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DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
The registrant intends to file a definitive proxy statement for the registrant's 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022. Portions of such definitive proxy statement are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
RHYTHM PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
For the Year Ended December 31, 2022
Table of Contents
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk
Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosures
Item 9C. Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections
Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance
Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters
Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions and Director Independence
CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, or this Annual Report, contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, and is subject to the “safe harbor” created by those sections. Any statements about our expectations, beliefs, plans, objectives, assumptions or future events or performance are not historical facts and may be forward-looking. Some of the forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terms such as “anticipates,” “believes,” “could,” “estimates,” “expects,” “intends,” “may,” “might,” “likely,” “plans,” “potential,” “predicts,” “projects,” “seeks,” “should,” “target,” “will,” “would,” or similar expressions and the negatives of those terms include forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the marketing and commercialization of IMCIVREE (setmelanotide), and the timing of commercialization, the success, cost and timing of our product development activities and clinical trials, our financial performance, including our expectations regarding our existing cash, operating losses, expenses, sources of future financing and sufficiency of cash, our ability to hire and retain necessary personnel, patient enrollments and the timing thereof, the timing of announcements regarding results of clinical trials and filing of regulatory applications, our ability to protect our intellectual property, our ability to negotiate our collaboration agreements, if needed, our relationship with third-parties, our marketing, commercial sales, and revenue generation, expectations surrounding our manufacturing arrangements, the potential financial impact, growth prospects and benefits of our acquisition of Xinvento B.V., the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic slowdown on our business and operations and our future financial results, and the impact of accounting pronouncements. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. We cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements, and you should not place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements. Our actual results may differ significantly from the results discussed in the forward-looking statements. Important factors that might cause such a difference include, but are not limited to, those set forth in Item 1A. “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this Annual Report. Moreover, we operate in an evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all risk factors and uncertainties. Except as may be required by law, we have no plans to update our forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this Annual Report. We caution readers not to place undue reliance upon any such forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date made.
Unless the content requires otherwise, references to “Rhythm Pharmaceuticals,” “Rhythm,” “the Company,” “we,” “our,” and “us,” in this Annual Report refer to Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and its subsidiaries.
TRADEMARKS, TRADENAMES AND SERVICE MARKS
This Annual Report may include trademarks, tradenames and service marks that are the property of other organizations. Solely for convenience, trademarks and tradenames referred to in this Annual Report may appear without the ® and ™ symbols, but those references are not intended to indicate, in any way, that we will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights or that the applicable owner will not assert its rights, to these trademarks and tradenames.
SUMMARY RISK FACTORS
Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including those described in Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report. You should carefully consider these risks and uncertainties when investing in our common stock. The principal risks and uncertainties affecting our business include the following:
|●||We are a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history and have not generated any significant revenue from product sales. We have incurred significant operating losses since our inception, anticipate that we will incur continued losses for the foreseeable future and may never achieve profitability.|
|●||We will need to raise additional funding, which 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 efforts or other operations.|
|●||Our Revenue Interest Financing Agreement with Healthcare Royalty Partners, and our other agreements, could restrict our ability to commercialize IMCIVREE, limit cash flow available for our operations and expose us to risks that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.|
|●||We have only one approved product, which is still in clinical development in additional indications, and we may not be successful in any future efforts to identify and develop additional product candidates.|
|●||The successful commercialization of IMCIVREE and any other product candidates will depend in part on the extent to which governmental authorities, private health insurers, and other third-party payors provide coverage and adequate reimbursement levels. Failure to obtain or maintain coverage and adequate reimbursement for setmelanotide or our other product candidates, if any and if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.|
|●||Positive results from early clinical trials of setmelanotide may not be predictive of the results of later clinical trials of setmelanotide. If we cannot generate positive results in our later clinical trials of setmelanotide, we may be unable to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize additional indications for setmelanotide.|
|●||The number of patients suffering from each of the MC4R pathway deficiencies is small and has not been established with precision. If the actual number of patients with any of these conditions is smaller than we had estimated, our revenue and ability to achieve profitability will be materially adversely affected. Moreover, our ability to recruit patients to our trials may be materially adversely affected. Patient enrollment may also be adversely affected by competition and other factors.|
|●||Failures or delays in the commencement or completion of our planned clinical trials of setmelanotide could result in increased costs to us and could delay, prevent or limit our ability to generate revenue and continue our business.|
|●||Changes in regulatory requirements and, guidance in the United States or abroad, or unanticipated events during our clinical trials of setmelanotide may occur, which may result in changes to clinical trial protocols or additional clinical trial requirements, which could result in increased costs to us and could delay our development timeline. Additionally, it may be necessary to validate different or additional instruments for measuring subjective symptoms, and to show that setmelanotide has a clinically meaningful impact on those endpoints in order to obtain regulatory approval.|
|●||Even if we complete the necessary clinical trials, the regulatory and marketing approval process is expensive, time consuming and uncertain and may prevent us from obtaining additional approvals for the commercialization of setmelanotide beyond FDA approval for obesity due to proopiomelanocortin, or POMC, proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 1, or PCSK1, or leptin receptor, or LEPR, deficiencies in the United States. We depend entirely on the success of setmelanotide, and we cannot be certain that we will be able to obtain additional regulatory approvals for, or successfully commercialize, setmelanotide. If we are not able to obtain, or if there are delays in obtaining, required additional regulatory approvals, we will not be able to commercialize setmelanotide in additional indications in the United States or in foreign jurisdictions, and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired.|
|●||Our approach to treating patients with MC4R pathway deficiencies requires the identification of patients with unique genetic subtypes, for example, POMC genetic deficiency. The FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions could require the clearance, approval or CE marking of an in vitro companion diagnostic device to ensure appropriate selection of patients as a condition of approving|
|setmelanotide in additional indications. The requirement that we obtain clearance, approval or CE mark of an in vitro companion diagnostic device will require substantial financial resources, and could delay or prevent the receipt of additional regulatory approvals for setmelanotide, or adversely affect those we have already obtained.|
|●||Our product candidates may cause undesirable side effects that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial profile of an approved labeling or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.|
|●||We may fail to realize the anticipated benefits of our acquisition of Xinvento B.V., those benefits may take longer to realize than expected, and we may encounter significant integration difficulties.|
|●||If the third parties we rely on, and will continue to rely on, do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines, we may not be able to obtain additional regulatory approvals for or continue to commercialize setmelanotide and our business could be substantially hard.|
|●||Our industry is intensely competitive. If we are not able to compete effectively against current and future competitors, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenue from the sale of IMCIVREE, our business will not grow and our financial condition and operations will suffer.|
|●||If we are unable to adequately protect our proprietary technology or maintain issued patents that are sufficient to protect setmelanotide, others could compete against us more directly, which would have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.|
|●||Global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic slowdown, have and may continue to adversely impact our business, including our preclinical studies, clinical trials and other commercialization prospects.|
Item 1. Business
We are a global, commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to transforming the lives of patients and their families living with rare diseases. We are focused on advancing our lead asset, IMCIVREE® (setmelanotide), as a precision medicine designed to treat hyperphagia and severe obesity caused by rare melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) pathway diseases. While obesity affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, we are advancing IMCIVREE® (setmelanotide) for a subset of individuals who have hyperphagia, a pathological hunger, and severe obesity due to an impaired MC4R pathway, which may be caused by traumatic injury or genetic variants. The MC4R pathway is an endocrine pathway in the brain that is responsible for regulating hunger, caloric intake and energy expenditure, which consequently affect body weight. IMCIVREE, an MC4R agonist for which we hold worldwide rights, is the first-ever therapy developed for patients with certain ultra-rare diseases that is approved or authorized in the United States, European Union (EU) and Great Britain. IMCIVREE is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with monogenic or syndromic obesity due to: (i) proopiomelanocortin (POMC), proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 1 (PCSK1) or leptin receptor (LEPR) deficiency as determined by an FDA-approved test demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance (VUS); or (ii) Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS). The European Commission (EC) and Great Britain’s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have authorized IMCIVREE for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS or genetically confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above. In addition to the United States, we have achieved market access for
IMCIVREE for BBS or POMC and LEPR deficiencies, or both, in eight countries outside the United States, and we continue to collaborate with authorities to achieve access in additional markets.
In addition to initial commercial efforts, we are advancing what we believe is the most comprehensive clinical research program ever initiated in MC4R pathway diseases, with multiple ongoing and planned Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials evaluating setmelanotide. We are developing IMCIVREE to address additional patients with acquired hypothalamic obesity and additional MC4R pathway diseases caused by genetic variants in an effort to expand the approved indications and to bring this potential therapy to approximately 53,000 estimated patients in the United States and a similarly-sized patient population in Europe. Following a Phase 2 trial in which 16 of 18 patients with hypothalamic obesity achieved the primary endpoint with a body mass index (BMI) decrease greater than 5 percent on setmelanotide therapy, and in which we observed a 14.5 mean percent reduction in BMI across all patients, we have initiated a Phase 3 trial in early 2023. The ongoing pivotal Phase 3 EMANATE trial and Phase 2 DAYBREAK trial are designed to evaluate setmelanotide in several distinct, genetically defined MC4R pathway diseases. We also are conducting a Phase 3 pediatrics trial evaluating daily setmelanotide in patients between the ages of 2 and 6 and a Phase 3 switch trial evaluating a weekly formulation of setmelanotide.
We are leveraging what we believe is the largest known DNA database focused on obesity - with approximately 60,000 sequencing samples as of December 31, 2022 - to improve the understanding, diagnosis and care of people living with severe obesity due to certain variants in genes associated with the MC4R pathway. Our sequencing-based epidemiology estimates show that each of these genetically-defined MC4R pathway deficiencies number in the rare or ultra-rare category, according to established definitions of rare disease patient populations. Our epidemiology estimates are approximately 4,600 to 7,500 for U.S. patients in initial FDA-approved indications, including obesity due to biallelic POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiencies, and BBS. Epidemiology estimates for patients with hypothalamic obesity is between 5,000 and 10,000 in the United States, based on our analysis of published literature and our epidemiology estimates for the indications being studied in our Phase 3 EMANATE trial suggest that approximately 53,000 U.S. patients with one of these genetically driven obesities have the potential to respond well to setmelanotide. These patients face similar challenges as other patients with rare diseases, namely lack of awareness, resources, tests, tools and especially therapeutic options.
We are working to expand access to IMCIVREE globally. Our disease awareness and patient finding efforts are aligned with a singular focus on building a community of caregivers and healthcare providers focused on transforming the treatment of these diseases. We have multiple field teams in the United States and Europe engaging with physicians who treat patients with severe obesity. We continue to bring together health care providers, patients and families with educational and awareness events. Our sequencing efforts, now primarily focused on our Uncovering Rare Obesity™ (URO) sponsored genetic testing program, fuel MC4R pathway research, disease education and awareness and patient finding.
With 177 employees in the United States and Europe as of January 31, 2023, a rapidly expanding network of key opinion leaders, and an increasing number of identified, diagnosed and treated patients, we are focused on changing the paradigm for the treatment of rare MC4R pathway diseases. Our focused disease awareness and patient finding efforts fuel the key elements of our strategy, including:
|●||Ensure global access to IMCIVREE: We are actively pursuing a global strategy for our clinical development, commercial and community building programs. In the United States, we are focused on identifying patients and working with physicians and payors to get eligible patients access to IMCIVREE. We have achieved access for IMCIVREE in eight international markets with plans to launch IMCIVREE in Germany for BBS in the second quarter of 2023. In addition, we anticipate launching IMCIVREE for BBS in The Netherlands in the second half of2023, and pending regulatory review, in Canada. In both Europe and North America, we are building a rare disease-focused organization that can be scaled as we seek marketing authorizations for additional rare MC4R pathway diseases.|
|●||Execute clinical development: With our Phase 3 trial in hypothalamic obesity now underway, we are executing on several clinical trials designed to expand the reach of setmelanotide and potentially secure FDA approval and marketing authorization in Europe in additional indications. In addition to our pivotal trial in|
|hypothalamic obesity, our Phase 3 EMANATE trial, Phase 3 pediatrics trial and Phase 2 DAYBREAK trial all are ongoing. With our genetic testing programs in both the United States and Europe, we are committed to expanding our obesity DNA database by expanding access and availability to genetic testing for individuals with early-onset, severe obesity and hyperphagia. We will continue to expand our genetic testing effort focusing initially on clinical trial enrollment and early commercialization efforts.|
|●||Lifecycle development and pipeline expansion: We are developing follow-on product candidates, including a weekly formulation of setmelanotide as well as an auto-injector, designed to be more convenient and patient-friendly. Additionally, we anticipate reporting topline data in 2023 from our clinical trial in pediatric patients from 2 years to younger than 6 years of age, potentially enabling us to reach younger patients. And we are conducting investigational new drug (IND)-enabling studies with MC4R agonist candidates that may be more selective and more potent than setmelanotide. Lastly, we will leverage our rare disease capabilities and opportunistically evaluate other investigational therapies for rare disease that offer the potential of a meaningful solution to a clear unmet medical need.|
Severe Obesity, Hyperphagia, and the MC4R Pathway
All obesity is not the same, and rare MC4R pathway diseases are distinct from general obesity. The hallmark characteristics of rare MC4R pathway diseases are severe obesity and hyperphagia, a pathological and insatiable hunger that drives a severe preoccupation with food and extreme food-seeking behaviors. Lifestyle interventions are not therapeutic in patients with these diseases because they fail to address the underlying genetic or acquired impairment of central energy regulation and satiety.
Accordingly, the discovery that the MC4R pathway regulates both energy intake (hunger) and energy expenditure has made it an important target for therapeutics. Studies have shown that injuries to the hypothalamus region of the brain in patients with certain cancers impair MC4R signaling, leading to increased hunger, reduced energy expenditure and rapid onset of severe obesity. In addition to obesity due to POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiencies and BBS, recent advances in genetic studies have identified several diseases characterized at least in part with early-onset, severe obesity and hyperphagia that are the result of genetic variants affecting the MC4R pathway, including certain variants of the POMC, PCSK1, LEPR, SRC1 and SH2B1 genes, as well as MC4R deficiency obesity and deficiencies in many additional genes with strong or very strong relevance to the MC4R pathway. With a deeper understanding of this critical signaling pathway, we are taking a different approach to drug development by focusing on specific genetic variants and acquired injury affecting the MC4R pathway. We believe that this approach has the potential to provide clinically-meaningful improvements in obesity and hyperphagia by re-establishing lost function in the MC4R pathway.
Rare MC4R Pathway Diseases
The MC4R pathway has been the focus of extensive scientific investigation for many years. This neuro-endocrine pathway in the hypothalamus is a key signaling pathway responsible for regulating hunger, food or caloric intake, and energy expenditure, which consequently affects body weight. It is known to be a critical component in the regulation of energy balance. The critical role of the MC4R pathway in weight regulation is supported by the observation that single gene variants at many points in this pathway result in early-onset, severe obesity.
The MC4R pathway is illustrated in the figure below. Under normal conditions, POMC neurons are activated by adiposity and satiety signals, including those resulting from the hormone leptin acting through the LEPR. POMC neurons produce a protein, which is processed by the PCSK1 enzyme, into melanocyte stimulating hormone, or MSH, the natural ligand, or activator of the MC4R. When upstream genetic variants, traumatic injuries or lesions disrupt this pathway, it can lead to insufficient MC4R activation and downstream signaling; the result of which is hyperphagia, reduced energy expenditure and severe obesity.
The figure below also illustrates some of the genes that are upstream of the MC4R and the potential effect variants in those genes may have on the activation of the MC4R, which regulates food intake and energy expenditure.
Setmelanotide Development Targets: Upstream Deficiencies Affecting the MC4R Pathway
AgRP, agouti-related protein; LEPR, leptin receptor; MC4R, melanocortin-4 receptor; MSH, melanocyte-stimulating hormone; ACTH, adrenocorticotropic hormone; PCSK1, proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin-type 1; POMC, proopiomelanocortin. Reference: Yazdi FT et al. PeerJ. 2015;3:e856.
We are focused on developing setmelanotide as a precision treatment for rare MC4R pathway diseases. In addition to acquired hypothalamic obesity, we are evaluating setmelanotide in Phase 2 and 3 trials for the treatment of obesity due to variants in one of numerous genes associated with the MC4R pathway. Setmelanotide has the potential to restore lost function in this pathway by activating the intact MC4R-expressing neuron downstream of the genetic impairment. In this way, we believe setmelanotide acts as restorative therapy, to restore lost signaling of the MC4R pathway.
Epidemiology Estimates of Rare MC4R Pathway Diseases
While obesity is a global epidemic, we are focused on rare MC4R pathway diseases. Impairment of the MC4R pathway is characterized by hyperphagia and rapid-onset obesity or presence of early-onset, severe obesity. Of the tens of millions of individuals with obesity in the United States, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 5 million individuals whose severe obesity had onset between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. The tables below summarizes the estimated population sizes for indications currently approved or under pivotal clinical investigation.
These calculations rely on internal and proprietary sequencing data and current estimated responder rates to setmelanotide therapy, and they assume a U.S. population of 327 million, of which 1.7% have early-onset, severe obesity (Hales et al in JAMA – April 2018: Trends in Obesity and Severe Obesity Prevalence in US Youth and Adults by Sex and Age, 2007-2008 to 2015-2016).
Approved by the U.S. FDA and authorized by the EC and Great Britain’s MHRAa
Estimated U.S. population
Estimated European population
4,000 – 5,000b
4,000 – 5,000b
Obesity due to POMC or LEPR deficiency caused by biallelic variants in the POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR genes
~600 – 2,500
Similar prevalence as U.S.c
|a.||Authorized by the EC and MHRA for use in patients six years of age and older. Approved by the FDA for use in patients six years of age and older with monogenic or syndromic obesity.|
|b.||For BBS, prevalence estimates vary between populations, from 1 in 100,000 in northern European populations with higher prevalence rates in some additional regions throughout the world. We estimate the number of patients with BBS in the United States is between 4,000 and 5,000, with a similar number in continental Europe and the United Kingdom (UK). These estimates are based on our patient identification efforts in the United States and Europe and our proprietary genetic sequencing data, as well as our belief that BBS, like most rare diseases, is underdiagnosed. We believe the BBS health care provider network in EU member states and the UK is particularly well established and more advanced than in the United States, and based on field work, we believe there are approximately 1,500 patients diagnosed and being cared for at academic centers in Europe. Applying these population-adjusted identified patient populations to the United States and other countries with comparable population genetics supports our epidemiology estimates.|
|c.||For POMC or LEPR deficiencies, we estimate European prevalence is similar to the United States. While our sequencing data include patients from the United States and Europe, we do not have comparable sequencing data from European countries and these estimates are therefore based on applying relative population percentages to the Rhythm-derived estimates described above.|
Separately, in Canada, where our new drug submission for the treatment of obesity and control of hunger in BBS or biallelic POMC, PSCK1 or LEPR deficiency is under review, we estimate there are approximately 300 – 400 individuals with BBS. This is based on data on file, a range of prevalence estimates for BBS in Canada between 1 in 125,000 to 1 in 160,000, and a population in Canada of 38,929,902 as of July 1, 2022, according to StatsCan. Also, our prevalence estimate accounts for a reported founder effect in province of Newfoundland, where estimated prevalence is approximately 1 in 17,500 (Forsythe E, Beales PL. Eur J Hum Genet. 2013;21(1):8-13.) The prevalence of POMC, PCSK1, and LEPR deficiency obesity is not well characterized as very little data are available.
Setmelanotide currently being evaluated in Phase 3 trials
Estimated U.S. population
Estimated European population
Acquired hypothalamic obesity
5,000 – 10,000d
3,500 – 10,000e
Obesity due to POMC insufficiency caused by heterozygous variants in the POMC or PCSK1 genes
Similar prevalence as U.S.f
Obesity due to LEPR insufficiency caused by heterozygous variants in the LEPR gene
Similar prevalence as U.S. f
Obesity due to SRC1 deficiency caused by a variant in the NCOA1 gene (SRC1 deficiency obesity)
Similar prevalence as U.S. f
Obesity due to SH2B1 deficiency caused by a variant in the SH2B1 gene or 16p11.2 deletion encompassing the SH2B1 gene (SH2B1 deficiency obesity)
Similar prevalence as U.S. f
d. For hypothalamic obesity in the United States, our internal Company estimates are based on reported incidence of hypothalamic obesity following craniophryngioma and long-term survival rates, (Zacharia, et al., Neuro-Oncology 14(8):1070–1078, 2012. doi:10.1093/neuonc/nos142; and Muller, et al., Neuro-Oncology 17(7), 1029–1038, 2015 doi:10.1093/neuonc/nov044.)
e. Our European prevalence estimate for hypothalamic obesity is limited to the EU4, UK and the Netherlands. The total 2020 population estimates for the six key countries (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, and UK) of 339,295,304 was used to reach a final prevalence of 0.1-0.3 in 10,000 patients.
f. For patients with genetic variants of the MC4R pathway, the rarity and the genetic pathophysiology of our target indications means that there is no comprehensive patient registry or other method of establishing with precision the actual number of patients. As a result, we have had to rely on other available sources to derive clinical prevalence estimates for these monogenic indications. For the four rare MC4R pathway diseases we are studying on the Phase 3 EMANATE trial (POMC insufficiency, LEPR insufficiency, SRC1 deficiency and SH2B1 deficiency), we believe that the patient populations in continental Europe and UK are at least as large as those in the United States. While our sequencing data include patients from the United States and Europe, we do not have comparable sequencing data from European countries and these estimates are therefore based on applying relative population percentages to the Rhythm-derived estimates described above. We recently updated our prevalence estimates in 2021 based on sequencing data from individuals with obesity, and rates of response to setmelanotide in our exploratory Phase 2 Basket study. Because the published epidemiology studies for these genetic deficiencies are based on relatively small population samples, and are not amenable to robust statistical analyses, it is possible that these projections may significantly under- or overestimate the addressable population. While our projected estimates of the aggregate total addressable population continues to expand with the addition of new genes, the addressable population faces the challenges of a rare disease population.
Limitations of Current Therapies
Although drugs approved for general obesity potentially can be used in patients with obesity and rare MC4R pathway diseases, all currently available products have limited efficacy and treat symptoms without addressing the
underlying biology of MC4R impairment. For example, drugs which delay gastric emptying may cause a patient to feel full and eat less, but are also often associated with nausea and vomiting as a consequence of the delayed emptying. In the case of individuals with rare MC4R pathway diseases, these therapies also do not specifically address the impaired signaling in this central energy regulating pathway. Similarly, bariatric surgery which has been shown to be quite effective in the general population with obesity, may be unsuccessful in patients with rare MC4R pathway diseases for the same reason.
IMCIVREE is approved by the FDA for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with monogenic or syndromic obesity due to: (i) POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency as determined by an FDA-approved test demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or VUS; or (ii) BBS. The EC and Great Britain’s MHRA have authorized setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS or genetically confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above. IMCIVREE is the only therapeutic specifically approved for patients with these diseases. As an MC4R agonist, IMCIVREE is designed to restore impaired MC4R pathway activity arising due to genetic impairments upstream of the MC4R.
IMCIVREE contains setmelanotide acetate, a MC4R agonist. Setmelanotide is an 8 amino acid cyclic peptide analog of endogenous melanocortin peptide α-MSH. The chemical name for setmelanotide acetate is acetyl-L-arginyl-L-cysteinyl-D-alanyl-L-histidinyl-D-phenylalanyl-L-arginyl-L-tryptophanyl-L-cysteinamide cyclic (2→8)-disulfide acetate. Its molecular formula is C49H68N18O9S2 (anhydrous, free-base), and molecular mass is 1117.3 Daltons (anhydrous, free-base).
The chemical structure of setmelanotide is:
IMCIVREE injection is a sterile, clear to slightly opalescent, colorless to slightly yellow solution. Each 1 mL of IMCIVREE contains 10 mg of setmelanotide provided as setmelanotide acetate, which is a salt with 2 to 4 molar equivalents of acetate, and the following inactive ingredients: 100 mg N-(carbonyl-methoxypolyethylene glycol 2000)-1,2-distearoyl- glycero-3- phosphoethanolamine sodium salt, 8 mg carboxymethylcellulose sodium (average MWt 90,500), 11 mg mannitol, 5 mg phenol, 10 mg benzyl alcohol, 1 mg edetate disodium dihydrate, and Water for Injection. The pH of IMCIVREE is 5 to 6.
Obesity due to POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency are ultra-rare diseases caused by variants in POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR genes that impair the MC4 receptor pathway. People living with obesity due to POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency struggle with hyperphagia, an extreme, insatiable hunger, beginning at a young age and resulting in early-onset, severe obesity.
Obesity due to POMC or PCSK1 deficiency is caused by the loss of both genetic copies of either the gene for POMC or the gene for PCSK1. This results either in loss of POMC neuropeptide synthesis, in the case of biallelic (compound heterozygous and homozygous) deficiency in the POMC gene, or in disruption of the required processing of
the POMC neuropeptide product to MSH by the PCSK1 enzyme, in the case of biallelic deficiency in the PCSK1 gene. The result of these biallelic genetic variants is deficiency of MSH to bind and activate MC4R, ultimately leading to the lack of stimulation of downstream MC4R neurons and causing severe, early-onset obesity and hyperphagia. POMC or PSCK1 biallelic deficiency may also be associated with other hormonal deficiencies, such as hypoadrenalism, as well as other characteristics of MSH deficiency such as red hair and fair skin.
POMC/PCSK1 deficiency is characterized by voracious infant feeding, rapid weight gain and severe obesity, often in early infancy, with patients demonstrating remarkable weight increases many standard deviations above the normal weight growth curves. These patients and their caregivers often attempt to stabilize body weight with the help of psychologists, nutritionists and pediatric endocrinologists, all without significant success, since none of these interventions addresses the underlying biology of the impact of the POMC/PSCK1 deficiency on the MC4R pathway.
Obesity due to LEPR deficiency is an ultra-rare genetic disease that causes hyperphagia and severe, early-onset obesity. Leptin’s role in obesity has been elucidated by characterization of people with severe obesity and biallelic mutations that impair the activity of leptin, including disruption of signaling at the LEPR, known as LEPR deficiency obesity. Under normal conditions, leptin is released from adipose (fat) tissue as a signal of the body’s energy reserves, and can activate POMC neurons and the downstream MC4R to signal for decreased energy intake and increased energy expenditure. However, like other deficiencies upstream in the MC4R pathway, lack of signaling at LEPR results in loss of function in the MC4R pathway and loss of signaling of downstream MC4R expressing neurons, resulting in hyperphagia and early-onset severe obesity.
Pivotal Phase 3 Clinical Trials Evaluating Setmelanotide in POMC and LEPR Deficiency Obesities
We assessed the safety and efficacy of IMCIVREE in two pivotal trials that were identically designed: one-year, open-label studies, each with an eight-week, double-blind withdrawal period. The studies enrolled patients with homozygous or presumed compound heterozygous pathogenic, likely pathogenic variants, or VUS, for either the POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR gene. In both studies, adult patients had a body mass index (BMI) of ≥30 kg/m2. Weight in pediatric patients was ≥95th percentile using growth chart assessments.
Efficacy analyses were conducted in 21 patients who had completed at least one year of treatment at the time of a pre-specified data cutoff. Of the 21 patients included in the efficacy analysis in both pivotal studies, 62% were adults and 38% were aged 16 years or younger. In Study 1, 50% of patients were female, 70% were White, and the median baseline BMI was 40.0 kg/m2 (range: 26.6-53.3). In Study 2, 73% of patients were female, 91% were White, and the median baseline BMI was 46.6 kg/ m2 (range: 35.8-64.6).
In the POMC/PCSK1 study, 80% of patients with obesity due to POMC or PCSK1 deficiency met the primary endpoint, achieving a ≥10% weight loss after one year of treatment with IMCIVREE. In the LEPR study, 46% of patients with obesity due to LEPR deficiency met the primary endpoint by achieving a ≥10% weight loss after 1 year of treatment with IMCIVREE.
Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a life-threatening, ultra-rare orphan disease. BBS is a disease that causes hyperphagia and severe obesity beginning in early childhood, as well as vision loss, polydactyly, kidney abnormalities, and other signs and symptoms. For patients with BBS, hyperphagia and obesity can have significant health consequences. BBS is part of a class of disorders called ciliopathies, or disorders associated with the impairment of cilia function in cells. Cilia are hair-like cellular projections that play a fundamental role in the regulation of several biological processes, including satiety signaling. Cilia dysfunction in the hypothalamus, including in the MC4R pathway, is thought to contribute to hyperphagia and obesity in BBS. BBS is a genetically heterogeneous disease that is caused by as many as 21 separate Bardet-Biedl loci variants that result in a similar syndrome of clinical manifestations. Recent scientific studies identify deficiencies affecting the MC4R pathway as a potential cause of the hyperphagia and obesity associated with BBS, and demonstrate that an MC4R agonist can directly impact these symptoms.
Pivotal Phase 3 Clinical Trial Evaluating Setmelanotide in BBS
We announced FDA approval for IMCIVREE for BBS on June 16, 2022; EC marketing authorization for BBS on September 6, 2022; and MHRA marketing authorization for BBS on November 21, 2022. These approvals and marketing authorizations were based on data from our pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial of setmelanotide in patients with BBS or Alström syndrome. As we first reported in December 2020, the trial met its primary endpoint and all key secondary endpoints, with statistically significant and clinically meaningful reductions in weight and hunger at 52 weeks on therapy. All patients who met the primary endpoint, defined as at least 10 % weight loss, had BBS and none had Alström syndrome. IMCIVREE was not approved for Alström syndrome, a monogenic disease that causes hyperphagia and obesity beginning in early childhood, as well as progressive vision loss, deafness, cardiomegaly, insulin resistance and other signs and symptoms.
As we announced on November 8, 2022, the pivotal data that formed the basis for IMCIVREE’s approvals in BBS were published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. As previously disclosed, treatment with setmelanotide resulted in significant weight and hunger reductions after one year of treatment among patients with BBS. The primary endpoint was achieved by 32.3% (95% confidence interval (CI), 16.7%, 51.4%; p=0.0006) of patients ≥12 years old, all of whom were patients with BBS. Data highlights among patients with BBS (n=32) after 52 weeks of setmelanotide include:
|•||Fifteen (15) patients ≥18 years achieved a mean (SD) percent reduction in BMI of -9.1% (6.8%; 95% CI, −13.4%, −4.8%);|
|•||Fourteen (14) patients <18 years achieved a mean (SD) change in BMI Z score of −0.8 (0.5; 95% CI, −1.0, −0.5), and 12 patients (85.7%) achieved ≥0.2-point reduction in BMI Z; and|
|•||Fourteen (14) patients ≥12 years who reported hunger scores achieved reduction of -30.5% in maximal hunger score.|
The safety results observed in this study were consistent with that observed with setmelanotide in previous clinical trials in patients with other rare MC4R pathway diseases. Skin hyperpigmentation (n=23; 60.5%) was the most common adverse event (AE). Two patients experienced serious AEs, neither of which was considered related to setmelanotide treatment.
Also on November 21, 2022, we announced that Health Canada accepted for review our New Drug Submission (NDS) for setmelanotide, indicated in adults and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with impairments in the MC4R pathway due to genetic diseases, for the treatment of obesity and control of hunger in BBS or biallelic POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR deficiency. Health Canada granted Priority Review of the NDS, which shortens the submission review performance target to 180 days, in comparison to 300 days for non-priority review.
Development of Setmelanotide for Additional Indications
We also are developing setmelanotide as a treatment for hypothalamic obesity, a severe obesity that arises from mechanical hypothalamic injury, for which there are no approved therapies. In 2022, setmelanotide demonstrated potential to transform the care of individuals living with the rapid onset of extreme weight gain of hypothalamic obesity with clinical data that suggested setmelanotide treatment resulted in significant, durable weight loss.
Lesions of the hypothalamus can derive from various types of tumors (e.g., craniopharyngiomas, gliomas, pituitary adenomas, hamartomas) or may be caused by surgeries and/or radiotherapies for the treatment of these same tumor types. These hypothalamic lesions, whether caused by the tumor itself and/or the treatment of the tumor, can disrupt the MC4R pathway. Moreover, patients with hypothalamic obesity display a high degree of hyperleptinemia and hyperinsulinemia. Alpha-melanocortin stimulating hormone (MSH) can be detectable in blood, and its levels can change depending on different energy states; however, in patients with craniopharyngioma or post-surgical treatment for it, α-
MSH levels are significantly reduced. Reduced serum α-MSH levels may suggest melanocortin pathway deficiency, which might explain obesity in these patients.
In 2022, we achieved several milestones in our development program for hypothalamic obesity: setmelanotide received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the FDA for hypothalamic obesity; we reported positive Phase 2 results and long-term extension trial data in hypothalamic obesity, as presented at The Obesity Society’s ObesityWeek® 2022 conference in San Diego on November 2, 2022; and we reached alignment with the FDA on a Phase 3 trial design.
On March 1, 2023, we announced that our pivotal Phase 3 trial evaluating setmelanotide in patients with acquired hypothalamic obesity has been initiated, with patient screening underway. We plan to enroll 120 patients with hypothalamic obesity aged 4 years or older randomized 2:1 to setmelanotide therapy or placebo for a total of 60 weeks, including up to eight weeks for dose titration. The primary endpoint is the percent change in BMI after 52 weeks on a therapeutic regimen of setmelanotide versus placebo.
The Phase 2 study enrolled 18 patients with hypothalamic obesity caused by structural hypothalamic damage secondary to craniopharyngioma or other benign brain tumor types, surgical resection, and/or chemotherapy. Patients were between 6 and 40 years old with a body mass index (BMI) ≥95th percentile (children 6 to <18 years) or ≥35 kg/m2 (adults ≥18 years). The primary endpoint was the proportion of patients who achieved a 5 percent or greater reduction in BMI after 16 weeks of treatment. Hunger was also assessed daily, as self-reported by individual patients. Highlights from the data as presented at ObesityWeek include:
|●||89 percent (16 of 18) patients evaluable for assessment had ≥5% reduction in BMI (P<0.0001; confidence interval, 69%-98%);|
|●||78 percent (14 of 18) patients had a 10% or greater reduction in BMI at 16 weeks;|
|●||14.5 mean percent reduction in BMI (N=18) at Week 16 from baseline;|
|●||12.6 mean percent reduction body weight (N=18) at Week 16 from baseline;|
|●||Mean (standard deviation [SD]) BMI Z score at Week 16 was 2.7 (1.3) (n=13 pediatric patients), a reduction of 1.3 (1.0) points from baseline; and|
|●||Mean (SD) most hunger score at baseline was 6.6 (1.6), compared with 3.7 (2.5) at Week 16, for a reduction of –2.9 (2.3) points or 45% for patients ≥12 years of age (n=11).|
Consistent with prior clinical experience in other rare MC4R pathway diseases, setmelanotide was observed to be generally well tolerated. The most common adverse events (AEs) included nausea (61.1%), vomiting (33.3%), skin hyperpigmentation (33.3%), diarrhea (22.2%), and COVID-19 (22.2%). Two patients discontinued due to AEs and a third patient was non-compliant.
At ObesityWeek, we also reported data from patients with hypothalamic obesity who enrolled in our long-term extension trial. The presentation included data on patients who continued on setmelanotide therapy in our open-label, long-term extension trial after completing 16 weeks on setmelanotide therapy in the Phase 2 trial. A total of 14 patients continued on therapy in this long-term extension trial. As of a cut-off date of September 23, 2022, of these patients:
|•||13 patients who reached a total of 29 weeks on setmelanotide therapy achieved a mean BMI reduction of 21.1% (SD, 11.2%); and|
|•||Five (5) patients who reached a total of 41 weeks on setmelanotide therapy achieved a mean BMI reduction of 26.7% (SD, 12.4%).|
Additional MC4R Pathway Genetic Variants
We also are advancing a broad clinical development program evaluating setmelanotide in several ongoing and planned clinical trials, and we are leveraging the largest known DNA database focused on obesity - with approximately 60,000 sequencing samples as of December 2022 - to improve the understanding, diagnosis and care of people living with hyperphagia and severe obesity due to certain variants in genes associated with the MC4R pathway. There remains a significant unmet need with no effective therapeutic options for patients with these rare MC4R pathway diseases, and we believe setmelanotide has the potential to address the hyperphagia and severe obesity associated with these rare genetic diseases.
Having achieved proof-of-concept in our exploratory Phase 2 Basket Study evaluating setmelanotide in patients with severe obesity driven by variants in several different MC4R pathway associated genes, in 2022 we initiated the pivotal Phase 3 EMANATE clinical trial to evaluate setmelanotide in four independent sub-studies in patients with variants in one of five specific genes within the MC4R pathway. In addition to EMANATE, we also initiated the Phase 2 DAYBREAK clinical trial to evaluate setmelanotide in patients who carry a confirmed variant in one or more of 10 genes with strong or very strong relevance to the MC4R pathway.
Phase 3 EMANATE Trial
The ongoing pivotal Phase 3 EMANATE clinical trial is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, designed to evaluate setmelanotide in four independent sub-studies in patients with obesity due to: a heterozygous variant of the POMC/PCSK1 genes or LEPR gene, certain variants of the SRC1 gene or the SH2B1 gene. The epidemiology estimates for the indications being studied in our Phase 3 EMANATE trial suggest that approximately 53,000 U.S. patients with one of these genetic deficiencies have the potential to respond to setmelanotide.
POMC, PCSK1 and LEPR are core genes of the MC4R pathway. Heterozygous variants in POMC, PCSK1 and LEPR have been associated with clinical obesity that may be due to MC4R pathway dysfunction. Obesity due to rare variants in the SRC1 gene is an autosomal dominant disorder that is characterized by early-onset severe obesity and hyperphagia, as SRC1 variants found in individuals with severe obesity significantly impaired leptin-induced POMC expression (Yang et al 2019, Nat Comm. 10, Article 1718). Specifically, SRC1 is a transcriptional coactivator that has links to both the leptin receptor and to POMC. When the leptin receptor is activated, SRC1 is activated through a cascade of events that then drives the expression of POMC. Individuals who have heterozygous loss-of-function variants in their SRC1 genes can have insufficient leptin receptor activation of the MC4R pathway as a result of decreased POMC expression. This decreases the amount of available MSH to activate the MC4R, consequently resulting in hyperphagia and obesity in these individuals. Obesity due to variants in the SH2B1 gene is a rare genetic disease that is characterized by early-onset severe obesity, hyperphagia, hyperinsulinemia, and reduced final height. SH2B1 variants can arise through either DNA variants in the SH2B1 gene or through chromosomal deletions (chromosome 16) that encompass the SH2B1 gene. In both cases, dysfunction/loss of only one copy of the SH2B1 gene is sufficient to give rise to obesity and hyperphagia. The SH2B1 protein has been shown to have direct links to the MC4R-pathway. Specifically, SH2B1 is an adapter protein that amplifies the signal coming through the leptin receptor. In individuals who carry heterozygote loss of function mutations in SH2B1 or a chromosomal deletion that removes the SH2B1 from the chromosome, individuals may have insufficient leptin receptor activity activation of their MC4R pathway. This gives rise to a well-documented form of severe early-onset obesity and hyperphagia.
Proof of Concept Achieved in Exploratory Phase 2 Basket Study
In January 2021, we announced proof-of-concept data from our exploratory Phase 2 Basket Study in multiple patient cohorts of patients with severe obesity due to a variant in one of the two alleles in the POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes (PPL HET obesity), as well as the SRC1 and SH2B1 genes. We provided subsequently furnished updated data in multiple presentations at medical meetings throughout 2021. The Phase 2 Basket Study was an open label study designed to evaluate setmelanotide in patients with obesity defined as BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 for patients 16 years of age or older or BMI≥ 95th percentile for age and gender for patients between 6 and 16 years old. Patients were stratified by cohort according to their genetic variant. The primary endpoint of the study was the percent of patients in each subgroup showing at least a 5% loss of body weight over three months (“clinical responders”).
PPL HET Obesity (POMC, LEPR, PCSK1) highlights included:
|●||Overall, 12 of 35 patients (34.3%) achieved the primary endpoint. This full analysis includes six patients who withdrew early;|
|●||Mean reduction from baseline in body weight over three months across all 35 patients was -3.7%, which includes both clinical responders and non-responders; and|
|●||Among the 12 patients who achieved the primary endpoint (responder group), the mean reduction from baseline in body weight over three months was -10.1%.|
In our analyses, we are applying variant classification guidelines from the American College of Medical Genetics, or ACMG (as described in Richards, et al., 2015), to patient cohort stratification. Specific variants of the POMC, LEPR, PCSK1, SRC1 or SH2B1 gene may be classified based on published data as being pathogenic, likely pathogenic, likely benign or benign, or classified as a variant of unknown significance or VUS. As genetics of obesity remains an emerging field, the vast majority of variants in genes associated with the MC4R pathway are classified as VUS. Our hypothesis was that patients with genetic variants that indicate a higher degree of pathogenicity would be more likely to have impaired pathway signaling and therefore more likely to respond to setmelanotide.
|●||Patients with PPL HET obesity were stratified into three pre-specified cohorts by classification of their genetic variants according to ACMG guidelines;|
|●||Four of eight patients (50.0%) with a pathogenic or likely pathogenic variant achieved greater than 5% weight loss over three months;|
|●||Four of eight patients (50.0%) with the N221D variant of the PCSK1 gene achieved greater than 5% weight loss over three months; and|
|●||Four of 19 patients (21.1%) with a variant of unknown significance (VUS) achieved greater than 5% weight loss over three months.|
In September 2021, we presented updated interim data from the SRC1 and SH2B1 cohorts at the at the 59th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology (ESPE) Meeting. The data presented were based on an interim analysis of patients who completed 12 weeks of therapy. These presentations included analyses that showed setmelanotide achieved clinically meaningful weight loss or BMI Z reduction in 30% (9 of 30) of study participants with obesity due to variants of the SRC1 gene and clinically meaningful weight loss or BMI Z reduction in 43% (15 of 35) of study participants with obesity due to variants of the SH2B1 gene, including 16p11.2 chromosomal deletions.
Specifically in the SRC1 cohort, a total of 30 patients with obesity and deficiency in the SRC1 gene were enrolled in the full analysis set of this study. These patients had a mean BMI of 45.4 kg/m2 or BMI Z of 3.0 at baseline. Highlights of these data, as of a cut-off date of March 16, 2021, include:
|●||Nine of 30 (or 30%) of patients achieved a clinically meaningful response to setmelanotide at three months, as defined by weight loss of 5% or greater from baseline, or for patients under 18 years old, a reduction of at least 0.15 in BMI Z score:|
|o||In adult patients 18 years or older, six of 20 (or 30%) achieved 5% or greater weight loss at three months;|
|o||In patients younger than 18 years, three of 10 (or 30%) achieved a BMI Z reduction of 0.15% or more at three months.|
|●||Across all enrolled patients, the mean overall weight loss from baseline to three months among patients 18 years and older (a sample of 20) was -4.0% (a standard deviation of 3.3%), and the mean overall BMI Z|
|score reduction from baseline to three months among patients younger than 18 years (n=10) was -0.21 (a standard deviation of 0.23).|
In addition, these interim data showed a clear separation between patients who responded to setmelanotide treatment at three months and those who did not:
|●||The mean body weight reduction for adult patients who responded (n= 6) was 7.9% (90% confidence interval (CI), −9.7 to −6.0), as compared to 2.3% (90% CI, −3.2 to −1.4) for adult patients who did not respond (a sample of 14);|
|●||The mean BMI Z reduction for patients younger than 18 years who responded (n= 3) was 0.48 (90% CI, −0.95 to −0.01), as compared to 0.09 (90% CI, −0.11 to −0.07) for those who did not respond (n= 7).|
In the SH2B1 cohort, a total of 35 patients with obesity and 16p11.2 deletions that include the SH2B1 gene or deficiency in the SH2B1 gene were enrolled in the full analysis set of this study. These patients had a mean BMI of 47.2 kg/m2 or BMI Z of 3.6 at baseline. Highlights of these interim data, as of a cut-off date of March 16, 2021, include:
|●||Fifteen of 35 (or 42.9%) of patients achieved a clinically meaningful response to setmelanotide at three months, as defined by weight loss of 5% or greater from baseline, or for patients under 18 years old, a reduction of at least 0.15 in BMI Z score:|
|o||In patients 18 or older, eight of 22 (or 36.4%) achieved 5% or greater weight loss at three months;|
|o||In patients younger than 18 years, seven of 13 (or 53.8%) achieved a BMI Z reduction of 0.15% or more at three months.|
Across all enrolled patients, the mean overall weight loss from baseline to three months among patients 18 years and older (n= 22) was -3.1% (a standard deviation of 3.9%), and the mean overall BMI Z score reduction from baseline to three months among patients younger than 18 years (n= 13) was -0.15 (a standard deviation of 0.13). In addition, the interim data showed a clear separation between patients who responded to setmelanotide treatment at three months and those who did not:
|●||The mean body weight reduction for adult patients who responded (n= 8) was 7.2% (90% CI, −8.6 to −5.8), as compared to 0.8% (90% CI, −1.9 to 0.3) for adult patients who did not respond (n= 14);|
|●||The mean BMI Z reduction for patients younger than 18 years who responded (n= 7) was 0.25 (90% CI, −0.29 to −0.21), as compared to 0.03 (90% CI, −0.08 to 0.02) patients younger than 18 years who did not respond (n= 7).|
Consistent with prior clinical experience, setmelanotide was generally well tolerated in each of these rare genetic diseases of obesity as of the cutoff date. The most common treatment-emergent adverse events, or TEAEs, included mild injection site reactions, hyperpigmentation, and nausea and vomiting, which occurred early in the treatment course. There were no SAEs related to treatment with setmelanotide.
MC4 Receptor Deficiency Obesity
In our now concluded Phase 2 Basket Study, we also evaluated setmelanotide in patients with MC4R deficiency obesity arising due to heterozygote loss of function mutations in the MC4 receptor gene itself. This is one of the most well-known and prevalent forms of monogenic early-onset severe obesity. Based on a comprehensive ongoing biochemical screening study, we believe setmelanotide may have the potential to address MC4R loss of function in a defined subset of
this broader population, specifically individuals who carry MC4R loss of function variants that we believe can be rescued by setmelanotide (e.g. may not responsive to the endogenous ligand MSH, but would otherwise respond normally to setmelanotide).
On October 12, 2022, at the inaugural International Meeting on Pathway-Related Obesity: Vision of Excellence (IMPROVE) 2022 in Berlin, Germany, we reported data from a cohort of patients with MC4R deficiency obesity in the Phase 2 Basket Study. We believe these data represent an important step toward understanding the impact that gene variants can have on MC4R pathway function and its regulation of hunger, energy expenditure and body weight. The results suggest that patients with certain variants of the MC4R gene could benefit from treatment with setmelanotide, while highlighting limitations in the predictive value of an in vitro assay designed to identify which variants should be considered rescuable or nonrescuable. Overall, 23 patients with predicted rescuable MC4R deficiency and 24 patients with predicted nonrescuable MC4R deficiency were enrolled in two cohorts within our exploratory Basket Study and all reached three months of treatment with setmelanotide. The in vitro assay demonstrated limited predictive value for setmelanotide response, which was defined as ≥5% body mass index (BMI) reduction after three months treatment. Data highlights include:
|•||7 of 23 patients (30.4%) with MC4R variants predicted to be rescuable achieved a ≥5% BMI reduction at Month 3 (90% confidence interval (CI), 15.3%-49.6%);|
|•||Most responders (6 of 16) were carriers of the p.S127L heterozygous variant in the rescuable group;|
|•||3 of 24 patients (12.5%) with MC4R variants predicted to be nonrescuable achieved ≥5% BMI reduction at Month 3 (90% CI, 3.5%-29.2%); and|
|•||Weight loss, as determined by percent change in BMI, tended to increase over time in patients achieving ≥5% BMI reduction at Month 3, with continued weight loss in responders in both predicted rescuable and nonrescuable groups at Month 6 and Month 9 of treatment with setmelanotide,|
The safety results observed in this study were consistent with those observed with setmelanotide in previous clinical trials in patients with other rare MC4R pathway diseases. We plan to continue our assessment of the genetics of the MC4R pathway and opportunities to identify patients who we believe may benefit from setmelanotide.
Weekly Formulation of Setmelanotide
In collaboration with Camurus AB, or Camurus, we have developed a once-weekly, long-acting formulation of setmelanotide using FluidCrystal® technology. When injected subcutaneously, aqueous body fluid may be absorbed by the excipient lipid phase, which may then form a gel-like depot consisting of liquid crystals formed in situ leading to slow diffusion of setmelanotide from the depot. We believe that this formulation may be more convenient and less burdensome for patients and their families.
In December 2021, we initiated a Phase 3 trial to evaluate the weekly formulation of setmelanotide in patients with rare MC4R pathway diseases. The weekly switch trial is a randomized, double-blind switch trial in patients with obesity due to biallelic or heterozygous POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency or a clinical diagnosis of BBS with genetic confirmation, who were previously enrolled in our long-term, open-label extension trial. We expect to enroll up to 30 patients, randomized 1:1 to receive once-weekly setmelanotide and once-daily placebo, or once-daily setmelanotide and once-weekly placebo for 13 weeks. Following the 13-week randomized treatment period, patients will crossover to an open-label, 13-week study in which all patients will receive once-weekly setmelanotide. The study is intended to provide detailed pharmacokinetic characterization of the weekly formulation. The primary efficacy endpoint is a responder analysis, based on the proportion of patients with no weight gain defined as a change of 5 % or less from baseline to week 13. We anticipate announcing topline data from this ongoing Phase 3 trial in the second half of 2023.
In addition, in 2023, we plan to initiate a second trial to evaluate the weekly formulation of setmelanotide. This de novo trial will be a randomized, double-blind Phase 3 clinical trial in patients with BBS who live outside the United States. We expect to enroll 40 patients, randomized 1:1 to receive a maximum tolerated dose of setmelanotide or placebo once
weekly for 18 weeks. Following the 18-week treatment period, patients will continue on treatment, or crossover from placebo to active therapy, for an additional 14 weeks. The primary efficacy endpoint is the mean change from baseline in body weight after 18 weeks of once weekly dosing.
These trials follow an earlier trial that evaluated the weekly formulation of setmelanotide. Data from this trial, presented in October 2021, showed that otherwise healthy people with obesity treated with the weekly formulation of setmelanotide (QW) achieved comparable weight loss to those treated with the daily formulation, and that both weekly and daily formulations of setmelanotide (QD) were observed to be generally well tolerated. A total of 82 individuals aged 18 to 55 years with body mass index (BMI) ≥35 kg/m2 were included in the data analysis. Based on the data from the study, we concluded the safety profile of QW setmelanotide was similar to that of the QD formulation; in healthy volunteers, peak and trough QW setmelanotide concentrations were generally consistent with the concentrations of the QD formulation; and weight and hunger change at Week 12 was comparable between QW and QD setmelanotide. Notably, the weight and hunger score changes in otherwise healthy individuals with obesity receiving both formulations were lower than those reported separately in patients with rare genetic diseases of obesity associated with an impaired MC4R pathway who received setmelanotide. Additionally, pharmacokinetic, or PK, analyses showed similar trough drug concentrations for the daily and weekly formulations over the duration of therapy. The weekly formulation of setmelanotide demonstrated a consistent 24-hour PK range and was detected steadily over one week, with a trough concentration consistent with the trough concentration of the daily formulation.
Weekly setmelanotide administration was generally well tolerated, with no serious TEAEs, and the safety results were similar to the daily administration and consistent with prior clinical experience. The most commonly reported TEAEs, rates of which were generally similar between individuals treated with the weekly and daily formulations, included injection site reaction, hyperpigmentation, nausea, headache and vomiting. Of the 249 reported injection site reactions, 247 (≥99%) were classified as mild.
Safety and Tolerability Results
Historically, clinical data with other MC4R therapies suggested that MC4R-mediated side effects may include changes in blood pressure and heart rate, increased erections in males, changes in libido and sexual function in females, and nausea and vomiting. As a result, primarily due to concerns about blood pressure and heart rate changes, we are not aware of any other MC4R agonists currently in the clinic for the treatment of obesity and/or hyperphagia. It is noteworthy that the pattern of effects differed among each of the other MC4R therapies, underscoring the complex physiology of MC4R. With setmelanotide, there has been little, if any, evidence of blood pressure or heart rate changes, preliminarily supporting an important differentiation of setmelanotide from previous MC4R therapies. Monitoring for blood pressure and heart rate changes, as well as other potential adverse events, or AEs, is included in all setmelanotide clinical trials.
Because of these first generation MC4R therapy failures, the setmelanotide program employed an intensive preclinical screening program to assess clinical candidates for blood pressure and heart rate effects, along with efficacy. The cornerstone of this preclinical screening program was a significant investment in obese primate studies which validated setmelanotide as a promising compound for clinical development. More recently, new research supporting a unique mechanism of action of setmelanotide, compared to earlier MC4R agonists and the endogenous ligand MSH, was published in May 2018 in Nature Medicine.
Setmelanotide was generally well tolerated in our Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials to date. Overall, except as outlined below, the number and patterns of AEs were generally low, and the intensity of the AEs was generally mild, and infrequently led to clinical trial discontinuation.
Over the course of our clinical development program, a total of 764 patients who participated in our trials have received the daily or weekly formulation of setmelanotide, including 13 patients who had been on setmelanotide therapy for more than five years, as of November 24, 2022:
Number of patients
In the majority of our trials, we observed a small increase in frequency of penile erections in male patients, as well as signs of sexual arousal in a small number of female patients. These symptoms were infrequent, generally mild, not painful, and short-lived. Most often these symptoms were reported in the first week of treatment. There was a small incidence of nausea and vomiting, as well as injection site reactions, both of which usually were reported as mild, early in treatment, and short-lived. A small number of patients had dose reductions and/or discontinued treatment due to nausea and vomiting.
We also noted darkening of skin and skin lesions, such as moles and freckles, in approximately half of the patients who received setmelanotide. This was likely caused by activation of the closely related MC1 receptor, the receptor that mediates skin darkening in response to sun exposure. This was observed generally after one to two weeks of treatment, most often plateaued by two to four weeks of treatment, and like sun-related tanning, generally returned to baseline after cessation of exposure.
Overall, the most common AEs reported among setmelanotide treated patients have been skin hyperpigmentation, injection site reactions, nausea, headache, vomiting, decreased appetite, and diarrhea.
Life-Cycle Management and Preclinical Development
We continue to advance the development of our once-weekly formulation of setmelanotide for all indications in which setmelanotide is approved or in development. In addition, we have initiated development of an auto-injector device designed to make administration of our once-weekly product candidate easier and more convenient for our patients.
IMCIVREE is approved in the United States and authorized in the EU and Great Britain for certain patients 6 years of age and older. Rare MC4R pathway diseases often present early in life, and we have identified children with genetic obesity under 6 years of age who we believe may potentially benefit from treatment with setmelanotide. On August 2, 2022, we announced that we completed enrollment in our Phase 3 trial evaluating daily setmelanotide in pediatric patients who are between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. The trial is a multi-center, one-year, open-label Phase 3 trial in pediatric patients with obesity due to biallelic POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency or a clinical diagnosis of BBS with genetic confirmation. The primary efficacy endpoint is a responder analysis, based on the proportion of patients who experience a decrease from baseline over one year in BMI Z of ≥0.2. In addition, we have initiated discussions with the
European Medicines Agency (EMA) to modify our EMA-approved Pediatric Investigation Plan (PIP) to be consistent with our plans for the treatment of these younger patients.
We have an ongoing program to identify next generation MC4R agonist candidates that may be more selective and more potent than setmelanotide. This program is expected to result in a clinical development candidate that will be an MC4R agonist matching setmelanotide’s cardiovascular safety but without the potential to cause hyperpigmentation.
Genetic Sequencing and Patient Finding
We continue to expand our sequencing efforts in individuals living with early-onset, severe obesity to support research, patient finding and community building efforts in order to better understand rare genetic diseases of obesity. Our obesity DNA database contains sequencing samples from approximately 60,000 individuals, and we are using these data to support research, patient finding and community building while forging a better understanding of rare genetic diseases of obesity. Our sequencing data has come from four distinct sources in recent years: the Genetic Obesity ID | Genotyping Study, a global network of collaborations with obesity researchers with individual sample collections, institutional biobanks and Uncovering Rare Obesity (URO) or Rare Obesity Advanced Diagnosis (ROAD). More than 90% of our DNA sequencing database is derived from the U.S. population. Therefore, our estimates of patient populations in Canada and Europe are more preliminary, but we believe prevalences of these genetic diseases are similar to those in United States. By bringing additional awareness to these rare genetic diseases of obesity, our sequencing efforts have the potential to help foster patient communities and drive medical action in these populations.
Uncovering Rare Obesity, or URO, our free genetic testing program designed to help determine if individuals have an underlying genetic cause of their severe obesity, is the primary driver of how we collect sequencing samples and identify patients. As severe obesity is epidemic in the United States, we are focused on identifying people with early-onset obesity that may be caused by certain rare genetic variants. As part of these efforts, we have launched Uncovering Rare Obesity in order to increase access to genetic testing..
This program complements several initiatives designed to advance the understanding of genetic causes of severe obesity, and Uncovering Rare Obesity broadens these efforts and brings access to genetic testing into the community setting. Currently available physician-ordered genetic testing panels are often cost prohibitive, while many consumer genetic tests are incomplete when it comes to genetic disorders of obesity. This makes it difficult to confirm an underlying genetic cause of severe obesity. We believe the program marks an important step in the understanding of these disorders that might help patients and their families find new diagnosis and treatment strategies in the years ahead.
Our U.S. partner, Prevention Genetics, a subsidiary of Exact Sciences Corp., a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-College of American Pathologists of CLIA/CAP-certified independent laboratory, conducts the genetic testing for Uncovering Rare Obesity. This program covers the cost of the test and excludes office visit, copay, sample collection, and any other related costs to a participant. In addition, as part of the program, licensed genetic counselors from PWN Health, a leading provider of professional guidance for diagnostic and genetic testing, are available to advise participating individuals.
In 2022, we launched a new free genetic testing program similar to the URO program covering certain European markets called ROAD. The ROAD program is mirroring the URO program to increase awareness on rare genetic diseases of obesity and support patient identification in the International region. As of December 31, 2022, we have collected and sequenced approximately 2,000 samples from individuals with severe obesity from seven countries, including Spain, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Turkey and Germany. Our partner CGC Genetics Unilabs conducts the genetic testing for ROAD. This program covers the cost of the test, the kit and shipment.
As of December 31, 2022, we had collected and analyzed more than 25,000 genetic samples from individuals with severe obesity with URO or ROAD, including approximately 13,000 during the year ended December 31, 2022.
Commercial Efforts for IMCIVREE
We are focused on making IMCIVREE available globally.
In the United States, IMCIVREE was initially approved by the FDA in November 2020 for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with obesity due to POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency as determined by an FDA-approved test demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or VUS, and the FDA expanded the label to include BBS in June 2022. The initial approval allowed us to develop commercial infrastructure, build relationships with physicians and payers and deliver commercial product to patients. With the label expansion to include BBS, we executed – and continue to execute – on our rare disease launch strategy of engaging with the community, speeding diagnosis of BBS and educating on the benefits of IMCIVREE therapy. Our team remains focused on identifying patients with BBS, the physicians who care them and driving prescriptions for IMCIVREE. Additionally, through Rhythm InTune, our U.S. support services program which we launched in June 2022, we provide personalized support for patients and families living with rare MC4R pathway diseases. With education and resources tailored to fit unique needs, each patient and family is matched with a dedicated patient education manager as a single point of contact to provide treatment support by educating patients and their health care providers, navigating insurance coverage as they start treatment, providing injection support and offering education on what to expect.
Additionally, our North America team anticipates completion of a regulatory review via Health Canada’s priority review process and, pending approval, making IMCIVREE commercially available in Canada for adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with impairments in the MC4 receptor pathway due to genetic diseases, for the treatment of obesity and control of hunger in BBS, POMC, PSCKI and LEPR in 2023.
Internationally, we have achieved access for IMCIVREE in eight markets: for patients with BBS or POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency in France through paid early access; for patients with POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Italy; and for patients with POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency through named patient sales in Austria and Turkey and for patients with MC4R pathway diseases and BBS through early access in Argentina. We anticipate launching IMCIVREE in Germany for BBS in the first half of 2023, as well as in The Netherlands in 2023, and in Spain (Spanish launch to include POMC and LEPR deficiencies as well as BBS) in 2024.
While we are focused on commercial access for IMCIVREE for BBS and POMC and LEPR deficiencies, we are working with the broader community of patients and families, physicians, scientists and more to engage with them on the impact of hyperphagia and severe obesity caused by rare MC4R pathway diseases. Individually, populations with each of these MC4R pathway diseases are rare, and affected patients face many of the same challenges as any classically rare disease patient populations. There is little or no awareness about rare MC4R pathway diseases, and the patients suffering from them are lost in the health care system, with limited educational resources and no effective treatments for their condition. All our efforts and services described above are designed to address the challenges of rare diseases and lay the groundwork for potential future launches, with a focus on scalability.
Xinvento B.V. Acquisition
On February 27, 2023, we completed the acquisition of Xinvento B.V., or Xinvento, a Dutch private limited liability company based in the Netherlands, through our wholly-owned subsidiary Rhythm Pharmaceuticals Netherlands B.V., a Dutch private limited liability company. Xinvento was founded in 2021 by Claudine van der Sande and is developing novel investigational therapeutic candidates designed to improve the care congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI).
CHI is the most frequent cause of severe, random and persistent hypoglycemia in newborns and children. Hypoglycemia results from an over-secretion of insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to fall dangerously low. Without proper and immediate treatment, children with CHI may suffer seizures, coma, or even death and, longer term, patients may experience developmental delays, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and other neurological damage. In the United States, the estimated incidence rate for CHI is 1:29,000 to 1:31,000, according to the literature. We aim to develop treatment options for these individuals and expect to initiate clinical development of a new therapeutic candidate in 2024.
For more information about the acquisition of Xinvento, see Part II, Item 9B. “Other Information.”.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are intensely competitive and subject to rapid and significant technological change. We have competitors with general obesity medications in a number of jurisdictions, many of which have substantially greater name recognition, commercial infrastructures and financial, technical and personnel resources than we have. Established competitors may invest heavily to quickly discover and develop compounds that could make setmelanotide obsolete or uneconomical. Any new product that competes with an approved product may need to demonstrate compelling advantages in efficacy, convenience, tolerability and safety to be commercially successful. Other competitive factors, including generic competition, could force us to lower prices or could result in reduced sales. In addition, new products developed by others could emerge as competitors to setmelanotide. If we are not able to compete effectively against our current and future competitors, our business will not grow, and our financial condition and operations will suffer.
Currently, IMCIVREE is the only approved treatment for weight management in patients with obesity due to BBS or POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiencies, and there are no other approved treatments for addressing hyperphagia related behaviors of patients with rare MC4R pathway diseases. Bariatric surgery is not an appropriate treatment option for these MC4R pathway diseases because the severe obesity and hyperphagia associated with these diseases are considered to be risk factors for bariatric surgery. Also, existing therapies indicated for general obesity and those in clinical development for the same, including glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, such as Wegovy®, and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists, such as tirzepatide, do not specifically restore function impaired by genetic deficiencies and trauma to the hypothalamus that disrupt MC4R pathway signaling, which we believe is a root cause of hyperphagia and obesity in patients with these diseases.
Ipsen Pharma S.A.S.
Pursuant to a license agreement with Ipsen Pharma S.A.S., or Ipsen, we have an exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to certain patents and other intellectual property rights to research, develop, and commercialize compounds that were discovered or researched by Ipsen in the course of conducting its MC4R program or that otherwise were covered by the licensed patents. Rights under the license included the right to research, develop and commercialize setmelanotide. Pursuant to the license, we have a non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to certain patents and other intellectual property rights that were licensed by Ipsen from a third party or that Ipsen may develop in the future to research, develop, and commercialize any of the compounds exclusively licensed by Ipsen pursuant to the license.
Under the terms of the Ipsen license agreement, Ipsen is eligible to receive payments of up to $40.0 million upon the achievement of certain development and commercial milestones in connection with the development, regulatory
approval and commercialization of applicable licensed products, and royalties on future sales of the licensed products. Substantially all of the aggregate payments under the Ipsen license agreement are for milestones that may be achieved no earlier than first commercial sale of the applicable licensed product, and as of December 31, 2022, we have paid $4.0 million in clinical and regulatory milestones and $9.0 million in commercial milestones. Royalties in the mid-single digits on future sales of the applicable licensed products will be due under the Ipsen license agreement on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis until the later of the date when sales of a licensed product in a particular country are no longer covered by patent rights licensed pursuant to the Ipsen license agreement and the tenth anniversary of the date of the first commercial sale of the applicable licensed product in the applicable country. The term of the Ipsen license agreement continues until the expiration of the applicable royalty term on a country-by-country and product-by- product basis. Upon expiration of the term of the agreement, the licensed rights granted to us under the agreement, to the extent they remain in effect at the time of expiration, will thereafter become irrevocable, perpetual and fully paid-up licenses that survive the expiration of the term. We have a right to terminate the license agreement at any time during the term for any reason on 180 days’ written notice to Ipsen. Ipsen has a right to terminate the agreement prior to expiration of its term for our material breach of the agreement, our failure to initiate or complete development of a licensed product or our bringing an action seeking to have an Ipsen license patent right declared invalid. Upon any early termination of the license agreement not due to Ipsen’s material breach, all licensed rights granted under the license agreement will terminate.
In January 2016, we entered into a license agreement for the use of Camurus’ drug delivery technology, FluidCrystal, to formulate setmelanotide with Camurus. Under the terms of the agreement, Camurus granted us a worldwide license to the FluidCrystal technology to formulate setmelanotide and to develop, manufacture, and commercialize this new formulation for once-weekly dosing, administered as a SC injection. The license granted to us is specific to the FluidCrystal technology incorporating setmelanotide. Under the terms of the license agreement, we are responsible for manufacturing, development, and commercialization of the setmelanotide FluidCrystal formulation worldwide. Camurus received a non-refundable and non-creditable upfront payment of $0.5 million in January 2016, and is eligible to receive progressive payments of approximately $65.0 million, of which the majority are sales milestones. As of December 31, 2022, we have made $2.3 million of milestone payments to Camurus. In addition, Camurus is eligible to receive tiered, mid to mid-high, single-digit royalties on future sales of the product.
The term of the agreement continues until the expiration of the applicable royalty term on a country-by-country and product-by-product basis. Upon expiration of the term of the agreement, the licensed rights granted to us under the agreement, to the extent they remain in effect at the time of expiration, will thereafter become irrevocable, perpetual and fully paid-up licenses that survive the expiration of the term. We have a right to terminate the license agreement at any time during the term for any reason upon 90 days’ written notice to Camurus. Camurus has a right to terminate the agreement prior to expiration of its term for our material breach of the agreement, if we voluntarily or involuntarily file for bankruptcy, or for our bringing an action seeking to have a Camurus license patent right declared invalid. Upon any early termination of the license agreement not due to Camurus’ material breach, all licensed rights granted under the license agreement will terminate.
In March 2018, we acquired exclusive, worldwide rights from Takeda to develop and commercialize RM-853. RM-853 is a potent, orally available GOAT inhibitor currently in preclinical development for Prader-Willi Syndrome, or PWS. PWS is a rare genetic disorder that results in hyperphagia and early-onset, life-threatening obesity, for which there are no approved therapeutic options. We will assume sole responsibility for the global product development and commercialization of RM-853. Takeda received an upfront fee of $4.4 million which we settled in April 2018 with shares of our common stock, and is eligible to receive milestone payments of approximately $140.0 million, most of which are payable upon regulatory approval or are sales milestones. In addition, Takeda is eligible to receive back-end development milestones, and single-digit royalties on future RM-853 sales.
Among other obligations under our agreement with Takeda, Takeda has a right of first negotiation under certain circumstances to sublicense the assets we acquired from Takeda in the territory of Japan. This right of first negotiation remains in effect until the earlier of five years from the date of the agreement, consummation of a change in control, or
sublicense to a third party. This may delay or limit our ability to enter into certain transactions with respect to this product candidate.
The term of the agreement continues until the expiration of the applicable royalty term on a country-by-country and product-by-product basis. Upon expiration of the term of the agreement, the licensed rights granted to us under the agreement, to the extent they remain in effect at the time of expiration, will thereafter become irrevocable, perpetual and fully paid-up licenses that survive the expiration of the term. We have a right to terminate the license agreement at any time during the term for any reason upon 90 days’ written notice to Takeda. Takeda has a right to terminate the agreement prior to expiration of its term for our material breach of the agreement, if we voluntarily or involuntarily file for bankruptcy, or for our bringing an action seeking to have a Takeda license patent right declared invalid. Upon any early termination of the license agreement not due to Takeda’s material breach, all licensed rights granted under the license agreement will terminate. We have notified Takeda that we have halted development activities related to RM-853.
RareStone Group Ltd.
In December 2021, we entered into an Exclusive License Agreement with RareStone, or the RareStone License. Pursuant to the RareStone License, we granted to RareStone an exclusive, sublicensable, royalty-bearing license under certain patent rights and know-how to develop, manufacture, commercialize and otherwise exploit any pharmaceutical product that contains setmelanotide in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of conditions and diseases in humans in China, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. RareStone has a right of first negotiation in the event that Rhythm chooses to grant a license to develop or commercialize the licensed product in Taiwan.
According to the terms of the RareStone License, RareStone has agreed to seek local approvals to commercialize IMCIVREE for the treatment of obesity and hyperphagia due to biallelic proopiomelanocortin (POMC), proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 1 (PCSK1) or leptin receptor (LEPR) deficiency, as well as Bardet-Biedl and Alström syndromes. Additionally, RareStone agreed to fund efforts to identify and enroll patients from China in Rhythm’s global EMANATE trial, a Phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate setmelanotide in four independent sub-studies in patients with obesity due to a heterozygous variant of POMC/PCSK1 or LEPR; certain variants of the SRC1 gene, and certain variants of the SH2B1 gene. According to the terms of the RareStone License, RareStone made an upfront payment to Rhythm of $7.0 million and issued Rhythm 1,077,586 ordinary shares. Rhythm will be eligible to receive development and commercialization milestones of up to $62.5 million, as well as tiered royalty payments on annual net sales of IMCIVREE.
On October 28, 2022, we delivered written notice, or the Notice, to RareStone that we have terminated the RareStone License for cause. In accordance with the Notice, we maintain that RareStone has materially breached its obligations under the RareStone License to fund, perform or seek certain key clinical studies and waivers, including with respect to our global EMANATE trial, among other obligations. On December 21, 2022, RareStone provided written notice to us that it objects to the claims in the Notice, including our termination of the RareStone License for cause.
Patents and Proprietary Rights
We have in-licensed a large patent portfolio from Ipsen for our melanocortin programs. The portfolio includes multiple patent families, and all of these in-licensed patent families are being prosecuted or maintained by Ipsen in consultation with us. We have also filed patent applications in ten families which are exclusively owned and maintained by us that relate to the melanocortin program.
Our MC4R portfolio of licensed and exclusively owned patent families, which includes setmelanotide, consists of 16 patent families currently being prosecuted or maintained, which include applications and patents directed to compositions of matter, formulations and methods of treatment using setmelanotide. As of December 31, 2022, the portfolio for the MC4 program consists of 14 issued United States patents and 271 issued non-United States patents across 8 of the 13 families. There also 15 pending United States patent applications and 82 pending non-United States applications in 24 jurisdictions.
In the patent family directed to selected MC4R receptor agonists, including the composition of matter for setmelanotide, we have 4 issued United States patents and 134 issued non-United States patents, including Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore. The standard 20-year term for patents in this family would expire in 2026, but two of the United States patents are expected to expire in 2027 due to patent term adjustments. Patent term extensions for delays in marketing approval may also extend the terms of patents in this family, and we have filed for patent term extension in the United States that, if granted, would extend the composition of matter patent protection to 2032.
In addition to the patents and patent applications discussed above, we co-own one patent family with Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, which has been filed in 21 jurisdictions and yielded 1 issued United States patent and 2 non-United States patents. We also co-own one patent family with the University of Strasbourg and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, which has been filed in 4 jurisdictions. Both of these patent families relate to the melanocortin program.
We have also in-licensed a patent family from Takeda directed to the composition of matter and methods of use of ghrelin O-acetyltransferase inhibitors, including RM-853. This patent family includes 1 issued United States patent, nine issued non-United States patents including Canada, China, Europe, and Japan. The standard 20-year term for the patents in this family will expire in 2033, though patent term extensions for delays in marketing approval may also extend the terms of patents in this family.
Intellectual Property Protection Strategy
We currently seek, and intend to continue seeking, patent protection whenever commercially reasonable for any patentable aspects of setmelanotide and related technology or any new products or product candidates we acquire in the future. Where our intellectual property is not protected by patents, we may seek to protect it through other means, including maintenance of trade secrets and careful protection of our proprietary information. Our license from Ipsen for the melanocortin program require Ipsen, subject to certain exceptions and upon consultation with us, to prosecute and maintain its patent rights as they relate to the licensed compounds and methods. If Ipsen decides to cease prosecution or maintenance of any of the licensed patent rights, we have the option to take over prosecution and maintenance of those patents and Ipsen will assign to us all of its rights in such patents. For those patent rights that we own exclusively, we control all prosecution and maintenance activities.
The patent positions of biopharmaceutical companies are generally uncertain and involve complex legal, scientific and factual questions. In addition, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted after issuance. Consequently, we do not know whether the product candidate we in-license will be protectable or remain protected by enforceable patents. We cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction, and furthermore, we cannot determine whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient proprietary protection to protect us from competitors, or will be challenged, circumvented or invalidated by third parties. Because patent applications in the United States and certain other jurisdictions are maintained in secrecy for 18 months, and since publication of discoveries in the scientific or patent literature often lags behind actual discoveries, we cannot be certain of the priority of inventions covered by pending patent applications. This potential issue is exacerbated by the fact that, prior to March 16, 2013, in the United States, the first to make the claimed invention may be entitled to the patent. On March 16, 2013, the United States transitioned to a “first to file” system in which the first inventor to file a patent application may be entitled to the patent. For applications filed prior to the institution of the “first to file” system, we may have to participate in interference proceedings declared by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or PTO, or a foreign patent office to determine priority of invention. Moreover, we may have to participate in other proceedings declared by the United States PTO or a foreign patent office, such as post-grant proceedings and oppositions, that challenge the validity of a granted patent. Such proceedings could result in substantial cost, even if the eventual outcome is favorable to us.
Although we currently have issued patents directed to a number of different attributes of our products, and pending applications on others, there can be no assurance that any issued patents would be held valid by a court of competent jurisdiction. An adverse outcome could subject us to significant liabilities to third parties, require disputed
rights to be licensed from third parties or require us to cease using specific compounds or technology. To the extent prudent, we intend to bring litigation against third parties that we believe are infringing our patents.
The term of individual patents depends upon the legal term of the patents in the countries in which they are obtained. In most countries in which we file, the patent term is 20 years from the earliest date of filing a non-provisional patent application. In the United States, a patent’s term may be lengthened by patent term adjustment, which compensates a patentee for administrative delays by the United States PTO in granting a patent, or may be shortened if a patent is terminally disclaimed over another patent with an earlier expiration date.
As mentioned above, in the United States, the patent term of a patent that covers an FDA-approved drug may also be eligible for patent term extension, which permits patent term restoration as compensation for the patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. Setmelanotide has received FDA approval and we have filed for patent term extension on that product. In the future, if and when our other pharmaceutical products receive FDA approval, we expect to apply for patent term extensions on patents covering those products. We intend to seek patent term adjustments and 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 FDA in the United States, will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and even if granted, the length of such adjustments or extensions.
To protect our rights to any of our issued patents and proprietary information, we may need to litigate against infringing third parties, or avail ourselves of the courts or participate in hearings to determine the scope and validity of those patents or other proprietary rights. These types of proceedings are often costly and could be very time-consuming to us, and we cannot be certain that the deciding authorities will rule in our favor. An unfavorable decision could result in the invalidation or a limitation in the scope of our patents or forfeiture of the rights associated with our patents or pending patent applications. Any such decision could result in our key technologies not being protectable, allowing third parties to use our technology without being required to pay us licensing fees or may compel us to license needed technologies from third parties to avoid infringing third-party patent and proprietary rights. Such a decision could even result in the invalidation or a limitation in the scope of our patents or could cause us to lose our rights under existing issued patents or not to have rights granted under our pending patent applications.
In addition, we intend to seek orphan drug exclusivity in jurisdictions in which it is available. A prerequisite to orphan drug exclusivity in the United States and in the European Union is orphan drug designation. An orphan drug designation may be granted, subject to fulfillment of specific criteria, where a drug is developed specifically to treat a rare or uncommon medical treatment. If a product which has an orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first regulatory approval for the indication for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan exclusivity, meaning that the applicable regulatory authority may not approve any other applications to market the same drug for the same indication, except in certain very limited circumstances, for a period of seven years in the United States and 10 years in the European Union. Orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent competitors from developing or marketing different drugs for an indication. We have received orphan drug designation in the United States for the use of setmelanotide for five indications and approval for two of those indications.
We also rely on trade secret protection for our confidential and proprietary information. Although we take steps to protect our proprietary information and trade secrets, including through contractual means with our employees and consultants, no assurance can be given that others will not independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques or otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or disclose such technology, or that we can 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 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 will be our exclusive property. There can be no assurance, however, that these agreements will provide meaningful protection or adequate remedies for our trade secrets in the event of unauthorized use or disclosure of such information.
We currently contract with various third parties for the manufacture of setmelanotide and intend to continue to do so in the future. We have entered into process development and manufacturing service agreements with our CMOs, Corden Pharma Brussels S.A, or Corden (formerly Peptisyntha SA prior to its acquisition by Corden), PolyPeptide Group, Braine L’Alleud, or Polypeptide, Neuland Laboratories, and Recipharm Monts S.A.S for certain process development and manufacturing services for regulatory starting materials and/or drug substance, or API, and drug product in connection with the manufacture of setmelanotide. We have also entered into commercial supply agreements with both Polypeptide and Recipharm. Under our agreements, we pay these third parties for services and/or manufacture of setmelanotide in accordance with the terms of mutually agreed upon work orders, which we may enter into from time to time. We may need to engage additional third-party suppliers to manufacture our clinical and commercial drug supplies in the future. In connection with our commercialization of setmelanotide or any future product candidate, we have engaged and could need to engage other third parties to assist in manufacturing and/or supply chain related aspects. While there are a limited number of companies that can produce raw materials and API in the quantities and with the quality and purity that we require for our product, based on our diligence to date, we believe our current network of manufacturing partners are able to fulfill these requirements, and are capable of continuing to expand capacity as needed. Additionally, we have, and will continue to evaluate further relationships with additional suppliers to increase overall capacity as well as further reduce risks associated with reliance on a limited number of suppliers for manufacturing. Under the current agreements, each party is subject to customary indemnification provisions.
Our contract manufacturing agreements give us visibility into the expected future cost of producing setmelanotide at commercial scale. Based upon a range of prices of currently-marketed therapies indicated for orphan diseases, we believe that our cost of goods for setmelanotide will be highly competitive.
We currently have no plans to build our own clinical or commercial scale manufacturing capabilities. To meet our projected needs for clinical supplies to support our activities through regulatory approval and commercial manufacturing, the CMOs with whom we currently work may need to increase scale of production or we expect that we may need to secure additional capacity or seek alternate suppliers. We believe that our current suppliers and CMOs are able to scale production to meet our clinical and commercial demands. Because we rely on these CMOs, we have personnel with pharmaceutical development and manufacturing experience who are responsible for maintaining our CMO relationships.
Setmelanotide is distributed in the U.S. through our specialty pharmacy and in the EU/UK through third-party service providers that deliver the medication to patients. We plan to continue building out our network for commercial distribution in jurisdictions in which setmelanotide is approved.
Government authorities in the United States, at the federal, state and local level, and other countries extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, approval, labeling, packaging, storage, record-keeping, promotion, advertising, distribution, marketing and export and import of drug products. A new drug must be approved by the FDA through NDA process or by comparable foreign regulatory authorities through similar applications before it may be legally marketed in the United States and in foreign jurisdictions. We, along with any third-party contractors, will be required to navigate the various preclinical, clinical and commercial approval requirements of the governing regulatory agencies of the countries in which we wish to conduct studies or seek approval of our products and product candidates. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with applicable federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.
U.S. Drug Development Process
In the United States, the FDA regulates drugs under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and its implementing regulations. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with appropriate federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. The process required by the FDA before a drug may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:
Prior to beginning the first clinical trial with a product candidate in the United States, a sponsor must submit an IND to the FDA. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational new drug product to humans. The central focus of an IND submission is on the general investigational plan and the protocol(s) for clinical studies. The IND also includes results of animal and in vitro studies assessing the toxicology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacology, and pharmacodynamic characteristics of the product; chemistry, manufacturing, and controls information; and any available human data or literature to support the use of the investigational product. An IND must become effective before human clinical trials may begin. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA, within the 30- day time period, raises safety concerns or questions about the proposed clinical trial. In such a case, the IND may be placed on clinical hold and the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns or questions before the clinical trial can begin. Submission of an IND therefore may or may not result in FDA authorization to begin a clinical trial.
Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational product to human subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators in accordance with GCPs, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical study. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the study, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. A separate submission to the existing IND must be made for each successive clinical trial conducted during product development and for any subsequent protocol amendments. While the IND is active, progress reports summarizing the results of the clinical trials and nonclinical studies performed since the last progress report, among other information, must be submitted at least annually to the FDA, and written IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and investigators for serious and unexpected suspected adverse events, findings from other studies suggesting a significant risk
to humans exposed to the same or similar drugs, findings from animal or in vitro testing suggesting a significant risk to humans, and any clinically important increased incidence of a serious suspected adverse reaction compared to that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure.
Furthermore, an independent IRB for each site proposing to conduct the clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial and its informed consent form before the clinical trial begins at that site and must monitor the study until completed. Some studies also include oversight by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical study sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board, which provides authorization for whether or not a study may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the study and may halt the clinical trial if it determines that there is an unacceptable safety risk for subjects or other grounds, such as no demonstration of efficacy. Depending on its charter, this group may determine whether a trial may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the trial. The FDA or the sponsor may suspend a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the research subjects or patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the drug has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients. There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical studies and clinical study results to public registries.
Human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:
|●||Phase 1: The product candidate is initially introduced into healthy human subjects or patients with the target disease or condition. These studies are designed to test the safety, dosage tolerance, absorption, metabolism and distribution of the investigational product in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and, if possible, to gain early evidence on effectiveness.|
|●||Phase 2: The product candidate is administered to a limited patient population with a specified disease or condition to evaluate the preliminary efficacy, optimal dosages and dosing schedule and to identify possible adverse side effects and safety risks. Multiple Phase 2 clinical trials may be conducted to obtain information prior to beginning larger and more expensive Phase 3 clinical trials.|
|●||Phase 3: The product candidate is administered to an expanded patient population to further evaluate dosage, to provide statistically significant evidence of clinical efficacy and to further test for safety, generally at multiple geographically dispersed clinical trial sites. These clinical trials are intended to establish the overall risk/benefit ratio of the investigational product and to provide an adequate basis for product approval.|
In some cases, the FDA may require, or sponsors may voluntarily pursue, additional clinical trials after a product is approved to gain more information about the product. These so-called Phase 4 studies, may be conducted after initial marketing approval, and may be used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication. In certain instances, the FDA may mandate the performance of Phase 4 clinical trials as a condition of approval of an NDA.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal studies and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the drug and finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product candidate and, among other things, the manufacturer must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality and purity of the final drug. In addition, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested, and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.
U.S. Review and Approval Process
Assuming successful completion of all required testing in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements, the results of product development, preclinical and other non-clinical studies and clinical trials, along with descriptions of the manufacturing process, analytical tests conducted on the chemistry of the drug, proposed labeling and other relevant
information are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the product. Data can come from company-sponsored clinical studies intended to test the safety and effectiveness of a use of the product, or from a number of alternative sources, including studies initiated by independent investigators. The submission of an NDA is subject to the payment of substantial user fees; a waiver of such fees may be obtained under certain limited circumstances. Additionally, no user fees are assessed on NDAs for products designated as orphan drugs, unless the product also includes a non-orphan indication.
The FDA conducts a preliminary review of all NDAs within the first 60 days after submission, before accepting them for filing, to determine whether they are sufficiently complete to permit substantive review The FDA may request additional information rather than accept an NDA for filing. In this event, the NDA must be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application also is subject to review before the FDA accepts it for filing. Once filed, the FDA reviews an NDA to determine, among other things, whether a product is safe and effective for its intended use and whether its manufacturing is cGMP-compliant to assure and preserve the product’s identity, strength, quality and purity. Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) guidelines that are currently in effect, the FDA has a goal of ten months from the filing date to complete a standard review of an NDA for a drug that is a new molecular entity. This review typically takes twelve months from the date the NDA is submitted to FDA because the FDA has approximately two months to make a “filing” decision after it the application is submitted.
The FDA may refer an application for a novel drug to an advisory committee. An advisory committee is a panel of independent experts, including clinicians and other scientific experts, that reviews, evaluates and provides a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.
Before approving an NDA, the FDA will typically inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving a NDA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCPs.
After the FDA evaluates an NDA and conducts inspections of manufacturing facilities where the investigational product and/or its drug substance will be produced, the FDA may issue an approval letter or a Complete Response Letter (CRL). An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the product with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A CRL will describe all of the deficiencies that the FDA has identified in the NDA, except that where the FDA determines that the data supporting the application are inadequate to support approval, the FDA may issue the CRL without first conducting required inspections and/or reviewing proposed labeling. In issuing the CRL, the FDA may recommend actions that the applicant might take to place the NDA in condition for approval, including requests for additional information or clarification. The FDA may delay or refuse approval of an NDA if applicable regulatory criteria are not satisfied, require additional testing or information and/or require post-marketing testing and surveillance to monitor safety or efficacy of a product.
If regulatory approval of a product is granted, such approval will be granted for particular indications and may entail limitations on the indicated uses for which such product may be marketed. For example, the FDA may approve the NDA with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) to ensure the benefits of the product outweigh its risks. A REMS is a safety strategy to manage a known or potential serious risk associated with a medicine and to enable patients to have continued access to such medicines by managing their safe use, and could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries, and other risk minimization tools. The FDA also may condition approval on, among other things, changes to proposed labeling or the development of adequate controls and specifications. The FDA may also require one or more Phase 4 post- market studies and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness after commercialization, and may limit further marketing of the product based on the results of these post-marketing studies.
In addition, the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA) requires a sponsor to conduct pediatric clinical trials for most drugs, for a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen or new route of administration. Under PREA, original NDAs and supplements must contain a pediatric assessment unless the sponsor has
received a deferral or waiver. The required assessment must evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The sponsor or FDA may request a deferral of pediatric clinical trials for some or all of the pediatric subpopulations. A deferral may be granted for several reasons, including a finding that the drug is ready for approval for use in adults before pediatric clinical trials are complete or that additional safety or effectiveness data needs to be collected before the pediatric clinical trials begin. The FDA must send a non-compliance letter to any sponsor that fails to submit the required assessment, keep a deferral current or fails to submit a request for approval of a pediatric formulation.
Expedited Development and Review Programs
The FDA offers a number of expedited development and review programs for qualifying product candidates. For example, the Fast Track program is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing new products that are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the disease or condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a fast track product has opportunities for more frequent interactions with the applicable FDA review team during product development and, once an NDA is submitted, the product candidate may be eligible for priority review. A Fast Track product may also be eligible for rolling review, where the FDA may consider for review sections of the NDA on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the NDA, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the NDA and determines that the schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the NDA.
A product candidate intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition may also be eligible for Breakthrough Therapy designation to expedite its development and review. A product candidate can receive Breakthrough Therapy designation if preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product candidate, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs or biologics, may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. The designation includes all of the Fast Track program features, as well as more intensive FDA interaction and guidance beginning as early as Phase 1 and an organizational commitment to expedite the development and review of the product candidate, including involvement of senior managers.
Any marketing application for a drug submitted to the FDA for approval, including a product candidate with a Fast Track designation and/or Breakthrough Therapy designation, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite the FDA review and approval process, such as priority review and accelerated approval. A product candidate is eligible for priority review if it is designed to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness compared to available alternatives for such disease or condition. For new-molecular-entity NDAs, priority review designation means the FDA’s goal is to take action on the marketing application within six months of the 60-day filing date.
Additionally, product candidates studied for their safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions may receive accelerated approval upon a determination that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, 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. As a condition of accelerated approval, the FDA will generally require the sponsor to perform adequate and well-controlled confirmatory clinical studies to verify and describe the anticipated effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit. Products receiving accelerated approval may be subject to expedited withdrawal procedures if the sponsor fails to conduct the required confirmatory studies in a timely manner or if such studies fail to verify the predicted clinical benefit. In addition, the FDA currently requires as a condition for accelerated approval pre-approval of promotional materials, which could adversely impact the timing of the commercial launch of the product.
Fast Track designation, Breakthrough Therapy designation, priority review, and accelerated approval do not change the standards for approval, but may expedite the development or approval process. Even if a product candidate qualifies for one or more of these programs, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.
Orphan Drug Designation and Exclusivity
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition, defined as a disease or condition with a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or a patient population greater than 200,000 individuals in the United States and when there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available the drug in the United States will be recovered from sales in the United States for that drug. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an NDA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the generic identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA.
If a product that has orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for a particular active ingredient for the disease for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan product exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications, including a full NDA, to market the same drug for the same indication for seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan drug exclusivity or if the FDA finds that the holder of the orphan drug exclusivity has not shown that it can assure the availability of sufficient quantities of the orphan drug to meet the needs of patients with the disease or condition for which the drug was designated. Orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent the FDA from approving a different drug for the same disease or condition, or the same drug 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 NDA application user fee.
A designated orphan drug many not receive orphan drug exclusivity if it is approved for a use that is broader than the indication for which it received orphan designation. In addition, orphan drug exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or, as noted above, if a second applicant demonstrates that its product is clinically superior to the approved product with orphan exclusivity or the manufacturer of the approved product is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.
Drug products manufactured or distributed pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to record-keeping, reporting of adverse experiences, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, and advertising and promotion of the product. After approval, most changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications or other labeling claims, are subject to prior FDA review and approval. There also are continuing, annual program fees for any marketed products. Drug manufacturers and their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with cGMP, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements upon us and our third-party manufacturers. Changes to the manufacturing process are strictly regulated, and, depending on the significance of the change, may require prior FDA approval before being implemented. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from cGMP and impose reporting requirements. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP and other aspects of regulatory compliance.
The FDA may withdraw approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information; imposition
of post-market studies or clinical studies to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution restrictions or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential consequences include, among other things:
|●||restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the product, complete withdrawal of the product from the market or product recalls;|
|●||fines, warning letters, or untitled letters;|
|●||clinical holds on clinical studies;|
|●||refusal of the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications, or suspension or revocation of product approvals;|
|●||product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products;|
|●||consent decrees, corporate integrity agreements, debarment or exclusion from federal healthcare programs;|
The FDA closely regulates the marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of drug products. A company can make only those claims relating to safety and efficacy, purity and potency that are approved by the FDA and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in, among other things, adverse publicity, warning letters, corrective advertising and potential civil and criminal penalties. Physicians may prescribe, in their independent professional medical judgment, legally available products for uses that are not described in the product’s labeling and that differ from those tested by us and approved by the FDA. Physicians may believe that such off-label uses are the best treatment for many patients in varied circumstances. The FDA does not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments. The FDA does, however, restrict manufacturer’s communications on the subject of off-label use of their products. However, companies may share truthful and not misleading information that is otherwise consistent with a product’s FDA-approved labelling.
Market exclusivity provisions authorized under the FDCA can delay the submission or the approval of certain marketing applications. The FDCA provides a five-year period of non-patent marketing exclusivity within the United States to the first applicant to obtain approval of an NDA for a new chemical entity. A drug is a new chemical entity if the FDA has not previously approved any other new drug containing the same active moiety, which is the molecule or ion responsible for the action of the drug substance. During the exclusivity period, the FDA may not approve or even accept for review an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA), or an NDA submitted under Section 505(b)(2) (505(b)(2) NDA), submitted by another company for another drug based on the same active moiety, regardless of whether the drug is intended for the same indication as the original innovative drug or for another indication, where the applicant does not own or have a legal right of reference to all the data required for approval. However, an application may be submitted after four years if it contains a certification of patent invalidity or non-infringement to one of the patents listed with the FDA by the innovator NDA holder.
The FDCA alternatively provides three years of marketing exclusivity for an NDA, or supplement to an existing NDA if new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability studies, that were conducted or sponsored by the applicant are deemed by the FDA to be essential to the approval of the application, for example new indications, dosages or strengths
of an existing drug. This three-year exclusivity covers only the modification for which the drug received approval on the basis of the new clinical investigations and does not prohibit the FDA from approving ANDAs or 505(b)(2) NDAs for drugs containing the active agent for the original indication or condition of use. Five-year and three-year exclusivity will not delay the submission or approval of a full NDA. However, an applicant submitting a full NDA would be required to conduct or obtain a right of reference to any preclinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials necessary to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.
Pediatric exclusivity is another type of marketing exclusivity available in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity provides for an additional six months of marketing exclusivity attached to another period of exclusivity if a sponsor conducts clinical trials in children in response to a written request from the FDA. The issuance of a written request does not require the sponsor to undertake the described clinical trials. In addition, orphan drug exclusivity, as described above, may offer a seven-year period of marketing exclusivity, except in certain circumstances.
FDA Approval and Regulation of Companion Diagnostics
If safe and effective use of a therapeutic product depends on an in vitro diagnostic medical device, then the FDA generally will require approval or clearance of that diagnostic, known as an in vitro companion diagnostic device, at the same time that the FDA approves the therapeutic product. In August 2014, the FDA issued final guidance clarifying the requirements that will apply to approval of therapeutic products and in vitro companion diagnostic devices. According to the guidance, for novel drugs, an in vitro companion diagnostic device and its corresponding therapeutic should be approved or cleared contemporaneously by the FDA for the use indicated in the therapeutic product’s labeling.
If the FDA determines that an in vitro companion diagnostic device is essential to the safe and effective use of a novel therapeutic product or indication, the FDA generally will not approve the therapeutic product or new therapeutic product indication if the in vitro companion diagnostic device is not approved or cleared for that indication. Approval or clearance of the in vitro companion diagnostic device will ensure that the device has been adequately evaluated and has adequate performance characteristics in the intended population.
Under the FDCA, in vitro diagnostics, including in vitro companion diagnostic devices, are generally regulated as medical devices. In the United States, the FDCA and its implementing regulations, and other federal and state statutes and regulations govern, among other things, medical device design and development, preclinical and clinical testing, premarket clearance or approval, registration and listing, manufacturing, labeling, storage, advertising and promotion, sales and distribution, export and import, and post-market surveillance. Unless an exemption applies, diagnostic tests require marketing clearance or approval from the FDA prior to commercial distribution. The two primary types of FDA marketing authorization applicable to a medical device are premarket notification, also called 510(k) clearance, and premarket approval, or PMA approval. The FDA has stated that it generally requires in vitro companion diagnostic devices intended to select the patients who will respond to a drug to obtain a PMA for that diagnostic simultaneously with approval of the drug.
The PMA process, including the gathering of clinical and preclinical data and the submission to and review by the FDA, can take several years or longer. It involves a rigorous premarket review during which the applicant must prepare and provide the FDA with reasonable assurance of the device’s safety and effectiveness and information about the device and its components regarding, among other things, device design, manufacturing and labeling. In addition, PMAs for certain 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, a PMA application typically requires data regarding analytical and clinical validation studies. 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 approval. If the FDA’s evaluation of the PMA application is favorable, the FDA typically issues an approvable letter requiring the applicant’s agreement to
specific conditions, such as changes in labeling, or specific additional information, such as submission of final labeling, in order to secure final approval of the PMA. If the FDA’s evaluation of the PMA or manufacturing facilities is not favorable, the FDA will deny approval of the PMA or issue a not approvable letter. A not approvable letter will outline the deficiencies in the application and, where practical, will identify what is necessary to make the PMA approvable. The FDA may also determine that additional clinical trials are necessary, in which case the PMA approval may be delayed for several months or years while the trials are conducted and then the data submitted in an amendment to the PMA. If the FDA concludes that the applicable criteria have been met, the FDA will issue a PMA for the approved indications, which can be more limited than those originally sought by the applicant. The PMA can include post-approval conditions that the FDA believes necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the device, including, among other things, restrictions on labeling, promotion, sale and distribution. Once granted, PMA approval may be withdrawn by the FDA if compliance with post approval requirements, conditions of approval or other regulatory standards are not maintained or problems are identified following initial marketing.
After a device is placed on the market, it remains subject to significant regulatory requirements. Medical devices may be marketed only for the uses and indications for which they are cleared or approved. Device manufacturers must also establish registration and device listings with the FDA. A medical device manufacturer’s manufacturing processes and those of its suppliers are required to comply with the applicable portions of the QSR, which cover the methods and documentation of the design, testing, production, processes, controls, quality assurance, labeling, packaging and shipping of medical devices. Domestic facility records and manufacturing processes are subject to periodic unscheduled inspections by the FDA. The FDA also may inspect foreign facilities that export products to the United States.
Regulation of Combination Products in the United States
Certain product are comprised of components, such as drug components and device components, that would normally be subject to different regulatory frameworks by the FDA and frequently regulated by different centers at the FDA. These products are known as combination products. Under the FDCA, the FDA is charged with assigning a center with primary jurisdiction, or a lead center, for review of a combination product. The determination of which center will be the lead center is based on the “primary mode of action” of the combination product. Thus, if the primary mode of action of a drug-device combination product is attributable to the drug product, the FDA center responsible for premarket review of the drug product would have primary jurisdiction for the combination product. The FDA has also established the Office of Combination Products to address issues surrounding combination products and provide more certainty to the regulatory review process. That office serves as a focal point for combination product issues for agency reviewers and industry. It is also responsible for developing guidance and regulations to clarify the regulation of combination products, and for assignment of the FDA center that has primary jurisdiction for review of combination products where the jurisdiction is unclear or in dispute. A combination product with a primary mode of action attributable to the drug component generally would be reviewed and approved pursuant to the drug approval processes set forth in the FDCA. In reviewing the NDA for such a product, however, FDA reviewers would consult with their counterparts in the device center to ensure that the device component of the combination product met applicable requirements regarding safety, effectiveness, durability and performance. In addition, under FDA regulations, combination products are subject to cGMP requirements applicable to both drugs and devices, including the QSR applicable to medical devices.
In addition to regulations in the United States, we will be subject to a variety of foreign regulations governing clinical trials and commercial sales and distribution of setmelanotide to the extent we choose to sell any setmelanotide outside of the United States. Whether or not we obtain FDA approval for a product, we must obtain approval of a product by equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions before we can commence clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. The approval process varies from country to country and the time may be longer or shorter than that required for FDA approval. The requirements governing the conduct of clinical trials, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary greatly from country to country. As in the United States, post-approval regulatory requirements, such as those regarding product manufacture, marketing, pharmacovigilance, promotion, advertising or distribution would apply to any product that is approved outside the United States.
Regulation and Procedures Governing Marketing Authorization of Medicinal Products in the European Union
Non-clinical studies and clinical trials
Similarly to the United States, the various phases of non-clinical and clinical research in the EU are subject to significant regulatory controls.
Non-clinical studies are performed to demonstrate the health or environmental safety of new biological substances. Non-clinical studies must be conducted in compliance with the principles of good laboratory practice (GLP) as set forth in EU Directive 2004/10/EC. In particular, non-clinical studies, both in vitro and in vivo, must be planned, performed, monitored, recorded, reported and archived in accordance with the GLP principles, which define a set of rules and criteria for a quality system for the organizational process and the conditions for non-clinical studies. These GLP standards reflect the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development requirements.
Clinical trials of medicinal products in the EU must be conducted in accordance with EU and national regulations and the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) guidelines on good clinical practices (GCP) as well as the applicable regulatory requirements and the ethical principles that have their origin in the Declaration of Helsinki. If the sponsor of the clinical trial is not established within the EU, it must appoint an EU entity to act as its legal representative. The sponsor must take out a clinical trial insurance policy, and in most EU member states, the sponsor is liable to provide ‘no fault’ compensation to any study subject injured in the clinical trial.
The regulatory landscape related to clinical trials in the EU has been subject to recent changes. The EU Clinical Trials Regulation (CTR), which was adopted in April 2014 and repeals the EU Clinical Trials Directive, became applicable on January 31, 2022. Unlike directives, the CTR is directly applicable in all EU member states without the need for member states to further implement it into national law. The CTR notably harmonizes the assessment and supervision processes for clinical trials throughout the EU via a Clinical Trials Information System, which contains a centralized EU portal and database.
While the Clinical Trials Directive required a separate clinical trial application (CTA) to be submitted in each member state, to both the competent national health authority and an independent ethics committee, much like the FDA and IRB respectively, the CTR introduces a centralized process and only requires the submission of a single application to all member states concerned. The CTR allows sponsors to make a single submission to both the competent authority and an ethics committee in each member state, leading to a single decision per member state. The CTA must include, among other things, a copy of the trial protocol and an investigational medicinal product dossier containing information about the manufacture and quality of the medicinal product under investigation. The assessment procedure of the CTA has been harmonized as well, including a joint assessment by all member states concerned, and a separate assessment by each member state with respect to specific requirements related to its own territory, including ethics rules. Each member state’s decision is communicated to the sponsor via the centralized EU portal. Once the CTA is approved, clinical study development may proceed.
The CTR foresees a three-year transition period. The extent to which ongoing and new clinical trials will be governed by the CTR varies. Clinical trials for which an application was submitted (i) prior to January 31, 2022 under the Clinical Trials Directive, or (ii) between January 31, 2022 and January 31, 2023 and for which the sponsor has opted for the application of the Clinical Trials Directive remain governed by said Directive until January 31, 2025. After this date, all clinical trials (including those which are ongoing) will become subject to the provisions of the CTR.
Medicines used in clinical trials must be manufactured in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Other national and EU-wide regulatory requirements may also apply..
In the EU, medicinal product candidates can only be commercialized after obtaining a marketing authorization, (MA). To obtain regulatory approval of a product candidate in the EU, we must submit a marketing authorization application, (MAA). The process for doing this depends, among other things, on the nature of the medicinal product.
There are two types of MAs:
|●||“Centralized MAs” are issued by the European Commission (EC) through the centralized procedure, based on the opinion of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and are valid throughout the EU. The centralized procedure is mandatory for certain types of products, such as (i) medicinal products derived from biotechnological processes, (ii) designated orphan medicinal products, (iii) advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) such as gene therapy, somatic cell-therapy or tissue-engineered medicines, and (iv) medicinal products containing a new active substance indicated for the treatment certain diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, auto-immune and other immune dysfunctions and viral diseases. The centralized procedure is optional for any products containing a new active substance not yet authorized in the EU, or for products that constitute a significant therapeutic, scientific or technical innovation or for which the granting of a MA would be in the interest of public health in the EU.|
|●||“National MAs” are issued by the competent authorities of the EU member states, only cover their respective territory, and are available for product candidates not falling within the mandatory scope of the centralized procedure. Where a product has already been authorized for marketing in an EU member state, this national MA can be recognized in another member state through the mutual recognition procedure. If the product has not received a national MA in any member state at the time of application, it can be approved simultaneously in various member states through the decentralized procedure. Under the decentralized procedure an identical dossier is submitted to the competent authorities of each of the member states in which the MA is sought, one of which is selected by the applicant as the reference member state.|
A MA has an initial validity for five years in principle. The MA may be renewed after five years on the basis of a re-evaluation of the risk-benefit balance by the EMA or by the competent authority of the EU member state. To this end, the MA holder must provide the EMA or the competent authority with a consolidated version of the file in respect of quality, safety and efficacy, including all variations introduced since the MA was granted, at least six months before the MA ceases to be valid. The European Commission or the competent authorities of the EU member states may decide, on justified grounds relating to pharmacovigilance, to proceed with one further five year period of MA. Once subsequently definitively renewed, the MA shall be valid for an unlimited period. Any authorization which is not followed by the actual placing of the medicinal product on the EU market or on the market of the authorizing EU member state(s) within three years after authorization ceases to be valid (the so-called “sunset clause”).
Under the centralized procedure, the maximum timeframe for the evaluation of an MAA by the CHMP is 210 days, excluding clock stops, when additional information or written or oral explanation is to be provided by the applicant in response to questions of the CHMP. In exceptional cases, the CHMP might perform an accelerated review of a MAA in no more than 150 days (not including clock stops). Innovative products that target an unmet medical need and are expected to be of major public health interest may be eligible for a number of expedited development and review programs, such as the PRIME scheme, which provides incentives similar to the breakthrough therapy designation in the U.S. In March 2016, the EMA launched an initiative, the Priority Medicines (PRIME) scheme, a voluntary scheme aimed at enhancing the EMA’s support for the development of medicines that target unmet medical needs. It is based on increased interaction and early dialogue with companies developing promising medicines, to optimize their product development plans and speed up their evaluation to help them reach patients earlier. Product developers that benefit from PRIME designation can expect to be eligible for accelerated assessment but this is not guaranteed. Many benefits accrue to sponsors of product candidates with PRIME designation, including but not limited to, early and proactive regulatory dialogue with the EMA, frequent discussions on clinical trial designs and other development program elements, and accelerated MAA assessment once a dossier has been submitted. Importantly, a dedicated contact and rapporteur from the CHMP is appointed early in the PRIME scheme facilitating increased understanding of the product at EMA’s committee level. An initial meeting initiates these relationships and includes a team of multidisciplinary experts at the EMA to provide guidance on the overall development and regulatory strategies.
Moreover, in the EU, a “conditional” MA may be granted in cases where all the required safety and efficacy data are not yet available. The conditional MA is subject to conditions to be fulfilled for generating the missing data or ensuring increased safety measures. It is valid for one year and has to be renewed annually until fulfillment of all the conditions.
Once the pending studies are provided, it can become a “standard” MA. However, if the conditions are not fulfilled within the timeframe set by the EMA, the MA ceases to be renewed. Furthermore, MA may also be granted “under exceptional circumstances” when the applicant can show that it is unable to provide comprehensive data on the efficacy and safety under normal conditions of use even after the product has been authorized and subject to specific procedures being introduced. This may arise in particular when the intended indications are very rare and, in the present state of scientific knowledge, it is not possible to provide comprehensive information, or when generating data may be contrary to generally accepted ethical principles. This MA is close to the conditional MA as it is reserved for medicinal products to be approved for severe diseases or unmet medical needs and the applicant does not hold the complete data set legally required for the grant of a MA. However, unlike the conditional MA, the applicant does not have to provide the missing data and will never have to. Although the MA “under exceptional circumstances” is granted definitively, the risk-benefit balance of the medicinal product is reviewed annually and the MA is withdrawn in case the risk-benefit ratio is no longer favorable.
Data and marketing exclusivity
The EU also provides opportunities for market exclusivity. Upon receiving MA, reference product candidates generally receive eight years of data exclusivity and an additional two years of market exclusivity. If granted, the data exclusivity period prevents applicants generic or biosimilar applicants from relying on the pre-clinical and clinical trial data contained in the dossier of the reference product when applying for a generic or biosimilar MA in the EU during a period of eight years from the date on which the reference product was first authorized in the EU. During the market exclusivity period, an application for a generic or biosimilar MA can be submitted and a related MA may be granted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but no generic or biosimilar can be placed on the EU market until 10 years have elapsed from the initial MA of the reference product in the EU. The overall ten-year period can be extended to a maximum of eleven years if, during the first eight years of those ten years, the MA holder obtains an authorization for one or more new therapeutic indications which, during the scientific evaluation prior to their authorization, are held to bring a significant clinical benefit in comparison with existing therapies. However, there is no guarantee that a product will be considered by the EU’s regulatory authorities to be a new chemical entity, and products may not qualify for data exclusivity.
Orphan Medicinal Products
The criteria for designating an “orphan medicinal product” in the EU are similar in principle to those in the United States. Regulation (EC) No. 141/2000, as implemented by Regulation (EC) No. 847/2000 provides that a medicinal product can be designated as an orphan if its sponsor can establish that: (1) the product is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life threatening or chronically debilitating condition; (2) either (a) such condition affects not more than five in ten thousand persons in the EU when the application is made, or (b) the product, without the benefits derived from the orphan status, would not generate sufficient return in the EU to justify the necessary investment; and (3) there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of the condition in question that has been authorized in the EU or, if such method exists, the medicinal product will be of significant benefit to those affected by that condition.
In the EU, an application for designation as an orphan product can be made any time prior to the filing of the application for MA. Orphan designation entitles a party to incentives such fee reductions or fee waivers, protocol assistance, and access to the centralized procedure. Once authorized, orphan medicinal products are entitled to a ten-years period of market exclusivity for the approved therapeutic indication, which means that the competent authorities cannot accept another MAA, or grant a MA, or accept an application to extend a MA for a similar product for the same indication for a period of ten years. The period of market exclusivity is extended by two years for orphan medicinal products that have also complied with an agreed pediatric investigation plan (PIP). No extension to any supplementary protection certificate can be granted on the basis of pediatric studies for orphan indications. Orphan designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
The orphan exclusivity period may, however, be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the product no longer meets the criteria for which it received orphan destination, including where it is shown that the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity, or where the prevalence of the condition has increased above the threshold. Granting of an authorization for another similar orphan medicinal product where another product has market exclusivity can happen at any time if: (i) the second applicant can establish that its product, although
similar to the authorized product, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior, (ii) inability of the applicant to supply sufficient quantities of the orphan medicinal product or (iii) where the applicant consents to a second orphan medicinal product application. A company may voluntarily remove a product from the orphan register.
In the EU, MAAs for new medicinal products have to include the results of trials conducted in the pediatric population, in compliance with a PIP agreed with the EMA’s Pediatric Committee (PDCO). The PIP sets out the timing and measures proposed to generate data to support a pediatric indication of the drug for which an MA is being sought. The PDCO can grant a deferral of the obligation to implement some or all of the measures of the PIP until there are sufficient data to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the product in adults. Further, the obligation to provide pediatric clinical trial data can be waived by the PDCO when these data are not needed or appropriate because the product is likely to be ineffective or unsafe in children, the disease or condition for which the product is intended occurs only in adult populations, or when the product does not represent a significant therapeutic benefit over existing treatments for pediatric patients. Once the MA is obtained in all member states and study results are included in the product information, even when negative, the product is eligible for a six-months supplementary protection certificate extension (if any is in effect at the time of approval) or, in the case of orphan pharmaceutical products, a two year extension of the orphan market exclusivity is granted.
Similar to the United States, both MA holders and manufacturers of medicinal products are subject to comprehensive regulatory oversight by the EMA, the EC and/or the competent regulatory authorities of the member states. The holder of a MA must establish and maintain a pharmacovigilance system and appoint an individual qualified person for pharmacovigilance who is responsible for oversight of that system. Key obligations include expedited reporting of suspected serious adverse reactions and submission of periodic safety update reports (PSURs).
All new MAA must include a risk management plan (RMP) describing the risk management system that the company will put in place and documenting measures to prevent or minimize the risks associated with the product. The regulatory authorities may also impose specific obligations as a condition of the MA. Such risk-minimization measures or post-authorization obligations may include additional safety monitoring, more frequent submission of PSURs, or the conduct of additional clinical trials or post-authorization safety studies.
The advertising and promotion of medicinal products is also subject to laws concerning promotion of medicinal products, interactions with physicians, misleading and comparative advertising and unfair commercial practices. All advertising and promotional activities for the product must be consistent with the approved summary of product characteristics, and therefore all off-label promotion is prohibited. Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines is also prohibited in the EU. Although general requirements for advertising and promotion of medicinal products are established under EU directives, the details are governed by regulations in each member state and can differ from one country to another.
The aforementioned EU rules are generally applicable in the European Economic Area (EEA) which consists of the 27 EU member states plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
Failure to comply with EU and member state laws that apply to the conduct of clinical trials, manufacturing approval, MA of medicinal products and marketing of such products, both before and after grant of the MA, manufacturing of pharmaceutical products, statutory health insurance, bribery and anti-corruption or with other applicable regulatory requirements may result in administrative, civil or criminal penalties. These penalties could include delays or refusal to authorize the conduct of clinical trials, or to grant MA, product withdrawals and recalls, product seizures, suspension, withdrawal or variation of the MA, total or partial suspension of production, distribution, manufacturing or clinical trials, operating restrictions, injunctions, suspension of licenses, fines and criminal penalties.
Brexit and the Regulatory Framework in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom (UK) left the EU on January 31, 2020, following which existing EU medicinal product legislation continued to apply in the UK during the transition period under the terms of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. The transition period, which ended on December 31, 2020, maintained access to the EU single market and to the global trade deals negotiated by the EU on behalf of its members. The transition period provided time for the UK and EU to negotiate a framework for partnership for the future, which was then crystallized in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and became effective on the January 1, 2021. The TCA includes specific provisions concerning pharmaceuticals, which include the mutual recognition of GMP inspections of manufacturing facilities for medicinal products and GMP documents issued, but does not foresee wholesale mutual recognition of UK and EU pharmaceutical regulations.
EU laws which have been transposed into UK law through secondary legislation continue to be applicable as “retained EU law”. However, under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022, which is currently before the UK parliament, any retained EU law not expressly preserved and “assimilated” into domestic law or extended by ministerial regulations (to no later than 23 June 2026) will automatically expire and be revoked by December 31, 2023. In addition, new EU legislation such as the EU CTR or in relation to orphan medicines will not be applicable. The UK government has passed a new Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021, which introduces delegated powers in favor of the Secretary of State or an ‘appropriate authority’ to amend or supplement existing regulations in the area of medicinal products and medical devices. This allows new rules to be introduced in the future by way of secondary legislation, which aims to allow flexibility in addressing regulatory gaps and future changes in the fields of human medicines, clinical trials and medical devices.
As of January 1, 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK’s standalone medicines and medical devices regulator. As a result of the Northern Ireland protocol, different rules will apply in Northern Ireland than in England, Wales, and Scotland, together, Great Britain (GB); broadly, Northern Ireland will continue to follow the EU regulatory regime, but its national competent authority will remain the MHRA. The MHRA has published a guidance on how various aspects of the UK regulatory regime for medicines will operate in GB and in Northern Ireland following the expiry of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020. The guidance includes clinical trials, importing, exporting, and pharmacovigilance and is relevant to any business involved in the research, development, or commercialization of medicines in the UK. The new guidance was given effect via the Human Medicines Regulations (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (the Exit Regulations).
The MHRA has introduced changes to national licensing procedures, including procedures to prioritize access to new medicines that will benefit patients, including a 150-day assessment and a rolling review procedure. All existing EU MAs for centrally authorized products were automatically converted or grandfathered into UK MAs, effective in GB (only), free of charge on January 1, 2021, unless the MA holder chooses to opt-out. After Brexit, companies established in the UK cannot use the centralized procedure and instead must follow one of the UK national authorization procedures or one of the remaining post-Brexit international cooperation procedures to obtain an MA to commercialize products in the UK. The MHRA may rely on a decision taken by the European Commission on the approval of a new (centralized procedure) MA when determining an application for a GB authorization; or use the MHRA’s decentralized or mutual recognition procedures which enable MAs approved in EU member states (or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) to be granted in GB.
There will be no pre-MA orphan designation. Instead, the MHRA will review applications for orphan designation in parallel to the corresponding MA application. The criteria are essentially the same, but have been tailored for the market, i.e., the prevalence of the condition in Great Britain, rather than the EU, must not be more than five in 10,000. Should an orphan designation be granted, the period or market exclusivity will be set from the date of first approval of the product in Great Britain.
Additionally, on June 26, 2022, the MHRA published its response to a 10-week consultation on the post-Brexit regulatory framework for medical devices and diagnostics was opened until end of November 2021. MHRA seeks to amend the UK Medical Devices Regulations 2002 (which are based on EU legislation, primarily the EU Medical Devices Directive and the EU In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Directive), in particular to create new access pathways to support innovation, create an innovative framework for regulating software and artificial intelligence as
medical devices, reform in vitro diagnostic medical devices regulation, and foster sustainability through the reuse and remanufacture of medical devices. Regulations implementing the new regime were originally scheduled to come into force in July 2023, but have recently been postponed to July 2024. Devices bearing CE marks issued by EU notified bodies under the MDR or MDD are now subject to transitional arrangements. In its consultation response, the MHRA indicated that the future UK regulations will allow devices certified under the MDR to be placed on the market in Great Britain under the CE mark until either the certificate expires or for five years after the new regulations take effect, whichever is sooner. Devices certified under the MDD could continue to be placed on the market until either the certificate expires or for three years after the new regulations take effect, whichever is sooner. Following these transitional periods, it is expected that all medical devices will require a UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark. Manufacturers may choose to use the UKCA mark on a voluntary basis until June 30, 2023. However, UKCA marking will not be recognized in the EU. The rules for placing medical devices on the market in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, differ from those in the rest of the UK. Compliance with this legislation is a prerequisite to be able to affix the UKCA mark to our products, without which they cannot be sold or marketed in GB.
Pharmaceutical Coverage and Reimbursement
In the United States and markets in other countries, patients who are prescribed treatments for their conditions and providers performing the prescribed services generally rely on Government and third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the associated healthcare costs. Patients are unlikely to use IMCIVREE unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of our products. Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of products approved by the FDA and other government authorities. Sales will depend, in part, on the extent to which third-party payors, including government health programs in the United States such as Medicare and Medicaid, commercial health insurers and managed care organizations, provide coverage, and establish adequate reimbursement levels for, IMCIVREE and other product candidates we may develop and obtain approval for in the future. The process for determining whether a payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for setting the price or reimbursement rate that the payor will pay for the product once coverage is approved. Third-party payors are increasingly challenging the prices charged, examining the medical necessity, and reviewing the cost-effectiveness of medical products and services and imposing controls to manage costs. Third-party payors may limit coverage to specific products on an approved list, also known as a formulary, which might not include all of the approved products for a particular indication.
In order to secure coverage and reimbursement for any product that might be approved for sale, a company may need to conduct expensive pharmacoeconomic studies in order to demonstrate the medical necessity and cost-effectiveness of the product, in addition to the costs required to obtain FDA or other comparable marketing approvals. Nonetheless, setmelanotide may not be considered medically necessary or cost effective. A decision by a third-party payor not to cover IMCIVREE or any of our product candidates, if approved, could reduce physician utilization of our products and have a material adverse effect on our sales, results of operations and financial condition. Additionally, a payor’s decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Further, one payor’s determination to provide coverage for a product does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage and reimbursement for the product, and the level of coverage and reimbursement can differ significantly from payor to payor. Third-party reimbursement and coverage may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development.
The containment of healthcare costs also has become a priority of federal, state and foreign governments and the prices of products have been a focus in this effort. Governments have shown significant interest in implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls, restrictions on reimbursement and requirements for substitution of generic products. Adoption of price controls and cost-containment measures, and adoption of more restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could further limit a company’s revenue generated from the sale of any approved products. Coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which a company or its collaborators receive marketing approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.
Outside the United States, ensuring adequate coverage and payment for setmelanotide will face challenges. Pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is subject to governmental control in many countries. Pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can extend well beyond the receipt of regulatory marketing approval for a product and may require us to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost effectiveness of setmelanotide or products to other available therapies. The conduct of such a clinical trial could be expensive and result in delays in our commercialization efforts. We are also enrolled in the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and other governmental pricing programs, and have price reporting and payment obligations under these programs.
In the EU, pricing and reimbursement schemes vary widely from one member state to another. Some member states may require the completion of additional studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of a particular medicinal product candidate to currently available therapies or so called Health Technology Assessments (HTA), in order to obtain reimbursement or pricing approval. For example, the EU provides options for its member states to restrict the range of products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. EU member states may approve a specific price for a product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the product on the market. Other EU member states allow companies to fix their own prices for products, but monitor and control prescription volumes and issue guidance to physicians to limit prescriptions. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, and particularly in relation to prescription only medicinal products, has become more intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products.
HTA of medicinal products is, however, becoming an increasingly common part of the pricing and reimbursement procedures in some EU member states, including France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Sweden. HTA is the procedure according to which the assessment of the public health impact, therapeutic impact and the economic and societal impact of use of a given medicinal product in the national healthcare systems of the individual country is conducted. HTA generally focuses on the clinical efficacy and effectiveness, safety, cost, and cost-effectiveness of individual medicinal products as well as their potential implications for the healthcare system. Those elements of medicinal products are compared with other treatment options available on the market. The outcome of HTA regarding specific medicinal products will often influence the pricing and reimbursement status granted to these medicinal products by the competent authorities of individual EU member states. The extent to which pricing and reimbursement decisions are influenced by the HTA of the specific medicinal product varies between EU member states. In addition, pursuant to Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare, a voluntary network of national authorities or bodies responsible for HTA in the individual EU member states was established. The purpose of the network is to facilitate and support the exchange of scientific information concerning HTAs. This may lead to harmonization of the criteria taken into account in the conduct of HTAs between EU member states and in pricing and reimbursement decisions and may negatively affect price in at least some EU member states.
Healthcare Laws and Regulations
We are subject to healthcare regulation and enforcement by the federal government and the states where we conduct business. These laws include, without limitation, state and federal anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, false claims, and physician and other healthcare provider payment transparency laws and regulations. Foreign governments also have comparable regulations.
The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits, among other things, any person from knowingly and willfully offering, soliciting, receiving or providing remuneration, directly or indirectly, to induce either the referral of an individual, for an item or service or the purchasing or ordering of a good or service, for which payment may be made under federal healthcare programs such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Anti-Kickback Statute is subject to evolving interpretations. In the past, the government has enforced the Anti-Kickback Statute to reach large settlements with healthcare companies based on sham consulting and other financial arrangements with physicians. Further, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of these statutes or specific intent to violate them to have committed a violation. The majority of states also have anti-kickback laws which establish similar prohibitions and in some cases may apply to items or services reimbursed by any third-party payor, including commercial insurers.
Additionally, the civil False Claims Act prohibits knowingly presenting or causing the presentation of a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim for payment to the U.S. government. Actions under the False Claims Act may be brought by the Attorney General or as a qui tam action by a private individual in the name of the government. In addition, the government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal False Claims Act. Violations of the False Claims Act can result in very significant monetary penalties and treble damages. The federal government is using the False Claims Act, and the accompanying threat of significant liability, in its investigation and prosecution of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in connection with the promotion of products for unapproved uses and other sales and marketing practices. The government has obtained multi-billion dollar settlements under the False Claims Act in addition to individual criminal convictions under applicable criminal statutes. We expect that the government will continue to devote substantial resources to investigating healthcare providers’ and manufacturers’ compliance with applicable fraud and abuse laws.
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, created new federal criminal statutes that prohibit, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program and making false statements relating to healthcare matters. Similar to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of these statutes or specific intent to violate them to have committed a violation.
The federal civil monetary penalties laws, impose civil fines for, among other things, the offering or transfer of remuneration to a Medicare or state healthcare program beneficiary if the person knows or should know it is likely to influence the beneficiary’s selection of a particular provider, practitioner, or supplier of services reimbursable by Medicare or a state healthcare program, unless an exception applies.
In addition, there has been increased federal and state regulation of payments made to physicians and other healthcare providers. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act imposes new reporting requirements on drug manufacturers for payments made by them to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors), certain non-physician practitioners (physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, anesthesiology assistants, and certified nurse midwives) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Drug manufacturers must report such payments to the government by the 90th day of each calendar year.
State and foreign laws and regulations restrict business practices in the pharmaceutical industry and complicate our compliance efforts. For example, some states require companies to comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the federal government’s compliance guidance or otherwise restrict payments to healthcare providers and other potential referral sources. Some states require manufacturers to file reports relating to pricing and marketing information. Some state and local governments require the public registration of pharmaceutical sales representatives. Certain states also mandate implementation of commercial compliance programs, impose restrictions on drug manufacturer marketing practices and/or require the tracking and reporting of gifts, compensation and other remuneration to physicians.
Violation of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to drug manufacturers may result in penalties, including, without limitation, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs and imprisonment.
In the EU, interactions between pharmaceutical companies and physicians are also governed by strict laws, regulations, industry self-regulation codes of conduct and physicians’ codes of professional conduct in the individual EU member states. The provision of benefits or advantages to physicians to induce or encourage the prescription, recommendation, endorsement, purchase, supply, order or use of medicinal products is prohibited in the EU. The provision of benefits or advantages to physicians is also governed by national laws (including anti-bribery laws) of the EU member states. In the UK, the UK Bribery Act 2010 applies to any company incorporated in or “carrying on business”, irrespective of where in the world the alleged bribery activity occurs. This Act could have implications for our interactions with physicians in and outside the UK. Violation of these laws could result in substantial fines and imprisonment.
Payments made to physicians in certain EU member states must be publicly disclosed. Moreover, agreements with physicians must often be the subject of prior notification and/or approval by the physician’s employer, their competent professional organization, and/or the competent authorities of the individual EU member states. These requirements are provided in the national laws, industry codes, or professional codes of conduct, applicable in the individual EU member states. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in reputational risk, public reprimands, administrative penalties, fines or imprisonment.
Failure to comply with the EU legislation and national laws on medicinal products including on the promotion of medicinal products, interactions with physicians, misleading and comparative advertising and unfair commercial practices, statutory health insurance, bribery and anti-corruption or with other applicable regulatory requirements can result in enforcement action by the EU member state authorities, which may include any of the following: fines, imprisonment, orders forfeiting products or prohibiting or suspending their supply to the market, or requiring the manufacturer to issue public warnings, or to conduct a product recall.
Data Privacy and Security Laws
Numerous state, federal and foreign laws, regulations and standards govern the collection, use, access to, confidentiality and security of health-related and other personal information, and could apply now or in the future to our operations or the operations of our partners. In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including data breach notification laws, health information privacy and security laws and consumer protection laws and regulations govern the collection, use, disclosure, and protection of health-related and other personal information. In addition, certain foreign laws govern the privacy and security of personal data, including health-related data. Privacy and security laws, regulations, and other obligations are constantly evolving, may conflict with each other to complicate compliance efforts, and can result in investigations, proceedings, or actions that lead to significant civil and/or criminal penalties and restrictions on data processing.
A primary trend in the United States healthcare industry and elsewhere is cost containment. There have been a number of federal and state proposals during the last few years regarding the pricing of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products, limiting coverage and reimbursement for drugs and other medical products, government control and other changes to the healthcare system in the United States.
By way of example, the United States and state governments continue to propose and pass legislation designed to reduce the cost of healthcare. In March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or signed the ACA, was signed into law, which, among other things, included changes to the coverage and payment for products under government health care programs. Among the provisions of the ACA of importance to IMCIVREE and our potential drug candidates are:
|●||an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports specified branded prescription drugs and biologic agents, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs, although this fee does not apply to sales of certain products approved exclusively for orphan indications;|
|●||expansion of eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs by, among other things, allowing states to offer Medicaid coverage to certain individuals with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, thereby potentially increasing a manufacturer’s Medicaid rebate liability;|
|●||expansion of manufacturers’ rebate liability under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program by increasing the minimum rebate for both branded and generic drugs and revising the definition of “average manufacturer price,” or AMP, for calculating and reporting Medicaid drug rebates on outpatient prescription drug prices and extending rebate liability to prescriptions for individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans;|
|●||expansion of the list of entity types eligible for participation in the Public Health Service 340B drug pricing program, or the 340B program, to include certain free-standing cancer hospitals, critical access hospitals, rural referral centers, and sole community hospitals, but exempting “orphan drugs,” such as IMCIVREE, from the 340B ceiling price requirements for these covered entities;|
|●||established the Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, which require manufacturers to provide a 70% point-of-sale-discount off the negotiated price of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period as a condition for the manufacturers’ outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D;|
|●||a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research; and|
|●||established the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.|
Since its enactment, there have been judicial, executive and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA brought by several states without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Thus, the ACA will remain in effect in its current form.
In addition, other legislative and regulatory changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. These changes included an aggregate reduction in Medicare payments to providers, which went into effect on April 1, 2013 and will remain in effect through 2032, unless additional Congressional action is taken. In addition, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which further reduced Medicare payments to several providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years. On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law, which eliminates the statutory Medicaid drug rebate cap, currently set at 100% of a drug’s AMP, beginning January 1, 2024.
Most significantly, on August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) into law. This statute marks the most significant action by Congress with respect to the pharmaceutical industry since adoption of the ACA in 2010. Among other things, the IRA requires manufacturers of certain drugs to engage in price negotiations with Medicare (beginning in 2026), with prices that can be negotiated subject to a cap; imposes rebates under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation (first due in 2023); and replaces the Part D coverage gap discount program with a new discounting program (beginning in 2025). The IRA permits the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement many of these provisions through guidance, as opposed to regulation, for the initial years. For that and other reasons, it is currently unclear how the IRA will be effectuated, and while the impact of the IRA on the pharmaceutical industry cannot yet be fully determined, it is likely to be significant.
Moreover, the federal government and individual states in the United States have become increasingly active in developing proposals, passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control drug pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, formulary flexibility, marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures. These new laws and the regulations and policies implementing them, as well as other healthcare-related measures that may be adopted in the future, could materially reduce our ability to develop and commercialize IMCIVREE™ and our product candidates, if approved.
In the EU, On December 15, 2021, Regulation No 2021/2282 on HTA, amending Directive 2011/24/EU, was adopted. This regulation which entered into force in January 2022 intends to boost cooperation among EU member states in assessing health technologies, including new medicinal products, and providing the basis for cooperation at the EU level for joint clinical assessments in these areas. The regulation foresees a three-year transitional period and will permit EU member states to use common HTA tools, methodologies, and procedures across the EU, working together in four main
areas, including joint clinical assessment of the innovative health technologies with the most potential impact for patients, joint scientific consultations whereby developers can seek advice from HTA authorities, identification of emerging health technologies to identify promising technologies early, and continuing voluntary cooperation in other areas. Individual EU member states will continue to be responsible for assessing non-clinical (e.g., economic, social, ethical) aspects of health technology, and making decisions on pricing and reimbursement.
Our employees are dedicated to our mission to transform the lives of patients and their families living with hyperphagia and severe obesity caused by rare MC4R pathway diseases by rapidly advancing care and precision medicines addressing the root cause. As of January 31, 2023, we had 177 employees, including 143 in the United States and 34 in nine countries outside the United States. We also work with consultants and contractors to provide both specific expertise and flexibility for our business needs.
We believe that our future success largely depends upon our continued ability to attract, hire and retain highly skilled employees. We emphasize several measures and objectives in managing our human capital assets, including, among others, employee engagement, development and training, talent acquisition and retention, employee wellness, diversity, inclusion, and compensation and pay equity. We frequently assess the external market to provide our employees with competitive salaries, bonuses, opportunities for equity ownership, development opportunities that enable continued learning and growth and a robust employment package that promotes well-being across all aspects of their lives, including health care, retirement planning and paid time off. In addition, we regularly collect employee feedback to ensure open communication, measure employee engagement and identify opportunities for improvement. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have maintained efforts to ensure our employees are enabled to take advantage of flexible working arrangements and collaborate safely.
We believe that developing a diverse and inclusive culture is critical to continuing to attract and retain the top talent necessary to deliver on our growth strategy. As such, we are investing in a work environment where our employees feel inspired and included. We continue to focus on extending our diversity and inclusion initiatives across our entire global workforce. In addition, we work to ensure our employees understand and embrace our commitment to our patient community and our focus on changing the paradigm for treatment of rare genetic diseases of obesity. We value our employees’ courage to ask bold questions and their commitment to learning and collaboration, as each person brings a unique contribution to furthering our mission. Grounded in these guiding principles, we believe we have developed a collaborative environment where our colleagues feel respected, valued, and inspired to contribute to their fullest potential.
We are a Delaware corporation organized in February 2013. We were originally incorporated under the name Rhythm Metabolic, Inc., and as of October 2015, under the name Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Our principal executive offices are located at 222 Berkeley Street, 12th Floor, Boston, MA 02116, and our telephone number is (857) 264-4280. Our website is www.rhythmtx.com. Information that is contained on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report, and you should not consider information on our website to be part of this Annual Report.
We make available free of charge on the investor relations portion of our website our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, Proxy Statements for our annual meetings of stockholders, and amendments to those reports, as soon as reasonably practicable after we file such material with, or furnish it to, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. These filings are available for download free of charge on the investor relations portion of our website located at https://ir.rhythmtx.com. The SEC also maintains a website that contains reports, proxy statements and other information about issuers, like us, that file electronically with the SEC. The address of that website is https://www.sec.gov.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Our operations and financial results are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those described below, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, and the trading price of our common stock. Additional risks and uncertainties that we currently do not know about or that we currently believe to be immaterial may also impair our business. You should carefully consider the risks described below and the other information in this Annual Report, including our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto, and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”
Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Capital
We are a commercial stage biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history and have not generated significant revenue from product sales. We have incurred significant operating losses since our inception, anticipate that we will incur continued losses for the foreseeable future and may never achieve profitability.
We are a commercial stage biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history on which to base your investment decision. Biopharmaceutical product development is a highly speculative undertaking and involves a substantial degree of risk. We were incorporated in February 2013. Our operations to date have been primarily focused on developing and commercializing IMCIVREE® (setmelanotide) to treat patients living with hyperphagia and severe obesity caused by rare MC4R pathway diseases. Our business activities have included acquiring rights to intellectual property, business planning, raising capital, developing our technology, identifying potential product candidates, undertaking preclinical studies and conducting research and development activities, including clinical trials, for setmelanotide. To date we have generated less than $25.0 million of revenue from product sales. In the United States, IMCIVREE is approved for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with monogenic or syndromic obesity due to pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 1 (PCSK1) or leptin receptor (LEPR) deficiency as determined by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved test demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance, or Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS). The European Commission (EC) has authorized setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS or genetically confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above. The UK’s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorized setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS or genetically confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above.
We have not obtained any other regulatory approvals for setmelanotide. We first commercialized IMCIVREE in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2021 and therefore do not have a long history operating as a commercial company. We are continuing to transition from a company with a research and development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial activities and we may not be successful in such transition. We are still at the early stages of demonstrating our ability to manufacture at commercial scale, or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct sales, marketing and distribution activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Consequently, any predictions made about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history.
Since our inception, we have focused substantially all of our efforts and financial resources on the research and development of setmelanotide, which is approved by the FDA and authorized by the EC and the MHRA, as noted above, and is in development to address patients affected by several other indications. We have funded our operations to date primarily through the proceeds from the sales of common stock and preferred stock, asset sales, as well as capital contributions from our former parent, Rhythm Holdings LLC, and have incurred losses in each year since our inception.
Our net losses were $181.1 million and $69.6 million for the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021, respectively. As of December 31, 2022, we had an accumulated deficit of $710.1 million. Substantially all of our operating losses have resulted from costs incurred in connection with our development programs and from commercial and general and administrative costs associated with our operations. Our prior losses, combined with expected future losses, have had and will continue to have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ deficit and working capital. We expect our research and development expenses to significantly increase in connection with our additional clinical trials of setmelanotide and
development of any other product candidates we may choose to pursue. In addition, having obtained marketing approval for IMCIVREE, we expect to continue to incur significant sales, marketing and outsourced manufacturing expenses. We have and will continue to incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company. As a result, we expect to continue to incur significant and increasing operating losses for the foreseeable future. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with developing pharmaceutical products, we are unable to predict the extent of any future losses or when we will become profitable, if at all. Even if we do become profitable, we may not be able to sustain or increase our profitability on a quarterly or annual basis.
Our ability to become profitable depends upon our ability to generate revenue. To date we have generated less than $25.0 million of revenue from product sales. Our ability to generate revenue depends on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, our ability to:
|●||continue to commercialize setmelanotide by building a commercial organization and/or entering into collaborations with third parties;|
|●||ensure setmelanotide is available to patients;|
|●||continue to achieve market acceptance of setmelanotide in the medical community and with third-party payors;|
|●||continue to initiate and successfully complete later-stage clinical trials that meet their clinical endpoints;|
|●||continue to initiate and successfully complete all safety studies required to obtain U.S. and foreign marketing approvals for setmelanotide as a treatment for obesity caused by deficiencies affecting the MC4R pathway; and|
|●||successfully manufacture or contract with others to manufacture setmelanotide.|
Absent our entering into collaboration or partnership agreements, we have and expect to continue to incur significant sales and marketing costs as we continue to commercialize setmelanotide. Even though IMCIVREE is FDA approved and authorized by the EMA and MHRA for certain indications, and even if we successfully complete our pivotal and other clinical trials and setmelanotide is approved for commercial sale in additional indications, setmelanotide may not be a commercially successful drug. As of result of the acquisition of Xinvento B.V., we expect to devote substantial financial resources to the research and development and potential commercialization of a therapeutic product candidate for CHI. We may not achieve profitability soon after generating product sales, if ever. If we are unable to generate significant product revenue, we will not become profitable and will be unable to continue operations without continued funding.
We will need to raise additional funding, which 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 efforts or other operations.
We are currently in the early stages of commercializing IMCIVREE for chronic weight management in patients with obesity due to BBS, POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiencies in the U.S. and the EU and Great Britain and advancing setmelanotide through clinical development for additional indications in the United States and for potential approvals in other countries. Developing peptide therapeutic products is expensive and we expect our research and development expenses to increase substantially in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we advance setmelanotide in additional clinical trials, as well as in connection with research and development activities as a result of the acquisition of Xinvento B.V. in February 2023. We intend to use our available cash resources to advance the clinical development of setmelanotide, for disease-education and community-building activities, patient identification, and commercialization activities related to IMCIVREE. Depending on the status of additional regulatory approvals and commercialization of setmelanotide, as well as the progress we make in sales of IMCIVREE, we may still require significant additional capital to fund the continued development of setmelanotide and our operating needs thereafter. We may also need to raise
additional funds if we choose to pursue additional indications and/or geographies for setmelanotide or otherwise expand more rapidly than we presently anticipate.
From August 2015 through August 2017, we raised aggregate net proceeds of $80.8 million through our issuance of series A preferred stock. In connection with our initial public offering, or IPO, in October 2017 and our underwritten follow-on offerings through October 2022, we raised aggregate net proceeds of approximately $742.6 million through the issuance of our common stock after deducting underwriting discounts, commissions and offering related transaction costs. We received a further $100.0 million from asset sales, specifically in connection with the sale of our Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Voucher, or PRV, to Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. In June 2022, we entered into a Revenue Interest Financing Agreement, or RIFA, with HealthCare Royalty Partners for a total investment amount of up to $100 million, conditioned upon our achievement of certain clinical development and sales milestones. As of December 31, 2022, we have received $72.3 million of aggregate proceeds, net of debt issuance costs, under the RIFA. As of December 31, 2022, our cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments were approximately $333.3 million. We expect that our existing cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments will be sufficient to fund our operations into 2025. However, our operating plan may change as a result of many factors currently unknown to us, and we may need to seek additional funds sooner than planned, through public or private equity or debt financings, government or other third-party funding, marketing and distribution arrangements and other collaborations, strategic alliances and licensing arrangements, or a combination of these approaches. We will also require additional capital to obtain additional regulatory approvals for, and to continue to commercialize, setmelanotide. Raising funds in the current economic environment, particularly in light supply chain issues and labor shortages, rising inflation and interest rates and international turmoil due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, may present additional challenges. Even if we believe we have sufficient funds for our current or future operating plans, we may seek additional capital if market conditions are favorable or if we have specific strategic considerations.
Any additional fundraising efforts may divert our management from their day-to-day activities, which may adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize setmelanotide. In addition, we cannot guarantee that future financing will be available in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all. Moreover, the terms of any financing may adversely affect the holdings or the rights of our stockholders and the issuance of additional securities, whether equity or debt, by us, or the possibility of such issuance, may cause the market price of our shares to decline. The sale of additional equity or convertible securities would dilute all of our stockholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased fixed payment obligations, and we may be required to agree to certain restrictive covenants, such as limitations on our ability to incur additional debt, limitations on our ability to acquire, sell or license intellectual property rights, and other operating restrictions that could adversely impact our ability to conduct our business. We could also be required to seek funds through arrangements with collaborative partners or other third parties at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable and we may be required to relinquish rights to setmelanotide or technologies or otherwise agree to terms unfavorable to us, any of which may have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and prospects.
If we are unable to obtain funding on a timely basis, we may be required to significantly curtail, delay or discontinue one or more of our research or development programs or the commercialization of setmelanotide or be unable to expand our operations or otherwise capitalize on our business opportunities, as desired, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our Revenue Interest Financing Agreement with Healthcare Royalty Partners could restrict our ability to commercialize IMCIVREE, limit cash flow available for our operations and expose us to risks that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
On June 16, 2022, we entered into the RIFA, with entities managed by HealthCare Royalty Management, collectively referred to as the Investors. Pursuant to the RIFA and subject to customary closing conditions, the Investors agreed to pay the Company an aggregate investment amount of up to $100.0 million, or the Investment Amount. Under the terms of the RIFA, we received $37.5 million on June 29, 2022 upon FDA approval of IMCIVREE in BBS, and an additional $37.5 million on September 29, 2022, following EC marketing authorization for BBS on September 6, 2022. We are entitled to receive the remaining $25.0 million of the Investment Amount forty-five business days following achievement of a specified amount of cumulative net sales of IMCIVREE between July 1, 2022 and September 30, 2023.
As consideration for the Investment Amount and pursuant to the RIFA, we agreed to pay the Investors a tiered royalty on our annual net revenues, or Revenue Interest, including worldwide net product sales and upfront payments and milestones. The applicable tiered percentage will initially be 11.5% on annual net revenues up to $125 million, 7.5% on annual net revenues of between $125 million and $300 million and 2.5% on annual net revenues exceeding $300 million. If the Investors have not received cumulative minimum payments equal to 60% of the amount funded by the Investors to date by March 31, 2027 or 120% of the amount funded by the Investors to date by March 31, 2029, we must make a cash payment immediately following each applicable date to the Investors sufficient to gross the Investors up to such minimum amounts after giving full consideration of the cumulative amounts paid by us to the Investors through each date.
The Investors’ rights to receive the Revenue Interests will terminate on the date on which the Investors have received payments equal to a certain percentage of the funded portion of the Investment Amount including the aggregate of all payments made to the Investors as of such date, each percentage tier referred to as the Hard Cap, unless the RIFA is earlier terminated. The total Revenue Interests payable by us to the Investors is capped between 185% and 250% of the Investment Amount paid to us, dependent on the aggregate royalty paid between 2028 and 2032. If a change of control of occurs, the Investors may accelerate payments due under the RIFA up to the Hard Cap plus any other obligations payable under the RIFA.
Our obligations under the RIFA could have significant negative consequences for our security holders and our business, results of operations and financial condition by, among other things:
|•||increasing our vulnerability to adverse economic and industry conditions;|
|•||limiting our ability to obtain additional financing or enter into IMCIVREE partnership agreements;|
|•||requiring the dedication of a portion of our cash flow from operations to service our indebtedness, which will reduce the amount of cash available for other purposes;|
|•||limiting our flexibility to plan for, or react to, changes in our business;|
|•||placing us at a possible competitive disadvantage with competitors that are less leveraged than us or have better access to capital; and|
|•||if we fail to comply with the terms of the RIFA, resulting in an event of default that is not cured or waived, Investors could seek to enforce their security interest in our cash and cash equivalents and all assets relating to IMCIVREE that secures such indebtedness.|
To the extent we incur additional debt (including without limitation additional amounts under the RIFA), the risks described above could increase.
Risks Related to the Development of Setmelanotide
Positive results from earlier clinical trials of setmelanotide may not be predictive of the results of later clinical trials of setmelanotide. If we cannot generate positive results in our later clinical trials of setmelanotide, we may be unable to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for, and commercialize additional indications for setmelanotide.
Positive results from any of our Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 clinical trials of setmelanotide, or initial results from other clinical trials of setmelanotide, may not be predictive of the results of later clinical trials. The duration of effect of setmelanotide tested in our Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials was often for shorter periods than in our pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials. The duration of effect of setmelanotide has only been studied in long-term durations for a small number of patients in our Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials and safety or efficacy issues may arise when more patients are studied in longer trials and on commercial drug. It is possible that the effects seen in short-term clinical trials will not be replicated in long-term or larger clinical trials. In addition, not all of our trials demonstrated statistically significant weight loss and there can be no guarantee that future trials will do so.
Positive results for one indication are not necessarily predictive of positive results for other indications. We have demonstrated statistically significant and clinically meaningful reductions in weight and hunger in Phase 3 clinical trials in obesity due to POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiencies and BBS, and believe we have demonstrated proof of concept in Phase 2 clinical trials in impairments due to a variant in one of the two alleles in the POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes (HET obesity), as well as the SRC1 and SH2B1 genes, all genetic diseases of extreme and unrelenting appetite and obesity. We hypothesize that patients with other upstream genetic variants in the MC4R pathway may also respond with reductions in weight and hunger after treatment with setmelanotide. However, patients with other upstream genetic variants may not have a similar response to setmelanotide, and until we obtain more clinical data in other genetic variants, we will not be sure that we can achieve proof of concept in such indications.
We are actively working to advance additional genetic variants related to the MC4R pathway through our clinical development program. Our continued development efforts are focused on obesity related to several single gene related, or monogenic, MC4R pathway impairments: BBS; obesity due to a genetic variant in one of the two alleles of the POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR gene, or HETs; obesity due to steroid receptor coactivator 1, or SRC1, variants; obesity due to SH2B adapter protein 1, or SH2B1; hypothalamic obesity; and MC4R deficiency obesity. For example, in April 2022 we enrolled the first patient our pivotal Phase 3 EMANATE clinical trial of setmelanotide. The trial is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with four independent sub-studies evaluating setmelanotide in patients with: heterozygous POMC/PCSK1 obesity; heterozygous LEPR obesity; certain variants of the SRC1; or certain variants of SH2B1 genes. After receiving feedback from the FDA in April 2022 that indicated that additional clinical trials to support potential registration for non-rare patient populations would likely be required, we eliminated a fifth sub-study intended to evaluate setmelanotide in patients with a PCSK1 N221D variant. Each of the four sub-studies will be entirely independent of the others and, if successful, is designed to support separate regulatory submissions to the FDA and EMA in each studied indication. However, the FDA and EMA may not view positive results in one sub-study, even if such results are statistically significant and clinically meaningful, as being sufficient for approval for any given indication.
Success in a basket trial, or any trial in one indication, may not predict success in another indication. In contrast, in the event of an adverse safety issue, clinical hold, or other adverse finding in one or more indications being tested, such event could adversely affect our trials in the other indications and may delay or prevent completion of such clinical trials.
Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in later stage clinical trials after achieving positive results in early-stage development, and we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. These setbacks have been caused by, among other things, pre-clinical findings made while clinical trials were underway.
Additionally, setbacks may be caused by new safety or efficacy observations made in clinical trials, including previously unreported adverse events, or AEs. Moreover, preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials nonetheless failed to obtain FDA approval or a marketing authorization from the EC or foreign regulatory authorities. If we fail to obtain positive results in our Phase 3 clinical trials of setmelanotide, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for setmelanotide and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects, would be materially adversely affected.
Interim, “topline” and preliminary data from our clinical trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more patient data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.
From time to time, we may publicly disclose preliminary or topline data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials, which is based on a preliminary analysis of then-available data, and the results and related findings and conclusions are subject to change following a more comprehensive review of the data related to the particular study or trial. We make assumptions, estimations, calculations and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully and carefully evaluate all data. As a result, the topline or preliminary results that we report may differ from future results of the same studies, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results, once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Topline data also remain subject to audit and verification
procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data we previously published or reported. As a result, topline data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available.
From time to time, we may also disclose interim data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials. Interim data from clinical trials that we may complete are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available. Adverse differences between preliminary or interim data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects. Further, disclosure of interim data by us or by our competitors could result in volatility in the price of our common stock.
Further, others, including regulatory agencies, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions or analyses or may interpret or weigh the importance of data differently, which could impact the value of the particular program, the approvability or commercialization of the particular product candidate or product and our company in general. In addition, the information we choose to publicly disclose regarding a particular study or clinical trial is based on what is typically extensive information, and you or others may not agree with what we determine is material or otherwise appropriate information to include in our disclosure.
If the interim, topline, or preliminary data that we report differ from actual results, or if others, including regulatory authorities, disagree with the conclusions reached, our ability to obtain approval for, and commercialize, our product candidates may be harmed, which could harm our business, operating results, prospects or financial condition.
The number of patients suffering from each of the MC4R pathway variants we are targeting is small and has not been established with precision. If the actual number of patients is smaller than we estimate, our revenue and ability to achieve profitability may be materially adversely affected.
Due to the rarity of our target indications, there is no comprehensive patient registry or other method of establishing with precision the actual number of patients with MC4R pathway deficiencies. As a result, we have had to rely on other available sources to derive clinical prevalence estimates for our target indications. In addition, we have internal genetic sequencing results from individuals with severe obesity that provide another approach to estimating prevalence. As of December 31, 2022, our database had approximately 60,000 sequencing samples. Since the published epidemiology studies for these genetic variants are based on relatively small population samples, and are not amenable to robust statistical analyses, it is possible that these projections may significantly exceed the addressable population, particularly given the need to genotype patients to definitively confirm a diagnosis.
Based on multiple epidemiological methods, we have estimated the potential addressable patient populations with these MC4R pathway deficiencies based on the following sources and assumptions:
|●||POMC Deficiency Obesity. POMC Deficiency Obesity is defined by the presence of biallelic variants in the POMC or PCSK1 genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance. Our addressable patient population estimate for POMC deficiency obesity is approximately 100 to 500 patients in the United States, with a comparable addressable patient population in Europe. Our estimates are based on:|
|●||approximately 50 patients with POMC deficiency obesity noted in a series of published case reports, each mostly reporting a single or small number of patients. However, we believe our addressable patient population for this deficiency may be approximately 100 to 500 patients in the United States, and a comparable addressable patient population in Europe, as most of the reported cases are from a small number of academic research centers, and because genetic testing for POMC deficiency obesity is often unavailable and currently is rarely performed;|
|●||our belief, based on discussions with experts in rare diseases, that the number of diagnosed cases could increase several-fold with increased awareness of this deficiency and the availability of new treatments;|
|●||U.S. Census Bureau figures for adults and children, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, prevalence numbers for adults with severe obesity (body mass index, or BMI, greater than 40 kg/m2) and for children with severe early-onset obesity (99th percentile at ages two to 17 years old); and|
|●||our internal sequencing yield for POMC deficiency obesity patients (including both POMC and PCSK1 gene diseases), defined as patients having biallelic variants in the POMC or PCSK1 genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance, of approximately 0.05%.|
|●||LEPR Deficiency Obesity. LEPR Deficiency Obesity is defined by the presence of biallelic variants in the LEPR gene that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance. Our addressable patient population estimate for LEPR deficiency obesity is approximately 500 to 2,000 patients in the United States, with a comparable addressable patient population in Europe. Our estimates are based on:|
|●||epidemiology studies on LEPR deficiency obesity in small cohorts of patients comprised of children with severe obesity and adults with severe obesity who have a history of early onset obesity;|
|●||U.S. Census Bureau figures for adults and children and CDC prevalence numbers for adults with severe obesity (BMI, greater than 40 kg/m2) and for children with severe early-onset obesity (99th percentile at ages two to 17 years old);|
|●||with wider availability of genetic testing expected for LEPR deficiency obesity and increased awareness of new treatments, our belief that up to 40% of patients with these diseases may eventually be diagnosed; and|
|●||our internal sequencing yield for LEPR deficiency obesity patients, defined as patients having biallelic variants in the LEPR gene that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance, of approximately 0.09%.|
|●||Bardet-Biedl Syndrome. Our addressable patient population estimate for BBS is approximately 4,000 to 5,000 patients in the United States based on:|
|●||published prevalence estimates of one in 100,000 in North America, which projects to approximately 3,250 people in the United States. We believe the majority of these patients are addressable patients;|
|●||comparisons to our patient identification efforts in Europe where we believe there are approximately 1,500 patients diagnosed and being cared for at academic centers in Europe;|
|●||our patient identification efforts to date in the United States;|
|●||our internal sequencing yield for biallelic pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants in BBS genes of approximately 0.3%; and|
|●||our belief that with wider availability of genetic testing expected for BBS and increased awareness of new treatments, the number of patients diagnosed with this disorder will increase.|
|●||POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR Heterozygous Obesities; SRC1 and SH2B1 Obesities. Our potential setmelanotide-responsive patient population estimate for POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR heterozygous, SRC1 and SH2B1 obesity patients with at least one variant interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance suspected pathogenic is approximately 53,000 patients in the United States. Our estimates are based on:|
|●||U.S. Census Bureau population data and CDC prevalence numbers for early onset obesity (120% the 95th percentile between the ages of 2-5 years);|
|●||our internal sequencing yield of patients with POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR heterozygous, SRC1 or SH2B1 variants interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance of approximately 10-15%; and|
|●||a clinical response rate of 40% for patients carrying pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants, and 20% for patients carrying a variant of uncertain significance.|
The clinical response rate used in this calculation is based on the clinical data currently available to us from our trials and may change as more data become available.
|●||MC4R Deficiency Obesity. Our addressable patient population estimate for MC4R-rescuable deficiency obesity is approximately 10,000 patients in the United States. This estimate is based on:|
|●||U.S. Census Bureau population data and CDC prevalence numbers for early onset obesity (120% the 95th percentile between the ages of 2-5 years);|
|●||a comprehensive ongoing biochemical screening study indicating there may be a defined subset of individuals who carry MC4R variants that may be rescued by an MC4R agonist; and|
|●||our internal sequencing yield for MC4R deficiency obesity patients of approximately 2.0% prior to application of functional filters.|
|●||Hypothalamic obesity. Our addressable patient population estimate for hypothalamic obesity (HO) is 5,000 to 10,000 patients in the United States. This estimate is based on:|
|●||diagnosis of an underlying HO etiology such as craniopharyngioma (CP), astrocytoma, or other brain tumors with CP accounting for approximately 50% of HO etiologies;|
|●||an annual incidence of CP of approximately 1.3 to 2.2 per million per year in the United States, which projects to approximately 600 cases of CP per year based on a United States population of approximately 329 million;|
|●||approximately 50% (based on a published range of 6% to 91%) of CP patients develop HO;|
|●||published estimates of overall survival (OS) after CP diagnosis, with a 20-year OS of 84%;|
|●||allowing for patients that develop HO due to other factors besides CP, results in an estimated HO prevalence after CP diagnosis in the United States exceeding 2,500-7,500 patients; and|
|●||internal Company estimate is based on reported incidence of hypothalamic obesity following CP and long-term survival rates.|
We believe that the patient populations in the EU are similar to those in the United States. However, we do not have comparable epidemiological data from the EU and these estimates are therefore based solely on applying relative population percentages to the Company-derived estimates described above.
Defining the exact genetic variants that result in MC4R pathway diseases is complex, so if any approval that we obtain is based on a narrower definition of these patient populations than we had anticipated, then the potential market for setmelanotide for these indications will be smaller than we originally believed. In either case, a smaller patient population in our target indications would have a materially adverse effect on our ability to achieve commercialization and generate revenues.
If we experience delays or difficulties in the enrollment and/or retention of patients in clinical trials, our regulatory submissions or receipt of additional marketing approvals could be delayed or prevented.
We may not be able to initiate or continue our planned clinical trials on a timely basis or at all for our product candidates if we are unable to recruit and enroll a sufficient number of eligible patients to participate in these trials through completion of such trials as required by the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Patient enrollment is a significant factor in the timing of clinical trials. Our ability to enroll eligible patients may be limited or may result in slower enrollment than we anticipate.
Our clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates, including general obesity, and this competition reduces the number and types of patients available to us, as some patients who might have opted to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by one of our competitors. Because the number of qualified clinical investigators and clinical trial sites is limited, we expect to conduct some of our clinical trials at the same clinical trial sites that some of our competitors use, which will reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials at such clinical trial sites. In addition, there are limited patient pools from which to draw for clinical studies. In addition to the rarity of genetic diseases of obesity, the eligibility criteria of our clinical studies will further limit the pool of available study participants as we will require that patients have specific characteristics that we can measure or to assure their disease is either severe enough or not too advanced to include them in a study. Patient enrollment for our current or any future clinical trials may be affected by other factors, including:
|●||size and nature of the patient population;|
|●||severity of the disease under investigation;|
|●||availability and efficacy of approved drugs for the disease under investigation;|
|●||patient eligibility criteria for the trial in question as defined in the protocol;|
|●||perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under study;|
|●||clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new products that may be approved or future product candidates being investigated for the indications we are investigating;|
|●||clinicians’ willingness to screen their patients for genetic markers to indicate which patients may be eligible for enrollment in our clinical trials;|
|●||delays in or temporary suspension of the enrollment of patients in our planned clinical trial due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health emergencies;|
|●||ability to obtain and maintain patient consents;|
|●||patient referral practices of physicians;|
|●||the ability to monitor patients adequately during and after treatment;|
|●||proximity and availability of clinical trial sites for prospective patients; and|
|●||the risk that patients enrolled in clinical trials will drop out of the trials before completion, including as a result of contracting COVID-19 or other health conditions or being forced to quarantine, or, because they may be late-stage cancer patients or for other reasons, will not survive the full terms of the clinical trials.|
In addition, the pediatric population is an important patient population for setmelanotide, and our addressable patient population estimates include pediatric populations. However, it may be more challenging to conduct studies in younger participants, and to locate and enroll pediatric patients. These factors may make it difficult for us to enroll enough patients to complete our clinical trials in a timely and cost-effective manner. Our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials would result in significant delays or may require us to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. Enrollment delays in our clinical trials may also result in increased development costs for setmelanotide and any future product candidates and jeopardize our ability to obtain additional marketing approvals for the sale of setmelanotide. Furthermore, even if we are able to enroll a sufficient number of patients for our clinical trials, we may have difficulty maintaining participation in our clinical trials through the treatment and any follow-up periods.
Failures or delays in the commencement or completion of our planned clinical trials of setmelanotide could result in increased costs to us and could delay, prevent or limit our ability to generate revenue and continue our business.
Successful completion of our ongoing and planned clinical trials is a prerequisite to submitting an NDA or NDA supplement to the FDA, an MAA to the EMA, and other applications for marketing authorization to equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions, and consequently, successful completion of such trials, at a minimum, will be required for regulatory approvals and the commercial marketing of setmelanotide for additional indications.
We do not know whether our planned clinical trials will begin or whether any of our clinical trials will be completed on schedule, if at all, as the commencement and successful completion of clinical trials can be delayed or prevented for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
|●||inability to generate sufficient preclinical or other in vivo or in vitro data to support the initiation of clinical studies;|
|●||delays in the completion of preclinical laboratory tests, animal studies and formulation studies in accordance with FDA’s good laboratory practice requirements and other applicable regulations;|
|●||the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may deny permission to proceed with our ongoing or planned trials or any other clinical trials we may initiate, or may place a clinical trial on hold or be suspended;|
|●||delays in filing or receiving authorization to proceed under an additional investigational new drug application, or IND, or similar foreign application if required;|
|●||delays in reaching a consensus with the FDA and other regulatory agencies on study design and obtaining regulatory authorization to commence clinical trials;|
|●||delays in reaching or failing to reach agreement on acceptable terms with prospective contract research organizations, or CROs, and clinical trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;|
|●||difficulties in obtaining Institutional Review Board, or IRB, and/or ethics committee approval or opinion to conduct a clinical trial at a prospective site or sites;|
|●||since many already diagnosed patients are at academic sites, delays in conducting clinical trials at academic sites due to the particular challenges and delays typically associated with those sites, as well as the lack of alternatives to these sites which have already diagnosed patients;|
|●||inadequate quantity or quality of setmelanotide or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials, including delays in the manufacturing of sufficient supply of finished drug product;|
|●||challenges in identifying, recruiting and training suitable clinical investigators;|
|●||challenges in recruiting and enrolling suitable patients to participate in clinical trials;|
|●||severe or unexpected drug related side effects experienced by patients in a clinical trial, including side effects previously identified in our completed clinical trials;|
|●||difficulty collaborating with patient groups and investigators;|
|●||failure by our CROs, other third parties or us to perform in accordance with the FDA’s or any other regulatory authority’s good clinical practice requirements, or GCPs, or applicable regulatory guidelines in other countries;|
|●||occurrence of adverse events associated with setmelanotide that are viewed to outweigh its potential benefits, or occurrence of adverse events in trial of the same or similar class of agents conducted by other companies;|
|●||changes to the clinical trial protocols;|
|●||clinical sites deviating from trial protocol or dropping out of a trial;|
|●||changes in regulatory requirements and guidance that require amending or submitting new clinical protocols;|
|●||changes in the standard of care on which a clinical development plan was based, which may require new or additional trials;|
|●||selection of clinical endpoints that require prolonged periods of observation or analyses of resulting data;|
|●||the cost of clinical trials of our product candidates being greater than we anticipate;|
|●||clinical trials of our product candidates producing negative or inconclusive results, which may result in our deciding, or regulators requiring us, to conduct additional clinical trials or abandon development of such product candidates; and|
|●||development of antibodies to the drug or adjuvants may result in loss of efficacy or safety events.|
In addition, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies may increase the likelihood that we encounter such difficulties or delays in initiating, enrolling, conducting or completing our planned and ongoing clinical trials. Clinical trials may also be delayed or terminated as a result of ambiguous or negative interim results. In addition, a clinical trial may be suspended or terminated by us, the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions, the IRB at the sites where the IRBs are overseeing a clinical trial, a data and safety monitoring board, or DSMB, or Safety Monitoring Committee, or SMC, overseeing the clinical trial at issue or other equivalent competent authorities due to a number of factors, including, among others:
|●||failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical trial protocols;|
|●||inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial sites by the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities that reveals deficiencies or violations that require us to undertake corrective action, including the imposition of a clinical hold;|
|●||unforeseen safety issues, adverse side effects or lack of effectiveness;|
|●||changes in government regulations or administrative actions;|
|●||problems with clinical trial supply materials; and|
|●||lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial.|
Delays in the completion of any preclinical studies or clinical trials of setmelanotide will increase our costs, slow down our product candidate development and approval process and delay or potentially jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate product revenue. In addition, many of the factors that cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of a regulatory approval for setmelanotide. Any delays to our preclinical studies or clinical trials that occur as a result could shorten any period during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize setmelanotide and our competitors may be able to bring products to market before we do, and the commercial viability of our product candidates could be significantly reduced. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
In addition, the FDA’s and other regulatory authorities’ policies with respect to clinical trials may change and additional government regulations may be enacted. For instance, the regulatory landscape related to clinical trials in the EU recently evolved. The EU Clinical Trials Regulation (CTR) which was adopted in April 2014 and repeals the EU Clinical Trials Directive, became applicable on January 31, 2022. While the EU Clinical Trials Directive required a separate clinical trial application (CTA) to be submitted in each member state, to both the competent national health authority and an independent ethics committee, the EU CTR introduces a centralized process and only requires the submission of a single application to all member states concerned. The EU CTR allows sponsors to make a single submission to both the competent authority and an ethics committee in each member state, leading to a single decision per member state. The assessment procedure of the CTA has been harmonized as well, including a joint assessment by all member states concerned, and a separate assessment by each member state with respect to specific requirements related to its own territory, including ethics rules. Each member state’s decision is communicated to the sponsor via the centralized EU portal. Once the CTA is approved, clinical study development may proceed. The EU CTR foresees a three-year transition period. The extent to which ongoing and new clinical trials will be governed by the EU CTR varies. For clinical trials whose CTA was made under the EU Clinical Trials Directive before January 31, 2022, the EU Clinical Trials Directive will continue to apply on a transitional basis until January 31, 2025. Clinical trials for which an application was submitted (i) prior to January 31, 2022 under the EU Clinical Trials Directive, or (ii) between January 31, 2022 and January 31, 2023 and for which the sponsor has opted for the application of the EU Clinical Trials Directive remain governed by said Directive until January 31, 2025. After this date, all clinical trials (including those which are ongoing) will become subject to the provisions of the EU CTR. Compliance with the EU CTR requirements by us and our third-party service providers, such as CROs, may impact our developments plans.
If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies governing clinical trials, our development plans may be impacted.
The COVID-19 pandemic has and may continue to adversely impact our business, including our preclinical studies, clinical trials and our commercialization prospects.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted multiple countries and regions, including the United States, Canada, Europe, and China, where we have planned or ongoing preclinical studies and clinical trials. If the COVID-19 pandemic and disruptions caused by government actions to limit its spread continue for a significant length of time, we may experience additional disruptions that could severely impact our business, preclinical studies, clinical trials and our commercialization prospects, including:
|●||delays in receiving approval from local regulatory authorities to initiate or conduct our planned clinical trials;|
|●||further delays or difficulties in enrolling patients in our clinical trials;|
|●||delays or difficulties in clinical site initiation, including difficulties in recruiting clinical site investigators and clinical site staff;|
|●||further delays in clinical sites receiving the supplies and materials needed to conduct our clinical trials, including interruption in global shipping that may affect the transport of clinical trial materials;|
|●||risk that participants enrolled in our clinical trials will contract COVID-19 while the clinical trial is ongoing, which could impact the results of the clinical trial, including by increasing the number of observed adverse events;|
|●||interruptions or delays in preclinical studies due to restricted or limited operations at our contracted research and development laboratory facilities;|
|●||interruptions or delays in manufacturing activities due to restricted or limited operations at our CMOs;|
|●||delays in global shipping of raw materials, API, and/or finished goods between locations;|
|●||interruptions or delays in delivery of clinical trial ancillary supplies, due to restricted or limited operations;|
|●||continued limitations in employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the start-up or conduct of our clinical trials, including because of sickness of employees or their families or the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people, or due to increased hiring and/or retention or other staffing issues;|
|●||refusal of the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities to accept data from clinical trials in affected geographies;|
|●||impacts from prolonged remote work arrangements, such as increased cybersecurity risks and strains on our business continuity plans; and|
|●||delays in the receipt of marketing authorizations for our product candidates, which could materially affect our commercialization plans.|
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the extent to which the pandemic may further impact our business, preclinical studies, clinical trials and our commercialization prospects will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence. While the potential economic impact brought by and the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic may be difficult to assess or predict, the widespread pandemic has resulted in, and may continue to result in, significant disruption of global financial markets, reducing our ability to access capital, which could in the future negatively affect our liquidity. In addition, the recession or economic downturn resulting from the spread of COVID-19 could materially affect our business.
Setmelanotide may cause undesirable side effects that could delay or prevent additional regulatory approvals, limit the commercial profile of approved labeling, or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval.
First generation MC4R agonists were predominantly small molecules that failed in clinical trials due to significant safety issues, particularly increases in blood pressure, and had limited efficacy. Undesirable side effects caused by setmelanotide could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive labeling or the delay or denial of additional regulatory approvals by the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions. Treatment-related side effects could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the trial or result in potential product liability claims. Any of these occurrences may prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product candidate and may adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Setmelanotide is an MC4R agonist. Potential side effects of MC4R agonism, which have been noted either with setmelanotide or with other MC4R agonists in clinical trials and preclinical studies, may include:
|●||adverse effects on cardiovascular parameters, such as increases in heart rate and blood pressure;|
|●||erections in males and similar effects in women, such as sexual arousal, clitoral swelling and hypersensitivity;|
|●||nausea and vomiting;|
|●||effects on mood, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric manifestations; and|
|●||other effects, for which most investigators reported as unrelated to setmelanotide and for which no increased incidence or pattern is currently evident.|
In addition, injection site reactions have been seen in subcutaneous, or SC, injections with setmelanotide. Also, setmelanotide has likely off target effects on the closely related MC1 receptor, which mediates tanning in response to sun exposure. Other MC1 receptor mediated effects include darkening of skin blemishes, such as freckles and moles, and hair color change. The cosmetic effects are not tolerated by all patients, as a small number of patients have withdrawn from treatment due to skin darkening. These effects have generally been reversible in clinical trials after discontinuation of setmelanotide, but it is still unknown if they will be reversible with long term exposure. The MC1 receptor mediated effects may also carry risks. The long term impact of MC1 receptor activation has not been tested in clinical trials, and could potentially include increases in skin cancer, excess biopsy procedures and cosmetic blemishes. These skin changes may also result in unblinding, which could make interpretation of clinical trial results more complex and possibly subject to bias. We have also initiated trials of setmelanotide in potential new indications that include patients who might have more serious underlying conditions. It is possible that the underlying conditions in these patients, such as congestive heart failure and potentially other conditions, may confound the understanding of the safety profile of setmelanotide.
If these or other significant adverse events or other side effects are observed in any of our ongoing or planned clinical trials, we may have difficulty recruiting patients to the clinical trials, patients may drop out of our trials, or we may be required to abandon the trials or our development efforts of that product candidate altogether. We, the FDA, other comparable regulatory authorities or an IRB may also suspend clinical trials of a product candidate at any time for various reasons, including a belief that subjects in such trials are being exposed to unacceptable health risks or adverse side effects. Some potential therapeutics developed in the biotechnology industry that initially showed therapeutic promise in early-stage trials have later been found to cause side effects that prevented their further development. Even if the side effects do not preclude setmelanotide from maintaining marketing approval or obtaining additional approvals, undesirable side effects may inhibit market acceptance due to its tolerability versus other therapies. Any of these developments could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.
Further, if we or others identify undesirable side effects caused by the product, or any other similar product, before or after regulatory approvals, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:
|●||regulatory authorities may request that we withdraw the product from the market or may limit or vary their approval of the product through labeling or other means;|
|●||regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, such as a “boxed” warning or a contraindication;|
|●||the FDA, the EU competent authorities and other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may require the addition of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, or other specific obligations as a condition for marketing authorization due to the need to limit treatment to rare patient populations, or to address safety concerns;|
|●||we may be required to change the way the product is distributed or administered or change the labeling of the product;|
|●||we may be required to conduct additional studies and clinical trials or comply with other post-market requirements to assess possible serious risks;|
|●||we may be required to conduct long term safety follow-up evaluations, including setting up disease and drug based registries;|
|●||we may decide to remove the product from the marketplace;|
|●||we could be sued and held liable for injury caused to individuals exposed to or taking the product; and|
|●||our reputation may suffer.|
Any of these events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of setmelanotide and could substantially increase the costs of commercializing setmelanotide and significantly impact our ability to successfully commercialize setmelanotide and generate revenues.
We may not be able to obtain or maintain orphan drug designations for setmelanotide or to obtain or maintain exclusivity in any use. Even with exclusivity, competitors may obtain approval for different drugs that treat the same indications as setmelanotide.
The FDA may designate drugs for relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act of 1983, or the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a product candidate as an orphan drug if it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is defined under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, as having a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or a patient population greater than 200,000 in the United States where there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing the drug will be recovered from sales in the United States.
Generally, if a product candidate with an orphan drug designation receives the first marketing approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a period of seven years of marketing exclusivity, which precludes the FDA from approving another marketing application for a product that constitutes the same drug treating the same disease or condition for that marketing exclusivity period, except in limited circumstances.
The exclusivity period in the United States can be extended by six months if the NDA sponsor submits pediatric data that fairly respond to a written request from the FDA for such data. Orphan drug exclusivity may be revoked if the FDA determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantity of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition. Other potential benefits of orphan drug designation and/or approval of a designated drug include eligibility for: exemption from certain prescription drug user fees, tax credits for certain qualified clinical testing expenses, and waivers from the pediatric assessment requirements of the Pediatric Research Equity Act.
In the EU, orphan drug designation is granted by the EC based on a scientific opinion of the EMA’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products. A medicinal product may be designated as orphan if its sponsor can establish that (i) the product is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition; (ii) either (a) such condition affects no more than 5 in 10,000 persons in the EU when the application is made, or (b) the product, without the benefits derived from orphan status, would not generate sufficient return in the EU to justify investment; and (iii) there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention or treatment of such condition authorized for marketing in the EU, or if such a method exists, the medicinal product will be of significant benefit to those affected by the condition. The application for orphan designation must be submitted before the application for marketing authorization.
Grant of orphan designation by the EC also entitles the holder of this designation to financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers, protocol assistance, and access to the centralized marketing authorization procedure. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an application for marketing authorization. In addition to a range of other benefits during the development and regulatory review, orphan medicinal products are, upon grant of marketing authorization, entitled to ten years of exclusivity in all EU member states for the approved therapeutic indication, which means that the competent authorities cannot accept another marketing authorization application, grant a marketing authorization, or accept an application to extend a marketing authorization for a similar product for the same indication
for a period of ten years. The period of market exclusivity is extended by two years for orphan medicinal products that have also complied with an agreed Pediatric Investigation Plan, or PIP. No extension to any supplementary protection certificate can be granted on the basis of pediatric studies for orphan indications. Orphan medicinal product designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process. Marketing authorization may, however, be granted to a similar medicinal product with the same orphan indication during the ten-year period with the consent of the marketing authorization holder for the original orphan medicinal product or if the manufacturer of the original orphan medicinal product is unable to supply sufficient quantities.
The ten-year market exclusivity in the EU may be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the product no longer meets the criteria for which it received orphan designation, including where it is shown that the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity, or where the prevalence of the condition has increased above the threshold. Additionally granting of an authorization for another similar orphan medicinal product where another product has market exclusivity can happen at any time: (i) the second applicant can establish that its product, although similar, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior; (ii) the applicant cannot supply enough orphan medicinal product or (iii) where the applicant consents to a second orphan medicinal product application.
In connection with IMCIVREE’s approval, the FDA granted us seven years of orphan drug exclusivity for setmelanotide for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with obesity due to POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR deficiency confirmed by genetic testing demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance, and in the EU, we obtained ten years of market exclusivity for setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic leptin receptor (LEPR) deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above.
We have also been granted orphan designation for setmelanotide for the treatment of BBS and Alström syndrome in both the United States and the EU. Setmelanotide has also been granted orphan designation for setmelanotide in treating Prader-Willi syndrome in the EU. There can be no assurance that we will be able to maintain the benefits orphan drug exclusivity, or that the FDA or the EC will grant orphan designations for setmelanotide for other uses. In addition, orphan drug designation neither shortens the development time or regulatory review time of a drug nor gives the drug any advantage in the regulatory review or approval process.
Even though we have obtained orphan drug exclusivity for certain uses of setmelanotide, such exclusivities may not effectively protect setmelanotide from competition because different drugs can be approved for the same condition. In the United States, even after an orphan drug is approved, the FDA may subsequently approve another drug for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the latter drug is not the same drug or is clinically superior in that it is shown to be safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. As discussed above, similar rules apply in the EU.
Although we have obtained PRIME designation in the EU for setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with deficiency disorders of the MC4R receptor pathway and Breakthrough Therapy designation for setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity associated with certain defects upstream of the MC4R in the leptin melanocortin pathway, which includes POMC deficiency obesity, LEPR deficiency obesity, Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Alström syndrome, as well as hypothalamic obesity in the United States, the FDA may rescind the Breakthrough Therapy designation and we may be unable to obtain Breakthrough Therapy designation for other uses. In addition, Breakthrough Therapy designation by the FDA or PRIME designation by the EMA may not lead to a faster development, regulatory review or approval process, and it does not increase the likelihood that setmelanotide will receive additional marketing approvals in the United States or additional marketing authorizations in the EU.
The FDA is authorized under the FDCA to give certain product candidates “Breakthrough Therapy designation.” A Breakthrough Therapy product candidate is defined as a product candidate that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that such product candidate may demonstrate substantial improvement on one or more clinically significant endpoints over existing therapies. The FDA will seek to ensure the sponsor of Breakthrough Therapy product candidate receives intensive guidance on an efficient drug development program, intensive involvement of senior managers and
experienced staff on a proactive, collaborative and cross disciplinary review. In addition, the FDA may consider reviewing portions of an NDA before the sponsor submits the complete application, or rolling review. Product candidates designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA may be eligible for other expedited programs, such as priority review, if supported by clinical data.
Designation as Breakthrough Therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe setmelanotide meets the criteria for designation as Breakthrough Therapy, the FDA may disagree. In any event, the receipt of Breakthrough Therapy designation for a product candidate, or acceptance for one or more of the FDA’s other expedited programs, may not result in a faster development process, review or approval compared to products considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not guarantee ultimate approval by the FDA. Regulatory standards to demonstrate safety and efficacy must still be met. Additionally, the FDA may later decide that the product candidate no longer meets the conditions for designation and may withdraw designation at any time or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.
The PRIME scheme was launched by the EMA in 2016. In the EU, innovative products that target an unmet medical need and are expected to be of major public health interest may be eligible for a number of expedited development and review programs, such as the PRIME scheme, which provides incentives similar to the Breakthrough Therapy designation in the United States. PRIME is a voluntary scheme aimed at enhancing the EMA’s support for the development of medicines that target unmet medical needs. It is based on increased interaction and early dialogue with companies developing promising medicines, to optimize their product development plans and speed up their evaluation to help them reach patients earlier. The benefits of a PRIME designation include the appointment of a rapporteur before submission of a marketing authorization application, early dialogue and scientific advice at key development milestones, and the potential to qualify products for accelerated review earlier in the application process. In late June 2018, setmelanotide was granted eligibility to PRIME by the CHMP for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with deficiency disorders of the MC4R receptor pathway. Acknowledging that setmelanotide targets an unmet medical need, the EMA offers enhanced support in the development of the medicinal product through enhanced interaction and early dialogue to optimize our development plans and speed up regulatory evaluation in the EU. As part of this designation, the EMA has provided guidance to us concerning the development of setmelanotide. The PRIME designation does not, however, guarantee that the regulatory review process in the EU will be shorter or less demanding. Neither does the PRIME designation guarantee that the EC will grant additional marketing authorizations for setmelanotide.
We may not be able to translate the once-daily formulations of setmelanotide for methods of delivery that would be acceptable to the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions or commercially successful.
Setmelanotide is currently administered by once-daily SC injection using small insulin type needles and syringes. SC injection is generally less well received by patients than other methods of administration, such as oral administration. Considerable additional resources and efforts, including potential studies, may be necessary in order to translate the once-daily formulation of setmelanotide into a once-weekly formulation that may be well received by patients.
We have entered into a license agreement with Camurus AB, or Camurus, for the use of Camurus’ drug delivery technology, FluidCrystal, to formulate once-weekly setmelanotide. This formulation, if successfully developed for setmelanotide, and approved by the FDA and other regulatory authorities, will be delivered subcutaneously, similar to our once-daily formulation, except that we anticipate it will be injected once weekly. In addition, we have initiated development of an auto-injector device designed to make administration of our once-weekly product candidate easier and more convenient for our patients.
While we have started consultations with regulatory authorities about the potential path for approval of the once-weekly formulation, and have initiated clinical studies of the once-weekly formulation, we cannot yet estimate the requirements for non-clinical and clinical data, manufacturing program, time, cost, and probability of success for approval. Regulatory authorities have limited experience evaluating Camurus’ formulations, which further complicates our understanding regarding the information that may be required to obtain approval of a once-weekly formulation.
We received FDA approval of the once-daily formulation in the initial NDA submission for setmelanotide, and plan to seek approval of the once-weekly formulation at a later time. While we plan to develop the once-weekly
formulation, or to develop other new and useful formulations and delivery technology for setmelanotide, we cannot estimate the probability of success, nor the resources and time needed to succeed. If we are unable to gain approval and utilize the once-weekly formulation, or to develop new formulations, setmelanotide may not achieve significant market acceptance and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially harmed.
Our approach to treating patients with MC4R pathway deficiencies requires the identification of patients with unique genetic subtypes, for example, POMC genetic deficiency. The FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions could require the clearance, approval or certification of an in vitro companion diagnostic device to ensure appropriate selection of patients as a condition of approving setmelanotide in additional indications. The requirement that we obtain clearance, approval or certification of an in vitro companion diagnostic device will require substantial financial resources, and could delay or prevent the receipt of additional regulatory approvals for setmelanotide, or adversely affect those we have already obtained.
We have focused our development of setmelanotide as a treatment for obesity caused by certain genetic deficiencies affecting the MC4R pathway. To date, we have employed in vitro genetic diagnostic testing to select patients for enrollment in our clinical trials, including our clinical trials for IMCIVREE and for other potential indications for setmelanotide. If the safe and effective use of any of our product candidates depends on an in vitro diagnostic that is not otherwise commercially available, then the FDA may require approval or clearance of that diagnostic, known as a companion diagnostic, at the same time as, or in connection with, the FDA approval of such product candidates.
In the EU, until May 25, 2022, in vitro diagnostic medical devices were regulated by Directive 98/79/EC, or the IVDD, which has been repealed and replaced by Regulation (EU) No 2017/746, or the IVDR. Unlike the IVDD, the IVDR is directly applicable in EU member states without the need for member states to implement into national law. The regulation of companion diagnostics is now subject to further requirements set forth in the IVDR. However on October 14, 2021, the EC proposed a “progressive” roll-out of the IVDR to prevent disruption in the supply of in vitro diagnostic medical devices. The European Parliament and Council adopted the proposed regulation on December 15, 2021. The IVDR became applicable on May 26, 2022 but there is a tiered system extending the grace period for many devices (depending on their risk classification) before they have to be fully compliant with the regulation. For instance, class C devices (including devices that are intended to be used as companion diagnostics) have until May 26, 2026 to comply with the new requirements. The IVDR introduces a new classification system for companion diagnostics which are now specifically defined as diagnostic tests that support the safe and effective use of a specific medicinal product, by identifying patients that are suitable or unsuitable for treatment. Companion diagnostics will have to undergo a conformity assessment by a notified body. Before it can issue an EU certificate, the notified body must seek a scientific opinion from the EMA on the suitability of the companion diagnostic to the medicinal product concerned if the medicinal product falls exclusively within the scope of the centralized procedure for the authorization of medicines, or the medicinal product is already authorized through the centralized procedure, or a marketing authorization application for the medicinal product has been submitted through the centralized procedure. For other substances, the notified body can seek the opinion from a national competent authorities or the EMA. Compliance with the new requirements may impact our development plans for setmelanotide.
If the FDA or a comparable regulatory authority requires clearance, approval or certification of a companion diagnostic for setmelanotide, any delay or failure by us or our current and future collaborators to develop or obtain regulatory clearance or approval of, or certification of, such tests, if necessary, could delay or prevent us from obtaining additional approvals for setmelanotide, or adversely affect the approvals we have already obtained. For example, in November 2020, the FDA approved IMCIVREE for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with obesity due to POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR deficiencies confirmed by genetic testing demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance. Although the FDA did not require that we obtain approval of a companion diagnostic prior to approving the New Drug Application, or NDA, for IMCIVREE, in connection with the NDA approval we agreed as a post-marketing commitment to conduct adequate analytical and clinical validation testing to develop and establish an in vitro companion diagnostic device to accurately and reliably detect patients with variants in the POMC, PCSK1, and LEPR genes that may benefit from setmelanotide therapy. In September 2020, our collaboration partner, Prevention Genetics, submitted a de novo request seeking FDA authorization to market such an in vitro companion diagnostic device for IMCIVREE as a Class II medical device. In January 2022, the FDA granted the de novo request for classification for the POMC/PCSK1/LEPR
CDx Panel for market authorization as a Class II device. In June 2022, the FDA approved our supplemental NDA for the use of IMCIVREE to treat chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with obesity due to BBS. If the FDA or a comparable regulatory authority requires clearance, approval or certification of a companion diagnostic when we seek additional approvals for setmelanotide, any delay or failure by us or our current and future collaborators to develop or obtain regulatory clearance or approval of, or certification of, such tests, if necessary, could delay or prevent us from obtaining such additional approvals for setmelanotide, or adversely affect the approvals we have already obtained.
We rely, and expect that we will continue to rely, on third parties to conduct clinical trials for setmelanotide. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or meet expected deadlines, we may not be able to obtain additional regulatory approvals for or commercialize setmelanotide and our business could be substantially harmed.
We have agreements with third party CROs to operationalize, provide monitors for and to manage data for our ongoing clinical trials. We rely heavily on these parties for the execution of clinical trials for setmelanotide and control only certain aspects of their activities. As a result, we have less direct control over the start-up, conduct, timing and completion of these clinical trials, and the management of data developed through the clinical trials than would be the case if we were relying entirely upon our own staff. Communicating with outside parties can also be challenging, potentially leading to mistakes as well as difficulties in coordinating activities. However, we remain responsible for the conduct of these trials and are subject to enforcement which may include civil and criminal liabilities for any violations of FDA rules and regulations and the comparable foreign regulatory provisions during the conduct of our clinical trials. Outside parties may:
|●||have staffing difficulties;|
|●||fail to comply with contractual obligations;|
|●||devote inadequate resources to our clinical trials;|
|●||experience regulatory compliance issues;|
|●||undergo changes in priorities or become financially distressed; or|
|●||form more favorable relationships with other entities, some of which may be our competitors.|
These factors, among others, may materially adversely affect the willingness or ability of third parties to conduct our clinical trials and may subject us to unexpected cost increases that are beyond our control. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our studies is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal, regulatory and scientific standards, and our reliance on CROs does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and our CROs are required to comply with GCPs, which are guidelines enforced by the FDA, the competent authorities of the EU member states and equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions for any products in clinical development. The FDA and foreign regulatory authorities enforce these regulations and GCP guidelines through periodic inspections of clinical trial sponsors, principal investigators, and trial sites, and IRBs. If we or our CROs fail to comply with applicable GCPs, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot assure you that, upon inspection, the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities will determine that any of our clinical trials comply with GCPs. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with products produced under current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMPs and similar foreign requirements. Our failure or the failure of our CROs to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process and could also subject us to enforcement action up to and including civil and criminal penalties.
If any of our relationships with these third party CROs terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs. If CROs do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected
deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain are compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols, regulatory requirements or for other reasons, any such clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval for, or successfully commercialize, setmelanotide. As a result, our financial results and the commercial prospects for setmelanotide in the subject indication would be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.
Risks Related to the Commercialization of IMCIVREE (setmelanotide)
The successful commercialization of IMCIVREE and any other product candidates for which we obtain approval will depend in part on the extent to which governmental authorities, private health insurers, and other third-party payors provide coverage and adequate reimbursement levels. Failure to obtain or maintain coverage and adequate reimbursement for IMCIVREE or our other product candidates, if any and if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.
Our ability to successfully commercialize IMCIVREE or any other product candidates for which we obtain approval will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and reimbursement for these product candidates and related treatments will be available from government authorities, private health insurers and other organizations. Government authorities and third-party payors, such as private health insurers and health maintenance organizations, decide which medications they will pay for and establish reimbursement levels.
Increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payors in the United States and abroad to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and the level of reimbursement for recently approved products, such as IMCIVREE, and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment. Even if we show improved efficacy or improved convenience of administration, third-party payors may deny or revoke the reimbursement status of our product candidates, if approved, or establish prices for our product candidates at levels that are too low to enable us to realize an appropriate return on our investment. If reimbursement is not available or is available only at limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize IMCIVREE or other product candidates, and may not be able to obtain a satisfactory financial return. Further, as we continue to grow as an organization, previously-established prices may no longer be sufficient and could create additional pricing pressure for us.
No uniform policy for coverage and reimbursement for products exist among third-party payors in the United States. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for products can differ significantly from payor to payor. As a result, the coverage determination process is often a time-consuming and costly process that may require us to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of IMCIVREE to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance. Furthermore, rules and regulations regarding reimbursement change frequently, in some cases on short notice, and we believe that changes in these rules and regulations are likely.
In some foreign countries, particularly in Canada, Great Britain and in the EU member states, the pricing and reimbursement of prescription only medicinal products is subject to strict governmental control which varies widely between countries. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take six to twelve months or longer after the receipt of regulatory approval and product launch. To obtain favorable reimbursement for the indications sought or pricing approval in some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost effectiveness of IMCIVREE with other available therapies. If reimbursement for IMCIVREE is unavailable in any country in which we seek reimbursement, if it is limited in scope or amount, if it is conditioned upon our completion of additional clinical trials or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our operating results could be materially adversely affected.
In the EU, in particular, each EU member state can restrict the range of medicinal products for which its national health insurance system provides reimbursement and can control the prices of medicinal products for human use marketed in its territory. As a result, following receipt of marketing authorization in an EU member state, through any application route, an applicant is required to engage in pricing discussions and negotiations with the competent pricing authority in the individual EU member states. Some EU member states operate positive and negative list systems under which products may only be marketed once a reimbursement price has been agreed upon. Other EU member states approve a specific price for the medicinal product or may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company
placing the medicinal product on the market. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs, has become more intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products. In addition, we may face competition for IMCIVREE from lower priced products in foreign countries that have placed price controls on pharmaceutical products.
Health Technology Assessment, or HTA, of medicinal products, however, is becoming an increasingly common part of the pricing and reimbursement procedures in the United Kingdom and some EU member states, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Sweden. HTA is the procedure according to which the assessment of the public health impact, therapeutic impact and the economic and societal impact of use of a given medicinal product in the national healthcare systems of the individual country is conducted. HTA generally focuses on the clinical efficacy and effectiveness, safety, cost, and cost effectiveness of individual medicinal products as well as their potential implications for the healthcare system. Those elements of medicinal products are compared with other treatment options available on the market. The outcome of HTA regarding specific medicinal products will often influence the pricing and reimbursement status granted to these medicinal products by the competent authorities of individual EU member states. The extent to which pricing and reimbursement decisions are influenced by the HTA of the specific medicinal product varies between EU member states. In addition, pursuant to Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross border healthcare, a voluntary network of national authorities or bodies responsible for HTA in the individual EU member states was established. The purpose of the network is to facilitate and support the exchange of scientific information concerning HTAs. This may lead to harmonization of the criteria taken into account in the conduct of HTAs between EU member states and in pricing and reimbursement decisions and may negatively affect price in at least some EU member states.
On December 13, 2021, Regulation No 2021/2282 on HTA, amending Directive 2011/24/EU, was adopted. While the Regulation entered into force in January 2022, it will only begin to apply from January 2025 onwards, with preparatory and implementation-related steps to take place in the interim. Once the Regulation becomes applicable, it will have a phased implementation depending on the concerned products. This regulation intends to boost cooperation among EU member states in assessing health technologies, including new medicinal products, and providing the basis for cooperation at the EU level for joint clinical assessments in these areas. The regulation will permit EU member states to use common HTA tools, methodologies, and procedures across the EU, working together in four main areas, including joint clinical assessment of the innovative health technologies with the most potential impact for patients, joint scientific consultations whereby developers can seek advice from HTA authorities, identification of emerging health technologies to identify promising technologies early, and continuing voluntary cooperation in other areas. Individual EU member states will continue to be responsible for assessing non-clinical (e.g., economic, social, ethical) aspects of health technology, and making decisions on pricing and reimbursement.
If we are unable to establish sales and marketing capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell IMCIVREE, we may not be able to generate any revenue.
In order to market IMCIVREE, we must continue to build our sales, marketing, managerial and other non-technical capabilities or make arrangements with third parties to perform these services. Although we have received FDA approval, EMA and UK marketing authorization for certain indications, we are early in our commercialization efforts and have not yet established a full-scale commercial infrastructure. Therefore, you should not compare us to commercial-stage biotechnology companies, and you should not expect that we will generate substantial revenues or become profitable in the near term. If we are unable to establish adequate sales, marketing and distribution capabilities, whether independently or with third parties, or if we are unable to do so on commercially reasonable terms, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects would be materially adversely affected.
We may never receive regulatory approval to market setmelanotide outside of the United States, the European Union and Great Britain.
We intend to seek marketing authorizations in various countries worldwide. In order to market any product outside of the United States, the EU or Great Britain, we must establish and comply with the numerous and varying safety, efficacy and other regulatory requirements of other countries. Marketing authorization procedures vary among countries and can involve additional setmelanotide testing and additional administrative review periods. The time required to obtain
marketing authorization in other countries might differ from that required to obtain FDA approval or marketing authorization from the EC or the MHRA. The marketing authorization processes in other countries may implicate all of the risks detailed above regarding FDA approval in the United States as well as other risks. In particular, in many countries outside of the United States and Europe, products must receive pricing and reimbursement approval before the product can be commercialized. Obtaining this approval can result in substantial delays in bringing products to market in such countries. Grant of marketing authorization in one country does not ensure grant of marketing authorization in another country, but a failure or delay in obtaining marketing authorization in one country may have a negative effect on the regulatory process or commercial activities in others. Failure to obtain marketing authorization in other countries or any delay or other setback in obtaining such authorizations would impair our ability to market setmelanotide in such foreign markets. Any such impairment would reduce the size of our potential market share and could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and prospects.
We may not achieve market acceptance for IMCIVREE, which would limit the revenue that we generate from the sale of IMCIVREE.
The commercial success of IMCIVREE will also depend upon the awareness and acceptance of IMCIVREE within the medical community, including physicians, patients and third party payors. If IMCIVREE does not achieve an adequate level of acceptance by patients, physicians and third party payors, we may not generate sufficient revenue to become or remain profitable. Before granting reimbursement approval, third party payors may require us to demonstrate that, in addition to treating obesity caused by certain genetic deficiencies affecting the MC4R pathway, IMCIVREE also provides incremental health benefits to patients. Our efforts to educate the medical community and third party payors about the benefits of IMCIVREE may require significant resources and may never be successful. All of these challenges may impact our ability to ever successfully market and sell IMCIVREE.
Market acceptance of IMCIVREE will depend on a number of factors, including, among others:
|●||the ability of IMCIVREE to provide chronic weight management in patients with obesity caused by certain genetic deficiencies affecting the MC4R pathway and, if required by any competent authority in connection with the approval for these indications, to provide patients with incremental health benefits, as compared with other available treatments, therapies, devices or surgeries;|
|●||the complexities of genetic testing, including obtaining genetic results that support patient treatment with IMCIVREE;|
|●||the relative convenience and ease of SC injections as the necessary method of administration of IMCIVREE, including as compared with other treatments for patients with obesity;|
|●||the prevalence and severity of any adverse side effects associated with IMCIVREE;|
|●||limitations or warnings contained in the labeling approved for IMCIVREE by the FDA or the specific obligations imposed as a condition for marketing authorization imposed by other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions, particularly by the EC;|
|●||availability of alternative treatments, including a number of obesity therapies already approved or expected to be commercially launched in the near future;|
|●||our ability to increase awareness of these diseases among our target populations through marketing and other cross-functional efforts;|
|●||the size of the target patient population, and the willingness of the target patient population to try new therapies and of physicians to prescribe these therapies;|
|●||the ability of IMCIVREE to treat the maximum range of pediatric patients, and any limitations on its indications for use;|
|●||the strength of marketing and distribution support and timing of market introduction of competitive products;|
|●||publicity concerning IMCIVREE or competing products and treatments;|
|●||pricing and cost effectiveness;|
|●||the effectiveness of our sales and marketing strategies;|
|●||our ability to increase awareness of IMCIVREE through marketing efforts;|
|●||our ability to obtain sufficient third-party coverage or reimbursement;|
|●||the willingness of patients to pay out-of-pocket in the absence of third-party coverage; and|
|●||the likelihood that competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may require development of a REMS or other specific obligations as a condition of approval or post-approval, may not agree with our proposed REMS or other specific obligations, or may impose additional requirements that limit the promotion, advertising, distribution or sales of IMCIVREE.|
Our industry is intensely competitive. If we are not able to compete effectively against current and future competitors, we may not be able to generate revenue from the sale of IMCIVREE, our business will not grow and our financial condition and operations will suffer.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are intensely competitive and subject to rapid and significant technological change. We have competitors in a number of jurisdictions, many of which have substantially greater name recognition, commercial infrastructures and financial, technical and personnel resources than we have. Established competitors may invest heavily to quickly discover and develop compounds that could make IMCIVREE obsolete or uneconomical. Any new product that competes with an approved product may need to demonstrate compelling advantages in efficacy, convenience, tolerability and safety to be commercially successful. In addition, payors may require that patients try other medications known as step therapy or a “step-edit,” including medications approved for treatment of general obesity, before receiving reimbursement for IMCIVREE. Other competitive factors, including generic competition, could force us to lower prices or could result in reduced sales. In addition, new products developed by others could emerge as competitors to IMCIVREE. If we are not able to compete effectively against our current and future competitors, our business will not grow and our financial condition and operations will suffer.
Currently, IMCIVREE is the only approved treatment for providing chronic weight management in patients with obesity due to BBS or POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiencies, and there are no approved treatments for chronic weight management in patients with deficiencies with deficiencies due to a variant in one of the two alleles in the POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes (HET obesity), SRC1 deficiency obesity, SH2B1 deficiency obesity, MC4R deficiency obesity, and hypothalamic obesity. Bariatric surgery is not a good treatment option for these genetic diseases of obesity because the severe obesity and hyperphagia associated with these diseases are considered to be risk factors for bariatric surgery. Also, existing therapies indicated for general obesity, including glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, such as Wegovy®, and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists, such as tirzepatide which is being investigated as a treatment for obesity, do not specifically restore function impaired by genetic deficiencies in the MC4R pathway, which we believe is the root cause of hyperphagia and obesity in patients with MC4R genetic variants. Based on search results from ClinicalTrials.gov, we are unaware of any competitive products in therapeutic clinical studies for the obesity and hyperphagia caused by upstream MC4R pathway deficiencies specifically, however LG Chem has represented it is in early-stage clinical development of an MC4R agonist. New competitors may emerge which could limit our business opportunity in the future.
We face potential product liability exposure, and, if claims are brought against us, we may incur substantial liability.
The use of setmelanotide in clinical trials and the sale of IMCIVREE exposes us to the risk of product liability claims. Product liability claims might be brought against us by patients, healthcare providers or others selling or otherwise coming into contact with IMCIVREE. For example, we may be sued if any product we develop allegedly causes injury or is found to be otherwise unsuitable during product testing, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design or a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, including as a result of interactions with alcohol or other drugs, negligence, strict liability and a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection laws and any equivalent laws in foreign countries. If we become subject to product liability claims and cannot successfully defend ourselves against them, we could incur substantial liabilities. In addition, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, product liability claims may result in, among other things:
|●||withdrawal of patients from our clinical trials;|
|●||substantial monetary awards to patients or other claimants;|
|●||decreased demand for IMCIVREE or any future product candidates following marketing approval, if obtained;|
|●||damage to our reputation and exposure to adverse publicity;|
|●||distraction of management’s attention from our primary business;|
|●||loss of revenue; and|
|●||the inability to successfully commercialize IMCIVREE or any future product candidates, if approved.|
We maintain product liability insurance coverage for our clinical trials and commercial product with a $10.0 million annual aggregate coverage limit. Our insurance coverage may be insufficient to reimburse us for any expenses or losses we may suffer. Moreover, in the future, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses, including if insurance coverage becomes increasingly expensive. Large judgments have been awarded in class action lawsuits based on drugs that had unanticipated side effects. The cost of any product liability litigation or other proceedings, even if resolved in our favor, could be substantial, particularly in light of the size of our business and financial resources. A product liability claim or series of claims brought against us could cause our stock price to decline and, if we are unsuccessful in defending such a claim or claims and the resulting judgments exceed our insurance coverage, our financial condition, business and prospects could be materially adversely affected.
We rely completely on third party suppliers to manufacture our clinical and commercial drug supplies of setmelanotide, and we intend to rely on third parties to produce preclinical, clinical and commercial supplies of any future product candidate.
We do not currently have, nor do we plan to acquire, the infrastructure or capability to manufacture our clinical and commercial drug supply internally for setmelanotide, or any future product candidates, for use in the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, and we lack the internal resources and the capability to manufacture any product candidate on a clinical or commercial scale. The facilities used by our contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, to manufacture the active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API, and final drug product must pass inspection by the FDA and other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions pursuant to inspections that have been and will be conducted following submission of our NDAs or relevant foreign regulatory submission to the other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions. Our failure or the failure of our CMOs to pass preapproval inspection of the manufacturing
facilities of setmelanotide could delay the regulatory approval process. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with products produced under GMP and similar foreign regulations. Our failure or the failure of our CROs or CMOs to comply with these regulations may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process and could also subject us to enforcement action, including civil and criminal penalties. When we import any drugs or drug substances, we would be subject to FDA, United States Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol import regulation requirements. Such enforcement for our failure or our CROs or CMOs’ failure to comply with these regulations could result in import delays, detention of products, and, depending on criteria such as the history of violative activities, the FDA could place a foreign firm or certain drug substances or products on Import Alert and require that all such drug substances or products be subject to detention without physical examination which could significantly impact the global supply chain for setmelanotide. With the exception of those on the FDA’s drug shortage list or properly imported by individuals, the FDCA prohibits the importation of prescription drug products for commercial use if they were manufactured in a foreign country, unless they have been approved or are otherwise authorized to be marketed in the United States and are labeled accordingly.
We currently contract with third parties for the manufacture of setmelanotide and intend to continue to do so in the future. We have entered into process development and manufacturing service agreements with our CMOs, Corden Pharma Switzerland, LLC, or Corden, (formerly Peptisyntha SA prior to its acquisition by Corden), and Neuland Laboratories for certain process development and manufacturing services for regulatory starting materials and/or raw materials in connection with the manufacture of setmelanotide. We have entered into long-term commercial supply agreements with PolyPeptide Group and Recipharm Monts S.A.S. for manufacturing of drug substance and drug product for IMCIVREE. Under our agreements, we pay these third parties for services in accordance with the terms of mutually agreed upon work orders, which we may enter into from time to time. We may need to engage additional third party suppliers to manufacture our clinical and/or commercial (subject to approval) drug supplies. We also have engaged other third parties to assist in, among other things, distribution, post-approval safety reporting and pharmacovigilance activities. We cannot be certain that we can engage third party suppliers on terms as favorable as those that are currently in place.
We do not perform the manufacturing of any drug products and are completely dependent on our CMOs to comply with GMPs and similar foreign requirements for manufacture of both drug substance, or API and finished drug product. We recognize that we are ultimately responsible for ensuring that our drug substances and finished drug product are manufactured in accordance with GMPs and similar foreign requirements, and, therefore, the company’s management practices and oversight, including routine auditing, are critical. If our CMOs cannot successfully manufacture material that conform to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions, they may be subject to administrative and judicial enforcement for non-compliance and the drug products would be deemed misbranded or adulterated and prohibited from distribution into interstate commerce. Furthermore, all of our CMOs are engaged with other companies to supply and/or manufacture materials or products for such companies, which exposes our manufacturers to regulatory risks for the production of such materials and products. As a result, failure to satisfy the regulatory requirements for the production of those other company materials and products may affect the regulatory clearance of our CMOs’ facilities generally. In addition, satisfying the regulatory requirements for production of setmelanotide with multiple suppliers, while assuring more robust drug availability in the future, adds additional complexity and risk to regulatory approval. If the FDA or another equivalent competent foreign regulatory agency does not approve these facilities for the manufacture of setmelanotide or if it withdraws its approval in the future, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would adversely impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market setmelanotide.
We are manufacturing finished drug product for use in our upcoming or ongoing clinical trials and for commercial supply. We believe we currently have a sufficient amount of finished setmelanotide and placebo to complete our ongoing and planned clinical trials, and for commercial supply. However, these projections could change based on delays encountered with manufacturing activities, equipment scheduling and material lead times. Any such delays in the manufacturing of finished drug product could delay our planned clinical trials of setmelanotide and our commercial supply, which could delay, prevent or limit our ability to generate revenue and continue our business.
Moreover, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing global supply chain issues, certain of our suppliers and CMOs in Europe have been affected, which has disrupted their activities. As a result, we could face difficulty sourcing key components necessary to produce supply of setmelanotide, which may negatively affect our clinical development and
commercialization activities. If the COVID-19 coronavirus further impacts business operations, including our CMOs and suppliers, we could face additional disruption to our supply chain that could affect the supply of drug product for preclinical, clinical trial and commercial use. Additionally, as our CMOs are producers of drug substances and drug products, including vaccines and therapeutics, they could be compelled by a national government, or choose themselves, to shift their resources to the production of a COVID-19 vaccine and/or therapeutics for COVID-19, which could disrupt any scheduled drug substance or drug product batches we may have and may prevent us from obtaining supplies for our programs in a timely manner to meet our development timelines.
We do not have long term supply agreements in place with all of our contractors involved with the manufacturing of our weekly formulation of setmelanotide. We currently place individual batch or campaign orders with the CMOs/suppliers that are individually contracted under existing master services and quality agreements for the weekly formulation of setmelanotide. If we engage new contractors, such contractors must be approved by the FDA and other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions. We will need to submit information to the FDA and other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions describing the manufacturing changes. If manufacturing changes occur post-approval, the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities may have to approve these changes. We plan to continue to rely upon CMOs and, potentially, collaboration partners to manufacture commercial quantities of setmelanotide. Our current scale of manufacturing appears adequate to support all of our current needs for clinical trial and initial commercial supplies for setmelanotide. Going forward, we may need to identify additional CMOs or partners to produce setmelanotide on a larger scale.
In light of our recent election to terminate the exclusive license agreement with RareStone Group Ltd., or RareStone, the development of setmelanotide in certain indications and commercialization of IMCIVREE in certain markets could be delayed or terminated and our business could be adversely affected.
In December 2021, we entered into an Exclusive License Agreement with RareStone, or the RareStone License. Pursuant to the RareStone License, we granted to RareStone an exclusive, sublicensable, royalty-bearing license under certain patent rights and know-how to develop, manufacture, commercialize and otherwise exploit any pharmaceutical product that contains setmelanotide in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of conditions and diseases in humans in China, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. RareStone has a right of first negotiation in the event that the Company chooses to grant a license to develop or commercialize the licensed product in Taiwan.
Under the RareStone License, we are dependent upon RareStone to successfully commercialize any applicable collaboration products in China, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. We cannot directly control RareStone's commercialization activities or the resources it allocates to setmelanotide. Our interests and RareStone's interests may differ or conflict from time to time, or we may disagree with RareStone's level of effort or resource allocation. RareStone may internally prioritize setmelanotide differently than we do or it may not allocate sufficient resources to effectively or optimally commercialize setmelanotide.
On October 28, 2022, we delivered a written notice to RareStone that we have terminated the RareStone License for cause. In accordance with the notice, we maintain that RareStone has materially breached its obligations under the RareStone License to fund, perform or seek certain key clinical studies and waivers, including with respect to the Company’s global EMANATE trial, among other obligations. On December 21, 2022, RareStone provided written notice to the Company that it objects to the claims in our October 28, 2022 notice, including the Company’s termination of the RareStone License for cause. RareStone may attempt to cure the alleged breaches, which we believe to be incurable, within the timeframe specified under the RareStone License. There can be no assurance that we will be able to negotiate an appropriate cure to the alleged material breaches and, if required, we expect to seek appropriate relief under the terms of the RareStone License. Termination of, or any possible litigation focused on, the RareStone License could cause significant delays in our product development and commercialization efforts for setmelanotide and could prevent us from commercializing IMCIVREE in the markets covered by the RareStone License without first expanding our internal capabilities or entering into another agreement with a third party. Any alternative collaboration or license could also be on less favorable terms to us. In addition, under the agreement, RareStone agreed to provide funding for certain clinical development activities. To date, no such funding has been provided. If the agreement were terminated, however, we may need to refund any such potential payments and seek additional funding to support the research and development of
setmelanotide or discontinue any research and development activities for setmelanotide in China, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property Rights
If we are unable to adequately protect our proprietary technology or maintain issued patents that are sufficient to protect setmelanotide, others could compete against us more directly, which would have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our commercial success will depend in part on our success in obtaining and maintaining issued patents and other intellectual property rights in the United States and elsewhere and protecting our proprietary technology. If we do not adequately protect our intellectual property and proprietary technology, competitors may be able to use our technologies and erode or negate any competitive advantage we may have, which could harm our business and ability to achieve profitability.
We cannot provide any assurances that any of our patents have, or that any of our pending patent applications that mature into issued patents will include, claims with a scope sufficient to protect setmelanotide. Other parties have developed technologies that may be related or competitive to our approach, and may have filed or may file patent applications and may have received or may receive patents that may overlap with our patent applications, either by claiming the same methods or formulations or by claiming subject matter that could dominate our patent position. The patent positions of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, including our patent position, involve complex legal and factual questions, and, therefore, the issuance, scope, validity and enforceability of any patent claims that we may obtain cannot be predicted with certainty.
Although an issued patent is presumed valid and enforceable, its issuance is not conclusive as to its validity or its enforceability and such patent may not provide us with adequate proprietary protection or competitive advantages against competitors with similar products. Patents, if issued, may be challenged, deemed unenforceable, invalidated or circumvented. U.S. patents and patent applications or the patents and patent application obtained or submitted pursuant to comparable foreign laws, may also be subject to interference proceedings, ex parte reexamination, inter partes review proceedings, post-grant review proceedings, supplemental examination and challenges in court. Patents may be subjected to opposition or comparable proceedings lodged in various foreign, both national and regional, patent offices. These proceedings could result in either loss of the patent or denial of the patent application or loss or reduction in the scope of one or more of the claims of the patent or patent application. In addition, such proceedings may be costly. Thus, any patents that we may own or exclusively license may not provide any protection against competitors. Furthermore, an adverse decision in an interference proceeding can result in a third party receiving the patent right sought by us, which in turn could affect our ability to develop, market or otherwise commercialize setmelanotide.
Competitors may also be able to design around our patents. Other parties may develop and obtain patent protection for more effective technologies, designs or methods. The laws of some foreign countries do not protect our proprietary rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States, and we may encounter significant problems in protecting our proprietary rights in these countries. If these developments were to occur, they could have a material adverse effect on our sales.
In addition, proceedings to enforce or defend our patents could put our patents at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable or interpreted narrowly. Such proceedings could also provoke third parties to assert claims against us, including that some or all of the claims in one or more of our patents are invalid or otherwise unenforceable. If any of our patents covering setmelanotide are invalidated or found unenforceable, our financial position and results of operations would be materially and adversely impacted. In addition, if a court found that valid, enforceable patents held by third parties covered setmelanotide, our financial position and results of operations would also be materially and adversely impacted.
The degree of future protection for our proprietary rights is uncertain, and we cannot ensure that:
|●||any of our patents, or any of our pending patent applications, if issued, will include claims having a scope sufficient to protect setmelanotide;|
|●||any of our pending patent applications will issue as patents;|
|●||we will be able to successfully commercialize IMCIVREE before our relevant patents expire;|
|●||we were the first to make the inventions covered by each of our patents and pending patent applications;|
|●||we were the first to file patent applications for these inventions;|
|●||others will not develop similar or alternative technologies that do not infringe our patents;|
|●||any of our patents will be found to ultimately be valid and enforceable;|
|●||any patents issued to us will provide a basis for an exclusive market for our commercially viable products, will provide us with any competitive advantages or will not be challenged by third parties;|
|●||we will develop additional proprietary technologies or product candidates that are separately patentable; or|
|●||our commercial activities or products will not infringe upon the patents of others.|
We rely upon unpatented trade secrets, unpatented know-how and continuing technological innovation to develop and maintain our competitive position, which we seek to protect, in part, by confidentiality agreements with employees, consultants, collaborators and vendors. We also have agreements with employees and selected consultants that obligate them to assign their inventions to us. It is possible that technology relevant to our business will be independently developed by a person who is not a party to such an agreement. We may not be able to prevent the unauthorized disclosure or use of our technical knowledge or trade secrets by consultants, collaborators, vendors, former employees and current employees. Furthermore, if the parties to our confidentiality agreements breach or violate the terms of these agreements, we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach or violation, and we could lose our trade secrets through such breaches or violations. Further, our trade secrets could otherwise become known or be independently discovered by our competitors.
We may be involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents or the patents of our licensors, which could be expensive, time consuming and unsuccessful.
Competitors may infringe our patents or the patents of our licensors. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time consuming and divert the attention of our management and key personnel from our business operations. Even if we prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate, the damages or other remedies awarded may not be commercially meaningful. In addition, in an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that a patent of ours or our licensors is not valid, is unenforceable and/or is not infringed, or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology in question. An adverse result in any litigation or defense proceedings could put one or more of our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and could put our patent applications at risk of not issuing.
Interference proceedings provoked by third parties or brought by us may be necessary to determine the priority of inventions with respect to our patents or patent applications or those of our licensors. An unfavorable outcome could require us to cease using the related technology or to attempt to license rights to it from the prevailing party. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us a license on commercially reasonable terms. Our defense of litigation or interference proceedings may fail and, even if successful, may result in substantial costs and distract our management and other employees. We may not be able to prevent, alone or with our licensors, misappropriation of our
intellectual property rights, particularly in countries where the laws may not protect those rights as fully as in the United States.
Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our common stock.
We may infringe the intellectual property rights of others, which may prevent or delay our product development efforts and stop us from commercializing or increase the costs of commercializing IMCIVREE.
Our success will depend in part on our ability to operate without infringing the intellectual property and proprietary rights of third parties. We cannot assure you that our business, products and methods do not or will not infringe the patents or other intellectual property rights of third parties. For example, numerous third party U.S. and non U.S. patents and pending applications exist that cover melanocortin receptor analogs and methods of using these analogs.
The pharmaceutical industry is characterized by extensive litigation regarding patents and other intellectual property rights. Other parties may allege that setmelanotide or the use of our technologies infringes patent claims or other intellectual property rights held by them or that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization.
Patent and other types of intellectual property litigation can involve complex factual and legal questions, and their outcome is uncertain. Any claim relating to intellectual property infringement that is successfully asserted against us may require us to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorney’s fees if we are found to be willfully infringing another party’s patents, for past use of the asserted intellectual property and royalties and other consideration going forward if we are forced or choose to take a license. In addition, if any such claim were successfully asserted against us and we could not obtain such a license, we may be forced to stop or delay developing, manufacturing, selling or otherwise commercializing IMCIVREE.
If we are unable to avoid infringing the patent rights of others, we may be required to seek a license, defend an infringement action or challenge the validity of the patents in court, or redesign our products. Patent litigation is costly and time consuming. We may not have sufficient resources to bring these actions to a successful conclusion.
In addition, in order to avoid infringing the intellectual property rights of third parties and any resulting intellectual property litigation or claims, we could be forced to do one or more of the following, which may not be possible and, even if possible, could be costly and time consuming:
|●||cease development of setmelanotide and commercialization of IMCIVREE;|
|●||pay substantial damages for past use of the asserted intellectual property;|
|●||obtain a license from the holder of the asserted intellectual property, which license may not be available on reasonable terms, if at all; and|
|●||in the case of trademark claims, rename setmelanotide and/or its trade name IMCIVREE.|
Any of these risks coming to fruition could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of our patents and other intellectual property.
We may also be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other third parties have an ownership interest in our patents or other intellectual property. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these and other claims
challenging inventorship or ownership. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, such intellectual property. Such an outcome could have a material adverse effect on our business. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees.
Issued patents covering setmelanotide could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court.
If we or one of our licensing partners threatened or initiated legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering setmelanotide, the defendant could claim that the patent covering setmelanotide is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge include alleged failures to meet any one of several statutory requirements, including novelty, non-obviousness and enablement. Grounds for unenforceability assertions include allegations that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld material information from the U.S. PTO, or made a misleading statement, during patent prosecution. Third parties may also raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, inter partes review, post grant review and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions, for example, opposition proceedings. Such proceedings could result in revocation or amendment of our patents in such a way that they no longer cover setmelanotide or competitive products. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and/or unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to validity, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity and/or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on setmelanotide. Such a loss of patent protection would have a material adverse impact on our business.
We do not seek to protect our intellectual property rights in all jurisdictions throughout the world and we may not be able to adequately enforce our intellectual property rights even in the jurisdictions where we seek protection.
Filing, prosecuting and defending patents on setmelanotide in all countries and jurisdictions throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States could be less extensive than those in the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection to develop their own products and further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our product and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biopharmaceuticals, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. For example, an April 2017 report from the Office of the United States Trade Representative identified a number of countries, including India and China, where challenges to the procurement and enforcement of patent rights have been reported. Several countries, including India and China, have been listed in the report every year since 1989. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly, could put our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.
We are dependent on licensed intellectual property. If we were to lose our rights to licensed intellectual property, we may not be able to continue developing or commercializing setmelanotide.
We have licensed our rights to setmelanotide from Ipsen Pharma SAS, or Ipsen. Our license with Ipsen imposes various obligations on us, and provides Ipsen the right to terminate the license in the event of our material breach of the license agreement, our failure to initiate or complete development of a licensed product, or our commencement of an action seeking to have an Ipsen licensed patent right declared invalid. Termination of our license from Ipsen would result in our loss of the right to use the licensed intellectual property, which would materially adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize setmelanotide, as well as harm our competitive business position and our business prospects.
We also have licensed from Camurus its drug delivery technology, FluidCrystal, to formulate once-weekly setmelanotide. Our license with Camurus imposes various obligations on us, and provides Camurus the right to terminate the license in the event of our material breach of the license agreement. Termination of our license from Camurus would result in our inability to use the licensed intellectual property.
We may enter into additional licenses to third party intellectual property that are necessary or useful to our business. Future licensors may also allege that we have breached our license agreement and may accordingly seek to terminate our license with them. In addition, future licensors may have the right to terminate our license at will. Any termination could result in our loss of the right to use the licensed intellectual property, which could materially adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize setmelanotide, as well as harm our competitive business position and our business prospects.
While we have registered trademarks for the commercial trade name IMCIVREE (setmelanotide) in the United States, the EU, and other countries, we have not yet obtained trademark protection for IMCIVREE in certain foreign jurisdictions and failure to secure such registrations could adversely affect our business.
While we have received registered trademarks for the commercial trade name IMCIVREE (setmelanotide) and its logo in the United States, the EU, and other countries, we have not yet obtained trademark protection for IMCIVREE in certain foreign jurisdictions and are pursuing trademark registrations in other jurisdictions. Our trademark applications may be rejected during trademark registration proceedings. Although we would be given an opportunity to respond to those rejections, we may be unable to overcome them. In addition, in the U.S. PTO and in comparable agencies in many foreign jurisdictions, third parties are given an opportunity to oppose pending trademark applications and to seek to cancel registered trademarks. Opposition or cancellation proceedings may be filed against our trademarks, and our trademarks may not survive those proceedings.
If we do not obtain additional protection under the Hatch-Waxman Amendments and similar foreign legislation by extending the patent terms and obtaining product exclusivity for setmelanotide, our business may be materially harmed.
Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of FDA marketing approval for setmelanotide, one or more of the U.S. patents we license may be eligible for limited patent term restoration under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch Waxman Amendments. The Hatch Waxman Amendments permit a patent term restoration of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during product development and the FDA regulatory review process, and we have applied to the U.S. PTO for patent term extension. However, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failure to apply within applicable deadlines, failure to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents or otherwise failure to satisfy applicable requirements. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. If we are unable to obtain patent term extension or restoration or the term of any such extension is less than we request, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration, and our ability to generate revenues could be materially adversely affected.
Because setmelanotide contains active ingredients that the FDA has determined to be a new chemical entity, it has been afforded five years of marketing exclusivity by the FDA. Following the expiration of this marketing exclusivity, the FDA may approve generic products. Manufacturers may seek to launch these generic products following the expiration of the applicable marketing exclusivity period, even if we still have patent protection for setmelanotide. Recent legislation enacted by Congress created, among other things, new causes of action against innovator companies that refuse to offer
samples of drugs for purposes of testing and developing generic or biosimilar products or to allow companies to participate in a shared Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). Competition that setmelanotide may face from generic versions could materially and adversely impact our future revenue, profitability and cash flows and substantially limit our ability to obtain a return on the investments we have made in setmelanotide.
In the EU, the grant of orphan designation for setmelanotide means that this medicinal product would be entitled, upon grant of marketing authorization by the EC, to ten years of exclusivity in all EU member states. Marketing authorization may, however, be granted to a similar medicinal product with the same orphan indication during the ten year period if we are unable to supply sufficient quantities of setmelanotide. Marketing authorization may also be granted to a similar medicinal product with the same orphan indication if the similar product is deemed safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior to setmelanotide. The period of market exclusivity may, in addition, be reduced to six years if it can be demonstrated on the basis of available evidence that setmelanotide is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity.
If we fail to obtain an extension of patent protection under similar foreign legislation, where applicable, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration, and our ability to generate revenues could be materially adversely affected in the foreign countries concerned.
Changes in U.S. patent law could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our product.
The United States has enacted and is currently implementing the America Invents Act of 2011, wide ranging patent reform legislation. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several patent cases in recent years, either narrowing the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances or weakening the rights of patent owners in certain situations. In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our ability to obtain future patents, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value of patents, once obtained. Depending on decisions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts and the U.S. PTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that would weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce our existing patents or future patents.
We may be subject to damages resulting from claims that we or our employees have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade secrets of their former employers.
Our employees have been previously employed at other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. We may be subject to claims that these employees or we have inadvertently or otherwise used or disclosed trade secrets or other proprietary information of the former employers of our employees. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. Even if we are successful in defending against these claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management. If we fail in defending such claims, in addition to paying money damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. A loss of key personnel or their work product could hamper or prevent our ability to commercialize setmelanotide, which would materially adversely affect our commercial development efforts.
Risks Related to Regulatory Approval and Marketing of Setmelanotide and Other Legal Compliance Matters
Even if we complete the necessary clinical trials, the regulatory and marketing approval process is expensive, time consuming and uncertain and may prevent us from obtaining additional approvals for the commercialization of setmelanotide beyond FDA approval for obesity due to POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiencies, or BBS in the United States, for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS and confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above including patients with POMC or LEPR deficiency who have mild, moderate or severe renal impairment, and the MHRA marketing authorization for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS and confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above. We depend primarily on the success of setmelanotide, and we cannot be certain that we will be able to obtain additional regulatory approvals for, or successfully commercialize, setmelanotide. If we are not able to obtain, or if there are delays in obtaining, required additional regulatory approvals, we will not be able to commercialize setmelanotide in additional indications in the United States or in foreign jurisdictions, and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired.
We currently have only one product candidate, setmelanotide, in clinical development, and our business depends entirely on its successful clinical development, regulatory approval and commercialization. In the United States, IMCIVREE is approved for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with monogenic or syndromic obesity due to POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR deficiency as determined by a FDA-approved test demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1 or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance, or BBS. The EC has authorized setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS or genetically confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above. The UK’s MHRA authorized setmelanotide for the treatment of obesity and the control of hunger associated with genetically confirmed BBS or genetically confirmed loss-of-function biallelic POMC, including PCSK1, deficiency or biallelic LEPR deficiency in adults and children 6 years of age and above. Setmelanotide will require substantial additional clinical development, testing and regulatory approval before we are permitted to commence commercialization in indications beyond those currently approved for IMCIVREE in the United States, the EU and Great Britain. The clinical trials, manufacturing and marketing of setmelanotide are subject to extensive and rigorous review and regulation by numerous government authorities in the United States and in other countries where we intend to test and, if approved, market setmelanotide.
Before obtaining regulatory approvals for the commercial sale of any product candidate, we must demonstrate through nonclinical testing and clinical trials that the product candidate is safe and effective for use in each target indication. This process can take many years and approval, if any, may be conditional on postmarketing studies and surveillance, and will require the expenditure of substantial resources beyond our existing cash resources. Of the large number of drugs in development in the United States and in other countries, only a small percentage will successfully complete the FDA regulatory approval process or the equivalent process in foreign jurisdictions and will be commercialized. In addition, we have not discussed all of our proposed development programs with the FDA or the competent authorities of foreign jurisdictions. Accordingly, even if we are able to obtain the requisite financing to continue to fund our development and clinical trials, we cannot assure you that setmelanotide will be successfully developed or commercialized.
In addition, obtaining FDA approval of an NDA for additional indications and the approval of an MAA from the EC for additional indications is a complex, lengthy, expensive and uncertain process, and the FDA, EMA or equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may delay, limit or deny approval of setmelanotide for many reasons, including, among others:
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may disagree with our interpretation of data from clinical trials, or may change the requirements for approval even after it has reviewed and commented on the design for our clinical trials;|
|●||we may not be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions that setmelanotide is safe and effective in treating obesity caused by certain genetic deficiencies affecting the MC4R pathway;|
|●||the results of our clinical trials may not be interpretable or meet the level of statistical or clinical significance required by the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions for marketing approval. For example, the potential unblinding of setmelanotide studies due to easily identifiable AEs may raise the concern that potential bias has affected the clinical trial results;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may disagree with the number, size, conduct or implementation of our clinical trials;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may require that we conduct additional clinical trials or pre-clinical studies;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may not consider that our diagnostic strategy supports approval;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may decide that additional assays or data to understand any risks for anti-drug antibodies may need to be available for approval;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may decide that the toxicology program, including any parts of carcinogenicity studies that are filed, do not meet the requirements for approval;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions or the applicable foreign regulatory agency may identify deficiencies in our chemistry, manufacturing or controls of setmelanotide, or in the commercial production of setmelanotide to support product approval;|
|●||the CROs that we retain to conduct our clinical trials may take actions outside of our control that materially adversely impact our clinical trials;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may find the data from preclinical studies and clinical trials insufficient to demonstrate that clinical and other benefits of setmelanotide outweigh its safety risks;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may disagree with our interpretation of data from our preclinical studies and clinical trials;|
|●||the FDA or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may not approve the formulation, labeling or specifications of setmelanotide;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or other equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may not accept data generated at our clinical trial sites;|
|●||the FDA, the EMA, or the equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may require, as a condition of approval, additional preclinical studies or clinical trials, limitations on approved labeling or distribution and use restrictions;|
|●||as part of our NDA approval, we were required to complete certain post-market requirements and commitments, which we may not be able to meet;|
|●||the FDA may require development of a REMS as a condition of additional approvals or may impose additional requirements that limit the promotion, advertising, distribution, or sales of setmelanotide;|
|●||the EC may grant only conditional approval marketing authorization or based on the EMA’s opinion impose specific obligations as a condition for marketing authorization, or may require us to conduct post authorization safety studies as a condition of grant of marketing authorization;|
|●||the FDA or other equivalent competent foreign regulatory agencies may deem our manufacturing processes or our facilities or the facilities of our CMOs inadequate to preserve the identity, strength, quality, purity, or potency of our product; or|
|●||the FDA or the equivalent competent authorities in foreign jurisdictions may change its approval policies or adopt new regulations and guidance.|
Any of these factors, many of which are beyond our control, could jeopardize our ability to obtain additional regulatory approvals for and successfully market IMCIVREE. Moreover, because our business is entirely dependent upon setmelanotide, any such setback in our pursuit of regulatory approvals would have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.
Future regulatory legislation or regulation may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize our product candidates.
The EU pharmaceutical legislation is currently undergoing a complete review process, in the context of the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe initiative, launched by the EC in November 2020. A proposal for revision of several legislative instruments related to medicinal products (potentially revising the duration of regulatory exclusivity, eligibility for expedited pathways, etc.) is expected to be adopted by the EC during the first half of 2023. The proposed revisions, once they are agreed and adopted by the European Parliament and European Council (not expected before the end of 2024 or early 2025), may have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry in the long term.
Disruptions at the FDA and other government agencies caused by funding shortages or global health concerns could hinder their ability to hire, retain or deploy key leadership and other personnel, or otherwise prevent new or modified products from being developed, approved or commercialized in a timely manner or at all, which could negatively impact our business.
The ability of the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities to review and or approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, statutory, regulatory, and policy changes, the FDA’s and foreign regulatory authorities’ ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and other events that may otherwise affect the FDA’s and foreign regulatory authorities’ ability to perform routine functions. Average review times at the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of other government agencies that fund research and development activities is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable. Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies, such as the EMA, following its relocation to Amsterdam and resulting staff changes, may also slow the time necessary for new drugs and biologics to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, have had to furlough critical FDA employees and stop critical activities.
Separately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA postponed most inspections of domestic and foreign manufacturing facilities at various points. Even though the FDA has since resumed standard inspection operations of domestic facilities where feasible, the FDA has continued to monitor and implement changes to its inspectional activities to ensure the safety of its employees and those of the firms it regulates as it adapts to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, and any resurgence of the virus or emergence of new variants may lead to further inspectional delays. Regulatory authorities outside the United States have adopted similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns continue to prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews, or other regulatory activities, it could
significantly impact the ability of the FDA or other regulatory authorities to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our failure to obtain marketing approval in foreign jurisdictions would prevent setmelanotide from being marketed abroad, and any current or future approvals we have been or may be granted for setmelanotide in the United States would not assure approval of setmelanotide in foreign jurisdictions.
In order to market and sell setmelanotide and any other product candidate that we may develop in the EU and many other jurisdictions, we or our third party collaborators must obtain separate marketing authorizations and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements. The marketing authorization procedure varies among countries and can involve additional testing. The time required to obtain marketing authorization may differ substantially from that required to obtain FDA approval. The marketing authorization process outside the United States generally includes all of the risks associated with obtaining FDA approval. In addition, in many countries outside the United States, it is required that the product be approved for reimbursement before the product can be sold in that country. We or these third parties may not obtain marketing authorization from competent authorities outside the United States on a timely basis, if at all. Approval by the FDA does not ensure grant of marketing authorization by competent authorities in other countries or jurisdictions, and grant of marketing authorization by one competent authority outside the United States does not ensure grant of marketing authorization by competent authorities in other countries or jurisdictions or by the FDA. We may not be able to file for marketing authorizations and may not receive necessary marketing authorization to commercialize setmelanotide in any market. Additionally, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit, has resulted in the relocation of the EMA from the UK to the Netherlands. This relocation has caused, and may continue to cause, disruption in the administrative and medical scientific links between the EMA and the MHRA, including delays in granting clinical trial authorization or marketing authorization, disruption of importation and export of active substance and other components of new drug formulations, and disruption of the supply chain for clinical trial product and final authorized formulations. The cumulative effects of the disruption to the regulatory framework may add considerably to the development lead time to marketing authorization and commercialization of setmelanotide, or any other product candidates in the EU and/or the UK. Although we have obtained FDA approval and marketing authorization from the EC and the MHRA for setmelanotide, any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any marketing authorization, for any of our other product candidates, as a result of Brexit or otherwise, would prevent us from commercializing our product candidates in the UK and/or the EU and restrict our ability to generate revenue and achieve and sustain profitability. If any of these outcomes occur, we may be forced to restrict or delay efforts to seek marketing authorization in the UK and/or EU for any of our other product candidates, which could significantly and materially harm our business.
The terms of our current and future potential marketing approvals for setmelanotide and ongoing regulation may limit how we manufacture and market setmelanotide, and compliance with such requirements may involve substantial resources, which could materially impair our ability to generate revenue.
Regulatory authorities may impose significant restrictions on setmelanotide’s indicated uses or marketing or impose ongoing requirements for potentially costly post approval studies. We and setmelanotide will also be subject to ongoing requirements by the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities, governing labeling, packaging, storage, advertising, promotion, marketing, distribution, importation, exportation, post-approval changes, manufacturing, recordkeeping, and submission of safety and other post market information. Advertising and promotional materials must comply with the FDCA and implementing regulations and foreign regulations, and are subject to FDA and foreign regulatory authorities oversight and post-marketing reporting obligations, in addition to other potentially applicable federal and state laws. The FDA and the other competent foreign authorities have significant post market authority, including, for example, the authority to require labeling changes based on new safety information and to require post market studies or clinical trials to evaluate serious safety risks related to the use of a drug. The FDA and foreign regulatory authorities also has the authority to require, as part of an NDA or similar foreign application or post approval, the submission of a REMS or other specific obligations, which may include Elements to Assure Safe Use. Any REMS or other specific obligations required by the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities may lead to increased costs to assure compliance with new post approval regulatory requirements and potential requirements or restrictions on the sale of approved products, all of which could lead to lower sales volume and revenue. The holder of an approved NDA also must submit new or supplemental applications and obtain FDA approval for certain changes to the approved product, product labeling or manufacturing process, or adding new manufacturers. Similar requirements apply in foreign jurisdictions.
Manufacturers of drug products and their facilities may be subject to payment of application and program fees and are subject to continual review and periodic inspections by the FDA and other equivalent competent authorities for compliance with cGMPs and other regulations. If we or a regulatory agency discover problems with setmelanotide, such as AEs of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facility where setmelanotide is manufactured or disagrees with the promotion, marketing or labeling of the product, a regulatory agency may impose restrictions on setmelanotide, the manufacturer or us, including requiring withdrawal of setmelanotide from the market or suspension of manufacturing. If we or the manufacturing facilities for setmelanotide fail to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, a regulatory agency may, among other things:
|●||issue warning letters or untitled letters;|
|●||seek an injunction or impose civil or criminal penalties or monetary fines;|
|●||vary, suspend or withdraw marketing approval;|
|●||suspend any ongoing clinical trials;|
|●||refuse to approve pending applications or supplements to applications submitted by us;|
|●||suspend or impose restrictions on operations, including costly new manufacturing requirements; or|
|●||seize or detain setmelanotide, refuse to permit the import or export of setmelanotide, or request that we initiate a product recall.|
Any government investigation of alleged violations of law could require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate negative publicity. The occurrence of any event or penalty described above may inhibit our ability to commercialize our product candidates and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Accordingly, we and our CMOs will continue to expend time, money and effort in all areas of regulatory compliance, including manufacturing, production, product surveillance and quality control. If we are not able to comply with post-approval regulatory requirements, we could have the marketing approvals for setmelanotide withdrawn by regulatory authorities and our ability to market any future products could be limited, which could adversely affect our ability to achieve or sustain profitability. Thus, the cost of compliance with post-approval regulations may have a negative effect on our operating results and financial condition.
In addition, a sponsor’s responsibilities and obligations under the FDCA and FDA regulations, and those of equivalent foreign regulatory agencies, may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may be subject to enforcement action and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.
Similar to the United States, both marketing authorization holders and manufacturers of medicinal products are subject to comprehensive regulatory oversight by the EMA and the competent authorities of the individual EU member states, both before and after grant of the manufacturing and marketing authorizations. This oversight includes control of compliance with GMP rules, which govern quality control of the manufacturing process and require documentation policies and procedures. We and our third party manufacturers would be required to ensure that all of our processes, methods, and equipment are compliant with GMP. Failure by us or by any of our third party partners, including suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors to comply with EU laws and the related national laws of individual EU member states governing the conduct of clinical trials, manufacturing approval, marketing authorization of medicinal products, both before and after grant of marketing authorization, and marketing of such products following grant of authorization may
result in administrative, civil, or criminal penalties. These penalties could include delays in or refusal to authorize the conduct of clinical trials or to grant marketing authorization, product withdrawals and recalls, product seizures, suspension, revocation or variation of the marketing authorization, total or partial suspension of production, distribution, manufacturing, or clinical trials, operating restrictions, injunctions, suspension of licenses, fines, and criminal penalties.
In addition, EU legislation related to pharmacovigilance, or the assessment and monitoring of the safety of medicinal products, provides that the EMA and the competent authorities of the EU member states have the authority to require companies to conduct additional post-approval clinical efficacy and safety studies. The legislation also governs the obligations of marketing authorization holders with respect to additional monitoring, AE management and reporting. Under the pharmacovigilance legislation and its related regulations and guidelines, we may be required to conduct a labor intensive collection of data regarding the risks and benefits of marketed products and may be required to engage in ongoing assessments of those risks and benefits, including the possible requirement to conduct additional clinical studies, which may be time consuming and expensive and could impact our profitability. Noncompliance with such obligations can lead to the variation, suspension or withdrawal of marketing authorization or imposition of financial penalties or other enforcement measures.
Current and future healthcare reform legislation or regulation may increase the difficulty and cost for us and any future collaborators to commercialize setmelanotide and may adversely affect the prices we, or they, may obtain and may have a negative impact on our business and results of operations.
In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions there have been, and continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system that could, among other things, restrict or regulate post-approval activities with respect to IMCIVREE and affect our ability, or the ability of any future collaborators, to profitably sell our products. Among policy makers and payors in the United States and elsewhere, there is significant interest in promoting changes in healthcare systems with the stated goals of containing healthcare costs, improving quality and/or expanding access. In the United States and elsewhere, the pharmaceutical industry has been a particular focus of these efforts and has been significantly affected by major legislative initiatives. We expect that current laws, as well as other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and in additional downward pressure on the price that we, or any future collaborators, may receive for IMCIVREE or any product candidates approved for sale.
In March 2010, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or collectively the ACA, was signed into law. The ACA substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly affects the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Among the provisions of the ACA of importance to our business, including, without limitation, our ability to commercialize and the prices we may obtain for any product candidates that are approved for sale, are the following:
|●||an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports specified branded prescription drugs and biologic agents, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs, although this fee does not apply to sales of certain products approved exclusively for orphan indications;|
|●||expansion of eligibility criteria for Medicaid programs by, among other things, allowing states to offer Medicaid coverage to certain individuals with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, thereby potentially increasing a manufacturer’s Medicaid rebate liability;|
|●||expansion of manufacturers’ rebate liability under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program by increasing the minimum rebate for both branded and generic drugs, revising the “average manufacturer price” definition, and extending rebate liability from fee-for-service Medicaid utilization to include the utilization of Medicaid managed care organizations as well as Medicaid managed care;|
|●||expansion of the list of entity types eligible for participation in the Public Health Service 340B drug pricing program, or the 340B program, to include certain free-standing cancer hospitals, critical access hospitals,|
|rural referral centers, and sole community hospitals, but exempting “orphan drugs,” such as IMCIVREE, from the 340B ceiling price requirements for these covered entities;|
|●||establishment of the Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, which requires manufacturers to provide a 70% point of sale discount off the negotiated price of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period as a condition for the manufacturers’ outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D;|
|●||a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute to oversee, identify priorities in, and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such research; and|
|●||establishment of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, including prescription drug spending.|
Since its enactment, certain provisions of the ACA have been subject to judicial, executive, and legislative challenges. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA brought by several states without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Thus, the ACA will remain in effect in its current form.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted. For example, beginning April 1, 2013, Medicare payments to providers were reduced under the sequestration required by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which will remain in effect through 2032, unless additional Congressional action is taken. Additionally, 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 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. On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law, which eliminates the statutory Medicaid drug rebate cap, currently set at 100% of a drug’s average manufacturer price, or AMP, beginning January 1, 2024.
Additional changes that may affect our business include the expansion of new programs such as Medicare payment for performance initiatives for physicians under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, or MACRA, which was fully implemented in 2019. At this time, it is unclear how the introduction of this Medicare quality payment program will impact overall physician reimbursement. The cost of prescription pharmaceuticals in the United States has also been the subject of considerable discussion in the United States. There have been several Congressional inquiries, as well as legislative and regulatory initiatives and executive orders 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.
Moreover, the federal government and the individual states in the United States have become increasingly active in developing proposals, passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control drug pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, formulary flexibility, marketing cost disclosure, drug price increase reporting, and other transparency measures. These types of initiatives may result in additional reductions in Medicare, Medicaid, and other healthcare funding, and may otherwise affect the prices we may obtain for IMCIVREE or the frequency with which IMCIVREE is prescribed or used.
Most significantly, on August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) into law. This statute marks the most significant action by Congress with respect to the pharmaceutical industry since adoption of the ACA in 2010. Among other things, the IRA requires manufacturers of certain drugs to engage in price negotiations with Medicare (beginning in 2026), with prices that can be negotiated subject to a cap; imposes rebates under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation (first due in 2023); and replaces the Part D coverage gap discount program with a new discounting program (beginning in 2025). The IRA permits the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement many of these provisions through guidance, as opposed to regulation, for the initial years. For that and other reasons, it is currently unclear how the IRA will be
effectuated, and while the impact of the IRA on the pharmaceutical industry cannot yet be fully determined, it is likely to be significant.
We expect that these and other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future may result in more rigorous coverage and payment criteria and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved drug. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability, or commercialize our drugs. We expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our drug candidates or additional pricing pressures. We cannot predict with certainty what impact any federal or state health reforms will have on us, but such changes could impose new or more stringent regulatory requirements on our activities or result in reduced reimbursement for our products, any of which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals is also subject to governmental control outside the United States. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after the receipt of marketing approval for a product. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost effectiveness of setmelanotide to other available therapies. If reimbursement of our products is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our ability to generate revenues and become profitable could be impaired. For more details concerning the risks related to pricing and reimbursement in the EU, please refer to the discussion in the risk factor “The successful commercialization of setmelanotide and our other product candidates will depend in part on the extent to which governmental authorities, private health insurers, and other third-party payors provide coverage and adequate reimbursement levels. Failure to obtain or maintain coverage and adequate reimbursement for setmelanotide or our other product candidates, if approved, could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue” in this Annual Report.
If we fail to comply with our reporting and payment obligations under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program or other governmental pricing programs in which we participate, we could be subject to additional reimbursement requirements, penalties, sanctions and fines, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program administered by the states for low income and disabled beneficiaries. We participate in and have certain price reporting obligations under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, or the MDRP, as a condition of having covered outpatient drugs payable under Medicaid and, if applicable, under Medicare Part B. The MDRP requires us to pay a rebate to state Medicaid programs every quarter for each unit of our covered outpatient drugs dispensed to Medicaid beneficiaries and paid for by a state Medicaid program. The rebate is based on pricing data that we must report on a monthly and quarterly basis to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, the federal agency that administers the MDRP and other governmental healthcare programs. These data include the average manufacturer price (AMP) for each drug and, in the case of innovator products, the best price, which in general represents the lowest price available from the manufacturer to certain entities in the U.S. in any pricing structure, calculated to include all sales and associated rebates, discounts and other price concessions. The Medicaid rebate consists of two components, the basic rebate and the additional rebate, which is triggered if the AMP for a drug increases faster than inflation. If we become aware that our MDRP government price reporting submission for a prior quarter was incorrect or has changed as a result of recalculation of the pricing data, we must resubmit the corrected data for up to three years after those data originally were due. If we fail to provide information timely or are found to have knowingly submitted false information to the government, we may be subject to civil monetary penalties and other sanctions, including termination from the MDRP. In the event that CMS terminates our rebate agreement pursuant to which we participate in the MDRP, no federal payments would be available under Medicaid or Medicare Part B for our covered outpatient drugs. Our failure to comply with our MDRP price reporting and rebate payment obligations could negatively impact our financial results.
The ACA made significant changes to the MDRP, as described under the risk factor “Current and future healthcare reform legislation or regulation may increase the difficulty and cost for us and any future collaborators to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize setmelanotide and may adversely affect the prices we, or they, may obtain
and may have a negative impact on our business and results of operations,” above. In addition, in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law, which, among other things, eliminated the statutory cap on drug manufacturers’ MDRP rebate liability, effective January 1, 2024. Under current law enacted as part of the ACA, drug manufacturers’ MDRP rebate liability is capped at 100% of the AMP for a covered outpatient drug. Congress could enact additional legislation that further increases Medicaid drug rebates or other costs and charges associated with participating in the MDRP. Additional legislation or the issuance of regulations relating to the MDRP could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
The recently-enacted IRA imposes rebates under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D that are triggered by price increases that outpace inflation (first due in 2023), as described under the risk factor “Current and future healthcare reform legislation or regulation may increase the difficulty and cost for us and any future collaborators to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize setmelanotide and may adversely affect the prices we, or they, may obtain and may have a negative impact on our business and results of operations,” above. The Medicare Part D rebate will be calculated on the basis of the AMP figures we report pursuant to the MDRP.
Federal law requires that any company that participates in the MDRP also participate in the Public Health Service’s 340B drug pricing program in order for federal funds to be available for the manufacturer’s drugs under Medicaid and, if applicable, Medicare Part B. We participate in the 340B program, which is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, and requires us to charge statutorily defined covered entities no more than the 340B “ceiling price” for our covered outpatient drugs. These 340B covered entities include a variety of community health clinics and other entities that receive health services grants from the Public Health Service, as well as hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of low-income patients. The ACA expanded the list of covered entities to include certain free-standing cancer hospitals, critical access hospitals, rural referral centers and sole community hospitals, but exempts “orphan drugs,” such as IMCIVREE, from the ceiling price requirements for these covered entities. The 340B ceiling price is calculated using a statutory formula based on the AMP and rebate and rebate amount for the covered outpatient drug as calculated under the MDRP, and in general, products subject to Medicaid price reporting and rebate liability are also subject to the 340B ceiling price calculation and discount requirement. We must report 340B ceiling prices to HRSA on a quarterly basis, and HRSA publishes those prices to 340B covered entities. In addition, HRSA has finalized regulations regarding the calculation of the 340B ceiling price and the imposition of civil monetary penalties on manufacturers that knowingly and intentionally overcharge covered entities for 340B-eligible drugs. HRSA has also finalized an administrative dispute resolution process through which 340B covered entities may pursue claims against participating manufacturers for overcharges, and through which manufacturers may pursue claims against 340B covered entities for engaging in unlawful diversion or duplicate discounting of 340B drugs. Our failure to comply 340B program requirements could negatively impact our financial results. Any additional future changes to the definition of average manufacturer price and the Medicaid rebate amount under the ACA or other legislation or regulation could affect our 340B ceiling price calculations and also negatively impact our financial results.
In order for IMCIVREE or any product candidates, if approved, to be paid for with federal funds under the Medicaid and Medicare Part B programs and purchased by certain federal agencies and grantees, we also participate in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, Federal Supply Schedule, or FSS, pricing program. As part of this program, we are required to make our products available for procurement on an FSS contract under which we must comply with standard government terms and conditions and charge a price that is no higher than the statutory Federal Ceiling Price, or FCP, to four federal agencies (VA, U.S. Department of Defense, or DOD, Public Health Service, and U.S. Coast Guard). The FCP is based on the Non-Federal Average Manufacturer Price, or Non-FAMP, which we must calculate and report to the VA on a quarterly and annual basis. Pursuant to applicable law, knowing provision of false information in connection with a Non-FAMP filing can subject a manufacturer to significant civil monetary penalties for each item of false information. The FSS pricing and contracting obligations also contain extensive disclosure and certification requirements.
We also participate in the Tricare Retail Pharmacy program, under which we are required to pay quarterly rebates on utilization of innovator products that are dispensed through the Tricare Retail Pharmacy network to Tricare beneficiaries. The rebates are calculated as the difference between the annual Non-FAMP and FCP. We are required to list our innovator products on a Tricare Agreement in order for them to be eligible for DOD formulary inclusion. If we overcharge the government in connection with our FSS contract or Tricare Agreement, whether due to a misstated FCP or otherwise, we are required to refund the difference to the government. Failure to make necessary disclosures and/or to
identify contract overcharges could result in allegations against us under the False Claims Act and other laws and regulations. Unexpected refunds to the government, and responding to a government investigation or enforcement action, would be expensive and time-consuming, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
Individual states continue to consider and have enacted legislation to limit the growth of healthcare costs, including the cost of prescription drugs and combination products. A number of states have either implemented or are considering implementation of drug price transparency legislation. Requirements of pharmaceutical manufacturers under such laws include advance notice of planned price increases, reporting price increase amounts and factors considered in taking such increases, wholesale acquisition cost information disclosure to prescribers, purchasers, and state agencies, and new product notice and reporting. Such legislation could limit the price or payment for certain drugs, and a number of states are authorized to impose civil monetary penalties or pursue other enforcement mechanisms against manufacturers who fail to comply with drug price transparency requirements, including the untimely, inaccurate, or incomplete reporting of drug pricing information.
Pricing and rebate calculations vary among products and programs. The calculations are complex and are often subject to interpretation by us, governmental or regulatory agencies, and the courts. CMS, the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General, and other governmental agencies have pursued manufacturers that were alleged to have failed to report these data to the government in a timely or accurate manner. Governmental agencies may also make changes in program interpretations, requirements or conditions of participation, some of which may have implications for amounts previously estimated or paid. We cannot assure you that any submissions we are required to make under the MDRP, the 340B program, the VA/FSS program, the Tricare Retail Pharmacy Program, and other governmental drug pricing programs will not be found to be incomplete or incorrect.
The FDA and other regulatory agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses.
In the United States, the FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of prescription drugs. These regulations include standards and restrictions for direct-to-consumer advertising, industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities, promotional activities involving the internet and off-label promotion. Any regulatory approval that the FDA grants is limited to those specific diseases and indications for which a product is deemed to be safe and effective by the FDA. For example, the FDA-approved label for IMCIVREE is limited to chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older with monogenic or syndromic obesity due POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR, deficiency confirmed by FDA-approved test demonstrating variants in POMC, PCSK1, or LEPR genes that are interpreted as pathogenic, likely pathogenic, or of uncertain significance, and due to BBS. In addition to the FDA approval required for new formulations, any new indication for an approved product also requires FDA approval. If we are not able to obtain FDA approval for any desired future indications for our drugs and drug candidates, our ability to effectively market and sell our products may be reduced and our business may be adversely affected.
While physicians in the United States may choose, and are generally permitted, to prescribe drugs for uses that are not described in the product’s labeling and for uses that differ from those tested in clinical trials and approved by the regulatory authorities, our ability to promote the products is narrowly limited to those indications that are specifically approved by the FDA. These “off-label” uses are common across medical specialties and may constitute an appropriate treatment for some patients in varied circumstances. For example, we are actively evaluating IMCIVREE in subjects with other forms of obesity caused by defects in the MCR4 pathway. We are not currently permitted to, and do not, market or promote setmelanotide for these uses.
Regulatory authorities in the United States generally do not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments. Regulatory authorities do, however, restrict communications by pharmaceutical companies on the subject of off-label use. Although recent court decisions suggest that certain off-label promotional activities may be protected under the First Amendment, the scope of any such protection is unclear. If our promotional activities fail to comply with the FDA’s regulations or guidelines, we may be subject to warnings from, or enforcement action by, these authorities. In addition, our failure to follow FDA rules and guidelines relating to promotion and advertising may cause the FDA to issue warning letters or untitled letters, bring an enforcement action against us, suspend or withdraw an approved product from
the market, require a recall or institute fines or civil fines, or could result in disgorgement of money, operating restrictions, injunctions or criminal prosecution, any of which could harm our reputation and our business.
In the EU, the advertising and promotion of our products are subject to EU laws governing promotion of medicinal products, interactions with physicians, misleading and comparative advertising and unfair commercial practices. In addition, other legislation adopted by individual EU member states may apply to the advertising and promotion of medicinal products. These laws require that promotional materials and advertising in relation to medicinal products comply with the product’s Summary of Product Characteristics, or SmPC, as approved by the competent authorities. The SmPC is the document that provides information to physicians concerning the safe and effective use of the medicinal product. It forms an intrinsic and integral part of the marketing authorization granted for the medicinal product. Promotion of a medicinal product that does not comply with the SmPC is considered to constitute off label promotion. The off label promotion of medicinal products is prohibited in the EU. The applicable laws at EU level and in the individual EU member states also prohibit the direct to consumer advertising of prescription only medicinal products. Violations of the rules governing the promotion of medicinal products in the EU could be penalized by administrative measures, fines and imprisonment. These laws may further limit or restrict the advertising and promotion of our products to the general public and may also impose limitations on our promotional activities with health care professionals.
We may be subject to federal, state and foreign healthcare laws and regulations. If we are unable to comply or have not fully complied with such laws and regulations, we could face criminal sanctions, damages, substantial civil penalties, reputational harm and diminished profits and future earnings.
Healthcare providers, physicians and others will play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of setmelanotide, if approved. Our arrangements and interactions with healthcare professionals, third party payors, patients and others will expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse, antikickback, false claims and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we market, sell and distribute setmelanotide, if we obtain marketing approval. The U.S. federal, state and foreign healthcare laws and regulations that may affect our ability to operate include, but are not limited to:
|●||The United States federal healthcare Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons and entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, paying, or receiving remuneration, (anything of value), directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, lease order or arranging for or recommending the purchase, lease or order of any good or service for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, by federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. This statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between pharmaceutical companies on one hand and prescribers, purchasers, formulary managers, and patients on the other. Liability under the Anti-Kickback Statute may be established without proving actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it. Although there are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute protecting certain common business arrangements and activities from prosecution or regulatory sanctions, the exceptions and safe harbors are drawn narrowly. Practices that involve remuneration to those who prescribe, purchase, or recommend pharmaceutical and biological products, including certain discounts, or engaging such individuals or patients as consultants, advisors, or speakers, may be subject to scrutiny if they do not fit squarely within an exception or safe harbor. Our practices may not in all cases meet all of the criteria for safe harbor protection from anti-kickback liability. Moreover, there are no safe harbors for many common practices, such as educational and research grants, charitable donations, product and patient support programs.|
|●||The federal civil False Claims Act prohibits individuals or entities from, among other things, knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented a false or fraudulent claim for payment of government funds, or knowingly making, using or causing to made or used a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay money to the government or knowingly concealing or knowingly and improperly avoiding, decreasing or concealing an obligation to pay money to the federal government. Actions under the False Claims Act may be brought by the Attorney General or as a qui tam action by a private individual in the name of the government. Such private individuals may share in amounts paid by the entity to the government in recovery or settlement. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers have been investigated and have reached substantial|
|financial settlements with the federal government under the civil False Claims Act for a variety of alleged improper activities including causing false claims to be submitted as a result of the marketing of their products for unapproved and thus non-reimbursable uses, inflating prices reported to private price publication services which are used to set drug payment rates under government healthcare programs, and other interactions with prescribers and other customers including those that may have affected their billing or coding practices and submission to the federal government. The government may assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the federal civil False Claims Act. False Claims Act liability is potentially significant in the healthcare industry because the statute provides for treble damages and significant mandatory penalties per false or fraudulent claim or statement for violations. Because of the potential for large monetary exposure, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies often resolve allegations without admissions of liability for significant and material amounts to avoid the uncertainty of treble damages and per claim penalties that may be awarded in litigation proceedings. Settlements may require companies to enter into corporate integrity agreements with the government, which may impose substantial costs on companies to ensure compliance. Pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies also are subject to other federal false claims laws, including, among others, federal criminal healthcare fraud and false statement statutes that extend to non-government health benefit programs.|
|●||The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HIPAA, imposes criminal and civil liability for executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, including private third-party payors, and also imposes obligations, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information. Penalties for failure to comply with a requirement of HIPAA vary significantly and include civil monetary penalties as well as criminal penalties for knowingly obtaining or disclosing individually identifiable health information in violation of HIPAA. The criminal penalties increase if the wrongful conduct involves false pretenses or the intent to sell, transfer or use identifiable health information for commercial advantage, personal gain or malicious harm. HIPAA also prohibits knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation, or making or using any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services. Similar to the federal healthcare Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it to have committed a violation.|
|●||The federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, implemented as the Open Payments Program, requires certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies to report payments and other transfers of value to physicians for which payment is available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (with certain exceptions) to report annually to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, information related to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists, and chiropractors), certain non-physician practitioners (physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse anesthetists, anesthesiology assistants and certified nurse-midwives) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Manufacturers must submit reports on or before the 90th day of each calendar year disclosing reportable payments made in the previous calendar year.|
|●||Analogous state laws and regulations, such as state anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to items or services reimbursed under Medicaid and other state programs or, in several states, regardless of the payer, including private insurers. Some state laws require pharmaceutical companies to report expenses relating to the marketing and promotion of pharmaceutical products and to report gifts and payments to individual health care providers in those states. Some of these states also prohibit certain marketing-related activities including the provision of gifts, meals, or other items to certain health care providers. Some states restrict the ability of manufacturers to offer co-pay support to patients for certain prescription drugs. Some states require the posting of information relating to clinical studies and their outcomes. Other states and cities|
|require identification or licensing of sales representatives. In addition, several states require pharmaceutical companies to implement compliance programs or marketing codes of conduct.|
|●||Analogous foreign laws and regulations, including restrictions imposed on the promotion and marketing of medicinal products in the EU member states and other countries, restrictions on interactions with healthcare professionals and requirements for public disclosure of payments made to physicians. Laws (including those governing promotion, marketing and anti-kickback provisions), industry regulations and professional codes of conduct often are strictly enforced. Even in those countries where we may decide not to directly promote or market our products, inappropriate activity by our international distribution partners could have implications for us.|
Ensuring that our business arrangements and interactions with healthcare professionals, third party payors, patients and others comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will require substantial resources. Various state, federal and foreign regulatory and enforcement agencies continue actively to investigate violations of health care laws and regulations, and the United States Congress continues to strengthen the arsenal of enforcement tools.
It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse, privacy, or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations, including our engagements with healthcare professionals, researchers and patients, or our disease awareness and/or patient identification initiatives including genetic testing programs, or anticipated activities to be conducted by our field teams, were found to be in violation of any of these laws or any other governmental regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to costly investigations, significant civil, criminal and administrative monetary penalties, imprisonment, damages, fines, disgorgement, exclusion from government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, contractual damages, diminished profits and future earnings, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations, any of which could substantially disrupt our operations or financial results. Although compliance programs can mitigate the risk of investigation and prosecution for violations of these laws, the risks cannot be entirely eliminated. Any action against us for violation of these laws or regulations, even if we successfully defend against it, could cause us to incur significant legal expenses and generate negative publicity, which could harm our financial condition and divert our management’s attention from the operation of our business.
Our employees may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including violating applicable regulatory standards and requirements or engaging in insider trading, which could significantly harm our business.
We are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other misconduct. Misconduct by employees could include intentional failures to comply with the regulations of the FDA and applicable non U.S. regulators, provide accurate information to the FDA and applicable non U.S. regulators, comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations in the United States and abroad, report financial information or data accurately or disclose unauthorized activities to us. In particular, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Employee misconduct could also involve the improper use of, including trading on, information obtained in the course of clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious harm to our reputation. It is not always possible to identify and deter employee misconduct, and any precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may be ineffective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with these laws or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of significant fines or other sanctions. Some of these laws and related risks are described under the risk factor “We may be subject to federal and state healthcare laws and regulations. If we are unable to comply or have not fully complied with such laws and regulations, we could face criminal sanctions, damages, substantial civil penalties, reputational harm and diminished profits and future earnings” of this Annual Report.
Actual or perceived failure to comply with data protection, privacy and security laws, regulations could lead to government enforcement actions and significant penalties against us, and adversely impact our operating results.
The global data protection landscape is rapidly evolving, and we are or may become subject to numerous state, federal and foreign laws, requirements and regulations governing the collection, use, disclosure, retention, and security of personal information. Implementation standards and enforcement practices are likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, and we cannot yet determine the impact future laws, regulations, standards, or perception of their requirements may have on our business. This evolution may create uncertainty in our business, affect our ability to operate in certain jurisdictions or to collect, store, transfer use and share personal information, necessitate the acceptance of more onerous obligations in our contracts, result in liability or impose additional costs on us. The cost of compliance with these laws, regulations and standards is high and is likely to increase in the future. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with federal, state or foreign laws or regulations, our internal policies and procedures or our contracts governing our processing of personal information could result in negative publicity, government investigations and enforcement actions, claims by third parties and damage to our reputation, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, business and operating results.
In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and regulations, including HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 and regulations implemented thereunder, collectively HIPAA, state data breach notification laws, state health information privacy laws and federal and state consumer protection laws, including Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which govern the collection, use, disclosure and protection of health-related and other personal information, may apply to our operations and the operations of current and future collaborators. We may obtain health information from third parties, such as research institutions with which we collaborate, that are subject to privacy and security requirements under HIPAA. Although we are not directly subject to HIPAA, other than potentially with respect to providing certain employee benefits, we could be subject to criminal penalties if we knowingly obtain or disclose individually identifiable health information maintained by a HIPAA covered entity in a manner that is not authorized or permitted by HIPAA. In addition, state laws govern the privacy and security of health, research and genetic information in specified circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts. Further, we may also be subject to other state laws governing the privacy, processing and protection of personal information. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, or CCPA, went into effect on January 1, 2020. The CCPA creates individual privacy rights for California consumers and increases the privacy and security obligations of entities handling certain personal information. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for data breaches that has increased the likelihood, and risks associated with data breach litigation. Further, the California Privacy Rights Act, or CPRA, generally went into effect on January 1, 2023, and significantly amends the CCPA. It imposes additional data protection obligations on covered businesses, including additional consumer rights processes, limitations on data uses, new audit requirements for higher risk data, and opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data. It also creates a new California data protection agency authorized to issue substantive regulations and could result in increased privacy and information security enforcement. Additional compliance investment and potential business process changes may also be required. Similar laws have passed in Virginia, Utah, Connecticut and Colorado, and have been proposed in other states and at the federal level, reflecting a trend toward more stringent privacy legislation in the United States. The enactment of such laws could have potentially conflicting requirements that would make compliance challenging. In addition, some of our research activities involve minors, which may be subject to additional laws and can require specialized consent processes, privacy protections, and compliance procedures. In the event that we are subject to or affected by HIPAA, the CCPA, the CPRA or other domestic privacy and data protection laws, any liability from failure to comply with the requirements of these laws could adversely affect our financial condition.
Furthermore, the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, and many state Attorneys General continue to enforce federal and state consumer protection laws against companies for online collection, use, dissemination and security practices that appear to be unfair or deceptive. For example, according to the FTC, failing to take appropriate steps to keep consumers’ personal information secure can constitute unfair acts or practices in or affecting commerce in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The FTC expects a company’s data security measures to be reasonable and appropriate in light of the sensitivity and volume of consumer information it holds, the size and complexity of its business, and the cost of available tools to improve security and reduce vulnerabilities.
Our operations abroad may also be subject to increased scrutiny or attention from data protection authorities. For example, in Europe, the collection and use of personal data, including health and genetic data, is governed by the provisions of the GDPR. The GDPR became effective on May 25, 2018, and imposes strict requirements for the processing of the personal data of individuals within the European Economic Area, or EEA, or in the context of our activities in the EEA, including health data from clinical trials and AE reporting. In particular, these requirements include certain obligations concerning the consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, the information provided to the individuals, the transfer of personal data out of the EEA, security breach notifications, and security and confidentiality of the personal data, and violations of these requirements could result in substantial fines, up to the greater of 20 million Euros or 4% of total global annual turnover. In addition to the foregoing, a breach of the GDPR could result in regulatory investigations, reputational damage, orders to cease/change our processing of our data, enforcement notices, and/or assessment notices for a compulsory audit. We may also face civil claims including representative actions and other class action type litigation (where individuals have suffered harm), potentially amounting to significant compensation or damages liabilities, as well as associated costs, diversion of internal resources, and reputational harm. Data protection authorities from the different EU and EEA member states may also interpret the GDPR and national laws differently and impose additional requirements, which adds to the complexity of processing personal data in the EU and the EEA.
Additionally, from January 1, 2021, we have had to comply with the GDPR and also the United Kingdom GDPR, or UK GDPR, which, together with the amended United Kingdom Data Protection Act 2018, retains the GDPR in United Kingdom national law following Brexit. The UK GDPR mirrors the fines under the GDPR, e.g. fines up to the greater of €20 million (£17.5 million) or 4% of global turnover.
Among other requirements, the GDPR and UK GDPR also regulate transfers of personal data subject to the GDPR or UK GDPR to third countries that have not been found to provide adequate protection to such personal data, including the United States; in July, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union, or the CJEU, invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework, or the Privacy Shield, under which personal data could be transferred from the EEA to US entities who had self-certified under the Privacy Shield scheme and imposed further restrictions on the use of the standard contractual clauses, or SCCs. These restrictions include a requirement for companies to carry out a transfer impact assessment which, among other things, assesses the laws governing access to personal data in the recipient country and considers whether supplementary measures that provide privacy protections additional to those provided under SCCs will need to be implemented to ensure an essentially equivalent level of data protection to that afforded in the EEA. In March 2022, the US and EU announced a new regulatory regime intended to replace the invalidated regulations; however, this new EU-US Data Privacy Framework has not been implemented beyond an executive order signed by President Biden on October 7, 2022 on Enhancing Safeguards for United States Signals Intelligence Activities. As supervisory authorities issue further guidance on personal data export mechanisms, including circumstances where the standard contractual clauses cannot be used, and/or start taking enforcement action, we could suffer additional costs, complaints and/or regulatory investigations or fines, and/or if we are otherwise unable to transfer personal data between and among countries and regions in which we operate, it could affect the manner in which we provide our services, the geographical location or segregation of our relevant systems and operations, and could adversely affect our financial results.
Although we work to comply with applicable laws, regulations and standards, our contractual obligations and other legal obligations, these requirements are evolving and may be modified, interpreted and applied in an inconsistent manner from one jurisdiction to another, and may conflict with one another or other legal obligations with which we must comply. Our failure to comply with our obligations under the GDPR or UK GDPR, including any failure to adopt measures to ensure that we can continue to conduct the data processing activities that we initiated in the EU before the GDPR entered into application, the UK GDPR, and other countries’ privacy or data security-related laws could adversely impact our ability to use the data generated in our studies. And any actual or perceived failure to comply with these data protection laws or adequately address privacy and security concerns could lead to government enforcement actions and significant penalties against us, and adversely impact our operating results.
Our future growth depends, in part, on our ability to continue to penetrate foreign markets, where we will be subject to additional regulatory burdens and other risks and uncertainties.
Our future profitability will depend, in part, on our ability to continue to commercialize setmelanotide in foreign markets for which we intend to rely on collaborations with third parties. As we continue to commercialize setmelanotide in foreign markets, we will be subject to additional risks and uncertainties, including:
|●||our customers’ ability to obtain reimbursement for setmelanotide in foreign markets;|
|●||our inability to directly control commercial activities because we are relying on third parties;|
|●||the burden of complying with complex and changing foreign regulatory, tax, accounting and legal requirements;|
|●||different medical practices and customs in foreign countries affecting acceptance in the marketplace;|
|●||import or export licensing requirements;|
|●||longer accounts receivable collection times;|
|●||longer lead times for shipping;|
|●||language barriers for technical training;|
|●||reduced protection of intellectual property rights in some foreign countries;|
|●||foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations; and|
|●||the interpretation of contractual provisions governed by foreign laws in the event of a contract dispute.|
Foreign sales of setmelanotide could also be adversely affected by the imposition of governmental controls, political and economic instability, trade restrictions and changes in tariffs.
Laws and regulations governing any international operations we may have in the future may preclude us from developing, manufacturing and selling setmelanotide outside of the United States and require us to develop and implement costly compliance programs.
If we continue to expand our operations outside of the United States, we must dedicate additional resources to comply with numerous laws and regulations in each jurisdiction in which we plan to operate. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, or the FCPA, prohibits any U.S. individual or business from paying, offering, authorizing payment or offering anything of value, directly or indirectly, to any foreign official, political party or candidate for the purpose of influencing any act or decision of such third party in order to assist the individual or business in obtaining or retaining business. The FCPA also obligates companies whose securities are listed in the United States to comply with certain accounting provisions requiring the company to maintain books and records that accurately and fairly reflect all transactions of the company, including international subsidiaries, and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls for international operations.
Compliance with the FCPA is expensive and difficult, particularly in countries in which corruption is a recognized problem. In addition, the FCPA presents particular challenges in the pharmaceutical industry, because, in many countries, hospitals are operated by the government, and doctors and other hospital employees are considered foreign officials. Certain payments to hospitals in connection with clinical trials and other work have been deemed to be improper payments to government officials and have led to FCPA enforcement actions.
Various laws, regulations and executive orders also restrict the use and dissemination outside of the United States, or the sharing with certain non-U.S. nationals, of information classified for national security purposes, as well as certain products and technical data relating to those products. If we expand our presence outside of the United States, it will require us to dedicate additional resources to comply with these laws, and these laws may preclude us from developing, manufacturing or selling certain product candidates and products outside of the United States, which could limit our growth potential and increase our development costs.
The failure to comply with laws governing international business practices may result in substantial civil and criminal penalties and suspension or debarment from government contracting. The Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, also may suspend or bar issuers from trading securities on U.S. exchanges for violations of the FCPA’s accounting provisions.
The results of the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU may have a negative effect on global economic conditions, financial markets and our business.
Following a national referendum and enactment of legislation by the government of the UK, the UK formally withdrew from the EU on January 31, 2020.
Since the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1, 2021, the UK has operated under a separate regulatory regime to the EU. EU laws regarding medicinal products only apply in respect of the UK to Northern Ireland (as set out in the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland). However, under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022, which is currently before the UK parliament, any retained EU law not expressly preserved and “assimilated” into domestic law or extended by ministerial regulations (to no later than June 23, 2026) will automatically expire and be revoked by December 31, 2023. The EU laws that have been transposed into United Kingdom law through secondary legislation remain applicable. While the UK has indicated a general intention that new laws regarding the development, manufacture and commercialization of medicinal products in the UK will align closely with EU law, there remain limited detailed proposals for future regulation of medicinal products. The trade and cooperation agreement includes specific provisions concerning medicinal products, which include the mutual recognition of GMP, inspections of manufacturing facilities for medicinal products and GMP documents issued (such mutual recognition can be rejected by either party in certain circumstances), but does not foresee wholesale mutual recognition of UK and EU pharmaceutical regulations. For example, despite the UK carrying out a public consultation on future changes to the clinical trials legislation, which ended on March 14, 2022, it is still not clear the extent to which the UK will adopt legislation aligned with, or similar to, the EU CTR which became applicable in the EU on January 31, 2022 and which significantly reforms the assessment and supervision processes for clinical trials throughout the EU. Therefore, there remains political and economic uncertainty regarding to what extent the regulation of medicinal products will differ between the UK and the EU in the future. Any divergences will increase the cost and complexity of running our business, including with respect to the conduct of clinical trials. Brexit also materially impacted the regulatory regime with respect to the approval of our product candidates. Great Britain is no longer covered by the EU’s procedures for the grant of marketing authorizations (Northern Ireland is covered by the centralized authorization procedure and can be covered under the decentralized or mutual recognition procedures). As of January 1, 2021, all existing centralized marketing authorizations were automatically converted into UK marketing authorizations effective in Great Britain and issued with a UK marketing authorization number on January 1, 2021 (unless marketing authorization holders opted out of this scheme). A separate marketing authorization is now required to market drugs in Great Britain. It is currently unclear whether the regulator in the UK, the MHRA is sufficiently prepared to handle the increased volume of marketing authorization applications that it is likely to receive. Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any regulatory approvals, as a result of Brexit or otherwise, would prevent us from commercializing our product candidates in Great Britain and restrict our ability to generate revenue and achieve and sustain profitability. If any of these outcomes occur, we may be forced to restrict or delay efforts to seek regulatory approval in Great Britain for our product candidates, which could significantly and materially harm our business. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the associated uncertainty has had and may continue to have a significant adverse effect on global economic conditions and the stability of global financial markets, and could significantly reduce global market liquidity and restrict the ability of key market participants to operate in certain financial markets. Asset valuations, currency exchange rates and credit ratings may be especially subject to increased market volatility. Any of these factors could have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Risks Related to the Acquisition of Xinvento B.V.
We may fail to realize the anticipated benefits of our acquisition of Xinvento B.V., those benefits may take longer to realize than expected, and we may encounter significant integration difficulties.
In February 2023, in order to expand our pipeline and build on our focus on rare endocrinology diseases, we acquired Xinvento B.V., a Netherlands-based biotech company focused on developing therapies for congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI). We expect that the integration process will be complex, costly and time-consuming. As a result, we are devoting, and will continue to be required to devote, significant management attention and resources to integrating Xinvento B.V. into our business. The integration process may be disruptive to our business and the expected benefits may not be achieved within the anticipated time frame, or at all. The Xinvento B.V. intellectual property may not have the scientific value and commercial potential which we envision. We may not be able to integrate the two businesses successfully, and we could assume unknown or contingent liabilities. It is possible that the integration process could result in the diversion of our management’s attention, the disruption or interruption of, or the loss of momentum in, our ongoing business or inconsistencies in standards, controls, procedures and policies, any of which could adversely affect our ability to maintain relationships with third parties or the ability to achieve the anticipated benefits of the acquisition of Xinvento B.V., or could otherwise adversely affect our business and financial results.
We do not anticipate generating revenue from any Xinvento B.V. therapeutic candidate or technology sales for many years.
We do not expect to derive revenue from the sale of any Xinvento B.V. therapeutic candidate or technology for many years and there can be no assurance that regulatory approvals will be received or if received that they will be received when anticipated.
Risks Related to Employee Matters and Managing Growth
Our future success depends on our ability to retain our key employees and consultants, and to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel.
We are highly dependent on our executive leadership team. We have employment agreements with these individuals but any individual may terminate his or her employment with us at any time. The loss of their services might impede the achievement of our research, development and commercialization objectives. We also do not have any key-person life insurance on any of these key employees. We rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our development and commercialization strategy. Our consultants and advisors may be employed by employers other than us and may have commitments under consulting or advisory contracts with other entities that may limit their availability to us and may not be subject to non-compete agreements. Recruiting and retaining qualified scientific personnel and sales and marketing personnel will also be critical to our success. We may not be able to attract and retain these personnel on acceptable terms given the competition among numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for similar personnel. We also experience competition for the hiring of scientific personnel from universities and research institutions. Failure to succeed in clinical trials may make it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified scientific personnel.
We will need to develop and expand our company, and we may encounter difficulties in managing this development and expansion, which could disrupt our operations.
We expect to increase our number of employees and the scope of our operations. In particular, we will need to transition from a research and development company to a commercial company. To manage our anticipated development and expansion, we must continue to implement and improve our managerial, operational and financial systems, expand our facilities and continue to recruit and train additional qualified personnel. Also, our management may need to divert a disproportionate amount of its attention away from their day-to-day activities and devote a substantial amount of time to managing these development activities. Due to our limited resources, we may not be able to effectively manage the expansion of our operations or recruit and train additional qualified personnel. This may result in weaknesses in our infrastructure, and give rise to operational mistakes, loss of business and commercial opportunities, loss of employees and
reduced productivity among remaining employees. If our management is unable to effectively manage our expected development and expansion, our expenses may increase more than expected, our ability to generate or increase our revenue could be reduced and we may not be able to implement our business strategy.
The physical expansion of our operations may lead to significant costs and may divert financial resources from other projects, such as the development of setmelanotide. Many of our suppliers and collaborative and clinical trial relationships are located outside the United States, and we may in the future seek to hire employees located outside of the United States. Accordingly, our business may become subject to economic, political, regulatory and other risks associated with international operations, such as compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad, workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States, as well as difficulties associated with staffing and managing international operations, including differing labor relations. Any of these factors could materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize setmelanotide, if approved, and compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage the future development and expansion of our company.
Our information technology systems, or those of our third party CROs, CMOs or other contractors or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches, which could result in a material disruption of setmelanotide development programs, regulatory investigations, enforcement actions and lawsuits.
In the ordinary course of our business, we collect and store sensitive data, including intellectual property, our proprietary business information and that of our suppliers, as well as personally identifiable information of employees. Similarly, our third-party CROs, CMOs and other contractors and consultants possess certain of our sensitive data. The secure maintenance of this information is material to our operations and business strategy. Despite the implementation of security measures, our information technology systems and those of our third-party CROs, CMOs and other contractors and consultants are vulnerable to attack, damage, or interruption by hacking, cyberattacks, computer viruses and malware (e.g. ransomware), malicious code, phishing attacks and other social engineering schemes, unauthorized access, natural disasters, terrorism, telecommunication and electrical failures, employee theft or misuse, human error, fraud, denial or degradation of service attacks, sophisticated nation-state and nation-state-supported actors or unauthorized access or use by persons inside our organization, or persons with access to systems inside our organization. Any such attack, incident or breach could compromise our information technology systems and the information stored there could be accessed, publicly disclosed, lost, corrupted or stolen. Further, attacks upon information technology systems are increasing in their frequency, levels of persistence, sophistication and intensity, and are being conducted by sophisticated and organized groups and individuals with a wide range of motives and expertise. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may also face increased cybersecurity risks due to our reliance on internet technology and the number of our employees who are working remotely, which may create additional opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities. Because the techniques used to obtain unauthorized access to, or to sabotage, systems change frequently and often are not recognized until launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or implement adequate preventative measures. We may also experience security breaches that may remain undetected for an extended period. Even if identified, we may be unable to adequately investigate or remediate incidents or breaches due to attackers increasingly using tools and techniques that are designed to circumvent controls, to avoid detection, and to remove or obfuscate forensic evidence.
The legislative and regulatory landscape for privacy and data protection continues to evolve, and there has been an increasing amount of focus on privacy and data protection issues with the potential to affect our business, including recently enacted laws in a majority of states requiring security breach notification, some also require implementation of reasonable security measures and provide a private right of action in the event of a breach. Costs of breach response, mitigation, investigation, remediation, notice and ongoing assessments can be considerable. Thus, any access, disclosure, damage or other loss of information, including our data being breached at our partners or third-party providers, could result in legal claims or proceedings and liability under state, federal and international privacy laws, disruption of our operations, and damage to our reputation, which could adversely affect our business.
We and certain of our service providers have been and from time to time will continue to be subject to cyberattacks and security incidents. While we do not believe that we have experienced any significant system failure, accident or security breach to date, if such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our programs. For example, the loss of clinical trial data for setmelanotide or other product candidates could
result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. To the extent that any disruption or security breach results in a loss of or damage to our data or applications or other data or applications relating to our technology or product candidates, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liabilities and the further development of setmelanotide and our product candidates could be delayed. It could also expose us to risks, including an inability to provide our services and fulfill contractual demands, and could cause management distraction and the obligation to devote significant financial and other resources to mitigate such problems, which would increase our future information security costs, including through organizational changes, deploying additional personnel, reinforcing administrative, physical and technical safeguards, further training of employees, changing third-party vendor control practices and engaging third-party subject matter experts and consultants and reduce the demand for our product and services. [We maintain cyber liability insurance; however, this insurance may not be sufficient to cover the financial, legal, business or reputational losses that may result from an interruption or breach of our systems.]
Risks Related to Our Common Stock
Our directors and executive officers and their affiliated entities own a significant percentage of our stock and, if they choose to act together, will be able to exert significant influence over matters subject to stockholder approval.
Our executive officers and directors and their respective affiliates, in the aggregate, hold shares representing approximately 10.8% of our outstanding voting stock as of December 31, 2022. As a result, if these stockholders were to choose to act together, they would be able to significantly influence all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval, as well as our management and affairs. For example, these stockholders could significantly influence elections of directors, any amendments of our organizational documents, or approval of any merger, sale of assets, or other major corporate transaction. This may prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals or offers for our common stock that you may feel are in your best interest as one of our stockholders.
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law could make an acquisition of us, even one that may be beneficial to our stockholders, more difficult and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.
We are a Delaware corporation. Provisions in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws may delay or prevent an acquisition of us or a change in our management. In addition, because we are incorporated in Delaware, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which limits the ability of stockholders owning in excess of 15% of our outstanding voting stock to merge or combine with us. Although we believe these provisions collectively will provide for an opportunity to obtain greater value for stockholders by requiring potential acquirers to negotiate with our board of directors, they would apply even if an offer rejected by our board were considered beneficial by some stockholders. In addition, these provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our board of directors, which is responsible for appointing the members of our management. Any provision in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws or Delaware law that has the effect of delaying or deterring a change in control could limit the opportunity for our stockholders to receive a premium for their shares of our common stock, and could also affect the price that some investors are willing to pay for our common stock.
Market volatility may affect our stock price and the value of your investment.
The market price for our common stock has been volatile and may continue to fluctuate significantly in response to a number of factors, most of which we cannot control, including, among others:
|●||plans for, progress of, or results from preclinical studies and clinical trials of setmelanotide;|
|●||the failure of the FDA or EMA to approve IMCIVREE for additional indications;|
|●||announcements of new products, technologies, commercial relationships, acquisitions or other events by us or our competitors;|
|●||the success or failure of other weight loss therapies and companies targeting rare diseases and orphan drug treatment;|
|●||regulatory or legal developments in the United States and other countries;|
|●||failure of setmelanotide, if approved, to achieve commercial success;|
|●||fluctuations in stock market prices and trading volumes of similar companies;|
|●||general market conditions and overall fluctuations in U.S. equity markets;|
|●||variations in our quarterly operating results;|
|●||changes in our financial guidance or securities analysts’ estimates of our financial performance;|
|●||changes in accounting principles;|
|●||our ability to raise additional capital and the terms on which we can raise it;|
|●||sales of large blocks of our common stock, including sales by our executive officers, directors and significant stockholders;|
|●||additions or departures of key personnel;|
|●||discussion of us or our stock price by the press and by online investor communities; and|
|●||other risks and uncertainties described in these risk factors.|
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly.
We expect our operating results to be subject to quarterly fluctuations. Our net loss and other operating results will be affected by numerous factors, including:
|●||variations in the level of expenses related to our development programs;|
|●||addition or termination of clinical trials;|
|●||any intellectual property infringement lawsuit in which we may become involved;|
|●||regulatory developments affecting setmelanotide;|
|●||our execution of any collaborative, licensing or similar arrangements, and the timing of payments we may make or receive under these arrangements;|
|●||the achievement and timing of milestone payments under our existing collaboration and license agreements; and|
|●||if setmelanotide receives regulatory approval, the level of underlying demand for that product and customers’ buying patterns.|
If our quarterly operating results fall below the expectations of investors or securities analysts, the price of our common stock could decline substantially. Furthermore, any quarterly fluctuations in our operating results may, in turn, cause the price of our stock to fluctuate substantially.
Our ability to use certain net operating loss carryovers and other tax attributes may be limited.
Under the Code, a corporation is generally allowed a deduction for net operating losses, or NOLs, carried over from a prior taxable year, and can use such NOLs to offset future taxable income, if any, until such losses are used or, for NOLs arising in taxable years ending on or before December 31, 2017, until such NOLs expire. Other unused tax attributes, such as research tax credits may also be carried forward to offset future taxable income, if any, until such attributes are used or expire. As of December 31, 2022, we had approximately $494.5 million and $484.6 million of unused federal and state NOL carryforwards, respectively, and approximately $11.6 million and $3.6 million of unused federal and state carryforwards of research tax credits, respectively. Of the federal NOL carryforwards at December 31, 2022, $421.3 million can be carried forward indefinitely, while $73.2 million will begin to expire in 2033. Additionally, as of December 31, 2022, we had federal orphan drug credits related to qualifying research of $19.3 million.
If a corporation undergoes an “ownership change,” very generally defined as a greater than 50% change by value in its equity ownership by certain shareholders or groups of shareholders over a rolling three-year period, Sections 382 and 383 of the Code limit the corporation’s ability to use carryovers of its pre-change NOLs, credits and certain other tax attributes to reduce its tax liability for periods after the ownership change. Our issuance of common stock pursuant to prior public offerings may have resulted in a limitation under Code Sections 382 and 383, either separately or in combination with certain prior or subsequent shifts in the ownership of our common stock. Future changes in our stock ownership, some of which are outside of our control, could also result in an ownership change under Sections 382 and 383 of the Code. In addition, for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2020, utilization of federal NOLs generated in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017 are limited to a maximum of 80% of the taxable income for such year, after taking into account utilization of NOLs generated in years beginning before January 1, 2018 and determined without regard to such NOL deduction. Further regulatory changes could also limited our ability to utilize our NOLs. As a result, our ability to use carryovers of NOLs and credits to reduce our future U.S. federal income tax liability may be subject to limitations. This could result in increased U.S. federal income tax liability for us if we generate taxable income in a future period. Limitations on the use of NOLs and other tax attributes could also increase our state tax liability. Any such limitation could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations in future years. We have not completed a study to assess whether an ownership change for purposes of Section 382 or 383 has occurred, or whether there have been multiple ownership changes since our inception, due to the significant costs and complexities associated with such study.
The use of our tax attributes will also be limited to the extent that we do not generate positive taxable income in future tax periods. We do not expect to generate positive taxable income in the near future and we may never achieve tax profitability.
Substantial future sales or perceived potential sales of our common stock in the public market could cause the price of our common stock to decline significantly.
Sales of our common stock in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our common stock to decline significantly. As of December 31, 2022, we had 56,612,429 shares of common stock outstanding.
The holders of an aggregate of approximately 5.0 million shares of our common stock, or approximately 9.0% of our total outstanding common stock as of December 31, 2022, are entitled to rights with respect to the registration of their shares under the Securities Act, subject to specified conditions, until such shares can otherwise be sold without restriction under Rule 144 or until the rights terminate pursuant to the terms of the investors’ rights agreement between us and such holders. We have also registered and intend to continue to register all shares of common stock that we may issue under our equity compensation plans. Once we register these shares under the Securities Act, the shares become freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act, except for shares purchased by affiliates and those subject to lock-up agreements, if applicable.
We may be at an increased risk of securities class action litigation.
Historically, securities class action litigation has often been brought against a company following a decline in the market price of its securities. This risk is especially relevant for us because biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have experienced significant stock price volatility in recent years. If we were to be sued, it could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources, which could harm our business.
We do not intend to pay dividends on our common stock and, consequently, your ability to achieve a return on your investment will depend on appreciation in the price of our common stock.
We have never declared or paid any cash dividends on our common stock and do not currently intend to do so in the foreseeable future. We currently anticipate that we will retain future earnings for the development, operation and expansion of our business and do not anticipate declaring or paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the success of an investment in shares of our common stock will depend upon any future appreciation in their value. There is no guarantee that shares of our common stock will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased them.
Provisions in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws and Delaware law might discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company or changes in our management and, therefore, depress the market price of our common stock.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws contain provisions that could depress the market price of our common stock by acting to discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company or changes in our management that the stockholders of our company may deem advantageous. These provisions, among other things:
|●||establish a classified board of directors so that not all members of our board are elected at one time;|
|●||permit only the board of directors to establish the number of directors and fill vacancies on the board;|
|●||provide that directors may only be removed “for cause” and only with the approval of two-thirds of our stockholders;|
|●||authorize the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock that our board could use to implement a stockholder rights plan (also known as a “poison pill”);|
|●||eliminate the ability of our stockholders to call special meetings of stockholders;|
|●||prohibit stockholder action by written consent, which requires all stockholder actions to be taken at a meeting of our stockholders;|
|●||prohibit cumulative voting;|
|●||authorize our board of directors to amend the bylaws;|
|●||establish advance notice requirements for nominations for election to our board or for proposing matters that can be acted upon by stockholders at annual stockholder meetings; and|