|(1): Of which Financial income incurred by renegotiating the convertible bond debt OCEANE||—||—||35,578|
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
|o||REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
|x||ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021
|o||TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
|o||SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
|Date of event requiring this shell company report|
Commission File Number 001-38844
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter and translation of Registrant’s name into English)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
885, avenue Eugène Avinée
59120 Loos, France
(Address of principal executive offices)
Chief Executive Officer
885, avenue Eugène Avinée
59120 Loos, France
Tel: +33 (0)3 2016 4000 / Fax: +33 (0)3 2016 4001
(Name, Telephone, Email 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||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|American Depositary Shares, each representing one ordinary share, nominal value €0.25 per share||GNFT||The Nasdaq Global Select Market|
|Ordinary shares, nominal value €0.25 per share*||*||The Nasdaq Global Select Market*|
*Not for trading, but only in connection with the registration of the American Depositary Shares.
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 or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report. Ordinary shares: 49,815,489 shares outstanding as of December 31, 2021
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). x Yes o 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 definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer o
Accelerated filer x
Non-accelerated filer o
Emerging growth company x
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 .☐
|†||The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.|
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 ☒ Other ☐
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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
| || ||Page|
|Item 1.||Identity of Director, Senior Management and Advisers.|
|Item 2.||Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable.|
|Item 3.||Key Information.|
|Item 4.||Information on the Company.|
|Item 5.||Operating and Financial Review and Prospects.|
|Item 6.||Directors, Senior Management and Employees.|
|Item 7.||Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions.|
|Item 8.||Financial Information.|
|Item 9.||The Offer and Listing.|
|Item 10.||Additional Information.|
|Item 11.||Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.|
|Item 11C. ||Interim Periods.|
|Item 11D. ||Safe Harbor|
|Item 12.||Description of Securities Other than Equity Securities.|
|Item 13.||Defaults, Dividend Arrearages and Delinquencies.|
|Item 14.||Material Modifications to the Rights of Security Holders and Use of Proceeds.|
|Item 15.||Disclosure Controls and Procedures.|
|Item 16A.||Audit Committee Financial Expert.|
|Item 16B.||Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.|
|Item 16C.||Principal Accountant Fees and Services.|
|Item 16D.||Exemptions from the Listing Standards for Audit Committees.|
|Item 16E.||Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers.|
|Item 16F.||Change in Registrant’s Certifying Accountant.|
|Item 16G.||Corporate Governance.|
|Item 16H.||Mine Safety Disclosure.|
|Item 16I.||Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections.|
|Item 17.||Financial Statements.|
|Item 18.||Financial Statements.|
Unless otherwise indicated, “GENFIT,” “the company,” “our company,” ‘the group,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to GENFIT S.A. and its consolidated subsidiaries.
“GENFIT,” the GENFIT logo, “RESOLVE-IT”, “NIS4”, “ELATIVE”, “The NASH Education Program”, “The NASH Epidemiology Institute”, "NASHnext" and other trademarks or service marks of GENFIT S.A. appearing in this Annual Report on Form 20-F, or annual report, are the property of GENFIT S.A. or its subsidiaries. Solely for convenience, the trademarks, service marks and trade names referred to in this annual report are listed without the ® and ™ symbols, but such references should not be construed as any indicator that their respective owners will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, their right thereto. All other trademarks, trade names and service marks appearing in this annual report are the property of their respective owners. We do not intend to use or display other companies’ trademarks and trade names to imply any relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship of us by, any other companies.
Our audited consolidated financial statements have been prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards, or IFRS, as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board, or IASB. Our financial statements included in this annual report are presented in euros and, unless otherwise specified, all monetary amounts are in euros. All references in this annual report to “$,” “US$,” “U.S.$,” “U.S. dollars,” “dollars” and “USD” mean U.S. dollars and all references to “€” and “euros,” mean euros, unless otherwise noted. Throughout this annual report, references to ADSs mean ADSs or ordinary shares represented by such ADSs, as the case may be.
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 20-F, or annual report, contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, that are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. All statements other than present and historical facts and conditions contained in this annual report, including statements regarding our future results of operations and financial positions, business strategy, plans and our objectives for future operations, are forward-looking statements. When used in this annual report, the words “anticipate,” “believe,” “can,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “is designed to,” “may,” “might,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “objective,” “should,” or the negative of these and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:
•our plans to develop and commercialize elafibranor, tests powered by our NIS4 technology and our other drug candidates;
•the initiation, timing, progress and results of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including the timing of availability of data from our clinical trials;
•our ability to successfully expand and advance our pipeline of drug candidates, including through in-licensing agreements;
•our and our collaborators' ability to expand the research, clinical and commercial use of diagnostics incorporating our NIS4 technology;
•the timing of our planned regulatory filings;
•the timing of and our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals;
•the clinical utility and market acceptance of our drug candidates and tests powered by our NIS4 technology;
•the potential clinical utility of our product candidates and their potential advantages over existing therapies as well as those in development;
•our ability to establish and maintain manufacturing and supply arrangements for our product candidates;
•our ability to build our commercial organization in the event we elect to directly commercialize any approved products;
•the ability of third parties with whom we contract to successfully conduct, supervise and monitor clinical trials for our product candidates;
•the potential benefits of strategic collaboration agreements and our ability to enter into strategic arrangements;
•the effects of increased competition as well as innovations by new and existing competitors in our industry;
•our ability to maintain, protect and enhance our intellectual property rights and proprietary technologies and to operate our business without infringing the intellectual property rights and proprietary technology of third parties;
•our estimates regarding future revenues, expenses and needs for additional financing, including our ability to fund our existing programs and execute our strategy based on our current financial position;
•the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business and operations; and
•other risks and uncertainties, including those listed in this annual report under the caption “Risk Factors.”
You should refer to the section of this annual report titled “Item 3.D—Risk Factors” for a discussion of important factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by our forward-looking statements. As a result of these factors, we cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this annual report will prove to be accurate. Furthermore, if our forward-looking statements prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not regard these statements as a representation or warranty by us or any other person that we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame or at all. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.
You should read this annual report and the documents that we reference in this annual report and have filed as exhibits to this annual report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.
This annual report contains market data and industry forecasts that were obtained from industry publications. These data involve a number of assumptions and limitations, and you are cautioned not to give undue weight to such estimates. We have not independently verified any third-party information. While we believe the market position, market opportunity and market size information included in this annual report are generally reliable, such information is inherently imprecise.
SUMMARY RISK FACTORS
Investing in our shares involves numerous risks, including the risks described in “Item 3.D—Risk Factors” of this annual report. Below are some of our principal risks, any one of which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects:
•Our drug candidate development activities are focused primarily on the development of our drug candidate elafibranor in PBC as well as on other drug candidates for which development is less advanced. Drug development is subject to a number of risks.
•Clinical failure can occur at any stage of clinical development, as was the case with our Phase 3 RESOLVE-IT trial of elafibranor in NASH. The results of earlier clinical trials are not necessarily predictive of future results and elafibranor in PBC or any other product candidate that we or our collaborators advance through clinical trials may not have favorable results in later clinical trials, which may delay, limit or prevent our ability to receive regulatory approval or marketing authorization.
•Delays in the commencement, enrollment and completion of clinical trials, including our Phase 3 ELATIVE trial of elafibranor in PBC, could result in increased costs to us and delay or limit our ability and that of Ipsen and Terns Pharmaceuticals, our partners for elafibranor, and that of any future collaborators, to obtain regulatory approval for elafibranor and our other drug candidates.
•We cannot be certain that elafibranor or any of our other product candidates, even if they meet clinical and regulatory requirements, will receive regulatory approval, and without regulatory approval, we will not be able to market our product candidates.
•We have obtained breakthrough therapy designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA for elafibranor in the treatment of PBC and we may, through our partnership with Ipsen, seek to avail ourselves of such mechanisms to expedite the development or approval of elafibranor for another indication or in combination in the future or in order to accelerate the development or approval of our other drug candidates, but such mechanisms may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process, and it may not increase the likelihood that elafibranor will receive marketing approval for this indication.
•Due to our limited resources and access to capital, our strategic decisions with respect to the development of certain product candidates may affect the development or timing of our business prospects.
•The development of our NIS4 technology and tests powered by this technology requires access to clinical trials, data and clinical samples in NASH patients and therefore our development is subject to the risks related to these trials.
•We intend to develop and market an in-vitro diagnostic or IVD powered by NIS4 as a clinical diagnostic and as such, NIS4 remains a product in development subject to the hazards of diagnostic product development. In addition, there is no assurance that we will be able to receive the necessary regulatory approvals (including CE Certificate of Conformity) to market an IVD, powered by NIS4 technology or achieve commercialization of this product candidate for our intended market.
•Even if approved, our product candidates may not achieve broad market acceptance among physicians, patients and healthcare payors, and as a result our revenues generated from their sales may be limited.
•If we or our current and future collaborators, are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for elafibranor or our other product candidates, we may not be successful in commercializing those product candidates if and when they are approved.
•We have entered, and may in the future enter into, collaboration, licensing or co-marketing agreements with third parties for the development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates and NIS4 diagnostic technology, and may not generate revenues from these agreements.
•We depend on third-party contractors for a substantial portion of our operations, namely contract research organizations or CROs for our clinical trials and contract manufacturing organizations or CMOs for manufacturing of our active ingredients and therapeutic units and may not be able to control their work as effectively as if we performed these functions ourselves.
•We rely entirely on third parties for the manufacturing of our drug candidates and the future manufacturing of an IVD powered by NIS4 for use as a clinical diagnostic including one manufacturer for the active ingredient in elafibranor and another manufacturer for the therapeutic units of elafibranor used in our clinical trials. Our business could be harmed if those third parties fail to provide us with sufficient quantities of drug product or tests, or fail to do so at acceptable quality levels or prices.
•Starting in mid-2020 and into 2021, we embarked on a significant strategic reorientation which resulted in a significant changes to our organization and workforce As a result, we may encounter difficulties in managing development of our product candidate pipeline, which could disrupt our operations.
•The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, has adversely impacted and could continue to adversely impact our business, including our preclinical studies and clinical trials.
•If we are unable to obtain and maintain sufficient patent protection for our product candidates, or if the scope of the patent protection is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products similar or identical to ours, and our ability or that of a potential future partner to commercialize our product candidates successfully may be adversely affected.
•Currently, besides NASHnext commercialized by our partner, Labcorp, we have no products approved for commercial sale, and to date we have not generated any significant recurring revenue from product sales. As a result, our ability to reduce our losses and reach sustainable profitability and rebuild our shareholders equity on our own is unproven, and we may never achieve or sustain profitability.
•Our ability to be profitable in the future will depend on our ability and that of our current or future collaborators to obtain marketing approval for and commercialize our product candidates, particularly our lead product candidate, elafibranor, and an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 for clinical care.
•We will require substantial additional funding to develop and commercialize our products, if approved, which may not be available to us, or our current or future collaborators on acceptable terms, or at all, and, if not so available, may require us or them to delay, limit, reduce or cease our operations.
•Our stock price may never reach a price at which certain bondholders will deem conversion economically viable, in which case we would need to repay the nominal amount at maturity in October 2025. The terms of our convertible bonds require us to meet certain operating covenants, and if we fail to comply with those covenants the bondholders would be able to accelerate our repayment obligations. Additionally, the conversion of some or all of our bonds into ordinary shares would dilute the ownership interests of existing shareholders
•The market price of our equity securities is particularly volatile and may decline regardless of our operating performance.
•The dual listing of our ordinary shares and our ADSs may adversely affect the liquidity and value of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
•The purported securities class action litigation against us is currently on appeal and we may become subject to additional litigation, which could harm our business and financial condition.
•The rights of shareholders in companies subject to French corporate law differ in material respects from the rights of shareholders of corporations incorporated in the United States.
|Item 1.||Identity of Director, Senior Management and Advisers.|
|Item 2.||Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable.|
|B.||Capitalization and Indebtedness|
|C.||Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds|
Our business faces significant risks. You should carefully consider all of the information set forth in this annual report and in our other filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, including the following risk factors which we face and which are faced by our industry. Our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected by any of these risks. This report also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our results could materially differ from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements, as a result of certain factors including the risks described below and elsewhere in this annual report and our other SEC filings. See “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” above.
Risks Related to the Discovery and Development of and Obtaining Regulatory Approval for Our Product Candidates
Our drug candidate development activities are focused primarily on the development of our drug candidate elafibranor in PBC as well as on other drug candidates for which development is less advanced. Drug development is subject to a number of risks.
In 2019, we entered into a licensing and collaboration agreement with Terns Pharmaceuticals for elafibranor in Greater China, and in December 2021, the remaining worldwide rights to elafibranor in all indications were licensed to Ipsen. As part of the collaboration with Ipsen, elafibranor, our most advanced drug candidate, is currently being evaluated in a Phase 3 ELATIVE clinical trial in primary biliary cholangitis or PBC. Pursuant to this agreement, we remain responsible for the conduct of the phase 3 ELATIVE study until the end of the double-blind period.
Only two treatments are currently approved and marketed in this indication and do not meet the medical needs of all patients. A limited number of treatments are therefore approved for the management of this disease and we have little experience with drug development in this disease area. The development and approval of drug candidates to treat PBC may therefore present an even higher level of risk than in other indications.
As a result, it is possible that the ELATIVE clinical trial or other clinical trials of elafibranor in other indications, and our other ongoing or future clinical trials in general, fail to meet their primary endpoints, as was the case with our Phase 3 RESOLVE-IT trial evaluating elafibranor in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH in 2020, or are delayed, additional development is necessary or, despite a favorable outcome in clinical trials, the regulatory authorities consider that the clinical results of these trials are insufficient to grant or maintain a marketing authorization. These different risks are further described below.
Our other development programs are at a much earlier stage of development. Nitazoxanide or NTZ, which is being repositioned in Acute-on Chronic Liver Failure or ACLF, is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1 trial to evaluate pharmacokinetics and safety in individuals with hepatic impairment, and another Phase 1 study is planned to be conducted in renal impairment. We have also just begun development of our program in cholangiocarcinoma or CCA with GNS561, licensed from Genoscience Pharma in December 2021. Clinical development of these product candidates faces similar risks and challenges as our development of elafibranor in PBC.
A clinical failure of elafibranor in PBC, a delay or the failure to receive marketing authorization would therefore have a negative impact, even more so since it would impact our primary program and the most advanced in our portfolio of drug candidates. As a result, we could be forced to discontinue our development in PBC, one of our main programs, which could significantly affect the future of our Group.
Clinical failure can occur at any stage of clinical development, as was the case with our Phase 3 RESOLVE-IT trial of elafibranor in NASH. The results of earlier clinical trials are not necessarily predictive of future results for elafibranor in PBC or any other product candidate, including NTZ or GNS561, that we or our collaborators advance through clinical trials. Results from later clinical trials may not be favorable, which may delay, limit or prevent our ability to receive regulatory approval or marketing authorization.
Clinical failure can occur at any stage of our clinical development or those of our current partner or a future partner. Clinical trials may produce negative or inconclusive results, and we or our collaborators may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or preclinical studies. In addition, data obtained from trials and studies are susceptible to varying interpretations, and regulators may not interpret our data as favorably as we or our collaborators do, which may delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval or marketing authorization.
Success in preclinical studies and early clinical trials does not ensure that subsequent clinical trials will generate the same or similar results or otherwise provide adequate data to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of a product candidate. A number of companies in the pharmaceutical industry, including those with greater resources and experience than us or our current and potential future collaborators, have suffered significant setbacks in Phase 3 clinical trials and at other stages of clinical development in particular in NASH and PBC even after seeing promising results in earlier clinical trials.
For example, in May 2020, we published the topline results of the interim analysis of our Phase 3 RESOLVE-IT trial of elafibranor in NASH. Elafibranor did not demonstrate a statistically significant effect on the primary surrogate efficacy endpoint of NASH resolution without worsening of fibrosis nor on the key secondary endpoints. These results led us to stop development of elafibranor in NASH in 2020 due to lack of efficacy but not due to safety reasons.
In addition, the design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support approval of a product and flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well-advanced. We or our collaborators may be unable to design and execute a clinical trial to support regulatory approval. Further, clinical trials of potential products often reveal that it is not practical or feasible to continue development efforts. If elafibranor or our other drug candidates are found to be unsafe or lack efficacy for any indication, we or our collaborators will not be able to obtain regulatory approval for them, and our prospects and business may be materially and adversely affected. For example, if the results of our Phase 3 ELATIVE trial of elafibranor in PBC does not achieve the primary efficacy endpoints or demonstrate an acceptable safety profile, the prospects for approval of elafibranor in PBC would be materially and adversely affected.
In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety and/or efficacy results between different trials of the same product candidate due to numerous factors, including changes or differences in trial protocols, patient distribution by clinical investigator site, standards of care across sites, differences in composition of the patient populations, adherence to the dosing regimen and other trial protocols and the rate of dropout among clinical trial participants. We do not know whether any Phase 2, Phase 3 or other clinical trials we or any of our collaborators may conduct will demonstrate consistent or adequate efficacy and safety to obtain regulatory approval to market our product candidates. If we or our collaborators are unable to bring any of our current or future product candidates to market, or to acquire any marketed, previously approved products, our ability to create long-term shareholder value will be limited.
Delays in the commencement, enrollment and completion of clinical trials, including our Phase 3 ELATIVE trial of elafibranor in PBC, could result in increased costs to us and delay or limit our ability and that of Terns Pharmaceuticals or Ipsen, our partners for elafibranor and that of any future collaborators, to obtain regulatory approval for elafibranor and our other drug candidates.
We are currently conducting our Phase 3 ELATIVE trial of elafibranor in PBC for which the first patient was enrolled in September 2020 and is currently enrolling patients as of the date of this annual report. Delays in the commencement, enrollment and completion of our clinical trials or those of our partners Terns Pharmaceuticals or Ipsen or any future collaborator could increase our product development costs or limit our ability to obtain regulatory approval of our drug candidates. In the past, we have experienced some delays in enrollment in our clinical trials, including in our RESOLVE-IT clinical trial in NASH. We have also experienced, and may continue to experience delays and challenges in enrollment in clinical trials due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The results from these trials may not be available when we expect or we or our collaborators may be required to conduct additional clinical trials or preclinical studies not currently planned to receive approval for our product candidates, including elafibranor. In addition, our clinical programs and those of our partners Ipsen and Terns Pharmaceuticals are subject to a number of variables and contingencies, such as the results of other trials, patient enrollments or regulatory interactions that may result in a change in timing. As such, we do not know whether any future trials or studies in elafibranor or our other product candidates will begin on time or will be completed on schedule, if at all.
The commencement, enrollment and completion of clinical trials can be delayed or suspended for a variety of reasons, including:
•inability to demonstrate sufficient safety and efficacy to obtain regulatory approval to commence a clinical trial;
•inability to validate test methods to support quality testing of the drug substance and drug product;
•inability to determine dosing and clinical trial design;
•inability to obtain sufficient funds required for a clinical trial or lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial due to unforeseen costs or other business decisions;
•our inability to enter into collaborations relating to the development and commercialization of our product candidates;
•inability to reach agreements on acceptable terms with prospective contract research organizations, or CROs, and trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;
•clinical holds, other regulatory objections to commencing or continuing a clinical trial or the inability to obtain regulatory approval to commence a clinical trial in countries that require such approvals;
•discussions with the FDA, European Medicines Agency or EMA or other non-U.S. regulators regarding the scope or design of our clinical trials, which may occur at various times, including subsequent to the initiation of the clinical trial;
•governmental or regulatory delays and changes in regulatory requirements, policy and guidelines, including mandated changes in the scope or design of clinical trials or requests for supplemental information with respect to clinical trial results;
•varying interpretations of our data, and regulatory commitments and requirements by the FDA, EMA and similar regulatory agencies;
•inability to identify and maintain a sufficient number of trial sites, many of which may already be engaged in other clinical trial programs, including some that may be for the same indications targeted by our product candidates;
•the delay in receiving results from or the failure to achieve the necessary results in other clinical trials;
•inability to obtain approval from institutional review boards, or IRBs, to conduct a clinical trial at their respective sites;
•lack of effectiveness of product candidates during clinical trials;
•suspension or termination by a data and safety monitoring board, or DSMB, that is overseeing the clinical trial;
•changes in the standard of care on which a clinical development plan was based, which may require new or additional trials;
•failure to conduct clinical trials in accordance with regulatory requirements;
•severe or unexpected drug-related adverse effects experienced by patients or any determination that a clinical trial presents unacceptable health risks;
•a breach of the terms of any agreement with, or termination for any other reason by, current or future collaborators that have responsibility for the clinical development of any of our product candidates, or investigators leading clinical trials on our product candidates;
•inability to timely manufacture or deliver sufficient quantities of the product candidate required for preclinical studies or clinical trials;
•difficulty identifying, recruiting and enrolling patients to participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons, including meeting the enrollment criteria for our trial, the rarity of the disease or condition, the rarity of the characteristics of the population being studied (for example PBC and ACLF and CCA), the nature of the protocol, the risks of procedures that may be required as part of the trial, such as a liver biopsy, the availability of effective treatments for the relevant disease and the eligibility criteria for the clinical trial, and competition from other clinical trial programs for the same indications as our product candidates;
•global health pandemics such as COVID-19, armed conflicts, war or natural disasters; and
•inability to retain enrolled patients after a clinical trial is underway.
For example, our RESOLVE-IT trial was a large and complex Phase 3 clinical trial in a disease without any approved therapies and the diagnosis of which generally involves invasive procedures such as liver biopsies. These specificities led us to face significant competition for patient enrollment, and to delay the publication date of our topline interim analysis.
As we engage in other large and complicated trials and trials in advanced disease populations, including our ongoing Phase 3 ELATIVE trial evaluating elafibranor in PBC, we may experience a number of complications that may negatively affect our plans or our development programs. The ELATIVE trial evaluating elafibranor in PBC in particular is made complex by the fact that it is an orphan disease with a small number of patients and the fact that one of our competitor’s product is the only one to have recently received market approval in this indication, and another Phase 3 trial in PBC is enrolling patients at the same time as ours which may compromise our ability to retain or recruit patients or complete the trial on time. Potential discussions with the FDA, the EMA or other regulatory authorities outside the United States or European Economic Area or EEA regarding the scope or design of our clinical trials may also happen at any time.
More broadly, changes in the treatment of PBC, such as the approval of a drug therapy for the treatment of PBC by one of our competitors, could result in difficulties retaining or enrolling patients in our clinical trials and those of our current or future collaborators. Any difficulty retaining patients may delay or produce negative or inconclusive results from our clinical trials, and we or our collaborators may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or preclinical studies. Any delay or compromises with respect to our clinical trials may have a material adverse effect on our business or diminish our competitive position relative to other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies.
We cannot be certain that elafibranor or any of our other product candidates, even if they meet clinical and regulatory requirements, will receive regulatory approval, and without regulatory approval, we or our collaborators will not be able to market our product candidates.
We currently have no products approved for sale and we cannot guarantee that we or any of our current or future collaborators will ever have marketable products. Our business currently depends substantially on the successful development and commercialization of elafibranor in PBC. Our ability to generate revenue related to product sales will depend on the successful development and regulatory approval of elafibranor in the indications we and our collaborators are developing or will develop in the United States, the European Union and other countries. Our ability to generate substantial revenue is also dependent on the future of the development and marketing of an IVD test using our NIS4 technology.
The development of drug candidates and NIS4 technology and issues relating to their approval and marketing are subject to extensive regulation by the FDA in the United States, and EMA and European Commission (EU) in the EU and regulatory authorities in other countries, with regulations differing from country to country.
We or our current or future collaborators will not be permitted to market our drug candidates in the United States or EEA until we receive approval of a New Drug Application, or NDA, from the FDA or a marketing authorization, or MA, from the EC (based on the positive opinion of the EMA), as applicable. The same is true for other countries, including the United Kingdom since Brexit. We have not submitted at this time any marketing applications for any of our product candidates and neither have Ipsen nor Terns Pharmaceuticals, our development partners for elafibranor, for its products. NDAs, marketing authorization applications or MAAs and MAs in other countries must include extensive preclinical and clinical data and supporting information to establish the drug candidate’s safety and effectiveness for each desired indication. These marketing applications must also include significant information regarding the chemistry, manufacturing and controls for the drug. Obtaining approval of a NDA, MA or other marketing authorization is a lengthy, expensive and uncertain process, and we may not be successful in obtaining approval.
We cannot predict whether our ongoing or planned future trials and studies will be successful or whether regulators will agree with our conclusions regarding the preclinical studies and clinical trials we have conducted to date, or for ongoing trials, with our interim results.
Regulatory authorities in countries outside of the United States and EEA also have requirements for approval of drug candidates and diagnostics with which we and our collaborators must comply prior to marketing in those countries. Obtaining regulatory approval for marketing of a drug candidate or diagnostic in one country does not ensure that we will be able to obtain regulatory approval in any other country. In addition, delays in approvals or rejections of marketing applications in the United States, EEA or other countries may be based upon many factors, including regulatory requests for additional analyses, reports, data, preclinical studies and clinical trials, regulatory questions regarding different interpretations of data and results, changes in regulatory policy during the period of product development and the emergence of new information regarding our product candidates or other products. Also, regulatory approval for any of our product candidates may be withdrawn.
If we, our collaborators Ipsen and Terns Pharmaceuticals or a future partner are unable to obtain approval from the FDA, the EC or other regulatory agencies for elafibranor, an IVD using NIS4 technology and our other product candidates, or if, subsequent to approval, we, our collaborators Ipsen or Terns Pharmaceuticals or a future partner are unable to successfully commercialize elafibranor, an IVD using NIS4 technology or our other product candidates, we will not be able to generate sufficient revenue to become profitable or to continue our operations.
We have obtained breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA for elafibranor in the treatment of PBC and we may seek to avail ourselves of various designation mechanisms (such as orphan drug designation, Fast Track and breakthrough therapy designation) to accelerate the development or approval of our other drug candidates, including GNS561 in CCA but such mechanisms may not actually lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process, and it may not increase the likelihood that elafibranor will receive marketing approval for this indication.
In 2019, the FDA granted breakthrough therapy designation for elafibranor for the treatment of PBC. A breakthrough therapy is defined as a drug that is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. For drugs that are designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens.
Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe a drug candidate meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. In any event, the receipt of a breakthrough therapy designation for a drug candidate may not result in a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA.
In addition, even if one or more drug candidate qualifies as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened. We may also seek Fast Track designation or orphan drug designation for our product candidates in the future, and even if granted, these designations may not lead to accelerated regulatory and approval, or approval at all.
Even though we have obtained orphan drug designation for elafibranor for the treatment of PBC in both the US and EU, we, or Ipsen, may not be able to obtain or maintain the benefits associated with orphan drug status, including market exclusivity. We may also seek the same designation for other drug candidates, but we may not be able to obtain it or maintain the benefits associated.
Regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the United States and the European Union, may designate drugs for relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Generally, if a drug with an orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first marketing approval for the indication for which it has such designation, the drug may be entitled to a period of marketing exclusivity, which precludes the FDA or the EC from approving another marketing application for the same drug for that time period.
We received orphan drug designation in both the US and the EU for elafibranor for the treatment of PBC in 2019, and Ipsen may request the orphan drug designation for elafibranor in another indication or for other drug candidates that we may develop in the EU and/or the United States.
However, we or our partners may not receive such designation for other drug candidates that we or our partners may develop in Europe and/or the United States or for any other drug candidate in any other jurisdiction, or for elafibranor in any other indication. Even if we or our partners successfully receive the orphan drug designation, the orphan drug designation does not necessarily guarantee market exclusivity on a given market. Even if we or our partners successfully obtain the exclusivity pertaining to the orphan drug designation for any of our drug candidates, this exclusivity may not protect the product efficiently as exclusivity may be suspended under certain circumstances. In the United States, even after a drug is granted orphan exclusivity and approved, the FDA can subsequently approve another drug for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the later drug is clinically superior in that it is shown to be safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care. In the European Union, the exclusivity pertaining to the orphan drug designation will not prevent the marketing approval of a similar drug for the same condition if the later drug is shown to be safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior to the first drug, or if the owner of the market approval of the first product does not have the capacity to deliver sufficient quantities of the product. In addition, if another orphan designated product receives marketing approval and exclusivity for the same condition as the one for which we or a future partner seek to develop a drug candidate, we or our partner may not be able to receive approval of our drug candidate by the relevant regulatory authorities for a significant period of time.
If the FDA does not conclude that certain of our product candidates satisfy the requirements for the Section 505(b)(2) regulatory approval pathway, or if the requirements for such product candidates under Section 505(b)(2) are not as we expect, the approval pathway for those product candidates may likely take significantly longer, cost significantly more and entail significantly greater complications and risks than anticipated, and in either case may not be successful.
We are currently conducting a clinical-stage program based on drug repositioning to develop the drug candidate NTZ for ACLF, for which we may seek FDA approval through the Section 505(b)(2) regulatory pathway. The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, also known as the Hatch-Waxman Act, added Section 505(b)(2) to the FDCA. Section 505(b)(2) permits the filing of an NDA where at least some of the information required for approval comes from trials that were not conducted by or for the applicant and for which the applicant has not obtained a right of reference. Section 505(b)(2), if applicable to us under the FDCA, would allow an NDA we submit to the FDA to rely in part on data in the public domain or the FDA’s prior conclusions regarding the safety and effectiveness of approved compounds, which could expedite the development program for our product candidates by potentially decreasing the amount of clinical data that we would need to generate in order to obtain FDA approval. NTZ is approved in another indication in the United States, and a previously-conducted Phase 2 investigator-initiated clinical trial of NTZ in NASH-induced fibrosis was allowed based on the existing FDA evaluations of safety in the currently-approved indication, which is a hallmark of the Section 505(b)(2) regulatory pathway. As we progress the NTZ clinical program in ACLF, we plan to initiate such discussions with the FDA. If the FDA does not allow us to pursue the Section 505(b)(2) regulatory pathway as we anticipated, we may need to conduct additional clinical trials, provide additional data and information and meet additional standards for regulatory approval. Even if we are allowed to pursue the Section 505(b)(2) regulatory pathway, we cannot assure you that our product candidates will receive the requisite approvals for commercialization.
In addition, the pharmaceutical industry is highly competitive, and Section 505(b)(2) NDAs are subject to special requirements designed to protect the patent rights of sponsors of previously approved drugs that are referenced in a Section 505(b)(2) NDA. These requirements may give rise to patent litigation and mandatory delays in approval of our NDAs for up to 30 months or longer depending on the outcome of any litigation. It is not uncommon for a manufacturer of an approved product to file a citizen petition with the FDA seeking to delay approval of, or impose additional approval requirements for, pending competing products. If successful, such petitions can significantly delay, or even prevent, the approval of the new product. However, even if the FDA ultimately denies such a petition, the FDA may substantially delay approval while it considers and responds to the petition. In addition, even if we or a future partner are able to utilize the Section 505(b)(2) regulatory pathway, there is no guarantee this would ultimately lead to accelerated product development or earlier approval.
Moreover, even if our product candidates are approved under Section 505(b)(2), the approval may be subject to limitations on the indicated uses for which the products may be marketed or to other conditions of approval, or may contain requirements for costly post-marketing testing and surveillance to monitor the safety or efficacy of the products.
Our future capital resources depend in large part on the success of development of elafibranor in PBC. Because our access to alternative financing is limited, failure in PBC could impact our strategic decisions with respect to the development of our other product candidates may affect the development or timing of our business prospects.
Our future capital resources depend in large part on the success of development of elafibranor in PBC. Because we have limited access to capital to fund our operations, failure of the PBC program could significantly negatively affect our resources available to allocate to research, collaboration, management and financial resources toward particular compounds, programs, product candidates or therapeutic areas. We may be restricted in the opportunities we can pursue, and we may be required to collaborate with third parties to advance a particular product candidate at terms that are less than optimal to us. Because of our limited resources, we may also have to decline to pursue opportunities that may otherwise prove to be profitable.
Our product candidates may have undesirable side effects which may require us to stop a clinical trial or which may delay or prevent marketing approval, or, if approval is received, require our product candidates to be taken off the market, require them to include safety warnings or otherwise limit their sales.
Unforeseen side effects from any of our product candidates could arise either during clinical development, forcing us to potentially stop or terminate a trial, or, if approved, after the approved product has been marketed. If severe side effects were to occur, or if elafibranor or one of our other product candidates is shown to have other unexpected characteristics, we or our current or future collaborators may need to either restrict our use of such product to a smaller population or abandon our or their development.
In addition, our product candidates are being developed as potential treatments for severe, life-threatening diseases and, as a result, our trials will necessarily be conducted in a patient population that will be more prone than the general population to exhibit certain disease states or adverse events. For example, PBC patients may suffer from other co-morbidities such as osteoporosis that may increase the likelihood of certain adverse events. It may be difficult to discern whether certain events or symptoms observed during our trials were due to our product candidates or some other factor, resulting in our company and our development programs being negatively affected even if such events or symptoms are ultimately determined to be unlikely related to our drug candidates. We cannot assure you that additional or more severe adverse side effects with respect to elafibranor, NTZ, GNS561 or any other drug candidate will not develop in current or future clinical trials or commercial use, which could delay or preclude their regulatory approval, limit their commercial use or require them to be taken off the market.
If we or others later identify undesirable or unacceptable side effects caused by our products or product candidates:
•regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, specific warnings, a contraindication or field alerts to physicians and pharmacies;
•we or current or future collaborators may be required to change instructions regarding the way the product is administered, conduct additional clinical trials or change the labeling of the product;
•we may be subject to limitations on how we may promote the product;
•sales of the product may decrease significantly;
•regulatory authorities may require us or current or future collaborator(s) to take our approved product off the market;
•we or current or future collaborators may be subject to litigation or product liability claims; and
•our reputation or that of our current or future collaborators may suffer.
Risks Related to the Discovery and Development of, and Obtaining Regulatory Approval for, our Diagnostic Test
The development of our NIS4 technology and tests powered by this technology requires access to clinical trials, data and clinical samples in NASH patients and therefore our development is also subject to the risks related to these trials.
In January 2019, we entered into a license agreement with Labcorp to allow them to develop and deploy a test powered by NIS4 technology in the clinical research space. We believe that leveraging the capabilities of a large diagnostic company such as Labcorp, through its Covance laboratory network, will allow for early adoption of NIS4 technology and result in third party publications. In September 2020, we entered into a five-year exclusive licensing agreement for NIS4 technology with Labcorp. As part of the agreement, Labcorp will develop and commercialize a blood-based molecular diagnostic test powered by NIS4 technology throughout the U.S. and Canada enabling widespread access to healthcare providers. In order to reinforce use of our NIS4 technology, we also entered into an agreement in May 2021 with Q Squared Solutions LLC or Q2, to broaden the availability of the NIS4 technology in the clinical research field. In April 2021, Labcorp launched NASHnext, an LDT powered by NIS4 technology to provide broad clinical availability of the test to specialty and primary care physicians across the U.S. and Canada and to identify patients with significant fibrosis or at-risk of NASH. Labcorp is leveraging its deep experience in commercializing innovative diagnostics to educate providers on NASH and the importance of non-invasive testing. We believe this agreement will enable broader test availability to support evidence generation, demonstration of clinical utility, and favorable market access of the test powered by NIS4. We intend to benefit from these advantages to support the next step of the development, clearance, and commercialization of an in vitro diagnostic or IVD powered by NIS4 to enable even broader availability of the clinical diagnostic outside of the central lab setting.
Development of an IVD will nevertheless require us to keep gathering clinical data within the framework of trials or observational studies in which NIS4 is currently being evaluated or within the framework of potential additional clinical trials or observational studies to come.
In these trials or observational studies, we will continue to use human samples. Even though we have preferred access to the samples collected during the clinical development of elafibranor in NASH, we may be unable to access a sufficient quantity of samples or samples of a sufficient quality or usability, in which case the continuation of the development of NIS4 could be slowed down or even interrupted. In order to have access to samples, we may be required to enter into partnership agreement with hospitals or other third parties, and we may not be able to enter into these agreements under satisfactory conditions or within the desired timeframes, if at all.
The strength of NIS4 technology initially identified on a relatively limited number of samples could turn out to not be sufficient during potential future validation studies on larger target populations, and notably not display sufficient levels of accuracy, sensitivity or specificity in order to allow for the development of a competitive test for clinical care that would be adopted by the medical community.
Despite the care applied to the development of NIS4 technology, we could discover, after the development phase, inherent defects in the product or technology that were undetectable or inconspicuous defects based on the existing technical and scientific knowledge during the development. A failure may occur at any time during one of these clinical developments. The results of earlier clinical trials or studies does not allow predicting future results and NIS4 technology may not obtain favorable results in ongoing or future clinical studies. Results for additional clinical trials may not validate earlier positive results from other trials, which could call into question NIS4 technology's utility and medico-economic benefit. It is possible, in particular, that an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4, at the time of its launch on the market for clinical care, will not replace the current tests and medical examinations. In that case, the place of a test powered by NIS4, initially or as a complement or substitute of certain examinations would have to be assessed through additional clinical studies that would allow evaluating its medico-economic benefit often required to obtain reimbursement. The results of these studies may not support the use of a test using NIS4 technology within the standard of care in a way that meets the needs of clinical practitioners or demonstrates a favorable economic outcome. With such results, a test powered by NIS4 may not obtain reimbursement, especially in European countries, which could materially affect product sales.
Moreover, the data gathered during these trials and studies are subject to different interpretations, and regulatory authorities may not interpret our data as favorably as us or our collaborators, which may delay, limit or prevent the regulatory authorization for the use of an IVD powered by NIS4 as a diagnostic tool for clinical care. In addition, the design of these trials may determine if their results can support the application for marketing approval and procedural defects of a trial may not be visible before the trial reaches an advanced stage. We or our collaborators may not be able to design and conduct a clinical trial sufficient to support a regulatory market approval of an IVD powered by NIS4 for clinical care, which may have a significant unfavorable impact on our prospects and activities.
Changes in regulatory requirements or guidelines issued by the regulatory authorities, or unforeseen events occurring during these trials may force us or our collaborators to alter the protocol or impose new requirements within the framework of these trials or studies, which may result in higher costs and delays in the development schedule of NIS4 technology. If delays occurred in the completion of these clinical trials, or if they were terminated, or if additional clinical trials or studies were required besides the planned ones, this would impact the commercial prospects of an IVD powered by NIS4 and our ability to generate direct or indirect commercial revenue from this product would be delayed.
We intend to develop and market an IVD powered by NIS4 technology as a clinical diagnostic and as such, NIS4 remains a product in development subject to the hazards of diagnostic product development. In addition, there is no assurance that we will be able to receive the necessary regulatory approvals to market an IVD, powered by NIS4 technology or achieve commercialization of this product candidate for our intended market.
In order to reach the largest number of NASH patients possible, we intend to develop an IVD powered by NIS4 technology to identify patients with NASH and fibrosis who may be eligible for therapeutic interventions in a field where no NASH-specific non-invasive test has been approved nor commercialized for clinical care to date and for which clinical experience is currently limited. Our development approach relies therefore on new methodologies. It is thus possible that, in this context, our clinical trials do not meet a favorable outcome or that, despite a favorable outcome, regulatory authorities determine that the results of our clinical trials or those of our collaborators are insufficient to grant market approval for an IVD test using the NIS4 technology for clinical care.
In order to be allowed to directly market and sell an IVD powered by NIS4 in the European Union and/or Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (collectively EEA) and the United States, the product must achieve CE marking from an accredited Notified Body in Europe and FDA approval/clearance in the United States. Other relevant regulatory requirements must be met to market in other countries.
In the United States, IVD tests are regulated as medical devices. Therefore, to be commercially distributed for clinical care, an IVD diagnostic product must demonstrate, depending on its regulatory classification, either its safety and efficiency through a pre-market approval, or its substantial equivalence to a previously FDA-approved medical device through clearance of a 501(k) premarket notification. This regulatory classification may not be obtained. A clinical trial is almost always required to support a pre-market approval or PMA application and is sometimes required for 510(k) clearance. All clinical studies of medical devices must be conducted in compliance with any applicable FDA and Institutional Review Board requirements.
Alternatively, the product may be marketed as an LDT, which does not require FDA approval, but requires the laboratory conducting the test to have been certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 Act or CLIA and certain state laboratory licenses. Both testing services by Labcorp and Covance are currently conducted within the framework of CLIA, which establishes quality standards that must be followed in laboratory testing in order to ensure accuracy, reliability and speed of patient test results wherever the test is conducted. This law has instated an accreditation program for clinical laboratories, which Labcorp and Covance have received.
We currently do not have any IVD approved or cleared test that has been approved for marketing through such a regulatory process and we cannot guarantee that we or potential collaborators will ever develop marketable IVD tests. We have not submitted any marketing applications for any IVD test, and, in particular, we have not submitted any marketing application for NIS4.
As with approval of our drug candidates, the process for obtaining marketing authorization of diagnostic candidates for clinical care is lengthy, uncertain and expensive. In the United States, IVD tests are regulated as medical devices. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or the FDCA, and its implementing regulations, and other federal and state statutes and regulations govern, among other things, medical device design and development, preclinical and clinical testing, premarket clearance or approval, registration and listing, manufacturing, labelling, storage, advertising and promotion, sales and distribution, export and import, and post-market surveillance.
Concurrently with evaluating the FDA approval process for our IVD test, we are collecting data to obtain CE Certificate of Conformity and to affix the CE mark to the IVD test in the key EEA markets subsequent market authorization in the key European markets. Like the U.S. approval process, the conformity assessment process preceding the CE Certificate of Conformity and CE marking process in the EEA may be lengthy and expensive, and the exact date of a CE Certificate of Conformity, if achieved at all, remains hard to predict.
Each regulatory authority may indeed refuse to issue approval, impose its own conditions to such issuance, or require additional data prior to issuance, even when such approval would have been already granted by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions. Regulatory authorities may also modify their approval policies, particularly by adding new or additional conditions to grant approval. As an example, Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (IVDR) will enter into application on May 26, 2022. The Regulation will introduce a new classification procedure for an IVD medical devices and amplify the requirements which must be fulfilled by IVD manufacturers before they can CE mark and market their IVDs in the EEA.
We or our potential collaborators may be subject to delays in obtaining the CE Certificate of Conformity required to CE Mark and market a test using NIS4 for clinical care, or even not be successful in receiving approval, due to the entry into force of new IVD medical device regulations in Europe. Such delay or failure may have an unfavorable impact on our ability to market a test using NIS4 technology and our ability to generate direct or indirect revenue from this activity.
Even after regulatory approval or CE Certificates of Conformity have been granted or declarations of commercialization have been filed with regulatory authorities, IVD tests remains subject to materiovigilance and market-surveillance obligations concerning incidents and risks of incidents related to their use. Even though such incidents may occur and lead regulatory authorities to suspend or even revoke the market authorization of such products. Regulatory authorities may also conclude that procedures put in place by us or our collaborators are insufficient in order to identify and handle incidents, and could suspend commercialization of the products until these procedures are considered sufficient.
Risks Related to the Commercialization of Our Drug Candidates and Diagnostic Test
Even if approved, our product candidates may not achieve broad market acceptance among physicians, patients and healthcare payors, and as a result our revenues generated from their sales may be limited.
The commercial success of elafibranor as a potential treatment for PBC or in other indications, an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 or our other drug candidates, if approved or cleared, will depend upon their acceptance among the medical community, including physicians, healthcare payors and patients. Given that there are a limited number of products approved for the treatment of PBC, we do not know the degree to which elafibranor would be accepted as a therapy, if approved. Additionally, we cannot be assured that NASHnext, or IVD powered by NIS4 will be accepted by the medical community as a means of identifying patients with NASH or fibrosis who may be appropriate candidates for therapeutic intervention, and even if an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 is used, a physician may still require additional testing (e.g. liver biopsy) to confirm diagnosis. The degree of market acceptance of elafibranor, NASHnext or IVD powered by NIS4 and any of our other drug candidates that may be approved will depend on a number of factors, including:
•changes in the standard of care or availability of alternative therapies at similar or lower costs for the targeted indications for any of our product candidates, such as competitors’ product candidates for the treatment of PBC, or other cholestatic diseases like ACLF or CCA, or an alternative to liver biopsy for the diagnosis of NASH and fibrosis;
•limitations in the approved clinical indications or patient populations for our product candidates;
•demonstrated clinical safety and efficacy compared to other products;
•limitations or warnings, including boxed warnings, contained in our drug candidates’ FDA- or EC-approved labeling, if and when approved;
•in the case of elafibranor, our ability and that of our partners, Ipsen and Terns Pharmaceuticals or of a potential future collaborator to access the PBC market or in other future indications;
•for an LDT powered by NIS4, the ability of our partner, Labcorp or of a potential future collaborator to access the clinical research or clinical diagnostic market;
•for an IVD powered by NIS4, our ability to develop, obtain regulatory approval and commercialize an IVD test for clinical care;
•lack of significant adverse side effects;
•sales, marketing and distribution support;
•availability of coverage and adequate reimbursement from managed care plans and other third-party payors;
•timing of market introduction and perceived effectiveness of competitive products;
•the degree of cost-effectiveness;
•availability of alternative therapies or diagnostic solutions at similar or lower cost, including generics and over-the-counter products;
•the extent to which our product candidates are approved for inclusion on formularies of hospitals and managed care organizations;
•whether our drug or diagnostic candidates are designated under physician diagnostic and treatment guidelines for the treatment of the indications for which we, our partners Ipsen and Terns Pharmaceuticals or a potential future partner have received regulatory approval;
•adverse publicity about our product candidates or favorable publicity about competitive products;
•convenience and ease of administration of our product candidates; and
•potential product liability claims.
If our product candidates are approved, but do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance by physicians, patients, the medical community and healthcare payors, sufficient revenue may not be generated from these products and we may not become or remain profitable. In addition, efforts to educate the medical community and third-party payors on the benefits of our product candidates may require significant resources and may never be successful.
If we, or our current or future collaborators are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for elafibranor or our other product candidates, we may not be successful in commercializing those product candidates if and when they are approved.
We have no sales, marketing or distribution experience and if we are unable to establish sales, marketing and distribution capabilities, we may not be successful in commercializing our product candidates if and when they are approved. To develop internal sales, distribution and marketing capabilities, we have already begun to invest significant amounts of financial and management resources, and we may continue to do so, even prior to any confirmation that our product candidates will be approved. Development and commercialization rights for elafibranor, our most advanced drug candidate, are licensed to Terns Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of NASH and PBC in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan (Greater China) and to Ipsen in PBC and other indications in the rest of the world. Additionally, in connection with the development of NIS4 technology, we entered into a license agreement with Labcorp and Q2 to allow them to develop and deploy a test powered by NIS4 in the clinical research space. In September 2020, we entered into a five-year exclusive licensing agreement for NIS4 technology with Labcorp. As part of the agreement, Labcorp will develop and commercialize a blood-based molecular diagnostic test powered by NIS4 technology throughout the U.S. and Canada enabling widespread access to healthcare providers. We believe this agreement with Labcorp will provide broad clinical availability of a LDT powered by NIS4 technology to specialty and primary care physicians across the U.S. and Canada. We are therefore heavily dependent on the sales, marketing and distribution capabilities of our partners Terns, Ipsen and Labcorp.
If we decide to market any of our products ourselves, we would need to develop our own sales and marketing capabilities. For any product candidates where we decide to perform sales, marketing and distribution functions ourselves or through third parties, we could face a number of additional risks, including:
•we or our third-party sales collaborators may not be able to attract and build an effective marketing or sales force;
•our sales personnel may be unable to obtain access to physicians or persuade adequate numbers of physicians to prescribe any future products;
•the cost of securing or establishing a marketing or sales force may exceed the revenues generated by any products; and
•our direct sales and marketing efforts may not be successful.
If we are unable to establish our own sales, marketing and distribution capabilities and decide to enter into arrangements with third parties to perform these services for the products on the markets or indications that are not already subject to licensing agreements, our revenue and our profitability, if any, are likely to be lower than if we were to sell, market and distribute any products that we develop ourselves. Additionally, such collaboration agreements with current or potential collaborators may limit our control over the marketing of our products and expose us to a number of risks, including the risk that the partner will not prioritize the marketing of the product candidate or diagnostic test candidate or does not provide sufficient resources for its commercialization.
We have entered into, and may continue to seek and form, strategic alliances or enter into licensing or co-marketing arrangements to commercialize our approved drugs or diagnostic products, and we may not realize the benefits of such arrangements.
We may enter into licensing arrangements with third parties that we believe will complement or augment our commercialization efforts, particularly with respect to the diagnostic use of NIS4 for clinical care or our other drug candidates. For example, we have entered into an exclusive licensing and collaboration agreement with Ipsen to develop and commercialize elafibranor for the treatment of PBC and other indications worldwide, with the exceptions of Greater China which is licensed to Terns Pharmaceuticals. We have also entered into a license agreement with Labcorp to allow them to deploy an LDT powered by NIS4 in the clinical research and clinical diagnostics spaces. Any of these relationships may require us to incur costs, increase our near and long-term expenditures, issue securities that dilute our existing shareholders or disrupt our management and business. If we enter into any such arrangements with any third parties, we will likely have limited control over the amount and timing of resources that our collaborators dedicate to the development or commercialization of elafibranor or any other product candidate. Our ability to generate revenues from these arrangements will depend on our collaborators’ abilities to successfully perform the functions assigned to them in these arrangements. We cannot be certain that, following a strategic transaction or license, we will achieve the revenue or specific net income that justifies such transaction.
Collaborations involving elafibranor, an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 or any of our other drug candidates pose the following risks to us:
•collaborators have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to these collaborations;
•collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected;
•collaborators may not pursue commercialization or may elect not to continue or renew commercialization programs based on changes in the collaborator’s strategic focus or available funding or external factors such as an acquisition that diverts resources or creates competing priorities;
•collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidate if the collaborators believe that competitive products are more likely to be successfully commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours;
•a collaborator with marketing and distribution rights to one or more product candidates may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of any such product candidate;
•collaborators may not properly maintain or defend our intellectual property rights or may use our proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation;
•collaborators may infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;
•disputes may arise between the collaborators and us that result in the delay or termination of the commercialization of our product candidate or that result in costly litigation or arbitration that diverts management attention and resources;
•we may lose certain valuable rights under circumstances identified in our collaborations, including if we undergo a change of control;
•collaborations may be terminated and, if terminated, may result in a need for additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates;
•collaborators may learn about our discoveries and use this knowledge to compete with us in the future;
•there may be conflicts between different collaborators that could negatively affect those collaborations and potentially others;
•the number and type of our collaborations could adversely affect our attractiveness to future collaborators or acquirers;
•collaboration agreements may not lead to commercialization of our product candidate in the most efficient manner or at all. If a present or future collaborator of ours were to be involved in a business combination, the continued pursuit and emphasis on our commercialization program under such collaboration could be delayed, diminished or terminated; and
•collaborators may be unable to obtain the necessary marketing approvals.
If current or future collaboration partners fail to develop or effectively commercialize elafibranor, an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 or any other drug candidate for any of these reasons, such product candidate may not be cleared for sale and our sales of such product candidate, if approved, may be limited, which would have an adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.
Any of our product candidates for which we or our collaborators obtain marketing approval will be subject to ongoing regulation and could be subject to post-marketing restrictions or withdrawal from the market. Furthermore, we or our collaborators may be subject to substantial penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our products following approval.
Even if we or our collaborators receive regulatory approval for a product candidate, this approval may carry conditions that limit the market for the product or put the product at a competitive disadvantage relative to alternative therapies or diagnostic solutions. For instance, a regulatory approval may limit the indicated uses for which we or our collaborators can market a product or the patient population that may utilize the product, or may be required to carry a warning, such as a boxed warning, in its labelling and on its packaging. Products with boxed warnings are subject to more restrictive advertising regulations than products without such warnings. These restrictions could make it more difficult to market any product candidate effectively.
Additionally, any of our product candidates for which we or our collaborators obtain regulatory approval, as well as the manufacturing processes, post-approval studies and measures, labelling, advertising and promotional activities for such products, among other things, will be subject to continual requirements of and review by the EMA, FDA, other regulatory authorities, and notified bodies. These requirements include submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports, registration and listing requirements, requirements relating to manufacturing, quality control, quality assurance and corresponding maintenance of records and documents, requirements regarding the distribution of samples to physicians and recordkeeping.
Approved drugs that are manufactured or distributed in the United States pursuant to FDA approvals are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the EC and EMA following approval by the EC, or national regulatory authorities in EEA countries and the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to recordkeeping, periodic reporting, drug sampling and distribution, advertising and promotion and reporting of adverse experiences with the drug.
After approval, most changes to the approved drug, such as adding new indications or other labelling claims and some manufacturing and supplier changes are subject to prior FDA, EC or national regulatory authorities of the EEA countries review and approval. There also are continuing, annual program user fee requirements for marketed drugs, as well as new application fees for certain supplemental applications. Once approval is granted, the FDA, or other regulatory authorities, may issue enforcement letters or withdraw the approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the drug reaches the market. Corrective action could delay drug distribution and require significant time and financial expenditures. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a drug, including adverse effects of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labelling to add new safety information; imposition of post-market studies or clinical trials to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution or other restrictions under a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, or REMS. REMS can include medication guides, communication plans for healthcare professionals, and elements to assure safe use. Elements to assure safe use can include, but are not limited to, special training or certification for prescribing or dispensing, dispensing only under certain circumstances, special monitoring, and the use of patient registries. The requirement for a REMS can be costly to establish and can materially affect the potential market and profitability of the drug.
Depending on the outcome, the FDA, EC, or national regulatory authorities of the EEA countries could revoke the previously granted approval.
Other potential consequences include, among other things:
•restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the drug, suspension of the approval, complete withdrawal of the drug from the market or product recalls;
•fines, warning letters or holds on post-approval clinical trials;
•refusal of the FDA, EC, or national regulatory authorities of the EEA countries to approve applications or supplements to approved applications, or suspension or revocation of drug approvals;
•drug seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of drugs; or
•injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.
The FDA and other regulatory authorities strictly regulate marketing, labelling, advertising and promotion of drugs that are placed on the market. Drugs may be promoted only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. The FDA and other agencies, national authorities and industry associations actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses, and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label uses may be subject to significant liability, including civil, criminal and administrative penalties. However, physicians may, in their independent medical judgment, prescribe legally available products for off-label uses. The FDA and other regulatory authorities do not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments but the FDA and other regulatory authorities do restrict manufacturer’s communications on the subject of off-label use of their products.
Similarly, if an IVD powered by NIS4 is authorized for marketing for clinical care in the United States, the test will be subject to quality system regulation, or QSR, labelling regulations, registration and listing, the Medical Device Reporting regulation which requires that manufacturers report to the FDA if their device may have caused or contributed to a death or serious injury or malfunctioned in a way that would likely cause or contribute to a death or serious injury if it were to recur and the Reports of Corrections and Removals regulation which requires manufacturers to report recalls and field actions to the FDA if initiated to reduce a risk to health posed by the device or to remedy a violation of the FDCA. The FDA enforces these requirements by inspection and market surveillance. If the FDA finds a violation, it can institute a wide variety of enforcement actions, ranging from an untitled or public warning letter to more severe sanctions such as fines, injunctions and civil penalties; recall or seizure of products; operating restrictions and partial suspension or total shutdown of production; refusing requests for 510(k) clearance or PMA approval of new products; withdrawing 510(k) clearance or PMAs already granted; and criminal prosecution.
Similarly, in the EEA, IVDs are strictly regulated and our IVDs will be subject to vigilance, post-market surveillance, quality management systems and many other regulatory requirements imposed by the IVDR. If a regulatory authority of an EEA country finds a violation of the IVDR obligations for which we are considered to be responsible we may be subject to a wide variety of enforcement actions, ranging from warning letters, injunction letters, fines, civil penalties and criminal prosecution.
Accordingly, assuming we or our current or future collaborators receive regulatory approval for one or more of our product candidates, we and our collaborators will continue to expend time, money and effort in all areas of regulatory compliance.
Government restrictions on pricing and reimbursement, as well as other healthcare payor cost-containment initiatives, may negatively impact our ability or that of our current or future collaborators to generate revenues even if we or they obtain regulatory approval to market a product.
Our ability to successfully commercialize any of our product candidates or that of our current or future collaborators, if approved, also will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for these products and related treatments will be available from third-party payors, including government authorities, such as Medicare and Medicaid in the United States, private health insurers and health maintenance organizations. These third-party payors determine which medications they will cover and establish reimbursement levels. Assuming we or our current or future collaborators obtain coverage for a given product by a third-party payor, the resulting reimbursement payment rates may not be adequate or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. Patients who are prescribed medications for the treatment of their conditions, and their prescribing physicians, generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with their prescription drugs. Patients are unlikely to use our products unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover all or a significant portion of the cost of our products. Therefore, coverage and adequate reimbursement is critical to new product acceptance. Coverage decisions may depend upon clinical and economic standards that disfavor new drug products when more established or lower cost therapeutic alternatives are already available or subsequently become available.
Third-party payors are developing increasingly sophisticated methods of controlling healthcare costs, such as by limiting coverage and the amount of reimbursement for particular medications. Increasingly, third-party payors are requiring that drug companies provide them with predetermined discounts from list prices as a condition of coverage, are using restrictive formularies and preferred drug lists to leverage greater discounts in competitive classes, and are challenging the prices charged for medical products. In addition, in the United States, federal programs impose penalties on drug manufacturers in the form of mandatory additional rebates and/or discounts if commercial prices increase at a rate greater than the Consumer Price Index-Urban, and these rebates and/or discounts, which can be substantial, may impact our or our collaborators’ ability to raise commercial prices. Further, no uniform policy requirement for coverage and reimbursement for drug products exists among third-party payors in the United States. Third-party payors often rely upon Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates, but also have their own methods and approval process apart from Medicare determinations. Therefore, coverage and reimbursement for drug products can differ significantly from payor to payor. As a result, the coverage determination process is often a time-consuming and costly process that will require us or our collaborators to provide scientific and clinical support for the use of our products to each payor separately, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be applied consistently or obtained in the first instance.
The continuing efforts of third-party payors of healthcare costs to contain or reduce costs of healthcare may negatively affect our or our collaborators commercialization prospects, including:
•the ability to set a price we believe is fair for our or our collaborators’ products, if approved;
•the ability to obtain and maintain market acceptance by the medical community and patients;
•the ability to generate revenues and achieve profitability; and
•the availability of capital.
Our or our collaborators’ ability to obtain an acceptable reimbursement rate for our drugs from third-party payors will be determined in the coming years, in particular by our collaborators' Ipsen and Terns Pharmaceuticals with respect to PBC. We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for any potential product candidate that we or our collaborators may commercialize and, if reimbursement is available, what the level of reimbursement will be. Since few drugs have been commercialized in PBC, we cannot predict the conditions of elafibranor’s future reimbursement. However, because negotiations with the payors are traditionally based on the results (intermediate, or otherwise) of Phase 3 clinical trials, we have only had preliminary discussions with the organizations concerned. Coverage and reimbursement may impact the demand for, or the price of, any product candidate for which we or our collaborators obtain marketing approval. If coverage and reimbursement are not available or reimbursement is available only to limited levels, we may not successfully commercialize any product candidate for which we obtain marketing approval.
In the United States, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or collectively, ACA, is significantly impacting the provision of, and payment for, healthcare. With regard to pharmaceutical products specifically, the ACA, among other things, expanded and increased industry rebates for drugs covered under Medicaid programs and made changes to the coverage requirements under the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Some of the provisions of the ACA have yet to be implemented, and there have been executive, judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. For example, on June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge on procedural grounds that argued the ACA is unconstitutional in its entirety because the individual mandate was repealed by the U.S Congress. Thus the ACA will remain in effect in its current form. Moreover, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, , on January 28, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order to initiate a special enrollment period for purposes of obtaining health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace. The executive order also instructs certain governmental agencies to review and reconsider their existing policies and rules that limit access to healthcare, including among others, reexamining Medicaid demonstration projects and waiver programs that include work requirements, and policies that create unnecessary barriers to obtaining access to health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the ACA. It is possible that the ACA will be subject to additional judicial or Congressional challenges in the future. It is unclear how the Supreme Court ruling, other such litigation and the health reform measures of the Biden administration will impact the ACA and our business.
In addition, both the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 have instituted, among other things, mandatory reductions in Medicare payments to certain providers which went into effect on April 2013 and will remain in effect through 2031 unless additional Congressional action is taken. .Additional legislative proposals to reform healthcare and government insurance programs, along with the trend toward managed healthcare in the United States, could influence the purchase of medicines and reduce coverage and/or reimbursement of our product candidates, if approved. Further, Congress is considering additional health reform measures.
Moreover, recently, there has been heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products. Such scrutiny has resulted in several recent Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, reduce the costs of drugs under Medicare and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drug products. At the state level, legislatures are increasingly passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical and biological product pricing, including price or patient reimbursement constraints, discounts, restrictions on certain product access and marketing cost disclosure and transparency measures, and, in some cases, designed to encourage importation from other countries and bulk purchasing.
We expect that the ACA, as well as other healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future, at both the federal and state levels in the United States, as well as internationally, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and lower reimbursement, and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved product candidate. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government-funded programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability or commercialize our drugs. Moreover, we cannot predict what healthcare reform initiatives may be adopted in the future. We expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future. Further, it is possible that additional governmental action is taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some non-U.S. countries, the proposed pricing and reimbursement conditions for a drug must be approved by relevant authorities before it may be lawfully marketed. Reimbursement may in some cases be unavailable. 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. Non U.S. countries may approve a specific price for the medicinal product, may refuse to reimburse a product at the price set by the manufacturer or may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for biopharmaceutical products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for elafibranor or any of our other product candidates that may be approved.
Failures to reimburse an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4, if commercialized for clinical care, or changes in reimbursement rates by third-party payors and variances in reimbursement rates could materially and adversely affect our revenues and could result in significant fluctuations in our revenues.
Our ability or that of a potential future collaborators to successfully commercialize an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 also will depend in part on the extent to which coverage and adequate reimbursement for this test will be available from third-party payors, such as government health administration authorities, private health insurers and other organizations. Insurance coverage and reimbursement rates for diagnostic tests are uncertain, subject to change and particularly volatile during the early stages of a newly commercialized diagnostic test. As of the date of this annual report, NASHnext has not obtained reimbursement status in the countries where it is commercialized by Labcorp. It is uncertain as to what extent third-party payors will provide coverage for NASHnext, another LDT or IVD powered by NIS4, if commercialized for clinical care. We will also likely experience volatility in the coverage and reimbursement of NASHnext, another LDT or IVD test due to contract negotiation with third-party payors and implementation requirements.
The reimbursement amounts we receive from third-party payors will vary from payor to payor, and, in some cases, the variation is material. Third-party payors have increased their efforts to control the cost, utilization and delivery of healthcare services. These measures have resulted in reduced payment rates and decreased utilization for the diagnostic test industry. From time to time, Congress has considered and implemented changes to the Medicare fee schedules in conjunction with budgetary legislation, and pricing for tests covered by Medicare is subject to change at any time. Reductions in the reimbursement rate provided by third-party payors may occur in the future. Reductions in the price at which NASHnext, another LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 is reimbursed could have a material adverse effect on our revenues. If we and our potential future collaborators are unable to establish and maintain broad coverage and adequate reimbursement for NASHnext, another LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 or if third-party payors change their coverage or reimbursement policies with respect to NASHnext, another LDT or IVD test, our revenues could be materially and adversely affected.
Our future growth depends, in part, on our or our collaborators’ ability to penetrate international markets, where we or they would be subject to additional regulatory burdens and other risks and uncertainties.
Our future profitability will depend on our or our collaborators’ ability to commercialize our product candidates in the United States, Europe and other territories around the world. If we or our collaborators commercialize our product candidates in international markets, we would be subject to additional risks and uncertainties, including:
•economic weakness, including inflation;
•political instability, armed conflict or war in particular economies and markets;
•global pandemics like COVID-19;
•the burden of complying with complex and changing non-U.S. regulatory, tax, accounting and legal requirements, many of which vary between countries;
•different medical practices and customs in non-U.S. countries affecting acceptance in the marketplace;
•tariffs and trade barriers;
•other trade protection measures, import or export licensing requirements or other restrictive actions by U.S. or other governments;
•longer accounts receivable collection times;
•longer lead times for shipping;
•compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees living or traveling abroad;
•workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is common;
•language barriers for technical training;
•reduced protection of intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States, and related prevalence of generic alternatives to therapeutics;
•foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations and currency controls;
•differing reimbursement landscapes globally;
•uncertain and potentially inadequate reimbursement of our products; and
•the interpretation of contractual provisions governed by laws outside the United States in the event of a contract dispute.
Sales of our products outside the United States could also be adversely affected by the imposition of governmental controls, political and economic instability, trade restrictions and changes in tariffs.
Adverse market and economic conditions may exacerbate certain risks associated with commercializing our product candidates.
Future sales of our product candidates, if they are approved, will be dependent on purchasing decisions of and reimbursement from government health administration authorities, distributors and other organizations. As a result of adverse conditions affecting the global economy and credit and financial markets, including disruptions due to political instability, armed conflict, such as in Ukraine, wars, the COVID-19 pandemic or otherwise, these organizations may defer purchases, may be unable to satisfy their purchasing or reimbursement obligations, or may delay payment for elafibranor, NASHNext or another LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 or any of our product candidates that are approved for commercialization in the future. In addition, the increase of inflation rates following the COVID-19 pandemic era and the current armed conflict in Ukraine may additionally affect the commercialization of our products and product candidates.
Risks Related to the Dependency on Third Parties
We depend on third-party contractors for a substantial portion of our operations, namely contract research organizations or CROs for our clinical trials and contract manufacturing organizations or CMOs for manufacturing of our active ingredients and therapeutic units and may not be able to control their work as effectively as if we performed these functions ourselves.
Under our supervision, we outsource substantial portions of our operations to third-party service providers, including preclinical studies and clinical trials, collection and analysis of data and manufacturing of our drug candidates and the realization of certain analyses performed under our agreements with Labcorp and Q2 pertaining to an LDT or IVD powered by NIS4 for use in the clinical research and clinical diagnostics markets. In particular, we subcontract certain elements of the design and/or conduct of our clinical trials to CROs, as well as the manufacturing of our active ingredients and therapeutic units to CMOs, especially with regard to our Phase 3 ELATIVE trial evaluating elafibranor in PBC.
We also contract with external investigators and other specialized services providers, for example with respect to certain statistical analyses, to perform services such as carrying out and supervising, and collecting, analyzing and formatting of data for our trials. Although we are involved in the design of the protocols for these trials and in monitoring them, we do not control all the stages of test performance and cannot guarantee that the third parties will fulfil their contractual and regulatory obligations. In particular, a contractor’s failure to comply with protocols or regulatory constraints, or repeated delays by a contractor, could compromise the development of our products or result in liability for us, including our contractual liability resulting from provisions in agreements we have signed with Ipsen and Terns Pharmaceuticals for the development of elafibranor. Such events could also inflate the product development costs borne by us.
This strategy means that we do not directly control certain key aspects of our product development, such as:
•the quality of the product manufactured;
•the delivery times for therapeutic units (pre-packaged lots specifically labeled for a given clinical trial);
•the clinical and commercial quantities that can be supplied; and
•compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Additionally, our development activities or clinical trials conducted in reliance on third parties may be delayed, suspended, or terminated if:
•the third parties do not devote a sufficient amount of time or effort to our activities or otherwise fail to successfully carry out their contractual duties or to meet regulatory obligations or expected deadlines;
•we replace a third party; or
•the quality or accuracy of the data obtained by third parties is compromised due to their failure to adhere to clinical protocols, regulatory requirements, or for other reasons.
We may not be able to control the performance of third parties in their conduct of development activities. In the event of a default, bankruptcy or shutdown of, or a dispute with, a third party, we may be unable to enter into a new agreement with another third party on commercially acceptable terms. Further, third-party performance failures may increase our development costs, delay our ability to obtain regulatory approval, and delay or prevent the commercialization of our product candidates. In addition, our third-party agreements usually contain a clause limiting such third party’s liability, such that we may not be able to obtain full compensation for any losses we may incur in connection with the third party’s performance failures. While we believe that there are numerous alternative sources to provide these services, in the event that we seek such alternative sources, we may not be able to enter into replacement arrangements without incurring delays or additional costs.
We rely entirely on third parties for the manufacturing of our drug candidates and the future manufacturing of an IVD powered by NIS4 for use as a clinical diagnostic including one manufacturer for the active ingredient in elafibranor and another manufacturer for the therapeutic units of elafibranor used in our clinical trials and those of our collaborators. Our business could be harmed if those third parties fail to provide us with sufficient quantities of drug product or tests, or fail to do so at acceptable quality levels or prices.
We do not intend to manufacture the drug products nor future test kits related to an IVD powered by NIS4 that we plan to sell if approved or successfully complete the conformity assessment procedure for use as a clinical diagnostic. We currently have agreements with a contract manufacturer for the production of the active pharmaceutical ingredients and the formulation of sufficient quantities of drug product for our preclinical studies and clinical trials in elafibranor that we plan to conduct prior to and after seeking regulatory approval and, if applicable, for the manufacturing of the first commercial lots of the product. We rely on one supplier for the active ingredient in elafibranor and another manufacturer for the therapeutic units of elafibranor used in our clinical trials and, if applicable, for the provision of the first commercial lots. In addition, we rely on Genoscience Pharma for the provision of drug product for the development and future commercialization of GNS561 and external third parties for the supply of NTZ. If any of these suppliers should cease to provide services to us for any reason, we likely would experience delays in advancing our clinical trials and, if applicable, for the commercial launch while we identify and qualify one or more replacement suppliers and we may be unable to obtain replacement supplies on terms that are favorable to us.
While we believe that our current inventory and drugs in production at various levels of the production chain are sufficient for our needs on a short-term basis, a failure at both of the storage sites of the therapeutic units used for the ongoing ELATIVE Phase 3 study evaluating elafibranor in PBC would be detrimental to our and Ipsen's clinical development plan.
For example, we have had to face the temporary closing of one of these units for a duration of 15 days due to a suspected case of COVID-19, even though this unit has indicated to us that this would not affect the provision of future clinical lots. However, in case of failure of these units, we may not be able to enter into additional long-term commercial supply agreements for elafibranor with other third-party manufacturers on terms sufficiently advantageous to us. We do not have agreements for long-term supplies of any of our other product candidates. We currently obtain these supplies and services, such as for NTZ, from our third-party contract manufacturers on a purchase order basis and can be subject to fluctuations in price and availability. With respect to supply of GNS561, we must enter into a supply agreement with our partner, Genoscience Pharma.
Additionally, the facilities used by any contract manufacturer to manufacture elafibranor or any of our other product candidates must be the subject of a satisfactory inspection before the FDA, the national competent authority of the EU member states, or the regulators in other jurisdictions that approve the product candidate manufactured at that facility. We are completely dependent on these third-party manufacturers for compliance with the requirements of U.S. and non-U.S. regulators for the manufacture of our finished products. If our manufacturers cannot successfully manufacture material that conform to our specifications and current good manufacturing practice requirements of any governmental agency whose jurisdiction to which we are subject, our products or product candidates will not be approved or, if already approved, may be subject to recalls or other enforcement action.
Reliance on third-party manufacturers entails risks to which we would not be subject if we manufactured the products or product candidates, including:
•the possibility that we are unable to enter into or renew a manufacturing agreement with a third party to manufacture elafibranor or our product candidates;
•the possible breach of the manufacturing agreements by the third parties because of factors beyond our control; and
•the possibility of termination or nonrenewal of the agreements by the third parties before we are able to arrange for a qualified replacement third-party manufacturer.
Any of these factors could cause the delay of approval or disruption of commercialization of our products or product candidates, cause us to incur higher costs, prevent us or our potential future collaborators from commercializing our products and product candidates successfully or disrupt the supply of our products after commercial launch. Furthermore, if any of our contract manufacturers fail to deliver the required commercial quantities of finished product on acceptable commercial terms and we or our current or future collaborators are unable to find one or more replacement manufacturers capable of production at substantially equivalent cost, volume and quality and on a timely basis, we would likely be unable to meet demand for our products and could lose potential revenue. It may take several years to establish an alternative source of supply and to have any such new source approved by the government agencies that regulate our products.
We have entered, and may in the future enter into, collaboration, licensing or co-marketing agreements with third parties for the development and eventual commercialization of our product candidates and NIS4 diagnostic technology, and may not generate revenues from these agreements.
We have limited experience in product development and marketing and may seek to enter into collaborations with third parties for the development and potential commercialization of our product candidates including those at an early and preclinical stage, particularly those candidates outside of our main therapeutic areas of interest. We have entered into an exclusive licensing and collaboration agreement with Ipsen to develop and commercialize elafibranor for the treatment of PBC and other indications worldwide, with the exception of Greater China which is licensed to Terns Pharmaceuticals. Our NIS4 technology is licensed to partners, both to Labcorp to allow them to deploy an LDT powered by NIS4 in the clinical research and clinical diagnostics spaces and also to Q2 in the clinical research space. Should we seek to collaborate with additional third parties with respect to our development programs, we may not be able to locate a suitable collaborator and may not be able to enter into an agreement on commercially reasonable terms or at all.
Any new collaboration may require additional expenditures, increase our short and long term investments, require us to issue new shares and dilute our existing shareholders or disrupt our management team or activities. With our current agreements, or even if we succeed in securing collaborators for the development and commercialization of elafibranor, our NIS4 technology, the NASHnext LDT or our other product candidates, we have limited control over the amount and timing that our collaborators may dedicate to the development or commercialization of our product candidates.
These collaborations and licensing agreements pose a number of risks, including:
•the means and resources used within the framework of these agreements remain, for the most part, at the discretion of the partner;
•the partner might not fulfill its contractual obligations;
•the partner might interrupt the development or commercialization or decide to interrupt or not renew the development or commercialization programs due to a change in strategic orientation, a lack of financing or external factors such as an acquisition that would reallocate resources or induce different priorities;
•the partner might develop, independently or with the assistance of third parties, products, in the case of pharmaceuticals or in-vitro tests, in the case of diagnostic technologies that are in direct or indirect competition with our product candidates or future IVD powered by NIS4 if it believes that it is easier to successfully commercialize competing products under more attractive economic conditions than ours;
•the partner, as holder of the commercialization and distribution rights on a product candidate or technology for a set time period or a specific territory or territories, might not allocate sufficient resources to these activities;
•the partner might not protect or defend our intellectual property rights in an appropriate manner or might use exclusive information that belongs to us in a manner resulting in disputes that may compromise or discredit our exclusive information or expose us to potential disputes;
•the partner might not respect the property rights of third parties, which might expose us to litigation and potentially involve our liability;
•disputes might arise between us and the partner, which could result in delays or suspension of the commercialization of the product candidate, or legal action or costly procedures that would monopolize resources as well as divert management’s attention;
•we might lose certain important rights obtained through these partnerships, notably in the case of change of control of our company;
•the collaboration might be terminated and, in such case, require additional financing to further develop or market the product candidate licensed to it;
•the partner has access to our discoveries and might use this information to develop future competing products;
•the collaboration, due to its nature, might have a negative impact on our attractiveness for collaborators or potential acquirers;
•the collaboration might not result in the development and commercialization of the product candidate(s) in an optimal fashion or never fulfill its objectives; and
•if the partner were to take part in a merger, the continuity of advancement and the central nature of our commercialization program might be delayed, reduced or suspended by it.
Thus, collaboration agreements may not lead to development or commercialization of product candidates in the most efficient manner or at all. For example, although we have entered into a license agreement with Labcorp to enable them to develop and commercialize an LDT powered by NIS4 for clinical research and clinical diagnostic purposes, there is no guarantee that our collaboration with Labcorp will result in widespread clinical or commercial use of NASHnext, an LDT powered by NIS4 for clinical care. Commercial launch of NASHnext in 2021 was slowed by COVID-19 and also impacted by the lack of approved treatment for NASH. Similarly, although we have entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Ipsen for the treatment of PBC and other indication worldwide, with the exception of Greater China which is licensed to Terns, there is no guarantee that our partnership with Ipsen or Terns will successfully result in a generalized clinical or commercial use of elafibranor for these indications and in those jurisdictions.
Some collaboration agreements may be terminated without cause on short notice. Once a collaboration agreement is signed, it may not lead to commercialization of a product candidate. We also face competition in seeking out collaborators. If we are unable to secure new collaborations that achieve the collaborator’s objectives and meet our expectations, we may be unable to advance our product candidates and may not generate meaningful revenues.
If the manufacturing facilities of our third-party manufacturers of drug candidates as well as the central testing laboratories of Labcorp fail to comply with applicable regulations or maintain these approvals, our business will be materially harmed.
We do not currently and do not intend in the future to manufacture the drug candidates we or our collaborators intend to sell. We outsource the manufacturing of our products to third parties, who are, in turn, subject to ongoing regulation and periodic inspection by the national regulatory authorities of the EEA countries, FDA and other regulatory bodies to ensure compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices, or cGMP. Any failure to follow and document their adherence to such cGMP regulations or other regulatory requirements may lead to significant delays in the availability of products for commercial sale or clinical trials, may result in the termination of or a hold on a clinical trial, or may delay or prevent filing or approval of marketing applications for our products.
Failure to comply with applicable regulations could also result in the national regulatory authorities of the EEA countries, FDA or other applicable regulatory authorities taking various actions, including:
•levying fines and other civil penalties;
•imposing consent decrees or injunctions;
•requiring us or our current or future collaborators to suspend or put on hold one or more of our clinical trials;
•suspending, varying or withdrawing regulatory approvals;
•delaying or refusing to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications;
•requiring us or our current or future collaborators or our third-party manufacturers to suspend manufacturing activities or product sales, imports or exports;
•requiring us or our current or future collaborators to communicate with physicians and other customers about concerns related to actual or potential safety, efficacy, and other issues involving our products;
•mandating product recalls or seizing products;
•imposing operating restrictions; and
•seeking criminal prosecutions.
Any of the foregoing actions could be detrimental to our reputation, business, financial condition or operating results. Furthermore, our key suppliers may not continue to be in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements, which could result in our failure or that of our current or future collaborators to produce our products on a timely basis and in the required quantities, if at all. In addition, before any additional products would be considered for marketing approval in the United States, EEA or elsewhere, our suppliers will have to pass an audit by the applicable regulatory agencies. We are dependent on our suppliers’ cooperation and ability to pass such audits, and the audits and any audit remediation may be costly. Failure to pass such audits by us or any of our suppliers would affect our ability or that of our current or future collaborators to commercialize our product candidates in the United States, Europe or elsewhere.
The deployment of an LDT powered by NIS4 depends on the ability of the central laboratories of our partner Labcorp that conduct the diagnostic test to retain its CLIA certification or other regulatory authorizations or operating licenses, which certification sets quality standards that must be followed in laboratory testing in order to ensure accuracy, reliability and speed of test results for the patients wherever the testing is conducted. We do not plan on manufacturing the test kits that we plan on marketing and that will be associated with an IVD powered by NIS4 if it were to be approved on the market of routine care; and the manufacturing sites of the contractor that we or our potential collaborators may choose for their production would also be subject to significant authorizations and regulations.
Risks Related to Our Operations
Starting in mid-2020 and into 2021, we embarked on a significant strategic reorientation which resulted in a significant changes to our organization and workforce As a result, we may encounter difficulties in managing development of our product candidate pipeline, which could disrupt our operations.
In mid-2020 we terminated our development program of elafibranor in NASH and redefined our strategic priorities with respect to our product candidate pipeline. As a result, we implemented a multi-year cost reduction program and workforce reduction program that had a significant impact on our organization, infrastructure and operations. In 2021, given that our access to market financing was limited, we chose to enter into licensing and collaboration agreements to support the development and commercialization of certain of our product candidates, and elafibranor in particular, as well as the in-licensing of a product candidate developed by a third party, for which we need to develop our expertise. In the context of these significant changes in our organization, the focus of our resources on managing the success of these partnerships and new programs could result in weaknesses in our infrastructure (including our internal control over financial reporting), give rise to operational mistakes, loss of business opportunities, loss of employees and reduced productivity among employees. These changes in our organization may lead to significant costs and may divert financial resources from other projects, such as the development of our other product candidates. If our management is unable to effectively manage these changes efficiently, our expenses may increase more than expected, our ability to generate or increase our revenue could be impacted and we may not be able to implement our business strategy. Our future financial performance and our ability to commercialize our other product candidates, if approved, and compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage the changes related to the significant strategic reorientation we have undertaken.
We depend on qualified management personnel and our business could be harmed if we lose key personnel and cannot attract new personnel.
Our success depends to a significant degree upon the technical and management skills of our co-founders, scientific advisers, senior management team, including, in particular, Pascal Prigent, our chief executive officer, Jean-François Mouney, our chairman, and Dean Hum, our chief operating officer. The loss of the services of Messrs. Prigent, Mouney or Hum would likely have a material adverse effect on us. Our success also will depend upon our ability to attract and retain additional qualified scientific, management, marketing, technical, and sales executives and personnel, in particular in the new therapeutic areas where we need to build up our experience, despite the workforce reduction plan we implemented in 2020. We compete for key personnel against numerous companies, including larger, more established companies with significantly greater financial resources than we possess. In addition, there is risk of departures or difficulties in hiring qualified personnel following the announcement of disappointing clinical results, such as those we announced in May 2020 regarding our Phase 3 RESOLVE-IT trial and our recent workforce reduction plan. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in attracting or retaining such personnel, and the failure to do so could harm our operations and our growth prospects.
We may use hazardous chemicals and biological materials in our business. Any claims relating to improper handling, storage or disposal of these materials could be time-consuming and costly.
Our research and development processes for our product candidates involve the controlled use of hazardous materials, including chemicals and biological materials. We cannot eliminate the risk of accidental contamination or discharge and any resultant injury from these materials. During their work, our researchers come into contact with a number of potentially dangerous substances, including in particular (1) genetically modified organisms, or GMO, the safety of which is overseen in France by the Ministry in charge of Research with the assistance of High Council for Biotechnologies (or the Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies), (2) animals used for experimentation, the authorization of which is overseen by the local Préfet with the assistance of the local Department for the Protection of People, or DDPP (for Direction départementale de la protection des populations) and (3) human samples. This research is subject to application for authorization from the competent authorities, in particular the National Drug and Health Product Authority, or ANSM (for Autorité Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament et des produits de santé) to assess the usefulness of the research, ensure that patients have been properly informed, and assess the management of information obtained from the sampling.
We may be subject to fines or sued for any injury or contamination resulting from our use or the use by third parties of these materials, and our liability may exceed any insurance coverage and our total assets, and we may also suffer reputational harm. European, French and U.S. federal, state, local or foreign laws and regulations govern the use, manufacture, storage, handling and disposal of these hazardous materials and specified waste products, as well as the discharge of pollutants into the environment and human health and safety matters. Compliance with health, safety and/or environmental laws and regulations may be expensive and may impair our research and development efforts. If we fail to comply with these requirements, we could incur substantial costs, including civil or criminal fines and penalties, clean-up costs or capital expenditures for control equipment or operational changes necessary to achieve and maintain compliance. Furthermore, we could face the rejection, suspension or withdrawal of regulatory approval for our drugs candidates or an IVD powered by NIS4 if they had received market approval. In addition, we cannot predict the impact on our business of new or amended health, safety and/or environmental laws or regulations or any changes in the way existing and future laws and regulations are interpreted and enforced.
We have recently acquired and may in the future acquire, products or businesses or form new strategic alliances, and we may not realize the benefits of such partnerships or acquisitions.
As part of our growth strategy, we have sought and intend to seek opportunities to in-license rights to drug candidates in clinical development. This could also include the acquisition of companies or technologies facilitating or enabling us to access to new medicines, new research projects, or new geographical areas, or enabling us to express synergies with our existing operations. If such acquisitions occur in the future, we may not be able to identify appropriate targets or make acquisitions under satisfactory conditions, in particular, satisfactory price conditions. In addition, we may be unable to obtain the financing for these acquisitions on favorable terms, which could require us to finance these acquisitions using our existing cash resources that could have been allocated to other purposes. If we acquire businesses with promising markets or technologies, we may not be able to realize the benefit of acquiring such businesses or the expected synergies if we are unable to successfully integrate them with our existing operations and company culture.
In December 2021, we licensed the exclusive rights from Genoscience Pharma to develop and commercialize the investigational treatment GNS561 in CCA in the United States, Canada and Europe, including the United Kingdom and Switzerland. CCA is a new therapeutic area for us, and we may not be successful in realizing the full potential of the GNS561 program.
Our internal information technology systems and those of our current or future collaborators or those of our third-party contractors or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches, any of which could result in a material disruption of our product development and commercialization programs.
Despite the implementation of security measures, our internal information technology systems and those of our current or future collaborators, or third-party contractors and consultants are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, natural disasters, terrorism, war and telecommunication and electrical failures. If such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our programs.
In the ordinary course of our business, we collect and store sensitive data, including, among other things, legally protected patient health information, personally identifiable information about our employees, intellectual property and proprietary business information. We manage and maintain our applications and data utilizing on-site systems and outsourced vendors. These applications and data encompass a wide variety of business critical information, including research and development information, commercial information and business and financial information. Because information systems, networks and other technologies are critical to many of our operating activities, shutdowns or service disruptions at our company or vendors that provide information systems, networks or other services to us pose increasing risks. Such disruptions may be caused by events such as computer hacking, phishing attacks, ransomware, dissemination of computer viruses, worms and other destructive or disruptive software, denial of service attacks and other malicious activity, as well as power outages, natural disasters (including extreme weather), terrorist attacks or other similar events. Such events could have an adverse impact on us and our business, including loss of data and damage to equipment and data. In addition, system redundancy may be ineffective or inadequate, and our disaster recovery planning may not be sufficient to cover all eventualities. Any of these developments could result in a disruption of our operations, damage to our reputation or a loss of revenues. In addition, we may not have adequate insurance coverage to compensate for any losses associated with such events. For example, the loss of clinical trial data for our product candidates could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts or those of our current or collaborators and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the lost data.
We could be subject to risks caused by misappropriation, misuse, leakage, falsification or intentional or accidental release or loss of information maintained in the information systems and networks of our company and our vendors, including personal information of our employees and patients, and company and vendor confidential data, as could information stored in the networks or systems of our current or future collaborators. In addition, outside parties may attempt to penetrate our systems, those of our current or future collaborators or those of our vendors or fraudulently induce our personnel or the personnel of our current or future collaborators or our vendors to disclose sensitive information in order to gain access to our data and/or systems.
We may experience threats to our data and systems, including malicious codes and viruses, phishing and other cyber-attacks. The number and complexity of these threats continue to increase over time. If a material breach of our information technology systems or those of our vendors occurs, the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures could be harmed and our reputation and credibility could be damaged. We could be required to expend significant amounts of money and other resources to repair or replace information systems or networks. In addition, we could be subject to regulatory actions and/or claims made by individuals and groups in private litigation involving privacy issues related to data collection and use practices and other data privacy laws and regulations, including claims for misuse or inappropriate disclosure of data, as well as unfair or deceptive practices. Although we develop and maintain systems and controls designed to prevent these events from occurring, and we have a process to identify and mitigate threats, the development and maintenance of these systems, controls and processes is costly and requires ongoing monitoring and updating as technologies change and efforts to overcome security measures become increasingly sophisticated. Moreover, despite our efforts, the possibility of these events occurring cannot be eliminated entirely. As we outsource more of our information systems to vendors, engage in more electronic transactions with payors and patients, and rely more on cloud-based information systems, the related security risks will increase and we will need to expend additional resources to protect our technology and information systems. In addition, there can be no assurance that our internal information technology systems, those of our collaborators or our third-party contractors, or our consultants’ efforts to implement adequate security and control measures, will be sufficient to protect us against breakdowns, service disruption, data deterioration or loss in the event of a system malfunction, or prevent data from being stolen or corrupted in the event of a cyberattack, security breach, industrial espionage attacks or insider threat attacks which could result in financial, legal, business or reputational harm.
Use of social media may materially and adversely impact our reputation.
We use social media to relay our official financial communications and participation in scientific congresses and other events. Unauthorized communications, such as press releases or posts on social media, purported to be issued by us, may contain information that is false or otherwise damaging and could have an adverse impact on the price of our securities. Negative or inaccurate posts or comments about us, our research and development programs, and our directors or officers could seriously damage our reputation.
In addition, our employees and collaborators and other third parties with whom we have business relationships may use social media and mobile technologies inappropriately, for which we may be held liable, or which could lead to breaches of data security, loss of trade secrets or other intellectual property or public disclosure of sensitive information. Such uses of social media and mobile technologies could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are exposed to a number of regulatory and commercial risks related to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.
The United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020, a development commonly known as Brexit. Given the lack of precedent in the history of the European Union, the financial, commercial, regulatory and legal consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union are unclear. The United Kingdom and the European Union have signed a EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, or TCA, which entered into force on May 1, 2021. This agreement provides details on how some aspects of the United Kingdom and European Union’s relationship will operate going forwards, however there are still many uncertainties.
Our clinical trials in the United Kingdom are subject to the requirements of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency or MHRA and the regulations of the EMA. For example, we plan to open new investigation sites in the United Kingdom for our ELATIVE Phase 3 trial evaluating elafibranor in PBC and potentially other clinical trials. As it relates to marketing authorizations, Great Britain will have a separate regulatory submission process, approval process and a separate national marketing authorization granted by the UK competent authorities in order to place medicinal products on the market in Great Britain. Northern Ireland will, however, continue to be covered by the marketing authorizations granted by the European Commission (EC). For example, the scope of a marketing authorization for a medicinal product granted by the EC or by the competent authorities of EU Member States will no longer encompass Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). If we or our potential future collaborators obtain market approval within the European Union, this market approval may not allow us to commercially market our product candidates in the United Kingdom and we or our potential future collaborators may not be in a position to obtain the required approval from the British regulatory authority. If we or our potential collaborators need to obtain additional approvals in the United Kingdom, we will have to bear additional costs which could be considerable.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, has adversely impacted and could continue to adversely impact our business, including our preclinical studies and clinical trials.
In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus disease, SARS-CoV-2, identified as COVID-19, was identified in Wuhan, China. This virus has since spread globally, including throughout the United States, across Europe and in France, where we are headquartered, and in countries where we or our current and future partners have planned or ongoing clinical trials, or where our important subcontractors – for clinical research and manufacturing of our API and drug product for elafibranor and NTZ, in particular, are located. The initial outbreak, subsequent outbreaks resulting from new variants of the disease such as Delta and Omicron, and government measures taken in response have also had a significant impact, both direct and indirect, on businesses and commerce, as worker shortages have occurred; supply chains have been disrupted; facilities have been closed and production have been suspended; and demand for certain goods and services, such as medical services and supplies, has spiked, while demand for other goods and services, such as travel, has fallen.
Strict confinement measures have been taken by the governments in the majority of countries where there has been a COVID-19 outbreak. Although as of the date of this Annual Report, some confinement measures have been lifted in some countries, there is no guarantee that governments will not take additional measures in the event there is a new outbreak of the disease or variants thereof in certain regions.
In response to the spread of COVID-19, in 2020, we made several changes to our operations, including
•temporarily suspending our planned Phase 3 study of elafibranor in PBC;
•suspending enrollment of patients or putting certain other clinical trials on hold;
•enacting remote working for certain of our employees, including most of our general administrative and finance personnel, and applying social distancing and other safety measures for employees who continue to work at our offices and in the laboratories; and
•strictly limiting business travel to that which is considered absolutely critical to our operations.
As of the date of this annual report, although most employees have returned to our offices and business travel has recommenced, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact operations. As the result of measures implemented in consultation with our CRO, including virtual appointments, biological evaluations performed by local laboratories and delivery of the drug candidate to the patients’ homes, to ensure the safety of participants in the ELATIVE study, the ELATIVE Phase 3 clinical trial of elafibranor in PBC was able to enroll its first patient in September 2020.
At the start of the ELATIVE trial, and considering the pandemic situation, we had estimated that enrollment in the ELATIVE study would take approximately 18 months and so far, enrollment has been broadly in-line with this estimate. However, the recent rapid expansion of the highly contagious Omicron strain of COVID has created additional complications for us in enrolling patients and in clinical trial operations generally. The rate of infection, as well as the containment measures put in place to control its growth have led to patients postponing site visits or having to be re-screened because they had fallen outside the screening window. This recent worsening of the COVID pandemic has also created significant additional administrative backlogs at sites and regulatory agencies, due to the combination of continued high volume of trials and staffing shortages. This has disproportionately impacted regions where there were already significant delays, such as Latin America. We continue to work with our CRO, trial sites and investigators to regularly revise our program execution estimations to take into account the evolution of the pandemic situation and its impact on our activities. Although we currently do not anticipate these recent complexities to substantially change the guidance related to availability of the ELATIVE topline results, we continue to assess the impacts of COVID-19 for all of our ongoing and planned clinical trials. In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the timing of Labcorp’s commercial launch of an LDT powered by NIS4 in the clinical care space in the United States and as a result, impacted net sales in 2021. More generally, we have observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has diverted our collaborators’ resources towards the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients, to the detriment of other activities, including our programs.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced and may continue to experience disruptions, some of which could severely impact our business, preclinical studies and clinical trials, including:
•delays or difficulties in manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients or drug products used in clinical trials of our product candidates, including interruption in global shipping that may affect the transport of clinical trial materials, such as investigational drug product used in clinical trials of our product candidates;
•delays or difficulties in enrolling patients in our clinical trials;
•delays or difficulties in clinical site initiation, including initiation of their activities, in particular for newly launched trials or trials in preparation, difficulties in recruiting clinical site investigators and clinical site staff;
•diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials, including the diversion of hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials or those of our current or future partners;
•interruption of key clinical trial activities, such as clinical trial site monitoring, due to limitations on travel imposed or recommended by federal or state governments, employers and others;
•limitations in employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the conduct of our clinical trials or those of our current or future partners,, including because of sickness of employees or their families or the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people;
•delays in receiving approval from local regulatory authorities to initiate our or those of our current or future partners, planned clinical trials;
•delays in clinical sites receiving the supplies and materials needed to conduct our, or those of our current or future partners, clinical trials;
•changes in local regulations as part of a response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak which may require us to change the ways in which our, or those of our current or future partners', clinical trials are conducted, which may result in unexpected costs, or to discontinue the clinical trials altogether;
•delays in necessary interactions with local regulators, in particular the FDA and EMA, other regulatory agencies, ethics committees and other important agencies and contractors due to limitations in employee resources or forced furlough of government employees;
•delay in the timing of interactions with the FDA due to absenteeism by federal employees or by the diversion of their efforts and attention to approval of other therapeutics or other activities related to COVID-19; and
•refusal of the FDA or EMA or other regulatory agencies to accept data from clinical trials in affected geographies.
In addition, the outbreak of COVID-19 could disrupt our operations or those of our partners for a significant period of time, due to absenteeism or inability to work from home by infected or ill members of management or other employees, or absenteeism by members of management and other employees who elect not to come to work due to the illness affecting others in our or their office or laboratory facilities, or due to mandated quarantines. COVID-19 could also impact members of our board of directors, resulting in absenteeism from meetings of the directors or committees of directors, and making it more difficult to convene the quorums of the full board of directors or its committees needed to conduct meetings for the management of our affairs.
The global outbreak of COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve, in particular as a result of new variants. The extent to which COVID-19 may impact our or our partners' businesses, clinical trials and financial situation will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the ultimate geographic spread of the disease, variations in the virus, the duration of the outbreak, travel restrictions and social distancing in France, the United States and other countries, business closures or business disruptions and the effectiveness of actions taken around the world to contain and treat the disease, including the vaccination efforts currently underway in some countries. In addition, the world economy has been strongly impacted by the epidemic and many economists, governments and business leaders predict a severe impact on gross world product. We cannot predict the extent of the impact of this epidemic on the financial markets or on our stock price and as a result, on our ability to obtain additional funding if we should seek to raise additional funding.
Risks Related to Intellectual Property
If we are unable to obtain and maintain sufficient patent protection for our product candidates, or if the scope of the patent protection is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products similar or identical to ours, and our ability or that of a potential future partner to commercialize our product candidates successfully may be adversely affected.
Our success depends in large part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent protection in the United States and other countries with respect to our proprietary product candidates. If we do not adequately protect our intellectual property, competitors may be able to erode or negate any competitive advantage we may have, which could harm our business and ability to achieve profitability. To protect our proprietary position, we file patent applications in the United States and abroad related to our novel product candidates that are important to our business. The patent application and approval process is expensive and time-consuming. We may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner.
•we may not have been the first to make the inventions covered by pending patent applications or issued patents;
•we may not have been the first to file patent applications for our product candidates or the compositions we developed or for their uses;
•others may independently develop identical, similar or alternative products or compositions and uses thereof;
•our disclosures in patent applications may not be sufficient to meet the statutory requirements for patentability;
•any or all of our pending patent applications may not result in issued patents;
•we may not seek or obtain patent protection in countries that may eventually provide us a significant business opportunity;
•any patents issued to us may not provide a basis for commercially viable products, may not provide any competitive advantages, or may be successfully challenged by third parties;
•our compositions and methods may not be patentable;
•others may design around our patent claims to produce competitive products which fall outside of the scope of our patents; or
•others may identify prior art or other bases which could invalidate our patents.
Our pending patent applications cannot be enforced against third parties practicing the technology claimed in such applications unless and until patent issues. Because the issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity or enforceability, our patents or pending patent applications may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. For example, we may be subject to a third party preissuance submission of prior art to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, or become involved in post-grant review procedures, oppositions, derivations, reexaminations, inter partes review or interference proceedings, in the United States or elsewhere, challenging our patent rights or the patent rights of others. An adverse determination in any such challenges may result in loss of exclusivity or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, in whole or in part, 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 products. In addition, 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.
For example, on May 15, 2019, Nashpharm, a French company, brought before the Paris High Court (Tribunal Judiciaire de Paris) a nullity action against the French part of European patent EP 2 504 005 related to the use of the drug candidate elafibranor. After the filing by Nashpharm of desist conclusions in December 2021, this action has been definitively closed by the Judge on January 11, 2022. Even if this action did not result in any limitation or nullity of our patent, it incurred nevertheless some costs and was time-consuming.
Obtaining and maintaining a patent portfolio entails significant expense and resources. Part of the expense includes periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, various other official fees on patents and/or applications due in several stages over the lifetime of patents and/or applications, as well as the cost associated with complying with numerous procedural provisions during the patent application examination proceedings. We may not choose to pursue or maintain protection for particular inventions. In addition, there are situations in which failure to make certain payments or noncompliance with certain requirements in the patent process can result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. If we choose to forgo patent protection or allow a patent application or patent to lapse purposefully or inadvertently, our competitive position or that of our current of future collaborators could suffer.
Even if our patent applications issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent competitors from competing with us or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. Our competitors may be able to circumvent our patents by developing similar or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner. Our competitors may also seek approval to market their own products similar to or otherwise competitive with our products. Alternatively, our competitors may seek to market generic versions of any approved products by submitting Abbreviated New Drug Applications, or ANDAs, to the FDA, in which they claim that patents owned or licensed by us are invalid, unenforceable or not infringed. In these circumstances, we may need to defend or assert our patents, or both, including by filing lawsuits alleging patent infringement. In any of these types of proceedings, a court or other agency with jurisdiction may find our patents invalid or unenforceable, or that our competitors are competing in a non-infringing manner. Thus, even if we have valid and enforceable patents, these patents still may not provide protection against competing products or processes sufficient to achieve our business objectives or those of our current of future collaborators.
Legal actions to enforce our patent rights can be expensive and may involve the diversion of significant management time. In addition, these legal actions could be unsuccessful and could also result in the invalidation of our patents or a finding that they are unenforceable. We may or may not choose to pursue litigation or other actions against those that have infringed or are currently infringing our patent rights, or used them without authorization, due to the associated expense and time commitment of monitoring these activities. If we fail to protect or to enforce our intellectual property rights successfully, our competitive position or that of our current or future collaborators could suffer, which could harm our results of operations.
Even if we have or obtain patents covering our product candidates or compositions, we may still be prevented from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing our product candidates or technologies because of the patent rights of others. Others may have filed, and in the future may file, patent applications covering compositions or products that are similar or identical to ours. These filings could materially affect our ability or that of current or future collaborators to develop our product candidates or sell our products if they are approved. Because patent applications can take many years to issue and are not published for a period of time after filing, there may be currently pending applications unknown to us that may later result in issued patents that our product candidates or compositions may infringe. These patent applications may have priority over patent applications filed by us.
We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents or other intellectual property, which could be expensive, time consuming and unsuccessful and issued patents covering our product candidates could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court.
If we initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering one of our product candidates or technologies, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering one of our product candidates or technologies is invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and unenforceability of an asserted patent or patents are common. Grounds for a validity challenge include alleged failures to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, insufficient written description or non-enablement. Grounds for unenforceability assertions include allegations that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Third parties may also raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, post-grant review and/or inter partes review and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions, such as opposition proceedings. Such proceedings could result in revocation or amendment of our patents in such a way that they no longer cover our product candidates or competitive products. Similarly, we may initiate proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, or PTAB, of the USPTO, such as post grant review, or PGR, derivation, or inter partes review, against patents granted to third parties. This may delay us from obtaining issued patents with similar claims in the U.S. and may prompt additional proceedings in the USPTO against such patent or against other third party applications or patents or may consider the need or benefit of entering into a license agreement with such third party or parties in order to exploit such patent alone or together with such other third party or parties. In the event that we do not prevail or the settlement terms with the adverse party are unfavorable, or we are unable to reach an agreement on terms sufficiently favorable to us, our ability to market our product candidates may be affected or delayed. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability in the PTAB or the federal courts is unpredictable. With respect to validity, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our product candidates.
Even if we establish infringement, the court may decide not to grant an injunction against further infringing activity and instead award only monetary damages, which may or may not be an adequate remedy. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, in particular, in the United States, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during litigation. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our ADSs or ordinary shares. Moreover, there can be no assurance that we will have sufficient financial or other resources to file and pursue such infringement claims in the federal courts, which typically last for years before they are concluded. Even if we ultimately prevail in such claims, the monetary cost of such litigation and the diversion of the attention of our management and scientific personnel could outweigh any benefit we receive as a result of the proceedings.
In addition, if one of our patents is revoked or abandoned as a result of an adverse court decision or a settlement, we may face the risk that government, private third party payers or purchasers of pharmaceuticals products may claim damages alleging that they have over-reimbursed or overpaid for a drug. Biopharmaceutical patents and patent applications involve highly complex legal and factual questions, which, if determined adversely to us, could negatively impact our patent position.
The patent positions of biopharmaceutical companies can be highly uncertain and involve complex legal and factual questions. Typically, the development, manufacture, sale and distribution of biopharmaceutical compositions is complicated by third-party intellectual property rights to a greater extent than for the development, manufacture, sale and distribution of small molecule drugs. The interpretation and breadth of claims allowed in some patents covering biopharmaceutical compositions may be uncertain and difficult to determine, and are often affected materially by the facts and circumstances that pertain to t