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2019-03-31

 

,

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549

 

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

OR

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

For the transition period from                 to                

Commission File Number 001-38662

 

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

 

Trading Symbol

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common stock, $0.001 par value

 

STRO

 

The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

(Nasdaq Global Market)

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

None

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

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 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 whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

 

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer

 

 

Smaller reporting company

 

    

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

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

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

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

The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant on June 30, 2020 (the last business day of the Registrant’s second fiscal quarter), based upon the closing price of $7.76 of the Registrant’s common stock as reported on The Nasdaq Global Market, was approximately $261.1 million.

The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock outstanding as of March 11, 2021, was 45,892,331.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement to be filed for its 2021 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

 

40

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

93

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 2.

 

Properties

 

94

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

 

94

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

94

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

95

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 5.

 

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

 

95

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 6.

 

Selected Financial Data

 

97

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 7.

 

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

 

99

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

112

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

114

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

149

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

149

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 9B.

 

Other Information

 

150

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

151

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 10.

 

Directors, Executive Officers of the Registrant and Corporate Governance

 

151

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

151

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 12.

 

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

 

151

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

151

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 14.

 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

151

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

152

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 15.

 

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

 

152

 

 

 

 

 

ITEM 16.

 

Form 10-K Summary

 

155

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signatures

 

156

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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, the expected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations, 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.

 

 

3

 

 


 

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 therapeutics, 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 updated data reported in December 2020. Based on such reported data, STRO-001 has been generally well-tolerated and, unlike certain other ADCs, no ocular toxicity signals have been observed, with no patients receiving prophylactic corticosteroid eye drops. Dose escalation in the STRO-001 Phase 1 trial is continuing, and the maximum tolerated dose has not yet been reached. In October 2018, we were granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA, for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

In March 2019, our second candidate STRO-002 began enrolling patients in a Phase 1 trial focused on ovarian and endometrial cancers with updated data reported in December 2020. Based on such reported data, STRO-002 has been well-tolerated and no ocular toxicity signals have been observed, with no patients receiving prophylactic corticosteroid eye drops. The dose escalation portion of the STRO-002 Phase 1 trial has been fully enrolled and the dose expansion portion of the trial is ongoing to assess the efficacy, safety and tolerability of STRO-002 at dose levels of 4.3 and 5.2mg/kg. Based on our proprietary XpressCF® platform, 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, ADC collaboration with Celgene Corporation, or Celgene, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, New York, NY, or BMS; and a MUC1-EGFR ADC 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 multiple 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.

 

 

4

 

 


 

The benefits of our XpressCF® and XpressCF+™ Platforms have resulted in collaborations with leaders in the field of oncology, including Merck, BMS and EMD Serono. As a result of discovery efforts enabled through our XpressCF+™ Platform, Merck has the right to develop two cytokine derivative programs. Additionally, BMS has the worldwide right to develop and commercialize a novel ADC therapeutic directed against BCMA, known as CC-99712. An IND submission was filed in connection with CC-99712 in the first half of 2019 and it is being studied in a Phase 1 trial currently enrolling patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma. Finally, our collaboration with EMD Serono yielded a novel bispecific ADC product candidate targeting EGFR and MUC1, known as M1231, for which an IND submission was filed in the second half of 2020 and which is currently under investigation in a Phase 1 trial for the treatment of solid tumors, including metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Through December 31, 2020, we have received an aggregate of approximately $398 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.

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 for which we reported updated data in December 2020. Based on such reported data, STRO-001 has been generally well-tolerated and no ocular toxicity signals have been observed, with no patients receiving prophylactic corticosteroid eye drops.  Dose escalation in the STRO-001 Phase 1 trial is continuing, and the maximum tolerated dose has not yet been reached. We expect to begin the dose expansion portion of the Phase 1 trial in the second half of 2021.

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 updated data reported in December 2020. Based on such reported data, STRO-002 has been generally well-tolerated and no ocular toxicity signals have been observed, with no patients receiving prophylactic corticosteroid eye drops. The dose escalation portion of the STRO-002 Phase 1 trial has been fully enrolled and the dose expansion portion of the trial is ongoing to assess the efficacy, safety and tolerability of STRO-002 at dose levels of 4.3 and 5.2mg/kg. We expect to report updated dose-escalation data for STRO-002 in the first half of 2021. For the dose-expansion portion, we dosed the first patient in January 2021 and are treating less heavily pre-treated ovarian cancer patients. We expect to report initial dose-expansion data in the second half of 2021. Additionally, initiation of a STRO-002 combination expansion cohort in ovarian cancer and an expansion cohort for FolRa-selected endometrial cancer are planned for the second half of 2021.

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 product candidates.

 

 

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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 ADCs, including tumor targeting immunostimulant-ADCs, or iADCs, bispecific antibodies, including T cell-engager discovery programs.

Our Strategy

Our goal is to use our proprietary XpressCF® Platform to create product candidates 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 our 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 reported updated data in December 2020 and expect to begin the dose expansion portion of the Phase 1 trial in the second half of 2021. 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, and dosed the first patient in the dose expansion portion of the Phase 1 trial in January 2021, treating less heavily pre-treated ovarian cancer patients. We reported updated dose-escalation data in December 2020, expect to report updated dose-escalation data in the first half of 2021, and expect to report initial dose-expansion data in the second half of 2021. 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.

 

Maintain worldwide rights to our core product candidates.  We own the worldwide commercial rights to our most advanced product candidates, STRO-001 and STRO-002, and may consider providing certain rights to other parties in certain non-strategic territories. 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.

 

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, initially 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 bispecific antibodies, to create drugs that are directed primarily against clinically validated targets where the current standard of care is suboptimal.

 

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 ADC collaboration with Celgene (now BMS) and a MUC1-EGFR 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.

 

 

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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. 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 American men and 39% of American women will develop cancer and, according to the American Cancer Society, there will be 1.9 million new cases of cancer and 609,000 deaths due to cancer in the United States in 2021.

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 generated over $13 billion in combined 2020 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.

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 2019 combined sales of these three checkpoint inhibitors were $21 billion and by 2026, sales are projected to exceed $39 billion.

 

 

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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 were the first of the new generation of ADCs to be approved for the treatment of specific subsets of breast cancer and lymphoma, respectively. In the last three years, seven more ADCs entered or re-entered the market, as Besponsa, Mylotarg, Lumoxiti, and Polivy were approved for the treatment of specific subsets of leukemia and lymphoma; and Padcev was approved for the treatment of bladder and urinary tract cancers, and Enhertu and Trodelvy were approved for the treatment of breast cancer. All nine of these approved therapies demonstrate that ADCs have an emerging role in the armamentarium of cancer therapeutics.

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:

 

 

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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, there are currently over 100 bispecific antibodies in clinical development for oncology indications, with projected potential sales on a worldwide basis of up to $3.9 billion by 2024. 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.

 

 

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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.

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 believe 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.

 

 

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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.

We first generate a cellular mass from our proprietary 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. Further, our non-natural amino acid conjugation technology permits complete and rapid stable linkage between our linker components and the non-natural amino acid, resulting in a single species without loss of efficiency as the conjugates become increasingly complex.

 

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.

 

 

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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.

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.

 

 

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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

 

 

 

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. Through December 31, 2020, all of our collaborations have provided us with an aggregate of approximately $398 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 develop two research programs directed to cytokine derivatives, including rights to certain prior cytokine-based research efforts.

 

BMS Programs.  We have granted BMS the right to develop a novel ADC therapeutic directed against the target BCMA, known as CC-99712, which is currently under investigation in a Phase 1 trial focused on patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma.

 

EMD Serono Programs.  We have granted EMD Serono the right to develop the novel bispecific ADC targeting EGFR and MUC1 known as M1231, which is currently under investigation for the treatment of solid tumors, including metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in a Phase 1 trial.

 

 

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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:

 

(1)

EMD Serono is the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany in the US

 

(2)

Sutro owns 4% royalties on net sales of VAX-24

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. We are currently enrolling patients in a STRO-001 Phase 1 trial and we presented updated data in December 2020. Based on such reported data, STRO-001 has been generally well-tolerated and no ocular toxicity signals have been observed, with no patients receiving prophylactic corticosteroid eye drops. Dose escalation in the STRO-001 Phase 1 trial is continuing, and the maximum tolerated dose has not yet been reached. We expect to begin the dose expansion portion of the Phase 1 trial in the second half of 2021.

 

 

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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, it is estimated that there will be more than 116,000 new cases of multiple myeloma and NHL in 2021, with a prevalence of more than 800,000 cases. Although several therapeutics have recently been approved for the treatment of specific B cell malignancies, including immunotherapies, targeted kinase inhibitors, ADC and CAR-T cell therapies, unmet need persists. Many of 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® and XpressCF+™ Platforms. 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.

Phase 1 Clinical Trial

The Phase 1 trial for STRO-001 is an open-label study that is evaluating STRO-001 as a monotherapy for patients with multiple myeloma and NHL. The trial is being 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.

 

 

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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 therapies known to provide clinical benefit for their condition. Multiple myeloma and NHL patients are being enrolled in two separate dose escalation cohorts, starting initially with an accelerated dose titration design. We estimate that there will be approximately 35 patients in each cohort. Treatment is currently scheduled on day one of a 21-day cycle.

After the recommended Phase 2 dose level is determined, patients could be enrolled in up to 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. In October 2018, we were granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA for STRO-001 for the treatment of multiple myeloma.  

In December 2020, we reported data from the NHL cohort from the dose escalation portion of the Phase 1 trial as of October 30, 2020:

 

Most (90%) treatment emergent adverse events were Grade 1 or 2 events of nausea, fatigue, chills, anemia, headache, dyspnea, abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite and pyrexia, and no ocular or neuropathy toxicity signals have been observed;

 

Subsequent to a previously announced protocol amendment in 2019 requiring pre-treatment screening imaging for patients at risk for thromboses, no thromboembolic events have been observed;

 

In the seven patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, one complete response and two partial responses were observed; and

 

Out of other NHL types, two patients with follicular lymphoma had stable disease, of which one is still on treatment at nine weeks. One patient with marginal zone lymphoma had stable disease and is still on treatment at 39 weeks.

 

In addition, the maximum tolerated dose was not reached at 2.5 mg/kg. Active enrollment in the NHL cohort continues at the 3.5 mg/kg dose level and additional higher dose levels may be explored.

The maximum tolerated dose for the multiple myeloma dose escalation cohort has not been reached.  Active enrollment in that cohort continues at the 4.2 mg/kg dose level and additional higher dose levels may be explored.

The trial, registered with clinicaltrials.gov identifier NCT03424603, continues to enroll patients in dose escalation in both multiple myeloma and NHL cohorts.

We expect to begin the dose expansion portion of the Phase 1 trial in the second half of 2021.

 

 

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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 and presented updated data in December 2020. Based on such reported data, STRO-002 has been generally well-tolerated and no ocular toxicity signals have been observed, with no patients receiving prophylactic corticosteroid eye drops. Dose escalation in the STRO-002 Phase 1 trial has been fully enrolled and the dose-expansion portion of the trial is ongoing to assess the efficacy, safety and tolerability of STRO-002 at dose levels of 4.3 and 5.2 mg/kg. We expect to report updated dose-escalation data for STRO-002 in the first half of 2021. For the dose-expansion portion of the Phase 1 trial, we dosed the first patient in January 2021 and are treating less heavily pre-treated ovarian cancer patients. We expect to report initial dose-expansion data in the second half of 2021. Additionally, initiation of a STRO-002 combination expansion cohort in ovarian cancer and an expansion cohort for FolRa-selected endometrial cancer are planned for the second half of 2021.

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.

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 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer in 2020, 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, with or without bevacizumab which achieves a complete response in between 70% to 80% of patients. Increasingly, PARP inhibitors are being used in the maintenance setting.  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.

Endometrial Cancer Overview

There is also a significant unmet need in the treatment of recurrent or metastatic endometrial cancer. In the United States alone, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 66,000 new cases of endometrial cancer in 2020, and approximately 12,590 patients will die of this disease. First-line treatment for stage III/IV disease is commonly paclitaxel/carboplatin. Recently, the combination of lenvatinib and pembrolizumab was approved for the treatment of patients with advanced, metastatic endometrial cancer who have disease progression following prior systemic therapy with a platinum doublet. With the lack of available therapies for patients who progress after standard of care therapies, 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.

 

 

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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 mirvetuximab soravtansine 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 FolRα-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. Using a different scoring system, a post-hoc re-analysis of the FRα high expressing population suggested improved outcomes correlated with FRα expression, with the strongest treatment effects for all efficacy endpoints in this population. Immunogen announced in December 2019 that the FDA has provided guidance for potential accelerated approval of mirvetuximab soravtansine, demonstrating that FolRα remains an attractive target. Mirvetuximab soravtansine is currently being evaluated in a single-arm monotherapy pivotal trial in women with FolRα-high platinum-resistant ovarian cancer who have been previously treated with bevacizumab. It is also currently being evaluated in a Phase 3 randomized confirmatory trial, and combination studies.

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.

Clinical Development Plan

Our Phase 1 trial for STRO-002 is an open-label study evaluating 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. We began enrolling ovarian cancer patients in March 2019, with updated data reported in December 2020. 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.

 

 

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We have initially enrolled adult patients with advanced and/or refractory ovarian cancer, 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 are currently enrolling ovarian cancer patients regardless of their FolRα expression levels. These ovarian cancer patients have been enrolled in a dose escalation cohort, with STRO-002 administered on day one of a 21-day cycle. Since anti-tumor activity was observed during the dose escalation portion of the Phase 1 trial, we initiated enrollment of patients in the dose expansion portion of this clinical study in January 2021, and are treating less heavily pre-treated ovarian cancer patients.

In December 2020, we announced updated data from the dose-escalation portion of our ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial of STRO-002 in patients with ovarian cancer.

The dose-escalation portion of the trial was fully enrolled with 39 patients in August 2020. Patients were heavily pre-treated and had a median of six prior lines of therapy, including standard of care platinum-based regimens, bevacizumab, PARP inhibitors, and checkpoint inhibitors.

The dose-escalation portion of the Phase 1 trial included 34 patients treated with clinically active dose levels, 2.9 mg/kg or higher, of which 31 patients had post-baseline scans and were evaluable for RECIST response. At the data cutoff of October 30, 2020, median time on treatment was 19 weeks and 10 patients remained on treatment. Results out of 31 evaluable patients included:

 

10 patients (32%) met RECIST criteria for response, of which, one patient achieved a complete response and nine patients achieved a partial response (three confirmed partial responses and six unconfirmed partial responses);

 

23 patients (74%) achieved disease control (stable disease, partial response or complete response) at 12 weeks;

 

18 patients (58%) achieved disease control at 16 weeks; and

 

Four patients (13%) were on treatment for 52 weeks, of which, three patients remain on treatment beyond 64 weeks.

STRO-002 continues to be well-tolerated and 86% of all treatment-emergent adverse events were Grade 1 or 2. Of note, prophylactic corticosteroid eye drops have not been required and no ocular toxicity signals have been observed. The most common Grade 3 and 4 treatment-emergent adverse events were reversible neutropenia. Grade 3 arthralgia (15.4%) and neuropathy (7.7%) were observed and managed with standard medical treatment, including dose reductions or delays without evidence of compromised efficacy.

Although a maximum tolerated dose was not reached, we have identified dose levels of 4.3 and 5.2 mg/kg to study in the dose-expansion portion of the Phase 1 trial. We expect to report updated dose-escalation data for STRO-002 in the first half of 2021. For the dose-expansion portion, we dosed the first patient in January 2021 and are treating less heavily pre-treated ovarian cancer patients. We expect to report initial dose-expansion data in the second half of 2021. Additionally, initiation of a STRO-002 combination expansion cohort in ovarian cancer and an expansion cohort for FolRa-selected endometrial cancer is planned for the second half of 2021.

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.

 

 

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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. We have also expanded our ADC technology platform to include iADCs. Our XpressCF+™ platform has enabled a groundbreaking technology to engineer homogeneous, dually conjugated immunostimulant and cytotoxic warheads on a single ADC molecule. Our novel iADC design is intended to deliver two different drugs directly to the tumor, and not only kill tumor cells but also locally prime an immune response to the patient’s particular tumor cells.  We believe that our iADC approach creates a new therapeutic opportunity by combining the best features of an ADC with the biology of a personalized vaccine.

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 an Exclusive Patent License and Research Collaboration Agreement (the “2018 Merck Agreement”) with Merck to jointly develop up to three research programs focusing on cytokine derivatives for cancer and autoimmune disorders.

Under the 2018 Merck Agreement, we received from Merck a non-refundable, non-creditable, upfront payment of $60.0 million in August 2018 for access to our technology and the identification and preclinical research and development of two target programs, with an option for Merck to engage us to continue these activities for a third program upon the payment of an additional amount. The option to expand activities to a third program expired in January 2021; the research phase of the collaboration continues, focusing on two cytokine derivative programs for cancer.

In March 2020, Merck exercised its option to extend the research term of the collaboration’s first cytokine-derivative program by one year, which, pursuant to the terms of the 2018 Merck Agreement, triggered a payment of $5.0 million to us.

In August 2020, we entered into a Pre-Clinical and Clinical Supply Agreement with Merck, wherein Merck requested us to provide manufacturing services, including clinical product supply, upon completion of the research programs under the 2018 Merck Agreement. The consideration for the services is based on an agreed-upon level of FTE personnel effort and related reimbursement rate in addition to agreed-upon pricing for the clinical product supply.

We are also eligible to receive aggregate contingent payments of up to approximately $0.5 billion for each of the target programs selected by Merck, assuming the development and sale of the related 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.

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.

 

 

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Celgene Collaboration

In November 2019, BMS acquired Celgene, and Celgene became a wholly owned subsidiary of BMS. In connection with such acquisition, BMS assumed the rights and obligations of the 2014 Celgene Agreement, 2017 Celgene Agreement and 2018 Celgene Master Services Agreement. However, except for the presentation in the tables, we will continue to refer to our agreements with Celgene throughout this Form 10-K as being with Celgene.

In September 2014, we signed a Collaboration and License Agreement with Celgene to discover and develop bispecific antibodies and/or “ADCs”, focused primarily on the field of immuno-oncology, using our proprietary integrated cell-free protein synthesis platform, XpressCF®. In August 2017, we entered into an amended and restated collaboration and license agreement with Celgene to refocus the collaboration on four programs that were advancing through preclinical development, including an ADC program targeting B cell maturation antigen, or the BCMA ADC.

Upon signing the Celgene Agreement in 2014, we received an upfront, nonrefundable payment totaling $83.1 million.    

In March 2015, we received a $15.0 million contingent payment from Celgene that provided Celgene a right to access certain of our technology for use in conjunction with certain Celgene intellectual property. In June 2016, we received a $25.0 million milestone upon completion of certain preclinical activities. Additionally, in June 2016, we earned a $10.0 million substantive milestone for certain manufacturing accomplishments.

In August 2017, we received an option fee payment of $12.5 million from Celgene. In each of October 2017 and December 2018, we received a $10.0 million milestone for certain manufacturing accomplishments.

In May 2019, the FDA cleared the IND for the BCMA ADC, which was discovered and is being manufactured by us and is the first collaboration program IND. Celgene has worldwide development and commercialization rights with respect to the BCMA ADC. We will continue to be responsible for clinical supply manufacturing and certain development services for the BCMA ADC and are eligible to receive from Celgene aggregate development and regulatory contingent payments of up to $275.0 million, if approved in multiple indications, and tiered royalties ranging from mid to high single digit percentages on worldwide sales of any resulting commercial products.  

With respect to the remaining three collaboration programs (BCMA-CD3, PD1-LAG3 and PD1-TIM3), during the second quarter of 2019 Celgene notified us that it decided not to exercise the option to acquire U.S. clinical development and commercialization rights to a second collaboration program. Therefore, Celgene was not required to pay us the $12.5 million option maintenance fee that would have been due upon IND clearance for the first collaboration program, as described above. Consequently, the U.S. clinical development and commercialization rights to the other three collaboration programs remain owned by us, without any further option to Celgene. Further, upon the expiration of the research term defined by the Celgene agreement, ex-U.S. clinical development and commercialization rights to these three collaboration programs reverted to us in the third quarter of 2020. Therefore, we now solely hold worldwide rights to the BCMA-CD3, PD1-LAG3 and PD1-TIM3 programs.  

In March 2018, we entered into a Master Development and Clinical Manufacturing Services Agreement, or the 2018 Celgene Master Services Agreement, with Celgene, wherein Celgene requested us to provide development, manufacturing and supply chain management services, including clinical product supply. The consideration for the services is based on an agreed-upon level of FTE personnel effort and related reimbursement rate in addition to agreed-upon pricing for clinical product supply for use in Phase 1 clinical trials.

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

EMD Serono Collaboration

We signed a Collaboration Agreement and a License Agreement with EMD Serono in May 2014 and September 2014, respectively, which were entered into in contemplation of each other. The Collaboration Agreement was subsumed into the License Agreement (the “MDA Agreement”), which agreement is to develop

 

 

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ADCs for multiple cancer targets. Our collaboration with EMD Serono has yielded a novel bispecific ADC product candidate targeting EGFR and MUC1, known as M1231, for which an IND submission was filed in the second half of 2020 and which is currently under investigation in a Phase 1 trial for the treatment of solid tumors, including metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

Upon signing the Collaboration Agreement, we received an upfront, nonrefundable, non-creditable payment totaling $10.0 million. Upon signing the MDA Agreement, we received an additional upfront, nonrefundable, non-creditable payment totaling $10.0 million and will receive financial support for research and development services to be provided by us, based on an agreed-upon level of FTE personnel effort and related reimbursement rate. Under a supply agreement with EMD Serono, we provide them with product candidate materials for IND-enabling and Phase 1 clinical studies. The consideration for any related services is based on an agreed-upon level of FTE personnel effort and related reimbursement rate in addition to agreed-upon pricing for providing the materials.

We are eligible to receive up to $52.5 million for M1231 under the MDA Agreement, primarily from pre-commercial contingent payments, of which we have earned and received a $1.5 million payment and a $1.0 million payment in 2019 and 2020, respectively. 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 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 the inability of us 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.

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, 2020 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.

Vaxcyte (formerly known as SutroVax) Relationship

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

In May 2018, we entered into a Supply Agreement with Vaxcyte, wherein Vaxcyte engaged us to supply extracts and custom reagents, as requested by Vaxcyte. The pricing is based on an agreed upon cost plus arrangement.  

 

 

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We retain a less than 4% ownership interest in Vaxcyte and are eligible for four percent royalties on worldwide net sales of any vaccine candidates for human health use under the license agreement. 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 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 one or more such CMO(s) 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 containing non-natural amino acids 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, BMS, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Merck, Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc., or Pfizer, Roche Holding Ltd, Sanofi S.A and companies focused on ADCs, such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited, ImmunoGen, Inc., Mersana Therapeutics, Inc., or Mersana, Seagen, Inc., Genentech, Inc., or Genentech, Immunomedics, Inc., and ADC Therapeutics SA, as well as numerous small companies. Moreover, we also compete with current and future therapeutics developed at universities and other research institutions.

 

 

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If our most advanced 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 monoclonal antibodies such as Genentech’s Herceptin; 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; and CAR-T cell therapies such as Gilead’s Yescarta. 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, corticosteroids, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. 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, either alone or with strategic partners, have substantially greater financial, technical, manufacturing, marketing, sales, supply and human resources or experience than we have. 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

 

 

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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.

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, 2020 contained 28 U.S. issued patents and 166 patents issued in ex-U.S. jurisdictions including Europe, China, Japan, Australia and Singapore and 36 U.S. pending applications as well as 75 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 to:

 

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 containing one or more non-natural amino acids at defined positions in their amino acid sequences;

 

antibodies targeting receptors of interest, including CD74, FolRα and BCMA;

 

ADCs targeting receptors of interest, including CD74, FolRα and BCMA;

 

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 November 2041, absent any patent term adjustments or extensions.

 

 

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In addition, we have exclusively licensed the following patent portfolio from Stanford: 12 U.S. issued patents and 39 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.

Remaining patents in our patent portfolio licensed from Stanford are expected to expire between September 2021 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.

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

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

XpressCF® Platform

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2034

US, CA, EP, HK, IN, KR, SG

US, AU, CN, IL, JP

XpressCF® Platform

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2034

None

EP

XpressCF® Platform

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2035

None

US, EP

XpressCF® Platform

Owned by Sutro

Provisional

2041

US

None

STRO-001 and STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2033

US, BR, CA, EP, IN

US, AU, CN, EP, HK, JP, KR, SG

STRO-001 and STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2033

US, BR, CA, EP, JP

US, AU, EP, CN, HK, IL, IN, KR, SG

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2035

US, EP

EP

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2037

US, EP, HK

None

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2037

AU, BR, CA, CN, IL, JP, KR, MX, NZ, RU, SG, ZA

None

STRO-001

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2038

US, EP

None

STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2037

US, EP

None

 

 

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 Patent Relevance

Ownership

Type of

Patent

Protection

Expiration or

Anticipated

Expiration

(absent patent

term extension

or adjustment)

Pending

Jurisdictions

Issued

Jurisdictions

STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2038

US, AU, BR, CA, CN, EP, IL, JP, KR, MX, NZ, RU, SG, ZA

US

STRO-002

Owned by Sutro

Utility

2036

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

US, SG

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.

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 2040, 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.

 

 

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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® mark was registered by the USPTO in 2017.

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.

 

 

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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.

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

 

 

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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 $2,875,000 for Fiscal Year 2021. The applicant under an approved BLA is also subject to an annual program fee, currently exceeding $336,000 per prescription drug product for Fiscal Year 2021. These fees are typically increased annually. The FDA has 60 days from its receipt of a BLA to determine whether the application will be filed based on the agency’s threshold determination that it is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. Once the submission is filed, 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.

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.

 

 

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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. In addition to other benefits such as the ability to 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.  

Under the 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.

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.

 

 

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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.

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.

 

 

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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 $365,000 for most PMAs for Fiscal Year 2021. 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.

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.

 

 

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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.

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 offeror 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.

 

 

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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. In addition, certain states 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. 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.

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 Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer point-of-sale discounts (now 70%) 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 CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.

 

 

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There have been legislative and judicial efforts to modify, repeal, or otherwise invalidate all, or certain provisions of the ACA, including measures taken during the Trump administration. By way of example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or the TCJA, was enacted and included, among other things, a provision that repealed, 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.” In November 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments on the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision that held that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. It is unclear when a decision will be made or how the Supreme Court will rule. It is also unclear how other efforts to repeal, replace, modify or challenge the ACA will impact the ACA. We cannot predict the ultimate content, timing or effect of any healthcare reform legislation or the impact of potential legislation on its business.

The 2020 federal spending package permanently eliminated, effective January 1, 2020, the ACA-mandated “Cadillac” tax on certain high cost employer-sponsored insurance plans and the medical device excise tax on non-exempt medical devices, and effective January 1, 2021, also eliminates the health insurer tax. 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.” In addition, CMS published a final rule that would give states greater marketplaces, which may have the effect of relaxing essential health benefits required under the ACA for plans sold through such marketplaces.

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 2030 unless additional Congressional action is taken. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, which was signed into law in March 2020 and is designed to provide financial support and resources to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, suspended the 2% Medicare sequester from May 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, and extended the sequester by one year, through 2030. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 extended the suspension of the 2% Medicare sequester through March 31, 2021. 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.    

 

 

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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, reduce the costs of drugs under Medicare and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. At the federal level, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 included a $135 billion allowance to support legislative proposals seeking to reduce drug process, increase competition, lower out-of-pocket drug costs for patients, and increase patient access to lower cost generic and biosimilar drugs. In particular, on July 24, 2020 and September 13, 2020, the Trump administration announced several executive orders related to prescription drug pricing that seek to implement several of the administration’s proposals. FDA also released a final rule in September 2020 providing guidance for states to build and submit importation plans for drugs from Canada. Further, in November 2020, HHS finalized a regulation removing safe harbor protection for price reductions from pharmaceutical manufacturers to plan sponsors under Part D, either directly or through pharmacy benefit managers, unless the price reduction is required by law. The rule also creates a new safe harbor for price reductions reflected at the point-of-sale, as well as a safe harbor for certain fixed fee arrangements between pharmacy benefit managers and manufacturers. The CMS also issued an interim final rule implementing President Trump’s Most Favored Nation executive order, which would tie Medicare Part B payments for certain physician-administered drugs to the lowest price paid in other economically advanced countries, effective January 1, 2021. On December 28, 2020, the United States District Court in Northern California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against implementation of the interim final rule. In December 2020, CMS issued a final rule implementing significant manufacturer price reporting changes under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, including regulations that affect manufacturer-sponsored patient assistance programs subject to pharmacy benefit manager accumulator programs and Best Price reporting related to certain value-based purchasing arrangements. It is unclear to what extent these new regulations will be implemented and to what extent these regulations or any future legislation or regulations by the Biden administration will have on our business, including our ability to generate revenue and achieve profitability. 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.

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; however, manufacturers are not obligated to provide investigational new drug products under the current federal right to try law.

 

 

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Human Capital Resources

As of December 31, 2020, we had 191 full-time employees, 11 full-time contract employees and one part-time contract employee. Of these employees, 48 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.

We recognize that attracting, motivating, and retaining talent at all levels is vital to continuing our success. We invest in our employees in many ways, including through high-quality benefits and various health and wellness initiatives and offer competitive compensation packages (base salary and incentive plans), ensuring fairness in internal compensation practices. The principal purposes of our incentive plans (bonus and equity) are to provide retention incentives that align with the long-term interests of our stakeholders and stockholders.

To further engage and incentivize our workforce, we also offer a range of opportunities to support professional development and growth. We support ongoing education by providing an appropriate level of reimbursement for courses which are related to an individual’s current or future position, we support our scientific team through encouraging their in-person and/or virtual attendance at conferences and symposia which further their development and we have a robust internal transfer practice to engage our current talent in growth opportunities within and outside of their functional areas. We embarked upon a Company-wide leadership development program which offered the opportunity for every employee to continue to build upon their learning. For our talent pipeline assessment and development, we work closely with individual scientific and business functional leaders to identify our high-performing and high-potential employees, by conducting a company-wide talent assessment and calibration. This assessment is completed annually to ensure we tie together our incentives, development, and recognition to retain and attract the people we need to drive our success.

We provide our team with ongoing resources aimed at both mental and physical health. We work closely with our Employee Assistance Plan which provides important mental health services and resources. We have a health and wellness initiative which encourages healthy behaviors aimed at creating positive life-long habits. We have a culture of collaboration and collaborative principles which we are intentional about fostering. Our initiatives on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging aim to learn, listen and act in support of these principles. We are actively involved in our community through, among other things, mentoring underserved communities and supporting the philanthropic interests of our employees and patients.  

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.

 

 

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Item 1A.

Risk Factors

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.

Summary of Risk Factors

Our business is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including those highlighted in the section titled “Risk Factors” immediately following this summary. Some of these risks are:

 

The outbreak of the novel strain of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is beginning to impact the availability of routine materials for our business, which may cause delays in our research, development and/or manufacturing activities.

 

We have a limited operating history, a history of significant losses and may never achieve or maintain profitability.

 

We will need substantial additional funds to advance development of our product candidates and failure to obtain timely funding, may force us to delay, limit or terminate our product development programs, commercialization efforts or other operations.

 

Our product candidates are in early stages of development and may fail or suffer delays that materially and adversely affect their commercial viability.

 

Our business is dependent on the success of our product candidates based on our proprietary XpressCF® Platform and, in particular, our proprietary product candidates, STRO-001 and STRO-002. 

 

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.

 

If our collaborations with third parties to develop and commercialize certain product candidates are not successful, we may not be able to capitalize on the market potential of our XpressCF® Platform and the product candidates.

 

We currently manufacture a portion of our product candidates internally and also rely on third-party manufacturing and supply partners to provide us with 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.

 

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.

 

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

 

 

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If we are unable to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or commercialize our product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.

Risks Related to Our Business

The outbreak of the novel strain of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 is having an impact on our business.

Public health crises such as pandemics or similar outbreaks could adversely impact our business. In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, surfaced in Wuhan, China. Since then, COVID-19 has spread to multiple countries, including the United States, and has been declared by the World Health Organization to be a pandemic, impacting worldwide economic activity. A pandemic, including COVID-19, or other public health epidemic poses the risk that we or our employees, contractors, suppliers, and other partners may be prevented from conducting business activities in whole or in part for an indefinite period of time, including due to spread of the disease within these groups or due to shutdowns that may be requested or mandated by governmental authorities. In response to the spread of COVID-19, we have modified operations in our executive offices with our administrative employees primarily continuing their work outside of those offices, restricted on-site research, development and manufacturing staff to only those required to execute their job responsibilities on-site for prioritized activities, limited the number and proximity of staff in any given laboratory or in our manufacturing facility (except as necessary for particular activities), and implemented multiple work place safety, social distancing and disinfection protocols.

We are beginning to experience the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on our business, including due to delays in the availability of materials routinely used in biologic therapeutic development and manufacturing, which may cause delays in our research, development and/or manufacturing activities, but overall patient enrollment and treatment remains on track. Most notably, certain consumables used in our development and manufacturing processes have been allocated, based on the Defense Priorities and Allocations System, or DPAS, rules currently in effect, first to production of COVID-19 therapeutic and prophylactic products and then next to production of approved products, with production of products under clinical investigation taking last priority. For example, we have not been able to procure certain filters used for GMP manufacture of our and our partners’ product candidates in the time frame we were expecting, placing the timeline for manufacture of such product candidates at risk. Further, routine materials such as disposable bags, filters, and chromatography resins have become limited in supply and placed the timeline for development of the process to manufacture another one of our partners’ projects at risk. We are attempting to mitigate these risks by ordering sufficient materials to provide a safety stock in reserve and by sourcing some of these materials from our partners’ safety stock. These impacts and any future impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic may adversely affect our research, development and/or manufacturing activities, which could negatively impact our business, financial condition and operations.  

As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, or similar pandemics, we may experience disruptions that could severely impact our business, clinical trials and preclinical studies, including:

 

Additional delays or difficulties in enrolling and retaining patients in our clinical trials;

 

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

 

changes in protocol-specified procedures that lead to missing data (e.g., reduced or postponed patient visits, missed lab tests and scans, and patient discontinuation);

 

increased rates of patients withdrawing from our clinical trials following enrollment as a result of contracting COVID-19, being forced to quarantine, losing insurance coverage or not accepting home health visits;

 

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

 

 

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interruption of key clinical trial activities, such as clinical assessments at pre-specified timepoints during the trial and clinical trial site data monitoring, due to limitations on travel imposed or recommended by federal or state governments, employers and others, or interruption of clinical trial subject visits and study procedures (particularly any procedures that may be deemed non-essential), which may impact the integrity of subject data and clinical study endpoints;

 

interruption or delays in the operations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and comparable foreign regulatory agencies, which may impact approval timelines;

 

delays or disruptions in non-clinical experiments and investigational new drug application-enabling good laboratory practice standard toxicology studies;

 

limitations on employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the conduct of our research, preclinical studies, clinical trials and manufacturing operations, including because of sickness of employees or their families, the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people, an increased reliance on working from home or mass transit disruptions;

 

interruption of, or delays in receiving, supplies of our product candidates or precursor molecules or other raw materials and the manufacture or shipment of both drug substance and finished drug product for our product candidates from either us or contract manufacturing organizations due to staffing shortages, production slowdowns, stoppages and disruptions in delivery systems or reallocation of global manufacturing resources to therapeutic or prophylactic treatments for COVID-19 resulting in reduced manufacturing capacity or shortages of raw materials; and

 

reduced ability to engage with the medical and investor communities, including due to the cancellation of conferences scheduled throughout the year.

 These and other factors arising from the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen in countries that are already afflicted with COVID-19, could continue to spread to additional countries, or could return to countries where the pandemic has been partially contained, each of which could further adversely impact our ability to conduct clinical trials and our business generally, and could have a material adverse impact on our operations and financial condition and results.

In addition, the trading prices for our common stock and other biopharmaceutical companies, as well as the broader equity and debt markets, have been highly volatile as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting impact on economic activity. As a result, we may face difficulties raising capital when needed, and any such sales may be on unfavorable terms to us. Further, to the extent we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, the ownership interest of existing stockholders will be diluted.

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to rapidly evolve. The extent to which the outbreak may impact our business, clinical trials, research activities, preclinical studies and manufacturing activities will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the ultimate geographic spread of COVID-19, the duration of the outbreak, travel restrictions and actions to contain the outbreak or treat its impact, such as social distancing and quarantines or lock-downs in the United States and other countries, business closures or business disruptions and the effectiveness of actions taken in the United States and other countries to contain and treat the disease, including emergency use authorizations by the FDA for specified use of certain vaccines believed to be potentially beneficial against certain strains of COVID-19.

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.

 

 

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To date, we have enrolled a limited number of patients in our initial clinical trials, have no products approved for commercial sale, have not generated any revenue from commercial product sales and, as of December 31, 2020, had an accumulated deficit of $227.9 million. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019, our net loss was $32.1 million and $55.7 million, respectively. 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. The net loss for the year ended December 31, 2020 included the benefit from the non-operating, unrealized gain of $41.5 million related to our holdings of Vaxcyte common stock. Our technologies and product candidates are in early stages of development, and we are subject to the risks of failure inherent in the 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 proprietary clinical-stage product candidates STRO-001 and STRO-002, 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, 2020, we had $326.5 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

 

 

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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 and research and development facilities 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;

 

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 we entered into with Oxford and SVB in February 2020, under which we borrowed $25.0 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

 

 

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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 product candidates, STRO-001 is in the dose escalation phase and STRO-002 is in the dose escalation and dose expansion phase of their respective Phase 1 clinical trials, and enrollment began in the second half of 2019 for patients in the Phase 1 clinical trial for CC-99712, a BCMA ADC candidate resulting from our BMS collaboration, and a Phase 1 clinical trial was initiated in the first quarter of 2021 for M1231, a MUC1-EGFR bispecific ADC resulting from our EMD Serono collaboration. 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.

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;

 

 

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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;

 

occurrence of epidemics, pandemics or contagious diseases, such as the novel strain of coronavirus, and potential effects on our business, clinical trial sites, supply chain and manufacturing facilities;

 

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 in our clinical trials a sufficient response rate or duration of response;

 

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 proprietary 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 proprietary 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 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

 

 

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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 future 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, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Additionally, we have in the past and may in the future create benchmark molecules for comparative purposes.  For example, we have created a benchmark folate receptor-alpha, or FolRα targeting antibody-drug conjugate, or 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’ product candidates. However, we cannot be certain that any benchmark molecule that we create is the same as the molecule we are attempting to recreate, and the results of the tests comparing any such benchmark molecule to any other potential or current product candidate may be different than the actual results of a head-to-head test of any such other potential or current product candidate against a competitor molecule. Additional preclinical and clinical testing will be needed to evaluate the therapeutic index of our potential or current product candidates, and to understand their 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.

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 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

 

 

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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, our partner BMS has tested CC-99712, and our partner EMD has tested M1231 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. Further, in our oncology clinical trials to date, we have used achievement of stable disease as evidence for disease control (stable disease, partial response or complete response) by our product candidates; however, the FDA does not view stable disease as an objective response for the purposes of FDA approval.  

We presented updated data from our STRO-001 Phase 1 trial in December 2020.  As of October 30, 2020, most treatment emergent adverse events were grade 1 or 2, with the most common grade 1-2 treatment emergent adverse events of nausea, fatigue, chills, anemia, headache, dyspnea, abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite and pyrexia, and no ocular or neuropathy toxicity signals have been observed. Two grade 3 and no grade 4 treatment emergent adverse events were observed, one instance each of anemia and dyspnea. Subsequent to a previously announced protocol amendment in 2019 requiring pre-treatment screening imaging for patients at risk for thromboses, no thromboembolic events have been observed.

We presented updated data from our STRO-002 Phase 1 trial in December 2020.  Based on data from the trial through October 30, 2020, STRO-002 was generally well tolerated and was mostly associated with mild adverse events.  Eighty-six percent (86%) of observed adverse events were grade 1 or grade 2 and prophylactic corticosteroid eyedrops have not been necessary.  The most common Grade 3 and 4 treatment-emergent adverse events were reversible neutropenia. Grade 3 arthralgia (15.4%) and neuropathy (7.7%) were observed and managed with standard medical treatment, including dose reductions or delays without evidence of compromised efficacy.

If product candidates based on our XpressCF® Platform are unable to demonstrate sufficient safety and efficacy data to obtain marketing approval, 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

 

 

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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.

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 for an extended period of time. 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;

 

 

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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.

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., or Merck, Celgene Corporation, or Celgene, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bristol Myers Squibb Company, or BMS, and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany (operating in the United States under the name “EMD Serono”, the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in the US) 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;

 

 

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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.

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. 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 and our partner BMS’s CC-99712 product candidate, and our partner EMD Serono’s M1231 product candidate, 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.

 

 

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Our existing collaborations with Merck, BMS 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, BMS 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 and other 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, achieve milestones or earn contingent payments under our collaboration agreements, future revenue and cash resources will be substantially less than expected.

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. For example, Celgene, now BMS, was advancing four preclinical collaboration programs, one of which is CC-99712, an ADC targeting B-cell maturation antigen, or BCMA, for the treatment of multiple myeloma. BMS has worldwide development and commercialization rights with respect to this BCMA ADC, for which the FDA cleared the IND application and a Phase 1 clinical trial has commenced enrolling patients. In 2019, Celgene, now BMS, decided to not exercise the option to acquire U.S. clinical development and commercialization rights to a second collaboration program. Therefore, Celgene did not pay us the $12.5 million option maintenance fee due on IND clearance for the first collaboration program described above. Additionally, while BMS had ex-U.S. rights to three additional collaboration programs (BCMA-CD3, PD1-LAG3, and PD1-TIM3), since certain program milestones were not achieved by BMS by September 26, 2020, the ex-U.S. rights to those collaboration programs automatically reverted to us at no cost to us. Therefore, we now solely hold worldwide rights to the three programs. EMD Serono has advanced a collaboration program, M1231, a MUC1-EGFR bispecific ADC, into a Phase 1 clinical trial in the first quarter of 2021. EMD Serono has worldwide rights to M1231 and sole discretion in the clinical development and commercialization of this product. 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

 

 

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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.

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.

 

 

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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.

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. In addition, replacement of a manufacturer may require a technology transfer to the new manufacturer, which involves technical risk that the transfer may not succeed or may be delayed, and which can incur significant costs.  

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

 

 

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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;

 

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, unstable political environments, or epidemics, pandemics, or contagious diseases, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. If we or our contract manufacturers were to encounter any of these difficulties, our ability to provide our product candidates to patients in 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.

 

 

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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, timely availability of raw materials and other technical challenges. 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.

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, such as epidemics, pandemics or contagious diseases, 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.

 

 

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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.

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 recently entered into an agreement to develop diagnostic assays suitable for use as a companion diagnostic for STRO-002. 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.  In addition, our partner BMS may be required to develop and obtain regulatory clearance for a companion diagnostic to assess BCMA expression in patients in connection with their development of CC-99712.  Similarly, our partner EMD Serono may be required to develop and obtain regulatory clearance for companion diagnostics to assess MUC1 and EGFR expression in patients in connection with their development of M1231.

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

 

 

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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, BMS, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Merck, Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc., or Pfizer, Roche Holding Ltd, Sanofi S.A and companies focused on ADCs, such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited, ImmunoGen, Inc., Seagen, Inc., Genentech, Inc., or Genentech, Immunomedics, Inc., Mersana Therapeutics, Inc., and ADC Therapeutics SA, 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 most advanced 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 monoclonal antibodies such as Genentech’s Herceptin; 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; and to CAR-T cell therapies such as Gilead’s Yescarta. 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, corticosteroids, immunomodulating agents, and targeted therapy. 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 significantly greater financial, technical, manufacturing, marketing, sales, supply, and human 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.

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

As of December 31, 2020, we had 191 full-time employees.  As our development and commercialization plans and strategies develop, we expect to expand our employee base for managerial, operational, financial and other resources. In addition, we have limited experience in product development and began our first clinical trials for our first two product candidates in 2018 and 2019. 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

 

 

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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.

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 and 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 recent Executive Orders, 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

 

 

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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