stro-10k_20181231.htm

 

 

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018

OR

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

For the transition period from                 to                

Commission File Number 001-38662

 

SUTRO BIOPHARMA, INC.

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

 

47-0926186

(State or other jurisdiction of

 

(I.R.S. Employer

incorporation or organization)

 

Identification No.)

 

310 Utah Avenue, Suite 150

 

 

South San Francisco, California

 

94080

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip Code)

(650) 392-8412

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

 

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

 

Title of each class

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, $0.001 par value

 

The Nasdaq Global Market

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

None 

 

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

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

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

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

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  

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

 

Large accelerated filer

 

 

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer

 

 

Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

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

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

The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant, based on the closing price of $15.20 per share of common stock on The Nasdaq Stock Market on September 27, 2018, was $214.4 million. The Registrant has elected to use September 27, 2018 as the calculation date, which was the initial trading date of the Registrant’s common stock on The Nasdaq Stock Market, because on June 30, 2018 (the last business day of the Registrant’s second fiscal quarter), the Registrant was a privately-held company. Shares of common stock held by each executive officer, director, and their affiliated holders have been excluded in that such persons may be deemed to be affiliates. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.

The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock outstanding as of March 27, 2019, was 22,925,441.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement to be filed for its 2019 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III hereof. Such proxy statement will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year covered by this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

 


 

Sutro Biopharma, Inc.

ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Page

 

 

 

 

 

PART I

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 1.

 

Business

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 1A.

 

Risk Factors

 

38

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

83

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 2.

 

Properties

 

83

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

 

83

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

83

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

84

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 5.

 

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

 

84

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 6.

 

Selected Financial Data

 

87

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 7.

 

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

 

88

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

101

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

102

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

137

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

137

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9B.

 

Other Information

 

137

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

138

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 10.

 

Directors, Executive Officers of the Registrant and Corporate Governance Matters

 

138

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

138

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 12.

 

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

 

138

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

138

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 14.

 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

138

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

139

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 15.

 

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

 

139

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signatures

 

142


 

 

2

 

 


 

Forward-Looking Statements

 

This Annual Report on Form 10-K, or Annual Report, contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, and section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act. All statements contained in this Annual Report other than statements of historical fact, including statements regarding our future results of operations and financial position, business strategy, market size, potential growth opportunities, nonclinical and clinical development activities, efficacy and safety profile of our product candidates, our ability to maintain and recognize the benefits of certain designations received by product candidates, the timing and results of nonclinical studies and clinical trials, collaboration with third parties, and the receipt and timing of potential regulatory designations, approvals and commercialization of product candidates, are forward-looking statements. The words “believe,” “may,” “will,” “potentially,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “predict,” “target,” “intend,” “could,” “would,” “should,” “project,” “plan,” “expect,” and similar expressions that convey uncertainty of future events or outcomes are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words.

These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including those described in Item 1A, “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this Annual Report. Moreover, we operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment, and new risks emerge from time to time. It is not possible for our management to predict all risks, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements we may make. In light of these risks, uncertainties, and assumptions, the forward-looking events and circumstances discussed in this Annual Report may not occur and actual results could differ materially and adversely from those anticipated or implied in the forward-looking statements.

You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee that the future results, levels of activity, performance or events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements will be achieved or occur. We undertake no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements for any reason after the date of this report to conform these statements to actual results or to changes in our expectations, except as required by law. You should read this Annual Report with the understanding that our actual future results, levels of activity, performance and events and circumstances may be materially different from what we expect.

Except where the context otherwise requires, in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, “we,” “us,” “our” and the “Company” refer to Sutro Biopharma, Inc.

Trademarks

This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes trademarks, service marks and trade names owned by us or other companies. All trademarks, service marks and trade names included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are the property of their respective owners.  We do not intend our use or display of other companies’ trade names, trademarks or service marks to imply a relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship of us by, these other companies.

 

 

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PART I

Item 1.

Business

Overview

We are a clinical stage drug discovery, development and manufacturing company focused on deploying our proprietary integrated cell-free protein synthesis platform, XpressCF™, to create a broad variety of optimally designed, next-generation protein therapeutics initially for cancer and autoimmune disorders. We aim to design therapeutics using the most relevant and potent modalities, including cytokine-based targets, immuno-oncology, or I/O agents, antibody-drug conjugates, or ADCs, and bispecific antibodies that are directed primarily against clinically validated targets where the current standard of care is suboptimal. We believe our platform allows us to accelerate the discovery and development of potential first-in-class and best-in-class molecules by enabling the rapid and systematic evaluation of protein structure-activity relationships to create optimized homogeneous product candidates. Our mission is to transform the lives of patients by using our XpressCF™ Platform to create medicines with improved therapeutic profiles for areas of unmet need.

Our two most advanced product candidates are wholly owned: STRO-001, an ADC directed against CD74, for patients with multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL, and STRO-002, an ADC directed against folate receptor-alpha, or FolRα, for patients with ovarian and endometrial cancers. STRO-001 is currently enrolling patients in a Phase 1 trial, with initial safety data expected in mid-2019 and initial efficacy data expected by year end 2019. In October 2018, we were granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA, for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma. We began enrolling patients in a STRO-002 Phase 1 trial focused on ovarian and endometrial cancers in March 2019, with initial safety data expected by year end 2019.  We have also entered into multi-target, product-focused collaborations with leaders in the field of oncology, including a cytokine derivatives collaboration with Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, or Merck, a B Cell Maturation Antigen, or BCMA, and an immuno-oncology directed alliance with Celgene Corporation, or Celgene, and an oncology-focused collaboration with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany (operating in the United States and Canada under the name “EMD Serono”).

We believe our XpressCF™ platform is the first and only current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMP, compliant and scalable cell-free protein synthesis technology that has resulted in product candidates in clinical development. We believe key advantages of our cell-free protein synthesis platform over conventional biologic drug discovery and development include:

 

ability to rapidly produce a wide variety of protein structures in-house;

 

ability to incorporate multiple, different non-natural amino acids in a single protein;

 

faster cycle time;

 

efficient drug discovery and early pharmacology and safety assessment; and

 

rapid and predictable scalability.

We plan to leverage these capabilities to accelerate the discovery and development of potential first-in-class and best-in-class molecules.

The benefits of our XpressCF™ Platform have resulted in collaborations with leaders in the field of oncology, including Merck, Celgene and EMD Serono. As a result of discovery efforts enabled through our XpressCF+™ Platform, Merck has the right to develop up to three cytokine derivatives for cancer and autoimmune disorders, with Merck to make a specific payment for the third product candidate. Additionally, Celgene has the worldwide right to develop an anti-cancer ADC and an anti-cancer bispecific antibody, with Celgene to make specific payments to us to obtain such worldwide rights to the second of the two product candidates, and development rights to two additional anti-cancer bispecific antibodies outside of the U.S. The lead candidate in this collaboration is a novel ADC therapeutic directed against BCMA for which an IND submission is expected in the first half of 2019. Under the collaboration with EMD Serono, we are using our XpressCF+™ Platform to discover and develop mono, bispecific or multispecific ADC product candidates against multiple cancer targets. The most advanced candidate in this collaboration is a bispecific ADC that is currently undergoing preclinical studies. To date, we have received in aggregate approximately $355 million in payments from all of our collaborations, which includes approximately $54 million in investments in our stock. We intend to selectively enter into additional collaborations with partners who are seeking efficient and effective drug discovery, preclinical development and manufacturing capabilities for the creation of novel therapeutics.

 

 

4

 

 


 

Our first internally developed product candidate is STRO-001, which we believe has the potential to be a first-in-class and best-in-class ADC directed against CD74, an antigen that is highly expressed in many B cell malignancies. In multiple preclinical models, STRO-001 has demonstrated potent anti-tumor activity. In addition, the properties of STRO-001 suggest a low likelihood of off-target toxicity and potential for an improved therapeutic index. STRO-001 is currently enrolling patients in a Phase 1 trial for multiple myeloma and NHL and we expect initial safety data in mid-2019 and expect initial efficacy data by year end 2019.

We are also internally developing STRO-002, an ADC directed against FolRα, initially targeted for the treatment of ovarian and endometrial cancers. Our experiments show that FolRα expression can be detected in 90% or more of ovarian and endometrial cancers. In preclinical models, STRO-002 has demonstrated the potential for enhanced and selective activity against cells expressing FolRα, superior inhibition of tumor growth and greater linker stability, in comparison to experiments we conducted with a benchmark FolRα-targeting molecule. We began enrolling patients in a STRO-002 Phase 1 trial focused on ovarian and endometrial cancers in March 2019, with initial safety data expected by year end 2019.

Although we believe our product candidates have the potential to be first-in-class and/or best-in-class and to provide potent anti-tumor activity with reduced off-target toxicity, we will need to complete additional studies to determine the safety and efficacy of our product candidates. The results of these future studies may be different than the results of our earlier studies. We have not received regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, and in order to obtain regulatory approval and commercialize our product candidates, the FDA or foreign regulatory agencies will need to determine that our product candidates are safe and effective. We may not obtain regulatory approval on the timeline we currently expect, or at all, and competing therapies and products may ultimately reach the market faster or have more favorable safety and efficacy profiles than our products candidates.

Beyond these wholly owned programs and collaborations, we are developing a broader pipeline of next-generation protein therapeutics using our XpressCF™ Platform. Our protein engineering and chemistry efforts are focused on maximizing therapeutic indices, and our technology allows us to rapidly test our therapeutic hypothesis in significantly more product candidates than conventional protein synthesis allows in order to identify the best molecule to advance to the clinic. Our drug discovery teams are exploring novel immuno-oncology therapies, including cytokine-based therapies. We are also actively pursuing the discovery and development of other novel ADC and bispecific antibodies, including T cell-engager discovery programs.

Our Strategy

Our goal is to use our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform to create cytokine-based immuno-oncology therapeutics, ADCs and bispecific antibodies primarily against clinically validated targets. Key elements of our strategy are to:

 

Advance STRO-001 and STRO-002 through clinical development.  We are currently evaluating STRO-001 in a Phase 1 trial for patients with advanced and/or refractory multiple myeloma and NHL. Based on compelling preclinical data, we believe STRO-001 has the potential to be a first-in-class and best-in-class ADC directed against CD74, which is highly expressed in many B cell malignancies. We expect initial safety data in mid-2019 and expect initial efficacy data by year end 2019. In October 2018, we were granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA, for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma. We began enrolling patients in a STRO-002 Phase 1 trial focused on ovarian and endometrial cancers in March 2019, with initial safety data expected by year end 2019. Given that FolRα is a clinically validated target for ovarian cancer, along with STRO-002’s homogeneous design, we believe it could be a best-in-class FolRα-targeted ADC and provide greater activity, stability and safety as compared to other investigational agents in development.  

 

Develop a diverse pipeline of novel product candidates with optimal therapeutic profiles.  We intend to build a broad pipeline of optimally designed, next-generation protein therapeutics for cancer and autoimmune disorders using our XpressCF™ Platform. Our cell-free-based protein synthesis system enables the rapid and systematic evaluation of protein structure-activity relationships, which we believe will accelerate the discovery and development of molecules. We aim to take advantage of the most potent modalities, including cytokines, ADCs and bispecifics, to create drugs that are directed primarily against clinically validated targets where the current standard of care is suboptimal.

 

 

5

 

 


 

 

Strategically pursue additional collaborations to broaden the reach of our XpressCF™ Platform.    To maximize the value of our XpressCF™ Platform technology, we have entered into multi-target, product-focused collaborations with leaders in the field of oncology, including a cytokine derivatives collaboration with Merck, a BCMA and immuno-oncology directed alliance with Celgene and an oncology-focused ADC collaboration with EMD Serono. We intend to selectively enter into additional collaborations with partners who are seeking efficient and effective drug discovery and manufacturing capabilities for the development of novel therapeutics. As with some of our current collaborations, we intend to retain certain development and commercial rights to maximize the future potential value of product candidates discovered and developed using our XpressCF™ Platform.

 

Maintain worldwide rights to our core product candidates.    We own the worldwide commercial rights to our lead product candidates, STRO-001 and STRO-002. We have assembled a management team with extensive experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, including drug discovery and development through commercialization, and our plan is to independently pursue the development and commercialization of our product candidates. As we continue to advance our products, we may opportunistically pursue strategic partnerships that maximize the value of our pipeline.

 

Selectively expand the scope of our XpressCF™ Platform into other therapeutic areas.    Due to the versatility of our platform, we can explore additional therapeutic areas outside of oncology, such as autoimmune diseases. We intend to make further investment in the development of our XpressCF™ Platform to expand our pipeline of product candidates.

Cancer Remains a Major Unmet Medical Need

Cancer is the second leading cause of mortality in the United States, accounting for nearly one in every four deaths. Approximately 40% of Americans will develop cancer and, according to the American Cancer Society, there will be 1.8 million new cases of cancer and 607,000 deaths due to cancer in the United States in 2019.

Traditional Cancer Therapeutics

Cancer treatment has traditionally included chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or a combination of these approaches. Chemotherapy agents and other small molecule targeted therapies can be effective in certain types of cancer, but they can also cause toxicities that may lead to life-threatening consequences, lower quality of life or untimely termination of treatment. Furthermore, these agents offer limited efficacy in many types of cancer.

Over the last twenty years, new paradigms of cancer research and treatment have emerged to address the limitations of existing treatments. Some of the most promising new approaches involve biologic therapies, including monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that bind to antigen targets on tumor cells and inhibit tumor growth, or block processes that provide nourishment for the tumor. As a drug class, monoclonal antibodies have transformed the treatment of oncology and represent some of the top selling therapies on the market. For example, Roche’s Avastin, Rituxan/CD20, and Herceptin/HER-2 franchises dominated the market with over $23 billion in combined 2018 annual sales.

Despite the success of conventional monoclonal antibodies, they still have limitations. For example, the response seen with monoclonal antibodies can be variable, with some patients responding, while others do not. In addition, the response is often not durable and many patients relapse or become refractory to treatment. Also, safety and tolerability concerns often limit the use of higher, potentially more efficacious doses. We believe our XpressCF™ Platform will provide enhanced therapeutic approaches for treating cancer to address these unmet needs. A new generation of biologics is emerging, including immuno-oncology agents, ADCs and bispecific antibodies. The expectation is that multiple therapeutic modalities will be used in novel combinations to treat patients and provide the most potent anti-cancer effect.

Immuno-Oncology

The immune system is capable of recognizing and eliminating tumor cells. However, some cancer cells over express proteins, called immune checkpoints, which suppress the immune system, and enable the tumor cells to evade destruction. Immuno-oncology has emerged as a promising new therapeutic approach that aims to enhance anti-tumor immune responses by using monoclonal antibodies to overcome these immune checkpoint blockades.

 

 

6

 

 


 

Monoclonal antibody immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as Opdivo, Keytruda and Yervoy, have been approved for the treatment of a number of cancer indications such as, melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, or NSCLC, renal cancer and bladder cancer. The 2018 combined sales of these three checkpoint inhibitors are projected to be $16 billion and by 2022, forecasted sales are projected to exceed $27 billion.

Limitations to Current Immuno-Oncology Approaches

The effectiveness of any cancer immunotherapy is dependent on the status of an individual patient’s immune system. While many single-agent immunotherapies have resulted in remarkable clinical results, only a minority of patients have realized durable benefits from these treatments. An immunotherapy cannot succeed if a patient’s immune cells are too impaired to benefit from a particular checkpoint inhibitor or cytokine-based therapeutic. As a result, combination therapies have been explored clinically and are designed to provide an additional boost to revive a patient’s ability to mount an immune response against their tumor. However, combination therapies will likely have to provide a significant risk-benefit advantage in order to justify the cumulative costs of combining two separate immunotherapies. New single agent approaches to achieving combinatorial stimulation of a patient’s immune system may therefore create the preferred option for many patients and physicians.

Antibody-Drug Conjugates

After two decades of industry efforts, several new modalities of highly potent monoclonal antibody-based therapies have emerged, including ADCs. The key components of ADCs include an antibody, a stable linker and a cytotoxic agent (warhead). The antibody is used to target and deliver the cytotoxic agent to tumor cells. ADCs can be mono, bispecific or multi-specific. The intended result of this powerful and targeted approach is greater tumor cell death and less systemic tolerability issues as compared to traditional chemotherapy. The following diagram shows the component parts of an ADC.

 

 

Currently, there are more than 100 ADCs being explored in clinical development. Kadcyla and Adcetris are ADCs that have been approved for the treatment of specific subsets of breast cancer and lymphoma, respectively. In the second half of 2017, Besponsa and Mylotarg were approved for the treatment of specific subsets of leukemia. All four of these newly approved therapies demonstrate that ADCs have an emerging role in the armamentarium of cancer therapeutics.

 

 

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Limitations to Current ADC Approaches

Despite the approvals of these ADCs, there have been challenges in achieving the full clinical potential of this modality. We believe these challenges are directly related to the following:

 

Heterogeneity as a Result of Imprecise and Variable Conjugation.    The approved ADCs and many that are in development use imprecise technologies that opportunistically attach the cytotoxic payload to naturally occurring amino acids within the antibody and result in a heterogeneous mixture. In these mixtures, the number and site location of the linker-warhead can vary significantly from antibody to antibody within the single ADC product. These many different forms in the final product are likely to perform differently, with some forms carrying insufficient cytotoxin to kill the tumor, and some forms carrying too high a load resulting in unintended toxicities. The overall performance of the heterogeneous ADC is therefore the average activity of the different species within the ADC mixture, which may limit both efficacy and tolerability. For these reasons, we believe this current class of ADCs, which are heterogeneous mixtures, are suboptimal for effective cancer treatment. The figure below compares homogeneous and heterogeneous ADCs.

 

 

          

 

Suboptimal Linker-Warhead Positioning.    Conventional ADC technologies use conjugation chemistry to attach linker-warheads to naturally occurring amino acids within an antibody; therefore, the position is dictated by the pre-existing amino acid sequence. Published research studies have demonstrated that linker-warhead positioning along an antibody can have significant effect on the ability of an ADC to kill tumor cells, with some positions resulting in suboptimal killing. This position effect also contributes to the challenge of a heterogeneous ADC mixture. We believe that superior ADCs can be developed using technologies that allow linker-warhead positioning to be fine-tuned to empirically determined sites for maximal therapeutic benefit.

 

Instability Due to Linker Design.    One of the major challenges in ADC technology has been to develop linking chemistries that ensure that warheads are only released from the antibody within a tumor cell, and not released within the blood or healthy tissue as the ADC is delivered systemically and travels through the body. We believe that safer ADCs can be developed by utilizing non-natural amino acids that enable state-of-the-art chemistries to ensure that the warhead is not prematurely released.

 

 

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Bispecific Antibodies

Bispecific antibodies are engineered proteins that can simultaneously bind to two different types of antigens. Targeting two individual antigens simultaneously is expected to drive a larger clinical impact than conventional monoclonal antibodies. As a class, bispecific antibodies are projected to have potential sales on a worldwide basis of up to $4.4 billion by 2023 and over 40 molecules are currently in clinical development. Bispecific antibodies can be engineered in a variety of different formats as shown below.

 

 

Bispecific antibodies come in a wide variety of structural formats that can be used in multiple therapeutic modalities, including dual blocking bispecific antibodies, T cell-engaging bispecific antibodies and dual antigen targeting bispecific antibodies. Given the potential synergistic nature of these approaches, they have the potential to provide a similar, if not improved, therapeutic benefit as compared to a traditional combination approach. In addition, they may also demonstrate an improved safety and tolerability profile. These characteristics could allow for a wider therapeutic index as compared to the comparable combination therapy approach. Additionally, combining two mechanisms in a single bispecific antibody could have advantages in manufacturing, clinical development and patient convenience.

Limitations to Current Bispecific Antibody Approaches

Bispecific antibodies are highly engineered proteins with structural features not found in nature. The generation of these molecules therefore presents significant design and development challenges especially when using conventional cell-based technologies. These challenges include:

 

Optimization Challenges.    Bispecific antibodies simultaneously engage two different targets and therefore have precise requirements for the binding properties and spatial orientation of each domain in order to have pharmacologic activity. Combinatorial pairing of antibody binding arms to identify an optimized bispecific antibody requires many distinct cell lines that must be engineered during the discovery process, a cumbersome process when using conventional cell-based technologies.

 

Challenges to T Cell-Engagers.    Discovery of bispecific T cell-engagers is further limited by the challenge of designing bispecific pairs that can safely activate T cells specifically in the tumor environment without activating peripheral T cells, which would result in severe toxicities.

 

Difficulties in Protein Expression and Manufacturing.    Because bispecific antibodies are highly engineered proteins, conventional cell-based systems have significant difficulties in protein expression, particularly at a larger scale.

 

 

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We believe that new protein engineering technologies will enable significantly broader design opportunities to discover new bispecific antibodies optimized for therapeutic activity, safety and manufacturability.

Cytokine-Based Immuno-Oncology Therapeutics

Cytokines are small biologically active proteins that play an essential role in immune cell function. Cytokines are important for cell-to-cell communication and are responsible for controlling immune cell growth and differentiation. Recombinant human cytokines were among the first biotechnology products engineered for therapeutic use, and, in the field of oncology, cytokines that stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells have been viewed as a potential new approach.

Certain cytokines play a central role in T cell function, contributing to the careful balance between helpful and harmful immune responses. These can be powerful activators of the immune system but can also suppress immune responses through certain specialized T cells that have suppressive functions. A previously approved cytokine therapeutic Proleukin had shown therapeutic benefit in a small number of cancer patients but its therapeutic use was limited due to toxicity. Scientists at other companies have focused research on finding ways to modify cytokines so as to reduce toxicity while maintaining therapeutic benefit. The observed efficacy of a modified cytokine in combination with an immune checkpoint inhibitor indicates the potential of this new approach. In light of these data and our prior research into cytokines, we commenced a cytokine-based research program using our XpressCF+™ Platform technology and are now collaborating with Merck on developing cytokine derivatives. We believe that recent advances in immuno-oncology combined with new protein engineering technologies create opportunities to identify novel cytokine-based therapeutics with superior therapeutic indexes.

Our Proprietary XpressCF™ Platform

While cytokine-based immuno-oncology therapeutics, ADCs and bispecific antibodies hold significant promise, drug developers working with these complex biologics face significant design and development challenges. Optimizing these complex biological structures is a challenging, trial and error process that requires the refinement of several properties in tandem. This iterative process is cumbersome and fraught with significant limitations. As a result, the drug candidate nominated for development is often plagued by inefficient design properties, which then translates to a suboptimal therapeutic index when investigated in the clinic.

Our XpressCF™ Platform seeks to address these significant shortcomings. We believe our cell-free-based protein synthesis technology allows for efficient and proper design exploration to be conducted prior to nominating a lead drug candidate. In addition, we believe we can optimally design these types of complex biologics in a manner that is ideal for subsequent production at relevant scale and manufacture. We are the only company with products in clinical development that has the capability to produce cell-free-based protein synthesis at scale. We believe we have a significant advantage over other development approaches in this space.

Limitations of Current Cell-Based Synthesis Approaches

All existing therapeutic proteins rely on cell-based design, production and manufacturing technologies. The conventional biotechnology approach for the production of these complex biologics relies primarily on CHO cell lines. This first requires low yield transient production from cells that enable characterization of a new protein over several months. This is then followed by development of stable cell lines over several months to a year to enable larger scale preclinical, clinical and commercial production. The characterization process has to be reproduced for every minor variant of the therapeutic protein, which may or may not result in improved properties. Each change requires development of new cell-based methods to generate protein of sufficient quality and quantity to evaluate. Therefore, it is extremely laborious and resource intensive to elucidate principles of structure-activity relationship, and drug discovery is limited by the number of cell lines that can be practically managed in parallel. In addition, they have limited ability to introduce non-natural amino acids into proteins. We believe these limitations hinder the efficiency of drug discovery and often result in suboptimal protein selection.

Overview of Our XpressCF™ Platform

Our XpressCF™ Platform is fundamentally different from the conventional cell-based protein synthesis approach in that we separate the production of the cell mass from the production of the protein.

 

 

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We first generate a cellular mass from our propriety cell line from which we harvest the inner cellular machinery for making proteins. The cellular mass is generated from our highly engineered variant of Escherichia coli, or E.coli bacteria, and has been optimized to make extract that produces complex mammalian proteins. These cells are grown over the course of several days, harvested, broken apart, clarified and stored as a cell mass for future production of our protein therapeutics. We refer to this proprietary cell mass as extract, or XtractCF. The extract includes necessary components for energy production, transcription and translation and can be used to support cell-free protein synthesis. This extract can then be used agnostically to manufacture a wide variety of therapeutic proteins and protein fragments without the need to generate further cell lines.

As a result, protein synthesis then becomes a predictable and reproducible biochemical reaction, independent of the constraints of a cell. A specific DNA sequence is added to the extract, which results in the coding and expression of the desired protein in less than 24 hours. Using this process, we express hundreds or thousands of DNA sequences simultaneously within the same cell-free extract system and therefore can make and purify hundreds or thousands of unique proteins at the same time. This allows us to perform rapid expression, testing and characterization of many variants early in discovery to elucidate structure-activity relationships. Structure-activity relationship refers to how changes to the structure of a protein can lead to improvements in a molecule’s properties, such as binding, internalization, functional activity and stability, which are properties that are key to the therapeutic protein’s efficacy and tolerability in the patient. We are thereby able to optimize many properties with high specificity including: binding efficiency to each antigen target, spatial orientation, linker design, target killing efficiency, immunological activity, protein expression and folding efficiency and stability.

Advantages of Our XpressCF™ Platform

We believe our drug discovery platform provides significant advantages over conventional cell-based protein synthesis approaches and has the ability to produce a large number of variants during the development stage, while preserving the ability to design and test large families of molecules for optimized efficacy and safety features. As a result, we believe that our drug discovery platform can accelerate time to IND by nine to fifteen months compared to conventional technologies.

We believe the advantages of our cell-free-based protein synthesis technology platform include:

 

Ability to Rapidly Produce and Evaluate a Wide Variety of Protein Structures In-house.    By decoupling the production of the cell-free extract from the production of the protein, we are able to stockpile large quantities of cell-free extract from which we are able to manufacture a wide variety of proteins without the need to generate individual cell lines, including cytokine-based immuno-oncology therapeutics, ADCs and bispecific antibodies.

 

Ability to Incorporate Non-Natural Amino Acids.    Our technology allows for efficient incorporation of a non-natural amino acid in any location in an antibody or protein with high precision and fidelity, which we believe allows for the design of optimized protein conjugates.

 

Faster Cycle Time.    Our ability to produce thousands of protein variants in parallel overnight allows us to rapidly express, test and characterize many variants early in discovery to elucidate structure-activity relationships and identify opportunities for superior therapeutic profiles, as well as new intellectual property. We are therefore able to efficiently optimize many properties with high specificity in parallel.

 

Efficient Drug Discovery and Early Pharmacology and Safety Assessment.    Our cell-free technology creates the opportunity for accelerated pharmacology and safety assessments during the design and discovery phase of product development. This approach allows us to generate optimized proteins early in our discovery process, which can be transitioned seamlessly to clinical scale production using the same cell-free process.

 

Rapid and Predictable Scalability.    Our cell-free extract does not need to be modified in any manner as we scale from research to preclinical to clinical to commercial production. This enables us to move more rapidly to the clinic by eliminating master cell banking activities and significantly de-risks scale-up to manufacturing.

 

 

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Our XpressCF™ Solution for cytokine, ADCs and bispecific antibodies-based drug therapeutics

As a result, we believe our technology enables new approaches to cytokine, ADCs and bispecific antibody-based drug discovery, development and manufacturing. Key attributes are:

 

Homogeneous Design.    Our XpressCF™ Platform enables precise and specific placement of non-natural amino acids in defined numbers and positions within our engineered proteins. These non-natural amino acids then serve as highly stable attachment sites, also known as conjugation sites, for chemical functional groups. For example, we attach linker-warheads to non-natural amino acids within our antibodies to create single-species, tumor-killing ADCs. Similarly, we attach polyethylene glycol polymers onto non-natural amino acids within our cytokine-based therapeutics to create single-species immunotherapies designed for extended pharmacokinetics and safety.

 

Experimentally Defined Structure-Activity Relationships.    Our cell-free technology enables rational design of protein therapeutics through a rapid, reiterative process that experimentally defines structure-activity relationship for cytokine-based therapeutics, ADCs and bispecific antibodies. This approach allows us to explore a wide variety of structural features and formats in parallel as we optimize therapeutic candidates. For example, the precise location of chemical conjugation sites directly affects the activity of both ADCs and cytokine-based therapeutics. Our proprietary technology is key to our ability to define the best number and positions of non-natural amino acids for conjugation based on: conjugation efficiency; functional activity/pharmacological properties; and pharmacokinetics and safety. This design flexibility is also an important aspect of our discovery approach to other protein therapeutics. For example, we are able to make and directly compare a variety of pairings and structural formats for our immuno-oncology bispecific antibody and bispecific T cell-engager programs. This allows us to identify antibody pairs and formats with the best binding properties, spatial orientations and structural stability to create the optimal balance of therapeutic activity and safety.

 

Rapid and Efficient Transition from Discovery to the Clinic.    Protein therapeutics can encounter obstacles, or even fail, during the transition from research-grade cell lines to cGMP cell lines appropriate for clinical development and commercialization. Our XpressCF™ Platform can rapidly produce different protein types from a single proprietary extract, which can be scaled for discovery, development and ultimately, we believe, commercialization of cytokine-based immuno-oncology therapeutics, ADCs and bispecific antibodies and bispecific T cell-engagers.

Accordingly, we use our XpressCF™ Platform to discover and develop cancer therapeutics by empirically determining the optimum structure-activity relationships for cytokine-based immuno-oncology therapeutics, ADCs, bispecific antibodies, and transitioning those products to cGMP compliant manufacturing. The following chart illustrates the applicability of these attributes across the range of modalities we are developing.

 

XpressCF™ Attributes for Various Therapeutic Modalities

XpressCF™ Attribute

 

ADCs

 

Bispecific I/O, Bispecific ADCs

and Bispecific T cell-engagers

 

Cytokine-based

therapeutics

Homogeneous Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stable, site-specific attachment of

   chemical functionality

 

 

(if needed)

 

Experimentally Defined Structure-

   Activity Relationships

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rapid, direct comparison of a wide

   variety of protein variants

 

 

 

Rapid and Efficient Transition from

   Discovery to the Clinic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single-source scalability from discovery

   to clinical / commercial

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Collaborations Demonstrate our Capabilities

Our XpressCF™ Platform has garnered the attention of leading pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies and resulted in collaborations to discover and develop novel therapeutics. We have leveraged these strategic partnerships to extend our own capabilities and broaden the scope of our XpressCF™ Platform. To date, all of our collaborations have provided us with approximately $355 million in payments, which includes approximately $54 million in investments in our stock. Our collaborations include:

 

Merck Programs.    We have granted Merck the right to jointly develop up to three research programs directed to cytokine derivatives for cancer and autoimmune disorders, including rights to certain prior cytokine-based research efforts.

 

Celgene Programs.    We have granted Celgene the right to jointly develop up to four anti-cancer bispecific antibodies and/or ADCs directed primarily to immuno-oncology targets. The lead candidate generated for this collaboration is a novel ADC therapeutic directed against the target BCMA for which an IND submission is expected in the first half of 2019.

 

EMD Serono Programs.    We have granted EMD Serono the right to designate up to six cancer targets against which we will discover, develop and optimize up to three mono, bispecific or multi-specific ADC product candidates per target. EMD Serono has selected all six possible target antigens under the strategic research and development partnership. The most advanced candidate in this collaboration is a bispecific ADC, which is currently in preclinical development.

Our Pipeline of Product Candidates and Discovery/Preclinical Programs

Our current product candidates and Discovery and Preclinical stage programs, all based on our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform, are summarized in the chart below:

 

 

 

 

(a)

There are a total of four programs to which Celgene currently has ex-U.S. rights and we currently have U.S. rights. Celgene can obtain worldwide rights to the second product candidate to have an active IND in the United States by making certain payments to us. For the programs that would potentially be the third and fourth to enter clinical development, we own U.S. rights and Celgene owns ex-U.S. rights.

 

(b)

EMD Serono is the U.S. healthcare business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

 

 

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Our Product Candidates

STRO-001, an ADC Directed Against the Cancer Target CD74

Overview

We are developing STRO-001, an optimally designed ADC directed against the cancer target CD74, for multiple myeloma and NHL. STRO-001 was designed and optimized for maximal therapeutic index by placing linker-warheads at specific locations within the antibody using our proprietary XpressCF+™ Platform. STRO-001 is currently enrolling patients in a Phase 1 trial and we expect initial safety data in mid-2019 and expect initial efficacy data by year end 2019.

CD74 Overview and Current Limitations

CD74 is a transmembrane glycoprotein, or a protein with an attached sugar that spans the inside and outside of a cell. While normal tissues appear to have minimal CD74 expression levels, CD74 is an important B cell target for multiple myelomas and lymphomas. CD74 is expressed in approximately 90% of B cell cancers, including multiple myeloma and lymphoma. Additionally, in a study conducted with a collaborator, we found that CD74 was highly expressed in 75% to 98% of tissues samples derived from individual patients with a variety of B cell malignancies, as illustrated in the table below.

 

Comprehensive Immunohistochemistry Study

 

Tumor Subtype

 

Tissue Samples

CD74 Positive

/ Total

 

% Positive

 

Follicular lymphoma

 

148 / 151

 

98%

 

Multiple myeloma

 

101 / 134

 

75%

 

Diffuse large B cell lymphoma

 

135 / 140

 

96%

 

Mantle cell lymphoma

 

19 / 21

 

90%

 

 

Currently, there are no approved therapeutics that specifically target CD74 for treatment of B cell malignancies. We believe earlier ADCs being developed against the target CD74 were ineffective either because they failed to achieve sufficient killing of malignant B cells or they were unable to achieve a sufficient therapeutic benefit before toxicities limited further dose escalations.

B Cell Malignancies Overview and Current Limitations

B cell malignancy tumor subtypes include multiple myeloma and NHL, which includes mantle cell lymphoma, diffuse large B cell lymphoma, or DLBCL, and follicular lymphoma. In the United States alone, there are approximately 100,000 new B cell malignancies cases annually, with a prevalence of more than 600,000 cases. Although several therapeutics have recently been approved for the treatment of specific B cell malignancies, including immunotherapies and targeted kinase inhibitors, unmet need persists. These therapeutics are typically used in combination with other agents to provide the most potent anti-cancer effect. While these new therapies have demonstrated improvements in survival, the majority of these patients ultimately relapse during treatment and some experience a resistance to therapy.

Our Solution, STRO-001

Our first internally developed product candidate is STRO-001, which we believe has the potential to be a first-in-class and best-in-class ADC directed against the cancer target CD74, an antigen that is highly expressed in many B cell malignancies and is an attractive target for an ADC therapeutic, given its rapid internalization by the cell. STRO-001 is an ADC targeting the CD74 protein antigen that was developed using our proprietary XpressCF+™ Platform. STRO-001 is composed of an antibody stably conjugated to a highly potent cytotoxic drug, a maytansinoid derivative, at two specific sites on the antibody using a non-cleavable linker. STRO-001 degrades inside of tumor cells to release very potent intracellular catabolites whose hydrophilic nature results in poor permeability into surrounding cells. We believe this decreases the potential of off-target effect in normal tissues. From a safety perspective, we designed STRO-001 to have an optimal potency to toxicity ratio. We rationally selected a homogeneous ADC with a drug-antibody ratio, or DAR, of two. Heterogeneous ADCs typically have DARs that range from zero to eight, with lower DARs generally being associated with less potency and higher DARs generally being associated with a negative impact on pharmacokinetics and toxicity. We chose a DAR of two after demonstrating that DARs of four or six did not increase the efficacy of STRO-001.

 

 

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Preclinical Data

While additional clinical testing will be needed to determine the safety and efficacy of STRO-001 and to obtain regulatory approval, if ever achieved, STRO-001 has demonstrated potent in vitro cell killing activity across multiple B cell tumor lines. Based on these observations, we have used murine tumor models to determine whether STRO-001 also demonstrates cell killing in vivo. In these models, human tumor cell lines are implanted and allowed to grow in mice to subsequently test the activity of anti-cancer agents. Although these murine models do not address safety, they are commonly used to provide experimental proof-of-concept for anti-cancer activity against different tumor types. For example, in tumor bearing mice, single intravenous doses of 1, 3, and 10 mg/kg STRO-001 significantly extended survival in the MM1S-luc bioluminescent disseminated human multiple myeloma xenograft model as shown below on the right. The figure on the left shows bioluminescence imaging of tumor cells during the first month after dosing. This image shows that while the bioluminescent tumor cells disseminated throughout the body in the vehicle treated mice, the tumor cells were cleared from the STRO-001 treated mice. Furthermore, at the high dose, when their bone marrow was assessed at day 129, of the surviving five out of six animals, all appeared to be tumor-free.

 

 

D7 D14 D21 D28 Vehicle 1 mg/kg STRO-001 Similar response with 3 and 10 mgkg STRO-001 Survival Percent Survivial 0 25 50 75 100 0 25 50 75 100 125 150 Days Post Inoculation Vehicle 1 mg/kg STRO-001 3 mg/kg STRO-001 10 mg/kg STRO-001

 

 

 

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STRO-001 demonstrated similar potent efficacy in a murine xenograft model of human DLBCL, the most common form of NHL. In the study shown below, seven out of seven mice exhibited complete tumor regression with no tumor regrowth 90 days after treatment with a single 10 mg/kg dose of STRO-001. Moderate anti-tumor activity was observed with lower doses of 1 or 3 mg/kg, demonstrating a clear dose-response relationship.

 

Tumor Growth Curves Tumor Size (mm3) 0 500 1000 1500 Days Post Treatment 0 20 40 60 80 100 Vehicle 1 mg/kg STRO-001 3 mg/kg STRO-001 10 mg/kg STRO-001

We also examined the potential for STRO-001 to treat human mantle cell lymphoma in a preclinical murine xenograft model. In the study shown below, mice bearing mantle cell tumors had a mean survival of 81 days. In contrast, 90% to 100% of mice treated with a single dose of 3 or 10 mg/kg STRO-001 survived to the end of the study at day 135. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that STRO-001 has potent anti-tumor activity in three different murine models of human B cell malignancy.

 

 

Survival Percent Survival 0 25 50 75 100 Treatment Days Post Inoculation 0 25 50 75 100 125 150 Vehicle control 3 mg/kg STRO-001 10 mg/kg STRO-001

 

 

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We also investigated the safety of STRO-001 in a toxicology study in non-human primates at several dose levels administered on day 1 and day 15. Hematological toxicity was observed consistent with the known effects of the STRO-001 cytotoxic tubulin inhibitor component. No other drug-related toxicities were observed. Importantly, however, we observed clear evidence of STRO-001 pharmacodynamic activity as demonstrated by dose-dependent B cell ablation and recovery as shown below.

 

 

Clinical Development Plan

The Phase 1 trial for STRO-001 is an open-label study that will evaluate STRO-001 as a monotherapy for patients with multiple myeloma and NHL. The trial will be conducted in two parts: dose escalation and dose expansion. The primary objectives of the trial are to determine the safety and tolerability profile of STRO-001, determine the recommended Phase 2 dose and interval and evaluate preliminary anti-tumor activity. The secondary objectives are to characterize the human pharmacokinetics of STRO-001 and additional safety, tolerability and efficacy measures.

Our Phase 1 trial of STRO-001 is enrolling adult patients with advanced and/or refractory multiple myeloma and NHL (including DLBCL, mantle cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma) who are refractory to, or intolerant of, all established therapy known to provide clinical benefit for their condition. Multiple myeloma and NHL patients will be enrolled in two separate dose escalation cohorts, starting initially with an accelerated dose titration design. We estimate that there will be approximately 30 patients in each cohort and treatment is scheduled for days one and fifteen in a 28-day cycle.

After the recommended Phase 2 dose level is determined, patients could be enrolled into four dose expansion cohorts (myeloma, DLBCL, mantle cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma) if anti-tumor activity is observed during the dose escalation phase. We may enroll up to 40 patients in each of the four dose expansion cohorts.

We submitted our IND for STRO-001 in December 2017 and the first patient was dosed in April 2018. We expect initial safety data from our ongoing Phase 1 trial in mid-2019 and expect initial efficacy data by year end 2019.  In October 2018, we were granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

STRO-002, an ADC Directed Against the Target Folate Receptor-Alpha (FolRα)

Overview

We are developing STRO-002, an optimally designed ADC directed against the cancer target FolRα, initially targeted for ovarian and endometrial cancers. STRO-002 was designed and optimized for an improved therapeutic index by placing a precise number of linker-warheads at four specific locations within the antibody using our proprietary XpressCF+™ Platform. We began enrolling patients in a STRO-002 Phase 1 trial focused on ovarian and endometrial cancers in March 2019, with initial safety data expected by year end 2019.

 

 

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FolRα Overview

FolRα is a cell-surface glycoprotein, which is believed to be important for supporting DNA synthesis in rapidly dividing cancer cells. FolRα exhibits limited expression and distribution in normal tissues.

High levels of FolRα have been found in multiple cancer types, including epithelial ovarian cancer, endometrial adenocarcinoma, triple negative breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Expression appears to correlate with disease progression in ovarian cancer and continues to be expressed following chemotherapy treatment.

In order to better understand FolRα expression, we tested 187 samples in a tissue microarray from ovarian and endometrial cancer patients. The table below shows that more than 90% of ovarian and endometrial cancer tissue samples express FolRα. Furthermore, medium to high levels of expression were observed for 80% of ovarian cancer samples and 78% of endometrial cancer samples.

 

 

 

FolRα Expression

 

Tumor Type

 

Negative

 

 

Low

 

 

Medium

 

 

High

 

Ovarian Cancer (90 tissue samples)

 

 

10

%

 

 

10

%

 

 

16

%

 

 

64

%

Endometrial Cancer (97 tissue samples)

 

 

7

%

 

 

15

%

 

 

24

%

 

 

54

%

 

Ovarian Cancer Overview

Ovarian cancer is the most common cause of cancer death from gynecologic tumors in the United States, and the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women. In the United States alone, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 23,000 new cases of ovarian cancer in 2019, and approximately 14,000 women die of this disease. Given that early stages of the disease cause minimal, nonspecific symptoms or is asymptomatic, 60% of patients with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in an advanced stage, for which the prognosis is poor. Standard pre- or post-operative chemotherapy for ovarian cancer is combination therapy with a platinum compound and a taxane, for example, carboplatin and paclitaxel, which achieves a complete response in between 70% to 80% of patients. Patients refractory or resistant to platinum-based treatments are then treated with a host of additional palliative chemotherapeutic agents, each showing only marginal benefit. This represents a significant unmet need and multiple therapies are being tested in the clinic for treatment of these patients, including PARP inhibitors and PD-1 checkpoint protein inhibitors.

Endometrial Cancer Overview

There is also a significant unmet need in the treatment of recurrent or metastatic endometrial cancer. In the United States alone, there are about 60,000 new cases of endometrial cancer annually, and approximately 10,500 patients die of this disease each year. First-line treatment for stage III/IV disease is commonly paclitaxel/carboplatin, with no standard of care or FDA-approved treatment options for recurrent disease. With the lack of available therapies for these patients, long-term survival prospects are poor and novel treatments offering even a modest improvement in progression-free survival or overall survival may be considered for expedited regulatory approval.

Limitations to Current FolRα -Targeted Therapeutics

There have been a number of folate- or FolRα -targeted therapies in development including naked antibodies, small molecule drug conjugates, ADCs and T cell retargeting molecules. The most clinically active agent targeting FolRα to date has been Immunogen’s mirvetuximab soravtansine (IMGN853), an ADC composed of a FolRα -binding antibody linked to the tubulin-disrupting maytansinoid, DM4, via a cleavable linker.

Immunogen’s IMGN853 monotherapy showed clinical activity in a Phase 1 trial of patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, providing encouraging clinical validation for FolRα-targeting ADCs in this patient population. In early March 2019, Immunogen announced top-line results from its Phase 3 FORWARD I Study evaluating the safety and efficacy of mirvetuximab soravtansine compared to chemotherapy in patients with FRα-positive (with medium and high target expression levels), platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.  The study did not meet its primary endpoint of progression-free survival, or PFS, in either the entire study population or in the pre-specified subset of patients with high FRα expression.

 

 

 

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Our Solution, STRO-002

STRO-002 is directed against the cancer target FolRα, which is highly expressed in multiple cancer types, including ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. This property, together with the highly restricted expression of FolRα on normal tissues, make FolRα a promising ADC approach.

STRO-002 employs a cleavable linker that releases a cytotoxic drug inside of tumor cells, while being stable and resistant to cleavage in general circulation. The cytotoxic drug used is our proprietary hemiasterlin moiety. From a safety perspective, we designed STRO-002 to have the optimal potency to safety ratio. We rationally selected a homogenous ADC with an optimized DAR of four.

Based on preclinical findings, we believe our efficient homogeneous design of STRO-002 could provide anti-tumor activity, stability and safety with the potential to minimize off-target damage and improve clinical impact by reducing dose-limiting toxicities. We believe an improved therapeutic index could differentiate STRO-002 from conventional technology for the treatment of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. To test this, we have created a benchmark FolRα -targeting surrogate molecule based on conventional technology that has a heterogeneous ADC, with a similar DAR utilizing a DM4 linker-warhead. We have tested this benchmark molecule against STRO-002 in multiple preclinical models. However, additional preclinical and clinical testing will be needed to determine the safety and efficacy of STRO-002 and to obtain regulatory approval, if ever. STRO-002 may not ultimately provide a greater therapeutic benefit than the current standard of care.

Preclinical Data

STRO-002, in comparison with the benchmark molecule that we created, has demonstrated: enhanced in vitro activity on cells expressing FolRα and improved specificity on cells that do not express FolRα; superior inhibition of tumor growth; and greater in vitro and in vivo linker stability.

STRO-002 has demonstrated potent in vitro cell killing activity across multiple ovarian cancer tumor cell lines. Based on these observations, we have used murine tumor models to determine whether STRO-002 also demonstrates cell killing in vivo. In these models, human tumor cells are implanted and allowed to grow in mice to subsequently test the activity of anti-cancer agents. Although these murine models do not address safety, they are commonly used to provide experimental proof-of-concept for anti-cancer activity against different tumor types. As shown in the data below, dose-dependent anti-tumor activity was observed in mice implanted with OVCAR3 human ovarian cancer tumor cells. Importantly, this anti-tumor effect was observed in mice bearing large established tumors, with evidence of tumor regression following a single dose of 10 mg/kg STRO-002.

 

 

Tumor Growth Curves (~ 400 mm3) Tumor Size (mm3) 0 500 1000 1500 2000 Days Post Inoculation 20 40 60 80 100 Vehicle 5 mg/kg STRO-002 10 mg/kg STRO-002 Single Dose

 

 

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In an effort to better understand the relative activity of our homogeneous STRO-002 molecule, we have performed experiments comparing STRO-002 to a benchmark molecule that we created. STRO-002 and the benchmark molecule have comparable DAR and affinity for FolRα expressing cells; however, the benchmark is made using conventional ADC technology and is therefore a heterogeneous mixture. The data below demonstrates STRO-002 has more potent in vitro cell killing activity compared to the benchmark molecule when tested on cells expressing FolRα. In contrast, STRO-002 has minimal if any activity on cells that do not express FolRα, while the benchmark molecule kills cells even in the absence of FolRα. We believe that the data demonstrate that the homogeneous nature of STRO-002 drives more efficient tumor cell killing with better tolerability for normal tissues.

 

 

 

We used a human ovarian cancer xenograft model to understand the in vivo stability of STRO-002 compared to our benchmark molecule. In this model we tested for free warhead, released from the ADC, in the blood or tumor tissue one, three or seven days after dosing. The data below on the left show that the released, free warhead from STRO-002 is observed in the tumor starting one day after dosing, without evidence of free warhead circulating in the blood at any time point. In contrast, the data on the right shows that free warhead derived from the benchmark molecule can be observed circulating in the blood one day after dosing, which could contribute to unintended toxicities. In other preclinical studies, the free hemiasterlin warhead is cleared rapidly from the circulation. Taken together, we believe that these data demonstrate the stability of STRO-002 in vivo, which we believe will contribute to a superior therapeutic index compared to ADCs made using conventional technology.

Murine Tumor Model – Free Warhead in Tumor vs. Blood After Dosing

 

 

We examined the safety of STRO-002 in an exploratory toxicology study in non-human primates. Hematological toxicity was observed consistent with the known effects of the STRO-002 cytotoxic tubulin inhibitor component. No other drug-related toxicities were observed and, importantly, there were no observed ocular effects in the non-human primate study.

 

 

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Clinical Development Plan

We began enrolling patients in a STRO-002 Phase 1 trial focused on ovarian and endometrial cancers in March 2019, with initial safety data expected by year end 2019. Our Phase 1 trial for STRO-002 is an open-label study that will evaluate STRO-002 as a monotherapy for patients with ovarian and endometrial cancers. The trial is being conducted in two-parts, dose escalation and dose expansion. The primary objectives of the STRO-002 clinical trial are to determine the safety and tolerability profile, to define the recommended Phase 2 dose level and interval and to evaluate preliminary anti-tumor activity. Our secondary objectives are to characterize the human pharmacokinetics and additional safety, tolerability and efficacy measures.

We intend to seek to enroll adult patients with advanced and/or refractory ovarian cancer initially, for whom no suitable treatment exists. These patients are considered to have incurable disease and need repeated courses of life-prolonging and palliative treatment. We believe that ovarian cancer patients will be enrolled in a dose escalation cohort, with treatment frequency and duration yet to be determined. If anti-tumor activity is observed during the dose escalation phase, we would then plan to enroll patients into two dose expansion cohorts (ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer).

Additional Discovery Efforts

Our technology allows us to rapidly incorporate non-natural amino acids in varying numbers and positions, to identify the best cytokine modification for pharmacological activity, pharmacokinetics and safety. Furthermore, our technology enables rapid preclinical development and transition to cGMP manufacturing, ensuring speed to clinic in a promising field. Our drug discovery teams are exploring novel immuno-oncology therapies, including cytokine-based therapies.

We are also actively researching to identify new ADCs to add to our pipeline. We have multiple ADC discovery programs ongoing using our XpressCF+™ Platform. Our protein engineering and chemistry efforts are focused on maximizing therapeutic indices, and our technology allows us to rapidly test our therapeutic hypothesis in significantly more product candidates than conventional protein synthesis allows in order to identify the best molecule to advance to the clinic.

Our bispecific antibody drug discovery programs are focused on T cell-engagers. We are using our technology to find the optimum protein structure and T cell-engaging properties to maximize safety and efficacy for this promising class of cancer therapeutics.

Collaboration and License Agreements

Merck Collaboration

In July 2018, we entered into the 2018 Merck Agreement with Merck to jointly develop up to three research programs focusing on cytokine derivatives for cancer and autoimmune disorders.

Upon signing the 2018 Merck Agreement, Merck paid us an upfront payment of $60.0 million for the research and development of two target programs, and Merck purchased $20.0 million in Series E redeemable convertible preferred stock from us. Additionally, Merck purchased from us, concurrently with our initial public offering in a private placement, approximately $10.0 million of shares of our common stock at a price per share equal to the initial public offering price. Under the 2018 Merck Agreement, we are eligible to receive financial support for our research and development efforts based on an agreed-upon level of full-time equivalent personnel effort and related reimbursement rate, and we are eligible to receive another milestone payment if a third target program is selected.  

Under the terms of the 2018 Merck Agreement, we are eligible to receive aggregate milestone payments of up to $1.6 billion, assuming the development and sale of all therapeutic candidates and all possible indications identified under the collaboration. If one or more products from each of the target programs are developed for non-oncology or a single indication, we will be eligible for reduced aggregate milestone payments. In addition, we are eligible to receive tiered royalties ranging from mid-single digit to low teen percentages on the worldwide sales of any commercial products that may result from the collaboration.

 

 

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The 2018 Merck Agreement expires on a product-by-product and country-by-country basis upon the later of the expiration of the patents covering products licensed under the 2018 Merck Agreement or ten years after the first commercial sale of a product covered by the 2018 Merck Agreement. Upon expiration, Merck will have a fully paid-up, royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable non-exclusive license, with the right to grant sublicenses, under certain of our intellectual property rights.

Merck may terminate the 2018 Merck Agreement at any time with 60 days’ prior written notice. Either we or Merck has the right to terminate the 2018 Merck Agreement based on the other party’s uncured material breach or bankruptcy.

Celgene Collaboration

In September 2014, we entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement with Celgene, or the 2014 Celgene Agreement, to discover and develop bispecific antibodies and ADCs focused primarily on the field of immuno-oncology, using our proprietary integrated cell-free protein synthesis platform, XpressCF™. Under the 2014 Celgene Agreement, we received upfront payments totaling $95.0 million in September 2014, which included an $11.9 million equity investment, and additional payments totaling $60.0 million.

In August 2017, we entered an Amended and Restated Collaboration and License Agreement with Celgene, or the 2017 Celgene Agreement, to refocus our 2014 Celgene Agreement on four programs that are advancing throughout preclinical development, which are:

 

BCMA ADC.    The most advanced product candidate under collaboration is a BCMA ADC product candidate, which has been designated as a development candidate by Celgene for the treatment of multiple myeloma. We believe Celgene currently plans to submit an IND for this product candidate in the first half of 2019. We currently own the development and commercial rights in the United States to this BCMA ADC product candidate; however, assuming it is the first development candidate from our 2017 Celgene Agreement to have an active IND in the United States, Celgene will then automatically own worldwide development and commercialization rights to such product.

 

Bispecific Antibodies.    The other three product candidates subject to our Celgene collaboration are bispecific antibodies, all of which have been designated as development candidates by Celgene. We currently own the rights to develop and commercialize these product candidates in the United States; however, assuming the second development candidate from our 2017 Celgene Agreement achieves an active IND in the United States, and Celgene makes the required payments to us, then Celgene will automatically own worldwide development and commercialization rights to such second product.

Upon signing of the 2017 Celgene Agreement, we received an option fee payment of $12.5 million in August 2017 and are eligible to receive a second option fee payment of $12.5 million following the first IND clearance, if any, for one of the four programs, if Celgene desires to maintain its option to acquire the U.S. rights to develop and commercialize a second collaboration program to reach IND status. If Celgene exercises its option to acquire from us U.S. rights to a second collaboration program, it will make an option exercise fee payment to us, the amount of which depends on which program reaches IND status.

We have received and will be eligible to receive financial support for research and development services assigned to us by Celgene, based on an agreed-upon level of full-time equivalent personnel effort and related reimbursement rate.

Under the terms of the 2017 Celgene Agreement, we are entitled to earn development and regulatory contingent payments for each of the four programs under the collaboration, and royalties on sales of any commercial products that may result from the 2017 Celgene Agreement. Additionally, we received a $10.0 million payment in December 2018 for certain manufacturing activities. For licensed products for which Celgene holds worldwide rights, we are eligible to receive aggregate milestone and option fee payments of up to $295.0 million for certain licensed products and up to $393.7 million for certain other licensed products under the collaboration, if approved in multiple indications, and, depending on the licensed product, tiered royalties ranging from single digit to low teen percentages on worldwide sales of any commercial products that may result from the 2017 Celgene Agreement. Additionally, for licensed products for which Celgene holds ex-U.S. rights, we will also be eligible to receive pre-commercial contingent payments and tiered royalties ranging from mid to high single digit percentages.

Celgene may terminate the 2017 Celgene Agreement at any time with 120 days’ prior written notice. Either we or Celgene has the right to terminate the 2017 Celgene Agreement based on the other party’s uncured material breach, challenge of the validity and enforceability of intellectual property, or bankruptcy.

 

 

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In January 2019, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced the entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Celgene with the intent of creating a leading focused specialty biopharma company. The transaction is expected to complete in the third quarter of 2019, subject to approval by company shareholders, customary closing conditions, and regulatory approvals.

EMD Serono Collaboration

In September 2014, we entered into a License Agreement with EMD Serono, or the MDA Agreement, to develop ADCs for multiple cancer targets, which replaced the Collaboration Agreement we had entered into with EMD Serono in May 2014, or the Collaboration Agreement. The most advanced program in the collaboration is a bispecific ADC drug candidate currently in preclinical development.

Upon signing the Collaboration Agreement, we received $10.0 million in an upfront payment. In addition, upon signing the MDA Agreement, we received an additional $10.0 million in an upfront payment and receive financial support for our research and development services based on an agreed-upon level of full-time equivalent personnel effort and related reimbursement rate. As of December 31, 2018, we had received approximately $9.3 million in funding support for research and development services. We anticipate entering into a manufacturing supply agreement with EMD Serono to provide them with product candidate materials for IND-enabling and clinical studies.

We are eligible to receive up to $52.5 million for each product developed under the MDA Agreement, primarily from pre-commercial contingent payments. In addition, we are eligible to receive tiered royalties ranging from low to mid single digit percentages, along with certain additional one-time royalties, on worldwide sales of any commercial products that may result from the MDA Agreement. The MDA Agreement term expires on a product-by-product and country-by-country basis upon the later of the expiration of the patents covering products licensed under the MDA Agreement or ten years after the first commercial sale of a product covered under the MDA Agreement. Upon expiration, EMD Serono will have a fully paid-up, royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable non-exclusive license, with the right to grant sublicenses, under certain of our intellectual property rights.

EMD Serono may terminate the MDA Agreement at any time with 90 days’ prior written notice or upon our inability to provide EMD Serono access to a specified number of cancer drug targets. Either we or EMD Serono has the right to terminate the MDA Agreement based on the other party’s uncured material breach or bankruptcy.

Stanford License

In October 2007, we entered into an Amended and Restated Exclusive Agreement, or the Stanford License, with the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, or Stanford, that grants us an exclusive license, with the right to sublicense, under the patent rights owned by Stanford covering certain technology rights related to our XpressCF™ expression system.

Upon initiation of the agreement, we made a payment to Stanford of approximately $83,000, of which a portion was creditable against certain prior patent costs incurred by Stanford, reimbursement of certain out-of-pocket costs incurred by Stanford in patent filing, prosecution and maintenance of approximately $184,000, and issued shares of our common stock to Stanford. We are required to make milestone payments to Stanford of up to approximately $930,000 on the accomplishment of certain development and regulatory milestones, of which $180,000 has been paid through December 31, 2018, with a $750,000 payment due upon first commercial sale of the first licensed product consisting of a molecule or compound covered by the licensed patent rights, or the 14th anniversary of the Stanford License in October 2021. Additionally, we owe Stanford annual license maintenance fees of $75,000, which may be creditable against earned royalties in such year, and are required to reimburse Stanford for ongoing patent-related costs. We are also required to pay to Stanford low single digit royalties on net sales and to share any sublicensing income received related to the licensed technology. We may terminate the agreement at any time upon 30 days’ written notice.

SutroVax Investment

In 2013, we and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, through the Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, provided initial co-funding for a new company called SutroVax, Inc., or SutroVax, with which we have a license agreement. Under the agreement, SutroVax has the right to use the XpressCF+™ Platform to discover and develop vaccine candidates for the treatment or prophylaxis of infectious diseases. The lead program for SutroVax is a broad-spectrum pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. SutroVax is responsible for performing all research and development activities, and we provide technical support and supply XtractCF and other materials to SutroVax.

 

 

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We retain an ownership interest in SutroVax and are eligible for single digit royalties on net sales of any vaccine candidates. Also, we retain the right to discover and develop vaccines for the treatment or prophylaxis of any disease that is not caused by an infectious pathogen, including cancer.

Manufacturing

We have significant expertise in the production of therapeutic biologics. Our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform is a cell-free protein synthesis technology that enables rapid and systematic process development, streamlined scale-up and cGMP manufacturing.

Extract and Reagents

We manufacture our cell-free extract, and expect to manufacture related reagents, in our cGMP manufacturing facility in San Carlos, California for our clinical trials and supply commitments. If we are successful in developing an effective strategic relationship with a contract manufacturing organization, or CMO, we would consider supplementing our manufacturing capacity by outsourcing the production of cell-free extract and related reagents to such CMO to cover our needs during product launch and for long-term commercial supply.

Drug Substance and Drug Product

Our process development and manufacturing strategies are tailored to rapidly advance our product candidates, including the use of a supply chain of established CMOs to ensure successful execution. The production of antibodies will be done by either us or CMOs, depending on our internal cGMP production capacity. The production of all other necessary elements for the manufacture of our ADC product candidates, and the final manufacture of the ADC drug product, will be handled entirely by CMOs. Our XpressCF+™ Platform has been successfully used for manufacturing several antibodies and requires minimal process optimization to support early clinical phase manufacturing. We utilize industry established production steps for the purification of our antibodies. The CMOs we have selected have strong track records in cGMP manufacturing with expertise in clinical or commercial drug manufacturing for the cytotoxic agent, conjugation and fill-finish of therapeutic biologics. All activities from cell-free extract production to formulated drug product are performed to maintain aggressive timelines and minimize delays.

Competition

The biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries, and the immuno-oncology subsector, are characterized by rapid evolution of technologies, fierce competition and strong defense of intellectual property. Any product candidates that we successfully develop and commercialize will have to compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future. While we believe that our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform and scientific expertise in the field of biologics and immuno-oncology provide us with competitive advantages, a wide variety of institutions, including large biopharmaceutical companies, specialty biotechnology companies, academic research departments and public and private research institutions, are actively developing potentially competitive products and technologies. We face substantial competition from biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies developing products in immuno-oncology. Our competitors include larger and better funded biopharmaceutical, biotechnological and therapeutics companies, including companies focused on cancer immunotherapies, such as AstraZeneca PLC, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, or BMS, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Merck & Co., Inc., Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc., or Pfizer, Roche Holding Ltd, Sanofi S.A and companies focused on ADCs, such as Pfizer, ImmunoGen, Inc., Seattle Genetics, Inc. and Genentech, Inc., or Genentech, as well as numerous small companies. Moreover, we also compete with current and future therapeutics developed at universities and other research institutions.

If our lead product candidates are approved, they will compete with a range of therapeutic treatments that are either in development or currently marketed. Currently marketed oncology drugs and therapeutics range from ADCs, such as Genentech’s Kadcyla, to immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as BMS’s Opdivo, to T cell-engager immunotherapies, such as Amgen, Inc.’s Blincyto. In addition, numerous compounds are in clinical development for cancer treatment. With respect to B cell based malignancies, such as multiple myeloma, the most common treatments are chemotherapeutic compounds, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation and immunomodulating agents. The clinical development pipeline for cancer includes small molecules, antibodies, vaccines, cell therapies and immunotherapies from a variety of companies and institutions.

 

 

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Many of our competitors, either alone or with strategic partners, have substantially greater financial, technical and human resources than we do. Accordingly, our competitors may be more successful than us in obtaining approval for treatments and achieving widespread market acceptance, rendering our treatments obsolete or non-competitive. Accelerated merger and acquisition activity in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. These companies also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel, establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials and acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. Our commercial opportunity could be substantially limited in the event that our competitors develop and commercialize products that are more effective, safer, less toxic, more convenient or less expensive than our comparable products. In geographies that are critical to our commercial success, competitors may also obtain regulatory approvals before us, resulting in our competitors building a strong market position in advance of the entry of our products. We believe the factors determining the success of our programs will be the efficacy, safety and convenience of our product candidates.

Reimbursement

The regulations that govern pricing and reimbursement for new drugs and therapeutic biologics vary widely from country to country. Some countries require approval of the sale price of a drug or therapeutic biologic before it can be marketed. In many countries, the pricing review period begins after marketing approval is granted. In some foreign markets, prescription biopharmaceutical pricing remains subject to continuing governmental control even after initial approval is granted. As a result, a drug company can obtain regulatory approval for a product in a particular country, but then be subject to price regulations that delay commercial launch of that product.

A drug company’s ability to commercialize any products successfully will also depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from government authorities, private health insurers and other organizations. Even if one or more products are successfully brought to the market, these products may not be considered cost-effective, and the amount reimbursed for such products may be insufficient to allow them to be sold on a competitive basis. Increasingly, third-party payors who reimburse patients or healthcare providers, such as government and private insurance plans, are requiring that drug companies provide them with predetermined discounts from list prices, and are seeking to reduce the prices charged or the amounts reimbursed for biopharmaceutical products.

Significant delays can occur in obtaining reimbursement for newly-approved drugs or therapeutic biologics, and coverage may be more limited than the purposes for which the drug or therapeutic biologic is approved by the FDA or similar foreign regulatory authorities. Moreover, eligibility for reimbursement does not imply that any drug or therapeutic biologic will be reimbursed in all cases or at a rate that covers a drug company’s costs, including research, development, manufacture, sale and distribution.

Interim reimbursement levels for new drugs or therapeutic biologics, if applicable, may also be insufficient to cover a drug company’s costs and may not be made permanent. Reimbursement rates may be based on payments allowed for lower cost drugs or therapeutic biologics that are already reimbursed, may be incorporated into existing payments for other services and may reflect budgetary constraints or imperfections in Medicare data. Net prices for drugs or therapeutic biologics 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 drugs or therapeutic biologics from countries where they may be sold at lower prices than in the United States. Further, no uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement exists in the United States. Third-party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement can differ significantly from payor to payor.

 

 

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Intellectual Property

We strive to protect and enhance the proprietary technology, inventions, and improvements that are commercially important to our business, including seeking, maintaining, and defending patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from third parties. Our policy is to seek to protect our proprietary position by, among other methods, pursuing and obtaining patent protection in the United States and in jurisdictions outside of the United States related to our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, platforms and product candidates that are important to the development and implementation of our business. Our patent portfolio is intended to cover, but is not limited to, our technology platforms, our product candidates and components thereof, their methods of use and processes for their manufacture, our proprietary reagents and assays, and any other inventions that are commercially important to our business. We also rely on trade secret protection of our confidential information and know-how relating to our proprietary technology, platforms and product candidates, continuing innovation, and in-licensing opportunities to develop, strengthen, and maintain our proprietary position in our XpressCF™ Platform and product candidates. We expect to rely on data exclusivity, market exclusivity, patent term adjustment and patent term extensions when available. Our commercial success may depend in part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for our technology, inventions, and improvements; to preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets; to maintain our licenses to use intellectual property owned or controlled by third parties; to defend and enforce our proprietary rights, including our patents; to defend against and challenge the assertion by third parties of their purported intellectual property rights; and to operate without the unauthorized infringement on the valid and enforceable patents and other proprietary rights of third parties.

We believe that we have a strong global intellectual property position and substantial know-how and trade secrets relating to our XpressCF™ platform technology, platform and product candidates. Our patent portfolio as of December 31, 2018 contained 12 U.S. issued patents and 78 patents issued in ex-U.S. jurisdictions including Europe, China, Japan, Australia and Singapore and 30 U.S. pending applications as well as 79 patent applications pending in ex-U.S. jurisdictions including Europe, China, Japan, Australia and Singapore owned solely by us. These patents and patent applications include claims relating:

 

bacterial strains, and extracts prepared therefrom, comprising an engineered Release Factor 1 protein, which facilitates incorporation of non-natural amino acids into proteins;

 

bacterial strains, and extracts prepared therefrom, comprising combinations of chaperone proteins, which facilitate expression of complex eukaryotic proteins in bacterial extracts;

 

antibodies targeting receptors of interest, including CD74 and FolRα;

 

ADCs targeting receptors of interest, including CD74 and FolRα;

 

hemiasterlin, both as a cytotoxin and as a linker-warhead, which is used in our STRO-002 product candidate; and

 

para-azidomethylphenylalanine, or pAMF, and proteins comprising pAMF, our workhorse non-natural amino acid which is primarily used when we conjugate molecules to proteins produced with our XpressCF+™ Platform.

Our issued patents, and any patents that may issue from our pending patent applications, in our solely owned patent portfolio are expected to expire between January 2030 and October 2039, absent any patent term adjustments or extensions.

In addition, we have exclusively licensed the following patent portfolio from Stanford: 15 U.S. issued patents and 44 patents issued in ex-U.S. jurisdictions including Europe, China, Canada, India, Australia, South Korea, Eurasia and Singapore. This patent portfolio includes claims relating to methods related to in vitro protein synthesis that we use in our XpressCF™ Platform when discovering, developing and manufacturing our product candidates.

Patents in our patent portfolio licensed from Stanford are expected to expire between March 2019 and January 2028, absent any patent term adjustments or extensions.

As for the XpressCF™ Platform, product candidates and processes we develop and commercialize, in the normal course of business, we intend to pursue, where appropriate, patent protection or trade secret protection relating to compositions, methods of manufacture, assay methods, methods of use, treatment of indications, dosing and formulations. We may also pursue patent protection with respect to product development processes and technology.

 

 

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The following table describes the material patents and patent applications owned or licensed by us.

 

Patent Relevance

Ownership

Type of

Patent

Protection

Expiration or

Anticipated

Expiration

(absent patent

term extension

or adjustment)

Pending

Jurisdictions

Issued

Jurisdictions

XpressCF™ Platform

In licensed from Stanford

Utility

2023

None

US, AU, CA, EP, JP

XpressCF™ Platform

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2033

US, CA, CN, IL, IN, JP, KR,

US, AU, EP, SG

XpressCF™ Platform

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2034

US, CA, CN, EP, HK, IL, IN, JP, KR, SG

AU

XpressCF™ Platform

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2034

US

EP

XpressCF™ Platform

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2035

None

US, EP

STRO-001 and STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2033

US, BR, CA, CN, EP, JP, IN, HK, KR

US, AU, SG

STRO-001 and STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2033

US, BR, CA,  EP, HK, IL, IN, JP, KR

US, AU, CN, SG

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2035

US, EP

None

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2037

PCT

None

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2037

PCT

None

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Provisional

2038

PCT

None

STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2037

PCT

None

STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Provisional

2038

US

None

STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2036

US, AU, BR, CA, CN, EP, IL, IN, JP, KR, SG

None

 

We continually assess and refine our intellectual property strategy as we develop new platform technologies and product candidates. To that end, we are prepared to file additional patent applications if our intellectual property strategy requires such filings, or where we seek to adapt to competition or seize business opportunities. Further, we are prepared to file patent applications, as we consider appropriate under the circumstances, relating to the new technologies that we develop. In addition to filing and prosecuting patent applications in the United States, we often file counterpart patent applications in the European Union and in additional countries where we believe such foreign filing is likely to be beneficial, including but not limited to any or all of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

 

 

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The term of individual patents depends upon the laws of the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries in which we file, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing of a non-provisional patent application. However, the term of United States patents may be extended for delays incurred due to compliance with the FDA requirements or by delays encountered during prosecution that are caused by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO. For example, the Hatch-Waxman Act permits a patent term extension for FDA-approved drugs of up to five years beyond the expiration of the patent. The length of the patent term extension is related to the length of time the drug is under regulatory review. Patent extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval, and only one patent applicable to an approved drug may be extended. Similar provisions are available in Europe and other jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved drug. In the future, if and when our biopharmaceutical product candidates receive FDA approval, we expect to apply for patent term extensions on patents covering those product candidates. We intend to seek patent term extensions to any of our issued patents in any jurisdiction where these are available; however there is no guarantee that the applicable authorities, including the USPTO and FDA, will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and even if granted, the length of such extensions. Our currently issued patents will likely expire on dates ranging from 2030 to 2035, unless we receive patent term extension or patent term adjustment, or both. If patents are issued on our pending patent applications, the resulting patents are projected to expire on dates ranging from 2033 to 2039, unless we receive patent term extension or patent term adjustment, or both. However, the actual protection afforded by a patent varies on a product-by-product basis, from country-to-country, and depends upon many factors, including the type of patent, the scope of its coverage, the availability of regulatory-related extensions, the availability of legal remedies in a particular country and the validity and enforceability of the patent.

The patent positions of companies like ours are generally uncertain and involve complex legal and factual questions. No consistent policy regarding the scope of claims allowable in patents in the field of immunotherapy has emerged in the United States. The patent situation outside of the United States is even more uncertain. Changes in the patent laws and rules, either by legislation, judicial decisions, or regulatory interpretation in the United States and other countries may diminish our ability to protect our inventions and enforce our intellectual property rights, and more generally could affect the value of our intellectual property. In particular, our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing any of our patented inventions, either directly or indirectly, will depend in part on our success in obtaining, defending, and enforcing patent claims that cover our technology, inventions, and improvements. With respect to both licensed and company-owned intellectual property, we cannot be sure that patents will be granted with respect to any of our pending patent applications or with respect to any patent applications filed by us in the future, nor can we be sure that any of our existing patents or any patents that may be granted to us in the future will be commercially useful in protecting our platforms and product candidates and the methods used to manufacture those platforms and product candidates. Moreover, even our issued patents do not guarantee us the right to practice our technology in relation to the commercialization of our platform’s product candidates. However, the area of patent and other intellectual property rights in biotechnology is an evolving one with many risks and uncertainties, and third parties may have blocking patents that could be used to prevent us from commercializing our patented XpressCF™ technology, platforms and product candidates and practicing our proprietary technology. Our issued patents and those that may issue in the future may be challenged, invalidated, or circumvented, which could limit our ability to stop competitors from marketing related platforms or product candidates or limit the length of the term of patent protection that we may have for our XpressCF™ technology, platforms and product candidates. In addition, the rights granted under any issued patents may not provide us with protection or competitive advantages against competitors with similar technology. Furthermore, our competitors may independently develop similar technologies. For these reasons, we may have competition for our XpressCF™ technology, platforms and product candidates. Moreover, because of the extensive time required for development, testing and regulatory review of a potential product, it is possible that, before any particular product candidate can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in force for only a short period following commercialization, thereby reducing any advantage of the patent. For this and more comprehensive risks related to our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, platforms and product candidates, please see the section entitled “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Intellectual Property.”

We intend to file applications for trademark registrations in connection with our product candidates in various jurisdictions, including the United States. We have filed for trademark protection of the Sutro Biopharma mark, the XpressCF™ mark and the XpressCF+™ mark with the USPTO. XpressCF™ refers to our cell-free protein synthesis technology as a whole, and XpressCF+™ refers specifically to cell-free protein synthesis incorporating one or more non-natural amino acids. The Sutro Biopharma mark was registered by the USPTO in 2014 and the XpressCF™ and XpressCF+™ marks were registered by the USPTO in 2017.

 

 

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We also rely on trade secret protection for our confidential and proprietary information. Although we take steps to protect our confidential and proprietary information as trade secrets, including through contractual means with our employees and consultants, third parties may independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques or otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or disclose our technology. Thus, we may not be able to meaningfully protect our trade secrets. It is our policy to require our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors to execute confidentiality agreements upon the commencement of employment or consulting relationships with us. These agreements provide that all confidential information concerning our business or financial affairs developed or made known to the individual during the course of the individual’s relationship with us is to be kept confidential and not disclosed to third parties except in specific circumstances. In the case of employees, the agreements provide that all inventions conceived by the individual, and which are related to our current or planned business or research and development or made during normal working hours, on our premises or using our equipment or proprietary information, are our exclusive property. In many cases our confidentiality and other agreements with consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors require them to assign or grant us licenses to inventions they invent as a result of the work or services they render under such agreements or grant us an option to negotiate a license to use such inventions.

We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our proprietary technology and processes 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 breach. To the extent that our employees, contractors, consultants, collaborators, and advisors use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights in related or resulting know-how and inventions.

Government Regulation

Government authorities in the United States, at the federal, state and local level, and in other countries and jurisdictions extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, approval, packaging, storage, recordkeeping, labeling, advertising, promotion, distribution, marketing, post-approval monitoring and reporting, and import and export of pharmaceutical products. The processes for obtaining regulatory approvals in the United States and in foreign countries and jurisdictions, along with subsequent compliance with applicable statutes and regulations and other regulatory authorities, require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.

FDA Approval Process

In the United States, pharmaceutical products are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or the FDC Act, and other federal and state statutes and regulations, govern, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, storage, recordkeeping, approval, labeling, promotion and marketing, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, sampling, and import and export of pharmaceutical products. Biological products used for the prevention, treatment, or cure of a disease or condition of a human being are subject to regulation under the FDC Act, except the section of the FDC Act which governs the approval of new drug applications, or NDAs. Biological products are approved for marketing under provisions of the Public Health Service Act, or PHS Act, via a Biologics License Application, or BLA. However, the application process and requirements for approval of BLAs are very similar to those for NDAs, and biologics are associated with similar approval risks and costs as drugs. Failure to comply with applicable U.S. requirements may subject a company to a variety of administrative or judicial sanctions, such as clinical hold, FDA refusal to approve pending BLAs, warning or untitled letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, civil penalties, and criminal prosecution.

Biological product development for a new product or certain changes to an approved product in the United States typically involves preclinical laboratory and animal tests, the submission to the FDA of an investigational new drug application, or IND, which must become effective before clinical testing may commence, and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and effectiveness of the biologic for each indication for which FDA approval is sought. Satisfaction of FDA pre-market approval requirements typically takes many years and the actual time required may vary substantially based upon the type, complexity, and novelty of the product or disease.

 

 

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Preclinical tests include laboratory evaluation of product chemistry, formulation, and toxicity, as well as animal trials to assess the characteristics and potential safety and efficacy of the product. The conduct of the preclinical tests must comply with federal regulations and requirements, including good laboratory practices. The results of preclinical testing are submitted to the FDA as part of an IND along with other information, including information about product chemistry, manufacturing and controls, and a proposed clinical trial protocol. Long-term preclinical tests, such as animal tests of reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity, may continue after the IND is submitted. A 30-day waiting period after the submission of each IND is required prior to the commencement of clinical testing in humans. If the FDA has neither commented on nor questioned the IND within this 30-day period, the clinical trial proposed in the IND may begin. Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational biologic to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of a qualified investigator. Clinical trials must be conducted: (i) in compliance with federal regulations; (ii) in compliance with good clinical practice, or GCP, an international standard meant to protect the rights and health of patients and to define the roles of clinical trial sponsors, administrators, and monitors; as well as (iii) under protocols detailing the objectives of the trial, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety, and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. Each protocol involving testing on U.S. patients and subsequent protocol amendments must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND.

The FDA may order the temporary, or permanent, discontinuation of a clinical trial at any time, or impose other sanctions, if it believes that the clinical trial either is not being conducted in accordance with FDA requirements or presents an unacceptable risk to the clinical trial patients. The trial protocol and informed consent information for patients in clinical trials must also be submitted to an institutional review board, or IRB, for approval. An IRB may also require the clinical trial at the site to be halted, either temporarily or permanently, for failure to comply with the IRB’s requirements, or may impose other conditions.

Clinical trials to support BLAs for marketing approval are typically conducted in three sequential phases, but the phases may overlap. In Phase 1, the initial introduction of the biologic into healthy human subjects or patients, the product is tested to assess metabolism, pharmacokinetics, pharmacological actions, side effects associated with increasing doses, and, if possible, early evidence on effectiveness. In oncology clinical trials, efficacy endpoints are also often explored in Phase 1. Phase 2 usually involves trials in a limited patient population to determine the effectiveness of the drug or biologic for a particular indication, dosage tolerance, and optimum dosage, and to identify common adverse effects and safety risks. If a compound demonstrates evidence of effectiveness and an acceptable safety profile in Phase 2 evaluations, Phase 3 trials are undertaken to obtain the additional information about clinical efficacy and safety in a larger number of patients, typically at geographically dispersed clinical trial sites, to permit the FDA to evaluate the overall benefit-risk relationship of the drug or biologic and to provide adequate information for the labeling of the product. In some instances, trial phases may be truncated or combined into one or more combined-phase or adaptive design trials. In most cases, the FDA requires two adequate and well-controlled Phase 3 clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of the biologic. A single Phase 3 trial with other confirmatory evidence may be sufficient in certain oncological conditions where the trial is a large multicenter trial demonstrating internal consistency and a statistically very persuasive finding of a clinically meaningful effect on mortality, irreversible morbidity or prevention of a disease with a potentially serious outcome and confirmation of the result in a second trial would be practically or ethically impossible.

The manufacturer of an investigational drug in a Phase 2 or 3 clinical trial for a serious or life-threatening disease is required to make available, such as by posting on its website, its policy on evaluating and responding to requests for expanded access.

After completion of the required clinical testing, a BLA is prepared and submitted to the FDA. FDA approval of the BLA is required before marketing of the product may begin in the United States. The BLA must include the results of all preclinical, clinical, and other testing and a compilation of data relating to the product’s pharmacology, chemistry, manufacture, and controls. The cost of preparing and submitting a BLA is substantial. The submission of most BLAs is additionally subject to a substantial application user fee, currently exceeding $2,588,000 for Fiscal Year 2019. The applicant under an approved BLA is also subject to an annual program fee, currently exceeding $309,000 per prescription drug product for Fiscal Year 2019. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018, this annual program fee replaced the annual product and establishment fees. These fees are typically increased annually. The FDA has 60 days from its receipt of a BLA to determine whether the application will be accepted for filing based on the agency’s threshold determination that it is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth review. The FDA has agreed to certain performance goals in the review of BLAs. Most such applications for standard review biologic products are reviewed within 10 months of the date the FDA files the BLA; most applications for priority review biologics are reviewed within six months of the date the FDA files the BLA. Priority review can be applied to a biologic that the FDA determines has the potential to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and, if approved, would be a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness compared to available therapies. The review process for both standard and priority review may be extended by the FDA for three additional months to consider certain late-submitted information, or information intended to clarify information already provided in the submission.

 

 

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The FDA may also refer applications for novel biologic products, or biologic products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy, to an advisory committee—typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts—for review, evaluation, and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved. The FDA is not bound by the recommendation of an advisory committee, but it generally follows such recommendations. Before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP. Additionally, the FDA will inspect the facility or the facilities at which the biologic product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve the product unless compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMPs, is satisfactory and the BLA contains data that provide substantial evidence that the biologic is safe, pure, potent and effective in the indication studied.

After the FDA evaluates the BLA and the manufacturing facilities, it issues either an approval letter or a complete response letter. A complete response letter generally outlines the deficiencies in the submission and may require substantial additional testing, or information, in order for the FDA to reconsider the application. If, or when, those deficiencies have been addressed to the FDA’s satisfaction in a resubmission of the BLA, the FDA will issue an approval letter. The FDA has committed to reviewing such resubmissions in two or six months depending on the type of information included. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the biologic with specific prescribing information for specific indications. As a condition of BLA approval, the FDA may require a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, or REMS, to help ensure that the benefits of the biologic outweigh the potential risks. REMS can include medication guides, communication plans for healthcare professionals, and elements to assure safe use, or ETASU. ETASU can include, but are not limited to, special training or certification for prescribing or dispensing, dispensing only under certain circumstances, special monitoring, and the use of patient registries. The requirement for a REMS can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the product. Moreover, product approval may require substantial post-approval testing and surveillance to monitor the product’s safety or efficacy.

Once granted, product approvals may be withdrawn if compliance with regulatory standards is not maintained or problems are identified following initial marketing. Changes to some of the conditions established in an approved application, including changes in indications, labeling, or manufacturing processes or facilities, require submission and FDA approval of a new BLA or BLA supplement before the change can be implemented. A BLA supplement for a new indication typically requires clinical data similar to that in the original application, and the FDA uses the same procedures and actions in reviewing BLA supplements as it does in reviewing BLAs.

Fast Track Designation and Accelerated Approval

The FDA is required to facilitate the development, and expedite the review, of biologics that are intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening disease or condition for which there is no effective treatment and which demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Under the fast track program, the sponsor of a new biologic candidate may request that the FDA designate the candidate for a specific indication as a fast track biologic concurrent with, or after, the filing of the IND for the candidate. The FDA must determine if the biologic candidate qualifies for fast track designation within 60 days of receipt of the sponsor’s request. Under the fast track program and FDA’s accelerated approval regulations, the FDA may approve a biologic for a serious or life-threatening illness that provides meaningful therapeutic benefit to patients over existing treatments based upon a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments.

In clinical trials, a surrogate endpoint is a measurement of laboratory or clinical signs of a disease or condition that substitutes for a direct measurement of how a patient feels, functions, or survives. Surrogate endpoints can often be measured more easily or more rapidly than clinical endpoints. A biologic candidate approved on this basis is subject to rigorous post-marketing compliance requirements, including the completion of Phase 4 or post-approval clinical trials to confirm the effect on the clinical endpoint. Failure to conduct required post-approval trials, or confirm a clinical benefit during post-marketing trials, will allow the FDA to withdraw the biologic from the market on an expedited basis. All promotional materials for biologic candidates approved under accelerated regulations are subject to prior review by the FDA.

In addition to other benefits such as the ability to use surrogate endpoints and engage in more frequent interactions with the FDA, the FDA may initiate review of sections of a fast track product’s BLA before the application is complete. This rolling review is available if the applicant provides, and the FDA approves, a schedule for the submission of the remaining information and the applicant pays applicable user fees. However, the FDA’s time period goal for reviewing an application does not begin until the last section of the BLA is submitted. Additionally, the fast track designation may be withdrawn by the FDA if the FDA believes that the designation is no longer supported by data emerging in the clinical trial process.

 

 

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Orphan Drug Designation

Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan drug designation to biological products intended to treat a rare disease or condition—generally a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or if it affects more than 200,000 individuals in the United States, there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making a product available in the United States for such disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product. In October 2018, we were granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA, for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting a BLA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the generic identity of the biological product and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process. The first BLA applicant to receive FDA approval for a product with particular principal molecular structural features to treat a particular disease with FDA orphan drug designation is entitled to a seven-year exclusive marketing period in the United States for that product for that indication. During the seven-year exclusivity period, the FDA may not approve any other applications to market a biological product containing the same active moiety for the same disease, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan drug exclusivity. A product is clinically superior if it is safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. Orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent the FDA from approving a different drug or biological product for the same disease or condition, or the same biological product for a different disease or condition. Among the other benefits of orphan drug designation are tax credits for certain research and a waiver of the BLA user fee.

Disclosure of Clinical Trial Information

Sponsors of clinical trials of FDA-regulated products, including biological products, are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information. Information related to the product, patient population, phase of investigation, trial sites and investigators, and other aspects of the clinical trial are then made public as part of the registration. Sponsors are also obligated to discuss the results of their clinical trials after completion. Disclosure of the results of these trials can be delayed in certain circumstances for up to two years after the date of completion of the trial. Competitors may use this publicly available information to gain knowledge regarding the progress of development programs.

Pediatric Information

Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, or PREA, BLAs or supplements to BLAs must contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the biological product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the biological product is safe and effective. The FDA may grant full or partial waivers, or deferrals, for submission of data. Unless otherwise required by regulation, PREA does not apply to any biological product for an indication for which orphan designation has been granted, except a product with a new active ingredient that is molecularly targeted cancer product intended for the treatment of an adult cancer and directed at a molecular target determined by FDA to be substantially relevant to the growth or progression of a pediatric cancer that is subject to an NDA or BLA submitted on or after August 18, 2020.

Additional Controls for Biologics

To help reduce the increased risk of the introduction of adventitious agents, the PHS Act emphasizes the importance of manufacturing controls for products whose attributes cannot be precisely defined. The PHS Act also provides authority to the FDA to immediately suspend licenses in situations where there exists a danger to public health, to prepare or procure products in the event of shortages and critical public health needs, and to authorize the creation and enforcement of regulations to prevent the introduction or spread of communicable diseases in the United States and between states.

 

 

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After a BLA is approved, the product may also be subject to official lot release as a condition of approval. As part of the manufacturing process, the manufacturer is required to perform certain tests on each lot of the product before it is released for distribution. If the product is subject to official release by the FDA, the manufacturer submits samples of each lot of product to the FDA together with a release protocol showing a summary of the history of manufacture of the lot and the results of all of the manufacturer’s tests performed on the lot. The FDA may also perform certain confirmatory tests on lots of some products, such as viral vaccines, before releasing the lots for distribution by the manufacturer. In addition, the FDA conducts laboratory research related to the regulatory standards on the safety, purity, potency, and effectiveness of biological products. As with drugs, after approval of biologics, manufacturers must address any safety issues that arise, are subject to recalls or a halt in manufacturing, and are subject to periodic inspection after approval.

Post-Approval Requirements

Once a BLA is approved, a product will be subject to certain post-approval requirements. For instance, the FDA closely regulates the post-approval marketing and promotion of biologics, including standards and regulations for direct-to-consumer advertising, off-label promotion, industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities and promotional activities involving the internet. Biologics may be marketed only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved labeling.

Adverse event reporting and submission of periodic reports is required following FDA approval of a BLA. The FDA also may require post-marketing testing, known as Phase 4 testing, REMS, and surveillance to monitor the effects of an approved product, or the FDA may place conditions on an approval that could restrict the distribution or use of the product. In addition, quality control, biological product manufacture, packaging, and labeling procedures must continue to conform to cGMPs after approval. Biologic manufacturers and certain of their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies. Registration with the FDA subjects entities to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA, during which the agency inspects manufacturing facilities to assess compliance with cGMPs. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money, and effort in the areas of production and quality-control to maintain compliance with cGMPs. Regulatory authorities may withdraw product approvals or request product recalls if a company fails to comply with regulatory standards, if it encounters problems following initial marketing, or if previously unrecognized problems are subsequently discovered.

FDA Regulation of Companion Diagnostics

A biologic product may rely upon an in vitro companion diagnostic for use in selecting the patients that will respond to a therapy. If an in vitro diagnostic is essential to the safe and effective use of the therapeutic product, then the FDA generally will require approval or clearance of the diagnostic at the same time that FDA approves the therapeutic product.

Pursuing FDA approval of an in vitro companion diagnostic usually would require a pre-market approval, or PMA, for that diagnostic. Based on a final FDA guidance document, and the FDA’s past treatment of companion diagnostics, the FDA will likely require PMA approval of an in vitro companion diagnostics to identify patient populations suitable for a cancer therapy. The review of these in vitro companion diagnostics involves coordination of review by the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and by the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Approval of a companion diagnostic is generally required at the time of new drug approval.

The PMA process, including the gathering of clinical and nonclinical data and the submission to and review by the FDA, can take several years or longer. The applicant must prepare and provide the FDA with reasonable assurance of the device’s safety and effectiveness, including information about the device and its components regarding, among other things, device design, manufacturing and labeling. PMA applications are subject to an application fee, which exceeds $322,000 for most PMAs for Fiscal Year 2019. In addition, PMAs for devices must generally include the results from extensive preclinical and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and effectiveness of the device for each indication for which FDA approval is sought. In particular, for a diagnostic, the applicant must demonstrate that the diagnostic produces reproducible results between multiple users at multiple laboratories. As part of the PMA review, the FDA will typically inspect the manufacturer’s facilities for compliance with the Quality System Regulation, or QSR, which imposes elaborate testing, control, documentation and other quality assurance requirements.

 

 

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PMA approval is not guaranteed, and the FDA may ultimately respond to a PMA submission with a not approvable determination based on deficiencies in the application and require additional clinical trial or other data that may be expensive and time consuming to generate and that can substantially delay or prevent approval. If the FDA concludes that the applicable criteria have been met, the FDA will issue a PMA for the approved indications, which can be more limited than those originally sought by the applicant. The PMA can include post-approval conditions that the FDA believes necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the device, including, among other things, restrictions on labeling, promotion, sale and distribution.

After a device is placed on the market, it remains subject to significant regulatory requirements. Medical devices may be marketed only for the uses and indications for which they are cleared or approved. Device manufacturers must also register with FDA and list their devices. A medical device manufacturer’s manufacturing processes are required to comply with the applicable portions of the QSR, which cover the methods and documentation of the design, testing, production, processes, controls, quality assurance, labeling, packaging and shipping of medical devices. Domestic facility records and manufacturing processes are subject to periodic inspections by the FDA.

Failure to comply with applicable regulatory requirements can result in enforcement action by the FDA, which may include any of the following sanctions: warning or untitled letters, fines, injunctions, civil or criminal penalties, recall or seizure of current or future products, operating restrictions, partial suspension or total shutdown of production, denial of submissions for new products, or withdrawal of PMA approvals.

Other Healthcare Laws

In addition to FDA restrictions on marketing of pharmaceutical products, several other types of state and federal laws have been applied to restrict certain general business and marketing practices in the pharmaceutical industry in recent years. These laws include anti-kickback statutes, false claims statutes and other healthcare laws and regulations.

The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, knowingly and willfully offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce, or in return for, purchasing, leasing, ordering or arranging for the purchase, lease or order of any healthcare item or service reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid, or other federally financed healthcare programs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, collectively, the ACA, amended the intent element of the federal statute so that a person or entity no longer needs to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to commit a violation. This statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers and formulary managers on the other. Although there are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting certain common activities from prosecution or other regulatory sanctions, the exceptions and safe harbors are drawn narrowly, and practices that involve remuneration intended to induce prescribing, purchases or recommendations may be subject to scrutiny if they do not qualify for an exception or safe harbor.

Federal civil and criminal false claims laws, including the federal civil False Claims Act, prohibit any person or entity from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a false claim for payment to the federal government, or knowingly making, or causing to be made, a false statement to have a false claim paid. This includes claims made to programs where the federal government reimburses, such as Medicaid, as well as programs where the federal government is a direct purchaser, such as when it purchases off the Federal Supply Schedule. Recently, several pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies have been prosecuted under these laws for allegedly inflating drug prices they report to pricing services, which in turn were used by the government to set Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, and for allegedly providing free product to customers with the expectation that the customers would bill federal programs for the product. In addition, certain marketing practices, including off-label promotion, may also violate false claims laws. Additionally, the ACA amended the federal Anti-Kickback Statute such that a violation of that statute can serve as a basis for liability under the federal False Claims Act. The majority of states also have statutes or regulations similar to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act, which apply to items and services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs, or, in several states, apply regardless of the payor.

 

 

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Other federal statutes pertaining to healthcare fraud and abuse include the civil monetary penalties statute, which prohibits, among other things, the offer or payment of remuneration to a Medicaid or Medicare beneficiary that the offerer or payor knows or should know is likely to influence the beneficiary to order a receive a reimbursable item or service from a particular supplier, and the additional federal criminal statutes created by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which prohibits, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing or attempting to execute a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program or obtain by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises any money or property owned by or under the control of any healthcare benefit program in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services.

In addition, HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, or HITECH, imposes obligations on certain healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, known as covered entities, as well as their business associates that perform certain services involving the storage, use or disclosure of individually identifiable health information, including mandatory contractual terms, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security, and transmission of individually identifiable health information, and require notification to affected individuals and regulatory authorities of certain breaches of security of individually identifiable health information.

Further, pursuant to the ACA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, has issued a final rule that requires manufacturers of prescription drugs to collect and report information on certain payments or transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals, as well as investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. The reports must be submitted on an annual basis and the reported data are posted in searchable form on a public website on an annual basis. Failure to submit required information may result in civil monetary penalties. Effective January 1, 2022, transfers of value to physician assistants, nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives must also be reported.

In addition, several states now require prescription drug companies to report certain expenses relating to the marketing and promotion of drug products and to report gifts and payments to individual healthcare practitioners in these states. Other states prohibit various marketing-related activities, such as the provision of certain kinds of gifts or meals. Still other states require the posting of information relating to clinical studies and their outcomes. Some states require the reporting of certain pricing information, including information pertaining to and justifying price increases, or prohibit prescription drug price gouging. In addition, states such as California, Connecticut, Nevada, and Massachusetts require pharmaceutical companies to implement compliance programs and/or marketing codes. Additional jurisdictions, such as the City of Chicago and the District of Columbia, require pharmaceutical sales representatives to be licensed and meet continuing education requirements. Several additional states are considering similar proposals. Certain states and local jurisdictions also require the registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives. Compliance with these laws is difficult and time consuming, and companies that do not comply with these state laws face civil penalties.

Efforts to ensure that business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations involve substantial costs. If a drug company’s operations are found to be in violation of any such requirements, it may be subject to significant penalties, including civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, the curtailment or restructuring of its operations, loss of eligibility to obtain approvals from the FDA, exclusion from participation in government contracting, healthcare reimbursement or other government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, integrity oversight and reporting obligations and reputational harm. Although effective compliance programs can mitigate the risk of investigation and prosecution for violations of these laws, these risks cannot be entirely eliminated. Any action for an alleged or suspected violation can cause a drug company to incur significant legal expenses and divert management’s attention from the operation of the business, even if such action is successfully defended.

 

 

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U.S. Healthcare Reform

In the United States, there have been, and continue to be, proposals by the federal government, state governments, regulators and third-party payors to control or manage the increased costs of health care and, more generally, to reform the U.S. healthcare system. For example, in March 2010, the ACA was enacted, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impacts the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, (i) subjected therapeutic biologics to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars by creating a licensure framework for follow-on biologic products, (ii) proscribed a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs and therapeutic biologics that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, (iii) increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, (iv) established annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs and therapeutic biologics, (v) established a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 50% point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices (increased to 70% beginning in 2019) of applicable brand drugs and therapeutic biologics to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs and therapeutic biologics to be covered under Medicare Part D, (vi) expanded 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, (vii) expanded the entities eligible for discounts under the Public Health program (viii) created a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research, and (ix) established a Center for Medicare Innovation at CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.

The current U.S. presidential administration and Congress have, and we expect they will continue to, seek to modify, repeal, or otherwise invalidate all, or certain provisions of, the ACA. Since January 2017, the current U.S. presidential administration has issued two executive orders and other directives designed to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the ACA or otherwise circumvent some of the requirements for health insurance mandated by the ACA. For example, on October 12, 2017, the current U.S. presidential administration issued an executive order that expands the use of association health plans and allows anyone to purchase short-term health plans that provide temporary, limited insurance. This executive order also calls for the halt of federal payments to health insurers for cost-sharing reductions previously available to lower-income Americans to afford coverage. There is still uncertainty with respect to the impact this executive order could have on coverage and reimbursement for healthcare items and services covered by plans that were authorized by the ACA. Concurrently, Congress has considered legislation that would repeal or repeal and replace all or part of the ACA. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, two bills affecting the implementation of certain taxes under the ACA have been signed into law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, among other things, includes a provision repealing, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the ACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate”. Additionally, on January 22, 2018, the current U.S. presidential administration signed a continuing resolution on appropriations for fiscal year 2018 that delayed the implementation of certain ACA-mandated fees, including the so-called “Cadillac” tax on certain high cost employer-sponsored insurance plans, the annual fee imposed on certain health insurance providers based on market share, and the medical device excise tax on non-exempt medical devices. Further, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or the BBA, among other things, amends the ACA, effective January 1, 2019, to increase from 50 percent to 70 percent the point-of-sale discount that is owed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who participate in Medicare Part D and to close the coverage gap in most Medicare drug plans, commonly referred to as the “donut hole”. More recently, in July 2018, CMS published a final rule permitting further collections and payments to and from certain ACA qualified health plans and health insurance issuers under the ACA risk adjustment program in response to the outcome of federal district court litigation regarding the method CMS uses to determine this risk adjustment. There is still uncertainty with respect to the impact the current U.S. presidential administration and the Congress may have, if any, and any changes will likely take time to unfold, and could have an impact on coverage and reimbursement for healthcare items and services covered by plans that were authorized by the ACA. However, we cannot predict the ultimate content, timing or effect of any healthcare reform legislation or the impact of potential legislation on us.

 

 

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In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted to reduce healthcare expenditures. U.S. federal government agencies also currently face potentially significant spending reductions, which may further impact healthcare expenditures. On August 2, 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A joint select committee on deficit reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year. These reductions went into effect on April 1, 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, including the BBA, will remain in effect through 2027 unless additional Congressional action is taken. Moreover, on January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several types of providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. If federal spending is further reduced, anticipated budgetary shortfalls may also impact the ability of relevant agencies, such as the FDA or the National Institutes of Health to continue to function at current levels. Amounts allocated to federal grants and contracts may be reduced or eliminated. These reductions, as well as potential future shutdowns of the U.S. federal government, may also impact the ability of relevant agencies to timely review and approve research and development, manufacturing, and marketing activities, which may delay our ability to develop, market and sell any products we may develop.  

 

Moreover, payment methodologies, including payment for companion diagnostics, may be subject to changes in healthcare legislation and regulatory initiatives. For example, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, or MMA, changed the way Medicare covers and pays for pharmaceutical products. The legislation expanded Medicare coverage for drug purchases by the elderly and introduced a new reimbursement methodology based on average sales prices for physician-administered drugs. In addition, this legislation provided authority for limiting the number of drugs that will be covered in any therapeutic class. While the MMA only applies to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payors often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates. Therefore, any reduction in reimbursement that results from the MMA may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. In addition, CMS has begun bundling the Medicare payments for certain laboratory tests ordered while a patient received services in a hospital outpatient setting and, beginning in 2018, CMS will pay for clinical laboratory services based on a weighted average of reported prices that private payors, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicaid Managed Care plans pay for laboratory services. Further, on March 16, 2018, CMS finalized its National Coverage Determination, or NCD, for certain diagnostic laboratory tests using next generation sequencing, or NGS, that are approved by the FDA as a companion in vitro diagnostic and used in a cancer with an FDA-approved companion diagnostic indication. Under the NCD, diagnostic tests that gain FDA approval or clearance as an in vitro companion diagnostic will automatically receive full coverage and be available for patients with recurrent, metastatic relapsed, refractory or stages III and IV cancer. Additionally, the NCD extended coverage to repeat testing when the patient has a new primary diagnosis of cancer.

Recently there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. At the federal level, the current U.S. presidential administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 contains further drug price control measures that could be enacted during the 2019 budget process or in other future legislation, including, for example, measures to permit Medicare Part D plans to negotiate the price of certain drugs under Medicare Part B, to allow some states to negotiate drug prices under Medicaid, and to eliminate cost sharing for generic drugs for low-income patients. Additionally, on May 11, 2018, the current U.S. presidential administration laid out the administration’s “Blueprint” to reduce the cost of prescription medications while preserving innovation and cures. While the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, is soliciting feedback on some of these measures, other actions may be immediately implemented by HHS under existing authority. Although a number of these, and other potential, proposals will require authorization through additional legislation to become effective, Congress and the current U.S. presidential administration have each indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs. At the state level, legislatures are increasingly passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing.

 

 

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Additionally, on May 30, 2018, the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017 was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to access certain investigational new drug products that have completed a Phase I 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 authorization under an FDA expanded access program.

Employees

As of December 31, 2018, we had 147 full-time employees, 9 full-time contract employees and 2 part-time contract employees. Of these employees, 41 have an M.D. or a Ph.D. None of our employees are represented by a labor union or covered by collective bargaining agreements, and we believe our relationship with our employees is good.

Corporate Information

We were incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware in April 2003 under the name Fundamental Applied Biology, Inc. We subsequently changed our name to Sutro Biopharma, Inc. Our principal executive offices are located at 310 Utah Avenue, Suite 150, South San Francisco, California 94080, and our telephone number is (650) 392-8412. Our website address is www.sutrobio.com. The information contained on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not part of, and is not incorporated by reference into, this report.

Available Information

We file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or Exchange Act. The SEC maintains an Internet website that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers, including us, that file electronically with the SEC. The public can obtain any documents that we file with the SEC at www.sec.gov. Copies of each of our filings with the SEC can also be viewed and downloaded free of charge at our website, ir.sutrobio.com, after the reports and amendments are electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC.

 

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. Before making your decision to invest in shares of our common stock, you should carefully consider the risks described below, together with the other information contained in this annual report, including our financial statements and the related notes and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations”. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Additional risks and uncertainties that we are unaware of, or that we currently believe are not material, may also become important factors that affect us.  We cannot assure you that any of the events discussed below will not occur. These events could have a material and adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. If that were to happen, the trading price of our common stock could decline, and you could lose all or part of your investment.

Risks Related to Our Business

We are a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history and no products approved for commercial sale. We have a history of significant losses, expect to continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future and may never achieve or maintain profitability, which could result in a decline in the market value of our common stock.

We are a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history on which to base your investment decision. Biotechnology product development is a highly speculative undertaking and involves a substantial degree of risk.

To date, we have enrolled a limited number of patients in our initial clinical trials, evaluating the safety of our first and second clinical stage product candidates, STRO-001 and STRO-002, have no products approved for commercial sale, have not generated any revenue from commercial product sales and, as of December 31, 2018, had an accumulated deficit of $150.3 million. For the year ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, our net loss was $35.3 million and $19.7 million, respectively, and for the year ended December 31, 2016, our net income was $1.7 million. Substantially all of our losses have resulted from expenses incurred in connection with our research and development programs and from general and administrative costs associated with our operations. Our technologies and product candidates are in early stages of development, and we are subject to the risks of failure inherent in the

 

 

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development of product candidates based on novel technologies. In addition, we have limited experience as a clinical stage company and have not yet demonstrated an ability to successfully overcome many of the risks and uncertainties frequently encountered by companies in new and rapidly evolving fields, particularly in the biotechnology industry. Furthermore, we do not expect to generate any revenue from commercial product sales for the foreseeable future, and we expect to continue to incur significant operating losses for the foreseeable future due to the cost of research and development, preclinical studies and clinical trials and the regulatory approval process for our product candidates. We expect our net losses to increase substantially as we progress further into clinical development of our lead programs and create additional infrastructure to support operations as a public company. However, the amount of our future losses is uncertain. Our ability to achieve profitability, if ever, will depend on, among other things, our, or our existing or future collaborators’, successful development of product candidates, evaluating the related commercial opportunities, obtaining regulatory approvals to market and commercializing product candidates, manufacturing any approved products on commercially reasonable terms, establishing a sales and marketing organization or suitable third-party alternatives for any approved product and raising sufficient funds to finance business activities. If we, or our existing or future collaborators, are unable to develop our technologies and commercialize one or more of our product candidates or if sales revenue from any product candidate that receives approval is insufficient, we will not achieve profitability, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Even if we achieve profitability in the future, we may not be able to sustain profitability in subsequent periods.

We will need substantial additional funds to advance development of our product candidates. This additional financing may not be available on acceptable terms, or at all. Failure to obtain this necessary capital when needed may force us to delay, limit or terminate our product development programs, commercialization efforts or other operations.

The development of biopharmaceutical product candidates is capital-intensive. If our product candidates enter and advance through preclinical studies and clinical trials, we will need substantial additional funds to expand our development, regulatory, manufacturing, marketing and sales capabilities. We have used substantial funds to develop our technology and product candidates and will require significant funds to conduct further research and development and preclinical testing and clinical trials of our product candidates, to seek regulatory approvals for our product candidates and to manufacture and market products, if any, which are approved for commercial sale. In addition, we expect to incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company.

Since our inception, we have invested a significant portion of our efforts and financial resources in research and development activities for our two product candidates STRO-001, our initial clinical program, and STRO-002, our second clinical program, and the development of our in-house manufacturing capabilities. Clinical trials for our product candidates will require substantial funds to complete. As of December 31, 2018, we had $204.5 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. We expect to incur substantial expenditures in the foreseeable future as we seek to advance STRO-001 and STRO-002 and any future product candidates through clinical development, manufacturing, the regulatory approval process and, if approved, commercial launch activities, as well as in connection with the continued development of our manufacturing capabilities. Based on our current operating plan, we believe that our available cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities will be sufficient to fund our operations through at least the next 12 months. However, our future capital requirements and the period for which we expect our existing resources to support our operations may vary significantly from what we expect and we may need to seek additional funds sooner than planned. Our monthly spending levels vary based on new and ongoing research and development and other corporate activities. Because the length of time and activities associated with successful research and development of our product candidates is highly uncertain, we are unable to estimate the actual funds we will require for development and any marketing and commercialization activities for approved products. The timing and amount of our operating expenditures will depend largely on:

 

the timing and progress of preclinical and clinical development activities;

 

the costs associated with the development of our internal manufacturing facility and processes;

 

the number and scope of preclinical and clinical programs we decide to pursue;

 

the progress of the development efforts of parties with whom we have entered or may in the future enter into collaborations and research and development agreements;

 

the timing and amount of milestone and other payments we may receive under our collaboration agreements;

 

 

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our ability to maintain our current licenses and research and development programs and to establish new collaboration arrangements;

 

the costs involved in prosecuting and enforcing patent and other intellectual property claims;

 

the costs of manufacturing our product candidates and those of our collaborators using our proprietary XpressCF+™ Platform;

 

the cost and timing of regulatory approvals;

 

the cost of commercialization activities if our product candidates or any future product candidates are approved for sale, including marketing, sales and distribution costs; and

 

our efforts to enhance operational systems and hire additional personnel, including personnel to support development of our product candidates and satisfy our obligations as a public company.

If we are unable to obtain funding on a timely basis or on acceptable terms, we may have to delay, reduce or terminate our research and development programs and preclinical studies or clinical trials, limit strategic opportunities or undergo reductions in our workforce or other corporate restructuring activities. We also could be required to seek funds through arrangements with collaborators or others that may require us to relinquish rights to some of our technologies or product candidates that we would otherwise pursue on our own. We do not expect to realize revenue from sales of commercial products or royalties from licensed products in the foreseeable future, if at all, and, in no event, before our product candidates are clinically tested, approved for commercialization and successfully marketed. To date, we have primarily financed our operations through payments received under our collaboration agreements, the sale of equity securities and debt financing. We will be required to seek additional funding in the future and currently intend to do so through additional collaborations and/or licensing agreements, public or private equity offerings or debt financings, credit or loan facilities, or a combination of one or more of these funding sources. Our ability to raise additional funds will depend on financial, economic and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. Additional funds may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. Subject to limited exceptions, the loan and security agreement, or the Loan and Security Agreement, we entered into with Oxford and SVB in August 2017 under which we borrowed $15.0 million prohibits us from incurring indebtedness without the prior written consent of Oxford or SVB. If we raise additional funds by issuing equity securities, our stockholders will suffer dilution and the terms of any financing may adversely affect the rights of our stockholders. If we raise additional funds through licensing or collaboration arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our product candidates, or grant licenses on terms that are not favorable to us. In addition, as a condition to providing additional funds to us, future investors may demand, and may be granted, rights superior to those of existing stockholders. Our current debt financing involves, and future debt financings, if available, are likely to involve, restrictive covenants limiting our flexibility in conducting future business activities, and, in the event of insolvency, debt holders would be repaid before holders of our equity securities receive any distribution of our corporate assets. Failure to obtain capital when needed on acceptable terms may force us to delay, limit or terminate our product development and commercialization of our current or future product candidates, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Our product candidates are in early stages of development and may fail in development or suffer delays that materially and adversely affect their commercial viability. If we or our collaborators are unable to complete development of or commercialize our product candidates or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

We have no products on the market and all of our product candidates for cancer therapy are in early stages of development. In particular, our most advanced product candidate, STRO-001, is in the initial stages of dose escalation in clinical trial patients. We began enrolling patients in a STRO-002 Phase 1 trial in March 2019. Additionally, we have programs that are in earlier stages of discovery and preclinical development and may never advance to clinical-stage development. Our ability to achieve and sustain profitability depends on obtaining regulatory approvals for and successfully commercializing our product candidates, either alone or with third parties, and we cannot guarantee you that we will ever obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates. We have limited experience in conducting and managing the clinical trials necessary to obtain regulatory approvals, including approval by the FDA. Before obtaining regulatory approval for the commercial distribution of our product candidates, we or an existing or future collaborator must conduct extensive preclinical tests and clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy in humans of our product candidates.

 

 

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We may not have the financial resources to continue development of, or to modify existing or enter into new collaborations for, a product candidate if we experience any issues that delay or prevent regulatory approval of, or our ability to commercialize, product candidates, including:

 

negative or inconclusive results from our clinical trials or the clinical trials of others for product candidates similar to ours, leading to a decision or requirement to conduct additional preclinical testing or clinical trials or abandon a program;

 

product-related side effects experienced by patients in our clinical trials or by individuals using drugs or therapeutic biologics similar to our product candidates;

 

difficulty achieving successful continued development of our internal manufacturing processes, including process development and scale-up activities to supply products for preclinical studies, clinical trials and commercial sale;

 

our inability to transfer successfully our manufacturing expertise and techniques to third-party contract manufacturers;

 

inability of us or any third-party contract manufacturer to scale up manufacturing of our product candidates and those of our collaborators to supply the needs of clinical trials and commercial sales, and to manufacture such products in conformity with regulatory requirements using our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform;

 

delays in submitting investigational new drug applications, or INDs, or comparable foreign applications or delays or failures in obtaining the necessary approvals from regulators to commence a clinical trial, or a suspension or termination of a clinical trial once commenced;

 

conditions imposed by the FDA or comparable foreign authorities regarding the scope or design of our clinical trials;

 

delays in enrolling patients in our clinical trials;

 

high drop-out rates of our clinical trial patients;

 

inadequate supply or quality of product candidate components or materials or other supplies necessary for the conduct of our clinical trials;

 

inability to obtain alternative sources of supply for which we have a single source for product candidate components or materials;

 

greater than anticipated costs of our clinical trials;

 

harmful side effects or inability of our product candidates to meet efficacy endpoints during clinical trials;

 

failure to demonstrate a benefit-risk profile acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory agencies;

 

unfavorable FDA or other regulatory agency inspection and review of one or more of our clinical trial sites or manufacturing facilities;

 

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

 

delays and changes in regulatory requirements, policy and guidelines, including the imposition of additional regulatory oversight around clinical testing generally or with respect to our technology in particular; or

 

varying interpretations of our data by the FDA and similar foreign regulatory agencies.

We or our collaborators’ inability to complete development of or commercialize our product candidates or significant delays in doing so due to one or more of these factors, could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Our business is dependent on the success of our product candidates based on our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform and, in particular, our lead product candidates, STRO-001 and STRO-002. Existing and future preclinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates may not be successful. If we are unable to commercialize our product candidates or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

We have invested a significant portion of our efforts and financial resources in the development of our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform and our lead product candidates, STRO-001 and STRO-002. Our ability to generate commercial product revenues, which we do not expect will occur for many years, if ever, will depend heavily on the successful development and eventual commercialization of STRO-001 and STRO-002. We have not previously submitted a new drug application, or NDA, or a biologics license application, or BLA, to the FDA, or similar regulatory approval filings to comparable foreign authorities, for any product candidate, and we cannot be certain that our product candidates will be successful in clinical trials or receive regulatory approval. Further, our

 

 

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product candidates may not receive regulatory approval even if they are successful in clinical trials. If we do not receive regulatory approvals for our product candidates, we may not be able to continue our operations. Even if we successfully obtain regulatory approvals to market our product candidates, our revenues will be dependent, in part, upon the size of the markets in the territories for which we gain regulatory approval and have commercial rights. If the markets for patient subsets that we are targeting are not as significant as we estimate, we may not generate significant revenues from sales of such products, if approved.

We plan to seek regulatory approval to commercialize our product candidates both in the United States and in selected foreign countries. While the scope of regulatory approvals generally is similar in other countries, in order to obtain separate regulatory approvals in other countries, we must comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of such countries regarding safety and efficacy. Other countries also have their own regulations governing, among other things, clinical trials and commercial sales, as well as pricing and distribution of our product candidates, and we may be required to expend significant resources to obtain regulatory approval and to comply with ongoing regulations in these jurisdictions.

The success of STRO-001 and STRO-002 and our other product candidates will depend on many factors, including the following:

 

successful enrollment of patients in, and the completion of, our clinical trials;

 

receiving required regulatory approvals for the development and commercialization of our product candidates;

 

establishing our commercial manufacturing capabilities or making arrangements with third-party manufacturers;

 

obtaining and maintaining patent and trade secret protection and non-patent exclusivity for our product candidates and their components;

 

enforcing and defending our intellectual property rights and claims;

 

achieving desirable therapeutic properties for our product candidates’ intended indications;

 

launching commercial sales of our product candidates, if and when approved, whether alone or in collaboration with third parties;

 

acceptance of our product candidates, if and when approved, by patients, the medical community and third-party payors;

 

effectively competing with other therapies; and

 

maintaining an acceptable safety profile of our product candidates through clinical trials and following regulatory approval.

If we do not achieve one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully commercialize our product candidates, which would materially harm our business.

Additionally, we have created a benchmark folate receptor-alpha, or FolRα, targeting ADC, using conventional technology that results in a heterogeneous ADC mixture. We have compared STRO-002 to this benchmark molecule in multiple preclinical models. We believe the results of these tests help us understand how the therapeutic index of STRO-002 compares to competitors. However, we cannot be certain that our benchmark molecule is the same as the molecule we are attempting to recreate, and the results of the tests comparing our benchmark molecule to STRO-002 may be different than the actual results of a head-to-head test of STRO-002 against a competitor molecule. Additional preclinical and clinical testing will be needed to evaluate the therapeutic index of STRO-002 and to understand its therapeutic potential relative to other product candidates in development. While we believe our ADCs may be superior to other investigative agents in development, without head-to-head comparative data, we will not be able to make claims of superiority to other products in our promotional materials, if our product candidates are approved.

 

 

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If we do not achieve our projected development goals in the time frames we announce and expect, the commercialization of our products may be delayed and, as a result, our stock price may decline.

From time to time, we estimate the timing of the anticipated accomplishment of various scientific, clinical, regulatory and other product development goals, which we sometimes refer to as milestones. These milestones may include the commencement or completion of scientific studies and clinical trials and the submission of regulatory filings. From time to time, we may publicly announce the expected timing of some of these milestones. All of these milestones are and will be based on numerous assumptions. The actual timing of these milestones can vary dramatically compared to our estimates, in some cases for reasons beyond our control. If we do not meet these milestones as publicly announced, or at all, the commercialization of our products may be delayed or never achieved and, as a result, our stock price may decline.

Our approach to the discovery and development of our therapeutic treatments is based on novel technologies that are unproven and may not result in marketable products.

We are developing a pipeline of product candidates using our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform. We believe that product candidates identified with our product discovery platform may offer an improved therapeutic approach by taking advantage of precision design and rapid empirical optimization, thereby reducing the dose-limiting toxic effects associated with existing products. However, the scientific research that forms the basis of our efforts to develop product candidates based on our XpressCF™ Platform is ongoing. Further, the scientific evidence to support the feasibility of developing therapeutic treatments based on our XpressCF™ Platform is both preliminary and limited.

To date, we have tested our first clinical stage product candidates, STRO-001 and STRO-002, in a limited number of clinical trial patients. We may ultimately discover that our XpressCF™ Platform and any product candidates resulting therefrom do not possess certain properties required for therapeutic effectiveness. XpressCF™ product candidates may also be unable to remain stable in the human body for the period of time required for the drug to reach the target tissue or they may trigger immune responses that inhibit the ability of the product candidate to reach the target tissue or that cause adverse side effects in humans. We currently have only limited data, and no conclusive evidence, to suggest that we can introduce these necessary properties into these product candidates derived from our XpressCF™ Platform. We may spend substantial funds attempting to introduce these properties and may never succeed in doing so. In addition, product candidates based on our XpressCF™ Platform may demonstrate different chemical and pharmacological properties in patients than they do in laboratory studies. Although our XpressCF™ Platform and certain product candidates have produced successful results in animal studies, they may not demonstrate the same chemical and pharmacological properties in humans and may interact with human biological systems in unforeseen, ineffective or harmful ways. As a result, we may never succeed in developing a marketable product, we may not become profitable and the value of our common stock will decline.

The regulatory approval process for novel product candidates such as ours can be more expensive and take longer than for other, better known or extensively studied product candidates. We are not aware of any company currently developing a therapeutic using our approach to ADC development and no regulatory authority has granted approval for such a therapeutic. We believe the FDA has limited experience with therapeutics in oncology or other disease areas developed in cell-free-based synthesis systems, which may increase the complexity, uncertainty and length of the regulatory approval process for our product candidates. For example, our XpressCF™ ADC product candidates contain cleavable or non-cleavable linker-warhead combinations or novel warheads that may result in unforeseen events when administered in a human. We and our existing or future collaborators may never receive approval to market and commercialize any product candidate. Even if we or an existing or future collaborator obtains regulatory approval, the approval may be for targets, disease indications or patient populations that are not as broad as we intended or desired or may require labeling that includes significant use or distribution restrictions or safety warnings. We or an existing or future collaborator may be required to perform additional or unanticipated clinical trials to obtain approval or be subject to post-marketing testing requirements to maintain regulatory approval. If the products resulting from our XpressCF™ Platform prove to be ineffective, unsafe or commercially unviable, our entire platform and pipeline would have little, if any, value, which would have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

 

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Results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of results of future clinical trials.

The outcome of preclinical studies and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of later clinical trials, and interim results of clinical trials do not necessarily predict success in future clinical trials. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in late-stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in earlier development, and we could face similar setbacks. The design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product, and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. While certain relevant members of our company have significant clinical experience, we in general have limited experience in designing clinical trials and may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial to support marketing approval. In addition, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses. Many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval for the product candidates. Even if we, or future collaborators, believe that the results of clinical trials for our product candidates warrant marketing approval, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may disagree and may not grant marketing approval of our product candidates.

In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety or efficacy results between different clinical trials of the same product candidate due to numerous factors, including changes in trial procedures set forth in protocols, differences in the size and type of the patient populations, changes in and adherence to the dosing regimen and other clinical trial protocols and the rate of dropout among clinical trial patients. If we fail to receive positive results in clinical trials of our product candidates, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for our most advanced product candidates, and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects would be negatively impacted.

The market may not be receptive to our product candidates based on a novel therapeutic modality, and we may not generate any future revenue from the sale or licensing of product candidates.

Even if regulatory approval is obtained for a product candidate, we may not generate or sustain revenue from sales of the product due to factors such as whether the product can be sold at a competitive cost, competition in the therapeutic area(s) we have received or may receive approval for, and whether it will otherwise be accepted in the market. Historically, there have been concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of ADCs, and an ADC drug was voluntarily withdrawn from the market. These historical concerns may negatively impact the perception market participants have on ADCs, including our product candidates. Additionally, the product candidates that we are developing are based on our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform, which is a new technology. Market participants with significant influence over acceptance of new treatments, such as physicians and third- party payors, may not adopt an ADC product, or a product or treatment based on our novel cell-free production technologies, and we may not be able to convince the medical community and third-party payors to accept and use, or to provide favorable reimbursement for, any product candidates developed by us or our existing or future collaborators. Market acceptance of our product candidates will depend on, among other factors:

 

the timing of our receipt of any marketing and commercialization approvals;

 

the terms of any approvals and the countries in which approvals are obtained;

 

the safety and efficacy of our product candidates;

 

the prevalence and severity of any adverse side effects associated with our product candidates;

 

limitations or warnings contained in any labeling approved by the FDA or other regulatory authority;

 

relative convenience and ease of administration of our product candidates;

 

the willingness of patients to accept any new methods of administration;

 

the success of our physician education programs;

 

the availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement from government and third-party payors;

 

the pricing of our products, particularly as compared to alternative treatments; and

 

the availability of alternative effective treatments for the disease indications our product candidates are intended to treat and the relative risks, benefits and costs of those treatments.

 

 

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Because our product candidates are based on new technology, we expect that they will require extensive research and development and have substantial manufacturing and processing costs. In addition, our estimates regarding potential market size for any indication may be materially different from what we discover to exist at the time we commence commercialization, if any, for a product, which could result in significant changes in our business plan and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Moreover, if any product candidate we commercialize fails to achieve market acceptance, it could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We have entered, and may in the future seek to enter, into collaborations with third parties for the development and commercialization of our product candidates using our XpressCF™ Platform. If we fail to enter into such collaborations, or such collaborations are not successful, we may not be able to capitalize on the market potential of our XpressCF™ Platform and resulting product candidates.

Since 2014, we have entered into collaborations with Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA, or Merck, Celgene Corporation, or Celgene, and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany (operating in the United States and Canada under the name “EMD Serono”) to develop certain cancer and other therapeutics. In addition, we may in the future seek third-party collaborators for research, development and commercialization of other therapeutic technologies or product candidates. Biopharmaceutical companies are our prior and likely future collaborators for any marketing, distribution, development, licensing or broader collaboration arrangements. With respect to our existing collaboration agreements, and what we expect will be the case with any future collaboration agreements, we have and would expect to have limited control over the amount and timing of resources that our collaborators dedicate to the development or commercialization of our product candidates. Moreover, our ability to generate revenues from these arrangements will depend on our collaborators’ abilities to successfully perform the functions assigned to them in these arrangements.

Collaborations involving our product candidates currently pose, and will continue to pose, the following risks to us:

 

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

 

collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of our product candidates or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on preclinical studies or clinical trial results, changes in the collaborators’ strategic focus or available funding, or external factors such as an acquisition that 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 a new formulation of a product candidate for clinical testing;

 

collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with 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;

 

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

 

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

 

collaborators may infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;

 

disputes may arise between the collaborators and us that 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 management attention and resources; and

 

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

 

 

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As a result of the foregoing, our current and any future collaboration agreements may not lead to development or commercialization of our product candidates in the most efficient manner or at all. Moreover, if a collaborator of ours were to be involved in a business combination, the continued pursuit and emphasis on our product development or commercialization program could be delayed, diminished or terminated. For example, in January 2019, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced the entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Celgene, with the intent of creating a leading focused specialty biopharma company. The transaction is expected to complete in the third quarter of 2019, subject to approval by company shareholders, customary closing conditions, and regulatory approvals. Any failure to successfully develop or commercialize our product candidates pursuant to our current or any future collaboration agreements could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

To date, no product developed on a cell-free manufacturing platform has received approval from the FDA, so the requirements for the manufacturing of products using our XpressCF™ Platform are uncertain.

We have invested in our own current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMP, compliant manufacturing facility in San Carlos, California. In this facility, we are developing and implementing novel cell-free production technologies to supply our planned preclinical and clinical trials. However, before we may initiate a clinical trial or commercialize any of our product candidates, we must demonstrate to the FDA that the chemistry, manufacturing and controls for our product candidates meet applicable requirements, and in the European Union, or EU, a manufacturing authorization must be obtained from the appropriate EU regulatory authorities. The FDA has allowed Phase 1 clinical trial use of our product candidates STRO-001 and STRO-002, portions of which are manufactured in our San Carlos manufacturing facility; however, because no product manufactured on a cell-free manufacturing platform has yet been approved in the United States, there is no manufacturing facility that has demonstrated the ability to comply with FDA requirements for later stage clinical development or commercialization, and, therefore, the time frame for demonstrating compliance to the FDA’s satisfaction is uncertain. Delays in establishing that our manufacturing process and facility comply with cGMPs or disruptions in our manufacturing processes, implementation of novel in-house technologies or scale-up activities, may delay or disrupt our development efforts.

We expect that development of our own manufacturing facility will provide us with enhanced control of material supply for preclinical studies, clinical trials and the commercial market, enable the more rapid implementation of process changes and allow for better long-term margins. However, we have limited experience as a company in establishing and operating a manufacturing facility and there exist only a small number of contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, with the experience necessary to manufacture our product candidates. We may have difficulty hiring experts for internal manufacturing or finding and maintaining relationships with external CMOs and, accordingly, our production capacity could be limited.

Our existing collaborations with Merck, Celgene and EMD Serono are important to our business. If our collaborators cease development efforts under our existing or future collaboration agreements, or if any of those agreements are terminated, these collaborations may fail to lead to commercial products and we may never receive milestone payments or future royalties under these agreements.

We have entered into collaborations with other biotechnology companies to develop several of our product candidates, and such collaborations currently represent a significant portion of our product pipeline and discovery and preclinical programs. Substantially all of our revenue to date has been derived from our existing collaboration agreements with Merck, Celgene and EMD Serono, and a significant portion of our future revenue and cash resources is expected to be derived from these agreements or other similar agreements into which we may enter in the future. Revenue from research and development collaborations depends upon continuation of the collaborations, payments for research and development services and product supply, and the achievement of milestones, contingent payments and royalties, if any, derived from future products developed from our research. If we are unable to successfully advance the development of our product candidates or achieve milestones, revenue and cash resources from milestone payments under our collaboration agreements will be substantially less than expected.

 

 

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We are unable to predict the success of our collaborations and we may not realize the anticipated benefits of our strategic collaborations. Our collaborators have discretion in determining and directing the efforts and resources, including the ability to discontinue all efforts and resources, they apply to the development and, if approval is obtained, commercialization and marketing of the product candidates covered by such collaborations. As a result, our collaborators may elect to de-prioritize our programs, change their strategic focus or pursue alternative technologies in a manner that results in reduced, delayed or no revenue to us. Our collaborators may have other marketed products and product candidates under collaboration with other companies, including some of our competitors, and their corporate objectives may not be consistent with our best interests. Our collaborators may also be unsuccessful in developing or commercializing our products. If our collaborations are unsuccessful, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be adversely affected. In addition, any dispute or litigation proceedings we may have with our collaborators in the future could delay development programs, create uncertainty as to ownership of intellectual property rights, distract management from other business activities and generate substantial expense.

Moreover, to the extent that any of our existing or future collaborators were to terminate a collaboration agreement, we may be forced to independently develop these product candidates, including funding preclinical studies or clinical trials, assuming marketing and distribution costs and defending intellectual property rights, or, in certain instances, abandon product candidates altogether, any of which could result in a change to our business plan and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We may not successfully engage in strategic transactions, including any additional collaborations we seek, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize product candidates, impact our cash position, increase our expenses and present significant distractions to our management.

From time to time, we may consider strategic transactions, such as additional collaborations, acquisitions of companies, asset purchases and out- or in-licensing of product candidates or technologies that we believe will complement or augment our existing business. In particular, we will evaluate and, if strategically attractive, seek to enter into additional collaborations, including with major biotechnology or biopharmaceutical companies. The competition for collaborators is intense, and the negotiation process is time-consuming and complex. Any new collaboration may be on terms that are not optimal for us, and we may not be able to maintain any new collaboration if, for example, development or approval of a product candidate is delayed, sales of an approved product candidate do not meet expectations or the collaborator terminates the collaboration. 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 strategic partners. Our ability to reach a definitive agreement for a collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the strategic partner’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration and the proposed strategic partner’s evaluation of a number of factors. These factors may include the design or results of clinical trials, the likelihood of approval by the FDA or similar regulatory authorities outside the United States, the potential market for the subject product candidate, the costs and complexities of manufacturing and delivering such product candidate to patients, the potential of competing products, the existence of uncertainty with respect to our ownership of technology, which can exist if there is a challenge to such ownership without regard to the merits of the challenge and industry and market conditions generally. Moreover, if we acquire assets with promising markets or technologies, we may not be able to realize the benefit of acquiring such assets due to an inability to successfully integrate them with our existing technologies and may encounter numerous difficulties in developing, manufacturing and marketing any new products resulting from a strategic acquisition that delay or prevent us from realizing their expected benefits or enhancing our business.

 

 

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We cannot assure you that following any such collaboration, or other strategic transaction, we will achieve the expected synergies to justify the transaction. For example, such transactions may require us to incur non-recurring or other charges, increase our near- and long-term expenditures and pose significant integration or implementation challenges or disrupt our management or business. These transactions would entail numerous operational and financial risks, including exposure to unknown liabilities, disruption of our business and diversion of our management’s time and attention in order to manage a collaboration or develop acquired products, product candidates or technologies, incurrence of substantial debt or dilutive issuances of equity securities to pay transaction consideration or costs, higher than expected collaboration, acquisition or integration costs, write-downs of assets or goodwill or impairment charges, increased amortization expenses, difficulty and cost in facilitating the collaboration or combining the operations and personnel of any acquired business, impairment of relationships with key suppliers, manufacturers or customers of any acquired business due to changes in management and ownership and the inability to retain key employees of any acquired business. Also, such strategic alliance, joint venture or acquisition may be prohibited. For example, our Loan and Security Agreement, in the absence of the related lenders’ prior written consent, restricts our ability to pursue certain mergers, acquisitions, amalgamations or consolidations that we may believe to be in our best interest.

Accordingly, although there can be no assurance that we will undertake or successfully complete any transactions of the nature described above, any transactions that we do complete may be subject to the foregoing or other risks and would have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Conversely, any failure to enter any additional collaboration or other strategic transaction that would be beneficial to us could delay the development and potential commercialization of our product candidates and have a negative impact on the competitiveness of any product candidate that reaches market.

We expect to rely on third parties to conduct certain of our preclinical studies or clinical trials. If those third parties do not perform as contractually required, fail to satisfy regulatory or legal requirements or miss expected deadlines, our development program could be delayed with potentially material and adverse effects on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We have relied in some cases and intend to rely in the future on third-party clinical investigators, clinical research organizations, or CROs, clinical data management organizations and consultants to assist or provide the design, conduct, supervision and monitoring of preclinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates. Because we intend to rely on these third parties and will not have the ability to conduct all preclinical studies or clinical trials independently, we will have less control over the timing, quality and other aspects of preclinical studies and clinical trials than we would have had we conducted them on our own. These investigators, CROs and consultants will not be our employees and we will have limited control over the amount of time and resources that they dedicate to our programs. These third parties may have contractual relationships with other entities, some of which may be our competitors, which may draw time and resources from our programs. The third parties with which we may contract might not be diligent, careful or timely in conducting our preclinical studies or clinical trials, resulting in the preclinical studies or clinical trials being delayed or unsuccessful.

If we cannot contract with acceptable third parties on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, or if these third parties do not carry out their contractual duties, satisfy legal and regulatory requirements for the conduct of preclinical studies or clinical trials or meet expected deadlines, our clinical development programs could be delayed and otherwise adversely affected. In all events, we will be responsible for ensuring that each of our preclinical studies and clinical trials are conducted in accordance with the general investigational plan and protocols for the trial. The FDA requires preclinical studies to be conducted in accordance with good laboratory practices and clinical trials to be conducted in accordance with good clinical practices, including for designing, conducting, recording and reporting the results of preclinical studies and clinical trials to assure that data and reported results are credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of clinical trial participants are protected. Our reliance on third parties that we do not control will not relieve us of these responsibilities and requirements. Any adverse development or delay in our preclinical studies or clinical trials as a result of our reliance on third parties could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

 

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If we are unable to obtain sufficient raw and intermediate materials on a timely basis or if we experience other manufacturing or supply difficulties, our business may be adversely affected.

The manufacture of certain of our product candidates requires the timely delivery of sufficient amounts of raw and intermediate materials. We work closely with our suppliers to ensure the continuity of supply, but cannot guarantee these efforts will always be successful. Further, while efforts are made to diversify our sources of raw and intermediate materials, in certain instances we acquire raw and intermediate materials from a sole supplier. While we believe that alternative sources of supply exist where we rely on sole supplier relationships, there can be no assurance that we will be able to quickly establish additional or replacement sources for some materials. A reduction or interruption in supply, and an inability to develop alternative sources for such supply, could adversely affect our ability to manufacture our product candidates in a timely or cost-effective manner.

We currently manufacture a portion of our product candidates internally and also rely on third-party manufacturing and supply partners to supply components of our product candidates. Our inability to manufacture sufficient quantities of our product candidates, or the loss of our third-party suppliers, or our or their failure to comply with applicable regulatory requirements or to supply sufficient quantities at acceptable quality levels or prices, or at all, would materially and adversely affect our business.

Manufacturing is a vital component of our business strategy. To ensure timely and consistent product supply we currently use a hybrid product supply approach wherein certain elements of our product candidates are manufactured internally at our manufacturing facilities in San Carlos, California, and other elements are manufactured at qualified third-party CMOs. Since our own manufacturing facilities may be limited or unable to manufacture certain of our preclinical and clinical trial product materials and supplies, we rely on third-party contract manufacturers to manufacture such clinical trial product materials and supplies for our or our collaborator’s needs. There can be no assurance that our preclinical and clinical development product supplies will not be limited, interrupted, or of satisfactory quality or continue to be available at acceptable prices. In particular, any replacement of our manufacturer could require significant effort and expertise because there may be a limited number of qualified replacements.

The manufacturing process for a product candidate is subject to FDA and foreign regulatory authority review. We, and our suppliers and manufacturers, must meet applicable manufacturing requirements and undergo rigorous facility and process validation tests required by regulatory authorities in order to comply with regulatory standards, such as cGMPs. If we or our contract manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, we may not be able to rely on our or their manufacturing facilities for the manufacture of elements of our product candidates. Moreover, we do not control the manufacturing process at our contract manufacturers, and are completely dependent on them for compliance with current regulatory requirements. In the event that any of our manufacturers fails to comply with such requirements or to perform its obligations in relation to quality, timing or otherwise, or if our supply of components or other materials becomes limited or interrupted for other reasons, we may be forced to manufacture the materials ourselves or enter into an agreement with another third party, which we may not be able to do on reasonable terms, if at all. In some cases, the technical skills or technology required to manufacture our product candidates may be unique or proprietary to the original manufacturer and we may have difficulty applying such skills or technology ourselves, or in transferring such to another third party. These factors would increase our reliance on such manufacturer or require us to obtain a license from such manufacturer in order to enable us, or to have another third party, manufacture our product candidates. If we are required to change manufacturers for any reason, we will be required to verify that the new manufacturer maintains facilities and procedures that comply with quality standards and with all applicable regulations and guidelines; and we may be required to repeat some of the development program. The delays associated with the verification of a new manufacturer could negatively affect our ability to develop product candidates in a timely manner or within budget.

We expect to continue to rely on third-party manufacturers if we receive regulatory approval for any product candidate. To the extent that we have existing, or enter into future, manufacturing arrangements with third parties, we will depend on these third parties to perform their obligations in a timely manner consistent with contractual and regulatory requirements, including those related to quality control and assurance. If we are unable to obtain or maintain third-party manufacturing for product candidates, or to do so on commercially reasonable terms, we may not be able to develop and commercialize our product candidates successfully. Our or a third party’s failure to execute on our manufacturing requirements and comply with cGMPs could adversely affect our business in a number of ways, including:

 

an inability to initiate or continue clinical trials of product candidates under development;

 

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

 

loss of the cooperation of an existing or future collaborator;

 

 

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

 

requirements to cease distribution or to recall batches of our product candidates; and

 

in the event of approval to market and commercialize a product candidate, an inability to meet commercial demands for our products.

Additionally, we and our contract manufacturers may experience manufacturing difficulties due to resource constraints or as a result of labor disputes or unstable political environments. If we or our contract manufacturers were to encounter any of these difficulties, our ability to provide our product candidates to patients in pre-clinical and clinical trials, or to provide product for treatment of patients once approved, would be jeopardized.

We, or third-party manufacturers, may be unable to successfully scale-up manufacturing of our product candidates in sufficient quality and quantity, which would delay or prevent us from developing our product candidates and commercializing approved products, if any.

In order to conduct clinical trials of our product candidates, we will need to manufacture them in large quantities. We, or any manufacturing partners, may be unable to successfully increase the manufacturing capacity for any of our product candidates in a timely or cost-effective manner, or at all. In addition, quality issues may arise during scale-up activities. If we, or any manufacturing partners, are unable to successfully scale up the manufacture of our product candidates in sufficient quality and quantity, the development, testing, and clinical trials of that product candidate may be delayed or infeasible, and regulatory approval or commercial launch of any resulting product may be delayed or not obtained, which could significantly harm our business.

The manufacture of biologics is complex and we or our third-party manufacturers may encounter difficulties in production. If we or any of our third-party manufacturers encounter such difficulties, our ability to provide supply of our product candidates for clinical trials, our ability to obtain marketing approval, or our ability to provide supply of our products for patients, if approved, could be delayed or stopped.

Our product candidates are considered to be biologics and the process of manufacturing biologics is complex, time-consuming, highly regulated and subject to multiple risks. We and our contract manufacturers must comply with cGMPs, regulations and guidelines for the manufacturing of biologics used in clinical trials and, if approved, marketed products. To date, we and our contract manufacturers have limited experience in the manufacturing of cGMP batches of our product candidates.

Manufacturing biologics is highly susceptible to product loss due to contamination, equipment failure, improper installation or operation of equipment, vendor or operator error, inconsistency in yields, variability in product characteristics and difficulties in scaling the production process. Even minor deviations from normal manufacturing processes could result in reduced production yields, product defects and other supply disruptions. If microbial, viral or other contaminations are discovered at our manufacturing facilities or those of our third-party manufacturers, such facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination, which could delay clinical trials and adversely harm our business. Moreover, if the FDA determines that our manufacturing facilities or those of our third-party manufacturers are not in compliance with FDA laws and regulations, including those governing cGMPs, the FDA may deny BLA approval until the deficiencies are corrected or we replace the manufacturer in our BLA with a manufacturer that is in compliance.

In addition, there are risks associated with large scale manufacturing for clinical trials or commercial scale including, among others, cost overruns, potential problems with process scale-up, process reproducibility, stability issues, compliance with cGMPs, lot consistency and timely availability of raw materials. Even if we or our collaborators obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, there is no assurance that manufacturers will be able to manufacture the approved product to specifications acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory authorities, to produce it in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements for the potential launch of the product or to meet potential future demand. If our manufacturers are unable to produce sufficient quantities for clinical trials or for commercialization, commercialization efforts would be impaired, which would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

 

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Scaling up a biologic manufacturing process is a difficult and uncertain task, and we may not be successful in transferring our production system or our third-party manufacturers may not have the necessary capabilities to complete the implementation and development process. If we are unable to adequately validate or scale-up the manufacturing process at our own manufacturing facilities or those of our current manufacturers, we will need to transfer to another manufacturer and complete the manufacturing validation process, which can be lengthy. If we are able to adequately validate and scale-up the manufacturing process for our product candidates at our manufacturing facility or with a contract manufacturer, we will still need to negotiate with such contract manufacturer an agreement for commercial supply and it is not certain we will be able to come to agreement on terms acceptable to us.

We cannot assure you that any stability or other issues relating to the manufacture of any of our product candidates or products will not occur in the future. If we or our third-party manufacturers were to encounter any of these difficulties, our ability to provide any product candidates to patients in planned clinical trials and products to patients, once approved, would be jeopardized. Any delay or interruption in the supply of clinical trial supplies could delay the completion of planned clinical trials, increase the costs associated with maintaining clinical trial programs and, depending upon the period of delay, require us to commence new clinical trials at additional expense or terminate clinical trials completely. Any adverse developments affecting clinical or commercial manufacturing of our product candidates or products may result in shipment delays, inventory shortages, lot failures, product withdrawals or recalls, or other interruptions in the supply of our product candidates or products. We may also have to take inventory write-offs and incur other charges and expenses for product candidates or products that fail to meet specifications, undertake costly remediation efforts or seek more costly manufacturing alternatives. Accordingly, failures or difficulties faced at any level of our supply chain could adversely affect our business and delay or impede the development and commercialization of any of our product candidates or products, if approved, and could have an adverse effect on our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.

As part of our process development efforts, we also may make changes to our manufacturing processes at various points during development, for various reasons, such as controlling costs, achieving scale, decreasing processing time, increasing manufacturing success rate or other reasons. Such changes carry the risk that they will not achieve their intended objectives, and any of these changes could cause our product candidates to perform differently and affect the results of our ongoing clinical trials or future clinical trials. In some circumstances, changes in the manufacturing process may require us to perform ex vivo comparability studies and to collect additional data from patients prior to undertaking more advanced clinical trials. For instance, changes in our process during the course of clinical development may require us to show the comparability of the product used in earlier clinical phases or at earlier portions of a trial to the product used in later clinical phases or later portions of the trial.

We may not be successful in our efforts to use our XpressCF™ Platform to expand our pipeline of product candidates and develop marketable products.

The success of our business depends in large part upon our ability to identify, develop and commercialize products based on our XpressCF™ Platform. STRO-001 and STRO-002 are our most advanced clinical stage programs and our preclinical and research programs may fail to identify other potential product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons. Our research methodology may be unsuccessful in identifying potential product candidates or our potential product candidates may be shown to have harmful side effects or may have other characteristics that may make the products unmarketable or unlikely to receive marketing approval. If any of these events occur, we may be forced to abandon our development efforts for a program or for multiple programs, which would materially harm our business and could potentially cause us to cease operations. Research programs to identify new product candidates require substantial technical, financial and human resources. We may focus our efforts and resources on potential programs or product candidates that ultimately prove to be unsuccessful.

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

Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we focus our research and development efforts on certain selected product candidates. As a result, we may forgo or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable product candidates. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights to such product candidate.

 

 

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Failure to successfully validate, develop and obtain regulatory approval for companion diagnostics for our product candidates could harm our drug development strategy and operational results.

If companion diagnostics are developed in conjunction with clinical programs, the FDA may require regulatory approval of a companion diagnostic as a condition to approval of the product candidate. For example, if we use a diagnostic test to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma by designing our pivotal trial or trials of STRO-001 in that indication to require that clinical trial patients have elevated CD74 expression as a criterion for enrollment, then we will likely be required to obtain FDA approval or clearance of a companion diagnostic, concurrent with approval of STRO-001, to test for elevated CD74 expression; we may also be required to demonstrate to the FDA the predictive utility of the companion diagnostic—namely, that the diagnostic selects for patients in whom the biologic therapy will be effective or more effective compared to patients not selected for by the diagnostic. Similarly, as we are developing STRO-002 for a potential indication in patients with elevated FolRα expression levels, we may be required to obtain FDA approval or clearance of a companion diagnostic, concurrent with approval of STRO-002, to test for elevated FolRα expression. We do not have experience or capabilities in developing or commercializing diagnostics and plan to rely in large part on third parties to perform these functions. We do not currently have any agreement in place with any third party to develop or commercialize companion diagnostics for any of our product candidates. Companion diagnostics are subject to regulation by the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities as medical devices and require separate regulatory approval or clearance prior to commercialization.

If we or our collaborators, or any third party, are unable to successfully develop companion diagnostics for our product candidates, or experience delays in doing so:

 

the development of our product candidates may be adversely affected if we are unable to appropriately select patients for enrollment in our planned clinical trials;

 

our product candidates may not receive marketing approval if their safe and effective use depends on a companion diagnostic; and

 

we may not realize the full commercial potential of any product candidates that receive marketing approval if, among other reasons, we are unable to appropriately identify patients with the specific genetic alterations targeted by our product candidates.

In addition, although we believe genetic testing is becoming more prevalent in the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and conditions, our product candidates may be perceived negatively compared to alternative treatments that do not require the use of companion diagnostics, either due to the additional cost of the companion diagnostic or the need to complete additional procedures to identify genetic markers prior to administering our product candidates. If any of these events were to occur, our business would be harmed, possibly materially.

We face competition from entities that have developed or may develop product candidates for cancer, including companies developing novel treatments and technology platforms. If these companies develop technologies or product candidates more rapidly than we do or their technologies are more effective, our ability to develop and successfully commercialize product candidates may be adversely affected.

The development and commercialization of drugs and therapeutic biologics is highly competitive. Our product candidates, if approved, will face significant competition and our failure to effectively compete may prevent us from achieving significant market penetration. Most of our competitors have significantly greater resources than we do and we may not be able to successfully compete. We compete with a variety of multinational biopharmaceutical companies, specialized biotechnology companies and emerging biotechnology companies, as well as with technologies and product candidates being developed at universities and other research institutions. Our competitors have developed, are developing or will develop product candidates and processes competitive with our product candidates and processes. Competitive therapeutic treatments include those that have already been approved and accepted by the medical community and any new treatments, including those based on novel technology platforms, that enter the market. We believe that a significant number of products are currently under development, and may become commercially available in the future, for the treatment of conditions for which we are trying, or may try, to develop product candidates. There is intense and rapidly evolving competition in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical and antibody and immunoregulatory therapeutics fields. While we believe that our XpressCF™ Platform, associated intellectual property and our scientific and technical know-how give us a competitive advantage in this space, competition from many sources exists or may arise in the future. Our competitors include larger and better funded biopharmaceutical, biotechnological and therapeutics companies, including companies focused on cancer immunotherapies, such as AstraZeneca PLC, Bristol-Myers Squibb

 

 

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Company, or BMS, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Merck & Co., Inc., or Merck, Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc., or Pfizer, Roche Holding Ltd, Sanofi S.A and companies focused on ADCs, such as Pfizer, ImmunoGen, Inc., or Immunogen, Seattle Genetics, Inc., or Seattle Genetics, and Genentech, Inc., or Genentech, as well as numerous small companies. Moreover, we also compete with current and future therapeutics developed at universities and other research institutions.

We are aware of several companies that are developing ADCs, cytokine derivatives, bispecific antibodies and cancer immunotherapies. Many of these companies are well-capitalized and, in contrast to us, have significant clinical experience, and may include our existing or future collaborators. In addition, these companies compete with us in recruiting scientific and managerial talent.

Our success will depend partially on our ability to develop and protect therapeutics that are safer and more effective than competing products. Our commercial opportunity and success will be reduced or eliminated if competing products are safer, more effective, or less expensive than the therapeutics we develop.

If our lead product candidates are approved, they will compete with a range of therapeutic treatments that are either in development or currently marketed. Currently marketed oncology drugs and therapeutics range from ADCs, such as Genentech’s Kadcyla, to immune checkpoint inhibitors such as BMS’s Opdivo to T cell-engager immunotherapies such as Amgen, Inc.’s Blincyto. In addition, numerous compounds are in clinical development for cancer treatment. With respect to B cell-based malignancies, such as multiple myeloma, the most common treatments are chemotherapeutic compounds, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation and immunomodulating agents. The clinical development pipeline for cancer includes small molecules, antibodies, vaccines, cell therapies and immunotherapies from a variety of companies and institutions.

Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial, technical, manufacturing, marketing, sales and supply resources or experience than we have. If we successfully obtain approval for any product candidate, we will face competition based on many different factors, including the safety and effectiveness of our products, the ease with which our products can be administered and the extent to which patients accept relatively new routes of administration, the timing and scope of regulatory approvals for these products, the availability and cost of manufacturing, marketing and sales capabilities, price, reimbursement coverage and patent position. Competing products could present superior treatment alternatives, including by being more effective, safer, less expensive or marketed and sold more effectively than any products we may develop. Competitive products may make any products we develop obsolete or noncompetitive before we recover the expense of developing and commercializing our product candidates. Such competitors could also recruit our employees, which could negatively impact our level of expertise and our ability to execute our business plan.

Any inability to attract and retain qualified key management and technical personnel would impair our ability to implement our business plan.

Our success largely depends on the continued service of key management, advisors and other specialized personnel, including William J. Newell, our chief executive officer, Edward Albini, our chief financial officer, Trevor J. Hallam, Ph.D., our chief scientific officer, Arturo Molina, M.D., our chief medical officer and Shabbir T. Anik, Ph.D., our chief technical operations officer. The loss of one or more members of our management team or other key employees or advisors could delay our research and development programs and have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. The relationships that our key managers have cultivated within our industry make us particularly dependent upon their continued employment with us. We are dependent on the continued service of our technical personnel because of the highly technical nature of our product candidates and XpressCF™ Platform technologies and the specialized nature of the regulatory approval process. Because our management team and key employees are not obligated to provide us with continued service, they could terminate their employment with us at any time without penalty. Our future success will depend in large part on our continued ability to attract and retain other highly qualified scientific, technical and management personnel, as well as personnel with expertise in clinical testing, manufacturing, governmental regulation and commercialization. We face competition for personnel from other companies, universities, public and private research institutions, government entities and other organizations. If we are unable to continue to attract and retain high-quality personnel, the rate and success at which we can discover and develop product candidates will be limited which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

 

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We will need to grow our organization, and we may experience difficulties in managing our growth and expanding our operations.

As of December 31, 2018, we had 147 full-time employees.  As our development and commercialization plans and strategies develop, and as we transition into operating as a public company, we expect to expand our employee base for managerial, operational, financial and other resources. In addition, we have limited experience in product development and have just begun our first clinical trials for our first two product candidates. As our product candidates enter and advance through preclinical studies and clinical trials, we will need to expand our development, regulatory and manufacturing capabilities or contract with other organizations to provide these capabilities for us. In the future, we expect to have to manage additional relationships with collaborators or partners, suppliers and other organizations. Our ability to manage our operations and future growth will require us to continue to improve our operational, financial and management controls, reporting systems and procedures. We may not be able to implement improvements to our management information and control systems in an efficient or timely manner and may discover deficiencies in existing systems and controls. Our inability to successfully manage our growth and expand our operations could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

If any of our product candidates are approved for marketing and commercialization and we are unable to develop sales, marketing and distribution capabilities on our own or enter into agreements with third parties to perform these functions on acceptable terms, we will be unable to commercialize successfully any such future products.

We currently have no sales, marketing or distribution capabilities or experience. If any of our product candidates are approved, we will need to develop internal sales, marketing and distribution capabilities to commercialize such products, which would be expensive and time consuming, or enter into collaborations with third parties to perform these services. If we decide to market our products directly, we will need to commit significant financial and managerial resources to develop a marketing and sales force with technical expertise and supporting distribution, administration and compliance capabilities. If we rely on third parties with such capabilities to market our products or decide to co-promote products with collaborators, we will need to establish and maintain marketing and distribution arrangements with third parties, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to enter into such arrangements on acceptable terms or at all. In entering into third-party marketing or distribution arrangements, any revenue we receive will depend upon the efforts of the third parties and there can be no assurance that such third parties will establish adequate sales and distribution capabilities or be successful in gaining market acceptance of any approved product. If we are not successful in commercializing any product approved in the future, either on our own or through third parties, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

Our future growth may depend, in part, on our ability to operate in foreign markets, where we would be subject to additional regulatory burdens and other risks and uncertainties.

Our future growth may depend, in part, on our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates in foreign markets for which we may rely on collaboration with third parties. We are not permitted to market or promote any of our product candidates before we receive regulatory approval from the applicable regulatory authority in that foreign market, and may never receive such regulatory approval for any of our product candidates. To obtain separate regulatory approval in many other countries, we must comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of such countries regarding safety and efficacy and governing, among other things, clinical trials and commercial sales, pricing and distribution of our product candidates, and we cannot predict success in these jurisdictions. If we fail to comply with the regulatory requirements in international markets and do not receive applicable marketing approvals, our target market will be reduced and our ability to realize the full market potential of our product candidates will be harmed and our business will be adversely affected. We may not obtain foreign regulatory approvals on a timely basis, if at all. Our failure to obtain approval of any of our product candidates by regulatory authorities in another country may significantly diminish the commercial prospects of that product candidate and our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected. Moreover, even if we obtain approval of our product candidates and ultimately commercialize our product candidates in foreign markets, we would be subject to the risks and uncertainties, including the burden of complying with complex and changing foreign regulatory, tax, accounting and legal requirements and reduced protection of intellectual property rights in some foreign countries.

 

 

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Price controls imposed in foreign markets may adversely affect our future profitability.

In some countries, particularly member states of the EU, the pricing of prescription drugs is subject to governmental control. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after receipt of marketing approval for a product. In addition, there can be considerable pressure by governments and other stakeholders on prices and reimbursement levels, including as part of cost containment measures. Political, economic and regulatory developments may further complicate pricing negotiations, and pricing negotiations may continue after reimbursement has been obtained. Reference pricing used by various EU member states and parallel distribution, or arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced member states, can further reduce prices. In some countries, we or current or future collaborators may be required to conduct a clinical trial or other studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of our therapeutic candidates to other available therapies in order to obtain or maintain reimbursement or pricing approval. Publication of discounts by third-party payors or authorities may lead to further pressure on the prices or reimbursement levels within the country of publication and other countries. If reimbursement of any product candidate approved for marketing is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

Price Controls imposed in the U.S. may affect our future profitability.

Recently there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. Current and future presidential budget proposals and future legislation may contain further drug price control measures that could be enacted. Congress and current and future U.S. presidential administrations may continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs. At the state level, legislatures are increasingly passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. If such pricing controls are enacted and are set at unsatisfactory levels, our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects could be materially and adversely affected.

Our business entails a significant risk of product liability and our ability to obtain sufficient insurance coverage could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

As we are conducting clinical trials of our product candidates we may be exposed to significant product liability risks inherent in the development, testing, manufacturing and marketing of therapeutic treatments. Product liability claims could delay or prevent completion of our development programs. If we succeed in marketing products, such claims could result in an FDA investigation of the safety and effectiveness of our products, our manufacturing processes and facilities or our marketing programs and potentially a recall of our products or more serious enforcement action, limitations on the approved indications for which they may be used or suspension or withdrawal of approvals. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may also result in decreased demand for our products, injury to our reputation, costs to defend the related litigation, a diversion of management’s time and our resources, substantial monetary awards to trial participants or patients and a decline in our stock price. While we currently have product liability insurance that we believe is appropriate for our stage of development, we may need to obtain higher levels prior to later stages of clinical development or marketing any of our product candidates. Any insurance we have or may obtain may not provide sufficient coverage against potential liabilities. Furthermore, clinical trial and product liability insurance is becoming increasingly expensive. As a result, we may be unable to obtain sufficient insurance at a reasonable cost to protect us against losses caused by product liability claims that could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

 

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Our employees may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements.

As with all companies, we are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other misconduct. Misconduct by employees could include intentional failures to comply with FDA regulations, provide accurate information to the FDA, comply with manufacturing standards we may establish, comply with federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations, inappropriately share confidential and proprietary information externally, report financial information or data accurately or disclose unauthorized activities to us. In particular, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Employee misconduct could also involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious harm to our reputation. It is not always possible to identify and deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to be in compliance with such laws or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects, including the imposition of significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, loss of eligibility to obtain approvals from the FDA, exclusion from participation in government contracting, healthcare reimbursement or other government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, integrity oversight and reporting obligations, or reputational harm.

We depend on our information technology systems, and any failure of these systems, or those of our CROs or other contractors or consultants we may utilize, could harm our business. Security breaches, loss of data, and other disruptions could compromise sensitive information related to our business or prevent us from accessing critical information and expose us to liability, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.

We collect and maintain information in digital form that is necessary to conduct our business, and we are increasingly dependent on information technology systems and infrastructure to operate our business. In the ordinary course of our business, we collect, store and transmit large amounts of confidential information, including intellectual property, proprietary business information and personal information. It is critical that we do so in a secure manner to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of such confidential information. We have established physical, electronic and organizational measures to safeguard and secure our systems to prevent a data compromise, and rely on commercially available systems, software, tools, and monitoring to provide security for our information technology systems and the processing, transmission and storage of digital information. We have also outsourced elements of our information technology infrastructure, and as a result a number of third-party vendors may or could have access to our confidential information. Our internal information technology systems and infrastructure, and those of our current and any future collaborators, contractors and consultants and other third parties on which we rely, are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, malware, natural disasters, terrorism, war, telecommunication and electrical failures, cyber-attacks or cyber-intrusions over the Internet, attachments to emails, persons inside our organization, or persons with access to systems inside our organization.

The risk of a security breach or disruption or data loss, particularly through cyber-attacks or cyber intrusion, including by computer hackers, foreign governments and cyber terrorists, has generally increased as the number, intensity and sophistication of attempted attacks and intrusions from around the world have increased. In addition, the prevalent use of mobile devices that access confidential information increases the risk of data security breaches, which could lead to the loss of confidential information or other intellectual property. The costs to us to mitigate network security problems, bugs, viruses, worms, malicious software programs and security vulnerabilities could be significant, and while we have implemented security measures to protect our data security and information technology systems, our efforts to address these problems may not be successful, and these problems could result in unexpected interruptions, delays, cessation of service and other harm to our business and our competitive position. If such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our product development programs. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from completed or ongoing or planned clinical trials could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. Moreover, if a computer security breach affects our systems or results in the unauthorized release of personally identifiable information, our reputation could be materially damaged. In addition, such a breach may require notification to governmental agencies, the media or individuals pursuant to various federal and state privacy and

 

 

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security laws, if applicable, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, or HITECH, and its implementing rules and regulations, as well as regulations promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission and state breach notification laws. We would also be exposed to a risk of loss or litigation and potential liability, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.

Our information technology systems could face serious disruptions that could adversely affect our business.

Our information technology and other internal infrastructure systems, including corporate firewalls, servers, leased lines and connection to the Internet, face the risk of systemic failure that could disrupt our operations. A significant disruption in the availability of our information technology and other internal infrastructure systems could cause interruptions and delays in our research and development and manufacturing work.

The terms of our Loan and Security Agreement require us to meet certain covenants and place restrictions on our operating and financial flexibility. If we raise additional capital through debt financing, the terms of any new debt could further restrict our ability to operate our business.

The Loan and Security Agreement is secured by a lien covering all of our assets, excluding our intellectual property and certain other assets. Subject to the terms of the Loan and Security Agreement, we have the option to prepay all, but not less than all, of the amounts borrowed under the Loan and Security Agreement, subject to certain penalty payments, prior to the August 1, 2021 maturity date, at which time all amounts borrowed will be due and payable.

The Loan and Security Agreement contains customary affirmative and negative covenants, indemnification provisions and events of default. The affirmative covenants include, among others, covenants requiring us to maintain our legal existence and governmental approvals, deliver certain financial reports and maintain certain intellectual property rights. The negative covenants include, among others, restrictions on transferring or licensing our assets, changing our business, incurring additional indebtedness, engaging in mergers or acquisitions, paying dividends or making other distributions, and creating other liens on our assets, in each case subject to customary exceptions. If we default under the Loan and Security Agreement, the lenders will be able to declare all obligations immediately due and payable and take control of our collateral, potentially requiring us to renegotiate our agreement on terms less favorable to us or to immediately cease operations. Further, if we are liquidated, the rights of Oxford and SVB to repayment would be senior to the rights of the holders of our common stock to receive any proceeds from the liquidation. Oxford, acting as collateral agent for the lenders, could declare a default under the Loan and Security Agreement upon the occurrence of any event that Oxford and SVB interpret as a material adverse change as defined under the Loan and Security Agreement, thereby requiring us to repay the loan immediately or to attempt to reverse the declaration of default through negotiation or litigation. Any declaration by the collateral agent of an event of default could significantly harm our business and prospects and could cause the price of our common stock to decline. If we raise any additional debt financing, the terms of such additional debt could further restrict our operating and financial flexibility.

If we do not comply with laws regulating the protection of the environment and health and human safety, our business could be affected adversely.

Our research, development and manufacturing involve the use of hazardous chemicals and materials, including radioactive materials. We maintain quantities of various flammable and toxic chemicals in our facilities in South San Francisco and San Carlos, California that are required for our research, development and manufacturing activities. We are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations governing the use, manufacture, storage, handling and disposal of these hazardous chemicals and materials. We believe our procedures for storing, handling and disposing these materials in our South San Francisco and San Carlos facilities comply with the relevant guidelines of the two municipalities, the counties of San Francisco and San Mateo, the state of California and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor. Although we believe that our safety procedures for handling and disposing of these materials comply with the standards mandated by applicable regulations, the risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials cannot be eliminated. If an accident occurs, we could be held liable for resulting damages, which could be substantial. We are also subject to numerous environmental, health and workplace safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures, exposure to blood-borne pathogens and the handling of animals and biohazardous materials. Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of these materials, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities.

 

 

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While we maintain pollution legal liability insurance for our manufacturing facility in San Carlos, California, we do not maintain insurance for environmental liability or toxic tort claims that may be asserted against us in connection with our storage or disposal of biological or hazardous materials in our other locations. Additional federal, state and local laws and regulations affecting our operations may be adopted in the future. We may incur substantial costs to comply with, and substantial fines or penalties if we violate, any of these laws or regulations.

Our current operations are in two cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we, or the third parties upon whom we depend, may be adversely affected by earthquakes or other natural disasters and our business continuity and disaster recovery plans may not adequately protect us from a serious disaster.

Our current operations are located in our facilities in South San Francisco and San Carlos, California. Any unplanned event, such as earthquake, flood, fire, explosion, extreme weather condition, medical epidemic, power shortage, telecommunication failure or other natural or man-made accidents or incidents that result in us being unable to fully utilize our facilities, or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, may have a material and adverse effect on our ability to operate our business, particularly on a daily basis, and have significant negative consequences on our financial and operating conditions. Loss of access to these facilities may result in increased costs, delays in the development of our product candidates or interruption of our business operations. Earthquakes or other natural disasters could further disrupt our operations, and have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. If a natural disaster, power outage or other event occurred that prevented us from using all or a significant portion of our headquarters, that damaged critical infrastructure, such as our research or manufacturing facilities or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, or that otherwise disrupted operations, it may be difficult or, in certain cases, impossible, for us to continue our business for a substantial period of time. The disaster recovery and business continuity plans we have in place may prove inadequate in the event of a serious disaster or similar event. We may incur substantial expenses as a result of the limited nature of our disaster recovery and business continuity plans, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. As part of our risk management policy, we maintain insurance coverage at levels that we believe are appropriate for our business. However, in the event of an accident or incident at these facilities, we cannot assure you that the amounts of insurance will be sufficient to satisfy any damages and losses. If our facilities, or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, are unable to operate because of an accident or incident or for any other reason, even for a short period of time, any or all of our research and development programs may be harmed. Any business interruption could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

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

Under Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, if a corporation undergoes an “ownership change” (generally defined as a greater than 50 percentage points change (by value) in the ownership of its equity over a rolling three-year period), the corporation’s ability to use its pre-change net operating loss, or NOL, carryforwards and certain other pre-change tax attributes to offset its post-change income and taxes may be limited. We have experienced such ownership changes in the past and may experience such ownership changes in the future, some of which are outside our control.

As of December 31, 2018, we had federal NOL carryforwards of approximately $114.0 million, and our ability to utilize those NOL carryforwards could be limited by an “ownership change” as described above, which could result in increased tax liability to our company.

On December 22, 2017, the current U.S. presidential administration, signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or the Tax Reform Act. The legislation significantly changes U.S. tax law by, among other things, lowering the corporate income tax rates. The Tax Reform Act permanently reduces the U.S. corporate income tax rate from a maximum of 35% to a flat 21% rate, effective January 1, 2018. Additionally, the Tax Reform Act will no longer allow deductions for compensation in excess of $1.0 million for certain employees, even if paid as commissions or performance-based compensation. We may be subject to these limitations as provided for under Section 162(m) of the Code in the future. The Tax Reform Act also limits the amount taxpayers are able to deduct for federal NOL carryforwards generated in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 to 80% of the taxpayer’s taxable income. The law also generally repeals all carrybacks. However, any NOLs generated in taxable years after December 31, 2017 can be carried forward indefinitely. Losses arising in taxable years beginning before December 31, 2017 may still be carried back two years and are subject to their current expiration period.  As of December 31, 2018, we had approximately $88.7 million of federal NOLs that were generated prior to 2018, which will expire at various dates beginning in 2032, if not used to reduce income taxes payable in the future. Federal NOLs generated by us subsequent to 2017 may only offset 80% of taxable income.

 

 

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Our financial results may be adversely affected by changes in accounting principles generally accepted in the United States.

Generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (U.S. GAAP) is subject to interpretation by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the SEC and various bodies formed to promulgate and interpret appropriate accounting principles. For example, in May 2014, the FASB issued accounting standards update No. 2014-09 (Topic 606), Revenue from Contracts with Customers, which supersedes nearly all existing revenue recognition guidance under U.S. GAAP. We will be required to implement this guidance in the first quarter of our fiscal year 2019. Any difficulties in implementing this guidance could cause us to fail to meet our financial reporting obligations, which could result in regulatory discipline and harm investors’ confidence in us. Additionally, the implementation of this guidance or a change in other principles or interpretations could have a significant effect on our financial results, and could affect the reporting of transactions completed before the announcement of a change.  Furthermore, we will be adopting Topic 606 through the modified retrospective method. This will impact the comparability of our financial results which might lead investors to draw incorrect conclusions which could harm investor interest in holding or purchasing our equity.

Risks Related to Intellectual Property

If we are not able to obtain and enforce patent protection for our technologies or product candidates, development and commercialization of our product candidates may be adversely affected.

Our success depends in part on our ability to obtain and maintain patents and other forms of intellectual property rights, including in-licenses of intellectual property rights of others, for our product candidates, methods used to manufacture our product candidates and methods for treating patients using our product candidates, as well as our ability to preserve our trade secrets, to prevent third parties from infringing upon our proprietary rights and to operate without infringing upon the proprietary rights of others. We may not be able to apply for patents on certain aspects of our product candidates in a timely fashion or at all. Further, we may not be able to prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications, or maintain, enforce and license any patents that may issue from such patent applications, at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output before it is too late to obtain patent protection. We may not have the right to control the preparation, filing and prosecution of all patent applications that we license from third parties, or to maintain the rights to patents licensed to third parties. Therefore, these patents and applications may not be prosecuted and enforced in a manner consistent with the best interests of our business. Our existing issued and granted patents and any future patents we obtain may not be sufficiently broad to prevent others from using our technology or from developing competing products and technology. There is no guarantee that any of our pending patent applications will result in issued or granted patents, that any of our issued or granted patents will not later be found to be invalid or unenforceable or that any issued or granted patents will include claims that are sufficiently broad to cover our product candidates or to provide meaningful protection from our competitors. Moreover, the patent position of biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies can be highly uncertain because it involves complex legal and factual questions. We will be able to protect our proprietary rights from unauthorized use by third parties only to the extent that our current and future proprietary technology and product candidates are covered by valid and enforceable patents or are effectively maintained as trade secrets. If third parties disclose or misappropriate our proprietary rights, it may materially and adversely affect our position in the market.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other provisions during the patent process. There are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, competitors might be able to enter the market earlier than would otherwise have been the case. The standards applied by the USPTO and foreign patent offices in granting patents are not always applied uniformly or predictably. For example, there is no uniform worldwide policy regarding patentable subject matter or the scope of claims allowable in biotechnology and biopharmaceutical patents. As such, we do not know the degree of future protection that we will have on our proprietary products and technology. While we will endeavor to try to protect our product candidates with intellectual property rights such as patents, as appropriate, the process of obtaining patents is time consuming, expensive and sometimes unpredictable.

 

 

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Once granted, patents may remain open to opposition, interference, re-examination, post-grant review, inter partes review, nullification or derivation action in court or before patent offices or similar proceedings for a given period after allowance or grant, during which time third parties can raise objections against such initial grant. In the course of such proceedings, which may continue for a protracted period of time, the patent owner may be compelled to limit the scope of the allowed or granted claims thus attacked, or may lose the allowed or granted claims altogether. In addition, there can be no assurance that:

 

others will not or may not be able to make, use or sell compounds that are the same as or similar to our product candidates but that are not covered by the claims of the patents that we own or license;

 

we or our licensors, or our existing or future collaborators are the first to make the inventions covered by each of our issued patents and pending patent applications that we own or license;

 

we or our licensors, or our existing or future collaborators are the first to file patent applications covering certain aspects of our inventions;

 

others will not independently develop similar or alternative technologies or duplicate any of our technologies without infringing our intellectual property rights;

 

a third party may not challenge our patents and, if challenged, a court would hold that our patents are valid, enforceable and infringed;

 

any issued patents that we own or have licensed will provide us with any competitive advantages, or will not be challenged by third parties;

 

we may develop additional proprietary technologies that are patentable;

 

the patents of others will not have a material or adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects; and

 

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

If we or our licensors or collaborators fail to maintain the patents and patent applications covering our product candidates, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

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

In addition to seeking patent protection for certain aspects of our product candidates, we also consider trade secrets, including confidential and unpatented know-how important to the maintenance of our competitive position. We protect trade secrets and confidential and unpatented know-how, in part, by entering into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to such knowledge, such as our employees, corporate collaborators, outside scientific collaborators, CROs, contract manufacturers, consultants, advisors and other third parties. We also enter into confidentiality and invention or patent assignment agreements with our employees and consultants that obligate them to maintain confidentiality and assign their inventions to us. Despite these efforts, any of these parties may breach the agreements and disclose our proprietary information, including our trade secrets, and we may not be able to obtain adequate remedies for such 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 in the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions are less willing or unwilling to protect trade secrets. If any of our trade secrets were to be lawfully obtained or independently developed by a competitor, we would have no right to prevent them 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, our competitive position would be harmed which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Other companies or organizations may challenge our or our licensors’ patent rights or may assert patent rights that prevent us from developing and commercializing our products.

Therapeutics in oncology or other disease areas developed in cell-free-based synthesis systems are a relatively new scientific field. We have obtained grants and issuances of, and have obtained a license from a third party on an exclusive basis to, patents related to our proprietary XpressCF™ Platform. The issued patents and pending patent applications in the United States and in key markets around the world that we own or license claim many different methods, compositions and processes relating to the discovery, development, manufacture and commercialization of antibody-based and other therapeutics.

 

 

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As the field of antibody-based therapeutics continues to mature, patent applications are being processed by national patent offices around the world. There is uncertainty about which patents will issue and, if they do, as to when, to whom, and with what claims. In addition, third parties may attempt to invalidate our intellectual property rights. Even if our rights are not directly challenged, disputes could lead to the weakening of our intellectual property rights. Our defense against any attempt by third parties to circumvent or invalidate our intellectual property rights could be costly to us, could require significant time and attention of our management and could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects or our ability to successfully compete.

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

Obtaining a valid and enforceable issued or granted patent covering our technology in the United States and worldwide can be extremely costly, and our or our licensors’ or collaborators’ intellectual property rights may not exist in some countries outside the United States or may be less extensive in some countries than in the United States. In jurisdictions where we or our licensors or collaborators have not obtained patent protection, competitors may seek to use our or their technology to develop their own products and further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we or they have patent protection, but where it is more difficult to enforce a patent as compared to the United States. Competitor products may compete with our future products in jurisdictions where we do not have issued or granted patents or where our or our licensors’ or collaborators’ issued or granted patent claims or other intellectual property rights are not sufficient to prevent competitor activities in these jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, make it difficult to enforce patents and such countries may not recognize other types of intellectual property protection, particularly relating to biopharmaceuticals. This could make it difficult for us or our licensors or collaborators to prevent the infringement of our or their patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our or their proprietary rights generally in certain jurisdictions. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial cost and divert our and our licensors’ or collaborators’ efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our and our licensors’ or collaborators’ patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our and our licensors’ or collaborators’ patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us or our licensors or collaborators. We or our licensors or collaborators may not prevail in any lawsuits that we or our licensors or collaborators initiate, and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful.

We generally file a provisional patent application first (a priority filing) at the USPTO. An international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, PCT, is usually filed within twelve months after the priority filing. Based on the PCT filing, national and regional patent applications may be filed in the United States, EU, Japan, Australia and Canada and, depending on the individual case, also in any or all of, inter alia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and other jurisdictions. We have so far not filed for patent protection in all national and regional jurisdictions where such protection may be available. In addition, we may decide to abandon national and regional patent applications before grant. Finally, the grant proceeding of each national or regional patent is an independent proceeding which may lead to situations in which applications might in some jurisdictions be refused by the relevant registration authorities, while granted by others. It is also quite common that depending on the country, various scopes of patent protection may be granted on the same product candidate or technology.

The laws of some jurisdictions do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws in the United States, and many companies have encountered significant difficulties in protecting and defending such rights in such jurisdictions. If we or our licensors or collaborators encounter difficulties in protecting, or are otherwise precluded from effectively protecting, the intellectual property rights important for our business in such jurisdictions, the value of these rights may be diminished and we may face additional competition from others in those jurisdictions. Many countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner may be compelled to grant licenses to third parties. In addition, many countries limit the enforceability of patents against government agencies or government contractors. 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 or collaborators are forced to grant a license to third parties with respect to any patents relevant to our business, our competitive position in the relevant jurisdiction may be impaired and our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be adversely affected.

 

 

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We, our licensors or collaborators, or any future strategic partners may need to resort to litigation to protect or enforce our patents or other proprietary rights, all of which could be costly, time consuming, delay or prevent the development and commercialization of our product candidates, or put our patents and other proprietary rights at risk.

Competitors may infringe our patents or other intellectual property. If we were to initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering one of our products or our technology, the 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. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, for example, lack of novelty, obviousness or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that an individual connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability during patent litigation is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on one or more of our products or certain aspects of our platform technology. Such a loss of patent protection could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Interference or derivation proceedings provoked by third parties or brought by us or declared by the USPTO may be necessary to determine the priority of inventions with respect to our patents or patent applications. An unfavorable outcome could require us to cease using the related technology or to attempt to license rights to it from the prevailing party. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us a license on commercially reasonable terms or at all, or if a non-exclusive license is offered and our competitors gain access to the same technology. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our common stock. Patents and other intellectual property rights also will not protect our technology if competitors design around our protected technology without legally infringing our patents or other intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property rights of third parties could adversely affect our ability to commercialize our product candidates, and we, our licensors or collaborators, or any future strategic partners may become subject to third party claims or litigation alleging infringement of patents or other proprietary rights or seeking to invalidate patents or other proprietary rights. We might be required to litigate or obtain licenses from third parties in order to develop or market our product candidates. Such litigation or licenses could be costly or not available on commercially reasonable terms.

We, our licensors or collaborators, or any future strategic partners may be subject to third-party claims for infringement or misappropriation of patent or other proprietary rights. There is a substantial amount of litigation, both within and outside the United States, involving patent and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, including patent infringement lawsuits, interferences, oppositions and inter partes review proceedings before the USPTO, and corresponding foreign patent offices. There are many issued and pending patents that might claim aspects of our product candidates and modifications that we may need to apply to our product candidates. There are also many issued patents that claim antibodies, portions of antibodies, cytokines, half-life extending polymers, linkers, cytotoxins, or other warheads that may be relevant for the products we wish to develop. Thus, it is possible that one or more organizations will hold patent rights to which we will need a license. If those organizations refuse to grant us a license to such patent rights on reasonable terms, we may not be able to market products or perform research and development or other activities covered by these patents which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. We are obligated under certain of our license and collaboration agreements to indemnify and hold harmless our licensors or collaborators for damages arising from intellectual property infringement by use. For example, we are obligated under the Stanford Agreement to indemnify and hold harmless Stanford for damages arising from intellectual property infringement by us resulting from exercise of the license from Stanford. If we, our licensors or collaborators, or any future strategic partners are found to infringe a third-party patent or other intellectual property rights, we could be required to pay damages, potentially including treble damages, if we are found to have infringed willfully. In addition, we, our licensors or collaborators, or any future strategic partners may choose to seek, or be required to seek, a license from a third party, which may not be available on acceptable terms, if at all. Even if a license can be obtained on acceptable terms, the rights may be non-exclusive, which could give our competitors access to the

 

 

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same technology or intellectual property rights licensed to us. If we fail to obtain a required license, we or our existing or future collaborators may be unable to effectively market product candidates based on our technology, which could limit our ability to generate revenue or achieve profitability and possibly prevent us from generating revenue sufficient to sustain our operations. In addition, we may find it necessary to pursue claims or initiate lawsuits to protect or enforce our patent or other intellectual property rights. The cost to us in defending or initiating any litigation or other proceeding relating to patent or other proprietary rights, even if resolved in our favor, could be substantial, and litigation could divert our management’s attention. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of complex patent litigation more effectively than we can because they have substantially greater resources. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could delay our research and development efforts and limit our ability to continue our operations.

Because the antibody-based therapeutics landscape is still evolving, it is difficult to conclusively assess our freedom to operate without infringing on third-party rights. There are numerous companies that have pending patent applications and issued patents broadly covering antibodies generally, covering antibodies directed against the same targets as, or targets similar to, those we are pursuing, or covering linkers and cytotoxic warheads similar to those that we are using in our product candidates. For example, we are aware of an issued patent, expected to expire in 2023, which has claims relating to methods of treating CD74-positive multiple myeloma with an ADC targeting CD74. If valid and not yet expired when, and if, we receive marketing approval for STRO-001, we may need to seek a license to this patent, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Failure to receive a license could delay commercialization of STRO-001. Our competitive position may suffer if patents issued to third parties or other third-party intellectual property rights cover our products or product candidates or elements thereof, or our manufacture or uses relevant to our development plans. In such cases, we may not be in a position to develop or commercialize products or product candidates until such patents expire or unless we successfully pursue litigation to nullify or invalidate the third-party intellectual property right concerned, or enter into a license agreement with the intellectual property right holder, if available on commercially reasonable terms. There may be issued patents of which we are not aware, held by third parties that, if found to be valid and enforceable, could be alleged to be infringed by our XpressCF™ Platform and related technologies and product candidates. There also may be pending patent applications of which we are not aware that may result in issued patents, which could be alleged to be infringed by our XpressCF™ Platform and related technologies and product candidates. If such an infringement claim should be brought and be successful, we may be required to pay substantial damages, including potentially treble damages and attorneys’ fees for willful infringement, and we may be forced to abandon our product candidates or seek a license from any patent holders. No assurances can be given that a license will be available on commercially reasonable terms, if at all.

It is also possible that we have failed to identify relevant third-party patents or applications. For example, U.S. applications filed before November 29, 2000 and certain U.S. applications filed after that date that will not be filed outside the United States remain confidential until patents issue. Patent applications in the United States and elsewhere are published approximately 18 months after the earliest filing for which priority is claimed, with such earliest filing date being commonly referred to as the priority date. Therefore, patent applications covering our products or platform technology could have been filed by others without our knowledge. Additionally, pending patent applications that have been published can, subject to certain limitations, be later amended in a manner that could cover our platform technology, our products or the use of our products. Third-party intellectual property right holders may also actively bring infringement claims against us. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to successfully settle or otherwise resolve such infringement claims. If we are unable to successfully settle future claims on terms acceptable to us, we may be required to engage in or continue costly, unpredictable and time-consuming litigation and may be prevented from or experience substantial delays in marketing our products. Parties making claims against us may be able to sustain the costs of complex patent litigation more effectively than we can because they have substantially greater resources. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation or administrative proceedings, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure. In addition, any uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of any litigation could have material adverse effect on our ability to raise additional funds or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. If we fail in any such dispute, in addition to being forced to pay damages, we may be temporarily or permanently prohibited from commercializing any of our product candidates that are held to be infringing. We might, if possible, also be forced to redesign product candidates so that we no longer infringe the third-party intellectual property rights. Any of these events, even if we were ultimately to prevail, could require us to divert substantial financial and management resources that we would otherwise be able to devote to our business and could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

 

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

Litigation or other legal proceedings relating to intellectual property claims, with or without merit, is unpredictable and generally expensive and time consuming and is likely to divert significant resources from our core business, including distracting our technical and management personnel from their normal responsibilities. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock. Moreover, such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing or distribution activities.

We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to adequately conduct such litigation or proceedings. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources and more mature and developed intellectual property portfolios. Accordingly, despite our efforts, we may not be able to prevent third parties from infringing upon or misappropriating or from successfully challenging our intellectual property rights. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete in the marketplace.

If we fail to comply with our obligations under any license, collaboration or other agreements, we may be required to pay damages and could lose intellectual property rights that are necessary for developing and protecting our product candidates or we could lose certain rights to grant sublicenses.

Our current licenses impose, and any future licenses we enter into are likely to impose, various development, commercialization, funding, milestone, royalty, diligence, sublicensing, insurance, patent prosecution and enforcement and/or other obligations on us. If we breach any of these obligations, or use the intellectual property licensed to us in an unauthorized manner, we may be required to pay damages and the licensor may have the right to terminate the license, which could result in us being unable to develop, manufacture and sell any future products that are covered by the licensed technology or enable a competitor to gain access to the licensed technology. Moreover, our licensors may own or control intellectual property that has not been licensed to us and, as a result, we may be subject to claims, regardless of their merit, that we are infringing or otherwise violating the licensor’s rights. In addition, while we cannot determine currently the amount of the royalty obligations we would be required to pay on sales of future products, if any, the amounts may be significant. The amount of our future royalty obligations will depend on the technology and intellectual property we use in products that we successfully develop and commercialize, if any. Therefore, even if we successfully develop and commercialize products, we may be unable to achieve or maintain profitability.

Moreover, disputes may arise regarding intellectual property subject to a licensing agreement, including:

 

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

 

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

 

the sublicensing of patent and other rights under our collaborative development relationships;

 

our diligence obligations under the license agreement and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations;

 

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

 

the priority of invention of patented technology.

 

 

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In addition, the agreements under which we currently license intellectual property or technology from third parties are complex, and certain provisions in such agreements may be susceptible to multiple interpretations. The resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement that may arise could narrow what we believe to be the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property or technology, or increase what we believe to be our financial or other obligations under the relevant agreement, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Moreover, if disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed 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 affected product candidates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.

We may be subject to claims that we or our employees or consultants have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade secrets of our employees’ or consultants’ former employers or their clients. These claims may be costly to defend and if we do not successfully do so, we may be required to pay monetary damages and may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel.

Many of our employees were previously employed at universities or biotechnology or biopharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Although no claims against us are currently pending, we may be subject to claims that these employees or we have inadvertently or otherwise used or disclosed trade secrets or other proprietary information of their former employers. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. A loss of key research personnel or their work product could hamper our ability to commercialize, or prevent us from commercializing, our product candidates, which could severely harm our business. Even if we are successful in defending against these claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management.

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

Patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, if all maintenance fees are timely paid, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years from its earliest U.S. non-provisional filing date. Various extensions may be available, but the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Even if patents covering our product candidates are obtained, once the patent life has expired, we may be open to competition from competitive products, including generics or biosimilars. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, our owned and licensed patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.

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

Periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, annuity fees and various other governmental fees on patents and/or applications will be due to be paid to the USPTO and various governmental patent agencies outside of the United States in several stages over the lifetime of the patents and/or applications. We have systems in place to remind us to pay these fees, and we employ an outside firm and/or rely on our outside counsel to pay these fees due to non-U.S. patent agencies. The USPTO and various non-U.S. governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other similar provisions during the patent application process. We employ reputable law firms and other professionals to help us comply, and in many cases, an inadvertent lapse can be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules. However, there are situations in which non-compliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. In such an event, our competitors might be able to enter the market and this circumstance would have a material adverse effect on our business.

 

 

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Changes in U.S. patent and ex-U.S. patent laws could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products.

Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States or in other ex-U.S. jurisdictions could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of patent applications and the enforcement or defense of issued patents. In the United States, numerous recent changes to the patent laws and proposed changes to the rules of the USPTO that may have a significant impact on our ability to protect our technology and enforce our intellectual property rights. For example, the America Invents Act, enacted within the last several years involves significant changes in patent legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several patent cases in recent years, some of which cases either narrow the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances or weaken the rights of patent owners in certain situations. For example, the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. precludes a claim to a nucleic acid having a stated nucleotide sequence that is identical to a sequence found in nature and unmodified. We currently are not aware of an immediate impact of this decision on our patents or patent applications because we are developing product candidates that contain modifications that we believe are not found in nature. However, this decision has yet to be clearly interpreted by courts and by the USPTO. We cannot assure you that the interpretations of this decision or subsequent rulings will not adversely impact our patents or patent applications. In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our ability to obtain patents in the future, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value of patents, once obtained. Depending on decisions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts and the USPTO, and similar legislative and regulatory bodies in other countries in which we may pursue patent protection, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that would weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce our existing patents and patents that we might obtain in the future.

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

Our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented or declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names or may be forced to stop using these names, which we need for name recognition by potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. If we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, we may not be able to compete effectively, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Risks Related to Government Regulation

Clinical development involves a lengthy and expensive process with an uncertain outcome, and results of earlier studies and trials may not be predictive of future trial results. If we are unable to develop, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

All of our product candidates are in preclinical or early clinical development and their risk of failure is high. It is impossible to predict when or if any of our product candidates will receive regulatory approval. Before obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities for the sale of any product candidate, we must complete preclinical studies and then conduct extensive clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our product candidates in humans. Clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the development process. The results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials of our product candidates may not be predictive of the results of later-stage clinical trials. Product candidates in later stages of clinical trials may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy traits, despite having progressed through preclinical studies and initial clinical trials. A number of companies in the biopharmaceutical industry have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or safety profiles, notwithstanding promising results in earlier trials.

We commenced a Phase 1 clinical trial of STRO-001, an ADC directed against CD74, for certain cancers in April 2018. We began enrolling patients in a STRO-002 Phase 1 trial focused on ovarian and endometrial cancers in March 2019. Commencing our future clinical trials is subject to finalizing the trial design and submitting an IND or similar submission with the FDA or similar foreign regulatory authority. Even after we submit our IND or comparable submissions in other jurisdictions, the FDA or other regulatory authorities could disagree that we have satisfied their requirements to commence our clinical trials or disagree with our study design, which may require us to complete additional preclinical studies or amend our protocols or impose stricter conditions on the commencement of clinical trials.

 

 

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We or our collaborators may experience delays in completing our preclinical studies and initiating or completing clinical trials of our product candidates. We do not know whether planned preclinical studies and clinical trials will be completed on schedule or at all, or whether planned clinical trials will begin on time, need to be redesigned, have patients enrolled on time or be completed on schedule, if at all. We or our collaborators may experience numerous unforeseen events during, or as a result of, clinical trials that could delay or prevent our ability to receive marketing approval to commercialize our product candidates. Our development programs may be delayed for a variety of reasons, including delays related to:

 

the FDA or other regulatory authorities requiring us or our collaborators to submit additional data or imposing other requirements before permitting us to initiate a clinical trial;

 

obtaining regulatory approval to commence a clinical trial;

 

the FDA or other regulatory authorities placing a clinical trial on clinical hold;

 

a temporary U.S. federal government shutdown;

 

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;

 

clinical trials of our product candidates producing negative or inconclusive results, and we or our collaborators deciding, or regulators requiring us, to conduct additional clinical trials, including testing in more subjects, or abandoning product development programs;

 

third-party contractors used by us or our collaborators failing to comply with regulatory requirements or meeting their contractual obligations in a timely manner, or at all;

 

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

 

recruiting suitable patients to participate in a clinical trial;

 

developing and validating any companion diagnostic that would be used in a clinical trial;

 

cost of clinical trials being greater than anticipated;

 

the supply or quality of our product candidates or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials of our product candidates being insufficient or inadequate;

 

having patients complete a clinical trial or return for post-treatment follow-up;

 

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

 

adding new clinical trial sites; or

 

manufacturing sufficient quantities of our product candidates for use in clinical trials.

Patient enrollment, a significant factor in the timing of clinical trials, is affected by many factors including the size and nature of the patient population, the proximity of patients to clinical sites, the eligibility criteria for the trial, the design of the clinical trial, competing clinical trials and clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs or therapeutic biologics that may be approved for the indications being investigated by us. Furthermore, we expect to rely on our collaborators, CROs and clinical trial sites to ensure the proper and timely conduct of our clinical trials and, while we expect to enter into agreements governing their committed activities, we have limited influence over their actual performance.

We could encounter delays if prescribing physicians encounter unresolved ethical issues associated with enrolling patients in clinical trials of our product candidates in lieu of prescribing existing treatments that have established safety and efficacy profiles.

Further, a clinical trial may be suspended or terminated by us, our collaborators, the IRBs of the institutions in which such trials are being conducted, the Data Safety Monitoring Board for such trial or placed on clinical hold by the FDA or other regulatory authorities due to a number of factors, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols, inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial site by the FDA or other regulatory authorities resulting in the imposition of a clinical hold, unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects, failure to demonstrate a benefit from using a drug or therapeutic biologic, changes in governmental regulations or administrative actions or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial. If we experience delays in the completion of, or termination of, any clinical trial of our product candidates, the commercial prospects of our product candidates will be harmed, and our ability to generate product revenues from any of these product candidates will be delayed. In addition, any delays in completing our clinical trials will increase our costs, slow down our product development and approval process and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues. Any of these occurrences could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates.

 

 

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We and/or our collaborators may be unable to obtain, or may be delayed in obtaining, U.S. or foreign regulatory approval and, as a result, unable to commercialize our product candidates.

Our product candidates are subject to extensive governmental regulations relating to, among other things, research, testing, development, manufacturing, safety, efficacy, approval, recordkeeping, reporting, labeling, storage, packaging, advertising and promotion, pricing, marketing and distribution of drugs and therapeutic biologics. Rigorous preclinical testing and clinical trials and an extensive regulatory approval process are required to be completed successfully in the United States and in many foreign jurisdictions before a new drug or therapeutic biologic can be marketed. Satisfaction of these and other regulatory requirements is costly, time consuming, uncertain and subject to unanticipated delays. It is possible that none of the product candidates we may develop, either alone or with our collaborators, will obtain the regulatory approvals necessary for us or our existing or future collaborators to begin selling them.

Although our employees have experience in conducting and managing clinical trials from prior employment at other companies, we, as a company, have no prior experience in conducting and managing the clinical trials necessary to obtain regulatory approvals, including approval by the FDA. The time required to obtain FDA and other approvals is unpredictable but typically takes many years following the commencement of clinical trials, depending upon the type, complexity and novelty of the product candidate, and may be further delayed due to one or more temporary federal government shutdowns. The standards that the FDA and its foreign counterparts use when regulating us require judgment and can change, which makes it difficult to predict with certainty their application. Any analysis we perform of data from preclinical and clinical activities is subject to confirmation and interpretation by regulatory authorities, which could delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. We or our collaborators may also encounter unexpected delays or increased costs due to new government regulations, for example, from future legislation or administrative action, or from changes in FDA policy during the period of product development, clinical trials and FDA regulatory review. It is impossible to predict whether legislative changes will be enacted, or whether FDA or foreign regulations, guidance or interpretations will be changed, or the impact of such changes, if any. Given that the product candidates we are developing, either alone or with our collaborators, represent a new approach to the manufacturing and type of therapeutic biologics, the FDA and its foreign counterparts have not yet established any definitive policies, practices or guidelines in relation to these product candidates. Moreover, the FDA may respond to any BLA that we may submit by defining requirements that we do not anticipate. Such responses could delay clinical development of our product candidates. In addition, because there may be approved treatments for some of the diseases for which we may seek approval, in order to receive regulatory approval, we may need to demonstrate through clinical trials that the product candidates we develop to treat these diseases, if any, are not only safe and effective, but safer or more effective than existing products. Furthermore, in recent years, there has been increased public and political pressure on the FDA with respect to the approval process for new drugs and therapeutic biologics, and FDA standards, especially regarding product safety, appear to have become more stringent.

Any delay or failure in obtaining required approvals could have a material and adverse effect on our ability to generate revenues from the particular product candidate for which we are seeking approval. Furthermore, any regulatory approval to market a product may be subject to limitations on the approved uses for which we may market the product or on the labeling or other restrictions. In addition, the FDA has the authority to require a risk evaluation and mitigation strategies, or REMS, plan as part of a BLA or after approval, which may impose further requirements or restrictions on the distribution or use of an approved biologic, such as limiting prescribing to certain physicians or medical centers that have undergone specialized training, limiting treatment to patients who meet certain safe-use criteria and requiring treated patients to enroll in a registry. These limitations and restrictions may limit the size of the market for the product and affect reimbursement by third-party payors.

We are also subject to numerous foreign regulatory requirements governing, among other things, the conduct of clinical trials, manufacturing and marketing authorization, pricing and third-party reimbursement. The foreign regulatory approval process varies among countries and may include all of the risks associated with FDA approval process described above, as well as risks attributable to the satisfaction of local regulations in foreign jurisdictions. Moreover, the time required to obtain approval may differ from that required to obtain FDA approval. FDA approval does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities outside the United States and vice versa. Any delay or failure to obtain U.S. or foreign regulatory approval for a product candidate could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

 

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Delays in obtaining regulatory approval of our manufacturing process may delay or disrupt our commercialization efforts. To date, no product using a cell-free manufacturing process in the United States has received approval from the FDA.

Before we can begin to commercially manufacture our product candidates in third-party or our own facilities, we must obtain regulatory approval from the FDA for a BLA that describes in detail the chemistry, manufacturing, and controls for the product. A manufacturing authorization must also be obtained from the appropriate EU regulatory authorities. The timeframe required to obtain such approval or authorization is uncertain. In addition, we must pass a pre-approval inspection of our manufacturing facility by the FDA before any of our product candidates can obtain marketing approval, if ever. In order to obtain approval, we will need to ensure that all of our processes, methods and equipment are compliant with cGMP, and perform extensive audits of vendors, contract laboratories and suppliers. If any of our vendors, contract laboratories or suppliers is found to be out of compliance with cGMP, we may experience delays or disruptions in manufacturing while we work with these third parties to remedy the violation or while we work to identify suitable replacement vendors. The cGMP requirements govern quality control of the manufacturing process and documentation policies and procedures. In complying with cGMP, we will be obligated to expend time, money and effort in production, record keeping and quality control to assure that the product meets applicable specifications and other requirements. If we fail to comply with these requirements, we would be subject to possible regulatory action and may not be permitted to sell any products that we may develop.

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

Any regulatory approvals that we or our existing or future collaborators obtain for our product candidates may also be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which a product may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-marketing testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials, and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the product candidate.

In addition, if the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority approves any of our product candidates, the manufacturing processes, labeling, packaging, distribution, adverse event reporting, storage, import, export, advertising, promotion and recordkeeping for the product will be subject to extensive and ongoing regulatory requirements. The FDA has significant post-market authority, including the authority to require labeling changes based on new safety information and to require post-market studies or clinical trials to evaluate safety risks related to the use of a product or to require withdrawal of the product from the market. The FDA also has the authority to require a REMS plan after approval, which may impose further requirements or restrictions on the distribution or use of an approved drug or therapeutic biologic. The manufacturing facilities we use to make a future product, if any, will also be subject to periodic review and inspection by the FDA and other regulatory agencies, including for continued compliance with cGMP requirements. The discovery of any new or previously unknown problems with our third-party manufacturers, manufacturing processes or facilities may result in restrictions on the product, manufacturer or facility, including withdrawal of the product from the market. If we rely on third-party manufacturers, we will not have control over compliance with applicable rules and regulations by such manufacturers. Any product promotion and advertising will also be subject to regulatory requirements and continuing regulatory review. If we or our existing or future collaborators, manufacturers or service providers fail to comply with applicable continuing regulatory requirements in the United States or foreign jurisdictions in which we seek to market our products, we or they may be subject to, among other things, fines, warning letters, holds on clinical trials, delay of approval or refusal by the FDA or similar foreign regulatory bodies to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approval, product recalls and seizures, administrative detention of products, refusal to permit the import or export of products, operating restrictions, injunction, civil penalties and criminal prosecution.

 

 

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Subsequent discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with our third-party manufacturers or manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in, among other things:

 

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

 

fines, warning or untitled letters or holds on clinical trials;

 

refusal by the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications filed by us or our strategic partners;

 

suspension or revocation of product license approvals;

 

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

 

injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

The FDA policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. For example, in December 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act, or Cures Act, was signed into law. The Cures Act, among other things, is intended to modernize the regulation of drugs and biologics and to spur innovation, but its ultimate implementation is unclear. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability, which would adversely affect our business.

We also cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative or executive action, either in the United States or abroad. For example, certain policies of the current U.S. presidential administration may impact our business and industry. Namely, the current U.S. presidential administration has taken several executive actions, including the issuance of a number of executive orders, that could impose significant burdens on, or otherwise materially delay, the FDA’s ability to engage in routine regulatory and oversight activities such as implementing statutes through rulemaking, issuance of guidance, and review and approval of marketing applications. Notably, on January 23, 2017, the current U.S. presidential administration ordered a hiring freeze for all executive departments and agencies, including the FDA, which prohibited the FDA from filling employee vacancies or creating new positions. Under the terms of the executive order, the freeze was to remain in effect until implementation of a plan recommended by the Director for the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, to reduce the size of the federal workforce through attrition. While the general hiring freeze was lifted on April 12, 2017, the FDA remained under a hiring freeze until May 25, 2017. However, the fiscal 2018 budget proposal for the FDA still calls for overall reductions in the FDA workforce, mostly through attrition. We believe an under-staffed FDA could result in delays in the FDA’s responsiveness or in its ability to review submissions or applications, issue regulations or guidance, or implement or enforce regulatory requirements in a timely fashion or at all. Moreover, on January 30, 2017, the current U.S. presidential administration issued an executive order, applicable to all executive agencies, including the FDA, which requires that for each notice of proposed rulemaking or final regulation to be issued in fiscal year 2017, the agency shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed, unless prohibited by law. These requirements are referred to as the “two-for-one” provisions. This executive order includes a budget neutrality provision that requires the total incremental cost of all new regulations in the 2017 fiscal year, including repealed regulations, to be no greater than zero, except in limited circumstances. For fiscal years 2018 and beyond, the executive order requires agencies to identify regulations to offset any incremental cost of a new regulation and approximate the total costs or savings associated with each new regulation or repealed regulation. In interim guidance issued by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within OMB on February 2, 2017, the administration indicates that the “two-for-one” provisions may apply not only to agency regulations, but also to significant agency guidance documents. It is difficult to predict how these requirements will be implemented, and the extent to which they will impact the FDA’s ability to exercise its regulatory authority. If these executive actions impose constraints on the FDA’s ability to engage in oversight and implementation activities in the normal course, our business may be negatively impacted.

We may face difficulties from healthcare legislative reform measures.

Existing regulatory policies may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.

 

 

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In the United States, there have been and continue to be a number of legislative initiatives to contain healthcare costs. For example, in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act, or together, the ACA, was enacted, which substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impacts the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, (i) subjected therapeutic biologics to potential competition by lower-cost biosimilars by creating a licensure framework for follow on biologic products, (ii) proscribed a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs and therapeutic biologics that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, (iii) increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, (iv) established annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs and therapeutic biologics, (v) established a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 50% point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs and therapeutic biologics to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs and therapeutic biologics to be covered under Medicare Part D, (vi) expanded 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, (vii) expanded the entities eligible for discounts under the Public Health program (viii) created a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research and (ix) established a Center for Medicare Innovation at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.

The current U.S. presidential administration and U.S. Congress have sought, and we expect they will continue to, seek to modify, repeal, or otherwise invalidate all, or certain provisions of, the ACA. Since January 2017, the current U.S. presidential administration has issued two executive orders and other directives designed to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the ACA or otherwise circumvent some of the requirements for health insurance mandated by the ACA. For example, on October 12, 2017, the current U.S. presidential administration issued an executive order that expands the use of association health plans and allows anyone to purchase short-term health plans that provide temporary, limited insurance. This executive order also calls for the halt of federal payments to health insurers for cost-sharing reductions previously available to lower-income Americans to afford coverage. There is still uncertainty with respect to the impact this executive order could have on coverage and reimbursement for healthcare items and services covered by plans that were authorized by the ACA. Concurrently, Congress has considered legislation that would repeal or repeal and replace all or part of the ACA. While Congress has not passed comprehensive repeal legislation, two bills affecting the implementation of certain taxes under the ACA have been signed into law. The Tax Reform Act, among other things, includes a provision repealing, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the ACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate”. Additionally, on January 22, 2018, the current U.S. presidential administration signed a continuing resolution on appropriations for fiscal year 2018 that delayed the implementation of certain ACA-mandated fees, including the so-called “Cadillac” tax on certain high cost employer-sponsored insurance plans, the annual fee imposed on certain health insurance providers based on market share, and the medical device excise tax on non-exempt medical devices. Further, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or the BBA, among other things, amended the ACA, effective January 1, 2019, to increase from 50% to 70% the point-of-sale discount that is owed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who participate in Medicare Part D and to close the coverage gap in most Medicare drug plans, commonly referred to as the “donut hole”. More recently, in July 2018, CMS published a final rule permitting further collections and payments to and from certain ACA qualified health plans and health insurance issuers under the ACA risk adjustment program in response to the outcome of federal district court litigation regarding the method CMS uses to determine this risk adjustment. There is still uncertainty with respect to the impact the current U.S. presidential administration and Congress may have, if any, and any changes will likely take time to unfold, and could have an impact on coverage and reimbursement for healthcare items and services covered by plans that were authorized by the ACA. However, we cannot predict the ultimate content, timing or effect of any healthcare reform legislation or the impact of potential legislation on us.

 

 

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In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted to reduce healthcare expenditures. U.S. federal government agencies also currently face potentially significant spending reductions, which may further impact healthcare expenditures. On August 2, 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A joint select committee on deficit reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year. These reductions went into effect on April 1, 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, including the BBA, will remain in effect through 2027 unless additional Congressional action is taken. Moreover, on January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several types of providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. If federal spending is further reduced, anticipated budgetary shortfalls may also impact the ability of relevant agencies, such as the FDA or the National Institutes of Health to continue to function at current levels. Amounts allocated to federal grants and contracts may be reduced or eliminated. These reductions may also impact the ability of relevant agencies to timely review and approve research and development, manufacturing, and marketing activities, which may delay our ability to develop, market and sell any products we may develop.

Moreover, payment methodologies, including payment for companion diagnostics, may be subject to changes in healthcare legislation and regulatory initiatives. For example, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, or MMA, changed the way Medicare covers and pays for pharmaceutical products. The legislation expanded Medicare coverage for drug purchases by the elderly and introduced a new reimbursement methodology based on average sales prices for physician-administered drugs. In addition, this legislation provided authority for limiting the number of drugs that will be covered in any therapeutic class. While the MMA only applies to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payors often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates. Therefore, any reduction in reimbursement that results from the MMA may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. In addition, CMS has begun bundling the Medicare payments for certain laboratory tests ordered while a patient received services in a hospital outpatient setting and, beginning in 2018, CMS will pay for clinical laboratory services based on a weighted average of reported prices that private payors, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicaid Managed Care plans pay for laboratory services. Further, on March 16, 2018, CMS finalized its National Coverage Determination, or NCD, for certain diagnostic laboratory tests using next generation sequencing that are approved by the FDA as a companion in vitro diagnostic and used in a cancer with an FDA-approved companion diagnostic indication. Under the NCD, diagnostic tests that gain FDA approval or clearance as an in vitro companion diagnostic will automatically receive full coverage and be available for patients with recurrent, metastatic relapsed, refractory or stages III and IV cancer. Additionally, the NCD extended coverage to repeat testing when the patient has a new primary diagnosis of cancer.

Recently there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which has resulted in several Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to product pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. At the federal level, the current U.S. presidential administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 contains further drug price control measures that could be enacted during the 2019 budget process or in other future legislation, including, for example, measures to permit Medicare Part D plans to negotiate the price of certain drugs under Medicare Part B, to allow some states to negotiate drug prices under Medicaid, and to eliminate cost sharing for generic drugs for low-income patients. Additionally, on May 11, 2018, the current U.S. presidential administration laid out the administration’s “Blueprint” to reduce the cost of prescription medications while preserving innovation and cures. While the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, is soliciting feedback on some of these measures, other actions may be immediately implemented by HHS under existing authority. Although a number of these, and other potential, proposals will require authorization through additional legislation to become effective, Congress and the current U.S. presidential administration have each indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs. At the state level, legislatures are increasingly passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing. We expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our product candidates or companion diagnostics or additional pricing pressures.

 

 

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Additionally, on May 30, 2018, the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017 was signed into law. The law, among other things, provides a federal framework for certain patients to access certain investigational new drug products that have completed a Phase I 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 authorization under an FDA expanded access program.

We expect that the ACA, as well as other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved product. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability, or commercialize our products.

Our operations and relationships with healthcare providers, healthcare organizations, customers and third-party payors will be subject to applicable anti-bribery, anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, transparency and other healthcare laws and regulations, which could expose us to, among other things, enforcement actions, criminal sanctions, civil penalties, contractual damages, reputational harm, administrative burdens and diminished profits and future earnings.

Our current and future arrangements with healthcare providers, healthcare organizations, third-party payors and customers expose us to broadly applicable anti-bribery, fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we research, market, sell and distribute our product candidates. In addition, we may be subject to patient data privacy and security regulation by the U.S. federal government and the states and the foreign governments in which we conduct our business. Restrictions under applicable federal and state anti-bribery and healthcare laws and regulations, include the following:

 

the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, individuals and entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, receiving or providing remuneration, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward, or in return for, either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, order or recommendation of, any good or service, for which payment may be made under a federal and state healthcare program such as Medicare and Medicaid. A person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation;

 

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

 

HIPAA, which imposes criminal and civil liability, prohibits, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, or knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false statement in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services; similar to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation;

 

HIPAA, as amended by HITECH, which impose obligations on certain healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, known as covered entities, as well as their business associates that perform certain services involving the storage, use or disclosure of individually identifiable health information, including mandatory contractual terms, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security, and transmission of individually identifiable health information, and require notification to affected individuals and regulatory authorities of certain breaches of security of individually identifiable health information;

 

the federal legislation commonly referred to as Physician Payments Sunshine Act, enacted as part of the ACA, and its implementing regulations, which requires certain manufacturers of covered drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies that are reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with certain exceptions, to report annually to CMS information related to certain payments and other transfers of value to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by the physicians described above and their immediate family members, with the information made publicly available on a searchable website; effective January 1, 2022, transfers of value to physician assistants, nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives must also be reported;

 

 

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the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, which prohibits, among other things, U.S. companies and their employees and agents from authorizing, promising, offering, or providing, directly or indirectly, corrupt or improper payments or anything else of value to foreign government officials, employees of public international organizations and foreign government owned or affiliated entities, candidates for foreign political office, and foreign political parties or officials thereof;

 

analogous state and foreign laws and regulations, such as state anti-kickback and false claims laws, that may apply to sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by non-governmental third-party payors, including private insurers; and

 

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

If we or our collaborators, manufacturers or service providers fail to comply with applicable federal, state or foreign laws or regulations, we could be subject to enforcement actions, which could affect our ability to develop, market and sell our products successfully and could harm our reputation and lead to reduced acceptance of our products by the market. These enforcement actions include, among others:

 

exclusion from participation in government-funded healthcare programs; and

 

exclusion from eligibility for the award of government contracts for our products.

Efforts to ensure that our current and future business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations could involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations, agency guidance or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are found to be in violation of any such requirements, we may be subject to significant penalties, including civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, loss of eligibility to obtain approvals from the FDA, exclusion from participation in government contracting, healthcare reimbursement or other government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, integrity oversight and reporting obligations, or reputational harm, any of which could adversely affect our financial results. Although effective compliance programs can mitigate the risk of investigation and prosecution for violations of these laws, these risks cannot be entirely eliminated. Any action against us for an alleged or suspected violation could cause us to incur significant legal expenses and could divert our management’s attention from the operation of our business, even if our defense is successful. In addition, achieving and sustaining compliance with applicable laws and regulations may be costly to us in terms of money, time and resources.

Even if we are able to commercialize any product candidate, such product candidate may become subject to unfavorable pricing regulations or third-party coverage and reimbursement policies, which would harm our business.

The regulations that govern regulatory approvals, pricing and reimbursement for new drugs and therapeutic biologics vary widely from country to country. Some countries require approval of the sale price of a drug or therapeutic biologic before it can be marketed. In many countries, the pricing review period begins after marketing approval is granted. In some foreign markets, prescription biopharmaceutical pricing remains subject to continuing governmental control even after initial approval is granted. As a result, we might obtain regulatory approval for a product in a particular country, but then be subject to price regulations that delay our commercial launch of the product, possibly for lengthy time periods and negatively impact the revenues we are able to generate from the sale of the product in that country. Adverse pricing limitations may hinder our ability to recoup our investment in one or more product candidates, even if our product candidates obtain regulatory approval.

 

 

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Our ability to commercialize any products successfully also will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from government authorities, private health insurers and other organizations. Even if we succeed in bringing one or more products to the market, these products may not be considered cost-effective, and the amount reimbursed for any products may be insufficient to allow us to sell our products on a competitive basis. Because our programs are in the early stages of development, we are unable at this time to determine their cost effectiveness or the likely level or method of coverage and reimbursement. Increasingly, the third-party payors who reimburse patients or healthcare providers, such as government and private insurance plans, are requiring that drug companies provide them with predetermined discounts from list prices, and are seeking to reduce the prices charged or the amounts reimbursed for biopharmaceutical products. If the price we are able to charge for any products we develop, or the coverage and reimbursement provided for such products, is inadequate in light of our development and other costs, our return on investment could be affected adversely.

There may be significant delays in obtaining reimbursement for newly approved drugs or therapeutic biologics, and coverage may be more limited than the purposes for which the drug or therapeutic biologic is approved by the FDA or similar foreign regulatory authorities. Moreover, eligibility for reimbursement does not imply that any drug or therapeutic biologic will be reimbursed in all cases or at a rate that covers our costs, including research, development, manufacture, sale and distribution.

Interim reimbursement levels for new drugs or therapeutic biologics, if applicable, may also be insufficient to cover our costs and may not be made permanent. Reimbursement rates may be based on payments allowed for lower cost drugs or therapeutic biologics that are already reimbursed, may be incorporated into existing payments for other services and may reflect budgetary constraints or imperfections in Medicare data. Net prices for drugs or therapeutic biologics 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 drugs or therapeutic biologics from countries where they may be sold at lower prices than in the United States. Further, no uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement exists in the United States, and coverage and reimbursement can differ significantly from payor to payor. Third-party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Our inability to promptly obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement rates from both government-funded and private payors for new drugs or therapeutic biologics that we develop and for which we obtain regulatory approval could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

If in the future we are unable to establish U.S. or global sales and marketing capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to sell and market our product candidates, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates if they are approved and we may not be able to generate any revenue.

We currently do not have a marketing or sales team for the marketing, sales and distribution of any of our product candidates that are able to obtain regulatory approval. To commercialize any product candidates after approval, we must build on a territory-by-territory basis marketing, sales, distribution, managerial and other non-technical capabilities or make arrangements with third parties to perform these services, and we may not be successful in doing so. If our product candidates receive regulatory approval, we may decide to establish an internal sales or marketing team with technical expertise and supporting distribution capabilities to commercialize our product candidates, which will be expensive and time consuming and will require significant attention of our executive officers to manage. For example, some state and local jurisdictions have licensing and continuing education requirements for pharmaceutical sales representatives, which requires time and financial resources. Any failure or delay in the development of our internal sales, marketing and distribution capabilities would adversely impact the commercialization of any of our product candidates that we obtain approval to market.

With respect to the commercialization of all or certain of our product candidates, we may choose to collaborate, either globally or on a territory-by-territory basis, with third parties that have direct sales forces and established distribution systems, either to augment our own sales force and distribution systems or in lieu of our own sales force and distribution systems. If we are unable to enter into such arrangements when needed on acceptable terms, or at all, we may not be able to successfully commercialize any of our product candidates that receive regulatory approval or any such commercialization may experience delays or limitations. If we are not successful in commercializing our product candidates, either on our own or through collaborations with one or more third parties, our future product revenue will suffer and we may incur significant additional losses.

 

 

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

With the enactment of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCIA, an abbreviated pathway for the approval of biosimilar and interchangeable biological products was created. The abbreviated regulatory pathway establishes legal authority for the FDA to review and approve biosimilar biologics, including the possible designation of a biosimilar as interchangeable based on its similarity to an existing reference product. The BPCIA provides a period of exclusivity for products granted “reference product exclusivity,” under which an application for a biosimilar product referencing such products cannot be approved by the FDA until 12 years after the original branded product is approved under a BLA. On March 6, 2015, the FDA approved the first biosimilar product under the BPCIA. FDA has accelerated licensure of biosimilar products since the first biosimilar was approved in 2015. However, FDA has yet to deem a biosimilar product interchangeable with the reference product. While FDA has implemented certain procedures intended to implement the BPCIA, other processes remain in development and may be adopted by the FDA; any such processes could have a material adverse effect on the future commercial prospects for our biological products.

We believe that if any of our product candidates are approved as a biological product under a BLA, it should qualify for the 12-year period of exclusivity. However, there is a risk that the FDA will not consider any of our product candidates to be reference products for competing products, potentially creating the opportunity for biosimilar competition sooner than anticipated. Additionally, this period of regulatory exclusivity does not apply to companies pursuing regulatory approval via their own traditional BLA, rather than via the abbreviated pathway. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once approved, will be substituted for any one of our reference products that may be approved in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for non-biological products is not yet clear, and will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing.

If any of our product candidates receives marketing approval and we or others later identify undesirable side effects caused by the product candidates, our ability to market and derive revenue from the product candidates could be compromised.

Undesirable side effects caused by our product candidates could cause regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in more restrictive labeling or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or other regulatory authorities. We have only recently initiated our first clinical trials for our first two product candidates. Given the nature of ADCs, it is likely that there may be side effects associated with their use. Results of our clinical trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects. In such an event, our clinical trials could be suspended or terminated and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval of our product candidates for any or all targeted indications. Such side effects could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the clinical trials or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Further, clinical trials by their nature utilize a sample of the potential patient population. With a limited number of patients and limited duration of exposure, rare and severe side effects of our product candidates may only be uncovered with a significantly larger number of patients exposed to the product candidate.

In the event that any of our product candidates receive regulatory approval and we or others identify undesirable side effects caused by one of our products, any of the following adverse events could occur:

 

regulatory authorities may withdraw their approval of the product or seize the product;

 

we may be required to recall the product or change the way the product is administered to patients;

 

additional restrictions may be imposed on the marketing of the particular product or the manufacturing processes for the product or any component thereof;

 

we may be subject to fines, injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties;

 

regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, such as a black boxed warning or a contraindication;

 

we may be required to create a Medication Guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients;

 

we could be sued and held liable for harm caused to patients;

 

the product may become less competitive; and

 

our reputation may suffer.

 

 

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Any of these occurrences could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

If we decide to pursue a Fast Track Designation by the FDA, it may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process.

We may seek Fast Track Designation for one or more of our product candidates. If a drug or biologic is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and the drug or biologic demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for this condition, the product sponsor may apply for FDA Fast Track Designation. The FDA has broad discretion whether or not to grant this designation, so even if we believe a particular product candidate is eligible for this designation, we cannot assure you that the FDA would decide to grant it. Even if we do receive Fast Track Designation, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. The FDA may withdraw Fast Track Designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program.

While we have been granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma, if we decide to seek Orphan Drug Designation for some of our other product candidates, we may be unsuccessful or may be unable to maintain the benefits associated with Orphan Drug Designation, including the potential for orphan drug exclusivity.

We have been granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma.  As part of our business strategy, we may seek Orphan Drug Designation for our other product candidates, and we may be unsuccessful. Regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the United States and Europe, may designate drugs and therapeutic biologics for relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a drug or therapeutic biologic as an orphan drug if it is a drug or therapeutic biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally defined as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals 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 or therapeutic biologic will be recovered from sales in the United States. In the United States, Orphan Drug Designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as opportunities for grant funding toward clinical trial costs, tax advantages and user fee waivers. In addition, if a product that has Orphan Drug Designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications, including a full BLA, to market the same product for the same indication for seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan drug exclusivity or where the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient product quantity.

Even if we obtain Orphan Drug Designation for our product candidates in specific indications, we may not be the first to obtain marketing approval of these product candidates for the orphan-designated indication due to the uncertainties associated with developing pharmaceutical products. In addition, exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be limited if we seek approval for an indication broader than the orphan-designated indication or may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition. Further, even if we obtain orphan drug exclusivity for a product, that exclusivity may not effectively protect the product from competition because different drugs or therapeutic biologics with different principal molecular structural features can be approved for the same condition. Even after an orphan product is approved, the FDA can subsequently approve the same drug or therapeutic biologic with the same principal molecular structural features for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the later drug or therapeutic biologic is safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. Orphan Drug Designation neither shortens the development time or regulatory review time of a drug or therapeutic biologic nor gives the drug or therapeutic biologic any advantage in the regulatory review or approval process. In addition, while we may seek Orphan Drug Designation for our product candidates, we may never receive such designations.

The recent tax reform legislation, which was signed into law on December 22, 2017 reduced the amount of the qualified clinical research costs for a designated orphan product that a sponsor may claim as a credit from 50% to 25%. This may further limit the advantage and may impact our future business strategy of seeking the Orphan Drug Designation.

 

 

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Risks Related to Our Common Stock

Our quarterly and annual operating results may fluctuate significantly or may fall below the expectations of investors or securities analysts, each of which may cause our stock price to fluctuate or decline.

We expect our operating results to be subject to quarterly and annual fluctuations. Our net loss and other operating results will be affected by numerous factors, including:

 

variations in the level of expense related to the ongoing development of our XpressCF™ Platform, our product candidates or future development programs;

 

results of preclinical and clinical trials, or the addition or termination of clinical trials or funding support by us, or existing or future collaborators or licensing partners;

 

our execution of any additional collaboration, licensing or similar arrangements, and the timing of payments we may make or receive under existing or future arrangements or the termination or modification of any such existing or future arrangements;

 

any intellectual property infringement lawsuit or opposition, interference or cancellation proceeding in which we may become involved;

 

additions and departures of key personnel;

 

strategic decisions by us or our competitors, such as acquisitions, divestitures, spin-offs, joint ventures, strategic investments or changes in business strategy;

 

if any of our product candidates receives regulatory approval, the terms of such approval and market acceptance and demand for such product candidates;

 

regulatory developments affecting our product candidates or those of our competitors; and

 

changes in general market and economic conditions.

If our quarterly and annual operating results fall below the expectations of investors or securities analysts, the price of our common stock could decline substantially. Furthermore, any quarterly and annual fluctuations in our operating results may, in turn, cause the price of our common stock to fluctuate substantially. We believe that quarterly and annual comparisons of our financial results are not necessarily meaningful and should not be relied upon as an indication of our future performance.

The market price of our stock may be volatile, and you could lose all or part of your investment.

The trading price of our common stock may be highly volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which we cannot control. As a result of this volatility, investors may not be able to sell their common stock at or above the purchase price. The market price for our common stock may be influenced by many factors, including the other risks described in this section and the following:

 

results of preclinical studies and clinical trials of our product candidates, or those of our competitors or our existing or future collaborators;

 

regulatory or legal developments in the United States and other countries, especially changes in laws or regulations applicable to our product candidates;

 

the success of competitive products or technologies;

 

introductions and announcements of new products by us, our future commercialization partners, or our competitors, and the timing of these introductions or announcements;

 

actions taken by regulatory agencies with respect to our products, clinical studies, manufacturing process or sales and marketing terms;

 

actual or anticipated variations in our financial results or those of companies that are perceived to be similar to us;

 

the success of our efforts to acquire or in-license additional technologies, products or product candidates;

 

developments concerning current or future collaborations, including but not limited to those with our sources of manufacturing supply and our commercialization partners;

 

market conditions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors;

 

announcements by us or our competitors of significant acquisitions, strategic collaborations, joint ventures or capital commitments;

 

 

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developments or disputes concerning patents or other proprietary rights, including patents, litigation matters and our ability to obtain patent protection for our product candidates and products;

 

our ability or inability to raise additional capital and the terms on which we raise it;

 

the recruitment or departure of key personnel;

 

changes in the structure of healthcare payment systems;

 

actual or anticipated changes in earnings estimates or changes in stock market analyst recommendations regarding our common stock, other comparable companies or our industry generally;

 

our failure or the failure of our competitors to meet analysts’ projections or guidance that we or our competitors may give to the market;

 

fluctuations in the valuation of companies perceived by investors to be comparable to us;

 

announcement and expectation of additional financing efforts;

 

speculation in the press or investment community;

 

trading volume of our common stock;

 

sales of our common stock by us or our stockholders;

 

the concentrated ownership of our common stock;

 

changes in accounting principles;

 

terrorist acts, acts of war or periods of widespread civil unrest;

 

natural disasters and other calamities;

 

a temporary federal government shutdown; and

 

general economic, industry and market conditions.

In addition, the stock market in general, and the markets for pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and biotechnology stocks in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have been often unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of the issuer. These broad market and industry factors may seriously harm the market price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance. The realization of any of the above risks or any of a broad range of other risks, including those described in this “Risk Factors” section, could have a dramatic and adverse impact on the market price of our common stock.

The future sale and issuance of equity or of debt securities that are convertible into equity will dilute our share capital.

We may choose to raise additional capital in the future, depending on market conditions, strategic considerations and operational requirements. To the extent that additional capital is raised through the sale and issuance of shares or other securities convertible into shares, our stockholders will be diluted. Future issuances of our common stock or other equity securities, or the perception that such sales may occur, could adversely affect the trading price of our common stock and impair our ability to raise capital through future offerings of shares or equity securities. No prediction can be made as to the effect, if any, that future sales of common stock or the availability of common stock for future sales will have on the trading price of our common stock.

A sale of a substantial number of shares of our common stock may cause the price of our common stock to decline.

Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market could occur at any time. If our stockholders sell, or the market perceives that our stockholders intend to sell, substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market before or after the lock-up and other legal restrictions on resale lapse in connection with our IPO, the market price of our common stock could decline significantly. Each of our officers, directors, substantially all of our stockholders and participants in our directed share program entered into lock-up agreements with the underwriters that restricted their ability to sell or transfer their shares. These lock-up agreements pertaining to our IPO expired March 25, 2019. Due to this expiration of the lock-up agreements, a substantial number of shares of common stock recently became eligible for sale in the public market.

We cannot predict what effect, if any, sales of our shares in the public market or the availability of shares for sale will have on the market price of our common stock. However, future sales of substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market, including shares issued upon exercise of outstanding options or warrants, or the perception that such sales may occur, could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

 

 

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We also expect that significant additional capital may be needed in the future to continue our planned operations. To raise capital, we may sell common stock, convertible securities or other equity securities in one or more transactions at prices and in a manner we determine from time to time. These sales, or the perception in the market that the holders of a large number of shares intend to sell shares, could reduce the market price of our common stock.

If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or if they issue an adverse or misleading opinion regarding our stock, our stock price and trading volume could decline.

The trading market for our common stock will be influenced by the research and reports that industry or securities analysts publish about us or our business. We do not have any control over the analysts or the content and opinions included in their reports. If any of the analysts who cover us issue an adverse or misleading opinion regarding us, our business model, financial condition and results of operations, our intellectual property or our stock performance, or if our preclinical studies and clinical trials and operating results fail to meet the expectations of analysts, our stock price would likely decline. If one or more of such analysts cease coverage of us or fail to publish reports on us regularly, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause a decline in our stock price or trading volume.

Our principal stockholders and management own a significant percentage of our stock and will be able to exert significant control over matters subject to stockholder approval.

Based on the beneficial ownership of our common stock as of December 31, 2018, our executive officers, directors and affiliates beneficially owned 38.2% of our outstanding voting stock.  As a result, these stockholders, if acting together, could have significant influence over the outcome of corporate actions requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors, amendment of our organizational documents, any merger, consolidation or sale of all or substantially all of our assets and any other significant corporate transaction. The interests of these stockholders may not be the same as or may even conflict with your interests. For example, these stockholders could delay or prevent a change of control of our company, even if such a change of control would benefit our other stockholders, which could deprive our stockholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their common stock as part of a sale of our company or our assets and might affect the prevailing market price of our common stock. The significant concentration of stock ownership may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock due to investors’ perception that conflicts of interest may exist or arise.

We are an “emerging growth company” and we cannot be certain if the reduced reporting requirements applicable to emerging growth companies will make our common stock less attractive to investors.

We are an “emerging growth company” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, or the JOBS Act. For as long as we continue to be an emerging growth company, we may take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies, including (i) not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as amended, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, (ii) reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports, registration statements and proxy statements and (iii) exemptions from the requirements of holding nonbinding advisory stockholder votes on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not approved previously.

We could be an emerging growth company for up to five years following the completion of the initial public offering, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier, including if we are deemed to be a “large accelerated filer,” which occurs when the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the prior June 30, or if we have total annual gross revenue of $1.07 billion or more during any fiscal year before that time, in which cases we would no longer be an emerging growth company as of the following December 31, or if we issue more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during any three-year period before that time, in which case we would no longer be an emerging growth company immediately. Even after we no longer qualify as an emerging growth company, we may still qualify as a “smaller reporting company,” which would allow us to take advantage of many of the same exemptions from disclosure requirements, including not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements. We cannot predict if investors will find our common stock less attractive because we may rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and our share price may be more volatile.

 

 

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Under the JOBS Act, emerging growth companies can also delay adopting new or revised accounting standards until such time as those standards apply to private companies. We have elected to take advantage of the benefits of this extended transition period. Our financial statements may therefore not be comparable to those of companies that comply with such new or revised accounting standards. Until the date that we are no longer an “emerging growth company” or affirmatively and irrevocably opt out of the exemption provided by Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act, upon issuance of a new or revised accounting standard that applies to our financial statements and that has a different effective date for public and private companies, we will disclose the date on which adoption is required for non-emerging growth companies and the date on which we will adopt the recently issued accounting standard.

Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law could make an acquisition of us, which may be beneficial to our stockholders, more difficult and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.

Our restated certificate of incorporation and our restated bylaws contain provisions that could delay or prevent a change in control of our company. These provisions could also make it difficult for stockholders to elect directors who are not nominated by current members of our board of directors or take other corporate actions, including effecting changes in our management. These provisions:

 

establish a classified board of directors so that not all members of our board are elected at one time;

 

permit only the board of directors to establish the number of directors and fill vacancies on the board;

 

provide that directors may only be removed “for cause” and only with the approval of two-thirds of our stockholders;

 

require super-majority voting to amend some provisions in our restated certificate of incorporation and restated bylaws;

 

authorize the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock that our board could use to implement a stockholder rights plan;

 

eliminate the ability of our stockholders to call special meetings of stockholders;

 

prohibit stockholder action by written consent, which requires all stockholder actions to be taken at a meeting of our stockholders;

 

prohibit cumulative voting; and

 

establish advance notice requirements for nominations for election to our board or for proposing matters that can be acted upon by stockholders at annual stockholder meetings.

In addition, our restated certificate of incorporation, to the fullest extent permitted by law, provides that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the exclusive forum for: any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf; any action asserting a breach of fiduciary duty; any action asserting a claim against us arising pursuant to the Delaware General Corporation Law, or the DGCL, our restated certificate of incorporation, or our restated bylaws; or any action asserting a claim against us that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine. Furthermore, our amended and restated bylaws also provide that unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the federal district courts of the United States shall be the exclusive forum for the resolution of any complaint asserting a cause of action arising under the Securities Act. These choice of forum provisions may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or any of our directors, officers, or other employees, which may discourage lawsuits with respect to such claims. Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provisions contained in our restated certificate of incorporation or amended and restated bylaws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could harm our business, operating results and financial condition.

In addition, Section 203 of the DGCL may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company. Section 203 imposes certain restrictions on mergers, business combinations and other transactions between us and holders of 15% or more of our common stock.

 

 

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We will incur increased costs as a result of operating as a public company, and our management will be required to devote substantial time to new compliance initiatives and corporate governance practices.

As a public company, and particularly after we are no longer an emerging growth company, we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the listing requirements of the Nasdaq Global Market and other applicable securities rules and regulations impose various requirements on public companies, including establishment and maintenance of effective disclosure and financial controls and corporate governance practices. Our management and other personnel need to devote a substantial amount of time to these compliance initiatives. Moreover, we expect these rules and regulations to substantially increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some activities more time consuming and costly. We cannot predict or estimate the amount or timing of additional costs we may incur to respond to these requirements. The impact of these requirements could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve on our board of directors, our board committees or as executive officers. Moreover, these rules and regulations are often subject to varying interpretations, in many cases due to their lack of specificity, and, as a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. This could result in continuing uncertainty regarding compliance matters and higher costs necessitated by ongoing revisions to disclosure and governance practices.

We are not currently required to comply with the SEC’s rules that implement Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and are therefore not required to make a formal assessment of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting for that purpose. Pursuant to Section 404, we will be required to furnish a report by our management on our internal control over financial reporting. However, while we remain an emerging growth company, we will not be required to include an attestation report on internal control over financial reporting issued by our independent registered public accounting firm. To achieve compliance with Section 404 within the prescribed period, we will be engaged in a process to document and evaluate our internal control over financial reporting, which is both costly and challenging. In this regard, we will need to continue to dedicate internal resources, potentially engage outside consultants and adopt a detailed work plan to assess and document the adequacy of internal control over financial reporting, continue steps to improve control processes as appropriate, validate through testing that controls are functioning as documented and implement a continuous reporting and improvement process for internal control over financial reporting. Despite our efforts, there is a risk that we will not be able to conclude, within the prescribed timeframe or at all, that our internal control over financial reporting is effective as required by Section 404. If we identify one or more material weaknesses, it could result in an adverse reaction in the financial markets due to a loss of confidence in the reliability of our financial statements. In addition, if we are not able to continue to meet these requirements, we may not be able to remain listed on the Nasdaq Global Market.

Because we do not anticipate paying any cash dividends on our capital stock in the foreseeable future, capital appreciation, if any, will be your sole source of gain.

We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our capital stock. We currently intend to retain all of our future earnings, if any, to finance the growth and development of our business. As a result, capital appreciation, if any, of our common stock will be your sole source of gain for the foreseeable future.

We may be subject to securities litigation, which is expensive and could divert management attention.

The market price of our common stock may be volatile and, in the past, companies that have experienced volatility in the market price of their stock have been subject to securities class action litigation. We may be the target of this type of litigation in the future. Securities litigation against us could result in substantial costs and divert our management’s attention from other business concerns, which could seriously harm our business.

 

 

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Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

None

Item 2.

Properties and Facilities

Our principal executive office is located in South San Francisco, California, where we lease a total of approximately 52,200 square feet of office and laboratory space in two buildings that we use for our administrative, research and development and other activities. The lease under each of our South San Francisco buildings expires in November 2021, unless we exercise our option to extend each lease term through November 2026. We also have a manufacturing facility and manufacturing-support facility in San Carlos, California, where we lease a total of approximately 29,600 square feet of space in two buildings. The lease on one of our San Carlos buildings expires in July 2021, for which we have two three-year options to extend our lease to July 2027. The lease on the second San Carlos building expires in June 2021, for which we have two three-year options to extend the lease to June 2027.

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

From time to time, we may be involved in legal proceedings arising in the ordinary course of our business. We are not presently a party to any legal proceedings that, in the opinion of management, would have a material adverse effect on our business. Regardless of outcome, litigation can have an adverse impact on us due to defense and settlement costs, diversion of management resources, negative publicity and reputational harm, and other factors.

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

 

 

 

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PART II

Item 5.

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

Market Information for Common Stock

Our common stock has been listed on The Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “STRO” since September 27, 2018. Prior to that there was no public trading market for our common stock.

Holders of Record

As of March 27, 2019, there were approximately 171 stockholders of record of our common stock. The actual number of stockholders is greater than this number of record holders, and includes stockholders who are beneficial owners, but whose shares are held in street name by brokers and other nominees. This number of holders of record also does not include stockholders whose shares may be held in trust by other entities.

Dividend Policy

We currently intend to retain future earnings, if any, for use in operation of our business and to fund future growth. We have never declared or paid any cash dividends on our capital stock and do not anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Payment of cash dividends, if any, in the future will be at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on then-existing conditions, including our financial condition, operating results, contractual restrictions, capital requirements, business prospects and other factors our board of directors may deem relevant.  

 

 

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Stock Performance Graph

The following graph shows the total stockholder’s return on an investment of $100 in cash at market close on September 27, 2018 (the first day of trading of our common stock), through December 31, 2018 for (i) our common stock, (ii) the Nasdaq Composite Index and (iii) the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index. Pursuant to applicable Securities and Exchange Commission rules, all values assume reinvestment of pre-tax amount of all dividends; however, no dividends have been declared on our common stock to date. The stockholder return shown on the graph below is not necessarily indicative of future performance, and we do not make or endorse any predictions as to future stockholder return. This graph shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or be deemed “filed” for purposes of Section 18 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as amended, or Exchange Act, or otherwise subject to the liabilities under that Section, and shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any of our filings under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or Securities Act, whether made before or after the date hereof and irrespective of any general incorporation language in any such filing.

 

 

Trade Date

 

Sutro

Biopharma

(STRO)

 

 

Nasdaq

Composite

Index (IXIC)

 

 

Nasdaq

Biotech

Index (^NBI)

 

9/27/2018

 

 

100.00

 

 

 

100.00

 

 

 

100.00

 

10/31/2018

 

 

78.16

 

 

 

90.85

 

 

 

85.53

 

11/30/2018

 

 

69.01

 

 

 

91.15

 

 

 

89.54

 

12/31/2018

 

 

59.34

 

 

 

82.51

 

 

 

79.47

 

 

Securities Authorized for Issuance Under Equity Compensation Plans

The information required by this Item regarding equity compensation plans is incorporated by reference to the information set forth in PART III Item 12 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

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Unregistered Sales of Equity Securities

From January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, we sold and issued the following unregistered securities:

 

1.

Prior to filing our registration statement on Form S-8 in September 2018, we issued and sold to our directors, officers, employees and consultants an aggregate of 18,700 unregistered shares of common stock upon exercise of stock options under our 2004 Stock Plan, or the 2004 Plan at per share exercise prices ranging from $3.99 to $14.88.

 

2.

In July 2018, we issued 319,305,718 shares of Series E redeemable convertible preferred stock that resulted in gross proceeds of $85.4 million.

 

3.

In 2018, we issued an aggregate of 733 shares of common stock at a price of $5.81 per share upon the exercise of common stock warrants by four individuals.

 

4.

In 2018, we issued an aggregate of 559,564 shares of Series C preferred stock at a price of $0.4797 per share upon the exercise of Series C preferred stock warrants, which shares converted into 20,700 shares of common stock in connection with our initial public offering.

 

5.

In October 2018, we issued to Merck 666,666 shares of our common stock at a price per share equal to the initial public offering price of $15.00 per share that resulted in gross proceeds of approximately $10,000,000.

The offers, sales and issuances of the securities described in paragraph (1) above were deemed to be exempt from registration under the Securities Act under Rule 701 promulgated under the Securities Act as offers and sale of securities pursuant to certain compensatory benefit plans and contracts relating to compensation in compliance with Rule 701.

The offers, sales, and issuances of the securities described in paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) above were deemed to be exempt from registration under the Securities Act in reliance on Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act. The recipients of securities in each of these transactions acquired the securities for investment only and not with a view to or for sale in connection with any distribution thereof and appropriate legends were affixed to the securities issued in these transactions. Each of the recipients of securities in these transactions was an accredited or sophisticated person and had adequate access, through employment, business or other relationships, to information about us.

Use of Proceeds from Registered Securities

On October 1, 2018, we completed our IPO and sold 5,667,000 shares of common stock at an IPO price of $15.00 per share. The offer and sale of all of the shares in the IPO were registered under the Securities Act pursuant to registration statements on Form S-1 (File Nos. 333-227103 and 333-227548), which was declared effective by the SEC on September 26, 2018. No additional shares were registered.

We received net proceeds from the IPO of approximately $74.4 million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions of approximately $6.0 million and estimated offering expenses of approximately $4.6 million. Cowen and Company, LLC and Piper Jaffray & Co. acted as joint book-running managers of the offering and as representatives of the underwriters. None of the expenses associated with the IPO were paid to directors, officers, persons owning 10% or more of any class of equity securities, or to their associates, or to our affiliates.

There has been no material change in the planned use of proceeds from our IPO as described in the Prospectus filed with the SEC pursuant to Rule 424(b)(4) under the Securities Act on September 27, 2018.

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

None.

 

 

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Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

The following tables summarize our selected financial data for the periods and as of the dates indicated. We have derived our selected statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017, and 2016 and the balance sheet data as of December 31, 2018 and 2017 from our audited financial statements included elsewhere in this report.  The selected balance sheet data as of December 31, 2016 has been derived from our audited financial statements which are not included in this report.

Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected in the future. You should read the selected financial data below together with the information under “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this report.

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2018