SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
☐ REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
☒ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021
☐ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
☐ SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Commission file number: 001-39081
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
Federal Republic of Germany
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
An der Goldgrube 12
(Address of principal executive offices)
Prof. Ugur Sahin, M.D.,
c/o BioNTech SE
An der Goldgrube 12
+49 6131-9084-0 (Tel), +49 6131 9084-390 (Fax), firstname.lastname@example.org (E-mail)
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered, pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act
|Title of each class|
|Name of each exchange on which registered|
|American Depositary Shares, each Representing one ordinary share||BNTX||The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC|
|Ordinary shares, no par value, with a notional amount attributable to each ordinary share of €1*||—|
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC*
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act: None
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital stock or common stock as of the close of business covered by the annual report.
Ordinary shares, no par value, with a notional amount attributable to each share of €1 outstanding as of March 30, 2022, no par value: 246,807,808
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☒ No ☐
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer||☒||Accelerated filer||☐||Non-accelerated filer||☐||Emerging growth company||☐|
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards † provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
U.S. GAAP ☐
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board ☒
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow. Item 17 ☐ Item 18 ☐
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
* Listed not for trading or quotation purposes, but only in connection with the registration of American Depositary Shares representing such ordinary shares pursuant to the requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The American Depositary Shares are registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, pursuant to a separate registration statement on Form F-6 (File No. 333-233898).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In this annual report on Form 20-F (“Annual Report”), “BioNTech,” the “Group,” the “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to BioNTech SE and its consolidated subsidiaries, except where the context otherwise requires.
In response to the fact that our consolidated financial statements are published in Euro, the selected consolidated financial data is presented in Euro as well. Amounts in U.S. dollar are translated into Euro using the exchange rates as per period end or average exchange rates for the periods indicated as published by the German Central Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank).
All references in this Annual Report to “$” mean U.S. dollars and all references to “€” mean Euros.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report contains forward-looking statements concerning our business, operations and financial performance and condition as well as our plans, objectives and expectations for our business operations and financial performance and condition. Any statements that are not of historical facts may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. Many of the forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “believes”, “estimates”, “anticipates”, “expects”, “plans”, “intends”, “may”, “could”, “might”, “will”, “should”, “aims” or other similar expressions that convey uncertainty of future events or outcomes.
These forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that could cause our actual results of operations, financial condition, liquidity, performance, prospects, opportunities, achievements or industry results, as well as those of the markets we serve or intend to serve, to differ materially from those expressed in, or suggested by, these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on assumptions regarding our present and future business strategies and the environment in which we expect to operate in the future. Important factors that could cause those differences include, but are not limited to:
•our expected revenues and net profit related to sales of our COVID-19 vaccine, referred to as COMIRNATY® in the United States for individuals 16 years of age and above and in the European Union as authorized for use under full and conditional marketing approval, respectively, in territories controlled by our collaboration partners, particularly for those figures that are derived from preliminary estimates provided by our partners;
•our pricing and coverage negotiations for our COVID-19 vaccine with governmental authorities, private health insurers and other third-party payors after our initial sales to national governments;
•the extent to which a COVID-19 vaccine continues to be necessary in the future;
•competition from other COVID-19 vaccines or related to our other product candidates, including those with different mechanisms of action and different manufacturing and distribution constraints, on the basis of, among other things, efficacy, cost, convenience of storage and distribution, breadth of approved use, safety, side-effect profile and durability of immune response;
•the timing and ability of us and our collaborators to obtain regulatory approval for our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates, and to commercialize our approved and investigational product candidates, if approved;
•the pricing and reimbursement of our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates, if approved;
•the rate and degree of market acceptance of our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates, if approved;
•the initiation, timing, progress, results, and cost of our research and development programs and our current and future preclinical studies and clinical trials, including statements regarding: the timing of initiation and completion of studies or trials and related preparatory work, the period during which the results of the trials will become available, and our research and development programs;
•our ability to identify research opportunities and discover and develop product candidates;
•the ability and willingness of our third-party collaborators to continue research and development activities relating to our product candidates;
•our expectations regarding the size of the patient populations for our product candidates, if approved for commercial use;
•the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our development programs, supply chain, collaborators and financial performance;
•unforeseen safety issues and claims for personal injury or death arising from the use of our COVID-19 vaccine and other products and product candidates developed or manufactured by us;
•our estimates of our expenses, future revenue and capital requirements and our needs for or ability to obtain additional financing;
•our ability to identify, recruit and retain key personnel;
•our and our collaborators’ ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property protection for our proprietary and collaborative product candidates, our ability to protect and defend against potential claims of others' intellectual property, and the scope of such protection;
•the development of and projections relating to our competitors or our industry;
•the amount of and our ability to use net operating losses and research and development credits to offset future taxable income;
•our ability, and that of our collaboration partners' ability as applicable, to manage our development and expansion;
•regulatory developments in the United States and foreign countries;
•our ability to effectively scale our production capabilities and manufacture our products, including our COVID-19 vaccine, and our product candidates;
•our expectations with respect to the timing and amount of any dividends and any potential repurchases of our outstanding ADSs;
•our expectations regarding the timing of customer payments for delivered COVID-19 vaccine;
•our ability to implement, maintain and improve effective internal controls; and
•other factors not known to us at this time.
The preceding list is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all of our forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report speak only as of the date of this report, and unless otherwise required by law, we do not undertake any obligation to update them in light of new information or future developments or to release publicly any revisions to these statements in order to reflect later events or circumstances or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
Item 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers
Item 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable
Item 3. Key Information
A. Selected Consolidated Financial Data
B. Capitalization and Indebtedness
C. Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
D. Risk Factors
Our business is subject to various risks, including those described below. You should consider carefully the risks and uncertainties described below and in our future filings. If any of the following risks are realized, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected. Additionally, risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently deem to be immaterial also may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and/or prospects.
Investing in the ADSs involves various risks. You should carefully read and consider the matters discussed in this Annual Report under the heading “Risk Factors,” which include the following risks:
•Our revenue depends heavily on sales of our COVID-19 vaccine, and our future revenues from our COVID-19 vaccine are uncertain.
•Our reported commercial revenue is based on preliminary estimates of COVID-19 vaccine sales and costs from Pfizer Inc., or Pfizer, as Pfizer’s fiscal quarter for subsidiaries outside the United States differs from ours and creates an additional time lag. These estimates are likely to change in future periods, which will impact our reported financial results.
•We may not be able to demonstrate sufficient efficacy or safety of our COVID-19 vaccine and/or variant-specific formulations to obtain permanent regulatory approval in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, or other countries where it has been authorized for emergency use or granted conditional marketing approval.
•Significant adverse events may occur during our clinical trials or even after receiving regulatory approval, which could delay or terminate clinical trials, delay or prevent regulatory approval or market acceptance of any of our product candidates.
•We face significant competition from other makers of COVID-19 vaccines and may be unable to maintain a competitive market share for our COVID-19 vaccine.
•We have only recently built our marketing and sales organization. If we are unable to continue to increase our marketing and sales capabilities on our own or through third parties, we may not be able to market and sell our product candidates effectively in the United States and other jurisdictions, if approved, or generate product sales revenue.
•Other companies or organizations may challenge our intellectual property rights or may assert intellectual property rights that prevent us from developing and commercializing our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates and other technologies.
•Even if we obtain full regulatory approval for our COVID-19 vaccine and product candidates, the products may not gain the market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, cancer treatment centers and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.
•Our operating results may fluctuate significantly, which makes our future operating results difficult to predict. If our operating results fall below expectations, the price of the ADSs representing our shares could decline.
•We may require substantial additional financing to achieve our goals, and a failure to obtain this capital on acceptable terms, or at all, could force us to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development programs, commercialization efforts or other operations.
•We have in the past identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting and may identify additional material weaknesses in the future that may cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations or result in material misstatements in our financial statements. If we fail to remediate our material weakness, we may not be able to report our financial results accurately or to prevent fraud.
•As a “foreign private issuer,” we are exempt from a number of rules under the U.S. securities laws, as well as Nasdaq rules, and we are permitted to file less information with the SEC than U.S. companies. This may limit the information available to holders of the ADSs and may make our ordinary shares and the ADSs less attractive to investors.
•We face risks related to health epidemics and pandemics, such as COVID-19, that could adversely affect our operations.
•Clinical development involves a lengthy and expensive process with an uncertain outcome, and delays can occur for a variety of reasons outside of our control. Clinical trials of our product candidates may be delayed, and certain programs may never advance in the clinic or may be more costly to conduct than we anticipate, any of which can affect our ability to fund our company and would have a material adverse impact on our business.
•mRNA drug development has substantial clinical development and regulatory risks due to limited regulatory experience with mRNA immunotherapies.
•Our approved product and product candidates are based on novel technologies and they may be complex and difficult to manufacture. We may encounter difficulties in manufacturing, product release, shelf life, testing, storage, supply chain management or shipping. If we or any of the third-party manufacturers we work with encounter such difficulties, our ability to supply materials for clinical trials or any approved product could be delayed or stopped.
•If our efforts to obtain, maintain, protect, defend and/or enforce the intellectual property related to our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates and technologies are not adequate, we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.
•We have experienced and may continue to experience significant volatility in the market price of the ADSs representing our ordinary shares.
•Our principal shareholders and management own a significant percentage of our ordinary shares and will be able to exert significant control over matters subject to shareholder approval.
Our business is subject to various risks, including those described below. You should consider carefully the risks and uncertainties described below and in our future filings. If any of the following risks are realized, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected. Additionally, risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently deem to be immaterial also may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and/or prospects.
Risks Related to our COVID-19 vaccine and the Commercialization of our Pipeline
Our revenue depends heavily on sales of our COVID-19 vaccine, and our future revenues from our COVID-19 vaccine are uncertain.
Our COVID-19 vaccine was granted emergency use authorization in the United States and the United Kingdom, and conditional marketing approval in the European Union, in December 2020, followed by emergency or limited use authorization in a number of other countries and approval for use in certain other countries. Prior to this, we had not sold or marketed any products in our pipeline. As a result, a majority of our total revenues, and all of our product revenues, in 2021 are attributable and in 2022 will be attributable to sales of our COVID-19 vaccine. There is intense competition in the field of COVID-19 vaccines, including with other vaccines that have been authorized and those in late-stage clinical development. Our future revenues from sales of our COVID-19 vaccine depend on numerous factors, including:
•competition from other COVID-19 vaccines, including those with different mechanisms of action and different manufacturing and distribution constraints, on the basis of, among other things, efficacy, cost, convenience of storage and distribution, breadth of approved use, side-effect profile and durability of immune response;
•the extent of the spread of COVID-19 infection;
•the extent to which a COVID-19 vaccine continues to be necessary beyond the current pandemic, including when it becomes an endemic virus;
•the durability of immune response generated by our COVID-19 vaccine, which has not yet been demonstrated in clinical trials;
•our ability to receive full regulatory approvals, where we currently have emergency use authorizations or equivalents;
•our ability to expand our geographic customer base;
•our pricing and coverage negotiations with governmental authorities, private health insurers and other third-party payors after our initial sales to national governments;
•the extent to which SARS-CoV-2 mutates and the efficacy of our COVID-19 vaccine in preventing COVID-19 infection from mutated strains;
•the ability of countries and jurisdictions to store and distribute doses of our COVID-19 vaccine to end users at cold temperatures;
•the safety profile of our COVID-19 vaccine, including if previously unknown side effects or increased incidence or severity of known side effects as compared to those seen during clinical trials are identified with our COVID-19 vaccine with widespread global use after approval;
•future intellectual property litigation involving COVID-19 vaccines, particularly if such litigation involves our COVID-19 vaccine; and
•our manufacturing and distribution capabilities for our COVID-19 vaccine.
While our COVID-19 vaccine has established a competitive commercial profile, we cannot ensure it will maintain its competitive position as competing vaccines become approved, and we cannot accurately predict the revenues our COVID-19 vaccine will generate in future periods or for how long our COVID-19 vaccine will continue to generate material revenues. If our revenues, market share and/or other indicators of market acceptance of our COVID-19 vaccine do not meet the expectations of investors or securities analysts, the market price of the ADSs representing our ordinary shares may decline. In addition, if one or more of the factors above negatively affects our COVID-19 vaccine sales, our business and financial condition could be materially harmed.
Our reported commercial revenue is based on preliminary estimates of COVID-19 vaccine sales and costs from Pfizer that are likely to change in future periods, which may impact our reported financial results.
Our reported commercial revenue is based on preliminary estimates from Pfizer, and other assumptions and judgments that we have made, which may be subject to significant uncertainties. Our commercial revenue are preliminary estimates in part due to a difference in Pfizer’s fiscal quarter for subsidiaries outside the United States, which consequently creates an additional time lag between the recognition of revenues and the payment receipt. Although our revenue
recognition policy is based on facts and circumstances known to us and various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances, our actual results may deviate from such reported revenue.
We depend on Pfizer to determine and provide estimates of the costs and profits to be shared with us in the countries where it is commercializing our COVID-19 vaccine under our collaboration agreement with Pfizer for our COVID-19 vaccine, which we refer to as the Pfizer Agreement. Because the information supplied by Pfizer is preliminary and is subject to change, the commercial revenue we report based on such information is also subject to finalization. This is particularly true for vaccine sales outside of the United States, where Pfizer has a different reporting cycle than ours. As a result, we may not have the complete sales and costs results outside of the United States for months not covered by the reporting period, but we are nonetheless required to report estimated figures.
For example, for the year ended December 31, 2021, Pfizer provided us profit figures for our COVID-19 vaccine sales in the United States using standard U.S. transfer prices and manufacturing and shipping cost variances (as far as those have been identified) that could be subject to adjustment (e.g., due to changes in manufacturing costs or the price of our COVID-19 vaccine). Pfizer also provided estimated profits for COVID-19 vaccine sales outside of the United States that were preliminary in nature, as Pfizer’s subsidiaries outside of the United States do not have a fiscal year end of December 31. These estimated figures are likely to change as we receive final data from Pfizer for the year ended December 31, 2021 in accordance with the reporting cycle of its ex-U.S. subsidiaries and as actual costs become known. Further, to the extent that Pfizer does not provide such preliminary information in the future, our provisional sales figures for territories outside of the United States will be subject to an even greater level of estimates and judgments. Any changes to the preliminary data we report herein may have an impact on our reported revenues and expenses, profitability or financial position.
Our COVID-19 vaccine is sensitive to temperature, shipping and storage conditions and could be subject to risk of loss or damage.
Our COVID-19 vaccine is, and other product candidates we develop could be, sensitive to temperature, storage and handling conditions. In particular, while we have improved the required shipping and storage conditions of our COVID-19 vaccine, it must be shipped and stored at cold temperatures. Loss in supply of our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates could occur if the product or product intermediates are not stored or handled properly. Shelf life for our product candidates may vary by product, and it is possible that supply of our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates could be lost due to expiration prior to use. This has in the past led, and could in the future, lead to additional manufacturing costs and delays in our ability to supply required quantities for clinical trials or for commercial purposes. Such distribution challenges may make our COVID-19 vaccine a less attractive product than other COVID-19 vaccines that do not require as cold storage, and our COVID-19 vaccine may become increasingly less competitive as additional other vaccines become authorized for emergency use. If we, our partners and customers are unable to adequately manage these issues, we may be exposed to product liability claims and the market opportunity for our COVID-19 vaccine may be reduced, each of which could adversely affect our business prospects and our financial condition could be materially harmed.
If we discover safety issues with our products, including our COVID-19 vaccine, that were not known at the time of approval, commercialization efforts for our products could be negatively affected, approved products could lose their approval or sales could be suspended, we could be subject to product liability claims, and our business and reputation could be materially harmed.
Our COVID-19 vaccine and any other product candidates for which we receive approval or emergency use authorization are subject to continuing regulatory oversight, including the review of additional safety information. Our COVID-19 vaccine is being more widely used by patients as an authorized product than it was used in clinical trials and therefore side effects and other problems may be observed after emergency use authorization that were not seen or anticipated, or were not as prevalent or severe, during clinical trials. We cannot provide assurance that newly discovered or developed safety issues will not arise. With the use of any vaccine by a wide patient population, serious adverse events may occur from time to time that did not arise in the clinical trials of the product or that initially appeared to be unrelated to the vaccine itself and only with the collection of subsequent information were found to be causally related to the product. Any such safety issues could cause us to suspend or cease marketing of our approved products, possibly subject us to substantial liabilities, and adversely affect our ability to generate revenue and our financial condition. The subsequent discovery of previously unknown problems with a product could negatively affect commercial sales of the product, result in restrictions on the product or lead to the withdrawal of the product from the market. The reporting of adverse safety events involving our products or public speculation about such events could cause the price of the ADSs representing our ordinary shares to decline or experience periods of volatility.
Unexpected safety issues, including any that we have not yet observed in our clinical trials for our COVID-19 vaccine or in real world data, could lead to significant reputational damage for us and our product development platforms going forward and other issues, including delays in our other programs, the need for re-design of our clinical trials and the need for significant additional financial resources.
Failure to comply with continuing regulatory requirements by us or our collaboration partners could adversely impact regulatory approvals for our products, result in product recalls or suspensions, subject us to fines and/or other types of liabilities.
If we or our collaborators fail to comply with applicable continuing regulatory requirements, including good industry practices, such as good manufacturing practices (GMP), we or our collaborators may be subject to fines, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approvals for specific drugs, product recalls and seizures, operating restrictions and/or criminal prosecutions. In addition, the manufacturers we engage to make our products and the manufacturing facilities in which our products are made are subject to periodic review and inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, and foreign regulatory authorities. If problems are identified during the review or inspection of these manufacturers or manufacturing facilities, it could result in our inability to use the facility to make our product or a determination that inventories are not safe for commercial sale. Any of these factors could adversely affect our business prospects and our financial position could be materially harmed.
We may be unsuccessful in adapting our COVID-19 vaccine or developing future versions of our COVID-19 vaccine to protect against variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and even if we are successful, a market for vaccines against these variants may not develop.
Our COVID-19 vaccine was developed based upon the genetic sequence of the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 virus that was first detected. The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to evolve, and new strains of the virus or those that are already in circulation may prove more transmissible or cause more severe forms of COVID-19 disease than the predominant strains observed to date. Our vaccine may not be as effective in protecting against existing and future variant strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as it is against the ancestral virus. While we continue to monitor emerging SARS-CoV-2 strains, undertake preclinical investigations into the immunogenicity of BNT162b2 against new variants, and develop a modified versions of BNT-162b2, these efforts may be unsuccessful, and failure to adapt our vaccine to variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus could lead to significant reputational harm and adversely affect our financial results. It is also possible that we may expend significant resources adapting our COVID-19 vaccine to protect against variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but that a market for this adapted vaccine does not develop or demand does not align with our projections or cost expenditures. Moreover, even if we are successful in developing an adapted vaccine and there is a market for this new vaccine, in the future there may be a new strain of the virus and our adapted vaccine may not be as effective in protecting against such future variant strain.
The successful commercialization of our 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 and implement pricing policies favorable for our product candidates. Failure to obtain or maintain coverage and adequate reimbursement for our product candidates, if approved, and/or delayed payments from government authorities could limit our ability to market those products and decrease our ability to generate revenue.
The availability and extent of reimbursement by governmental and private payors is essential for most patients to be able to afford certain treatments, including our COVID-19 vaccine and other product candidates we may develop and sell. In addition, because our mRNA product candidates represent an entirely new therapeutic modality, we cannot accurately estimate how future products we may develop and sell would be priced, whether reimbursement could be obtained, or any potential revenue. Sales of our product candidates will depend substantially, both domestically and abroad, on the extent to which the costs of our product candidates will be paid by health maintenance, managed care, pharmacy benefit, and similar healthcare management organizations, or reimbursed by government health administration authorities, private health coverage insurers and other third-party payors. If reimbursement is not available, or is available only to limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize our product candidates. Even if coverage is provided, the approved reimbursement amount may not be high enough to allow us to establish or maintain pricing sufficient to realize an adequate return on our investment in any of our products. Additionally, even if pricing terms with governmental authorities are agreed upon, there may be delayed or denied payments.
There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products in particular in the United States, including genetic medicines. In the United States, the principal decisions about
reimbursement for new medicines are typically made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, as CMS decides whether and to what extent a new medicine will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare. Private payors tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. It is difficult to predict what CMS will decide with respect to reimbursement for novel products such as ours. Reimbursement agencies in Europe may be more conservative than CMS. For example, a number of cancer drugs have been approved for reimbursement in the United States but have not been approved for reimbursement in certain European countries.
Outside the United States, certain countries, including a number of member states of the European Union, set prices and reimbursement for pharmaceutical products, with limited participation from the marketing authorization holders. We cannot be sure that such prices and reimbursement will be acceptable to us or our collaborators. If the regulatory authorities in these jurisdictions set prices or reimbursement levels that are not commercially attractive for us or our collaborators, our revenues from sales by us or our collaborators, and the potential profitability of our drug products, in those countries would be negatively affected. An increasing number of countries are taking initiatives to attempt to reduce large budget deficits by focusing cost-cutting efforts on pharmaceuticals for their state-run health care systems. These international price control efforts have impacted all regions of the world but have been most drastic in the European Union. Additionally, some countries require approval of the sale price of a product before it can be marketed. In many countries, the pricing review period begins after marketing or product licensing approval is granted. As a result, we might obtain marketing approval for a product in a particular country, but then may experience delays in the reimbursement approval of our product or be subject to price regulations that would delay our commercial launch of the product, possibly for lengthy time periods, which could negatively impact the revenues we are able to generate from the sale of the product in that particular country.
Moreover, increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payors, in the United States and abroad, to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and level of reimbursement for new products approved and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment for our product candidates. For example, the U.S. government recently released a “blueprint,” which is a plan to reduce the cost of drugs. The blueprint contains certain measures that the HHS is already working to implement. At the state level, legislatures are increasingly passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access, and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing.
We expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of any of our product candidates, due to the trend toward managed healthcare, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations and additional legislative changes. The downward pressure on healthcare costs in general, particularly prescription drugs and surgical procedures and other treatments, has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products in the marketplace.
The imposition of export controls on our COVID-19 vaccine in the European Union or in other jurisdictions could severely and adversely impact our manufacturing activities, commercial activities and financial results.
Governments of the jurisdictions in which we or our partners produce our COVID-19 vaccine may prohibit us from delivering orders of our COVID-19 vaccine to customers in other jurisdictions.
The European Union and other regions have imposed, or threatened to impose, export controls that would limit or block the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in or outside their territories in instances where manufacturers have been delayed or have not fully satisfied their delivery obligations to such governments. The European Union ended this export authorization scheme as of December 31, 2021, however if they reenact this scheme, we may be prohibited from exporting commercial supply of the vaccine from our manufacturing site in Germany to non-EU countries (and Pfizer may likewise be prohibited from exporting out of its manufacturing site in Belgium). Such restrictions may have a material impact on our manufacturing or distribution activities, and the commercialization of our COVID-19 vaccine.
Our ability to continue to generate income from sales of our COVID-19 vaccine is uncertain, due to government interest and public perception regarding a vaccine, as well as the evolving nature of the disease more generally.
As a result of the emergency pandemic situations in many countries, there is a heightened risk that a COVID-19 vaccine may be subject to adverse actions by governmental entities in certain countries, including intellectual property expropriation, compulsory licenses, strict price controls or other actions. In the U.S., the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (the “Defense Production Act”), gives the U.S. government rights and authorities that may directly or indirectly
diminish our own rights or economic opportunities with respect to our COVID-19 vaccine. Our current and potential third-party service providers may be impacted by government entities potentially invoking the Defense Production Act or other potential restrictions to all or a portion of services they might otherwise offer. The current presidential administration has communicated its intent to continue using the Defense Production Act to expand manufacturing capacity of vaccine and vaccine supplies as well as COVID-19 tests and testing supplies.
Additionally, we may need to, or we may be required by governmental or non-governmental authorities to, set aside specific quantities of doses of our COVID-19 vaccine for designated purposes or geographic areas. We face challenges related to the allocation of supply of our COVID-19 vaccine, particularly with respect to geographic distribution.
Furthermore, public sentiment regarding commercialization of a COVID-19 vaccine, the safety and efficacy of our COVID-19 vaccine, other COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, the COVID-19 pandemic generally, as well as public perception of the severity of SARS-CoV-2 virus may limit or negate our ability to generate income from sales of our COVID-19 vaccine. We believe that social media is increasingly being used to communicate information and misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and our and other COVID-19 vaccines. If social media posts and other communications contain negative, inaccurate or misleading information about our COVID-19 vaccine, demand for our COVID-19 vaccine may be diminished and we may suffer reputational damage.
The COVID-19 disease itself is very unpredictable, each variant comes with varying levels of transmissibilty and severity. Consequently, the burden of the disease may wane or dissipate such that our and other COVID-19 vaccines may be less essential from an individual and public health perspectives.
We face significant competition with other makers of COVID-19 vaccines and may be unable to maintain a competitive market share for our COVID-19 vaccine.
A large number of vaccine manufacturers, academic institutions and other organizations currently have programs to develop COVID-19 vaccine candidates and certain other vaccines have been authorized for emergency use or approved in various countries. For example, Moderna, Inc.’s and Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidates have been approved for emergency use in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and other countries and other vaccines have been approved for emergency use in other jurisdictions. While we are not aware of all of our competitors’ efforts, other vaccine candidates developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca plc, CanSino Biologics Inc., the Vector Institute, Novavax, Inc., China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm)/Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, Sinovac Biotech Ltd., Bharat Biotech International Limited and other companies are in late stages of clinical development or have been authorized for emergency use or approved in certain countries. Our competitors pursuing vaccine candidates may have greater financial, product candidate development, manufacturing and marketing resources than we do. Larger pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have extensive experience in clinical testing and obtaining regulatory approval for their products, and may have the resources to invest heavily to accelerate discovery and development of their vaccine candidates.
Our efforts to successfully commercialize our COVID-19 vaccine may fail if competitors develop and commercialize COVID-19 vaccines that are safer, more effective, produce longer immunity against COVID-19, require fewer administrations, have fewer or less severe side effects, have broader market acceptance, are more convenient to administer or distribute or are less expensive than any vaccine candidate that we have developed or we may develop.
We may not be able to demonstrate sufficient efficacy or safety of our COVID-19 vaccine to obtain permanent regulatory approval in jurisdictions where it has been authorized for emergency use or granted conditional marketing approval.
Our COVID-19 vaccine has been granted full U.S. FDA approval for individuals 16 years and older, emergency or limited use authorization in a number of countries and approval for use in certain other countries. Our COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved by regulatory authorities in many of such countries. We and Pfizer intend to continue to observe our COVID-19 vaccine and other variants of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in global clinical trials. It is possible that subsequent data from these clinical trials may not be as favorable as data we submitted to regulatory authorities to support our applications for emergency use authorization, marketing or conditional marketing approval or that concerns with the safety of our COVID-19 vaccine will arise from the widespread use of our COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials. Our COVID-19 vaccine may not receive approval outside of the emergency use setting in the countries where it is not currently approved, which could adversely affect our business prospects.
We are developing other product candidates in an environment of rapid technological and scientific change, and our failure to effectively compete would prevent us from achieving significant market penetration. Most of our competitors have significantly greater resources than we do and we may not be able to compete successfully.
The pharmaceutical market is intensely competitive and rapidly changing. Many large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic institutions, governmental agencies, and other public and private research organizations are pursuing the development of novel drugs for the same diseases that we are targeting or expect to target. Many of our competitors have:
•greater financial, technical and human resources than we have at every stage of the discovery, development, manufacture and commercialization of products;
•more extensive experience in preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals, and in manufacturing, marketing and selling drug products;
•product candidates that are based on previously tested or accepted technologies;
•products that have been approved or are in late stages of development; and
•collaborative arrangements in our target markets with leading companies and research institutions.
We will face intense competition from drugs that have already been approved and accepted by the medical community for the treatment of the conditions for which we may develop drugs in the future. We also expect to face competition from new drugs that enter the market. There are a number of drugs currently under development, which may become commercially available in the future, for the treatment of conditions for which we are trying, or may in the future try, to develop drugs. These drugs may be more effective, safer, less expensive, or marketed and sold more effectively, than any products we develop.
We anticipate competing with the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, many of which are all currently conducting research in the fields of infectious diseases, immuno-oncology, rare genetic diseases and cancer immunotherapies. Some of these companies have greater financial and human resources than we currently have. In addition to these large pharmaceutical companies, we may directly compete with fully-integrated biopharmaceutical companies and other immunotherapy-focused oncology companies, as well as a number of companies focused on immunotherapies or shared tumor antigen and neoantigen therapeutics, some of which have entered into collaboration and funding agreements with larger pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies.
If we successfully develop other product candidates, and obtain approval for them, we will face competition based on many different factors, including:
•the safety and effectiveness of our products relative to alternative therapies, if any;
•the ease with which our products can be administered and the extent to which patients accept relatively new routes of administration;
•the timing and scope of regulatory approvals for these products;
•the availability and cost of manufacturing, marketing and sales capabilities;
•the price of any approved immunotherapy;
•reimbursement coverage; and
•intellectual property position.
Our competitors may develop or commercialize products with significant advantages over any products we develop based on any of the factors listed above or on other factors. In addition, our competitors may develop collaborations with or receive funding from larger pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies, providing them with an advantage over us. Our competitors therefore may be more successful in commercializing their products than we are, which could adversely affect our competitive position and business. Competitive products may make any products we develop obsolete or noncompetitive before we can recover the expenses of developing and commercializing our products, if approved.
The market opportunities for certain of our product candidates may be small due to the rarity of the disease, or limited to those patients who are ineligible for or have failed prior treatments. As the target patient populations for some
of our programs are small, we may never achieve or maintain profitability without obtaining regulatory approval for additional indication.
The FDA often approves new cancer therapies initially only for use by patients with relapsed or refractory advanced cancer. We expect to seek approval initially of certain of our product candidates in this context. Subsequently, for those products that prove to be sufficiently beneficial, we would expect to seek approval in earlier lines of treatment and potentially as a first-line therapy but there is no guarantee that our product candidates, even if approved, would be approved for earlier lines of therapy, and, prior to any such approvals, we may have to conduct additional clinical trials. We are also developing product candidates for the treatment of rare diseases.
Our projections of the number of people who have or will have the diseases we may be targeting may prove to be incorrect. Further, new studies may change the estimated incidence or prevalence of these diseases. The number of trial participants may turn out to be lower than expected. Additionally, the potentially addressable patient population for our product candidates may be limited or may not be amenable to treatment with our product candidates. Even if we obtain significant market share for our products, if approved, because the potential target populations may be small, we may never achieve or maintain profitability without obtaining regulatory approval for additional indications.
We have only recently built our marketing and sales organization. If we are unable to continue to increase our marketing and sales capabilities on our own or through third parties, we may not be able to market and sell our product candidates effectively in the United States and other jurisdictions, if approved, or generate product sales revenue.
We have only recently developed our sales, distribution or marketing capabilities in Germany and Turkey, and, other than for our COVID-19 vaccine, we have not historically designed our preclinical studies and clinical trials with specific commercialization or marketing considerations in mind. To successfully commercialize our COVID-19 vaccine and any other products that may result from our development programs, we will need to continue developing sales and marketing capabilities in the United States, Europe and other regions, either on our own or with others. We may enter into collaborations with other entities to utilize their mature marketing and distribution capabilities, but we may be unable to enter into marketing agreements on favorable terms, if at all. If our current and future collaborators do not commit sufficient resources to commercialize our COVID-19 vaccine and our future products, if any, and we are unable to develop the necessary marketing capabilities on our own, we may be unable to generate sufficient product sales revenue to sustain our business. We will be competing with many companies that currently have extensive and well-funded marketing and sales operations. Without a significant internal team or the support of a third party to perform marketing and sales functions, we may be unable to compete successfully against these more established companies.
Our ability to maintain profitability depends in part on our and our collaborators’ ability to penetrate global markets, where we would be subject to additional regulatory burdens and other risks and uncertainties associated with international operations that could materially adversely affect our business.
Our ability to maintain profitability will depend in part on our ability and the ability of our collaborators to commercialize any products that we or our collaborators may develop in markets throughout the world. Commercialization of products in various markets could subject us to risks and uncertainties, including:
•obtaining, on a country-by-country basis, the applicable marketing authorization from the competent regulatory authority;
•the burden of complying with complex and changing regulatory, tax, accounting, labor and other legal requirements in each jurisdiction that we or our collaborators pursue;
•reduced protection for intellectual property rights;
•differing medical practices and customs affecting acceptance in the marketplace;
•import or export licensing requirements;
•governmental controls, trade restrictions or changes in tariffs;
•economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability in particular non-U.S. economies and markets;
•production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad;
•longer accounts receivable collection times;
•longer lead times for shipping;
•foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations;
•the impact of public health epidemics and pandemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, on employees and the global economy;
•reimbursement, pricing and insurance regimes; and
•the interpretation of contractual provisions governed by local laws in the event of a contract dispute.
We do not have prior experience in all of these areas, and the experience we do have in some of these areas is limited. Our collaborators may have limited experience in these areas as well. Failure to successfully navigate these risks and uncertainties may limit or prevent market penetration for any products that we or our collaborators may develop, which would limit their commercial potential and our revenues.
Even if we obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates, the products may not gain the market acceptance among physicians, patients, hospitals, treatment centers and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.
Even with the requisite approvals, the commercial success of our products will depend in part on the medical community, patients, and third- party or governmental payors accepting immunotherapies in general, and our products in particular, as medically useful, cost-effective and safe.
Any product that we bring to the market may not gain market acceptance by physicians, trial participants, third-party payors, and others in the medical community. Additionally, ethical, social and legal concerns about genetic research could result in additional regulations restricting or prohibiting the products and processes we may use. If these products do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product sales revenue and may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability. The degree of market acceptance of our product candidates, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:
•the potential efficacy and potential advantages over alternative treatments;
•the ability to offer our products, if approved, at competitive prices;
•the prevalence and severity of any side effects, including any limitations or warnings contained in a product’s approved labeling;
•the prevalence and severity of any side effects resulting from checkpoint inhibitors or other drugs or therapies with which our products are administered;
•relative convenience and ease of transportation, storage and administration;
•any restrictions on the use of our products, if approved, together with other medications;
•the willingness of the target patient population to try new therapies, such as mRNA vaccines and therapies, and of physicians to prescribe these therapies;
•the strength of marketing and distribution support and timing of market introduction of competitive products;
•publicity concerning our products or competing products and treatments; and
•sufficient third-party insurance coverage or reimbursement, and patients’ willingness to pay out-of-pocket in the absence of third- party coverage or adequate reimbursement.
Even if a potential product displays a favorable efficacy and safety profile in preclinical studies and clinical trials, market acceptance of the product will not be known until after it is launched. Our efforts to educate the medical community and third-party payors on the benefits of the products may require significant resources and may never be successful. Our efforts to educate the marketplace may require more resources than are required by the conventional technologies marketed by our competitors due to the complexity and uniqueness of our programs.
In addition, if any of our products are approved for marketing, we or a collaborator will be subject to significant regulatory obligations regarding the submission of safety and other post-marketing information and reports for such
product, and will need to continue to comply (or ensure that our third-party providers comply) with current good manufacturing practices, or GMP, and current good clinical practices, or GCP, for any clinical trials that we or a collaborator conduct post-approval. In addition, there is always the risk that we or a collaborator or regulatory authority might identify previously unknown problems with a product post-approval, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency. Compliance with these requirements is costly, and any such failure to comply or other issues with our product candidates identified post-approval could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Coverage and reimbursement may be limited or unavailable in certain market segments for our product candidates, which could make it difficult for us to sell our product candidates, if approved, profitably.
Successful sales of our product candidates, if approved, depend on the availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors including governmental healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid in the United States, managed care organizations and commercial payors, among others. Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any product candidates for which we obtain regulatory approval. In addition, because our product candidates represent new approaches to the treatment of cancer, we cannot accurately estimate the potential revenue from our product candidates.
Patients who are provided medical treatment for their conditions generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with their treatment. Obtaining coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors is critical to new product acceptance.
Third-party payors decide which drugs and treatments they will cover and the amount of reimbursement. Reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the third-party payor’s determination that use of a product is:
•a covered benefit under its health plan;
•safe, effective and medically necessary;
•appropriate for the specific patient;
•neither experimental nor investigational.
Obtaining coverage and reimbursement of a product from a government or other third-party payor is a time- consuming and costly process that could require us to provide to the payor supporting scientific, clinical and cost-effectiveness data for the use of our products. Third-party payors could require us to conduct additional studies, including post-marketing studies related to the cost effectiveness of a product, to qualify for reimbursement, which could be costly and divert our resources. Even if we obtain coverage for a given product, if the resulting reimbursement rates are insufficient, hospitals may not approve our product for use in their facility or third-party payors may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. Patients are unlikely to use our product candidates unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost of our product candidates. Separate reimbursement for the product itself may or may not be available. Instead, the hospital or administering physician may be reimbursed only for providing the treatment or procedure in which our product is used. Further, from time to time, CMS revises the reimbursement systems used to reimburse healthcare providers, including the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and Outpatient Prospective Payment System, which may result in reduced Medicare payments. In some cases, private third-party payors rely on all or portions of Medicare payment systems to determine payment rates. Changes to government healthcare programs that reduce payments under these programs may negatively impact payments from private third-party payors, and reduce the willingness of physicians to use our product candidates.
In the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for products can differ significantly from payor to payor. Further, one payor’s determination to provide coverage for a product does not assure that other payors will also provide coverage for the product. Adequate third-party reimbursement may not be available to enable us to maintain price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on our investment in product development.
We intend to seek approval to market our product candidates in the United States, the European Union and other selected jurisdictions. If we obtain approval for our product candidates in any particular jurisdiction, we will be subject to rules and regulations in that jurisdiction. In some countries, particularly those in Europe, the pricing of biologics is subject to governmental control. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after obtaining marketing approval of a product candidate. Some of these countries may require the completion of clinical trials that compare the cost-effectiveness of a particular product candidate to currently available therapies. Other member states allow companies to fix their own prices for medicines, but monitor and control company profits. The downward pressure on health care costs has become very intense. As a result, increasingly high barriers are being erected to the entry of new products into the marketplace. In addition, in some countries, cross-border imports from low-priced markets exert a commercial pressure on pricing within a country.
The marketability of any product candidates for which we receive regulatory approval for commercial sale may suffer if government and other third-party payors fail to provide coverage and adequate reimbursement. We expect downward pressure on pharmaceutical pricing to continue. Further, coverage policies and third-party reimbursement rates may change at any time. Even if favorable coverage and reimbursement status is attained for one or more products for which we receive regulatory approval, less favorable coverage policies and reimbursement rates may be implemented in the future.
The advancement of healthcare reform legislation may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize any product candidates we or our collaborators develop and may adversely affect the prices for such product candidates.
In the United States, there have been and continue to be a number of legislative initiatives to contain healthcare costs. For example, in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or the ACA, was passed, which substantially changes the way health care is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impacts the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, established annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs, and promoted a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program. Considerable uncertainty remains regarding the implementation and impact of the ACA.
Some of the provisions of the ACA have yet to be fully implemented, while certain provisions have been subject to judicial and Congressional challenges. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or the TCJA, includes a provision repealing the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the ACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” CMS proposed regulations that would give states greater flexibility in setting benchmarks for insurers in the individual and small group marketplaces, which may have the effect of relaxing the essential health benefits required under the ACA for plans sold through such marketplaces. Further, on October 13, 2017, an executive order was signed terminating the cost-sharing reduction, or CSR, subsidies that reimburse insurers under the ACA. The loss of the CSR payments is expected to increase premiums on certain policies issued by qualified health plans under the ACA. Several state Attorneys General filed suit to stop the administration from terminating the subsidies, but their request for a restraining order was denied by a federal judge in California on October 25, 2017. Another executive order was signed directing federal agencies with authorities and responsibilities under the ACA to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision of the ACA that would impose a fiscal burden on states or a cost, fee, tax, penalty or regulatory burden on individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. With the current presidential administration and Congress, there may be additional administrative or legislative changes, including modification, repeal or replacement of all, or certain provisions of, the ACA. However, it remains to be seen whether new legislation modifying the ACA will be enacted and, if so, precisely what the new legislation will provide, when it will be enacted and what impact it will have on the availability of healthcare and containing or lowering the cost of healthcare. The implications of a potential repeal or replacement of the ACA, for our and our collaborators’ business and financial condition, if any, are not yet clear.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. The Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers up to 2% per fiscal year. These reductions will remain in effect through 2025 unless additional congressional action is taken.
The delivery of healthcare in the European Union, including the establishment and operation of health services and the pricing and reimbursement of medicines, is almost exclusively a matter for national, rather than European Union, law and policy. National governments and health service providers have different priorities and approaches to the delivery of healthcare and the pricing and reimbursement of products in that context. In general, however, the healthcare budgetary constraints in most EU member states have resulted in restrictions on the pricing and reimbursement of medicines by relevant health service providers. Coupled with ever-increasing European Union and national regulatory burdens on those wishing to develop and market products, this could prevent or delay marketing approval of our product candidates, restrict or regulate post- approval activities, and affect our ability to commercialize any products for which we obtain marketing approval.
We expect that additional healthcare reform measures or proposals will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our product candidates or additional pricing pressures. In the event that the pricing structures for healthcare products, such as the product candidates we are developing, change materially and limit payments for such product candidates, our business will be adversely impacted as our products may no longer be commercially viable based on their expected net present value; we may have invested significant resources in products that cannot be commercially developed; or we may determine that assets that have reached an early phase of development cannot or will not be taken into further development, notwithstanding their clinical viability. In addition, development assets or clinical programs that are part of our collaborations may no longer be deemed commercially viable to pursue based on our collaborators’ assessments of the impact of any proposed, announced, or legislated pricing reforms.
We cannot predict what healthcare reform initiatives may be adopted in the future. Further legislative and regulatory developments are likely, and we expect ongoing initiatives to increase pressure on drug pricing. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenues from product candidates that we may successfully develop and for which we may obtain regulatory approval, and may affect our overall financial condition and ability to develop product candidates.
European Union drug marketing and reimbursement regulations may materially affect our ability to market and receive coverage for our products in the member states of the European Union.
We intend to seek approval to market our product candidates in both the United States and in other selected jurisdictions. If we obtain approval for our product candidates in a particular jurisdiction, we will be subject to rules and regulations in that jurisdiction. In some countries, particularly those in the European Union, the pricing of biologics is subject to governmental control and other market regulations that could put pressure on the pricing and usage of our product candidates. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after obtaining marketing approval of a product candidate. In addition, market acceptance and sales of our product candidates will depend significantly on the availability of adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors for our product candidates and may be affected by existing and future healthcare reform measures.
In addition, in most countries outside the United States, the proposed pricing for a drug must be approved before it may be lawfully marketed. The requirements governing drug pricing and reimbursement vary widely from country to country. For example, the European Union provides options for its member states to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. Reference pricing used by various member states and parallel distribution, or arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced member states, can further reduce prices. A member state may approve a specific price for the medicinal product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. In some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical trial or other studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of any of our product candidates to other available therapies in order to obtain or maintain reimbursement or pricing approval. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for pharmaceutical products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our products. Historically, products launched in the European Union do not follow price structures of the United States and, generally, prices tend to be significantly lower in the European Union. Publication of discounts by third-party payors or authorities may lead to further pressure on the prices or reimbursement levels within the country of publication and other countries. If pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels or if reimbursement of our products is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, our revenues from sales by us or our collaborators and the potential profitability of any of our product candidates in those countries would be negatively affected.
Risks Related to our Financial Condition and Capital Requirements
We have incurred significant losses in the past and we may incur significant losses in the future, which makes it difficult to assess our future viability.
Historically, we have incurred significant losses and negative cash flows from operations due to our significant research and development expenses and our investment in our manufacturing capabilities. As of December 31, 2020, our accumulated losses amounted to €409.6 million. Those loses have been compensated by the profit generated during the year ended December 31, 2021 and our retained earnings as of December 31, 2021 amounted to €9,882.9 million. Prior to December 2020 we funded our operations primarily from private placements of our ordinary shares, issuances of ordinary shares (including in the form of American Depositary Shares, or ADSs) in connection with our public offerings, generation of proceeds under our collaboration agreements, secured bank loans and issuance of a convertible note. Since December 2020, our COVID-19 vaccine has been fully approved, granted conditional marketing authorization, or approved or authorized for emergency or temporary use in over 100 countries and regions worldwide, which resulted in recognition of revenues from the commercial sale of pharmaceutical products for the first time. Consequently, we have progressed from earning revenues primarily from research and development to earning revenues from commercial sales. We plan to invest heavily in R&D as we make a strong drive to build out our global development organization and diversify our therapeutic area footprint. Additionally, we plan to enhance capabilities through complementary acquisitions, technologies, infrastructure and manufacturing. Even for those products for which we have obtained regulatory approval or emergency use authorization, our future revenues will depend upon the size of any markets in which our product candidates have received approval or authorization to market, our ability to achieve sufficient market acceptance, reimbursement from third-party payors, and adequate market share in those markets. If achieved, profitability is difficult to maintain over time and is highly dependent on various factors. Our future financial results will depend, in part, on the rate of our future expenditures, the extent to which we experience long-term success of our commercial products and our ability to obtain funding through equity or debt financings, sales of assets, collaborations or grants.
We expect to continue to incur significant and increasing operating expenses for the foreseeable future. We anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if and as we and our collaborators:
•continue or expand our research or development of our programs in preclinical development;
•continue or expand the scope of our clinical trials for our product candidates;
•initiate additional preclinical, clinical, or other trials for our product candidates, including under our collaboration agreements;
•continue to invest in our immunotherapy platforms to conduct research to identify novel technologies;
•change or increase our manufacturing capacity or capability;
•change or add additional suppliers;
•add additional infrastructure to our quality control, quality assurance, legal, compliance and other groups to support our operations as a public company and our product development and commercialization efforts, including expansion of sites in Germany and new sites in the United States, and potentially others globally;
•attract and retain skilled personnel;
•seek marketing approvals and reimbursement for our product candidates;
•develop our sales, marketing, and distribution infrastructure for our COVID-19 vaccine and any other products for which we may obtain marketing approval or emergency use authorization;
•seek to identify and validate additional product candidates;
•acquire or in-license other product candidates and technologies;
•acquire other companies;
•make milestone or other payments under any in-license agreements;
•maintain, protect, defend, enforce and expand our intellectual property portfolio; and
•experience any delays or encounter issues with any of the above.
Our operating results may fluctuate significantly, which makes our future operating results difficult to predict. If our operating results fall below expectations, the price of the ADSs representing our shares could decline.
Our financial condition and operating results have varied in the past and will continue to fluctuate from one financial period to the next due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control.
Factors relating to our business that may contribute to these fluctuations include the following, as well as other factors described elsewhere in this report:
•the size and timing of orders for our COVID-19 vaccine;
•delays or failures in advancement of existing or future product candidates into the clinic or in clinical trials;
•the occurrence of adverse events during our clinical trials or post marketing authorization;
•our ability to develop and manufacture our product candidates and commercialize and manufacture our COVID-19 vaccine at commercial scale;
•our ability to manage our growth;
•our ability execute our corporate objectives;
•the outcomes of research programs, clinical trials, or other product development or approval processes conducted by us and our collaborators;
•the ability of our collaborators to develop and successfully commercialize products developed from our suite of therapeutic classes;
•our relationships, and any associated exclusivity terms, with collaborators;
•our contractual or other obligations to provide resources to fund our product candidates, and to provide resources to our collaborators or to the collaborations themselves;
•the extent to which we repurchase outstanding ADSs under our share repurchase plan;
•risks associated with the international aspects of our business outside Germany, including the conduct of clinical trials in multiple locations and potential commercialization in such locations;
•our ability to minimize and manage product recalls or inventory losses caused by unforeseen events, cold chain interruption or testing difficulties;
•our ability to report our financial results accurately and in a timely manner;
•our dependence on, and the need to attract and retain, key management and other personnel;
•our ability to obtain, protect, maintain, defend and enforce our intellectual property rights;
•our ability to prevent the theft or infringement, misappropriation or other violation of our intellectual property, trade secrets, know- how or technologies;
•our and our collaborators’ ability to defend against claims of infringement of the intellectual property rights of third parties;
•potential advantages that our competitors and potential competitors may have in securing funding, obtaining the rights to critical intellectual property or developing competing technologies or products;
•our ability to obtain additional capital that may be necessary to expand our business;
•our collaborators’ ability to obtain and devote additional capital that may be necessary to develop and commercialize products under our collaboration agreements, including our COVID-19 vaccine;
•our ability to minimize and manage product liability claims arising from the use of our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates and other future products, if approved;
•business interruptions such as power outages, strikes, acts of terrorism or natural disasters; and
•our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards to offset future taxable income.
Each of the factors listed above may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic’s or its impact on the global community and the global economy.
Due to the various factors mentioned above, and others, the results of any of our periods should not be relied upon as indications of our future operating performance. Our operating results may fluctuate significantly from one reporting period to the next, such that a period-to-period comparison of our results of operations may not be a good indication of our future performance.
In any particular period, our operating results could be below the expectations of securities analysts or investors, which could cause the price of the ADSs to decline. While as a general matter we intend to periodically report on the status of our product candidate pipeline, including articulating anticipated next steps in the form of development plans or potential data readouts, we may not always be able to provide forward-looking guidance on the timing of those next steps. In addition, we do not control the timing of disclosures of any milestones related to any of our programs that are managed by our collaborators. Any disclosure by a collaborator of data that are perceived as negative, whether or not such data are related to other data that we or others release, may have a material adverse impact on the price of the ADSs or overall valuation. The price of the ADSs may decline as a result of unexpected clinical trial results in one or more of our programs, including adverse safety events reported for any of our programs.
Profitability is difficult to maintain over time and highly dependent on various factors.
Our ability to continue to generate revenue and maintain profitability depends on our ability, alone or with collaborators, to successfully complete the development of, and obtain the regulatory approvals necessary to commercialize our product candidates. Although we generate revenue from sales of our COVID-19 vaccine and additional limited revenue from other sales transactions, the amount of long-term revenue from such sales, including the sales of our COVID-19 vaccine, is uncertain at this time. Our ability to generate future revenues from other pharmaceutical product sales depends heavily on our success in:
•completing research and preclinical and clinical development of our product candidates;
•seeking and obtaining U.S. and non-U.S. marketing approvals for product candidates for which we complete clinical trials;
•seeking and obtaining market access and favorable pricing terms in the United States, the European Union, and other key geographies;
•furthering the development of our own manufacturing capabilities and manufacturing relationships with third parties in order to provide adequate (in amount and quality) products and services to support clinical development and the market demand for our product candidates, if approved;
•obtaining market acceptance of our product candidates as a treatment option;
•launching and commercializing product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval and reimbursement, either through collaborations or, if launched independently, by establishing a sales force, marketing and distribution infrastructure;
•addressing any competing technological and market developments, in particular, declining demand for any of our approved products;
•implementing additional internal systems and infrastructure;
•negotiating favorable terms in any collaboration, licensing or other arrangements into which we may enter;
•maintaining, defending, protecting, enforcing and expanding our portfolio of intellectual property rights, including patents, trade secrets and know-how; and
•attracting, hiring and retaining qualified personnel.
Additionally, we have incurred significant costs associated with the commercialization of our COVID-19 vaccine. Our expenses could increase beyond our expectations if we are required by the FDA, the EMA, or other regulatory agencies to perform clinical and other trials or make changes to our manufacturing or quality systems in addition to those that we currently anticipate. Accordingly, such costs could adversely affect our future profitability.
The amount of and our ability to use, net operating losses and research and development credits to offset future taxable income may be subject to certain limitations and uncertainty. In addition, pending and future tax audits within our group, disputes with tax authorities and changes in tax law or fiscal regulations could lead to additional tax liabilities. We are subject to routine tax audits by the respective local tax authorities. Any additional tax liability could have an adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations or prospects.
In Germany, we have unused tax loss carryforwards for corporate taxes for German non tax group entities, though we have not recognized deferred tax assets related to such loss carryforwards for International Financial Reporting Standards, or IFRS, reporting purposes until December 31, 2021. Deferred tax assets are recognized for unused tax losses only to the extent that it is probable that taxable profit will be available against which the losses can be utilized. In general, net operating loss, or NOL, carryforwards in Germany do not expire. Furthermore, under current German tax laws, certain substantial changes in the Company’s ownership and business may further limit the amount of NOL carryforwards that can be used annually to offset future taxable income.
For the German tax group we incurred tax losses up to and including December 31, 2020. Even though we recognized deferred tax assets on a majority of German tax loss carry forwards in 2020 which were fully utilized in 2021, they are, however, subject to review and possible adjustment by the German tax authorities.
In addition, we have U.S. federal and state NOL carryforwards due to our subsidiaries in the United States, which may be subject to limitations on use after an ownership change.
We may not be able to utilize a material portion of our historic or current NOLs or credits in either Germany resulting from our German tax group or non tax group entities in Germany or the United States until these have been finally assessed by the tax authorities or when the limitation period has passed. In addition, the rules regarding the timing of revenue and expense recognition for tax purposes in connection with various transactions are complex and uncertain in many respects, and, if challenged, our recognition may be subject to a revised assessment. In the event any such challenge is sustained, our NOLs could be materially reduced or we could be determined to be a material cash taxpayer for one or more years which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations or prospects.
Furthermore, our ability to use our NOLs or credits is conditioned upon our attaining profitability and generating taxable income. Taxable income exceeding NOLs will be subject to taxation resulting tax liabilities. As described above, we have incurred significant net losses in every year since our inception other than 2018 and 2021 and anticipate that in the future, we may incur significant losses for some of the group entities. Our ability to utilize our NOL or credit carryforwards in the United States and for some German group entities is uncertain.
Under German tax laws, we are obligated to withhold a percentage of wage tax and social security contributions on personnel expenses if contract services providers are considered to be our internal employees and remit those withholdings to German tax authorities and social security institutions. Late payments may subject us to penalties and fees.
Under German tax and social security laws, we are obligated to withhold a percentage of payments we make to third parties in consideration of the services provided, in case these are considered employment payments, and remit those withholdings to German tax authorities and social security institutions. As a result of an internal review, we discovered that especially in the most recent years, where a significant volume of service providers have been engaged to ensure research, development, manufacturing and general supply capabilities of our COVID-19 vaccine, we and certain of our subsidiaries did not withhold, report and remit certain wage taxes and social security contributions in connection with the contract service providers where some have been engaged in a manner comparable to internal employees as required to be withheld under German tax and social security laws, and have not made the requisite recordings in our and their financial books and records in relation to such wage taxes and social security contributions. We notified the tax authorities of these possible late payments. No administrative offense or criminal proceeding have been opened as of the date of this report.
It is not possible to seek the refund of these wage taxes or social security contributions from either the German Tax authorities of social security institutions after filing returns. In Germany, employers are considered secondarily liable for wage taxes.
In addition value added taxes on invoices received by contract services providers, who are considered internal employees, has to be considered non-deductible and needs to be repaid to the German Tax authorities. There is a possibility to reclaim the VAT repaid to the German Tax authorities from the service provider. As of December 31, 2021 the majority of these amounts have been refunded. However, there is a possibility that the relevant input VAT claims against the
contract service providers, may in some instances, not be enforceable as a result of a contract service provider no longer existing, the lapse of time or any other facts preventing the enforcement of such claims.
We may require substantial additional financing to achieve our goals, and a failure to obtain this capital on acceptable terms, or at all, could force us to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our product development programs, commercialization efforts or other operations.
As of December 31, 2021, we had cash and cash equivalents of €1,692.7 million. Our operating plans 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, sales of assets, marketing and distribution arrangements, other collaborations and licensing arrangements, or a combination of these approaches. We may require additional capital to obtain regulatory approval for, and to commercialize, future product candidates. 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. Our spending will vary based on new and ongoing development and corporate activities. Due to the high uncertainty of the length of time and activities associated with discovery and development of our product candidates, we are unable to estimate the actual funds we will require for development, marketing and commercialization activities.
Our future funding requirements, both near and long term, will depend on many factors, including, but not limited to:
•the initiation, progress, timing, costs, and results of preclinical or nonclinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidates;
•the amount and timing of revenues and associated costs from sales of our COVID-19 vaccine;
•the results of research and our other platform activities;
•the clinical development plans we establish for our product candidates;
•the terms of any agreements with our current or future collaborators, and the achievement of any milestone payments under such agreements to be paid to us or our collaborators;
•the terms of any other strategic transactions, including relating to any acquisitions, into which we enter;
•the number and characteristics of product candidates that we develop or may in-license;
•the outcome, timing and cost of meeting regulatory requirements established by the FDA, the EMA and other comparable regulatory authorities;
•the cost of filing, prosecuting, obtaining, maintaining, protecting, defending and enforcing our patent claims and other intellectual property rights, including actions for patent and other intellectual property infringement, misappropriation and other violations brought by third parties against us regarding our product candidates or actions by us challenging the patent or intellectual property rights of others;
•the effect of competing technological and market developments, including other products that may compete with one or more of our product candidates;
•the cost and timing of completion and further expansion of clinical and commercial scale manufacturing activities sufficient to support all of our current and future programs; and
•the cost of establishing sales, marketing, and distribution capabilities for any product candidates for which we may receive marketing approval and reimbursement in regions where we choose to commercialize our products on our own.
To date, we have financed our operations primarily through the sale of equity securities, revenue from collaborations, and revenue from sales of our COVID-19 vaccine, and we cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on favorable terms, or at all. We are currently generating product sales or royalty revenue to finance our operations, however should this change in the future we expect to finance our future cash needs through a combination of product sales, public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, licensing arrangements, and other marketing or distribution arrangements. Any fundraising efforts may divert our management from their day-to-day activities, which may adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates. In addition, we cannot guarantee that future financing will be available in sufficient amounts, at the right time, on favorable terms, or at all, including as a result of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and other global events, such as political upheavals, may have on the capital markets.
Negative clinical trial data or setbacks, or perceived setbacks, in our programs or with respect to our technology could impair our ability to raise additional financing on favorable terms, or at all. Moreover, the terms of any financing may adversely affect the holdings or the rights of our shareholders, 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. If we raise additional funds through public or private equity offerings, the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that may adversely affect our shareholders’ rights.
Further, to the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of ADSs, ordinary shares or securities convertible or exchangeable into ordinary shares, share ownership interests will be diluted. We have entered into three credit facilities with an aggregate drawing capacity of €23.0 million which are all drawn down as of December 31, 2021, and for all of which first scheduled repayments have occurred. Subsequent to the end of the reporting period, on February 25, 2022 we agreed to repay two of the credit facilities amounting to €19.5 million. If we raise additional capital through debt financing, we would be subject to fixed payment obligations and may be subject to security interests in our assets and covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends. If we raise additional capital through marketing and distribution arrangements, sales of assets, collaborations, or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish certain valuable rights to our product candidates, technologies, future revenue streams or research programs. We also could be required to seek collaborators for one or more of our current or future product candidates at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable or relinquish our rights to product candidates or intellectual property that we otherwise would seek to develop or commercialize ourselves. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts, at the right time, on favorable terms, or at all, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue the development or commercialization of one or more of our products or product candidates, or one or more of our other research and development initiatives. Any of the above events could significantly harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations, cause the price of the ADSs to decline, and negatively impact our ability to fund operations.
We will need to continue to develop and expand our company, and we may encounter difficulties in managing this development and expansion, which could disrupt our operations.
To manage our anticipated development and expansion, we must continue to implement and improve our managerial, operational, legal, compliance and financial systems, expand our facilities, and continue to recruit and train additional qualified personnel. In addition, our management may need to divert a disproportionate amount of its attention away from its day-to-day activities and devote a substantial amount of time to managing these development activities.
As a growing biotechnology company, we are actively pursuing drug classes, platforms and product candidates in many therapeutic areas and across a wide range of diseases. Successfully developing products for, and fully understanding the regulatory and manufacturing pathways to, all of these therapeutic areas and disease states requires a significant depth of talent, resources and corporate processes in order to allow simultaneous execution across multiple areas. Due to our limited resources, we may not be able to effectively manage this simultaneous execution and the expansion of our operations or recruit and train additional qualified personnel. This may result in weaknesses in our infrastructure, give rise to operational mistakes, legal or regulatory compliance failures, loss of business opportunities, loss of employees and reduced productivity among remaining employees. The physical expansion of our operations may lead to significant costs and may divert financial resources from other projects, such as the development of our product candidates. 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 effectively implement our business strategy. Our future financial performance and our ability to compete effectively and commercialize our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates, if approved, will depend in part on our ability to effectively manage the current and future development and expansion of our company.
We have incurred increased costs as a result of operating as a public company, and our management has been required to devote substantial time to new compliance initiatives. We are subject to financial reporting and other requirements for which our accounting and other management systems and resources may not be adequately prepared. We may fail to comply with the rules that apply to public companies, including Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which could result in sanctions or other penalties that would harm the business.
As a public company, we incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses. The federal securities laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, or Nasdaq, have imposed various requirements on public companies, including
requirements to file annual and event-driven reports with respect to our business and financial condition, and to establish and maintain effective disclosure and financial controls and corporate governance practices. Our management and other personnel need to devote a substantial amount of time to these compliance initiatives. Moreover, these rules and regulations result in substantial legal and financial compliance costs and have made some activities time-consuming and costly. We may not be able to produce reliable financial statements or file these financial statements as part of a periodic report in a timely manner with the SEC or comply with Nasdaq listing requirements. In addition, we could make errors in our financial statements that could require us to restate our financial statements.
Pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or Section 404, we are required to furnish a report by our management on our internal control over financial reporting, including the attestation report on internal control over financial reporting issued by our independent registered public accounting firm. To maintain compliance with Section 404, we document and evaluate our internal control over financial reporting, which is both costly and challenging. In this regard, we have needed to continue to dedicate internal resources, have engaged outside consultants, and have adopted a detailed work plan to assess and document the adequacy of internal control over financial reporting. We will continue to implement steps to improve control processes as appropriate, validate through testing that controls are functioning as documented, and implement a continuous reporting and improvement process for internal control over financial reporting. Despite our efforts, there is a risk that in the future neither we nor our independent registered public accounting firm will be able to conclude within the prescribed timeframe that our internal control over financial reporting is effective as required by Section 404. This could result in an adverse reaction in the financial markets due to a loss of confidence in the reliability of our financial statements.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or the Dodd-Frank Act contains significant corporate governance and executive compensation related provisions that require the SEC to adopt additional rules and regulations in these areas such as “say on pay” and proxy access. Shareholder activism, the current political environment, and the current high level of government intervention and regulatory reform may lead to substantial new regulations and disclosure obligations, which may lead to additional compliance costs and impact the manner in which we operate our business in ways we cannot currently anticipate. Our management and other personnel need to devote a substantial amount of time to these compliance initiatives.
In the past we have identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting and may identify additional material weaknesses in the future that may cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations or result in material misstatements in our financial statements. If we identify material weaknesses in the future and fail to remediate such material weaknesses, we may not be able to report our financial results accurately or to prevent fraud.
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining internal control over financial reporting, disclosure controls, and compliance with the other requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the rules promulgated by the SEC thereunder. Internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements in accordance with international financial reporting standards. A material weakness is defined as a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of a company’s annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected by the company’s internal controls on a timely basis.
Prior to our initial public offering, we operated as a private company that was not required to comply with the obligations of a public company with respect to internal control over financial reporting. We had historically operated with limited accounting personnel and other resources with which to address our internal control over financial reporting.
We and our auditors identified a material weakness in 2019 which constituted a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting in both design and operation. As of December 31, 2021, this material weakness has been fully remediated, as verified by our external auditors.
If we identify material weaknesses in the future and are unable to successfully remediate such material weaknesses or successfully supervise and rely on outside advisors with expertise in these matters to assist us in the preparation of our financial statements, our financial statements could contain material misstatements that, when discovered in the future, could cause us to fail to meet our future reporting obligations and cause the price of the ADSs to decline.
We have various international trade obligations including customs value calculation, customs tariff number classification and other related securities requirements. Late payments to customs authorities may subject us to penalties and fees.
Our supply chain, production and distribution network across the globe creates an increasing level of complexity in customs and foreign trade processes. The requirements for internal control systems are increasing and must be developed simultaneously. The risk management system for customs and foreign trade, which we are continuously improving, determines which stakeholders, goods, and means of transport should be examined and to what extent. These risks include the potential for non-compliance with customs value calculation, customs tariff number classification, trade restrictions, security regulations as well as the potential failure to facilitate international trade.
We are, and will likely continue to be, subject to various audits that arise from time to time, including customs and potential future foreign trade audits.
As a result of an internal review, we discovered that especially in the most recent years, where a significant increase of shipments took place, international trade obligations such as correct customs value calculation of our and certain of our subsidiaries have not been applied correctly and we have made the requisite recordings in our financial books and records in relation to such customs duties. We notified the customs authorities of these possible late payments. No administrative offense or criminal proceeding have been opened as of the date of this report. The expenses are partially subject to reimbursement under our collaboration agreement with Pfizer.
As a “foreign private issuer,” we are exempt from a number of rules under the U.S. securities laws, as well as Nasdaq rules, and we are permitted to file less information with the SEC than U.S. companies. This may limit the information available to holders of the ADSs and may make our ordinary shares and the ADSs less attractive to investors.
We are a “foreign private issuer,” as defined in the rules and regulations of the SEC, and, consequently, we are not subject to all of the disclosure requirements applicable to companies organized within the United States. For example, we are exempt from certain rules under the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, that regulate disclosure obligations and procedural requirements related to the solicitation of proxies, consents or authorizations applicable to a security registered under the Exchange Act. In addition, our officers and directors are exempt from the reporting and “short-swing” profit recovery provisions of Section 16 of the Exchange Act and related rules with respect to their purchases and sales of our securities. Moreover, we are not required to file periodic reports and financial statements with the SEC as frequently or as promptly as U.S. public companies. Accordingly, there may be less publicly available information concerning our company than there is for U.S. public companies.
As a foreign private issuer, we file an Annual Report on Form 20-F within four months of the close of each fiscal year ending December 31 and reports on Form 6-K relating to certain material events promptly after we publicly announce these events. Additionally, we rely on a provision in Nasdaq’s Listed Company Manual that allows us to follow German company law and European law applicable to European stock corporations in general, the German Stock Corporation Act (Aktiengesetz), the Council Regulation (EC) No 2157/2001 of October 8, 2001 on the Statute for a European company (SE), or the SE Regulation, and the German Act on the Implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 2157/2001 of October 8, 2001 on the Statute for a European company (SE) (Gesetz zur Ausführung der Verordnung (EG) NR. 2157/2001 des Rates vom 8. Oktober 2001 über das Statut der Europäischen Gesellschaft (SE)) (SE-Ausführungsgesetz-SEAG), in particular with regard to certain aspects of corporate governance. This allows us to follow certain corporate governance practices that differ in significant respects from the corporate governance requirements applicable to U.S. companies listed on Nasdaq.
For example, we are exempt from regulations of Nasdaq that require a listed U.S. company to:
•have a majority of the board of directors consist of independent directors;
•require non-management directors to meet on a regular basis without management present;
•adopt a code of conduct and promptly disclose any waivers of the code for directors or executive officers that should address certain specified items;
•have an independent compensation committee;
•have an independent nominating committee;
•solicit proxies and provide proxy statements for all shareholder meetings;
•review related party transactions; and
•seek shareholder approval for the implementation of certain equity compensation plans and issuances of ordinary shares.
As a foreign private issuer, we are permitted to follow home country practice in lieu of the above requirements. We therefore continue to follow German corporate governance practices in lieu of the corporate governance requirements of Nasdaq in certain respects. In particular, we follow German corporate governance practices in connection with the distribution of annual and interim reports to shareholders, the application of our code of conduct to our Supervisory Board, executive remuneration disclosure, proxy solicitation in connection with shareholders’ meetings, and obtaining shareholder approval in connection with the establishment of, or material amendment to, certain equity- based compensation plans.
In accordance with our Nasdaq listing, our audit committee is required to comply with the provisions of Section 301 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and Rule 10A-3 of the Exchange Act, both of which are also applicable to U.S. companies listed on Nasdaq. As we are a foreign private issuer, however, our audit committee is not subject to additional requirements of Nasdaq applicable to listed U.S. companies, including an affirmative determination that all members of the audit committee are “independent,” using more stringent criteria than those applicable to us as a foreign private issuer.
Due to the above exemptions for foreign private issuers, our shareholders will not be afforded the same protections or information generally available to investors holding shares in public companies organized in the United States, some investors may find the ADSs less attractive as a result, and there may be a less active trading market for the ADSs.
We face risks related to catastrophic global events including natural disasters, political crises, or public health epidemics and pandemics, such as COVID-19, that could adversely affect our operations.
Our business could be adversely impacted by the effects of catastrophic global events including natural disasters such as an earthquake, fire, hurricane, tornado, flood or significant power outage; public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic; political crises, such as terrorist attacks, war and other political instability, including the ongoing geopolitical tensions related to Russia's actions in Ukraine, resulting sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries and retaliatory actions taken by Russia in response to such sanctions; or other catastrophic events.
In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic may negatively impact our operations in the future and could also affect our ability to enroll patients in clinical studies and complete clinical trials on the timelines we currently anticipate. Certain of our programs have experienced delays in the clinical development process as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we have modified our business practices, in response to the spread of COVID-19, including restricting employee travel, developing social distancing plans for employees and cancelling physical participation in meetings, events and conferences. This partial disruption, even temporary, may severely impact our operations and overall business by delaying the progress of our clinical trials and preclinical studies. Our operations, including research and manufacturing, could also be disrupted due to the potential impact of staff absences as a result of self-isolation procedures or extended illness.
Our suppliers, licensors or collaborators could also be disrupted by conditions related to COVID-19, or other pandemics and epidemics, possibly resulting in disruption to our supply chain, clinical trials, partnerships or operations. If our suppliers, licensors, contract research organizations, or CROs, or collaborators are unable or fail to fulfill their obligations to us for any reason, our business could be adversely affected. Our customers could also be disrupted by conditions related to COVID-19 or other epidemics, possibly through deferring purchasing decisions or delaying research programs.
Although we have generated revenues from sales of our COVID-19 vaccine, there remains uncertainty regarding other potential effects of COVID-19 on our business. For example, if a new variant of COVID-19 emerges for which existing vaccines, including our COVID-19 vaccine, are ineffective, infections may become even more widespread or result in an economic downturn that could affect demand for our products and services or our ability to raise capital, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition.
Our insurance policies are expensive and protect us only from some business risks, which leaves us exposed to significant uninsured liabilities.
We do not carry insurance for all categories of risk that our business may encounter and insurance coverage is becoming increasingly expensive. We do not know if we will be able to maintain existing insurance with adequate levels of coverage, and any liability insurance coverage we acquire in the future may not be sufficient to reimburse us for any expenses or losses we may suffer. We currently maintain insurance coverage for losses relating to property damage and an interruption of our development, manufacturing or commercialization efforts. With the grant of the first marketing approvals for our COVID-19 vaccine we have acquired additional insurance coverage for losses relating to transportation and storage of our COVID-19 vaccine and product liability claims arising from its use, and the coverage or coverage limits of our insurance policies may not be adequate. If our losses exceed our insurance coverage, our financial condition would be adversely affected. In the event of contamination or injury, we could be held liable for damages or be penalized with fines in an amount exceeding our resources. Clinical trials or regulatory approvals for any of our product candidates could be suspended, which could adversely affect our results of operations and business, including by preventing or limiting the development and commercialization of any product candidates that we or our collaborators may develop.
Additionally, operating as a public company has made it more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance. As a result, it may be more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified individuals to serve on our Supervisory Board, our Management Board, or our board committees.
Risks Related to our Business
Our business is dependent on the successful development, regulatory approval and commercialization of product candidates based on our technology platforms. If we and our collaborators are unable to obtain approval for and effectively commercialize our product candidates for the treatment of patients in their intended indications, our business would be significantly harmed.
Even if we complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials, the marketing approval process is expensive, time-consuming and uncertain, and we may not be able to obtain approvals for the commercialization of product candidates we may develop. Any product candidates we may develop and the activities associated with its development and commercialization, including design, testing, manufacture, recordkeeping, labeling, storage, approval, advertising, promotion, sale and distribution, are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FDA and by comparable global health authorities. To obtain the requisite regulatory approvals to commercialize any of our product candidates, we and our collaborators must demonstrate through extensive preclinical studies and clinical trials that our products are safe and effective, including in the target populations. Successful completion of clinical trials is a prerequisite to submitting a biologics license application, or BLA, or a new drug application, or NDA, to the FDA, a Marketing Authorization Application, or MAA, to the EMA, and similar marketing applications to comparable global regulatory authorities, for each product candidate and, consequently, the ultimate approval and commercial marketing of any product candidates.
Failure to obtain marketing approval for a product candidate will prevent us from commercializing the product candidate in a given jurisdiction. Although our COVID-19 vaccine has received emergency use authorization or approval in certain countries, it is possible that it will not receive widespread regulatory approval and that none of our other product candidates, or any product candidates we may seek to develop in the future, will ever obtain regulatory approval. We have limited experience in filing and supporting the applications necessary to gain marketing approvals and may need to rely on third-party CROs, regulatory consultants or collaborators to assist us in this process. Although we expect to submit BLAs for our mRNA-based product candidates in the United States, and in the European Union, mRNA therapies have been classified as gene therapy medicinal products, and other jurisdictions may consider our mRNA-based product candidates to be new drugs, not biologics or gene therapy medicinal products, and require different marketing applications. Securing regulatory approval requires the submission of extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to the various regulatory authorities for each therapeutic indication to establish the product candidate’s safety and efficacy. Securing regulatory approval also requires the submission of information about the product manufacturing process to, and inspection of manufacturing facilities by, the relevant regulatory authority. Any product candidates we develop may not be effective, may be only moderately effective, or may prove to have undesirable or unintended side effects, toxicities or other characteristics that may preclude our obtaining marketing approval or prevent or limit commercial use.
The process of obtaining marketing approvals in the United States, the European Union and elsewhere, is expensive, may take many years if additional clinical trials are required, if approval is obtained at all, and can vary substantially based upon a variety of factors, including the type, complexity and novelty of the product candidates involved. Changes in
marketing approval policies and standards of care during the development period, changes in or the enactment of additional statutes or regulations, or changes in regulatory review for each submitted product application may cause delays in the approval or rejection of an application. The FDA, EMA and comparable regulatory authorities in other countries have substantial discretion in the approval process and may refuse to accept any application or may decide that the data are insufficient for approval and require additional preclinical, clinical or other trials. In addition, varying interpretations of the data obtained from preclinical and clinical testing could delay, limit or prevent marketing approval of a product candidate. Any marketing approval we ultimately obtain may be limited or subject to restrictions or post-approval commitments that render the approved product not commercially viable. Additional delays or non-approval may result if an FDA panel of experts, referred to as an Advisory Committee, or other regulatory authority recommends non-approval or restrictions on approval. In addition, we may experience delays or rejections based upon additional government regulation from future legislation or administrative action, or changes in regulatory agency policy during the period of product development, clinical trials, and the review process.
Regulatory agencies also may approve a product candidate for fewer or more limited indications or patient populations than requested or may grant approval subject to the performance of post-marketing studies. In addition, regulatory agencies may not approve the labeling claims that are necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of our product candidates.
The FDA, EMA and other regulatory agencies review the Quality or Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls, or CMC, section of regulatory filings. Any aspects found unsatisfactory by regulatory agencies may result in delays in clinical trials and commercialization. In addition, the regulatory agencies typically conduct pre-approval inspections at the time of a BLA, MAA or comparable filing. Any findings by regulatory agencies and failure to comply with requirements may lead to delay in approval and failure to commercialize the potential mRNA product candidate.
If we experience delays in obtaining, or if we fail to obtain, approval of any product candidates we may develop, the commercial prospects for those product candidates will be harmed, and our ability to generate revenues will be materially impaired. Additionally, even if we are successful in obtaining marketing approval for product candidates, because our preclinical studies and clinical trials have not been designed with specific commercialization considerations, the commercial prospects for those product candidates could be harmed, and our ability to generate revenues could be materially impaired.
mRNA drug development has substantial clinical development and regulatory risks due to limited regulatory experience with mRNA immunotherapies.
To our knowledge, other than our COVID-19 vaccine and MRNA-1273, no mRNA immunotherapies have been approved or received emergency use authorization or conditional marketing authorization to date by the FDA, the EMA or other comparable regulatory authority. Successful discovery and development of mRNA-based (and other) immunotherapies by either us or our collaborators is highly uncertain and depends on numerous factors, many of which are beyond our or their control. Our product candidates that appear promising in the early phases of development may fail to advance, experience delays in the clinic or clinical holds, or fail to reach the market for many reasons, including:
•discovery efforts aimed at identifying potential immunotherapies may not be successful;
•nonclinical or preclinical study results may show product candidates to be less effective than desired or have harmful or problematic side effects;
•clinical trial results may show the product candidates to be less effective than expected, including a failure to meet one or more endpoints or have unacceptable side effects or toxicities;
•manufacturing or distribution failures or insufficient supply of GMP materials for clinical trials, or higher than expected cost could delay or set back clinical trials, or make our product candidates commercially unattractive;
•our improvements in the manufacturing processes may not be sufficient to satisfy the clinical or commercial demand of our product candidates or regulatory requirements for clinical trials;
•changes that we make to optimize our manufacturing, testing or formulating of GMP materials could impact the safety, tolerability and efficacy of our product candidates;
•pricing or reimbursement issues or other factors could delay clinical trials or make any immunotherapy uneconomical or noncompetitive with other therapies;
•the failure to timely advance our programs or receive the necessary regulatory approvals, or a delay in receiving such approvals, due to, among other reasons, slow or failure to complete enrollment in clinical trials, withdrawal by trial participants from trials, failure to achieve trial endpoints, additional time requirements for data analysis, data integrity issues, BLA, MAA or the equivalent application, discussions with the FDA or the EMA, a regulatory request for additional nonclinical or clinical data, or safety formulation or manufacturing issues may lead to our inability to obtain sufficient funding; and
•the proprietary rights, products and technologies of our competitors may prevent our immunotherapies from being commercialized.
Currently, mRNA is considered a gene therapy product by the FDA. Unlike certain gene therapies that irreversibly alter cell DNA and may cause certain side effects, mRNA-based medicines are designed not to irreversibly change cell DNA. Side effects observed in other gene therapies, however, could negatively impact the perception of immunotherapies despite the differences in mechanism. In addition, the regulatory pathway in the United States and may other jurisdictions for approval is uncertain. Currently, our COVID-19 vaccine is not classified as a gene therapy. The pathway for an individualized therapy, such as our iNeST mRNA-based immunotherapy where each patient receives a different combination of mRNAs, remains particularly unsettled. The number and design of the clinical and preclinical studies required for the approval of these types of medicines have not been established, may be different from those required for gene therapy products or therapies that are not individualized or may require safety testing like gene therapy products. Moreover, the length of time necessary to complete clinical trials and submit an application for marketing approval by a regulatory authority varies significantly from one pharmaceutical product to the next and may be difficult to predict.
Our product candidates may not work as intended, may cause undesirable side effects or may have other properties that could delay or prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial profile of an approved label, or result in significant negative consequences following marketing approval, if any.
As with most biological products, use of our product candidates could be associated with side effects or adverse events which can vary in severity from minor reactions to death and in frequency from infrequent to prevalent. The potential for adverse events is especially acute in the oncology setting, where patients may have advanced disease, have impaired organ function, compromised immune and other systems and may be receiving numerous other therapies. Undesirable side effects or unacceptable toxicities caused by our product candidates could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA, the EMA or comparable regulatory authorities. Results of our trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of side effects.
If unacceptable side effects arise in the development of our product candidates, we, the FDA, competent authorities of EU member states, ethics committees, the institutional review boards, or IRBs, at the institutions in which our studies are conducted, or the Data Safety Monitoring Board, or DSMB, could suspend or terminate our clinical trials. The FDA or comparable regulatory authorities could also order us to cease clinical trials or deny approval of our product candidates for any or all targeted indications. Treatment-related side effects could also affect patient recruitment or the ability of enrolled patients to complete any of our clinical trials or result in potential product liability claims. In addition, these side effects may not be appropriately recognized or managed by the treating medical staff. We expect to have to train medical personnel using our product candidates to understand the side effect profiles for our clinical trials and upon any commercialization of any of our product candidates. Inadequate training in recognizing or managing the potential side effects of our product candidates could result in patient injury or death. Any of these occurrences may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
Monitoring the safety of patients receiving our product candidates is challenging, which could adversely affect our ability to obtain regulatory approval and commercialize our product candidates.
In our ongoing and planned clinical trials, we have contracted, and are expected to continue to contract, with academic medical centers and hospitals experienced in the assessment and management of toxicities arising during clinical trials. Nonetheless, these centers and hospitals may have difficulty observing patients and treating toxicities, which may be more challenging due to personnel changes, inexperience, shift changes, house staff coverage or related issues. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on our ability to monitor trial safety related to, for example, staff shortages (i.e., due to contracting COVID-19 and/or the global shortage in healthcare professionals), re-assignment of staff to treat COVID-19 patients, restricted clinical site access, etc. This could lead to more severe or prolonged toxicities or even patient deaths, which could result in us or the FDA, the EMA or other comparable regulatory
authority delaying, suspending or terminating one or more of our clinical trials, and which could jeopardize regulatory approval. We also expect the centers using our product candidates, if approved on a commercial basis, could have similar difficulty in managing adverse events. Medicines used at centers to help manage adverse side effects of our product candidates may not adequately control the side effects and may have a detrimental impact on the efficacy of the treatment. Use of these medicines may increase with new physicians and centers administering our product candidates.
In addition, even if we successfully advance one of our product candidates into and through clinical trials, such trials will likely only include a limited number of patients and limited duration of exposure to our product candidates. As a result, we cannot be assured that adverse effects of our product candidates will not be uncovered when a significantly larger number of patients are exposed to the product candidate. Further, any clinical trials may not be sufficient to determine the effects and safety consequences of taking our product candidates over a multi-year period.
If any of our product candidates receives marketing approval and we or others later identify undesirable side effects caused by such products, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:
•regulatory authorities may withdraw their approval of the product;
•we may be required to recall a product or change the way such product is administered to patients;
•additional restrictions may be imposed on the marketing of the particular product or the manufacturing processes for the product or any component thereof;
•regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, such as a “black box” warning or a contraindication;
•we may be required to implement a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, or create a Medication Guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients;
•we could be sued and held liable for harm caused to patients;
•the product may become less competitive; and
•our reputation may suffer.
Any of the foregoing events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the particular product candidate, if approved, and result in the loss of significant revenues to us, which would materially and adversely affect our results of operations and business. In addition, if one or more of our product candidates or our immunotherapy approach generally prove to be unsafe, our technology platforms and pipeline could be affected, which would have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Preclinical development is uncertain. Our preclinical programs may experience delays or may never advance to clinical trials, which would adversely affect our ability to obtain regulatory approvals or commercialize these programs on a timely basis or at all and would have an adverse effect on our business.
Much of our pipeline is in preclinical development and these programs could be delayed or not advance into the clinic. Before we can initiate clinical trials for product candidates, we must complete extensive preclinical studies, including IND-enabling Good Laboratory Practice toxicology testing, that support our planned Investigational New Drug applications, or INDs, in the United States or similar applications in other jurisdictions. We must also complete extensive work on CMC activities (including collecting yield, purity and stability data) to be included in the IND filing. CMC activities for a new category of medicines such as mRNA therapies require extensive manufacturing processes and analytical development, which are uncertain and lengthy. For instance, batch failures have occurred as we scale up our manufacturing and may occur in the future. In addition, we have had in the past, and may in the future have, difficulty identifying appropriate buffers and storage conditions to enable sufficient shelf life of batches of our preclinical or clinical product candidates. If we are required to produce new batches of our product candidates due to insufficient shelf life, it may delay the commencement or completion of preclinical or clinical trials of such product candidates. For example, we cannot be certain of the timely completion or outcome of our preclinical testing and studies and cannot predict if the FDA or other regulatory authorities will accept the results of our preclinical testing or our proposed clinical programs or if the outcome of our preclinical testing, studies and CMC activities will ultimately support the further development of our programs. As a result, we cannot be sure that we will be able to submit INDs or similar applications for our preclinical programs on the timelines we expect, if at all, and we cannot be sure that submission of INDs or similar applications will result in the FDA or other regulatory authorities allowing clinical trials to begin.
Clinical development involves a lengthy and expensive process with an uncertain outcome, and delays can occur for a variety of reasons outside of our control. Clinical trials of our product candidates may be delayed, certain programs may never advance in the clinic or may be more costly to conduct than we anticipate, and we may have difficulty recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials, any of which can affect our ability to fund our company and would have a material adverse impact on our business.
Clinical testing is expensive and complex and can take many years to complete. Its outcome is inherently uncertain. We may not be able to initiate, may experience delays in, or may have to discontinue clinical trials for our product candidates. We and our collaborators also may experience numerous unforeseen events during, or as a result of, any clinical trials that we or our collaborators conduct that could delay or prevent us or our collaborators from successfully developing our product candidates, including:
•the FDA, other regulators, IRBs or ethics committees may not authorize us or our investigators to commence a clinical trial or conduct a clinical trial at a prospective trial site for any number of reasons, including concerns regarding safety and aspects of the clinical trial design;
•we may experience delays in reaching, or fail to reach, agreement on favorable terms with prospective trial sites and prospective CROs, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;
•we have optimized in the past and may in the future optimize our manufacturing processes, including through changes to the scale and site of manufacturing, which may lead to additional studies (including bridging and bioequivalence studies) or potentially significant changes in our clinical trial designs, requiring additional cost and time, and, as a consequence, lead to a delay in plans for progressing one or more product candidates;
•the outcome of our preclinical studies and our early clinical trials may not be predictive of the success of later clinical trials, and interim results of a clinical trial do not necessarily predict final results;
•we may be unable to establish clinical endpoints that applicable regulatory authorities would consider clinically meaningful;
•in an effort to optimize product features, we have made in the past and may continue to make changes to our product candidates after we commence clinical trials of a medicine which may require us to repeat earlier stages of clinical testing or delay later-stage testing of the medicine;
•clinical trials of any product candidates may fail to show safety or efficacy, or may produce negative or inconclusive results, and we may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional nonclinical studies or clinical trials, or we may decide to abandon product development programs;
•differences in trial design between early-stage clinical trials and later-stage clinical trials may make it difficult to extrapolate the results of earlier clinical trials to later clinical trials;
•preclinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many product candidates believed to have performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval;
•our product candidates may have undesirable side effects or other unexpected characteristics. One or more of such effects or events could cause regulators to impose a clinical hold on the applicable trial, or cause us or our investigators, IRBs or ethics committees to suspend or terminate the trial of that product candidate or any other of our product candidates for which a clinical trial may be ongoing;
•the number of trial participants required for clinical trials of any product candidates may be larger than we anticipate, identification of trial participants for such trials may be limited, enrollment in these clinical trials may be slower than we anticipate due to perceived adverse effects, limited patient populations, competitive trials, the COVID-19 pandemic or other reasons, or participants may withdraw from clinical trials or fail to return for post-treatment follow-up at a higher rate than we anticipate;
•despite robust sponsor oversight, our third-party contractors may fail to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all, or may deviate from the clinical trial protocol or withdraw from the trial, which may require that we add new clinical trial sites;
•regulators may elect to impose a clinical hold, or we, our investigators, IRBs or ethics committees may elect to suspend or terminate clinical research or trials for various reasons, including noncompliance with regulatory requirements or a finding that the participants are being exposed to an unacceptable benefit-risk ratio;
•with respect to infectious disease vaccine trials in particular, we have to wait for particular level of infection in the placebo arm in order to assess protection provided by vaccine, and we cannot control the rate of exposure or infection which can make timing uncertain;
•the cost of preclinical or nonclinical testing and studies and clinical trials of any product candidates may be greater than we anticipate;
•the supply or quality of our product candidates or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials may be insufficient or inadequate;
•safety or efficacy concerns regarding our product candidates may result from any concerns arising from nonclinical or clinical testing of other therapies targeting a similar disease state or other therapies, such as gene therapy, that are perceived as similar to ours; and
•the FDA or other regulatory authorities may require us to submit additional data, such as long-term toxicology studies, or impose other requirements before permitting us to initiate a clinical trial.
We could also encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, the FDA or other regulatory authorities, ethics committees, or the IRBs of the institutions in which such trials are being conducted, or if such trial is recommended for suspension or termination by the DSMB. We may in the future be delayed in gaining clearance from the FDA or other regulators to initiate clinical trials through, among other things, the imposition of a clinical hold in order to address comments from such regulators on our clinical trial design or other elements of our clinical trials. A suspension or termination may be imposed due to a number of factors, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols; inspection of the clinical trial operations or trial site by the FDA or other regulatory authorities resulting in the imposition of a clinical hold; unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects; failure to demonstrate a benefit, or adequate benefit-risk ratio, from using a product candidate; failure to establish or achieve clinically meaningful trial endpoints; changes in governmental regulations or administrative actions; or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial. Many of the factors that cause or lead to a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates. We could also experience delays if physicians encounter unresolved ethical issues associated with enrolling patients in clinical trials of our product candidates in lieu of prescribing existing treatments that have established safety and efficacy profiles. We must also complete extensive work on CMC activities that require extensive manufacturing processes and analytical development, which are uncertain and lengthy.
We expect the novel nature of our product candidates to create further challenges in obtaining regulatory approval. For example, the FDA and regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions have limited experience with commercial development of several of our technologies. The FDA may require an Advisory Committee to deliberate on the adequacy of the safety and efficacy data to support licensure. The opinion of the Advisory Committee, although not binding, may have a significant impact on our ability to obtain licensure of the product candidates based on the completed clinical trials, as the FDA often adheres to the Advisory Committee’s recommendations. Accordingly, the regulatory approval pathway for our product candidates may be uncertain, complex, expensive and lengthy, and approval may not be certain.
Moreover, the FDA and other regulatory authorities have indicated that, prior to commencing later stage clinical trials for our mRNA-based product candidates, we will need to scale up and further refine assays to measure and predict the potency of a given dose of these product candidates. Any delay in the scaling and refining of assays that are acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory authorities could delay the start of future clinical trials. Further, the FDA or other regulatory authorities may disagree with our clinical trial design and our interpretation of data for our clinical trials or may change the requirements for approval even after they have reviewed and commented on the design for our clinical trials.
Significant additional preclinical or nonclinical testing and studies or clinical trial delays for our product candidates also could allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, potentially impairing our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates and harming our business and results of operations. Any delays in the development of our product candidates may harm our business, financial condition and prospects significantly.
If we or our collaborators encounter difficulties enrolling participants in our clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.
We depend on enrollment of participants in our clinical trials for our product candidates. In the past, our collaborators have found, and we or our collaborators may in the future find, it difficult to enroll trial participants in our clinical studies, which could delay or prevent clinical studies of our product candidates. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced additional challenges in enrolling patients into many of our clinical trials. Identifying and qualifying trial participants to participate in clinical studies of our product candidates is critical to our success. The timing of our clinical studies depends on the speed at which we can recruit trial participants to participate in testing our product candidates. Delays in enrollment may result in increased costs or may affect the timing or outcome of the planned clinical trials, which could prevent completion of these trials and adversely affect our ability to advance the development of our product candidates. If trial participants are unwilling to participate in our studies because of negative publicity from adverse events in our trials or other trials of similar products, or those related to specific a therapeutic area, or for other reasons, including competitive clinical studies for similar patient populations, the timeline for recruiting trial participants, conducting studies, and obtaining regulatory approval of potential products may be delayed. These delays could result in increased costs, delays in advancing our product development, delays in testing the effectiveness of our product, or termination of the clinical studies altogether.
We may not be able to identify, recruit and enroll a sufficient number of trial participants, or those with required or desired characteristics to achieve diversity in a study, to complete our clinical trials in a timely manner. Patient and subject enrollment is affected by factors including:
•severity of the disease under investigation;
•complexity and design of the study protocol;
•size of the patient population;
•eligibility criteria for the study in question;
•proximity and availability of clinical study sites for prospective trial participants;
•availability of competing therapies and clinical trials, including between our own clinical trials;
•efforts to facilitate timely enrollment in clinical trials;
•patient referral practices of physicians;
•ability to monitor trial participants adequately during and after treatment;
•ability to recruit clinical trial investigators with the appropriate competencies and experience;
•clinicians’ and trial participants’ perceptions of the potential advantages and side effects of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new drugs or treatments that may be approved for the indications we are investigating;
•our ability to obtain and maintain participant informed consent;
•major changes in the approval status of competitor investigational products during the clinical trial period;
•impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic; and
•the risk that trial participants enrolled in clinical trials will not complete a clinical trial.
In addition, our clinical trials may compete with other clinical trials for product candidates that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates, and this competition will reduce the number and types of trial participants available to us because some trial participants who might have opted to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by a third party. Since the number of qualified clinical investigators 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 trial participants who are available for our clinical trials at such clinical trial sites. Moreover, because in some cases our product candidates represent a therapeutic novelty in contrast to more traditional methods for disease treatment and prevention, potential trial participants and their doctors may be inclined to use conventional therapies or other investigational therapies rather than enroll trial participants in any future clinical trial involving more novel product candidates. Additionally, if new product candidates, such as gene editing therapies, show encouraging results, potential trial participants and their doctors may be inclined to enroll trial participants in clinical trials using those product candidates. If
such new product candidates show discouraging results or other adverse safety indications, potential trial participants and their doctors may be less inclined to enroll trial participants in our clinical trials.
In particular, certain conditions for which we plan to evaluate our current product candidates are rare diseases with limited patient pools from which to draw for clinical trials. The eligibility criteria of our clinical trials will further limit the pool of available trial participants. Additionally, the process of finding and diagnosing patients may prove costly. As discussed above, each of the foregoing risks is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting the global community and the global economy.
A variety of risks associated with conducting research and clinical trials abroad and marketing our product candidates internationally could materially adversely affect our business.
Clinical trials of our product candidates are currently being conducted in several countries, and we plan to commercialize our product candidates, if approved, globally. Accordingly, we are subject to additional risks related to operating in multiple countries, including:
•differing regulatory requirements in such countries;
•unexpected changes in tariffs, trade barriers, price and exchange controls and other regulatory requirements;
•increased difficulties in managing the logistics and transportation of storing and shipping product candidates produced in Germany and shipping the product candidate to the patient abroad;
•import and export requirements and restrictions;
•economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability in particular economies and markets;
•compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad;
•taxes, including withholding of payroll taxes;
•currency fluctuations, which could result in increased operating expenses and reduced revenue, and other obligations incident to doing business in another country;
•difficulties staffing and managing operations outside of Germany;
•workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common;
•differing payor reimbursement regimes, governmental payors or patient self-pay systems, and price controls;
•potential liability under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 or comparable regulations in other jurisdictions;
•challenges enforcing our contractual and intellectual property rights, especially in those countries that do not respect and protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as Germany and the United States;
•production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad; and
•business interruptions resulting from geopolitical actions, including war and terrorism, or public health epidemics or pandemics.
The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our operations, including our clinical trial operations, will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including the duration of the outbreak, new information which may emerge concerning the severity of the coronavirus and the actions to contain the coronavirus or treat its impact, among others. In the future, similar events could affect our ability to manufacture and commercialize our product candidates.
These and other risks associated with our international operations and our collaborations with our collaborators may materially adversely affect our ability to attain or maintain profitable operations.
Interim top-line and preliminary data from studies or trials that we announce or publish from time to time may change as more data become available and are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.
From time to time, we may publish interim top-line or preliminary data from preclinical studies or clinical trials. Interim data are subject to the risk that one or more of the outcomes may materially change as more data become available. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully evaluate all data. As a result, the top-line 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. Preliminary or top-line 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. As a result, interim and preliminary data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Additionally, 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, 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 disclose publicly regarding a particular study or clinical trial is based on what is typically extensive information, and our securityholders may not agree with what we determine is the material or otherwise appropriate information to include in our disclosure. Any information we determine not to disclose may ultimately be deemed significant by our securityholders or others with respect to future decisions, conclusions, views, activities or otherwise regarding a particular product candidate or our business. If the top-line 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, product candidates may be harmed, which could significantly harm our business prospects.
Results of earlier studies and trials of our product candidates may not be predictive of future trial results.
Success in preclinical studies and early clinical trials does not ensure that later clinical trials will be successful. A number of companies in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries have suffered significant setbacks in clinical trials, even after positive results in earlier preclinical studies or clinical trials. These setbacks have been caused by, among other things, preclinical findings made while clinical trials were underway and safety or efficacy observations made in clinical trials, including previously unreported adverse events. Notwithstanding any potential promising results in earlier studies and trials, we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. Even if our clinical trials are completed, the results may not be sufficient to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates. In addition, the results of our preclinical studies may not be predictive of the results of outcomes in human clinical trials. For example, our tumor-specific cancer immunotherapy candidates and any future product candidates may demonstrate different chemical, biological and pharmacological properties in patients than they do in laboratory studies or may interact with human biological systems in unforeseen or harmful ways. Product candidates in later stages of clinical trials may fail to show the desired pharmacological properties or safety and efficacy traits despite having progressed through preclinical studies and initial clinical trials. Even if we are able to initiate and complete clinical trials, the results may not be sufficient to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates.
Our planned clinical trials or those of our collaborators may be less efficacious or may reveal significant adverse events not seen in our preclinical or nonclinical studies and may result in a safety profile that could delay or terminate clinical trials, or delay or prevent regulatory approval or market acceptance of any of our product candidates.
There is typically an extremely high rate of attrition for product candidates across categories of medicines proceeding through clinical trials.
These product candidates may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy profile in later stages of clinical trials despite having progressed through nonclinical studies and initial clinical trials. A number of companies in the biopharmaceutical industry have suffered significant setbacks in later-stage clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or unacceptable safety profiles, notwithstanding promising results in earlier trials. Most product candidates that commence clinical trials are never approved as products and there can be no assurance that any of our current or future clinical trials will ultimately be successful or support further clinical development of any of our product candidates.
Some of our product candidates are being developed or are intended to be co-administered with other developmental therapies or approved medicines. For example, autogene cevumeran (BNT122) is being developed to be co-administered with checkpoint inhibitors. Such combinations may have additional side effects, which may be difficult to predict in future clinical trials.
If significant adverse events or other side effects are observed in any of our current or future clinical trials, we may have difficulty recruiting trial participants to any of our clinical trials, trial participants may withdraw from trials, or we may be required to abandon the trials or our development efforts of one or more product candidates altogether. We, the FDA or other regulatory authorities, ethics committees or an IRB may impose a clinical hold on, or suspend or terminate, clinical trials of a product candidate at any time for various reasons, including a belief that participants 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 the drug from obtaining or maintaining marketing approval, an unfavorable benefit-risk ratio may inhibit market acceptance of the approved product due to its tolerability versus other therapies. Any of these developments could materially harm our business, financial condition and prospects.
If we are not successful in discovering, developing and commercializing additional product candidates beyond our current portfolio, our ability to expand our business and achieve our strategic objectives would be impaired.
Although a substantial amount of our efforts will focus on the clinical trials and potential approval of our existing product candidates, a key element of our strategy is to discover, develop and potentially commercialize additional products beyond our current portfolio to treat various conditions and in a variety of therapeutic areas. We intend to do so by investing in our own drug and target discovery efforts, exploring potential collaborations for the development of new products, and in-licensing technologies. Identifying new product candidates requires substantial technical, financial and human resources, whether or not any product candidates are ultimately identified. Even if we identify product candidates that initially show promise, we may fail to develop and commercialize such products successfully for many reasons, including the following:
•the research methodology used may not be successful in identifying potential product candidates;
•competitors may develop alternatives that render our product candidates obsolete;
•product candidates we develop may nevertheless be covered by third parties’ patents or other exclusive rights;
•a product candidate may, on further study, be shown to have harmful side effects or other characteristics that indicate it is unlikely to be effective or otherwise does not meet applicable regulatory criteria;
•a product candidate may not be capable of being produced in commercial quantities at an acceptable cost, or at all; and
•an approved product may not be accepted as safe and effective by trial participants, the medical community or third-party payors.
If we are unsuccessful in identifying and developing additional products, our potential for growth may be impaired.
Our future success depends on our ability to retain key employees, consultants and advisors and to attract, retain and motivate qualified senior management and scientific personnel.
Our ability to compete in the highly competitive biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries depends upon our ability to attract and retain highly qualified managerial, scientific and medical personnel. We are highly dependent upon members of our management and scientific teams. We may not be able to retain these persons due to the competitive environment in the biotechnology industry, as well as a current global shortage of these highly qualified individuals. The loss of any of these persons’ services may adversely impact the achievement of our research, development, financing and commercialization objectives. We are also aware of physical threats made against certain of these people. In response to these threats, we have deployed personal protection for such employees and increased our security generally. We currently do not have “key person” insurance on any of our employees.
In addition, we rely on consultants, contractors and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our research and development, regulatory approval 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. The loss of the services of one or more of our current employees or advisors might impede the achievement of our research, development, regulatory approval and commercialization objectives. In addition, we have flexibly grown our workforce through the use of contractors and part-time workers. We may not be able to retain the services of such personnel, which might result in delays in the operation of our business.
Recruiting and retaining other qualified employees, consultants and advisors for our business, including scientific and technical personnel, will be critical to our success as well. Competition for skilled personnel, including in mRNA research, clinical development, clinical operations, regulatory affairs, therapeutic area management and manufacturing, is intense and the turnover rate can be high. We may not be able to attract and retain personnel on favorable terms given the competition among numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and academic institutions for individuals with similar skill sets. In addition, adverse publicity, failure to succeed in preclinical studies or clinical trials or applications for marketing approval may make it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified personnel. The inability to recruit, or loss of services of certain executives, key employees, consultants or advisors, may impede the progress of our research, development and commercialization objectives and have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Our employees, principal investigators and consultants may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards and requirements and insider trading, which could have an adverse effect on the results of our operations.
We are exposed to the risk of fraud or other misconduct by our employees, principal investigators and consultants, despite our robust efforts to prevent such misconduct through sponsor oversight. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional failures to comply with FDA regulations or the regulations applicable in the European Union and other jurisdictions, provide accurate information to the FDA, the EMA and other regulatory authorities, 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. Such misconduct also could involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of clinical trials or interactions with the FDA or other regulatory authorities, which could result in regulatory sanctions and cause serious harm to our reputation. We have adopted a code of conduct applicable to all of our employees, but it is not always possible to identify and deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from government investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with 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, financial condition, results of operations and prospects, including the imposition of significant fines or other sanctions.
Employee litigation and unfavorable publicity could negatively affect our future business.
From time to time our employees may bring lawsuits against us regarding injury, creating a hostile work place, discrimination, wage and hour disputes, sexual harassment or other employment issues. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of discrimination and harassment claims generally. Coupled with the expansion of social media platforms and similar devices that allow individuals access to a broad audience, these claims have had a significant negative impact on some businesses. Certain companies that have faced employment- or harassment- related lawsuits have had to terminate management or other key personnel, and have suffered reputational harm that has negatively impacted their business. If we were to face any employment-related claims, our business could be negatively affected.
The illegal distribution and sale by third parties of counterfeit versions of our COVID-19 vaccine could have a negative impact on our financial performance or reputation.
Third parties have in the past and may continue to illegally distribute and sell counterfeit versions of COVID-19 vaccines. Counterfeit products are frequently unsafe or ineffective, and may even be life-threatening. Counterfeit medicines may contain harmful substances or the wrong dosage. However, to distributors and users, counterfeit products may be visually indistinguishable from the authentic version.
Reports of adverse reactions to counterfeit products, increased levels of counterfeiting, or unsafe COVID-19 vaccines could materially affect public confidence in our COVID-19 vaccine or other product candidates. It is possible that adverse events caused by unsafe counterfeit vaccines will mistakenly be attributed to our COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, thefts of inventory at warehouses, plants or while in-transit, which are subsequently improperly stored and which are sold through unauthorized channels could adversely impact patient safety, our reputation, and our business. Public loss of
confidence in the integrity of our COVID-19 vaccine as a result of counterfeiting or theft could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
We and our collaborators or other contractors or consultants depend on information technology systems, and any failure of these systems could harm our business. Security breaches, loss of data and other disruptions could compromise sensitive information related to our business or prevent us from accessing critical information and expose us to liability, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our internal computer systems and those of our current and any future collaborators, vendors, and other contractors or consultants are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, natural disasters, terrorism, cybersecurity threats, war, and telecommunication and electrical failures. If any such material system failure, accident or security breach were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our development programs and our business operations, whether due to a loss of our trade secrets or other proprietary information or other similar disruptions. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from one or more ongoing or completed or future clinical trials could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. In addition, because of our approach to running multiple clinical trials in parallel, any breach of our computer systems may result in a loss of data or compromised data integrity across many of our programs in many stages of development. Any such breach, loss or compromise of clinical trial participant personal data may also subject us to civil fines and penalties, including under the EU General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, relevant law of an EU member state, HIPAA, and other relevant state and federal privacy laws in the United States. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability, our competitive position could be harmed and the further development and commercialization of our product candidates could be delayed.
While we have not experienced any material system failures, accidents or security breaches to date, we and a vendor have separately in the past been subject to a security breach resulting in us unknowingly making payments to third parties that were able to gain unauthorized access to our and the vendor’s email systems. Additionally, in December 2020, we were informed by the EMA that the agency was subject to a cyber attack and that some documents relating to our regulatory submission for our COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which was stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed. None of our systems were breached in connection with this incident and we are unaware that any study participants were identified through the data being accessed.
We have put systems and procedures in place to minimize the likelihood of such incidents reoccurring; however, we cannot guarantee that third parties will not be able to gain unauthorized access to or otherwise breach our systems in the future. Any such unauthorized access or breach could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our business continuity and disaster recovery plans may not adequately protect us from a serious disaster.
We recognize the need for, and are in the early stages of, developing disaster recovery, business continuity and document retention plans that would allow us to be operational despite casualties or unforeseen events including natural disasters such as an earthquake, fire, hurricane, tornado, flood or significant power outage; public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic; political crises, such as terrorist attacks, war and other political instability, including the ongoing geopolitical tensions related to Russia's actions in Ukraine, resulting sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other countries and retaliatory actions taken by Russia in response to such sanctions; or other catastrophic events. Without disaster recovery, business continuity and document retention plans, if we encounter difficulties or disasters with our manufacturing facilities, our distribution facilities, at our corporate headquarters or those of third parties we rely on, our critical systems, operations and information may not be restored in a timely manner, or at all, and this could have an adverse effect on our business.
Product liability lawsuits against us could cause us to incur substantial liabilities and could limit commercialization of our current or future product candidates.
We face an inherent risk of product liability exposure related to the testing of any of our current or future product candidates in clinical trials, and an even greater risk related to any commercialized products, such as our COVID-19 vaccine. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against claims that our product candidates caused injuries, we could incur substantial liabilities. Regardless of merit or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:
•decreased demand for any product candidate that we may develop;
•loss of revenue;
•substantial monetary awards to patients, healthy volunteers or their children;
•significant time and costs to defend the related litigation;
•withdrawal of clinical trial participants;
•the inability to commercialize any product candidates that we may develop; and
•injury to our reputation and significant negative media attention.
We carry clinical trial insurance, including product liability insurance, which we believe to be sufficient in light of our current commercial operations and clinical programs; however, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses due to liability. We have expanded our insurance coverage to include product liability claims arising from the use of our COVID-19 vaccine; however, the amount of coverage we have obtained may not be adequate, and we may be unable to maintain product liability insurance for our COVID-19 vaccine on commercially reasonable terms in the future. On occasion, large judgments have been awarded in class action lawsuits based on drugs or medical treatments that had unanticipated adverse effects. A successful product liability claim or series of claims brought against us could cause the price of the ADS to decline and, if judgments exceed our insurance coverage, could adversely affect our results of operations and business.
If our products become subject to a product recall it could harm our reputation, business and financial results.
The FDA and similar governmental authorities in other jurisdictions have the authority to require the recall of certain commercialized products. In the case of the FDA, the authority to require a recall of a biologic product must be based on an FDA finding that a batch, lot of other quantity of the biologic product presents an imminent or substantial hazard to the public health. In addition, some governmental bodies outside the United States have the authority to require the recall of any product candidate in the event of material deficiencies or defects in design or manufacture. Manufacturers may, under their own initiative, recall a product if any material deficiency in a product is found. A government-mandated or voluntary recall by us could occur as a result of manufacturing errors, design or labeling defects or other deficiencies and issues.
Recalls of any of our product candidates would divert managerial and financial resources and have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. A recall announcement could harm our reputation with customers and negatively affect our sales, if any.
Our ability to effectively monitor and respond to the rapid and ongoing developments and expectations relating to environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) matters, including related social expectations and concerns, may impose unexpected costs or result in reputational or other harm that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, cash flows and results of operations and could cause the market value of our common shares to decline.
There are rapid and ongoing developments and changing expectations relating to ESG matters and factors such as the impact of our operations on the environment, access to our COVID-19 vaccine, corporate governance, our practices relating to product stewardship, management of business ethics, human rights diligence in our supply chain, and human resource development, which may result in increased regulatory, social or other scrutiny on us. Regarding climate risks, we are expected to address climate risks due to our own contribution to climate change (inside-out perspective), risks due to physical effects of climate change as well as transition risks (outside-in perspective), and interactions between both perspectives ("dual materiality"). If we are unable to adequately recognize and respond to such developments and governmental, societal, investor and NGO expectations relating to such ESG matters, we may miss corporate opportunities, become subject to additional scrutiny, incur unexpected costs or experience damage to our reputation or our various brands. If any of these events were to occur, there may be a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, cash flows and results of operations and the market value of our common shares may decline.
We have observed that in addition to the importance of their financial performance, companies are increasingly being judged by their performance on ESG matters. A variety of organizations measure the performance of companies on such ESG topics, and the results of these assessments are widely publicized. We may fail to comply with standards or best practices put forth by such organizations or by governmental or regulatory bodies. In addition, investment in funds that specialize in companies that perform well in such assessments are increasingly popular, and major institutional investors have publicly emphasized the importance of such ESG measures to their investment decisions. In light of investors’ increased focus on ESG matters, there can be no certainty that we will manage such issues successfully, or that we will
successfully meet society’s expectations as to our proper role. Any failure or perceived failure by us in this regard could have a material adverse effect on our reputation and on our business, share price, financial condition, or results of operations, including the sustainability of our business over time.
Risks Related to the Manufacturing of our COVID-19 Vaccine, our Product Candidates and Future Pipeline
Our mRNA product candidates are based on novel technologies and any product candidates we develop may be complex and difficult to manufacture. We may encounter difficulties in manufacturing, product release, shelf life, testing, storage, supply chain management or shipping. If we or any of the third-party manufacturers we work with encounter such difficulties, our ability to supply materials for clinical trials or any approved product could be delayed or stopped.
The manufacturing processes for our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates are novel and complex. Due to the novel nature of this technology and limited experience at larger scale production, we may encounter difficulties in manufacturing, product release, shelf life, testing, storage and supply chain management, or shipping. These difficulties could be due to any number of reasons including, but not limited to, complexities of producing batches at larger scale, equipment failure, choice and quality of raw materials and excipients, analytical testing technology, and product instability. In an effort to optimize product features, we have in the past and may in the future make changes to our product candidates in their manufacturing and stability formulation and conditions. This has resulted in the past, and may in the future result, in our having to resupply batches for preclinical, clinical, or commercial activities when there is insufficient product stability during storage and insufficient supply. Insufficient stability or shelf life of our product candidates could materially delay our or our collaborators’ ability to continue the clinical trial for that product candidate or require us to begin a new clinical trial with a newly formulated drug product, due to the need to manufacture additional preclinical, clinical or commercial supply.
For example, in March 2021 we received product quality complaints related to our COVID-19 vaccine in Hong Kong. A thorough investigation into these complaints concluded that the reported product quality complaints were due to the combination of a deficient container closure process, or crimping, at one specific contract manufacturing organization when such containers were later shipped at ultra-cold conditions created by shipping on dry ice. The investigation did not identify any safety issues related to the product quality complaints. We and our COVID-19 vaccine collaboration partner, Fosun, in Hong Kong subsequently supplied replacement COVID-19 vaccine vials, but we cannot assure you that we will not experience similar product quality complaints in the future.
Our rate of innovation is high, which has resulted in, and will continue to cause a high degree of, technology change that can negatively impact product comparability during and after clinical development. Furthermore, technology changes may drive the need for changes in, modification to, or the sourcing of, new manufacturing infrastructure or may adversely affect third-party relationships.
The process to generate mRNA medicines is complex and, if not developed and manufactured under well-controlled conditions, can adversely impact pharmacological activity. We may encounter difficulties in scaling up our manufacturing process, thereby potentially impacting clinical and commercial supply. Additionally, for individualized therapies, we may encounter issues with our ability to timely and efficiently manufacture product given the on-demand requirements of such therapies, thereby potentially impacting clinical and commercial supply.
As we continue developing new manufacturing processes for our drug substance and drug product, the changes we implement to the manufacturing process may impact, in turn, specification and stability of the drug product. Changes in our manufacturing processes may lead to failure of lots and this could lead to a substantial delay in our clinical trials or an inability to supply sufficient commercial quantities of drug product. Our mRNA product, if approved, and product candidates may prove to have a stability profile that leads to an unfavorable shelf life. This poses risk in supply requirements, wasted stock and higher cost of goods.
We are dependent on a number of equipment providers who are also implementing novel technology. Further, we have developed our own custom manufacturing equipment for certain of our product candidates. If such equipment malfunctions or we encounter unexpected performance issues, we could encounter delays or interruptions to clinical and commercial supply.
Due to the number of different programs, we may have cross contamination of products inside of our factories, CROs, external contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, suppliers or in the clinic that affect the integrity of our
products. Additionally, for some programs the manufacturing scale is extremely small compared to the standard volumes of supply, such that we run the risk of contaminating the process each time we reopen a container to use remaining supplies.
As we scale the manufacturing output for particular programs, we plan to continuously improve yield, purity and the pharmaceutical properties of our product candidates from IND-enabling studies through commercial launch, including shelf life stability and solubility properties of drug product and drug substance. Due to continuous improvement in manufacturing processes, we may switch processes for a particular program during development. However, after the change in process, more time is required for pharmaceutical property testing, such as six- or 12- month stability testing. That may require resupplying clinical or commercial material, or making additional GMP batches to keep up with clinical trial demand before such pharmaceutical property testing is completed.
We are utilizing a number of raw materials and excipients that are either new to the pharmaceutical industry or are being employed in a novel manner. Some of these raw materials and excipients have not been scaled to a level to support commercial supply and could experience unexpected manufacturing or testing failures, or supply shortages. Such issues with raw materials and excipients could cause delays or interruptions to clinical and commercial supply of our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates. Further, now and in the future, one or more of our programs may have a single source of supply for raw materials and excipients. Some of our suppliers are located in countries (e.g. the United States) different from our manufacturing sites (i.e. Germany). Export restrictions could lead to unplanned interruptions in manufacturing and thus impacting supply of both clinical and commercial material.
We have established a number of analytical assays, and may have to establish several more, to assess the quality of our mRNA product candidates. We may identify gaps in our analytical testing strategy that might prevent release of product or could require product withdrawal or recall. For example, we may discover new impurities that have an impact on product safety, efficacy or stability. This may lead to an inability to release mRNA product candidates until the manufacturing or testing process is rectified.
Our product and product intermediates are extremely temperature sensitive, and we may learn that any or all of our products are less stable than desired. We may also find that transportation conditions negatively impact product quality. This may require changes to the formulation or manufacturing process for one or more of our product candidates and result in delays or interruptions to clinical or commercial supply. In addition, the cost associated with such transportation services and the limited pool of vendors may also add additional risks of supply disruptions. As we are transporting intermediate products with holding times in refrigeration (TIR) and allowed times out of refrigeration (TOR) across long distances and crossing boarders, traffic issues and customs delays could lead to the loss of batches which would need to be replaced.
Certain of our product candidates are uniquely manufactured for each patient and we may encounter difficulties in production, particularly with respect to scaling our manufacturing capabilities. If we or any of the third-party manufacturers with whom we contract encounter these types of difficulties, our ability to provide our product candidates for clinical trials or our products for patients, if approved, could be delayed or stopped, or we may be unable to maintain a commercially viable cost structure.
We custom design and manufacture certain product candidates that are unique and tailored specifically for each patient. Manufacturing unique lots of these product candidates is susceptible to product loss or failure due to issues with:
•logistics associated with the collection of a patient’s tumor, blood or other tissue sample;
•shipping such samples to a facility for genetic sequencing;
•next-generation sequencing of the tumor mRNA;
•biopsy of a sufficient quantity of cancerous tissue to allow for proper sequencing and identification of tumor-specific mutations;
•identification of appropriate tumor-specific mutations;
•the use of a software program, including proprietary and open source components, which is hosted in the cloud and a part of our product candidate, to assist with the design of the patient-specific mRNA, which software must be maintained and secured;
•effective design of the patient-specific mRNA that encodes for the required neoantigens;
•batch-specific manufacturing failures or issues that arise due to the uniqueness of each patient-specific batch that may not have been foreseen;
•quality control testing failures;
•unexpected failures of batches placed on stability;
•shortages or quality control issues with single-use assemblies, consumables or critical parts sourced from third-party vendors that must be changed out for each patient-specific batch;
•significant costs associated with individualized manufacturing that may adversely affect our ability to continue development;
•successful and timely manufacture and release of the patient-specific batch;
•shipment issues encountered during transport of the batch to the site of patient care;
•the ability to define a consistent safety profile at a given dose when each participant receives a unique treatment; and
•our reliance on single source suppliers.
We also continue to evolve our own custom manufacturing equipment. This equipment may not function as designed, which may lead to deviations in the drug product being produced. This can lead to increased batch failure and the inability to supply patients enrolled in the clinical trial. If our clinical development plans are expanded, due to the custom nature of the equipment and single-use assemblies, we may not be able to supply this expanded need reliably without significant investments. In addition, there will be considerable time to scale up our facilities or build new facilities before we can begin to meet any commercial demand if one or more of our product candidates are approved. This expansion or addition of new facilities could also lead to product comparability issues, which can further delay introduction of new capacity.
As certain of our product candidates are manufactured for each individual patient, we will be required to maintain a chain of identity with respect to each patient’s tissue sample, sequence data derived from such tissue sample, analyze results of such patient’s genomic analysis and the custom manufactured product for each patient. Maintaining such a chain of identity is difficult and complex, and failure to do so could result in product mix-up, adverse patient outcomes, loss of product, or regulatory action, including withdrawal of any approved products from the market. Further, as our product candidates are developed through early-stage clinical studies to later-stage clinical trials towards approval and commercialization, we expect that multiple aspects of the complicated collection, analysis, manufacture and delivery processes will be modified in an effort to optimize processes and results. These changes may not achieve the intended objectives, and any of these changes could cause our product candidates to perform differently than we expect, potentially affecting the results of clinical trials.
Our inability to manufacture sufficient quantities of our COVID-19 vaccine or any of our product candidates, or our failure to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, would materially and adversely affect our business.
Manufacturing is a vital component of our individualized immunotherapy approach, and we have invested significantly in our manufacturing facilities, including the acquisition of a manufacturing site in Marburg, Germany. All internal manufacturing is performed under GMP guidelines. We also rely on a network of CMOs for the manufacture of our COVID-19 vaccine. We do not rely on any external CMOs for the manufacture of our individualized product candidates and at this time, and we have limited redundancy among our facilities. Due to the individualized nature of our product candidates, we do not maintain product reserves. If any of our or our external CMOs’ manufacturing facilities experience difficulties, including related to manufacturing, product release, shelf life, testing, storage and supply chain management or shipping, our clinical development programs may be delayed or suspended until we or our external CMOs can resume operations. We may also be required to incur significant expenditures to resolve such difficulties.
Our facilities are subject to various regulatory requirements and may be subject to the inspection of the FDA or other regulatory authorities.
If we or our external CMOs cannot successfully manufacture material that conforms to our specifications and the strict regulatory requirements of the FDA, the EMA or comparable regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions, we may not be able to rely on our or our external CMOs’ manufacturing facilities for the manufacture of our product candidates. If the FDA, the EMA or another comparable regulatory authority finds our facilities inadequate for the manufacture of our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates or if such facilities are subject to enforcement action in the future or are otherwise inadequate, we may need to find alternative manufacturing facilities, which would significantly impact our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval for or market our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates.
Additionally, we may experience manufacturing difficulties due to resource constraints or as a result of labor disputes or unstable political environments. If we were to encounter any of these difficulties, our ability to provide our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates to patients in clinical trials, or to provide products for the treatment of patients, once approved, would be jeopardized.
We are subject to regulatory and operational risks associated with the physical and digital infrastructure at both our internal manufacturing facilities and at those of our external service providers.
The designs of our facilities are based on current standards for biotechnology facilities. They have been reviewed and approved by local German authorities and have also received GMP manufacturing licenses. We have designed our facilities to incorporate a significant level of automation of equipment with integration of several digital systems to improve efficiency of operations. We have attempted to achieve a high level of digitization for clinical and commercial manufacturing facilities relative to industry standards. While this is meant to improve operational efficiency, this may pose additional risk of process equipment malfunction and even overall manufacturing system failure or shutdown due to internal or external factors including, but not limited to, design issues, system compatibility or potential cybersecurity breaches. This may lead to delay in supply or shutdown of our facilities. Any disruption in our manufacturing capabilities could cause delays in our production capacity for our drug substances or drug products, impose additional costs, or may require us to identify, qualify and establish an alternative manufacturing site, the occurrence of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
As we expand our development and commercial capacity, we may establish additional manufacturing capabilities and expand to other locations or geographies, which may lead to regulatory delays or prove costly. If we fail to select the correct location, complete the construction in an efficient manner, recruit the required personnel, and generally manage our growth effectively, the development and production of our product candidates could be delayed or curtailed. Additional investments may be needed if changes in our manufacturing process lead to required changes in our infrastructure.
Our COVID-19 vaccine and certain of our product candidates rely on the availability of specialty raw materials, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all.
Our product candidates require many specialty raw materials, some of which are manufactured by small companies with limited resources and experience to support a commercial product, and the suppliers may not be able to deliver raw materials to our specifications. In addition, some such suppliers normally support blood-based hospital businesses and generally do not have the capacity to support commercial products manufactured under GMP by biopharmaceutical firms. These suppliers may be ill-equipped to support our needs, especially in non-routine circumstances like an FDA inspection or medical crisis, such as widespread contamination. We also do not have contracts with many of these suppliers, and we may not be able to contract with them on acceptable terms or at all. Accordingly, we have experienced and we may in the future experience delays in receiving key raw materials to support clinical or commercial manufacturing.
In addition, some raw materials are currently available from a single supplier, or a small number of suppliers. We cannot be sure that these suppliers will remain in business or that they will not be purchased by one of our competitors or another company that is not interested in continuing to produce these materials for our intended purpose. In addition, the lead time needed to establish a relationship with a new supplier can be lengthy, and we may experience delays in meeting demand in the event we must switch to a new supplier. The time and effort to qualify a new supplier could result in additional costs, diversion of resources or reduced manufacturing yields, any of which would negatively impact our operating results. Further, we may be unable to enter into agreements with a new supplier on commercially reasonable terms, which could have a material adverse impact on our business.
We are subject to significant regulatory oversight with respect to manufacturing our product candidates. Our manufacturing facilities or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party manufacturers or suppliers may not meet regulatory requirements. Failure to meet GMP requirements set forth in regulations promulgated by the FDA, the EMA and other comparable regulatory authorities could result in significant delays in and costs of our products.
The manufacturing of immunotherapies for clinical trials or commercial sale is subject to extensive regulation. GMP requirements govern manufacturing processes and procedures, including record-keeping, and the implementation and operation of quality systems to control and assure the quality of products and materials used in our products and product candidates. Poor control of the GMP production processes can lead to product quality failures that can impact our ability to supply product, resulting in loss of potential product sales revenue, cost overruns and delays to clinical timelines for our clinical programs, which could be extensive. Such production process issues include but are not limited to:
•critical deviations in the manufacturing process;
•facility and equipment failures;
•contamination of the product due to an ineffective quality control strategy;
•facility contamination as assessed by the facility and utility environmental monitoring program;
•ineffective process, equipment or analytical change management, resulting in failed lot release criteria;
•raw material failures due to ineffective supplier qualification or regulatory compliance issues at critical suppliers;
•ineffective product stability;
•failed lot release or facility and utility quality control testing;
•ineffective corrective actions or preventative actions taken to correct or avoid critical deviations due to our developing understanding of the manufacturing process as we scale; and
•failed or defective components or consumables.
We must supply all necessary documentation in support of a BLA or other marketing authorization application on a timely basis and must adhere to the FDA’s, the EMA’s and other countries’ GMP requirements, which are enforced, in the case of the FDA, in part through its facilities inspection program.
Regulatory authorities typically require representative manufacturing site inspections to assess adequate compliance with GMPs and manufacturing controls as described in the filing. If either we or one of our third-party manufacturing sites fails to provide sufficient quality assurance or control, approval continue delivery of our commercial product or to commercialize our product candidates may not be granted. Inspections by regulatory authorities may occur at any time during the development or commercialization phase of products. The inspections may be product-specific or facility-specific for broader GMP inspections or as a follow up to market or development issues that the regulatory agency may identify. Deficient inspection outcomes may influence the ability of our third-party manufacturers or suppliers to fulfill their supply obligations, impacting or delaying supply or delaying programs.
The manufacturing process for any products that is subject to the FDA’s, the EMA’s and other regulatory authorities’ approval processes, and we may need to contract with manufacturers who we believe can meet applicable regulatory authority requirements on an ongoing basis. If we or our third-party manufacturers are unable to reliably manufacture to specifications acceptable to the FDA, the EMA or other regulatory authorities, we or our collaborators may not obtain or maintain the approvals we or they need to release and deliver such products. Even if we or our collaborators obtain regulatory approval for any of our immunotherapies, there is no assurance that either we or our CMOs will be able to manufacture our product candidates to specifications acceptable to the FDA, the EMA or other regulatory authorities, to produce it in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements for the potential launch of the product, or to meet potential future demand. Any of these challenges could delay completion of clinical trials, require bridging clinical trials or the repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical trial costs, delay approval of our product candidates, impair commercialization efforts or increase our cost of goods. The occurrence of any of the foregoing could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.
In addition, we may not have direct control over the ability of our CMOs to maintain adequate quality control, quality assurance and qualified personnel. Furthermore, all of our CMOs are engaged with other companies to supply or manufacture materials or products for such companies, which exposes our CMOs to regulatory risks for the production of such materials and products. As a result, failure to meet the regulatory requirements for the production of those materials and products may generally affect the regulatory status of our CMOs’ facilities. Our failure, or the failure of our third-party manufacturers, to comply with applicable regulations could result in sanctions being imposed on us, including clinical holds, fines, injunctions, civil penalties, delays, suspension or withdrawal of approvals, license revocation, seizures or recalls of product candidates or products, operating restrictions, and criminal prosecutions, any of which could significantly and adversely affect supplies of our products and product candidates (including those of our collaborators) and our overall business operations. Our potential future dependence upon others for the manufacture of our products, product candidates and raw materials may adversely affect our future profit margins and our ability to commercialize any products that receive regulatory approval on a timely and competitive basis.
The FDA, the EMA and other regulatory authorities may require us to submit product samples of any lot of any approved product together with the protocols showing the results of applicable tests at any time. Under some circumstances, the FDA or other regulatory authorities may require that we do not distribute a lot or lots until the relevant agency authorizes such release. Deviations in the manufacturing process, including those affecting quality attributes and stability, may result in unacceptable changes in the product that could result in lot failures or product recalls. Our CMOs have, in the past, experienced lot failures and some may have experienced product recalls. Lot failures or product recalls with respect to product produced by either our own facilities or those of our third-party manufacturers could cause us and our collaborators to delay clinical trials, product launches or product supply, which could be costly to us and otherwise harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
We also may encounter problems hiring and retaining the experienced scientific, quality-control and manufacturing personnel needed to operate our manufacturing processes and operations, which could result in delays in production or difficulties in maintaining compliance with applicable regulatory requirements. While we train and qualify all personnel around the appropriate handling of our products and materials, we may not be able to control for or ultimately detect intentional sabotage or negligence by any employee or contractor.
Risks Related to our Reliance on Third Parties
We have entered into several arrangements with a related party for the performance of nonclinical research programs, and these arrangements present potential conflicts of interest.
We have had a longstanding relationship with Translational Oncology at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Translationale Onkologie an der Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz gemeinnützige GmbH), or TRON, a non-profit limited liability company engaged in biopharmaceutical research, for the performance of nonclinical research. For more information about our relationship with TRON, see Item 7.B. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions in this Annual Report on Form 20-F, below.
The existence or appearance of a conflict of interest could depress the price of the ADSs or attract scrutiny from shareholders, regulators or other stakeholders. Additionally, any conflicts of interest would create the risk that our officers may favor their personal interests over those of our shareholders.
We rely on third parties in the conduct of significant aspects of our preclinical studies and clinical trials and intend to rely on third parties in the conduct of future clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, fail to comply with applicable regulatory requirements or fail to meet expected deadlines, we may be unable to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates.
We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties, such as CROs, clinical data management organizations, collaborators, medical institutions and clinical investigators, to conduct various and significant elements of our clinical trials. We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties to conduct certain research and preclinical testing activities. In some cases, these third parties may terminate their engagements with us. If we need to enter into alternative arrangements, it would delay our discovery or product development activities.
Our reliance on these third parties for research and development activities will reduce our control over these activities but will not relieve us of our regulatory or contractual responsibilities. We are responsible for ensuring that each of our preclinical studies and clinical trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal and regulatory requirements and scientific standards. For example, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our clinical trials is conducted in accordance with the general investigational plan and protocols for the trial.
Moreover, the FDA requires us to comply with GCP for conducting, recording and reporting the results of clinical trials to assure that data and reported results are credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of trial participants are protected. We also are required to register ongoing clinical trials and post the results of completed clinical trials on a government-sponsored database, ClinicalTrials.gov, within certain timeframes. Failure to do so can result in fines, adverse publicity, and civil and criminal sanctions. For any violations of laws and regulations during the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, we could be subject to warning letters or enforcement action that may include civil penalties up to and including criminal prosecution.
We and our CROs are required to comply with regulations, including GCP, for conducting, monitoring, recording and reporting the results of preclinical studies and clinical trials to ensure that the data and results are scientifically credible and
accurate and that the trial participants are adequately informed, among other things, of the potential risks of participating in clinical trials. We also are responsible for ensuring that the rights of our clinical trial participants are protected. These regulations are enforced by the FDA, the regulatory authorities of the EU member states, and comparable regulatory authorities of other jurisdictions for any product candidates in clinical development. The FDA enforces GCP regulations through periodic inspections of clinical trial sponsors, principal investigators and trial sites. If we or our CROs fail to comply with applicable GCP, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or comparable regulatory authorities of other jurisdictions may require us to perform additional clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot be sure that, upon inspection, the FDA will determine that any of our future clinical trials will comply with GCP. In addition, our clinical trials must be conducted with product candidates produced in accordance with the requirements of GMP regulations. 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.
Although we have designed, and in the future intend to design the clinical trials for certain of our product candidates, our collaborators will design the clinical trials that they are managing (in some cases, with our input) and in the case of clinical trials controlled by us, we expect that CROs will conduct all of the clinical trials. As a result, many important aspects of our development programs, including their conduct and timing, are outside of our direct control. Our reliance on third parties to conduct future preclinical studies and clinical trials results in less direct control over the management of data developed through preclinical studies and clinical trials than would be the case if we were relying entirely upon our own staff. Communicating with outside parties can also potentially lead to mistakes as well as difficulties in coordinating activities. Outside parties may:
•have staffing difficulties;
•fail to comply with contractual obligations;
•experience regulatory compliance issues;
•undergo changes in priorities or become financially distressed;
•form relationships with other entities, some of which may be our competitors;
•have human errors; or
•be subject to cyberattacks.
These factors may materially adversely affect the willingness or ability of third parties to conduct our preclinical studies and clinical trials and may subject us to unexpected cost increases that are beyond our control. If the CROs do not perform preclinical studies and clinical trials in a satisfactory manner, breach their obligations to us or fail to comply with regulatory requirements, the development, regulatory approval and commercialization of our product candidates may be delayed, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval and commercialize our product candidates, or our development programs may be materially and irreversibly harmed. If we are unable to rely on preclinical and clinical data collected by our CROs, we could be required to repeat, extend the duration of, or increase the size of any clinical trials we conduct and this could significantly delay commercialization and require significantly greater expenditures.
We also rely on other third parties to transport, store and distribute the required materials for our clinical trials. In the past, certain of our third-party vendors have mishandled our materials, resulting in loss of full or partial lots of material. Any further performance failure on the part of these third parties could result in damaged products and could delay clinical development or marketing approval of any product candidates we may develop or commercialization of our medicines, if approved, producing additional losses and depriving us of potential product sales revenue, causing us to default on our contractual commitments, result in losses that are not covered by insurance, and damage our reputation and overall perception of our products in the marketplace. Each of the risks set forth above may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting the global community and the global economy.
Our existing collaborations, or any future collaboration arrangements that we may enter into, may not be successful, which could significantly limit the likelihood of receiving the potential economic benefits of the collaboration and adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our product candidates.
We have entered into collaborations under which our collaborators have provided, and may in the future provide, funding and other resources for developing and commercializing our product candidates. We expect to enter into additional
collaborations to access additional funding, capabilities and expertise in the future. Our existing collaborations, and any future collaborations we enter into, may pose a number of risks, including the following:
•collaborators may not perform or prioritize their obligations as expected;
•the clinical trials conducted as part of such collaborations may not be successful;
•collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates that achieve regulatory approval or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization of programs based on clinical trial results, changes in the collaborators’ focus or available funding, or external factors, such as an acquisition, that divert resources or create competing priorities;
•collaborators may delay clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for clinical trials, stop a clinical trial, abandon a product candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials, or require a new formulation of a product candidate for clinical testing;
•collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidates if the collaborators believe that competitive products are more likely to be successfully developed or can be commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours;
•product candidates developed in collaborations with us may be viewed by our collaborators as competitive with their own product candidates or products, which may cause collaborators to cease to devote resources to the development or commercialization of our product candidates;
•a collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more of our product candidates that achieve regulatory approval may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of any such product;
•disagreements with collaborators, including disagreements over proprietary rights, contract interpretation or the preferred course of development of any product candidates, may cause delays or termination of the research, development or commercialization of such product candidates, may lead to additional responsibilities for us with respect to such product candidates, or may result in litigation or arbitration, any of which would be time-consuming and expensive;
•collaborators may not properly maintain, protect, defend or enforce our intellectual property rights or may use our proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our intellectual property or proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation;
•disputes may arise with respect to the ownership of intellectual property developed pursuant to our collaborations;
•collaborators may infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;
•collaborations may be terminated for the convenience of the collaborator and, if terminated, the development of our product candidates may be delayed, and we could be required to raise additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates;
•future relationships may require us to incur non-recurring and other charges, increase our near- and long-term expenditures, issue securities that dilute our existing shareholders, or disrupt our management and business;
•we could face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators, and the negotiation process is time-consuming and complex; and
•our international operations through any future collaborations, acquisitions or joint ventures may expose us to certain operating, legal and other risks not encountered in the United States.
If our collaborations do not result in the successful development and commercialization of programs, or if one of our collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may not receive any future research funding or milestone, earn-out, royalty or other contingent payments under the collaborations. If we do not receive the funding we expect under these agreements, our development of product candidates could be delayed and we may need additional resources to develop our product candidates. In addition, in general our collaborators have the right to terminate their agreements with us for convenience. If one of our collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may find it more difficult to attract new collaborators and the perception of us in the business and financial communities could be adversely affected. All of the risks relating to product development, regulatory approval and commercialization described in this report apply to the activities of our collaborators.
If we are not able to establish collaborations on commercially reasonable terms, we may have to alter our research, development and commercialization plans.
Our research and product development programs and the potential commercialization of any product candidates we develop alone or with collaborators will require substantial additional cash to fund expenses, and we expect that we will continue to seek collaborative arrangements with others in connection with the development and potential commercialization of current and future product candidates or the development of ancillary technologies. We face significant competition in establishing relationships with appropriate collaborators. In addition, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future collaborators. Whether or not we reach a definitive agreement for a collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration and the proposed collaborator’s evaluation of a number of factors. Those factors may include, among other things and as applicable for the type of potential product or technology, an assessment of the opportunities and risks of our technology, the design or results of studies or trials, the likelihood of approval, if necessary, of the FDA or comparable regulatory authorities outside the United States, the potential market for the subject product candidate, the costs and complexities of manufacturing and delivering such product candidate to patients, the potential of competing products and technologies and industry and market conditions generally.
Current or future collaborators may also consider alternative product candidates or technologies for similar indications that may be available to collaborate on and whether such a collaboration could be more attractive than the one with us. Additionally, we may be restricted under existing collaboration agreements from entering into future agreements on certain terms or for certain development activities with potential collaborators. For example, we have granted exclusive rights or options to Pfizer for certain targets, and under the terms of our respective collaboration agreements with them, we will be restricted from granting rights to other parties to use our mRNA technology to pursue potential products that address those targets. Similarly, our collaboration agreements have in the past and may in the future contain non-competition provisions that could limit our ability to enter into collaborations with future collaborators.
Collaborations are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. We may not be able to negotiate collaborations on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all. If we do enter into additional collaboration agreements, the negotiated terms may force us to relinquish rights that diminish our potential profitability from development and commercialization of the subject product candidates or others. If we are unable to enter into additional collaboration agreements, we may have to curtail the research and development of the product candidate or technology for which we are seeking to collaborate, reduce or delay research and development programs, delay potential commercialization timelines, reduce the scope of any sales or marketing activities or undertake research, development or commercialization activities at our own expense. If we elect to increase our expenditures to fund research, development or commercialization activities on our own, we may need to obtain additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all.
We have entered into in-licensing arrangements and may form or seek to enter into additional licensing arrangements in the future, and we may not realize the benefits of such licensing arrangements.
We are a party to licenses that give us rights to third-party intellectual property, including patents and patent applications, that are necessary or useful for our business. In particular, we have obtained licenses from Actuitas Therapeutics, CellScript LLC and its affiliate, mRNA RiboTherapeutics, Inc., to patent rights claiming certain uses of modified RNA, as well as licenses from certain other parties for intellectual property useful in pharmaceutical formulations. We may enter into additional licenses to third-party intellectual property in the future.
The success of products developed based on in-licensed technology will depend in part on the ability of our current and future licensors to prosecute, obtain, maintain, protect, enforce and defend patent protection for our in-licensed intellectual property. Our current and future licensors may not successfully prosecute the patent applications we license. Even if patents were issued in respect of these patent applications, our licensors may fail to maintain these patents, may determine not to pursue litigation against other companies that are infringing these patents, or may pursue such litigation less aggressively than we would. Without protection for the intellectual property we license, other companies might be able to offer substantially identical products for sale, which could adversely affect our competitive business position and harm our business prospects. In addition, we sublicense our rights under various third-party licenses to our collaborators. Any impairment of these sublicensed rights could result in reduced revenues under our collaboration agreements or result in termination of an agreement by one or more of our collaborators.
Disputes may also arise between us and our licensors regarding intellectual property subject to a license agreement, including:
•the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation-related issues;
•whether and the extent to which our technology and processes infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate the intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the licensing agreement;
•our right to sublicense patent and other intellectual property rights to third parties under collaborative relationships;
•our diligence obligations with respect to the use of the licensed intellectual property and technology in relation to our development and commercialization of our product candidates, and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations;
•the ownership of inventions, trade secrets, know-how and other intellectual property resulting from the joint creation or use of intellectual property by our licensors and us and our collaborators; and
•the priority of invention of patented technology; and
•including amounts to be paid pursuant to royalty obligations, including the triggering of royalty obligations and amounts to be paid pursuant thereto.
If disputes over intellectual property that we have in-licensed or other related contractual rights prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangements on favorable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates.
We are generally also subject to all of the same risks with respect to protection of intellectual property that we license, as we are for intellectual property that we own, which are described below. If we, our co-owners or our licensors fail to adequately protect, defend, maintain or enforce this intellectual property, our ability to commercialize products could suffer.
If we commit certain material breaches and fail to remedy them (if such breach is curable), we are required to repurchase shares held by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
If we commit a specified material breach under the letter agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, or BMGF, and such breach remains uncured after a specified period of time (if curable), we are required to either (i) repurchase the shares held by BMGF or locate a third party to purchase the shares from BMGF, in either case at a price that is the greater of the original purchase price or the fair market value of the shares at the time of repurchase, or (ii) if we cannot meet the requirements under (i) (e.g., because we do not have sufficient cash reserves), then we must use our best efforts to effect BMGF’s withdrawal right as soon as practicable, which may mean acquiring the shares in tranches over time. If we are required to repurchase BMGF’s shares, our financial position could be materially and adversely affected.
We rely on third parties to manufacture certain of our clinical product supplies, and we may have to rely on third parties to produce and process our product candidates, if approved.
Although we expect to continue using our own clinical manufacturing facilities, we also rely on outside vendors to manufacture supplies and process our product candidates. We have only recently begun to manufacture our COVID-19 vaccine on a commercial scale and may not be able to achieve commercial- scale manufacturing and processing for our product candidates, if approved, and may be unable to create an inventory of mass-produced, off-the-shelf product to satisfy demands for our product candidates, if approved.
We do not yet have sufficient information to reliably estimate the cost of the commercial manufacturing and processing of our product candidates, and the actual cost to manufacture and process our product candidates could materially and adversely affect the commercial viability of our product candidates. As a result, we may not be able to develop commercially viable products other than our COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition, our reliance on a limited number of CMOs exposes us to the following risks:
•we may be unable to identify manufacturers on acceptable terms or at all because the number of potential manufacturers is limited and the FDA or other regulatory authorities may have questions regarding any replacement contractor. This may require new testing and regulatory interactions. In addition, a new
manufacturer would have to be educated in, or develop substantially equivalent processes for, production of our products after receipt of regulatory authority questions, if any;
•our CMOs might be unable to timely formulate and manufacture our product or produce the quantity and quality required to meet our clinical and commercial needs, if any;
•CMOs may not be able to execute our manufacturing procedures appropriately;
•our future CMOs may not perform as agreed or may not remain in the contract manufacturing business for the time required to supply our clinical trials or to successfully produce, store and distribute our products;
•manufacturers are subject to ongoing periodic unannounced inspection by the FDA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and corresponding state agencies and by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions to ensure strict compliance with GMP and other government regulations and corresponding standards in other jurisdictions. We do not have control over CMOs’ compliance with these regulations and standards;
•we may not own, or may have to share, the intellectual property rights to any improvements made in the manufacturing process for our products;
•our CMOs could breach or terminate their agreement with us; and
•our CMOs would also be subject to the same risks we face in developing our own manufacturing capabilities, as described above.
Each of these risks could delay our clinical trials, the approval, if any, of our COVID-19 vaccine or product candidates by the FDA or regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions or the commercialization of our COVID-19 vaccine or product candidates, or result in higher costs or deprive us of potential product sales revenue. In addition, we will rely on third parties to perform release tests on our COVID-19 or our product candidates prior to delivery to patients. If these tests are not appropriately done and test data are not reliable, patients could be put at risk of serious harm.
We are dependent on single source suppliers for some of the components and materials used in, and the processes required to develop, our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates.
We currently depend on single source suppliers for some of the components and materials used in, and manufacturing processes required to develop, our COVID-19 and our product candidates. We cannot ensure that these suppliers or service providers will remain in business, or have sufficient capacity or supply to meet our needs, or that they will not be purchased by one of our competitors or another company that is not interested in continuing to work with us. Our use of single source suppliers of raw materials, components, key processes and finished goods exposes us to several risks, including disruptions in supply, price increases or late deliveries. There are, in general, relatively few alternative sources of supply for substitute components. These vendors may be unable or unwilling to meet our future demands for our clinical trials or commercial sale. Establishing additional or replacement suppliers for these components, materials and processes could take a substantial amount of time and it may be difficult to establish replacement suppliers who meet regulatory requirements. Any disruption in supply from any single source supplier or service provider could lead to supply delays or interruptions which would damage our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
If we have to switch to a replacement supplier, the manufacture and delivery of our product candidates could be interrupted for an extended period, which could adversely affect our business. Establishing additional or replacement suppliers for any of the components or processes used in our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates, if required, may not be accomplished quickly. If we are able to find a replacement supplier, the replacement supplier would need to be qualified and may require additional regulatory authority approval, which could result in further delay. While we seek to maintain adequate inventory of the single source components and materials used in our COVID-19 vaccine and our product candidates, any interruption or delay in the supply of components or materials, or our inability to obtain components or materials from alternate sources at acceptable prices in a timely manner, could impair our ability to meet the demand for our COVID-19 vaccine and product candidates.
In addition, as part of the FDA’s approval of our product candidates, we will also require FDA review of the individual components of our process, which include the manufacturing processes and facilities of our single source suppliers.
Our reliance on these suppliers, service providers and manufacturers subjects us to a number of risks that could harm our reputation, business and financial condition, including, among other things:
•delays to the development timelines for our product candidates;
•interruption of supply resulting from modifications to or discontinuation of a supplier’s operations;
•delays in product shipments resulting from uncorrected defects, reliability issues, or a supplier’s variation in a component;
•a lack of long-term supply arrangements for key components with our suppliers;
•inability to obtain adequate supply in a timely manner, or to obtain adequate supply on commercially reasonable terms;
•difficulty and cost associated with locating and qualifying alternative suppliers for our components in a timely manner;
•production delays related to the evaluation and testing of components from alternative suppliers, and corresponding regulatory qualifications;
•delay in delivery due to our suppliers’ prioritizing other customer orders over ours;
•damage to our reputation caused by defective components produced by our suppliers; and
•fluctuation in delivery by our suppliers due to changes in demand from us or their other customers.
If any of these risks materialize, costs could significantly increase and our ability to meet demand for our products could be impacted
Risks Related to our Intellectual Property
If our efforts to obtain, maintain, protect, defend and/or enforce the intellectual property related to our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates and technologies are not adequate, we may not be able to compete effectively in our market.
Our commercial success depends in part on our ability to obtain, maintain, protect, defend and enforce patent and other intellectual property, including trade secret and know-how, protection for our COVID-19 vaccine and for our product candidates, proprietary technologies and their uses, as well as our ability to operate, develop, manufacture and commercialize our COVID-19 vaccine or one or more of our product candidates without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property or other proprietary rights of our competitors or any other third parties, including any non-practicing entities or patent assertion entities. We generally seek to protect our intellectual property position by filing and/or licensing patent applications in the United States and abroad related to our product candidates, proprietary technologies (including methods of manufacture) and their uses that are important to our business. Our patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties practicing the technology claimed in such applications unless, and until, patents issue from such applications, and then only to the extent that the issued claims cover third parties’ activities in the countries in which they are performed. We cannot be certain that the claims in any of our patent applications will be considered patentable by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO, courts in the United States or the patent offices and courts in other jurisdictions, including Europe, nor can we be certain that any claim in our issued patents will not be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that our patent applications or those of our licensors will result in additional patents being issued or that issued patents will adequately cover our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates, or otherwise afford sufficient protection against competitors with similar technology, nor can there be any assurance that issued patents will not be infringed, designed around, invalidated or held unenforceable. Furthermore, we may not be able to apply for patents on certain aspects of our current or future products or product candidates, proprietary technologies and their uses in a timely fashion, at a reasonable cost, in all jurisdictions, or at all, and any potential patent protection we obtain may not be sufficient to prevent substantial competition.
Even claims of issued patents may later be found invalid or unenforceable, or may be modified or revoked in proceedings before various patent offices or in courts in the United States, Europe or other jurisdictions. The degree of future protection for our intellectual property and other proprietary rights is uncertain. Only limited protection may be available and may not adequately protect our rights or permit us to gain or keep any competitive advantage. If we do not adequately obtain, maintain, protect, defend and enforce our intellectual property and proprietary technology, competitors may be able to use our product candidates and proprietary technologies and erode or negate any competitive advantage we may have, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The patent application process is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, and there can be no assurance that we or any of our current or future licensors or collaborators will be successful in prosecuting, obtaining, protecting, maintaining, enforcing or defending patents and patent applications necessary or useful to protect our products or product candidates, proprietary technologies (including methods of manufacture) and their uses. These risks and uncertainties include, from time to time, the following:
•the USPTO and various other governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other provisions during the patenting process, the noncompliance with which can result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application or a finding that a patent is unenforceable, and partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction;
•patent applications may not result in any patents being issued;
•claims of issued patents that we own (solely or jointly) or have in-licensed may be challenged, invalidated, modified, revoked, circumvented, found to be unenforceable or otherwise may not provide any competitive advantage;
•other parties may have designed around our patent claims or developed technologies that may be related or competitive to our COVID-19 vaccine or to our product candidates or other technologies, may have filed or may file patent applications and may have received or may receive patents that overlap or conflict with our patent filings, either by claiming the same or overlapping methods, products, reagents, tools or devices or by claiming subject matter that could dominate one or more of our patent claims;
•any successful opposition to claims of any patents owned by or in-licensed to us could deprive us of rights necessary for the development and exploitation of our COVID-19 vaccine or our product candidates and other technologies, or the successful commercialization of any product candidates and other technologies that we may develop;
•because patent applications in the United States and most other jurisdictions are confidential for a period of time after filing, we cannot be certain that we, our co-owners or our licensors were the first to file any patent application related to our product candidates, proprietary technologies and their uses;
•a court or patent office proceeding, such as a derivative action or interference, can be provoked or instituted by a third party or a patent office, and might determine that one or more of the inventions described in our patent filings, or in those we licensed, was first invented by someone else, so that we may lose rights to such invention(s);
•a court or other patent proceeding, such as an inter partes review, post grant review or opposition, can be instituted by a third party to challenge the inventorship, scope, validity and/or enforceability of our patent claims and might result in invalidation or revision of one or more of our patent claims, or in a determination that such claims are unenforceable;
•there may be significant pressure on the U.S. government and international governmental bodies to limit the scope of patent protection both inside and outside the United States for disease treatments that prove successful, as a matter of public policy regarding worldwide health concerns; existing legislation (for example, in the United States, the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, etc.) may be interpreted, and new legislation may be passed, to permit third-party use of patented technologies relating to a public health concern (for example, the COVID-19 pandemic), with little or no compensation to the patent holder(s); and
•countries other than the United States may have patent laws less favorable to patentees than those upheld by U.S. courts, allowing competitors a better opportunity to create, develop and market competing product candidates.
The patent position of biopharmaceutical companies generally is highly uncertain, involves complex legal and factual questions, and has been the subject of much litigation in recent years. The standards that the USPTO and its counterparts use to grant patents are not always applied predictably or uniformly and can change. Similarly, the ultimate degree of protection that will be afforded to biotechnology inventions, including ours, in the United States and other countries, remains uncertain and is dependent upon the scope of the protection decided upon by patent offices, courts and lawmakers. Moreover, there are periodic changes in patent law, as well as discussions in the U.S. Congress and in international jurisdictions about modifying various aspects of patent law. There is no uniform, worldwide policy regarding the subject matter and scope of claims granted or allowable in pharmaceutical or biotechnology patents. In certain countries, for example, methods for the medical treatment of humans are not patentable. More generally, the laws of some countries do
not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as U.S. laws, and those countries may lack adequate rules and procedures for granting, maintaining, protecting, defending and enforcing our intellectual property rights.
Furthermore, the patent prosecution process is expensive and time-consuming, and we may not be able to file, prosecute, maintain, protect, defend, enforce or license all necessary or desirable patents or patent applications, as applicable, at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. It is possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output in time to obtain patent protection. Although we enter into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with parties who have access to confidential or patentable aspects of our research and development output, such as our employees, corporate collaborators, outside scientific collaborators, CROs, CMOs, consultants, advisors and other third parties, if any of these parties were to breach such agreements and improperly disclose such output before a patent application is filed, this could jeopardize our ability to seek patent protection. We also rely to a certain extent on trade secrets, know-how, and technology, which are not protected by patents, to maintain our competitive position. If any trade secret, know-how or other technology not protected by a patent were to be disclosed to or independently developed by a competitor, our business and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.
The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, priority date, scope, term, validity or enforceability so that any patents that may issue or that we may license may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States, Europe and other jurisdictions. Once granted, patents may remain open to a variety of challenges, including opposition, interference, re-examination, post-grant review, inter partes review, nullification or derivation action in court or before patent offices or similar proceedings, and furthermore, may be challenged as a defense in any enforcement action that we might bring; for example, various third parties have filed opposition papers challenging our issued EP patent number 2714071, which relates to our iNeST product candidates, and whose claims recite steps relating to neoantigen selection. While the claims of our issued EP patent 2714071 were upheld after opposition, there is currently a pending appeal against the opposition decision. Such challenges may result in loss of exclusivity or in patent claims being narrowed, terminated, disclaimed, invalidated, assigned to others or held unenforceable, any or all of which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical products, or limit the scope and/or term of patent protection of our products and product candidates and/ or eliminate it altogether, thus hindering or removing our ability to limit third parties from making, using or selling products or technologies that are similar or identical to ours, and/or reduce or eliminate royalty payments to us from our licensees. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. Furthermore, our pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued which protect our technology or our product(s) or product candidates, or which effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive technologies and products. As a result, our intellectual property may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.
Our ability to enforce our owned and in-licensed patent and other intellectual property rights depends on our ability to detect infringement, misappropriation and other violation of such patents and other intellectual property. It may be difficult to detect infringers, misappropriators and other violators who do not advertise the components or methods that are used in connection with their products and services. Moreover, it may be difficult or impossible to obtain evidence of infringement, misappropriation or other violation in a competitor’s or potential competitor’s product or service, and in some cases we may not be able to introduce obtained evidence into a proceeding or otherwise utilize it to successfully demonstrate infringement. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded if we were to prevail may not be commercially meaningful.
Furthermore, patents or other intellectual property rights that we may be able to secure for our COVID-19 vaccine or our other COVID-19 vaccine candidates could be restricted or preempted if governments determine that they will not enforce, or will require compulsory licensing of, technologies useful to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, proceedings to enforce or defend our owned or in-licensed 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. Such challenges may result in loss of patent rights, loss of exclusivity, or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and products, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our technology and product candidates. If any of our owned or in-licensed patents covering our product candidates or other technologies are narrowed, invalidated or found unenforceable, or if a court found that valid, enforceable patents held by third parties covered one or more of our product
candidates or other technologies, our competitive position could be harmed or we could be required to incur significant expenses to protect, enforce or defend our rights. If we initiate lawsuits to protect, defend or enforce our patents, or litigate against third-party claims, such proceedings would be expensive and would divert the attention of our management, technical personnel, and other employees even if the eventual outcome is favorable to us.
The degree of future protection for our intellectual property and other proprietary rights is uncertain, and we cannot ensure that: