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Risks Related to Our Organization, Structure and Operations
Any inability to attract and retain qualified key management and technical personnel would impair our ability to implement our business plan.
Our success largely depends on the continued service of key management and other specialized personnel. The loss of one or more members of our management board or other key employees or advisors could delay our research and development programs and materially harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. The relationships that our key managers have cultivated within our industry make us particularly dependent upon their continued employment with us. We are dependent on the continued service of our technical personnel because of the highly technical nature of our product candidates and technologies and the specialized nature of the regulatory approval process. Because our management board and key employees are not obligated to provide us with continued service, they could terminate their employment or services with us at any time without penalty, subject to providing any required advance notice. Our future success will depend in large part on our continued ability to attract and retain other highly qualified scientific, technical and management personnel, as well as personnel with expertise in clinical testing, manufacturing, governmental regulation and commercialization. We face competition for personnel from other companies, universities, public and private research institutions, government entities and other organizations.
We may experience difficulties in managing our growth and expanding our operations.
We have limited experience in drug development. As our product candidates enter and advance through pre-clinical studies and clinical trials, we will need to expand our development, regulatory and manufacturing capabilities or contract with other organizations to provide these capabilities for us. In the future, we expect to have to manage additional relationships with collaborators or partners, suppliers and other organizations. Our ability to manage our operations and future growth will require us to continue to improve our operational, financial and management controls, reporting systems and procedures. We may not be able to implement improvements to our management information and control systems in an efficient or timely manner and may discover deficiencies in existing systems and controls.
Our internal computer systems, or those of our CROs or other contractors or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches, which could result in a material disruption of our product development programs and adversely affect our business.
Despite the implementation of security measures, our information technology and other internal infrastructure systems and those of our CROs and other contractors and consultants are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, natural disasters, terrorism, war and telecommunication and electrical failures. A significant disruption in the availability of our information technology and other internal infrastructure systems could cause interruptions in our collaborations with our partners and delays in our research and development work. For instance, the loss of pre-clinical or clinical data involving our product candidates could result in delays in our development and regulatory filing efforts and significantly increase our costs. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability and the development of our product candidates could be delayed.
Our current operations are concentrated and any events affecting this location may have material adverse consequences.
Our current operations are primarily located in our facilities in Leiden, the Netherlands. Any unplanned event, such as flood, fire, explosion, earthquake, extreme weather condition, medical epidemics, power shortage, telecommunication failure or other natural or manmade accidents or incidents that result in us being unable to fully utilize the facilities may have a material adverse effect on our ability to operate our business, particularly on a daily basis, and have significant negative consequences on our financial and operating conditions. Loss of access to these facilities may result in increased costs, delays in the development of our product candidates or interruption of our business operations. As part of our risk management policy, we maintain insurance coverage at levels that we believe are appropriate for our business. However, in the event of an accident or incident at these facilities, we cannot assure you that the amounts of insurance will be sufficient to satisfy any damages and losses. If our facilities are unable to operate because of an
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accident or incident or for any other reason, even for a short period of time, any or all of our research and development programs may be harmed. Additionally, the lease agreement covering our current laboratories is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020. To the extent that we are unable to find new facilities for our current operations or we are delayed in finding new facilities, any business interruption could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position, results of operations and prospects.
Our international operations subject us to various risks, and our failure to manage these risks could adversely affect our results of operations.
We face significant operational risks as a result of doing business internationally, such as:
We are increasingly dependent on information technology systems, and our systems and infrastructure face certain risks, including from cyber security breaches and data leakage.
We increasingly rely upon technology systems and infrastructure, including support provided by our partners and third parties, to support our business. For example, we routinely rely on our technology systems and infrastructure to aid us in the collection, use, storage and transfer, disclosure and other processing of voluminous amounts of data (including confidential, business, personal and other sensitive information). We also rely on systems for manufacturing, regulatory compliance and various other matters.
The increasing use and evolution of technology, including cloud-based computing, and reliance on third parties creates additional opportunities for the unintentional, intentional and/or unauthorized exposure, dissemination and/or destruction of confidential information stored in our technology systems, infrastructure and products. Our computer systems, servers and other technology systems (and those of third parties that we use) are vulnerable to breakdown, interruption, cyber and other security attacks, system malfunction, unauthorized access and other events. Security threats, including cyber and other attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, frequent, and adaptive. Any such vulnerability could compromise our technology systems and infrastructure and could expose personal and/or proprietary information (including sensitive personal information) to unauthorized third parties and/or cause permanent loss of such data. While
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we have invested in the protection of data and information technology, there can be no assurance that our efforts will prevent breakdowns, breaches in our systems or other incidents or ensure compliance with all applicable security and privacy laws, regulations and standards. Such breakdowns can lead to regulatory fines and penalties, business disruption, reputational harm, financial loss as well as other damages. We could also suffer strained relationships, increased costs (for security measures, remediation or otherwise), litigation (including class actions and stockholder derivative actions) or other negative consequences (including a decline in stock price) from breaches, cyber and other security attacks, industrial espionage, ransomware, email or phishing scams, malware or other cyber incidents, which may compromise our system infrastructure or lead to data leakage, either internally or at our third-party providers or other business partners. While we have invested in the protection of data and information technology and in related training, there can be no assurance that our efforts will prevent significant breakdowns, attacks, breaches in our systems or other cyber incidents or ensure compliance with all applicable security and privacy laws, regulations and standards, including with respect to third-party service providers that utilize sensitive personal information, including protected health information on our behalf.
The investment of our cash and cash equivalents is subject to risks which may cause losses and affect the liquidity of these investments.
As at December 31, 2017, we had € 48,099,000 in cash and cash equivalents. To date, our cash and cash equivalents have been deposited primarily in savings and deposit accounts with original maturities of twelve months or less. Savings and deposit accounts generate a small amount of interest income. Any future investments may include term deposits, corporate bonds, money market funds and government securities, all in accordance with our cash management policy. These investments are subject to general credit, liquidity, market and interest rate risks. We may realize losses in the fair value of these investments or a complete loss of these investments, which would have a negative effect on our financial statements.
In addition, should our investments cease paying or reduce the amount of interest paid to us, our interest income would suffer. The market risks associated with our investment portfolio may have an adverse effect on our results of operations, liquidity and financial condition.
We may be exposed to significant foreign exchange risk.
We incur portions of our expenses, and may in the future derive revenues, in currencies other than the euro, in particular, the U.S. dollar. As a result, we are exposed to foreign currency exchange risk as our results of operations and cash flows are subject to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. We currently do not engage in hedging transactions to protect against uncertainty in future exchange rates between particular foreign currencies and the euro. Therefore, for example, an increase in the value of the U.S. dollar against the euro could be expected to have a negative impact on our expenditures, although it is our policy to match the currency of our cash and cash equivalents with expected cash out flows as much as practically feasible. We cannot predict the impact of foreign currency fluctuations, and foreign currency fluctuations in the future may adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Our business entails a significant risk of product liability and our ability to obtain sufficient insurance coverage could have a material effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects.
The use of our product candidates in pre-clinical studies, in clinical trials and the sale of any of our product candidates if approved, exposes us to the risk of product liability claims. Product liability claims might be brought against us by patients, healthcare providers or others selling or otherwise coming into contact with our product candidates. For example, we may be sued if any product we develop allegedly causes injury or is found to be otherwise unsuitable during product testing, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, including as a result of interactions with alcohol or other drugs, negligence, strict liability, and a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. If we become subject to product liability claims and cannot successfully
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defend ourselves against them, we could incur substantial liabilities. In addition, regardless of merit or eventual outcome, product liability claims may result in, among other things:
We will need to maintain product liability insurance coverage for our clinical trials. We may not be able to obtain such coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses, including if insurance coverage becomes increasingly expensive. Large judgments have been awarded in class action lawsuits based on drugs that had unanticipated side effects. The cost of any product liability litigation or other proceedings, even if resolved in our favor, could be substantial, particularly in light of the size of our business and financial resources. A product liability claim or series of claims brought against us could cause our share price to decline and, if we are unsuccessful in defending such a claim or claims and the resulting judgments exceed our insurance coverage, our financial condition, business and prospects could be materially adversely affected.
Our ability to use our net operating losses to offset future taxable income may be subject to certain limitations.
Our ability to use our net operating losses, or NOLs, in the Netherlands is currently limited and may be further limited. Under Dutch income tax law, tax loss carry-forwards are subject to a time limitation of nine years. As at December 31, 2017, we had a total of approximately € 123.9 million tax loss carry-forwards available for offset against future taxable profits. The first amount of the tax loss carry-forwards will expire in 2021. There is also a risk that due to regulatory changes such as suspensions on the use for NOLs, our existing NOLs could expire or otherwise become unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities. For these reasons, we may not be able to use a material portion of the NOLs, even if we attain profitability.
Changes in accounting rules and regulations, or interpretations thereof, could result in unfavorable accounting charges or require us to change our compensation policies.
Accounting methods and policies for biopharmaceutical companies, including policies governing revenue recognition, research and development and related expenses and accounting for share-based compensation, are subject to review, interpretation and guidance from relevant accounting authorities, including the SEC. Changes to accounting methods or policies, or interpretations thereof, may require us to reclassify, restate or otherwise change or revise our financial statements, including those contained in this annual report.
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The effect of comprehensive U.S. tax reform legislation on ProQR and its affiliates, whether adverse or favorable, is uncertain.
On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law H.R. 1, “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018” (informally titled the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”). Among a number of significant changes to the U.S. federal income tax rules, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces the marginal U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, limits the deduction for net interest expense, shifts the United States toward a more territorial tax system, and imposes new taxes to combat erosion of the U.S. federal income tax base. The effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on ProQR and its affiliates, whether adverse or favorable, is uncertain, and may not become evident for some period of time. You are urged to consult your tax adviser regarding the implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for an investment in ProQR.