pathway that leads to CAR-T cell exhaustion, (ii) immune cloaking the CAR-T cells to blunt rapid rejection by the patient’s immune system, and (iii) a combination of these two strategies. Similar approaches may be used for our CAR-NK platform where improved targeting, CAR-NK cell survival, and enhancement of antitumor activity is thought to be key.
Checkpoint Disruption with PD-1 Knockout Strategy
One of the approaches we deploy to increase the antitumor activity of CAR-T cells is to remove PD-1 from the CAR-T cell surface. The PD-1/PD-L1 pathway leads to rapid exhaustion in T cells. This occurs when a T cell expressing PD-1 engages with another cell expressing PD-L1. Tumor cells and the patient’s own cells can express PD-L1, leading to interaction with PD-1 and subsequent exhaustion of the CAR-T cells. We use our chRDNA technology to knock out the PDCDI gene to eliminate PD-1 expression from the CAR-T cell surface, thereby preventing PD-1/PD-L1-mediated exhaustion. We believe that knocking out PD-1 will maintain the CAR-T cells in a higher antitumor state for an extended period of time, and we believe this will result in greater initial tumor debulking in the patient. To our knowledge, our CB-010 product candidate is the first allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy in a clinical study with a PD-1 knockout, and we believe the PD-1 knockout enhances the potential for durable antitumor response of allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy.
Another approach we deploy to increase the persistence of CAR-T cell antitumor activity is to immune cloak our CAR-T cells to reduce rapid immune-mediated rejection. The goal of immune cloaking is to maintain the allogeneic CAR-T cells in circulation for an extended period of time. Allogeneic CAR-T cells are foreign to the patient’s immune system and, unless modified, will be rapidly rejected. We use our Cas12a chRDNA technology to make multiple edits to T cells to immune cloak them and limit the rapid rejection by both the patient’s cytotoxic T cells and NK cells. Our edits remove all endogenous HLA class I antigens from the CAR-T cell surface and lead to the overexpression of HLA-E, a minor HLA antigen, on the CAR-T cell surface. The lack of endogenous HLA class I antigens and the presence of only HLA-E are
designed to prevent the patient’s T cells and NK cells from rapidly rejecting the allogeneic therapy. These cells are unlikely to persist indefinitely, and ultimately other types of immune cells in the patient will eliminate the allogeneic CAR-T cells. Our edits are designed to maintain the CAR-T cells in circulation longer to enhance the antitumor response of the CAR-T cell therapy to destroy a larger proportion of the targeted tumor cells.
Figure 8. We use our novel chRDNA technologies to perform multiple genome edits to introduce armoring strategies intended to enhance antitumor activity and persistence of the cell therapy.
We are advancing a pipeline of allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapies focused on the treatment of hematologic malignancies and solid tumors. Additionally, under the AbbVie collaboration, we are developing two CAR-T cell therapies for AbbVie. Our pipeline is set forth in figure 9 below.
1 Phase 3 may not be required if phase 2 is pivotal
2 Also known as CD371
3 AbbVie has an option to include two additional CAR-T cell programs
Figure 9. We are developing a pipeline of allogeneic immune cell therapies for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors.
Overview: Strategy and Rationale
Our lead product candidate is CB-010, a healthy donor-derived, genome-edited, allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy targeting CD19-positive malignancies, being evaluated in the ongoing first-in-human, open-label, multicenter ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial (NCT04637763) in the United States in adults with r/r B-NHL. CB-010 is designed to prevent rapid CAR-T cell exhaustion and confer a better therapeutic index compared to other allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies. To manufacture CB-010, we make three modifications to healthy donor-derived T cells using our Cas9 chRDNA genome-editing technology:
Figure 10. CB-010 has a CD19-specific CAR and the TCR and PD-1 are knocked out.
1.TRAC knockout: We knock out the TRAC gene in order to eliminate expression of the TCR from the surface of the CAR-T cells. The removal of TCR expression is intended to eliminate the risk of GvHD in patients.
2.Site-specific insertion of the anti-CD19 CAR: We insert the CD19-targeted CAR into the TRAC gene by AAV6 transduction and homology directed repair.
3.PD-1 knockout: We knock out the PDCD1 gene, which encodes for PD-1, a checkpoint receptor, for enhanced antitumor activity, potentially leading to a better therapeutic index.
To our knowledge, CB-010 is the first allogeneic CAR-T therapy in the clinic with a PD-1 knockout. Other CAR-T cell therapies that express endogenous PD-1 could become rapidly exhausted and lose antitumor activity due to the interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1. The PD-1/PD-L1 pathway leads to rapid exhaustion in T cells. This occurs when a T cell expressing PD-1 engages with another cell expressing PD-L1. B cell tumors and the patient’s own cells can express PD-L1, leading to interaction with PD-1 and subsequent exhaustion of the CAR-T cells. We eliminate PD-1 expression from the CB-010 CAR-T cells, thereby preventing PD-1/PD-L1-mediated exhaustion. More than half of B-NHL tumors express PD-L1, and expression of PD-L1 in B-NHL correlates with poorer outcomes. We believe that knocking out PD-1 will maintain the CAR-T cells in a higher antitumor state for an extended period of time, which we believe will result in greater initial tumor debulking in the patient, thereby enabling a potentially better therapeutic index relative to PD-1-expressing CAR-T cells and CAR-T cell-mediated antitumor responses.
We are developing CB-010 for the treatment of r/r B-NHL. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common hematologic malignancy with an estimated 80,470 cases, or 4% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2022 according to the National Cancer Institute SEER database. B-NHL makes up 80 to 85% of those non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases. Approximately 34% of B-NHL cases are considered relapsed or refractory.
B-NHL is a heterogeneous malignancy that is monoclonal in nature and arises in B lymphocytes. The disease can often be traced to specific stages in lymphoid maturation. Most malignant lymphocytes derive from mature B cells or from lymphocytes of germinal center origin. The malignant cells have acquired the ability to proliferate, evade the host immune response, and avoid cellular apoptosis.
Overall, for aggressive r/r B-NHL, newer immunologically-mediated therapies under investigation include checkpoint inhibitors, bispecific antibodies, and CAR-T cells. FDA-approved autologous CD19-specific CAR-T cell therapies have shown significant complete response rates, improved progression-free survival, and extended overall survival. Despite the clinical benefits of these FDA-approved autologous CAR-T cell therapies, they are expensive and challenging to manufacture, and many patients are ineligible, cannot wait the long vein-to-vein time, and may require bridging therapy. Thus, there remains a significant unmet medical need in r/r B-NHL.
ANTLER Phase 1 Clinical Trial for CB-010 in r/r B-NHL
CB-010 is being evaluated in our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial for the treatment of adult patients with aggressive forms of r/r B-NHL. The patient population includes individuals for whom at least two lines of chemo- and/or immunotherapy have failed or refractory patients who have rapidly progressed after their first treatment. Our ANTLER trial currently excludes patients who have previously received CD19-targeted therapy. The eligible patient population in the trial includes the following aggressive B-NHL subtypes: diffuse large B cell lymphoma (“DLBCL”); high grade B cell lymphoma (“HGBL”); transformed follicular lymphoma (“tFL”); primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma (“PMBCL”); follicular lymphoma (“FL”) that is aggressively behaving with progression of disease within 24 months (“POD24”), which is a measure of high risk disease; marginal zone lymphoma (“MZL”); and mantle cell lymphoma (“MCL”).
Patients in our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial receive a lymphodepletion regimen prior to CAR-T cell infusion. The lymphodepletion regimen includes two chemotherapy agents, cyclophosphamide and fludarabine, which are generally used for lymphodepletion prior to autologous CAR-T cell therapy. To ensure optimal engraftment of the allogeneic CB-010 cells, we use a more intensive regimen of these chemotherapeutic agents than has been previously used with allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies, namely cyclophosphamide at 60 mg/kg/day for 2 days, then fludarabine at 25 mg/m2/day for 5 days. The objectives of our ANTLER trial include the assessment of safety, including the incidence of adverse events defined as dose-limiting toxicities (“DLTs”) within 28 days after CB-010 infusion, as well as the overall objective response rate and the identification of the recommended phase 2 dose (“RP2D”), as shown in figure 11 below.
Our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial is being conducted in two parts and we estimate enrolling up to approximately 50 patients across multiple centers in the United States. Part A is a dose escalation following a standard 3 + 3 design, with sequential, increasing single doses of CB-010. Part B is the expansion portion where patients will receive CB-010 at the dose or doses determined in Part A. In 2022, CB-010 was granted RMAT designation for LBCL, Fast Track designation for r/r B-NHL, and Orphan Drug designation for FL.
MTD: maximum tolerated dose; RP2D: recommended phase 2 dose
1 Aggressively behaving, with POD24 (high risk)
2 Clin Cancer Res. 2011 July 1; 17(13): 4550–4557. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-0116
Figure 11. Our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial is designed to evaluate CB-010 in r/r B-NHL patients. The study consists of two parts: Part A is a dose escalation with a 3 + 3 design, with sequential, increasing single doses. Part B is an expansion portion where patients will receive CB-010 at the dose or doses determined in Part A. During dose escalation, our ANTLER trial also permits additional backfill patients to be treated concurrently at dose levels that have been deemed safe and well tolerated.
ANTLER Phase 1 Trial Clinical Data for CB-010 at Dose Level 1
The first clinical data from CB-010 at dose level 1 (40x106 CAR-T cells) were presented in a poster at the European Hematology Association (“EHA”) Congress in June 2022. Six patients who received a single infusion of CB-010 at dose level 1 were followed for safety and response, with efficacy based on Lugano criteria and measured by investigator
assessment and central read. The most recent data cutoff was as of November 30, 2022, and the following initial responses were observed at dose level 1:
•Six of six patients achieved a complete response (CR) as best response
•Three of six patients maintained a CR at six months
•Two of six patients maintain a CR at 12 months and remain on the trial
•18 months is the longest CR maintained to date in ANTLER, as achieved by one patient
CR: complete response; FL: follicular lymphoma; MCL: mantle cell lymphoma; DLBCL: diffuse large B cell lymphoma; PMBCL: primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma
1 Aggressively behaving, with POD24 (high risk)
2 Patient 5’s three-month scan conducted on day 63 post CB-010 as per investigator’s discretion
Figure 12. Results from our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial showed that six patients at dose level 1 (40x106 CAR-T cells) achieved a complete response as best response, with three patients maintaining a CR at six months and two patients maintaining a CR at 12 months. (ANTLER trial cohort 1 clinical data as of November 30, 2022, data collection ongoing, efficacy based on Lugano criteria.)
Safety results from patients at dose level 1 showed CB-010 was generally well-tolerated with adverse events (“AEs”) as expected for anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapies. There were no cases of GvHD. Grade 3 or 4 treatment emergent adverse events (“TEAEs”) developed in five of six patients. See details in figure 13 below. Two patients experienced Grade 1 CRS (33%) and one patient experienced Grade 3 ICANS (17%), which was characterized as a DLT, for which the patient
received tocilizumab and steroids and recovered within 39 hours. This patient went on to achieve a complete response to CB-010 treatment.
1 TEAE in at least 2 patients of any grade or TEAE in at least 1 patient of Grade ≥ 3 are included
2 Related TEAEs include TEAEs with relationship to CB-010 of “probably related” or “related” as evaluated by investigator
Source: Data presented at European Hematology Association (EHA) Congress, June 10, 2022. Data as of May 13, 2022 data cutoff date
Figure 13. Results from our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial show CB-010 was generally well-tolerated with such adverse events as are expected for anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapies.
Based on promising initial safety and efficacy data at dose level 1, we began enrolling patients at dose level 2 (80x106 CAR-T cells). The data at dose level 2 demonstrated an encouraging safety profile for CB-010 with no DLTs in the three patients treated, enabling enrollment of patients at dose level 3 (120x106 CAR-T cells). We continue to enroll patients at dose level 3 and plan to provide an update from our ongoing ANTLER trial in the second half of 2023.
Overview: Strategy and Rationale
CB-011 is a healthy donor-derived, genome-edited, allogeneic CAR-T cell therapy targeting BCMA-positive malignancies that is being evaluated in the ongoing first-in-human, open-label, multicenter CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial (NCT05722418) in the United States in adults with r/r MM. The CB-011 cells express a potent, humanized anti-BCMA CAR that exhibits better performance in preclinical in vivo antitumor activity assays compared to other anti-BCMA
CARs we evaluated. We acquired a novel humanized scFv directed to BCMA that we use for the generation of the BCMA-specific CAR in CB-011.
We believe that the edits we make to immune cloak the product will maintain the CB-011 cells in the patient’s circulation longer. We make four genome edits using the Cas12a chRDNA technology to manufacture CB-011 as shown in figure 14 below.
Figure 14. CB-011 has a BCMA-specific CAR insertion, a knockout of the TCR, an insertion of a B2M–HLA-E fusion protein, and a knockout of B2M.
1.TRAC knockout: We knock out the TRAC gene to eliminate expression of the TCR from the surface of the CAR-T cells. The removal of TCR expression is intended to prevent GvHD in patients.
2.Site-specific insertion of the humanized anti-BCMA CAR: We insert the BCMA-targeted CAR into the TRAC gene by AAV6 transduction and homology directed repair.
3.Site-specific insertion of a B2M–HLA-E fusion protein: We site-specifically insert a transgene that fuses B2M, HLA-E, and a peptide by AAV6 transduction and homology directed repair. HLA-E is a minor class I antigen that interacts with NK cells. This insertion, combined with the B2M gene knockout, yields a cell product that has only HLA-E, and no other class I antigens, on its surface. The presence of only HLA-E is designed to prevent both the patient’s T cells and NK cells from rapidly rejecting the therapy.
4.B2M knockout: We knock out the B2M gene, which encodes for a protein necessary for the presentation of HLA class I molecules on the surface of a T cell. The disruption of the B2M locus yields a cell product that does not express endogenous HLA class I molecules, limiting the ability of the patient’s T cells to detect and reject the CAR-T cell therapy.
Figure 15. Our CB-011 immune cloaking strategy is intended to reduce both T cell- and NK cell-mediated rejection.
Unmodified CAR-T cells, those that have intact HLA class I antigens, are subject to rejection by the patient’s cytotoxic T cells once the T cells recognize the allogeneic CAR-T cells as foreign. This is mediated by the presentation of peptides by the CAR-T cells via their HLA class I antigens to the patient’s immune system that will recognize them as foreign since the CAR-T cells are derived from a non-familial healthy donor. If we only knock out the B2M gene, thereby eliminating all HLA class I antigens, the cytotoxic T cells of the patient would no longer recognize the CAR-T cells as foreign. However, the NK cells of the patient would detect the lack of HLA class I antigens, a concept known as “missing self,” which would unleash the activity of the NK cells, enabling them to destroy the allogeneic CAR-T cells. We engineer the CB-011 CAR-T cells with the intent to protect them from rejection by both the patient’s cytotoxic T cells and NK cells by removing endogenous HLA class I antigen presentation through the knockout of the B2M gene and by inserting a B2M–HLA-E fusion transgene into the B2M locus. We believe that this strategy will enable the CB-011 CAR-T cells to remain in circulation longer in patients to potentially provide durable antitumor activity.
We are developing CB-011 for the treatment of r/r MM. In 2022, 18% of hematologic malignancies in the United States and 1.8% of all cancers were MM. The median age of diagnosis is 69 years, and there were an estimated 34,470 new cases in 2022 in the United States with an estimated 12,640 deaths in 2022. Five-year survival in these patients is approximately 58%.
There has been significant interest in and activity against BCMA as a target over the past few years with the approval of two new autologous CAR-T cell therapy products and a bispecific antibody targeting BCMA. FDA-approved autologous BCMA CAR-T cell therapies have shown significant complete response rates, improved progression-free survival, and extended overall survival. Despite the clinical benefits of these approved autologous CAR-T cell therapies, they are expensive and challenging to manufacture, and many patients are ineligible.
Additionally, many treatments for MM are multidrug regimens comprising varying routes of administration and/or convoluted dosing schedules; these regimens can be complex and burdensome for both patients and physicians. The need for simplified dosing schedules remains. Thus, although we expect that approvals of additional therapies may serve to partially mitigate the need for more treatment options in r/r MM, therapies that prolong the lives of r/r MM patients or delay disease progression, address simpler manufacturing, and streamline dosing schedules are critical to address the unmet medical need in r/r MM.
CaMMouflage Phase 1 Clinical Trial for CB-011 in r/r MM
We are evaluating CB-011 in our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial in adult patients with r/r MM. These patients have a documented diagnosis of active MM according to International Myeloma Working Group diagnostic criteria. The patient population includes individuals for whom three or more lines of therapy, including a proteosome inhibitor, an immunomodulatory drug, and an anti-CD38 antibody, have failed. Patients who have received prior CAR-T cell therapy and/or a BCMA-targeted therapy within the last three months are excluded from the trial.
Patients in our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial receive a chemotherapy regimen prior to CAR-T cell infusion. The chemotherapy regimen includes two agents, cyclophosphamide (300 mg/m2/day) and fludarabine (30 mg/m2/day) for three days, which are generally used for lymphodepletion prior to autologous CAR-T cell therapy. CB-011 is infused two days after completion of lymphodepletion (on Day 0). The objectives of the trial include the assessment of safety, including the incidence of adverse events defined as dose-limiting toxicities after CB-011 infusion, as well as the overall objective response rate and the identification of the maximum tolerated dose and recommended phase 2 dose (“RP2D”), as shown in figure 16 below. We are currently recruiting patients at dose level 1 (50x106 CAR-T cells).
Our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial is being conducted in two parts across multiple centers in the United States. Part A is a dose escalation following a standard 3 + 3 design, with sequential, increasing single doses of CB-011. Part B is the expansion portion where patients will receive CB-011 at the dose determined in Part A. The trial design also optionally permits the dosing of backfill patients at earlier dose levels.
IMiD: immunomodulatory drug; mAb: monoclonal antibody; MTD: maximum tolerated dose; PI: proteasome inhibitor; RP2D: recommended Phase 2 dose
Figure 16. Our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial is designed to evaluate CB-011 in r/r MM patients. The study consists of two parts: Part A is a dose escalation with a 3 + 3 design, with sequential, increasing single doses. Part B is an expansion portion where patients will receive CB-011 at the RP2D, determined in Part A. The study also permits backfill patients at dose levels that were previously deemed safe.
To demonstrate that the B2M–HLA-E fusion protein protects CB-011 from NK-mediated cell killing, we established an in vitro study where NK cells were incubated with three different kinds of CAR-T cells: CAR-T cells unmodified for HLA class I presentation, CAR-T cells lacking B2M, and CB-011 CAR-T cells lacking B2M and expressing the B2M–HLA-E fusion protein. The results of this analysis are shown in the left panel of figure 17 below. The unmodified CAR-T cells were subject to killing, or lysis, by the NK cells. The knockout of B2M led to enhanced killing by the NK cells, demonstrating the “missing self” hypothesis. Insertion of the B2M–HLA-E fusion transgene in the CB-011 cells protected them from NK cells more than the unmodified cells, indicating they could resist killing by NK cells, thereby suggesting the potential for longer circulation in patients. We additionally established an in vitro study where CB-011 CAR-T cells and unmodified CAR-T cells where co-incubated in vitro with peripheral blood mononuclear cell (“PBMC”)-derived CD8+ T cells as described in the right panel in figure 17 below. The CB-011 CAR-T cells were more resistant to PBMC-derived CD8+ T cell-mediated lysis than unmodified CAR-T cells.
Figure 17. Our CB-011 in vitro data demonstrate that expression of the B2M–HLA-E fusion protein reduces NK cell-mediated lysis (left) and B2M knockout reduces T cell-mediated lysis (right).
We acquired a novel humanized scFv directed to BCMA that we use for the generation of the CB-011 CAR. This scFv was selected based on long-term survival demonstrated in the literature and in our preclinical studies. We constructed CARs using this and other anti-BCMA scFvs, and we evaluated the antitumor potential of CAR-T cells expressing these different CARs in mice bearing BCMA-positive tumors. In the left panel of figure 18 below, we show an example of mouse xenograft data comparing CB-011 cells with CAR-T cells expressing an alternative BCMA CAR previously described in the literature and evaluated in multiple clinical trials. CB-011 cells led to statistically significantly longer survival of the tumor-bearing mice compared to an alternative anti-BCMA CAR-T cell or vehicle. In the right panel of figure 18, below we also show an example of a mouse orthotopic MM tumor xenograft study demonstrating that a single dose of CB-011 led to statistically significant longer survival of tumor-bearing mice compared to a negative control (vehicle).
Figure 18. CB-011 led to statistically significant longer survival of tumor-bearing mice relative to alternative anti-BCMA CAR-T cells. The left panel represents established subcutaneous MM tumor xenograft after a single dose CAR-T cell treatment. Right panel represents established orthotopic MM tumor xenograft after a single dose CAR-T cell treatment.
Overview: Strategy and Rationale
CB-012 is our allogeneic CAR-T cell product candidate that targets CLL-1, a receptor expressed on AML tumor cells. We make multiple edits to this product candidate using our Cas12a chRDNA technology to enhance its antitumor activity. We believe CLL-1 is a compelling target for the treatment of AML as it is expressed on >90% of AML tumors and
leukemic stem cells, but not expressed on HSCs. The absence of expression on HSCs indicates that these bone marrow cells will not be targeted by the CLL-1-directed CB-012 CAR-T cells, thereby preventing a patient from loss of a critical compartment of their immune system vital to generating immune cells required for fighting infections and cancer. As such, patients receiving CB-012 treatment would not require an HSC transplant to provide them with myeloid compartment cells for sustained immunity.
We have exclusively in-licensed from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (“MSKCC”) in the field of allogeneic CLL-1-targeted cell therapy a panel of fully human scFvs targeting CLL-1, from which we have selected an appropriate scFv for the generation of our CAR. As described above for CB-010 and CB-011, an important aspect of CB-012 is appropriately armoring the CAR-T cells using our Cas12a chRDNA technology to improve the persistence of antitumor activity.
We edit CB-012 with two armoring strategies, checkpoint disruption (used in CB-010) and immune cloaking (used in CB-011), by implementing five genome edits using our Cas12a chRDNA technology.
Figure 19. CB-012 has both checkpoint disruption and immune cloaking armoring strategies.
1.TRAC knockout: We knock out the TRAC gene to eliminate expression of the TCR from the surface of the CAR-T cells. The removal of TCR expression is intended to prevent GvHD in patients.
2.Human anti-CLL-1 CAR site-specifically inserted into the TRAC gene: We insert the CLL-1-targeted CAR into the TRAC gene by AAV6 transduction and homology directed repair. The insertion of the CAR yields a cell product that exhibits CLL-1-specific cytotoxicity and eliminates random integration of the CAR transgene achieved via other engineering approaches.
3.PD-1 knockout: We knock out the PDCD1 gene, which encodes for PD-1, a checkpoint receptor, for enhanced antitumor activity, potentially leading to a better therapeutic index.
4.B2M–HLA-E-peptide fusion transgene site-specifically inserted into the B2M gene: We site-specifically insert a transgene that fuses B2M, HLA-E, and a peptide by AAV6 transduction and homology directed repair. HLA-E is a minor class I antigen that interacts with NK cells. This insertion, combined with the B2M knockout, yields a cell product that has only HLA-E, and no other class I antigens, on its surface. The presence of only HLA-E is designed to blunt NK cell-mediated rejection.
5.B2M gene knockout: We knock out the B2M gene to reduce HLA class I presentation and T cell-medicated rejection.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow currently treated with chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapies, and/or HSC transplant. There were an estimated 20,050 new cases of AML in the United States in 2022. Five-year survival in these patients is <30%.
Intensive induction chemotherapy, known as 7 + 3, consisting of cytarabine and an anthracycline is the most effective therapy for adults newly diagnosed with AML, although the treatment has significant associated toxicities. Thus, there remains significant unmet need in the treatment of AML.
Clinical Development Plan
We are evaluating CB-012 in IND-enabling preclinical studies. We expect to submit an IND application for CB-012 in the second half of 2023. Upon clearance of the IND application by the FDA, we plan to evaluate this therapy in patients with r/r AML in a phase 1 clinical trial.
We evaluated CB-012 in preclinical animal models, which demonstrated CB-012 significantly reduced tumor burden and increased overall survival. As shown in figure 20 below, in an AML xenograft model, a single dose of CB-012 significantly reduced an orthotopically-established tumor burden over a long duration compared to vehicle, or negative control, treatment.
Figure 20. We conducted orthotopic engraftment of a HL-60 CLL-1 expressing AML model in NOD SCID gamma (“NSG”) mice. Results showed that a single dose of CB-012 significantly reduced tumor burden over a long duration compared to vehicle treatment in this AML xenograft model.
In a second model, we evaluated CLL-1-specific CB-012 CAR-T cells compared to equivalent CAR-T cells that lacked the PD-1 KO in a xenograft model of CLL-1+ PD-L1+ tumor cells to evaluate the impact of the PD-1 knockout in CB-012. As shown in figure 21 below, the CLL-1-specific CB-012 CAR-T cells statistically significantly increased overall
survival in the tumor-bearing mice compared to mice that received either control CAR-T cells expressing PD-1 or the vehicle control. The genome edits we use to armor CB-012 may enhance persistence and yield greater antitumor activity.
Figure 21. We conducted orthotopic engraftment of a U937 CLL-1 and PD-L1-expressing cell line in NSG mice. Results demonstrated that the PD-1 knockout strategy in CB-012 increased overall survival compared to control CAR-T cells without the PD-1 knockout.
Overview: Strategy and Rationale
Our CB-020 program is a CAR-NK cell product candidate derived from edited iPSCs designed to target ROR1, an antigen expressed on multiple solid tumors and associated metastases. Despite their clinical success against hematologic malignancies, CAR-T cells have not yet demonstrated broad, robust antitumor activity in the solid tumor setting. NK cells are a compelling platform for cell therapy development for targeting multiple different solid tumors. NK cells are allogeneic and innately target solid tumors and metastases. We believe edited iPSC-derived CAR-NK cell therapies are a compelling platform for solid tumor-targeting cell therapy development.
We have developed robust differentiation and expansion protocols to derive NKs from iPSCs. These protocols enable us to perform multiple, sophisticated genome edits to iPSCs and differentiate them into iNKs. See figure 22 below. The iNK cells will include the edits that we believe will be necessary to successfully target the intended solid tumor and overcome the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.
There are multiple advantages of using iPSCs. They are amenable to higher numbers of genome-editing events than most primary cells. A solitary clone isolated after genome editing will have all the intended edits. This is distinct from the allogeneic CAR-T cell products derived from healthy donor leukapheresis, where a proportion, but not all, of the T cells in a batch contain all the intended edits. This fully edited iPSC will then be differentiated into iNK cells and expanded for therapeutic use. This platform will enable us to generate sophisticated, armored iNK cell product candidates with attributes necessary for targeting solid tumors.
An outline of the multi-step iPSC to iNK platform we developed to generate CB-020, and potential future product candidates, is shown in figure 22 below.
Figure 22. We have developed protocols to edit iPSCs and then differentiate them into CAR-NK cells.
We have selected ROR1 as the target for our CB-020 product candidate, our first off-the-shelf iPSC-derived CAR-NK cell therapy. ROR1 may be a promising target for several solid tumor indications. ROR1 is a cell signaling receptor that is overexpressed on the surface of several solid tumor types and has been shown to drive tumor cell growth, survival, and metastasis. We have shown that a single dose of iPSC-derived anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells, administered in a tumor xenograft model, significantly reduced tumor burden compared to iPSC-derived NK cells without an anti-ROR1 CAR.
Preclinical data demonstrate that anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells exhibited increased tumor cell killing in both in vitro and in vivo models. In figure 23 below, we demonstrated the in vitro cytotoxicity of anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells. In this study, iPSC-derived anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells demonstrated enhanced cell killing compared to iPSC-derived NK cells without a CAR.
Figure 23. iPSC-derived anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells demonstrated enhanced cell killing compared to iPSC-derived NK cells without a CAR in an in vitro assay.
In figure 24 below, we demonstrated the in vivo antitumor activity of anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells. In this study, a single dose of iPSC-derived anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells led to statistically significant reduced tumor burden in a solid tumor xenograft model in mice compared to iPSC-derived NK cells without a CAR. The observation that some antitumor activity occurred with iPSC-derived NK cells without a CAR suggests that an iNK cell product with the ROR1 CAR will target both ROR1+ and ROR1- tumor cells that may exist in solid tumors.
Figure 24. iPSC-derived anti-ROR1 CAR-NK cells led to a reduction of tumor burden in a solid tumor xenograft model in mice compared to iPSC-derived NK cells without a CAR.
CAR-NK Platform Armoring Strategies
We are developing multiple armoring strategies for our CAR-NK platform. In figure 25 below, we show that these strategies lead to enhanced antitumor activity and persistence, as well as immune cloaking of the cells, in in vitro and/or in vivo experiments, as presented at the 2022 American Association for Cancer Research and Japanese Cancer Association (AACR-JCA) Conference. We demonstrated that iNK cells with a CBLB knockout exhibit significant enhancement in antitumor activity compared to wild -type (“WT”) iNK cells in a solid tumor model, as shown in figure 25 below, left panel. We demonstrated that membrane-bound IL-15/IL-15RA fusion (mbIL-15) engineered iNK cells demonstrate enhanced cytotoxicity against a solid tumor cell line (middle panel). We also demonstrated that knockout of the B2M gene and insertion of the B2M–HLA-E fusion protein reduced both CD8+ T cell-mediated killing and NK cell self-killing (fratricide), as shown in figure 25 below, right panel.
Figure 25. We are developing multiple armoring strategies for our CAR-NK cell platform.
We recognize the broad opportunity presented by our genome-editing technologies to benefit patients, and we appreciate that we do not have sufficient resources to fully exploit this potential across multiple indications and applications. As part of our strategy to maximize the value and benefit of our technologies, we have entered into a strategic collaboration with AbbVie and intend to explore mutually beneficial strategic collaborations with other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies in the future. Additionally, we have in-licensed or taken assignment of key technologies important for the development of our product candidates.
AbbVie Manufacturing Management Unlimited Company
On February 9, 2021, we entered into the AbbVie Agreement. Pursuant to the AbbVie Agreement, AbbVie selects one target or, for a dual CAR-T product candidate, two targets (each, a “Program Slot”) to develop collaboration CAR-T product candidates (and corresponding licensed products). For each of AbbVie’s two Program Slots (or up to four Program Slots, if AbbVie elects to expand the number as discussed below), we are collaborating to develop one or more collaboration allogeneic CAR-T products directed toward the single cancer target or target combination chosen by AbbVie and as described in an applicable research plan and budget, utilizing our Cas12a chRDNA genome-editing and CAR-T cell therapy technologies. We granted AbbVie an exclusive, royalty-bearing, worldwide license, with the right to grant sublicenses, under our Cas12a chRDNA and cell therapy intellectual property, as well as certain genome-editing technology that we may acquire in the future, and intellectual property that may be developed under the collaboration, solely for AbbVie to develop, commercialize, manufacture, and otherwise exploit the collaboration CAR-T product candidates in the field of human diagnostics, prophylactics, and therapeutics. Under the terms of the AbbVie Agreement, we conduct certain preclinical research, development, and manufacturing activities under the collaboration, including certain activities for the manufacture and supply of licensed product for AbbVie’s phase 1 clinical trials. AbbVie reimburses us for our activities under the collaboration, including reimbursement for time spent by employees at a designated FTE rate. The parties have agreed to a 2023 budget to advance the two Program Slots and have also agreed that all CMO manufacturing activities be performed no earlier than 2024. The duration of the collaboration is not fixed. We have formed a joint governance committee (“JGC”) to manage the collaboration.
We received $30.0 million in an upfront cash payment and $10.0 million in an equity investment from AbbVie. During the collaboration, AbbVie may expand from two Program Slots to a total of four Program Slots by paying us an additional $15.0 million for each Program Slot, provided that AbbVie must make the payment within the earlier of (i) 60 calendar days following completion of the phase 1 clinical studies for the initial collaboration CAR-T and (ii) December 31, 2025. Under the terms of the AbbVie Agreement, we are eligible to receive up to $150.0 million in future developmental, regulatory, and commercialization milestones for each Program Slot and up to $200.0 million in sales-based milestones for each Program Slot. We are also eligible to receive global royalties on incremental net sales of licensed products sold by AbbVie, its affiliates, and sublicensees in the high-single-digit to low-teens percent range, subject, in certain instances, to various reductions.
AbbVie has selected targets for the two Program Slots and has reserved two additional targets, which may be substituted into the two Program Slots or used for the third or fourth Program Slots if AbbVie expands the number of Program Slots during the collaboration. We have identified four unavailable targets that AbbVie cannot pursue as long as
we meet certain criteria. Additionally, except for AbbVie’s reserved targets and our unavailable targets, if AbbVie wishes to propose a different target, there is a gatekeeper mechanism whereby such target may or may not be available to AbbVie.
The term of the AbbVie Agreement will continue in force and effect until the date of expiration of the last royalty term of the last country in which a licensed product is exploited. On a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis, the royalty term is the period of time beginning on the first commercial sale of a licensed product in a country and ending on the latest of the following three dates: (i) the expiration, invalidation, revocation, cancellation, or abandonment date of the last Caribou patent that includes a valid claim that claims either (A) the collaboration CAR-T product in the licensed product, or (B) the method of making the collaboration CAR-T product in such licensed product in such country (in the case of (B), only for so long as no biosimilar product is commercially available in such country); (ii) 10 years from the first commercial sale of such licensed product in such country; and (iii) the expiration date of regulatory exclusivity for such licensed product in such country. The AbbVie Agreement may be terminated during the term by either party for an uncured material breach or bankruptcy. Additionally, AbbVie may terminate the AbbVie Agreement, in its entirety or on a licensed product-by-licensed product basis, effective immediately upon written notice to us, if AbbVie in good faith believes that it is not advisable for AbbVie to continue to exploit the collaboration on CAR-T products or licensed products as a result of a perceived serious safety issue. AbbVie may also terminate the AbbVie Agreement in its entirety, for any or no reason, upon 90 calendar days’ prior written notice to us.
AbbVie does not have any rights to our CB-010, CB-011, CB-012, or CB-020 product candidates or any other product candidates that we may develop alone or with a third party in the future.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
On November 13, 2020, we entered into an Exclusive License Agreement with MSKCC (the “MSKCC Agreement”), under which we exclusively licensed from MSKCC know-how, biological materials, and related patent families to fully human scFvs targeting CLL-1 (also known as CD371) for use in T cells, NK cells, and genome-edited iPSCs for allogeneic CLL-1-targeted cell therapy. We use one of the licensed scFvs in our CB-012 product candidate. We paid an upfront payment of cash and shares of our common stock and will owe annual license maintenance fees until we have commercial sales. For each licensed CLL-1 product, we will owe potential clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments totaling up to $112.0 million and, if we, or our affiliates or sublicensees, receive regulatory approval for a licensed CLL-1 product, we will owe low- to mid-single-digit percent royalties on net sales by us, our affiliates, and our sublicensees. Our license includes the right to sublicense through multiple tiers and we will owe MSKCC a percentage of upfront cash or equity received from our sublicensees. The sublicensing percentage owed decreases as our licensed CLL-1 product candidates move through development, starting at a low-double-digit percentage if clinical trials have not yet begun and decreasing to a mid-single-digit percentage if the licensed CLL-1 product candidate is in later clinical trial stages. We are also responsible for a percentage of the licensed patent costs. The MSKCC Agreement includes certain diligence milestones that we must meet; provided, however, that these may be extended upon payment of additional fees.
MSKCC is entitled to certain success payments if our stock value increases by certain multiples. The potential payments are based on multiples of the fair market value of our common stock compared with a split-adjusted initial share price of $5.1914 per share, as subject to future adjustments for stock splits, during a specified time period described below. Our common stock price will be determined by reference to the 45-day volume weighted-average trading price of our common stock. At our option, payments may be made in cash or common stock. The relevant time period commences when the first patient is dosed with our first CLL-1 product candidate in the first phase 1 clinical trial and ends upon the earlier of the third anniversary of approval of our biologics license application (“BLA”) by the FDA or 10 years from the date the first patient was dosed with our first CLL-1 product candidate in the first phase 1 clinical trial. Under the terms of the MSKCC Agreement, the aggregate success payments will not exceed $35.0 million. Additionally, if we undergo a change of control during the relevant time period, a change of control payment may be owed, depending upon the increase in our stock price due to the change of control and also to what extent success payments have already been paid. In no event will the combination of success payments and any change of control payment exceed $35.0 million. The relevant time period during which MSKCC is eligible for success payments and a change of control payment has not yet commenced.
We may terminate the MSKCC Agreement upon 90 calendar days’ prior written notice to MSKCC. MSKCC may terminate the agreement in the event of our uncured material breach, bankruptcy, or criminal activity. If MSKCC materially breaches the MSKCC Agreement in certain circumstances (for example, granting a third party a license in our field), then during the time of such uncured material breach, MSKCC will not be entitled to receive any success payments or any change of control payment.
ProMab Biotechnologies, Inc. (“ProMab”)
On January 31, 2020, we entered into a Sale and Assignment Agreement with ProMab (as amended, the “ProMab Agreement”) under which we purchased a humanized scFv targeting BCMA and a patent family related thereto for an upfront cash payment of $0.4 million and the potential payments of future royalties to ProMab. To date, five U.S. patents have granted (U.S. Patent Nos. 10,927,182; 11,021,542; 11,142,583; 11, 299,549; and 11,472,884) in this patent family. Our anti-BCMA CB-011 product candidate contains this BCMA scFv. Under the terms of the ProMab Agreement, in the event we, or our affiliates or licensees, receive regulatory approval for CB-011, we will owe ProMab low-single-digit percent royalties on net sales by us, our affiliates, and licensees until the expiration, abandonment, or invalidation of the last patent within the assigned patent family (i.e., 2040 for U.S. patents, without patent term adjustment (“PTA”) or patent term extension (“PTE”)). Such royalties may be reduced by no more than 50% if we must pay royalties to a third party for other intellectual property covering our product. Either party may terminate the ProMab Agreement in the event of an uncured material breach or bankruptcy of the other party. If ProMab terminates the ProMab Agreement due to our uncured material breach or bankruptcy, we must cease the manufacture, use, and sale of any products or product candidates incorporating the purchased anti-BCMA scFv.
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (“Pioneer,” now Corteva Agriscience)
On July 13, 2015, we entered into an Amended and Restated Collaboration and License Agreement (as amended, the “Pioneer Agreement”) with Pioneer (then a DuPont company) that superseded and replaced a prior Collaboration and License Agreement entered into on September 10, 2014. Under the terms of the Pioneer Agreement, we and Pioneer cross-licensed background CRISPR intellectual property portfolios. Pioneer granted us an exclusive worldwide license, with the right to sublicense, to its background CRISPR intellectual property in the field of research tools, and a non-exclusive license, with the right to sublicense, for CRISPR in therapeutics and all fields outside of the Pioneer field, including in the field of human and animal therapeutics. We granted Pioneer an exclusive license, with the right to sublicense, to our background CRISPR intellectual property, including the CVC IP discussed below, in certain agricultural crops, specified microorganisms, a defined industrial bio field, and certain nutrition and health applications (the “Pioneer Exclusive Field”), and a non-exclusive license, with the right to sublicense, to Pioneer for CRISPR in certain defined fields outside of research reagents. The Pioneer Agreement continues until the expiration, abandonment, or invalidation of the last patent or patent application within the licensed intellectual property; provided, however, that the parties may terminate the Pioneer Agreement by mutual consent or either party may unilaterally terminate the Pioneer Agreement if there is an uncured breach of a payment obligation, bankruptcy, or failure to maintain or own licensed intellectual property by the other party if the non-breaching party is materially adversely affected by such failure. Under the terms of the Pioneer Agreement, we are obligated to pay low-single-digit percent royalties to Pioneer for our research tool products as well as certain sublicensing revenue in that field. We are eligible to receive milestone payments from Pioneer in the event certain regulatory and commercial milestones are met, for a total of up to $22.4 million, related to specified row crops and we are also eligible to receive low-single-digit percent royalties for defined agricultural products and certain sublicensing revenue in that field.
The chRDNA patent family was developed under a three-year research collaboration between us and Pioneer, which ended December 31, 2016. Initially, this patent family was owned by Pioneer under the terms of the Pioneer Agreement, and we and Pioneer split the costs of patent prosecution and maintenance equally. Pioneer granted us an exclusive license to the chRDNA patent family in the fields of human and animal therapeutics and research tools as well as a non-exclusive license in certain other fields outside of the Pioneer Exclusive Field. Through an amendment to the Pioneer Agreement, dated December 18, 2020, Pioneer assigned the chRDNA patent family to us. Pioneer retained all of its existing rights (including its sublicensing rights) to the chRDNA patent family despite the change in ownership. As consideration for the assignment, we made an upfront payment of $0.5 million and are obligated to pay all patent prosecution and maintenance costs going forward; up to $2.8 million in regulatory milestones for therapeutic products developed by us, our affiliates, and licensees; up to $20.0 million in sales milestones over a total of four therapeutics products sold by us, our affiliates, and licensees; and a percentage of sublicensing revenues received by us for licensing the chRDNA patent family. The sublicensing agreements that we entered into prior to December 18, 2020 (for example, the Intellia Agreement discussed below) are not subject to these economics; however, this amendment is applicable to the AbbVie Agreement.
Intellia Therapeutics, Inc. (“Intellia”)
On July 16, 2014, we entered into a License Agreement (as amended, the “Intellia Agreement”) with Intellia, LLC (now Intellia Therapeutics, Inc.), under which we granted Intellia an exclusive worldwide license, with the right to sublicense, to certain CRISPR-Cas9 technology for a defined field of human therapeutics in exchange for Intellia stock.
The Intellia Agreement included a license to certain of our future CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property until such time as our direct or indirect ownership percentage in Intellia dropped below 10%, called the IP cut-off date, which occurred on January 30, 2018. Intellia granted us an exclusive worldwide license, with the right to sublicense, to its CRISPR-Cas9 technology for all fields outside of the defined field of human therapeutics, including a license to certain of Intellia’s future CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property until the IP cut-off date. Each party had the right to opt in to any licenses in its field of use entered into by the other party prior to the IP cut-off date, subject to the terms and conditions of such license, and Intellia opted into our Pioneer Agreement and thus has a license to the Pioneer background CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property. Under the Intellia Agreement, each party is responsible for 30% of the other party’s expenses for prosecution and maintenance of the licensed intellectual property, including 30% reimbursement of the patent prosecution and maintenance costs that we pay to UC/Vienna as described below. The milestones and royalties set forth in the Intellia Agreement are those in the UC/Vienna Agreement and so we pass through any payments received from Intellia to UC/Vienna. The Intellia Agreement continues for the life of the licensed patents and patent applications; provided, however that either party may terminate upon the occurrence of certain events.
In 2018, Intellia initiated an arbitration proceeding over whether two patent families relating, respectively, to CRISPR-Cas9 chRDNA guides and Cas9 scaffolds, were included in the Intellia Agreement. An interim award from the arbitration panel in 2019 determined that both patent families are included in the Intellia Agreement, but the panel granted us an exclusive leaseback to Cas9 chRDNA guides under economic terms to be negotiated by the parties. On June 16, 2021, we entered into a leaseback agreement with Intellia (the “Leaseback Agreement”), which resolved the arbitration proceeding. Pursuant to the Leaseback Agreement, in exchange for Intellia’s grant to us of an exclusive license to certain intellectual property relating to CRISPR-Cas9, including Cas9 chRDNAs, for use solely in the manufacture of our CB-010 product candidate, we paid Intellia an upfront cash payment of $1.0 million and will pay up to $23.0 million in potential future regulatory and sales milestones. Additionally, we will owe Intellia low- to mid- single-digit percent royalties on net sales of our CB-010 product candidate by us, our affiliates, and sublicensees until the expiration, abandonment, or invalidation of the last patent within the intellectual property relating to CRISPR-Cas9, including that relating to Cas9 chRDNAs (i.e., 2036, without PTA or PTE).
The Regents of the University of California (“UC”) and the University of Vienna (“Vienna”)
On April 16, 2013, we entered into an Exclusive License for Methods and Compositions for RNA-Directed Target DNA Modification and for RNA-Directed Modulation of Transcription with UC and Vienna (as amended, the “UC/Vienna Agreement”), under which we received an exclusive worldwide license, with the right to sublicense, in all fields to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 patent family co-owned by UC, Vienna, and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (the “CVC IP”). Dr. Charpentier has not granted us any rights to the CVC IP, either directly or indirectly. The UC/Vienna Agreement continues until the last-to-expire patent or last-to-be-abandoned patent application of the CVC IP; provided, however, that UC/Vienna may terminate the UC/Vienna Agreement upon the occurrence of certain events, including our uncured material breach of a material term of the UC/Vienna Agreement, and we may terminate the UC/Vienna Agreement at our sole discretion upon written notice. Without PTA or PTE, the CVC IP will expire in 2033. The UC/Vienna Agreement includes certain diligence milestones that we must meet. For products and services sold by us that are covered by the CVC IP, we will owe low- to mid-single-digit percent royalties on net sales, subject to a minimum annual royalty. Prior to such time that we are selling products, we owe UC/Vienna an annual license maintenance fee. We may owe UC/Vienna up to $3.4 million in certain regulatory and clinical milestone payments in the field of human therapeutics and diagnostics for products developed by us, our affiliates, and sublicensees. Additionally, we pay UC/Vienna a specified percentage of sublicensing revenue we receive including cash and equity under our sublicensing agreements, subject to certain exceptions. If we include intellectual property owned or controlled by us in such sublicense, we pay UC/Vienna a low-double-digit percentage of sublicensing revenues received under the sublicense. If we do not include intellectual property owned or controlled by us in such sublicense, we pay UC/Vienna 50% of sublicensing revenues received under the sublicense. To date, we have entered into over 25 sublicensing agreements in a variety of fields such as human therapeutics, forestry, agriculture, research reagents, transgenic animals, certain livestock targets, internal research, bioproduction, cell lines, and microbial applications that include the CVC IP as well as other Cas9 intellectual property owned or controlled by us. We are obligated to reimburse UC for its prosecution and maintenance costs of the CVC IP. The CVC IP is currently involved in administrative proceedings at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) and at the European Patent Office (“EPO”). See Risk Factors - “Our ability to continue to receive licensing revenue and to enter into new licensing arrangements related to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property will be substantially impaired if such intellectual property is limited by administrative patent proceedings,” in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
On December 15, 2016, we entered into a Consent to Assignments, Licensing and Common Ownership and Invention Management Agreement (“IMA”) with UC, Vienna, Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Intellia Therapeutics, CRISPR Therapeutics AG, ERS Genomics Ltd., and TRACR Hematology Ltd. relating to the CVC IP. Under the IMA, each of the owners of the CVC IP (i.e., UC, Vienna, and Dr. Charpentier) retroactively consented to all licenses and sublicenses granted by the other owners and their licensees and also gave prospective consent to any licenses and sublicenses that may be granted in the future. Additionally, the IMA provides for, among other things, (i) good faith cooperation among the parties regarding patent maintenance, defense, and prosecution of the CVC IP; (ii) cost-sharing under which CRISPR Therapeutics AG reimburses us for 50% of what we reimburse UC for patent prosecution and maintenance costs; and (iii) notice of and coordination in the event of third-party infringement of the subject patents and with respect to certain adverse claimants of the CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property. Unless earlier terminated by the parties, the IMA will continue in effect until the later of the last expiration or abandonment date of the CVC IP.
On March 14, 2019, we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with UC/Vienna, wherein we agreed that, for sublicensees in the fields of human therapeutics and companion diagnostics, we would pay UC/Vienna the royalties and milestones set forth in the UC/Vienna Agreement for products sold by our sublicensees, not the specified percentage of such sublicensing income received by us. We also agreed to various provisions that must be included in all future sublicensing agreements, including specific provisions for exclusive sublicenses.
We strive to protect and enhance the genome editing technologies that we believe are important to our business by seeking patents to cover our platform technologies. We also rely on trade secrets to protect aspects of our business that are not amenable to, or that we do not consider appropriate for, patent protection. Our success will depend significantly on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and trade secret protection for our technologies, our ability to defend and enforce our intellectual property rights, and our ability to operate without infringing any valid and enforceable intellectual property rights of third parties.
As of March 1, 2023, we own 59 issued U.S. patents, including nine U.S. patents covering our Cas9 and Cas12a chRDNA technologies; 257 issued foreign patents; and 74 pending patent applications throughout the world. The patent portfolio owned by us includes U.S. and foreign patents and patent applications covering methods and compositions relating generally to our Cas9 chRDNA and Cas12a chRDNA guides (which, for granted U.S. patents, without PTA or PTE, will expire in 2036). Additionally, our portfolio includes U.S. and foreign patents and patent applications covering methods and compositions relating to the anti-BCMA binding domain of our CB-011 product candidate (which, for granted U.S. patents, without PTA or PTE, will expire in 2040). In general, we file our patent applications in the United States and Europe as well as in numerous other foreign patent jurisdictions. We have exclusively in-licensed intellectual property covering the anti-CLL-1 scFv of our CB-012 product candidate from MSKCC (which, upon grant, without PTA or PTE or other extensions, will expire in 2040).
Additionally, we have extensive patent protection on CRISPR Type I systems, CRISPR-Cas9 methods and compositions, and other genome-editing technologies. The patent term in the United States and other countries is 20 years from the date of filing of the first non-provisional application to which priority is claimed. In the United States, patent term may be lengthened by a PTA, which compensates a patentee for administrative delays by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in granting a patent or may be shortened if a patent is terminally disclaimed over an earlier-filed patent. Additionally, under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 (the “Hatch-Waxman Amendments”), the term of a patent that covers an FDA-approved biologic may also be eligible for a PTE of up to five years, which is designed to compensate for the patent term lost during clinical trials and the FDA regulatory review process. A PTE cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval and only one patent claiming the drug product, methods of use or methods of manufacturing may be restored. Moreover, a patent can only be restored once, and thus, if a single patent is applicable to multiple products, it can only be extended based on one product. Similar provisions are available in Europe and certain other foreign jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved product. Without any PTE, the earliest expiration dates of our granted U.S. patents are in 2032 and the latest expiration dates of our granted U.S. patents are in 2040.
As of March 1, 2023, we own 13 trademark registrations, including five U.S. trademark registrations, and two pending trademark applications. We have registered “CARIBOU,” “CARIBOU BIOSCIENCES,” “SITE-SEQ,” and the Caribou logo as trademarks in relevant classes and jurisdictions in the United States, European Union, and United Kingdom.
Furthermore, we rely upon trade secrets, know-how, continuing technological innovation and potential in-licensing opportunities to develop and maintain our competitive position. We seek to protect these trade secrets and other confidential information, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to them. We also enter into confidentiality and invention assignment agreements with our employees and our agreements with consultants include invention assignment obligations.
We currently compete across the fields of genome editing and cell therapy. We believe that our novel Cas12a chRDNA genome-editing platform has broad potential applicability across human therapeutic indications, and our strategy is to demonstrate our platform’s capability by first developing improved allogeneic cell therapies in hematologic oncology indications.
The biopharmaceutical industry, and in particular the genome-editing and cell therapy fields, are characterized by intense investment and competition aimed at rapidly advancing new technologies. Our platform and therapeutic product candidates are expected to face substantial competition from multiple technologies, marketed products, and numerous other therapies being developed by other biopharmaceutical companies, academic research institutions, governmental agencies, and private research institutions. Many of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, and other resources, such as larger research and development staff, established manufacturing capabilities and facilities, and experienced marketing organizations with well-established sales forces. In addition, there is substantial patent infringement litigation in the biopharmaceutical industry and, in the future, we may bring or defend such litigation against our competitors.
Compared to first-generation genome-editing approaches, our chRDNA platform has shown improved specificity, a reduction in off-target edits and translocations, and an advanced capability to perform multiplexed edits, in particular multiplexed insertions. Although we believe that our scientific expertise, novel technologies, and intellectual property position offer competitive advantages, we face competition from multiple other genome-editing technologies and companies. Other companies developing CRISPR-based technologies include, among others, Arbor Biotechnologies, Beam Therapeutics Inc., CRISPR Therapeutics AG, Editas Medicine, Inc., Intellia Therapeutics, Inc., Metagenomi Technologies, LLC, and Scribe Therapeutics, Inc. Companies developing other genome-editing technologies include, among others, bluebird bio, Inc., Allogene Therapeutics, Inc., Cellectis S.A., Precision BioSciences, Inc., and Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc.
We believe that our CAR-T cell therapy product candidates have the potential to offer a superior product to patients due to genome edits we make to improve their persistence with the goal of extending robust CAR-T cell antitumor activity in patients. Additionally, our pioneering scientific expertise in iPSC-derived NK cells sets the foundation for our first CAR-iNK cell therapy to target an antigen present on multiple solid tumor malignancies. Due to the promising therapeutic effect of cell therapies, and the potential benefit of allogeneic treatment alternatives, we expect increasing competition from new and existing companies across four major fronts, which include, among others:
•Autologous T cell therapy: 2seventy bio, Inc., Adaptimmune Therapeutics plc, Arcellx. Inc., Autolus Therapeutics plc, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Gracell Biotechnologies Inc., Janssen Biotech, Inc., Kite, a Gilead Company, Legend Biotech Corporation, Lyell Immunopharma, Inc., Novartis International AG, Poseida Therapeutics, Inc., TCR2 Therapeutics Inc., and Vor Biopharma Inc.;
•Allogeneic T cell therapy: Allogene Therapeutics, Inc. Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc., Cellectis S.A., Celyad Oncology SA, CRISPR Therapeutics, Fate Therapeutics, Inc., Gracell Biotechnologies Inc., Kite, Legend Biotech Corporation, Poseida Therapeutics, Inc., Precision BioSciences, Inc., Sana Biotechnology, Inc., and Vor Biopharma Inc.;
•Allogeneic NK therapy: Artiva Biotherapeutics, Inc., Celularity Inc., Century Therapeutics, Inc., Fate Therapeutics, Inc., Fortress Biotech, Inc., ImmunityBio, Inc., Nkarta, Inc., NKGen Biotech, Inc., and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited;
•Other cell therapies: Other companies are developing CAR-expressing immune cell therapies derived from natural killer T (“NKT”) cells, including Kuur Therapeutics, Inc.; from macrophages, including Carisma Therapeutics Inc.; from regulatory T cells, including Kyverna Therapeutics; and from gamma-delta T cells, including Adicet Bio, Inc., GammaDelta Therapeutics Limited, Cytomed Therapeutics Limited, TC Biopharm (Holdings) plc, Hebei Senlang Biotechnology Co. Ltd., and Beijing Doing Biomedical Technology Co., Ltd.; and
•Other oncology therapeutics: Multiple biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies developing other directly competitive technologies, such as small molecule, antibody, bi-specific antibody, and antibody-drug conjugates.
For a discussion of the risks related to competition, see Risk Factors - “We face significant competition from other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, which may result in other companies developing or commercializing products before, or more successfully than, we do, thus rendering our product candidates non-competitive or reducing the size of the market for our product candidates. Our operating results will suffer if we fail to compete effectively,” in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Manufacturing of both autologous and allogeneic cell therapies requires multiple components and is complex, and there are many similarities in the processes for both kinds of therapies. The advantage of allogeneic therapies is the use of cells from healthy donors and therefore the ability to prepare, qualify, and release clinical material in advance of patient need.
For CB-010 and CB-011, we have optimized the manufacturing process that we developed in-house and have transferred the manufacturing to a CMO that manufactures cGMP-grade material for our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial and our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial. Additionally, we have developed different analytical methods to understand the integrity of our cells based upon our manufacturing process. We have made a significant investment in process development to facilitate our efforts to improve both the supply chain and our product characterization capabilities.
Figure 26 below describes the process we have developed for the manufacturing of CB-010 CAR-T cells. We use electroporation for the genome-editing step in our process. We use a licensed MaxCyte instrument to achieve high levels of genome editing at manufacturing scale. Our process includes an important step prior to cryopreservation that significantly removes residual TCR-expressing cells to reduce the likelihood that CB-010 cells will induce GvHD in patients.
Figure 26. Our internal process development team developed the manufacturing process for CB-010 and transferred it to a CMO.
Figure 27 below describes the process we have developed for the manufacturing of CB-011 CAR-T cells, which also includes the residual TCR removal step.
Figure 27. Our internal process development team developed the manufacturing process for CB-011 and transferred it to a CMO.
Our process development and manufacturing core competencies and advantages include:
•Standard operating procedures and technologies;
•Process development research from smaller to larger scales;
•Procedures that enable the transfer from process development stage to cGMP conditions;
•Custom engineering to create a robust procedure for each unique pipeline product candidate;
•Removal of residual TCR positive T cells after genome editing to minimize the risk of GvHD in patients;
•Evaluation of all manufacturing steps to optimize for maximal productivity and product integrity;
•Closed manufacturing system;
•Focus on efforts to enhance cell viability;
•Enhancement of gene knockout, CAR expression, and gene insertion;
•Improvements in retaining early memory T cell phenotypes; and
•Approaches to maximizing the number of doses per batch.
The CMO that is manufacturing the phase 1 clinical supply of our CB-010 and CB-011 product candidates is located in the United States and is subject to cGMP requirements, using both qualified equipment and materials. We use multiple CMOs to individually manufacture cGMP chRDNA guides, Cas9 and Cas12a proteins, and AAV6 vectors used in the manufacture of our CAR-T and CAR-NK cells. We expect to rely on our CMOs for the manufacturing of our product candidates to expedite readiness for future clinical trials, and most of these CMOs have capabilities for commercial manufacturing. Additionally, we may decide to build our own manufacturing facility in the future to provide us greater flexibility and control over our clinical or commercial manufacturing needs.
As a biotechnology company, we are subject to extensive legal and regulatory requirements. For example, we may need approval from regulatory agencies for our research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, packaging, storage, record keeping, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, marketing, post-approval monitoring and reporting, and import and export of our product candidates. Relevant regulatory authorities include, but are not limited to, the FDA, the European Medicines Agency (“EMA”), an agency of the European Union (“EU”) in charge of the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products; the European Commission, which is the executive arm of the EU; and other national, state, local, and provincial regulatory authorities. The United States and certain jurisdictions outside the United States also regulate the pricing and reimbursement of such products. The processes for obtaining marketing approvals in the United States and in other countries and jurisdictions, along with subsequent compliance with applicable statutes and regulations and other regulatory authorities, require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.
Licensure and Regulation of Biologics in the United States
In the United States, our product candidates are regulated as biological products, or biologics, under the Public Health Service Act (the “PHSA”), and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the “FDCA”), and their implementing regulations promulgated by the FDA. The failure to comply with the applicable requirements at any time during the product development process, including nonclinical testing, clinical testing, the approval process, or post-approval process, may subject us to delays in the conduct of a clinical trial, regulatory review and approval, and/or subject us to administrative or judicial sanctions. Such sanctions may include, but are not limited to, the FDA’s refusal to allow us to proceed with clinical testing of our product candidates, refusal to approve pending applications, license suspension or revocation, withdrawal of an approval, receipt of untitled or warning letters, adverse publicity, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, and civil or criminal investigations and penalties brought by the FDA, U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), or other governmental entities.
As we seek approval to market and distribute a new biologic in the United States, we generally must satisfactorily complete each of the following steps:
•preclinical laboratory tests and formulation studies all performed in accordance with the FDA’s current Good Laboratory Practice (“cGLP”) regulations;
•manufacture and testing of clinical investigational product according to cGMPs;
•submission to the FDA of an IND for human clinical testing, which must become effective before human clinical trials may begin;
•approval by an independent institutional review board (“IRB”), representing each clinical trial site before each clinical trial may be initiated, or by a central IRB if appropriate;
•performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of the product candidate for each proposed indication, in accordance with the FDA’s current Good Clinical Practice (“cGCP”) regulations including, but not limited to, informed consent and investigator disclosure requirements;
•preparation and submission to the FDA of a BLA for marketing approval of our product candidates for one or more proposed indications, including submission of detailed information on the manufacture and composition of our product candidates and proposed labeling;
•review of the BLA by an FDA advisory committee, where applicable;
•satisfactory completion of one or more FDA inspections of the manufacturing facility or facilities, including those of any third-party manufacturers, at which the product, or components thereof, are produced in order to assess compliance with cGMP requirements and to ensure that the facilities, methods, and controls are adequate to preserve and ensure the product’s identity, strength, quality, and purity, and, if applicable, the FDA’s current Good Tissue Practice (“cGTP”), for the use of human cell and tissue products;
•satisfactory completion of any FDA audits of the nonclinical study and clinical trial sites to ensure compliance with cGLPs and cGCPs, respectively, and the integrity of nonclinical and clinical data in support of the BLA;
•payment of user fees and securing FDA approval of the BLA; and
•compliance with any post-approval requirements, including the potential requirement to implement a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (“REMS”) adverse event reporting, and compliance with any post-approval studies required or requested by the FDA.
Preclinical Studies and Investigational New Drug Applications
Before testing any investigational biologic product candidate in humans, our product candidates must undergo preclinical testing. Preclinical tests include laboratory evaluations of product chemistry, formulation, and stability. The FDA Modernization Act 2.0, which was enacted in December 2022, removed the historical requirements that animal testing results be submitted to the FDA for the agency’s review before a human clinical trial may begin. The conduct of the preclinical tests and the formulation of the compounds for use in the preclinical testing must comply with federal regulations and/or requirements. The results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information and analytical data, are submitted to the FDA as part of an IND application. An IND is an exemption from the restrictions of the FDCA, which would otherwise preclude an unapproved biologic product candidate from being shipped in interstate commerce. Under an approved IND, the unapproved biologic product candidate may be shipped in interstate commerce for use in an investigational clinical trial, provided that the product candidate meets certain quality and labeling requirements. The FDA has 30 calendar days after receipt of our IND application to review and decide whether we may proceed to human clinical trials. During or after its review, the FDA may raise concerns or questions about our product candidate or conduct of the proposed clinical trial, including concerns that human research subjects could be exposed to unreasonable and significant health risks. If the FDA raises concerns or questions during this 30-day period, including safety concerns or concerns due to regulatory non-compliance, we and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trials can begin. In certain cases, the FDA may impose a partial or complete clinical hold with respect to our product. Such a clinical hold would delay either a proposed clinical trial, or cause suspension of an ongoing clinical trial, until all outstanding concerns have been adequately addressed, and the FDA has notified us that our clinical trials may proceed or recommence. In certain cases, we may not be able to proceed at all with our proposed clinical trial.
Human Clinical Trials in Support of a BLA
Our clinical trials involve the administration of our product candidate to patients with the disease to be treated and are conducted under the supervision of a qualified principal investigator in accordance with cGCP requirements. Clinical trials are conducted under study protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, inclusion, and exclusion criteria, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. A protocol for each clinical trial and subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND and must also be reviewed by an IRB.
If we wish to conduct a clinical trial outside of the United States, we may, but need not, obtain FDA authorization to conduct the clinical trial under an IND application. When a foreign clinical trial is conducted under a foreign equivalent to an IND application, all FDA IND applications requirements must be met unless waived. If a non-United States clinical trial is not conducted under a U.S. FDA IND application, we may submit data from a well-designed and well-conducted clinical trial to the FDA in support of our BLA, so long as the clinical trial is conducted in compliance with cGCP and the FDA is able to accept the data from the clinical trial and/or through an onsite inspection if the FDA deems it necessary. In certain cases, however, the FDA may refuse to approve drugs based only on clinical trials conducted outside of the United States. For example, an FDA panel previously recommended against approving an immunotherapy drug that was tested only in China, citing potential concerns about the diversity of the clinical trial population, among others. A senior FDA official has also voiced concerns previously about approving drugs that are developed and tested only in overseas markets. It is not clear how or whether FDA’s policies may change in the future.
For clinical trials conducted in the United States, each clinical trial must be reviewed and approved by an IRB, either centrally or individually at each institution at which our clinical trials will be conducted. The IRB will consider, among other things, our clinical trial design, subject informed consent, ethical factors, and the safety of human subjects. The IRB must operate in compliance with FDA regulations governing IRBs. The FDA, the applicable IRB, or we may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time for various reasons, including a finding that the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with FDA requirements or that the subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Some clinical trials receive additional oversight by an independent group of qualified experts organized by us, known as a data safety monitoring board or committee. This group receives and reviews data arising from the clinical trial
on an ongoing basis and may recommend continuation of the clinical trial as planned, changes in clinical trial conduct, or cessation of the clinical trial at designated check points based on such data.
In addition to the submission of an IND to the FDA before initiation of a clinical trial in the United States, certain human clinical trials involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules may be subject to oversight of institutional biosafety committees (“IBCs”), as set forth in the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (“NIH Guidelines”). Under the NIH Guidelines, recombinant and synthetic nucleic acids are defined as: (i) molecules that are constructed by joining nucleic acid molecules and that can replicate in a living cell (i.e., recombinant nucleic acids); (ii) nucleic acid molecules that are chemically or by other means synthesized or amplified, including those that are chemically or otherwise modified but can base pair with naturally occurring nucleic acid molecules (i.e., synthetic nucleic acids); or (iii) molecules that result from the replication of those described in (i) or (ii). Specifically, under the NIH Guidelines, supervision of human gene transfer trials includes evaluation and assessment by an IBC, a local institutional committee that reviews and oversees research utilizing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules at that institution. The IBC assesses the safety of the research and identifies any potential risk to public health or the environment, and such review may result in some delay before initiation of a clinical trial. Although the NIH Guidelines are not mandatory unless the research in question is being conducted at or sponsored by institutions receiving National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) funding of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecule research, many companies and other institutions not otherwise subject to the NIH Guidelines voluntarily follow them.
Furthermore, the Food and Drug Omnibus Reform Act of 2022, which was enacted in December 2022, requires clinical trial sponsors to submit a diversity action plan for clinical trials, unless a waiver is granted by the FDA for reasons such as prevalence of the disease or condition, impracticality of implementing such a diversity action plan, or if such implementation would be against the interest of public health during a public health emergency. Unless the FDA has granted a waiver, sponsors must submit such action plans by the time the sponsors submit study protocols for its phase 3 clinical trial or other pivotal clinical trial. The action plan must include information such as the sponsor’s goal for enrollment (by sex, ethnic characteristics, age), the rationale behind the enrollment goals, the subject patient population, potential barriers for enrollment, among others. This requirement will become applicable to all clinical trials that begin enrollment 180 days after FDA publishes its final guidance on this topic.
Clinical trials typically are conducted in three sequential phases; however, the phases may overlap or may be combined.
•Phase 1 clinical trials are initially conducted in a limited population of healthy humans or, for our product candidates, in patients, such as cancer patients, in order to test the product candidate for safety, including adverse effects, dose tolerance, absorption, metabolism, distribution, excretion, and pharmacodynamics, and to identify a recommended phase 2 dose.
•Phase 2 clinical trials are generally conducted in a limited patient population to identify possible adverse effects and safety risks, evaluate the efficacy of the product candidate for specific targeted indications, and to determine dose tolerance and optimal dosage. We may conduct multiple phase 2 clinical trials to obtain information prior to beginning larger and costlier phase 3 clinical trials. The phase 2 clinical trial for our product candidates may serve as the pivotal trial, in which case a phase 3 clinical trial will not be necessary.
•Phase 3 clinical trials are undertaken within an expanded patient population to further evaluate dosage and gather the additional information about effectiveness and safety that is needed to evaluate the overall benefit-risk relationship of the drug and to provide an adequate basis for physician labeling.
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 status of clinical trials must be submitted to the FDA. Written IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and the investigators within 15 calendar days of receipt by us after determining that the information qualifies for such expedited reporting. IND safety reports are required for suspected unexpected serious adverse reactions (“SUSARs”), findings from other studies or animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk to humans in our clinical trials, and any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. Additionally, we must notify FDA within seven calendar days after receiving information concerning any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction. Other external events may occur that can affect the conduct of our clinical trials, such as pandemics or government shutdowns.
In some cases, the FDA may approve a BLA for our product candidate but require us to conduct additional clinical trials to further assess the product candidate’s safety and effectiveness after approval. Such post-approval trials are typically referred to as phase 4 clinical trials or post-approval commitments. These studies are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication and to document a clinical benefit in the case of biologics approved under accelerated approval regulations. Failure to exhibit due diligence in conducting phase 4 clinical trials or post-approval commitments could result in withdrawal of approval for our products.
Guidance Governing Gene Therapy Products
The FDA has defined a gene therapy product as one that mediates its effects by transcription and/or translation of transferred genetic material or by specifically altering host (human) genetic sequences. Examples of gene therapy products include nucleic acids (e.g., plasmids, in vitro transcribed ribonucleic acid), genetically modified microorganisms (e.g., viruses, bacteria, fungi), engineered site-specific nucleases used for human genome editing, and ex vivo genetically modified human cells. The products may be used to modify cells in vivo or transferred to cells ex vivo prior to administration to the recipient. Within the FDA, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (“CBER”) regulates gene therapy products. Within CBER, the review of gene therapy and related products is consolidated in the Office of Tissues and Advanced Therapies, and the FDA has established the Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee to advise CBER on its reviews. The FDA and the NIH have published guidance documents with respect to the development and submission of gene therapy protocols.
For example, the FDA issued a guidance document titled “Human Gene Therapy Products Incorporating Human Genome Editing” in March 2022, providing recommendations for sponsors that are developing gene therapy products involving genetic editing of somatic cells, as well as information that sponsors should provide to the FDA in an IND application prior to beginning the applicable clinical trial, including information on the design of the gene editing component; delivery mechanisms for the gene editing components; information on the chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (“CMC”); risk of unregulated proliferation; potential implications of off-site gene editing; among others. In the same month, the FDA also published a guidance document, titled “Considerations for the Development of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T Cell Products,” which lays out issues to consider when developing CAR-T products, including establishment of the manufacturing processes, preclinical assessment of the CAR-T cells, and design of the clinical studies, among others. The FDA also published other guidance documents that relate to gene therapies and will likely continue to do so in the future.
Although the FDA has indicated that its guidance documents regarding gene therapies are not legally binding, we believe that our compliance with them is likely necessary to gain approval for any product candidate we may develop. The guidance documents provide additional factors that the FDA will consider at each of the above stages of development and relate to, among other things, the proper preclinical assessment of gene therapies; the chemistry, manufacturing, and control information that should be included in an IND application; the proper design of tests to measure product potency in support of a BLA application; and measures to observe delayed adverse effects in subjects who have been exposed to investigational gene therapies when the risk of such effects is high. Further, the FDA usually recommends that sponsors observe subjects for potential gene therapy-related delayed adverse events. Depending on the product type, long term follow up can be up to 15 years or as short as five years.
Clinical Trial Registry
There also are requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed clinical trial results to public registries, such as such as www.ClinicalTrials.gov. We are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information, including the product information, patient population, phase of investigation, clinical trial sites and investigators, and other aspects of the clinical trial on www.ClinicalTrials.gov. We are also obligated to disclose the results of our clinical trials after completion. Disclosure of the results of these clinical trials can be delayed until the new product candidate or new indication being studied has been approved, up to a maximum of two years.
Compliance with cGMP and cGTP Requirements
Before approving a BLA, the FDA typically will inspect the facility or facilities where our product candidates are manufactured. The FDA will not approve a BLA unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in full compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to ensure consistent production of the product within required specifications. The PHSA emphasizes the importance of manufacturing control for products such as biologics whose
attributes cannot be precisely defined. Material changes in manufacturing equipment, location, or process post-approval may result in additional regulatory review and approval.
The FDA also will not approve the product if we are not in compliance with cGTPs, which are requirements found in FDA regulations that govern the methods used in, and the facilities and controls used for, the manufacture of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products (“HCT/Ps”), which are human cells or tissue intended for implantation, transplant, infusion, or transfer into a human recipient. The primary intent of the cGTP requirements is to ensure that cell- and tissue-based products are manufactured in a manner designed to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable disease. FDA regulations also require tissue establishments to register and list their HCT/Ps with the FDA and, when applicable, to evaluate donors through screening and testing.
Review and Approval of a BLA
The results of product candidate development, preclinical testing, and clinical trials, including negative or ambiguous results as well as positive findings, are submitted to the FDA as part of a BLA requesting a license to market the product. The BLA must contain extensive manufacturing information and detailed information on the composition of the product candidate and proposed labeling as well as payment of a user fee.
The FDA has 60 calendar days after submission of a BLA to conduct an initial review to determine whether the BLA is acceptable for filing based on the agency’s threshold determination that the BLA is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. Once the submission has been accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth review of the application. Under the goals and policies agreed to by the FDA under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (“PDUFA”), the FDA has 10 months in which to complete its initial review of a standard application and respond to us, and six months for a priority review of the application. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs. The review process may often be significantly extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification. The review process and the PDUFA goal date may be extended by three months if the FDA requests, or if we otherwise provide through the submission of a major amendment, additional information or clarification regarding information already provided in the submission within the last three months before the PDUFA goal date.
Under the PHSA, the FDA may approve a BLA if it determines that our product candidate is safe, pure, and potent and the manufacturing facility meets standards designed to ensure that our product continues to be safe, pure, and potent.
On the basis of the FDA’s evaluation of the application and accompanying information, including the results of the inspection of the manufacturing facilities and any FDA audits of nonclinical study and clinical trial sites to ensure compliance with cGMPs and cGCPs, respectively, the FDA may issue an approval letter or a complete response letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of our product candidate with specific prescribing information for specific indications. If our BLA is not approved, the FDA will issue a complete response letter, which will contain the conditions that must be met in order to secure final approval of the application and, when possible, will outline recommended actions we might take to obtain approval of our BLA. If we receive a complete response letter, we may submit to the FDA information that represents a complete response to the issues identified by the FDA. Such resubmissions are classified under the PDUFA as either Class 1 or Class 2. The classification of a resubmission is based on the information submitted by us in response to the complete response letter. Under the goals and policies agreed to by the FDA under the PDUFA, the FDA has two months to review a Class 1 resubmission and six months to review a Class 2 resubmission. The FDA will not approve an application until issues identified in the complete response letter have been addressed. Alternatively, if we receive a complete response letter, we may either withdraw our BLA or request a hearing.
The FDA may also refer our BLA to an advisory committee for review, evaluation, and recommendation as to whether our BLA should be approved. In particular, the FDA may refer to an advisory committee application for biologic products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy. Typically, an advisory committee is a panel of independent experts, including clinicians and other scientific experts, that reviews, evaluates, and provides a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.
If the FDA approves our product, it may limit the approved indications for use of our product. The FDA may also require that contraindications, warnings, or precautions be included in the product labeling. In addition, the FDA may call for post-approval studies, including phase 4 clinical trials, to further assess the product’s safety after approval. The FDA may also require testing and surveillance programs to monitor the product after commercialization, or impose other conditions, including distribution restrictions or other risk management mechanisms, including REMS, to help ensure that
the benefits of the product outweigh the potential risks. REMS can include medication guides, communication plans for healthcare professionals, and elements to assure safe use (“ETASU”). ETASU can include, but is not limited to, specific or special training or certification for prescribing or dispensing, dispensing only under certain circumstances, special monitoring, and the use of patient registries. The FDA may prevent or limit further marketing of a product based on the results of post-marketing studies or surveillance programs. After approval, many types of changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications, certain manufacturing changes, and additional labeling claims, are subject to further testing requirements and FDA review and approval.
Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Priority Review, and Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy Designations
The FDA is authorized to designate certain products for expedited review if such products are intended to address an unmet medical need in the treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. These programs include fast track designation, breakthrough therapy designation, priority review, and regenerative medicine advanced therapy designation. These designations are not mutually exclusive, and our product candidates may qualify for one or more of these programs. Although these programs are intended to expedite product development and approval, they do not alter the standards for FDA approval.
The FDA may designate one or more of our product candidates for fast track review if our product candidate is intended, whether alone or in combination with one or more other products, for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and it can be demonstrated that our product candidate has the potential to address unmet medical needs for such a disease or condition. For fast track product candidates, we may have greater interactions with the FDA, and the FDA may initiate review of sections of our fast track product candidate’s application before the application is complete. This rolling review may be available if the FDA determines, after preliminary evaluation of clinical data submitted by us, that a fast track product candidate may be effective. We must also provide, and the FDA must approve, a schedule for the submission of the remaining information, and we must pay applicable application user fees. However, the FDA’s time period goal for reviewing a fast track application does not begin until the last section of the application is submitted. In addition, the fast track designation may be withdrawn by the FDA if the FDA believes that the designation is no longer supported by data emerging in the clinical trial process, or if our designated product candidate development program is no longer being pursued.
Our product candidates may obtain breakthrough therapy designations if they are intended, either alone or in combination with one or more other products, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that our product candidates may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. The FDA may take certain actions with respect to product candidates with such designations, including holding meetings with us throughout the development process, providing timely advice to us regarding development and approval, involving more senior staff in the review process, assigning a cross-disciplinary project lead for the review team, and taking other steps to design the clinical trials in an efficient manner. Breakthrough designation may be rescinded if our product candidate no longer meets the qualifying criteria.
The FDA may designate one of more of our product candidates for priority review if our product candidate treats a serious condition and, if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness of the treatment, prevention, or diagnosis of such condition. The FDA makes such determination on a case-by-case basis, compared with other available therapies. Significant improvement may be illustrated by evidence of increased effectiveness in the treatment of a condition, elimination or substantial reduction of a treatment-limiting adverse reaction, documented enhancement of patient compliance that may lead to improvement in serious outcomes, and evidence of safety and effectiveness in a new subpopulation. A priority designation is intended to direct overall attention and resources to the evaluation of such applications, and to shorten the FDA’s goal for acting on a marketing application from 10 months to six months.
The FDA may grant our product candidates RMAT designations if our product candidates are regenerative medicine therapies intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that our product candidates have the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition. RMAT designation provides potential benefits that include early interactions and more frequent meetings with the FDA to discuss the development plan for the product candidate and eligibility for rolling review and priority review. Product candidates granted RMAT designation may also be eligible for accelerated approval on the basis of surrogate or intermediate clinical trial endpoints reasonably likely to predict long-term clinical benefit, or reliance upon data obtained from a meaningful number of sites, including through expansion to additional sites. RMAT-designated
products that receive accelerated approval may, as appropriate, fulfill their post-approval requirements through the submission of clinical evidence, clinical trials, patient registries, or other sources of real-world evidence such as electronic health records, through the collection of larger confirmatory data sets as agreed with the FDA, or via post-approval monitoring of all patients treated with such therapy prior to approval of the therapy. Regenerative medicine advanced therapy designation may be rescinded if our product candidate no longer meets the qualifying criteria.
In 2022, CB-010 was granted RMAT designation for relapsed or refractory LBCL and fast track designation for r/r B-NHL.
Accelerated Approval Pathway
The FDA may grant accelerated approval to our product candidates for a serious or life-threatening condition that provides meaningful therapeutic advantage to patients over existing treatments based upon a determination that our product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit. The FDA may also grant accelerated approval for such a condition when our product candidate has an effect on an intermediate clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality (“IMM”), and that our product candidate is reasonably likely to predict an effect on IMM or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition, and the availability or lack of alternative treatments. Product candidates granted accelerated approval must meet the same statutory standards for safety and efficacy as those granted traditional approval.
For the purposes of accelerated approval, a surrogate endpoint is a marker, such as a laboratory measurement, radiographic image, physical sign, or other measure that is thought to predict clinical benefit but is not itself a measure of clinical benefit. Surrogate endpoints can often be measured more easily or more rapidly than clinical endpoints. An intermediate clinical endpoint is a measurement of a therapeutic effect that is considered reasonably likely to predict the clinical benefit of a product candidate, such as an effect on IMM. The FDA has limited experience with accelerated approvals based on intermediate clinical endpoints but has indicated that such endpoints generally could support accelerated approval where a clinical trial demonstrates a relatively short-term clinical benefit in a chronic disease setting in which assessing long-term clinical benefit is essential for traditional approval, but the short-term benefit is considered reasonably likely to predict long-term benefit.
The accelerated approval pathway is most often used in settings in which the course of a disease is long and an extended period of time is required to measure the intended clinical benefit of a product candidate, even if the effect on the surrogate or intermediate clinical endpoint occurs rapidly. Thus, accelerated approval has been used extensively in the development and approval of products for treatment of a variety of cancers in which the goal of therapy is generally to improve survival or decrease morbidity and the duration of the typical disease course requires lengthy and sometimes large trials to demonstrate a clinical or survival benefit.
The accelerated approval pathway is usually contingent on our agreement to conduct, in a diligent manner, additional post-approval confirmatory studies to verify and describe our product candidate’s clinical benefit. As a result, a product candidate approved on this basis is subject to rigorous post-marketing compliance requirements, including the completion of post-approval clinical trials to confirm the effect on the clinical endpoint. Failure to conduct required post-approval studies, or confirm a clinical benefit during post-marketing studies, would allow the FDA to withdraw the product from the market on an expedited basis. All promotional materials for product candidates approved under accelerated regulations are subject to prior review by the FDA unless the FDA informs us otherwise.
If regulatory approval for marketing of any of our product candidates is obtained, we will be required to comply with all regular post-approval regulatory requirements as well as any post-approval requirements that the FDA has imposed as part of the approval process. We will be required to report certain adverse reactions and manufacturing problems to the FDA, provide updated safety and efficacy information, and comply with requirements concerning advertising and promotional labeling requirements. Manufacturers of our products are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies and are subject to periodic announced or ad hoc inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with ongoing regulatory requirements, including cGMP regulations, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements upon these manufacturers. Accordingly, we and our third-party manufacturers must continue to expend time, money, and effort in the areas of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP regulations and other regulatory requirements.
Our products may also be subject to official lot release, meaning that the manufacturer of our products is required to perform certain tests on each lot of the product before the product is released for distribution. If the product is subject to official lot release, the manufacturer must submit to the FDA samples of each lot, together with a release protocol showing a summary of the history of manufacture of the lot and the results of the manufacturer’s tests performed on the lot. The FDA may in addition perform certain confirmatory tests on lots of some products before releasing the lots for distribution.
Once a marketing approval is granted for our product candidate, the FDA may withdraw the approval if compliance with regulatory requirements is not maintained or if problems occur after our product reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with our product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, issues with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information, imposition of post-marketing studies or clinical trials to assess new safety risks, or imposition of distribution or other restrictions under a REMS program.
Other potential consequences of a failure to comply with regulatory requirements include:
•restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of our product, complete withdrawal of our product from the market, or product recalls;
•fines, untitled or warning letters, or holds on post-approval clinical trials;
•refusal of the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications, or suspension or revocation of our product license approvals;
•product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products or the raw materials or ingredients that are needed for product manufacture; or
•injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.
The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising, and promotion of licensed and approved products that are placed on the market. Pharmaceutical products may be promoted only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label.
Orphan Drug Designation
Orphan drug designation may be available for drugs that are intended for rare diseases or conditions, defined as (i) a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States or (ii) a disease or condition that affects more than 200,000 individuals in the United States and for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available a biologic for the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product in the United States. If a drug becomes the first drug that is approved for the same indication for which the FDA has granted the designation, the drug will be entitled to exclusivity, which means the FDA may not approve any other application to market the same drug for the same orphan indication for a period of seven years following the date of our product’s marketing approval, except in certain circumstances. In June 2019, the FDA’s policy, based on its regulations, see 21 C.F.R. §316.3(b), was challenged by a pharmaceutical company that argued that once an orphan drug is approved for a disease or condition, the FDA may not approve another drug for the same disease or condition, even if for different uses or indications that the FDA has not approved. On appeal, in December 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision and agreed with the position of the pharmaceutical company that challenged the FDA. Despite this loss, in January 2023, FDA stated its intent to continue to apply its regulations tying the applicability of the orphan drug exclusivity to the specific uses or indications, rather than diseases or conditions. It is possible that, in the future, Congress or the FDA may further update and revise the law and policies on this issue.
In addition, other financial incentives, such as tax credits, may be available. To obtain an orphan drug designation, we must make a request before submitting our BLA for a particular product candidate. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the generic or trade name, or the chemical name or a meaningful description of the biologic, its designated orphan use and date of designation, and our company name are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
In 2022, the FDA granted orphan drug designation to CB-010 for FL.
Pediatric Studies and Exclusivity
Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003 (as amended, “PREA”), a BLA or supplement to a BLA for a product candidate with certain novel characteristics must contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the product candidate for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product candidate is safe and effective.
Sponsors must submit a pediatric study plan to FDA outlining the proposed pediatric study or studies they plan to conduct, including study objectives and design, any deferral or waiver requests, and other information required by regulation. The FDA must then review the information submitted, consult with the sponsor, and agree upon a final plan. The FDA or the sponsor may request an amendment to the plan at any time.
For products intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, the FDA must, upon the request of a sponsor, meet to discuss preparation of the initial pediatric study plan or to discuss deferral or waiver of pediatric assessments. In addition, the FDA will meet early in the development process to discuss pediatric study plans with the sponsor and the FDA must meet with the sponsor by no later than the end-of-phase 1 meeting for serious or life-threatening diseases and by no later than 90 calendar days after FDA’s receipt of the study plan. The FDA may, on its own initiative or at the request of the sponsor, grant deferrals for submission of some or all pediatric data until after approval of the product for use in adults, or full or partial waivers from the pediatric data requirements, under specified circumstances. Unless otherwise required by regulation, the pediatric data requirements do not apply to products with orphan designation.
Pediatric exclusivity is another type of non-patent marketing exclusivity in the United States and, if granted, provides for the attachment of an additional six months of marketing protection to the term of any existing regulatory exclusivity, including the non-patent and orphan exclusivity. This six-month exclusivity may be granted if pediatric data is submitted that sufficiently responds to a written request from the FDA for such data. The data do not need to show a product to be effective in the pediatric population studied; rather, if the clinical trial is deemed to be responsive to the FDA’s request, the additional protection is granted. If reports of requested pediatric studies are submitted to and accepted by the FDA within the statutory time limits, whatever statutory or regulatory periods of exclusivity or patent protection cover the product are extended by six months. This is not PTE; instead, this grant of exclusivity extends the regulatory period during which the FDA cannot approve another application.
Biosimilars and Exclusivity
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (the “Affordable Care Act”) includes a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (the “BPCIA”), which created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-licensed reference biological product in the United States. Starting in 2015, the FDA commenced licensing biosimilars under the BPCIA, and there are currently numerous biosimilars approved in the United States and Europe.
For the FDA to approve a biosimilar product, it must find that there are no clinically meaningful differences between the reference product and proposed biosimilar product in terms of safety, purity, and potency. For the FDA to approve a biosimilar product as interchangeable with a reference product, the agency must find that the biosimilar product can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product, and, for products administered multiple times, that the biologic and the reference biologic may be switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic. Even after the FDA approves a biosimilar product, the product, its manufacturing processes, post-approval clinical data, labeling, advertising, and promotional activities for the product will be subject to continuous requirements of and review by the FDA or other regulatory authorities. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, including mandatory post-marketing safety reporting; registration and listing requirements; cGMP requirements relating to quality control, quality assurance, and corresponding maintenance of records and documents; and requirements regarding recordkeeping.
Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date of approval of the reference product. The FDA may not approve a biosimilar product until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was approved. Even if a product is considered to be a reference product eligible for exclusivity, another company could market a competing version of that product if the FDA approves a full BLA for such
product containing our own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate the safety, purity, and potency of the product.
Patent Term Extension
A patent claiming a new biologic product may be eligible for a limited PTE under the Hatch-Waxman Amendments, which permits a patent restoration of up to five years for patent term lost during product development and FDA regulatory review. The restoration period granted on a patent covering a product is typically one-half the time between the effective date of an IND and the submission date of a BLA, plus the time between the submission date of a BLA and the ultimate approval date, less any time during which due diligence was not conducted. PTE cannot be used to extend the remaining term of a patent past a total of 14 years from the product’s regulatory approval date. Pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §156, only one patent covering an approved product, or the use or manufacture thereof, is eligible for PTE, and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent in question and within 60 calendar days after regulatory approval. A patent that covers multiple products for which approval is sought can only be extended in connection with one of the approvals. The USPTO reviews and approves the application for any PTE in consultation with the FDA. Similar provisions are available in Europe and other jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved biologic although the eligibility requirements for these extensions vary.
Regulation and Procedures Governing Approval of Medicinal Products in Other Countries
In order to market any product outside of the United States, we must also comply with numerous and comprehensive regulatory requirements of other countries and jurisdictions, regarding quality, safety, and efficacy, and governing, among other things, clinical trials, marketing authorization, post-authorization requirements, commercial sales, import and export, reimbursement, and distribution of products. Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for our product candidates, we will need to obtain the necessary approvals from the comparable health regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions before we can initiate clinical trials or marketing of our products in those countries or jurisdictions. Specifically, the process governing approval of medicinal products in the EU generally follows the same lines as in the United States, although the approval of a medicinal product in the United States is no guarantee of approval of the same product in the EU, either at all or within the same timeframe as approval may be granted in the United States. The process entails satisfactory completion of preclinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of a product candidate for each proposed indication. It also requires the submission to the EMA or the relevant member state competent authorities, of a marketing authorization application and granting of a marketing authorization by the EMA or these authorities before the product can be marketed and sold in the EU.
U.S. Export Control Licensing Requirements and Other U.S. and Foreign Trade Regulations, Sanctions Laws, Anti-Corruption, and Anti-Money Laundering Laws
We develop product candidates that may be subject to varying U.S. export control licensing requirements and foreign investment regulations. In addition, U.S. international trade laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended (“FCPA”), and similar anti-bribery or anti-corruption laws, regulations, and rules of other countries in which we may choose to operate, could apply to our international activities. Anti-corruption laws generally prohibit companies and their employees, agents, contractors, and other collaborators from authorizing, promising, offering, or providing, directly or indirectly, improper payments or anything else of value to recipients in the public or private sector in order to influence action. The FCPA also requires public companies to make and keep books and records that accurately and fairly reflect the transactions of the company and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls.
In addition, U.S. import and export regulations, anti-money laundering laws, and various economic and trade sanctions regulations administered by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls could apply to any international activities we may undertake.
Coverage, Pricing, and Reimbursement
Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any product candidates for which we may seek regulatory approval by the FDA or other government authorities. In the United States and other countries, patients who are prescribed treatments for their conditions and providers performing the prescribed services often rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the associated healthcare costs. Patients are unlikely to use any product candidates we may develop unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the
cost of such product candidates. In addition, direct or indirect governmental price regulation may affect the prices that we may charge for product candidates.
Even if any product candidates we may develop obtain approval, sales of such product candidates will depend, in part, on the extent to which third-party payors, including government healthcare programs in the United States, such as Medicare and Medicaid, commercial health insurers, and managed care organizations provide coverage and establish adequate reimbursement levels for such product candidates.
In general, factors a payor considers in determining coverage and reimbursement are based on whether the product is:
•a covered benefit under its health plan;
•safe, effective, and medically necessary, including its regulatory approval status;
•medically appropriate for the specific patient;
•neither experimental nor investigational.
In the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for biological products, including gene and cell therapy products, exists among third-party payors. As a result, obtaining coverage and reimbursement approval for such a product from a government or other third-party payor is a time-consuming and costly process that could require us to provide to each payor supporting scientific, clinical, and cost-effectiveness data regarding the products’ clinical benefits, medical necessity, and risks on a payor-by-payor basis, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be obtained. A decision by a third-party payor not to cover any product candidates we may develop could reduce physician utilization of such product candidates once approved and have a material adverse effect on our sales, results of operations and financial condition. Additionally, a payor’s decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved, and inadequate reimbursement rates, including significant patient cost sharing obligations, may deter patients from selecting our product candidates. One payor’s determination to provide coverage for a product does not ensure that other payors will also provide coverage and reimbursement for the product, and the level of coverage and reimbursement can differ significantly from payor to payor. Third-party reimbursement and coverage may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development. Coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which we receive marketing approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.
In the EU, the approval process and requirements governing pricing and reimbursement for any product candidate vary greatly between countries and jurisdictions. Some countries allow biological products to be marketed only after a reimbursement price has been agreed. Some countries may require the completion of additional testing or studies that compare the cost effectiveness of a particular biological product to currently available treatments, or so-called health technology assessments, in order to obtain reimbursement or pricing approval. The EU HTA Regulation 2021/2282 became effective in January 2022 and aims to harmonize clinical and scientific aspects of HTA across the EU. However, it will only begin to apply from January 2025 and will have a phased implementation.
Some countries, including several EU member states, set prices and reimbursement for biological products, with limited participation from the marketing authorization holders. For example, the EU provides options for its member states to restrict the range of biological products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of biological products for human use. EU member states may approve a specific price for a biological product or may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company providing the biological product. Recently, many European countries have increased the level of discounting required in relation to the pricing of biological products and these efforts could continue as countries attempt to manage healthcare expenditures.
Healthcare Law and Regulation
Healthcare providers and third-party payors play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of pharmaceutical products that are granted marketing approval. Arrangements with providers, consultants, third-party payors, customers, and patients are subject to broadly applicable fraud and abuse laws including anti-kickback laws, false claims laws, and health care provider payment transparency laws, as well as data privacy and security laws and other healthcare laws that may constrain our business and/or financial arrangements.
Restrictions under applicable federal and state healthcare laws and regulations, include but are not limited to the following:
•the U.S. federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”), which prohibits, among other things, individuals or entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, receiving, offering or paying any remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce, or reward, either the referral of an individual, or the purchase, lease, order, arrangement for or recommendation of the purchase, lease, order, arrangement for any good, facility, item, or service, for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare and Medicaid;
•the U.S. civil and criminal false claims laws, including the civil United States False Claims Act, and civil monetary penalties laws, which prohibit individuals or entities from, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the federal government, claims for payment that are false, fictitious, or fraudulent or knowingly making, using, or causing to be made or used a false record or statement to avoid, decrease, or conceal an obligation to pay money to the federal government. In addition, the government may assert that a claim including items and services resulting from a violation of the AKS or FDA promotional standards constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the United States False Claims Act;
•the U.S. federal Beneficiary Inducement Statute, which prohibits, among other things, the offering or giving of remuneration, which includes, without limitation, any transfer of items or services for free or for less than fair market value, with limited exceptions, to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary that the person knows or should know is likely to influence the beneficiary’s selection of a particular provider, practitioner, or supplier of items or services reimbursable by a federal or state health program;
•the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH”), and their respective implementing regulations (collectively “HIPAA”), which imposes criminal and civil liability for knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, including private payors, or obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody or control of, any healthcare benefit program, regardless of the payor (e.g., public or private) and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up by any trick or device a material fact or making any materially false statements in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services;
•HIPAA also imposes obligations with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security, and transmission of individually identifiable information that constitutes protected health information, including mandatory contractual terms and restrictions on the use and/or disclosure of such information without proper authorization;
•the federal transparency requirements known as the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act, or Open Payments program, created under the Affordable Care Act, which requires certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics, and medical supplies to report annually to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) information related to payments, including certain product development activities such as clinical trials, and other transfers of value made by that entity to covered recipients, currently defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists, chiropractors, teaching hospitals, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certain other healthcare providers and requires certain manufacturers and applicable group purchasing organizations to report ownership and investment interests held by physicians or their immediate family members;
•U.S. price reporting laws, which require companies to calculate and report complex pricing metrics in an accurate and timely manner to government programs. Such laws may not only affect coverage, reimbursement, and pricing for our product candidates, but can also result in civil penalties for late or incorrect reports;
•U.S. consumer protection and unfair competition laws, which broadly regulate marketplace activities and activities that potentially harm consumers;
•the FCPA, which prohibits companies and their intermediaries from making, or offering or promising to make, improper payments to non-U.S. officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or otherwise seeking favorable treatment;
•certain state and other laws that require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the state standards or pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the U.S. government in addition to requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to report information related to payments to physicians and other health care providers or marketing expenditures;
•certain state and other laws that govern the privacy and security of health information in some circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts; and
•analogous state and foreign laws and regulations, which may be broader in scope than their federal equivalents.
Numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including federal health information privacy laws, state data breach notification laws, state health information privacy laws and federal and state consumer protection laws (e.g., Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act), that govern the collection, use, disclosure, and protection of health-related and other personal information could apply to our operations or the operations of our collaborators and third-party providers. California has enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act (the “CCPA”). The CCPA 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. Additionally, the California Privacy Rights Act amended the CCPA to impose additional data protection obligations on companies doing business in California, including additional consumer rights processes, limitations on data uses, new audit requirements for higher risk data, opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data, and creation of a new California data protection agency authorized to issue substantive regulations. The majority of the provisions went into effect on January 1, 2023, and additional compliance investment and potential business process changes may be required. In the United States, states are constantly amending existing laws, requiring attention to frequently changing regulatory requirements.
Furthermore, additional federal measures and efforts have been made to increase price transparency for drug pricing, modify the government program reimbursement methodologies, and provide additional ways for the government to attempt to lower drug prices. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 imposes inflation rebates on drug manufacturers for products reimbursed under Medicare Parts B and D if the prices of those products increase at a rate greater than inflation; implements changes to the Medicare Part D benefit that, beginning in 2025, will cap annual out-of-pocket spending at $2,000 while imposing new discount obligations for pharmaceutical manufacturers; and, beginning in 2026, establishes a “maximum fair price” for a selected list of pharmaceutical and biological products covered under Medicare Parts B and D following a price negotiation process with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These provisions are not likely to affect our operations in the near term since our product candidates have not received marketing approval.
There have also been other administrative efforts to lower drug prices. In 2022, Executive Order on Lowering Prescription Drug Costs for Americans was issued and directed the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to “consider whether to select for testing by the Innovation Center new health care payment and delivery models that would lower drug costs and promote access to innovative drug therapies for beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including models that may lead to lower cost-sharing for commonly used drugs and support value-based payment that promotes high-quality care.” There are likely to be additional changes in the future by federal, state, and foreign governments, and predicting such changes and responding to such changes in a timely manner may be challenging.
A primary trend in the United States healthcare industry and elsewhere is cost containment. There have been a number of federal and state proposals during the last few years that apply to the pricing of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products, limit coverage and reimbursement for drugs and other medical products, require substitution of generic products, standardize access to third-party insurance coverage, and address government control and other changes to the healthcare system in the United States. The federal and state governments may pass legislation designed to reduce the cost of healthcare, and future amendments and new proposals may affect the commercialization of any of our product candidates in ways that we cannot foresee.
For example, in March 2010, the United States Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act, which, among other things, included changes to the coverage and payment for products under government health care programs.
Among the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that may be of importance to our potential product candidates are:
•an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports specified branded prescription drugs and biologic products, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs, although this fee would not apply to sales of certain products approved exclusively for orphan indications;
•expanded manufacturers’ rebate liability under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program by increasing the minimum rebate for both branded and generic drugs and revising the definition of “average manufacturer price” for calculating and reporting Medicaid drug rebates on outpatient prescription drug prices and extending rebate liability to prescriptions for individuals enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans;
•established the Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program by requiring manufacturers to provide a 70% point-of-sale-discount off the negotiated price of applicable products to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period as a condition for the manufacturers’ outpatient products to be covered under Medicare Part D, increased pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act;
•the establishment of a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research;
•the establishment of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription product spending;
•introduction of a new average manufacturer price definition for biologics and drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted, or injected and not generally dispensed through retail community pharmacies;
•increase in the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and expansion of rebate liability from fee-for-service Medicaid utilization to include the utilization of Medicaid managed care organizations as well;
•establishment of a branded prescription drug fee that pharmaceutical manufacturers of branded prescription drugs must pay to the federal government;
•expansion of the list of covered entities eligible to participate in the 340B drug pricing program;
•expansion of eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs by, among other things, allowing states to offer Medicaid coverage to additional individuals and by adding new mandatory eligibility categories for individuals with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, thereby potentially increasing manufacturers’ Medicaid rebate liability; and
•creation of a licensure framework for follow on biologic products.
Recently, CMS finalized regulations that give states greater flexibility in setting benchmarks for insurers in the individual and small group marketplaces, which may have the effect of relaxing the essential health benefits required under
the Affordable Care Act for plans sold through such marketplaces. It is unclear what type of impact, if any, efforts such as this will have on our business in the future.
Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, among other things, reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, imaging centers, and cancer treatment centers, and increased from three to five years the statute of limitations period for the government to recover non-fraudulent overpayments to providers. New laws may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding, which may materially adversely affect customer demand for and affordability of our product candidates and, accordingly, our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Additional changes that may affect our business include the expansion of new programs such as Medicare payment for performance initiatives for physicians under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which first affected physician payment in 2019. At this time, it is unclear how the introduction of the Medicare quality payment program will impact overall physician reimbursement. In addition, in August 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 implemented substantial changes to the Medicare program, including drug pricing reforms and changes to the Medicare Part D benefit design.
Other legislative measures have also been enacted that may impose additional pricing and product development pressures on our business. For example, on May 30, 2018, the Right to Try Act, was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to access certain IND products that have completed a phase 1 clinical trial and that are undergoing investigation for FDA approval. Under certain circumstances, eligible patients can seek treatment without enrolling in clinical trials and without obtaining FDA permission under the FDA expanded access program. There is no obligation for a drug manufacturer to make its drug product candidates available to eligible patients as a result of the Right to Try Act, but the manufacturer must develop an internal policy and respond to patient requests according to that policy. We expect that additional foreign, federal, and state 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 limited coverage and reimbursement and reduced demand for our products, post-approval, or additional pricing pressures. Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in enacting 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. We cannot predict what healthcare reform initiatives may be adopted in the future. Additional federal, state, and foreign legislative and regulatory developments are likely, and we expect ongoing initiatives to increase pressure on drug pricing. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenues from product candidates and may affect our overall financial condition and ability to develop product candidates.
In addition to the foregoing, state and federal laws regarding environmental protection and hazardous substances, including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act, the U.S. Resource Conservancy and Recovery Act, and the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act, all affect our business. These and other state and local laws govern our use, handling, and disposal of various biological, chemical, and radioactive substances used in, and wastes generated by, our operations. If our operations result in contamination of the environment or expose individuals to hazardous substances, we could be liable for damages and governmental fines.
Employee and Human Capital Resources
As of March 1, 2023, we have 137 employees. Of these employees, 77% are primarily engaged in research and development activities and 53% of our research and development personnel have one or more advanced degrees. None of our employees is represented by a labor union or party to a collective bargaining agreement. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.
We have attracted a talented group of experienced scientists, drug development and regulatory experts, and company builders as part of a passionate team of employees. Our team includes experts in genome-editing technologies, cellular engineering, computational biology, genome sequencing and analysis, structural biology, chemistry, lab automation, translational medicine, process development, analytical development, medical affairs, clinical operations and development, regulatory affairs, and quality assurance. Our team of employees includes some of the scientists who invented the technologies we use today in our research and product development and who continue to drive innovation.
We recognize that attracting, motivating, and retaining talent at all levels is vital to our continued success. Our employees are a significant asset and we aim to create an equitable, inclusive, and empowering environment in which our employees can grow and advance their careers, with the overall goal of developing, expanding, and retaining our workforce to support our current pipeline and future business goals, while protecting the long-term interests of our stockholders. Our success depends on our ability to attract, engage, and retain a diverse group of employees. We value innovation, passion, data-driven decision making, persistence, and honesty, and we are building an inclusive environment where our employees can thrive and be inspired to make exceptional contributions to bring therapies to patients.
Our human capital resources objectives include, as applicable, identifying, recruiting, retaining, motivating, and integrating our existing and future employees. The principal purposes of our equity and cash incentive plans are to attract, retain, and motivate employees through grants of stock-based compensation awards and payments of performance-based cash bonus awards, which motivate our employees to perform to the best of their abilities and achieve our objectives. We are committed to providing a competitive and comprehensive benefits package to our employees. Our benefits package provides a balance of overall protection along with the flexibility to meet the individual health and wellness needs of our employees. We plan to continue to refine our efforts related to optimizing our use of human capital as we grow, including improvements in the way we hire, develop, motivate, and retain employees.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been and will continue to be focused on the safety of our employees. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have instituted on-site protocols and procedures in accordance with regulations and guidelines promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control, the State of California, the California Department of Public Health, the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the County of Alameda, and the City of Berkeley.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We are committed to cultivating, fostering, and preserving a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”). We foster an inclusive environment through respect, collaboration, and candid communication. We embrace and encourage differences in age, color, disability, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, language, national origin, culture or customs, physical and mental ability, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make our employees unique. We embrace differences in experience and background, and we welcome a diversity of opinions when making decisions. We would not be who we are today without the diversity of our team.
As of March 1, 2023, 53% of our employees identify as female. The ratio of men to women is fairly balanced at each level of our organization; as an example, 49% of our director-level and above employees identify as female. In addition, as of March 1, 2023, 49% of our employees identify as a member of at least one underrepresented group, with 30% identifying as Asian, 6% identifying as Hispanic or Latinx, 3% identifying as Black or African American, and 10% identifying as a member of other underrepresented groups or as a member of two or more underrepresented groups; furthermore, 40% of our director-level and above employees identify as a member of at least one underrepresented group. Our employees span multiple age brackets and bring their unique perspectives and experiences to our organization. As of March 1, 2023, the average age of our employees is 40 years old, and 44% of our workforce is 40 years of age or older. Although we are proud of our efforts and metrics to date, we recognize that there is still more work to be done until the diversity of our workforce matches the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area.
To champion our efforts in this area, in 2021 we formed an Inclusion Committee comprised of employees from various departments, backgrounds, and levels within our organization. The Inclusion Committee emphasizes our commitment to the importance of DEI and the responsibility of our employees to treat others with dignity and respect at all times. All employees are provided diversity awareness training and unconscious bias training to enhance their knowledge to fulfill this responsibility, in addition to mandatory sexual harassment prevention training. The Inclusion Committee works to identify gaps, respond to feedback provided by peers and present suggestions on our hiring and retention practices and policies to encourage and enforce an environment in which all employees feel included and empowered to achieve their best potential. Management has committed time and resources for this ongoing initiative. Additionally, we have a newly established process for the creation of employee resource groups (“ERGs”), which will allow our employees to connect in ways that are meaningful to their individual needs and which will provide a platform for obtaining resources and support at our company.
Involvement in Our Community
Our headquarters are located in Berkeley, California, and many of our employees are alumni of local universities and some have grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended local schools. Our employees are talented and passionate people who are committed to making a difference in our community and beyond. As a company, we actively participate in outreach efforts to increase opportunities for underrepresented groups, including hosting and providing volunteers for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) programs at local elementary, junior high, and high schools as well as community colleges and universities. Many of our employees speak at local schools about careers in biotechnology and we have hosted students at our facility to engage them in aspects of biotechnology to which they may not have been previously exposed. We look for opportunities to foster the growth of future scientists and a love of science. We provide each of our employees with eight hours of paid volunteer time each year, which can be used for participating in school activities, voter registrations, environmental activities, and the like.
We are environmentally conscious. With this in mind, we strive to mitigate our impact on the environment where possible and pursue innovative ways to grow our business while minimizing our environmental footprint. The City of Berkeley requires companies with 10 or more employees to have a commuter benefits program in place, and we offer pre-tax commuter benefits to ride public transportation, which is connected to our facility through various free shuttle services. Additionally, we provide bicycle vouchers to employees who bike to work and have bike repair tools on site as well as bike storage areas, and our employees have access to electric vehicle charging stations. Our facility is equipped with water stations that filter water to discourage the use of plastic bottles. All refuse generated at our company is sorted among recycle, compost, and landfill. We have moved to electronic documentation and files in most functions.
The Herd at Caribou
We at Caribou refer to ourselves as “the herd.” We encourage and value social interactions among the herd. We hold quarterly events, including participating in Light the Night sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, making “Beads to Beat Cancer” bracelets for the Berkeley Women’s Cancer Resource Center and Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as a participating in a San Francisco Bay clean-up. Weather permitting, we also sponsor a monthly “fun run” for employees to either run or walk to the shoreline or in the Berkeley hills. For several years, we have offered yoga for our employees in Berkeley, and we have continued this in a hybrid in-person/virtual format for all our employees regardless of location.
Information Available on the Internet
Investors and others should note that we announce material information to our investors using our investor relations website (https://cariboubio.com/investors), our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), press releases, public conference calls, and webcasts. We use these channels to communicate with the public about our company, our business, our product candidates and other matters. Our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, including exhibits, proxy and information statements and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Sections 13(a) and 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), are available on our website free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file the material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. The materials we file with or furnish to the SEC are also available at http://www.sec.gov.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
Investing in shares of our common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the following risks and uncertainties, together with all of the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our financial statements and related notes, before making an investment decision. The risks described below are not the only ones facing us. The occurrence of any of the following risks, or of additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects, and reputation. In such case, the trading price of shares of our common stock could decline, and you may lose all or part of your investment. This Annual Report on Form 10-K also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of a number of factors, including the risks described below. See Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Risks Relating to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital
We have incurred significant net losses since our inception and anticipate that we will incur continued net losses for the foreseeable future.
We have incurred significant net losses each year since our inception. For the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021, we incurred net losses of $99.4 million and $66.9 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2022, we had an accumulated deficit of $197.2 million. In addition, we have not commercialized any products and have never generated any revenue from product sales. We have devoted almost all of our financial resources to research and development, including our preclinical development activities.
We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and net losses over the next several years and for the foreseeable future as we seek to advance product candidates through preclinical and clinical development, expand our research and development activities, develop new product candidates, complete preclinical studies and clinical trials, seek regulatory approval and, if we receive approval from the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities, commercialize our products. Furthermore, the costs of advancing product candidates into each succeeding clinical phase tend to increase substantially over time. The total costs to advance any of our product candidates to marketing approval in even a single jurisdiction is substantial. Our prior losses, combined with expected future losses, will continue to have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ deficit and working capital. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if and as we:
•progress our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-010 product candidate and our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-011 product candidate;
•continue our current research programs and our preclinical and clinical development of our other current product candidates, including CB-012 and CB-020, and any other product candidates we identify and choose to develop;
•hire additional clinical, quality control, regulatory, and scientific personnel;
•seek to identify additional research programs and additional product candidates;
•further develop our genome-editing technologies;
•acquire or in-license technologies;
•expand, maintain, enforce, and defend our intellectual property estate;
•seek regulatory and marketing approvals for any of our product candidates that successfully complete clinical trials, if any;
•establish and expand manufacturing capabilities and supply chain capacity for our product candidates;
•add operational, legal, financial, and management information systems and personnel;
•experience any delays, challenges or other issues associated with any of the above, including the failure of clinical trials meeting endpoints, the generation of unanticipated preclinical study results or clinical trial data
subject to differing interpretations, or the occurrence of potential safety issues or other development or regulatory challenges;
•make royalty, milestone, or other payments under current, and any future, in-license or assignment agreements;
•establish a sales, marketing, and distribution infrastructure to commercialize any product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval; and
•continue to operate as a public company.
We are unable to predict the extent of any future losses or when we will become profitable, if at all. Even if we do become profitable, we may not be able to sustain or increase our profitability on a quarterly or annual basis.
We will need substantial additional financing to develop our product candidates and implement our operating plans. If we fail to obtain additional financing, we may be delayed or unable to complete the development and commercialization of our product candidates.
We will continue to need additional capital beyond the proceeds received from our initial public offering (“IPO”), and we may raise capital through equity offerings (including our at-the-market facility), debt financings, collaborations and strategic alliances, licensing arrangements, or other sources.
We expect to spend a substantial amount of capital in the research, development, and manufacture of our product candidates. We expect our expenses to increase in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we initiate and continue clinical trials for, and seek marketing approval of, our product candidates. In addition, if we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, we expect to incur significant commercialization expenses related to product sales, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution to the extent that we do not obtain commercialization partners who will bear the costs for such activities. We may also need to raise additional funds sooner if we choose to pursue additional indications or markets for our product candidates or otherwise expand more rapidly than we presently anticipate. Furthermore, we will continue to incur significant costs associated with operating as a public company. Accordingly, we will need to obtain substantial additional funding in connection with our continuing operations. Because our allogeneic cell therapy product candidates are based on new technologies, they require extensive research and development and have substantial manufacturing costs. In addition, clinical costs to treat cancer patients with our product candidates, including treatment of any potential side effects that may arise, will be significant.
As of December 31, 2022, we had cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities of $317.0 million. We expect our cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities to be sufficient to fund our current operating plan through at least the next 12 months from the date the consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are issued. Our expectation is based on assumptions that may prove to be wrong, and we could use our available capital resources sooner than we currently expect.
Our future capital requirements will depend on, and could increase significantly as a result of, many factors, including:
•costs, progress, and results of our product candidate preclinical studies and clinical trials;
•potential delays in our preclinical studies and clinical trials, whether current or planned, due to unforeseen events as well as other factors such as the economic environment or the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health crises;
•costs and prioritization of our research and development programs as well as costs to acquire or in-license technologies or other product candidates;
•expansion of our workforce or our facilities;
•costs of establishing and maintaining a supply chain for the development and manufacture of our product candidates;
•timing and outcome of regulatory review of our product candidates;
•success of our collaboration with AbbVie and our receipt of reimbursements due thereunder;
•our ability to establish and maintain additional collaborations on favorable terms;
•costs of fulfilling our contractual obligations to reimburse certain parties for costs incurred in connection with the prosecution and maintenance of licensed patent rights, including reimbursements owed to The Regents of the University of California;
•achievement of milestones that trigger payments under any of our current license and assignment agreements as well as under any additional agreements we enter into in the future;
•costs of preparing, filing, prosecuting, and maintaining our patent portfolio, including costs associated with administrative proceedings of patent offices;
•litigation costs in the event we seek to enforce our patents against third parties or if we are sued for infringement by third parties as well as for stockholder lawsuits;
•effects of competing technologies, success or failure of products similar to our product candidates, and market developments;
•costs of establishing or contracting for sales and marketing capabilities if we obtain regulatory approvals to market our product candidates; and
•costs of operating as a public company.
Changing circumstances may cause us to consume capital significantly faster than we currently anticipate, and we may need to spend more money than expected because of circumstances beyond our control. We may also need to raise additional capital sooner if we choose to expand programs, personnel, and facilities more rapidly than planned. In any event, we will require additional capital for the further research, development, and commercialization of our product candidates, including potentially establishing our own internal manufacturing capabilities. Any additional fundraising efforts may divert our management from their day-to-day activities, which may adversely affect our ability to research, develop, and commercialize our product candidates.
We cannot be certain that additional funding will be available when needed and on acceptable terms, or at all. 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 product candidate preclinical studies, clinical trials, or development and commercialization, or we may be unable to expand our operations or otherwise capitalize on our business opportunities, as desired. Any of the above could significantly harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects and cause the price of our common stock to decline.
Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations, and/or require us to relinquish rights to our technologies or product candidates.
Until such time, if ever, that we can generate substantial product revenues, we expect to finance our cash needs through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings, and strategic collaboration and licensing arrangements. The terms of any financing may adversely affect the holdings or the rights of our stockholders and the issuance of additional securities, whether equity or debt, by us, or the possibility of such issuance, may cause the market price of our common stock to decline. Debt financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures, licensing or assigning our intellectual property rights, declaring dividends, and possibly other restrictions.
To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, our stockholders’ interests will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect the rights of our common stockholders.
If we are unable to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce, or terminate our product development or future commercialization efforts. Alternatively, we could be required to seek collaborators for our product candidates at an earlier stage than would otherwise be desirable or on terms that are less favorable than might otherwise be available. We might need to relinquish or license on unfavorable terms our rights to our product candidates in markets where we otherwise would seek to pursue development and commercialization
ourselves, or to license our intellectual property to others who could develop products that will compete with our products. Any of these actions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
We have a limited operating history, which may make it difficult to evaluate our technologies and product candidate development capabilities or to predict our future performance.
We are a clinical-stage biotechnology company formed in 2011, with no products approved for commercial sale, and we have not generated any revenues from product sales. Our operations to date have been limited to financing and staffing our company, developing our technologies, and identifying and developing our product candidates. Our prospects must be considered in light of the uncertainties, risks, expenses, and difficulties frequently encountered by companies in their early stages of operations. We have not yet demonstrated an ability to obtain marketing approval, manufacture at commercial scale, or conduct sales and marketing activities for our product candidates, which are all necessary for successful product commercialization. Consequently, predictions about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing and commercializing cell therapy products. Our ability to generate product revenue or profits, which we do not expect to occur for many years, if ever, will depend heavily on the successful development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates, which may never occur. Unless we receive approval from the FDA or other regulatory authorities for our product candidates, we will not have product revenues. We may never be able to develop or commercialize a marketable cell therapy product.
We are early in our development efforts. All of our programs will require clinical development, regulatory approval, manufacturing at commercial scale, distribution channels, a commercial organization, significant marketing efforts, and substantial investment before we generate any revenue from product sales. In addition, our product candidates must be approved for marketing by the FDA before we may commercialize our products in the United States and, if we wish to commercialize our products outside the United States, by foreign regulatory agencies. Furthermore, we will continue to incur costs associated with operating as a public company, including significant legal, accounting, insurance, investor relations, and other expenses.
Additionally, the rapidly evolving nature of the genome-editing and cell therapy fields may make it difficult to evaluate our technologies and product candidates as well as to predict our future performance. Our short history as an operating company makes any assessment of our future success or viability subject to significant uncertainty. We will encounter risks and difficulties, known and unknown, that are frequently experienced by early-stage companies in rapidly evolving fields. As we advance our product candidates, we must transition from a company with a research focus to a company capable of supporting clinical development and, if successful, commercial activities. We may not be successful in such transitions. If we do not address these risks successfully, our business will suffer. Similarly, we expect that our financial condition and operating results may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. As a result, you should not rely upon the results of any quarterly or annual period as an indicator of future operating performance.
Risks Relating to Our Business, Government Regulation, Technology, and Industry
We are early in our development efforts and it will be many years before we commercialize a product candidate, if ever. If we are unable to advance our product candidates through clinical trials, obtain regulatory approval, and ultimately commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
We are early in the development of our cell therapy product candidates and have focused our research and development efforts to date on various CRISPR genome-editing technologies, including our chRDNA genome-editing technology, as well as identifying our initial CAR-T cell product candidates. Our future success depends heavily on the successful development of our product candidates. Our ability to generate product revenue, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will be a result of the successful development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates, which may never occur. Our product candidates may have adverse side effects or fail to demonstrate safety and efficacy. Additionally, our product candidates may have other characteristics that may make them impractical or prohibitively expensive for large-scale manufacturing. Furthermore, our product candidates may not receive regulatory approval or, if they do, they may not be accepted by the medical community or patients or may not be competitive with other products that become available. We currently have no product revenue and we may never be able to successfully develop or commercialize a marketable product.
We must submit IND applications to the FDA to initiate clinical trials in the United States. In September 2020, we announced that the FDA had cleared our IND application for our first product candidate, CB-010, and, in November 2022, we announced that the FDA had cleared our IND application for our second product candidate, CB-011. The filing of future IND applications for our other product candidates is subject to additional preclinical research, research-scale and clinical-scale manufacturing, exploration of possible other genome-editing systems, evaluation of potential targets, and other factors yet to be identified. In addition, commencing any new clinical trial is subject to review by the FDA based on the acceptability and sufficiency of our CMC, and preclinical information provided to support our IND applications. If the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities require us to complete additional preclinical studies or we are required to satisfy other requests for additional data or information, our clinical trials may be delayed. Even after we receive and incorporate guidance from the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities, these regulatory authorities could disagree that we have satisfied all requirements to initiate our clinical trials or they may change their position on the acceptability of our trial design or the clinical endpoints selected. They could impose a clinical hold, which may require us to complete additional preclinical studies or clinical trials. The success of our product candidates will depend on several factors, including the following:
•sufficiency of our financial and other resources;
•acceptance of our chRDNA genome-editing technology;
•ability to develop and deploy armoring technologies so that our product candidates have a competitive edge;
•completion of preclinical studies;
•clearance of IND applications to initiate clinical trials;
•successful enrollment in, and completion of, our clinical trials;
•data from our clinical trials that support an acceptable risk-benefit profile of our product candidates for our intended patient populations and indications and demonstrate safety and efficacy;
•establishment of agreements with CMOs for clinical and commercial supplies and scaling up of manufacturing processes and capabilities to support our clinical trials;
•successful development of our internal process development and transfer to larger-scale facilities;
•receipt of regulatory and marketing approvals from applicable regulatory authorities as well as receipt of regulatory exclusivity for our product candidates;
•establishment, maintenance, enforcement, and defense of patent and trade secret protection and other intellectual property rights;
•not infringing, misappropriating, or otherwise violating third-party intellectual property rights;
•entry into collaborations to further the development of our product candidates or for the development of new product candidates;
•establishment of sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities for commercialization of our product candidates if and when approved, whether by us or in collaboration with third parties;
•identification and establishment of a stable supply chain that permits us to procure the necessary materials for our product candidates;
•maintenance of a continued acceptable safety profile of products post-approval;
•acceptance of product candidates, if and when approved, by patients, the medical community, and third-party payors;
•effective competition with other therapies and treatment options;
•establishment and maintenance of healthcare coverage and adequate reimbursement; and
•expanding indications and patient populations for our products post-approval.
Our product candidates are cell therapies generated by our novel CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing technologies, which make it difficult to predict the time and cost of developing these product candidates and obtaining regulatory approval. To date, no other products that use these chRDNA genome-editing technologies have advanced into clinical trials or received marketing approval in the United States.
We are concentrating our initial research, development, and manufacturing efforts on our allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies that are intended to treat patients with certain cancers. Before obtaining regulatory approval for the commercial sale of any of our product candidates, we must demonstrate through lengthy, complex, and expensive preclinical studies and clinical trials that our product candidates are both safe and effective for their intended use. The clinical trial requirements of the FDA and other regulatory authorities, and the criteria these regulators use to determine the safety and efficacy of a product candidate, vary substantially according to the type, complexity, novelty, intended use, and target population of our product candidates. The outcome of preclinical studies and clinical trials is inherently uncertain. Preclinical results in animals may not be predictive of safety or efficacy in humans. Failure can occur at any time during the preclinical study and clinical trial processes and because we have never successfully commercialized a product and our first product candidate is in an early stage of clinical development, there is a high risk of failure. We may never succeed in developing marketable products.
Approval processes by the FDA or other regulatory authorities for existing autologous anti-CD19 and anti-BCMA CAR-T cell therapies may not be indicative of what these regulatory authorities will require for approval of our allogeneic anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy or our other product candidates. Also, although we expect reduced variability in our allogeneic products candidates compared to autologous products, we do not have any clinical data supporting benefits of lower variability, and the use of healthy donor material may create separate variability challenges for us. Moreover, our product candidates may not perform successfully in clinical trials or may be associated with serious adverse events (“SAEs”) that distinguish them from the autologous anti-CD19 and anti-BCMA CAR-T therapies that have previously been approved. For instance, allogeneic product candidates may result in GvHD, which is not experienced with autologous products. GvHD results when allogeneic T cells see the patient’s normal tissue as foreign and attack and damage those cells. Even if we collect promising initial clinical data for our product candidates, longer-term data may reveal adverse events or responses that are not durable. Negative clinical outcomes would significantly impact our business.
In addition, approved autologous CAR-T therapies and those under development have shown frequent rates of cytokine release syndrome, neurotoxicity, serious infections, prolonged cytopenia, hypogammaglobulinemia, and other SAEs that have resulted in patient death. There may be similar adverse events for our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates, including patient death. Moreover, patients eligible for allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies but ineligible for autologous CAR-T cell therapies due to aggressive cancer or an inability to wait for autologous CAR-T cell therapies may be at greater risk for complications and death from therapy. Our allogeneic CAR-T cell product candidates may also cause unique adverse events related to the differences between the donor and patients, such as GvHD or infusion reactions. Our product candidates may not be successful in limiting the risk of GvHD, exhaustion of the CAR-T cells, or premature rejection by a patient’s immune system. If significant GvHD or other SAEs are observed with the administration of our product candidates, or if any of our product candidates are viewed as less safe or effective than autologous therapies or other allogeneic therapies, our ability to develop other allogeneic therapies may be adversely affected.
We use our CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing platform to generate our product candidates, and we believe our chRDNA guides significantly improve the specificity of CRISPR genome editing (e.g., by reducing the number of off-target events). CRISPR genome editing generally is relatively new; to date, no genome-editing technologies have been approved in the United States although clinical trials of product candidates based on CRISPR-Cas9 and other genome-editing technologies are underway. As a result, the regulatory approval process for cell therapy product candidates such as ours is uncertain and may be more expensive and take longer than the approval process for product candidates based on better known or more extensively studied technologies. As such, it is difficult to accurately predict the developmental challenges we may face as we progress our product candidates through preclinical studies and clinical trials. There may be long-term adverse effects from treatment with our product candidates resulting from the use of our chRDNA genome-editing technologies that we cannot predict with the knowledge we have today. Also, animal models may not exist for some of the diseases we choose to pursue in our programs, which may complicate and increase the cost of preclinical research. As a result of these factors, it is difficult for us to predict the time and cost of our product candidate development, and we cannot predict whether the application of our chRDNA technologies, or other genome-editing technologies we may use in the future, will result in the identification, development, preclinical studies, and clinical trials to support regulatory approval of any of our cell therapy product candidates. There can be no assurance that any development problems we experience in the future related to our chRDNA technologies or any of our research programs will not cause significant delays or unanticipated costs, or that such development problems can be solved. We may not achieve the desired safety and
efficacy of our product candidates. Also, we may not sufficiently improve genome-editing specificity and our genome editing may have off-target events. Moreover, we may not be able to achieve a high degree of on-target gene knockout and insertion efficiency in developing our product candidates. Any of these factors may prevent us from completing our clinical trials, delay or cause us to fail to meet our clinical trial endpoints, or lead us to fail to commercialize any of our cell therapy product candidates.
We may also experience delays in developing robust, reproducible, and scalable manufacturing processes and transferring those processes to CMOs, which may prevent us from completing our clinical trials or commercializing our products on a timely or profitable basis, if at all. Currently, we have only manufactured our CB-010 and CB-011 product candidates for clinical trials. In addition, since we are in the early stages of clinical development, we do not know the doses to be used in later phase 2 or pivotal trials needed to evaluate the efficacy of our product candidates, which will affect the manufacturing requirements for our product candidates. Finding a suitable dose, such as a maximum tolerated dose or, as applicable, a recommended phase 2 dose, for our cell therapy product candidates may delay our anticipated clinical development timelines and prolong our clinical trials. Accordingly, our expectations regarding our costs of manufacturing may vary significantly as we develop our product candidates and understand these critical factors. Such factors may delay or keep us from bringing a product candidate to market and could decrease our ability to generate sufficient product revenue, which could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Manufacturing of our product candidates is complex and we could experience manufacturing problems during our clinical trials, which could delay or limit commercialization of our product candidates.
The manufacturing processes used to produce our cell therapy product candidates are and will be complex, as our product candidates are new products and, to date, only our CB-010 and CB-011 product candidates have been manufactured according to cGMPs. Several factors could cause production interruptions including facility contaminations; shortages or quality problems; contamination of healthy donor cells, chRDNA guides, Cas9 and Cas12a proteins, viruses, iPSC master cell banks or working cell banks; natural disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health crises; labor shortages and strikes; lack of experienced scientific, quality control, and manufacturing personnel; human error; or other disruptions in the operations of our suppliers and CMOs. We conduct process development activities at our facilities and we may experience personnel and supply shortages. Problems with our manufacturing process, even minor deviations from the normal process, could result in product defects or manufacturing failures that result in lot failures, product recalls, product liability claims, or insufficient inventory. We may encounter problems achieving adequate quantities and quality of clinical grade materials that meet FDA or other applicable standards or specifications with consistent and acceptable production yields and costs.
As our product candidates proceed through preclinical studies to clinical trials to regulatory review, and potential marketing approval and commercialization, it is common that various aspects of our manufacturing methods will be altered along the way to optimize processes and results. Such changes carry the risk that intended objectives will not be achieved. If we make any such changes, our product candidates could perform differently and affect the results of clinical trials conducted with the altered materials. Such changes may also require additional testing as well as notification to or approval from the FDA or other regulatory authorities, which could delay completion of our clinical trials, require bridging clinical trials, require repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical trial costs, delay approval of our product candidates, if any, and ultimately jeopardize commercialization.
If we receive marketing approval for a product candidate, the FDA and other regulatory authorities may require us to submit samples of any lot of any approved product together with the protocols showing the results of applicable tests at any time. Under some circumstances, the FDA or other regulatory authorities may require that we not distribute a lot until the relevant agency authorizes its release. Slight deviations in the manufacturing process, including those affecting quality attributes and stability, may result in unacceptable changes in the product that could result in lot failures or product recalls. Problems in our manufacturing processes could restrict our ability to meet market demand for our products. All these factors could be costly to us and otherwise harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Our business is highly dependent on the success of our product candidates, which will require significant additional preclinical studies and and/or human clinical trials before we can seek regulatory approval and potentially commercialize our product candidates. If we are unable to advance our preclinical studies and clinical trials and obtain regulatory approval for, and successfully commercialize, our product candidates for the treatment of patients in approved indications, or if we are substantially delayed in doing so, our business will be significantly harmed.
Our business and future success depends on our ability to advance our product candidates through preclinical studies and clinical trials, obtain regulatory approval for, and successfully commercialize, our product candidates. The failure of our product candidates in clinical trials, or the failure of other companies’ allogeneic anti-CD19 CAR-T and allogeneic anti-BCMA CAR-T cell therapies, including for reasons due to safety, efficacy, or the durability of response, may impede our ability to develop not only CB-010 and CB-011 but our other CAR-T and CAR-NK product candidates as well, and may significantly influence physicians’ and regulatory authorities’ opinions with regard to the viability of our entire pipeline of allogeneic cell therapies. In order to submit IND applications for our other product candidates, we will need to complete many objectives, such as our preclinical research of product candidates still in discovery and advancement of cGMP conditions for our product candidates. If we are unable to achieve any of these objectives, we may not be able to submit other IND applications in a timely manner or at all, which would significantly harm our business.
We may not be successful in our efforts to identify and successfully research and develop additional product candidates and may expend our limited resources to pursue particular product candidates or indications while failing to capitalize on other product candidates or indications that may be more profitable, or for which there is a greater likelihood of commercial success.
Part of our business strategy involves identifying and developing new cell therapy product candidates. The process by which we identify product candidates may fail to yield successful product candidates for a number of reasons, including:
•we may not be able to assemble sufficient resources to identify or acquire additional product candidates;
•competitors may develop alternative therapies that render new product candidates obsolete or less attractive;
•product candidates we develop or acquire may be covered by third-party intellectual property rights;
•new product candidates may, on further study, be shown to have adverse side effects, toxicities, or other characteristics that indicate that they are unlikely to receive marketing approval or achieve market acceptance;
•new product candidates may not be safe or effective;
•the market for a new product candidate may change so that the continued development of that product candidate is no longer reasonable; and
•we may not be able to produce new product candidates in commercial quantities at an acceptable cost, or at all.
We have limited financial and managerial resources. We are focused initially on allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapies and, as a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to timely capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable products. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing, or other royalty arrangements when it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to that product candidate.
If we experience delays or difficulties enrolling patients in the clinical trials for our product candidates, including our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-010 product candidate and our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-011 product candidate, our ability to advance our product candidates through clinical development and the regulatory process could be delayed or prevented.
The timely completion of clinical trials depends, among other things, on our ability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who remain in the trial until its conclusion. We may encounter delays in enrolling or be unable to enroll a sufficient number of patients to complete any of our clinical trials and, even if patients are enrolled, they may withdraw
from our clinical trials before completion. For both our ANTLER and our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trials, we have entered into contracts with clinical research organizations (“CROs”), as well as clinical trial agreements with the sites participating in our clinical trials. Patient selection and enrollment may be challenging. The clinical protocol for CB-010 excludes many non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients from our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial, including patients previously treated with anti-CD19-targeted therapy or allogeneic stem cell transplantation, patients with active or chronic GvHD requiring therapy, or patients unwilling to follow extended safety monitoring. The clinical protocol for CB-011 excludes some multiple myeloma patients from our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial, including patients with prior CAR-T cell therapy and/or BCMA-targeted therapy within the last three months.
Our ANTLER and CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trials, as well as any future clinical trials for our other product candidates, will compete for enrollment of patients with other clinical trials for product candidates that are in the same cell therapeutic areas with the same or similar study populations as our product candidates. Our clinical trials will also compete for enrollment of patients with other clinical trials for product candidates based on non-cellular modalities, such as small molecules and antibodies, that are intended for the same or similar study populations as our product candidates. This competition will reduce the number and types of patients available to us because some patients who might opt to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by one of our competitors. Additionally, since the number of qualified and experienced clinical investigators for therapeutic areas is limited, some of our clinical trial sites may be also conducting clinical trials for some of our competitors, which may reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials at that clinical trial site. Moreover, because our product candidates represent a departure from more commonly used methods for cancer treatment, potential patients and their doctors may be inclined to use conventional therapies, such as chemotherapy, HSC transplantation, or autologous CAR-T cell therapies, rather than refer patients to our clinical trials. Because our cell therapy product candidates are edited with CRISPR chRDNA guides, our products may be perceived to have additional or greater safety risks. Patients eligible for allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies but ineligible for autologous CAR-T cell therapies may be difficult to treat due to advanced and aggressive cancers and may fail to experience improved outcomes and be at greater risk for complications and death from our product candidates. If patients are unwilling to participate in our cell therapy trials, the timeline for recruiting patients, conducting clinical trials, and obtaining regulatory approval of any of our product candidates may be delayed.
In addition, the enrollment of patients depends on many factors, including:
•severity or stage of the type of cancer under investigation;
•size of the patient population and process for identifying patients;
•design of the clinical trial protocol;
•regulatory hold on clinical trial recruitment because of unexpected safety events;
•availability of eligible prospective patients who are otherwise eligible patients for competitive clinical trials;
•availability and efficacy of approved alternative treatments for the disease under investigation;
•ability to obtain and maintain patient consent;
•risk that enrolled patients will drop out before completion of the trial;
•eligibility and exclusion criteria for the trial in question;
•perceived risks and benefits of our product candidates;
•perceived risks and benefits of genome-editing and cell therapies;
•perceived risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial;
•efforts by clinical sites and investigators to facilitate timely enrollment in clinical trials;
•patient referral practices of physicians;
•physicians' ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment because of patient healthcare access issues caused by COVID-19, other pandemics, or public health crises;
•proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective patients; and
•interruptions, delays, or staffing shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, other pandemics, or public health crises.
Enrollment delays in our clinical trials may result in increased development costs for any product candidates we may develop, which may cause our stock price to decline and limit our ability to obtain additional financing. If we have difficulty enrolling a sufficient number of patients to conduct our clinical trials as planned, we may need to delay, limit, or terminate our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial or our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial or future clinical trials, and postpone or forgo seeking marketing approval, any of which would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Clinical trials are expensive, time consuming, and subject to uncertainty. We cannot guarantee that any of our clinical trials will be conducted as planned or completed on schedule, if at all. Issues may arise that could suspend or terminate our clinical trials. A failure of one or more of our clinical trials may occur at any stage of testing, and our future clinical trials may not be successful.
Events that may prevent successful or timely completion of clinical development include:
•the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities disagreeing as to the design or implementation of our clinical trials;
•delays or failure to obtain regulatory clearance to initiate our clinical trials, as well as delays or failures to obtain any necessary approvals by the clinical sites;
•delays, suspension, or termination of our clinical trials by the clinical sites;
•modification of clinical trial protocols;
•delays in reaching agreement on acceptable terms with prospective CROs and clinical trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and clinical trial sites, as well as possible future breaches of such agreements;
•failure to manufacture sufficient quantities of our product candidates for use in our clinical trials;
•failure by third-party suppliers, CMOs, CROs, and clinical trial sites to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all;
•imposition of a temporary or permanent clinical hold by us, IRBs for the institutions at which such trials are being conducted, or by the FDA or other regulatory authorities for safety or other reasons, such as a result of a new safety finding in a clinical trial on a similar product by one of our competitors, that presents unreasonable risk to clinical trial participants;
•changes in regulatory requirements and guidance that require amending or submitting new clinical protocols;
•changes in the standard of care on which we developed our clinical development plan, which may require new or additional trials;
•the cost of clinical trials of our product candidates being greater than we anticipated;
•insufficient funding to continue clinical trials with our product candidates;
•the emergence of unforeseen safety issues or undesirable side effects;
•clinical trials of our product candidates producing negative or inconclusive results, which may result in our deciding, or regulators requiring us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon development of our product candidates;
•inability to establish clinical trial endpoints that applicable regulatory authorities consider clinically meaningful, or, if we seek accelerated approval, that applicable regulatory authorities consider likely to predict clinical benefit;
•regulators withdrawing their approval of a product or imposing restrictions on its distribution; and
•interruptions, delays, or staffing shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, other pandemics, or public health crises.
If (i) we are required to extend the duration of any clinical trials or to conduct additional preclinical studies or clinical trials or other testing of our product candidates beyond those that we currently contemplate; (ii) we are unable to successfully complete preclinical studies or clinical trials of our product candidates or other testing; (iii) the results of these trials, studies, or tests are negative or produce inconclusive results; (iv) there are safety concerns; or (v) we determine that the observed safety or efficacy profile would not be competitive in the marketplace, we may:
•abandon the development of one or more product candidates;
•incur unplanned costs;
•be delayed in obtaining marketing approval for our product candidates or not obtain marketing approval at all;
•obtain marketing approval in some jurisdictions and not in others;
•obtain marketing approval for indications or patient populations that are not as broad as we intended or designed;
•obtain marketing approval with labeling that includes significant use restrictions or safety warnings, including black box warnings;
•be subject to additional post-marketing requirements; or
•have regulatory agencies remove the product from the market or we voluntarily withdraw the product from the market after obtaining marketing approval.
Our clinical trials may fail to adequately demonstrate the safety and efficacy of any of our product candidates and the development of our product candidates may be delayed or unsuccessful, which could prevent or delay regulatory approval and commercialization.
Our product candidates are in various stages of preclinical and clinical development. If we encounter safety or efficacy problems in our ongoing or future studies, our developmental plans and business could be significantly harmed. Product candidates in later stages of clinical trials may fail to show the desired safety profiles and efficacy results despite having progressed through initial clinical trials. A number of 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. Based upon negative or inconclusive results, we may decide, or regulatory agencies may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or preclinical studies.
In addition, data obtained from clinical trials are susceptible to varying interpretations, and regulatory agencies may not interpret our data as favorably as we do, which may delay, limit, or prevent regulatory approval.
In addition, the design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of our product candidates, and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not be apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. We have limited experience designing clinical trials and may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial that will support regulatory approval.
From time to time, we may publish initial, interim, or preliminary data from our clinical trials. Initial, interim, or preliminary data from clinical trials are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially and adversely change as patient enrollment continues, and additional and long-term patient data become available, including data respect to efficacy, duration of response, and/or safety. Additional clinical data may not support or may contradict the findings of the initial, interim, or preliminary data reported earlier. Initial, interim, or preliminary clinical trial data may be based on a limited number of patients and are subject to the risk that they will not ultimately be predictive of the safety and/or efficacy of the final product candidate. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations, and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully evaluate all data at the time of publishing initial, interim, or preliminary data. These data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the data we previously published. The information that we choose to
disclose publicly regarding preclinical studies or clinical trials is typically a summary of extensive information, and others may not agree with what we determine is material or otherwise appropriate information to include in our disclosure, and any information we determine not to disclose may ultimately be deemed significant with respect to future decisions, conclusions, views, activities, or otherwise regarding a particular product candidate or our product candidates generally. As a result, initial, interim, and preliminary data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Moreover, initial, interim, and preliminary data are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially and adversely change as more patient data become available when patients mature on study, dose levels change, patient enrollment continues, or, for final data, as other ongoing or future clinical trials with a product candidate further develop. Past results of clinical trials may not be predictive of future results. Unfavorable differences between initial, interim, or preliminary data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects and may cause the trading price of our common stock to decline significantly.
Because of these risks, our product candidates may fail or encounter difficulties in clinical trials. If we are unable to advance our product candidates through clinical trials to seek marketing approval, our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects will be materially harmed.
If our product candidates cause serious adverse events or undesirable side effects, including injury and death, or have other properties that could delay or prevent regulatory approval, their commercial potential may be limited or extinguished.
Product candidates we develop may be associated with undesirable or unacceptable side effects, unexpected characteristics, or other SAEs, including death. Immunotherapy, and its method of action of harnessing the immune system, is powerful and could lead to serious side effects that we only discover in clinical trials. In addition to potential SAEs from the immune system or side effects caused by our CB-010 or our CB-011 product candidate, or any product candidate we may develop and advance into one or more clinical trials, the product candidate administration process and related procedures may also cause undesirable side effects. Patients who enroll in our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial or our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial undergo a lymphodepletion regimen, including administration of fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, which can lead to SAEs. Because these regimens will cause a transient and sometimes prolonged blood count suppression, patients have an increased risk of leukopenia, anemia, thrombocytopenia bleeding, or infection, which could ultimately lead to death. Although we educate clinical site personnel administering our cell therapy product candidates to understand the side effect profiles for our product candidates, inadequate recognition or management of the potential side effects of our product candidates could result in patient injury or death. If any undesirable or unacceptable side effects, unexpected characteristics, or other SAEs occur, our clinical trials could be suspended or terminated, and our business and reputation could suffer substantial harm.
There can be no assurance that we will resolve any adverse event related to any of our products to the satisfaction of the FDA or any regulatory agency in a timely manner or at all. If we are unable to demonstrate that such adverse events were caused by factors other than our product candidates, the FDA or other regulatory authorities could order us to cease further clinical trials of, or deny approval of, our product candidates. Even if we demonstrate that such SAEs are not product candidate-related, such occurrences could affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete our clinical trials. Moreover, if we elect, or are required, to delay, suspend, or terminate any clinical trial of any of our product candidates, the commercial prospects of such product candidates may be harmed and our ability to generate product revenues from these product candidates may be delayed or eliminated. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
The FDA or other regulatory agencies may disagree with our regulatory plans and we may fail to obtain regulatory approval of our cell therapy product candidates.
If and when our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-010 product candidate is completed and, assuming positive data, we will propose to advance to a pivotal clinical trial, and will propose the same for our CB-011 product candidate when our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial is completed. Although the FDA has found substantial evidence to support approval outside of the traditional phase 1, phase 2, and phase 3 framework for the approved autologous anti-CD19 and anti-BCMA CAR-T cell therapies, the general approach for FDA approval of a new biologic is for the sponsor to provide dispositive data from at least two adequate and well-controlled clinical trials of the relevant biologic in the applicable patient population. Such clinical trials typically involve hundreds of patients, have significant costs, and take years to complete. We do not have agreement or guidance from the FDA that our regulatory development plans will be sufficient for submission of a BLA. For example, the FDA may require that we conduct a comparative trial against an approved therapy, such as an approved autologous CAR-T cell therapy, which would significantly delay our development
timelines and require substantially more resources. In addition, the FDA may limit our evaluation to patients who have failed or who are ineligible for autologous therapy, patients who may be difficult to treat, or patients with advanced and aggressive cancer, and our product candidates may fail to improve outcomes for those patients.
In addition, the standard of care may change with the approval of new products in the same indications to which our cell therapy product candidates are directed. This may result in the FDA or other regulatory authorities requesting additional studies to show that our product candidate is comparable or superior to the new products.
Our clinical trial results may also not support marketing approval. In addition, our product candidates could fail to receive regulatory approval for many reasons, including:
•the FDA or other 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 or other regulatory authorities that our product candidates are safe and effective for their proposed indications;
•the results of clinical trials may not meet the level of statistical significance required by the FDA or other regulatory authorities for approval, including due to heterogeneity of patient populations;
•we may be unable to demonstrate that the clinical and other benefits of our product candidates outweigh the safety risks;
•the data collected from clinical trials of our product candidates may not be sufficient to the satisfaction of the FDA or other regulatory authorities to support the submission of a BLA or a similar filing in a foreign jurisdiction or to support commercial reimbursement;
•the FDA or other authorities will review our manufacturing processes and inspect our CMOs’ facilities and may not approve our manufacturing processes or CMOs’ facilities; and
•the approval policies or regulations of the FDA or other regulatory authorities may significantly change in a manner rendering our clinical data insufficient for approval.
Even if we comply with all FDA requests, we may still fail to obtain regulatory approval. We cannot be sure that we will ever obtain regulatory clearance for our product candidates. Failure to obtain FDA approval of our product candidates will severely undermine our business by leaving us without a commercially marketable product in the United States, and therefore without any source of revenues from product sales in the United States, until another product candidate can be developed or obtained and ultimately approved.
Even if we complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials, the regulatory approval process is expensive, time-consuming, and uncertain, and we may be unable to obtain the regulatory approvals necessary for the commercialization of our product candidates; furthermore, if there are delays in obtaining regulatory approvals, we may not be able to commercialize our products, may lose competitive lead time, and our ability to generate revenues will be materially impaired.
The process of obtaining marketing approvals, both in the United States and in other jurisdictions, is expensive, may take many years, if approval is obtained at all, and can vary substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity, and novelty of the product candidates involved. It is impossible to predict if or when any of our product candidates will prove to be safe and effective in humans or if we will receive regulatory approval for such product candidates. The risk of failure through the development process is high. Any product candidates we may develop, and the activities associated with their development and commercialization, including their manufacture, preclinical and clinical development, safety, efficacy, recordkeeping, labeling, storage, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution, are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and other regulatory authorities.
Failure to obtain marketing approval for a product candidate will prevent us from commercializing the product candidate in a given jurisdiction. We have not received approval or authorization to market any product candidates from regulatory authorities in any jurisdiction and it is possible that none of our product candidates or any product candidates we may seek to develop in the future will ever obtain marketing approval or commercialization. We have not previously submitted a BLA to the FDA or made a similar submission to any foreign regulatory authority. A BLA must include extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to establish our product candidate’s safety and efficacy
for each desired indication. The BLA must also include significant information regarding the chemistry, manufacturing, and controls for our product. Any product candidates we develop may not be effective; may be only moderately effective; or may prove to have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities, or other characteristics that may preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use. The FDA and other regulatory authorities have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept our BLA applications and decide that our data are insufficient and require additional preclinical studies or clinical trials. The same may happen with review of our product candidates by foreign regulatory authorities. In addition, varying interpretations of the data obtained from preclinical studies and clinical trials could delay, limit, or prevent marketing approval of our product candidates. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render our approved product not commercially viable. If we experience delays in obtaining approval or if we fail to obtain approval of any product candidates we may develop, the commercial prospects for those product candidates and our ability to generate revenues will be materially impaired and we may lose competitive lead time as similar products enter the market.
We expect the innovative nature of our product candidates to create further challenges in obtaining regulatory approval. For example, the FDA has limited experience with the development of allogeneic T cell and NK cell therapies for cancer. We may also request regulatory approval of future CAR-T or CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates by target, regardless of cancer type or origin, which the FDA may have difficulty accepting if our clinical trials have only involved cancers of certain types or origins. The FDA may also require a panel of experts, referred to as an Advisory Committee, to deliberate on the adequacy of the safety and efficacy data. The opinion of an Advisory Committee, although not binding, may have a significant impact on our ability to obtain marketing approval of our product candidates based on our completed clinical trials, as the FDA often adheres to an Advisory Committee’s recommendations. Accordingly, the regulatory approval pathway for our product candidates may be uncertain, complex, expensive, and lengthy, and approval may not be obtained.
The regulatory landscape that will govern our product candidates is uncertain; regulations relating to more established gene therapy and cell therapy products are still developing, and changes in regulatory requirements could result in delays or discontinuation of development of our product candidates or unexpected costs in obtaining regulatory approval.
Because we are developing CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates that are unique biological entities, the regulatory requirements to which we will be subject are not entirely clear. Even with respect to more established products that fit into the categories of gene therapies or cell therapies, the regulatory landscape is still developing. For example, regulatory requirements governing gene therapy products and cell therapy products have changed frequently and may continue to change in the future. Moreover, there is substantial, and sometimes uncoordinated, overlap in those responsible for regulation of existing gene therapy products and cell therapy products. Gene therapy clinical trials are also subject to additional review and oversight by an IBC. Although the FDA decides whether individual gene therapy protocols may proceed, review processes and determinations of other reviewing bodies can impede or delay the initiation of a clinical trial, even if the FDA has reviewed the study and cleared its initiation. Conversely, the FDA can place an IND application on clinical hold even if such other entities have provided a favorable review. In addition, regulatory agencies, including the FDA, develop and issue guidance documents with which we, in practice, must comply, even if the agencies state that the documents only represent the current thinking of the agencies and are not binding. These documents may provide additional guidance and recommendations regarding the testing, design, development, and manufacturing of cell therapy products. Failure to comply with such regulatory agency guidance could delay or prevent regulatory approval of our product candidates. The content of such guidance documents may change in the future, which could add to the cost, time, and resources that are required for completion of our preclinical studies, clinical trials, or regulatory approvals.
We may not receive additional priority review, such as RMAT designation, breakthrough therapy designation, or fast track designation, by the FDA for our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapies.
We may continue to apply for certain expedited programs in the United States, such as RMAT, breakthrough therapy, fast track, or priority review programs. The FDA granted RMAT designation for our CB-010 product candidate for r/r LBCL as well as fast track designation for r/r B-NHL. Although obtaining each of these designations has specific and different criteria, they are reserved for therapeutic products that are intended for serious diseases, and each designation offers certain benefits to prioritize the review and approval of such therapeutic option, which may include rolling reviews, intensive guidance, or approval based on surrogate endpoint or an intermediate clinical endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict a drug’s clinical benefit. However, there is no assurance that we will be able to obtain such designations in the future and, even with expedited designation, we may ultimately fail to obtain FDA’s full approval for our product candidates, or the approved indication may be narrower than the indication covered by the designation.
We may continue to seek orphan drug designation for our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates across various indications, but we may not be able to obtain such designations or to maintain the benefits associated with orphan drug designation, including market exclusivity, which may cause our revenue, if any, to be reduced.
We may submit applications to FDA for additional orphan drug designation for our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates in specific orphan indications in which there is a medically plausible basis for the use of these products. 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.
Although we received orphan drug designation from the FDA for our CB-010 product candidate in follicular lymphoma, there is no guarantee that we will obtain additional designations for other indications or for our other product candidates as the FDA may decline future requests if it determines that our product candidates and the proposed indications do not meet the threshold for the orphan drug designation. Even if we obtain additional orphan drug designations, we may not be the first company to obtain FDA approval for the orphan drug indication, in which case exclusive marketing rights would not be available to us. 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 and may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective, we are unable to ensure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition, or if a subsequent applicant demonstrates clinical superiority over our products.
In addition, there remains some uncertainty regarding the legal and regulatory framework for orphan drug exclusivity. In September 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed with a pharmaceutical company’s position that once an orphan drug is approved for a disease or condition, the FDA may not approve another drug for the same disease or condition, even if for different uses or indications that the FDA has not approved. However, in January 2023, the FDA stated that it will continue to tie the applicability of the orphan drug exclusivity to the specific uses or indications, rather than diseases or conditions, despite the loss. Thus, any future orphan drug exclusivity may be blocked if another company receives approval before us for an indication for a disease or a condition, even if our orphan drug designation was for a different indication.
Our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates will be regulated as biological products, or biologics, and therefore may be subject to uncertainty regarding regulatory exclusivity or maintaining regulatory approval.
Under the BPCIA, the FDA has the authority to review and approve biosimilar biologics, including the possible designation of a biosimilar as “interchangeable” based on its similarity to an approved biologic. An application for a biosimilar product cannot be approved by the FDA until 12 years after the reference product was approved under a BLA. We believe that our product candidates should qualify for the 12-year period of exclusivity. However, some uncertainty over interpretation of the law remains, and there is a risk that this exclusivity could be shortened due to congressional action or otherwise, or that the FDA will not consider our product candidates to be reference products for competing products, potentially creating the opportunity for biosimilar competition sooner than anticipated. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once approved, will be substituted for any one of the reference products in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for drug products is not yet clear, and will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing.
Even if we obtain marketing approvals for our product candidates, the terms of such approvals and ongoing regulation of our products could require substantial expenditure of resources and may limit how we manufacture and market our products, which could materially impair our ability to generate revenues. Any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval could be subject to restrictions or withdrawal from the market, and we may be subject to substantial penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or if we experience unanticipated problems with our products, when and if any of them are approved.
Even if we receive marketing approval for a product candidate, the approval may be subject to limitations on the indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or to the conditions of approval or contain requirements for costly post-marketing testing and studies to further assess the safety or efficacy of the product. The FDA also may place other conditions on our approval, including the requirement for a REMS to ensure the safe use of the product by reinforcing
medication use behaviors and actions. If the FDA concludes a REMS is needed, we must submit a proposed REMS before our product candidate will be eligible to receive marketing approval. A REMS could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or other elements to ensure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries, and other risk minimization tools. Certain REMS programs can significantly impact and restrict the marketability of our products, even if our products are approved.
The FDA’s 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 to address or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained, which would adversely affect our business, prospects, and ability to achieve or sustain profitability. Any government investigation of alleged violations of law, including investigations of any of our suppliers or CMOs, could require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate negative publicity. Accordingly, we will need to continue to expend time, money, and effort on regulatory compliance activities. If we are not able to comply with post-approval regulatory requirements, we could have the marketing approval for our products withdrawn by regulatory authorities and our ability to market any product candidates could be limited, which could adversely affect our ability to achieve or sustain profitability. Furthermore, the cost of compliance with post-approval regulations, including REMS, may have a negative effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
The FDA and other regulatory authorities closely regulate the post-approval marketing and promotion of biologics to ensure that they are marketed only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved labeling. The FDA and other regulatory authorities impose stringent restrictions on off-label promotion, and if we market our products for unapproved indications, including off-label indications, we may be subject to enforcement action for off-label marketing by the FDA and other federal and state enforcement agencies, including the DOJ. Violation of the FDCA and other statutes, including the federal False Claims Act, relating to the promotion and advertising of prescription products, may also lead to investigations or allegations of violations of federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws and state consumer protection laws.
In addition, later discovery of previously unknown problems with our products or the manufacturing of our products, may cause:
•restrictions on our products or the manufacturing of our products;
•restrictions on the labeling or marketing of our products;
•restrictions on the exportation, distribution, or use of our products;
•requirements to conduct post-marketing clinical trials;
•receipt of warning or untitled letters;
•withdrawal of our products from the market;
•refusal to approve pending BLAs or BLA supplements that we submit;
•recall of our products;
•fines, restitution, or disgorgement of profits or revenue;
•suspension or withdrawal of marketing approvals;
•suspension of any ongoing clinical trials;
•product seizure; and
•injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.
Any government investigation of alleged violations of law could require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate negative publicity and adversely affect our reputation. The occurrence of any
event or penalty described above may inhibit our ability to commercialize any product candidates we develop and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
We may never obtain approval to commercialize our product candidates outside the United States, which could limit our ability to recognize the full market potential of our product candidates and could materially impair our ability to generate revenues.
In order to market and sell any of our product candidates in the EU or other foreign jurisdictions, we must obtain separate marketing approvals and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements. The approval procedure varies among countries and jurisdictions and can involve additional testing. The time required to obtain approval may differ substantially from that required to obtain FDA approval. The regulatory approval process outside the United States generally includes all the risks associated with obtaining FDA approval. In addition, in many countries, it is required that the product be approved for reimbursement before the product can be approved for sale in that country. We may not obtain approvals from regulatory authorities outside the United States on a timely basis, if at all. Approval by the FDA does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions, and approval by one regulatory authority outside the United States does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions. The failure to obtain approval in one jurisdiction may negatively impact our ability to obtain approval elsewhere. We may not be able to file for marketing approvals and may not receive necessary approvals to commercialize our product candidates in multiple jurisdictions, which could materially impair our ability to generate revenue.
Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU in 2020 (commonly referred to as “Brexit”), the EU and United Kingdom entered into the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which was entered into force permanently on May 1, 2021. The agreement provides details on how some aspects of the United Kingdom and the EU’s relationship regarding pharmaceutical products will operate; however, there are still many uncertainties. Since the regulatory framework in the United Kingdom covering pharmaceutical products is derived from EU directives and regulations, Brexit could materially impact the future regulatory requirements for product candidates and products in the United Kingdom as there is now potential for the UK regulations to diverge from the EU regulations. In the meantime, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (the “MHRA”), the medicines and medical devices regulator in the United Kingdom, has published detailed guidance for industry and organizations to follow as of January 1, 2021, which is updated as necessary. A number of new marketing authorization routes have been introduced post-Brexit under the UK Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/1916) to allow for quick recognition of products that are approved in the EU and to allow greater flexibility in the UK procedures (such as a “rolling review” that permits the submission of an application in modules). Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any marketing approvals, as a result of Brexit or otherwise, may force us to restrict or delay efforts to seek regulatory approval in the United Kingdom for our product candidates, which could harm our business.
Negative public opinion and increased regulatory scrutiny of genetic research and therapies involving genome editing may damage public perception of our product candidates generated through genome editing or adversely affect our ability to conduct our business or obtain regulatory approvals for our product candidates.
The CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing technologies that we use are novel, and public perception may be influenced by claims that genome editing is unsafe, and therapeutic products generated through genome editing may not gain the acceptance of the public or the medical community. In particular, our success will depend upon physicians specializing in our targeted diseases prescribing our product candidates, if approved for marketing, as treatments in lieu of, or in addition to, existing, more familiar treatments for which greater clinical data may be available. Any increase in negative perceptions of genome editing may result in fewer physicians prescribing our treatments or may reduce the willingness of patients to accept our products. In addition, given the nature of genome-edited and CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapies in general, governments may place import, export, or other restrictions in order to retain control or limit the use of such technologies. Increased negative public opinion or more restrictive government regulations, either in the United States or internationally, could have a negative effect on our business or financial condition and may delay or impair the commercialization of our product candidates or demand for such products.
In particular, genome-editing technology is subject to public debate and heightened regulatory scrutiny due to ethical concerns relating to the potential application of genome-editing technology to human embryos or the human germline. We do not apply genome-editing technologies to human embryos or the human germline. In April 2016, a group of scientists reported on their attempts to edit the genome of human embryos to modify the gene for hemoglobin beta. This is the gene in which a mutation occurs in patients with the inherited blood disorder beta thalassemia. Although this research was purposefully conducted in embryos that were not viable, the work prompted calls for a moratorium or other types of
restrictions on genome editing of human eggs, sperm, and embryos. Additionally, in November 2018, a researcher at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, reportedly claimed they had created the first human genome-edited babies, which was subsequently confirmed by Chinese authorities and was negatively received by the public, in particular by those in the scientific community. In the wake of the claim, the World Health Organization established a new advisory committee to create global governance and oversight standards for human genome editing. The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine in Washington, D.C., of which we are a member, has called for a voluntary moratorium on the use of genome-editing technologies, including CRISPR, in research that involves altering human embryos or human germline cells and has also released a bioethical framework of principles for the use of genome editing in therapeutic applications endorsed by a number of companies that use genome-editing technologies. Similarly, the NIH has announced that it would not fund any use of genome-editing technologies in human embryos, noting that there are multiple existing legislative and regulatory prohibitions against such work, including the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits the use of appropriated funds for the creation of human embryos for research purposes or for research in which human embryos are destroyed.
Although we do not use our CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing technologies to edit human embryos or the human germline, such public debate about the use of genome-editing technologies in human embryos and heightened regulatory scrutiny could prevent or delay our development of our product candidates and, if approved, the market acceptance of our products. More restrictive government regulations or negative public opinion would have a negative effect on our business or financial condition. Adverse events in our clinical trials or those of our competitors or of academic researchers utilizing genome-editing technologies, even if not ultimately attributable to product candidates we may identify and develop, and the resulting publicity, could result in increased governmental regulation, unfavorable public perception, potential regulatory delays in the testing or approval of our product candidates, stricter labeling requirements for those product candidates that are approved, and a decrease in demand for any such product candidates.
We currently have no marketing and sales organization and as a company have no experience in marketing products. If we are unable to establish marketing and sales capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell our product candidates, we may not be able to generate product revenue.
To achieve commercial success for any approved product for which we retain sales and marketing responsibilities, we must develop and build a sales and marketing team or make arrangements with third parties to perform these services. There are risks involved with both establishing our own sales and marketing capabilities and entering into arrangements with third parties to perform these services. For example, recruiting and training a sales force is expensive and time consuming and could delay our product launch. We will have to compete with other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to recruit, hire, train, and retain marketing and sales personnel. If the commercial launch of our product for which we have recruited a sales force and established marketing capabilities is delayed or does not occur for any reason, we would have prematurely or unnecessarily incurred these commercialization expenses, which may be costly and our investment will be lost if we cannot retain or reposition our sales and marketing personnel.
Factors that may inhibit our efforts to commercialize our products on our own include:
•our inability to recruit, hire, train, and retain adequate numbers of effective sales, marketing, customer service, medical affairs, and other support personnel;
•our inability to equip sales personnel with effective materials, including sales literature, to help them educate physicians and other healthcare providers regarding our product candidates and their approved indications;
•our inability to effectively manage a geographically dispersed sales and marketing team;
•the inability of medical affairs personnel to negotiate arrangements for reimbursement and other acceptance by payors;
•the inability to price our products at a sufficient price point to ensure an adequate and attractive level of profitability; and
•unforeseen costs and expenses associated with creating an independent sales and marketing organization.
If we are unable or decide not to establish internal sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities, we will need to enter into arrangements with third parties to perform sales, marketing, and distribution services. In such cases, our product revenue or the profitability to us from these revenue streams is likely to be lower than if we were to market and sell any
product candidates that we develop ourselves. In addition, we may not be successful in entering into arrangements with third parties to sell and market our product candidates or may be unable to do so on terms that are favorable to us. We likely will have little control over those third parties and they may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our product candidates effectively. If we do not establish sales and marketing capabilities successfully, either on our own or in collaboration with third parties, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates, and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects will be materially adversely affected.
Our products may not gain market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and others in the medical community.
The use of CAR-T and CAR-NK cells as potential cancer treatments is a recent development and may not become broadly accepted by physicians, patients, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and others in the medical community. Ethical, social, and legal concerns about genome editing could result in the development of additional regulations restricting or prohibiting our products. Even with the requisite approvals from the FDA and other regulatory authorities internationally, the commercial success of our product candidates will depend, in significant part, on the acceptance of physicians, patients, and healthcare payors of products generated through genome editing in general, and our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates in particular, as medically necessary, cost-effective, safe, and effective therapies. We expect physicians in the large bone marrow transplant centers to be particularly important to the market acceptance of our CB-010, CB-011, and CB-012 product candidates and we may not be able to adequately educate them on the benefits and risks associated with the use of our product candidates to address concerns and foster acceptance, for many reasons. For example, certain of the product candidates that we may develop target a cell surface marker that may be present on cancer cells as well as non-cancerous cells. It is possible that our product candidates may kill these non-cancerous cells, which may result in unacceptable side effects, including death.
Additional factors will influence whether our product candidates are accepted in the market, including:
•the clinical indications for which our product candidates are approved;
•physicians, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and patients considering our product candidates as safe and effective treatments;
•the potential and perceived advantages of our product candidates over alternative treatments;
•the prevalence, identification, or severity of any side effects;
•product labeling or product insert requirements of the FDA or other regulatory authorities, including limitations or warnings contained in the product labeling;
•the timing of market introduction of our product candidates as well as competitive products;
•the cost of treatment of our product candidates in relation to alternative treatments;
•the availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement by third-party payors and government authorities;
•the willingness of patients to pay out-of-pocket for our product candidates in the absence of coverage;
•relative convenience and ease of administration, including as compared to alternative treatments and competitive therapies; and
•the effectiveness of our sales and marketing efforts.
If our product candidates are approved but fail to achieve market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, or others in the medical community, we will not be able to generate significant revenue. Even if our products achieve market acceptance, we may not be able to maintain that market acceptance over time if new cell therapy products, genome-editing technologies, or other therapeutic approaches are introduced that are more favorably received than our products, are more cost effective, or render our products obsolete.
The market opportunities for our product candidates may be smaller than we currently believe and limited to those patients who are ineligible for or have failed prior treatment, which may adversely affect our business. Because the
target patient populations of our product candidates are small, we must be able to successfully identify patients and capture a significant market share to achieve profitability and growth.
Our projections of both the number of patients who have the cancers we are targeting, as well as the subset of patients with these cancers in a position to receive second or later lines of therapy and who have the potential to benefit from treatment with our product candidates, are based on our beliefs and estimates. New studies may change the estimated incidence or prevalence of these cancers. The number of eligible patients may turn out to be lower than we expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our product candidates may be limited or may not be amenable to treatment with our product candidates. Given the small number of patients who have the eligibility criteria and diseases that we are targeting, it is critical to our ability to become profitable that we successfully identify such patients. The effort to identify patients with diseases we seek to treat is in early stages, and we cannot accurately predict the number of patients for whom treatment might be possible. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for each of our product candidates may be limited or may not be amenable to treatment with our product candidates, and new patients may become increasingly difficult to identify or gain access to, which would adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Even if we obtain significant market share for our product candidates, because the potential target populations are small, we may never achieve profitability without obtaining regulatory approval for additional indications.
Even if we are able to commercialize our product candidates, such products may be subject to unfavorable pricing regulations, third-party reimbursement practices, or healthcare reform initiatives, which could harm our business.
The regulations that govern marketing approvals, pricing, and reimbursement for new biologic products vary widely from country to country. Some countries require approval of the sale price of a product before it can be marketed. In many countries, the pricing review period begins after marketing approval is granted. In some non-U.S. markets, prescription pharmaceutical pricing remains subject to continuing governmental control even after initial marketing approval is granted. As a result, we might obtain marketing approval for our product candidates in a particular country, but then be subject to price regulations that delay our commercial launch of such product candidates, possibly for lengthy time periods, and such delays would negatively impact the revenues we are able to generate from the sale of our product candidates in that country. Pricing limitations may hinder our ability to recoup our investment in one or more product candidates, even if any product candidates we may develop obtain marketing approval.
Because our product candidates represent new approaches to the treatment of cancer, we cannot accurately estimate the potential revenue from our product candidates. Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any of our products for which we obtain regulatory approval. Additionally, reimbursement coverage may be more limited than the indications for which our products are approved. The marketability of our products may suffer if government and other third-party payors fail to provide coverage and adequate reimbursement. Furthermore, coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more of our product candidates for which we receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.
Moreover, eligibility for reimbursement does not imply that our product candidates will be paid for in all cases or at a rate that will cover our costs, including research, development, manufacture, sale, and distribution. Interim reimbursement levels for new products, if applicable, may also not be sufficient to cover our costs and may not be made permanent. Reimbursement rates may vary according to the use of our product candidate and the clinical setting in which it is used, may be based on reimbursement levels already set for lower cost products, and may be incorporated into existing payments for other services. Net prices for our product candidates may be reduced by mandatory discounts or rebates required by government healthcare programs or private payors and by any future relaxation of laws that presently restrict imports of products from countries where our product candidates may be sold at lower prices than in the United States.
Third-party payors, whether domestic or foreign, governmental or commercial, are developing increasingly sophisticated methods of controlling healthcare costs. In both the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes to healthcare systems that could impact our ability to sell our product candidates, if approved, profitably. There have been, and likely will continue to be, legislative and regulatory proposals at the federal and state levels directed at broadening the availability of, and containing or lowering the cost of, healthcare. The implementation of cost containment measures that third-party payors and healthcare providers are instituting and any other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate, or may reduce, our revenues from the sale of our product candidates, if approved, and our product candidates may not be profitable. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenue from product candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval and may affect our overall
financial condition and ability to develop product candidates. Even if our product candidates are successful in clinical trials and receive marketing approval, we cannot provide any assurances that we will be able to obtain and maintain third-party payor coverage or adequate reimbursement for our product candidates in whole or in part.
Enacted and future healthcare legislation may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain approval of and commercialize our product candidates and could adversely affect our business.
The Affordable Care Act and Inflation Reduction Act brought significant changes to the way healthcare is financed by both the government and private insurers, and significantly impacted the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, including expanding the list of covered entities eligible to participate in the 340B drug pricing program and establishing a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program. We expect that these and other healthcare reform measures in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and lower reimbursement, and in addition, exert 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. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may hinder us in generating revenue, attaining profitability, or commercializing our cell therapy products once, and if, marketing approval is obtained.
In the EU, coverage and reimbursement status of any product candidates for which we obtain regulatory approval are provided for by the national laws of EU member states. The requirements may differ across the EU member states. In markets outside the United States and the EU, reimbursement and healthcare payment systems vary significantly by country, and many countries have instituted price ceilings or other price controls on specific products and therapies.
We cannot predict the likelihood, nature, or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action in the United States, the EU, or any other jurisdiction. If we or any third parties we may engage are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we or those third parties are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, our product candidates may lose any regulatory approval that we may have obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
We face significant competition from other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, which may result in other companies developing or commercializing products before, or more successfully than, we do, thus rendering our product candidates non-competitive or reducing the size of the market for our product candidates. Our operating results will suffer if we fail to compete effectively.
The biopharmaceutical industry, and the genome-editing, cell therapy, and immuno-oncology industries specifically, is characterized by intense competition and rapid innovation. Our potential competitors include major multi-national pharmaceutical companies, established biotechnology companies, specialty pharmaceutical companies, and universities and other research institutions. Many of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, and other resources, such as larger research and development staffs, established manufacturing capabilities and facilities, and experienced marketing organizations with well-established sales forces. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large, established companies that have greater resources. Mergers and acquisitions in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries may result in even more resources being concentrated on our competitors. Competition may increase further as a result of advances in the commercial applicability of genome editing or other new technologies and greater availability of capital for investment in these industries. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient enrollment for participation in clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our development programs. In addition, due to the intense research and development taking place in the genome-editing field, including by us and our competitors, the intellectual property landscape is in flux and highly competitive. There may be significant intellectual property-related litigation and proceedings relating to our owned and in-licensed, and other third-party, intellectual property rights in the future. Our commercial opportunities could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer or less severe side effects, are more convenient to administer, have broader acceptance and higher rates of reimbursement by third-party payors, or are less expensive than any product candidates that we may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market. Additionally, genome-editing technologies developed by our competitors may render our product candidates uneconomical or obsolete, and we may not be successful in marketing any product candidates we may develop against competitor products. The key competitive factors affecting the success of our product candidates are likely to be their efficacy, safety, and availability of reimbursement.
Our focus is on the development of cell therapies using our chRDNA genome-editing technology. We are aware of several companies focused on developing therapies for various indications using CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology including CRISPR Therapeutics AG, Editas Medicine, Inc., and Intellia. In addition, several academic groups have developed new genome-editing technologies based on CRISPR-Cas9, such as base editing and prime editing, as well as alternative CRISPR systems, which may have utility in therapeutic development. We believe companies such as Beam Therapeutics Inc., Metagenomi Technologies, LLC, Prime Medicine, Inc., and Scribe Therapeutics, Inc. are developing alternative CRISPR systems. Multiple academic labs and companies have also published on other CRISPR-associated nuclease variants that can edit human DNA. There are also companies developing therapies using non-CRISPR genome-editing technologies, such as transcription activator-like effector nucleases, meganucleases, and zinc finger nucleases. These companies include bluebird bio, Inc., Allogene Therapeutics, Inc., Cellectis S.A., Precision BioSciences, Inc., and Sangamo Therapeutics. In addition to competition from other genome-edited therapies or gene or cell therapies, any product we may develop may also face competition from other types of therapies, such as small molecule, antibody, or protein therapies.
Our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates face significant competition from multiple companies, including Allogene Therapeutics, Inc., Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc., Cellectis S.A., Celyad Oncology SA, CRISPR Therapeutics AG, Fate Therapeutics, Inc., Poseida Therapeutics, Inc., Precision BioSciences, and Sangamo Therapeutics. There are over 200 preclinical- and clinical-stage autologous and allogeneic anti-CD19 CAR-T programs, some of which will be competitive with our CB-010 product candidate, and over 90 preclinical- and clinical-stage autologous and allogeneic anti-BCMA CAR-T programs, some of which will be competitive with our CB-011 product candidate. Additionally, other companies are developing allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies for AML.
To become and remain profitable, we must develop and eventually commercialize product candidates with significant market potential, which will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities. These activities may include completing preclinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates; obtaining marketing and reimbursement approval for these product candidates; manufacturing, marketing, and selling those products that are approved; and satisfying any post-marketing requirements. We may never succeed in any or all these activities and, even if we do, we may never generate revenues that are significant enough to achieve profitability. If we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable would decrease the price of our common stock and could impair our ability to raise capital, maintain our research and development efforts, expand our business, or continue our operations. A decline in the price of our common stock also could cause stockholders to lose all or part of their investments.
Our business operations and current and future relationships with clinical site investigators, healthcare professionals, consultants, third-party payors, patient organizations, and customers will be subject to applicable healthcare regulatory laws, which could expose us to penalties.
Our business operations and current and future arrangements with clinical site investigators, healthcare professionals, consultants, third-party payors, patient organizations, and customers may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations. These laws may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we conduct our operations, including how we market, sell, and distribute our product candidates, if approved. Such laws include, but are not limited to, the U.S. Anti-Kickback Statute, U.S. civil and criminal false claims laws, the U.S. federal Beneficiary Inducement Statute, HIPAA, and state and local laws and regulations. Some of these laws may apply differently to, and may have different requirements for, and effects on, our business, rendering compliance complex and possibly burdensome. We cannot predict how future changes to these laws may impact our business.
Ensuring that our internal operations and future business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices, including our relationships with physicians and other healthcare providers, may 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 government-funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid or similar programs in other jurisdictions; integrity oversight and reporting obligations to resolve allegations of non-compliance; disgorgement; individual imprisonment; contractual damages; reputational harm; diminished profits; 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 are found to not 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, which could affect our ability to operate our business. Furthermore, defending against any these actions can be costly, time-consuming, and may require significant personnel resources. Therefore, even if we are successful in defending against any actions that may be brought against us, our business may be impaired.
Our business activities will be subject to U.S. export control licensing requirements, as well as other U.S. and foreign trade regulations, sanctions laws, anti-corruption laws, and anti-money laundering laws and regulations including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
We develop product candidates that may be subject to U.S. export control licensing requirements and foreign investment regulations. Export licensing policies vary, and we may be unable to collaborate with certain countries or, if our product candidates receive regulatory approval, make sales to certain customers as a result of applicable license requirements. We also may incur increased compliance program costs in connection with U.S. export controls, and the availability of future investments from certain countries may be limited as a result of the controlled nature of our product candidates.
If we expand our business internationally or collaborate globally, we will be required to make investments in compliance programs related to U.S. international trade laws, including the FCPA and similar anti-bribery or anti-corruption laws, regulations, and rules of other countries in which we may choose to operate. Anti-corruption laws are interpreted broadly.
Our business is heavily regulated and therefore involves significant interaction with public officials, including, potentially in the future, officials of non-United States governments. Additionally, in many other countries, the healthcare providers who prescribe pharmaceuticals are employed by their government, and the purchasers of pharmaceuticals are government entities; therefore, if our product candidates receive regulatory approval, our dealings with these prescribers and purchasers will be subject to regulation under the FCPA. We may engage third parties to sell our product candidates outside the United States if we receive regulatory approval in such jurisdictions for our product candidates. We may also have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies or government-affiliated hospitals, universities, and other organizations. The SEC and the DOJ have increased their FCPA enforcement activities with respect to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. For these reasons, we may be required to expend resources related to training and compliance under FCPA and other anti-corruption laws. There is no certainty that all our employees, suppliers, CMOs, CROs, or other third parties providing services to us will comply with all applicable laws and regulations, particularly given the high level of complexity of these laws. We can be held liable for the corrupt or other illegal activities of our employees, agents, contractors, and other collaborators, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have actual knowledge of these activities.
If we have international activities in the future, we may be required to invest in compliance programs and resources related to U.S. import and export regulations, anti-money laundering laws, and various economic and trade sanctions regulations administered by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls.
Violations of these international trade laws and regulations could result in fines; criminal sanctions against us, our management, or other employees; the closing down of facilities, including those of our suppliers and CMOs; 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 include prohibitions on our ability to seek regulatory approval for our product candidates and, if such approval is received, to sell our products in one or more jurisdictions. This could materially damage our reputation, our ability to attract and retain employees, and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
We face potential liability related to the privacy of health information we may obtain from the patients in our clinical trials.
Most healthcare providers are subject to privacy and security regulations promulgated under HIPAA, as amended by HITECH. We are not currently classified as a covered entity or business associate under HIPAA and thus are not subject to its requirements or penalties. However, 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 healthcare provider or research institution that has not satisfied HIPAA’s requirements for disclosure of individually identifiable health information. In addition, if we receive sensitive personally identifiable information,
including health information, we may be subject to state laws requiring notification of affected individuals and state regulators if a breach of personal information occurs, which is a broader class of information than the health information protected by HIPAA.
We cannot assure you that we, our CROs, our clinical trial sites, and our clinical trial principal investigators with access to personally identifiable and other sensitive or confidential information relating to the patients in our clinical trials will not breach contractual obligations, or that we or they will not experience data security breaches or attempts thereof. This could have a corresponding effect on our business, including putting us in breach of our obligations under privacy laws and regulations as discussed above, which could in turn adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. We cannot assure you that our contractual measures and our own privacy and security-related safeguards will protect us from the risks associated with the third-party processing, storage, and transmission of such information.
Compliance with global privacy and data security requirements could result in additional costs and liabilities to us or inhibit our ability to collect and process data globally, and the failure to comply with such requirements could subject us to significant fines and penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, or prospects.
The regulatory framework for the collection, use, safeguarding, sharing, transfer, and other processing of information worldwide is rapidly evolving and is likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future. Globally, many jurisdictions have established their own data security and privacy frameworks. In the United States, there are a broad variety of data protection laws that are either currently in place or under way and a wide range of enforcement agencies at both the state and federal levels have the authority to review companies for privacy and data security concerns based on general consumer protection laws. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), and state Attorneys General have been aggressive in reviewing privacy and data security protections for consumers. New laws also are being considered at both the state and federal levels. For example, the CCPA, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, 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. Many other states are considering similar legislation. A broad range of legislative measures also have been introduced at the federal level. There also is the threat of consumer class actions related to these laws and the overall protection of personal data.
The data privacy laws in the EU have also been significantly reformed. The collection, use, disclosure, transfer, or other processing of personal data regarding individuals in the EU, including personal health data, is subject to the GDPR. The GDPR is wide-ranging in scope and imposes numerous requirements on companies that process personal data, including requirements relating to processing health and other sensitive data, obtaining consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, providing information to individuals regarding data processing activities, implementing safeguards to protect the security and confidentiality of personal data, providing notification of data breaches, and taking certain measures when engaging third-party processors. The GDPR has expanded the definition of personal data to include coded data and requiring changes to informed consent practices and more detailed notices for clinical trial patients and investigators. In addition, the GDPR also imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data to countries outside the EU, including the United States and, as a result, increases the scrutiny that clinical trial sites located in the European Economic Area should apply to transfers of personal data from such sites to countries that are considered to lack an adequate level of data protection, such as the United States. The GDPR also permits data protection authorities to require destruction of improperly gathered or used personal information or impose substantial fines for violations of the GDPR, which can be up to 4% of global revenues or €20 million, whichever is greater, and it also confers a private right of action on data subjects and consumer associations to lodge complaints with supervisory authorities, seek judicial remedies, and obtain compensation for damages resulting from violations of the GDPR. In addition, the GDPR provides that EU member states may make their own additional laws and regulations limiting the processing of personal data, including genetic, biometric, or health data. Furthermore, as of January 1, 2021, companies have to comply with the GDPR and also the UK GDPR, which, together with the amended UK Data Protection Act 2018, retains the GDPR in UK national law.
Risks Relating to Our Intellectual Property
If we do not possess the necessary intellectual property rights covering our CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing technologies and our product candidates, we may not be able to block competitors or to compete effectively in the market.
Our industry is subject to rapid technological change and our success depends in large part on our ability to obtain and maintain intellectual property protection in the United States and other jurisdictions with respect to our CRISPR chRDNA platform technologies and product candidates. We rely upon a combination of patents, owned by us or in-
licensed from third parties, and trade secrets to protect our technology and product candidates. We seek to protect our intellectual property by filing patent applications in the United States and in other jurisdictions related to our genome-editing technologies and product candidates that are important to our business. We also rely on know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position. If we are unable to obtain or maintain intellectual property protection with respect to our CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing platform technologies and product candidates, our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects will be materially harmed.
The strength of patents in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical fields generally, and the genome-editing field in particular, involves complex legal and scientific questions and can be uncertain. For example, the scope of patent protection that will be available to us in the United States is uncertain. Changes in either the patent laws or their interpretation may diminish our ability to protect our intellectual property; obtain, maintain, defend, and enforce our intellectual property rights; and, more generally, could affect the value of our intellectual property or narrow the scope of our owned or in-licensed patents. With respect to both owned and in-licensed intellectual property, we cannot predict whether the patent applications we and our licensors are currently pursuing will issue as patents, whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient protection, or whether, if these patents are challenged by our competitors, they will be found to be invalid, unenforceable, or not infringed.
The patent prosecution process is expensive, time-consuming, and complex, and we or our licensors may not be able to file, prosecute, maintain, enforce, or license all necessary or desirable patents at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner or in all jurisdictions. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development in time to obtain patent protection before public disclosures are made. Although we may enter into non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements with parties who may have access to patentable aspects of our research and development, such as our employees, collaborators, CMOs, consultants, CROs, clinical trial site investigators and personnel, and other third parties, any one of these parties may breach their confidentiality agreements and disclose innovations before we can file a patent application, thereby jeopardizing our ability to seek patent protection.
The USPTO requires compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment, and other similar provisions during the patent application process. The ultimate outcome of our pending patent applications is uncertain and the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued. Even as our patent applications, or those of our licensors, currently or in the future, issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent competitors or other third parties from competing with us, dissuade companies from collaborating with us, or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. Periodic maintenance fees on issued patents are also required to be paid over the lifetime of the patent. Although an inadvertent lapse can, in many cases, be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in the loss of patent rights. Noncompliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application include, but are not limited to, failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, nonpayment of fees, failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents, and the like. If we experience noncompliance events that cannot be corrected and we lose our patent rights, competitors could enter the market, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.
Composition of matter patents for biological and pharmaceutical products, such as CAR-based cell therapy products, often provide a strong form of intellectual property protection as such patents provide protection without specifying any particular method of use or manufacture. Methods of use patents can protect particular applications of a product or the manufacturing of a product; however, such method claims do not prevent a competitor from using a product that is identical to our product for an indication that is outside the scope of the patented method of use or making a product that is identical to our product using a different method of manufacturing. Our allogeneic CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy product candidates do not contain our chRDNA genome-editing technology; rather, our chRDNA guides are used in the manufacturing of our CAR-T and CAR-NK products. It is virtually impossible to determine whether a competitor has infringed our chRDNA patents in making their products. Thus, even if we obtain patent protection on certain aspects of our technologies, such protection may not be enough to block our competitors from entering the market.
Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may prevent or delay our ability to commercialize our product candidates.
The fields of genome editing and CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapies are relatively new. No genome-edited products have been commercialized and there is ongoing patent litigation in the autologous CAR-T cell therapy space. Due to the widespread research and development that is taking place in these fields, including by us and our competitors, the
intellectual property landscape is in flux and may remain uncertain for the foreseeable future. There may be significant litigation and administrative proceedings that could affect our genome-editing technologies and product candidates.
Our commercial success depends upon our ability to develop, manufacture, market, and sell product candidates that we may develop or license without infringing, misappropriating, or otherwise violating the intellectual property rights of third parties. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are characterized by extensive litigation regarding patents and other intellectual property rights. Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications owned by third parties exist in the fields in which we are developing our product candidates. As industry, government, academia, and other biotechnology and pharmaceutical research expands and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our genome-editing technologies or product candidates may give rise to claims of infringement of the patent rights of others. We cannot guarantee that our genome-editing technologies, current and future product candidates, or the use or manufacture of such product candidates does not currently or will not in the future infringe third-party patents. There may be third-party patents with claims to compositions, methods of manufacture, or methods of use or treatment that could cover our current or future product candidates. It is possible that we may fail to identify relevant third-party patents or applications. Furthermore, publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, or in some cases not at all. Thus, we cannot be certain that we were the first to file any patent application related to our genome-editing technologies or product candidates. Furthermore, patent rights are granted jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction, and our freedom to practice certain genome-editing technologies, including our ability to research, develop, and commercialize our product candidates, may differ by country.
Numerous third-party U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications exist in the fields of CRISPR genome editing as well as the field of immuno-oncology, including those relating to CAR constructs and CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapy compositions and methods of use. Our CB-010 product candidate, which is an allogeneic anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy for the treatment of r/r B-NHL, uses Cas9 chRDNAs to insert the CD19-specific CAR into the T cell genome and for an additional edit. Numerous parties have intellectual property relating to RNA-guided Cas9 genome editing. See Risk Factors - “Our ability to continue to receive licensing revenue and to enter into new licensing arrangements related to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property will be substantially impaired if such intellectual property is limited by administrative patent proceedings.” Our CB-011 product candidate and our CB-012 product candidate both use Cas12a chRDNAs to insert the CAR into the T cell genome and to make additional edits. We are aware of certain third-party patents assigned to the Broad Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the President and Fellows of Harvard University relating to CRISPR-Cas12a genome-editing systems (Cas12a was then referred to as Cpf1), which will expire in late 2035 assuming no PTE or PTA. Additionally, we are aware of third-party patents assigned to the U.S. government relating to anti-BCMA CARs as well as nucleic acids encoding such CARs, vectors comprising these nucleic acids, and host cells expressing such CARs, which will expire in 2033 assuming no PTE or PTA. We are also aware of several third-party patents relating to various CAR compositions, methods of use, and components, including specific co-stimulatory regions. There is ongoing patent litigation over various third-party CAR patents, and unexpired patents that survive that litigation could be asserted against us.
Third parties may assert that our product candidates infringe their patents, including those listed above. Under U.S. patent laws, conducting clinical trials and seeking regulatory approval in the United States for therapeutic products are generally not considered an act of infringement, and similar exemptions are present in other countries. Nevertheless, third parties may allege that the act of filing our BLA or conducting clinical trials is outside of the safe harbor provision for activities reasonably related to the development and submission of information to the FDA for regulatory approval, and third parties may, upon our regulatory filing, assert infringement claims based on existing patents or patents that may be issued prior to our BLA filing, regardless of the merit of such claims. Even if we believe third-party intellectual property claims are without merit, there is no assurance that a court would find in our favor on questions of infringement, validity, enforceability, ownership, or priority. Patents in the United States by law enjoy a presumption of validity that can be rebutted only with evidence that is “clear and convincing,” a heightened standard of proof. In order to successfully challenge the validity of any U.S. patent in federal court, we would need to overcome this presumption of validity, and there can be no assurance that a court of competent jurisdiction would invalidate the patent. A court of competent jurisdiction could hold that these third-party patents are valid, enforceable, and infringed, which could materially and adversely affect our ability to commercialize any product candidates we may develop, including CB-010, CB-011, CB-012, and CB-020, as well as any other product candidates or technologies covered by the asserted third-party patents.
If any third-party patents were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover our genome-editing technology used in the manufacturing of our product candidates or any product candidate itself or its indication, the holders of those patents may be able to block our ability to commercialize the product candidate unless and until we obtained a license
under the applicable patents, or the patents expire, or are held to be not infringed, unpatentable, invalid, or unenforceable. We may not be able to obtain a license to the blocking patents, or the terms of the license may not be commercially viable. Even if we were able to obtain a license, it could be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors and other third parties access to the same intellectual property licensed to us, and it could require us to make substantial upfront, milestone, and royalty payments. If we are unable to obtain a necessary license to a third-party patent on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, our ability to commercialize our product candidates may be blocked or delayed, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
We could also be forced, including by court order, to cease manufacturing and commercializing any infringing product candidates. In addition, we could be found liable for significant monetary damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees, if we are found to have willfully infringed the third-party patent. Claims that we have misappropriated the confidential information or trade secrets of third parties could have a similar material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of our management time and resources from our business.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
Filing, prosecuting, maintaining, enforcing, and defending patents on our genome-editing technologies and product candidates in countries outside the United States is expensive. Prosecution of patent applications is often a longer process and patents may grant at a later date, and with a shorter term, than in the United States. The requirements for patentability differ in certain jurisdictions and countries. Additionally, the patent laws of some countries do not afford intellectual property protection to the same extent as the laws of the United States. For example, unlike patent law in the United States, patent law in most European countries and many other jurisdictions precludes the patentability of methods of treatment and diagnosis of the human body. Other countries may impose substantial restrictions on the scope of claims, limiting patent protection to specifically disclosed embodiments. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in major markets outside the United States, or from selling or importing products into the United States or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection to develop their own products and may export otherwise infringing products to jurisdictions where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our products and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent such competition. Moreover, our ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property rights may be adversely affected by unforeseen changes in intellectual property laws in various jurisdictions worldwide.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in enforcing and defending intellectual property rights in various jurisdictions globally. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets, and other intellectual property, particularly those relating to biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our intellectual property rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our intellectual property rights in various jurisdictions globally could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly, could put related patent applications at risk of not issuing, and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we file, and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage against competitors.
Many jurisdictions have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties if they are not practicing the patented technology. In addition, some countries limit the enforceability of patents against third parties, including government agencies. In these countries, the patent owner may have limited remedies, which could materially diminish the value of such patent. If we or any of our licensors are forced to grant a license to third parties with respect to any patents relevant to our business, our competitive position may be impaired, and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects may be adversely affected. Patent protection must be maintained on a country-by-country basis, which is an expensive and time-consuming process with uncertain outcomes. Accordingly, we may choose not to seek patent protection in certain jurisdictions or countries, and we will not have the benefit of patent protection in such jurisdictions or countries.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship of our patents and other intellectual property.
We may in the future be subject to claims that former employees, consultants, or other third parties have an interest in our patents or other intellectual property as an inventor, co-inventor, or owner of trade secrets. Although it is our policy to require our employees and consultants who may be involved in the conception or development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning that intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who conceives or develops intellectual property that we regard as our own or such party may breach the assignment agreement. We may have disputes arise from conflicting obligations of consultants or others who are involved in developing our product candidates. Litigation may be necessary to obtain ownership or to defend against claims challenging inventorship. If we or our licensors fail in that litigation, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, intellectual property. Such an outcome could have a material adverse effect on our business. Even if we or our licensors are successful in defending against those claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to our management and other employees, and the claims could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
The terms of our patents may not be sufficient to effectively protect our products and business.
Although various extensions may be available, the term of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. In most countries including the United States, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years after its first effective filing date. Even if patents covering our product candidates are obtained, once the patent term has expired for a product we may be open to competition from biosimilar or generic medications. In addition, although, upon issuance in the United States the term of a patent can be increased based on certain delays caused by the USPTO, this increase can be reduced or eliminated based on certain delays caused by us during patent prosecution or if terminal disclaimers are filed over other co-owned patents or patent applications to avoid rejections based on obviousness-type double patenting. If we do not have sufficient patent term to protect our products, our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects will be adversely affected.
We may not obtain patent term extension for any product candidates we develop.
Depending upon the timing, duration, and specifics of any FDA marketing approval of any product candidates we develop, our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited PTE under the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent extension term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during clinical trials and the FDA regulatory review process. A PTE cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval, only one patent may be extended, and only a patent with claims covering the approved biologic, a method for its approved indication, or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. However, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failing to exercise due diligence during the clinical phase or regulatory review process, failing to apply within applicable deadlines, failing to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents, or otherwise failing to satisfy the applicable requirements. Moreover, we may not receive PTE or we may receive less time than we requested. If we are unable to obtain PTE or if the term of any such PTE is less than we request, we will be unable to rely on our patent position to forestall the marketing of competing products following our patent expiration, and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects could be materially harmed.
Changes to the patent law in the United States and other jurisdictions could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our genome-editing technologies and product candidates.
Patent reform legislation in the United States and other countries could increase the uncertainties around patent protection, costs, and the enforcement or defense of our patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. For example, the 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act included a number of significant changes to U.S. patent law. Such provisions affect the way patent applications are prosecuted, redefine prior art, and provide more efficient and cost-effective avenues for competitors to challenge the validity of patents. In addition, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act transformed the U.S. patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system, effective on March 16, 2013. For small companies, such as ours, this means that we must file our patent applications earlier in our development process rather than relying on proving priority of invention and it is now easier and less costly for third parties to attack our patents, all of which could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
There is uncertainty regarding the patentability of certain inventions in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical areas. Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have either narrowed the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances or weakened the rights of patent owners in particular situations. For example, in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that a “naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” and invalidated Myriad Genetics’ claims on isolated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. To the extent that our claims relate to naturally occurring antibodies or proteins, these may be deemed to be directed to natural products or to lack an inventive concept above and beyond an isolated natural product, and a court may decide the claims are invalid under Myriad. Depending on future actions by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. courts, the USPTO, and the relevant law-making bodies, as well as courts and patent offices in other countries, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that may weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce our existing patents and patents that we might obtain in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on our existing patent portfolio and those of our licensors. Europe’s Unified Patent Court may present uncertainties for our ability to protect and enforce our patent rights against competitors in Europe. Although this new court is being implemented to provide more certainty and efficiency to patent enforcement throughout Europe, it will also provide our competitors with a new forum to use to centrally challenge our patents, rather than having to seek invalidity or non-infringement decisions on a country-by-country basis. It will be several years before the scope of patent rights that will be recognized by the Unified Patent Court, and the strength of patent remedies that will be provided, is known.
We may be involved in lawsuits or other proceedings to enforce or protect our patents, the patents of our licensors, or our other intellectual property rights, which could be expensive, time-consuming, and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe our patents or our licensors’ patents or challenge the validity of our or our licensors’ patent rights. Even if our patents are unchallenged, they may not adequately prevent others from designing their products to avoid being covered by our claims. If the breadth or strength of protection provided by our patents and patent applications to our product candidates is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to develop, and threaten our or their ability to commercialize, our product candidates.
Litigation or other legal proceedings relating to intellectual property claims, with or without merit, is unpredictable and generally expensive and time-consuming and likely to divert significant resources from our core business, including distracting our management and scientific personnel from their normal responsibilities, and generally harm our business. Additionally, a defendant could counterclaim that our patent is invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace, and there are numerous grounds upon which a third party can assert invalidity or unenforceability of a patent. Thus, suing a third party for patent infringement puts our patents at risk and we may choose not to take such actions, thus allowing a competitor to infringe our patents. Grounds for a validity challenge in a counterclaim could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Thus, a court may decide that one or more of our patents is not valid or is unenforceable or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology in question. An adverse result in any litigation or defense proceedings could put one or more of our patents at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable, or interpreted narrowly and could put one or more of our pending patent applications at risk of not issuing, all of which could negatively impact our business. Even if we establish infringement in a legal proceeding against a third party, the court may decide not to grant an injunction against further infringing activity by the defendant and may only award money damages, which may or may not be an adequate remedy for us depending on the circumstances. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with U.S. patent litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during litigation.
Third parties may also raise similar claims of invalidity before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include inter partes review, ex parte reexamination, and post grant review in the United States, and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions, including opposition proceedings before the EPO. These proceedings could result in revocation or amendment to our patents, which potentially could result in our patents no longer protecting our genome-editing technologies or our product candidates. A loss of patent protection could have a material adverse impact on our business.
We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to adequately conduct such litigation or proceedings. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources. There can be no assurance that we will have sufficient financial or other
resources for such litigation or proceedings, which may continue for several years. Accordingly, despite our efforts, we may not be able to prevent third parties from infringing or misappropriating or successfully challenging our intellectual property rights. In addition, if securities analysts or investors perceive litigation results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock. There could be public announcements of the results of litigation or patent challenge hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments, which also could affect the price of our stock. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing, or distribution activities. Any of the foregoing could allow third parties to develop and commercialize competing technologies and products and have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Our product candidates are biologics, and as such, we may enter into a settlement agreement with a biosimilar manufacturer seeking to market a product highly similar to our product; such a settlement agreement may be reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and such review could result in a fine or penalty and substantial expense.
The FTC reviews patent settlement agreements between biologics companies and biosimilar manufacturers to evaluate whether these agreements include, among other things, anti-competitive reverse payments that slow or defeat the introduction of lower-priced medicines, including biosimilars. If we are faced with an FTC challenge of a settlement agreement with a biosimilar manufacturer, such challenge could impact how or whether we settle the case and, even if we strongly disagree with the FTC’s position, we could face a penalty or fine and substantial expense. Any litigation settlements we enter into with biosimilar manufacturers could also be challenged by third parties adversely affected by the settlement. These kinds of follow-on lawsuits, which may be class action suits, can be expensive and can continue over multiple years. If we were to face lawsuits of this nature, we may not be successful in defeating these claims and we may, therefore, be subject to large payment obligations, which we may not be able to satisfy in whole or in part.
Our rights to develop and commercialize our product candidates are subject to the terms and conditions of our licenses and assignments with third parties. If we fail to comply with our obligations under these agreements, we could lose intellectual property rights and be subject to litigation from our licensors or assignors.
We license, or have taken assignment to, patents related to certain of our product candidates and genome-editing technologies from third parties. These licenses and assignments typically impose obligations on us, including diligence and payment obligations. If we fail to comply with our obligations under these agreements, our licensors and assignors may have the right to terminate our agreements, in which case we would not be able to commercialize any product that is covered by the patent rights at issue. Additionally, we may be subject to litigation for breach of these agreements. Moreover, if disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed, or taken assignment of, prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangements on commercially acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the product candidates or technologies covered by such patents, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects. In addition, intellectual property rights that we license in the future may include sublicenses under intellectual property owned by third parties, in some cases through multiple tiers. The actions of our licensors may therefore affect our rights to use our sublicensed intellectual property, even if we are in compliance with all of the obligations under our license agreements. Should our licensors or any of the upstream licensors fail to comply with their obligations under the agreements pursuant to which they obtain the rights that are sublicensed to us, or should those agreements be terminated or amended, our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates may be materially harmed.
Our CRISPR chRDNA genome-editing patent family was developed under a three-year research collaboration between us and Pioneer, now Corteva Agriscience. Initially, this patent family was owned by Pioneer under the terms of the Pioneer Agreement with Pioneer (then a DuPont company), and Pioneer granted us an exclusive license to the chRDNA patent family in the fields of human and animal therapeutics and research tools as well as a non-exclusive license in certain other fields outside the Pioneer Exclusive Field. Through an amendment to the Pioneer Agreement, dated December 18, 2020, Pioneer assigned the chRDNA patent family to us in exchange for an upfront payment and potential future milestones. As part of this amendment, Pioneer also granted a covenant not to sue for our licensees of our chRDNA technologies under certain other Pioneer intellectual property (to which we already have a license that, in this situation, we cannot sublicense to licensees of our chRDNA technologies in the field of human therapeutics) that might cover our chRDNA genome-editing technology, provided that we make the required payments. Thus, if we do not make such payments, our licensees could be sued by Pioneer, which could result in our licensees suing us for breach of contract.
Additionally, under the Pioneer Agreement, we licensed certain Pioneer background CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property, particularly a patent family owned by Vilnius University and exclusively licensed to Pioneer, that we have
sublicensed to several third parties as part of our CRISPR-Cas9 out-licensing program. Although the Vilnius patent family does not cover our chRDNA genome-editing technologies or product candidates, if we were to materially breach the Pioneer Agreement and not cure the breach, Pioneer could terminate the Pioneer Agreement, which would expose us to possible lawsuits from a number of our sublicensees to the Vilnius University patent family.
For our CB-011 product candidate, an allogeneic anti-BCMA CAR-T cell therapy, we took assignment of an anti-BCMA scFv from ProMab under the ProMab Agreement. Although we own the patent family that covers this scFv and its methods of use, if we materially breach, and do not cure, the ProMab Agreement, ProMab could terminate the ProMab Agreement and we would be required to immediately cease any and all manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use, import, or export of products comprising the anti-BCMA scFv (provided that, if our product is approved for commercial sale, we may sell any remaining existing inventory of such products for a short period of time). If this were to happen prior to regulatory approval, we would not be able to continue the development of CB-011 and, if this were to happen after regulatory approval, we would lose all future revenues from CB-011.
The scFv in our CB-012 product candidate, an allogeneic anti-CLL-1 CAR-T cell therapy, is exclusively licensed to us in this field by MSKCC. To maintain the license, we are required to pay annual license fees and to meet certain diligence milestones within specified periods of time. We may extend these periods by a certain number of months upon payment of additional fees. If we materially breach, and do not cure, the MSKCC Agreement, MSKCC may terminate the MSKCC Agreement, in which case we would not be able to continue the development of CB-012 or any other licensed CLL-1 product candidate.
Thus, we are reliant upon the above licenses to and assignments of certain intellectual property from third parties that is important or necessary to the development of our genome-editing technologies and product candidates. In spite of our best efforts, our licensors or assignors might conclude that we have materially breached our license or assignment agreements, respectively, and might terminate these agreements, thereby removing our ability to develop and commercialize products and technology covered by the agreements. To the extent such third parties fail to meet their obligations under these agreements, which we are not in control of, we may lose the benefits of the agreements. If these agreements are terminated, or if the underlying patents fail to provide the intended exclusivity, competitors could have the freedom to seek regulatory approval of, and to market, products identical to ours. Any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Disputes may arise with the third parties from whom we license or take assignment of our intellectual property rights from for a variety of reasons, including:
•the scope of rights granted under the license or assignment agreement and other interpretation-related issues;
•the extent to which our technology and processes infringe on, or derive from, intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the license or assignment agreement and is not covered by a covenant not to sue;
•the sublicensing of rights and the obligations to our licensors associated with sublicensing;
•our diligence obligations under license or assignment agreements and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations; and
•whether payments are due and when.
We may not be successful in obtaining or maintaining necessary rights to any future product candidates that we acquire through acquisitions or in-licenses.
Our future programs may involve additional product candidates that may require the use of intellectual rights held by third parties, and the growth of our business could depend, at least in part, on our ability to acquire or in-license these intellectual property rights. We may be unable to acquire or in-license intellectual property rights from third parties that we identify. We may fail to obtain any of these licenses at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, which would harm our business. Even if we are able to obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us. In that case, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to develop or license other product candidates. We may need to cease development of a future product candidate covered by such third-party intellectual property rights.
The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and companies that may be more established or have greater resources than we do may also be pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider necessary or attractive in order to develop product candidates. More established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, cash resources, and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us. We also may be unable to license or acquire third party intellectual property rights on terms that would allow us to make an appropriate return on our investment or at all. There can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully complete such negotiations and ultimately acquire the rights to the intellectual property surrounding the additional product candidates or new genome-editing or other technologies that we may seek to acquire. If we are unable to successfully obtain rights to required third party intellectual property rights, we may not be able to expand our product pipeline, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Our ability to continue to receive licensing revenue and to enter into new licensing arrangements related to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property will be substantially impaired if such intellectual property is limited by administrative patent proceedings.
We have an exclusive license from UC and Vienna in all fields to the CVC IP, having as inventors Drs. Jennifer A. Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Martin Jinek, and Krzysztof Chylinski. We have entered into over 25 sublicenses, both exclusive and non-exclusive, to this CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property in combination with licenses to our own Cas9 intellectual property (and sometimes in combination with a sublicense to the Vilnius Cas9 patent family we licensed from Pioneer) in a variety of fields (e.g., human cell therapy, microbial applications, agriculture, livestock, industrial biotechnology, nutrition and health, research reagents and services, forestry, transgenic animal models, internal research, etc.). We are also required to share with UC/Vienna a percentage of sublicensing revenue we receive including cash and equity. These sublicense agreements are an important source of revenues for us while we are developing our own product candidates. Furthermore, we must reimburse UC/Vienna for the patent prosecution and maintenance costs associated with the CVC IP, which are substantial in light of all the disputes outlined below.
The CVC IP that we have exclusively licensed from UC/Vienna is co-owned with Dr. Charpentier, and Dr. Charpentier has not granted us any rights to the CVC IP, either directly or indirectly. On December 15, 2016, we entered into the IMA with UC, Vienna, Dr. Charpentier, CRISPR Therapeutics AG (the exclusive licensee of Dr. Charpentier in the field of human therapeutics), ERS Genomics Ltd (the exclusive licensee of Dr. Charpentier in all fields outside human therapeutics), and Intellia, our exclusive licensee in a defined field of human therapeutics. Under the IMA, the co-owners provided reciprocal worldwide cross-consents to each of the other co-owners’ existing licensees and sublicensees as well as future licensees and sublicensees, with no accounting to the other owners. The IMA includes a number of other commitments and obligations with respect to supporting and managing the CVC IP, including a cost-sharing agreement. In the United States, each co-owner has the freedom to license and exploit the technology. As a result, although our license from UC/Vienna is exclusive, we do not have any rights from Dr. Charpentier and thus our license to the CVC IP from UC/Vienna is non-exclusive with respect to such co-owned rights. Furthermore, in the United States, each co-owner is required to be joined as a party to any claim or action we may wish to bring to enforce those patent rights. Although we have entered into the IMA, which provides for, among other things, notice of and coordination in the event of third-party infringement of the patent rights within the CVC IP, there can be no assurance that all parties will cooperate in any future infringement. In addition, the parties to the IMA may dispute certain provisions and the resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement could increase what we believe to be our financial obligations to UC/Vienna.
The CVC IP is, and has been, the source of several disputes in the USPTO, the EPO, and other patent offices. At the time the CVC IP was first filed (May 25, 2012), the United States was under a first-to-invent patent system; thus, if two or more patent applications or one or more patents and one or more patent applications claimed the same invention, the USPTO would determine the inventorship. Specifically, the Broad Institute Inc. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, in some instances, the President and Fellows of Harvard College (individually and collectively, the “Broad”), owns a patent family (having an earliest filing date of December 12, 2012) that includes issued patents in the United States and Europe that claim certain aspects of CRISPR-Cas9 systems to edit DNA in eukaryotic (i.e., plant and animal) cells, including human cells. In January 2016, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) of the USPTO declared an interference (Interference No. 106,048, or the ’048 interference) between one of the then-pending U.S. patent applications (now U.S. Patent No. 10,266,850) included in the CVC IP and 12 issued U.S. patents owned jointly by the Broad to determine which set of inventors invented first and, thus, was entitled to patents on the invention in the United States. The PTAB concluded at the end of the motions phase that the declared interference should be discontinued (and not progress to the priority phase) because the involved claim sets were considered patentably distinct from each other. Following appeal
by the CVC group, in September 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”), affirmed the PTAB’s decision to terminate the interference proceeding without determining which inventors actually invented the use of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology in eukaryotic cells. In June 2019, the PTAB declared another interference (Interference No. 106,115, or the ’115 interference) between 14 pending U.S. patent applications in the CVC IP and 13 patents and a patent application co-owned by the Broad. The Broad patents include those that were the subject of the ’048 interference. In February 2022, the PTAB issued its decision that the Broad inventors were the first to invent the use of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in eukaryotic cells; the owners of the CVC IP have appealed this decision to the CAFC and briefing is ongoing.
In addition to the Broad, ToolGen, Inc., MilliporeSigma (a subsidiary of Merck KGaA), and Harvard University, each filed patent applications claiming CRISPR-Cas9-related inventions after the CVC IP was first filed (October 23, 2012 in the case of ToolGen patent family; December 6, 2012 in the case of the MilliporeSigma patent family; and December 17, 2012 in the case of the Harvard University patent family) and have each alleged that they invented one or more of the inventions claimed in the CVC IP before the CVC inventors did. In December 2020, the PTAB declared an interference (Interference No. 106,127, or the ’127 interference) between a ToolGen patent application that claims certain aspects of CRISPR-Cas9 systems to edit DNA in eukaryotic cells, including human cells, and the same 14 pending U.S. patent applications in the CVC IP that are involved in the appeal of the ’115 interference. The motions phase of this interference has concluded and the priority phase suspended until the CAFC appeal is decided. Additionally, the PTAB declared an interference (Interference No. 106,126) at the same time between the same ToolGen patent application and the Broad patents and patent application in the appeal of the ’115 interference; the motions phase has concluded and this interference is also suspended until the CAFC appeal is decided. In June 2021, the PTAB declared an interference (Interference No. 106,132 or the ‘132 interference) between a MilliporeSigma patent application that claims methods for using CRISPR-Cas9 systems to edit DNA in eukaryotic cells, including human cells, and the same 14 pending U.S. applications in the CVC IP that are involved in the ‘115 and ‘127 interferences. This interference completed the motions phase and is also suspended until the CAFC appeal is decided. Also in June 2021, the PTAB declared an interference (Interference No. 106,133) between the same MilliporeSigma patent application and the Broad patents and patent applications in the ‘115 and ‘126 interferences; the motions phase has concluded and this interference is also suspended until the CAFC appeal is decided. We do not know the impact of a decision by the CAFC in the appeal of the ‘115 interference on these suspended interferences.
Opposition and appeal proceedings in the EPO are ongoing against patents owned by the Broad, ToolGen, and MilliporeSigma, and various third parties have opposed the three issued CVC European patents. The decision upholding the CVC European patent in amended form has been appealed within the EPO. Additionally, invalidation trials of the CVC IP are ongoing in Japan and China. Such proceedings, including appeals, are often lengthy and can lead to the revocation of a patent in its entirety, the maintenance of the patent as issued, or, depending upon the jurisdiction, the maintenance of a patent in amended form. These CRISPR-Cas9 patents will expire in 2033 without PTA or PTE.
In light of the uncertainty surrounding the CVC IP, certain third parties have negotiated royalty-stacking provisions in their sublicenses with us, whereby they can deduct from what they owe to us a certain percentage of royalties they pay to other parties with CRISPR-Cas9 patents (such as to the Broad). Furthermore, other third parties have adopted a “wait and see” approach and are not entering into license agreements with us or third parties until all of the uncertainty surrounding inventorship and priority among the groups with CRISPR-Cas9 patents is resolved. If patents in the CVC IP are invalidated, certain of our sublicensees may wish to renegotiate their license agreements with us or may terminate for convenience. If this happens prior to commercialization of our own product candidates, we could lose a source of revenues while still remaining responsible for reimbursing UC for costs of prosecuting and maintaining the remaining CVC IP.
If we are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, our business and competitive position will be harmed.
In addition to seeking patents for some of our technology and product candidates, we also rely on trade secrets and confidentiality agreements to protect our know-how that is not patentable, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce, and any other elements of our product discovery and development processes that involve confidential know-how, information, or technology that is not covered by patents. Trade secrets and know-how can be difficult to protect.
We seek to protect these trade secrets and other confidential information, in part, by entering into non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to them, such as our employees, collaborators, CMOs, CROs, clinical trial site personnel and investigators, consultants, and other third parties. We also enter into confidentiality and invention assignment agreements with our employees and our agreements with consultants include invention assignment obligations. We seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data, know-how, and trade secrets by maintaining
physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. Although we have confidence in these individuals, organizations, and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breaches. Monitoring unauthorized uses and disclosures is difficult, and we do not know whether the steps we have taken to protect our confidential information will be effective. We cannot guarantee that our trade secrets and other confidential information will not be disclosed or that competitors will not otherwise gain access to our trade secrets.
Despite these efforts, any of these parties may breach agreements and disclose our confidential information, including our trade secrets, and we may not be able to obtain adequate remedies for any breaches. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. In addition, some courts both within and outside the United States may be less willing or unwilling to protect confidential information, including trade secrets. If a competitor lawfully obtains or independently develops any of our trade secrets, we will have no right to prevent that competitor from using such information to compete with us, which could harm our competitive position. If we are unable to prevent unauthorized material disclosure of our intellectual property to third parties, or misappropriation of our intellectual property by third parties, we may not be able to establish or maintain a competitive advantage in our markets, which could materially adversely affect our business, operating results, financial condition, and prospects. Additionally, it is possible that our genome-editing technology platform, our trade secrets, and our know-how will over time be disseminated within the industry through the publication of journal articles and the movement of personnel from our company into academia or into other companies that may be our competitors.
Furthermore, others may independently discover our trade secrets or other confidential information. For example, the FDA, as part of its Transparency Initiative, is currently considering whether to make additional information publicly available on a routine basis, including information that we consider to be confidential, including trade secrets , and it is not clear at the present time how the FDA’s disclosure policies may change in the future, if at all. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor or other third party, we would have no right to prevent them, or those to whom they communicate it, from using that technology or information to compete with us. If any of our trade secrets were to be disclosed to or independently developed by a competitor or other third party, our competitive position will be materially and adversely harmed.
Intellectual property rights do not necessarily address all potential competitive threats.
The degree of future protection afforded by our intellectual property rights, whether through patents or trade secrets, is uncertain because intellectual property rights have limitations and may not adequately protect our business or permit us to maintain our competitive advantage. For example:
•others may be able to make, use, and sell cell therapy products that are similar to our product candidates without infringing our intellectual property rights;
•others may independently develop similar or alternative genome-editing technologies without infringing our intellectual property rights;
•we may not develop additional patentable technologies;
•others may misappropriate our trade secrets, or independently develop or acquire our trade secrets lawfully; and
•our patents may have expired, whether or not PTE was granted.
Should any of these events occur, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
If our trademarks are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our markets of interest and our business may be adversely affected.
If our trademarks are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our markets of interest and our business may be adversely affected. Our unregistered trademarks may be challenged, infringed, circumvented, declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks, which we need to build name recognition among potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. At times, competitors may adopt trademarks similar to ours, thereby impeding our ability to build brand identity
and possibly leading to market confusion. In addition, there could be potential trademark infringement claims brought by owners of other registered trademarks or trademarks that incorporate variations of our unregistered trademarks. Over the long term, if we are unable to successfully register our trademarks and establish name recognition based on our trademarks, then we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected. Our efforts to enforce or protect our trademarks, domain names, copyrights, or other intellectual property rights may be ineffective and could result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and could adversely impact our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
Risks Relating to Our Relationships with Third Parties
We rely on third parties to supply the materials for, and the manufacturing of, our clinical product candidates, and, if such product candidates receive regulatory approval, we may continue our reliance on third parties for manufacturing of our commercial products. Our continued success is subject to the performance of these third parties.
We currently do not have clinical-scale manufacturing capabilities, nor do we have any immediate plans to develop such capabilities; thus, we must rely on third-party CMOs to manufacture clinical supplies for our product candidates. We currently rely on five different CMOs to supply materials to an additional CMO who manufactures the necessary CB-010 and CB-011 materials for our phase 1 clinical trials. We anticipate that we may need to engage other suppliers and CMOs for our clinical trials with our CB-012 and CB-020 product candidates.
We receive the CRISPR chRDNA guides used for genome editing from one CMO, the Cas proteins (Cas9 in the case of CB-010 and Cas12a in the case of CB-011 and CB-012) from another CMO, the virus used to insert the CAR into the T cell genome from another CMO located outside the United States, and our healthy donor cells from two different sources owned by the same third-party supplier. The virus CMO receives plasmid from another supplier used in the manufacture of the viral material. Another CMO uses all of these materials to manufacture the CAR-T products. Coordination is essential to ensure that the various materials are received by the CMO manufacturing the T cell products in time, and in the correct amounts, for manufacturing runs. The manufactured CAR-T products then undergo a series of release testing. There can be no assurance that we will not experience supply or manufacturing issues in the future; particularly, given our reliance on single-source suppliers, some of which are small companies with limited resources and experience to support clinical, and ultimately commercial, products. We cannot ensure that these suppliers will remain in business or that they will not be purchased by one of our competitors or another company that is not interested in continuing to produce these materials for our intended purposes. In addition, the lead time needed to establish a relationship with a new supplier can be lengthy, and we may experience delays in meeting demand if we must switch to a new supplier or CMO. The time and effort to qualify a new supplier or CMO, including to meet any regulatory requirements for such qualification, could result in additional costs, diversion of resources, or reduced manufacturing yields, any of which would negatively impact our operating results. Furthermore, we may be unable to enter into agreements with a new supplier on commercially reasonable terms, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
If our CMOs and suppliers cannot successfully manufacture materials that conform to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or other regulatory authorities, they will not be able to secure or maintain regulatory approval for their manufacturing facilities. In addition, we have no direct control over the ability of our CMOs and suppliers to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance, and corresponding maintenance of records and documents, or to hire and retain trained personnel. If the FDA or a foreign regulatory authority inspects these third-party facilities for compliance with regulations for the manufacture and testing of materials or product candidates and, if these facilities fail inspection and cannot adequately correct deficiencies, we may need to find alternative CMOs, which would significantly impact our ability to develop and obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates, and if approved, to market our products. In addition, if our CMOs and suppliers are unable to timely perform or have operations temporarily halted as a result of inspection or enforcement actions taken by the FDA or other regulatory authorities, or as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health crises, we may experience manufacturing delays or delays in receiving healthy donor cells used in manufacturing our CB-010 product candidate or may need to find alternative CMOs or suppliers, which in each case would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for, and market our product candidates, if approved.
We do not yet have sufficient information to reliably estimate the cost of the commercial manufacturing of our product candidates, and the actual cost to manufacture and process our product candidates could materially and adversely affect the commercial viability of our product candidates. Our product candidates have not been manufactured at commercial scale, may not be able to achieve commercial manufacturing, and we may be unable to create a product
inventory necessary to satisfy demands for any of our product candidates following approval. As a result, we may never be able to develop a commercially viable product.
In addition, our current reliance on a limited number of CMOs and suppliers exposes us to a variety of risks, each of which could delay our preclinical studies, clinical trials, the approval, if any, of our product candidates by the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities, or the commercialization of our product candidates or result in higher costs or deprive us of potential product revenue. These risks include:
•our CMOs and suppliers may be unable to timely manufacture our product candidates or produce the quantity and quality required to meet our preclinical, clinical, and commercial needs, if any;
•our CMOs and suppliers may not be able to execute our manufacturing procedures appropriately;
•our CMOs and suppliers have their own proprietary methods, which we may not have access to if we wish to, or are required to, switch CMOs or suppliers. Additionally, we may not own, or may have to share, the intellectual property rights to any improvements made by our CMOs in the manufacturing process for our product candidates;
•our CMOs and suppliers may not perform as agreed or may not remain in business for the time required to supply our clinical trials or to successfully manufacture, store, and distribute our commercial products;
•our CMOs and suppliers could breach or terminate their agreements with us;
•we face competition for supplies from other gene and cell therapy companies, which may make it difficult for us to secure materials or the testing of such materials on commercially reasonable terms or in a timely manner;
•our CMOs may fail to adequately store the various components received from our suppliers and any damage or loss of such materials could materially impact our ability to manufacture and supply our product candidates;
•we rely on third parties to perform release tests on our product candidates prior to delivery to clinical trial sites. If these tests are not appropriately done and test data are not reliable, patients could be put at risk of serious harm;
•we may be unable to identify additional CMOs or suppliers on acceptable terms or at all because the number of potential manufacturers is limited and the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities may have questions regarding any replacement CMO or supplier. This may require new testing and regulatory interactions. In addition, a new CMO would have to be educated in, or develop substantially equivalent processes for, production of our product candidates; and
•as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic or other public health crises, our CMOs and suppliers may experience production delays and shutdowns.
Our CMO that supplies the virus we use to insert the CAR into our CB-010 CAR-T product candidate is located outside the United States. To date, our virus CMO has not been audited by the FDA, but it has received the cGMP certification for the manufacture of recombinant viral vectors from an EU national regulatory authority. There are additional risks with using a non-U.S. vendor, including:
•economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability in particular non-U.S. economies and markets;
•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 and currency controls;
•trade protection measures, import, or export licensing requirements, or other restrictive actions by U.S. or non-U.S. governments;
•negative consequences from changes in tax laws;
•difficulties in managing international logistics and transportation; and
•workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States.
For our allogeneic CAR-T product candidates, we rely on receiving healthy donor material to manufacture our product candidates. Variation in quality of donor T cells, and potential challenges in procuring appropriate donor material, could result in insufficient product supply or may result in us being unable to initiate or continue clinical trials on the timelines we expect.
Unlike autologous CAR-T companies, we are reliant on receiving healthy donor material to manufacture our product candidates. Healthy donor T cells vary in quality, and this variation requires us to release batches with the highest integrity based on specifications confirmed by regulatory authorities, which makes producing standardized product candidates more likely. However, this step may slow the development and commercialization pathway of those product candidates if releasable batches are not identified sufficiently rapidly. We and our CMOs have developed a screening process designed to enhance the quality and consistency of T cells used in the manufacture of our CAR-T cell product candidates, but our screening process may fail to identify suitable donor material and we may discover failures with the material after production. We may also have to develop new testing methods and update our specifications for new risks, such as screening for new viruses. We have strict specifications for donor material, which include specifications required by regulatory authorities. If we are unable to (i) identify and obtain donor material that satisfies specifications, (ii) agree with regulatory authorities on appropriate specifications, or (iii) address variability of donor T cells, there may be insufficient material or we may be unable to initiate or continue clinical trials on the timelines we expect, which could harm our reputation and adversely impact our business and prospects. Although our suppliers are currently able to provide us with donor material, if, in the future, our suppliers are unable to secure donor material due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health crises or for other reasons, we may no longer have sufficient donor material to manufacture our cell therapy product candidates.
We rely and will continue to rely on third parties to conduct our clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or do not meet expected deadlines, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of, or commercialize, our product candidates.
We depend, and will continue to depend, on CROs, clinical trial sites and clinical trial principal investigators, contract laboratories, and other third parties to conduct our ongoing ANTLER and CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trials and future clinical trials. We will rely heavily on these third parties over the course of our clinical trials, and we control only certain aspects of their activities. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our studies is conducted in accordance with the protocol and applicable legal, regulatory, and scientific standards and regulations, and our reliance on third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and these third parties are required to comply with cGCPs, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for the conduct of clinical trials on product candidates in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce cGCPs through periodic inspections and for-cause inspections of clinical trial principal investigators and trial sites. If we or any of these third parties fail to comply with applicable cGCPs or fail to enroll a sufficient number of patients, we may be required to conduct additional clinical trials to support our marketing applications, which would delay the regulatory approval process. Moreover, our business may be implicated if any of these third parties violates federal, state, or foreign fraud and abuse or false claims laws and regulations or healthcare privacy and security laws, or provide us or government agencies with inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete data.
Although we intend to design the clinical trials for our product candidates, our CROs will facilitate and monitor our clinical trials. As a result, many important aspects of our clinical development programs, including site and investigator selection, and the conduct and timing and monitoring of the study, will be partly or completely outside our direct control. Our reliance on third parties to conduct clinical trials will also result in less direct control over the collection, management, and quality of data developed through clinical trials than would be the case if we were relying entirely upon our own employees. Communicating with third parties can also be challenging, potentially leading to mistakes as well as difficulties in coordinating activities.
Any third parties conducting our clinical trials are not, and will not be, our employees and, except for remedies available to us under our agreements with these third parties, we cannot control whether they devote sufficient time and resources to our ongoing preclinical, clinical, and nonclinical programs. These third parties may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical trials or other drug development activities, which could affect their performance on our behalf. If these third parties do not successfully
carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or regulatory requirements, or if there are other difficulties with such third parties, such as staffing difficulties, changes in priorities, or financial distress, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed, or terminated. As a result, we may not be able to complete development of, obtain regulatory approval of, or successfully commercialize our product candidates. As a result, our financial results and the commercial prospects for our product candidates will be harmed, our costs could increase, and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.
If any of our relationships with trial sites, or any CRO that we may use in the future, terminates, we may not be able to timely enter into arrangements with alternative trial sites or CROs, or do so on commercially reasonable terms. Switching or adding clinical trial sites or CROs to conduct our clinical trials involves substantial cost and requires extensive management time, training, and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition lag when a new third party must learn about our product candidates and protocols, which can result in delays that may materially impact our ability to meet our desired clinical development timelines.
We also are required to register certain ongoing clinical trials and post the results of completed clinical trials on a U.S. government-sponsored database, www.ClinicalTrials.gov, within certain timeframes. Failure to do so can result in fines, adverse publicity, and civil and criminal sanctions. Our ANTLER phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-010 product candidate and our CaMMouflage phase 1 clinical trial for our CB-011 product candidate are posted on www.ClinicalTrials.gov. For any violations of laws and regulations during the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, we could be subject to warning letters or enforcement action that may include civil and other penalties, up to and including criminal prosecution.
AbbVie has the right to delay timelines or terminate our collaboration and license agreement at its sole discretion, which will affect our ability to receive reimbursements, milestone payments, and royalties. In addition, we may not be able to meet our obligations under the AbbVie collaboration, and the development of our product candidates may be delayed in light of our obligations to AbbVie.
In February 2021, we entered into a multi-year collaboration and license agreement under which we will utilize our CRISPR Cas12a chRDNA genome-editing and cell therapy technologies to research and develop two new CAR-T cell therapies for AbbVie. We are responsible for conducting certain preclinical research, development, and manufacturing activities, including assisting in the manufacturing of all phase 1 clinical materials and assisting AbbVie with the preparation and filing of its IND applications.
We and AbbVie develop research plans, budgets, and timelines for the two Program Slots; however, ultimately these are under AbbVie’s control and AbbVie may choose to delay certain activities. For example, the parties have agreed that all CMO manufacturing activities be performed no earlier than 2024. Such delays may affect the amount of reimbursement we receive and revenue we recognize from the collaboration. Our ability to receive significant milestone payments is based on AbbVie’s achievement of developmental, regulatory, and sales-based milestones, which is outside of our control and is dependent on AbbVie’s commercially reasonable efforts to develop, commercialize, and manufacture the licensed collaboration products. Any delays by AbbVie will substantially impact the timing of these milestones. Furthermore, AbbVie has the right to terminate the collaboration and license agreement at its sole discretion upon 90 days’ prior written notice to us, which would eliminate all future reimbursements, milestone payments, and royalties and could be perceived negatively by the market.
The collaboration involves a number of our employees and resources. We have not previously undertaken a collaboration of this magnitude and focus. Although we may hire additional employees to increase our research and development group, it is not certain that we will be able to timely hire, or retain, qualified employees, in which case the work on our pipeline product candidates may be delayed until we are able to increase our staff such that we can meet our obligations under the AbbVie research plan and continue to develop our own product candidates.
We may form or seek collaborations or strategic alliances in the future for the development and commercialization of one or more of our product candidates or for new product candidates. We may not be successful in those efforts and, even if we do enter into any collaborations, they may not be successful.
Our product candidate development programs and the potential commercialization of our product candidates will require substantial additional cash to fund expenses. To date, we have not partnered with a third party with respect to any of our product candidates. In the future, we may choose to partner with third parties for one or more of our product
candidates. If we are unable to negotiate and enter into partnerships, we may have to curtail the development of the product candidate for which we are seeking to collaborate, reduce or delay its development program or one or more of our other development programs, delay its potential commercialization or reduce the scope of any 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 may not be able to further develop our product candidates or bring them to market, if approved, and generate product revenue.
If we decide to collaborate with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies for the development and potential commercialization of any of our product candidates, or new product candidates, we may not be able to negotiate collaborations for such product candidates on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all. We may also be restricted under existing agreements from entering into future collaborations. Collaborations are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. Whether we reach a definitive agreement for a collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the potential collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration and the potential collaborator’s evaluation of a number of factors. Those factors may include the design or results of clinical trials, the likelihood of approval by FDA or comparable regulatory authorities outside the United States, the potential market for the subject product candidate or candidates, the costs and complexities of manufacturing and delivering such product candidates to patients, the potential of competing biologics or other therapeutic approaches, the existence of uncertainty with respect to our ownership of technology, which can exist if there is a challenge to such ownership without regard to the merits of the challenge, and industry and market conditions generally. The potential collaborator may also consider alternative product candidates or technologies for similar indications that may be available to collaborate on and whether such a collaboration could be more attractive than one with us for our product candidate or for a new product candidate. In addition, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future collaborators. Thus, we may face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators.
Furthermore, the terms of any collaborations or other arrangements that we may establish may not be favorable to us. Even if we are able to enter into a collaboration, the following are some of the risks associated with doing so:
•collaborators have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to collaborations and may not devote sufficient resources to the development, manufacturing, marketing, or sale of collaboration products;
•collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates we may develop or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on clinical trial results, changes in the collaborator’s strategic focus or available funding, or external factors such as an acquisition that diverts resources or creates competing priorities;
•collaborators may delay clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for a clinical trial program, stop a clinical trial or abandon a product candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials, or require further development of a product candidate for clinical testing;
•collaborators may adopt alternative technologies, which could decrease the marketability of our product candidates and genome-editing technologies;
•collaborators may independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidates if the collaborators believe that competitive products are more likely to be successfully developed or can be commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours, that may result in the withdrawal of the collaborator support for our collaboration product candidates;
•collaborators with marketing and distribution rights to one or more products may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of our product candidates;
•collaborators may not properly obtain, maintain, enforce, or defend our intellectual property if we grant such rights or may use our intellectual property in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our intellectual property or expose us to potential litigation;
•we may lose certain valuable rights under circumstances identified in our collaborations, including if we undergo a change in control;
•disputes may arise between our collaborator and us that may cause the collaborator to act in a manner adverse to us and could result in the delay or termination of the research, development, or commercialization of our product candidates or that result in costly litigation or arbitration that diverts our management’s attention and resources;
•collaboration agreements may not lead to development or commercialization of product candidates in the most efficient manner, if at all. For example, if a collaborator were to be involved in a business combination, the continued pursuit and emphasis on our product development or commercialization program under such collaboration could be delayed, diminished, or terminated; and
•collaboration agreements may be terminated and, if terminated, we may find it more difficult to find a suitable replacement collaborator or attract new collaborators, resulting in a need for additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates we may develop.
We may not realize the benefits of acquired assets or other strategic transactions.
We evaluate various strategic transactions on an ongoing basis. We may acquire other businesses, products or product candidates, intellectual property, or technologies as well as pursue joint ventures or investments in complementary businesses. The success of any future strategic transaction depends on various risks and uncertainties, including:
•unanticipated liabilities related to acquired companies or joint ventures;
•difficulties integrating acquired personnel, technologies, and operations into our existing business;
•retention of key employees;
•diversion of management’s time and focus from operating our business to management of strategic alliances or joint ventures or acquisition integration challenges;
•increases in our expenses and reductions in our cash available for operations and other uses;
•disruption in or termination of our relationships with collaborators or suppliers as a result of such a transaction; and
•possible write-offs or impairment charges relating to acquired businesses or joint ventures.
Foreign acquisitions and joint ventures are subject to additional risks, including those related to integration of operations across different cultures and languages, currency risks, potentially adverse tax consequences of overseas operations, and the particular economic, political, and regulatory risks associated with specific countries.
Future acquisitions or dispositions could result in potentially dilutive issuances of our equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities, or amortization expenses or write-offs of goodwill, any of which could harm our financial condition. We could also incur losses resulting from undiscovered liabilities that are not covered by the indemnification we may obtain from the seller.
If we in-license product candidates or products or acquire businesses, we may not be able to realize the benefit of those transactions if we are unable to successfully integrate them with our existing operations and company culture. We cannot be certain that, following a strategic transaction or license, we will achieve the results, revenue, or specific net income that justifies the transaction. Future acquisitions or dispositions could result in potentially dilutive issuances of our equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities, or amortization expenses or write-offs of goodwill, any of which could harm our financial condition.
We may be subject to claims that our employees, consultants, or third parties performing services for us have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information of third parties.
Many of our employees were previously, and our consultants are or were previously, employed at universities or research institutions, or at other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies. Although we try to ensure that our employees, consultants, and third parties performing services for us do not use the confidential information of former employers or other companies in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or these individuals have used or disclosed confidential information or intellectual property, including trade secrets, of any such individual’s current or
former employer or other third party. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to our management and employees.
Risks Relating to Employee Matters, Managing Growth, and Other Risks Relating to Our Business
Our future success depends on our ability to retain our executive officers and to attract, retain, and motivate qualified personnel.
We are highly dependent on the research and development, clinical, operational, legal, financial, and other business expertise of our executive officers, including Rachel E. Haurwitz, Ph.D., our president and chief executive officer; Steven B. Kanner, Ph.D., our chief scientific officer; Ruhi Khan, M.B.A., our chief business officer; Barbara G. McClung, J.D., our chief legal officer and corporate secretary; Jason V. O̵