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Risks Related to the Development and Regulatory Approval of our Product Candidates
We depend on the success of our product candidates, which are still in early phases of development. We cannot be certain that we will be able to successfully complete the clinical development of, obtain regulatory approval for, or successfully commercialize our product candidates.
We currently have no products on the market, and our most advanced product candidate, eluforsen, has only in 2017 completed its second clinical trial. Our business depends on the successful clinical development, regulatory approval and commercialization of our product candidates, and will require additional pre-clinical testing and substantial additional clinical development and regulatory approval efforts before we are permitted to commence its commercialization, if ever. It will be several years before we can commence and complete a pivotal study for our product candidates, if ever. The clinical trials and manufacturing and marketing of our product candidates will be subject to extensive and rigorous review and regulation by numerous government authorities in the United States, the European Union and other jurisdictions where we intend to test and, if approved, market our product candidates. Before obtaining regulatory
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approvals for the commercial sale of any product candidate, we must demonstrate through pre-clinical testing and clinical trials that the product candidate is safe and effective for use in each target indication, and potentially in specific patient populations, including the pediatric population. This process can take many years and may include post-marketing studies and surveillance, which would require the expenditure of substantial resources beyond our existing funds. Of the large number of drugs in development for approval in the United States and the European Union, only a small percentage successfully complete the FDA or EMA regulatory approval processes, as applicable, and are commercialized. Accordingly, even if we are able to obtain the requisite financing to continue to fund our research, development and clinical programs, we cannot assure you that any of our product candidates will be successfully developed or commercialized.
The regulatory approval processes of the FDA, the EMA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities are lengthy, time-consuming and inherently unpredictable, and if we are ultimately unable to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates, our business will be substantially harmed.
We are not permitted to market our product candidates in the United States or the European Union until we receive approval of an NDA from the FDA or an MAA from the European Commission, respectively, or in any other foreign countries until we receive the requisite approval from such countries. Prior to submitting an NDA to the FDA or an MAA to the EMA for approval of our product candidates, we will need to complete our ongoing pre-clinical and toxicology studies, as well as a proof-of-concept study and Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials. Successfully initiating and completing our clinical program and obtaining approval of an NDA or a MAA is a complex, lengthy, expensive and uncertain process, and the FDA, the EMA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities may delay, limit or deny approval of our product candidates for many reasons, including, among others:
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Any of these factors, many of which are beyond our control, could jeopardize our ability to obtain regulatory approval for and successfully market our product candidates. Any such setback in our pursuit of regulatory approval would have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.
Changes in regulatory requirements, FDA guidance or unanticipated events during our clinical studies may occur, which may result in changes to clinical study protocols or additional clinical study requirements, which could result in increased costs to us and could delay our development timeline.
Changes in regulatory requirements, FDA guidance or unanticipated events during our clinical studies may force us to amend clinical study protocols or the FDA may impose additional clinical study requirements, or involve delays to the clinical trials. Amendments to our clinical study protocols would require resubmission to the FDA and IRBs for review and approval, which may adversely impact the cost, timing and/or successful completion of a clinical study. If we experience delays completing—or if we terminate—any of our clinical studies, or if we are required to conduct additional clinical studies, the commercial prospects for our product candidates may be harmed and our ability to generate product revenue will be delayed.
Failures or delays in the commencement or completion of our pre-clinical studies or ongoing or planned clinical trials of our product candidates could result in increased costs to us and could delay, prevent or limit our ability to generate revenue and continue our business.
Successful completion of clinical trials is a prerequisite to submitting an NDA to the FDA or a MAA to the EMA and, consequently, the ultimate approval and commercial marketing of our product candidates. Clinical trials are expensive, difficult to design and implement, can take many years to complete and are uncertain as to outcome. A product candidate can unexpectedly fail at any stage of clinical development. The historical failure rate for product candidates is high due to scientific feasibility, safety, efficacy, changing standards of medical care and other variables. We do not know whether our clinical trials will begin or be completed on schedule, if at all, as the commencement and completion of clinical trials can be delayed or prevented for a number of reasons, including, among others:
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Clinical trials may also be delayed or terminated as a result of ambiguous or negative interim results. In addition, a clinical trial may be suspended or terminated by us, the FDA, or the IRBs at the sites where the IRBs are overseeing a clinical trial, a data safety monitoring board, or DSMB, overseeing the clinical trial at issue or other regulatory authorities due to a number of factors, including, among others:
Positive results from the clinical trials and pre-clinical testing of our product candidates are not necessarily predictive of the results of our ongoing and planned clinical trials of our product candidates. If we cannot achieve positive results in our clinical trials for our product candidates, we may be unable to successfully develop, obtain regulatory approval for and commercialize them.
Positive results from the clinical trials and pre-clinical testing of our product candidates in vitro and in vivo may not necessarily be predictive of the results from our ongoing and planned clinical trials in humans. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have suffered significant setbacks in clinical trials after achieving positive results in pre-clinical and early clinical development, and we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. These setbacks have been caused by, among other things, pre-clinical findings made while clinical trials were underway or safety or efficacy observations made in clinical trials, including adverse events. Moreover, pre-clinical and clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in pre-clinical studies and clinical trials nonetheless failed to obtain FDA or EMA approval. If we fail to produce positive results in our clinical trials of our lead product candidates, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for those product candidates, and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects would be materially adversely affected.
Our RNA technologies are unproven and may not result in marketable products.
We plan to develop a pipeline of product candidates using our proprietary RNA technologies for severe genetic disorders. We believe that targeting the mRNA to restore the production of normal protein is a unique approach that we believe offers advantages versus small molecule, gene therapy and other therapeutic approaches. However, the scientific research that forms the basis of our efforts to develop product candidates is both preliminary and limited. The mechanism of action of our compounds could be different from what we today hypothesize. Also, we may discover that the molecules we develop do not possess certain properties required for a drug to be effective, such as the ability to remain stable in the human body for the period of time required for the drug to reach the target tissue or the ability to cross the cell wall and enter into cells within the target tissue for effective delivery. We may spend substantial funds attempting to introduce these properties and may never succeed in doing so. In addition, product candidates based on
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RNA technologies may demonstrate different chemical and pharmacological properties in humans than they do in laboratory studies or animals. Even if our product candidates have successful results in animal studies, they may not demonstrate the same chemical and pharmacological properties in humans and may interact with human biological systems or other existing treatments in unforeseen, ineffective or harmful ways. Our RNA technologies may provoke an unwanted immune response, or immunogenicity, which may neutralize the therapeutic effects of our product candidates and could result in harmful outcomes for patients. As a result, we may never succeed in developing a marketable product, we may not become profitable and the value of our ordinary shares would decline.
Furthermore, the FDA and the EMA have relatively limited experience with therapeutics based on RNA. This may increase the complexity, uncertainty and length of the regulatory approval process for our product candidates. Neither we nor any future collaborator may receive approval to market and commercialize any product candidate. Even if we or a collaborator were to obtain regulatory approval, the approval may be for disease indications or patient populations that are not as broad as we intended or may require labeling that includes significant use or distribution restrictions or safety warnings. We or a collaborator may be required to perform additional or unanticipated clinical trials to obtain approval or be subject to post-marketing testing requirements to maintain regulatory approval. If our RNA technology proves to be ineffective, unsafe or commercially unviable, our entire platform and pipeline would have little, if any, value, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Failure to obtain regulatory approval in jurisdictions outside the United States and the European Union would prevent our product candidates from being marketed in those jurisdictions.
In order to market and sell our products in jurisdictions other than the United States and the European Union, we must obtain separate marketing approvals and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements. The regulatory approval process outside the United States and the European Union generally includes all of the risks associated with obtaining FDA and EMA approval, but can involve additional testing. We may need to partner with third parties in order to obtain approvals outside the United States and the European Union. In addition, in many countries worldwide, it is required that the product be approved for reimbursement before the product can be approved for sale in that country. We may not obtain approvals from regulatory authorities outside the United States and the European Union on a timely basis, if at all. Even if we were to receive approval in the United States or the European Union, approval by the FDA or the EMA does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions. Similarly, approval by one regulatory authority outside the United States and the European Union would not ensure approval by regulatory authorities in other countries or jurisdictions or by the FDA or the EMA. We may not be able to file for marketing approvals and may not receive necessary approvals to commercialize our products in any market. If we are unable to obtain approval of our product candidates by regulatory authorities in other foreign jurisdictions, the commercial prospects of those product candidates may be significantly diminished and our business prospects could decline.
If we are not able to maintain orphan product exclusivity for eluforsen, QR 110, QR-313, QR-411 or QR-421a, or obtain such status for future product candidates for which we seek this status, or if our competitors are able to obtain orphan product exclusivity before we do, we may not be able to obtain approval for our competing products for a significant period of time.
Regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the United States and the European Union, may designate drugs for relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a product as an orphan drug if it is a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally defined as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States who have been diagnosed as having the disease or condition at the time of the submission of the request for orphan drug designation. Under Regulation No. (EC) 141/2000 on Orphan Medicinal Products, a medicinal product may be designated as an orphan medicinal product if, among other things, it is intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition affecting not more than five in 10,000 people in the European Union. Generally, if a product with an orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first marketing approval for the indication for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a period of market exclusivity. This exclusivity precludes the EMA or the FDA, as applicable, from approving another marketing application for the same or, in the EU, a similar drug for the same indication for that time period, unless, among other things, the later product is clinically superior. The applicable period is seven years in the United States and ten years in the European Union following marketing approval. The EU exclusivity period can be
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reduced to six years if a drug no longer meets the criteria for orphan drug designation, for example if the drug is sufficiently profitable so that market exclusivity is no longer justified.
Orphan drug exclusivity may be lost if the FDA or EMA determines that the request for designation was materially defective, or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantity of the drug to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition or if the incidence and prevalence of patients who are eligible to receive the drug in these markets materially increase. Although we have obtained orphan designation for several of our product candidates in the European Union and the United States, even after an orphan drug is approved, the same or, in the EU, a similar drug can subsequently be approved for the same condition if the competent regulatory agency concludes that the later drug is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior.
If we lose orphan drug exclusivity or if our competitors obtain orphan drug exclusivity for other rare diseases or conditions we are targeting before we do, we may be precluded from obtaining marketing authorization or we may lose out on the potential benefits of market exclusivity.
We intend to seek Orphan Drug designation for our other product candidates, but we may not obtain such designation.
A breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA for our product candidates may not lead to a faster development or regulatory review or approval process, and it does not increase the likelihood that our product candidates will receive marketing approval.
We intend to seek a breakthrough therapy designation for eluforsen, QR 110, QR 313, QR-411 and QR-421a, and we may do so for other product candidates as well. 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 product candidates that have been designated as breakthrough therapies, interaction and communication between the FDA and the sponsor of the trial can help to identify the most efficient path for clinical development while minimizing the number of patients placed in ineffective control regimens. Product candidates designated as breakthrough therapies by the FDA are also eligible for accelerated approval.
Designation as a breakthrough therapy is within the discretion of the FDA. Accordingly, even if we believe that any of our product candidates meets the criteria for designation as a breakthrough therapy, the FDA may disagree and instead determine not to make such designation. The availability of breakthrough therapy designation was established with the passage of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, and while the FDA has released guidance as to the criteria it uses in designating drugs as breakthrough therapies, we cannot be sure that our product candidates will meet the FDA’s qualifying criteria for such designation. In any event, the receipt of a breakthrough therapy designation for a product candidate may not result in a faster development process, review or approval compared to drugs considered for approval under conventional FDA procedures and does not assure ultimate approval by the FDA. In addition, even if one or more of our product candidates qualify as breakthrough therapies, the FDA may later decide that the products no longer meet the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.
A fast track designation by the FDA may not actually lead to a faster development, regulatory review or approval process.
We have obtained fast track designation for eluforsen for CF and QR-110 for LCA. We intend to seek fast track designation for QR 313, QR-411 and QR-421a, and we may do so for other product candidates as well. If a drug is intended for the treatment of a serious or life-threatening condition and the drug demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for this condition, the sponsor may apply for FDA fast track designation. The FDA has broad discretion whether or not to grant this designation, and even if we believe one or more of our product candidates is eligible for this designation, we cannot be sure that the FDA would decide to grant it. Even if we do receive fast track designation, we may not experience a faster development process, review or approval compared to conventional FDA procedures. The FDA may withdraw fast track designation if it believes that the designation is no longer supported by data from our clinical development program.
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